Spring Mountain Ranch

Las Vegas - Spring Mountain Ranch State Park

Believe it or not, there is more to do in Las Vegas than what exists on the strip… That is of course, if you look beyond the casinos, and venture to the outskirts of town.

State Park in the desert

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park

Every summer, Spring Mountain Ranch State Park is host to the Super Summer Theatre. Performances are held outside Wednesday through Saturday, with several shows to choose from.

Heading to the meadow

Walking to the meadow

This is such a fun event for adults and children. Everyone brings blankets and chairs to spread out in the meadow. You’re allowed to bring in food and drinks. It’s perfect for an evening picnic as you watch the performance under the stars.

Theatre at Spring Mountain Ranch

Waiting for Beauty and the Beast!


If you get there early enough, you’ll have time to go explore. There are several hiking trails to check out. Spring Mountain Ranch State Park is in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Wild burros are some of the wildlife in the area, so keep your eyes open for them.

wild burros in spring mountain ranch

Wild burros roam the area


The Ranch itself has an interesting history, with a string of famous owners. The original buildings are open for tours… Check for times.

cabin at spring mountain ranch

One of the original cabins


There’s even a small lake at the ranch. Lake Harriet is the home of the endangered Pahrump Poolfish, so there is no fishing, swimming, or boats allowed.

Lake at spring mountain ranch

Lake Harriet

ranch grounds

Up near the main house

desert beauty red rock canyon

The beauty of the desert

Lake Casitas Recreation Area

Day Trip to Lake Casitas Recreation Area

Travel doesn’t always have to take you far from where you live. Staycations can be a great way to explore the surrounding areas close to where you live.

Adventure might be waiting just around the corner, and perhaps it is possible to get away from it all, if only for the day!

Lake Casitas Recreation Area is great for a day trip, and offers a variety of things to do. You can go boating, fishing, or ride down the lazy river water adventure in an inner tube!

Plan on bringing something to BBQ. Picnic areas with tables and grills are available.

If you want to stay for more than a day, reserve a campsite.

lake casitas recreation center

Drive right up to the lake!

If you don’t own a boat, stop by Casitas Boat Rentals. They have small fishing boats, pontoons, canoes, and kayaks available to rent.

Kayak and boat rentals at lake casitas recreation area

Lake Casitas Boat Rentals

Lake Casitas recreation area kayaking

Kayaking at Lake Casitas

Casitas lake kayaking

Kayaking around the lake!

If boating isn’t you thing, try fishing! Record size bass have been caught out of Lake Casitas. Remember to get a fishing license… The park rangers do check!

lake casitas fishing

Fishing time!

Lake Casitas Recreation Area

So relaxing!

Independence Day

Celebrating Independence Day

Last year I was in Ireland for the 4th of July. I didn’t really think I’d miss celebrating Independence Day, but I did.

I missed getting together with family and friends for barbeques, going to the parades, and seeing the local fireworks display… The things I’ve done traditionally my entire life.

I decided to delay my travel this year and stay in Santa Barbara for the 4th of July… I wanted fireworks!

It’s always fun to start the day by checking out the parade. It’s practically right outside my door.

line up for parade

Getting ready for parade


Independence Day Parade


After the parade, the Santa Barbara Wharf is a great place to hang out. Live music and performances are featured throughout the day on West Beach.

Celebrating Independence Day

Heading down to West Beach!

Santa Barbara West Beach 4th of Julu

Independence Day on West Beach

Santa Barbara puts on a great fireworks display right on the waterfront.

Independence Day fireworks

It begins!

After the fireworks, the crowd heads down State Street. As we walk through the tunnel under the freeway, several people break out an American flag. The crowd begins chanting USA, USA… The voices echo off the concrete walls, and I am happy I decided to stay in Santa Barbara for this 4th of July.

American Flag on 4th of July

Home for Independence Day!

Summer Solstice Celebration

Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Celebration

I try to make sure I’m in Santa Barbara for the Summer Solstice Celebration every year.

It runs for 3 days in Alameda Park, and is one of my favorite festivals. It’s also the largest art event in Santa Barbara County, and pulls in a crowd of over 100,000 people.

The festival includes live music, drum circles, a DJ area for dancing, food booths, craft vendors and a beer garden.

If you’re lucky, maybe you can even dance with a Unicorn!

On Day 2 of the Summer Solstice Celebration, the Parade is a must see. Every year has a theme… This year it was Legends.

The parade has a lot of fun, whimsical floats and puppets, music, dancing, drumming and fantastic costumes!

Summer Solstice Celebration Parade

Summer Solstice Parade


Summer Solstice Celebration Parade

Posing on a float!


Solstice Parade

All dressed up!

I Madonnari Festival

Whenever I’m in Santa Barbara during the I Madonnari Festival , I make sure to stop by for a visit. It’s held every year at the  Santa Barbara Mission and worth checking out. The artists produce large scale pieces, using only chalk.

The festival benefits the Children’s Creative Project, a nonprofit arts education program.

Here are a few of my favorites from the latest I Madonnari Festival.

Kayaking At Cachuma Lake

Kayaking Cachuma Lake

A friend invited to me go kayaking up at Cachuma Lake yesterday.  I hesitated at first. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve been out on the lake. In fact, I’ve actually avoided going. The drought in California has impacted the lake on such a level, that it’s depressing.

Getting out in nature should never have that effect.

I decided to go anyway. I met my friend at his campground, and we headed to the lake. It was worse that I could have ever imagined. The lake was a mere fragment of it’s former self.

Drought effect on Cachuma Lake

Where did all the water go?

Wow! I felt as if I had been punched in the belly. I stood staring in disbelief. I wondered how much longer before it totally disappeared.

A pipe running through the center of Cachuma Lake was pointed out to us. It’s impossible to miss! The pipe feeds water down into Santa Barbara. This July, there are plans to drop the lake ten more feet to keep that supply running.

What happens when Cachuma Lake ceases to exist? Where will you get your water from Santa Barbara?

To see the lake disappearing, you face the reality of how important it is not to lift the water restrictions too soon. And, it makes you wonder why nothing was done sooner.

Once in the water, you can’t help but notice the beauty surrounding the lake. As we paddled around the lake, we talked about what a great loss this would be for all of us if a solution isn’t found.

Cachuma Lake Kayaking

Kayaking around Cachuma Lake

Shore of Cachuma Lake

Taking a break on the shore

Rain, of course would be the most obvious solution. That, however cannot be relied on.

So, until Mother Nature starts producing it again, what are our options?

What are we doing?

Bureau of Reclamation

Flash Sale Starts Now!

We’re Having Our 1st Flash Sale!

We are celebrating over 13,000 followers on Instagram by having a Flash Sale!

As a thank you for your support………….

Everything in the Just The Squares Gallery is 50% off for 24 hours!


Flash Sale  for gallery


The details…

  • For 24 hours all images in the Just The Square Gallery are 50% off
  • Begins: Monday       April 4, 2016        8:00am (Pacific Standard Time)
  • Ends:    Tuesday       April 5, 2016        8:00am (Pacific Standard Time)



Paddywagon Day Tour

Kilkenny & Wicklow Paddywagon Day Tour

Since, I haven’t wrapped my head around driving on the left side of the road, my mode of transportation in Ireland has been by bus.

Maybe I’ll give driving a whirl in the summer…..  And, I’ll be sure to give all of Ireland ample warning that I’m on the road!

For now, I am quite okay with someone else doing the driving.

Paddywagon Day Tours Bus

My ride! What’s not to love?

A Paddywagon day tour is a great way to check out some of the more popular attractions in Ireland. They have a nice variety of tours to choose from.

I had been spending a lot of time on the Atlantic Coast of Ireland, and thought it was time to wander to another part of the country. I decided to check out Paddywagon’s Wicklow and Kilkenny Day Tour. The tour leaves out of Dublin, taking you through the Wicklow Mountains, with stops in Glendalough and Kilkenny.

Molly Malone Dublin

Tour picks up at Molly Malone statue in Dublin.

What a gorgeous drive! The countryside is incredibly beautiful.

The first stop is in Glendalough, home to an early Christian monastic settlement.

Gateway of Monastic City Ireland Paddywagon Day Tour

Walk through the Monastic City Gateway

As you walk through the Gateway, it’s like stepping back in time. It is the only surviving medieval gateway into a monastic city in Ireland. Can you feel the history?

Glendalough Gates Monastic City Paddywagon Day Tour

Love all the stonework!

Paddywagon Day Tour, St Kevin's Church Paddywagon Day Tour

St. Kevin’s Church

After exploring the monastic city, head onto the trails to check out the lakes….. There are two.
I spent so much time in the ruins, I only saw the lower one….. Guess that means I’ll have to go back!

Glendalough Pathway to lake Paddywagon Day Tour

Pathway to the lake

You could spend hours there….. So much to see and explore.

Glendalough, Ireland Round Tower

Round Tower in the distance.

Glendalough Ireland Lower Lake

Lower Lake

Time goes by much too quickly here….. It’s easy to get lost in the beauty surrounding you.

After we get back on the bus, we head towards the Wicklow Gap….. It’s pretty much a photo opp stop, and then we are off to Kilkenny.

The Wicklow Gap

Quick stop for photo opp at the Wicklow Gap.

The bus arrives at the doorsteps of Kilkenny Castle….. You have two hours to explore the town or take a tour of the castle.

Killkenny, Ireland Castle

The Castle….. Isn’t it magnificent?

Kilkenny fascinates me. I’m not quite sure why….. Perhaps because it’s a medieval town. I guess I’m amazed that ancient structures still exist….. As an American, it is something you just don’t experience on a daily basis.

Kilkenny Castle on the River Nore

The Kilkenny Castle on the River Nore

Kilkenny, Ireland view

View of Kilkenny, a medieval town.

River Nore, Kilkenny Ireland

The town sits alongside the River Nore.

After checking out the castle, and a walk around the town, I had just enough time to grab an Irish Coffee at a local pub.

Time flies by once again, and leaves me wishing I could stay longer….. But, there was a Paddywagon Bus waiting.

Next stop….. Dublin.

Dublin Bridge, Ireland

Dublin, Ireland

I had such a great day! The tour was such a fantastic way to be introduced to another part of Ireland.

Thank you Paddywagon for sponsoring the trip! The tour was fabulous, and I can’t wait to do another one! Next time I’m bringing friends!

The Real ID Act

With a new year comes new travel rules and the enforcement of The Real ID Act.

Did you know that in 2016 you may need a passport to travel domestically? The Real ID Act is a law that was passed in 2005 by Congress. It is being phased in across the United States and will be enforced by Homeland Security.

Passport, The Real ID Act, domestic travel

Do you need a Passport?

Before you travel this year, check to see if your state is in compliance with the new travel rules.

Without proper identification, you can’t board your flight! Goodbye trip!

There are currently only 22 states in full compliance, many that have been granted extensions, and some that did not receive extensions.

The following states/territories are compliant with the REAL ID Act:

  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • DC
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • Ohio
  • S. Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

The following states/territories have an extension, allowing Federal agencies to accept driver’s licenses from these states until October 10, 2016:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • N. Carolina
  • N. Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • S. Carolina
  • Texas
  • Virginia

The following states/territories have an extension, allowing Federal agencies to accept driver’s licenses from these states, until June 1, 2016.

  • New Hampshire

The following states/territories are under review for an extension renewal, allowing Federal agencies to accept driver’s licenses from these states, until at least January 10, 2016 under a grace period.

  • Guam
  • N. Marianas
  • Puerto Rico
  • Virgin Islands

The following states/territories have not received an extension for 2016 and will be subject to enforcement for accessing most Federal facilities, nuclear power plants and military bases beginning Jan. 10, 2016.

  • Illinois
  • Missouri
  • New Mexico
  • Washington