Thursday, May 31, 2012

North Rim Grand Canyon to Page AZ

Thursday, May 31, 2012 -

We were warm enough during the night but it gets light very early here – I think the sun came up at 5:15 or some awful hour….we were both awake at 6:00 and having gone to bed about 9:30 or 10:30 – going back and forth between AZ and UT that are on different times I am really not sure. Anyway we got up, made coffee and decided to drive the 30+ miles to Jacob’s Lake and have breakfast. It was 39 when we got up and the sun was shining brightly – the skies are so very blue. So we got a few photos in the early morning light and were at Jacob’s Lake for breakfast about 7.  They have a bakery and restaurant and gas station and gift shop and motel with cabins. We had stayed there before and remembered they served a good breakfast. We remembered right!
Camp De Motte
Deer near our campsite
 Then we began our drive east to Page. The journey of less than 100 miles took us all morning because we stopped so much. We were traveling on AZ 89A – and if ever in this area take this road. In the early morning with the sun shining on the Vermillion Cliffs –there simply are not words to describe the beauty that we witnessed for probably 60 miles.  We stopped a few times to read markers, take photos, and for Ben to collect rocks. We have been many interesting places and seen many wonderful and scenic sites but for me today is probably the most beautiful.  Of course I LOVE the red rock areas. These need some work to deepen the color but I do not have it in me tonight!

Vermillion Cliffs

Ben Collecting Red Sandstone
Jane near Lees Ferry
When we arrived at Lee’s Ferry we stopped for a short walk to the home of the ferry manager in the early 1900’s. They have a fruit orchard and the apricots were ripe and everyone was invited to pick a few. Even Ben (who hates apricots) said oh this is good tastes nothing like a canned apricot! We drove down to the area where all the Colorado rafting trips get their start. There was a group there – looked like 2 rafts for the riders and 3 much larger ones for the supplies. The traffic on the river is highly regulated by the Park Service. Individuals who want to go on their own have a year or more wait for a permit. The outfitters handle most of the traffic. This group looked like they were about ready to leave. As we were getting back on the highway about 20 minutes later it looked like another group was arriving by van and bus. They various trips take from 3-18 days depending on type of boat and distance.  There are few places to access the Colorado besides here. The river looks so peaceful here but not so on up the way.

Lees Ferry
Ripe Apricots at Lees Ferry
From Lee’s Ferry we visited Navajo Bridge and saw some of the rafters heading down the river.
As we climbed the last mountain to head into Page we were stopped for 5 minutes for road construction. The roadman told us it was their yearly clean-up of the rocks that fall down on the right-of-way along the road…no one could have asked for a more beautiful view for road construction!

Page was a surprise – we both remembered it as not much of a town – remembered staying an OK motel and eating at an OK restaurant. The place has really blossomed. There were lots of new modern motels and hotels and all that goes with them. We drove on a couple miles north of Page to Wahweap Resort and Marina on Lake Powell. This is quite a place. Huge resort hotel with restaurants, boat tours, gift shops etc.  In the marina are more house and pleasure boats than we have seen in a long time – and I mean BIG houseboats! Adjacent is a very nice campground with all the amenities. The one thing that is strange is you pay $2 for a shower. Interesting that a shower is $2 and a load of laundry is only $1.  Guess they think there are more dirty people than dirty clothes.  Nice bathroom right across from our campsite but for the shower it is down about ¼ mile to the store/office/shower and laundromat.  There are probably 300 sites in this campground. Largest one we have been in this trip. And it seems to be filling up as I write this about 7:30.  So it will probably be full for the weekend. 

Since we will be here until Saturday and it is HOT and there is little shade – we pulled out beach tent out and let a little Florida sand mingle with the red Arizona sand….we had not put this up since our last beach trip to the Keys.  It fits over the picnic table and gives a little shade. It was in the mid 90’s when we arrived but now it is 85 and very pleasant. With low humidity the 85 is very comfortable. The sun is setting now at 7:40. We expect the temperature to be down to 70 by bedtime. I really would like to take a good sunset photo.  The colors are good but there is just not a good vantage point.
Our Campsite at Wahweep
View of Lake Powell from Campsite
We spent a lazy afternoon in the shade reading, downloading 2 days of photos, posting yesterday’s blog and also a lot of nothing…we are on vacation after all!

About 4:30 we headed into town for some necessities and bought some cold deli food for supper – just did not want anything hot!  We also stopped at the tour desk to check on our tour for tomorrow morning. It leaves at 7:30 so we will be getting up early again tomorrow. 

The park has telescopes set up and when it gets dark will be looking at stars. Our campsite is on a hillside elevated just enough we have a great view of Lake Powell. Lake Powell was formed when Glen Canyon Dam was built between 1956 and 1966 to provide electricity and regulate the water along the Colorado.  Much controversy still exists over the changes the dam caused in the lower Colorado.

Kanab UT to North Rim Grand Canyon

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

We had a relaxing breakfast and spent about 45 minutes spending $500!  We made reservations for two nights camping at Wahweap Marina on Lake Powell near Page AZ;  a boat ride tour to Rainbow Bridge National Monument (50 miles by boat); and a hummer tour to the slot canyons near Page.  We have made few reservations and taken few tours but these were on our bucket list and the only way to see both is to take the tours. Well – you can hike to Rainbow Bridge over desert about 10 miles but the ride on Lake Powell should be pretty great itself.  The tours to the slot canyons are on Navaho land and can only be taken with guides.
The next few days arranged we headed towards the Grand Canyon. This will be our 3rd visit to the Grand Canyon. We visited the North Rim in 2000 and stayed in a cabin at Jacob Lake. This time we hope to stay at the campground in the park and if not there at a Forest Service Campground 8 miles back from the rim.  There are no reservations available and only 6 walk-up sites in the park – so chances are good we will be at the Forest Service Campground. 

The red rock continued for a few miles until we began climbing up the Kabib Plateau and wow what a view behind us – you could see forever.  I believe Kanab was about 4,000 ft elevation and we were climbing to nearly 9,000 at the North Rim.  The forest is various types of fir and pine interspersed with aspen. We were here before in October and the aspen were golden. The contrast with the dark green of the evergreens was breathtaking. The aspen now are just leafing out in a brilliant light green. The contrast while not quite as breathtaking as the golden was still quite beautiful. 
The contrast of Aspen and Evergreens
 At Jacob Lake you begin the 24+ mile journey south to the rim of the canyon. About half way the forest gives way to huge meadows edged with the evergreens and aspens. These meadows are peaceful and beautiful.  Then suddenly you come to the picnic areas, the cottages, the lodge, and then the canyon.  It is just as inspiring the 3rd time as the first.  While the canyon is beautiful from the south rim – the contrast of the beautiful green high meadows with the rainbow colors of the canyon is our favorite.

We parked, played tourist on the huge sun porch of the Lodge and viewed the canyon and those viewing it…an entire bus load of Chinese women arrived shortly after us and watching them was interesting.  Took a few photos but it is very sunny at noon so much too hard to take good photos of the canyon. We walked around the public areas of the lodge – they were making reservations for dinner tomorrow night at either 4:45 or 8:30 – prime time already gone!

We browsed around in the gift shop for a while and then drove back to the picnic areas and had a great lunch right along the rim of the canyon. A Western Jay – I think called Steller Jay – but not sure – joined us for lunch.

We drove out to Imperial Point – the highest point at the North Rim – 8,800 feet. Again we drove through evergreen and aspen forest. There had been a fire here in 2006 and the trees particularly the aspen are making a great comeback. The aspen trees that had been burned were standing tall – still white – dead trees. It was strange to see the stark white dead trees. The fire kills the trees but not the roots so this is the reason for the quick recovery.

Imperial Point was beautiful. It gave both a view to the northeast and southeast – the signs say the only place in the park for these views. We got some pretty good photos and enjoyed the views. Jane actually made it down to the edge for a photo. 

Then we drove back the 10 miles to the De Motte National Forest Campsites and claimed one for the night. This will be the second time on this trip without electricity. We have a gas stove and lantern so we will be fine. We save the power in the generator for blowing up the air mattress, keeping the refrigerator cold, and making the coffee!  Got our priorities straight!

We found a nice site. Ben put his hammock up between two aspen trees and took a nap. Jane read and might have taken a little nap too.  This campground is probably 1/3 full but as the season progresses is usually completely full.  The North Rim is 2,000 feet higher than the South Rim and does not even open until May 15 – so it has only been open 2 weeks!

We cooked dinner on the Coleman stove and then about 6:30 we drove back to the lodge and again sat on the huge porch – this time watching the colors changing as the sun moved lower and lower in the sky. Without the glare of the sun you could really enjoy the colors and the shadows across the canyon. This is indeed a spectacular place.

Driving back to camp in the dusk we saw lots of mule deer grazing in the meadows. Ben was watching closely for them in the road and one came close but did not hit us. We had to see at least 30 and probably more.Back at camp we geared up for a cool night. Supposed to be 39 so we will get some warm shirts and with our good sleeping bags we will be warm enough.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pahrump NV to Kanab UT

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

We had a nice breakfast and then headed out towards Kanab UT. Within an hour we were driving up I 15 past Las Vegas. Having spent a couple days there in the past it was not on our list of places to return. It was great fun but not on our “wish list” for this trip. Sorry Robin, we were not able to check out the Harrah's Casino this trip! The setting is so pretty with the high mountain peaks all around the city; but all the houses you see from the interstate look just alike. I did snap a few photos from the car just to prove we were here and we headed north towards St. George UT where we would head east into the RED ROCK COUNTRY.  This area in southern Utah, northern Arizona is some of our favorite!

 We stopped for lunch at a Casino in Mesquite right before passing into Arizona for a few miles. We went inside to get Daniel a Nevada postcard and took a couple photos. Sure did not seem to be very busy – lots of croupiers and dealers standing around doing nothing.  For $79 you could get a room, dinner, breakfast, a show, and a round of golf or time in the spa…too bad it just is not for us!

The Virgin River Canyons soon after crossing into Arizona were really something. Amazing what a huge twisting canyon a small river can carve!

At St. George we turned east and continued to enjoy the scenery.  The buttes and mesas are becoming more pronounced and the rocks are changing colors – red, white, grey, in such pretty layers.

We stopped at the Pipe Springs National Monument for a short break and to get a passport stamp.  We had visited here on a trip in 2000 (I think).  It is now jointly managed by the Kaibab Paiute Indians and the US Park Service.  While I remember the stories about the Mormons who established the settlement and fort – I do not recall as much information on the Indians. The focus of the displays and film now is on the conflict in the mid to late 1800’s between the Paiute Indians, the Mormon Settlers, and the US Government. It must have been a rather traumatic time – as much so as the Civil War in the eastern states.  We had now visited 15 National Parks and Monuments on this trip.

We continued on to Kanab where we are spending the night at Crazy Horse RV Park. It has a fantastic red rock bluff right behind the campsite…just sitting and enjoying the view filled an hour or so!

 We ate dinner at Nedra Too’s – one of the few restaurant dinners we have remembered over the years.  It was very good again - always take a chance when you try to repeat a great experience.. The corn chips were as thin as potato chips and the salsa great.  Jane had a chicken enchilada with a white sauce made with sour cream and chilies. Ben had a beef chimi with chilies and a red enchilada sauce.  Forgot to take photo until meal was half gone! 

After dinner we strolled through a gallery in downtown Kanab where they had all kinds or art - silver boxes, rock art, paintings, and some pottery.  Nice.

Back at camp a little more cliff viewing, photos processed, and a little TV. Tomorrow we will make it to Grand Canyon – the north rim.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Pahrump NV

Monday, May 28, 2012 MEMORIAL DAY

Today was a real change of pace.  We got up late, ate breakfast, watched the news, made a list of what to do today, drove to Wal-Mart and bought a few things we needed. Ate lunch and then we washed, cleaned, glued, straightened, swept, sorted, posted, wrote, checked, cooked or read everything on our list.  All done!  We are ready to hit the road again tomorrow. We head into Utah and Arizona for some adventures.

To finish off the day Jane made lemonade from the lemons Marilyn gave us from her backyard lemon tree. Mmmm good!  Thanks so much Marilyn.  Ben says best lemonade he ever had!   We do not usually have ice but there is an ice machine here. I keep water and Gatorade and beer in the refrigerator so we always have something cold to drink – just no ice. 
Mmmm Good!
This campground has everything except grass!  This is a huge blacktop parking lot with spaced marked off for the big rigs with all the utilities they need…we just use what little we need – some water, some electric, and the cable.  There is nice laundry room where I did my computer work while the clothes washed – was not planning to do laundry but Ben ended up with a lot of of his cherry turnover from yesterday on his jeans!  
Just relaxin'
It was in the high 80’s and maybe low 90’s mid day today but did not seem so warm because the humidity is so low. The sun just set and it is now 80 – within an hour it will be down to 70 and even lower into the night. We had very pleasant sleeping temperature. 

Hope everyone had a great Memorial Day and remembered the sacrifice of so many men and women in service to our country now and in the past. 

Old Glory Has gotten wound around the pole!

Pretty Colors

Mammoth Lakes CA to Pahrump NV

Sunday, May 28, 2012

We awoke to sunshine!  The night was great in the lodge and breakfast in the old lodge living area with a fire flickering in the huge fireplace was wonderful. Just a normal continental breakfast but the surroundings added a lot!  

The temperature was still hovering around 30 and the snow was still here and there as it had been last evening but now the sun was shining and the sky was blue.  Jane took a few photos of the lake and mountains and we packed up and drove back into town.  

 We stopped at Schlatz Bakery and bought some rolls for lunch and a couple pastries for a mid morning snack. This bakery was A#1 in the area – they had everything!

We returned to CA 395 south and the miles clipped by.  We made a stop in Bishop where we received word at the Ranger Station that the road into the White Mountains was closed due to snow. The Bristle Cone Pine – oldest trees in the world – over 4,000 years old are located here. We would have had to hike in several miles in the snow from where the road was closed – no we were not up for that!  Bishop was having a huge Memorial Day celebration – Mule Days – there were hundreds of horse trailers in the fair grounds – with mules nearby!  What a sight. We considered staying but many of the activities were much later in the day or had taken place yesterday.

We continued on down 395 stopping at Manzanar National Monument. This is the location of one of the Japanese relocation and internment camps. This was a huge with over 11,000 Japanese Americans relocated here in the 1942 – 1945.  This was certainly not a high point in past actions of our government. 

Shortly after leaving Manzanar we turned east towards Death Valley.  The mountains here are more colorful than the Polychrome Mountains in Alaska near Denali and the Painted Desert in Arizona. While both of those were beautiful, the color today far exceeded them in diversity and intensity. We were entering Death Valley from the west and the sun was shining on the western side of the mountains – they were just outstanding in a variety of colors. Doubt any of our photos do the colors justice.

At one point Ben just could not resist stopping and collecting a couple rocks. I had been amazed we had not collected any so far on this trip!

We climbed and then decended two mountain ranges into the park.  We began the day 7,000 feet at Tamarack Lodge and 30 degrees.  At the entrance to Death Valley park we were at 4,000 feet and it was 68 degrees; we decended to 2,000 and it was 80 degrees; we climbed again to 4,956 and the temperature went down to 66, Then we decended into the lowest portion of the park at 1,000 feet it was 83- then on further to the Bad Water area where it was 282 ft below sea level – it was 93. The rest of the trip the temperature ranged between 90 and 93. We were lucky today as often it is well over 100. 

Made it

Mustard rock
 At Badwater we stopped and experienced the only real crowd of our trip - there were people everywhere. This is the lowest spot in North American. 282 feet below sea level.

Check the small white sign on the cliff - Sea Level!
 We finally reached the end of the park and climbed back a couple thousand feet to where we are now in Pahrump NV.  There are a number of RV parks here – quite a few connected to casinos.  We had a long list of things we wanted to do so we voted for a no travel day.  We had been away from camping for 4 nights – one for too hot weather, one for too cold weather, and two visiting our friends in San Francisco.  We needed a day to regroup, clean up the Sprinter, change out all the resource materials and plan a little more for the Indian section of our trip.

Saddle West Casino and RV Park won out – it had everything we needed and the price was right too - $20.  It was 6:30 by the time we got settled in so we just walked across a parking lot for a $9.00 buffet.  It was pretty good in fact excellent if you factor in there was no cooking or cleaning up! Tomorrow I will get back into my cooking mode!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mountain View CA to Mammoth Lakes CA

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Today might have turned out better if we had made plans but I seriously doubt it! After our wonderful visit with one of Ben’s best friends from high school and his wife we headed east from San Francisco area. Seemed strange to be looking for the highways going East when we have been coming West for 3 weeks. Today is 3 weeks on the road!  We finally got a photo of the famous Solyndra plant as we left Mountain View.
Might Be a Good Bargain
The traffic was very heavy leaving San Francisco and we laughed they were probably all going to Yosemite!  We were planning to cross the Sierra Mountains on the Tioga Pass road which goes through Yosemite. We were going to see how things looked when we arrived to decide whether to go into Yosemite Valley or not. Since this was Memorial Day weekend we were not too sure what we would find. We knew there was no camping available in the park.  So we just were going to see what happened. There are several roads across the Sierra and as we got closer we noticed signs that Sonora pass was closed but Tioga was open. Good we planned for Tioga.

Leaving San Francisco
 We stopped at a cheese factory in Oakdale and had a great grilled Gouda cheese and ham sandwich. Watched the guys in the factory a few minutes and drove on to buy gas. We bought diesel in Escalton for $4.33 a little less than the $4.49 we paid in Mountain View. On we drove – again we have come through beautiful foothills with dairy farms and various types of agriculture through the valley.  We continued through very steep but graceful mountains to reach Groveland. We saw the huge water pipes that bring the water from the mountains to fill the needs of the San Francisco area. There was a reservoir and 4 huge pipes as well as some sort of pumping station. The road climbed several thousand feet with wide switch backs. Groveland was a mini-Gatlinburg and full of people.  We continued on since it was only 2:30 and we thought we would continue and drive through Yosemite.
Winding switchbacks as we climb to Yosemite
 We stopped at the first visitor center and got a passport stamp. There was a little skiff of snow on the ground here and there and Dogwoods blooming as we drove along. As we climbed there was more and more snow. The trees were like a fairy land. It was really quite beautiful and with no snow on the road (well there were a few patches of slushy stuff but nothing much).  We were able to see many of the huge rock formations and the lakes…but no far off views as there was frequently fog or sometimes blowing snow. The temperature ranged from 40 to 28 and we climbed from 2,000 to 9,945 feet to reach Tioga Pass.  It seemed the most snow was around the 7,000 – 8,000 feet range and when we stopped at the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center for a stamp and to use the restrooms – it was in the low 30’s and snowing a good bit.  The campground here was closed. We did however see many hikers and backpackers out all along the way. This would no doubt be a beautiful area in the summer.

Ben says to include a word or two about how well our Sprinter is doing. We remember driving the Prelude once to 9,000 or 10,000 feet and it had a hard time with the altitude. The Sprinter takes to the mountains like a goat and with the variety of gears is able to save using the brakes too much.
Coming down from the pass was very different than the ascent. We came out of the snow to sunshine and stark dry rocky mountains. We continued down steep switchbacks to the valley floor and road 395 that we will follow south to Death Valley – this road continues 350 miles to Los Angeles but we will not go that far south.

We looked for a place to stay in two small towns and decided to come on to Mammoth Lakes which looked larger to find a room for the night – while the sun was out it remains cold – 28 degrees!  We did not plan for this cold of temps and did not bring the heater…so we looked for a room.  We tried 2 motels and no luck – finally on the 4th call to Tamarack Lodge we found a room....their last…well they do have a $399 per night cabin left but that is a little out of our price range.This is a 1924 Ski Lodge with a lot of cabins and dormitory type rooms in the lodge. We have the last of the dormitory type rooms. It is knotty pine, with a sink in the room, a really great bed, a couple chairs, and the bathroom down the hall. The main room of the lodge has old furniture and a huge fireplace….great place to sit and warm up! 

Our cozy warm room
We drove back into town (3 miles) and had a great Greek Salad and a Pizza.  Would have eaten here except the soonest reservation was 9:30 PM!  We were too hungry to wait that long! Snow was falling like in a snow globe as we sat inside and ate dinner - interesting. The folks say it was 70 last week here in Mammoth Lakes.  The literature says they get 400+ inches of snow each winter so I guess this is a great snow and ski area.