Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hot Hot Hot

Day 17: Death Valley Exploring
around 130 miles

After a stop at the newly remodeled Visitor's Center, we drove south along Badwater Rd to hike at Golden Canyon before it got too hot! More Geology Heaven for Lloyd. 

It was a 2 mile round trip into the canyon along an interpretive trail that lead to spectacular views of Red Cathedral and Manly Beacon. By the time we were done, I'd finished the first of my recommended 4 bottles of water. One sure gets thirsty in the desert!

A few miles down the road we turned off onto a gravel road for Devil's Golf Course, where rugged jumbled blocks of salt surround the parking lot.

Badwater Basin is one of the world's hottest places, 282 feet below sea level. A sign marks sea level on the rock wall opposite the basin.

There's  a shallow salty pool near the parking lot. An early surveyor of the area saw that his mule wouldn't drink from the pool and noted "badwater" on his map. The name stuck. We could see little insect larvae in the brine.

As we headed back towards Furnace Creek, we pulled off on Artist's Drive, a 9 mile one way road through some of the most beautiful low, narrow canyons cut into alluvial fan deposits. The brightly colored hillsides at Artist's Palette were incredible. Red, pink, yellow, orange, and bown colors are from two minerals common in rust: hematite, which is a red iron oxide, and limonite, a yellow iron oxide. The green and violet colors are from altered minerals in the volcanic ash. Mother nature is amazing!

By  now we're thinking we need gas...and at well over $5 a gallon at Furnace Creek, we decided to leave Death Valley and head northeast to Beatty, NV, a little town we came through at the beginning of our trip. We got the gas, and some more ICE, and had a bite to eat at KC's Outpost Saloon and Eatery, a local establishment unabashedly proclaiming they had "The Best Food In Town". They roast turkeys for their sandwiches and make their own bread. Lloyd had a loaded BBQ sandwich, and I had the special, turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, Best Foods mayo (she was specific)...basically Thanksgiving in a sandwich. It hit the spot. It was the waitress's first day. She was sweet.

All fueled up, inside and out, we headed back into the park via Rhyolite, a ghost town just outside of Beatty. Within a year after prospectors Shorty Harris and Ed Cross found gold in 1904, the town sprung up. It had a short life, with the 1906 SF Earthquake wiped out the financial district, mining funding took a hit. Then a financial panic in the east in 1907 pinched mining even more. By 1908, there were 8,000 people living there, and the mines began to fail. A few years later the exodus started and the mines did fail. The Post Office closed in 1919, and by 1920, there were only 14 people living there.

There still stands a fine Train Depot built in 1909,

the Kelly Bottle House (1906), which Tom Kelly built to raffle off,

and the Goldwell Open Air Museum with its outdoor sculptures.

Back in the park, we pulled over to take some photos of the sand dunes, and the valley towards Furnace Creek.

then stopped at Salt Creek Interpretive Trail to walk the half mile boardwalk for some pupfish viewing. The salty stream is full of the rare fish, which are very active in the spring (before the summer heat dries it up).

The Harmony Borax Works, famous for using 20 mule teams to move the borax from Death Valley to communities nearby, was an easy 1/4 mile walking trail.

I was waiting for some visitors to leave so I could get a photo without people in it, but they just wouldn't leave; a woman with long blonde hair who looked like a model, wearing a dress that was shorter than anything I ever wore in the days of miniskirts, a man who was dressed for a business casual affair, a little girl who looked bored by it all. From my perch I could hear what sounded like Russian. The woman kept posing, the man kept taking her picture. The man would point for the girl to get in the picture. She wasn't cooperating. The man and girl tried to leave but the woman kept finding new spots to pose, and wanted more pictures. Then they finally drove off in their convertible. To the fancy hotel, I'm guessing. They sure weren't camping at Texas Springs Campground! It was very amusing.

Death Valley Days

Day 16: Tusayan AZ to Furnace Creek, CA
410 Miles

Going from the cold to the desert. No need to unpack the heavy down comforter here! It was 30 degrees when we got up in Tusayan, and 90 degrees when we arrived in Death Valley at 5 pm. Decided on the Texas Spring Campground, in the hills above the Visitor Center. 

Got set up, enjoyed the sunset, and cooked up a delicious Green Thai Chicken and Veggie Curry (thanks Trader Joe) while Lloyd caught up with Bill and Celynn back in White Salmon. 

My pinot gris needed ice. The cooler needed ice. One side benefit of the cold nights in Grand Canyon: the 20 lb bag of ice we put in the cooler as we left Texas did not need replenishing until we left for Death Valley.

No electricity, but I had my headlamp. Our lantern mantel broke so it was useless. Nice and dark, the stars were awesome up there, but clouds started coming in...we went to bed and the wind picked up. And up. And up. People went scurrying into their tents and campers. Some left altogether. It was pretty wild. At one point I got up to go to the bathrooms. I could almost hear Auntie Em calling “Dorothy! Dorothy!” Untended campfires were sending sparks flying all through the campground. Crazy! I made it back safely, and fell asleep eventually. It was beautiful the next morning.

subtotal: 4,102 miles

Day 15: Grandest!

Today we decided to explore further along the South Rim to Hermit's Rest.

Hiking the whole thing wasn't realistic, so we drove to the D lot, walked to the shuttle transfer station near Bright Angel. Got off at the first stop, Maricopa Point, then followed the trail around to The Abyss, where we mutually agreed we'd best hop shuttles to hit the last couple of view points. The 3.6 miles we did was enough, especially after all our foot time the day before. 

It was beautiful, and so much fun to be right on the edge of the trail. Some of the drop offs were dizzying!

We were on our own a lot, especially where there was a mile between spots. People seem to be ok with .25 mile to .5 mile but more than that, they take the shuttle. 

Grand prize for lack of manners goes to the hiker who had to defecate on the very edge of the trail, did not bother to try and cover it, except with toilet paper. Ugh. No, I did NOT take a photo.

This downward view is where a uranium mine was. If you know me, you are aware I do not particularly like heights. I think I had a rail for this one....or I just held the camera out and hoped for the best!

To celebrate our Grand Days, we had late lunch/early dinner at the Bright Angel Lodge restaurant. Lloyd had a burger, I had a turkey burger that was the best I've ever had. What was in that Cilantro sauce??? MMMMM. Shared a brownie pie and walked back to the D Lot happy. Several elk decided to stroll along with us, right down the street. Our last night in Grand Canyon.

I will put more pictures in an online album soon.

Day 14: GRANDER!

Got in to the park early, snagged a spot in lot A, then hit the visitor center, and walked 0.7 miles to the Yavapai Geology Museum. Hiked the 1.9 mile Trail of Time along the Rim- Incredible!

Following the paved Rim Trail between the Yavapai Geology Museum and the Verkamp's Visitor Center on the South Rim, is an interpretive walking timeline that focuses on Grand Canyon vistas and rocks. It sure helps you to think about the magnitude of geologic time and the stories of the rock layers and landscapes. Brass markers every meter, representing one million years of time, keep you moving along. There are viewing tubes and displays of rocks related to the period, to help you connect the rocks visible in the Grand Canyon to their place along the geologic timeline.  It was a very leisurely couple of miles!
We got to the Verkamps Visitor Center in time for another Ranger talk about the history of the Village area...then another Ranger talk about condors down near Bright Angel Lodge. Inside the lodge was a wonderful fireplace, built to show the different rock layers of the canyon.

We filled up our water bottles and headed to the Bright Angel Trailhead. This trail goes all the way to the bottom of the canyon. Since it was 4:45, we just did about a mile or so down, then the long climb back up as the sun got lower and lower in the sky. The rain managed to stay on the North Rim, away from us all day.

Lloyd accommodated my request for him to pose in a window.

It was a long day on our feet, but tonight we were not going to eat bad food. We got back to the campground, hit the grocery store for some Italian sausages, and made a nice spaghetti dinner with salad, and wine of course. And some online time for Lloyd, who is rocking my spare hat (he lost his).

Nights were cold (low 30s) and we were so glad we bought that little heater! It helped take the edge off in the evening, and made it easier to get that coffee going in the morning.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Day 13: GRAND!

Prewitt, NM to Yusayan, AZ
300 miles

We made it to Grand Canyon! Though busy in the park for Easter Weekend, we found a spot at a quiet RV Park in Yusayan, just outside the south entrance gate. Not exactly scenic, but there were hot showers, food options, groceries and wi fi. Here's a creative traveler in the campground.

 Lloyd's Senior Pass was used daily. Such a deal: turn 62, pay $10, you get in to National Parks free. Camp half price, which came in handy later in the trip. Nice.

After setting up, and having some refreshments (shown above), we headed to the Park and visited the Yavapai Geology Museum, caught a Ranger talk, and walked around a bit. LOTS of international visitors. Many Germans and Japanese. It was a beautiful afternoon. 

Decided not to cook tonight, but went to a local steak house. Big mistake. Remind me to write that one up on Tripadvisor and Yelp.

Subtotal: 3,692 miles

Adios TX, Hello NM

Day 11
551 Miles

Wednesday morning we set out for the return part of the trip. Our goal this day was the vicinity of Roswell, NM. Not too close, we didn't want to be abducted by aliens! We decided on Bottomless Lakes State Park, and it was lovely. 

Believe it or not, it even had wi fi, much to Lloyd's delight. The full moon was beautiful, setting as the sun came up while Lloyd did his yoga.

 We could have stayed longer...but we had to move on.

Subtotal 3,078 miles

Day 12: Roswell to Prewitt, NM
314 miles

Today we enjoyed back roads as much as possible to Bluewater Lake State Park

Another lovely NM State Park. Early in the season, only part of the park was open. We did a little hiking around above the canyon, and down by the lake. 

The rangers kindly waited to lock up the restrooms and showers until 9 pm (instead of 5 pm) eliminating the need to hike to the vault toilets in the closed area. There were enough of us there to warrant some extra consideration! Of course, my hopes that they would open them up again before 7 am were not realized, so at 6:50 I took the little hike to the vaults. Easier in daylight for sure.

We'd thought about going to Canyon de Chelly, but decided to spend the time at Grand Canyon instead. It would have taken us a bit out of the way, and we were carrying wine and beer that we didn't care to have confiscated or being fined for. It was a good call.

Subtotal   3,392 miles

Texas Days

Houston side trip
Days 6-8
384 miles RT

While Lloyd was having too much fun tasting BBQ, hiking, and doing a 5K fun run with Keara, I moseyed on to Houston to see Alina and attend Rita's wedding. I enjoyed my little solo road trip in the Outlander. Lloyd had a little repair work to do on the Kia for Keara. It was a fine drive, and I was oh so proud of myself, thinking I was avoiding all the school time traffic as I rolled into Sugar Land via New Territory. Who knew that whole University area would be unrecognizable in such a short time?! I got totally turned around and ended up going through the dang school zones anyway. Good thing Jill had some nice cold wine waiting for me when I got out the other side. Had a great night with our old friends Seversons, with Roger's expertly made margaritas and take out Freebirds burritos. YUM!

The wedding in Alvin at Oakwinds B and B was lovely. Here is Steve with his beautiful daughter Rita on the way to meet her groom, Adam.

Alina and friend Gaby were among the bridesmaids for Rita. The bride, of course, was beautiful. Alina and Gaby looked pretty fine themselves, along with Rita's sisters Erin (maid of honor) and Zoe (bridesmaid). Here is the lovely Alina.

It was so much fun to see the Carlson-Stadler family again, and a few other of the FCST gang: Austgens (who hosted Alina and Conor), Landecks, Jameses, and Coach Tim with Shayla Hill. After the event, Alina, Conor and I sat up with the Austgens, savoring a glass or two of wine...of course. Here are Alina, Vivian Landeck and Gaby Austgen.

The kids had plenty of plans to work around. After a walk around the levy with Lupe, I dropped them in town to discover Downtown Houston, and went to have dinner with Melissa at a lovely Indian Restaurant near her. It was great catching up with another old friend. The night ended at Austgens again. More wine. Good times. Due to the obscenely early flights of Alina and Conor, they got a shuttle and I slept in. Met up with my Dem gals at Whole Foods for lunch, laughed a lot with Juanita Jean, Mojo and Geri, then headed back to Austin in time for dinner, stopping only for gas, coffee and some cinnamon rolls for Tuesday breakfast at Hruska's Bakery.

Keara and Lloyd had gone shopping, and she whipped up a fabulous dinner for us and her new roomies of pork tenderloin, asparagus, sweet potatoes and salad. Oh, and CHEESECAKE for dessert. Grandma's recipe of course. She's a chip off the old block. I think the roommates will keep her.

Our last day in Austin involved getting our coffee to go, and getting in line at Franklin BBQ so we'd be able to get in for lunch. It was an entertaining line, and we met a family just behind us from Alaska whose daughter had gone to school in Boston at Simmons, now living in Austin. Small world. The BBQ was fabulous. We followed that up with BYOB Mini Golf, then ran up to the cheap movies in Round Rock to see Django Unchained. Margs and a few appetizers at the Salty Sow, and we were done. A full day indeed! But why didn't I take pictures???

Subtotal 2,527 miles (not including gadding about)

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Haven't been able to post about Days 6-10 in Texas, 11-12 in NM, 13-15 in Grand Canyon, 16-18 in Death Valley. Motel last night with wifi, but Lloyd's computer crashed in Grand Canyon, so caught up with news on my Playbook, while he took care of business on the laptop. Not to worry, I'll fill you in as soon as I get home.

We drove through the Owens Valley yesterday after leaving Furnace Creek, and were unable to find a camping spot in June Lake (NFS and commercial places all still closed). Lee Vining had one RV park open with no 'facilities' (still winterized). Since we are not self contained in the sanitation dept, that was not an option. We checked a motel, but found out that there were NO dining options in town on Tues or Wed nights. Sigh. Onward another 25 miles to Bridgeport, which had motels, and ONE restaurant open til 8, which had a full bar, pool tables, burgers, pizza and 4 TVs with sports, including the Red Sox vs Yankees!!! Food, not memorable. Game? Priceless!