Dixon Lake, Escondido CA

Dixon Lake is one of those hidden gems in Southern California that is right in front of your nose but you can’t see it. The lake is at the edge of the City of Escondido, the nice part of Escondido. We drove up this street that took us to up the small hill and right at the entrance of Dixon Lake.

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The lake is drinking water for the city below. How it is a drinking water is beyond me since there are fishes living in that water along with ducks, turtles and other animals. The point is you can’t swim in that water but you can do so much there. Fishing is a big thing there, they even have fishing tournaments. It is a big trout, bass and catfish fishing waters.

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The best part of Dixon besides fishing is camping. The campground is big and has everything you need from showers to flushing toilets to a small store. It has great views of the city at night or you can decide to just get a campground that looks over the lake. There is wild life so you got to be careful with the food. I like the fact that you can reserve a campground and no matter the time you arrive you will have a spot waiting for you. This is extremely important to us because we are planning on camping on the weekends after work. By the time we drive to the campground it will be late a night so having a place to sleep is a blessing.

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Another thing I like is that the rangers check on the campsites every 1-2 hours. This includes at night and early morning hours. This helps with keeping the noise down at night to enjoy a peaceful camping experience.

On my last blog I mention how I was on the fence between vlogging and enjoying family/friend time. Well this trip I balance that out. I took a few hours to vlog and take photos of the place by myself. This gave me the chance to explore and test my vlogging abilities (which currently suck) and also enjoy time with the people I care about.

I think it worked out great and now I am able to share the video I made and photos I took with everyone without compromising family/friend time. I will from now on take a few hours to do my photography, vlogging and exploring before I return and set the cameras down and enjoy family/friend time.

Torrey Pines State Reserve

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I finally made it to Torrey Pines State Reserve! I am excited because not only is this a beautiful place but because there is a funny back story to finding this place. I will post that story in Through Back Thursday series it will be called Black’s Beach. This blog is a few months late, many because I forgot all about it.

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Visitor Center

I had a choice of either go to San Juan Capistrano Mission or Border Field State Park. At the end I ended up going to Torrey Pines State Reserve and I am glad because I can take it off my New Year’s Resolution List. This place gets packed with visitors so keep in mind that you will see many people on the trail during beautiful California weather. We hiked several trails and each trail had its own unique feature.

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What is so special about Torrey Pines State Reserve besides its beauty, it’s the Torrey Pines itself. These pine trees don’t grown anywhere else besides here in Torrey Pines Reserve. I took my nephew with me to get him interested in visiting state parks and also collecting patches. At first he was not really interested in the patch. After finishing several trails he wanted his patch. It was like a trophy to him.

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What amazed me was the flower bloom this year. It made the park even more beautiful than it already is.

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TBT=The Animal Portrait Project

TBT=Animal Portrait Project

Back in the days when San Diego’s Safari Park was the Wild Animal Park, I decided to challenge my photography skills by photographing each animal in the Wild Animal Park.  Years later I added San Diego Zoo as another place to photography animals.  The point was to take a portrait of the animals without the appearance of cages.   Sometimes I couldn’t avoid the cages, therefore some shots you can see the fence, cage or enclosure. I had a membership at the time and I could go to either park whenever I wanted too.  I figured I had plenty of time to photograph each animal.  Well, at least the ones who didn’t seem to be in a cage.

I took my time, each year renewing my membership and each year forgetting to visit the two parks.  The times I did visit the parks, I started to notice that I was slowly getting better, less blurry photos and more interesting angles.  Then one day I forgot to renew my membership which included 4 free guest passes.  Today’s membership does not include the 4 free guest passes, therefore I decided not to renew it again.  Sadly I didn’t finish my Animal Portrait Project.

 

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This orangutan was one of my favorite animals to photography.  At the time when I took these photos, there was a young orangutan jumping, swinging and rolling in front of this crowd.  Everyone was taking pictures of this young orangutan.  Since it was crowded on one corner of the habitat I moved to the opposite side of the habitat to wait patiently for this young orangutan to come my way so I could get an undisturbed photo of him playing.  The young orangutan was putting up a show for the crowd so I decided to focus my attention to an older orangutan closer to me who was patiently seeing the young orangutan play.

As I turn my camera to the older orangutan it looked straight at me.  I snapped a picture.  Then I lowered my camera to check the photos, saw it was ok I aimed that camera towards the older orangutan and snapped another photo.  The orangutan figured I was giving him my attention so something surprising happened, the orangutan started to pose for me.  When I say pose I mean the orangutan would look straight into my camera pose, wait for a few seconds then change his position, look at me waited and posed again.  We did this for a while.  I kept on taking photos of this orangutan because he was posing for me only.  I know this because other people started to see that the older orangutan was moving within the habitat and wanted to take pictures of him.  The orangutan would only look into my camera and ignored the rest.  I even overheard someone saying that the orangutan was posing for me. The older orangutan and I shared a connection at that moment.  When I came home and viewed the pictures I was happy and sad for this orangutan.  I was happy because of the connection we had and the many poses he did for me. I was sad because of the intelligence he showed and awareness of the place he was living in. He will always live inside a “habitat.”  I do have to say that without the existence of the Safari Park or San Diego Zoo I would never see these animals in person. Maybe the San Diego Zoo will give me an annual pass to complete my project wishful thinking.  This is so far what I have.

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TBT=Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park

I woke up on a Saturday (10/15/2015) with a sudden urge to explore.  I didn’t know where I wanted to go but I knew I had to visit some place new.  I checked by Bucket Travel List and found Leo Carrillo Ranch.  This place was recommended by AnaKaren. Thank you AnaKaren for recommending this place I should have visited it sooner.

I got my cameras ready and headed to the ranch. I had no idea who Leo Carrillo was but apparently he was very famous in his time.  After some quick research online and a short video at the visitor center, I begin to admire this man. Not for his movies or his television series but for what he did for California and preserving its beauty.  He worked for California Beaches and Parks Commission at some point in his life. During that time he was a key factor in the acquisition of Hearst Castle, he helped developed Los Angeles Olvera Street complex and the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. After visiting all three attractions I am truly thankful that men like Leo Cabrillo were able to set aside these beautiful locations for everyone to see.

When I arrived to the Ranch it seemed empty due to the size.  I entered the visitor center and I was greeted by a friendly staff who gave me information about the ranch and allowed me to see a 10-minute video.  After the short film, I walked alone and just took my time.  I did go on the free tour guide because I know I wanted to sit down and admire the ranch.  Since this place is used for wedding receptions, the pool area of the ranch as well as the cabana were being occupied by the wedding planner and set up crew.  I was not able to access that area however I did take photos from far away.  I did enjoy my time there, it was truly relaxing and did not have the feel of a tourist attraction, it was more like an invitation to someone’s ranch. I saw several people take food to enjoy a picnic on the ranch grounds. I highly recommend this since it is a quiet place to enjoy a nice meal.

 

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Galleta Meadows

Thursday is Throwback Thursday, it is story time!  Here is an old journal entry from 2/18/2011 of one of my adventures from long ago.  I am sure things have changed.  I do plan on visiting this place again.  I highly recommend this place.

Galleta Meadows is located in Borrego Springs a small desert community located in the surrounding Anza-Borrego State Desert Park. Galleta Meadows is a private underdeveloped property owned by Dennis Avery a multi-millionaire and business man.   Avery brought back to “life” the extinct Pliocene and Pleistocene animals that once roam the Anza-Borrego Desert State park millions of years ago by placing metal sculptures in his land. He has also included many animals that exist today and historical sculptures. Avery wants for everyone especially children to be amazed at these metal sculptures and become interested in the Plio-Pleistocene animals of the area. The best part of Galleta Meadows is that is free to the public.Galleta Meadows Feb 2012 (63).JPG

There are roughly 129 Sky Art sculptures in the Galleta Meadows Estate. The sculptures fall into three categories; science, historical events or natural features of the Anza-Borrego desert. There is an extra category,  fantasy.  The sculptures are made of sheets of iron which will rust over time giving the sculpture that life-like quality. Each sculpture very in size and weight.

Galleta Meadows Feb 2012 (93).JPGRicardo Breceda is the artist behind these amazing sculptures. His start as an artist was accidental as described in “The Accidental Artist,” by author Diana Lindsay. It was a combination of events that paved the road for Ricardo Breceda to become the “Picasso of Metal.”  It all starts with his unfortunate construction accident that leads him to find other means of earning money. He started selling boots to customers; those who could not pay cash would trade. One day a man traded a welding machine for a pair of boots. The welding machine was put aside for a while until Ricardo decided to learn to use it. Around that time Jurassic Park movies were at their peak of popularity. His daughter Lianna one day asked her father for a life size T-Rex for Christmas. With no artistic background or knowledge of welding, Ricardo begin making the T-Rex. With each new sculpture his skills and craftsmanship improved, each sculpture became more life-like. It was only a matter of time before Dennis Avery hired Ricardo to make the amazing sculptures and install them in his property.galleta-meadows-feb-2012-12

Prior to visiting the Galleta Meadows I made sure I did my research. This year (2011) I want to not only share my video footage and photos in a form of a short You Tube video but provided some background information about the place I visit. Galleta Meadows is the first video with backup research. I even bought “The Accidental Artist” book to learn about the artist.

The weather was perfect for visiting the desert. We arrived early in the morning and without even looking hard we found the first set of sculptures along S3 road. The majority of the sculptures are placed near the road. Do to their distinctive rusty color they blend in with the surrounding however they are easy to find.   When we arrived at the first set of sculptures we drove on the desert floor and parked. We walked up to the nearby elephants and horses. The walk was enjoyable since the kids played with the rocks and plants. It is rare to see kids without an electronic gadget in their hands these days.Galleta Meadows Feb 2012 (122).JPG

As we walked towards a big eagle we realized tGalleta Meadows Feb 2012 (222).JPGhat there was an RV blocking the view of this amazing sculpture. We asked the owners of the RV permission to take pictures of the sculpture while only being a couple feet away from their large vehicle. It was disappointing to see this great sculpture blocked by an RV and I do feel sorry for the owners because they were getting a lot of foot traffic in their campsite.

 

Since we did not have a map to identify the locations of each group of sculptures we started driving in the direction of the Anza-Borrego Desert Visitor Center to obtain a copy. The visitor center was busy with may visitors asking questions about trials and other interesting things in the Desert. We stayed to watch a 15 minute movie on the desert which was informative.

We continued looking for the rest of the sculptures now that we had a map. It was Galleta Meadows Feb 2012 (274).JPGgetting later in the day and more people were arriving to the sculptures. It almost felt like Disneyland, we waited our turn to take pictures with the sculptures. In the morning we took our time playing around with different poses to captures a sense of place in the photos but in the afternoon we started rushing to get to as many sculptures as possible. I started to do a “drive by shooting” which is taking as many photos as possible using the zoom feature in my camera while staying inside the car and driving in very low speed. We didn’t get to all the sculptures I really wanted to see the dinosaurs but the day was getting late and we still had to drive home.

galleta-meadows-feb-2012-143At one point we drove on to the desert floor to get close to the sculptures. That was a very bad idea since the soil was soft and we were not on a high rise vehicle but a sedan. We got suck in the sand, the more my sister pressed on the accelerator the more we sank in. We started to place broken branches underneath the tires from the nearby plants since there were no rocks to create traction. We were only 100 feet away from the main road and the small dead shrub camouflaged our car well from other passing drivers. We called AAA and they were not able to help us because we were to far off from hard surface and it was considered “wilderness.” To make matters worse they said that if they sent a driver it Galleta Meadows Feb 2012 (280).JPGwould be about 60 minutes. Luckily there was a very nice Samaritan who we fagged down and he stopped to help us. He was very kind and didn’t call us idiots for driving on the desert floor. He immediately told us to remove the branches and said “don’t let anyone see” meaning using the branches. He was skilled and very strong. Within a few minutes the car was out of the sand hole and we gathered the kids and jumped in the car. We thanked him and he advised us to stay near the road and walk to the sculptures. Thank you good Samaritan.

After that we walked to the sculptures and we did more “drive by shooting.” Although we didn’t see all the sculptures we had fun with the ones we saw.

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Links

Ricardo Breceda: Accidental Artist
by Diana Lindsay
Link: http://a.co/ck8YGOr

 

Escape Room=Enigma Headquarters

Have you heard of an “Escape Room?”   I have asked several people this same question and most have not heard of it. Of course the words “Escape Room” give some idea to what it could be but besides trying to escape from a room there is not much information.  I first heard of an escape room from one of my cousins who had recently visited one in Los Angeles.  An escape room is a room full of puzzles in which you and a group of friends are locked in for 60 minutes.  The whole point of this escape room is to escape.  No great mystery there.  The question is, what type of puzzles are there?  How hard are the puzzles? What happens if you can’t get out?

For New Year’s Day, I decided to take my family to one of these escape rooms. I chose one with a mission.  Enigma Headquarters in San Diego is an escape room with a storyline to it.  You are recruited as an Enigma agent who has a specific mission to complete.  The mission can vary with time so as to keep people coming back.  As we drove to the location we imagined ourselves as Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible and sang the Mission Impossible theme song.

When we arrived at the Enigma Headquarters at 2:15 pm on Sunday we notice that the building was locked and the only way into the building was to call the Enigma Headquarters for their agents to open the door.  We were told to come back because we arrived too early so we decided to walk around the Little Italy section to kill time.  While we waited we started to wonder why there was nobody coming in and out of the building.  Why was there a half-way home across the street and could it be that nobody has come out alive.

The movie SAW came into mind. We all started to recall some of the most gruesome scenes in SAW which made us a bit more nervous.  Maybe this story of being recruited as an Enigma Agent was just a front.  Maybe we would be trapped there and would have to cut body parts off to make it out alive. We started observing the building looking for scratch marks, blood, signs of any type of struggle from previous “agents.”  We start
ed to imagine men in lab coats with a welcoming smile and a devilish look in their eyes greeting us.  I was then questioned as to how I found out about the place and did I read the reviews.  Speculation was that I might have received an invitation to come to this mysterious headquarters.  The more we waited, the more our imaginations went wild. Prior to entering, we sent a text message to other family members with a picture of the building and a message that read, “If we don’t report back in 2 hours please come find us.”  We pressed the call button and waited for the doors to open.

As we walked through the hall we realized we were the only ones there.  Once the elevator doors closed I grabbed on to the handle expecting the elevator to free
fall as part of Enigma’s mission.  Since it didn’t the teens started to 20170101_141517semi jump on th
e elevator to add a bit a fear factor to the ride.  We got off the elevator and the Enigma door opens,  Agent Conroy instructing us to come in.  We came in and sat down on a small receiving room with tables, chairs, television screen, flashlights, pens, and paper.  After taking care of the
“we are not responsible for any psychological, bodily injury…” waiver, Agent Conroy started the mission.

There were five of us trying to solve the clues.  If it wasn’t for Conroy I think we would have been lost. Conroy was very patient and professional. I know if I was in Conroy’s position I would be like “you idiots how many times do I have to give you the answer without giving you the answer.”   At the end, we finished the mission with 2 minutes to spare.  I have to say that we really enjoyed this escape room.  We even got pictures to remember our mission success.  I highly recommend this place.  The more people the better the discount also they don’t put you with strangers so that was a bonus.

Helpful Tips

  • If you find a Groupon ticket, use it.
  • Rainy day activity.
  • Great for teens and adults