High And Mighty

Sequoia NP

A Long And Winding Road To Sequoia National Park

We rolled on to the Central Valley of California with a stop at Tule Recreation Area, a U. S. Army Corps of Engineers lake and campground near Porterville. No doubt we are in the agricultural hub now. Great Spring weather greets us but the lake is low. This is primarily an irrigation lake and only secondarily a recreation lake. With rain and snowfall low throughout the west it will be a challenge to meet water needs this summer.

A Long Way Up

A Long Way Up

Porterville proves a good stop for restocking with groceries and supplies after Death Valley. The Hispanic influence in the area is strong and our choice of supermarkets takes us on a trip. With cactus leaves piled high in the produce section along with other fruit we can’t identify, several types of chorizo and hot sausage and a whole aisle devoted to tortillas, it doesn’t take much to imagine you are in Mexico. Steve tries to ask how to cook prickly pear leaves but gives up when he gets five employees trying to tell him different methods all at the same time. We try several sausages and buy a few new ones that turn out to be delicious.

sequoia flower 8

sequoia flower 8 closeupsequoia flower 3 copysequoia flower 6 closeupwildflower 1Our main reason for stopping here is that we are about a half an hour from Sequoia National Park. In a normal year the park would be questionable to visit this early. Not this year. With the snow pack at less than 50% the park was open and quite busy. The only place we couldn’t reach due to snow was Kings Canyon NP that adjoins Sequoia although we could get to the Visitors Center. Not that we need an excuse for returning but we have one. We made two visits with the first one concentrating on the three Visitor Centers, hiking to the General Grant and General Sherman trees and marveling at the size and age of the sequoias despite huge lightening scars or hollow trunks. On our second visit we enjoyed the mountain views, wildflowers, historical photos, Tharp’s log and colorful meadows. You can’t help feeling dwarfed by these giants. They were young trees when Rome dominated the world. From a photography perspective we composed vertical panoramas, black and white landscapes, macro shots and put an artistic twist on others.

Strolling Among The Giants

Strolling Among The Giants

General Grant sign and tree

General Sherman Tree

General Sherman Tree

hollow tree view 3

Hollow Tree View

 

Sequoia Vertical Panorama

Sequoia Vertical Panorama

Steve and Opal at Sequoia 2

Towering Twins

Towering Twins

Steve at Sequoia 1

Sequoia Starburst

Sequoia Starburst

Soft Trees In Fog

Soft Trees In Fog

yellow twig dogwood

Yellow Twig Dogwood

red twig dogwood 2

Red On Red

Impressionist View Of Sequoia

Impressionist View Of Sequoia

sequoia scene 1

sequoia scene 4 B+W

sequoia scene 6

artsy1

Life In Death Valley

Death Valley, landscape

Subtle Colors Of Death Valley

From Lone Pine we headed back east over the Inyo Mountains to visit Death Valley National Park. We’d never heard of this range but after going up, over and down pulling a 35′ trailer we certainly will not forget the ride! We knew the road was challenging and stopped at the Lone Pine Visitors Center to check on road conditions and potential problems. They gave us the green light and said “just go slow on the descent”. Not that you could have done anything else! With 20/20 hindsight we should have had the video camera going to accurately give you the feeling of heading down over miles of switchback roads without guardrails. Go slow they said. You bet. At times we crept around curves at 15 mph or less only to find ourselves immediately reversing direction for another curve. I’ve become very confident in Steve’s ability to handle the DreamChaser but…when I’d look down the unprotected chasm on my side my toes would curl and I’d find my palms getting sweaty. I let out a BIG sigh of relief when we finally reached the bottom!! When watching the video be sure and take notice of the surrounding mountains and picture us there.

A Vast Wasteland

A Vast Wasteland

 

Water In The Desert

Water In The Desert

Our campground would be at Furnace Creek which is mostly dry camping. There are a few full service sites here but they were booked months ago. The only criteria that is a bit difficult to work around is that you must be at your site to run the generator and all generators off by 7PM. In March it isn’t a problem but we sure wouldn’t want to be here much later without access to air conditioning. One evening we were sitting outside when the campground host came by and asked if that was our generator running. I said yes and (looking at my watch) indicated we had 15 minutes to go. No, said the host. You forgot to change your watch. It’s daylight savings time now and you’re 45 minutes beyond the generator curfew. Oops!

Blue-eyed Grass

Blue-eyed Grass

Beavertail Cactus

Beavertail Cactus

Death Valley is a huge park with over 3,000,000 acres to explore. We did a lot of hiking to earn enough points for our bumper sticker, roamed through the Harmony Borax Works and Borax Museum, went on wildflower explorations, watched beautiful sunsets and toured Scotty’s Castle. We joined Ranger led tours for a full moon dune walk and to see Death Valley Scotty’s real cabin home. We made scenic drives to Artists Canyon and Titus Canyon. We explored ghost towns in the park such as Rhyolite and one just outside the boundary on BLM land. Our week went all to fast. Not since visiting The Everglades have I begun a park visit questioning just how much I’d enjoy only to find myself loving every minute. There is so much more to explore so here’ where we say “When we come back…”

Borax Wagon

Borax Wagon

Steve (Spielberg) Maier has created a video of our days in Death Valley. It runs about 25 minutes. So run to the bathroom, grab a beer and some popcorn but most of all enjoy one of our national treasures. As usual, please allow the video to fully upload before playing for best results and click the icon at the lower right corner to bring to full screen.

Steve AT Natural Bridge In Death Valley

Steve At Natural Bridge In Death Valley

 

Dunes at sunset 1

Dunes At Sunset

 

Zabriske Point Sunset

Zabriske Point Sunset

Where Next? #8

San Juan Island, Mt. Young

From The Top Of Mt. Young On San juan Island

It looks as if Lady Luck has smiled on us again. We were to have left San Juan Island right after Labor Day. Now we will be staying until the end of September. Usually the park closes the English Camp Visitors Center at that time. Over the past few years however visitation to the park has remained high through September and keeping the site open is viable. We are thrilled!

This will mean our trip from Washington to Texas will be over a five week period. That’s quick for us and long for most everyone else. We need to stop for RV maintenance (so what’s new?), wanted to see relatives/friends and a few more national park sites along the way. Top on the RV work list is replacing our stove. The last repair only lasted 6 months so we are buying a better quality unit. Just like buying a home with builder grade appliances and replacing them after a few years.

Our route goes from Washington through central Oregon to the Mt. Shasta area of California and on to Mono Lake. Then comes Great Basin National Park, Los Alamos to say hi to a friend from North Carolina and down to El Paso and Guadalupe National Park. The third and final leg will bring us to the Dallas area for a visit with relatives and friends, Waco Petroglyph National Monument and Austin and lastly the Texas gulf coast for a 41/2 months stay at Laguna Atascosa NWR.

We hope you’ll continue to travel with us.

San Juan Island, Laguna Atascosa, Washington, Texas, RV, travel

Our Route From San Juan Island To Laguna Atascosa NWR

High Above The San Juan Islands

Those of you who follow us on Facebook know that we celebrated our 6th anniversary by taking a biplane ride over the San Juan Islands. We have put together a 10 minute video covering the highlights of our trip. There are pictures of both sites making up San Juan Island NHP, American Camp and English Camp. This summer Steve and Chari have been volunteering at the English Camp Visitor Center.

As with our previous videos you will get the best results by playing at full screen and allowing the show to load completely before hitting the play button.

Enjoy the ride!

This Place Rocks!

Alabama Hills, panorama, California, photography, Lone Pine

Alabama Hills Panorama

The DreamChaser At Lone Pine

The DreamChaser At Lone Pine

Have you ever heard of Lone Pine, California? Neither had we until looking where we might camp while visiting Manzanar National Historic Site. Right outside of town we found Diaz Lake County Park. At this time of year there were only six other campers however during the summer months it is very popular with folks hiking Mount Whitney. We arrived to find that the water supply was still turned off for the winter. No problem as we have had enough unexpected situations so we always travel with a full fresh water tank. Later on we checked out a BLM campground, Tuttle Creek, for future use. Both spots are dry camping.

Movie Road

Movie Road

You say you’ve never been here and yet at least via your TV or the movies you have. If you ever watched Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, Bonanza or John Wayne movies or How the West Was Won you saw the Alabama Hills. The hills are named after a Civil War battleship but we don’t know why. Ever watch Gunga Din? Thought you were in India? Nope, Lone Pine, California and the Alabama Hills. Located within easy commute of Hollywood this area was used for numerous westerns and films reaching a peak in the 1950s. We spent most of our first day just driving and walking through the area. The road leading to Mount Whitney, Whitney Portal Road, was still closed but we found a road called Movie Road. Now who could resist exploring that spot? As we drove along it was easy to imagine gunmen behind every rock. At one point I said to Steve, this is where the stagecoach driver gets shot and the passenger has to crawl out of the coach and scramble up to the seat then jump down on the horses and grab the reins, saving everyone from the canyon edge. Home to over 300 movies the Alabama Hills can be seen in recent movies such as Star Trek V and VII, Tremors and Gladiator. Each year the BLM issues 30-40 permits a year for movies, commercials and still photography shoots. You can download a PDF brochure from the BLM to help guide you to some of the movie locations.

We came to an especially pretty area with subtle colors running from rose, lilac and light green to rust and tan. As I was taking this picture I just knew it would become one of my favorites. When I had time later I worked with some of the post processing software to change the photo to watercolor and oil paint adaptations. Which version do you like best?

Original Subtle Colors Photo

Original Subtle Colors Photo

Watercolor Version Of Above Photo

Watercolor Version Of Above Photo

Second subtle Colors Photo

Second subtle Colors Photo

Oil Paint Version Of # 2

Oil Paint Version Of # 2

Here are a few more photos from the area. Our second day in the area was cold and windy letting you know that Winter hadn’t released it’s grasp just yet. After warm desert temps we had to scramble to find jeans, sweatshirts and hats.

AH scenery 5

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Winter Lingers On

Winter Lingers On

Brrrrrr!!

Brrrrrr!!

A Cold Day In Black And White

A Cold Day In Black And White

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We met our friends Mary and Jeff for dinner at their home. Both are are archeologists. Mary is retired from the US Forest Service and Jeff is the museum director at Manzanar NHS. Almost twenty years ago Jeff was involved in a dig at the Puerco Pueblo site in Petrified Forest NP. We are continuously amazed at the coincidences we find while traveling.

Visitor Center

Visitor Center

Manzanar NHS was established in 1992. Unlike Minidoka NHS that we visited last year, several buildings from the Japanese Internment Camp remain. The park is still being developed and new interpretation exhibits will open soon. The museum and park film located in the Visitor Center are excellent and describe the day to day life of the camp. The camp gymnasium that once held dances is now the Visitor Center.  It is surprising to me that the internees kept such a positive attitude. While we were watching the film, a family from Japan was sitting right behind us. I wish I’d been able to ask them what was their reaction to this park. Among the internees were 400 landscape professionals who turned a bleak, dry area into a lovely Japanese garden with streams and a bridge. Future plans call for restoring the garden. This is the only camp that had an orphanage to care for displaced orphans, foster children and babies born out of wedlock. Of the 10,000 people interned here one went on to be the designer of the 1963 Corvette Stingray. He was twelve years old when his family was sent to this camp. We always learn a lot visiting our National Parks. At Manzanar we learned that the US was not alone in relocating people of Japanese ancestry. Both Cuba and Canada had relocation camps. Here are our photos from Manzanar.

Welcome To Manzanar

Welcome To Manzanar

Everyday Life At Manzanar

Everyday Life At Manzanar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orphanage

Orphanage

Toy Center

Toy Center

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beauty In The Desert

Beauty In The Desert

Just about the time we were finishing our visit, the sky cleared and we were able to see Mount Whitney.

Mt. Whitney Appears

Mt. Whitney Appears

Then it was back to the movie theme which dominates the area with a visit to The Film History Museum. While not a large museum it is chock full of memorabilia from the days of silent film through Quentin Tarantino’s Django. Be sure to watch the film if you go. Great music and cuts from lots of shows. We even bought a copy. Younger generations might not enjoy it as much but for those of us who spent Sunday nights watching Roy, Dale and Trigger it was a walk down memory lane. We loved the old posters with headers like the one from Glenn Ford’s “The Violent Men” They Don’t Make Them Like This Any More! As a seven year old I’d get very excited as Roy would get into trouble. My Dad would say to me “Don’t worry. He has to be on next week.” We have just put several of these old movies on our Netflix queue. I’m really looking forward to Steve  McQueen in Nevada Smith. So for your own brief return to the days of Hi Ho Silver! Away!  Here are our photos. Be sure and read the autograph on the last picture. The Lone Ranger just misspelled Chari’s name.

How The West Was Won

How The West Was Won

Humphrey Bogart, High Sierra

Car Driven By Humphrey Bogart In High Sierra

Gene Autry, Film History Museum

Gene Autry’s Outfit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve McQueen, Nevada Smith

Steve McQueen During Filming Of Nevada Smith

Gunga Din

Gunga Din Poster

Django Poster

Django Poster

Gunsmoke, Miss Kitty

Gun smoke’s Miss Kitty Wore This Dress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuntman's Jerk Vest (used when they are shot)

Stuntman’s Jerk Vest (used when they are shot)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lone Ranger Autigraph

Lone Ranger Autograph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Add Water

Lake Mead NRA, Boulder Dam, Boulder Beach CG, kayaking, photography, RV, camping, Nevada

Lake Mead Panorama Showing Low Water Line

What do you get when you take a desert, a river and tons of cement? You have Boulder Dam. By just adding water to a beautiful desert landscape you make it possible for one of America’s biggest playgrounds to exist. Without water from Lake Mead courtesy of Boulder Dam, Las Vegas would not exist. During our four days here we were aware of how much the lake level has fallen (15 feet or more) and this is a huge lake. You’d think that there would be moratorium on building so development won’t outstrip resources. Alas no, new homes and businesses are popping up all over.

We’d planned to stay a week at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Then we learned that a friend’s sister was married to the museum director at Manzanar NHS. Our original plans were to head that way after seeing Death Valley NP. We wanted to visit with them however they’d be away on vacation at that time. So we cut our time back to four days and would head to Lone Pine and still be able to keep our reservations at Death Valley.

The campgrounds at Lake Mead NRA are all dry camping but the sites are paved. Even though they don’t take reservations we easily found a beautiful drive through spot for less than $10/day with the Senior Interagency Pass. Every once in a while we spy an unusual RV. Here we found the “Gypsy House” from Canada. The owners had built it and have lots of folks drop in for a look. It serves them as a hard sided tent with totes for storage.

Homemade Gypsy Wagon

Homemade Gypsy Wagon

We were able to get out on the water in our kayaks for the first time in several months. Eight miles later we were pooped! We paddled from near our campsite over to Boulder Dam. Quite impressive from the water looking up. We’d hoped to do the tour but with our time cut short we had to push that to “when we come back”.

View From Chari's Kayak

View From Chari’s Kayak

The remaining days were much too windy for paddling so we toured the Visitor Center, took Opal on a long walk and drove about 80 miles to the far end of the lake. This area is about 100 miles from the Grand Canyon and retains much the same coloration. Absolutely beautiful at sundown.

Steve And Opal On A Hike

Steve And Opal On A Hike

On A Clear Day ...

On A Clear Day …

Sunset At Lake Mead

Sunset At Lake Mead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our time went by too quickly to catch up with a friend from North Carolina or to get to see a Cirque de Soleil performance. Next time for sure. We did have breakfast at a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives spot in Boulder City called The Coffee Cup. Another night we met Terry and Alice, RVers who had volunteered at San Juan Island NHP last summer. They were volunteering at a rifle club near Las Vegas and we had previously chatted online through an Escapees website. We did add Nevada to our states we have camped in map. By the time we reach the San Juan Islands we will have the western states filled in. Now we head off for California.

London Bridge Isn’t Falling Down

Lake Havasu City

View Of Lake Havasu City From The London Bridge

So far our Spring travels through Arizona had been full of mishaps. So as we headed to Lake Havasu City on the AZ/CA border would it be third time is the charm or three strikes and you’re out? We are glad to report that all was well and we had a fabulous week. Our campsite at Lake Havasu State Park was one of the best we’ve ever had. The weather was glorious and you can see why this is another snowbird Mecca. You are immediately identified as a visitor if you say Lake Havasu as the residents simply slip over the the second A and say Hav-su.

London Bridge, Arizona, history

1831 London Bridge At Lake Havasu City

The icon of the area is the London Bridge which was moved here from London during the early days of development at Lake Havasu and opened in 1971. The developer needed a bridge from shore to an island resort. Hearing the London Bridge was for sale he purchased it, built an inner structure of steel then moved the exterior blocks to Arizona and rebuilt it. Each solid granite stone was numbered, transported and reinstalled. Some numbers are still visible. I had the bridge tour on my list of things to do. I thought it would be very touristy and trivial but being a “good hubby” I agreed to go. The tours are given only a few times each week and last about 90 minutes. It starts with a bit of history. Here we learned that there have been several London Bridges over the centuries. The children’s song “London Bridge Is Falling Down” refers to when the Vikings came up the Thames and rammed the bridge causing it to fall into the river. Then we walked around and over the bridge while our British tour guide gave a very good talk. We learned that the lamps on the bridge were fabricated from Napoleon’s cannon after his defeat by the British. There is even a spot where two American G. I.’s carved their initials during WWII. Much to my surprise the tour was excellent and well worth taking. Told you so!

Architectural Drawing Showing Numbered Blocks For Demolition And Reconstruction

Architectural Drawing Showing Numbered Blocks For Demolition And Reconstruction

Old Drawing Of London Bridge Opening In 1851

Old Drawing Of London Bridge Opening In 1831

Walking Across London Bridge

Walking Across London Bridge

From Guns To Lamposts

From Guns To Lamposts

Picture From The London Bridge Visitor Center...What Fool Would Be Out Here?

Picture From The London Bridge Visitor Center…What Fool Would Be Out Here?

We did also enjoyed the local community theatre production of Sweeney Todd, local ice cream and did some shopping as we’d be heading into sparsely populated areas in the near future.

We visited the Bill Williams NWR and planned to return for a kayak trip but then got busy with other things and never returned. A good reason to return if we need to have an excuse. The refuge is located with the Visitor Center on the lake side and wonderful wilderness trails across the road in a desert area. What a contrast!

Bill Williams NWR

Bill Williams NWR

Six months ago Chari had reconnected with her second cousin, Kathy, who lives near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Although they have been e-mailing they have not seen each other in forty years. Kathy and her daughter, Emily, were spending a long weekend in Las Vegas which was about three hours away. We decided to meet halfway in Laughlin, NV. Kathy has become the Manchester family genealogist and has discovered lots of interesting history. I never knew I had an ancestor from Switzerland or that there was a family farm in New York only 100 miles from where I grew up! We met for brunch and had a great time.

Desertscape Walk

Desertscape Walk

Kelso, Mohave Desert Preserve

Kelso Depot At Mohave Desert Preserve

Another day Steve and I went for one of our “day trips” of 150 miles or so to visit the Mohave Desert Preserve NPS site. We were enchanted by the desert landscape and spoke with the ranger in charge of volunteers about the possibility of working here during the winter of 2017. We’ll stay in touch. We only had time for a quick visit but did watch the park movie which shows the varied areas of the park. Kelso Depot is an old train station (1924) from the days when the town of Kelso was a thriving community. Kelso was where trains headed west stopped to pick up their “helper” engines to climb the steep terrain of the Providence Mountains and reload with water for the steam engines. The depot was also used by Union Pacific RR workers as a dormitory and recreation facility. Kelso faded away after WWII when the more powerful diesel engines became commonplace and was closed in 1985. The depot was saved from demolition and became the NPS Visitor Center in 2005. During WWII Kelso was also the home of workers from the nearby Vulcan Mine (iron ore). Between the RR workers and the miners Kelso had many drunken residents who wound up spending a day or two in the town’s jail. The jail had been moved to the backyard garden of some Barstow residents after the depot closed but was returned and donated when NPS took over.

jail

The Kelso Jail

Kelso Post

Kelso PostOffice

Rt. 66

Opal And Steve On Rt. 66

Another day of exploring took us to one of the best preserved sections along former Route 66 between Kingman and Seligman in Arizona. As we approached the town of Oatman, which had been touted as a picturesque town on 66, we found several creosote bushes with decorations left from Christmas. A local custom we presumed. We arrived in Oatman and parked in the city lot. You need to pick your way carefully through town as one of the “attractions” are the “wild” burros. The burros are used to being fed hay cubes you can buy and are not shy nor are they reluctant to leave the remains. Step carefully! When we arrived a show for all the tourist buses had the one and only street blocked so we checked out some shops. Only one description is needed for this place: Tourist Trap!!! When the road finally opened we continued along Rt. 66 and did find some real wild burros, great scenery, Yucca plants in bloom and an interesting remnant of days past called Rock Spring. It was a former gas station along Rt. 66 now a convenience store and museum. There was a lot of interesting memorabilia here. It has retained a lot of its character because, much to the owners dismay, the tour buses can’t negotiate the tight turns between Oatman and Rock Springs.

Rt. 66, Arizona

Leftover From Christmas

Tourist Feeding Burro In Oatman

Tourist Feeding Burro In Oatman

 

 

 

 

 

Yucca In Bloom

Yucca In Bloom

 

 

humor

Roadside Humor On 66

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Burros On Rt. 66

Wild Burros On Rt. 66

Rock Springs Drawing

Rock Springs Drawing

Cars From The Past On A Road From The Past

Cars From The Past On A Road From The Past

A Pegasus On 66

A Pegasus On 66

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rock Springs Gas Pumps

Rock Springs Gas Pumps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rt. 66 Memories

Rt. 66 Memories

Time to leave Arizona for this trip. Next stop is Lake Mead National Recreation Area which is only three hours away.