Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bryce National Park--Spectacular from Every Viewpoint

What an amazing day!  The entrance to Bryce National Park was about 1 ½ hours from our campground.  We left early in the morning with our picnic lunch in hand.  We were ready for a good time. 
Bryce Canyon faces east, so it was easier to start at the end and work our way back to the entrance.  We stopped at all of the viewing points on the way out of the park.   
The Rainbow Point is the viewpoint at the end of the park.  We are in awe as we gaze out over the canyon below.  We enjoyed visiting with people in the park—we all marveled together at the beauty.  We saw caves and tried to imagine what animal made this their home. 
The temperature was much cooler than we had expected.  The highest point of the park is at 9,100 feet—so we should not have been surprised by the temperatures or the snow that we saw.  Snow sprinkled the rock formations throughout the park.   We have been in the desert for several months so it was great to see snow.  The snow added to the beauty of the deep red and orange rocks.

It is impossible for us to not be overwhelmed by the Glory of God—we are blessed to see the beauty in this National Park.

The spires appear to be delicately carved pieces of art.  The spires have a smooth profile with a uniform thickness that tapers from the ground upward.  It is amazing to realize these enormous rock formations were carved from weather and water.   

We have been to several National Parks and each time we are treated new beauty. 

There are natural amphitheaters throughout the park.   We watch birds sore high above the canyon walls.  The birds glide effortlessly through the sky.  We realized after we got back into the Jeep that we had not taken any pictures of the birds.  We were so memorized by their flight.  We enjoyed the serenity of their gliding with the beautiful red rocks in the background.

The statuesque rock formations are called hoodoos. Hoodoos are tall formations of rock that protrude from the bottom of the canyon.  We found out a hoodoo has a variable thickness that looks like a body shape (you need a lot of imagination to see a body shape).  The Indians believed their ancestors were in these hoodoos.   I love saying the word, so all day I pointed out hoodoos throughout the park.  I made up songs and poems, and was happy to take any opportunity to say “Hoodoos”.  J 

Our final two stops were to Sunrise and Sunset Points.  There was a trail connecting these two points, however, it was the end of a long day and neither of us had the energy to walk between them.  It was only a mile, but we were happy to drive between the two sights.  It is hard to even describe the beauty of this place. 

We will remember the awe inspiring views for years to come.  


Monday, April 27, 2015

From Pahrump, NV to Kanarravile, Utah

Today was a travel day.  We moved from Pahrump, NV to Red Ledge RV Park & Campground in Kanarraville, Utah.  It was about a 4 hour drive.

Before we started full timing, it was not unusual for us to have a 10 or 15 hour travel day when we went on vacation.   We had limited time and wanted to see everything we could.  We wanted to spend our time off at our vacation location and not on the road.  Life sure has changed.  Now it is all about the journey.  Certainly we are excited about the destinations and look forward to each new sight.  But now we marvel at the landscape.  We notice the rock formations, the changes in the trees and flowers and we really try to savor each new sight. 

Now we are both happy with a 2 to 3 hour travel day.  We like to get to our destination before noon.  Have a little lunch and then go exploring the area.  If we are unsure what we plan to see at the stop; we make a trip to the Visitor Bureau/Chamber of Commerce.  It is always a great idea to visit with the volunteer workers at the Visitor Bureau—they have generally given us the best tips.  I ask them where they like to go out to eat.  If your family comes in to town, what are the attractions you like to share when you have visitors.  These helpful hints are generally some of our best experiences.

We have been in the Arizona and California since January and we were both ready to move on and see something different.  We have enjoyed the warm weather, but we are anxious for more green trees and foliage.  I was really getting tired of desert and WIND! 

Although we have been to Moab, Utah 4 or 5 times, we have never visited Zion National Park or the surrounding areas.  We will be here a week and are excited to see what new sightseeing treasures are in store for us.

Just a couple thoughts about our traveling…

We have learned it is very helpful for both of us to be in the truck watching what is going on around.  Many people have talked to us about towing the jeep behind the truck.  Today was a perfect example of why it is helpful for us both to be together.  George does a great job watching the road and traffic around him.  We had a couple of major road changes.  

The night before we will be traveling I study our route on Google Maps.  I open the map with Google earth so that I can track the route and look at the roads closely.  I pay special attention to any road changes, exits etc. and look closely at the area surrounding the campground.  I want to be familiar with the area around the campground—it makes it much easier to find the location when I have done my homework.  Twice we almost missed our turns because George thought he knew where we; and we were not where he expected. 


  • Plan the route (even if you are “sure” you know where you are going)  
  • I generally will study the route map, so I am aware and prepared for each            change.    
  • It is also good to have the map opened; if you lose the internet connection      you will still have the map.  If you do not have the map loaded when you lose internet connection—you are not able to retrieve the map until you have connection again.  (Today we did not have internet connect for well over an hour.)  
  • When there will be any kind of change (exit, curve, attraction, etc.)  I tell him when we are 10 miles away, then 5 miles away, then 1 mile away.  
  • Our agreement is that he will acknowledge that he has heard me (even a grunt will work here).  Even if he is well aware of the change—I do not assume he knows.  

When we miss a change, it is usually because I am not paying attention and I am not taking control of the navigation.

RVs now are big.  That is my house being driven down the road and we both want to do everything we can to get to our next stop safely and happy.  So, 4 eyes are better than 2.  I am not a back seat driver, I am the co-pilot. 

Finally, because I had studied the map; I knew there was not a good place to unhook the jeep inside the campground.  I had located a place across the street that we were able to pull in and George unhooked the jeep while I checked us in.

Great day and we are glad to have some new sights to explore this week.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Back to Death Valley National Park

We have a tour scheduled at Scotty’s Castle at 1pm and so we had another early morning day.  At this point, we know we will not be able to see everything that makes this National Park so special, but we want to fit everything in that we can.

We start off with the short 2.5 mile loop: “Twenty Mule Team Canyon”.  It twists and turns through a canyon that almost makes us feel like we are on another planet.   It was really a very moderate drive.  We stopped for several pictures and to relish this area, that is unlike anything we have seen before.

We moved on to “Dante’s View”.  The top is over 5,000 feet above the floor of Death Valley.  From this viewpoint we were able to see for miles.   It had a paved road to the top and a great parking area—so there was very little walking involved here…just seeing the magnificent view.   We met and had a nice visit with a couple on the top.  They were members of Saddleback Church that we had visited near LA when we were there.  They talked about their time at Death Valley.  It was interesting to us that they spent as much money with 3 Nights at a hotel as we budget for 3 Months at campgrounds (and he said the hotels were “not good at all”).

On our way to our castle tour we made a quick stop at “Ubehebe Crater”.  This crater was formed from a massive volcanic explosion.  The crater is 600 feet deep with very steep walls.  There is a small path around the rim to get a different perspective.  The wind was SO strong when we were at the crater that we could barely stand on the sidewalk—so neither of us was the least bit interested in risking our lives to take a little stroll around a crater.  However, we stood in amazement as several people attempted to walk around.  No one appeared to be finishing.

We also made a quick stop at the Harmony Borax Mill.  Borax mining is a big part of the Death Valley history.  
Borax-Still sold today

The history is very interesting; one of the best, most detailed sites I found about this history is   Borax was very profitably mined in Death Valley until it was discovered in an area that was closer to civilization.  During the mining years the borax was delivered by a 20-Mule Wagon Train that was built specifically for this purpose.   Borax was (and IS still today) sold as a laundry detergent booster.  It has even been suggested to us to use Borax in our black tank.  I read that it is currently used in over 300 products.

We get to Scotty’s Castle in time to enjoy our picnic lunch before the tour.  The tours are given by park rangers dressed in period clothing.  

They tell us antidotes of the unique man, Walter Scott (the castles’ namesake).  Scotty had performed in Buffalo Bill’s “Wild West Show”.  He was a con man who told stories about a rich gold mine he had found in Death Valley.  He got investors to give him money with the promise of wealth and fame.   One of his investors, Albert Johnson, came to visit the “mine” and check on his investment; only to find it was all a fraud.  As unlikely as it seemed, Albert and his con-man, now friend, Scotty developed a lifelong friendship.  Albert brought his wife, Bessie, to this wilderness and built her the castle.  This castle had all the modern amenities that a couple of their status and wealth would want or need—electricity, indoor plumbing—including hot and cold water and all the comforts within their new home.  The castle became a tourist attraction in its own right—drawing rich visitors from around the country.  The Johnson’s loved the beauty and tranquility of the desert and now they had the luxury also.  They also found laughs and entertainment in their new friend Scotty. 

In the end I would say, Death Valley is so much more than the name.  It is a land of extremes, it is a land of contrast… but mostly it is a land of beauty and we cannot wait to come back to.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

We’re Off to Death Valley National Park

We got an early start this morning.  We packed a small picnic lunch, grabbed our park information and headed out for a day of adventure packed fun. 

George has said for years he wanted to visit Death Valley National Park.  I, however, thought with a name like “Death Valley”—it might not be our most exciting stop.  Anyway, picnic in tow, we head toward the park. 

When I am wrong, I admit it… OK, maybe I don’t—but this time I will… “I was WRONG”.  After spending the day in the park, I can say it is on my list of “must see” spots in America.    Despite the gloomy name, Death Valley is a land full of color and a wide variety of landscape.  We were able to see indescribable color and rock formations.  We saw badlands that almost seemed like another planet surface.

As we drove into the park, I found myself repeatedly saying… “Stop, I need a picture.”  Rising out of the ground are small hills of rock.  I am sure geologists would spend hours telling me what the rocks are and why they are “poking up”. 

We saw white long streaks on the faces of the rock walls.  We later found out the white streaks were Talc.  Talc was one of the very profitable substances mined from Death Valley.

One of our first stops was at the Badwater Basin.  This area is the lowest point in North America.  It is amazing to realize we were standing at 282 feet BELOW sea level (Our house in Colorado Springs was at over 6,500 feet above sea level.  Other than a small, almost pond like, area of water, the area was a flat salt surface.  In the sun, the salt glistened like crystals.


There were spots where holes had been dug—probably people trying to see the depth of the salt flat and when the water starts.   The salt surface is about 8 inches thick before the water started to pool.  When we walked on the flat, it was obvious that it was not solid.  It flexed when we walked—like walking on a rubber mat.

We took the beautiful drive to Zabriskie Point.  There is a steep, but short walk to the top--it was definitely worth the effort.   It is an amazing view of wildly colorful badlands.  

We drove through the loop, “Artist’s Drive”.  Never in my life have I seen rocks of these colors.  It was a 9-mile scenic drive the featured rock formations and hills of Red, Pink, Green, Blue among the rust and brown canyon walls.   It would be easy to just explain this area with details about volcanic activity or minerals that have deposited and aged—but it is more than that.  Although they call this “Artist’s Drive”, I have a hard time imagining an artist palette that could do this justice.

We stopped at the “Devil’s Golf Course” viewing area.  This is an immense area of salt rocks that have eroded into jagged spires and rocks.  The National Park books say “Only the devil could play golf on this surface”; thus the name.  Although it was easy to see that these rocks were sharp and would cause significant bodily injury if you were to fall; there were people that thought they had to walk out to get a “better view”.   You can’t fix stupid.  (And by the way, the view would have been NO different out there.)

A few interesting tid bits at the end of our day… at one place in the park we hit a temperature of 101 degrees, before we left the park we had visited another area with an 80 degree temperature.  This park is so full of extremes—hot and cold; and the extremes of high and very low.  We saw amazing color and flat desert landscapes.

At the end of the day we realize it is a huge blessing to have these constant reminders of the Glory of our God.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Colors and Blooms in the Arizona Desert

It is no secret that I hate wind and dirt.  The desert has been an on and off challenge for me—because it tends to be a combination of blowing wind and dirt/sand.  Because I believe we can find a treasure and/or something beautiful in everyplace we are; we decided to go 4-wheeling in the desert and hunt for “treasures”. 

We took several back roads from Bullhead City, AZ, through Needles, CA and then back through Laughlin, NV.  We started out on back roads and without realizing we had made a change—we were driving on a dry river bed.  It was unlike any other 4-wheeling we have done.  

The sand was about 8” deep.  The jeep, of course, had no problems, but it was squirrely.  It was straight and there were no measurable hills—so from a 4-wheeling perspective it was OK.   George prefers the slow rock climbing; I prefer the faster, curves and hills.   However, our goal today was not a great 4-wheeling adventure; we wanted to find treasures that made this area special.  Many would say the casinos that dot the landscape are special—so far we have not spent time in the casinos (except the occasional meal).

In February we traveled with another couple, Pat and Debbie, and they helped remind us to stop and appreciate everything around us.  Debbie would smell a fragrance while we were walking down a path.  Pat was easily distracted by a bird or a plant that he was unfamiliar with.  They both made themselves familiar with the plants and cactus in the area and Pat enjoyed quizzing us on the ones that he had earlier pointed out.  The bottom line for us: we now try to notice the little things around us—not just see them, but truly appreciate them.

I am digressing… back to our trip.  We turned down a side road and we started up the riverbed. Color sprinkled the ground and rock formations. 

We saw several Barrel Cacti’s that were the largest we had seen before.  Although we did not see blooms on these cactus’ the tops were a beautiful crimson red.  

It was shocking there are so many different shades of purple flowers.  One plant had flowers that were less than a ½ inch wide.  This plant grows closes to the ground and each plant was filled with these tiny delicate flowers.

There were white and yellow “daisy like” flowers. 

This plant almost looks like it would be a grass, except for all the yellow flowers that adorn it.

We started our trip expecting to find blooming Ocotillo cactus—and saw so much more.  We were able to see hundreds of blooming ocotillo cacti.  On first glance some of these almost appear to be an arrangement of dead sticks.  But as we continue to look, many have green or yellowish branches.  Because of the time of year, they all had a plume of orange to crimson blooms. 

I have enjoyed being in the area as these cactus “came to life”.  Their blooms seem to dot the skyline.

We started this outing hoping to have a great time together and come home with pictures of “Colors in the Desert”.  We were NOT disappointed.  Our day exceeded our expectations.  

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