Monday, January 25, 2010

Return to previous page Chicago Tribune's 2009 pictures of the year

Road Trips To So Cal

Idyllwild, California

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
California deserts

Distance: 109 miles one-way
Cost for roundtrip gas: $28.89

What happens if, two-thirds of the way to a Palm Springs weekend, somebody grabs control of your family's vehicle, veers hard to the right, follows the cliff-clinging goat path known as California 243, then roars into the pines looking for a soft meadow between granite peaks?

Idyllwild is what happens. Arriving from Los Angeles, you first climb to the largely residential community of Pine Cove, then descend to about 5,300 feet, where you see half a dozen blocks of shops, restaurants and art and craft galleries, all surrounded by trees, rocks, scattered vacation cabins, the odd A-frame and the odder geodesic dome. The year-round population is about 3,500.

Read more: Find simpler times in Idyllwild's peaceful San Jacinto mountain retreat

Little Petroglyph Canyon

(Manuel Nunez)
Little Petroglyph Canyon
California deserts

Distance: 177 miles one-way
Cost for roundtrip gas: $46.91

No one knows for sure who decorated Little Petroglyph Canyon with images out of a dreamscape, some thought to be more than 10,000 years old. Or why the basalt walls of a narrow wash in the bone-dry Coso Mountains at the northern edge of the Mojave became a magic canvas for flocks of bighorn sheep, hunters with bows and arrows poised and more. But the area is probably the richest Amerindian rock-art site in the hemisphere. To see the canyon, you must contact the Navy base or join a tour offered by Maturango Museum. It's a rough 40-mile drive to the trail head, followed by a hike and a scramble along the canyon. Visits only in spring and fall.

Info: Maturango Museum, 100 E. Las Flores Ave., Ridgecrest, CA 93555; (760) 375-6900, Private tours through the Naval Air Weapons Station, (760) 939-1683.

-- Susan Spano

Hurkey Creek Park

(Jordan Rane)
Hurkey Creek Park
California deserts

Distance: 113 miles one-way
Cost for roundtrip gas: $29.95

Hurkey Creek Park has more than 100 sites (plus five large group sites) with picnic tables, fire pits, restroom and shower facilities, and a two-vehicle/six-person limit per site. Large RVs and trailers are permitted, but there are no hook-ups. Sites cost $20 per night. Reserve with Riverside County Parks between April and October. The campground is also open for day use ($2 per adult, $1 per 12-and-under) from dawn to dusk.

Riverside County Parks, (800) 234-7275,

-- Jordan Rane

Read more: Hurkey Creek Park: cold, empty and so refreshing


Shields Date Gardens

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Borrego Palm Canyon

(Annie Wells / Los Angeles Times)
Borrego Palm Canyon
California deserts

Distance: 152 miles one-way
Cost for roundtrip gas: $40.28

Borrego doesn't get the attention that desert areas farther north do, but it's the biggest state park in California. Borrego Palm Canyon (a three-mile hike, round-trip) is a testament to the violence of desert life -- it lost about 80% of its palms in a 2004 flood -- and it's the park's star hike. Also a good place for spotting bighorn sheep. (760) 767-5311,

Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree
HIDDEN VALLEY Joshua Tree National Park
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)
Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree
California deserts


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Biosphere 2's Second Chapter: Climate Change

Biosphere 2's Second Chapter: Climate Change

Updated: 1 hour 18 minutes ago

Over the past 15 years, experiments conducted at Biosphere 2 by researchers from Columbia University and the University of Arizona have helped shape scientific understanding of how climate change will affect the planet. The story of the facility's evolution, however, is as entertaining as it is surprising.

Great Hopes

Biosphere 2 was built by Space Biospheres Ventures in the late 1980s at a cost of $200 million. The project was heralded around the world as the experiment that would eventually lead to the colonization of other planets. The concept was to create a sustainable ecosystem entirely sealed off from the outside world.

Biosphere 2
Lonely Planet/

No longer a sealed-off environment, Biosphere 2 now offers guided tours.
Inside 7.2 million cubic feet of sealed glass, several artificial environments were created, from desert to rain forest to a coral reef. Spanning 3.14 acres -- the size of several football fields -- the scale of the facility, which is about 25 north of Tucson, was unprecedented.