Friday, December 14, 2018

Revisiting Joshua Tree National Park

Once again we arrived at the BLM area south of the Cottonwood entrance to Joshua Tree NP. Our plan was to find a campsite in the park, but being retirees, we forgot to check to see if it was the weekend! As it happened, we not only arrived on a Friday, but on a Friday beginning a 3 day weekend! There was no room at the park. After talking to the rangers, who informed us that the area was hit with flash floods in October (remnants of Pacific hurricane), we headed south hoping to find space at the BLM area. The rangers told us the northern BLM was washed out and in need of maintenance, but the south had fared a bit better. They also warned us that Cottonwood Springs Road had one lane washed out just south of the Cottonwood Visitor Center. So, we made our way to the south entrance to the park and found the BLM area had sustained some water damage also. We were able to find a spot that was not too difficult to get into---just beyond us, the road was partially washed out.
 Saturday morning we decided to hike Porcupine Wash. The parking area for Palm Oasis hike was washed away in the flash flood! As we hiked Porcupine Wash, we saw evidence of the flood in the wash. These cacti were healthy and nestled in rocks above the wash.

 The rock formations were interesting. This rock has other rock running through it.
 When it eroded, many years from now, it will resemble this rock.
We hiked about 3 miles out the wash before stopping for a picnic lunch, then we retraced our steps to return to the car.
Then it was time to head back to Sol for an afternoon of relaxation.
It was Veteran's Day, so we decided to go to La Quinta to visit the brewery. What a surprise, veterans received a free beer in thanks for their service! Bob and I enjoyed our beers--me a porter, he IPAs. The bartender gave me a sample of a seasonal beer that was excellent--Chai Solstice! It tasted like chai tea! It would be a great  cold weather beer, but since it wasn't cold, I stuck with my porter.
On the way back to Sol, traffic was stopped so a semi could be removed from the median. When we drove into town,we saw where the semi had gone off the road and we thought it would be gone when we got back....no, traffic was backed up for miles!

When we arrived at Sol, the wind had quieted a bit, but unfortunately, it was not to remain quiet! The next day we drove to Coachella and then back to Indio to do some shopping. We decided to see how bad Box Canyon Road was after the flash floods. Let's just say it was no longer there! We were able to drive to the canyon, but after that the road was GONE!
Bob and I continued on  through the canyon, noticing the changes since we last drove through several years ago. There were areas of trees then, but now there are only on or two trees left in the canyon! The next two pictures show the remnants of the paved road. We were driving on a single lane dirt road.
We made it to Mecca and then to Coachella to Sam's Club. From there we drove back to Indio for Wal-Mart and Winco. After making a quick stop at Fantasy Springs Casino, we decided we would bring Sol for some fun on Tuesday!


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Baker, California, and Mojave National Preserve

 When we headed south, from Pahrump, we took the back roads to I-15 at Baker, California. Lo and behold, the aliens answered our letters we posted in the BLACK BOX! We found them at Alien Jerky! This green man greeted us as we drove into the parking lot!
 Inside, I found my new best friend!
 Bob's new friends offered him a ride to their planet!
 Their spaceship was disguised as a store!
 We told them we had places to go and earthlings to see, so maybe next time.

As we drove away, we spotted the world's tallest Fahrenheit thermometer.
We continued our back road drive, heading south. We passed the interstate and continued on Kelbaker Road. Our journey took us to Kelso Depot in Mojave National Preserve. The depot was a hopping place during World War II as many troops heading to the Pacific passed through this depot. The tracks are still active today, but no trains stop at Kelso Depot.

As we drove through Mojave National Preserve, we could see low lying clouds in the mountains.
 The road was not bad and we didn't see many other travelers.
 Since the time change, it the sun sets around 5 p.m. We didn't want to be on the road after dark, so we found a large pull-off that would accommodate Sol and the car.
We set up camp and enjoyed our evening in the Mojave National Preserve. Yes, there are campgrounds in the preserve, but they are not along Kelbaker Road. They are farther east off I-40.
 The next morning we continued our drive....destination: Joshua Tree National Park.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Red Canyon Conservation Area and Ash Meadows Wildlife Refuge


From Pahrump, it was quite the drive to Red Canyon Conservation Area. Part of the reason was road construction about halfway there. The other was that it was about 45-50 miles! We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived. There was a nice visitor center with many outdoor activities. Bob found a friend to rest with after viewing about half of the center.
The conservation area is run by BLM (Bureau of Land Management). There is a 13 mile scenic drive through the area. The first stop on the drive is Calico Rocks. The name comes from the color of the rocks--mostly red and yellow. There is a hiking trail around the base of the rocks. This area is really crowded with tourists from all over the world.
At each stop along the drive there are several options for hiking. Bob and I chose Ice Box Canyon. The first reason was because of the cool name. The second was that it was farther along the drive and we hoped there wouldn't be as many people stopping to hike!

This is the start of the trail. The trail goes into the canyon behind Bob. From the parking lot it is a bit of a climb, but nothing compared to the end!
As we entered the canyon, the temperature dropped about 5 degrees. It felt good after being out in the sun.

The sun was shining just right to illuminate this tree on canyon wall.
Yes, this trail also involved scampering over rocks--more like boulders on this trail, especially near the end.
It was quite the view looking back out toward the entrance to the canyon.
The hike was good and there weren't too many hikers on this trail. We didn't go all the way into the back of the canyon as we were scheduled to attend a social at Pair-A-Dice and it was going to take time to get back.We got pretty close to the end of the trail. according to two college students we met coming back. We will check it out the next time we are in the area.
Once back in Pahrump, we met with other campers and compared camping stories. Most of the people we talked to were full-timers. Many of them liked to hike and told us of other places to visit.

The following day we decided to ride toward Death Valley Junction. It might as well have been a ghost town--there wasn't much there. On the way we passed the entrance to Ash Meadows Wildlife Refuge. On our return trip, we decided to check it out. It was another nice surprise! The visitor center was relatively new and very informative. Behind the visitor center was a boardwalk that led to a spring.
The gorgeous springs were filled with warm water and pupfish! Each spring had a pupfish population endemic to that spring.
We enjoyed watching the water bubble from the bottom of the spring, as well as watching the pupfish darting around the alga.
The springs are located in the desert! In this refuge, there are at least 7 springs.
This cabin belonged to quite the character in the late 1800s, early 1900s. It is built into the rock formed by minerals deposited by the spring. The back wall was the mineral wall!
Near this cabin was another spring. It is being restored since it was used for farming at one time. Farming lowers the sides of the basin allowing more invasive plants to survive.
To get to and from the cabin, you had to pass this beehive. The orange is NOT the hive, it is to the right of the orange growth. The bees were active, but they didn't mind us passing by.
Our last stop in Ash Meadows was actually a small portion of Death Valley National Park. The spring in this area is in a cave.
In the 1960s two divers who shouldn't have been in the cave drowned. Now the cave it fenced off and has many seismic detectors, water level monitors, etc. Scientists monitor water quality and they count the pupfish endemic to Devil's Hole.
 It is difficult to see the water, it is just inside the entrance to the cave. The fish live on an underwater rock shelf just inside.
There is a back entrance to the cave about .15 miles from the first entrance. It is also protected. Try as we might, we couldn't see the water at this entrance.
 We could walk all around the cage, but no place offered us a good view.
 After a pleasant visit to Ash Meadows, it was time to head back to Pahrump and decide our next plan of action.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

On the Extraterrestrial Highway

Bob and I took our time leaving Nellis AFB, as we were planning to take a leisurely drive on Extraterrestrial Highway and possibly stop at Rachel, Nevada for the night. As usual, that is not what happened. Yes, we did drive the ET highway, yes, we did stop in Rachel, but no we didn't spend the night.

Our first stop was the black mailbox. You can write a letter to an alien and mail it in this box! It looks like it is in the middle of no where....and it is!
Bob and I both sent letters, but so far we haven't gotten any replies.
 The next stop was in Rachel, Nevada, just beyond the sign for the highway.
 Of course, the restaurant was Little A'Le'Inn. Bob and I ate lunch at the Inn. He had an alien burger and I had a saucer burger. Both were very good.
 The parking lot had spots for aliens and earthlings, but you had to park your own vehicle---there was no valet.
 I think this guy parked illegally right before we arrived.
 Inside the Inn, there was anything and everything alien as well as earthling memorabilia hanging from the ceiling.
Since it was still early in the day, and we had seen ALL of Rachel, Nevada, Bob and I continued on our way to Tonopah. It would be an overnighter so we chose to stay at Banc Club Casino and Chinese Restaurant. We got Sol settled in at the casino and we headed to Tonopah Brewing Company. Besides having a beer, we added another sticker to our collection on our living room slide.

The next morning, Bob and I were in a quandary as to where we should go next. After studying the map and checking temperatures it was decided that we would head south toward Beatty, Nevada. Our plan was to fill Sol and then go into Death Valley. Well, once again we were foiled! The first gas station in Beatty had diesel, but a technician was working on the diesel pump. The only other station in Beatty only took cash or debit cards. We choose not to use debit cards when traveling and we didn't want to deplete our cash--Sol was really hungry. Soooo, we continued down the road to Pahrump, Nevada. There we found diesel for much less than in Beatty. Since the Escapee Park--Pair-A-Dice is located in Pahrump, we decided to stay for a few night. It is only for Escapee members and we are members. The park was full so we had to boondock near the office. We found brochures with ideas of things to do in the area so it was time to make some plans.

Stay tuned to read about our adventures in the next edition of Where in the USA RV!

Moving South toward Las Vegas

Saturday was moving day. We packed Sol and started our drive out of Utah toward Nevada. The first night we stopped in Beaver, Utah, at a Passport America park. Beaver Canyon Campground had a restaurant on site--Maria's Cocina--which was small, but very popular. There were only about 12 tables in the restaurant. Many people came to pick up orders. Bob and I enjoyed the Mexican food for a change.  Unfortunately for anyone traveling there after October 28, the restaurant is closed for the season! While at the campground, I also did laundry--we were parked next to the laundromat!
The following morning we began our drive to Overton, Nevada....but wait, change of plans. Connie and Larry were going to meet us there, but after checking the weather, we all decided Nellis AFB was the place to be. We would have full hook-ups there and that meant we could run our ACs! The weather for the next few days was going to be in the upper 80s--a little warm to be boondocking!

Larry and Connie had been at Nellis for a few days when we arrived. We got a site next to them on a wagon wheel! We had our own private patio between our rigs!
We stayed in Vegas for a week, just enjoying ourselves. We took a few trips into town, but mostly we stayed away from the TRAFFIC!

Our first venture out and about was to Ethel M's Candy Factory in Henderson, Nevada.
Not only is Ethel M's famous for their candy, they also have a beautiful cactus garden outside the factory.
 There are some very unusual varieties in the garden. Yes, they are wrapped with Christmas lights that Penn & Teller lit November 6th--after we left, of course.
 From Ethel M's we continued our day of fun by visiting Bally's to play Twilight Zone Mini Golf.
 After a rousing game of mini golf under the black lights, it was on to Orleans to the Prime Rib Loft for Connie's birthday dinner. There were some interesting characters just inside the door!
We enjoyed our meal and we stopped to listen to some music on the way out---of course, there were always slot machines to help pass the time....just sayin'.

By the time we finished eating and listening to the band, it was time to  head back to Nellis. Once again, TRAFFIC was HORRIBLE!  I knew there was a reason I don't like to visit Vegas!

The rest of our time was spent doing chores--shopping, laundry, cleaning, etc.

On Friday, before our departure on Sunday, we all went to the movie to see Hunter Killer. It has been a long time since Bob and I went to a movie. We were surprised at the comfortable seats, and shocked at the prices for popcorn and sodas! We did, however, enjoy the movie!

In the evenings while we were at Nellis, the gals played Pegs and Jokers against the guys. As we continue our travels, I will update the score each time we are with Larry and Connie. Suffice it to say, the gals have a small lead. We will see what happens in Borrego Springs at Thanksgiving!