Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15

Friday, November 18, 2011

Joshua Tree National Park,
Nov 17-18

In hopes of viewing the Leonid Meteor Shower, I parked myself at the south end of Joshua Tree National Park, the area with the least amount of light pollution.  Unfortunately, the half moon was just too bright to see anything but a few faint streaks.  All the same, I did enjoy my time in the park.
Having dinner next to one of the cool rock formations in Joshua Tree.

An occotillo all greened up after some rain

originally posted 1/27/2012

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pinnacles National Monument,
Nov 13-14

I explored the Pinnacles National Monument from November 13th through the 14th, staying at the campground at the park's east entrance. I arrived early enough to mosey around the east side of the park.  Near the campground is a condor viewing area, complete with telescope. I saw a pair soaring high above the canyon's sheer walls … very impressive. At dusk I returned to my campsite, parked the car and set up for the night. Then a neighbor's dog scared a flock of partridges into the large oaks above my car … they reminded me of our chickens as they argued amongst themselves for the best roosting spots. As you might expect, my car emerged the next morning “decorated” from above.
 My Pinnacles campsite ... scraggly tree over creek at dusk
Coyote on the hunt at dusk ... as seen from a Pinnacles Campground road
I got up before sun rise the next morning to hike and watch the sun slowly highlight The Pinnacles from the Condor Gulch Trail … amazing views. 
View of The Pinnacles from the Condor Gulch Trail

The Pinnacles at sunrise
I loved the many color and textures of rocks with moss and lichen on the Condor Gulch Trail.

originally posted 1/27/2012

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, Nov 11-13

On my travels from my home base in Washington State to see brothers and cousins in Southern California, I made a stop to explore Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. It is just west of Redding, CA.
Whiskeytown Lake (near Visitor Center). The line of rope with buoys at this
end of the lake hold up a length of long curtain that works to keep the colder
water toward the bottom of the lake in order to support the survival of salmon.

Good thing that Redding has a Toyota Dealership because my check-engine light came on about 85 miles north. Come to find out it was a sensor that either could be replaced or cleaned. I opted for the less expensive cleaning option and that fixed the problem. Yeah! I'm so thankful that it wasn't anything any worse.
From an informational kiosk at the Visitor Center which illustrate the curtains
that keep the cold water from mixing with the sun-warmed water at the top.

After leaving the dealer I arrived at the Whiskeytown Visitor Center just before closing to get a camp site. It was in the Peltier Bridge Campground on the Clear Creek. If you like more primitive camping where you have to carry your own water, then I highly recommend this place. The ground was carpeted with fallen leaves, large oaks towered above the picnic tables and gravel road, and the night sounds came out just as I was ready to climb into bed.
The "Glory Hole" spillway. Instead of a spillway through the dam itself, this
one takes the water down the middle, through some pipes and into a creek.
(Also, just beyond, is another rope with buoys holding the other curtain.)
When I'm camping, I go to bed with the sun and wake up with the sun. Very much unlike when I'm in the company of electrified lighting.
Morning light on the road through Peltier Bridge Campground.

With the sunrise came the sounds of a distant flock of turkeys, the chilled morning air, and shafts of light filtering through the oaks. I love the quiet mixed with the sounds of water and those small woodland animals scurrying and chirping while making their way in the woods.
View of Whiskeytown Lake from a rise on the South Shore Road.

I stayed at that same campsite two nights in a row.
Camden House. Built in mid 1800's gold rush (out of nearby Clear Creek).

The centerpiece of this National Recreation Area is the Whiskeytown Lake created by a Dam. I've never seen a spillway such as they have at this dam. It's called the Glory Hole. It's literally a gigantic cement hole that, which when the lake level reaches the top, water spills into this big hole and down into large pipes destined for Clear Creek (up the creek from where I was camped).
One view of the trail that loops around the old farmstead.

Also, they've added curtains that hang down into the water, hundreds of feet, on both the inlet and outlet sides of the lake to force the colder water to the bottom. These curtains keep the colder water from mixing with the sun-warmed water at the top. This is all to support the salmon population which require the colder water temperatures to survive -- a clever solution.
View from the trail into the old farmstead pasture and orchard.

On the north side of the lake is a nice 4-lane highway. But, I enjoyed the maintained gravel road on the south side of the lake. The slower pace highlighted the wonderful vistas, autumn colors that matched the golds and reds of the surrounding rocks and dirt. A true highlight of this trip.
At the graveyard on the farmstead.

In addition to the natural wonders, Whiskeytown NRA has also preserved some human history surrounding the areas gold rush. I went on the Camden Water Ditch hike that loops around a gold-rush-era farmstead, complete with house, barn, tenat's home, and graveyard. Although I was told of black bear in the area, I saw none. But, I did see plenty of sign ... scat with apples seeds from the old orchard.
At the end of the hike, bridge over
Clear Creek.

I hope to go back to Whiskeytown again!

originally posted 11/16/2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Close, But A World Away

Saturday was National Public Lands Day and the entrance into the National Parks was free.  So, I decided to take advantage.  Then I found out that there was an organized volunteer effort at the campground I'd plan to stay at in Mount Rainier National Park.
Peek-a-boo view of Mount Rainier behind the White River on the road to the campground.
The river still shows scaring from the November 2006 flooding.
So, leaving early Friday morning I drove the hour and a half and enjoyed a beautiful secluded campsite for the day.  I took the afternoon and just sat there to take in the wonder and beauty.  It did my soul good.
View of the sky from my campsite.  Spruce covered with old man's beard, fir, pine and
cedar too.  Gray and Steller's jays were extra friendly, looking for handouts. 
Ground squirrels made a few appearances too.

 On Saturday I joined 60 other volunteers on a mile hike to a back country meadow that needed re-vegetation.  This meadow use to be a campground, the asphalt roads have been removed, but much of the meadow remains bare.  While there, we saw many dust devils fed by that bare earth.
Close up view of some of the wildflowers on the hike up to the re-vegetation
project.  With the cold-wet-cold-wet-cold summer, these blooms are very
late.  They usually look like this in early summer, not early fall!
Before signing up for this project I didn't know that re-vegetation is a fairly painstaking effort.  Each flat of 49 seedlings takes about an hour to plant --. first you take a pickax to breakup the soil, then carefully plant in prescribed clusters of 7, then go about 4" away and plant another cluster -- about a square yard for the 7 clusters in one flat.  Oh, my aching knees and back!
View from where I was planting seedlings.  Once the re-vegetation work is
completed, the foreground of the meadow will look like the background.
Cutting across the far ridge, if you look closely, is one of the park's hiking trails.
 Although I'm nursing some aches and pains, I'm glad to have done that volunteer work and plan to do it again.  Mount Rainier National Park is a cherished place.  So, be careful where you walk ... those little meadow plants are precious!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Rubber Tramp Rendezvous for 2012

Gathering around the campfire at sunset, 2011 RTR.
Next January 10th - 24th will be the second Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) in Quartzsite, AZ.  It's a chance for those of us who love being on the road to get together with other like-minded travellers.  It's also an opportunity for folks to check out the mobile lifestyle.  For more information on this get together, go to:

Bob Wells, the person who organizes the RTR, makes everyone feel very welcome.  There will be workshops on things like -- solar power, staying on BLM land, work-kamping, medical/dental in Mexico, women travellers, etc.  Also, Quartzsite's huge RV show is at the same time as the RTR -- offering anything and everything that a traveller could want.  Quartzsite is a major snowbird hangout in the winter.  At the RTR, we dry camp; that is, everyone brings their own water, food, bathroom, firewood, etc. ... yet, attendees shared freely last year ... and town is only 4 miles away.

I went to the first RTR this past January and really enjoyed myself.  I talk a bit about my experience in a January blog post.

Rubber Tramp: "A person who travels and lives out of their vehicle (normally an RV, van, bus, etc.). They stop and stay wherever they choose for however long they want, but eventually, so as long as there’s a way to put gas in their tank, move on." (Urban Dictionary)

If you are a rubber tramp (full- or part-time), or are thinking about becoming one, consider yourself invited.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Good Eats on US-395

I had several friends and family tell me I should check out Erick Schat’s Bakkerÿ in Bishop, CA.  It is right on US-395.  They are well known for good food.  When I got there, just 10 minutes before closing, the Deli was closed.  So, instead of dinner, I had dessert ... oh, darn :-).  The pecan pastry was very good.  I'll remember Schat's and go back again.

The sign for the Mobil Gas Station/Restaurant overlooking Mono Lake
from the Gas Mart's picnic area.
The other eatery that I'll return to is in a Mobil Gas Mart, as odd as that sounds.   Someone at the Inter-Agency Visitor Center recommended it to me.  It's at the corner of US-395 and CA-120 (to Tioga Pass and Yosemite) in Lee Vinning, CA.   And Whoa Nellie Deli was no secret.  When I got there around 4pm on Sunday, there was already a line up of 6 people back to order at each of the 2 registers.  By the time I left to go, the line up was at least 20 people back.

I got their "World Famous Fish Tacos" and wasn't disappointed.  They have a very unique menu that's more akin to what you'd find in a nice sit-down restaurant, including lobster toquitos and pork tenderloin.  They also had less expensive wraps, pizzas, and sandwiches.
Picnic area of the Mobil Gas Mart, listening to a couple of musicians.

I took my tray of tacos and beans outside to eat where about 50 other people were scattered on benches, rocks, picnic tables and the grass.  We were all listening to a couple of folk/country singers on their banjo and stand-up cello.  Such an odd scene for a Gas Mart.  Such great food for a deli.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

National Park Sites off of US-395

I took US-395 on my way north to Washington State from Southern California, beginning at I-15 and ending at I-90.  During the 5-day trip, I explored several National Park sites on my way north -- Manzanar National Historic Site (CA), Devil's Postpile National Monument (CA), and John Day Fossil Beds National Monument (OR).
Memorial at Manzanar Cemetery “Erected by the Manzanar Japanese,
August 1943”, the front reads “Soul Consoling Tower.”
Manzanar was the location for 1 of 10 WWII Japanese Relocation Centers.  Over 11,000 men, women and children were removed from their homes and required to move into this military-style camp.  This barbed-wired enclosure was located in the "Owens Valley at 4,000' elevation, at the eastern base of the Sierra Nevada ... Summer temperatures can soar over 100 degrees. Winter highs are usually in the 40's. Nighttime temperatures year round are 30 to 40 degrees less than daytime highs. High winds are common in any season." (
Two barracks restored.  Hundreds of barracks were sectioned into "blocks." 
Many families shared a single barrack, using bed sheets for some privacy.
After exploring the museum and touring the old camp roads, I was struck by two realities that I had not previously considered.  One was the very non-private nature of the accommodations, including shared housing and shared showers.  The other was how the evacuees continued to support their country, even tho' their country had locked them up.  At this camp they wove camouflage netting for the troops.  Some of the young men even enlisted.
Morning at the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River near the Devil's Postpile
Devil's Postpile National Monument was my next northbound stop.  Here I shared my campsite with a mule deer, moved my food to the bear locker, and snuggled down for a good night's snooze.
View on hike to Devil's Postpile

One section of the Devil's Postpile, a columnar basalt rock formation.
The next morning I explored the banks of the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River, watching folks having no luck at fishing.  I then joined a ranger on a short hike to the Devil's Postpile formation.  She talked about the native flora and fanua, some natural history, and the geologic processes that made the formation what it is today.  Scientists believe that 100,000 years ago lava pooled to 400' deep at that location.  Because it cooled so slowly, the basalt rock naturally formed into columns, mostly 6 sided.   It is one of the best known examples of columnar basalt.
A view of some curved columns,
believed to have cooled more quickly than the other columns.
Currently the Devil's Postpile is 80' high, after being worn down by earthquakes, freeze-thaw cycles, and most especially by glaciers that receded about 15,000 years ago.  Very cool.
Another section of the Devil's Postpile
John Day Fossil Beds in Oregon was my next stop.  This site has 3 units of which I visited 2 -- Sheep Rock and Painted Hills
View from Mascall overlook, looking north into the Sheep Rock Unit. 
Hwy 28 in the distance goes through Picture Rock Gorge created by the
John Day River erroding basalt rocks from 17 different laval flows.
The peak in the distance is Sheep Rock Mountain. 
The fossils found here help scientists understand the changes that happened once mammals inhabited the planet, as well as the climate changes.  The John Day area mammals lived in a very wet climate 30 million years ago, lots of rain, humid, tropical jungles.  The animals that lived then were mammals like us (vs. dinasours), but were mostly different from the animals we know today.  Then about 15 million years ago, the climate in the area became more like the eastern part of the US, hardwood forests.  Again, populated with mammals; and again, largely different from the animals we know today.  The John Day area today would be called desert like.  So, during the course of 30 million years, it's gone from a wet jungle to dry desert.
Sheep Rock Mountain in the rain -- basalt rock top, dark band from lahar,
and various colors and layers created by volcanic ash
During the 30 million years, the John Day areas has experienced multiple basalt lava flows, volcanic ash covers, and lahars (hot mud flows).  Scientists explore layer upon layer of ash, lahar, ash, and lava in order to discover the fossils of animals and plants that tell their stories, millions of years old.
Cathedral Rock in the Sheep Rock Unit
In the Sheep Rock Unit, the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center is a must see.  I first watched an introductory film, then walked through the exhibits that tell the 30-million-year story through fossil displays and murals.   Another area of the museum provides a large picture window to watch paleontologists working on fossils.  Further exhibits explain their methods of unearthing, preserving, cataloging, and understanding the artifacts.  Way interesting.
Colorful formation near picnic area in Sheep Rock Unit.

I also visited the Painted Hills Unit.  Here you have regular desert hills covered with sage; but, among the regular hills are the painted hills of red and yellow.  Fossils were found in this area as well; but, I focused on the hills.
View from Painted Hills Overlook
"The red in the Painted Hills is from rusty iron minerals, oxidized by long exposure.  The golden layers reveal of mix of oxidized magnesium and iron, metamorphic claystone minerals.  Black hash marks are rich with manganese.  Each color represents a different geologic process." (from infomation board at overlook)
It rained hard off and on all day in the Painted Hills
I took a short hike around the small hills at the Painted Cove.  To keep the hills as untouched hiker's tramples, the park service built a boardwalk.
A couple of hikers on the boardwalk at the Painted Cove
Close up of a yellow & red hill with pooled rain water
Close up example of black manganese hash mark
Rain runoff at Painted Cove
The Painted Hills were totally amazing.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Indulging in Some Reminiscing

While in Southern California for my uncle's funeral, I wanted to visit with each of my 4 brothers.  This left me with a bit of extra time to check out some personally significate places within the City of Orange..

I am fortunate that a fellow traveller opened her Orange County home and beautifully treed driveway to me and my "Prius RV."  Her home is in a perfect location to accomodate my wanderings within the City of Orange. Thank you VJ for your generosity and hospitality!  I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with you.

Here are some pictures I took while traveling "Memory Lane."

A Giant at Orange Hart Park: an old Moreton Bay Fig tree
planted around 1875 by horticulturist Henri Gardner.
As a kid, I would climb this fig tree ... now, it's way too big and I'm way too creeky to climb ...

The roots at the base of this tree always looked so cool ... even more so now ...
I learned how to swim at Hart Park, taking lessons at the
"Orange Plunge" ... it looks the same now as it did then ...
The inside view of the pool area.
My first classroom, Kindergarten at Sycamore Elementary
Portola Middle School (was Junior High) ... music/chior room on right
Orange High School ... took math classes in this building
The first house we lived in after getting married.  We were fixing it up.
Under the old wallpaper was old newspapers (for insulation),
and under the newspaper was the exterior board and batten ... amazing. 
After I got prenant, we decided home renovation wasn't for us :-). 
Our second house after getting married and where we raised our daughter
Elise for a year and a half before moving to Washington State.
It's fun to remember.  Thanks for letting me indulge myself by sharing these pictures.