Believe or not, I am not a gardening enthusiast. I mean, I can appreciate a job well done, but I’m not exactly on top of my perennials. That being said, the Rose Test Garden is what I would consider a job well done. Even knowing f-all about flowers, I really was impressed. That and the fact that it has commanding views of the city make this a must do.
Here’s the sum total of what I learned while I was in the Lit program at the American University: There is usually a story behind a name. Charles Dickens and Nathaniel Hawthorne both had a knack for creating names that characterized people. Think about Ebenezer Scrooge and Roger Chillingworth.
When I went to write about Lithia Park, a big, red flag went up. Who is Lithia? Was she some Greek goddess that was the champion of equality and small towns in mountain passes?
Actually, no. Lithia Park gets its name from the fact that it has a high concentration of lithium oxide in the water. This mineral is supposed to have positive psychological effects. The jury’s out on that, but the park is amazing and deserves a visit.
Let’s get straight to the point. Orange County’s Great Park hasn’t quite measured up to it’s name yet. I would be more inclined to call it “Really Ambitious Park” or “Soon To Be A Great Park As Soon As Lerner Homes Honors Its Commitment Park”.
What is Great Park? Once upon a time, Orange County was home to El Toro Marine Base. Then, the Cold War ended. Since we would no longer have enemies, there was no need for the Marines to safeguard Irvine. And so somewhere in the early nineties, it closed.
But what does one do with an airbase? Some suggested turning it into an international airport and alleviate some of the commotion over at John Wayne. But then all of the attorneys that live in the area threw out a card known as “not in my backyard” and killed the idea.
The solution to the problem was to annex the land and build a park on par with Golden Gate or Central. And so the county of Orange gave birth to the Great Park. The park is currently in it infancy. There is a play area with sports fields set to open soon. You can go to the visitors’ center and ride in the balloon. Other than that, it’s largely what one would expect to see in an abandoned base in the process of being converted to a park.
Now, don’t mistake Animated Meat for a cynical publication. I would just like to prep anyone planning a visit that the park is still far from great. However, I have every hope that this becomes an example of what happens when we beat our swords into ploughshares.
First stop is the visitor center. You can pick up a map of the park and buy tickets to the museum exhibitions. However, it is possible to see some of the park without purchasing tickets so take a look at the map before rushing to invest.
My guess is that this is the oldest part of the park. The inside of the Paul Bunyon Forest camp doesn’t have a lot going on. There are some old saws, a few taxidermied animals, and some information on logging. There is a some renovation going on so maybe the goal is to dress this place up a bit. Stop in if you have already paid the admission, but it is the weakest section of the park.
This was a great surprise. During the summer months, the park opens two special exhibits. In one exhibit, you can wander and feed birds.
This was an especially aggressive parakeet.
The park imports a collection of butterflies for the second park of the exhibit. Very nice.
On to The Turtle Bay Museum
The Turtle Bay Museum is a well put together place with permanent exhibits themed around the Sacramento River and two traveling exhibits.
This is a great aquarium featuring fresh water fish found in the Sacrament River watershed.
Luckily, the day we happened upon Turtle Bay, the museum was hosting one traveling exhibit called “A T. Rex Named Sue” and one featuring Lego art.
Aside from being one mean pile of bones, Sue is supposed to be the most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil ever found.
Right next door was a display of art made by using Lego bricks.
Listen up, architecture fans. Right here in Redding, you can find an example of Santiago Calatrava’s work.
Not familiar with his body of work? Don’t worry, neither was I. The important thing is that you don’t have to know who he is in order to appreciate his work.
The Sundial is a footbridge that spans the Sacramento and joins that northern part of the park with the southern. One impressive think about it is that is does not make any direct contact with the river.
Another is that it really is a working sundial.
The park hosts a number of seasonal events. Most recently, we swung by to take a look at the annual Pumpkin Patch.
Aside from just a pumpkin patch, there are animals to pet and old, rusty tractors to get lockjaw from. It’s pretty amazing to consider that only one hundred years ago, most of Southern California looked exactly like this place.
This chicken ruled.
If you’re ever in the area, it’s worth taking a look at a piece of America that just doesn’t exist anymore.