Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tour of the West: Death Valley

As plans for our vacation shaped up, I realized that we were generally going from cold to warm: from near-freezing at night at Wheeler Peak, through warmer temperatures in northern Utah and Colorado, to downright hot at the Utah/Arizona border.  It therefore only seemed appropriate to head through Death Valley on the way home.

In late June.

Mwahahahahaha!!!  Ma is so mean.

I was actually kind, and sprang for an air-conditioned room at Death Valley Ranch.

It was rather warm when we arrived at dinnertime.  This is a whole three degrees cooler than the high temperature for the day!

Our adventures earlier in the day included coming into Death Valley from the east, through the ghost town of Rhyolite.  This gold mining town was founded around 1905, and was largely empty by 1920.

Just outside of Rhyolite is the Goldwell Open Air Museum, an outdoor sculpture museum created by a group of wacky Belgian artists.

Not what one would expect to run across out in the desert.  We were highly amused, and wandered around in the heat to explore the site.

Click on the picture to enlarge it, and take the time to read the inscription -- it too is art.

As we were leaving Rhyolite, a whole string of highly decorated expensive cars came zooming in.  We suspect they were heading in to do some sort of photo shoot in the late afternoon light.

After we got settled at Death Valley Ranch, marveled at the heat, and had some dinner, we enjoyed the hot-spring-heated pool in the dark.  There were actually quite a few people there; most of them were tourists from various parts of Northern Europe.

On our way out of the valley in the morning, we took the time to visit Scotty's Castle, an ornate mansion with a colorful history in the northern part of the park.  It was well worth the time to take the guided tour, which was finished off with music from the player piano/player pipe organ in the music salon.  Player pipe organ???  Most unique.

Chad liked the "touring car" that had belonged to the original owner of the castle.

 I liked Scotty's weathervane.

Eventually, we headed out of Death Valley to the north, with a brief stop at Crankshaft Crossing to adjust the stuff on the top of the truck after hitting a bump harder than expected.  From there, it was a relatively easy drive up 395 to a campsite for the night, before heading over Tioga Pass and home sweet home.

(End of vacation)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Tour of the West: Arches and Bryce

Lest you all think we didn't go anywhere that anyone else has ever heard of, here is photographic proof that we hit a few of the tourist-infested "main-attraction" national parks as well as the more obscure spots that you've already heard about.

Arches (hit in passing towards the end of the afternoon as we drove from Dinosaur to Mesa Verde)

Bryce Canyon (spent a whole day here, with a hike among the hoodoos followed by a hike among the bristlecones, followed by a movie in the visitors center, followed by a fancy dinner in the lodge)

Tour of the West: Is there Anything Here????

At one point when we were in Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument, a passenger car came roaring towards us down the dirt road.  Getting closer, it pulled to a rapid stop.  "Is there anything back here?" asked the driver in an exasperated voice.

I couldn't figure out how to answer this question -- it made no sense.  We had just spent the better part of three days camping, exploring, playing in slot canyons, and chasing dinosaur tracks, and were regretful that it was almost time to move on before we had had a chance to do everything.  Is there anything back here?  Bah.

Fortunately, Chad had more presence of mind and asked "What are you looking for?"  "Devil's Playground." the driver groused.  We pointed out that it was a mile up the road on the right next to a sign and went on our merry way.  He tore off at high  speed.

I hope he liked it.  It's a neat site and doesn't even require much of a walk.  Totally accessible and scenic, even to those who are so colossally clueless that they don't think there is anything to see in the monument.  We poked around it a bit the next morning on our way out, before it got too hot.


Hoodoo + Ma silhouette.

Happy kid.

Nimue finds a niche.

Nimue finds another niche.

Hoodoos with Fiftymile Cliff in the background.

Yucca fruits.

Reptile and small mammal tracks.

At one point, we heard a strange scratching noise in the rock and looked around to find this:

Someone had left an empty tictac container wedged in a crevice in the rocks in an orientation such that a couple of curious beetles had crawled in but couldn't crawl back up the slippery plastic to get back out.  The clicky scratching sounds we heard were the beetles desperately trying to climb up toward the opening.  Chad gently turned the container around so the beetles could escape.

Of course I found things to climb on.

More views.

Shadows on swirly rock.

Arches to climb on.

Many photogenic rocks.

 We all agreed that there were plenty of things to see back here!