Where Next #9

Laguna Atascosa NWR, Flaming Gorge NRA, Texas, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado

From LANWR To Flaming Gorge NRA

It’s been a long time since we’ve posted on the blog. Guess we needed a vacation from having so much fun! Before we get too much further behind here are our travel plans when we leave Laguna Atascosa NWR and head for our summer volunteer position at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.

When we head out we will go north to the piney woods of northeastern Texas to see Big Thicket National Preserve, Cane River Creole National Historic Park in Louisiana and the area should be in bloom with azaleas and dogwoods. Now add local BBQ joints and fried catfish to the mix. We’ll be staying at Alley Creek Camp, a USACE campground on a lake with water and electric hookups. We bought fishing licenses but haven’t been able to use them. Maybe we will here.

Then we drop back south a bit where we’ll be 75 miles NW of Houston. Lots of small towns, Spring blossoms, the Texas Painted Church tour and hopefully getting to Galveston and sightseeing in Houston too. We’ll stay at Cagle Recreation Area, a USFS campground with full hookups.

On to the Hill Country where there is so much to do I know we won’t scatch the surface. We’ll be staying at Cranes Mill CG on Canyon Lake, a  USACE campground with electric and water hookups. We plan to visit Fredricksburg,  New Braunfels and San Antonio. There will be many drives through the famous blue bonnets and we’ll meet up with friends volunteering at the LBJ NHP.

On to west Texas via Amistead NRA (a reservoir on the Rio Grande), Guadalupe Mountains NP and El Paso. From there we turn north to New Mexico and hope to stay at Elephant Butte Lake SP. Using this as a base we will visit White Sands NP, Gila Cliff Dwellings, Salinas Pueblo Missions and Pecos NHP. If there is time we will stop to see fellow volunteers at Sevilleta NWR.

Hoping to make up for our missed visit last Fall, we will drive north to see friends in Los Alamos, NM. Other points of interest will be Santa Fe and possibly 5 more NPS sites. We haven’t camped that much in Colorado so we look forward to staying at Cheyenne Mountain SP near Colorado Springs. Our last leg will turn west toward Dinosaur NM and Fossil Butte NM. If we see all 17 planned NPS sites we will have seen 42% of all the parks.

We’ll put down roots (or as close as we come to it these days) for 3.5 months in NE Utah. Home is where you park it.

Walking In John Muir’s Footsteps – Yosemite NP

Yosemite, Tunnel View

Tunnel View Panorama

This is our 200th post on our blog. Yes, we are still way behind and it looks like that might be a permanent condition for us! If you have noticed, over the past six months the posts have gotten much shorter. Better to post a shorter version than nothing at all! We have just passed 40,000 views as well. Thanks to all who enjoy our footloose and carefree life even if only from the comfort of their home. May some of the wonder and laughs we experience come through to you.

View Of Eastman Lake From Our Campground

View Of Eastman Lake From Our Campground

How fitting that we pass a milestone on the blog just as it was time to write about one of America’s Icons: Yosemite National Park. Next to Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon it is probably the most recognized landscape in the USA. So what more can you say that hasn’t been said before… not much. At this point (late March) we were camped at Codorniz, a USACE park on Eastman Lake in central California. We had a full hookup site, Whoopee! Like going to a resort for us. The lake level is low as we are finding all through the west. It is about an hour to Yosemite but the drive itself is beautiful.

Driving To Yosemite

Driving To Yosemite

Scenery Along The Way To Yosemite

Scenery Along The Way To Yosemite

John Muir In Yosemite Forever

John Muir In Yosemite Forever

How often had John Muir sat at this very point soaking in the beauty of the valley below? Of all the National Parks he is most associated with this place. His likeness is immortalized in bronze so he never really leaves.

Steve had visited Yosemite twice before we became reacquainted. This was my first visit. He’d described going through the tunnel and exiting to find the amazing valley spread in front of you. As we entered the tunnel I could feel my pulse quicken in anticipation of what lay before me only seconds away. I was even salivating! My palms were moist. And then … there it was! As if God was opening his hands and offering a very special gift. How many rear end collisions occur here as people slam on their brakes? I really am at a loss for words as hard as that is to believe!

Tunnel View In Spring

Tunnel View In Spring

 

 

 

El Capitan

El Capitan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

 

 

 

 

 

Rushing Water

Rushing Water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yosemite In Blue

Yosemite In Blue

On our second visit to Yosemite we drove to the northern end of the park known as Hetch Hechy. We had taken longer arriving as we took another scenic route. We were informed that Hetch Hechy closes at 5pm and the gates would be locked. Pets are not allowed on trails so after a short walk along the road Opal settled down for a nap. Some “scenic view” I had. As usual, all I saw was the inside of the truck!  We set off for a 4-5 mile hike to some waterfalls. John Muir thought this section was even more beautiful than Yosemite Valley and fought against flooding it for a reservoir. Alas he did not succeed. As we hiked along the shore and enjoyed its beauty for over 2 hours, I could not help but wonder what had he seen that we will never know? We took our time enjoying the scene around us. Surrounded by all this majestic beauty one has to remember to look down and take in the smaller miracles of wildflowers in Spring.

Yosemite In Blossom

Yosemite In Blossom

Then I asked Steve “what time is it?” “3;30 he answered.” “OMG! We have to be out by 5p!” “I forgot. Let’s get going.” We walked back as fast as my rather short legs could go. I fell and scraped my knee rather badly so now I looked like a clumsy kid. I really didn’t think we’d make it back in time and had visions of spending the night in the truck with trail bars for supper and coveting Opal’s Kibbles. We jumped into the truck and drove the eight miles to the gate making it out with three minutes to spare.

Once is not enough. So let us say, when we come back…

Hetch Hetchy Wildflowers

Hetch Hetchy Wildflowers

Do You Believe In Ghosts? (Part One)

old Bannock 1

Steve just found a movie we made last summer (2014) of some very photogenic barns, old buildings and other abandoned places in the midwest and west. We were on the move and perhaps out of wifi range. Just another case of out of sight, out of mind. Many of the buildings are from Bannack State Park in Montana. The state has restored this ghost town into a reflection of the once thriving village. If you ever travel through southwestern Montana, be sure to visit.

We have other ghost towns we’ve visited and on our way to Texas we’ll stop by another one. Guess we’ll need a part 2.

Paradise Is Summer In The San Juan Islands

Orcas Island, Mount Constitution

The View From The Summit Of Mount Constitution On Orcas Island

We are now in the last week of our time in the San Juan Islands. It will be with mixed emotions that we board the ferry from Friday Harbor for the last time. How do we find words for this place? Magical. Enchanting. Romantic. Musical. Breathtaking. We may return some day but for now it’s on to another adventure. When we made the video we had to leave out several things or risk turning it into a mini series! So the still photos touch on a few of the places we had to exclude.

A bit to familiarize you with the islands before you view our video. San Juan Island is the second largest of this 85 island archipelago. The Washington ferry system serves only four islands so private boat transportation are like cars here. The only town on the island is Friday Harbor. It was named for one of the Hawaiian shepherds who worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company Bellevue Sheep Farm. His name meant Friday in his native language. So yes, there was a man Friday. It was originally called Friday’s Harbor but in the 1950s when the post office changed to automated address readers the machines couldn’t handle apostrophes. So all towns with ‘s had to change their names. Same with Vancouver Island which was originally Vancouver’s Island. On the north end is Roche Harbor. Originally it was the company village for the Lime Kilns. They were the largest lime works west of the Mississippi River. After the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, lime from San Juan was used in the concrete to rebuild the city. In the late 1800s the Hotel Haro was built. Today you can tour the lobby and see the guest register signed by Theodore Roosevelt. Today, Roche Harbor is a resort, marina and very upscale housing area. The Madrona Grill was one of our favorite restaurants. The mussels in Thai curry coconut milk are to die for!Mount Baker, Washington, scenic drive

When we came to the islands, we thought we might get island fever. For folks who think a day trip is 250 miles we wondered if we’d tire of a 16.5 by 6 mile area. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We only returned to the mainland twice in four and a half months. Now we see why the islanders average mainland voyages only 2-3 times a year. When we did get back, besides running errands, we visited Mount Baker, North Cascades National Park and met up with a fellow Red Rock Lakes volunteer who lives in La Conner.

The people you see in the video are Rangers from San Juan Island National Historical Park, fellow volunteers or visitors. Events range from the Memorial Day and July 4th parades to the annual Encampment weekend, weekly Living History and/or our off time activities. On July 4th you are either in the parade or watching it. This year’s theme was Hollywood movies. I’m sure you won’t have trouble picking out our favorite entry. We hope you enjoy seeing the video. It’s no wonder we woke up every morning singing Camelot!

A Day In The Life Of A Volunteer At San Juan Island National Historical Park

off to work 1Many of you know that Steve and I have spent summer 2015 working with the National Park Service as volunteers on San Juan Island in Washington. There are two locations where volunteers work: American Camp and English Camp. We are assigned at English Camp. Our duties run from simple greetings to more detailed explanations of the park’s history, selling bookstore items, working with children on the Junior Ranger program and performing in the weekly Living History. As we became more knowledgeable about the Pig War, Steve developed an in depth talk for interested visitors. To his own surprise, he has found he enjoys public speaking. Chari has found, to her surprise, that she enjoys working with children far more than she would ever have imagined. Volunteers give their time but get so much back in return.

We took our small video camera down to the English Camp Visitor Center with the intention of filming Steve giving his presentation to a small group for our own use. As luck would have it, that day a group of 20 high school students from OMSI camp (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) were visiting and interested in hearing his talk. Then another ten or so visitors came in who also wanted to attend. We set up the camera and Steve talked about one of our country’s lesser known conflicts. Just this past weekend Steve had given his talk to a gentleman who said he wished his grandson could have heard the talk. His grandson is a real history buff and they have visited many Civil War Era battlefields together. Steve offered to e-mail him this video but alas it was too many gigabytes. So we are posting this for him and hope some of our other followers enjoy hearing it too.

The blockhouse At English Camp

The blockhouse At English Camp

A quick note to correct something in the talk. Since filming this we realized we had a name wrong. To set things straight, when Steve talks about one person having kept their cool in thirteen years as Admiral Baynes, it should be Captain Hornsby of the Royal Navy. The learning curve goes on… Also after the introduction which was recorded with a microphone later you may need to turn up the volume on your computer.

And now… Here’s Steve……………..

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