It’s OK – It’s a Dry Heat – Part 1

It was kinda of sad leaving Sunny Valley. We had such a great time with Mike and Dawn (read Dawn’s take on our meeting here), it was hard to say “until we meet again”.

We spent the night in Kingman, AZ so we could have dinner with family…

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Our plan was to spend the next week exploring Death Valley. Death Valley is the 5th largest National Park in the United States and the largest in the lower 48. It covers 5262 square miles (roughly 3.4 million acres). It is 140 miles long and about 75 miles across at its widest.

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We decided Beatty RV Park in Nevada would be the perfect jumping off point for our explorations.  On our way to Beatty, we passed the Hoover Dam…

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And drove through Las Vegas. It was noon when we pulled into the park. We got set up in our site and headed into town, actually, to be completely honest, we were looking for a liquor store. The camp host told us we could probably buy liquor at the casino. My first thought was, yeah, what would THAT cost. After we drove around town a bit, we headed to the Stagecoach Hotel and Casino. Just for fun, we put $6.00 (big spenders, right?) into the one-armed-bandit and hit on the 3rd pull. Woohoo. Let’s cash out of this machine! And so it went. A few bucks here, a few bucks there and at the end of the afternoon, we were up enough to cover the cost of the bottle, which wasn’t as expensive as I imagined. When we got back to Waldo, there were wild burros across the street, which I thought was really neat…

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I can just hear the burro, “What, haven’t you ever seen an ass before?”

The next day, we headed into Death Valley…

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Once we passed through Hell’s Gate, the temperature started to climb. It was 58 degrees in Beatty and 75 degrees on the valley floor. The wind had been kicking up for days and it was really noticeable in the valley. I knew it would be hard to get great pictures of the overall landscape because of the haze…

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Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

So, I tried to focus on the smaller scenes…

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Our next stop was Mosaic Canyon, a 4 mile round trip through narrow slot canyons and polished rock walls…

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Looking back toward the parking area
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The canyon walls, smoothed by rushing waters
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Steve getting a picture of the landscape

From there, we walked the Salt Creek Interpretative Trail.

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Since it was only April, there was still plenty of water flowing. The water is 4x saltier than the ocean. In spite of that, it is home to the Salt Creek pupfish…

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Not a great picture, but you can see several pupfish

April is the beginning of mating season and the males were a beautiful shade of blue. As we were walking along, I could have sworn I saw a gorilla face in the mountains…

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Do you see a gorilla or was I imagining it?

I was in sensory overload, it’s hard to take in all the naked beauty at once.

It was several days before we got back to exploring. Before you get into Death Valley, there are 2 must see places. The first is the Goldwater Open Air Museum. It seems a strange place for an art museum, in the middle of nowhere, but it is definitely worth the stop…

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Fred Bervoets’s  Ode to Shorty
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Charles Albert Szukalski‘s Ghost Rider
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Charles Albert Szukalski‘s The Last Supper
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A very large metal origami crane
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Dr. Hugo Heyrman‘s Lady Desert The Venus of Nevada
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Onny Huisink’s The Beauty of Decay
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Sofie Siegmann‘s Sit Here

Just passed the museum we discovered several abandon homes and vehicles…

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This was a prelude to the ghost town of Rhyolite. The town boomed into existence in 1904 and had burnt itself out by 1916. Remains of several of the buildings give us an idea what town was like in its heyday…

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I thought one of the neatest buildings was Tom Kelly’s bottle house

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Despite the fact electricity to the town had been shut off in 1916, the last tenets of the house lived there until 1969. Tommy Thompson and his family added miniature houses to the property…

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From Rhyolite, we headed back into Death Valley. We drove along Mustard Canyon Road…

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Then visited Harmony Borax Works

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The iconic 20 Mule Team wagon used to transport the borax

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Even in this harsh environment, flowers still find a place to bloom…

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Our final hike of the day was to the natural bridge…

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I’m going to wrap up Part 1. There is still so much to tell you about! So here is my closing shot until I get to Part 2…

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Have you visited Death Valley?

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

After New Orleans, we were ready for a little quiet time. We thought stopping at Wind Point Park for a few days would provide us with that. Boy were we wrong! 4 non-stop days of catching up with friends. 3 non-stop nights of bonfires and brews. It was awesome to visit the place we worked for 5 1/2 months and to see the people we’d become friends with, but damn, was I tired when we left! Our next stop was guaranteed to give us the down time we needed.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Driving along the north Texas plain, the scenery can be a bit – well – boring. Sorry Texas! But miles and miles (and miles) of this…

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can give you the feeling the scenery will never change. I was sitting in my customary position, foot rest up-seat tilted back just so, just comfortable enough to doze occasionally. I was jolted awake from my snooze when Steve hit the brakes on Waldo a little harder than normal. I was STUNNED. The scenery had gone from miles of flat nothing to a mesmerizing view of the canyon…

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I had taken advantage of our Texas State Park pass when I made our reservation. All we had to do was check in at the ranger station and get our site number. Sites are assigned on a first come first served basis. In 2019, you will be able to reserve a specific site but for now it is pot luck. I think we did OK!

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Looking back, I wrote in my journal, “It is not a hard thing to wake up to.” Peace and quiet! Only a few friendly neighbors. Our first full day in the canyon had us scouting out possible hikes, nothing too strenuous, but trying to take in everything we could. I got a bit frustrated because they give you 2 maps. One of the campgrounds and one of the hiking trails. It’s really hard to match the maps up and the signage wasn’t as good as it could be. We drove through the park first, getting the lay of the land, so to speak. It was hard to get anywhere, because I kept saying “Stop, I want to take a picture.” With sights like this, how could I not?

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The setting moon

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Our first hike was to “The Big Cave”. We parked on the side of the road and started up the trail…

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I climbed to the mouth of the cave first and looked back to make sure Steve was coming…

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Steve trying to decide the best route
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Looking back towards the Jeep. Can you see it?
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I couldn’t get far enough back into the cave to get the entire opening

From a distance, the rock looks smooth. When you get close up, it looks like this…

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From here, we walked along the Juniper Riverside trail…

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While the scenery was spectacular, I was getting tired so returned to the Jeep. I’ve been fighting a sore throat and a sinus infection, so this was enough walking for one day.

Once back at Waldo, we set our chairs in the shade and relaxed! As we were sitting there chatting, I spied something out of the corner of my eye. I wasn’t sure what it was and I nudged Steve to look in that direction. A few moments later, a little head popped out of the ground, looked around then dropped back into the hole. I sat with the camera trained on the hole, waiting for the critter to reemerge. He did, but from another hole. It took me a while, but here is our visitor…

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It is called a pocket gopher. Come to find out, there must have been dozens them. As we sat there quietly, they popped up and down like the game of whack-a-mole. Right after Steve put my camera away, we had another visitor, so this is a cellphone pic…

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Roadrunners crack me up. I love watching them. The next morning, I looked out the window towards the tent across the way. If the folks sleeping inside had been awake, they could have reached out and petted the mule deer who was grazing at their front door. I was loving all the wildlife. This what exactly the relaxation we had been needing.

We spent most of the day driving through the park. We stopped at the visitor center and learned a lot about the fascinating history of the park. I had heard of the Civilian Conservation Corps, but never realized what an impact they had on our park system. They spent 5 years working on Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Many of the building are still in use today. Below is a picture of what is left of the mess hall. 85 years later, this chimney is still standing…

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As we were driving along, I had Steve pull over and give me the binoculars.

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Yes, the arrow is pointing to a person! I’ll bet the view was amazing, but, not my kind of hike!

Our final morning found us wishing for more time to explore. More time to just relax and spend quality time together, but we still have a long way to go. (4,698 mile to be exact) We had one last visitor before we left…

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Another cellphone pic, but you get the idea

The road in and out of the canyon is steep and full of switchbacks. We decided not to hook up the jeep and force Waldo to tow it out. So, with me driving the Trouble, I followed Steve out of the canyon. Just to give you an idea, here is a short video I shot out the window as I was following…

Steve almost gave me a heart attack when the rear wheel slipped into the culvert! Once we were at the top, we hooked up and headed towards Amarillo. Not surprisingly, I had him pull over once again for a picture. What gave me pause was thinking about how much is the same and how much has changed. Two windmills, both harnessing power, the old and the new…

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Up next…a really cool RV museum in Amarillo.

I know I am really behind in keeping up with our travels. We were at Palo Duro Canyon April 4-6th. We’ve seen so much since then! Right now we are in Winnemucca, Nevada, but I don’t want to get too ahead of the story! If you want more up-to-date information on our adventures, Like TheWanderingRVer on Facebook

Exploring Big Cypress National Preserve, part 2

If you missed part 1, you can find it here. Big Cypress encompasses several different environments, and they each require a specific mode of transportation. Many places are accessible with your own vehicle, despite any warning signs you might see…

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Many of the roads are hard packed sand and are easy to navigate…

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They offer a stunning array of scenery and wildlife opportunities…

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Other areas can only be reached via hiking trails. We started out on the Gator Hook Trail. At the start, it looked something like this…

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With scenery like this…

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Then it became a bit muddier…

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As you can see, Steve is having second thoughts about this hike. And with good reason, the rest of the trail looked like this…

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We hadn’t really planned for a wet hike, so we decided to head back and check out some of the other trails. One of the neat things about Big Cypress is they have several boardwalk hikes. Most are less than a mile and are wheelchair accessible. You can see almost all of the same scenery, but with dry feet.

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What do you think of this in black and white?

The boardwalk at the Kirby Storter Roadside Park has a chickee near the beginning of the trail…

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As the boardwalk meanders through the forest/swamp, you can’t help but notice the changes in the landscape. Cypress knees begin cluttering the forest floor…

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Most of the cypress trees were logged out during the late 1800’s. But every now and then, you can find one that has been around a while. I have no idea how old this tree is, but the plastic water bottle near the base of it gives something for scale. (There was actually very little litter in the preserve)

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The boardwalk ends at a large viewing platform with several benches…

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While Steve was talking with another visitor, I watched the anhinga looking for its lunch…

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Another day, Steve and I hiked out to Deep Lake. Since we were there during the dry season, the path was pretty easy to walk. There were a few places where getting wet was the only option. At least we were prepared this time…

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Deep Lake is a naturally occurring sinkhole lake and is over 90 feet deep.

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How many alligators do you see? Hint, there are more than 5

One of the benefits of hiking versus driving, is you can just stop and check things out. You will see things you would have otherwise missed. Like the neat pattern the fungus made on this tree…

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Or the blooms of the bromeliads…

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Or the lizards,

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A strangle fig with its victim,

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A squirrel hiding in a tree,

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Or a liguus tree snail…

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For me, kayaking is probably the next “slowest” way to take in the sights.

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I imagine during the wet season, all of this is underwater.

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Other ways to get into the “back country” are airboats…

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And my personal favorite – swamp buggies…

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There are lots of places you can take airboat or swamp buggy eco tours, but we opted not to on this trip. Maybe next time!

Until then…

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