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Winter walks

Day Trippin' with Mel

Winter has definitely arrived in our Tehachapi Mountains, and in the surrounding valleys. Some people like to use winter as an excuse to stay in and stay warm, others like to get out and be active in the cooler weather.

For those in the latter group, today I'm suggesting a few good places to take a nice easy walk this winter – great places to get out and enjoy nature that won't leave you huffing and puffing, and that are easy to get to.

One of my favorite places is the Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodlands State Park in the Antelope Valley.

The park features a few groomed and designated level walking paths (complete with self-guided trail guides) through an impressive forest of old Joshua trees and scrub brush. There are three picnic tables available, two under cover from the sun, and a porta potty. Be advised that there is no running water in the area and while leashed dogs are welcome in the picnic area, they are not allowed on the trails.

Directions: At this time of year I won't recommend Tehachapi Willow Springs Road, but if you know the area and the weather is all right, you can take that road to get there. Better yet, take highway 58 to Mojave, the 14 freeway south and then exit onto Avenue I. Drive west on Avenue I, which becomes Lancaster Boulevard, past the Poppy Preserve. The park is on the north side of Lancaster Road at about 210 Street West; park off the road by the fence and go through the pedestrian gate on the path that will take you to the woodlands. There is no admission fee.

Another one of my favorite winter walks is the Desert Tortoise Natural Area in California City. The walking loops there are flat and maintained and make for easy strolling, consisting of three loops, none more than a mile around. All of them have helpful markers and brochures to let you know what you are seeing.

Over 200 species of annual and perennial plants can be found in the Preserve, which provide food and shelter for the desert dwelling wildlife. As many times as I have been there, I always seem to learn something new about the desert and its many living organisms.

Admission to the preserve is free (donations are always welcome), and accessible bathroom facilities and picnic tables are on the premises, plus a covered sitting/viewing area with all sorts of information for understanding the desert landscape and the flora and fauna that live there. There is often a park host on the premises who can be most helpful in answering questions you might have.

Directions: Take highway 58 east to Mojave, then north on the 14 freeway; take the California City exit, which puts you on California City Blvd. On the far east side of town, turn north (left) at the stop light onto Randsburg-Mojave Road. Follow the signs to the Tortoise Preserve – past Borax Bills – which will include a good 4-5 mile stretch of dirt road (still named Randsburg-Mojave). At the entrance to the preserve, follow the one-way half-mile dirt loop/road into the parking lot.

My third and final suggestion for today is back in the Antelope Valley, specifically Apollo Park, just this side of Lancaster. The Apollo Community Regional Park (right next to Fox Airfield) is a 54-acre park that features three man-made lakes, lots of trees and shady and covered picnic areas, playground equipment for the young ones, paved and hard-packed walking paths, clean restrooms, barbecue set-ups and horseshoe pits.

A wide-variety of waterfowl find a home in the lakes at Apollo, which serve as a great source of entertainment, and fishing is also part of the park's offerings. Nicely paved walkways take you all through the grassy park.

Directions: once again, you can get there by taking Tehachapi Willow Springs Road, but I'll suggest taking the freeways. Take highway 58 east to the 14 freeway south, and then take the Avenue G Exit (turn right/east on the avenue).

By taking Avenue G, you'll get the added experience of going over the Musical Road (3187 W Avenue G), a road with grooves that make a tune when you drive over them. Get in the left lane and listen to the music as you pass through the short section of road. Depending on your speed, you'll hear different musical patterns (55 MPH is best to hear the "William Tell Overture"); whatever I hear, it always puts a smile on my face.

To get to Apollo Park, shortly after the Musical Road turn right onto Barnes Avenue (4725 William J Barnes Ave.) toward the airport and follow that road past the airfield to where it ends in the park's parking lot.

Have fun walking and being outside this cooler season, and remember to take water and sunscreen with you when you go, even for a winter afternoon.

© 2024 Mel Makaw. Mel, local writer, photographer and day-tripper, welcomes your comments, questions and suggestions at [email protected]/.