Death Valley National Park

It was a long and relatively straight road from Hemet to Death Valley National Park yesterday. It took longer than expected since we underestimated the distance. Nevertheless, underestimation meant that we had a leisurely morning before heading out into the Mojave desert.

These roads all look the same, and it's hard to get a sense of direction. When we turned left at this sign, we figured we were heading the right way. And, by the way, who're you calling old?

There isn't a lot to see, but as one gets closer to the national park, the landscape begins to take on the more characteristic colors of Death Valley. Here, we were passing by a dry lake bed.

The recent rains meant that there was an unusual amount of water flowing in many of the washes.

The closer we got to the park, the more interesting and unusual the rock formations.

In the image below, you can see the Dumont Dunes off in the distance. This is a favorite for those who like to ride off-road vehicles.

There was some severe flooding in Death Valley this winter.  

The national park website has some alerts posted.

Among them is the fact that Scottie's Castle is closed indefinitely.

That's okay. We've been to Scottie's Castle twice. Even knowing about the flooding, it was still dismaying when we attempted to enter the park from the south end, just north of Shohone, only to find this:

No problem. We didn't even lose any mileage by heading north to Death Valley Junction, formerly known as Amargosa. It is essentially a ghost town now, but one can see the historic Amargosa Hotel and Opera House there. It's been a few years since we've visited this area. On our last visit, resident artist Marta Becket was still staging dance and mime shows as she was doing from the late 1960s until her final show in February 2012. The Death Valley Junction Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places and is now owned by the nonprofit established by Becket for the preservation of the property.

Finally, we were able to enter the park and choose a space in the Sunset campground, just across from Furnace Creek Ranch.

It was late in the day when we arrived, and the waning sunlight made for some beautifully lit landscapes. Once we had the trailer opened up and level (and, of course, had the catio set up), we settled into our camp chairs to watch the sliver of a setting moon.

After dinner when the skies had darkened considerably, we did some stargazing. You can't even imagine the number of stars one can see in a dark sky park such as Death Valley. Simply amazing.

Many thanks go to my friend Sher for sending me a link to this recent article from the LA Times, informing us about the wildflowers currently in bloom in the park. The recent rains have caused a lot of flooding and damage, but they've also meant a wonderful bloom. It's a rare and lucky event to be here to see it, and indeed, we did see a number of flowers in bloom on the drive in. The article gives us some good information about where to see the most flowers. We've done the Artist's Palette hike from Artist's Drive before, but that seems a good place to start anyway. Before that, however, we'll check in at the ranger station to see what they can tell us about the flowers and any other road closures we should be aware of.

I'll have more pictures of flowers to show you tomorrow. Time to break out the DSLR and my macro lens. And, did you notice? Cell service in the park! That means I can use my phone as an internet hotspot! Yahoo! We had a vague recollection of service from our last visit, but we weren't sure until we arrived here. So, off we go. More later.


Hanging Out in Hemet, California

It's been a marvelous four days of relaxation since arriving in Hemet. The weather couldn't have been lovelier. We really needed to find some warmth and sunshine, and Hemet did not disappoint us.

The first order of business was to take Mike's truck to a car wash. It was filthy from our drive south in the rain, and then even more filthy from driving through mud puddles in Borrego Springs. Since I'm still determined to get my 10,000 steps each day, I went for a walk while the truck was at the car wash. Along the way there was plenty to see. For instance, whole hedges of blooming rosemary.

Do you remember the picture of Mt. San Jacinto from my post a few days ago? Here it is from the other side.

Turn your head a little bit to the right, and you see the mountain where my friend Lisa lives...at least I think that's where she lives. I know she'll let me know if I'm wrong. Lisa and I weren't able to work out a time to get together during this visit. It's mostly my fault since I had no idea how close we were going to be. Of course, our original agenda didn't include Hemet, and by the time we were able to work it out, Lisa had plans with her family. Oh well...better luck next time around.

I knew you'd want to see how they disguise cell phone towers as date palms in Southern California. 

I couldn't get a better picture of the plant in the next picture because these were big hedges that were trimmed so that all the blossoms were at the top of the plant high over my head. These are known as "Bottlebrush" in California, but I spent three years in Hawaii from second through fifth grades. In Hawaii, we called them "Pele's Tears". I tried to Google a reference for this, but could find none. That's what happens when you grow up during the 14th Century. In any case, in Hawaii, legend has it that if you pluck one of the red blossoms, it will cause rain. And since it rains at least a little bit almost every day in Hawaii, it always works. I believed it.

There has been plenty of time for embroidery. Recall that I needed to redo this block from Lisa's mother. 

I spent a few days on it, and finished it on Sunday.

Then, right away I started the next one submitted by Barbara L.

Here's Barbara's original block submission.

I haven't taken a lot of artistic license with these blocks, preferring instead to copy them as closely as possible to the original submission. For this one, however, I decided to add some color to it. It seemed pretty straightforward. I started it Sunday morning, and by day's end, it was finished.

So...let's see...what else is going on? Oh, I knew you'd want to see this sign on the neighbor's trailer next door. I think I should make a quilt like this, don't you?

And we never make a visit to Hemet without getting a burger at the In-N-Out just down the street.

We don't have In-N-Out near where we live, and we're not very happy about it. In fact, the first In-N-Out was just built in Oregon, but it's a full day's drive away. 

The kitties are doing really well. Yesterday I thought they might bump noses. Only the leg of a chair was between them. Otherwise, they ignore one another or circle around giving one another a wide berth.

Maggie has spent as much time on the catio as Smitty has.

They seem to have reached a comfortable truce.

We've been moving their food bowls a little closer together, although we still have some work to do on that.

It was rather warm yesterday, and this Oregon cat isn't used to it. He has his Oregon winter woollies on right now, and so he was exposing as much surface area as possible.

Thanks to Quiltshopgal for turning us onto Polly's Pies. When Mike's sister visited yesterday, we decided to have lunch at Polly's. I loved this little quilt hanging near the front door.

We each had a different burger, and then both apple and cherry pies were on sale for $5.99. Well. We couldn't pass up a bargain like that, now could we? We chose cherry, brought it home, and had dessert in the trailer. Mmm, mmm, mmm.

And that pretty well sums up the past four days. This morning we're taking off for Death Valley National Park. We'll be there for three days, and it's doubtful that we'll have internet while we're there. I've been surprised in a national park before, however, and so maybe this will be the visit when cell service and internet are available. I'm only telling you this so that if you don't hear from me for the next several days, you'll know why. There's wonderful hiking and sight-seeing to be done in Death Valley, and you can be sure I'll catch you up as soon as I can. Also, I'm still on the hunt for a quilt shop, but that probably won't happen until we start driving home. Even then, I'm beginning to wonder.

So there you go. And off we go. I'll write when I get to the other side.


Skull Rock Trail

We decided the night before that we would leave Joshua Tree NP on the day we took this hike. It was a relatively short 1.65 mile loop, and it started just a few yards from where our rig was parked in the campground. To give you some perspective, I'll show you a map of the hike from the sign at the trailhead, and I've marked the location of our rig with a red dot.

After we'd hiked about 3/4 of the way around the loop, we looked across the road where we could see our trailer in the campground.

For perspective, this next image was standing at the same spot, but not zoomed in.

So what's this hike all about anyway? The trail meanders through boulders, desert washes, and a rocky alleyway. There are signs all along the trail that identify plants, explain the geology of the Mojave Desert, discuss plant and animal relationships, and describe plant uses by early Native Americans. Eventually the trail leads to Skull Rock, an unusual monzogranite boulder that resembles a gigantic human skull. Okay, so here we go.

As I said in a previous post, the Joshua Trees are only one reason to come to the park. We think the giant rock formations are at least as interesting as the trees. Erosion has created some interesting rock "gardens" and shapes. One sign I read described them as resembling scoops of ice cream.

It was a nice interpretive trail with lots of signs describing what we were seeing. This one was especially interesting to me because of all the uses for this desert plant.

There were no flowering plants that fit the description, but I thought this next image might be the same plant. Just add flowers to those red stalks.

Just prior to reaching Skull Rock, we walked through a somewhat deeper wash and found lots of different kinds of trees and shrubs that were better able to grow where there was more moisture. Here's the Mojave Desert Oak.

It's leaves resemble a holly leaf.

Here's skull rock. Those depressions are caused by rushing water, and this being in that same wash, it makes sense.

I'm always amazed at the courage of plants that grow from solid rock against all odds.

We thought this might be the lair of some critter, but we didn't see any evidence of that.

And on we walked, marveling at the rocks.

The landscapes are vast, and it's impossible to really get a feel for how big things are without attempting a pano. Remember that you can make these images larger by clicking on them.

There's Mike heading on up the dusty trail.

And here's another pano.

This next image is another good example of the dikes I mentioned in my previous post. You can see a small ridge on the rock in the foreground. Look more toward the back in the shadow of the background rock, and you can see some larger dikes.

This is a Desert Pine tree loaded with pine cones. The birds, rats, chipmunks, and other animals forage for the seeds.

We marveled at some of these balancing rocks.

And here's an immense rock garden so typical of the area.

And that was our hike. We've done this one before, but we never get tired of the landscape in this area. The second time out was every bit as enjoyable as the first. But before we leave the hike, here are two windblown travelers. Why should our shadow selves get all the selfie fun?

We've been relaxing and warming up in the beautiful weather here in Hemet. the kitties are doing well, and tolerating one another better all the time. Mike's sister, Meredith, will be joining us here later today for a visit, and then we'll be moving onto Death Valley tomorrow.