Thursday, January 15, 2015

Hike 2014.062 -- Living Desert Museum, Palm Desert, CA

Hiked Sunday, December 7. Not sure of the actual distance covered. It may have been less than three miles.

Many of these shots are actually from my more recent return visit to the Living Desert Museum, but they were of the "developed" part of the museum, with the animals and the model train. Yeah, I like model trains.

This was the first full weekend in December. As noted in my post of my return visit to Living Desert Museum, the place is free to enter on that first full weekend of the month if you have either a Bank of America debit or credit card.

On this visit, I came with my wife, and we were here to be spend time together and not for me to hike. So all of these pictures are from my time in that developed section. It's by no means representative of the whole zoo.

I've got plenty of other pictures I might later choose to post, as well. But this just shows my favorite sections of the zoo.

The exhibit space for the bighorn sheep, for example, is a natural rock intrusion, full of fragmented boulders, just like their natural habitat. That makes it possible to get completely natural-looking pictures. Obviously, they can't wander as far as they would in the wild, but it's a fair-sized hill, maybe 80-100 feet tall, and 150-200 yards in diameter. As far as zoos go, that's a fair amount of space to wander, including half the hill that's facing away from the developed area and gives the sheep some privacy, if they want it.

Meanwhile, there's a large rolling grassland area for a combina-tion of three herbivores: giraffe, greater kudu, and ostrich. I figure this one is about 150 yards by 200 yards, though that's just a guestimate. Again, a large portion of the exhibit space is on the far side of a ridge, so I don't know how far that way the exhibit space goes.

Beyond the unseen back-fencing is who knows what? And far beyond that are the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains. Those mountains make a striking backdrop to the grasslands, and makes the photos feel far away and in a much wilder place than they were taken.

There are three giraffe in the exhibit, which I'll assume are mom, dad, and baby. There's also two greater kudu (which I saw on my first visit but not on my second) and at least one ostrich (also seen only on my first visit).

The cheetah exhibit also has a naturalistic feel to it, although it seems smaller, perhaps 100 yards in diameter. There's a hill near the middle that catches afternoon sunlight, and where the cheetah seem to like to relax in the afternoon. They may spend all day there, but I've only come by in the afternoons!

By the way, the wildlife shots here are all taken with my 70-300mm zoom lens on a dslr with a CMOS-sized sensor. That increases the magnification by 50%. Also, the cheetah shots are cropped to make the animals more prominent in the picture.

Still, you'll be within about 50 yards of these animals, although they'll also have foliage obstruc-tions for privacy, so you may need to work for some of your shots.

I don't have any butterfly pictures with this post, but there were plenty of butterfly-attracting plants, especially in the actual butterfly garden.

The other animals I saw were in more typical-looking enclosures. Even some of the larger pens for grazing animals looked more desolate, since it was mostly exposed dirt. Of course, that may be what their natural habitat looks like. It's just not as photogenic as the rolling grasslands or rocky outcroppings or tree-surrounded hills of the animals I've photographed here.

The other thing I liked here was the very large model train set-up. I mean, it's not large compared to the animal enclosures, but probably 40x80 yards or so in dimensions.

Many of the depicted scenes are based in reality, like the one of the El Tovar hotel, overlooking the Grand Canyon, and the Cliff Palace representation, from Mesa Verde National Park. There's also a Mount Rushmore, and a collection of colorful wigwams for the epinymously named Wigwam Motel.

Others are more whimsical, like a giraffe riding in a VW micobus, or a Star Wars stormtrooper atop a house, adjacent to the Bates Motel.

Other scenes may represent actual places I haven't seen. There's a strip of Route 66, complete with tiny Burma Shave signs. There's a town with a streetcar that runs right down the middle of Main Street." There are mining operations and factories and all other sorts of buildings.

Some of the buildings have business cards as signs, which means you can sponsor buildings and get some advertising out of your support for the model train area. And there are lots of tunnels and bridges, so it's all very picturesque.

Regular entry to the Living Desert is $17.25, or $1.50 less for AAA, seniors, or military. Children 3-12 are $8.75. That makes visiting on a Bank of America free weekend day is a great bargain. If you do get in free, you ought to spend some money in the gift shop or at the food outlets, however, just so they get something out of you for your visit!

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