Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Los Angeles January

Last January, I made a quick trip out to Los Angeles and back, to interview for the position of editor of the Cactus and Succulent Journal. On the way out, the exhaust system fell out of my car, at 11 pm just outside Tonopah, AZ. A resourceful 24 hour mechanic hacked off the entire thing with a saw. I was back on the road and stayed in Inyo at an $80 Motel 6. Freaked me out. Then to Palm Springs to get a new exhaust system, then to LA for the interview. I think I was a little rattled and out of it by the time the interview happened. It was at one of my favorite places, The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. The library had a fascinating looking Bukowski exhibit, but time was short and I wanted to visit the Desert Garden, one of the finest collections of cacti and succulents in the world.

The only genus of cactus to have visible persistent leaves, Pereskia. Not so common in cultivation.

A tropical rainforest cactus of some kind.

One of the very few Jasminocereus thouarsii growing in the US. It is endemic to the Galapagos.

Another fantastic columnar.

Crazy bonsaied Fouquieria formosa (I think).

A variegated Pereskiopsis.

Some outdoor scenes:

I poked around Los Angeles for a few hours, driving down Sunset Blvd. and into Santa Monica, visiting some old haunts, in a fairly glum and nostalgic mood. After dinner at Hop Li's Seafood, I decided to get a head start on some habitat I wanted to visit and drive up to Victorville and spend the night. The next day I was out in habitat near Helendale, looking for Sclerocactus polyancistrus. The Echinocereus engelmannii armatus here are awesome:

Finally found a very few of the Sclerocactus polyancistrus, a first for me.

Wild red and white spines, twisted and shaggy.

Also Echinocactus polycephalus here.

The Echinocereus are amazing.

The empty spine cage of a dead Sclerocactus eaten by a beetle larva. The beetle larvae really kill a lot of these plants.

Found this completely out of place piece of lingerie out in the middle of nowhere. A tale I may not want to know.

I hiked the few miles back to the car and went up to Adelanto to see the giant statue of Kwan Yin, and the Buddhist temple. The whole thing is utterly surreal, in the middle of nowhere, rural California.

Then I drove back to Elmer Long's Bottle Tree Farm along old Route 66, south of Helendale.

I then drove almost the whole way up to Barstow but realized I didn't have my GPS unit. This handheld unit contains hundreds of irreplaceable data points for cactus habitat. It is only worth a couple hundred bucks, but the info it has on it is priceless. So of course I had to go all the way back to Helendale and try to find it. I retraced my steps and went back to the Sclero habitat.

The GPS was right next to this beautiful cholla. I had absentmindedly set it down while photographing and then just wandered off. It took a couple hours to find it, but I was greatly relieved when I did.

I then drove up to Barstow and stayed there, and then the next morning, before heading home, checked another habitat of Sclerocactus polyancistrus close to town.

I only found one clump in the surrounding thousands of yards. This is why Sclerocactus polyancistrus is sometimes called "the hermit cactus."

Echinocactus polycephalus outside Newberry Springs:
More wild Echinocereus engelmannii armatus:

I dropped down the back roads to I-10, past Amboy Crater and some odd man made structures at the edge of a salt flat.

A desolate part of California.

I didn't get the job of editor, but I had a great trip and saw some plants for the first time. I also noticed how wet and green the Mojave is in January. Some fertile time before the absolutely scorching furnace of summer settles in. I also had an opportunity to reflect on how much the people and places in LA had meant to me. I haven't been able to visit nearly often enough. I miss it.