Category Archives: Hiking

California Fun, Part 3 (the final chapter)

Our final destination in California was Joshua Tree National Park.  We camped at Indian Wells Carefree RV Resort in Indio.  It’s a beautiful RV park that offers a lot of amenities.  Snowbirds come there for the winter. Their rates were exceptionally low, $25!  That is the cheapest we stayed in California.

Since we arrived early in the day, we took a ride to Joshua Tree NP. Twentynine Palms is the closet town to one of the three entrances to Joshua Tree.  It is on the northern side of the park and does have a RV park.  We chose to stay on the southern side of the park, which meant a 45 minute drive to it’s entrance.  Most of it’s trails and sites are in the northern part of the park as well, so it meant a lot of driving for us.

We grabbed a map at the visitor center and talked with the park ranger about places to see.  He recommended a couple of good places to be around sunset. Cottonwood Springs was our first stop.  It is a little oasis you can drive to with a very short hike.  The palm trees looked weird as they had never been trimmed. They were tall with green tops and dead palm fronds hanging to the ground.

Next, we drove to Cholla Catus Garden.  It was amazing!  The area had a large concentration of Jumping Cholla cactus, also known as Teddy Bear Cholla, as far as you could see.  It looked beautiful with them all glistening in the sunlight.  I would like to have walked through the gardens, but there was another area we wanted to get to before sunset.

Skull Rock and Jumbo Rocks are across the street from each other and offer some great sunset shots.  There are trails where you can walk around and over the rocks.  At Jumbo Rocks a couple was having a pre-wedding photo shoot. What a beautiful setting for wedding pictures.  The bride had to be freezing though.  The wind was blowing and the temperature was really dropping as the sun faded.  This area has Joshua trees.  They only grow in the northern part of the park.  The Joshua tree is neither a tree or cactus.  It is in the lilly family and looks like a yucca.

We got to the park early the next day, driving to one of the north entrances to go hiking to Fortynine Palms Oasis.  It was a moderate hike three miles long with an 300′ elevation gain both ways.  The weather was great for hiking – sunny and cool.  As we climbed the ridge the landscape was dotted with barrel catcus.  John stopped me on the trail and pointed out some Bighorn Sheep.  We watched them as they crossed the trail and went up the ridge where they stopped to graze.

Upon reaching the oasis, we saw charred palm trunks caused by an out-of-control campfire.  According to the park’s information, fire can be benficial to the palms by encouraging seed developement and killing off competing plants. However, campfires are illegal.  The oasis are formed from a crack in the Earth’s crust and groundwater rises to the surface.

After our hike, we went into town for lunch and then returned to the park.  We made the ride out to Keys View.  The elevation is over five thousand feet and you can overlook miles of valley, mountains, and desert.  It was very windy and cold. Since we were in shorts and the views were hazy that day, so we did not stay long.

It was much nicer in the lower elevations.  There were still two short hikes I wanted to do, Hidden Valley and Barker Dam.  Hidden Valley is a rock-enclosed valley said to been used by cattle rustlers.  It certainly was a well hidden place for cattle, but I wondered how they managed to get water to them.

Joshua Trees abound in this part of the park.  The landscape was just thick with them and some of them were huge.

Just before sunset we hiked to Barker Dam.  It was built around 1900 to hold water for cattle and mining use.  Sometimes you can see wildlife there, but not during our visit.

We really enjoyed our visit to Joshua Tree NP.  California is a great state to explore with so much to offer.  There was only two highlights for the trip back east after leaving California.  One was a stop in Arizona at Green Valley to visit with John’s brother, Eddie and his wife Judy.  We spent five days there doing some maintenance and repairs on the RV.  While there, we also visited the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area in the Coronado National Forest.  Then our last stop was in NC to visit with my family.  It was a great ending to a wonderful trip.

 

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California Fun, Part One

Not only is California a big state, it is a very scenic state.  We have driven and explored many of it’s highways over the last eight years. There are still some parts that we have not covered.  All the roads we traveled on  have been scenic. There are some states that are just boring to drive through, at least in my eyes, but not California!

Our main goal this trip was to arrive at Half Moon Bay and set up camp for six weeks.  From there we would explore the San Francisco Bay Area and spend a lot of time with our son’s family, who are a mere thirty minute drive away.

There are many areas of California that have captured my heart, but I have to say the coast pulls at my heartstrings.  All of California’s coast is dramatic with it’s towering cliffs and jagged shoreline.  I enjoyed morning walks along coastal trails as well as bike rides with my husband.

We made a day trip to Santa Cruz, stopping along the way to admire the magnificent coast, stopping at Pigeon Point Lighthouse and even walking down to the beaches.  In Santa Cruz they have a boardwalk with shops and carnival rides, which didn’t appeal to us.  We really didn’t see a place to eat that interested us, so we set our sights on the Wharf.  There is parking on it and quite a few restaurants to choose from.  A local had recommended Stagnaro Bros. Restaurant and we were not disappointed with the view, service or food.  I had crab cakes and a cup of clam chowder, both were outstanding.  John had seared tuna on a bed of sea weed that was also outstanding.  It was pricey, but then everything in California is. On the way back to my son’s house, we stopped at one of the many roadside farm stands to buy chocolate covered strawberries.  My granddaughters loved that treat.

We have visited San Francisco before, did a tour there, visited Fisherman Wharf and China Town, so those things were not on our list to do this time.  Alcatraz was though!  It was a very interesting tour.  Did you know that Alcatraz was known to have the best food in our prison system?  They say there was not a successful escape, but five prisoners are listed as missing and presumed drowned.  Al Capone was their most famous prisoner.  The view of San Francisco from their recreational yard must had been a psychological punishment.

We discovered a lovely winery while driving along the scenic Skyland Blvd.  We drove through Thomas Fogarty Winery and Vineyards, but did not have time to do the tour and wine tasting.  I really meant to get back to it on another day.  We have toured Nappa Valley on a previous trip and found it to be delightful.  I enjoy wine and find wineries alluring.  Driving Skland Blvd. allows you fantastic views of the valleys on both sides.

There are lots of hiking trails in the Bay Area, and we took advantage of this a few times.  We hiked a coastal trail, through a redwood trail and even a trail in our son’s neighborhood. There were always nice views and a chance for a little exercise.

We stayed at three campgrounds in Halfmoon Bay.  Half Moon Bay RV Park was the first one, where we spent five nights.  It is behind Cameron’s Pub.  We found it to be quiet and very friendly, but very dusty.  Then we moved to Pelican Point RV Park, just a little outside of town.  We spent four weeks there.  We had a view of a golf course in front and if nobody was camped in the sites to our right, we had a small view of the ocean.  There is a short trail to ocean access and the coastal trail where you can walk, jog or ride bikes.  Reservations for October need to be made in advance.  They really book up on weekends due to beautiful weather, pumpkin farms and a Pumpkin Festival.

After that point, we didn’t have reservations.  We wanted to stay a little longer and to also see how we would like Pillar Point RV Park.  Pillar Point is right on the ocean and is first come first serve.  Sunday and Monday are the best days of getting in.  They also have a website that they update several times a day telling you how many sites are available.  We moved in on a Tuesday to an ocean view site.  I think it helped that we were only 15 minutes away.  You can arrive as early as you want.  We stayed six nights. It is like a big parking lot, with sites that are a little tight, but the view can’t be beat.  You can watch the surfers to the left of the campground and there is a nice beach in front.  Several restaurants are within easy walking distance.  However, they don’t have laundry services.  The biggest drawback to us was the road noise.  There was road noise all the time, but we drowned it out at night with a portable fan.

We left Halfmoon Bay to start our trip home.  More on that in the next blog.

Petroglyph National Monument

Petroglyph National Monument was established as a national monument in 1990, but efforts to protect the petroglyphs began in the 1970’s when it was established as a state park.  It’s history started long before that, about 200,000 years ago, when lava flowed from a crack in the earth.  There were continuing eruptions, which formed cones.  Water eroded the softer sediments on the eastern edge.  What we see now are basalt boulders strewn about a volcanic escarpment

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Some Native Americans believe volcanic landscapes are sacred, and this may be one of the reasons so many petroglyphs (over 20,000 images) are here.  Not all the petroglyphs were made by the Ancestral Puebloans. In the 1700’s or 1800’s, Spanish shepherds may have left their marks of Christian crosses, pictures of livestock and their brands.  Unfortunately, there are also more modern marks made before this landscape was protected.

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Geometric and abstract images are among the oldest petroglyphs in the monument, dating back 2000 to 3000 years ago.

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There are many images of people.

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There are images of animals and plants.

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And if this is not a rocket ship, well then, just what is it?

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Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

According to Wikipedia there are 59 National Parks and 109 National Monuments.  We have been to 32 of the National Parks and 16 of the National Monuments.  I guess that may be considered impressive and that does not include National Recreational Areas.  Most of the National Monuments I have never heard of, including the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, which is 55 miles northeast of Albuquerque.  A friend of mine knew of it and suggested we hike there.

This area was named a national monument in 2001 and includes 4,645 acres of public land.  The words kasha-katuwe mean white rocks.  Rocks found here were formed 7 million years ago when 20 small volcanoes erupted repeatedly. The tent shapes were caused by erosion from wind and water.

They have two trails there, the slot canyon trail and the cave loop trail.  Together they are just over three miles.  All of the hike was scenic, with views of desert flora, cliffs and the tent rock formations.  Hiking through a slot canyon is always interesting with its twists and turns.  There was a steep incline after the slot canyon that led to outstanding views.  If you find yourself in this area, I highly recommend this hike.

Toadstools and River Rafting

Page sits on Arizona’s northern border.  Lake Powell is located in Arizona and Utah, mostly Utah.  In Utah is the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, spanning nearly 1.9 million acres.  We drove Route 89 from Page to Kanab, about a 70 miles stretch.  The Toadstools Trail was our first stop.  This is a scenic trail that is less than a mile long and leads you to the area where the toadstools are.  A toadstool is a spire-like feature with a boulder balanced on top, giving the appearance of a mushroom or toadstool.  On our way back, we could see a thunderstorm was coming our way, so we picked up our speed to get back to the car.  We made it back safely.

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We made one other stop before we reached Kanab.  It was a pretty area and we wanted to walk around it a little.  We were on our way back to the car when the thunder started.  Once again we had to rush back to the car.  Further on down the road we ran into rain.  There is a visitor center in Kanab and we stop to inquire about hikes in the areas.  Unfortunately, they had rain the day before and the hikes took you into canyons where water was still flowing.  They suggested the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.  We went there and I wanted to walk around the dunes, but again, a storm sent us back to our car.  Back to Page we went, but not without hitting rain again and even some hail.  Not a real successful day of hiking.

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The next morning gave us a beautiful sunrise.  John woke me up for this and while I was photographing the sunrise, it began to drizzle.  I turned around and there was a sight to behold.  A beautiful rainbow with our RV right in the middle.

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The Colorado River gently runs by Page.  We did a river raft adventure starting at the Glen Canyon Dam and floating past Horseshoe Bend.  Then they used motors to get us back to the dam.  It was nice gently floating down the Colorado with Glen Canyon towering above us on both sides.  We stopped at a beach down river for a bathroom break and a short hike to see some petroglyphs.  There was nothing exciting about this trip, but it was nice.

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We hiked one afternoon to Horseshoe Bend overlook.  You can get right up to the edge of the cliff to see Horseshoe Bend.  It is a long way down and there are no guard rails. We waited for the sunset hoping that it would be good, but there were too many clouds.  I still got some good shots of Horseshoe Bend though.

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Lake Powell is a beautiful lake.  We didn’t do a rental boat or a boat tour since John and I had spent a week on a houseboat on Lake Powell a number of years ago.  If you get to this area, I would certainly recommend you do that though.  It really is awe-inspiring.

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Our next stop is Albuquerque for the Balloon Festival.

 

 

 

Upper Antelope Canyon

Today was super amazing.  I can’t even begin to describe the beauty I saw today, but the pictures will tell you.  John and I went on a photo tour into three slot canyons.  There were seven of us in our group plus our guide.  We had two of the canyons to ourselves and spent over an hour in each one.  The canyons are located just outside of Page, Arizona and on Navajo Indian land.  The Navajo control who goes in the canyons.  The tour company we went through is the only one that is allowed in Owl Canyon and Rattlesnake Canyon.  There are other tour companies, but they can only go in Antelope Canyon.  More on that later.

Owl Canyon was named for the Horned Owls that nest in there.  We were lucky enough to see them.  I wished I had brought my bigger lens with me, but my 18-200 mm did a fairly good job.  We entered the canyon by climbing down a ladder, even though the canyons are not underground.  We didn’t have to do any other climbing in this canyon.  Owl Canyon was different from the other canyons, as it was wider and more open at the top allowing more light in it.  The other two canyons were very narrow and deep.

Rattlesnake Canyon was next.  I asked Kim, our guide, about the name of the canyon, if I really needed to be careful where I walked.  She laughed, no, it was named that because of all the twists and turns.  There was more climbing in this canyon and tight squeezes as well.  And it was oh so beautiful!  More so than Owl Canyon.  It was so much more striated, curvy and twisty.  I was amazed at each room I entered.  This canyon was more inclosed at the top also, so you didn’t have a lot of bright light to deal with.  A tri-pod was a must.  We were working with time exposure shots that really brought out the detail and colors.  I do not have much experience with that, and Kim was very helpful to me.  And of course, having done this so many times, she knew just where to point the lens for the best shots.  She said this was her favorite slot canyon.  I understood why, I could have stayed in there all day.

One last slot canyon to go, Antelope Canyon.  We were excited to go there because this is the canyon where you get the beams of light.  The light beam only happens certain months of the year, usually to the end of September.  The beam is not as big as earlier in the summer, and there may not be one at all this time of year.  When we arrived, there were so many tour vehicles there, which meant lots of people, well over a hundred.  We joined up with another group from the same tour company. Their guide was Josh, and he knows everything about cameras that there is to know.  He would be helping everyone to get the best shots.  Not only that, he would be doing crowd control.

Josh led us in, told us exactly where to stand and what to shoot at.  He made sure our camera settings were correct and he kept the sand off our lens with his dust blower.  All the other groups were pretty unorganized, just shooting away on automatic settings, with no direction from their guides, except to move on to another room.  I’m glad I did my research before choosing a tour company.  We were going to have artistic shots that would be worthy of framing.

The beam of light did not appear when it was supposed to.  I didn’t feel too disappointed, just lucky to have seen everything I had seen and knowing that I had some beautiful photos.  Then there it was, a skinny stream of light.  Guess what, everyone else had to stay back, while our group had the privilege of photographing it.  The beams only lasted for a few minutes and when it started to fade, Josh took us to the other side of it.  Kim, our guide, stayed to keep everyone else out.  You could still see the beam from that angle, although very faintly.  Josh had a shovel and started throwing sand on it.  It was amazing what the sand did to the beam.  Josh called them money shots, and he was right, they are worthy to be bought.  Not only that, but in another room, he threw sand on one of the ledges and it flowed off like a waterfall.  It made for some beautiful shots as well, and once again, nobody else was allowed in the room with us.

What an experience!  This is high on my list of being one of the best things I have ever done and certainly the high light of this trip.  I’m wondering if the Albuquerque Balloon Festival can top this.  We will see.

 

Page, Arizona

Leaving Sedona turned out to be quite an experience.  John decided it would be best to take the southern route out of Sedona and hit I-17 to travel north.  The other road out of Sedona is 89A and it is a narrow two lane road with hair pin curves and uphill.  Our RV does not go up steep hills well, slowing way down and holding up everyone behind us.  We came into Sedona that way and we saw all the pull offs were barricaded because of damage from flash floods.  I-17 seem to be the best choice, even with its steep upgrade for many miles, at least people would be able to get around us.  To go that way though, you have to go through nine roundabouts.  We didn’t think that would be a problem.  When we stopped for fuel in Flagstaff, we saw that one of our tire straps holding our car on the tow dolly, had come off.  We guessed it was because of the tight curves on the roundabouts.  Our tire rode up on the dolly a bit causing the dolly to get up against the car on turns.  The bottom strip on the car is dented and a big patch of paint is scratched off the door.  The passenger door was damaged by the dolly on a trip to the Florida Keys.  Time to get rid of that dolly.  We just bought this 2011 Honda Accord in May, without a blemish.  It truly brought tears to my eyes.  Oh the joys of RVing.

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The scenery from Flagstaff to Page is superb.  You pass by canyons, rock formations and the painted desert.  I just kept snapping pictures as the scenery flew by me.  Some of the pictures turned out pretty good.

We are camping in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in the Wahweap Campground.  The campground is very nice with all its desert flora, but watch out for the sand spurs.  They have big ones here and they are all over!  We have a great view.

After we got settled into our site, we rode into Page to the visitor center to pick up maps and get some information on hiking and other activities.  When we were approaching the Glen Canyon Dam, we noticed a sign about a guided hike at 5:30.  We decided to do that.  It was a half mile hike through the desert to a hanging garden.   The ranger gave a very informative talk about how this area was formed and about John Wesley Powell’s expedition down the Colorado River in 1869.

We have a Jack Rabbit hanging around our campsite at times.  His long ears help keep him cool.  They are very thin and as blood runs through the vessels the heat is radiated out through his ears.

Tomorrow we are doing a photo tour inside three slot canyons.  We had planned to do one during our travels last year, but due to delays leaving home, we had to scratch Page, Arizona from our itineray.  Not this year.