nature

Los Angeles, to the Grand Canyon, to Holbrook, Arizona by Julia Walck

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If you know me, you know I love road trips. I jam-pack them full of quirky roadside stop offs, exploring, and all around fun. 

When Jackson told me he had never been to the Grand Canyon, I knew we had to take this opportunity to go and make the most of every moment along the way. I had been once before when I was four years old so this was kind of like my first time too. 

On this trip from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon, to Holbrook, Arizona, we traveled more than 1,200 miles, ate way too much diner food and stopped off at some really amazing Route 66 landmarks. 

We left Los Angeles around 7am on a Wednesday, grabbed coffee and hit the road. Our first stop was about an hour and fifty minutes in, at Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch.

ELMER'S BOTTLE TREE RANCH

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Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch is off of Route 66 in Oro Grande, CA. Thousands of glass bottles turned sculptures create a reflective forest in the front yard of the artist's house. 

Pictured here is me with Elmer Long himself. The man, the beard, the legend.

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I spoke with Elmer about his art, and he said "I've been doing this for over thirteen years now. I kind of let things get out of control". I chimed in with, "in a good way though!"

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He gets visitors from all around the world stopping by, taking photos and chatting. Mainly people on their way to Las Vegas or The Grand Canyon. He even gets some usuals, too; they'll drop off used glass bottles for Elmer to repurpose into art. Maybe next time we're on the road, we'll leave him something, too.

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We drove on until we got hungry for lunch, and stopped at The Wagon Wheel Restaurant (and gift shop) in Needles, CA. I got an omelette and a Route 66 enamel pin. 

DELGADILLO'S SNOW CAP DRIVE-IN

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Our next stop was Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In in Seligman, AZ to get some ice cream. Unfortunately it was closed for the holiday season, the only notice being a sign on their door. But all of the decorations and retro signage around still made the stop worth it. 

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Here's a photo of me daydreaming about ice cream...

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This little peace sign road mural was at a vintage store up the street.

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And apparently you can never have too many toilet planters. 

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THE GRAND CANYON

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Then it was the home stretch to the Grand Canyon! 

We arrived just past sunset and headed to the Yavapai Lodge where we stayed for the night. Before heading to bed, Jack and I made sure to star gaze for a bit. The sky was way different than the four stars we can see here in Los Angeles at night. The blackness was filled with speckles of light, and we could actually make out most of the constellations.

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The next morning at Yaki Point on the South Rim, we watched the canyon reveal itself from a shroud of darkness into a beautiful sun-beam-filled labyrinth. 

The sunrise over the Grand Canyon made the 6am wake-up call and 16 degree weather 100% worth it.

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Here are some photos I snapped during the stages of the sunrise, focusing on the Vishnu temple on the mountaintop. 

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Once we finished soaking in the sunrise, we went to Yavapai Point and Geology Museum to take in more views. 

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Not to sound cliché, but the Grand Canyon was too beautiful for words. And the photos definitely do not do this beauty justice. 

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As we were driving out of the Grand Canyon around noon, the line to get in was insanely long. I think we did it right by showing up late, staying the night and making an early morning of it. 

FLINTSTONE'S BEDROCK CITY

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Down the hill from the Grand Canyon is Flintstone's Bedrock City: a diner, "theme park", gift shop and camping spot. 

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It's $5 per person to go explore the "theme park" in the back. It's basically a life-sized Bedrock City. There is one 'ride' you can go on in a cart through the plaster volcano. Other than that it's exploring the large props everywhere. 

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You can even slide down the dinosaur just like Fred! I slid down it. Twice!

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Bedrock City is filled with fun colors and little nooks and crannies with the most random things. Like giant teeth!

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There's also Fred's Diner inside where you can grab a bite on your way out from (or into) the Grand Canyon.

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METEOR CRATER NATURAL LANDMARK

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The next stop on the way to Holbrook was the meteor crater natural landmark in Winslow, AZ. Honestly, it was a bit underwhelming after just having seen the Grand Canyon. Maybe we should've come here first for a "warm up".

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There was an Apollo test capsule, a couple of cool lookout points, and some facts and figures on the crater in a little museum on site. It was an... okay stop off. Unless you're really into meteors, I'd suggest saving the $18 per person entry fee and using it towards your parking permit at the Grand Canyon. 

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BUCKET OF BLOOD STREET

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Yep, just a street named "Bucket of Blood St." This is a real thing, and is the most metal street name I've ever seen. It's just over the railroad tracks in Holbrook, AZ on a fairly empty street. Not really much to do here other than snap a photo, blast some Lamb of God and start a mosh pit. 

WIGWAM MOTEL

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Our final stop of the day was at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, AZ on Route 66. 

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For $69 a night and the pure nostalgia of it all, why wouldn't you pull off and sleep in a wigwam? "It's freezing out there at night!" you might say. But don't worry: the wigwams aren't made from cloth, they're concrete and have comfy beds and heaters inside!

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Fun fact: the Disney-Pixar movie, Cars, used the Wigwam Motel as inspiration for the Cozy Cone Motel. 

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For you Los Angeles folk who don't want to make the trek out to Holbrook, AZ, but still want to sleep in a wigwam I've got good news! There's a closer Wigwam Motel in San Bernadino, CA

A little illustration I did of the Wigwam Motel

A little illustration I did of the Wigwam Motel

POW WOW TRADING POST

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The Pow Wow Trading Post in Holbrook, AZ once was a motel turned geological rock shop. Now it merely acts as a waymark along the Route 66 road.

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We stopped off here to check out the massive totem and cool signage on the building before heading to Tom & Suzie's Diner in Holbrook for breakfast.

JACKRABBIT TRADING POST

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Jackrabbit Trading Post has been on Route 66 since the 1940s. It's a souvenir shop known for it's strange "HERE IT IS" billboard, and a fiberglass rabbit you can ride. 

Make sure you follow the signs for this stop off. We missed it a day prior when we were headed eastbound on the I-40 because our maps were routing us to the wrong location. Luckily headed westbound on the I-40 the next day there were loads of signs for it. If you're headed eastbound, keep your eyes peeled for the "HERE IT IS" sign from afar. I believe it's close to the Jackrabbit Road exit.

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When in the gift shop, I bought a cheesy Route 66 beer cozy and another enamel pin. 

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Now it was time for the long home-stretch. We stopped off in Kingman, AZ for lunch at Rutherford's 66 Family Diner, and did a bit of antiquing where I found a cute wicker plant stand  at Gracie's Vintage.

We arrived back in Los Angeles around 7:30pm on Friday. This road trip was loads of fun, and a much needed little getaway. And we did all of this in three days!  

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I’m not sure where our next road trip will take us, but I’m excited for the ride!

Poppy Fields | Places to Go by Julia Walck

On Sunday, Emily and I drove out to Lancaster to see the poppy fields. We left LA at 6am and man am I glad we did. It was already very crowded when we showed up to the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve at 7:30am. 

Oh! I have pink hair again!

We hiked around the poppy fields for a couple of hours and headed out to explore the open roads around us and found more spots to shot. 

It was about 9:40am now. The parking lot at the poppy fields was at capacity and a herd of people were walking up from their cars parked on road below. 

I had a lot of fun playing around with scenic reflections in these mirrors! I found them at Goodwill a few days before our trip out to the poppy fields. 

I Windexed this full length mirror on the side of the road and it was probably my favorite moment from that day. That and the fact that I was hiking around with Windex in my backpack.

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Shoutout to Emily Sarpolus for putting up with my early morning adventures!

Superbloom | Places to Go by Julia Walck

This weekend I day-tripped out to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to see the "superbloom" of wildflowers. 

They probably have about a week or so left in them. So if you've been waiting to go, now's the time!

The sweet spots to check out were on the outskirts of the park around Di Giorgio Road and Henderson Canyon Road. Di Giorgio had more purple flowers, and Henderson Canyon had yellow flowers for daaaaaaaaays.

Before the trip, I bought some gel filters off of Amazon to play around with shapes and colors when shooting in the flower fields. 

I was able to cast cool shadows, play with foreground/background composition, create overlays and even light leaks by using the filters. The trick was to not let them fly away in the crazy wind!

Using the pink and yellow filters created a warm and fuzzy feel, where the purples and blues gave off a psych-grunge textured look.

I also busted out my Polaroid one600 and SX-70 that I recently snagged from an estate sale.

If you drove out further south on Borrego Springs towards Tubb Canyon Road, you'd find the Ocotillo trees. 

Next flower stop on my list is the Lancaster Poppy Fields. I haven't been in 3 years! They're also experiencing a beautiful bloom right now thanks to all this rain! 

Desert X | Places to Go by Julia Walck

Inspirational day trips are one of my favorite weekend things to do. This past Sunday, we drove through Palm Springs looking at art installations from Desert X. These site-specific works are only up until April 30, and they're definitely worth the trip.

Desert X is a curated exhibition of work that focuses on the land as a canvas. The artists work with site-specific areas and in a sense, use them as the main medium for their art.

It spans from Whitewater all the way down to the Coachella Valley. Here's a helpful map that can give you a preview of the journey. You can also pick up a Desert X map/booklet at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. 

We saw 8/15 installations (pretty solid for one day). A few of them had been performance pieces in February only so we wouldn't have been able to see them anyways; and Richard Prince's exhibit was no longer open to the public due to theft of his art, (major bummer).

Here's the installations we did see, and the order in which we saw them:

1. "MIRAGE" BY DOUG AITKEN (33°50'59.6"N 116°33'57.5"W)

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Mirage was our first stop, and is easily my favorite out of all the installations. We left LA at 6am and arrived at this mirrored house at 8am. Since it was fairly early we had free reign for a while. It was nice; gave us some time to reflect. (Pun intended).

After roaming around and catching all angles of this beauty, we headed to the Ace and picked up a map (and some pancakes).

2. "DONATION BOX" BY GABRIEL KURI (33°51'09.51"N 116°33'02.54"W)

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The hours of "Donation Box" are displayed as Wed-Sun 10am-4pm. We showed up at 10 and the building was closed with no one there to open it, so I just snapped a shot through the window and we went on our way to the next exhibit. 

3. "VISIBLE DISTANCE / SECOND SIGHT” BY JENNIFER BOLANDE (33°50’41.70”N 116°30’21.02”W)

These pieces can be seen from your moving car as you drive along Gene Autry Trail. I thought these billboards were brilliant. (Bill-iant?)

They're so simple but send such a strong message. In a world where we're constantly bombarded by ads, it's nice to stop and recognize where we are and be present in nature. 

4. "HEARTH” BY LITA ALBUQUERQUE (33°46’50.37”N 116°24’ 34.67”W)

This life size resin cast female body has one ear down, listening to the Earth and the nature surrounding her. She was also the same ultramarine blue color as the hat I was wearing, which multiple people pointed out. 

"Hearth" is about hearing the Earth. Albuquerque even composed an audio track that plays softly on speakers surrounding the sculpture. 

5. "THE CIRCLE OF LAND AND SKY” BY PHILLIP K SMITH III (33°46'33.3"N 116°22'07.3"W)

We got to "The Circle of Land and Sky" around 1pm. AKA the perfect time for that 93° sunshine to beat down on us. It was worth it though. The shadows the sun cast in different directions acted as an extension of the sculpture and almost were mirrors themselves.

Similar to "Mirage", the mirrors blended with their surroundings and almost seemed invisible. The land met the sky and everything in between.

We actually saw this one twice that day. Sunset seemed like a great time to go back and catch those pastel reflections cascading on the mirrors. 

The artist Phillip K Smith III was also there at sunset, and I had the pleasure of meeting him. Smith told me it took about 2 weeks to complete this piece, and he's come back multiple times to shoot time lapses of the sunrises, sunsets and super moon. 

6. "HOLLOW EARTH” BY GLENN KAINO (33°44'42.89"N  116°12'03.34"W)

At "Hollow Earth", you pull up to what seems like a murdery shack in the middle of a barren field. For the entry code, you text "hollowearth" to 41411.

It's fueled by solar power so make sure you go when there's still light outside. 

Once inside, you're surrounded by darkness and the only light source is what seems to be an endless portal to another dimension. Standing on it looks like you're floating over an infinite abyss, and was actually a bit terrifying. 

7. "CURVES AND ZIG ZAGS” BY CLAUDIA COMTE (33°42'23.9"N 116°23'55.5"W)

The lines on this wall were crazy. Looking straight on it seems like it's one horizontal structure, but as you walk around exploring different angles to view this piece, that horizontal line takes shape.

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That zig zag, curved motif striped on the wall plays off of the winding structure of the wall itself. To top it off, the shadow cast by the piece also creates a zig zag. 

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Anyone else getting major Twin Peaks vibes from this?

7. "I AM” BY TAVARES STRACHAN (33°47'38.3"N 116°23'44.0"W)

"I am" was our final stop. Open hours for this exhibit are Wed-Sun 7pm-10pm as it needs to be fully dark to view.

290 craters lit with neon tubes create pools of light among the desert floor.

If viewed from above, the phrase "I am" bursts out from its surroundings. If you have a drone, this might be a great place to use it. 

Aerial shot  via  David Blank for Whitewall Magazine

Aerial shot via David Blank for Whitewall Magazine

Exhibits we didn't get to check out were Sherin Guirguis "One I Call", Jeffrey Gibson "Alive!", Will Boone "Monument" and Armando Lerma "La Fiesta en el Desierto".

Remember, these installations are only here until April 30. If you're thinking "oh sweet, they'll be up for Coachella!" Just remember hundreds of other people are thinking that exact same thing. If you want to see these pieces on a more intimate level I'd suggest going before then. 

Be sure to check specific hours of exhibits on the Desert X website and have fun exploring!