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Archive for March, 2012

St. George was a chore day. Thursday, we drove all of 65 miles to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. We discovered this place in 1983. It’s very remote but off-road vehicle enthusiasts discovered it in the 90’s and now it’s very noisy when they’re around. The dunes are along a relatively narrow strip of land, and the BLM has cordoned off half for the dune buggys and half for the hikers. It doesn’t work terribly well, but the BLM tries to satisfy everyone. The small campground tends to be noisy because everyone has their “toys” with them. But the weather is beautiful and after our afternoon jaunt in the dunes, we lounged about, eating potato chips and drinking rum and cola.

Our “jaunt” around the dunes produced a surprise: leftover snow. They had a pretty big snowfall here 5 days ago and the results are lingering. As usual, we found views to interest us; dunes are always interesting, although these have been trampled pretty thoroughly.

On Friday, we planned a little walk in the dunes, but the park brochure mentioned a hike to South Fork Indian Canyon pictographs. We checked with the ranger, who said our Rav4 with 4-wheel drive would probably do fine on the dirt and sand road, but to watch out for the “pin-striping” that junipers and Manzanita can do to the side of cars on the narrow track. The first part of the road was pretty easy, but a left turn moved onto a much narrower track. As usual, just when I was deciding that we had taken the wrong fork (you know me, Diane) we reached the trailhead. The ranger didn’t tell us that we descend 1700 feet in half a mile, but we could handle that. He also didn’t tell us there might be snow on the narrow trail. I timidly scootched my way down the frozen areas, breathing heavily and trying to control the adrenaline rush.

The pictographs were in a large pink and coral-colored grotto.  There always seem to be ones that are different from all of the others we’ve seen. A few of the figures were in sulphur yellow or baby blue. One of the figures looks like a banana slug, but that’s unlikely. Hiking back up wasn’t too bad and we soon were heading back to civilization.

As soon as we had turned back onto the wider part of the road, we faced a camper truck, looking like it was stuck in the road among the trees. One guy was on the roof, pulling up branches so the driver could inch forward. It turned out to be a whole family and they were just about to turn onto the narrow track we had just come from. We convinced them to park the vehicle and walk that part of the track to the trailhead. Had we bumped into them ten minutes later, one of us would have had to back up a long ways to a pullout so one could pass the other. Once past them, we sped on, only stopping long enough to take a movie of Dave riding the bumps in the road, which unfortunately, I can’t upload to this blog.

We took it pretty easy on Saturday, reading and catching up with the blogs. Then we did another foray into the dunes. It was windier, but still enjoyable.

Saturday night we recorded Kill Bill, Parts 1 and 2. Thank you, Don and Janet, for introducing us to a Tarantino tour de force. We’ve also been following Season 1 of Fringe, thanks to Rick and Mary’s loan of the DVD’s. After all, you can’t stare at a campfire every night.

 

 

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The weather has been weird. It was absolutely balmy at the Almond Tree Campground in Coalinga, our first stop on the road. It’s been so warm that the almond trees have already bloomed. If a hard frost hits now, it will destroy the crop, we were told.

Friday was another easy driving day to Calico, a ghost town near Barstow. This time we camped in the Calico campground as opposed to the nearby KOA Kampground. It is windy but the campground fee includes entrance to the Calico Ghost Town, which we took advantage of. The mining town is a fairly extensive conglomeration of original and refurbished buildings. There’s a little railroad tour around the hills, a “mystery spot” building, an old school house and about 10 places to buy food or souvenirs. The gravestones in the cemetery included one that said “I told you I was sick”. A local custom apparently is to leave loose change on top of the gravestones. (Kind of like a wishing well?) One high roller had left a dollar bill under a rock. What’s that about? Maybe you can take it with you.

Will the luck of the Irish work in Vegas? That’s where we landed on St. Patrick’s Day. Our drive to Las Vegas was very windy. The dust that rose was white and looked like wet mist, but wasn’t. It finally started raining a little when we neared Vegas. We went to our remote spot in Red Rock Canyon, a BLM campground with no amenities but great views. On a Saturday, we were lucky to get one of the last campsites. As the wind howled and the temperature dropped, we were even luckier to be in our cozy motorhome, as opposed to the tents that surrounded us. We had some appetizers, accompanied by sips of Glenlivet Whiskey from Dave’s little flask. A good St. Patrick’s Day.

Sunday morning was a pleasure. It was very, very chilly, so we heated up the coffee, cranked up the heater and read in bed while looking out at the lovely Red Rock Canyon mountains. I’m diligently working away at “War and Peace” on my Kindle. It’s not terribly interesting to me except as a novel of manners. It is odd to read about Russia dealing with Napolean Bonaparte. I’m also reading a paperback book and so change back and forth between reading about the old days on new technology and current time using old technology. They both work well.

After buying groceries, we headed northeast to Valley of Fire State Park. What a find this place is. I think it should be a national park. Huge piles of red rock are the main feature, but one area has the best rainbow rocks we’ve ever seen. We loved the place in 2010, but lost all of our photographs when the laptop crashed. We got a great campsite with a wonderful view, but stayed inside, avoiding the wind and the chill.

Today we got a great day, warm in the sun, cool in the shade, and lots of puffy clouds. We headed out to the rainbow rocks area and found our favorite spot. It did not disappoint. When we were ready to move on, a Nevada HP car blocked our way, with its lights flashing. The dark, handsome officer ambled over to us and said “You’ll have to wait a few minutes, folks.”

“What’s happening, officer?” I asked breathlessly, thinking of offering him one my wonderful chocolate chip cookies.

“There’s shooting going on, ma’am.”

“Oh no! Who got shot?”

“A Volkswagen Passat.”

Indeed, several Volkswagens were getting shot…for a commercial. (The new Turbo bug is very cute, Betty!)

After a delay, we proceeded to White Dome and did our first hike of the trip.

We got back to car just in time to avoid a sprinkle. On the way back to camp, we looked for the old, loner bighorn sheep that a ranger had told us about. Apparently more interested in eating than in female companionship, he grazes near the campgrounds where the other sheep will not go. Sure enough, we found him calmly grazing by the side of the road, while cars, vans and buses gathered around him. An unusual sight.

Tuesday was clear and warmer than yesterday. We went on what we thought would be a 2-mile hike to Natural Arch. It went up a wash and we walked and walked and saw lots of windows and arches, but not the one pictured in the hiking guide. Finally, we ate lunch and turned around. On the return trip, we saw what was left of Natural Arch. Nature had done its work, and the arch was no more. We asked a ranger when the formation had fallen, and he said it was before his time. That is one problem with using older hiking guides. After our 4-mile hike, we repaired to the campground, pulled out the chairs and kicked back for a while. Then Dave went to talk to and photograph Jerry, our Lazy Daze neighbor. He has a burgundy, rear kitchen model that goes well with the surrounding rock formations.

We returned to the Rainbow Vista area late in the afternoon, and I was blown away by the colors in the rock. Every time I moved a couple of feet, there was another spectacular display. If I had a lot of money, I would move a chunk of this country into my back yard. Or maybe just build a house here. The light just kept getting better and better. (Can you have a photographic orgasm?)

We returned to camp and enjoyed fajitas with a nice Ravenswood zin. But I had to go out and take one more shot of the rock formation that lit up unusually in the setting sun. At sunset, the window in a pile of rocks transformed them into a resting dragon with a glowing eye.

Later that evening, a clear sky was full of constellations: Orion, the Big Dipper, Casseopeia. We’ve had a great visit here.

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