On Our Way To Salmon, Idaho

No wonder it took so long to get this post written! We did a lot of sightseeing along the way. We had six weeks to reach Salmon, Idaho by May 12, 2017. So why did we head east instead of west?

 Stop #1: Nashville, TN. We are both self taught when it comes to Photoshop and have been wandering around the land of Youtube tutorials. Now it was time to take a course. We had given each other Jim Zuckerman’s Photoshop Workshop for Christmas. It would be a two day course held in his home in Nashville. We located a place to stay at Henry Horton State Park. A definite return to park for us. The course was excellent and we hope you will see improvement in our technique on the blog. Below is my first attempt at a composite photo where the eagle was taken from one photo, changed to B+W, resized and moved onto the winter treescape. We also learned how to take a previously edited photo and improve on it with blending modes.  Jim’s wife, Dina, dazzled us with 2 gourmet lunches and a dinner fit for royalty.

Chari Learning Photoshop

During our free time in the area we visited the Civil War site for the Battle of Stones River. Like at Gettysburg, this battle saw 1/3 of all troops killed during fighting (18,000 men). They have just added a RV site for volunteers too! We drove into Nashville to visit the Tennessee state capitol building. That makes number 5 so we have a ways to go to see all 50. The tour is free and very informative with a docent from the Tennessee State Museum. This is the only capitol building with human remains inside the walls as the architect died just before completion and is entombed there. It is the only capitol with the remains of a former president on the grounds, James K. Polk. In the picture of famous Tennesseans below how many can you name? Later we took in the Tennessee State Museum with three floors of exhibits. My favorite was the Les Paul “Old Hickory” guitar made from wood from a state record tulip poplar tree at the Hermitage which was brought down by a tornado in 1997. The finishing touch was dinner at a Nashville icon restaurant called the Loveless Cafe.

Steve has several relatives in the area and it was great to see all of them doing so well.

Andy Jackson Rides Again At The Tennessee Capitol

 

Famous Tennesseans

 

Main Floor Of The Capitol

 

Gibson “Old Hickory” Guitar

Eating At A Nashville Icon

Stop #2: Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Big South Fork Panorama

This large National Park Service site sprawls across the Cumberland Plateau in southeastern Kentucky and northeastern Tennessee. We stayed at the Blue Heron CG on the Kentucky side. As we drove in, the GPS wasn’t clear where we needed to turn and given a 50/50 chance we chose the wrong way. When you are towing a 40′ trailer you can’t just hang a U-turn. We had to go a ways down the road before finding a gravel parking lot to turn around. Steve did his usual great job. No problem. There was plenty of room. (Read that as he had 6″ before hitting anything.) I tried to sit there looking composed while my toes were curling in my shoes.

Appalachian Miners

Life In Appalachia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The area is named for the South Fork of the Cumberland River and begins just below Lake Cumberland. The views of the valley are stunning.There are 500 miles of hiking trails as well as scenic drives and both whitewater and calm water river paddling. Add to that two Visitor Centers, a mining museum and a scenic railroad and you have everything you need for a great nature based vacation. Did I mention the wildflowers were starting to bloom. We hiked to a waterfall and walked behind it. A few more weeks and it will be peak for them. We’d love to come back sometime for in the autumn for some spectacular foliage.

Spring Wildflowers

Butterfly Colony

A Strange Rock Formation

 

Many Steps Down To See The Waterfall

Trillium

Waterfall at Big South Fork

Stop #3: Vincennes, Indiana

Located an hour south of Terre Haute on Indiana’s western border along the Ouabache (aka Wabash) River lies the historic town of Vincennes. Founded by the French this was a hub of the fur trading era. Following the French and Indian War it became a British fort. During the American Revolution George Rogers Clark with a much smaller force overtook Fort Sackville thus making the Northwest Territory American land. Their story is one of daring and sacrifice. Had they not claimed this victory, England might still have claimed this area and the USA may not have expanded beyond the original thirteen colonies. George Rogers Clark has been eclipsed in history by his younger brother William of Lewis and Clark fame. He never received in life the money owed to him for mounting this campaign or the recognition he deserved. Today the George Rogers Clark National Historic site honors him and keeps his story alive. Be sure to read From Sea To Shining Sea that covers the lives of both Clark brothers.

George Rogers Clark, Vincennes, American Revolution

George Rogers Clark Statue at NHS

Right next door was Grouseland.  This was the home of William Henry Harrison when he was governor of Indiana Territory from 1800-1812. Vincennes was the territorial capitol. Harrison ran for President in 1840 on the slogan of “Tippecanoe and Tyler too”. The home is now owned by the DAR and our guide was very knowledgeable. Unfortunately no photos are allowed inside. We learned that his presidential campaign was the first “modern” campaign with music, slogans and gifts for donors. Too bad he died after only a short time in office. This made his vice president, Tyler the first VP to become President by succession. Later, his grandson, Benjamin Harrison would also sit in the Oval Office.

Vincennes other favorite son, comedian Red Skelton, has a museum adjacent to the Red Skelton Performing Arts Center on the campus of Vincennes University. I know I am dating myself when I say I remember sitting with my parents in our living room watching the one TV we had and laughing together over the characters Red Skelton played. Clem Kadiddlehopper was my favorite.I know some of you out there remember this too. Who was your favorite character?

Red Skelton’s Characters

We stayed at a beautifully maintained county park called Ouabache Trails. It is tucked away and we weren’t sure if our GPS (nicknamed Josie Fiend) was leading us into small roads where we couldn’t turn around. Then we saw signs for the park. Whew!

We made a quick run up to Terre Haute to see Chari’s cousin and her husband. Unfortunately he is suffering from Parkinson’s and recovering from a mild stroke. They are handling the challenges of “in sickness and in health” together. Hopefully as we write this he is back home.

Red Skelton Was Also An Artist

Stop #4: North Central Missouri

A six hour drive from Indiana brought us to the USACE Ray Behrens CG at Mark Twain Lake. We are about two hours west of St. Louis near the small town of Florida, Missouri where Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) was born in 1835. On arrival we learned the site we’d reserved was an electric only site. We’d need to be on tank water. This seems to be a common set up in Missouri at both federal and state parks. As luck would have it there was a cancellation for a full hookup site. With our senior pass it cost us only $12/night. Hooray!

Twain Birthplace State Park

A state park preserving Mark Twain’s birthplace home offers a very well done museum of his first years as well as some artifacts from his adult life. It was interesting to find out that U. S. Grant’s first army post was in Florida. Later in life both of these men would use their literary skills to earn money to overcome financial ruin, both would write their memoirs and Twain would publish Grant’s autobiography. Steve had a book signed by Mark Twain that he donated to the Birthplace Museum before we left. About twenty miles away is the town of Hannibal where Samuel Clemens grew up and where people he knew would become characters we love such as Huck Finn, Becky Thatcher and Jim. We toured his boyhood home and a museum about his life. In town is another museum dedicated to his literary works and the original Norman Rockwell illustrations for an edition of Tom Sawyer. We bought a CD called Mark Twain in Words and Music that was created to raise funds for establishing this museum. It features celebrities like Clint Eastwood, Emmylou Harris, Jimmy Buffet and many others. We’ll be listening to it right after this entry is written. We say this is a do not miss museum.

Inside Twin’s Birthplace

Twain’s Boyhood Home In Hannibal, MO

 

She Was The Inspiration For Becky Thacther

The Mississippi River and Hannibal Are One

One place we had planned to visit was Warm Springs Ranch near Boonville, MO and home to the Budweiser Clydesdales. The ranch opened in 2008 as a breeding, recovery and retirement ranch for the horses. They started giving tours in 2009. The tours are very popular so if you have specific dates for a visit get your tickets online at least two months in advance. There is no access to the ranch other than via tour. The gates are locked until a half hour before the tour. When the horses see the cars driving in they know it is showtime and come running over to the fence to be petted. April is a great time to come as it is in the middle of foaling season. We were lucky enough to see several young Clydesdales, from one month to four months. Gestation is slightly over eleven months. At birth the foal is three and a half feet tall and weighs 125 pounds. There’s a lot of growing to do before they reach the average adult size of 2000 pounds. The tour begins at the breeding area, then on to the foaling stalls, the exercise area, the transportation trucks and finally more photo ops. All that touring can make you thirsty so yes there is free beer at the end. The horses are selected for temperment, white blaze on the face, black mane and tail, four white feet and standing six feet at the withers (shoulder). Horses that don’t meet this criteria are sold to other breeders. There are three hitches (teams) to handle all of the appearances. They are in Colorado, Missouri and New Hampshire. Each team on the road consists of ten horses, eight primary and two alternates. There are four positions a horse can be trained for; wheel (strongest), body (constant pulling), steering (holds position in turns) and lead (first to receive driver’s commands). Horses train for two years before joining a hitch. The driver’s train for six months and have to be able to handle a sustained pull of 75 pounds on their hands. The video below runs about two minutes and shows you our tour which while cool and cloudy was very enjoyable.

On the way home from Warm Springs Ranch we spotted a sign for the National Churchill Museum. Neither of us had ever heard of it. We had no plans for the next day so back south we went to Westminster, Missouri. The town is home to Westminster College and from the looks of the campus, not an inexpensive one. We were there on a Sunday and found street parking easily. That may not be the case when school is in session. The museum is housed on the ground floor of the college chapel. It was here in 1946 that Winston Churchill gave a speech and coined the phase “Iron Curtain” to describe Soviet domination of eastern Europe. For those of us who grew up in the 1950s and 60s, this phrase became a household word. The museum details Churchill’s life and well worth a visit. That’s not all! The real hidden gem was the chapel itself. Originally built in the mid 15th century it was severely damaged by the Great London fire of 1646. Architect Christopher Wren designed and rebuilt much of London following the fire including this church. Design elements such as using clear glass vs stained glass were his trademark. The church stood until destroyed by the Blitz in 1942. It lay in ruins for 20 years and was almost hauled to the scrap pile. Westminster College needed a chapel and bought the ruins. Block by block it was shipped to the USA. Skilled stone masons reassembled the ruins and restored missing sections. The only structural change was steel reinforcement for tornados. Not only do you get to visit a wonderful museum but visit a Christopher Wren church without flying to England. Put this on your “must see” list as well.

Churchill Museum Exterior

Churchill Statue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Church of St. Mary The Virgin, Aldermanbury Looking Toward The Pulpit

Wren Church Looking Toward The Organ

Our last stop was to drive to St. Charles, MO and have lunch with Lois and Steve, fellow volunteers at Hot Springs NP, who live nearby. Since we were so close to St. Louis we stopped at the Ulysses S. Grant Farm NHS. We’ve all read about Grant the Civil War general and Grant the President but here we learned of his later life and civil rights activism. We’d hoped to see the Jefferson Expansion Memorial too but the renovation and reopening of the arch was not complete. Perhaps it will be by this Fall.

Grant’s Farm

Stop #5: Iowa City, Iowa

We are still working on the long term goal of seeing every national park site. This brings us to Iowa City, the home of President Herbert Hoover and the Hoover Birthplace NHS. Before we tell you about our travels we want to warn anyone traveling in a big RV (over 30′) not to use Lake McBride State Park. The fact that they offer full hookup sites and the pad sizes are adequate would make you think it is suitable. There is nothing on Reserve America warning you of problems. We arrived and as we entered our camping loop we see a sign stating Limited Turn Around Ahead. We are able to get into the site as it is angled the right direction. Getting out, that’s another story! We couldn’t make the tight turn around and so had to go back and forth a dozen or more times to get headed the right way. We used the vacant site across from us. Had it been occupied we would have had to back down the road to where we could turn. Our experience with this and one other Iowa State Park says no more. They have not been upgraded for big rigs. OK, rant over.

Right next to the Hoover Birthplace is the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. This is not part of the NHS but well worth the time to visit. We didn’t know that much about Hoover or his accomplishments. He is forever linked to being in office in October 1929 when the stock market crashed signaling the beginning of the Great Depression. He was a very bright and capable mining engineer and diplomat. We learned a lot and felt we had much better insight into the man and his time. By the time we left the museum to visit the Birthplace it was raining hard. Our visit was short.

Hoover As mining Engineer In China

Hoover Was The First President To Give A Speech On Radio

Hoover Served As Secretary of Commerce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Known For His Fight Against Hunger In Europe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just north of Iowa City are the Amana Colonies, several small communities founded by German immigrants as communal neighborhoods in the 1880s. There’s Amana, Middle Amana, North Amana etc. Now days they are regular towns with strong German ties and great food. Tourism is their main business and homes have been converted to shops. We certainly did our share of eating and buying wurst and pickled vegetables! The highlight for me was climbing up on the largest walnut rocker in Iowa for a photo op. Oh honey, I shrank myself!

This One’s Too Big

The other highlight in the area was eating at the Hamburg Inn #2 and trying their famous pie shake. Yup, a whole piece of pie, ice cream and milk whipped together. Steve had raspberry while I tried the chocolate bourbon pecan variety. They even have pie shake happy hour in the afternoons where you can get them at half off! Just found a website that lists the best dessert in every state. Sounds like a new goal for us is to eat one in every state!

Pie Shake At Hamburg Inn 2

Stop #6: Omaha, Nebraska

We moved on to Two Rivers State Recreation Area about 20 miles west of Omaha where we had a lovely pull through site. We came here to visit friends and fellow volunteers from Laguna Atascosa NWR, Janis and Lee. We had a great visit and got to talking so much we forgot to take a picture!

We had heard of a great museum about the Lewis and Clark Expedition during their time on the Missouri in Nebraska City. It was a bit more than an hour south but well worth the time. If you are a following the Lewis and Clark Trail or just passing through be sure to stop. It emphasizes the scientific aspects of the journey. My favorite exhibit was the keelboat with an interactive screen giving you an idea of how hard they had to work to head upstream on the river. I crashed on some rocks! So did I! My favorite exhibit was the one talking about how the native Americans caught fish. Originally this museum was built in partnership with the National Park Service but now is privately owned.

Fullsize Keelboat Replica

Chari Pacing Distance On The L&C Trail Map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking Notes For Our Summer Job

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took a day to visit the Henry Dorey Zoo. Lots of photo ops and great areas for the animals. We also watched two Imax movies and took the aerial skyway above the zoo. Lee drives the tram at the zoo but he was off today.

Aerial Ride

Rhino From Above

Henry Doorly Aquarium

Butterfly House

Dwarf Mongoose

Giant Plated Lizard

Jellyfish Glow

Kookabura

Penguin Curtain Call

Tarantula

Leopard

Winking Owl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stop #7: Grand Island and North Loup, Nebraska

We didn’t move too far only about 3 hours down I 80.  We came here for two reasons: first we have friends  Gayle and Bob, from North Carolina who are visiting family in the area. Nothing like a reunion with good friends when you are on the road. Secondly my cousins from Milwaukee, WI and another from NYC are coming out. None of us have ever been to the Manchester family home town of North Loup. Our first choice of places stay, Sherman Reservoir SRA, did not work out. The back in to the site dropped almost 3′ off the road. I could envision us cracking a storage tank or ripping off something. We moved on to Windmill State Recreation Area on the Platte River. The park has lovely pull -through sites. Parks along this area are in great demand during the sandhill crane migration. If I can get myself in the mood to handle the cold, I’d love to see it.

The DreamChaser 2 At Windmill SRA

We visited the Hastings Museum in Hastings, NE. This town’s claim to fame is being the home of Kool-Aid. Once again we find things from our past in a museum! Kool-Aid was first made here and marketed as Kool-Ade in 1927. By 1929 it was being sold nationwide. Then came the Great Depression. Realizing the country would be in recovery for years the price was lowered to 5 cents and remained so for 20 years. In 1934 the FDA ruled that only drinks containing fruit juice could use Ade in their name and others had to use Aid.. So Kool-Ade became Kool-Aid. We also attended a planetarium show here and viewed other exhibits. Dinner that night was at a great Italian restaurant in Grand Island.

Birthplace of Kool-Aid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kool-Aid Ad

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walkway To Hastings Museum

We met up with Chari’s cousins and drove out to North Loup. It is a small farming community with about 300 people. Popcorn is the local cash crop and the Popcorn Days Festival in August is still a major event. My grandfather was one of the founders of the festival. The family farm house no longer stands but we found where it used to be. We also located family graves in the cemetery and saw the church where my grandparents were married. Naturally, I had to buy some North Loup popocorn to take with us. For the last day in the area we visited the Stuhr Museum in Grand Island which has an extensive collection of pioneer and early settler housing from the area. On weekends they have living history volunteers in the homes to tell you about the occupants or demonstrate skills. We’d worked up a thirst and headed off to a microbrewery. They even gave us a behind the scenes tour. My cousin Kathy and her daughter Emily have done a lot of genealogical research. It is good to have a sense of where you came from and fun to see resemblances from generation to generation.

Welcome To North Loup

Church Where My Grandparents Were Married

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chari’s Grandparents

Chari’s Great Grandparents

 

 

 

 

 

Chari’s Great Grandfather

The Stuhr Museum

The Manchester Cousins In Nebraska

Stops 8 and 9: Quick Overnights in Nebraska and Wyoming

Our time was getting short so we put the pedal down and covered a lot of miles on Interstate 80 with overnights at the original Cabela’s store in Sidney, NE. They have a very moderately priced campground with full services and laundry. We needed both. We also bought a new tent and managed to spend all of our Cabela’s points. We look forward to using the tent at USFS and BLM campgrounds this summer.

Our overnight in Green River, WY brought us close to where we worked last summer at Flaming Gorge, UT. We had an uneventful night at the Walmart.

Stop #10: Massacre Rocks SP, Idaho

Our last two nights were spent at this state park in southeastern Idaho overlooking the Snake River. In preparation for our job at the Sacajawea Center we visited the Sho-Ban Museum of the Shoshone-Bannock nation. We were the only visitors there and the docent on duty spent a lot of time with us and was most knowledgeable. Then we did shopping, got haircuts and other get ready errands.

Massacre Rocks SP

So now we have only a four to five hour drive up to Salmon, Idaho and our home for the next four months. See you again when we are out and about in central Idaho.

 

 

 

 

Out And About In Arkansas

During our stay in Hot Springs, Arkansas we needed service work done on the RV several times. This meant leaving the trailer at the repair shop. Since we had to find temporary housing it was a great opportunity for some short “vacations”.

Our first trip was to Fort Smith, AR on the Arkansas/Oklahoma border. We visited the Fort Smith National Historic site. Originally built as an Army fort on the far western frontier to protect settlers from Indian attacks and outlaws in 1817, it later became a federal courthouse and prison until it closed in 1896. There are exhibits on the U.S. Marshals, outlaws,  Judge Parker and the Trail of Tears. We’d hoped to return to participate in one of the trial re-enactments they hold there but didn’t make it. Fort Smith has one of the most unique Visitor Centers we’ve seen. It is in a former brothel. We thought we’d just stop in for a moment and look around. This is a slow time of year and the docent asked if we’d like a tour. So for the next 45 minutes we were entertained by the story of  “Miss Laura”, her girls and their gentlemen callers as well as the details of the house and how it became the Visitor Center.  Last on our list of places to visit was the home and museum of General William O. Darby who formed the special WWII unit eventually called the Army Rangers. This is privately run and hours very. When we were there the docent was one of the founders. Sensing an interested audience talked for almost two hours and displayed items in their collection not normally on display. We had to graciously depart or we would have been there a lot longer. We can’t find our pictures so these are from the internet.

Fort Smith NHS

“Miss Laura’s” As The Fort Smith VCB

Renovated To Its Former Style

“Gentleman” Waiting At Miss Laura’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

General Wm. O. Darby

Boyhood Home Of General Darby

The second trip took us to the north central part of the state near Harrison and the Buffalo River National Scenic Riverway. We rented a dog friendly cabin through VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) at the same price as a motel room. We visited the Buffalo River National River, a NPS site although it was too chilly for on the water activities. We did a few short hikes and enjoyed the area. We are saying “when we come back” as it would be a fabulous place to paddle. Yes there are shuttles available if you like us have only one car. We also drove to the Mountain Home area to visit one of Steve’s uncles.

Buffalo River View

Imagine Paddling Here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trip number three was at the end of our stay and we headed to Petit Jean SP. This was Arkansas’ first state park. Stephen Mather, first director of the National Park Service was consulted and you can see his influence in the lodge. It looks like a smaller version of the great park lodges of the west. The CCC did a lot of work here in the 1930s from building cabins (like the one we used), to a stone water tower, to furniture still in use at the lodge today.  For those who can do a strenuous hike there is a beautiful waterfall. We plan to return some day and use the excellent campground. The story of Petit Jean, a young woman who stole aboard ship to be near her beloved but pretended to be the cabin boy.  A favorite of the crew “he” was nicknamed Petit John. Not until “he” became ill was it discover she was a female. She died and is buried at the park overlooking the Arkansas River.

A Beautiful Place To Hike

Overlooking The Arkansas River At Petit Jean SP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve and Opal At PJSP

 

Our Cabin

Exploring A Cave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some day trips took us to Mt. Magazine SP, the highest point in Arkansas. This park also has a beautiful lodge and some of the cabins come with hot tubs! We are very impressed by the state parks we have seen in Arkansas. On our way there we stopped at Hickory Nut Overlook for a great view of Lake Ouachita and Ouachita National Forest. Another trip took us to the Lum & Abner Museum. I don’t remember this radio program but a friend of mine does who was raised in Arkansas. They were local “class clowns” who entered a local station’s talent contest making up the characters of Lum and Abner from Pine Ridge on their way there. Like Andy Griffith they used their home town area and people they knew in the routine. They became regulars and later went on to be syndicated. The store they featured in the program is now the museum. It is full of L&A artifacts and implements from early years in the Ozarks.

Lum And Abner Store And Museum

Lum And Abner In Real Life And In Character

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Museum Inside

 

 

Ozark Women Wore Corn Husk Hats To Work Outside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heading south we visited Hope, AR, and the NPS site, boyhood home of President Bill Clinton. Arkansas loves Bill Clinton. Hot Springs is where he graduated from High School. There is a big sign letting you know it. Apparently, another claim to fame for this small town was the world’s largest watermelon. Now although surpassed several times, the sign still brags about the event. I had to stop and take a photo of a bit of roadside humor photography at a local grocery. The name of the town is Hope for a reason as it has seen better days and is hoping for a recovery.

Bill Clinton’s Birthplace

On A Ranger Led Tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Town Named Hope

They’re Proud Of That Melon

Make You Hungry?

We made several day trips to Little Rock to visit Heifer International Headquarters, The McArthur Museum, eat at Cotham’s Mercantile, tour the Arkansas Capitol and return to Central High NHS since we’d missed the ranger led tour when we were there in 2014. Steve’s Mom has been donating to Heifer International in lieu of giving Christmas gifts for the past several years. We were very impressed with both the philosophy of the organization and its totally green headquarters. For history buffs the Mc Arthur Museum is a treasure. This is where General Douglas McArthur was born. Right next door is the Arkansas Art Museum where we viewed early works by Ansel Adams. If you are going for lunch at the original Cotham’s Mercantile (there is a new one in town), do get there early. It gets busy by noon. They’re famous for the Hubcap Hamburger. Free tours of the Capitol give you an overview of state history and government. It is the only state that let’s you enter the vault and hold on to a big pile of cash. They do insist you give it back though! For anyone wanting to have an “in the moment” experience of what Civil Rights in the 1960s was all about should take the ranger led tour at Central High NHS. Since Central High is still used as a high school the tours  inside are available only when school is in session and very restricted hours. You need to call ahead and claim a spot but the tour is free.

Heifer International Museum

Heifer International Green Headquarters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mc Arthur Museum

Korean War Memorial

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arkansas State Capitol

Stained Glass At The Capitol

Show Me The Money!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside Cotham’s Mercantile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would You Eat Here?

We had a wonderful and busy three months in Arkansas and still didn’t see everything we wanted to see or do. So as we like to say… “When we come back…”

Make A Plan But Don’t Plan The Results

We left Flaming Gorge NRA after a fabulous summer in early September 2016. We made a straight shot with only two quick overnight stops at Cortez, CO and Winslow, AZ for our first camp host job at Parker Canyon Lake near Patagonia, AZ. We were supposed to be there for six weeks. To make a long story short, it was nothing like the job that had been described. We decided to leave after three days.

Now what? We had lots of unplanned free time. So we headed for Roper Lake SP in Safford, Arizona (southeast part of the state) to recoup and put together a revised plan. Our only constraint was that we needed to be in Corinth, Mississippi by the first weekend of November to connect with reservations already made. Here is our revised trip plan.

Google Earth, RV, travel

2016 Fall Trip Plan Revised

Safford, Arizona is in the San Luis Valley with the Pinaleno Mountains to the west and the Dos Cabezas Mountains to the south. It is mostly a ranching and farming area. The towns of Safford, Thatcher, Benson and Wilcox form the Arizona Salsa Trail. So the first thing we did was to eat at one of the restaurants on the trail. We chose Casa Mañana as many locals were eating there. The restaurant has been on the same site for sixty years. It began when a family started serving from their own kitchen. The original home was expanded as the restaurant grew and is still the center of the restaurant. The food was so good we went back for dinner another day. When they say a huge chimichanga, believe them! We had enough left over for another meal.

Arizona Salsa Trail, Mexican food

On The Arizona Salsa Trail

Casa Mañana In Salford, Arizona

Casa Mañana In Salford, Arizona

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After catching up on errands we headed to Chirichacua National Monument. Once again we were saying “What else can they do with rock?” The scenic drive was wonderful. Of course we took many pictures.

Chirichaua NM, Arizona, geology

Balanced Rocks On Pinnacles

The Sea Captain Monolith

The Sea Captain Monolith

Scenic Drive At Chirichacua NM

Scenic Drive At Chirichacua NM

Steve At The Overlook

Steve At The Overlook

 

Another day we joined the tourist ranks and headed over to Tombstone for the Second Annual Territory Days Celebration. Yes we saw the OK Corral but declined to pay $8 for their daily gunfight. We enjoyed the parade through town and the Folklorico dancers. We did spend time in an oil and vinegar store where we purchased some tangerine balsamic and a tasty BBQ sauce.

Territorial Days Parade

Territorial Days Parade

Hickcock We Presume?

Hickcock We Presume?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buffalo Soldiers

Buffalo Soldiers

Hanging Out In Tombstone

Hanging Out In Tombstone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horsepower

Horsepower

Local No Kill Shelter "Cowboy"

Local No Kill Shelter “Cowboy”

And You Think You Had A Crappy Job?

And You Think You Had A Crappy Job?

Folklorico Dancers Performing

Folklorico Dancers Performing

Dancer In Motion

Dancer In Motion

Portrait Of A Dancer

Portrait Of A Dancer

The real surprise in the area was a drive into the Pinaleno Mountains along the Swift Trail. In only 35 miles you climb over 5,000 feet. The temperature when we started was ninety-two but at the top only a breezy fifty-one. Great tent camping here but only space for truck campers and popups around a lake. We stopped at a family run orchard and bought some apples which became apple pie and applesauce. They told us to feel free to pick some for eating then. We did! It’s been a long time since I’ve had an apple this juicy. For such a short distance we were surprised when it took us two and a half hours to get to the top. A nice change from the heat of the valley. There’s quite a bit more to do in this area and so we say “when we come back…”

A View From Swift Trail

A View From Swift Trail

apple-of-my-eye-72

He’s The Apple Of My Eye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lake At The Top Of Swift Trail

Lake At The Top Of Swift Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

For When We Come Back

For When We Come Back

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

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

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.