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

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.

What Else Can They Do With Rock #1? City of Rocks National Reserve

City of Rocks National Reserve, rock climbing, scenery, hiking

One Of The Less Well Known NPS Sites

When we took our retirement trip in 2010 to Utah we were amazed at how many varieties and shapes of rock we saw. The phrase “what else can they do with rock?” became a common question. We are continuing to find ourselves saying this as we travel through other parts of the west. Our last stop in Idaho for this year is just one example.

We left Boise and headed south and east to the small town of Almo, Idaho and Castle Rock State Park which is adjacent to City of Rocks National Reserve. We’ve been to a national preserve but didn’t know the definition of a reserve. It was explained to us that the National Park Service oversees the area administratively and participates in decisions but the Idaho State Parks supply manpower and management.

A Panorama Of The Area

A Panorama Of The Area

When we arrived at Castle Rock SP we headed for our reserved site but ran into a new glitch. The site was still occupied. Steve checked and there was no car and no occupants. So we pulled off the road and went in search of the Camp Host. She offered us another site in the equestrian portion of the campground but if we really wanted the reserved site the park would arrange to tow the other trailer away. The alternative site was lovely so we took that one. We never did find out why the people hadn’t vacated on time. Our Camp Host, Dottie, was a very interesting woman. She is a solo RVer and rock climber who was one of the first woman blackjack dealers in Las Vegas. Each winter she goes to Mexico where she and two other woman (a retired professor from Columbia University and a native New Zealander)  have built an animal rescue and spay facility called Fiona Animal Rescue of Hidalgo to deal with the severe overpopulation and mistreatment of domestic animals in the area. To read more about this worthy effort go to http://www.potreropups.org.

fall color

Fall Color At City Of Rocks

City of Rocks National Reserve is one of the newer National Park sites offering stunning granite formations, overlapping biological regions for 750 plants and animals, world class rock climbing, 22 miles of hiking trails, photography sites and one of the best preserved locations on the California Trail. The park offers training in basic rock climbing with their Rock Climbing Ranger. Nearby is the Sawtooth National Forest with more beautiful scenery, lakes and campgrounds. We spent the first two days driving and walking among the spires and formations. Dogs are allowed on the trails so Opal enjoyed seeking out trails of pioneer dogs.

Replicas Of Pioneer Wagons

Replicas Of Pioneer Wagons

 

 

A "Cityscape" In Granite

A “Cityscape” In Granite

 

 

 

 

 

 

architecture, homestead

1890s Homestead Ruins

 

 

 

rock climbing

Rock Climbers Love This Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Man In The Rock

Old Man In The Rock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

rock formations

Steve Standing By Rock Formation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Latter in the week we had an opportunity to go on a two hour tour with the park archeologist, Kristin. The tour is listed in the park brochure but must be scheduled ahead. She is an excellent guide and provided many stories about the history of the California Trail and people who had left their signatures on Camp Rock and Register Rock. The park is working on a booklet about these people. Hopefully it will be available next year. Most of the signatures were written in axle grease but a few were carved into the rock. We learned that axle grease had come in many colors; red, green and even yellow so that at one time these rocks were very colorful. Now time and weather has made them uniform and in some cases difficult to read. Some 200,000 settlers passed through City of Rocks along the California Trail making this the largest emigrant movement in the world. One of the best known formations is The Twin Sisters because it could be easily spotted by the pioneers at a distance.

A Homesteader's Signature

A Homesteader’s Signature

One Of The Women Who Passed This Way

One Of The Women Who Passed This Way

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Traveler's Sketch

A Traveler’s Sketch

The Twin Sisters

The Twin Sisters

Today the town of Almo remains a very small ranching community where the general store still serves as the post office just as it has since the 1890s. If you come here, plan on bringing all your groceries with you as the nearest large grocery is an hour plus away. For non-campers there is a resort and motel and a few local restaurants.

Idaho, old photo, general store

Old Photo Of Almo General Store

Our drive into the Sawtooth National Forest turned up a few more interesting rock formations and great Fall scenery. We found two NFS campgrounds with good accessibility and suitable for our trailer so we added them to our GPS database. Even though they are dry camp areas we would enjoy a few days of fishing and hiking here. There is a wonderful scenic overlook at the top of Cache Peak. The Raft River below and the peak were named by Peter Skeen Ogden, a fur trader for the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1826. The river was so named because beavers had it dammed and it could only be crossed by raft. Cache Peak got it’s name because it served as a landmark for trappers as to where they had cached their pelts. There is one overlook where you can see the location of a WWII aircraft training flight wreck. If you look closely you can still see a tire lying there.

fall foliage, Sawtooth NF

Sawtooth NF Early Fall Foliage

lichen

Painted With Lichen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photography

A Landscape That Looks Like A Painting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

rainbow in rock

A Rainbow Of Color In Rock

 

 

Can You See The Elephant?

Can You See The Elephant?

 

View From Cache Peak

View From Cache Peak

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two other National Park sites were within an hour’s drive; Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument and Minidoka National Historic Site. When we put them into the GPS we didn’t realize they shared the same Visitor Center. so when we looked at the directions from one location to the other the GPS said “Drive six feet”. Who says machines don’t have a sense of humor. The Hagerman Fossil Beds are an extensive area of fossils along the Snake River Plain near Twin Falls, Idaho. The most famous are those of a herd of the earliest known horses called the Hagerman horse (Equus Simpicidens). They are more closely related to the Grevy’s zebra of Kenya and Ethiopia than the modern horse. Other fossils found here include mastodon and saber-toothed tigers. The small visitor center has good displays however the actual fossil sites are closed to the public. You can also see original wagon ruts of the California Trail passing close to the fossil beds.

fossil

Meet The Hagerman Horse

 

 

Snake River Canyon From Twin Falls Bridge

Snake River Canyon From Twin Falls Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Minidoka NHS was established in 2001 and tells the story about internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. I found the story and site to be moving, disturbing and educational. To realize that an entire segment of our population could be rounded up, deprived of their Civil Rights and freedom and imprisoned is shocking. It just shows what fear can do. Racial prejustice was already known to the immigrant Japanese (Issei) because as resident aliens they were prevented from owning land or obtaining citizenship. Their American born children (Nisei) were citizens. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor hostility increased and all people of Japanese ancestry were treated as spies and saboteurs. The impetus for internment was Executive Order 9066  in February 1942 which gave military commanders the power to exclude any persons from designated areas to secure national defense objectives. While the order could have been applied to anyone it was primarily used to remove 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry from the Pacific coast. Within five months ten relocation centers were built with 7,100 people being relocated to Minidoka. Here they faced barbed wire fences, armed guards and restricted movement. Faced with poorly constructed barracks and sanitation they had to endure temperatures from -21 to 104. However this was a resourceful group who went on to create gardens, publish a newspaper and create musical groups. Minidoka became almost a self sustaining community. By the time the camp closed in 1945 the residents had cleared and cultivated 950 acres of land. A questionnaire was used to determine loyal internees from dissenters. If they answered No to willingness to serve in the US Armed Forces in combat and to foreswear allegiance to Japan they were shipped to Tule Lake Camp in California. Minidoka became the camp for loyal internees. Minidoka had the largest number of men volunteering for military service. The 442nd combat unit served in France and Italy and had two Medal of Honor recipients. When the camp closed the newly reclaimed land was sold by lottery. Most of the former camp land remains privately owned today. A few structures from the original camp remain hopefully to keep this from ever happening again.

One Of The Remaining Structures At Minidoka NHS

One Of The Remaining Structures At Minidoka NHS

Minidoka Camp 1942-1945

Minidoka Camp 1942-1945

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Replica Of Guard Tower

Replica Of Guard Tower

Turning The Desert Into A Garden

Turning The Desert Into A Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 442nd In Europe

The 442nd In Europe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With this we leave Idaho for this trip and head for Utah. There is so much more to see we will definitely be back!

 

This Land Is Our Land

Grand Teton, national park, Wyoming

A Day At Grand Teton NP

We were delayed two days in leaving Red Rock Lakes NWR due to unusually heavy rain for August. The roads once again became muddy. We spent Friday visiting a friend from North Carolina who spends summer in Jackson, WY. While neither the weather or wildlife were cooperative, we had a good time. We’ve never spent extended time in the area but plan to do so in the future.

Idaho. dry camping

The DreamChaser On Our Lot

By Saturday the roads were dry. We’d planned to leave for Ashton, Idaho via Red Rock Pass however the road had turned into a washboard. So we took the longer “smoother” route to I 15 and Rexburg, ID then north to Ashton. We pulled up onto our property at Twin Rivers Ranch without a problem. We’ll spend two nights here dry camping. Sitting outside enjoying the view of Snake River Butte makes us toy with the idea of building a cabin here.

After dinner we went for a walk down the road. Opal was free to roam as there is very seldom traffic here. We found a new wildflower I (Chari) have yet to identify. All of a sudden Opal took off into the woods. We didn’t think much of it until we heard her yelp. As she reappeared she was spitting out large amounts of frothy saliva and rubbing her face into the ground. I (Steve) knew what happened. She’d found a skunk. It didn’t take but a few seconds for our noses to confirm it. With just a small can of tomato juice on hand we did an emergency treatment. (Opal) How do you get away from the smell? I kept moving but it followed me. My folks never smelled that bad before. I wonder what they got into? Then they decided they should say inside and I should stay outside… in the dark no less! Well, put my paw down and let them know THAT was totally unacceptable! Softies that they are, I was allowed in but not in the bedroom. Score: Opal 0, Skunk 2 for the summer of 2014.

Steve At Twin Rivers Ranch

Steve At Twin Rivers Ranch

We went up to the top of Snake River Butte to take some photos. In the following panorama you can see Henry’s Fork of the Snake River on the left, our trailer in the middle (white rectangle) and our nearest neighbor with the red roof on the right. Then we drove over to Upper and Lower Mesa Falls which are about 5 miles away. These are large waterfalls just upriver from our property. The subdivision is called Twin Rivers because it overlooks where the Warm River and Henry’s Fork merge. The National Forest Service has a Visitor Center and campground with electricity at Upper Mesa Falls. Here is my best shot of the day. Then we went to Warm Springs where we saw two river otters playing in the water. They were too far away for really good pics but so much fun to watch!

Looking Down On Twin Rivers Ranch From Snake Butte

Looking Down On Twin Rivers Ranch From Snake Butte

Upper Mesa Falls 4

otters, wildlife, Warm Springs

Otters At Play

 

We ended the day and our stay with a campfire watching the sunset and a mule deer cross the property. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Lower Mesa Falls Panorama

Lower Mesa Falls Panorama

Home On The Range

Most of the time we are running way behind in our posts and our trip from North Carolina to Montana is no different. So we take a break to post in real time. We arrived at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Lakeview, Montana just two weeks ago. We will be work camping here until mid August. In exchange for volunteering 32 hours a week each, we receive a free RV site with full hookups and a small stipend. The general topic of work camping will be covered in an upcoming Nuts and Bolts post. Here is a quick overview from our first two weeks. Future posts will allow you to explore southwestern Montana, northeastern Idaho and northwestern Wyoming with us. There will be some bouncing back and forth to complete the many stops we made since the last entry from Arkansas.

Red Rock Lakes NWR, Google Earth

Red Rock Lakes NWR From Google Earth

work camping, volunteer, RV living

Our Home On The Range

Red Rock Lakes NWR is located 40 miles west of West Yellowstone, Montana and 28 miles east of I-15. It is considered part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem which along with Yellowstone NP, Gallatin National Forest, BLM land, the Frank Church Land of No Return and Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is the largest temperate wilderness area in the world. The refuge covers approximately 60,000 acres in the  45 mile by 8 mile Centennial Valley. The Valley sits at an elevation of 6700 feet above sea level while the snow capped peaks of the Centennial mountains soar another 3,000-3,500 feet above the valley floor. They are the only mountains in the Rockies that run east to west. The Centennials and the Tetons are some of the “newest” (in geological terms) mountains. If you draw intersecting lines between the two ranges you will locate the current Yellowstone hotspot. The Centennial Valley was a fur trapping center and later homesteaded by cattle and sheep ranchers. Lakeview served the ranching community but like many towns in the area became a ghost town. Red Rock Lakes NWR was established in 1935 occupying some of the buildings. Later some of the Lakeview buildings were bought and restored then donated to the University of Utah as the Taft-Nicholson Center for Environmental Humanities Education.

Lakeview, Montana

Lakeview, Montana

pronghorn

Pronghorn Antelope Cow

It is June and wildflowers are popping out everywhere while pronghorn, elk and moose shelter newly born calves and trumpeter swans sit on nests. Here you can see the same wildlife except for bison, you would see at Yellowstone NP without the crowds. The refuge was created for the protection of trumpeter swans. At that time there were fewer than 100 swans in the GYE and these wetlands were their primary winter feeding ground and nesting area. Since then the local population has rebounded to 500 and increases to several thousand during migration. The refuge sits on major migratory bird flyways offering needed rest and feeding grounds to thousands of birds each Spring and Fall. Now the staff are involved in research for Sage Grouse and Arctic Grayling, both candidates for the Endangered Species Act. The bird list for the refuge lists 237 species that have been spotted here.

Red Rock Lakes NWR

Out For A Drive On The Refuge

Selfie In The Mirror

Selfie In The Mirror

Weather has been cooler than we expected with night time temperatures between 30-38 degrees F warming to mostly sunny days between 45-65 degrees. It is windy much of the time and weather can change several times throughout the day. It doesn’t take long to learn you don’t go out without at least three layers of clothing to handle any weather condition. Since we’ve been here it has rained, hailed and snowed. Our propane furnace and electric fireplace have been well used. Today there was thick fog early but now the sun is shining and it is in the mid 60s.

We must travel over 45 miles to a reasonable grocery store, diesel station and propane fill-up. Before arriving we bought out Costco in Bozeman. The refuge is providing extra freezer space and whenever anyone leaves for town they take shopping lists for fresh items from several people. In the winter there are only 6 staff here. In the Spring seasonal employees, researchers and volunteers increase the number to approximately 50. Besides ourselves there are three other volunteers work camping. Beginning in mid July the University of Utah holds classes in Lakeview adding several more people.

Centennial Valley, Montana, Rocky Mountains

The Centennial Valley In Early June

We have been very warmly welcomed by the staff. Every Wednesday evening is Science Wednesday pot luck dinners followed by a report on a research project at the refuge or other scientific topic.  Our work schedule is M/T/Sa/Sun. Chari is primarily hosting in the Visitor Center and assisting in the office while Steve’s time is split between maintenance and the Visitor Center. We both have had the opportunity to help out on projects, Steve with the Arctic Grayling fry count and Chari with monitoring Mountain Bluebird boxes.

Elk Lake And The Centennial Mountains

Elk Lake And The Centennial Mountains

If you are anywhere near Yellowstone National Park please take time to come see us at Red Rock Lakes NWR. Be sure to see their newly designed webpage at  http://www.fws.gov/refuge/red_rock_lakes .

rainbow, nature

Rainbow Over Lakeview

Peace And Quiet In Disney’s Backyard

state park, citrus, Orlando

Citrus Gone Wild

Sorry for the disappearing act over the last month. Between being busy, computer problems, RV problems and poor or no internet connection we had to put the blog on hold. So much for our New Year’s Resolution to catch up and stay caught up. Now that we will have a few days of waiting for some RV repairs and free wifi be prepared for a flood of posts.

From Sebastian Inlet on Florida’s east coast we drove to the Orlando area and stayed at Lake Louisa State Park about 25 miles west of the city. Just what part of “busiest week of the year”, “all kids out of school” and/or “everyone goes to Disney at Christmas” did I not grasp when I scheduled us to be in the area the week between Christmas and New Years? OK, now on to Plan B. We knew we didn’t want to tackle any of the parks and battle the crowds. So what to do? 

Lake Louisa is one of Florida’s newest state parks and situated in an old citrus orchard. Having made reservations as early as we could secured a full hookup site that was very private. We had room to put up our screen tent and took a few days to just relax. What a concept? We need to take more time like this but normally every time we say we’ll relax we find something to do and off we go. The old citrus grove still has fruit bearing trees. We found a few grapefruit still within reach and loads of tangerines or lemons free for the picking. We had so many we even made “care” packages to send north to family who were in the freezing temperature of a severe winter. The lemons were bigger than Chari’s fist and very bumpy. At first we thought maybe they were reverting to a wild strain but then learned it was a variety called a Ponderosa lemon. We made chicken piccata and lemon and orange meringue pies from scratch.

state park, Florida

Kayaking At Lake Louisa SP

kayaking

Along The Canal Between The Lakes

We took time to ride our bikes around the park for about ten miles on two different days. Other times we kayaked on one of the lakes. Our favorite was a wooded canal that ran between Lake Louisa and Lake Minnehaha. While paddling there we met a couple from the Cape Canaveral area and visited with them later that night around a campfire. The old citrus groves had several good trails for walking Opal each morning.

Christmas, Florida

Christmas At Leu Gardens

garden, holiday decorations

On Tour At Leu Gardens

We did take in two sights in the area, Leu Gardens and the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum. At Leu Gardens we joined the garden and this membership gave us  reciprocal free entry for a year to gardens that are participating members of the American Horticultural Society. The original home on the Leu Garden grounds was open for a guided tour. We caught it at the tail end of the Christmas season so it was still decorated. Each year interior design students from a local junior college decorate the rooms based on a theme chosen by the park. This year it was Christmas songs. A very creative group of young designers. Our favorite were the “swans a-swimming” in the bathtub.

Holiday Decorations

Holiday Decorations

The day we visited was a cool and windy day but seeing the texture in the bare trees along with tropical looking plants blooming in mid-winter was a treat.

trees

A Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow Tree

Fothergilla Blossom

Fothergilla Blossom

flowers

Spider Lily

A Study In Texture

A Study In Texture

garden

Orb From Coleus

trees

A Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow Tree

Canna Blooming In January

Canna Blooming In January

Canna In HDR Vintage Colors

Canna In HDR Vintage Colors

rose

This Is Called A Green Rose

Green Rose As A Pencil Drawing

Green Rose As A Pencil Drawing

Rose "Calico"

Rose “Calico”

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum is a not to be missed attraction in Winter Haven, Florida. The museum was begun to display the art work and Tiffany works owned by its namesake. Later his granddaughter and her husband increased the Tiffany collection. When the former Louis C. Tiffany estate on Long Island burned in the 1950s his priceless works were simply lying scattered. Through personal connections the museum rescued them and now houses the world’s largest collection of Tiffany artwork including the chapel designed for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. I am seldom speechless but this collection defies description. Be sure to put it on your “must see” list. there is a strict NO PHOTOS policy. The pictures used in this blog are copied from the museum’s website. The colors, the delicate way light is transmitted and the craftsmanship are amazing.

tiffany lamp

Dragonfly Lamp

A Transom Panel circa 1910-1920

A Transom Panel circa 1910-1920

Autumn From The Seasons

Autumn From The Seasons

Daffodil Column From Tiffany Estate

Daffodil Column From Tiffany Estate

Summer Panel From The Seasons

Summer Panel From The Seasons

Spring Panel From The Seasons

Spring Panel From The Seasons

One Of The Windows From A Church

One Of The Windows From A Church

Window Titled 'Feeding The Flamingos'

Window Titled ‘Feeding The Flamingos’

Another Tiffany Lamp

Another Tiffany Lamp

An Unusually Shaped Lamp

An Unusually Shaped Lamp

The Tiffany Chapel

The Tiffany Chapel

The heART Of The Eastern Shore

What is it my Mom used to say? Oh yes, “It’s OK to make plans as long as you don’t plan the results.” It should be a mantra for RVers. The cancellation of our stop in northern Pennsylvania meant we had to drive straight through to Maryland. Normally we stick close to the 244 rule (200 miles, 4 hours of driving or arrive by 4pm.) There was a domino effect on plans until we were back in Charlotte. We tried to move up our stay at Elk Neck SP in Maryland but there was no opening for our size rig. We changed our reservation to Martinak SP which is located along the Choptank river near the small town of Denton. This is the first time we’ve been able to  use our Maryland State Golden Age Pass which gives us half price rates Sunday-Thursday. One stay paid for our passes plus almost $50 more. A very good deal!

Originally we’d come here with the idea of kayaking the Choptank. However, the weather turned much cooler (down to 26 degrees one night) and quite breezy. So we chose not to paddle. Biking, walking and exploring the coast occupied most of our time. We drove down to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and out to the Hooper Islands. Loads of birds were in the refuge especially eagles. It was a bit early for the snow geese. Seeing a blast off of these geese is on my bucket list! We also drove 1 1/2 hours to the Baltimore area to see a friend from Charlotte that had moved there.

Crossing The Hooper Island Chain

Crossing The Hooper Island Chain

Cute As A Button

Cute As A Button

Relaxing On The Eastern Shore

Relaxing On The Eastern Shore

One day Steve went to a local liquor store and came back with a photo of a poster. It was advertising an event sponsored by the Caroline County Arts Council for the following Saturday evening. The event was a fundraiser for the Council called an Evening With Edgar Allen Poe. When we went on the CCAC website for more information we also learned of an event in the neighboring town of Greensboro for a music performance about the War of 1812. Who says drinking isn’t good for you? We were lucky to get two of the last five tickets for the Poe dinner.

The music performance was given at the public library by Lee Murdock, a folksinger who specializes in music about the Great Lakes. Most of his performances are in the midwest. He’d put together the show we heard for the bicentennial of the War of 1812. He interwove history, legend and song for a very entertaining (and free) evening. There were only eleven people attending. The War of 1812 has local significance as many battles were fought on the Chesapeake Bay and of course at Fort McHenry. We bought a CD so we could enjoy the songs again. If you are interested in where he is performing check his website http://www.leemurdock.com .

Hidden In Downtown Denton

Hidden In Downtown Denton

History In Denton

History In Denton

The Evening With Edgar Allen Poe was also a great event. Every year the CCAC picks an author and features a variety of speakers about the person, their contributions to literature and culture and selected readings. Before dinner we mingled as everyone tried to find the answer to their Poe related question issued upon arrival. My question was “How much was Poe paid for his poem The Raven?” The answer will be hidden somewhere in the post. It was a great way to meet some local people. The keynote speaker was an English professor from a nearby community college.  A local teacher and musician gave a talk on Poe’s influence on music. The presentation we enjoyed the most was a one man reading of The Telltale Heart by another teacher and thespian. He was terrific and received a standing ovation.

As I finalize this post we are beginning a two week stint in NC for Tweak Week #2. The answer to the trivia question is $9 (about $20 in today’s money).  For those new to our blog, Tweak Week is when we take the trailer in for maintenance/repair and ourselves in for doctor and dentist visits. Repair from our earlier Attack of the Tree Branch post will require us to find time for a new roof before heading south for the winter. During this time we will try our best to get caught up with the rest of our wonderful Canadian Maritime travels.

Where next? Check out our next post.