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Wednesday, March 15

We headed out at our usual time, 10:30. At first I thought we had departed at 9:30, exceedingly early for us. But no, my watch was not set ahead for Daylight Savings time. We had to think about the time because Arizona doesn’t do Daylight Savings. We were going through a corner of Arizona but Kanab is in Utah. That state does do Daylight Savings time. Unimportant to retired people, you’re thinking? Think again.

Kanab, Utah is a nice little town near the Arizona border. It’s convenient to Zion National Park and kind of convenient (30 miles) to the Vermillion Cliffs. The Cliffs are mostly inaccessible to passenger cars. Even our 4-wheel drive Rav doesn’t have real high clearance. If it has been raining, nobody can access it – flash floods are endemic to the area. We’ve never before done anything in the Vermillion Cliffs area. This time, we decided to check out some of it since no rain was forecast.

The big world-wide attraction here is called “The Wave”. It’s a spectacular sandstone formation and everyone wants to see it. Back in 1997, the BLM decided to limit the number of people who can see it to 20 per day. Ten people can attempt to reserve online and you can guess how fast those spots go. The other 10 spots are offered by lottery out of the Visitor’s Center in Kanab each day. Each group (up to 6 people) fills out an application between 8:30 and 9:00 and the lottery is at 9. If you win the lottery, you get a permit for the day and can hike out to The Wave. We decided to give it a try.

We checked into the rustic Hitch N Post, a nice Mom-and-Pop-run place about a 3-minute drive from the Visitor Center. We were careful to set all our watches and clocks to Daylight Savings time before we went to bed that night.

Thursday, March 16

The next morning we started to prepare for our hike that day on Cottonwood Road. At 8:15, we heated up our coffee and went over to the Visitors Center. We were surprised: it wasn’t very crowded. When we went up to the desk to ask about the lottery, we were told it had happened already at 9:00.

“Did you come from Arizona last night?” the guy asked.

“No, we came from Nevada and we reset our clocks for Daylight Savings time.”

“Hmmmm.” He was stumped.

We finally figured out the problem. Nevada is on Pacific time. Utah is on Mountain time. Usually the maps we use indicate the change but not the one I used to come from Nevada. Darn! We hadn’t noted the time zone change.

We returned to the rig and finished packing for a long day on the road and trail. It was already hot (high 70’s) and we might have to do some wading on the trail. We didn’t realize that Cottonwood Road was 45 miles from Kanab, but it’s a very pretty drive. Then it was 14 miles down a dirt road but it was in pretty good shape. The first thing we saw was longhorn cattle. It looks weird to see a cow with long horns chewing away on her cud.

The scenery was nice but the light wasn’t great. Oh well. As the hills got more color, the telephone wires began to get in the way. Oh well.

We finally reached our point of debarkation. I was a little apprehensive. The trail description included wading through Cottonwood Wash, then climbing a 45-degree incline. Total elevation gain was over 1,000 feet. Dave led the way through the brush and we found Cottonwood Wash was only an inch or so deep. Then we reached the foot of the canyon mouth and looked up. I wasn’t sure how steep a 45-degree incline was. Now I know. It’s really steep! We finally reached a saddle with some nice views, then climbed a little more.

I was surprised at how fast and often I lost my breath. I’m not sure what the altitude was but this was certainly the most strenuous hike thus far on our trip. But when we caught sight of the Yellow Rock area, I was glad I had come. Although the sun was high, the light was good.

We struck out cross country for a half-mile or so, trying to avoid the small prickly pear cacti that were all around and finally reached the bottom of Yellow Rock. Although we were stopping to photograph, I was having to sit down every 10 minutes or so to catch my breath. (And it wasn’t due to the breathtaking scenery!) Dave had scrambled up to the top and was doing his own thing.

I was thinking about stopping my ascent up the hill and started heading parallel towards the north. A huge amphitheater started coming into view so I continued on.

And then, POW!!!! This stunning, multi-colored mountain appeared. Yellows, apricots, oranges and a lot of colors in between.

After a while Dave joined me and due to strong wind gusts, lost his hat. Luckily, it didn’t roll too far and he retrieved it.

We started our descent and soon I was looking down doubtfully at a quarter-mile of downhill. I hate going down steep, gravelly paths. Having no jetpack, I followed Dave down, sidestepping all the way, using my hiking poles to great advantage. My knees got shaky about halfway down but I finally made it. I was bushed! I dragged along behind Dave back to the car.

What a pleasure to change out of my steamy boots into flip flops. What a pleasure to shed the sweaty hiking pants for shorts. What a pleasure to turn on the air conditioning in the car. We still had a 60-mile drive back to Kanab. I was grateful that Dave did it. We had planned ahead to go out for dinner to Escobar’s, a little family-run, Mexican place. Unfortunately, they didn’t serve Margaritas, but Dave had a beer and I had a frosty root beer along with our large plates of comfort food.

Friday, March 17

After our exertions on Thursday, we had a down, down day on Friday. But, we did go back to the Visitor’s Center to join the lottery. This time we were timely and filled out the application along with 149 others. We were number 16. I was hoping for 17 since it was St. Patrick’s Day, but neither 16 nor 17 were drawn. Only 3 permits were issued for a party of 3, a party of 4, and a party of 4 who were going to have to leave someone out. That was it.

A note of amusement: On our first day in Kanab, Dave had noticed a police car sitting by the side of the highway and automatically slowed down. The next couple of times we drove by, the police car was always there. We guessed that’s all he had to do in this quiet Mormon town. As we drove slowly by, Dave noticed that the policeman was a dummy – literally. I brought it up to one of guys at the Visitor Center and he laughed and said “Yeah, he’s been there a while. The car used to have a bumper sticker on it that said “I love plastic donuts”.” When we stopped to look closer, we found the dummy had a little Hitler mustache.

We sat around all day, catching up with the blogs, reading and coloring. Yes, I’ve started coloring. It’s a great mindless pastime that won’t give me carpal tunnel syndrome like computer games can do. It’s very calming and I hardly ever swear while doing it.

I started checking out all the memorabilia around the RV park. All collected from the desert: rocks, petrified wood, bottles, animal skulls, rusted tools, an Army pot-bellied stove and several old washing machines. I loved the fact that this one is a Maytag. If fixed up, it would probably work just fine.

 

 

Saturday, March 11

We sailed out of Death Valley on Saturday and spent a busy day in Pahrump, Nevada. We checked into a very pleasant rv park run by Best Western. Lots of palm trees and close to our shopping needs. I did 4 loads of laundry; Dave got 2 new tires installed on the RAV4. When he got back, I did two hours of grocery shopping, I really loaded up on wine. Not only is it cheaper in Nevada, it also is found in the supermarkets. In Utah, you still have to go to a separate “Package Store” for liquor, the selection is usually lousy, and it is expensive. Except for the separate store, the same is true for vegetables.

I came home with about 15 bags of groceries, made dinner and had a very pleasant evening. I relish the balmy warmth after the sun has descended. The moon was full (I think) and I eventually hauled myself outside to try a few shots. Several of our neighbors decorate their rigs so I took a few shots of that too.

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Sunday, March 12

On Sunday, before we left, I sought out the rv park “library”. Almost every rv resort has a “take one-leave one” area. Over the 37 years that I’ve been camping, the selection has declined in numbers and variation. This large park with many semi-permanent tenants had one table. There were about 10 by James Patterson and a somewhat varied selection of other stuff. Nothing I was interested in.

We were headed for the Valley of Fire State Park, about 50 miles north of Las Vegas. Vegas is so huge now and traffic is always busy. It’s difficult to navigate the LD and toad onto and off of  crowded freeways. I routed us through the southern part of town and then north through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, thus avoiding the central freeways.

Our America the Beautiful Senior card saved us another $20 entrance fee (good for 7 days). The road north was great: well-paved, winding through hills and mountains. There’s a fair amount of desert greenery and mountains of varying height, color and composition.

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We eventually reached Valley of Fire and found that both campgrounds were full. I had forgotten how popular the park is. We ended up 25 miles southeast at Echo Bay by the waters of Lake Mead. That’s not exactly true. We were in a nice, quiet little campground that was more than a mile from the water because the water has receded so far due to protracted drought. For the first time this trip, we ate dinner outside, then enjoyed watching the stars come out.

Monday, March 13

Early again? Oh, yes. We arose early and headed 25 miles up to Valley of Fire. We were there for two things. The first was the Rainbow Vista. The colors in the rocks here are insane. I especially like the grape lines lined up on the rock.

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After a while, we got back in the car, turned up the air conditioning and went to walk the 1.25-mile White Dome Trail. It’s short, but very, very sweet. So many different rock formations. We met a nice lady called Linda and exchanged life stories in ten minutes or so.

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Tuesday, March 14

The next day was hot once again. We lazed around until mid-afternoon, then took off to explore Northshore Road, running north-south alongside Lake Mead. Only Lake Mead is rarely visible from the road. Redstone is a picnic area about 25 miles south of where we are camping. It’s quite beautiful, with deep red rock. We attempted a walk but cut it short with the sun blazing down. Some other time, I guess.

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There were some lovely, soft-color scenes as we traversed the landscape.

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And not so soft.

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As always, I found some flowers.

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We departed Stovepipe Wells on Tuesday and drove 33 miles to Furnace Creek. The nice hookup campground was full so we ended up at Sunset CG, a gravel-pit. After settling in, we headed up to see the Pupfish, tiny little critters that inhabit Salt Creek. After all the rains here, they were all over the creek, looking for a little fun.

We had a boring drive through the dull Mustard Canyon and went home to see a spectacular sunset.

The next morning, we got up early. (Again!) Dave started to load the Rav, came in and told me “We’re dead in the water.” “Huh?” “We have a flat tire.” Apparently our little detour through Mustard Canyon had inserted a shard of something into the tire. My intrepid husband put on the spare and drove about a 100 yards to the only gas station in Furnace Creek. As luck would have it, the garage man at the gas station lived in Pahrump and if Dave ordered a new tire from there, he could pick it up and deliver it to Death Valley for us on Thursday. That’s service! So a half hour after Dave returned, we drove the 6 miles to Golden Canyon and were on the trail by 8:15, early enough to still have some shade.

Golden Canyon is our favorite hike in Death Valley. The soft golden shades are beautiful, there’s not too much going up, there’s lot of little side canyons to explore and you can loop around to Zabriskie Point or Gower Gulch.

The varieties of shape, color and consistency are mind boggling. How did all this stuff arrive at one location? (Could it be wind and water?)

As you wind your way up the canyon, eventually, a turn reveals the Red Cathedral, a radically different rock formation.

After that, as Dave puts it, we reach “Georgia O’Keeffe country”. The trail starts to rise and you look down at hills that are melty amalgams of beige, butter, tan, cinnamon, sepia and all their color cousins. I could photograph this stuff forever.

As an added bonus, you are high enough to have a line of sight to Death Valley’s floor.

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After a bit of a sit, we started down the other side.

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Our big decision was to go up to Zabriskie Point and return down Golden Canyon or make a loop out of Gower Gulch. We had tried Gower several years ago and were not impressed. But I thought we should try it again. And it was good. The light was good, it wasn’t super-hot and we weren’t too tired. There were colorful rock formations. So stuff looked good. It was fun.

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We were supposed to get our new tires on Thursday, but the service station guy had a really sore tooth and called in sick. He was going to pick them up in Pahrump, Nevada, where he lived and bring them to Furnace Creek. So no tires for us. We languished around the morning and early afternoon and then headed for a sunset at Dante’s View. At 5,000 feet altitude, Dante’s is a welcome refresher on a hot day.

Zabriskie Point is on the way to Dante’s and we made our obligatory stop there. We have spent several hours there before, but the heat defeated us and we took a few shots and got back in the air-conditioned Rav.

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It’s about 20 miles further to the Dante’s View. No flowers – a little disappointing. But we started winding our way up and arrived at the view around 5:30. Alas, the clouds weren’t that thick but the great light and color just wasn’t there. We stuck around until 6:30 and then headed back. The dusk critter count crossing the road: 1 vole, 2 moths and 1 jackrabbit. But the night was young – we were going to get a Death Valley pizza!

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Dave had a beer and I had a pretty insipid cocktail while we waited for the pizza. Then we took it home and enjoyed it. The crust was tough to cut through but the pepperoni was plentiful and the mushrooms were meaty. Afterwards, we finished our wine outside, identifying the Big Dipper and Orion. A nice evening.

We decided to check out Ashford Mill, about 35 miles south of Furnace Creek., so we got up early. Our critters of the day: two roadrunners in camp. One of them looked like it was begging – approaching very close to a guy in the next camp over. We hit the road about 8 a.m. and it was quite pleasant, with clouded skies.

A little before we reached Badwater, the lowest point in the United States, we saw something stalled in the middle of salt pan. Binoculars revealed either a van or a boat. We continued to Badwater and started walking out onto the salt pan.

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We saw someone walking towards the vehicle and decided to follow. About 15 minutes later, we found a Chevy van, deeply sunk in the muck. It’s tracks looked like the debacle was fairly recent. The hula doll in the windsheild hadn’t provided luck. Dave and I debated: had the guy got drunk and decided to camp out there? The next day, when he couldn’t drive away, did he walk back to the road and hitch a ride, saying he had car trouble? Did he call AAA? We’ll never know.

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As we started to walk back, there were two groups of people heading our way. Once people see someone else go somewhere, they will follow. (Well, so did we.) Although Dave lent me his ballcap, I had a slight sunburn from the sun reflecting off the salt by the time we got back to the car.

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As we headed south, we noticed the Creosote bushes were in bloom. So we stopped to photograph them. Further south, we found a small marsh with crickets singing away. The greenery lined up next to the road revealed some small wildflowers. If you look close, you will see.

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We finally reach Ashford Mill, a long-abandoned business.

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In 2010, we had experienced an exquisite bloom there, but it was too early or perhaps the bloom just wasn’t going to be great this year. I found one sand verbena blooming and Dave found 3 desert gold plants. Oh well, it was nice anyway.

We went back, knowing that we would get the new tires installed in Pahrump, and settled down for a slightly sweaty afternoon at the rig. Tomorrow, on to Nevada.

 

 

 

On Friday, around 3:30, we gathered our stuff and drove a mile up to Mosaic Canyon. The canyon has been through a few floods since last we were there and rock that I call “Angel fat” because it usually looks rounded and golden-white, was grubby and broken. But the walk still starts with a few dramatic narrow twists before the wash broadens out. Usually, we go maybe half a mile before it gets too hot and we turn back. But it wasn’t too hot, so we continued slogging through the gravel wash and saw some nicely colored formations.

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Back at the parking lot, our parting gift was the final glow of sun on the nearby golden rock formations.

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Sunset, later that night.

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Dave found a hike we had never done, so on Saturday, we loaded up the Rav and drove 30 miles over the Panamint Mountains to the tiny hamlet of Panamint Springs. The valley we crossed before reaching the town still had some water from the February rains and the clouds were wonderful.

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We eventually found the bumpy, unpaved road to Darwin Falls. Two miles later, we were at the trailhead. It’s about a mile to the falls but the trail is easy to follow because a narrow water pipeline accompanies it all the way. I’m pretty sure the water this pipe conveys is how the town survives.

Halfway to the falls, a small stream appears. It is wonderful to see water in such a dry area. After a few stream crossings and rock scrambling, we made it to the tiny clearing in front of the impressive Darwin Falls.

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I was anxious to get back to Panamint Springs because I had seen a sign offering ice cream and milk shakes. Alas, the ice cream was anemic Blue Bunny bars and the milk shake machine “…wasn’t working too good.” The wind was picking up as we started the drive back and the alkali was flying.

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The Sunday weather wasn’t looking too good – high winds that meant flying sand and dust. We decided to hike into the west end of Titus Canyon, a lovely place that we couldn’t drive through because of winter road repairs. Dave thought that the wind might not be so bad in the tight twists of the narrow gorge. Going to Titus meant driving past the Mesquite Sand Dunes. The winds were already “picking up”.

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The wind was blowing pretty good when we entered Titus Canyon. I was experienced in the way of wearing contact lenses – I didn’t. I wore my ancient prescription granny glasses that always make my stomach churn when I move my head – peripheral vision is really different with glasses. Usually, we hike Titus on a hot afternoon; this time, a cool breeze made the walk a pleasure. For a while.

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The magic of Titus Canyon always entrances me. On my first photographic workshop in 1979 (thank you, Stephan Johnson), I got to ride through Titus on the wooden platform that George Ward (rest his soul) had built on the roof of his camper. Seeing the glowing silver and apricot colors of the rock was awe-inspiring.

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As we wandered along, gusts of wind increased in frequency, duration and intensity. It was unusual and kind of fun. For a while. Pretty soon, the view in front of us became hazy from all the particulate matter in the air.

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We decided to find a sheltered space for lunch, then head out of the canyon. Being removed from the wind let us hear it roaring as it approached. As we started back, sometimes the wind was in our face; sometimes at our back. Sand and small gravel started to sting us. I had to tuck my shirt collar under my backpack straps because it was snapping against me. Occasionally, the gusts got so strong I had to hold Dave’s hand to keep my balance. We think they were somewhere around 30 or 40 mph, but maybe more. I have never experienced winds like that before.

We got back to the car and watched sand fly as we had our coffee and the last of my chocolate chip cookies. The trip home was pretty much like the trip out – windy with low visibility.

We were horrified when we got back to the rig. Worried about how hot it would be inside when we returned, we had left a couple of vents cracked open and the kitchen and bathroom windows open. BIG, BIG mistake! The wind had come in the opposite direction from what we expected. There was sand everywhere. So we got to clean house for the next two hours and clean house some more the next day. We won’t do that again.

Monday was our final attempt at the dunes. Once again, we rose before dawn and this time walked further east to different sand piles. I was somewhat disappointed – I didn’t seem to find a good vantage spot for sunrise. But when I looked at images later, I liked some of the results.

Finally, the sun hit the dunes around 7:50 a.m.

By 8:10, the wind was blowing pretty good. Photography became difficult. We moved off the dune crests. Blowing sand softened all the images.

So what to do if you can’t shoot far? Shoot near.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a perfect drive to Death Valley. The weather was balmy and there was very little wind. As we rose up the Tehachapi Mountains, we got behind a camper with its back door open and bouncing around. Luckily, his screen door stayed closed. I tried to wave at him to give him a warning as we passed, but the old dude had his eyes glued to the road.

Once we were down the other side of the hill, we were glad to be back in the desert. Dave found a spot he wanted to stop at and I managed to pull off the road. Someone created killer rocks in the middle of nowhere.

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Soon the snow-capped Sierra  Nevada peaks were peeking out over lower mountains. We separated the Rav4 from the Lazy Daze when the 4,000+ foot rise to Towne Pass was ahead of us. Driving it after the Lazy Daze was like floating on a feather. We reached the pass and coasted down 4,000 feet to Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley.

After selecting our patch of gravel, we set out the chairs, changed into shorts and sandals, and enjoyed sweet Envy apples with blue cheese and Cuba Libres. We’re back in the high life again!

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The stars were very good that night, but the moon is waxing so we’ll get fewer stars and more moon as the week goes on. Maybe a moonlight walk in the dunes is called for.

On Friday, we woke up early to the dulcet tones of Dave’s iPhone alarm. The inside of the LD was 58 degrees at 5:15 a.m., pretty warm, considering. We chomped down a Clif Bar and headed for the dunes before sunrise. The up-and-down half-mile walk to the larger dunes got us out of breath but we reached them before the sun was up. When the sun reached them, the Cottonwood Mountains to the west turned an intense shade of red and bits and pieces of the dunes started to light up. And it’s quiet, so quiet.

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Dave wanders around somewhat, but I pretty much stay put and just keep looking. It’s amazing what attention allows you to see. Patterns, subtle tones and shadings, odd little things.

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Planes often fly over Death Valley and I ignored the sound of a nearby plane. When I looked up, a black Stealth bomber accompanied by a gleaming white plane was right overhead. It was unphotographable, in front of the sun, before I could get my camera off the tripod. The same thing happened to Dave but he got a decent shot. It’s an amazing sight.

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After 90 minutes or so, the sun was pretty high and the shadows were getting harsh. We sat on top of a dune and contemplated the view for a while, then trudged back to the car. After returning from the dunes, I started the bacon and eggs and we had a relaxed breakfast. We hung around, showering, reading, looking at the dune images and enjoying the ambiance of our uncrowded gravel campground.

After a lot of loading over the weekend, we settled down on Sunday night to eat appetizers and watch the Academy Awards. I have a good new recipe for mini BLT’s served in baked Wonton wrappers. Also, a red bell pepper-cheddar dip. Also, salad mix wrapped in Prosciutto. So actually, pretty healthy. The awards were pretty good, though the end was certainly a mess.

Monday was a short driving day to our friends in Merced. Jeff and Betty Denno are always fun to spend time with. In the past, they have taken us out to find vernal pools, small bodies of water that only appear after lots of rain and maintain concentric circles of wildflowers while they gradually evaporate. There were lots of pools from all the rain this year in the Central Valley, but the wildflowers haven’t popped up yet. But the almond groves are still in bloom and the hills are a vibrant green. Wonderful to see after so many years of drought in California.

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I managed to spot the white head of a bald eagle and only realized later that there was a second one hidden in the branches of the distant tree. That was really neat.

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Our close friends, Mary Prendiville and Rick Lopez arrived later in the evening and the six of us enjoyed a rare night together. Mac, the Denno’s 17-year-old Cockatiel, contributed to the festivities, ringing his favorite bell and squawking.

After a long, luxurious breakfast the next day, we departed for Fresno, 40 miles south. Fresno sponsors The Blossom Trail, a fairly long circuit going through many nut and fruit orchards when they are in bloom. We took off around 3 p.m. when the light was getting lower. Having listened to the knowledgeable Jeff and Betty, we knew our almonds from our walnut trees. We determined orange trees by the oranges rolling around under them. We found large orchards with all their trees shrouded in netting. To keep out pests? They looked very mysterious.

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The backdrop for many images was the hazy, pale green hills in the distance. Behind them were the snow-capped Sierra. We had a good time, then drove west, into the sun to return home to our very unimpressive RV park in Fresno.

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The next day I called down to Carrizo Plain to see if they had wildflowers yet. Nope. So we lazed around and then Dave drove the rig 100 miles down the road to Bakersfield, where we often stock up before going to Death Valley. The smell: not very good. The visibility: abysmal. The town’s value is convenience. Tomorrow we’re out of here!

We took off for Bend on Wednesday. I thought we would have no trouble getting into Tumalo State Park, but we got one of the last two spaces. The problem was that they had closed everything but Loop B. There aren’t very many spaces in Loop B. The two spaces were both nonelectric. I set us up for the following 4 days by going online. Now all we had to do was get used to no electric hookups. Our generator was not happy; it wouldn’t turn over until we turned the engine on. We hadn’t been nonelectric for quite a while.

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The weather report wasn’t very good news for us. The weather was going to be iffy the whole time we were in Bend. On Thursday, we sat around during the morning and took off for Newberry Volcanic park in the afternoon. Would it clear up? No! Would we get to visit the Visitor’s Center? No, it was closed for winter! Would we be able to walk the Big Obsidian Flow Trail? Although it was 7,000 feet and snowy, yes, we could. We put on our boots and ventured up the steep stairs. We didn’t get much further, but we did the best we could.

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The sunrise was red light on the clouds on Friday and moments of light here and there. I am quite tired of clouds. We are not motivated to go out when it’s so dreary. But we did have to take the LD into town to dump and then I did some grocery shopping at an Albertson’s, that as the cashier said “Looks like Albertson’s on the outside and Safeway on the inside.” One fewer choice in the number of supermarkets available.

To cheer ourselves up, we went to Spork for dinner, a recommendation that Jim and Gayle Cummings made on their last trip to Bend. It’s a small restaurant that was very busy when we walked in. You order your food up front and then it’s up to you to find a table. We thought about leaving but I’m really glad we didn’t. I ordered the Carnitas Sango and Dave had the Korean Shortribs. They have many inventive cocktails and I had a Pakarang – a concoction with Tequila, Pineapple, Basil, Benedictine and more! It was so small, I had to have another. The food came quickly and it was delicious. There’s a fried egg in every dish which seems a little odd, but that sandwich was memorable!

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Mountains and Trails in the Willamette

Saturday was supposed to be the best day, weatherwise, of our stay in Bend. We decided to head for the hills no matter what. It was chilly, but we loaded up the Rav with half of the Lazy Daze and headed to the McKenzie-Santiam Pass Loop. A few miles north of the campground, we stopped at a mountain viewpoint and got our first glimpse of the mountains since we drove in on Wednesday.

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After traveling through some miles of thin forest, we rose to lava country.

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Dee Wright Observatory is a totally weird construction from lava, done by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. Even the stairs up there are made from lava. It is not advisable to fall down in this building. Part of the steep path was still iced and very slippery.

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After driving a bit further, we found a couple of ponds with thin ice breaking up on them, one of our favorite things to photograph.

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Next stop, Proxy Falls Trail, a very popular place. We descended into the Willamette forest we recognized from earlier in the trip. Lush vegetation: moss in the trees and on every rock and vine Maple all over. One difference was that many of the leaves had fallen and recent rains had left them wet. No crunching through the fallen leaves. The first mile of the 1.6-mile loop took us more than an hour.

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We were amazed when we got to the falls. They were so much more voluminous than we remembered. But we also remembered the other issue: there was really only one good viewpoint to capture the falls. We did scramble our way down to the lower falls but still didn’t get an unimpeded view.

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We backtracked to the trail and went to see the upper Proxy Falls. Unimpressive. The end of the loop was short and not too photogenic.

Twenty minutes of driving brought us to our last stop of the day – Sahalie Falls. It was booming! An incredible amount of water was sluicing over the brink. I overheard someone saying that the smaller falls on the right weren’t there a week ago. I guess all the rain made a huge difference. There is only one unimpeded view of the falls so we dutifully made our images and headed down the trail that runs alongside the McKenzie River.

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The rapid river was a lot of fun. I saw one guy skirting along the edge in bare feet. Not too smart. Had he fallen in he would have gone over the next falls downstream.

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About a quarter-mile down the trail, we reach Koosah Falls. Nice but we couldn’t get a good shot of them without a lot of trees.

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Once again, we drove home, tired but exhilarated. It was a good day.

Last Days of the Trip

We began the serious driving-home part of the trip. Three days, 465 miles to reach Auburn, where we saw Steve and Ellen’s new home. Day One was very windy and included periods of heavy rain. Day Two was the same. We drove right by Mount Shasta and never saw one bit of it.

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Day Three was beautiful and sunny. We were heading south from Red Bluff to Auburn on roads with which we were unfamiliar. The Garmin had us make a turn onto Woodruff Road and immediately we were driving on a beat up road with flooded fields on both sides of us. It had to be a mistake, but it was too narrow to make a U-turn. We made a hard left and suddenly we saw hundreds of geese floating on whatever body of water we were traversing. It was amazing!

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Eventually, we ended up on Highway 49 and realized the Garmin had provided us with a good route to Steve and Ellen’s place. But what a weird shortcut! We arrived at their home around 2:30 and it was a glorious, balmy day. It was hard to believe it had been raining for most of a week. After checking out their beautiful home, they made a great dinner of halibut accompanied by Greek Shrimp, Farro and Greens with Feta. Yum! We also became reaquainted with Jackson, the largest Golden Retriever I have ever met. He’s a sweet boy when he’s not tearing his toy shark to pieces.

The next morning, after showering in a shower that is bigger than our entire LD bathroom, we went out to breakfast at Katrina’s, and ate enough to not need lunch and maybe not dinner either. Then we farewelled our hosts and took off for the Auburn County Fairgrounds only ten miles away. As if Wednesday had never happened, it was misting to sprinkling once again.

A week ago, I had made the reservation for the one spot at the Fairgrounds with 50-amp power, water and a dump. All we had to do was dump the black and gray tanks and clean up for the trip home. When we reached the Fairgrounds, the office was closed for lunch and there was a trailer sitting in our space. So we bided our time until someone opened the office and she found a space for us with electricity. No water or sewer, but we can go to another area on the grounds tomorrow to dump. Whew! We weren’t looking forward to finding somewhere else to stay.

After rain all night, I was concerned about the drive home but it cleared up except for very light showers and there was no almost no standing water on I-80. The splashes made by passing semis can blind you when there’s a lot of water on the roadbed. We reached home around 1:30 and were happy to see our home after two months away.