Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Sue and Mo at Harris Beach
Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Kayaks on our lake at last

Pelican Bay kayak (9)The weather has been so changeable lately, but the change that hasn’t yet happened is warm sunny days.  Often we have our kayaks in the water as early as March, but this year has been long and cold.  We even hauled the new boats to California in February, hoping for some good estuary kayaking, but it was not to be.  The boats got lots of miles on top the Tracker, but not a single dip into the water thanks to high winds and low tides.

In the midst of soaking rains and occasional snow flurries, we had a day of brilliant sunshine, with temps maxing out at 50 F. At first I thought about trying to get out on the water around 11, good time for a lunch break from the home office for me, but a short step outside indicated that 40 degrees and a 10 mph wind wasn’t exactly conducive to being on the water.  I finished my day of work, and by 4pm, while the sun was fading into the clouds of a coming storm, the winds had died to practically nothing.

Home for us is just south of Rocky Point in the forest.Capture

For the first time since we got our new kayaks, we loaded them up in my truck and drove the long 1/4 mile to the boat launch at Rocky Point Resort just down the road. When we got the new boats, we also bought new lightweight Werner paddles, and during the first few minutes on the water, they took a bit of getting used to.  It felt like there was nothing to hold onto as I paddled, but after a couple of hours out on the water, it was wonderful.  The new Swift Adirondacks are a foot longer and maybe a couple of inches wider than our old Perception Acadias, but they are 15 pounds lighter.  We did manage to launch them last fall right after they arrived, but this was the first launch on our home territory, and my first launch of the replacement boat delivered by Swift in January. I wrote about why I needed a replacement boat back here in November.

Mount Harriman from Pelican BayAhhh.  I can’t explain that feeling of gliding silently, and rhythmically  along still water, surrounded by mountains only accompanied by the water birds.  The sandhill cranes are hollering in the marsh along with blue herons.  The Canada geese are everywhere, and many types of ducks.  My little camera isn’t so great at the long bird shots, and as I slid along yesterday, I really looked forward to my coming ‘DSLR with a telephoto’ days.  We spotted an eagle not far from shore, and some ospreys were fishing for their evening meal.

This time, instead of traveling north along Recreation Creek to the springs, we took a southern route into Pelican Bay along the western edge of Upper Klamath Lake.  It has been a great water year, and the lake is higher than I have seen it in many years.  We kayak here often, but everything looked completely different with the high water.  The snow on Mt McLaughlin was thick and deep, and looking up, I remembered the hot August day that Mo and I hiked to the top of that mountain. 

Pelican Bay kayak (23)Even though McLaughlin is only 9450 feet tall, it stands majestically above the surrounding Cascade Mountains and is visible from Medford, from Klamath Falls, and even from California along Highway 97 north of Weed.  It’s the remnant of an old volcano, glaciated to it’s current shape, and most of the time, has a snow-capped summit.

Back in 2003, Mo and I had only known each other a few months when we decided it was time to climb that mountain. My sister just laughed out loud when I asked her to join us.  “I’m not crazy enough to even THINK about trying to climb that mountain”.  That summer Mo and I were of course just young things, of course, and we were up for anything.  At 63 years old, Mo was younger than I am now!  It was a long day, and a gorgeous climb.  Many people say they have climbed McLaughlin, but often they only go to the last landing before the steep rocky summit to the peak.  From the landing, there is no trail, only huge boulders with faint arrows painted here and there.  The forest service tries to remove those arrows since McLaughlin is in the Sky Lakes Wilderness Area, and they don’t help much anyway.

03_08_McLoughlin Hike005It was a daunting climb, and about 200 feet from the top, I got sick and weak, and gave out.  Mo climbed on ahead of me to the peak while I tried to recuperate.  A couple of climbers came along, one of them saying, “You should go down now, because you will only get sicker if you go higher and altitude sickness lasts for hours”.  Another one said, “You should go to the top, because you will hate yourself if you don’t”, and gave me some Gatorade.  I decided that I was going to do it, no matter what, and just about that time Mo returned from the summit and said, “Sure, I’ll go up with you.”  You gotta remember, Mo is almost 6 years older than me, and even though I worked outdoors in the field for most of my career, she was a PE teacher, so often is in the lead on these kinds of excursions!

03_08_McLoughlin Hike016So we hiked over the huge, room sized boulders to the summit, where I crawled out across the dizzying space to sit with Mo for our summit photo.  The 360 degree view was amazing in all directions.  The mountain is visible from the road very near our house, and often we look up at the sharp summit and say, “Gee, I’m glad we did that and don’t have to do it again.” It took us 12 hours round trip, and our knees didn’t much like the down part on the return trip. 

Yesterday as we kayaked across the bay with McLaughlin towering over the landscape, we thought again, “Gee, I’m glad we already did that!”

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Blog families and loss

I don’t blog every day, but I usually try to read the blogs I follow.  My heart hurts for a fellow blogger and blog mentor and I just wanted to add my condolences to Al and Kelly for the loss of Checkers. Somehow it never seems OK that we last so long and our animals cannot be with us for the whole journey.  After all, parrots and elephants live as long as we do.  Not dogs.  Not kitties.  Our hearts break over and over, and we still keep loving and sharing our lives with them.  Big Sigh.  I’ll add my condolences on Al’s blog, along with the many other folks out there in blog world who have followed the Bayfield Bunch and Checkers across the desert southwest. Somehow just a comment didn’t seem enough. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cameras, computers and other such stuff

April yard Rocky Point (2) It’s been a busy week for me, working  a bit more than 40 hours like real folks, although I still managed to do more than half of that time from home.  Working with the current project leader for a soil survey project I managed a few years ago is actually a lot of fun.  Chris is a great guy, a smart and savvy soil scientist with good ideas.  We spent two full days this week putting our heads together to refine the detailed descriptions of the geomorphology of the area.  April yard Rocky Point

Understanding the landscape and how it was formed is crucial to understanding the soils that form on those landscapes.  Part of the data associated with a published soil survey is detailed information about the landscape for each soil that occurs in the area. After our review, my job this week is to get all that information in NASIS, the big database in the sky.  It keeps my brain running at full speed and makes it a bit hard for me to sleep at night. 

But now it is the weekend, and I promised myself I would refrain from firing up NASIS and trying to keep looking at all that data.  Yeah, probably boring as heck to anyone but the few of us involved in the process, but it explains why I speed read blogs and sometimes don’t take the time to comment.  Sorry folks, really, I love your blogs. I am praying that I never need a knee replacement after reading Laurie’s detailed account of what she and Odel have been doing after his operation.  They are doing a great job, both of them, I just hope I never have to do it. I have been enjoying the migration of the Canadians back to their home territory and the folks still wandering across Texas trying to avoid the fires.  There are several women RV’rs who are departing on their big full-time journeys, and several buying new rigs.  I love reading about their adventures.  I can’t possibly link to all my favorites without missing someone, so I won’t even try. 

It is wonderful to have the MoHo safely at home again.April yard Rocky Point (7)

I love Rick’s detailed instructions and comments about the state of the current computer/internet world.  I searched his blog to find all his posts about Windows 7. One of the comments that he often makes has to do with all the new software that will only run with 7 and won’t run  on XP.  I had to pay big bucks to take my old computer from Vista back to XP so I could run the government software that will ONLY run on XP, so I have been missing out on some of the newer bells and whistles that Rick discussed, specifically the new Live Writer and Internet Explorer. 

While we were traveling last month my Dell Inspiron kept feeling really hot, and I worried that if that computer goes (it’s five years old) I would be in big trouble.  Ahhh.  Solution.  Buy a new laptop with Windows 7.  I have a great friend here in town who is an IT dude and he put me on to a business machine, a lightweight Dell Vostro, with all the bells and whistles and a shiny cherry red exterior to boot.  Also, when I got home from our trip I discovered that the government has updated NASIS to a new version that will run on the XP that is hidden inside the Professional Windows 7. 

Bingo!  I ordered the new machine and decided to keep the old one just for NASIS, but if it dies, I’ll have a backup.  Whew!  Of course, a new machine always means more computer time, and I have been moving programs and photos and documents and re-installing programs and trying to find old disks for programs that I forgot I had. I do love Picasa, and immediately downloaded the newest version to my new Windows 7 computer, only to discover that all the “people” tags did not migrate to the new Picasa with the 60 gig of photos that I have been tagging diligently.  Big sigh on that one.  I wonder if anyone knows anything about that?  Rick?

Lots of lawn to rakeApril yard Rocky Point (11)April yard Rocky Point (15)

I am working as much as I am allowed as a retiree, and saving up the bucks for our big trip to Alaska this summer.  It’s only two months away now, with a departure date of July 6th, after the Fourth of July holiday. 

Klamath Falls is having a huge celebration this year, with some changes to the parade and a big family bbq in Veteran’s Park before the fireworks.  I am so glad to be here for that to share with my kids and grandkids.  I love that holiday, and always insisted on family day picnics where I made the teenagers do three legged races.  They always rolled their eyes and thought I was nuts, but it was a holdover from the church picnics of my childhood.  Melody called me up all excited.  She is on the town committee planning the picnic and said, “Mom, we are having three legged races, you HAVE to come!”.  I’ll be there and will race with my daughter and probably laugh till my sides hurt.

 Lots of trees makes for very few sunny sites to locate the greenhouseApril yard Rocky Point (5)

Sitting here at my desk this morning, I see dirty patches of snow on the shady part of the road, but bright sunshine on the grass.  I raked a lot last weekend, and Mo finished up all the lawns during the week.  It’s beautiful except for the vole damage.  Those dang little critters just make a total mess of the grass when the snow load is heavy, deep, and long lasting. 

April yard Rocky Point (4) One area they tore up especially is the 10 by 12 space where the greenhouse will be.  We are going to stake that area off today, and my job will be to get what is left of the sod up and leveled.  The chickadees are here in force, and the squirrels are already raiding the feeders.  Big sigh again.  One more year of squirrel battles, rabbit battles, and deer battles are ahead of us.  Hopefully we can keep all those critters out of the greenhouse!

Like many of us out there, I read Al’s (The Bayfield Bunch) often, gleaning information about all sorts of things, not the least of which is photography. If you search his blog for the word “camera” you will get 8 pages of posts about this topic!  I once was a “photographer”, darkroom and all, but now I just “take pictures”.  My old fabulous film camera Canon A-1 lies buried in a case in a cabinet.  I haven’t had it out for years now. Al’s photos inspire me, though, along with lots of other great blog photographers, and I decided that I can no longer be satisfied with my little Nikon point and shoot.  It takes nice photos, but the fine detail and perfect focus isn’t there, the telephoto isn’t enough, and the lens bends ocean horizons on the edges.  No amount of Picasa fiddling will fix that.  My choice of camera was the same as Al, I decided on the Nikon D90, and have been searching for the best price, hoping to manage a purchase before we travel the wide open landscapes of Canada and Alaska, hopefully filled with wildlife that will require a telephoto and vistas that will need a wide angle lens. 

I fertilized the rhodies a lot last year, looks like we have flower budsApril yard Rocky Point (12)

Talking with my other daughter yesterday, the one now driving airplane engines all over the country with her husband, yielded a surprise.  In one of her other lives she was a professional portrait and wedding photographer and she offered her high end Nikon equipment to me for the Alaska trip.  Whew!  I can’t even remember what the models are, but it’s top notch, one with a metal body that will be heavier than the D90 but will give me the chance to see if I really want to lug a DSLR around while traveling. 

She also made very clear that her telephoto lens is an auto focus anti vibration thingy that is about $2,000 worth of fancy.  Whew again!  I just hope I don’t get mugged while traveling.  She laughed and said, “Now Mom, the only bad part is that you have to drop it off on your way back from Alaska.”  Well, Duh!  But at least I don’t have to come up with plus or minus $1,000 bucks for the D90 before we leave.  Yay!



Saturday, April 9, 2011

Medford and Iraq

One of the best things about living in Rocky Point in Winter (yes I know it is supposed to be Spring) is the ability to leave it behind and head over the mountain to Medford on a whim.  This wasn’t exactly a whim, since I needed to get to the Social Security office and Medford is almost as close as Klamath Falls.  Big difference, however, between those two cities at the moment.  Klamath Falls has snow flurries and Medford has spring sunshine.  It was a fairly easy choice deciding which office I wanted to visit.

 Traveling 140 over the pass at Lake of the Woodsto Medford

There have been some new followers to the blog since we left on our travels to the southern deserts last month, and I thank each of you. It’s always encouraging to see that folks care enough to follow along.  Russ and Donna are Oregonians, now on the road, so we travel many of the same roads getting from here to there. Andy Altes, Sara, John W, don’t appear to have blogs.  MacTrailer’s blog is in Portugese, but can be translated with Google Chrome.  Not sure if IE does this as well.  He does not yet have any posts, but I would imagine that some will follow eventually. Margie Anne's New Zealand Diary is a fascinating look into life on another continent, where fall is in progress and winter is on the way. I may have thanked Linda already, but didn’t want to miss thanking her again, since I read her entire story of their Alaska trip last year and she has sent along some helpful emails as well.

 The snow level was the lowest we have seen all winter in April!to Medford (1)

Yesterday morning, looking out the office window at the snow, I was glad for the excuse to leave our forest and travel the short 50 miles or so over the pass to Spring.  Medford isn’t always quite a beautiful as it was yesterday.  In winter, fog can lie in the valley making things very murky and cold.  In summer, it can get very hot, and similar inversions hold the smog close to the ground as well.  Yesterday, however, the skies were clear and the grass incredibly green.  Forsythia was in full bloom along with the landscape tree flowering pear, used everywhere in town for early spring snow white blossoms.  We planted a flowering pear last fall to replace the sweet gum that couldn’t handle our hard late spring freezes, so I am really looking forward to it’s first year in our yard.

Mo decided that it was a good day to replace some of the lost tools from last month’s vandalism, so after the social security office we went to Harbor Freight.  I should say Mo went to Harbor Freight, while I sat in the car with Abby for 75 minutes of pure heaven, doing absolutely nothing except watching the white puffy clouds slide across the brilliant blue sky, enjoying the sun and spring breezes.  I took Abby for a walk, took a couple of photos, and just soaked up the warmth.

 to Medford (5) Pidge asked if our insurance company was stepping up, but Mo decided that with only 1500 or so in losses and 1000 deductible it wasn’t worth making the claim.  It’s amazing, to Medford (8)but the trauma of the vandalism is almost completely behind us now, and the only thing left to do is slowly replace the missing items. The MoHo is intact, and as beautiful as ever.  We did have an interesting conversation this morning about next winter, however.  We probably won’t pay 179 per month to store the MoHo in a high security covered storage facility!  Ha! Talking about other options, including storing her in Medford just for November and December and heading south from January through April next year.  Who knows, plans shift and change, but I like the thought of this one.

After a good shopping spree at Harbor Freight, we did the Costco run, and had the best hot dog in the world for a buck and a half.  That is often part of the Medford run for us, a perfect dog at Costco. On the way home we took some side roads through the tiny town of Eagle Point, with it’s historic old grain mill, and then along Butte Creek which was in full flood stage, almost overflowing it’s banks with brown wild water.  Another side road took us up to a higher terrace, one we have never seen before, with broad vistas of the surrounding mountains and beautiful grasslands and big ranches.  Someday, maybe by 2020, Mo and I will decide to leave the deep winter snows of Rocky Point, and the possibilities of where we might go are always there in the background. In spite of our love for so many parts of this amazing country, we will probably remain somewhere in our beloved Southern Oregon.

to Medford (10) You might wonder how Medford relates to Iraq.  I guess it doesn’t, except it was on my mind a lot yesterday as I watched the blue skies.  My grandson Steven is once more being deployed to Iraq, and yesterday was in the security advance group, out of touch, until he leaves today for 3 weeks in Kuwait before going on to Iraq.  Steven has a wife and two young children, my great grand kids, and already did one tour of Iraq a couple of years ago.  When he came home from war, he left the Army, but the world out there was incredibly difficult for a young father with two kids and he decided to re-enlist.  Steven is a computer security specialist, so his assignments are not front line, but even in the Green Zone he was subject to bombings and danger. 

to Medford (11)I don’t understand why we are pulling troops out of Iraq, and yet more young men and women are still being deployed there.  Steven says that it will be more difficult this time, without the large number of troops, there won’t be as much support as previously.  Makes me sad and angry at the same time, but I honor our troops and what they do for us. I just wanted to take the moment to honor Steven and send him off with a big hug and lots of support.  

Steven and familycigarsandgoodies

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pahrump to Fernley and home to Rocky Point

Highway 95 I can’t believe that I am once again sitting at my desk in Rocky Point, looking out the window at snow.  The snow came down in big fat flakes all day yesterday but didn’t stick, but this morning we woke to more than a good inch covering everything as if it were winter and not April.  Somehow luck was with us all the way home, and we slid into Rocky Point on bare pavement under blue skies on Tuesday afternoon.  This storm blew up the next day and now will be with us for a few more days according to the weather predictions.  I am hoping that all the folks on the road heading north are warm and dry and avoiding this latest round of weather from the Pacific.

Highway 95 (12) We left Pahrump early in the morning on Monday, driving hard and straight north on Highway 95, through the tiny town of Goldfields, and passing Tonopah, the Nye county seat, in the blink of an eye.  Somewhere in all my western travels, I don’t think I have traveled this route, usually preferring to go west to 395 in California.  We were rewarded with decent gasoline prices, at 3.69 per gallon for the $172.00 fill-up in Fallon, Nevada.  I heard rumors of prices well above 4 bucks on 395, but will have to see what Donna and Russ have to say about that, since I believe they traveled that route south in their pretty new Lazy Days called “Therapy”.  I think we must have passed each other somewhere close to Susanville.

Highway 95 (3) Highway 95 (9)
Goldfields, Nevada in the process of restoration by the local folks We were on the other side of Tonopah before we knew it

Highway 95 (14)The skies were clear all the way north, but the temperatures were only in the high 40’s as we traveled through Nevada.  Our plan was to boondock for the night, but when we reached Fallon, it was still only 3 in the afternoon, and once on the major east-west route of ALT 50, boondock sites were in short supply.  The lovely BLM land, great for boondocking, all seemed to be considerably south of Walker Lake, another spot that I would have liked to explore, but it was much to early in the day.  Like horses heading for the barn, we were on a roll and wanted to get as close to Reno as possible before stopping for the night.

A quick search on Streets, turned up a CampClub USA park west of Fallon in Fernley, Nevada, right on our route. My visions of camping in the open desert on a big alluvial fan with never ending vistas was only partially realized.  I was still on an alluvial fan in the desert, with a decent view only obstructed a bit by the RV next to us.  By 4pm we were settled in to a very nice little park called Desert Rose.   In addition to our CampClub discount, this park had just about every other club discount, including Escapees.  It wasn’t fancy, but clean and lined with level concrete pads, new trees, grass, and “the best cable TV this side of Michigan”, according to the very gregarious caretaker.  We even had decent Wi-Fi where I was able to post the last couple of blog entries.

Fernley to Home (1) We slept well, after staying up much too late catching up on cable news and the internet.  Tuesday morning dawned clear and gorgeous again, if a bit cool, and we were on the road by 7:30.  Our route was straightforward, through Reno on Alt 50 to I-80 to 395 north to Susanville, Alturas, and then on 39 home to Klamath Falls.  The skies were still gorgeous, with puffy clouds and snowy mountains in the distance as we approached our mountain home.

We love to camp at Medicine Lake, and the snow covered barren slopes of Glass Mountain, formed entirely of black obsidian, beckoned us as we passed the familiar turn-off on our route. 

Fernley to Home (5) Once in Klamath Falls, we gassed up the MoHo at Fred Meyer for 3.72 per gallon, picked up some vet only cat food for Jeremy, and took the Lakeshore route home so that we could stop in at Moore Park for our free dump site.  Klamath Lake seemed especially full, and the A Canal delivering water from the lake to the farmers on the Project was also full, indicating that for the first time in a couple of years, we are having a good “water year”.  The farmers will get their irrigation from the Project, and the salmon will have enough water to make it back up the Klamath River.  We will have enough water to get the kayaks back out in Recreation Creek hopefully very soon, at least if this snow ever melts.

Once home, we were happy to see that almost all the snow was melted and the road looked fine.  The grass was starting to green up except for extensive areas where the voles have tunneled a virtual city protected by our 4 month snow cover.  Daffodils are starting to appear, and the buds on the trees look good.  Mo backed the rig into her waiting berth and in no time we were unloaded and back home with the fire going, checking the recorded shows on the DVR and laughing at Jeremy racing around the house after all the invisible ghosts that must have taken over while we were gone.

Something wonderful about rounding this bend in the road and seeing our home turf across the lakeFernley to Home (21)

I spent all day yesterday washing bedding and rugs and clothes from the MoHo and tried to get adjusted to being back home while I watched the snow fall and remembered the 100 degree afternoon in Laughlin.  Sometimes that re-entry can be ambivalent; I’m so happy to be home, yet somehow feel a bit disoriented.  Mo doesn’t seem to get as confused by all this as I do, and she just settled in easily to our home routines without a hitch. By this morning, however, all seemed just fine to me, in spite of the deep snow.  I have no clue if I will be working next week, thanks to the government shutdown rumors, but either way, it’s good to be home.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pahrump, Shoshone, and the China Ranch

no more saguaros, now Joshua trees and smell the sage! The drive from Laughlin up the hill to Highway 95 toward Vegas is steep, but not really very long and we rolled up the hill in the morning sunlight.  Another possible stop on our route was Boulder City, where a soil scientist friend had promised a cold drink and a copy of his presentation on the Spirit Mountains.  Again, it was not to be.  I only heard about the RV search at Hoover Dam after we had already decided to re-route around Las Vegas traffic as much as possible and skip the drive across the new bridge at the dam.

toward Las Vegas The drive to Pahrump was short, just under 160 miles, and the road was great.  We managed to skirt the worst of the Las Vegas traffic on the south side of the city, staring in awe at the miles and miles of low brown stucco homes covering the desert.  Highway 160, west from Las Vegas, is part of the Old Spanish Trail and winds through the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and crosses the beautiful Spirit Mountains at Mountain Springs.  Once through the pass, the wide desert vista of the Pahrump Valley opens up to the west. As Mo drove the smooth, even highway, I started checking out the Streets and Trips listings of Camp Club USA parks in Pahrump.  We called a couple of places, discovering that once again, no one had cable, but the Charleston Peak Winery RV Park was on our list, and had an opening for our club, 1/2 price at 20 bucks once more.

Laughlin to Pahrump (30) There are many RV parks in the area, and we toured around town checking them out the next day, but still were happy with our choice, especially at the price.  Once settled in on the high fan above town, with an unbroken view of Charleston Peak to the east, we were especially tickled.  The swimming pool was closed for the evening, but it was just a few hundred yards to the tasting room at the “only” or “first” winery in Nevada.  I am still not sure which, but I suppose I could look that up eventually.  The winery said one thing and the chamber said another, so which is true?.

sunset on Charleston Peak Seven tastings are offered for free, and even though they no longer grow their own grapes except for a very small vineyard, they made some award winning cabernet from Sonoma grapes. The original vineyards planted were destroyed a few years ago by wild horses.  Mo stayed with Abby and I enjoyed sitting in the unpretentious, intimate little tasting room with award winning wine while Mo settled for a glass of chardonnay in the MoHo. 

Laughlin to Pahrump (50) The evening was much cooler than any we have experienced in a couple of weeks, with a wild, blustery wind blowing across the desert.  I’m not quite sure why, but even in that wind our slide topper didn’t seem to flap too much.  Maybe it’s a different kind of construction than some.  So  far it hasn’t been a problem. Charleston Peak was brilliant snowy white against the dark cloudy skies to the east, with the western skies clear enough for a gorgeous sunset.

today's explorations Sunday was our day to relax and explore more of the area south and west of Pahrump.  When we traveled to Death Valley in 2004, we had a rented car, (pre MoHo days!) and spent a lot of time exploring the park.  It was time for something different, and with the help of the excellent Discover Pahrump brochure, we mapped out a route.

West of Pahrump, Highway 372 changes to 178 when you cross into California, crossing a small range of mountains and opening up to another valley.  The tiny community of Shoshone lies in the heart of the valley, a pleasant stop for folks traveling farther west or north into Death Valley.  It was a nice stop for us as well, and with the price of gas, we were glad we had filled up the tracker back in Nevada and a mere 3.69 per gallon.  Shoshone is full of crusty characters, and has a history of fascinating people.  The museum there is tiny, but wonderful, with a special section devoted to Death Valley Women, with photos, newspaper articles, and stories.  In the back of the museum are the collection of bones once thought to be mammoth bones, but later identified as several different animals probably washed into the Pleistocene lake from several different areas.

remnants of a different era in Shoshone, CAShoshone lies at the edge of the ancient lake, and the area is riddled with soft sediments from the old lake bed, then uplifted and eroded into washes and gorges and mesas, surrounded by more wild volcanics, ash flow tuffs, and even obsidian. Suddenly in the cliffs, we saw caves that were obviously man made, and got out to explore.  Later, the museum volunteer pointed me up a  dirt road west of Shoshone to view more of these man made caves.  Near town, in addition to a very strange and wacky looking cemetery, we found what was left of hand carved homes inhabited by desert dwellers in the 20’s and 30’s.  They looked ever so much like homes carved out of the volcanic tuffs in the Cappadocia region in Turkey.  Certainly not as old, and not as artistic, but the idea was the same.  Carve out a safe home, warm in winter, cool in summer, using what is available.

apartments in the desert Apartments carved in stone in the desert near Shoshone, maybe a little over 80 years old?

click here for many more photos of the area around Shoshone and the cave homes.
DSCN8382 Apartments carved in stone in Cappadocia, maybe over 1200 years old? 

Click here for more photos of the fantastic home in the Cappadoccia region of Turkey

After exploring the cave apartments, we continued up the wash toward the volcanic hills.  The road ended after a few miles, but yielded a wonderful array of blooming wildflowers.

Yes, Mo and I did plenty of tent camping before we got the first MoHo in 2005

P1010019 Back on the highway, we continued south toward the small community of Tecopa, site of several hot springs resorts.  I say “resort” with tongue in cheek, because these places were not fancy in the least, just dusty campgrounds with faded signs that said “hot mineral baths” or “massage”. The springs are known for their healing properties, and have been used by humans for centuries, but they didn’t look all that tempting to me.  My favorite spring is still up in the mountains of eastern Oregon, in the middle of a meadow at Hart Mountain.  But that’s another story, prior to MoHo days, when Mo and I tent camped up there.

Road to China Date Farm Beyond Tecopa to the south and east on the Spanish Trail, is the desert oasis of China Ranch. The road into the valley is twisting and winds between fantastical apparitions of the badlands.  Once through the tiny canyon, the small valley opens up, green and lush with date palms and irrigation.  It wasn’t very clear about where to go, and we followed a dirt road and a sign that pointed to the gift shop.  The parking lot was almost full, but the gift shop was very small and didn’t seem to be near the date palms at all.  There were a few signs pointing to the river, but we really had no idea where to go, and of course with Abby, we needed to check on the dog friendly areas, if they existed.

nice walk on a hot day I went into the tiny, crowded gift shop, where one person was busy making date shakes, and no one else seemed to be around.  I finally asked a customer if they had any idea of what you were supposed to do in this place and she gave me the 50 cent trail brochure.  Ahha!!  No restrictions on dogs!  We didn’t even see a leash sign, but kept Abby on her leash anyway.  The maps on the brochure were fairly primitive, and even as a map maker I had a hard time figuring out where to go.  We ambled up the lane toward the date palms, trying to find a circular route which eluded us, and trying to avoid the hot badlands which didn’t sound all that great on this hot mid afternoon.

Shoshone and Tecopa (79) The palms were beautiful, graceful and gentle in the desert.  Each variety had an informative sign explaining it’s origin, something we had seen at the Oasis in Indio, but of course here everything was much more rustic and casual.  After hiking an hour or so, we walked back to the shop for a cold drink.  I kept thinking I wanted a date shake, but every time I would slip inside the line was too long, and the poor guy was still doing everything by himself.  Mo and I settled for a cold diet pepsi and some time on the shady bench outside the store.

Our trip home followed the original path of the Old Spanish Trail back to Highway 160 south of Pahrump.  There are great signs about the trail in two places, but each of them comes up suddenly with no warning, so you have to be ready to whip in or turn around to read them. It was sobering to stand in that wide open, hot, dry desert basin, with range after range of rugged mountains in every direction and envision hardy travelers following this path from Abiquiu, New Mexico to Los Angeles in 1829.   John C Fremont, another hero of mine, passed on this trail in 1844.  In 2002 it was designated by Congress as a National Historic Trail.  Our circular route back to Pahrump followed much of this path, and even I-15 follows along the historic trail for some distance in Nevada.

Charleston Peak east of Pahrump in the distanceOnce home again in the late afternoon, we settled in to reading and relaxing before our planned outing to the Pahrump Nugget Steakhouse for their highly touted best steaks around.  Sometimes Mo and I skip lunch entirely and eat a very early supper, but again, this time we were considering Abby and our opportunity to eat out required dark night skies. The casino was fairly quiet on a Sunday night, but the restaurant was full to the brim with a big bunch of bikers who were staying in a nearby hotel.  At first we though the whole idea might have been a mistake when the waitress said there would be an hour wait.  The restaurant didn’t even look full, but all the wait staff was in the back room with the bikers.  We said we would be happy to sit in the bar, actually just a couple of tables next to the restaurant, and settled in to watch all the frustration of the employees trying to deal with a lot of people with not a lot of staff.  Finally we managed to get a couple glasses of wine and then a sweet young man, who turned out to be the off duty chef, came over and took our order.  Once they figured out that someone needed to wait on us, everything went great.  My steak was perfect, and I have 3/4 of it left for our dinner tonight..  Once back home, we felt like it was a perfectly lovely day and we were ready to settle in to the slight evening breeze. 

Apr 3 Shoshone and Tecopa Our trip is coming to a close.  As I was writing this entry, the wild crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains opened up to the west, and the snow capped ranges of western Nevada are framing my view to the north as we approach Walker Lake.  Not sure yet where we will stop tonight, but I do hope it is on a big alluvial fan somewhere in the Nevada desert, with a view for miles and no lights to be seen.

Laughlin, Forgettable. Pahrump, Memorable

highway 95 We are heading north on Highway 95 now, on very smooth, very straight 2 lane road.  Mo is driving and there is very little traffic.  As our trip is winding down, both of us are a bit ready to just hit the road and keep moving rather than lingering much longer.  The original plan included a possible trip into Death Valley and a possible route north on 395.  We both love Death Valley and have spent time there, and we have traveled 395 many times.  395 is gorgeous, and the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine is one of our favorite places.  But we have been there.  Somehow this time the open spaces of Nevada called us with the direct route north. 

tiny town of Shoshone gateway to the southern end of Death ValleyI love traveling through this part of Nevada.  The vistas are so wide, huge alluvial fans as far as the eye can see, sloping gently upward to the contorted rugged volcanic ridges, broken by layers of uplifted sediments, and subtly colored by all the eternities of evolution of this landscape.  As a soil mapper, one of the indicators we use to identify soil change is the vegetation pattern.  Here in this part of the world those subtle changes are easily visible. 

no more saguaros, now Joshua trees and smell the sage! Crossing a playa with crusted salt surfaces, up a bit more to a low basin covered with greasewood, tells me it is still salty.  In the distance, at the foot of the contorted hills the greasewood drops out and creosote appears, a faint hint of filmy green across the distance.  Less salt.  Rising higher, the gray mounds of low sage and an occasional Joshua tree.  Each of those variations will indicate to me that the soil is changing, not only the salts on the surface, but the hard petrocalcic layers below the surface, the mixed up crazy gravels and cobbles of the alluvial fans, the shallow bedrock soils of the ridges. 

wildflowers are blooming looking south toward Tecopa Mapping soils in the desert is a beautiful thing, at least if you have a 4 wheeler and access.  In this day it seems that unless the mappers are on federal lands, the access in extremely limited.  People are protective of their rights, their property, and no longer trust the government.  A geologist or a botanist or a soil scientist may be a threat and not a help in their minds.  It’s a bit of a sad thing for the young soil scientists coming up now, trying to do their jobs, constantly hindered by suspicious landowners. I was lucky.  I mapped almost a million acres of ground, much of it wild and free lands in the Pacific Northwest, just a tiny bit of southern deserts.  Lucky me!

mass exodus of the Canadians Traveling north from Phoenix to Laughlin was uneventful.  We took Highway 60 northwest and avoided the fast pace and crowded traffic on I-17, but once we arrived at I-40 near Wickenburg the RV’s were almost bumper to bumper.  It was the mass exodus of the Canadians in full force.  Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan plates in abundance.  I never saw a Quebec or Ontario, though.  Laughlin wasn’t far from the Interstate, and before long we were dropping down to the Colorado River and the town of Bullhead City.  Right before our turnoff to a possible RV park we found the Mojave County Park, with what looked to be fairly nice sites along the river.  With a fee of $21 for the night, we settled in to a back in site near the river.  The temperature read 99.9 degrees and within a few minutes it read 100.  March 31, and 100 degrees!  We pulled the shades, turned on the air conditioner and napped and read in the cool dim light until 6:30 that night! 

hot as heck in LaughlinWhen the sun finally let up a bit, we took a walk down to the river so Abby could cool off and swim, and got in the Tracker to check out Bullhead City and then cross the bridge to Laughlin and the casinos. Twilight was deepening and the lights of the casinos looked dramatic and lovely reflected on the river.  Laughlin itself wasn’t much to speak of, especially with the extensive construction on Casino Drive.  The marquees said nothing about shows, only advertising their buffet dinners and hotel rooms.  We drove up to Harrah’s and almost left before we finally found an entrance to the Casino.  We can at least do things like this at night now and then, because Abby seems to be content to settle down and sleep in the car if it is dark outside. 

Phoenix to Laughlin (12) Mo and I like to play the slots a bit, and to us it is a win if our 20 bucks each lets us play a couple of hours and have fun.  Cheap entertainment.  Neither of us is likely to go over that 20 limit and we rarely win anything, but I still like the lights and the glitz of the casinos.  It’s especially fun to watch the people there.  We saw one very old lady, very skinny, dressed up in diamonds and sparkles, with shiny reflective leopard skin jacket. leather pants, and sequins everywhere.  After a short time at Harrah’s, we went to the Royal Palm Casino, with it’s marquee shouting out that it had the newest slot games.  Here we found a sign to the River Walk, which I had heard was a nice thing to do in Laughlin, but it was dark and buggy out, so we decided against it.  Another move into the Colorado Belle Casino, dolled up to look like a big riverboat was our final destination for the evening, with our $20 increased a bit with some bells and whistles and then again finally gone. 

nice park Originally we thought we might stay two nights in Laughlin, having heard and read much about it from RV’rs and travel magazines.  Not for us, I guess.  We aren’t enough into gambling and town camping to really enjoy it that much. we also didn’t bring our kayaks along on this desert trip, and the Colorado River here was wide and fast.  It seemed there were lots of water craft around, including noisy jet skis.  Instead we decided to spend our extra night at Pahrump, another place much touted by RV’rs for the winter.  I guess we would find out the next day.