Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Travel Bug

It’s about 10:00 pm. There is a waxing moon. The marine fog is moving in fast… the sky is spectacular…

T and I went over to Half Moon Bay, and had lunch at the local brew pub, then I went to work... we had a special photo tour. I am home now...

I am watching TV (Travel Channel, Bizarre foods with Andrew Zimmer….) I am web surfing, South West parks and “Old Ones” (aka Anasazi, a term not popular) sites… I am thinking about next summers travel. Also South America sites… we have are going on a cruise from Rio to Chile and are researching and planning…

The last trip did not cure the cravings for travel…

I am not looking forward to work tomorrow… this is not the norm… There is not much to do this week, but I am tired…

The travel cravings are calling. The Old Ones are calling, Navajo National Monument, Road 400 (Cottonwood Canyon Road across Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument), Chaco Canyon, the desert in general…

There is a public market at the port in Montevieo Uruguay… it too calls me.

I continue to read “In Search of the Old Ones” by David Roberts… about his explorations of Anasazi culture and sites… It feeds the longing...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The longing is starting again…

I have been back just over a week… the tent and equipment are cleaned and put away. It took almost ten days but I have sorted and organized the photos, and posted the selection on Picasa ( ). The car is still dirty, and there are at least a couple of pieces of firewood hiding in the back.

The travel channel is on in the background. Tony has been visiting Chile… the food looks good… yesterday he was in Uruguay… the market at the port is calling.

Working on the house, working in general is still fun, but the road is calling, and I am already thinking towards the next adventure… There are several options… I am will get to Carson City for a weekend in October… it’s the Virginia and Truckee symposium… an annual history symposium… Steph (aka, “The Daughter”) has suggested Maryland for Thanksgiving… It would be expensive, and tiring, but it is intriguing. In addition to family there is Tidewater Maryland, the Chesapeake shore, and Washington DC…

We have our big trip coming up in January… a cruise from Rio to Chile, visiting Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, the Falklands, cruising Antarctica (no stops) back to southern most Argentina, then Chile… This time the sisters, and her brother and wife are joining us… a very different trip than my recent solo jaunt in the desert.

I am thinking of a trip to the Navajo National Monument… They have a couple of cliff dwellings… one a 8 mile hike in (and 8 out) the second a short 5 mile hike… or maybe Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Another option is across Wyoming to Custer Battlefield, better known as Little Big Horn to the winners… I like walking battlefields… it gives a sense of place to stories and readings…

In the mean time I will tend my flowers, weed my garden, and if bored clean my car…

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Its not dangerous enough

So camp is in session... this time its the Daring and Dangerous Kids camps, named for the best selling books... and after one day we have had a complaint... our camp is not dangerous enough... one young man expected to jump off of moving railroad trains onto mattresses... We get the feeling that they wanted to make slingshots and hunt squirrels... while we could use a few less squirrels around the park... I thought that there might be issues (I am soooo closed minded) so, instead of slingshots and moving trains we are making bombs and blow guns... the bombs from dry ice in tennis ball cans, and the blow guns firing marshmallows...

How do I get involved in these things...


Monday, August 17, 2009

Homeward bound.- Expanded and closure…

So, Sunday early a.m. I awoke in Ely Nevada… by 6:45 I was packed… I had drunk my morning cup of coffee… I left… room keys and five bucks on the table… (first rule of travel in Nevada, don’t screw the locals…)

Up the hill, stop and gas up… it’s a long way to the nest gas… probably Tonopah…

Uphill, past the High School, into the Juniper and Pinion pine… This is Hwy 6, the highway lonelier than the “Loneliest Highway.” I counted 14 cars and a tractor in the first hour… 6 cars in the second… Travel was fast… much of the time I was traveling over 85 miles per hour… slower on hills, but fast.

There isn’t much out there… a few ranches… with cattle and hay fields… some road side taverns with gas stations… now long closed… signs for school bus stops, with little to show where the students live… I see prong horn antelope, wild horses, (the “feral” horses of the National Park Service, another term thing)

There are more cars as I approach Tonopah. I stop for gas… It will be a long way, before I find another station. Then off south for Benton Jct, north of Bishop in California. Still fast, more people, lots of motorcycles… I start down at Boundary Peak, Mt Montgomery, an abandoned motel, once a whore house, a closed gas station… The place sticks of failure and hopelessness…

Benton Jct. has gas… I pass it by, doing well and knowing where the next tank can be purchased… up hill through Benton Hot Springs, climbing up into the Ponderosa Pine forest along the south of Mono Lake… I pause at Mono Mills, once site of the largest sawmill east of the Sierra… Nothing left but a board scatter and a few railroad ties… On to Lee Vining, gas at the world famous Lee Vining Mobil station… gas only, no food, but the food is great.

Up hill, along the creek, I camped along the creek a week or so ago… but this time I am headed home… My progress is hindered by turtle people and tourists… they are traveling slow, unaware of those who follow… It’s free weekend at Yosemite… and there are hordes of volunteers, asking for donations in place of an entry fee… There is a long delay at the entrance station, much longer than would be expected when no fee is charged… I drive, past Tuolumne Meadows, following more turtle people… It is a beautiful place, but there are just too many damned people….

The Park has a 45 mile speed limit… within the park (and other parks) I believe in the speed limits… they seem slow, but make sense in these places of worship… for the most part I don’t make 45 mph… out of the park beyond Crane Flat, and speed limits increase, but my speed doesn’t … the turtle people block progress for miles…

I pass one large group on Priest Grade… I encounter a long back up reaching Oakdale… Breaking though, I make good time towards home… over Altamont Pass and it’s windmills, across the San Mateo Bridge… I make home just after 4:00, 527 miles, in about 9 hours…

Home to the wife, a shower, a chance to clean out the car and unpack… Out to dinner, and a night in my own bed… life is good.

Some statistics… The entire trip was 2646 miles… I consumed just under 100 gallons of gas as of the last fill up in Lee Vining… I averaged about 24.8 mpg… The highest mileage noted was over 30 mpg from Jacobs Lake to Mexican Hat… I bought three t-shirts, three bundles of fire wood, four bags of ice, three books, and not much else… I ate out three times… otherwise I ate what I brought. I camped 4 nights. I stayed in motels 4 nights.

I saw buffalo, a Kabab squirrel, a California condor, Mule deer, white tailed deer, a coyote, wild horses (“feral horses”, that term thing again), prong horn antelope, chipmunks.. and other birds and animals… there were Edward Abby’s “Slow Elk”

It was a good trip… I will do it again, not the same trip, but similar trips in similar country. I will have camp fires, I will sit by said fires with a drink in had and contemplate the cosmos… I will sleep soundly in my tent… I will have coffee early in the morning, sitting by a fire, watching the sun come up.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Home at last

I left Ely at 7:00 am this morning Fueled at Tonapah and Lee Vining…

Today was all about getting home…526 miles… about 9 hours…

South west from Ely to Tonopah, then to Benton Springs, then west on 120 to Lee Vining, and across Yosemite to 580 and home… the turtle people were out in force, as were the “were am I let’s drive really slow” types…

I did see prong horn antelope and wild horses along the way, but they only distracted me from the goal, Home.

Home is good…

Now, a shower, dinner out, and time to sit... life is good.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Turning point

Saturday Evening, Ely Nevada

I left the motel in Moab this morning about 8:15, stopped at Denny’s for breakfast, then started westward… not exactly, the most direct route would have been to head directly for Green River, instead I turned north east and followed the Colorado River… The river is one of Moab’s recreation draws… they offer raft trips, kayak trips, shuttle services for floaters… There are camp grounds, and a couple of resorts… one of which was surrounded by grape vines and they had signs up advertizing their wines and wine tasting… Why is it we need to plant grapes and make wine at every tourist destination?

Moab is defiantly a tourist destination… as a result it is a young town, full of 20 somethings from all over, outdoor enthusiasts, working in the various tourist spots, and guiding tourists. The tourists are dominated by Europeans though out the desert southwest. They have adopted the Kauai Red Dirt shirt as their own... I ignored those, but bought a Monkey Wrench Gang shirt at a book store...

Anyway, along the Colorado, climbing out of the canyons until I reached I-70… Then, a little before 10:00, I turned and headed for home. This was the first interstate since last Sunday, when I was Interstate 15 for 20 miles headed into Utah from Nevada… Now I drove across half of Utah… through Green River, where I got gas, and glimpsed the last of the great rivers that make canyons land look like it does… Along the way I have crossed the Colorado, the San Juan, the Mancos, and now the Green.

I drop off of I-70 onto I-50, the anti-interstate… cross I-15 (an pick up more gas, its 89 miles to the next services…), then off on what is called the loneliest Highway in America (I know a lot of Nevadans who claim Hwy 6, the road I am driving tomorrow is less traveled though more remote country.) I cross the Nevada state line about 2:30, and the clock is set back to Pacific time… I gain an hour… I pull into Ely about 2:30, check in to my hotel, then go down to the railroad to find out what is happening at the depot.

Ely is home to the Nevada Northern Railroad… the 120 mile long railroad was built to haul copper ore out of the mines below Ely to a smelter a few miles to the north at McGill. Then further north some 80 miles to connect with the Central Pacific Railroad. When the copper mines were closed in the early 1980’s the railroad stopped running, but was not scrapped… Eventually it became the property of the county, to be operated by a local nonprofit… the railroad left everything when they shutdown the property, particularly the shops at East Ely and anything that was inside… including 3 steam locomotives, a steam snow plow, a steam crane, tools, spare parts, and probably someone’s half eaten ham sandwich.

I got a tour, then said hi to the general manager, then took the evening train ride… It was a geology train, with a group of geologists on board explaining what the rocks were and how you find copper here.

So now I am finishing up this post, and will go to bed… tomorrow I drive home… Across Nevada on Hwy 6, right at Benton Springs in California onto hwy 120, by Mono Lake and over Tioga Pass in Yosemite. Google says its 529 miles With luck and a tail wind I will be home by 6:00 pm

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday in Moab, and John Wayne slept here...

So, I am camped on a mesa in south west Colorado… Its about 9:00 pm, its raining… It’s good… It’s warm, probably high 70’s… The rain is light… I have an awning up, a lantern lit, a fire going (not raging, just going)

It is interesting to look at how others camp.

There are the turtle people with their campers, motor homes, and air streams… It’s not really camping, its mobile living complete with our shells which we hide within…

There are the hippies, in their back packing tents (hippy being a stereotype into which I may belong) more urban that rural, but having a good time….

There are the cheapskates, camping to save money… and not always doing it well.

There are Europeans, for whom camping is a cheap way to inexpensive way to travel.
There are new campers, not comfortable with the skills and such, but bravely making a go.

There are families, believing this is a family way to travel, but uncomfortable with the skills and such.

There are a few of us camping for the experience and love of camping. It’s one of the few times we are responsible for our own shelter, food, and comfort (even if the store, showers, toilets and such, including wireless internet (gasp) are no more than 100 yards away… we can pretend)

We all come together at the NPS campground…

Most probably see rain as an issue, maybe as a disaster…. I find it interesting… It may be a problem if gear is still wet tomorrow morning… but for now it is interesting, and I have met nature and was prepared…I like to camp, for camping’s sake… (my wife does not… l leave her at home… after 29 years of marriage this is the best solution… )

The ranger talk tonight was good… women and the founding of the park, his about his aunt, and his family story, in the context of the park… it was personal, it made sense to me… As I returned to camp it started to rain, not the heavy sudden rain of thunderstorms brought by the monsoon, but a constant rain. I sat under my awning, by the fire and read… It is good.

Friday, afternoon, Moab Utah

Well, It rained much of the night at Mesa Verde… not an issue for me but others were suffering and taking to their cars… Up with the sun, made coffee, and broke camp… The big issue was wet gear. I will have to take it all out, clean it and dry it once home…

I decided to turn right at the end of the park’s entrance road, towards Mancos Colorado… got gas then north towards Dolores Colorado. Mancos and Dolores were two stations on the Rio Grande Southern Railroad… among the most loved and least successful of all American railroads… There wasn’t any evidence of the railroad in Mancos, but I was surprised by how large the town was… Sometimes you miss context such as this when reading just about railroads… Dolores was smaller, but the depot is preserved, and they have one of the railroad’s home made “Galoping Goose” railcars, but it was in Durango on a visit… I took photos of the depot and around town then headed north west towards Moab.

Just outside of town the BLM has its Anasazi Museum… I stopped… it’s located at a site, with a larger pueblo site on the hill above. The museum had its origins in both the sites on BLM land, and on the development of the McPhee reservoir and the archeological sites that were investigated before being downed. The museum was spectacular, inclusive, full of artifacts well used… Mesa Verde needs this level of museum displays..

From there it was just a drive to Moab Utah. This is across the pinto bean growning capital of the world... small towns, each with a bean processing plant, hay fields, and what look to be vacation homes...

Arriving in Moab I checked in at the Apache Motel, (listed on the National Register, John Wayne slept here…) Then off to Arches.

Arches is beautiful, it is expansive… generally you need to take short hikes to get the best view of the various arches… They are clustered in 4 sites… I did three of the sites, hiked some, but not as extensively as possible… I was tired and it was hot. I enjoyed it but felt used up before I had seen all I wanted to see.

Back to town, shower and clean up, and time for a walk about… Bye for now, I will add some photos tonight and write again tomorrow.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thursday evening or, Who knew they had wireless in Mesa Verde

Wednesday Morning – Mexican Hat Utah

After posting last night I went down to the river, and laid down staring at the skys… the Percius meteor shower was suppose to peak about midnight… It was a bust… only a few meteors, and those very unimpressive… about 11:30 I gave up when the moon came up…

Next morning, Up, shower, breakfast at a small café next door, now off for Mesa Verde. The café was a hoot… they were a failed store, with some merchandise, a single girl dealing with foreign tourist, serving basic eggs, bacon sausage and such at a walk up counter. You ate outside at picnic tables… I like this place more and more.

North of Mexican Hat is Mexican Hat rock… a large flat rock balanced on a much smaller rock, topping a mesa… I drove down the marked road looking for a photo opportunity, only to find it was shared by a quarry with very large dump trucks… the truck drivers were used to tourists and would pull over and wait for us to pass them, so all was well. Beyond the Mexican Hat rock you entered the Valley of the Gods… equal to Monument Valley but completely undeveloped, except for a BLM dirt road. Many photos were taken.

Beyond the Valley of the Gods, I passed along various local roads, in search of the fabled 4 corners. It’s another Navajo Tribal park… I walked about, took a few pictures, then off to Mesa Verde… Entering Colorado, you are now in the Ute reservation. Just outside the park I passed through Cortez Colorado, and the culture changed, this time to western ranch town… I stopped at the true value hardware for supplies… upholstery tacks to repair my army surplus cot… they had them, along with anything else you could want from camping supplies, guns and ammo, paint, and canning jars.

The park is huge… its miles from the entrance to the campground, then miles to the visitor’s center, then more miles to each of the areas with cliff house ruins. I purchase tickets for the three ranger lead tours, then leave for the first, Long House ruin… I eat a picnic lunch then join the tour. First a tram ride to the train head then a little less than a mile on a steep but good trail… You climb a ladder into the ruin (which isn’t that ruined…) then climb a ladder down out of the ruin… The tour was good, artifact tags were in evidence on pieces of burned wood… afterward I took the tram with Mr. Ranger to visit two overlooks. Since we had time he showed us (3 of us) a recently excavated ruin site on the top of the plateau, and some of the local plants, a Yucca ready for harvest and a young juniper, in a fire zone… Much of the park has burned in the last 12 years, and recovery will be slow, hundreds of years… not at all like the situation at the Grand Canyon.

The ranger, from Massachusetts, was lamenting the fire damage… I found that I as a westerner have come to expect evidence of fire in western National Parks. He loves the park, but has eastern sensebilities… From there I went to the Park Headquarters/Spruce tree ruin site walked the museum, then walked down to the Spruce Tree ruin (again, ruin may not be the right word… in the arid west, protected by the cliffs, these sites are mostly intact… not the ruins one would expect after being abandoned for 700 years.

Then back down the road to the camp site to check in… get a site, set up (this time I set up the canopy, both because it looks like rain, and to provide shade… then off to the ranger talk… on stars… he was not expecting good skies, both smoke and clouds were present, but it turned out well… with the bonus of the Perius meteor shower showing up, a day late, but some great shooting stars… and due to smoke his laser pointer worked really well…. Like the bat beam… a column of light into the sky.

So now, (Wed. night) I am updating the log, for the blog (can’t post until I get an internet connection on Friday, unless one of the rangers or employees has an un secured wireless connection… I may drive near the residences and find out, or not…) It seems strange to be working at the computer in a national park campground, fire nearby, by Coleman lantern light… so maybe I will end the strangeness for now…
Thursday, about 4:00 p.m., back in my camp site… I have discovered the camp store has wireless internet so I will head up there and try to post this a little later.
Today, I took the ranger lead tours at Cliff Palace and Balcony ruins… I note the park service alternates between calling them “sites” and “ruins”… while some are clearly ruins, with only portions of walls remaining, some are surprisingly complete with floors, roofs, and even intact balconies… They also have a conflict on what to call the inhabitants… They alternate with the long used Anasazi and the newer “Ancestral Puebloans”… Anasazi is derived from Navaho, and can mean ancient enemies, so is considered demining by the Hopi, but Puebloans is a term from Europeans, and who have arguably treated the people worse… I prefer Anasazi, but will try to use Puebloans… It all smacks of political correctness…
Its clear when talking to the Park Service staff that there is no clear story, instead there are theories, and speculation, but the folks giving the tours are being guided by one point of view, in a field of study with several defendable points of view… Some rangers are better at accepting other views. There are several back stories… the original excavators, in the 1890’s were better archeologists that some admit… In a sense the local cowboys with help from a Swedish scientist created modern archeological methods here… but they also were pot collectors so must be villains. At one time the archeologists were writing the stories based on excavations, today we use Hopi (and other native American) oral tradition to the exclusion of some archeological evidence.

The two tours (three if you count Long House yesterday) are similar, the guide meets you at the top, explains what you are going to see, gives the scare talk (we are at 7,000 feet, we are going down lots of stair, climbing ladders (some quite tall), Its hot here, take water, take nothing else…) then you descend into the ruin (only after the ranger has collected the tickets, $3.00 each, a bargain) You reach the edge of the site (not ruin, my rules) are told never to sit on or touch the walls…. Then hear the story as presented, with many questions left unanswered.

Beyond the two major sites I toured, I spent much time doing the various loops, and interpretive walks… I saw a coyote, I saw wild, or feral (oh, no, another word conflict) horses… There are ravens everywhere you look.

This was a fast changing culture, from hunter gatherer to early farmers in pit houses near their fields, to stick and dabble houses, now with ceremonial underground round houses (Kivas) but Kivas here were also living quarters during the winter (apparently), to pueblos on mesa tops, to pueblos with towers, to cliff dwellings, along the way there are several masonry styles... I may have read too much to accept all the rangers are telling me… So am buying books, So far my favorite is “In Search of the Old Ones” by David Roberts, but its not available in the Park stores… I suspect he and his views may not be in line with the Park Service’s ideas…

I also find myself critiquing the rangers’ presentations… There is one who tells too much (He knows it so must tell it) and others who have done the talk too many times, and herded tourists up the ladders too many times, and are just not publicly excited about the subject anymore… (in their defense I have been there with house tours, but its common rather than occasional here… I suspect they get together over beers on Friday night and talk about how stupid the visitors are, some are, some are not…)
I find myself organizing my own views on the architecture, and culture…

So, it’s now late afternoon, It’s cloudy, and threatening rain… There is a gusty breeze (a neighbor’s tent has blown over… I will intervene if it heads for the road or places unknown) I have the awing up, so am ready for what happens…

I should post again tomorrow, but again, I am unlikely to post photos… too little band width here in the desert…


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

2nd trip report

Tuesday August 9th

I wake up, Shower, go to the traditional free motel breakfast… My fellow diners are a mix of travelers from all over the world… a clean cut young kid in a suit (Mormon missionary??) is speaking Spanish to a family from Peru… Americans speaking the language of others, in America… It’s a wonderful thing to see.

Back to the room, pack up, a final email check, then off for Grand Canyon.

There are a couple of ways to get to the north rim… Most tourist probably go via Zion, and the tunnel and Kabab Utah. This time I took the more southerly road… through Pipe spring and Fredonia. I wanted to stop at Pipe Springs, an historic site, and a National Monument. I was surprised at how well the park service did at Pipe Springs… there is a nice visitors center, Shared with the local Piute tribe,
Pipe springs was a tithing ranch for the Mormon Church… It was run as a commercial ranch, making cheese and butter, as well as being a station on the desert telegraph. Members of the church would occasionally pay their tithes in cattle. Those cattle might end up at Pipe Springs… Church members would be sent there to work (for pay) or occasionally would work there as their tithe. The main building is a fortified ranch house, built over the spring. There are a couple of outbuildings, as well as gardens, some animals, and a nice short trail along the rim rock.

It took an organization like the church to establish a ranch like this in such a remote place… Yet the park service seems to want to steer away from the Mormon story… They are comfortable saying they were Mormons, but don’t discuss the churches organization and how it made this place… They are very good at preserving the site, discussing the Piute history, talking about overgrazing, but not the church.

Also, because they are the park service, the museum side of things (how objects are marked and documented, what objects they have, what paint color they chose, and interpretive signage is very good, but as the park service they also need certain security systems, more appropriate for an urban environment. You can only enter the building with a ranger, but they still have ropes across doorways.

Leaving Pipe Springs I continue east, towards the Grand Canyon… along the way I pass through Fredonia Arizona… They have a gas station, so I stop… their sign says Lotto, Ammo, Guns, Beer… I buy the t-shirt.

30 miles later I reach Jacob Lake, and the turnoff for the park… Its 40 some miles to the rim… most through recently burned forest. Soon after I pass the park entrance gate I encounter a herd of Bison… they cross the road headed east, then cross the road again headed west… (for what it is worth, Bison are not native to Arizona… they were imported as breeding stock, and are now owned by the state… I guess they make the tourists happy)

I continue, find my camp site, put up the tent, then take the trail along the rim to the lodge… I encounter the first of many deer along the way.

The lodge is a typical western National Park building… local, large spaces, logs for roof rafters… it was designed by the same architect who designed the Awannie Hotel in Yosemite. There are no accommodations in the main building, instead there are cabins surrounding it, with a few newer motel style units.

I buy a beer in the bar and sit in the grand lobby and look at the canyon while drinking it. There are three fires in or near the park, two on the south side, one on the North… All caused by lighting. You can see the south side fires from the lodge… the north side fire is visible from the road as I walk back to the camp ground. There is a road through the fire, with remains open… I will likely drive it tomorrow.

Back to camp, I deal with my feet… the Vasculitus stuff is making them peal, , subject to blisters and cracking, and I do still have some wounds. I clean them up, and apply Band-Aids as needed… I make dinner, then go back to the lodge to watch the sun go down… By now the fire has reached the ridge on the mesa across from the lodge, and is burning down the face… with flames visible. It is a spectacular spectacle… The Park Service has an Information officer, a fire fighter, and a volunteer answering questions… they have quickly made up information panels… They are doing a good job.

With darkness fast gaining hold I return to my camp site, and build a roaring fire… I sit in relative darkness and watch the stars overhead. I observe my fellow campers… They are a vaired bunch with very different camping styles…

The next morning I awake, throw a couple of logs on the fire, make coffee, bacon, and bake biscuits in a dutch oven… I burn the bottoms a bit, but all is good… While packing I hear a commotion and find that a Kabab squirrel is in the camp… He is hyperactive, quite shy, but I get a couple of photos… I break camp, load up, and am off by 7:30 to explore the neighboring mesa (the one on fire)

There is a 16 mile drive out to the end of the mesa… it passes through areas burned last week… there are hot spots visible from the road… In most areas the fire only burned the underbrush, but there were some areas where it crowned and burned everything.

While out at the point of the mesa I see a California Condor… I get one decent photo.
I leave the Grand Canyon and drive towards Monument Valley and Mexican Hat… The drive takes me along the Vermillion Cliffs, across the Navaho bridge at the head of the Grand Canyon, through Page Arizona, then across the top of the Navaho Reservation before heading north into Utah.

I go to the visitor’s center at the Monument Valley, Navajo Tribal Park… the view is good but the visitor’s center is undergoing construction, and the site was overwhelmed with tourist… The road through the park was bumper to bumper so I skipped it… I have done it before.

Mexican Hat is about 20 miles away, along the San Juan River… It’s typical marginal desert town with 4 or so motels, and the Swinging Stake… Internationally known… I have the 18 oz rib eye… It was great. The town is surrounded by red rock... there are paths down to the river... This town is growing on me.

Now back at the motel… trying to get on line reliably… So far my email web browser and the satellite connection are fighting with each other. With luck I will post this update, but photos may be beyond the connection’s abilities.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

National Parks, 2009

Saturday, August 8, Lee Vining/California

It’s a bit after twilight… the sky blue gray, camp is made… I have a fire going… The Coleman lamp is lit… (an old style two mantle white gas lantern…)
So far the trip has been good. I got away a bit early, just before noon, the drive seemed slower than normal, but I never encountered much traffic.

I did stop in Mantica to check out The Bass Pro Shop… This is much more than a fishing store… it’s a destination… they have a full size redwood tree, a 22,000 gallon bass tank, and a smaller stream with brown trout… native brown trout… I didn’t buy anything, but WOW….

As I headed east I passed though the almond orchards… here and there among the orchards was field corn, standing tall… I got held up following a tomato truck headed for riverbank or Oakdale… Agriculture is alive, and maybe even well in the great valley.

At Oakdale the scenery changes… you start to climb, and the land isn’t flat anymore… Just before Jim-town I turned South west thought Chinese camp, along Don Pedro reservoir and start the serious climb at Moccasin (a power plant and fish hatchery_
I took Old Priest Grade… a road which is 4 miles shorter, but nearly straight up the hill… second gear all the way…

Into Yosemite. It bothered me… too many people… We are loving it to death… I decided I would camp at the first camp site that had room… Tuolumne meadows was full, every camp ground along Lee Vining creek was full…

I checked in the visitor center in Lee Vining… they thought my only option was “dispersed camping” in the national forest, but no fires, not even stoves… I decided to check out the camps ground along the creek again, and found the “secret” camp site in lower Lee Vining creek campground… No 9, no 9, no 9, The post had rotted off or been knocked down, so the marker was high on a tree… I only found it because there was no No. 9… There was a No. 8, and a No. 10, between which was a site with picnic table and bear box, but no post… so now I sit, fire and lantern, steak ready for the grill….

A site found, I take some photos along the shore of Mono Lake… then return to my site, and make a fire, dinner, and enjoy life…

Sunday August 8

I get up, make a fire, make coffee, and break camp… off East…
I stop at the Lee Vining Mobil station for gas… I only need 5 gallons, but you don’t cross the middle of Nevada without a full tank…

East across the bottom of Mono Lake, to Benton Hot Springs, then North on Hwy 6 across Montgomery Pass, also known as Boundary Peak… I explore the ruins of the former motel/whore house at the pass, looking for a narrow gauge boxcar… I find it, but there is not much left… on to Tonopah, and a bit further on, turn on to the Extraterrestrial Highway. (I don’t see any)… then East to Arizona and finally Utah… As I leave Arizona I pass though the Virgin River Gorge. Its a boundary... on one side we are in the Las Vegas desert... on the other we are on the Utah plateau, the mesa and rim rock country. I arrive much earlier than expected, or predicted by Google… I find my hotel (its free, its points, they are nice…)

With an unexpected afternoon, things get really good… I am 23 miles from Zion National Park… after a quick shower (I probably stink… I am 24 hours on the road without a shower…) I head for the park… I have been here before, the first time about 1968, most recently in January 2006.

It’s about 3:00… you can’t drive into the center of the park, you have to park and take a shuttle… and generally the parking lots are full, but not at 3:00 pm… I drive in, show my park pass, park and take the shuttle to the far end of the park… The shuttle thing works… The crowds don’t overwhelm the park…

At the end of the park there is a trail (paved, wheel chair accessible, crowd accessible, but a good trail) along the Virgin River… at the end you meet the Narrows. There is no longer room for a trail, if you want to go further you walk in the stream. I do, carrying a digital camera, not water safe… a few yards in I meet a man with his baby on his back… a camera doesn’t equal a baby… so on I go… a couple of ladies returning give me their walking stick… now all is good in the world.
I make it in a half mile or so until the water gets really deep… I make it out fine… I leave the stick for another hiker…

Zion was not expected… It was spectacular… The trip is shaping up well…
Leaving the park, I find a Mexican restaurant, have dinner and now am sitting in my (free!) motel room writing this post…

More Tuesday


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Road trip, and farewell Kodacrome...

It's early Saturday... The truck is packed. I am off on the road trip... I am traveling alone... looking forward to time by a camp fire.

First over the Sierra's to a camp site near Mono Lake... then a long drive across the desolate and deserted part of Nevada.... to Hurricane Utah, staying in a Motel (showers and internet) then across the northern edge of Arizona to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to camp for the night.

From there it's across the Vermilion Cliffs, through the Navajo Reservation and north back into Utah at Monument Valley... I have a motel in Mexican Hat (Showers and internet again)

Then off to Mesa Verde Colorado... via 4 corners... Two nights camping and hiking among the ruins...

From there I head home, via Arches National Park... I have no idea where I will spend the night there... then Ely Nevada (motel for the last night) then home via Nevada Hy 6 and Yosemite... (its the shortest route)

The whole thing is about 2,300 miles.

This is the country of the John Ford western, complete with John Wayne, stage coaches and most important, some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere. I am carrying three cameras, one digital, two film... I intend to use up my last two rolls of Kodacrome... (after 70 some years Kodak is discontinuing Kodachrome... a victim of the digital age) It seems like an approprate place to say goodbye.

With luck the Monsoon will bring thunder showers, and spectacular clouds.

Bye for now... Randy