About 70 miles east of San Diego on I-8 is a 1920’s version of FantasyLand called ‘The Desert View Tower’. I don’t recommend the drive just to see the Tower, but be sure and stop there --with camera in hand-- on your next trip to the desert! And, try to time it to arrive in the early morning or late evening to get the great shadows. If you’re coming-up from the desert, it can be seen from miles away, but regardless of the direction you’re driving, exit I-8 at In-Ko-Pah Park Rd and follow the signs.
One bonus of driving to the Tower is you’ll see an old section of Highway 80 (concrete) and an even older section (asphalt)! I mention this because the tower is constructed of boards from the original plank road that once traversed the sand dunes. http://www.gbcnet.com/ushighways/US80/US80_plank_road.html
It costs $5.50 per person to climb to the top of the Tower built in 1922-23 as a memorial to the Pioneers who opened the area with railroads and the old road. Included in the admission is a chance to scramble up ‘Bolder Park’, a rock trail with carved animals described thusly by the historical landmark plaque, “...this remarkable sculptural assemblage is one of California’s exceptional folk art environments.”
If you have a wide-angle lens, the Tower is the place to use it! On a clear day from the top of the Tower, you can see an incredible distance! And, you can get a 360 degree panorama, if you know how to stitch images together. Also, bring your flash to use as fill-in at the top, the staircase, and the relic rooms. Warning: the climb to the top is short, but not for the sick, lame, or high-heeled.
I saw no use for a zoom lens on the top of the Tower, but I used it frequently as I explored the grounds; there are reptiles and birds a plenty to photograph.