All posts by webstar44

Bear Hunting in Yosemite…and other exciting stuff!

Hello everyone!  Sorry it has taken so long to get a new post up but phone and Internet service were almost non-existent in Yosemite, and since we left we have been traveling through forests, mountains and remote coastal areas along northern California and Oregon with no reliable service.  So tonight is the first night I could actually get on and stay on long enough to catch up on my posts.  Hope ya’ didn’t miss us too much!

A fond farewell to Lake Tahoe….We left Lake Tahoe on June 10 and wandered through Gold Country a bit more before finally arriving at our RV park near Yosemite on June 12.  Before arriving at Yosemite, we did find a neat RV park on an Indian reservation in Jackson, CA that I fell in love with–specifically the pool.  I spent a couple days just floating in the pool (it was a great pool!), going into my meditative (lazy) zone while gearing up for our Yosemite adventuring.  While we were there we added to the RVing family–Spirit Horse.  You can see this big fellow below.

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Just a little touch of home, i.e., Virginia horse country! This little guy can really fly! He almost flew down the beach today but Bob caught him just in time!

I thought that was a good name for him since we adopted him while on an Indian reservation.  Bob enjoyed the ease and luxury of the park (they even clean your black tank for you!) and spent a lot of time relaxing as well when we weren’t at the casino eating our (almost) free meals.  He wanted to take this park on to Yosemite with us and in retrospect that would not have been a bad idea!!

On to Yosemite……Good thing we had a little rest because when we arrived at our RV park near Yosemite we were “challenged” during our first few hours there.  Since our RV is 42 feet long we have to make sure that any RV site meets 2 criteria (at least–we will talk about trees at some other point!):  the site must be long AND level enough.  When we reached Yosemite Pines the first site was too short, the second one was not level, and then rather than move the RV each time we wanted to check another site out I just drove the Jeep around to different sites trying to find one that would work.  I think we finally found one on our 6th attempt–even though it was not perfect!  Felt a little like a sausage at times….

We are usually not so picky about getting the right campsite, but as soon as school was out Lisa, Mike, Mikaela, Sammy and Junior (Mike’s Bloodhound) were heading down our way and meeting us in Yosemite.  We were very excited to see them so that we could explore Yosemite together.  But after long days at the Park, we wanted a site where everyone would be comfortable and it would not be too tight to accommodate both cars as well.  We barely accomplished that—it was a squeeze!—but since we spent most of our time in Yosemite doing Park stuff it worked out fine.

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Sammy says hello to his new neighbors.
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So…what’s an alpaca?
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That’s me, guys!

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Panning for gold at the Yosemite Pines campsite.

When you are trying to get a good campsite near a major attraction like a national park it is always tricky–but we finally were set up and waiting for Lisa and family by the time they arrived the next morning.  They had driven all night and were exhausted so that day was a rest day which was a good thing since the next few days were very active.  Sammy and Mikaela have been following my blog since I started it–they read it in the car on the way back and forth to school–so I told them that they needed to help me with the  blog this week since we were exploring together.  They agreed to help so today’s post is compliments of Sammy and Mikaela–they told me what to talk about, best/worst events of the week, and since they are my readership I value their opinions very much!  So a special thanks to Sammy and Mikaela for all your assistance and excellent memories!  So here in the order of importance is a summary of our adventures (and misadventures!) during  our Yosemite week.  Sammy and Mikaela, please let me know if I forgot anything and I will make sure to go back and get it in!

1.  BEARS (and assorted wildlife)……OK, this is the most important wildlife part of our trip since we were fully expecting to be shaking in our boots at every bend in the woods.  Before leaving Virginia I bought special Yosemite accessories for me and Pappaw (Bob)—special backpacks for hiking with bear bells that hung off the back (see below) to alert bears to our presence as we made each turn in the path.  No surprises for them—-no surprises for us! 

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Pappaw with backpack and bear bells.

Everyone agreed they must have been HIGHLY effective since up until the last day we saw not ONE bear.  Fortunately, we were not wearing our backpacks the last day when lo and behold we found a mommy and baby bear hanging around in the woods (literally!).  More on that later!

However, on one of our hikes to a beautiful lake earlier that week I firmly believe some bears were observing us from a safe distance as we traipsed through the woods—Mike, Lisa, Mikaela, Sammy, Pappaw, me and Junior.  We must have been very intimidating!  We had quite the procession with Mike and Junior leading the way and Pappaw and I bringing up the rear (sometimes way in the rear…. especially on those long uphill climbs)!  That day I kept hearing some snuffling and twigs breaking in the near distance that I could have sworn were caused by bears sneaking around, but no one believed me.  I think we were probably more focused on mountain lions at that point since the visitor maps reminded us to keep small children close and not let them run ahead or lag behind since—well—we won’t finish that sentence!  And of course there were the squirrels—everyone knows how squirrels terrify me with their sharp little teeth that chew through wires and plumbing—really gruesome stuff!  And don’t forget the rattlers.  I didn’t see them listed in the Yosemite lineup but you never know!

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Stone bridge over a beautiful river.
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Finishing up our first hike!
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Lisa and Mikaela.
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A river runs through it…
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Mama’s girl!
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Sitting it out.
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Master of the forest!
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Views extraordinaire…
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Keeping up the pace…
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Ready and raring to go!
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El Capitan
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A cut in the trail…
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How many people does it take to circle a tree?
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Sibling togetherness–for a few minutes anyway!

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As soon as we checked into the campground we were reminded not to leave food outside since the bears and mountain lions and wolves were also in residence.  In fact, the first night we were there we were treated to a wolf serenade that sent chills up and down your spine–talk about howling at the moon!  Or is that vampires????  Hmmmm…..  Just to make sure we had no unwelcome visitors we did not cook out once!  Not even burgers!  But at the break of day each morning we were circled by roosters (yes, roosters!) crowing at the top of their lungs—boasting about avoiding those wolves the night before, I bet.  We were camped close to the campground’s mini zoo, which had goats, chickens and alpacas with severe dental issues.   Next door was the snack area with cotton candy and such.  Not once did we have a snack–I suppose after seeing those alpacas’ dental problems we were not inclined toward any sugar urges that close to the animal pen.

Our last day inYosemite, however, Bob and I left the park a little early to go home (RV) and start dinner.  Bob was cooking his famous meatloaf for the kids which takes a little prep time.  Mike and Lisa were taking the kids to see the redwood trees in the Mariposa Grove in the southern part of Yosemite, so we parted paths for a few hours.  Halfway back to the park entrance, we noticed cars pulling over and cameras clicking.  Sure enough, after a similar experience in Denali a few years ago we knew a bear was close by.  They are very photogenic as long as you have telephoto lens.  Sure enough a beautiful brown bear was foraging in the woods about 20 feet from our car.  And amazingly enough her cub was clinging to a tree trunk a short distance away.  I snapped lots of pictures (from the safety of our car–you know how mama bears are about their babies!).  The baby bear finally got tired of waiting for Mama and clambered out of the tree and raced toward his mama behind a tree.  I figured it was his meal time and remembered we had some meatloaf to cook so off we went.  And then I realized we didn’t have our bear bells on!  How lucky could we get!

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Mama’s trying to put dinner on the table for her baby cub.
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Baby is hiding in the tree while Mom works on dinner.
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Baby Bear is down–now where did she go????  I’m hungry!
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Uh Oh–I think he’s spotted us!  He beelines it for Mama!

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2.  HALF DOME…..and Yosemite Valley.  If I could nominate a national park for a “Wonder of the World” I would have to definitely consider the amazing scenery in Yosemite Valley.  As we drove into the valley after traveling through dense forests and curving mountain roads, the Valley opened up to reveal one massive monument to the majesty of earthly creations after another.  It was like watching a futuristic movie portraying a world of immense scenery with oompah…..and it never stops coming!  Waterfalls that drop from the sky in huge gushes of water, giant granite behemoths that appear and disappear as you walk, drive, bike…every turn in the road creates a new discovery moment.  At one point we were hiking through the Valley crossing beautiful rivers, following meandering trails, and playing peekaboo with Half Dome.  One minute you would see it in all its immensity–now this is NOT a rock that can hide easily!—but then it would disappear until you rounded another corner or climbed a bank or just peeked through a break in the trees.  In this Park of many wonders, it is the small pleasures among the big treasures that astonish and amaze.

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Serios enjoying Yosemite!
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Mama Lisa and her babies.

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3. WATERFALLS…..mystical moments.  When you approach a waterfall in Yosemite it draws you as if you are spellbound.  The sound of the water growing louder, trying to focus your camera to capture the entire waterfall from unimaginable heights, the misty explosions descending from high up the cliff.  Then you are finally at the bottom with everyone in a frenzy of activity trying to capture that perfect shot.

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Then, when you finally realize the inevitable has happened….yes, that evil moment when all you want to do is sit at the foot of this beautiful, astounding treasure with the overwhelming sound of rushing water—and heck! you realize the nearest bathroom is at least a quarter mile away!  And off we go on the ultimate foot race!  What a rush!  I think Mikaela won that race but Lisa was a close second.  I came in third but hey — three out of three is not bad!

4. BEST HIKE…top choice!  Sammy and Mikaela voted for the best hike which I think we all agreed was the absolute best!  It was Lisa’s birthday that day AND Father’s Day—but Lisa trumped with the birthday card so she got to pick what we were going to do that day.  She said she wanted to go for a hike in a beautiful place.  So off we went and found a trail that was filled with giant redwoods, beautiful, unusual wildflowers surely grown by fairies, meandering trails over streams and around fallen logs—and finally to a hidden lake of crystal clear water that no one could have imagined to be as beautiful as it was that sunny day.

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Just how far did we hike????
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Birthday Girl with family.
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A birthday with a special someone…
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A path well taken…
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Lumberjack Sam!
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Mammaw and Pappaw with Mikaela and Sammy.

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Happy Birthday, Lisa!  We sat on fallen trees and ate Goldfish while Junior swam in the lake retrieving sticks for Mike—as well as a Goldfish Mikaela had tossed in.  We saw fewer than 5-6 other people all afternoon and were perfectly satisfied with our peaceful interlude in the woods.  And Pappaw tried out his new walking stick to great success.  He left me in the dust–which was not too difficult since I was in recovery mode from the hike the day before.  But we all made it with a few laughs–Sammy thought it was hilarious when Pappaw almost fell through a log as he crossed a stream–and caught himself with his trusty walking cane!  I think Mike caught that on his digital phone so watch for that clip on America’s Funniest Home Videos!  Just think–Pappaw could be a star!

5. GROSSEST HIKE….This was an easy pick. There was some disagreement here between Sammy and Mikaela since they have slightly different perceptions about what’s cool.  I have to say, this started out being a GREAT hike as we were playing peekaboo with Half Dome, and enjoying the varying terrain and beautiful scenery.  Sammy and Mike and Junior had surged ahead and Pappaw and the “girls” were following the path upwards when we suddenly realized we were walking in a river of poop.  Yes, Poop!  The path was narrow, and as it narrowed even more the poop was more and more yucky and ALL OVER!  Some fresh and some not.  Yes, I know–you didn’t really want to have ALL the details…… but you need the big picture here.  Following Mike, Sammy, and Junior who were much further ahead, we discovered that the river was now growing into an avalanche of THAT STUFF with some places that possibly could be considered as a national disaster area–well, this is a national park!  We had decided to head back down the mountain, when lo and behold the source of all this unimaginable YUCK showed up in one of the most stinkiest spots.  A mule train—Yes, I said a MULE TRAIN!  And the lead rider asked us to stand aside quietly until the mule train passed so we did not spook them.  So being the polite people that we are–(and not wanting to be kicked in the shins!), we stepped aside and waited for an eternity until at least 30 mules plodded by–meanwhile depositing even more keepsakes for our journey back down the mountain.  Have you ever tried to hold your breath for 30 mules????  Gasp.  Then the walk back down was even YUCKIER than the walk up for obvious reasons.

When Sammy and Mikaela were discussing how to refer to this hike Sammy was insisting it was the GREATEST hike while Mikeala insisted it was the YUCKIEST hike.  I asked Sammy why he thought it was the greatest hike and he said because of the POOP.  Go figure.  Nevertheless, the girls won on this one since we are in the majority and we had to wash the shoes when we got home.

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The Poop Culprits…
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And more…
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And MORE!
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Sammy enjoying his hike!
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Rock fairies leaving their tracks.
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Where have you been!!??

6.  PARTYING…..and princesses.  It just so happens that Lisa’s birthday fell on Father’s Day this year so we had multiple celebrations that day.  First of all, we spent the day in the woods communing with nature and recording for America’s Funniest Home Videos, which pretty much just got us ready for our evening’s adventures at the saloon.  Oh yes….we decided to hit the oldest saloon in California to celebrate the big day!  After all, you don’t turn ______ everyday!  (Did I just hear a big sigh of relief from Lisa’s direction?)  The Iron Door Saloon in Groveland, CA (a couple miles from our campground) is a saloon with a history and if iron doors could talk there would definitely be a few books here.  Suffice to say, just walk in the saloon and check out the dollar bills stuck to the ceiling, peruse the pictures on the wall, and listen to some stories from the locals and you will start getting an idea of what those doors have seen.

We had scheduled a dinner at the saloon seeing that there weren’t a whole lot of options and it is historic….and, yes, we had enough to eat although it’s kind of a rough and tumble kind of place—based on long time tradition I dare say.  But I had plans up my sleeve.

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Outside the Iron Door Saloon.

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Since not one person could give me a name of someone who bakes cakes in town I had found a bakery a few miles out of town that had just opened up.  We picked the cake up on the way home and while the appearance of the cake was not up to Lisa’s standards (she is a WOW baker/decorator) I thought as long as it tastes good…..!  I had bought a half sheet cake since I figured cake is always a good thing.  I think everyone probably took their first bite at almost the same time—and then complete and total quiet.  Not a sound.  No mmmmms–just quiet.  Leave it to Bob—he finally said, “I think that  is probably the worst cake I have ever eaten!”  Everyone agreed and Bob offered to take it to the trash.  So I bit into it and understood the response.  It was what Bob would call a California cake—made in some horribly healthy way–probably vegan, or gluten free, or made with wheat flour or some ungodly cake-making method.  So we switched over to ice cream sundaes and cookies and cheered up.  We all agreed Lisa looked very cute as a princess for a day–we had a pink princess theme going with decorations (Mike put those up!) and a pink princess sash for Lisa and other glitzy things.  Lisa said she had never had a princess party so we fulfilled her princess wish albeit without the cake!

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Happy Birthday!
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A little turquoise from Sedona makes a birthday girl happy!
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Cutting the cake!

Then we switched holidays and the dads in the bunch opened their gifts and the cute cards and gifts from Sammy and Mikaela were totally CUTE and so SWEET that I think if I were a daddy I would have cried.  Bob had been given his gift earlier that day and not a moment too soon–his new walking cane kept him from going for a swim in a very cold stream!

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So the partying day ended on a good note and we saved ourselves all those calories from not eating the half sheet cake.  INTERESTING NOTE: Rather than tossing the cake, Bob took it down to the campground office the next morning and asked them if they wanted it.  They were thrilled and the announcement over the intercom caused a stampede from the campground workers.  Bob said within a very short time every crumb was eaten and they swore it was the best cake ever!!  Go figure.

7.  TREES….big trees!  Sammy and Mikaela (with mom and dad) were determined to take a hike through the Mariposa Grove filled with beautiful redwoods that are a key visitor attraction in the southern part of Yosemite.  They had been reading about our visits to see the Giant Sequoias in Sequoia National Park and that must have made them even more eager to see these fan-tabulous trees.  So on the last day in the park they hiked through the Mariposa Grove and saw these anomalies of nature firsthand.  I’m sure it is something they will never forget since that was the main topic of discussion that evening while munching on Pappaw’s meatloaf.  Their description of the telescope tree was so fascinating I wanted to go back the next day–but alas!–our schedules dictated otherwise — so we had to say goodbye to the wonders of Yosemite and save some of it for another day.

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Now this is a WOW moment!
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Can you see why this is called a telescope tree? Sammy and Mikaela said it felt like they were inside a telescope!
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Can ya’ believe it???!!!
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Walking with the giants. Another ahhh…. moment!
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Lisa, Mike, Mikaela, Sammy, and Junior at the Mariposa Gove, Yosemite, 2014.

Mike, I promised you my favorite view–so here it is!  What a charmer!

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How can you not love that face! Junior was a model pup all week. He absolutely LOVED the heated floors and staked out his place by the fireplace.

I think I’ve covered the major events of the week.  But I have to add that exploring Yosemite with the kids was an eye-opener.  We have been hitting a lot of parks over the past few months, sometimes with only just enough time scheduled to hit the “high” points.  But as we learned with Mike and Lisa and the grandkids, sometimes the high points are not always the most well-known–that you can discover your own high points just by getting out of the main areas and doing a little exploring.  Spending quiet time with the family in a special place in one of the most beautiful places on earth is a memory I will never forget–and a moment in time that I will cherish.  Having a few laughs, learning new things, going on adventures, and stretching our limits (yes, I finally broke in those hiking shoes!), is a gift of time we will remember as we continue our adventures on the RV trail.

To all our family and friends, at home or on the road, Happy Trails!  We miss you and send our love.  (Tracie, be careful on your road to Nebraska and let us know how you are doing!)

 

 

 

 

 

Dreaming About Lake Tahoe

Ahhhh….Lake Tahoe!  I now have such wonderful images in my mind that will always be there — thanks to Lake Tahoe.  The Washoe Indians, the original residents of Lake Tahoe’s shores, definitely have it right–there are many mystical and wonderful places on the shores and waters of Lake Tahoe–and those places can change minute by minute so you are never seeing each special place exactly the same as it was before.  That may be hard to understand but after seeing some of my pictures you may get an inkling of what I mean.

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As we were crossing the pass into Tahoe valley, we were shocked to run into (not literally) a bona fide wagon train. We Still don’t know what that was about…
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Fields bordering the Tahoe Keys in Lake Tahoe.
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Mountain view near Tahoe Keys.

 

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Walking through the Tahoe Keys.

Prior to arriving in Lake Tahoe, we saw a whole bunch of bears.  The neat thing is that Justin told Ashley that he saw the same family when he was a kid and vacationed in Lake Tahoe.  Go figure!

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The Black Bear Diner on the way to Lake Tahoe is a tasty California establishment. We could agree with that. We ate three meals in 2 days there.  Servings of delicious food big enough for a …….BEAR?
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This bear family has their name on the list–but can they really wait until their name is called? Better steer away from these hungry bears!
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Somebody was baddddd….or he has his face in his soup!
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Maybe he was caught snitching one of the berry pies?

I picked up Bob in Reno late this afternoon–he was pooped out from all his travel.  He missed his connecting flight in Los Angeles but was lucky enough to catch a last flight out so was several hours late getting to Reno — then had to ride back to Lake Tahoe with me before finally falling into bed a while ago.  But mission accomplished!  Now we leave Lake Tahoe tomorrow morning and head to Jackson, CA and then on to Yosemite National Park where Lisa, Mike and the kids are meeting us for a few days of adventuring into the Yosemite wilderness during the day and “roughing it smoothly” at night in our RV.  Can’t wait to roast a few marshmallows with the grandkids!

We left Plymouth, CA early last week and meandered our way through Gold Mining country to South Lake Tahoe where we have been settled down for almost a week–probably almost a record for us!  Bob headed to Virginia last Wednesday leaving me to face the Lake Tahoe wilderness.  No joking here–my RV neighbor (who spends all her summers in this campground) told me that bears, coyotes and wolves frequented our campground.  I never saw them–perhaps because I  usually am snug as a bug in a rug with my PJs and a good book by the time the wildlife come out.  However, I did hear a little snuffling about last night as if something was circling the RV a few times.  Didn’t bother me though–I went to bed and ignored all the shuffling around!  I was at a good place in my book so a little shuffling wasn’t going to stop me from reading my next chapter!

I did a darn good job of filling my days productively, i.e., by being as totally lazy as possible while looking busy.  Lisa helped a lot by sending a list of her favorite things to do at Lake Tahoe.  She and Mike had spent a summer here back in the good old college days, so I think they must have explored every nook and cranny around here.  Let’s see–the week went by so fast I can barely remember what I did.   Hmmmm….ok, it’s coming back!  Here goes:

Day One:  I took Bob to Reno Airport and then explored the shopping potential of Reno and Carson City on the way home.  After getting back to LT, I headed over to Camp Richardson to see where Lisa and Mike worked during their summer on the lake….could that really have been about 20 years ago?  That sounds so impossible!  Camp Richardson sits on a gorgeous bay in the lake and every conceivable water sport conveyance uses it as home base, along with families laying on the beach and digging in the sand, young 20-somethings partying hardy on the deck and dancing to the local band, and many folks just coming for a super dinner on the deck of the restaurant called the Beacon.  I had (of course I had to try it!) the clam sauce and linguine and it was garlicky and fabulous, just the way I like it.  Then back to the RV for some computer work and to bed with my book,  yummmm…..

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Marina at Camp Richardson
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Camp Richardson beachscape
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Dinnertime at Camp Richardson’s Beacon Restaurant
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Lisa’s workspace for a summer
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Sunset–quiet time at Camp Richardson
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Beacon Restaurant

Day Two:  Looking at Lisa’s list of her favorite things in Lake Tahoe, I decided to hit the road for North Lake Tahoe.  I had initially thought I would drive around the entire lake and check it out, but I was hearing that would take one long full day of driving and I was lazy (again!) so did not get out as early as I had planned.  So I decided to go as far as Tahoe City which takes at least an hour or so since there are steep, narrow roads that hug the cliffs with sheer drop-offs with no guard railing in places.  The road passes Emerald Bay and Inspiration Point on the way to Tahoe City; the breathtaking views at those two points on the road make the harrowing drive more than worth it.

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Emerald Bay:  A previous owner built a tea house on the tip top of this tiny island and invited her friends over for elaborate tea parties.  Can you see the tiny tea house?

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Construction crews were busy directing traffic into one lane along much of the way and, as I was leaving South Lake, the Renaissance Festival was also very much in full swing with some very interesting characters walking along the road.  Or maybe I was in a time warp?  What is it with those long bushy “raccoon?” tails that many of the characters, especially the women, tie around their waist next to their metal tankards? The Renaissance Period must have been one heck of an interesting era as manifested by the array of characters parading by while I sat in construction traffic.  Anyway, I was entertained and didn’t mind waiting too much.  By the time I got to Tahoe City it was lunch time so I stopped at a grill overlooking the harbor which was pretty and peaceful with beautiful views of the lake around the harbor.

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Having lunch lakeside in Tahoe City.

Afterwards I walked around town, visited some of the cute shops and wound up at the dam that parcels the water into  the Truckee River from Lake Tahoe.  It’s the only stream that flows out of the lake–all others flow into it.  The dam was built to stop the flow outwards when the lake reaches a certain level so it helps to maintain the relatively consistent water level of the lake.  A nice display explained how this all works and a man was busy working on repairing parts of the dam mechanism which he explained was a multi-year project and consisted of a lot of hard manual labor.  He looked beat in the hot sun as he shoved big logs back and forth in the dam mechanism.

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Lake Tahoe water flowing from the lake toward the dam.
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The dam that controls the water level in Lake Tahoe.

A multitude of sport-related activities gives Tahoe City a hum–bikers, canoes, rafters, boats of every description–you name it and they were there.  Lisa said she and Mike liked to bike along the Truckee River so I could almost see them flying by on their bikes!

Heading back down the road toward South Lake Tahoe, I stopped at Inspiration Point to admire the fabulous views of Emerald Bay.  Random rain clouds floated overhead dropping little teaser drops of water.  In a place under a severe drought with signs posting “HIGH” fire danger at every turn, it seems so weird to see the massive lake with incredibly clear, cold water just a few feet away.

In the early evening I went in search of a sunset. And found it at a public park, with children playing on a playground, a volleyball game in full swing, families strolling along the beachwalk, and the sun slowly melting behind the mountains providing a gradually unfolding  light show for all who slowed down enough to enjoy it.

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A tranquil sunset along the shores of Lake Tahoe.

Day Three:  Today I saw the lake up close and personal.  I sailed into the bay on a catamaran and saw firsthand the fickleness of the lake.  By the time we sailed at 3:30 pm, a bright sunny day with no sign of a cloud in the sky had turned stormy with occasional thunder and lightening in the distance.  The Captain of the boat was totally unconcerned and when I pointed out the lightening behind us she said no problem–that’s on another part of the lake (as if it was another continent).  Then she said the boat serves as its own lightening rod but only if it is in fresh water–it would not work if it was in salt water.  I guess I was out the day we had that science experiment in school so I need to think about that!  But she was right that the storm never hit us –but it did send some fantastic clouds and special effects our way.  We laid on the deck on big puffy bean bags staring straight up at the clouds.  We did manage to move long enough to get a close-up view of the cave rock–a large rock where two tunnels were punched through to build a primary road around the lake.  However, the Washoe Indians were not too happy about that since they weren’t consulted beforehand and they consider the rock caves in that location a sacred place.  Now the controversy continues with rock climbers wanting to climb up the rock surface and the Washoe protesting.  So far a stalemate.

After this relaxing cruise I went in search of another sunset.  I was told by the Captain that with all the clouds over the water that day it should be a fabulous sunset.  She could not have been more right.  I luckily found a little beach surrounded by mountains that was the perfect setting for the most glorious sunset I have ever seen and will probably never see again.  Please tell me if you agree/disagree.  And I was lucky enough to get some great pictures but not without a lot of angst!  I knew I had captured something special when I took the pictures but when I tried to download them that night I thought I had lost them all.  Thank goodness Bob was able to retrieve them tonight.  It was such a wonderful sight to behold and I so wanted to share them with everyone.  So here they are–I hope you enjoy them as much as I did just being there at such a special time and successfully capturing them!

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Reflections
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Twilight
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Solitary
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Stillness
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Adieu
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Opening
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Mystery
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Hovering
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Watchful
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Majestic
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Watching
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Gathering
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Meditative
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Reluctance
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Observing
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Admiring
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Footprints
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Perfection
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Wandering
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Family

Day Four: Another lazy day of trying to decide of all the many things to do which would be the lucky choice.  Hmmmm….  So I lazed around the RV for a while doing little housekeeping chores, re-organizing (Ash swears this is my favorite pastime), and thinking about all the things I could be doing.  I called Bob at the hospital where he and Ash were spending the day and they were sleeping, so I thought now that’s a good thing–so I packed my bag and headed for the beach at Camp Richardson’s, snagged the last beach chair, pulled out my book, and settled down to enjoy the peacefulness of the day.  And went to sleep.  My nap didn’t last long though–it was chaos of the first degree.  Boats of all kinds everywhere, boarders trying to stand on their boards everywhere, pedal boats chugging up and down the beach line, kids digging in sand, the band on the deck getting “down”, a hockey game getting everyone really wound up—as I said–chaos.  But I was committed and stuck it out for 5 hours with lunch on the deck thrown in.  And had a wonderful time with all 5000 other Lake Tahoe-ites doing their thing on the beach.  Another Lake Tahoe experience!  Now just think–there are dozens and dozens of beaches all around the lake and not all of them could have possibly been that crowded.  So Camp Richardson must be the hive of activity for that area–and maybe a little see and be seen for the teenies bouncing around the beach.  But the whole afternoon was fun up until I saw my Vera Bradley towel blowing down the sand while I was on the deck having lunch.  I had to actually move to get it safely secured on my chair again!

Day Five:  Today I decided I had to get out and move my body a bit.  Not one real Lake Tahoe resident ever just drives anywhere–it’s bike, hike, bike, boat, boat, bike, and hike.  It’s enough to make you nuts trying to not be envious of their skinny, muscled butts and thighs!  I was feeling increasingly guilty about being a lazy slob driving everywhere, laying on the beach, laying on the boat, etc. etc.  And of course I had those new hiking boots I bought back in Colorado and had had them on my feet only long enough to admire how cute they are.  So another item on the Lisa List was Fallen Leaf Lake.  She said it was like a  mini-Lake Tahoe without the crowds but with waterfalls thrown in.  So off I went with my shiny new hiking shoes.  Getting there  wasn’t very far away in mileage but “slow” was the mantra of getting there since much of the road was one lane and you had to be imaginative about getting 2 cars though a one lane road.  (I know–I’m sure all these Lake Tahoe people ride their bikes up there!  All the way up there!!!!)  The getting there was well worth it though–I could have spent a whole day just sitting by the lake.  I stopped at the general store, had a quick cheese and avocado sandwich (I’m really nuts about avocados lately–I think California is rubbing off on me!), enjoyed the view from the balcony of the clear, sparkling, jewel of a lake (and the much reduced level of traffic on the lake).  The cool breeze made me want to linger over my sandwich but I had a mission to accomplish and it was called WATERFALLS.  So I kept driving up and up and up until the road would go no further.  This is where I got a little confused.  I did remember to put on my hiking boots, but then when I got out of the car I didn’t know which direction to go in!  There were trails heading off in every direction and no one seemed to know where the easy trail that supposedly wound up at the waterfall was located.  I wandered around a bit looking for a sign (from above?) and found it.  A small family with lots of little kids were rubbing in insect lotion and preparing for their hike.  I asked if they knew where the waterfall hike was located and they pointed me in the right direction.  They pointed out that if I missed the waterfall it was only a 7-mile walk on up the mountain (and–go figure–7 miles back).

As it turned out they headed in the same direction and I followed–finding it not too difficult to keep up with the little 4-year old.  I followed at a discreet distance even when we had to wade through 2 creeks where my new shoes–and feet–got soaked.  It was a matter of pride at this point–surely I could keep up with a 4-year-old!

A mile and a lot of bugs (no bears, no rattlers–although I kept a close eye out) later I found the waterfall.  By that time I had passed the family and was chugging up the hill by myself.  It was quite nice to know I could out walk a 4-year-old.   I did meet a nice elderly English couple who asked me if they were getting close to the car park.  Another couple asked me how to get down to a another lake from the waterfall.  And someone else who looked like they should have known everything about those woods asked me how much further to the falls–so I guess maybe– just maybe–I looked like I knew what I was doing.  A park ranger came by and didn’t arrest me or anything for looking stupid so I guess I did all right.  The waterfall was beautiful, but as another elderly (what I mean by that is she was OLDER than me–I think!) woman said to me when I told her I was looking for the waterfall “Honey, you drove by the best waterfall to get here.”  I said I was aware of that but I wanted to WALK to a waterfall.  And I did–and got back in one piece!   My feet were soaked so I put my flip flops on right away.  Now I need to remember to ask Lisa how to dry out my new shoes without them getting too stiff….

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Fallen Leaf Lake–a jewel in the woods.
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Small marina–few people.
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Hiking through the woods.
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Top waterfall above Fallen Leaf Lake at end of hike.
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Lower waterfall–kids were sliding on the rocks.

Day Six:  Today was Reno day to pick up Bob.  I started out this morning and he missed his flight in LA so I didn’t leave until later.  I did not stop and shop.  I didn’t even stop for lunch.  I did enjoy the scenery as I drove across the mountains towards Reno.  And of course that first glimpse of Lake Tahoe as you start down the mountain on the return trip is breathtaking.  Permanently, if you cannot manage to keep your eyes on the road!  We stopped at In and Out burger and were eating lunch when Anne called.  She was thrilled that we were lunching at such a distinguished burger joint–she said all the movie stars eat there after their Oscar night festivities.  Who knew?  That was so thrilling that we headed home for the evening–no more room for any more excitement after that!

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Coming into Lake Tahoe, you get your first glimpse of Lake Tahoe–and it takes your breath away!
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About to enter in the Cave Rock tunnels, the Washoe Indians consider this a sacred place.

Just as a note of interest, we learned a new camping skill at this campground.  Apparently since not many of the campsites are completely level, campers are forced to “nest” their RVs if they don’t want to prop them up on huge piles of blocks, a technique that makes us a little nervous with the size of our RV.  So what is “nesting”?  Here’s a picture:

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The front wheels of Baby rest gently in holes we dug for her to level out the RV. There did not appear to be any complaints from Baby once she got comfortable, so it must have worked after a little sweating (on the diggers’ part) on a very hot day. Our campground host was very nice to come out and dig much of the holes with Bob’s help.
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Now the next challenge comes today–can we get Baby OUT of her nests? She looks way too comfortable at this point!

That’s it for the night, folks!  Hope you enjoy my pictures.  I could not stop my picture taking here–the camera began to feel like a third hand there were so many things to photograph.

CONGRATULATIONS to our fabulous grandchildren–Sera Chloel, Ewan, Mikaela, and Sammy for doing such a fabulous job at school this year.  Since this is your last week of school, I just want to remind you what fabulous people you are and that we are so proud of you!  You make us smile, you make our hearts proud, and we love you very much!  Hugs and kisses to all of you!

A special SHOUT OUT to our eldest grandson, Ryan!  Congratulations to you on moving into your wonderful new place–I can’t wait to see it!  I know you are proud and will be very happy there!  WE LOVE YOU LOADS!

Good night, family and friends.  We miss all of you terribly!  Lots of hugs to all of you!  Happy trails and sweet dreams!

 

 

 

 

Trees, trees, and more BIG TREES!

Sorry guys, but I’m falling behind again!  So I am back in catch-up mode.  Tonight I will catch up to where we are now (in Lake Tahoe) and then I will give you the scoop on Lake Tahoe tomorrow.  Here’s a hint though–I LOVE Lake Tahoe.  I can’t get enough of it–I’m watching sunsets that go on forever every night and toodling around during the day trying to see as much as I can so I can tell Bob what he’s missed.  As most of you know, he’s back in Virginia taking care of family, so I’m keeping the momentum going while he’s gone.  But enough about that–you will hear all about Lake Tahoe in the next couple days!

Last Sunday was a travel and orientation day.  That is we traveled in the morning, arriving in Plymouth, CA in the early afternoon.  I then got oriented, i.e., I went on a quest for WALMART!  On the way I checked out 4 little towns whose roots go back to gold mining frenzy days: Plymouth (where we camped Sunday night–not one red light in the “downtown” area, but it seemed to have a pretty active saloon!); Sutter Creek (has a wooden boardwalk lining Main Street, with a variety of cute shops and an old-fashioned ice cream parlor/confectionary/general store); Amador City (much smaller town with interesting buildings lining the main thoroughfare that appear to be originals back to the gold rush era); and Jackson (the biggest town in the general area where I found beautiful views and overlooks of rolling hills, valleys, and vineyards, a refurbished downtown area that looked lively and flourishing–and a Walmart!).

I didn’t really want to hit the Big Box that night, but let’s just say Walmart was a necessity since a very important drainage pipe sprung a leak and Walmart was the closest place to find a replacement.  I just don’t trust tape in certain situations.  So to motivate me to go in search of Walmart, I “dropped by” these cute little gold rush towns since they were kind of on the way and my curiosity got the better of me.  Luckily, I suppose, most of the stores and museums (not many of those since the towns were rather small) were already closed when I pulled into town but it was enjoyable walking along the wooden boardwalks and peering into shop windows.

Monday was a BIG day, filled to the brim with BIG–BIG parks, BIG mountains, and VERY BIG (Giant) trees!  You’ve probably guessed by now–we visited Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park–a BIG challenge in one day! Although we had only one day to see as much as we could, it was impossible to do anything but skim the surface.  I would definitely want to go back there again just to soak up the beauty of this area on a slower schedule and see more of this simply breathtaking place that is astonishing at every turn in the road–and boy are there a lot of those!  Mother Nature worked double time in this neck of the woods!

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The drive through the park, even before reaching the Giant Sequoias, was one beautiful scene after another. And there were turns aplenty, twisting through canyons, round mountains, up and down roller coaster-style–just a little disorienting.  We were constantly checking our map to make sure we were headed in the right direction.
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The scenery was so varied as we moved deeper into the Park; it seemed like a movie unfolding as we turned each narrow corner.

After the sparseness of the southwestern deserts, and being the Easterner that I am, it was a relief that this park was overwhelmingly green with wildflowers sprinkled throughout in the most unusual places.  I can of course appreciate dry arid climates that some plants call home, but green still means forest to me.

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Amazing flowers growing out of rocks, on the side of the road, hanging off cliffs…
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No, this is not a Sequoia! But we are getting closer!

Highlights?  The Sequoia Giants, of course, some of them standing sentinel over these forests for over 2000 years.  It is breathtaking to even look at these giants.  You start at the bottom and scan up the tree and by the time your eyes reach the top, the sun is shining directly into your eyes, your head is spinning from trying to look up so far, and your mind is boggled from taking in the immensity of these living creatures who have seen more of the world’s comings and goings than our ancestors from hundreds of years ago.

For a Sequoia tree, size and age doesn't necessarily older is bigger.  It mostly depends on growing conditions--if the tree is in the right place it can grow very quickly outpacing a much older tree.
For a Sequoia tree, size and age doesn’t necessarily mean older is bigger. It mostly depends on growing conditions–if the tree is in the right place it can grow very quickly outpacing a much older tree.

Each of these trees has a story–even it we don’t know what it is.  You can stand there gazing at its magnificence and imagine what adventures it has had–wildfires (a necessity for the existence of the Sequoias), lumberjacks, heavy snowfalls, and a multitude of other things that can occur over thousands of years–we can only guess!  You may be surprised about the wildfires being needed by the Sequoias.  Well, the Sequoias have a very tough bark that make them rather impervious to fire and insects which contributes to their longevity.  However, the catch is that the Sequoias NEED the fire to propagate!  If too many weedy things are growing below them when they drop their pine cones in order to start the fertilization process to grow more trees, then the trash weeds get in the way of the cones being fertilized and sprouting new trees.  So fires are needed to burn the trash greenery so the mighty Sequoias can grow baby Sequoias.  This may be a simplistic way of explaining it but I did read lots of placards and my Sequoia book.  So I am kind of an expert now!

Driving into a Sequoia grove is like going to a party with mostly very tall basketball players.  Nobody notices the regular trees because they are staring at the Sequoia team.

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I called these the twin trees; they stand guard over the parking lot as you enter the Grove.
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The largest Sequoia tree in the General Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park, the General Grant Tree was designated the National Christmas tree as a result of the suggestion of a visiting little girl’s comment saying what a wonderful Christmas tree it would be. As a result of that overheard comment, Christmas services are held at the foot of this tree each year in celebration of the holiday and the spirit of America.  General Grant is over 267 feet tall and its circumference at the ground is almost 108 feet.

There were other challenges as well for this protected grove of trees at the Sequoia NP prior to its being made a park.  It must have been scary as a youngster, when a young Sequoia, only a few hundred years old, was seen as a major source of timber and humans approached them with axes and saws.  Scary times not just for them but for us as well, since if they had all disappeared we would not be able to see them today.  At Grant’s Grove, there is a tree cemetery of giant stumps, testimony to the lumberjack era endured by the giant Sequoias.  I am not going to show you a picture because it is sad.

But a success story as far as survival is definitely the General Sherman tree.  General Sherman is the biggest giant redwood tree based on measurements of trunk volume, excluding branches.  It is not the tallest tree nor is it the thickest at its base–it’s just BIG all over with a volume of 52500 cubic feet–not counting branches!  This makes him the biggest tree in the world although there are others that are taller or wider.

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I like this picture! I like that this fellow is so big it makes me look teeny weeny!

 

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A little distance away he looks even bigger. (And I look smaller–yeahhh!!!)  I feel like I am in that movie “Honey, he shrunk the humans!”
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Just look up, up, up…

Did you know I can do magic tricks?  Just watch me walk through a tree!

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OK, here I go! Bob looks at it and walks away. Maybe he thought there could be a rattler in there? Actually that thought did occur to me…
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OK, I am in the middle of it. Scary… It is very long.
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I’m out! I made it all the way through the tree! The people on this side (the root side) are trying to decide if they really want to walk through it.  Hey, this is NOT Disney World–there really could be something in there.  Like a Sequoia ghost….

We left our amazing Sequoia friends behind as we continued our way out of the parks.

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I’m not sure how it is done, but this tree is used to mark time. It stands in front of the Forest Service Office.
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Doesn’t this look like a giant elephant’s foot?

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That’s it for tonight!  I promise to get my next posting up quickly.  Mikaela and Sammy like to read my posts on the way to school so I sure don’t want to get lazy!  Thanks for being such diligent readers–it’s good to know I have fans!  Mikeala, I passed your comment on to Pappaw about how yucky it is to eat snakes.  You may have to talk to him about that!

Many good wishes to all of you at home and on the road!  Can’t wait to compare pictures with my traveling friends.  Happy trails, family and friends!

GLAMPING in California, etc.

We are now in California but before I tell you about our latest foray into a national park I have to tell you about a VERY IMPORTANT thing that happened over the past two days.  Yes, you guessed it–we were in CAMPING HEAVEN.  Some people may call it GLAMPING–you know–glamour plus camping.  Well, usually I would say glamour is in the eyes of the beholder.  I think it’s rather glamorous to see all the wonderful things we are seeing while wandering around so many beautiful spots on Earth–although there’s a dark side to that.  It’s not so glamorous when dealing with black and gray tanks everyday, RV repairs, chasing rattlers, driving through wind storms, and having swarms of elk pooping on your campsite (although I fully realize they were there first!).  But then again you sometimes get accidental RV washes.

Oh yeah, I think I forgot to tell you about that.  This is how that went.  On our last day in Camp Verde, AZ in the Distant Drums RV Resort, we left our campsite early to get all of our sightseeing done and came back kind of late.  Bob and I both thought something was different but it didn’t dawn on either of us what it was.  Later that evening I peeked out the window as I was cooking dinner and Bob was talking to a couple parked a little ways down from us.  It seemed to be a very animated conversation–not the usual one starting with “Well what kind of dog IS that?”  Bob came in shortly afterwards and asked if I noticed anything different about the RV.  I hadn’t really stared at it when we got back as I was trying to get in the coach to avoid the rattlers as the sun was setting and I sure didn’t want to meet up with any early arrivals of the reptilian category before dinner, so I said no.  Although I will admit something seemed different.  Bob proceeded to tell me that our neighbors had arranged for the local RV washing company to come out and wash their RV that day and–lo and behold–when they got home from their sightseeing the RV was still, well, dirty!  They called the RV wash people who swore they had washed their RV.  Bottom line, they finally figured out that “yes” they did wash an RV but it was our RV!!  At that point I did have to go out and admire the fine job they did.  I could actually see myself it was so shiny!  I stood there for a while (to heck with the rattlers!) reflecting on this miracle (it had been VERY dusty/filthy, etc.) and listening to Bob go on and on about what a fantastic job they had done.  Well, as it turned out, this was a real miracle since it prepared us for the next day’s adventures.

Anyway, back to my very special news!  We have been reserving campsites a day or so before we get to our next destination, and sometimes this can be hit or miss even if I do read the online reviews, check out photos, etc. to try not to wind up in a place we definitely don’t want to be.  It usually works out well but pictures online can be deceiving so you just take those beautiful photos with a grain of salt.  Well, our first destination in California was the Motorcoach Country Club in Indio, CA.  Look at it on Google. Astonishing.  Let me tell you, the pictures do not lie.  I thought I had died and gone to Campers’ Heaven…  This is our campsite below—just for us!

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When I saw this I thought we were at the wrong campsite! But it was all for me—yes, that’s right.  Bob didn’t even bring a swimsuit even though I had packed one for him.   We cut our sightseeing a little short yesterday so that I could sit in the hot tub and relax for a lonngggg time. It was so lovely.
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I liked the motto. Whoever owns this campsite really knows how to live it up!
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A close-up of my favorite spot. I did a little yoga, meditation, flapped my arms around a little and called it exercise… And then I made myself a frozen daiquiri. What luxury…
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Here’s Bob cooking our dinner on the enormous stainless steel grill, granite countertops–and with that beautiful view in the background.
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Although we never turned on the fireplace (it was 106 degrees–probably why the owners were renting the campsite out and not using it themselves), I could imagine cozying up to it when they had a little cold front come in–maybe 90 degrees!
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Where’s the butler????
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Bob hard at work. Please note this is one of the very few meals (all grilled) that Bob has cooked since we have been on the road. I know that some of you will find this hard to believe.
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Look at that shiny clean coach. Isn’t it lucky we just happened to get a FREE RV wash the day before? They may have not let us in the door if we had still been covered in road yuck!
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Look at the neighbors across the street. Their “estate” backed up to the water and golf course where their boat was parked.
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I miss this place already!

It was a short love affair but so memorable….!  As we were pulling into our KOA tonight, which is the closest campground for big rigs  near Sequoia National Park, I was thinking, “Where is my HOT TUB?”  Then Bob said–“Well, it’s not quite the same as last night!”    So I guess he was missing that granite, stainless steel and waterfalls too!  By the way, this KOA has a pretty nice pool but I still haven’t found a HOT TUB anywhere–not even to share!  Hmmm….how easily we become spoiled.

So let me get on with it.  We originally directed our route through Indio so that we could explore Joshua Tree National Park.  A little bit of trivia here:  do you know why this particular yucca tree is called a Joshua Tree?  (Lisa, you may know this one!)  Well, according to the U.S. Park Service, Mormon missionaries saw the trees during their travels and the upraised limbs of the tree reminded them of how one of their religious leaders, a man by the name of Joshua, raised his arms while praying.  So they named it the Joshua tree and that is what it is still called today.

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A very hardy Joshua Tree growing at 10,000 feet. I told Bob they should have called them the Hardy Boy Trees since I saw them growing seemingly out of rocks on top of humongous piles of boulders. It takes persistence to persevere in those conditions.

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The Joshua Tree National Park encompasses two deserts, the Mojave and Sonoran, with a diverse variety of landscapes and vegetation as you travel through the park.  If you drove from end to end it would take about two hours without stopping.  Very hot and dry.  Lots of amazing piles of rocks, cliffs, and boulders making it a climbers’ mecca.  And of course the miles of Joshua Trees raising their arms in amazement at all those people sweating and grunting in the very hot sun as they perilously climb very big, hot rocks with–do I dare say it?–rattlers (possibly) lurking in wait for them in every crevice!

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A climber has achieved his goal for the day and appears to be soaking in the landscape–or just trying to breathe.
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This is a better view of the mountain the guy (or girl) just climbed. These oddly shaped rocks look like something different to everyone who stares at them a little too long. I thought this one looked like Mt. Rushmore by Picasso. Maybe that’s Picasso standing on top deciding where he will sink his axe into next.
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We may not view this as a forest but indeed it is–Joshua Tree forests grown in very adverse conditions.
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We saw climbers preparing to climb this pile of boulders. I dare not ask what do they do if there is an earthquake? After all this is California. Of course a skyscraper may be a worse thing to be stuck on.

We had driven for some time into the Park, stopping and snapping pictures,  when we turned onto the road that leads to Keys View.  This area is perched on the crest of the Little San Bernardino Mountains; after hiking up a short distance to the overlook the view surprised me with a panoramic view of Coachella Valley .  The view is expansive and far-reaching, especially since we had been driving through relatively flat land punctuated by rocky mountains (or very large piles of rocks to put it more accurately).  We had been apparently climbing without realizing it since we had left I-10 that morning.  Coming down that afternoon we could see how high we had moved up.  The view at the top at 10,000 feet was very impressive, seemingly almost touching Los Angeles (we actually did get our fair share of smog shrouding the mountains we were viewing–compliments of LA).

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At the tip top of the overlook, a tree lies suspended in time as it very slowly succumbs to the elements–presumably a Joshua Tree since that is the only kind of tree I have seen for miles–but what a gorgeous view in the background.
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You can see forever!  Maybe further if LA haze wasn’t obscuring the distant mountains.

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Tomorrow we are going to the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  This is the home of the largest number of Sequoia trees remaining in the world. And we are told it  is almost impossible to not spot some black bears in the park–so no food in our Jeep!  I can’t wait to share tomorrow’s adventures with you in my next post.

Take care, friends and family!  I am thinking of you always.

Special hugs and kisses for you girls and grandkids!

Happy Trails!

Arizona Adventuring (or How to Avoid Rattlesnake Encounters)

The last time I posted we were just leaving New Mexico and heading for Arizona, so I have a  LOT to catch up on!  I’ve been a little lazy about posting every night or so since we have been very busy during the day and I can’t stay awake too long at night.  Just think–hours of very hot, arid, busy outdoor sightseeing almost everyday, traveling in the interim,  and you can see why getting back to our nice, cool RV each night is heavenly.  We have seen some amazing things so here goes!

By the way (this is for you, Sammy!), one amazing thing we HAVEN’T seen are the RATTLESNAKES.  We see warnings everywhere, flyers, movies of these evil creatures slithering though the grass, pictures (just in case we don’t know what to look for), and scary stories, but so far that’s one kind of wildlife we haven’t encountered.  Hopefully, it will stay that way!  This is especially miraculous since after your Pappaw had rattlesnake for lunch that day I thought the whole rattlesnake family would be after us.  And according to what we hear there’s a whole bunch of those critters in Arizona.   But maybe it’s just the New Mexico rattlers who are a bit perturbed!!  In the meantime, we are being very careful when venturing outside!

Petrified Forest and Painted Desert National Park.  I had no idea exactly what this national park had in store for us but it was a winner—and the name says it all!   Our base for visiting this park was Holbrook, Arizona– just a few miles from the entrance to the park.  Ashley thought the phrase “petrified forest” sounded a little ominous, and it does if you think of scary witches randomly flying around doing nasty little tricks to innocent trees.  But the actual truth of the matter is that what really happened was even more improbable.  It all started long ago in the Triassic period (let’s think dinosaurs here) when the quiet but astonishing desert and mountains we encountered were teeming with wildlife like we have not and will never see again.  There’s a lot of science and research ongoing here that people like paleontologists can spend their entire career studying, but let’s just boil it down and say that water washed a BUNCH of trees into the plains where they were covered for many thousands of years with silt and a wide variety of minerals which resulted in a miraculous event where the trees became petrified.  And when I say petrified, the trees actually turned to stone–beautiful colors and swirls and glistening stone that captures your attention in the intricacy and variety of each fallen tree.  Covering roughly 147 square miles, even after years of being vandalized and stolen prior to the area’s designation as a National Park, that is a lot of trees.

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And this is the most significant area in the world where this particular event occurred–thus lots of excitement from the scientists and an awe-inspiring walk through the petrified forest for us!  In addition to the petrified wood, there are fossils, petroglyphs from long ago native tribes who lived in that area, and ruins of their pueblos to be discovered.

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At Puerco Pueblo, one of the largest prehistoric sites in the park, we saw amazingly descriptive petroglyphs left by the Indians. This one of the bird with what looks like a human baby in its beak looks to me like a stork delivering a baby but most likely has a much more historically accurate explanation.
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These are the partially excavated remains of Puerco Pueblo, an ancestral Puebloan village abandoned about 1380.

And then we drove through the Painted Desert where the colors and rock formations are spread out as far as you can see and looks like a giant Van Gogh went a little crazy with the paintbrush.  But this is real–and deserved a lot more time and contemplation than we were able to give it.  Perhaps another time!

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The palette of colors in the Painted Desert defies the eyes–from soft muted pastels to fiery reds and yellows.
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Can you see the pinks reflected in the clouds?
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Long dormant volcanoes can be seen in the far distance.
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Does this even feel real? Yes, it is real! I took the picture but it looks almost like a painting from a fantasy world.
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This photo was taken around midday. I would have loved to have stayed there and watched the colors deepen as the sun went down.

After our day in the National Park we went back to Holbrook where we were camped.  I did find a super place to stay if we ever give up on camping.  It’s on the strip in Holbrook which at one time was part of the historic HWY 66 before I-40 bypassed it.  Don’t you love it??!!

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The Wigwam Hotel, in Holbrook, AZ just off I-40 must have been quite popular back in the HWY 66 days.   As you can see from the age of the cars some folks just came and never left!

Grand Canyon National Park (Williams, AZ).  Leaving the Petrified Forest behind, we headed for the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, AZ.  We had decided to forego the grueling drive up to the Grand Canyon and relax on the train, sip our drinks and nibble on cheese and crackers while the reliable steam engine took us through the ever changing scenery into the Park.  And to make it even more convenient, the very luxe and comfortable Grand Canyon Railway RV Park was just next door to the train station.

Williams is a hopping little town with fun restaurants, and even more fun people (picture Elvis dressed in full regalia white rhinestone jumpsuit washing the windows in one of the HWY 66 retro shops on the main thoroughfare of Williams).  Yes, Williams was also one of the towns left behind when I-40 fast-tracked people past small town America.  But they have embraced their past and appear to have thriving businesses, undoubtedly assisted by their location as a gateway to the Grand Canyon.

The next morning we headed for the train after being momentarily delayed by a shootout among a bunch of ornery cowboys near the train station.  Apparently they are ornery quite often–about 9:00 am every morning!

The train ride was relaxing, the snacks/drink service handy, and my little nap very refreshing.  Which was good because as soon as we arrived at the Park we loaded onto a tour bus and headed out to see the Grand Canyon from several fantastic viewpoints–each one seemingly better than the last one.  I have to say I was blown away.

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The quintessential Grand Canyon view!
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People either hike or ride mules down the paths cut into the hillside–all the way down.
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Our tour guide kept saying “Back up a little more.” I said “Uh, Uh–no way” –I read that book—stupid mistakes people make as they fall off the cliff into oblivion. As our tour guide also said, “There are no rescue operations at the Grand Canyon–just retrieval.”
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Brrrrreathtaking…!
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A new view every foot you take. You can’t take too many pictures. You can’t look at it too much. You have no words to describe it. Just look and soak it up
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One small guardrail. So MANY feet down. Most areas have no guardrails.

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There is a reason why they call it the “Grand” Canyon–grand is an apt description.  Overwhelming, incredible, “am I really seeing what I am seeing?” kind of a place!  To understand America, to understand ANYTHING, you’ve got to see the Grand Canyon–it puts everything else in perspective.  Again, I would have loved to stay there much, much longer but after having a quick lunch in Grand Canyon Village (south rim) and walking along the rim promenade, we headed back to the train for our trip home.

I was having a really LONG nap when the train was attacked by those same ornery cowboys we saw earlier that day.  They ran down the train on their horses, robbed all the tourists (whatever just happened to be laying on your table), waved their guns around and took off right before the sheriff showed up.  The timing was just lucky for them I guess!

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Horses outrunning the train!
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He better get his robbing done quick—the sheriff is hot on his trail!
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Leader of the gang! What big guns they have….!
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Here comes the sheriff–a little late but hot on the critters’ trail!

Montezuma Castle (Camp Verde).  The next day we headed to Camp Verde to the Distant Drum RV Campground.  This is our staging ground for heading to California tomorrow.  But in the interim, just a few miles from our campground is Montezuma’s Castle.  NO–I don’t mean Montezuma’s Revenge (this was Bob’s question–of course), but a National Monument that again is much more fascinating than the M. Revenge thing.

Montezuma’s Castle was built by an Indian tribe of southern Sinaguan farmers in the early 1200s.  It was a five story, 20-room dwelling and stands in a cliff recess 100 feet above the valley floor.  The people came down to the valley floor to farm and gather supplies.  It is still in remarkably good condition probably due to the arid conditions of the climate.

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The homeowners climbed up to their homes on ladders. Probably didn’t get too many door-to-door salespeople.
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At one time they allowed people to climb up to the cliff houses, but due to the deterioration close contact created, they removed the ladders. That’s OK with me, since there are probably some new homeowners who have moved in by now. Did I say rattlesnakes?????

By the way, I read in Trip Reviewer that our current campground is very nice (all 10s!), but that we should watch out for rattlesnakes.  Bob asked the Park employee about that and she said “Oh yes, you have to be very careful. ” She said they come out at night, and love the smell of food.  They also dig into the sand and wait for “food” to walk by so they can pop out and get it.  She said a rattler even tried to get in the door to visit with her in the office one day.  Friendly sorts–they just want to have fun too.  Since that conversation, Bob has curtailed his outside excursions after dark.

Verde Valley (Cottonwood, Jerome).  We went exploring around the Valley the first day and hit the Historical Society in Camp Verde.  Two very pleasant ladies gave me loads of information and also said that a fellow Virginian worked at our campground every winter for several months as a Work Kamper.  Wonder if he is as friendly with the Rattlers as the lady working there now….  We drove around Cottonwood and up a very high mountain and found Jerome, an artisan village.  I also found the quaintest bookstore at the top of the mountain within the village–it was painted periwinkle blue and was in a triangular chalet style–very tiny with the cutest deck out front.

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A book store in Jerome I would like to visit and stay a while. so charming….

It made me want to go in and browse around, but unfortunately it was closed that day.  According to the owner, a very nice lady (who was sitting outside reading a book!), they open Thursday through Sunday.  Another “I wish I could have done that…” to put on my wish list if I ever get back this way.

Sedona.  Finally—Sedona!  I could have spent at least two weeks here absorbing this place!  It has a self-acknowledged mystical  quality to the atmosphere that may or may not be reinforced by the amazing red rock formations that inhabit every angle, every perspective, every thought.  Peeking from behind a building, growing larger then smaller with every turn in the road, Sedona is red rocks—and it rocks in its own particular way that intrigues me and makes me want to get to know it better.  Bob wasn’t nearly as entranced as I was, but he did consent to get a manicure-pedicure the night before so maybe some of the relaxing quality of the place was rubbing off on him–well maybe a little.  And shopping–oh my goodness!  We found a most unusual shopping location called Tlaquepaque, which showcases Navajo crafts and artistry.  I was delirious and wanted to explore but unfortunately they close early so didn’t make it to all the shops.

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Amazing sculpture in the garden.
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Didn’t make it to this shop but I loved the teaser hanging from the balcony!
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Simple and beautiful.
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Centerpiece in the courtyard. It looked like the Sedona folks just like to sit in the courtyards and soak up the calm elegance and relaxing atmosphere.

I am sure there are many magical places in Sedona that would take some time to get to know.  Some refer to the town as a tourist town, but I think it is much more than that.  Just look at my pictures and see what you think!

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I loved this little shop filled with whimsical bells and doodads….
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And what a perfect location! Is there a BAD location in Sedona?
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What an astounding drive!
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Crazily beautiful wildflowers on the side of the road.
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Impossibly beautiful.
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Chapel built into the red cliffs.
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Each one different–each one beautiful!
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Mother Nature’s watercolors.
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Perfection.
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Doesn’t this look like a bunch of ladies sitting and having tea while enjoying the view?

Our very brief time in Arizona is almost over and I definitely know where I would like to re-visit!  So on to California tomorrow.  Will keep you posted!  Happy trails dear friends and family!!

Getting Around ABQ (Albuquerque)

Albuquerque is known for transportation of a very specific kind–hot air balloons!  We have all seen those pictures of hundreds of colorful, unique, fabulous hot air balloons floating through the air with desert plains, rocks of every size and shape, and formidable mountains hovering in the not so far distance.  Well, that is one mode of transportation we did not explore in ABQ over the past few days, but I do know now why it is such a popular pastime.  Our pedicab tour guide (we will get to him soon) told us ballooning is popular here because the air patterns move in a square, so that once the balloon rises and begins its wanderings, it is pretty much assured that the balloon will find its way back close to where it took off–kind of a weird boomerang effect.  Now I don’t know if this has been scientifically proven but it sounds reasonable to me, especially since ABQers would be chasing balloons all over the place trying to sort them out if there wasn’t some kind of rhyme or reason for the multitude of balloons that fly here frequently.  In the many years we have lived in VA, I have only seen one hot air balloon float over our house.  In ABQ, it is a common occurrence; in fact, when the balloon festivals are ongoing, you can see hundreds at one time.  I think it would be great fun to come back to see that!

So, OK, we didn’t do the balloon thing, but we did hit almost every other mode of transportation that I can think of.  But let me back up—our last few days in ABQ were centered mainly around taking the coach to the repair shop in the morning and bringing her home at night.  Poor Baby!  She has been through a lot!  So although I had a long wish list of things to do in ABQ, we had to do what would work time-wise each day.

On our first day we drove in from Santa Fe and went directly to the repair facility down the street from our campground.  We left Baby there to be “assessed,” then parts were ordered and we had to take her over for repairs as parts came in.  So on  Day One, we headed to Old Town ABQ for a pedicab tour of Old Town.  We were tired and not totally energetic after driving in from Santa Fe and then doing the repair shop shuffle, so being driven around looking at stuff for a little while sounded like a good plan.  At the last minute I called Mike, our driver, and asked if we could move our tour up by almost an hour, since we had arrived a lot faster than expected.  He said of course–he would just be 30 seconds–and sure enough about 20 seconds later he rounded the corner of the Plaza in his canopied pedicab.

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Pedicab-ing, while maybe not quite as exciting as ballooning, was just our speed on this beautiful day in Old Town ABQ.

The next hour or so was a low-key combination of the history of ABQ, especially as it was in the old original section now known as Old Town, with a sprinkling of humor thrown in, as well as some special insights into why the world is as it is.  And as part of the tour Mike pointed out all the places that would give discounts if we mentioned we had taken his tour.  Old Town itself was a lovely lady, with many of the same families from the founding families still in possession of their family homes.  Shopping wasn’t bad (especially with my pedicab discounts), and lunch in a hacienda-style restaurant finished off a long morning just in time for the call to come pick up Baby for the day.

After settling Baby in for the night at the campground, we headed to Sandia Peak Tramway for dinner.  I have to say that dinner was good, but the sunset over ABQ was one of the most memorable sunsets in my immediate (and that’s about all I can remember!) memory.  It took my breath away, especially as the sunset changed minute by minute so I would have to hop up from my dinner and take my camera over to the balcony for another shot.

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I haven’t downloaded my sunset pictures yet but these roses located at the foot of the tramway were beautiful and unexpected. You will see the beautiful sunset on my next post.

We got to the Tramway so late we decided to come back the next night to take the ride to the top–at one time the longest tram ride in the world at 2.6 miles up over the rocky peaks.  Now they believe there is a longer one in Eastern Europe.

The next morning, after dropping Baby off at her RV doctor, we headed west to see the Acoma Pueblo, called Sky City on the signs leading us there.  The Pueblo, or village, sits on top of a 365 foot mesa, about 60 miles west of Albuquerque.  Not until modern times was there a road leading up the mesa; all travelers had to walk up a very steep and rocky path to reach the village.  Due to its isolation, the Pueblo was sheltered from invaders for more than 1200 years.  Founded in the thirteenth century, the Acoma Pueblo (one of 19 different tribes in New Mexico) is the earliest of the continuously inhabited communities in the United States.

You can read those words but it doesn’t hit home what that really means until you visit this community.  No water on the mesa, no plumbing, no electricity–they have to do everything as it has always been done–the very hard, painstaking way.  Whether it was hauling water and supplies up the steep and torturous path, caring for crops and animals, discouraging warring tribes or Spaniards from approaching their hideaway, or the lure of leaving the hard life behind–it had to be done with no modern conveniences or outside support.

The drive to see the Acoma Pueblo was amazing in itself.  Once the historical land of the Acoma Pueblo totaled about 5 million acres; now only 10 per cent is in the hands of the Acoma community.  Still, as we stood atop the mesa talking with our resident tour guide, we could turn in a circle and look for miles in every direction.  She said that everything we were looking at was Acoma land, about 850,000 acres.

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Once we arrived, we first went to the Acoma visitor center and signed up for a tour.  Our shuttle bus took us up a very steep hill to the top of the mesa.  The tour guide explained that there was no road until a movie production team filming a movie up there (a John Wayne film called “African Sunset”) asked for permission to build one when they realized they would have to haul their equipment up the steep rocky foot path that was the only means of access at that time.  Since then the community has improved the road to accommodate the school buses picking up the school children.

The village itself made me feel like I had stepped back in time.  Gusts of sand blew in my eyes, camera, hair, clothes and shoes.  Even my Indian fry bread Bob and I tried (delicious!) tasted a little sandy after a while.  But the feeling of the place was like another planet–I could not fathom such a place ever existing in the United States.  But it was also deliciously mystical and peaceful.

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The mission church in Acoma Pueblo.
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The only tree in Acoma Pueblo. Our tour guide referred to it as the Acoma Forest.
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This is how the Acoma villagers bake their bread.
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Bob eating Indian fry bread with cinnamon and sugar.
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Toilets on the outskirts of Acoma Pueblo, hanging on to the edge of the cliff. Could make for an exciting evening.  Although there are about 300 homes in Acoma Pueblo, only 30-40 people live there at one time.  The other villagers live close by but in more accessible homes for work and school–but they all come back to the mesa for festival days.
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This is the main plaza of the village where festivals take place with 300 dancers all dancing in this space. The tribal elders sit on this bench during the many festivals each year.  Below are pictures of some areas in the Pueblo.  Notice the ladder access–if invaders threatened the women would pull up the ladders to discourage entry.

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We returned to ABQ after a long, dusty day at the Acoma Pueblo.  I have to say that after that experience I will never forget the Acoma.  Hardy, mystical souls who truly understand the pull of home. And sand–lots of sand.

We picked up Baby and settled her in for the night and headed back to the Sandia Tramway.  Once on the tram, I began to wonder if this was such a good idea.  Bob looked a little green and I tried to focus on taking pictures and not worry about how old the tram is, how far down to the ground (piles of rocks) we were–and then as we neared the top at 10,000 plus feet, the wind began to blow rather fiercely shaking the tram around so that it slammed into the side of the nest it was aiming for.

In a nutshell, here’s our ride up:

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And here’s Bob, happy he is still alive (me too!) after reaching the top and stepping onto solid ground:

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It was very windy–got to hold on to your hat in those 35 mph winds!

After having a nice dinner at the top in the High Finance restaurant, we faced what I knew I was dreading—the trip down:

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Finally to the ground we go.  Slowly.  I was so happy to see those little yellow flowers growing out of the rocks. Bob looked pretty happy to be near the ground again too.  And back at the campsite, Baby had never looked so good!

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Well, today we think is our last day in ABQ so we dropped Baby off (again!) and headed to the New Mexico Native American Cultural Center to learn about all 19 Native American tribes in New Mexico.

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The Cultural Center was once a part of the American Indian School (AIS). The original building was designed and built by AIS students to a large extent.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit each of the pueblos in person–maybe next time!  But the museum gave us a great understanding of the challenges each of the Pueblos have faced and how their individual lives were affected.  So much history and so little time to learn just a little of it!

We then ate lunch in the Cultural Center restaurant.  Huge portions so we donated some of our leftovers to the folks at the table next to us.  And they ate it!

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A Tewan Taco made on Indian Fry Bread. Delicious but very spicy (for me). And huge! Four people could have eaten this and been very satisfied!

That’s all for tonight!   Hopefully we will be ensconced in our campsite in Arizona by this time tomorrow.  We are watching the forest fires however, just in case our route crosses over their path.

Hope everyone is doing well.  Happy trails, family and friends!

 

Taking the High Road

I do not want to bore you with tales of woe back home in Virginia and here in Nevada, but, without being overly optimistic,  things are moving along!  As far as the Virginia abode, repairs are being scheduled and everything is on track.  Now if we can keep those pesky squirrels out of our house long enough, we can continue to make progress! As far as our adventuring on the road, we have had some unexpected challenges but we are trying to stay calm and have some fun when we can squeeze it in between visits to repair facilities.  The food is an adventure in itself–I just can’t get enough of this southwestern fare–yummy!

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Yes! It is TOTALLY as good as it looks!
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We have found such charming places to dine—each one of them with a special ambiance of their own.
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Bob got really adventurous one night and chose the rabbit-rattlesnake sausage for his meal. Don’t know why.  He did say afterwards that it was a little bland and…well…chewy. He said he just felt like something different. Ash said it looked like a snake lying on his plate and wondered if the snake ate the rabbit and then they cooked the “snake a la rabbit” inside. No, Ash, that’s not the way it worked but it makes me a little queasy to think about it…

In between our dining experiences, we are currently in and out of the repair shop in Albuquerque.  We could almost unhook the RV in our sleep by now!  However, the folks at Myers RV are fantastic and are working hard to get repairs completed so that we can get back on the road.   We dropped the coach at the shop early this morning and we plan to do the same thing tomorrow.  They ordered the replacement parts today for overnight shipment so we count that as progress! So early morning again tomorrow–but a positive way of thinking about it is that we will have more time to see some of the things we want to see!

So far, RVing has been a mixed bag of fun and, well–not so fun.  But the fun parts definitely outweigh the negatives–and we are learning to try to have fun even if we are tense about the latest challenge.  Trying to stay positive!

Since we have been in Albuquerque we have done some fun things that I will get to eventually–but for now I’m going to back up and tell you about our last day in Santa Fe–or in that area anyway!  And that is, of course, our trip on the “High Road to Taos.”  This route encompasses huge mountains, isolated mountain towns, remote artist colonies–and gives you a better understanding of how the early Spanish settlements are still reflected in the little towns today.  We saw much of this influence in the mission churches along the way.

The scenery on the way to Taos makes this very short distance between Santa Fe and Taos an extended trip.  I had to jump out of the car every time we rounded a curve to take more pictures! The scenery can go from stark, dramatic desert to heavily forested mountains in just minutes. DSCN7256DSCN7244DSCN7240DSCN7366 We finally made it to Chimayo’, famous for the Santuario de Chimayo’.  With its quiet and peaceful gardens, beautiful artwork, its numerous chapels and sanctuary areas, and the stream of devoted visitors, it is clear how important this sanctuary is to the community.

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Bob having a quiet moment in the Santuario de Chimayo, a beautiful mission church known as a center for curing the sick.  Or maybe he’s asleep?
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Santuario de Chimayo’ located in Chimayo’

A star attraction in this little village is the Rancho de Chimayo, a restaurant in a 19th-century hacienda-style building.  More fantastic food in an awe-inspiring setting.

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The food, the huge portions, LOTS of guacamole and salsa, the sopapillas and honey—I was in heaven!
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The is the outside of the hacienda where we had lunch. Notice the strings of peppers drying from the roof. The belief is that hanging strings of peppers bring good luck–and of course it’s a great place to dry out the pods.

After eating such a huge meal in the middle of the day, we got back on the High Road and headed toward Truchas, where Robert Redford filmed the The Milagro Beanfield War. Unfortunately, our minds must have been very muddled since we wound up miles into a back country  road that reminded me of the peaks and valleys of the Sound of Music.  The dirt roads had ruts that took every effort of our mighty little jeep to get us turned around and back on the right track.  Nevertheless, I did convince Bob to stop at one of many artist showrooms nestled in the nooks and crannies of this beautiful countryside.  Bob had a nice mini nap and I got in a little shopping. Then we went into the forest and circled through miles of beautiful scenery until I drifted off to sleep and awoke just in time to see the San Jose de Gracia Church in Trampas, a colonial-era church that sits in the middle of a very small community.

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The San Jose de Gracia Church in Trampas, a colonial-era church.

But the highlight of the church sightings was the San Francisco de Asis, the 18th-century mission church that was a subject of many of Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings.  And beautiful it was–after we finally found it in Rancho de Taos.  Following GPS on this treasure hunt dumped us into a private road, and lead to some “intense” discussion of the merits of GPS.  Finally, the good old fashioned method won out, and we stopped at a couple of places until we found someone who could give us directions.  It was well worth the extra trouble!

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The front doors of the San Francisco de Asis. Beautifully simple in adobe.
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This 18th-century mission church was regal in its peacefulness.

Miraculously, behind the mission church I found an art studio that also carried used books by local New Mexico authors.  I walked away a happy camper with a bagful of books for less than two of the books would have cost brand new.  Can’t wait to dig into them! On to Taos, our last stop on the High Road.  We found it to be a charming, tidy mountain town with interesting adobe architecture and buildings that have made it through hundreds of years.  We saw the home of Kit Carson and was given a short summary of his accomplishments.  We explored the streets and buildings and alleyways, shopping a little and soaking up the ambiance.  A few young street performers were on the Plaza and appeared to be singing for their supper.  Before we left for Santa Fe, we decided that we were actually hungry enough to eat again so headed to the restaurant in the Taos Inn for dinner.

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That’s our dinner at the beginning of this post–you know–my blue corn enchiladas and Bob’s rattlesnake!  Interestingly, we sat in a little alcove where we could look through this little cubby window into the bar.  I loved the wooden ceilings and unique little dining areas sprinkled through the main floor.  And some nice soft jazz followed us as we walked out the door.

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Peeking into the bar from our dining alcove. Note the antique wood covered ceilings.

On the way back to Santa Fe we traveled through the gorge along the Rio Grande.  I’m sure it was beautiful but I soon passed out and was not much company until we arrived back to the Baby, waiting faithfully for us.

I will catch you up on our travels over the next couple days.  There’s so much going on, I feel like I am living in multiple universes. So farewell for now, dear family and friends!  Happy trails!

Back on the road again!

It seems like a month since I last posted on my blog, but it has actually been about two weeks!  Ahhhh…. how time flies when you are battling the monsters of the universe (squirrels) on one hand, while vicariously continuing our westbound trip.  Most of you already know that when I went back to Virginia for a few days I discovered that we had the Invasion of the Squirrels at our brick and stick house– and it wasn’t a pretty picture!  Actually, it was a disaster–chewed electrical wires, flooded rooms, A/C not working since the Squirrel Family (from you know where!) that had moved in decided the wires leading to the upstairs air conditioner were pretty tasty–I had to roll up my sleeves and do battle along with an army of repair people.  So I was back in Virginia twice as long as anticipated and am still keeping an eye on repairs from afar, thanks to the assistance of family and friends!

Meanwhile, back at base camp in Colorado Springs, Bob was fighting his own battles.  A sneak attack of snow, ice and deadly cold hit the I-25 corridor where we had set up our base camp while I was in Virginia, which forced Bob to discover just how well insulated our motorhome actually is under adverse conditions.  After this unexpected experiment, Bob said the INSIDE was “snug as a bug in a rug” with the fireplace, 2 furnaces, and the heated floors going full blast.  However, RV life requires a few excursions outside relatively frequently to attend to tanks, make sure all is well, and ensure nothing has blown off overnight.  Well, between plucking icicles off the Baby every morning, scraping snow with a broom (who knew to bring a snow shovel?–after all this is our summer trip!), and trying to stay warm in freezing temperatures with less than heavy duty winter clothes, Bob completed his survival challenge with flying colors.

The day before the storm hit, Bob was still enjoying very pleasant weather when he visited the Garden of the Gods on a mission–get some great photos of the amazing rock formations.  I have to say the picture below was a great example of the wonders of this very special place!  (If you don’t mind being bopped on the head, you can ask Bob someday what happened to all the other pictures he took.)

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Amazing monoliths seemingly dropped from outer space in all kinds of fantastical formations, the Garden of the Gods is a registered National Natural Monument in Colorado Springs planted within walking distance of our campground.

With my instructions that he get some great pictures in mind (I suppose), Bob decided to tackle 14,000 plus feet Pikes Peak.  No–he didn’t climb it!  Well, actually he did, but he was in a cog train going about 7 MPH, which is much more efficient than walking!  He was able to get some super pictures, even though it was snowing and visibility was not the best.  I did Pikes Peak a few years ago and let me tell you–even taking the train up is a challenge!  As you get closer to the top the lack of oxygen makes you think seriously about every next breath.  So taking pictures takes second place to breathing…  So here’s Bob’s Pikes Peak adventure in pictures:

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Bob took the cog train out of Manitou Springs, CO heading for the top of Pikes Peak. At 7 mph, slow and steady wins the race. This little train attempts the Peak every day of the year although there are times it doesn’t happen. It didn’t make it all the way up the day before Bob went up, and the people working at the Visitors Center at the top were taken down early in the day.

DSCN7166DSCN7157DSCN7051 The trip up starts with wooded hillsides, boulders, and a few snowflakes.  As this “little engine that could” chugs on up the mountain, you begin to wonder if it can really make it.  And it starts getting colder and colder.

DSCN7049DSCN7070DSCN7062DSCN7102DSCN7105DSCN7107 The train trip takes well over an hour and the scenery gradually unfolds from treed forests to lunar landscape–with MUCH snow for this time of year!  The trees become sparser until you realize you are looking at Arctic tundra!  Then you start dreaming of another jacket, more socks, a thicker hat…..

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Hikers sometimes hike up to this level and catch the train to the top–or vice versa.

Windy Point is an apt name for this lonely outpost!  there is nothing up here (almost at the top–just 2000 more feet!)  to break the force of the frigid winds that blow on this Martian landscape.

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Workers live up here in the tundra area to help keep the tracks cleared and the train moving.

 

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You are looking down on the other peaks in this chain of giant mountains.

 

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Moon rocks, anyone?

DSCN7116DSCN7121DSCN7129DSCN7130DSCN7135DSCN7123 Good thing the train knows where he’s going–those tracks seem to be disappearing.   Aha–is that the Visitor Center at the top?

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The train has arrived–and in one piece! Now if you could only breathe you can walk up to the  Visitor Center and get something good and hot to eat and drink!  And if you are really doing well–a little shopping.  Suggestion: A t-shirt with the statement “I survived Pikes Peak!”

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All aboard! A mad scramble for homemade doughnuts made at the top with a special recipe adapted for the altitude–and something HOT–VERY HOT–to drink!

 

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Glory be! We are going to make it safely down to Manitou Springs! Trees in sight once more.

 

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Home sweet home!  The Pikes Peak train station comes into sight again.  You done it!

While I was dealing with a continuing series of squirrel-related challenges, Bob was also multi-tasking, trying to keep our trip on schedule while ensuring the RV didn’t freeze into a solid chunk of ice.  Remember a few blogs ago that we had a slide out roller awning quit working after going through a particularly windy stretch of the road in Kansas–and we had to order another part at the repair facility in Denver?  Well, the “just a few days” to arrive turned into a “Mission Impossible” due to the VERY SLOW delivery folks who used everything from snow to ingrown toenails for not delivering the part across town–in fact, the part didn’t arrive until the day after I returned to Colorado over two weeks later.

We were a little unglued about that, especially since Bob picked me up at Denver Airport on Wednesday, rushed back to Colorado Springs where we hooked up the RV and then headed back to Denver in evening commuter traffic—yuck!  Visions of Northern VA traffic jams endured during 25 years of commuting to DC and environs gave me the heeber-jeebers, which was not eased at all by my jet lag–so it was a good thing Bob was driving! The next day the repairs were finished late in the afternoon, and we headed down the road toward Taos, New Mexico.  Since it was so late we stopped at Rotan, NM.  The next morning, we went on to Santa Fe for a couple of days camping on a mesa overlooking Santa Fe.  Great, heavenly views, with a quirky, comfortable campground (called Santa Fe Skies RV Resort) I would love to visit again.  Art sculptures, a display of antique farm equipment, solar power panels, great walking path–it is very appealing. Unfortunately, while setting up camp yesterday one of our 4 slide outs got stuck so we had to start the whole rigamarole again.  So tomorrow–off to a new repair facility in Albuquerque!  Wish us luck!

I don’t want to exhaust you trying to catch up two weeks in one blog.  So Installment 2 will be posted tomorrow.  The highlight for today was the High Road to Taos we drove today and the places we stopped to “mess around” and explore along the way.  And what amazing scenery–tune back in tomorrow! We have some great pictures!  Good night, family and friends!  Happy Trails!

Moving On: Colorado Springs or bust

We untethered Baby 2 today and let her get some air under her wings.  She had been stuck in that campground in Estes Park with deer and elk running circles around her for days–so she looked happy to hit the road.  We took the Peak to Peak road out of Estes Park and headed to Lyons where we hooked back up before continuing our trip to Colorado Springs.  I planned to take some pictures along the way and then meet Bob in Lyon, but I had never driven very far behind Baby and she looked so happy to be free, I just watched her go.  Her freedom was short-lived, however; she was back to being the workhorse again on down the road when we plugged in the Jeep behind her.

DSCN7026DSCN7005DSCN7004 Some of you are a little curious about the mechanics behind RVing.  Others of you know more than we will ever know!  But I want to introduce you to Pinky, our pink monkey, who is our assistant driver in the tow vehicle.  This is the way it works–when Baby 2 is pulling the Jeep she is so much bigger and stronger than the Jeep that if something awful were to happen–let’s say a flat tire on the Jeep–then Baby 2 would continue to pull her along unknowingly–which would definitely not be a good situation.  In our class we were told to put something bright (such as a scarf) on the top of the steering wheel and watch it in the rear camera.  If it starts bobbing furiously around, you will immediately know if something is out of sorts.  I didn’t like any of the scarves I saw that day so the brightest thing I could find was this pink monkey.  So if you see a large RV going down the road and you see a pink monkey driving the tow vehicle, then you can be pretty certain it’s us!! DSCN7030 Driving a tow vehicle is tough work.  As the RV makes turns, the wheel of the toad (tow vehicle) also turns.  So Pinky can sometimes almost wind up standing on her head.  But she holds on tight and does her job with style!  Hold on there, Pinky! DSCN7031DSCN7029DSCN7033 Well, between Baby 2, Pinky, and–oh yeah–Bob, who drove the RV today, we made it to Colorado Springs with only one minor surprise.  (Can we ever do ANYTHING without something popping up that we didn’t expect?  Or popping off?  Ok–you get the message!) Well, today’s surprise as we were heading down I-25 south of Denver was a large piece of steel and rubber tread lying in our lane of the road that must have blown off of a large truck .  Since there was no where to go to dodge the big chunk of rubber and steel, we (of course) ran over it but didn’t think anything of it since everything seemed fine.  As we were checking in at our campground, a fellow camper came in and asked if the Phaeton was ours and mentioned that we had some extra tire hanging on the back dual axle.  He and Bob tried to pull it out to no avail–so it wound up being another call to CoachNet.  They were here within 30 minutes and yanked that thing right out of there with no damage to the Coach.  I love happy endings!  Look at the smile on Baby 2 below–she’s so happy to have that yucky thing gone! DSCN7034 The ladies in the RV office recommended a little bistro in Old Colorado City (4 miles down from us) for dinner tonight.  The atmosphere was a little funky, with what Bob refers to as “California-style” (i.e., healthy) food on the menu.  We both found something we liked and all was well. I enjoyed checking out the house (that’s really what it was), with an old wooden chandelier, stained glass, and a guy sitting in the front bar area looking grumpy and wondering how/why he wound up there for dinner.  Oh yeah, that guy was Bob–and he survived!  In fact the BLT he had looked pretty darn good! DSCN7035DSCN7039DSCN7037 We were walking back to our car tonight after dinner and this singing couple in a shop window caught my eye. DSCN7044 I would love to know what they are singing, but I can only imagine it’s “Happy Birthday” on the belated side.  After all, the picture below it just happened to get on the blog today so there had to be some magic somehow!

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Two of my favorite granddaughters sharing a birthday moment at Mikaela’s 6th birthday celebration. I can’t believe that was 4 years ago! Birthdays have always been big in our family and the girls are carrying on the tradition!

Well, that’s it for tonight folks!  I will be back on duty Monday night after I get back to Colorado from my trip home.  But Bob has promised to get out and do some exploring without me, so more blog fodder is coming!  Cheers to all!  And to my dear grandsons, I will sneak you on my blog in the very near future, so hang in there!

NEWS FLASH! Rocky Elk go on strike!

Before we get to the big news of the day, just in case you are interested, here’s an update on my convection oven battle.  We (it took two of us) successfully baked biscuits this morning and very tasty pork chops tonight!  Applause, everyone!  Goodness knows what we will attempt next.  Ashley wants us to demonstrate on Facetime.  Come on, Ashley, this is not a cooking show!  Anyway, I would have to have a personal hairdresser and where would he/she sleep????

On to the BIG NEWS….  I kept looking out the windows this morning waiting for our friends to appear.  But not a sign.  So around noon we drove down the hill to exit the campground and what did we see?  Elk on strike!

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OK–either they were on strike or they were intensely involved in their noon siesta.  I have been suspecting that this campground pays the local elk to stroll through this campground for the guests’ entertainment.  Unfortunately, they probably heard about the minimum wage going up and decided that a pay increase would be nice.  Well, there were some strikebreakers–turning their backs on their friends–well, OK, their BUTTS.  But aren’t they CUTE butts?  I’ve become very fond of these local elk, so when I see Elkburgers on the local menu it makes me feel kind of sad and, well, nauseated.  Maybe this was a strike after all–some big issues here!

I didn’t sleep too well last night thinking about the ghosts at the Hotel Stanley.  I think they felt cheated since I didn’t show you any pictures of their (permanent?) home.  So here goes:

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Do you notice anything odd?  Well the picture in the middle is not the Hotel Stanley but a dollhouse replica of it used in the movie, “The Shining.”  And did you know the first “Dumb and Dumber” movie was also filmed here?  Odd combination, don’t you think?  The hotel was owned by the same Stanley fellow who built the Stanley automobile.  Anybody remember that?  If you do, you’re probably one of the Hotel Stanley ghosts.  I’m sure the ghosts get a kick out of riding this car up and down the lobby every night.  There is a picture in the lobby of the Emperor Hirohito from Japan behind the wheel of the car as it sat in the lobby.  He must have had a difficult time getting a taxi that day.

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Sitting in the lobby of the Hotel Stanley, the Stanley automobile as it once looked upon arrival in Estes Park, CO.  The automobile quickly replaced many of the horses and buggies used by Estes Park folks.

Ashley, what do you think?  Isn’t this staircase remarkably similar to the one at the place where you and Justin were married?  The museum downstairs has videos taken of ghosts flitting up and down the stairs.  Or perhaps it was some old film.  Who knows?

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Squint your eyes just a little and you may be able to see a Hotel Stanley ghost. Oh yeah, just now, did you see that????

So today we headed back into Rocky, and found this valley near Horseshoe Bend.  During the Depression, 200 men from the Civilian Conservation Corps lived in tents on the valley floor, working to preserve and protect the wilderness areas.  I don’t know if you girls remember me telling you this, but my grandfather on my mother’s side worked in the Corps and helped to build the Blue Ridge Parkway after the war.  These men left their families and lived in camps for months at a time in a last ditch effort to work so that they could feed their families.  Efforts like this helped a lot of families survive the Depression era.  As a side benefit, Roosevelt’s initiative to create the Corps helped place more focus on wilderness preservation for future generations.

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I asked everyone yesterday if they knew what kind of bird this is.  Lisa said it was a magpie and that they have a lot of them in Utah.  Interesting!  I don’t know too much about magpies, but aren’t they the birds who like shiny articles and will steal it in a heartbeat?  So I guess the bears aren’t the only scavengers in the campground.  Maybe a few CAUTION: MAGPIES IN AREA next to the bear warning signs?  Hmmm…

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I thought you guys would like to see this sweet doggie I met in the RMNP visitor center.  He’s a sweet and fun dog who happens to be a support dog.  He had his national certification tags on his back and was happy to be out of the car so that he could get his shopping done–he was busy selecting a new t-shirt when I walked up.  His owner said he is her constant companion and helps her tremendously.  He gave me lots of kisses before he left with his owner.

We are moving on to Colorado Springs tomorrow and leaving this very interesting place behind.  Probably very timely, since Estes Park is almost into the flood season.  Bob has been getting the scoop from the guy down at the gas station where he gets his coffee every morning.  (Yes, he has a coffee pot but I think he likes to hear a little local gossip at the same time he has his wakeup coffee.)  They had a bad flood last year but it didn’t beat the one in 1982 which was catastrophic.  I talked to a lady in the bookstore I visited today about the flooding and she said they are holding their breath that it doesn’t warm up too quickly–which would send torrential meltwaters down the rivers and streams ultimately slamming into Estes Park.  They are still cleaning up from last year.  The devastation from these floods is overwhelming for such a small isolated community.

Just one more note: to save myself from further embarrassment, I finally bought some hiking shoes today and the lady in the shoe store swore I could walk on ice, rocks, anything–without sliding.  She even had me running up a rock ramp in her store to prove her point.  I think she must have been talking to the Park Ranger from yesterday.  Word gets around in these small towns.

So on to the next adventures!  I will be back in Virginia May 7-12, so Bob has instructions to take lots of pictures while I’m gone and have lots of GOOD adventures, so that I can send out a “catch-up” blog when I return.  So never fear–these intrepid explorers are still on the job–but will be taking a blog break for a few days!  Take care friends and family–all our love!