Tag Archives: red rock canyon state park

Pictorial Highlight: Red Rock Canyon State Park

So I’ve missed a couple weeks of my Pictorial Highlights, and for that I apologize (“NOBODY GIVES A SHIT!” I hear somebody in the “audience” shout), but my life has been in a period of major upheaval and transition–now I should be back on track though, better than ever!

Red Rock Canyon State Park is located in the northwestern Mojave Desert; it is just a little bit east of the lower end of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  It is truly a wondrous place, not just for its spectacular geogical features and textures and colors, but also for the way it seems to just spring up out of nowhere.  Driving either north or south on Highway 14, you’re in the middle of the sprawling, seemingly endless desert.  Then you round a bend and suddenly you’re surrounded by these stunning cliffs and rocks and hills and bizarre, twisted, sand-and-rain-whipped formations that take your breath away; it’s like you entered a wormhole and spontaneously popped out on Mars.  That’s how different and strange and wondrous it is.  There are also many, many plants and wildflowers (in the spring) and nonhuman animals, some of whom you will see featured here.  Without further    adieu–sit back and enjoy!!



I climbed up to this ridge, probably 80-100 feet above the desert floor–notice the tent for perspective!

I love the solitary Joshua Tree, straddling on the narrow ridgetop the steep, steep edges on either side.

More Joshua Trees, as the sun drops below the horizon and makes one final brilliant flare.

I could only see the dark silhouettes here, so I set up my tripod and the aperture stayed open for a good 8 (!) seconds to capture a couple magical shots.

I love that there were some stars captured, too!



This is where the trail started; you can actually see these formations in the background of the early archeological dig scene in Jurassic Park.

I passed by one stunning geological feature after another…

I even was fortunate enough to see this gorgeous, fascinating lil guy, a southern desert horned lizard:

Incredible! Look out those bitchin horns, and how marvelously his skin tonation and spotting matches the sand and pebbles; a brilliant display of evolution.

But the best was still yet to come; I was almost to the end of the line on this 2-mile trail that ended here:

I turned around, blown away by the scenery, but disappointed that I hadn’t seen any birds of prey.  But then I spotted motion out of the corner of my eye, someone flying.  I scrambled up some rocks leading to the canyon wall.  I crouched.  Waited patiently.  And after a few minutes of silence, I was rewarded with one of the more amazing, beautiful things I’ve ever seen–a mother great horned owl and her two young offspring!!

The mama! She was VERY watchful of me, making sure I wasn’t there to hurt her babies. (sorry for the grainy picture quality, but owls don’t let you get too close in the desert, and I didn’t have a great telephoto lens at the time)

I LOVE owls; raptors in general are some of my favorite animals, and owls are among my very favorite.  Their wings have evolved a feature whereby their flight is almost silent–you don’t hear their wings flapping.  An incredible swooping predator.  Here’s mama in flight:

So very majestic.



S/he was already a (tentative) flyer, but adorably awkward and clumsy still.

I still have never seen a golden eagle, but these were the first wild owls I ever remember seeing, and it was extremely memorable indeed.  I very much hope you enjoyed this week’s Pictorial!  Next week, we’ll head farther south in the Mojave Desert…















Travel Theme: ANIMALS

As a vegan animal lover and uncompromising defender of their total liberation from human oppression for food, clothing, experimentation, and entertainment, this week’s theme from Where’s My Backpack? is naturally right up my alley!!

Coyote contemplating his life in Death Valley.

Yellow-bellied marmot, Yosemite National Park.

A couple gorgeous Oystercatchers (thanks to Kirsti, Joey, and Joanne for alerting me to exactly what kind of bird they are!) on the Mendocino coast of northern California.

At Kehoe Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore in the San Francisco Bay area.

Acorn woodpecker (thanks to Joanne for identifying the exact species!)  just outside Yosemite.

Turkey vulture, (ubiquitous in) northern California.

Right by the San Francisco Bay in China Camp State Park, a great white egret (top) AND a snowy egret!! ❤

Great horned owl (I think) in Red Rock Canyon State Park. Two of her young offspring were in the area, too. Apologies for the atrocious quality, but I didn’t yet have a good telephoto lens and this animal is too amazing and rare for me to not share my only picture of her!

Another magnificent coyote, this one in Sequoia National Park.

Newport Beach, Orange County in So Cal. I just LOVE his/her eyes!

Newport Beach again; I was showing a group of kids some tricks to finding sand crabs, and one of the girls dug up this beautiful beast! ❤

17-pound boa constrictor named Baby 🙂

Some good friends and I were eating dinner at my favorite restaurant, Wheel of Life in Irvine (100% vegan Thai food that even meat eaters go crazy for!, owned and run by FOURTH-GENERATION vegan, Victor, 66 years vegan and still lookin no more than early-50s, with his infamous    catchphrase–VEGAN POWAH!!); when I spotted a guy eating soup at a table outside with his buddy draped over his shoulders.  Apparently he got her when she was “even smaller” from the shelter.  I’ve always loved snakes, ever since my veterinarian Aunt Janet had a garter snake whom I would hold, who would wrap himself around my little 7-year-old arm, and who would dip his head into Janet’s fishbowl and gobble up goldfish.  But I’ve never held a snake this big.  It was a spectacular experience; you can truly feel the life in every square inch of their bodies, muscles pulsing, pulling, as they slither atop your torso.  There was something totally humbling about it–knowing that if Baby decided she didn’t like me or didn’t like what I was doing, she could wrap herself around my neck and squeeze the life out of me.  A possibility I was minorly concerned about:  “How will I know if she gets upset?” I asked her guardian.  “Oh,” he said, “well, she’ll squeeze your jugular and you’ll pass out in about 15 seconds.”
I laughed, and enjoyed the experience even more.  I absolutely LOVE any experience where I am humbled by nature or nonhuman animals; it makes me appreciate them even more, reminding me of why I love and fight for them, reinforcing and validating my knowledge that humans are just one species of millions, that we are not the pinnacle of evolution or the point of evolution, that every creature and wild space is marvelous and worthwhile for their own reasons, irrespective of human usefulness or greed or desire.

And of course, what animal-based photography post would be complete without a little Joie de Rikki??