Monday, February 28, 2011

Bev Doolittle Painting

“We may complete some of the moderate hikes, but the serious stuff we are leaving alone.”

altRemember the words above?  I wrote them last Thursday.  Not only did we tackle a strenuous hike today, but we did in snow and ice.  The scenery up high is too tempting to ignore.  So, we purchased “Studded Snow Tires” for our feet (that is the name of the product, I did not make it up); and grabbed our hats, coats, and gloves.  Hiking up the narrow switchbacks was not bad, as long as you did not look down.  I was a little nervous coming back down, but the cleats provided ample traction.  We went up the cliff about three-quarters of the way.  Good enough.

Combined with another hike to Weeping Rock today (picture below looks out from underneath the Weeping Rock), we got some good exercise.

IMG_1365Besides hiking, we drove on up to the mile-long tunnel in the park.  The tunnel is very narrow and only 13 feet high.  Driving our truck through today, we had to pull the mirrors in to avoid hitting the tunnel side.  When we leave on March 8, we will make arrangements to drive through the tunnel in the middle of the road with our 5th wheel RV.  For $15, you are flagged through as one-way traffic.  Our RV is 12 feet, 6 inches high. 

You may wonder why we are here in the snow.  In late spring and summer, Zion National Park is hot and CROWDED.  After April 1, you are not allowed to drive your vehicle into the park; instead you are required to ride a shuttle with stops at the popular attractions. 

We would rather have chilly, but sunny days; and the freedom the explore the park without the crush of tourists.  By the way, our campground is 12 miles from Zion National Park with no snow and considerably warmer.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


IMG_1353Zion National Park is one ginormous canyon with multi-colored cliffs reaching 3,000 feet.  As we drive through the park, our faces are cranked skyward and our necks are sore after hours of looking “up”.  Sheer cliffs with crazy rock climbers (look closely at the picture below—see the climbers?) and hikes that are carved into the rocky mountainside.  If you do not have a fear of heights, you will be afraid on some of these trails—narrow paths with loose sand and pebbles—sheer side up and sheer cliff down.  We may complete some of the moderate hikes, but the serious stuff we are leaving alone.

IMG_1352This time of year the Virgin River is full and has some energy behind the rapids.  Many of the trails parallel the river and you are able to enjoy the sounds of rushing water.  In fact, our campground is on the river and our site overlooks the water.  The location is good and bad.  In January, after 10 days and nights of heavy rain, the river flooded and the RV Resort was emergency evacuated at 2 a.m. in morning.  Hopefully, this is something we can avoid.

We are here until March 8.  With the exception of a couple of days, the weather looks warm and sunny.  Things are looking…..UP!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

National Park Pass


When we were in the Red Rock Canyon outside of Las Vegas, we purchased a National Parks Pass.  The National Parks Pass is an annual pass that provides admission to any national park charging an entrance fee. The pass costs $80 and is valid for one full year from first use in a park.  The National Parks Pass admits the pass holder and passengers in a private vehicle if a park has a per vehicle entrance fee. 

Our purchase will pay for itself quickly.  We arrived at Zion National Park yesterday; and the entrance fee here is $24.  We will enter the park almost every day for the next two weeks which means the card will more than pay for itself.  Not to mention we will visit at least eight national parks this year that will have entry fees.

When we reach age 62, we can purchase the Golden Age National Park Pass for lifetime membership. 

Love a good deal.

Monday, February 21, 2011

White Domes Trail

IMG_1343On our way to more trails to hike, we saw a group of bighorn sheep with a couple of sheep youngsters.  The little guys were jumping with no fear from high up on rock to rock.  Little humans seem to like the same sport in our campground.  The kids scamper away from their parents and in a blink of an eye they are teetering on a ledge.  “Look at me, Dad!  Look how far up I am!”  I know you need to give your kids freedom to explore and fly from the nest, but not literally fly.

The Professionals Valley of fireThe White Domes Trail included a very narrow slot canyon.  Only walking single file will allow you to pass through.  Along the trail are remnants of the movie set for “The Professionals” with Lee Marvin and Burt Lancaster.  Another movie for us to watch and pick out the Valley of Fire landmarks shown in the movie.

IMG_1339Another quick stop for a short walk to the Elephant Rock.  Do you see the elephant?

We were finally able to get cell phone service at this stop.  Made a few calls to the Moms and brother, John, to catch up with family news.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mouse’s Tank

IMG_1329At the turn of the century there was a real bad dude around these parts (Valley of Fire State Park) named Mouse.  Not a friendly fellow; he had a habit of stealing from miners and homesteaders and then making sure they did not live to tell the tale.  He hid from the posse in the red rock canyons up a particular wash that contained a deep round depression holding water most of the year.  Hence, the name “Mouse’s Tank”.  They did not actually kill him there, but the hide-out name stuck.

IMG_1328Although the outlaw story is interesting, what is really special about the hike up the wash to the water hole are the petroglyphs on the rocks along the way.  (Petroglyphs are carved into the rock; pictograms are painted on the rock.  Something we learned at the Visitor’s Center today.)  The Valley of Fire petroglyphs date back 1,000s of years. 

We had beautiful weather on our outing today, but last night it rained about 1.5 inches.  The Valley of Fire State Park typically gets 4 inches of rain a year.  You do the math.  Not too many more rainy days for this location.

DSC_0010 (8)Besides water running in small rivers through the park this morning, we had an unexpected visitor in our campsite.  A desert bighorn sheep.  Seems he was enjoying all the new greenery from the rain.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Valley of Fire

DSCN0612We forgot until today that this is a long weekend with the President’s Day holiday on Monday.  Long holiday weekends can be bad news if you do not have reservations for a RV site.  Our next stop was the Valley of Fire State Park and it is first-come, first served in the full hook-up portion of the campground.  We headed out a day earlier than planned to snag a spot.

Score!  We not only got a full hook-up spot, but the view out our windows, all of them, is stunning.  The sites here are wide, have shaded picnic tables, and fire pits.  Nicely designed.  All the precisely landscaped RV parks we have stayed in over the last few months are lovely, but nothing compares with this wild natural beauty. 

Hiking trails right outside our door and looking at the State Park map there are many more to enjoy.

DSCN0608Look closely at this picture, can you see the faces in the rock?  Feels like we have a thousand eyes watching as we walk by.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Nature’s Crematorium

Prior to visiting Death Valley National Park, I imagined a barren place with only sand dunes and salt flats.  I figured the National Park designation was probably the result of the government administration’s malicious compliance to meet a park set-aside quota of some type.

IMG_1296Our approach to the Valley from Pahrump descended from 3,000 feet rapidly down to almost 300 feet below sea level.  Pop. Pop. Pop. Our ears took some adjustment to equalize to the new elevation. 

IMG_1299The view that opened up as we drove down into the Valley is nothing like we imagined.  It is like a beautiful science fiction fantasy landscape with earthly tones of red, gray, tan and verdigris painting the sinewy hills and craggy cliffs--all set in front of a neon blue sky.  The flat valley floor of tainted water shimmering in the sun, sand dunes, and cracked salt flats stretched out of sight.  The out of this world scenery made us wonder if we would to see the two moons of Mars above in the sky at any moment.

I asked Mike if he thought we could find fossils on some of the trails since long ago this place was a sea bed.  “The only fossil we’ll find is sitting right next to you, Terry”.  Pretty funny, Mr. Main.

We are glad we made the trip to Death Valley National Park.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Learning through Movies

King's SpeechIf you have not seen “The King’s Speech”, I would highly recommend seeing.  We caught the matinee today at the Town Square Theater (nice high back, reclining seats).  To use my Brit friends’ expression, it was brilliant.  If Colin Firth does not win the Best Actor award at the Academy Awards; well, then the voting has really missed the mark.  Colin Firth  plays  King George VI, who, to overcome his stammer, goes to Lionel Logue, an unorthodox speech therapist played by Geoffrey Rush. The two men become friends as they work together, and after his brother abdicates, the King relies on Logue to help him make a radio broadcast at the beginning of the Second World War.

Lately (by coincidence), we have been watching movies that involve places we have visited this last year.  Granted much of the movie historical facts are embellished for Hollywood promotion, but they do have a basis and it makes our destinations that much more interesting.

“Bugsy” – Bugsy Siegel and the Las Vegas casino beginnings

“Chinatown” – Southern California and the greed/need for water (forget the scene with Faye Dunaway and Jack Nicholson, “She’s my daughter”, slap, “She’s my sister”, slap, “She’s my daughter” – that was just weird.)

“The King’s Speech” – Wallis Simpson’s involvement with the Duke of Windsor and the resulting abdication of the throne (remember our visit to Coronado Island and the Wallis Simpson presence?).    We also think the film scene with the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson listening to the radio broadcast was located at the Hearst Castle.

This is such a fun way to learn about our past, that we will probably be on the lookout for more movies like this.  Tell us if you have seen a movie that you think does a good job describing the history of a place. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Twisted Farm Food

IMG_1287Hash House A-Go-Go was recommended to us when we where in San Diego, but we never made it.  When we saw Las Vegas had a Hash House A-Go-Go restaurant, we made up our minds to have breakfast there before we left town!  This is not your run-of-the-mill scrambled eggs and hash browns.  They have unusual combinations, and surprisingly the meals are very good!

Mike’s pick:  Sage Fried Chicken Benedict with maple reduction, 2 eggs, bacon mashed potatoes and biscuit.

IMG_1288My pick:  Griddled french toast dipped in banana cinnamon cream and pecan maple syrup.  I had loads of coffee to offset the sweet meal.  Love the combination of the two.

This is the first time in memory when a breakfast was so filling that we did not eat for the rest of the day.  Can you believe it?  Look at the size of the meal in the above picture.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Calico Trail

IMG_1283IMG_1281An easy hike turned into a rock climb when we veered off the beaten path.  We opted for the rocky terrain of Calico Trail in the Red Rock Canyon located 15 miles west of Las Vegas.  The large boulders are a bit of a strrrretccch for my short legs.  Mike had…no problem.
As he always reminds me, “No hill for a stepper.”

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hoover Dam

DSCN0592 The architectural beauty of Hoover Dam is a feature you cannot deny.  Over the years, we have visited many dams in Washington State on the Columbia and Snake rivers, and they are all business.  There are no flourishes, just concrete and more concrete.  But Hoover Dam is altogether different.  The Art Deco touches on the marble floors, subway tiled tunneled walkways, and bronze statues makes this engineering marvel unique. 

The dam is overpowering in height and width.  Neither one of us can look over the railing without gasping.  Way, way too high. 
We splurged on the deluxe tour of the dam taking you down into the bowels of the structure.  The tour included walking through round tunnels too low for Mike to stand up in, and stairs ascending and descending with no end in sight.  (We just looked; no climbing involved. Elevators provided transportation to different levels of the dam.)

IMG_1268We were led down one tunnel that took you to a louvered window right smack in the middle of the dam’s curved face looking down the Colorado River and up at the new freeway bridge. 

For something built over 70 years ago, the dam is in perfect condition.  A wonderful tribute to American labor and know-how.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Red Rock Canyon – Las Vegas

We must remember to bring our better digital camera.

IMG_1235 Our little Canon point-and-shoot camera cannot begin to give justice to the scenery in Las Vegas’ Red Rock Canyon.  But, the pictures do a better job showing rather than have me try to describe.

I am sure, based on what people tell us, the rock colors and craggy canyons keep getting better in Utah and Arizona’s Grand Canyon, but for now, we are loving the land located around the glitzy and fast-paced city of Las Vegas.

IMG_1243 The Red Rock Canyon National Conservancy has loads of hiking trails, but it was too cold and windy to make the trek enjoyable today.  So, we wait and research the hikes that seem best suited to us.  We will jump on a future warm, calm day that happens so often in these parts during winter. 

Today, we enjoyed the scenic loop drive—occasionally getting out of the truck to get close to the canyon overlooks, but mostly snapping pictures out the window to stay out of the harsh wind. 
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