2016-Death Valley National Park

El Ninjo came to California, not to us. So we looked on the internet – here, Death Valley, the driest place in the US got some rain in autumn! Not some. In fact three roads were damaged by flash floods. So on the 26th of January we drove there to see the blooming, and it was worth it. You can still go – the peak is going to be around mid February. The weather was very pleasant, pretty warm and no wind! We slept one night in a tent, it was cold but not too cold. The best part¬† -Furnace Creek Lodge has a swimming pool with the water form a natural spring! A warm one – 82F – 28C. So we swam there 3 times! it was perfect. Here is what we saw and enjoyed:DSCN3970Zabriskei Point. DSCN3975On the way to the pool – two impressively old tamarisks. DSCN4038 DSCN4036Or camping place – under this tamarisk. DSCN3979Artist’s point with us photographing it.DSCN3982 DSCN3988

The lowest part of the continent – Bad Waters. Lots of salt and what a pleasure to walk that spacious walk…DSCN4007 DSCN3994And here are the blooms – Desert Gold, with luscious leaves coming from a soil that looks like asphalt-¬† isn’t it a miracle? DSCN3999 DSCN4005 DSCN4026

Brown eyed primroses:DSCN4034And some purple flowers: DSCN4035The next morning we swam again. There is their mining history museum right by the pool: DSCN4042Then we hiked in sandy dunes: DSCN4046 DSCN4050 DSCN4060Some more flower son the way back:DSCN4066 DSCN4070 DSCN4075Some of them fill up or follow dry river beds: DSCN4081 DSCN4098WE left Death Valley through the road that leads through Beatty. On the way there is a ghost town with hints to its previous majesty:DSCN4099This house is built from bottles! Their bottoms facing us: DSCN4114 DSCN4125Part of ghost town is decorated by some artists: DSCN4126 DSCN4129 DSCN4132 DSCN4134 DSCN4137 DSCN4144Yeh, it was good!

Mono Lake

Before driving to Mono Lake directly from Lee Vining, we made a small Juno lake loop in order to enjoy the Sierras some more.?? The mountains there are amazing!

Or so it seemed to us coming from very hot weathers in Southern Utah, Nevada and major parts of California. The air was crisp and refreshing, it was wonderful!

And then we reached Mono Lake which is a State park now, but may loose its funding from the feds because of the budget cuts and then the access to its unique formations and shores will be forbidden:

Mono Lake is the saltiest lake in the US and also the largest of this type of a lake. It used to be as high as those formations we see. They formed around on the springs that come from the bottom with lots of Ca salts and combine with other minerals in the lake water to become nature’s sculptures of different shapes:

The lake doesn’t have inlets or outlets, therefore its water is saltier that sea water many times…it is so salty. that only one type of flies live there, that lay their eggs in the shallow waters and then only one type of tiny shrimp feed on the larvae. Therefore Mano lake is Eden for birds. Lots of California seagulls and other birds come here to nest and spend winters.

And that was it – a long way through Nevada deserts towards home…the whole?? day of driving…on Rt. 120, then Rt. 6 and then the Extraterrestrial Highway 375, and then on Rt. 93, Rt. 319 to Utah.. But on the way still in California we saw a cute B&B by the town Benton – they had their own hot springs and some bath tubs or other kind of tubs for the guests to soak – they were not seen from the main area. Then we stopped at Tonopah, which had similarities with other Nevada mining towns and finally stopped at a place which was even not a?? town – just a small restaurant Little AleInn in the desert and some wagons with people living in them:

Yes, the theme was poor extraterrestrials who as if have landed here in their flying soccer in secret circumtances years ago…

I don’t envy those several people who live there…But maybe they enjoy the greatest possibility of solitude…And they don’t look like monks or nuns…

That is all about this trip. Till next trips.

Point Reyes National Seashore

The next day we again drove towards the ocean and drove north on Shoreline Hwy Rt 1 till we reached Point Reyes National Seashore, which is on a peninsular. From the visitor’s center we drove only to Limantour beach:

It very much reminded me our seashore in Lithuania. Except for those lines of thick clouds encasing certain parts of the shore in a mist:

It was a wonderful walk – almost no people, waves, sky, sand and some flocks of pelicans…

This is a walk from the parking to the shore – with a little winding stream and lots of bird songs. There are very many?? hikes and trails in this park and one can spend a week there, easy, having different places to see each day…But we had no time, as usual. So we drove up notyj still on the same Rt 1 and at some points we dived into the mist:

Then again out of it:

And even saw a colony of seals or sea lions taking a nap:

That same day the fun was basically over, for we drove inland from Jenner through Calistoga (a very cute hot spring town) and the rest of Napa valley, seeing the wineries only from our car, there was no time to stop…Till we reached Lodi for sleep.

 

Kings Canyon National Park

As I am writing this blog already in autumn – two giant 1000 year old sequoias fell down literally on a trail in Giant Forest – the popular hiking part of Sequoia N.P. Just fell down in all their 100 m (App 300 feet) length for no particular reason…A ranger was saying – maybe the soil got too wet?.. Well, it wasn’t wet enough for such a fall for 1000 years. Interesting. Must be trees like people have their fates.

So as I mentioned in my previous blog – we slept a night at the foothills and again drove all the way up?? to the Western Sierras to Kings Canyon which is connected to Sequoia NP.?? For a long time I was curious to see it for Europeans used to mention it as a very spectacular hidden secret off the beaten path.?? It was not disappointing at all:

But first of all we walked around some giant sequoias in General Grant Grove close to Kings canyon Visitor Center:

And I thought that I am tall…:-)

Yes, sequoias usually die by falling down because their root system is very shallow, and because their red wood is so resistant to elements – they lie their for everyone’s curiosity and enjoyment:

The trunk of this particular sequoia at different times was used as a shelter, as a bar and a souvenir shop.?? Right now it is just an empty hollow trunk to pass through:

This following view is taken from Convict’s flat – convicts used to do lots of the works in the canyon while the road was being built:

The water in Kings river enchanted me – so fast, so clean, green and transparant:

Andrei even cooled his feet:

THere were enough waterfalls. This particular one is called Grizzly Falls:

Then we drove to the very end where the road ends and the river is even more amazing -the waters are calmer and deep and green with some signs of its not so calm character:

This picture is my favorite of Kings canyon…From there on – lots of long trails start and lots of backpackers are off to meet?? their adventures and be more intimate with nature. Not us. We visited Boyden Cave on the way back, which is by that same Kings Canyon scenic byway:

For our guide there most of the formations looked like food – hamburgers, bacon, chicken leg.?? But this particular one as if looked like a Christmas tree or a wedding cake.

With our eyes full with beauty – we called it a day/ Still had to drive around 2 hours till we reached Fresno, the orchard capital of CA, for a night. Fresno has too many motels-?? hotels, not enough travelers to fill them.?? So to find a place to stay – no problem.

Sequoia National Park

Mid July this summer we at last visited the Giant Trees.?? Sequoia Park and Kings Canyon are both connected, they are on the same entrance ticket, but you can’t see both of them in one day. So we had to land from the heights of the Sequoia Park at the end of the first day and go back up the next day to see Kings Canyon. The point is that it is hard to find a place to sleep in between them .?? As I noticed visitors mostly camp there. There are?? several lodges inside the parks, but to pay $350 for a night is not in our practice. And when you land from the Sierras there – there are maybe 2-3 motels on the way,?? not good at all, therefore they have vacancies. And then nothing, a long stretch of driving with orchards, with towns who serve the orchards – and no motels hotels, very strange…the closest city came out to be Fresno, though with the help of people from supermarket we managed to find a Best Western somewhere in between those orchard – little town jungles. So this is my introduction to the Giant Tree impressions…Some facts impress more than others…:-)

But here is everything from the beginning. We drove through Las Vegas, then towards Bakersfield. California’s attention to renewable energy sources impresses:

After a night in Bakersfield we headed towards Sierra Nevada foothills?? from the West side and started rising towards Sequoias on Rt.198 :

The mountains are in haze and they say that partially it is because of the smog that is brought by winds from San JoaquinValley and partially from the humidity in the air in summer. they sau to see clear views you have to come in early spring. The road up the mountains is narrow and winding which you can expect.?? The views are beautiful Part of the road was being fixed, so we had to wait and meanwhile we thought that we already reached the Giant Tree grove:

But we haven’t. Those trees were something else, not sequoias yet. Sequoias grow very high – between 5000-7000 feet elevation, which is 1500-2100m in human language. They don’t grow?? grow on sea level as their cousins Redwoods, as well as they have other differences with redwoods, which i didn’t know before going to the park. Redwoods are a little taller, their trunks are not so massive and they die by 1200 years younger. Whereas sequoias are much more massive, they reach 100 m in height (311 ft) and 14m in diameter (40 ft) and they live up to 3200 years old! That is something…

They outlive many forest fires because of the structure of their bark -?? it is thick and feels like tissue paper, soft and airy, and though fires sometimes burn holes in them – the heat still doesn’t get the deeper layers.?? Their wood and bark have some chemicals that make them resistant to fungi and bacteria. Luckily.

And when you think – there are some 75 groves left in all… and all of them are on the West slope of Sierras, where the moisture comes from far away ocean to humidify its branches and the streams of the mountains feed them with water of which they need a lot.

From the Giant Forest Museum we took a shuttle to Moro Rock. Again there was a confusion. The next stop was Crescent Meadow and we planned to see the views from there and return to Moro Rock and climb it/ No way. the shuttle takes you to the Rock, then to meadows and back to the museum…So we did two rounds until we managed to climb the Rock, but on the way we saw this creature:

I felt good we were in the bus not on our feet???? – because mama bear could be close by.

Moro Rock was impressive, reminded me of Angel’s Landing in Zion NP, only more comfortable steps for climbing it. So the same as on Angel’s Landing I was scared to death to reach the top :-):

Thanks God Andrei reached the top and could enjoy the views of Sierra Nevada mountains:

Next stop was at Big Trees trail – sequoias grow usually around a little pond formed in a hollow of a big stone by some streams. they need water. Those ponds usually are not ponds any more, but a swamp or wet meadow. And therefore sequoia groves look like a circle:

The main cause of sequoias deaths is toppling. They have shallow root system and strong winds can uproot them:

The insides of the fallen trees are attractive:

Some more images of the Giant Trees. the biggest of them is General Sherman tree, but we saw it only from far away – too many people were crowding around it.

So much for this park, it took us a while to find a place to sleep that night as I have mentioned. Next Blog will be about Kings canyon.

 

 

How I celebrated April 15th!

I have to make a break in Thailand blogs and describe the events here and now, in Utah. it was almost a historical event – at last we managed to find the right day, the right weather and only light winds and go to Brian Head – to ski. The first and last time in two years. The fact is that either we have to wait for guests when the weather forecast for the ski resort is good, so we can’t go, or the weather is really bad, which happened there most often. I can’t imagine how they make money, so many bad days they even have to close the lifts, the winds there are usually unbearably high. So here we managed at last to get there on April 14th! Almost no cars…they extended their operation for a week because of the amount of snow we all got in this spring. And the student holidays are now over – maybe that was the reason there were almost no people. Rather strange but I should say?? -comfortable. Like the mountain belongs only to you and all those guys on both ends of the chair lift are here to help only you:

Andrei couldn’t ski, his knee is still not very strong after he twisted it in Thailand, but he took me there and took also his PC so that he would not waste his time, in a cafeteria in this building:

And I also tried not to waste my time, up and down almost non stop. I land from the mountain and just “swish” into the chair again, getting the rest while going up.

To tell the truth it was funny after two years break to get on skis. I felt as if preparing to go into cosmos. Digging out my ski suit, putting on those heavy boots, gloves, cap glasses – here we are almost in summer clothes and over there it is still winter:

One can see how desolate the slopes are – but how nice! The trails are well prepared with that special car, some of them had still their virginity. So comfortable, I never remember such a good skiing there…

The temperature was around 12C and in the sun some parts of snow were a little wet, but didn’t cause problems because there are still frosts at nights over there. And here is the view from the top of the lift – and of that mountain:

You can’t put a price on it!..

And here is the view from Toquerville?? -the town that we have to pass on our way from Rockville to Rt. 15, toBrian Head:

And yesterday, which was April 15th, we went on a trail from the town Virgin. It took us 8 years of living here to figure out such a nice trail only 10 min drive from home…

We crossed the river on a bridge there and walked along the rather steep and high edge that Virgin river has created during many years:

And there are also inlets with scarce water, some slim waterfalls, but you can’t cross them, too steep, just follow the mountain bike road:

Then we drove to the La Verkin overlook – it has even a sign on highway but we never had a chance to drive those couple of miles and see for ourselves how amazing the view is:

You don’t need to hike up or down – you are here on top of a mountain?? -where can you find such a comfort?

To the right is Toquerville, to the left???? – Hurricane and St. George.

And here is our pear tree two weeks ago:

and the peach blossoms…

Slot Canyons in Zion’s East

If you enter Zion National Park from the West entrance, after crossing the Virgin river you find yourself doing switchbacks, back and forth until you reach a much higher level and can really enjoy the big picture of Zion mountains. There are some pockets by the road there for you not to slow the other traffic. And then you reach a tunnel which was exploded and created around 1928. Before that people would send mail or logs for houses on a cable connecting the top part of the area to the bottom of the canyon. Therefore one of the mountains here is called Cable mountain. So this tunnel was of great help for locals as well as travelers. Its length is 1.1 mi and it is pretty narrow. It has two lanes for sedan cars, but once those houses on wheels try to get through – they stop the traffic on one side. So sometimes when lots of people who can’t part with their houses travel here, there is a wait period before you can enter the tunnel. It is not so bad if you don’t rush because the views are magnificent. And then the tunnel has three holes-windows in the rock that are supposed to ventilate and give some light. But don’t plan to stop your car and look around through them. Once you get from the tunnel – there is a parking for a really cute trail – Canyon Overlook. I highly recommend it to everyone, it is only 1 mi round trip and is very diverse. But this time we decided to drive further from the tunnel and check the slot canyon on the right from the road. When it rains that canyon becomes a force of nature full of water. But as it is a desert here and it rarely rains, it is mostly a dry exotic path on the bottom of imaginary river with real fantastic walls:

The passage is sometime very narrow and those types of formations are called slot canyons.

At some places the canyon is so dark, gloomy and still have some water in deeper pools, that you have to find your way out to the top top and walk around those unpleasant places:

But then they open up again and there you can see trees growing and turning into fall colors:

It is usually much cooler in those slots than in the area around. Here and there you can notice the signs of the force of water when it rains:

Water and wind have created different forms in slots, arches being one of them.

There is a feeling of being a dust in the vastness of our Mother Nature:

Meanwhile on the high up walls winds are sculpting another arch. I am not sure how many millions of years it takes them to finish their job:

Those little maples are not the regular ones we are used to. And I am sure they are not the sugar maples, ether. They grow in the bottom of the canyon by this imaginary stream and have the form more like bushes, than trees. But nothing can beat their redness in autumn:

Once you get enough of slot canyons you can look for a less vertical slope towards the road and climb you way to there, to your car parked in one of the pockets. The other side of the road has also several interesting trails, which are not designated and are left wild for various wanderers to improvise their walks. It is usually by following the bed of a dry stream, tracking the waterways. One of such walks is called Many Pools trail. We didn’t have time to do it that day, just a little portion of it. It is late autumn and the sun is setting pretty early. Just two images of Many Pools:

For the end – a little pine that grows in a sandstone rock as seen from the road on this same Eastern part of Zion NP:

Kanaraville Canyon in its splendor!

We read about this canyon in our local newspaper three years ago. It is about 50 min drive from us – to Rt 15 and then a little North, one exit after the Kolob Canyons of Zion NP. Once you get off the highway on the Frontage rd. – head North for 4 miles till you see a red nicely painted barn where you turn Right and head towards the canyon. There is a parking there, but nothing else. It is on public lands so no WCs or information is provided. Therefore it is more wild, and you can experience more solitude. The only time we met several groups of people there was the time after the article was published about it. All of them were locals and all of them came because of the article. But the next year we met only a couple of photographers or romantics. This is the most spectacular of all the canyons I have seen, but that doesn’t mean in absolute sense. I still haven’t seen a lot. We visit it each October, closer to the 20th-24th, when the trees are turning into red and yellow hues. Here is the entrance to the canyon:

Though it is not in a National Park, but the path is pretty good, evidently – still popular among locals. It goes by a stream, we don’t even know its name. The stream has an interesting feature – sometimes it looks like a normal stream and sometimes it disappears and leaves a dry bed. It completely disappears very soon after you enter the narrow part of the canyon which makes it easier to walk.

At this time of the year the Rabbit brushes are finishing their yellow blooming. Behind my back there is an entrance to the Narrows. It takes 40 min to walk there:

The pictures are taken in three different trips this year and last year. So some trees are still green and others are already in their full autumn colors. Some are already naked…

Sun or cloudy – those colors were so divine that I can’t resist to share more and more with you:

At some point the canyon becomes very narrow and sun never gets to its bottom, so it is cold there.

Then again it widens and lightens until you get to a place I called “meatgrinder” – an analog from Tarkovskyj’s movie “The Stalker” which at some point was very popular in previous Soviet Union where I grew up and learned to understand the world:

HOw long does it take to go deeper into the canyon – as long as you want. We walked for a hour once the Narrows started and there was no end to be seen. The walk becomes harder, more boulders and trunks to climb in order to proceed, but at the same time it becomes more dramatic. You can feel the force of flash floods that happen when it rains – huge trunks of trees are brought and stuck in the middle of the canyon. Going out is also nice for you see the walls of the canyon in a different angle and it seems it is a different path. You start noticing smaller things:

And once you get into the sun again – it seems so warm and nice…

Out walks usually last around 3-3.5 h. But it is your choice.

When we returned home I took a picture of our Mexican sunflower by the kitchen window together with Chrizantemums:

Zion Narrows

Summers are deadly hot here. Or so I perceive them. The only thing one can do in the park, to my opinion, is hiking the Narrows. Well, there are people who enjoy the heat after spending long and cold winters in the Midwest e.g., so I don’t argue with them. I am happy they can do some other trails in addition to the Narrows. But not me. In the temperatures of human body my body refuses to move… Zion Narrows is the only place you can expect to get some relief from summer’s sweltering heat. Not as much for the reason they are narrow, as the name says, and the sun is not baking the bottom all day long, but because first – you have to walk in the water, and also – there are plenty of places where ancient water that was rained long long ago is soaking through the sandstone walls and creating a natural swamp cooler. But before you get into the Virgin stream you have to suffer a little. You have to get onto the shuttle which is not air conditioned and though the drivers are very interesting in telling their stories about Zion NP, at the end of 45 min ride you start feeling sorry for them – to work all day in this heat…Good they manage not to turn into dried prunes.
Then you get out in the last stop which is called Temple of Sinawawa because there is a natural rock pulpit and an altar in the middle of the square surrounded by tall walls. Good thing there is a toilet there. After that – no water, no toilets, you have to think and organize your life around it. So you start walking from that point towards the depths of the canyon on a paved path – quite a comfortable one. It is 1 mile to the end of the path called Riverside Walk which ends with some stone steps landing to the rocky shore of the river. This is where crowds gather. The ones who prepare themselves for the hike, change their shoes if they have the better ones for river walk, or take off their shoes they are sorry to get wet, and the ones who don’t plan to hike into the river, just watch the hikers or sit on the bigger rocks and have their lunch:

Having that in mind and being already hungry we had our lunch before the very end of the path:
Lunch in Zion
Lunch in Zion

As you may see we were using our ski sticks for support in the water as well as gaining more speed on the even path.

Squirrels are spread out all over that path. They are not afraid of people and some are pretty fat. Which leads to a thought that maybe not all visitors sustain from feeding them which is forbidden…

Here is the beginning of the trail in the water. Yes, very crowded even on a regular weekday. I guess main reasons being school holidays and kids like water. But nevertheless there was enough space for everyone. No accidents, peaceful strolling up and down the river, with some kids swimming in deeper places. We tried to find shallow passages so that our butts don’t get wet, though the water wasn’t cold at all.

This is a very popular place for taking pictures – the stream rolling down the slope is very cute and refreshing. Sometimes you can even see the canyoneering people landing down the stream in zigzags while attached to ropes. This is also the place where the barefooted hikers finish their hike into the canyon.

But on that particular day the crowds proceeded further. And it was beautiful, but not as beautiful as getting far more deeper into the narrows of the canyon as you will see.

As seen in the pictures the sun was especially bright, which is usual here, but because it was July, not September, there was practically very little shade, it was beating us or caressing us (depending on perception), and a hot wind was blowing all through the canyon. So at that point I gave up, as never before, my body refused to walk further…way too hot even in the water. Thanks God my husband proceeded and he took those beautiful pictures of the narrows:

Isn’t it like in a fairy tale? And yes, there are no crowds any more, only the strongest can get a glimpse of the best views -fair like in fairy tales…

The view on the way back:

My sole advice for travelers in summer – try to start you day as early as you can. There is some though very little morning coolness, freshness. Try to capture and use it.

The end.

Wahweap Hoodoos by Page, AZ

We did this trail on May 6th, 2008. The beginning of May was very slow with guests at our B&B, so we used one of the days off. It took the whole day. To drive to Big Water from us, Zion NP, is more than 3 h. Then we parked the car at the end of a dirt road which lead deeper from Big Water and ended by a very wide and almost dry river. The hard duty cars, I guess, could drive further. But we proceeded to a 9 mile walk. At first it was confusing – the mountain lines were wide apart and two almost dry rivers were meeting somewhere here. We took the road which lead to one of the streams and towards the mountains first, but after meeting very disappointed Austrians, who were confused about the map BLM gave them and after having wondered for a couple of hours in vain -we decided to cross the desert towards the previously seen wide river bed and follow it.

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Though it looked attractive and led mysteriously to some hills and rocks, it was the wrong road, one has to turn left from it, cut the desert and follow the wide river bed at wetter places covered with white salts.

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We had our lunch sitting in one of those rock holes, listening to the silence and looking into the vastness of nature:

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Here are the very few delicate flowers sticking from the desert floor:

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even the lupins:

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Those are the views we saw walking further and further – it seemed endless…

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But the hoodoos we were striving to see were much further…over there in the distance to the left:

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At last, here they were. We saw some immediately by the river bank and some behind a corner to the left. A big group of mushroom like rock formations that happen to be sculpted by nature forces in certain rocks:

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Due to occasional rains the area gets some of them are gone forever…only their dark brown heads are still sticking from a melted stem:

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Some are still standing erect:

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but already quite a difference in comparison with pictures we saw in galleries which enticed us to come and check for ourselves. I mean they look very different, very much melted:

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That was it. We headed back all the same way in this wide space of the river which apparently has had water once upon a time… The trip took us totally 5 hours.

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