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Friday, March 27, 2009

Learn Digital Photography in Texas' Biggest State Park

If you said, "Big Bend" as the answer to what is the biggest state park in the big state of Texas, you're right on the money, pardner. And if you're a newbie or consider yourself an "intermediate" digital photographer and want to learn more, now's the time to register for a digital photography course at Big Bend--take a shot at one of two offered in May.

When we say, "biggest state park," we say it with good reason. There's over 300,000 acres of land encompassed in this park. Much of it lies in the Chihuahuan Desert. Don't think of endless sands and cactus. Twenty-three miles of the Rio Grande river roll along the border of the park, so a bit of paddling can be had. Or saddle up to check out some of the seemingly endless miles available for horse riding, mountain biking, or just plain two-foot hiking.

But the photo workshop, led by the chief photographer of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine, Earl Nottingham, and backed by hotshot photogs from Canon cameras. Says Nottingham of the workshop:

"The camera is the perfect tool to gain a true appreciation of the Big Bend Country," Nottingham said. "It forces you to sit on a mountaintop while waiting for magic light and to savor the sights, sounds and fragrances of the Chihuahuan Desert."

The course operates on either one of two sessions: May 17-20 and May 21-24, and will set you back $450 per person. That includes park entry fees, lodging, meals and assistance of park rangers. Lodging is at the Sauceda Lodge, featuring dormitory-style accommodations with separate wings for men and women, and a dining room where meals are served. Dormitory accommodations? Wow! Maybe you can cut a deal to stay in your own RV and join up for the eats and class sessions.

Find out more by ringing up the Big Bend Ranch State Park at (432) 358-4444.

photos: Mud bake, sean_mcgee on flickr.com; horseback rider, Chase Fountain, Texas Parks and Wildlife

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Monday, March 23, 2009

New Virtual Tour of Hearst Castle

What has 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres of gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a movie theater, an airfield, and the world's largest private zoo?

The answer lies near San Simeon, California: Hearst Castle, built by newspaper publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. In its heyday, an invitation to visit the estate was a big thing. Today anyone can visit the place and take a grand tour of the opulence that big money could build. Actually, there are several different tours of the place, now managed by the State of California.

You might wonder though, if you really want to spend the time--and money--on taking one of the tours. After all, the least expensive visit will set you back $20 per adult ticket. Now California State Parks, the managing agency for castle tours, offers a "virtual tour" on the official website that gives you a free taste of what you'll see if you cough up the big bucks. Visit the site at www.hearstcastle.com.

photo: reih on flickr.com

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Monday, March 16, 2009

"Giant Rock" That Nearly Crushed RV a Cosmic Attraction

Said to be perhaps the world's tallest freestanding rock, "Giant Rock" near Landers, California has an interesting history. At over seven stories tall, it is indeed one huge chunk of granite. Over the years it's been a meeting point for Native Americans, UFOlogists, dirt bikers, and RVers looking for a spot to boondock.

Originally a "one piece" affair, in February 2000 a huge chunk of Giant Rock sloughed off, nearly smashing an RV parked nearby. "Mystery" surrounds the reason for the breakage--some say Mother Earth was lodging a complaint, others suggest that a bonfire set under the rock may have contributed to the breakage.

Want to see it for yourself? Find your way to California Highway 247 out of Yucca Valley. Be prepared for a STEEP upgrade. North of Landers watch for the hard to read sign to Linn Road, and travel east on Linn Road until the pavement ends. Travel 1.5 miles on dirt to the fork in the road, and take the right fork another 1.6 miles over "Whoops!" type dirt road (highly exagerated washboard road) to the rock.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

California's Point Cabrillo Lighthouse

There's just a fascination with lighthouses. Stationed on a wind-swept bluff, overlooking an infinity of open ocean, carrying out their assignment decade after decade. One such "light station" as they are now referred to (loses a lot of the romance if you ask us), is just north of Mendocino, California at Point Cabrillo.

The Point Cabrillo light has stood its solitary position for over 100 years. It has seen shipwrecks, survived the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and been "home" to countless light keepers and their families. Now California State Parks folks have cooked up a celebration commemorating the work of the lighthouse and its keepers. The most notable events are the Partnership Celebration on June 6th and the historic relighting of the Point Cabrillo Light on June 10th. These are two of the events which will provide visitors and guests with a rare opportunity to share a historical time with friends and family, while learning more about the legacy of Point Cabrillo.

“This is history in the making,” said Director Ruth Coleman of California State Parks. “It is only made possible by the hard work and dedication of hundreds of volunteers and private donations from our partners that have been restoring and maintaining this incredible light station.”

“There are hundreds of stories to be told, here,” said Ron Eich, president, Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers Association (PCLK). “We are very proud of the docents, families and interpreters who will share these stories with our visitors during this centennial celebration.”

For more information, phone the PCLK at (707) 937-6123.

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