In the Heart of it All!

Story and Photos by Salvis Vita

The cruise was set and I was settled in for a scenic drive into the high desert of the Western Mojave. I needed a weekend away from all of the hustle. I was finally going to find out what there was to see and do in California City. The hotel looked rather new and was in a quiet location across the street from the city’s large Central Park.

That evening I checked www.CaliforniaCityChamber.com to plan my visit. The next morning I watched the sun rise over Castle Butte from my room. I was ready to explore.

I had missed most of the wildflowers. How colorful the displays are depends on how much rain, warmth, and wind the winter and spring storms deliver and when. I chatted with a local over breakfast and was told to check a Visit Cal City blog for wildflower updates each spring. I wanted to learn about life in this desert, flowers or not, and drove to the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area. I chose the plant trail and learned what variety there is in just shrubs in this desert. Fascinating. I didn’t see a tortoise but I did see one of their burrows, a multitude of zippy lizards, and a glimpse of a beautiful Rosy Boa that decided I was very scary.

The city (3rd largest in size in the state!) has what must be hundreds of miles of dirt roads, most of which can easily be driven in any car. It was laid out as a master planned community to rival Los Angeles. This makes California City very popular with off road enthusiasts. OHV activity is centered around Borax Bill Park in the eastern half of the city. I picked the Geology driving tour off the list I had seen on the website.

A quick drive north on Neuralia Road, a couple of miles on 14, and I was in Red Rock Canyon State Park. This place rivaled what I’ve seen in parks in Southern Utah! As I explored the Hagen Trail and Red Cliffs I read my tour guide. I was looking at thousands of years of natural history in the cream, pink, red, and brown stripes of the cliffs. I also came across a Chuckwalla sunbathing on a rock and watched ravens bully a hawk in a heart stopping display.

The next morning I was hiking up the southern peak of Twin Buttes to meet the sun. What a view! I was looking at the the flight line and dry lake bed of Edwards AFB. This is where the sound barrier was broken by Check Yeager and the newest in flight testing continues. The morning was clear. As I took in the 360° of vast desert I saw the southern most Sierra Nevada to the west, Telescope Peak to the northeast, Olancha Peak in the High Sierra to the north, and Mt. Baldy and even San Gorgornio in the San Bernardinos to the south. I heard myself whisper, “Wow!” California City is one of the hottest birding spots in Southern California.

 


 

The habitats created by the parks and golf courses attract birds migrating on the Pacific Flyway. I started in Central Park where Yellow-headed Blackbirds were courting and building nests. Thirty-three species, not bad considering I missed half the park. I saw two handsome Loggerhead Shrikes as I drove to the resort at the base of Galileo Hill. A quick check-in at the front dest and I was off. Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Western Tanagers, Phoebes, Kingbirds… I was alerted to a Verdin by some friendly super birders. My list grew to forty-seven species!

My zoom lens had gotten a workout and my spare battery was about to run out. The sun was setting; I was going to be back. I’d never been to a Renaissance and Fantasy Faire and California City hosts the only one in the High Desert. There were more buttes to hike, flowers and birds to find, and sights to see in and around California City. The cruise was on as the desert presented one last gift, a spectacular sunset.


 

ADVERTORIAL
Foxy’s Landing Restaurant--great food with a view , by Joyce Grant

CALIFORNIA CITY – Glen Bolding and Jayme Rawls are convinced that diners at Foxy’s Landing Restaurant have the best, most interesting views in the city—all while enjoying great homestyle-cooked food.

The dining room vista includes the Tehachapi Mountains as a scenic backdrop for the action on the runway at the California City Airport.

The restaurant itself celebrates the excitement of aviation and features model airplanes suspended from the ceiling in the dining area.

Glen, a hobbyist for many years and member of the California City RC (radio-controlled) Aircraft Club, shares with customers his collection of home-built World War II model aircraft that include biplanes, a P-51 Trainer, and eyecatching Red Baron Triplane.

In addition, a large colorful oil painting on the wall illustrates past hot air balloon events held at the airport, as well as another which depicts the original airport terminal.

The friendly little fox logo also suggests the relaxed, sociable atmosphere Glen and his partner, Jayme, have created since he took ownership in 2007.

Glen, who does most of the cooking, and Jayme, who does the serving, offer a popular menu of daily specials and all-you-can-eat weekend specials of catfish and baby back ribs that have earned them a bevy of loyal customers.

Glen is a food ‘craftsman’ who considers breakfast to be an artful endeavor. Omelettes are his specialty. “They require the right flame height and proper whipping of the eggs,” he explained, “plus, I also put in a lot of caring.” The Catalina, which features sausage, bacon, onions, avocado, and cheese, is his personal favorite.

“We serve really good food. Most of our food items are prepared fresh daily. We offer sizable portions and we’re still operating on prices from 2003,” said Glen, who added that his customers have become "like family."

Indeed, postcards, including those from celebrities, sent from all over the country, cover the wall behind the cash register.