Thursday, April 27, 2017

Death Valley

Tuttle Creek BLM Campground to Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley was about 80 miles. We knew we would do a lot of driving and not much walking, but it was a sightseeing day.
Our first stop in Death Valley was Father Crowley's Vista Point. Most people stopped at the paved parking lot, but Bob and I drove the rocky dirt road to the vista. I had fun playing with the panoramic setting on the phone's camera. Yes, that is Bob on both sides of the photo.
Bob used our new camera to get a view of the road we would be traveling down into the valley. Once we crossed the desert, we had to climb the mountains on the other side and descend into the next valley. The road was narrow and winding and there is no way we would drive Sol to Death Valley on this route.
Stovepipe Wells was our second stop. It is a small tourist village with a gas station, gift shop, restaurant, campground, and motel. It is at sea level.
We arrived at Furnace Creek around lunch time. When we went in the visitor center, it was 96, when we came out 20 minutes later it was 97!
Since it was lunch time, one of the workers recommended the 19th Tee. We found the golf course and were impressed with its greenery. It is 214 feet below sea level! That makes it the lowest golf course in the world and it is on the list of 50 most difficult courses.
Bob and I sat at the bar in the grill and had a great view of the course. The worker was correct, the burgers were good and not as overpriced as other restaurants in the area.
From Furnace Creek we drove to the Devil's Golf Course which isn't really a golf course. It is an area where water and salts collided. When the water evaporated, all that was left were huge crystals! It looks like a field of mud from a distance, but the crystal clumps are actually 12-18 inches tall and fairly close together which makes walking in the area difficult. The edges of the crystal mounds are sharp.
The wavy surface is deceptive, the edges of the waves are hard and sharp! I wouldn't want to fall on one of these.
From Devil's Golf Course we drove to Badwater Basin--the lowest point in Death Valley.
I have to say it was also the hottest point in Death Valley. The thermometer in the car read 101 degrees!
We walked about a half mile out on the wet looking salt/sand. There was a hot breeze blowing, making it feel even hotter than it was.
Our last area to explore was Artist's Palette Drive. We wanted to stop at the main overlook, but there were too many cars already parked in the area so we kept driving. Bob was able to stop at a small pull-out so I could get a picture of the blue in the hills.
Our day trip was long, we drove over 250 miles round trip, but we were glad we got to see more of Death Valley. Monday would be a travel day for us as it was time to leave Lone Pine and begin our slow trip east.

More of Lone Pine and the Surrounding Area

So guess what? The next day was also windy. The slide getting the brunt of the wind on Sol are in and Bob and I are off to Bishop. Maybe we can get a few caches along the way....wind permitting.
We were able to get some caches. One was a virtual at the turn-off for the ancient bristlecone forest. The visitor kiosk had a lot of interesting information including a sequoia which had been planted and named Theodore Roosevelt. Unfortunately, the road about 5 miles from the turn-off was closed due to winter weather. Maybe we will see the ancient forest on our next trip. We continued on to Bishop to have lunch at Mountain Rambler Brewery. It was recommended to us by a person we talked with in Lone Pine. The food and the beer were good.
On our way back to Sol, we were hoping that the wind had died down in Lone Pine as it had in Bishop so we could enjoy some time outside of Sol. There is nothing better than watching the mountains while listening to the creek! Once again we were disappointed as the wind continued to howl.

Friday dawned and all was quiet! We decided to do more hikes and geocaching around Alabama Hills. On our earlier hike of the hills, we saw two of the arches, Mobius Arch and Eye of Alabama. All I can say is that if you have been to Arches National Park, you will be disappointed with these two arches.  Mobius is the larger of the two. Bob could stand in it and touch the top.
 Eye of Alabama was hard to find and pretty much a disappointment when we did find it. It was no different than most of the other small arches we saw in the Alabama Hills.

So this day, we went looking for the cache in the 'belly of the beast,' which we drove by every day to get to town.
Then it was time to find the cache placed at Maverick's hideout--the area used in the movie starring  James Garner and Mel Gibson. We hiked past quite a few people out rock climbing. Yes, that thing that looks like a lizard on the big rock is actually a climber! There is another climber/spotter near the crevice below.
Bob and I found Maverick's hideout and enjoyed the area.
There were some trees below the rocks where the hideout was located.
Hiking the Alabama Hills was enjoyable and the weather was perfect so we hiked the arch loop trails again just for the views. This is another of the small arches. We thought this looked like a heart.
 And, yes, we did see a horned toad on the trail. This one must have had a close call because he doesn't have a tail!
 The rock formations were all around us. It was fun trying to picture the different movies that were made in the area.
 The high desert was also in bloom. These purple flowers seemed to just be laying on the ground--no leaves or stems in sight.
Saturday was another nice day so we drove south to Fossil Falls BLM Area to see the what was not a fossil and was not a waterfall. It was really a fossil waterfall.
 The trail led through lava rock from ancient volcanoes.
 In fact, after the beginning of the trail, the rest was on the smooth lava rock.
 Near what used to be the falls, a mountain search and rescue team was honing its skills for the upcoming hiking/climbing season.
We had been at Tuttle Creek for almost a week. We were having trouble deciding what to do on our last day. Finally, we thought we would take the day and drive to Death Valley. This was the closest we would be for who knows how long and we wanted to see a different part than we had traveled through in 2010.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Manzanar National Historic Site

Wednesday dawned cool and windy. Bob and I decided to visit Manzanar National Historic Site. The site was created 1992 in remembrance of the 10,000 American citizens of Japanese heritage residing on the west coast who were herded into camps after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941.

As is our custom, we geocached our way to the site which is north of Lone Pine on US 395. There is not much remaining of the original buildings, most were moved or sold when the camp closed November 21, 1945.  Administrators even buried the gardens people built to make life bearable. Today, the original entrance remains. What was left of the auditorium has been made into the visitor center. One of the barracks has been rebuilt to house displays of life in the camp.
 Manzanar had 36 blocks arranged on the property. Each block had 14 barracks, 2 latrines, laundry room, ironing room, a mess hall and a recreation building. The building below was built as a representation of a mess hall.
 At the back of the property there is a cemetery. There are differing accounts of the number of people who were buried at Manzanar. It is known that most of those interred in this cemetery have been moved by their families to cemeteries in their hometowns. Only 6 remain--they had no known family members. The inscription on the obelisk translates as 'soul consoling tower.'
 On the wooden posts surrounding the obelisk people who visit Manzanar have hung colorful origami cranes.
It was a thought provoking visit to the site where an important part of our history occurred that does not need to repeat itself.

After finding the virtual caches at the site, we drove out past the cemetery to the reservoir that once served the camp. We needed to complete our caches. The reservoir is no longer used, but remains as a reminder of times past. Many of the workers who built the reservoir scratched their names and messages in the concrete.

When we returned to Sol, we found that we had missed a geocache further out than the reservoir. It wasn't a Manzanar cache, but a cache located near a spot where Ansel Adams took one of his famous photographs. Maybe we will get that cache on our next visit.

Lone Pine, California--Movie Set of the Eastern Sierras

It was a short drive to Lone Pine, California. We made a stop at the Eastern Sierra Visitors' Center before heading to Tuttle Creek BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Campground. If you should happen to visit Tuttle Creek, DO NOT take Tuttle Creek Road! We had been warned and knew to take Whitney Portal to Horseshoe Meadows Road to get to the campground.
Once on the road to the campground, be aware of the diagonally placed speed bumps on the narrow road. In a car, you can angle over them, but in a big rig you will rock and roll no matter how slow you take them. Once at the sign-in kiosk, we unhooked the car to drive through the campground to find the perfect site for Sol. There were many sites available, but we chose site 47 for its proximity to Tuttle Creek and its views of the mountains. This picture was taken near the creek. Sol really is level, it was just the angle from which the picture was taken. It seemed strange to be in the desert with snow covered mountains so close.
Bob found the creek a nice spot to have his celebratory beer--for a safe arrival to our campsite.
Here is a view of the desert and mountains from the front of Sol.
After relaxing and exploring the campground, we drove back into Lone Pine and walked around town. It is a small town and it has several outfitters for hikers on Pacific Crest Trail. After a trip around town, we drove to the end of Whitney Portal. Normally the road goes to the campground at the base of Mt. Whitney, but on this day the road was closed about 7 miles from town.
The views from this area showed just how much snow was still on the Eastern Sierras and the breeze was a bit chilly. Lone Pine is at an elevation of 3000 feet, Tuttle Creek is at 5100 feet and this viewpoint is at about 7500 feet.
We finally returned to Sol and spent a relaxing evening sitting outside, enjoying the views.

The following day it was time to do some sightseeing. Our first stop was the Film History Museum. I remember watching many of the westerns when I was growing up. Many newer films were also shot in the area.

 This car was used by Humphrey Bogart in High Sierra.
 There were walls devoted to stars who were in many films shot in the Alabama Hills.
 Of course, Bob's all time favorite, Tremors, was shot almost entirely in Lone Pine's Alabama Hills.
 Everyone loves The Lone Ranger. Besides movie posters, there were costumes, saddles, holsters, and merchandise that was available for fans.
 We enjoyed seeing all the memorabilia at the museum. One of the brochures you get from the museum is a map to the places the movies were shot.
Bob and I left to find some geocaches and movie 'sets.' This geocache was found where John Wayne starred in several movies. In the cache was a book with coordinates to find exact places that were used in some of his movies. There was only one book and it was to be returned to the cache after use so we left it and continued on our way.
This was a fun place to explore and it was interesting to see where the movies were made. Now when we see an old western or any movie, we look for the tell-tale signs of Alabama Hills.

On to Lone Pine, California

Even though the drive from Joshua Tree to Lone Pine was not terribly long, we decided to break the trip up into two days. We stopped early in the afternoon in Yermo, California. Peggy Sue's Diner, a Harvest Host member, was our destination.
We only put the kitchen slide out when we are stopping for a night so we have room in the bedroom to walk around the bed. After getting set up, we walked around the parking lot several times to make sure we got our steps for the day.
As you can see, it is quite a large parking lot. The 'diner-saurs' are located behind Peggy Sue's so travelers can stretch their legs and children are entertained.
We also wanted to do some people watching. Peggy Sue's is a fixture in Yermo and contains movie memorabilia that attracts locals as well as tourists. On our previous visit to Peggy Sue's, we ate lunch. This time we decided to eat an early breakfast so we could continue on our way to Lone Pine.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Joshua Tree National Park

The trip from Borrego Springs to the south entrance of Joshua Tree National Park was less than 100 miles. We made a stop at Red Earth Casino to fill Sol's tank and to fill our fresh water. Since we had traveled this area before, we knew that we didn't have to go through Indio to get to I-10 and our exit. Instead, we turned east at Mecca and drove on Box Canyon Road right to the turn for our campground on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land.  Connie and Larry arrived before us and picked out a good site. It seems the Xscapers (another group of Escapees) was having a convergence that weekend and it was a good thing we arrived early on Thursday! As you can see in this photo, Larry and Connie's rig is behind us.
After getting set up, Bob and I drove into the park to check things out. The visitor center was packed and closed. People were looking for campsites as all the campgrounds in the park were full. I guess some of them would end up at the BLM area.

Bob and I took a very short hike along the Cottonwood Springs Trail. A lot of the beginning of the trail is closed on the sides due to heavy metals in the soil from previous mining of the area. Once we hiked beyond that, the wildflowers were in abundance. These little orange flowers were everywhere.
 This claret cup cactus was nearing the end of its bloom.
 We walked to where the trail forked for Mastodon Mine. Behind me in the wash were some gorgeous flowers. And yes, the wind was blowing!
 Looking down in the wash, these were the flowers I saw. It amazes me how the plants and animals survive in the desert environment.
 We returned to Sol for dinner and a restful evening. The next morning when I looked out my window, I jumped out of bed and grabbed the phone to get this picture of the sunrise reflecting on Sol.
Connie, Bob and I took an early morning walk to Bajada Nature Trail just inside the park.
 On one of chollas along the trail, Connie spotted this ladybug. Yes, cholla has vicious thorns the size of toothpicks.
 This plant, the chuparosa, is loved by hummingbirds. We saw a lot of these flowers, but no hummingbirds.
Another strange plant we saw was bladder pod. It was a large bush by desert standards, almost as tall as me. It had yellow flowers and green pods.
 Bob tolerated Connie and I stopping to photograph the flowers. He is a patient man....sometimes.

On our walk back to the RVs, we spotted this large plant with white flowers growing on the berm behind the entrance sign.
 It reminded Connie and I of a large morning glory. I later found out that its name is Jimson Weed.
 Once we returned to the camping area, we continued walking to see how many rigs were parked in the desert. Connie saw this guy--a horned toad--scoot across the road and stop in front of us. He posed long enough for me to get closer and closer taking his picture. He really blended in with his surroundings.
Later that day, Bob and drove through the park, stopping at Cholla Garden. Cholla grows in abundance in this area as conditions are just right.
 Some of the cholla was even blooming.
 On a lone plant with yellow flowers, I spotted this caterpillar.
There are warnings as you enter the garden to stay on the path. I did not venture off, but many tourists did. Bob and I saw one trying to pull a cholla segment off his could tell by the grimace on his face and the sounds coming out of his mouth that it was painful.
 Cholla, cholla everywhere!
Bob and I continued on to Twenty-nine Palms, north of Joshua Tree. We made a visit to the commissary and exchange before heading back to our campsite.

The following morning Bob, Connie and I set out to hike Mastodon Mine Trail. We got to the trailhead early enough to get a parking spot. It was a Saturday, many people were on spring break and others were just enjoying a weekend outing.

Once again, Connie and I were flower photographers.

 This plant was shimmering in the morning sun, it looked so soft, but in fact when I felt it, it was bristly.
 These are seed pods. The small, purple petals have fallen off. Notice how one pod grows straight up out of the one below.
 These pink flowers looked like they were just resting in the shade of a cactus. There were no leaves at all.
Just when I thought we had seen all the different flowers, Connie or I would find another one!
 The group of rocks on the right mark the location of Mastodon Mine.
 The sides of the mountain were covered in mounds of yellow brittle bush.
 I finally made it to the Mastodon rocks. I wasn't quite to the top, but I was close.
 Bob and Connie chose to stay below!
 The entrance to Mastodon Mine was below the rocks. For safety reasons, the entrance to the mine is sealed.
 Most of our hike after the mine was through a dry river bed and mostly down hill.
Just before we reached the river bed, Connie and I spotted another new to us flower. The bottom leaves on this one looked like it belonged to the succulent family.
As we hiked the dry river bed, Bob spotted this lizard sunning on a rock.
The end of the dry river bed was the parking lot and boy was it crowded! It was a good thing we got an early start as people had parked on the road shoulders leading to the campground!

After we got back to the campground and had lunch, Larry took us to Sam's in Coachella and also Winco, a local grocery store. We stocked up on things we might need in the next week as Sunday would be a travel day. Connie and Larry were headed to Seal Beach for a week and Bob and I were going to explore Lone Pine, California.