Dinosaurs? Sort of! Dinosaur Provincial Park!

“I was born upon the prairie, where the wind blew free, and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures, and where everything drew a free breath.” the Great Comanche war chief, Ten Bears”

There are truly those places you stumble upon and know, you have to go back. We had thought of going North to the Royal Tyrrell Museum but in the end decided we really wanted to go back to Dinosaur Provincial Park. We had fallen in love with it last year, the hikes right from the trailer, scrambling through the hoodoos with the cats, fabulous wildlife and when we pulled in, well, very quiet! One of three trailers there. And the power worked, and there was park WiFi, usable park WiFi…Oh my God…there will be no whining here on my part since last blog I did go on about the electric;) We’d called ahead about water and a lovely young lady said to pull up by the registration area and the water was turned on by the store to fill, complete with a long hose to do so! I’m not sure an American Park would have left an unattended hose there;) Problem one solved, we had water, now, I don’t think we had any others! Spoke too soon. The front landing jacks stopped before we were level and after fiddling with them for 20 minutes we were somewhat level…what to do, what to do…go for a walk!

…and pose the question online, wait for answers, cross our fingers it would work better when we went to leave….start reading the manual:)

What I like is being able to put on my shoes and wander off down a spectacular path! The longest walk is about an hour, if you stop to photograph, well, double that;) The Badlands trail takes you past hoodoos and lunar type landscape. Small yellow flowers were starting to bloom and the trails were quiet.

The leaves were not yet out on the Cottonwoods that line the camping areas. The very handsome Black Billed Magpie followed us about as we walked the cats absolutely fascinated by them. He’d sit on the beams of the the shade buildings and hop from one to the other watching their every move, occasionally coming up with a croak or quack at them quietly…the excitement for the day:) 

Down by the river, the muddy waters of the Red Deer ambled by slowly. Full of dirt from melt water. Geese honked and landed and a Robin was searching for worms in the debris. We had a mix of sun and clouds, it would be overcast then clear, the whole weather gamut! The Red Deer River runs through Dinosaur Provincial Park Unesco World Heritage Site. It has slowly carved away the terrain, along with melting glaciers to expose the amazing collection of more than 500 fossils. Truly astounding plant, animal and fish life then, and now.

…and it was warm! Abnormally so, in the 20’s celsius. We skedaddled when we did as an incoming weather front was threatening to drop 25-30 cm of snow on the park and surrounding area. Hard to believe as we walked about in T-Shirts! Even Beezil came out it was so warm! The old hermit cat!

There were deer dropping everywhere, literally covering the campground…but no deer. So I decided to go looking for them. Behind the campground a steep hill leads up to a narrow path with steps. It overlooks the valley and a small creek that joins up with the Red Deer River.
Little Sandhill Creek from up high, what a view. 18,000 years ago the glaciers started to melt forming immense meltwater lakes. The lakes continued to grow blocked by kilometer high chunks of ice and sediment. When the dams burst, floodwaters raged across the land. Below is an example of what the floodwaters can do. This is the coulee of Little Sandhill River where it flows to meet The Red Deer River. Fascinating geology here:)

And there were deer down there by the creek, I could make them out from my perch on high so down I went and started to follow the creek from the end of the campground. They said there were both Mule and White Tailed deer so I was curious as to what they were. Along the path a Canada Goose perched high in a cave honked at me. I was hoping she wasn’t nesting up there, it would be a 50′ drop for the goslings if she did! Swallow nests lined the undersides of the rocks.

…and there were the Mule Deer. Those ears! With the black tipped tail I believe it is a mule deer. Beautiful creatures, not too shy, obviously used to living around some human company!

Behind the trailer when the sun came out some amazing purple flowers were blooming. It was the Prairie Crocus. I read that Pulsatilla is highly toxic, and produces cardiogenic toxins and oxytocin which slow the heart in humans. Excess use can lead to diarrhoea, vomiting and convulsions, hypotension (LOW blood pressure) and coma. It has been used as a medicine by Native Americans for centuries. Blackfoot Indians used it to induce abortions and childbirth. Pulsatilla should not be taken during pregnancy nor during lactation. Additional applications of plant extracts include uses as a sedative and for treating coughs. It is also used as an initial ingredient in homeopathic remedies.

Not as friendly fuzzy as I had thought. Won’t be eating any of these;)

A wonderful variety of flowers and birds scattered about the park, shuddered to think what they might think of the incoming snowstorm!

Our last evening there we drove up to the viewpoint that overlooks the park. The clouds had been moving in so I thought we might be treated to a spectacular sunset. It is amazing as it is totally flat once you get up on the mesa, you would never think this area exists until you stumble upon it!

I was hoping for that late day light to brighten up the hoodoos and stripes in the rocks below but it faded into the clouds. But I did notice below me a pair of Mule Deer slowly walking towards me. I was upwind and in the shadow so they did not see me until the last minute!

A wonderful way to finish the day. By morning we were packed up and ready to go early started to hook up and pressed the up button on the auto level…nothing…heart sinking…oh no! Stop, breathe, think…what to do, what to do. With a bit of help pushing up on the trailer it seemed to be able to hold once it went up, but wouldn’t budge by itself. We lowered the tailgate and got out the truck jack, placing it in the bed of the truck next to the 5th wheel hitch. With a few blocks of wood we raised it up bit by bit, the jacks would hold it once we got it there but were unable to push it up themselves. First time using the jack, that worked well. When we had it high enough to hook up we took the jack away and slowly backed up and attached the 5th wheel, it was close but we got it hooked on! Yeah! We won’t be stuck in a snowstorm and we can head East to Swift Current, Saskatchewan, our next stop, but that my friends is..another story! Stay tuned for the hows and whys of all those small bits where things can go wrong, how we can learn to fix them and where the buffalo roam!

“Once, in another lifetime, there was an ocean here, and if you plant your feet in the soil you can almost feel the ancients rising and falling like the tides of old as the storm gathers strength.” 
― Heidi Barr, Woodland Manitou: To Be on Earth

The glory that is mountains

“Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.” ― John Muir

“Another glorious Sierra day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not where. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality.” 
 John Muir

I can’t explain the rush of happiness as we drove past these towering spires that are the rockies here in Alberta. Peak after peak takes your breath away, makes you cringe your neck and head to see every detail as it goes whizzing by. The waterfalls, the avalanches, the heavy weight of snow hanging from the sides of rocks as tumbling waterfalls are carried down their faces by the melting snow. I’d read online, and called Lake Louise Provincial Park to make sure there were spaces available with electricity. The campground in Banff was closed for repairs so there were few options but I really wanted to see this spot in the early Spring. Lake Moraine was closed due to avalanche dangers and Lake Louise was still frozen over, dozens of happy tourists wandered about on it’s surface. A far cry from the glacial silt turquoise glimmer of June…but breathtaking. The air was crisp, OK, cold ha!

We were glad we had power, sort of, anyway. Hell hath no fury like an old Burmese cat that doesn’t have his electric blankie on! We’d pulled in to discover only the first row of campsites were open and plowed, the quieter ones to the back still had several feet of snow on them. These are shared sites, some folks had taken the entire site to themselves so we went to the end and turned around to come back to an empty one by the closed restrooms. Perhaps empty for a reason. Every time there was a spike in power from us, or our neighbour, microwave and toaster (?) we shared a 30 amp circuit we were finally told by the ranger, it would blow, not by the pedestal, but in the lock and key electrical compartment by the restrooms…sigh, and no, the rangers did not have a 24 hour number, you had to go out and look for them…or call and leave a message on their 9-4 office machine. It happened twice, the last day they never came to turn it back on, we left at noon. That sucked! Especially the sub zero temperatures…but the scenery…sigh….

Gamora and Groot were not keen on the trains, they run right past the loop that was open for camping, blowing their horns three times, thought poor Gamora was going to jump out of her skin once or twice…not a kitty approved campground, and walking in the snow has turned out NOT to be their favourite thing…fancy that;)

We diesled up and took a look through the small, and very pricey store and liquor store in Lake Louise. I’d read about Morant’s Curve, the spot was made famous by Nicholas Morant, a staff photographer for the Canadian Pacific Railway. He took photographs for the company during the middle of the 20th century. You pass over the trans Canada and follow the Bow Valley Scenic parkway to the signs. We waited, but no trains, until after we left! Ha! It is a beautiful spot to stop and sit and watch the world go by!

I got up for sunrise the next morning and was not disappointed. The light pink glow on the mountain tops and clouds was stunning and only lasted a few minutes! Long enough to leap into the truck and drive down to the bridge that goes to the now closed tent camping area (bears are hungry now;) It was a chilly -6° celcius…yikes! Time to head out of the mountains!

“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.” John Muir

Enough snow and cold, pretty, but we’ll come back in the early Summer next time! When you don’t need snowshoes to hike and not too concerned on coming upon a hungry grumpy just awake from hibernation grizzly.

The drive out of the Rockies is as spectacular as the drive in, through Banff and Canmore as you descend to the plains leaving the towering white mountain tops behind. Mike was muttering good riddance and nice straight roads would be a lovely change;)

I’m thinking it might not be so bad either! Just turn up the temperatures a bit please! Next stop, one of my favourite parks ever! Dinosaur Provincial Park! Stay tuned-Goodbye Rockies-Helloooo Prairies!!!!

Goodbye Rockies!

Oh, Canada

Well, almost, we had one stop North of Seattle, in Bothel, at a little man-made lake for the night, fairly quiet but sardine like side by side. Groot didn’t like the hiking path behind the trailer, kept hissing, found out why the next morning when a very large coyote loped off in front of us…

This is the only RV Park we have encountered with an 8.5 mph speed limit…eight and a half…that is tough, not a wee bit under at 5, nor a speedy 10 mph but exactly 8.5 mph…..maybe just to make you smile? A Monty Python skit could be done here….;)

The speed being 8.5 miles an hour, with 10 MPH being too fast, and 5 MPH being too slow….who the hell makes these ludicrous things up?

So we only lasted a night here…couldn’t take the speed limit;) ha! and then, Oh Canada! Took the trucker route border crossing once again that follows the 15 up to the Trans Canada. Went into the RV lane, far left it said, which it seems was the Nexus lane, which perplexed the Customs and Immigration agent for a few moments, apparently she was not aware it also said RV lane;) long wait, took all of 5 minutes;) ha! Even with our non-nexus passports and paperwork. Have to love Canada:)

Did I mention the rain and clouds…and rain and clouds? yes, lot’s of rain and clouds. The cats were not amused by this predicament but I was so happy to see my father and the lovely Gloria it made no difference. We cooked a lovely Sunday dinner together (Ok, Mike and Gloria cooked, I chatted;) and went over some ancestry questions someone in New Zealand had about our family, that was their family as well. Turns out my Great grandmother was Swedish, who was married in the US where my Grandmother was born, Illinois then moved to New Zealand and her family owned a sheep station! No wonder I like lamb chops;) My Dad had a rough start to Spring with pneumonia and being hospitalized but fingers crossed he is feeling better every day! They are an inspiration for what a love and a great relationship looks like and about people who have worked closely together for over 45 years! We will be back to visit again soon!

We did have a bout or two of sun. It was wonderful to go out and mosey around. Several Northern Flickers families were squabbling about territories and azaleas were blooming. We walked over to Park Royal and Mike’s favourite German deli there, the Black Forest Delicatessen. We stocked up on German num nums, sweet and savory, before we headed East to the less than stellar selection of prairie grocery stores:) but not before another long awaitied stop at my great friend Joanne’s place near Fort Langley. Newly married we wanted to meet her wonderful husband Gene and to take a breath in the countryside. They’d just come back from an Australian honeymoon and we were delighted to spend a few nights on their farm. They run Glen Valley Stables, the best trail riding experience in BC’s lower mainland. After years of looking at her horses pictures I felt I knew them:) We tend to meet up about every 10 years or so, hopefully not so long until the next visit. We met as kids in Rarotonga, the Cook Islands in the South Pacific, but that is ANOTHER story;)

Good thing Mike can back up a trailer, their laneway was narrow and road to the farm not very wide, we had to drive in and then turn around in their ample yard while trying not to run Blue aka Levi the horse down as he strolled about and sniffed the trailer, we pruned a few tree branches but set up next to the mare corral. What a treat to have horses at home again! Groot even looked like he could be friends with Joanne’s lovely dog Pepper, but those huge four legged creatures, they were not quite sure about them! Wonderful to meet Gene and so happy to see Joanne again! It’s one of those wonderful friendships where you just take up where you left off and not much seems to change but it has! It was so nice to hear what she and Gene are doing!

But time to head East once again! Many of the Provincial Parks are not open but Monck was, no services, but free as well! Who says nothing is free? How can you turn down a beautiful spot on Nicola lake? We had forgotten just how bumpy the 20 kilometer road in was but nothing too serious bounced out of place! Sad to see the old Heritage Church had burned down on the road in from Merritt:(

When we arrived, we were the only ones there! Talk about getting your pick of spots. It was limited, only 25 sites in loop 1 were open but we squeezed into one and let out a sigh of relief…quiet…wind in the pines, cats ran around on their leashes like lunatics down to the beach and through the pines! A Groot and Gamora approved campground. I need to make up some kind of stamp! The posted speed limit: a speedy 20 km/h!!! That is a roaring 12.247 mph! What would the Lake Pleasant RV Park think?? Those speedy Canadians;) hahahahaha!

The Ospreys were still nesting in the same tree and the Pine Siskins were busy. Not many wildflowers but Spring is just starting here. The sun left us after we arrived and we returned to gray and blustery but this is such a beautiful area. The Yellow Bellied Marmots were even out down at the beach:)

I have to admit this place has a magic to it, spectacular when it is empty. A few campers arrived later in the day but everybody was so spread out and quiet it felt like you were all alone! I didn’t want to leave but with no power and the night time temperatures dropping below freezing, the old cat was complaining about not having his heated blanket, poor skinny old guy, off to somewhere with a plug in! The place we stayed last year in Salmon Arm was not yet open, more than likely under water, so our good friends Nick and Ruby checked out another place East of town. When we arrived, I groaned, outloud, gave Mike a look, it was RIGHT beside the highway..sigh…hate highway noise, but to my delight upon checking in we were given directions to a windy little road, and fancy gate, down to a creek, well behind the main permanents office, tucked well away from most of the noise…have to trust that husband sometimes;) That is why it is called “Hidden Valley” he said!

Here the Canoe Creek was running. Small bridges dotted the lower campground for tenters and we were, alone again! By now you probably get that I really really like to be alone at times;) Especially when nature is involved. The cats adored this place! Bridges to cross, chipmunks to try to catch, try being the word, many new things to sniff, snails and such! A forest wonderland.

It was wonderful again to visit with friends! It is something we miss about traveling full time, but then we do eventually get to meet up with our far spread tribe and we are adding to it as we go! Our next step-out of British Columbia and a whole different province:) The drive through BC is spectacular-waterfalls along the Trans Canada 1 and the rolling ranch hills past Monck up the trans Canada 5 and back to the 1 through Kamloops into the mountains towards Salmon Arm and the beautiful lake…but…the Rockies…well…a jaw dropping experience everytime we go…so stay tuned for…snow! Alberta here we come!

Now I know why it is so green-Pacific NorthWest Rain forest;)

Portland, Oregon

Green it is, for a reason, especially in Spring we have been told. Last June it was a miraculous blue sky, this May, well, gray skies prevailed! We’d opted out of staying in Portland, the RV park there was right in the flight path of the airport and beside a busy road. Our friends had taken us out to Sauvie Island and that is where we decided to go back to. Such a gorgeous place. The orchards were just starting to bloom and it was quiet, with the exception of the traffic on the Columbia River. Groot and Gamora nearly had heart failure as the first freighter chugged by as they played down on a small beach at Reeder Beach RV Park. That was something new. These ships really move, great to watch the bow waves and ship names as they chugged on by to be loaded with wheat and cars it seems.

I have always wanted to see the Columbia River Gorge and the famous 611′ of towering roaring Multnomah Falls. Absolutely out of this world with the Spring run off. We drove up the 84 and veered off on the Historic Columbia River Scenic Highway when we could. Through the mists and rain it was a beautiful sight, not a photographers dream but very mystical at times. In 2017 a blaze spread to more than 48,000 acres. It would be known as the Eagle Creek fire, which burned for two months. The eire skyline of dead trees is a constant reminder of the stupidity of humans:( teens with firecrackers…heartbreaking.

As we went East we escaped the rain for a bit and stopped in Hood River for a bite of lunch with our great friend Ian and Dobby the dog, at the Solstice Wood Fired Pizza Bar. It was wonderful surprise right on the river. Excellent thin crust pizza. The “Siragusa Pear”, local pears, bleu cheese, caramelized onions, and mozzarella cheese and “Hot Mamma”, pepperoni, pepperoncini, peppadew peppers, marinara, and mozzarella were perfectly cooked, delicious crust, not too many toppings-perfection! The roasted brussel sprouts fabulous as well! We left for a walk around Hood River and a coffee to rouse our sleepy souls before heading back on the old highway to see the Falls, multiple falls I might add, all in the rain;)

By the time we reached Multnomah Falls it was raining hard. I hid my camera under my jacket and ventured off for the amazing view while the gentlemen stayed in the relative warmth of the truck. I was glad I did, and I’ll be back on a sunny day, one day! Absolutely stunning!

Thanks to Wikipedia: Sauvie Island, originally Wapato Island or Wappatoo Island, is the largest island along the Columbia River, at 26,000 acres and one of the largest river islands in the United States. It lies approximately ten miles northwest of downtown Portland, between the Columbia River to the east, Multnomah Channel to the west, and the Willamette River to the south. A large portion of the island is designated as the Sauvie Island Wildlife AreaSturgeon Lake, in the north central part of the island, is the most prominent water feature.

The island received the name “Sauvés Island” after Laurent Sauvé dit Laplante, a French-Canadian who managed a dairy for the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 1830s and 1840s. It is predominantly farmland and wildlife refuge and is a popular place for picking pumpkins, berries and apples. It even has a clothing optional beach;) There are 1,078 year-round residents, and two RV parks. We chose Reeder Beach after our visit last year and the charming older couple who owned it. They have free range chickens there and delicious eggs for sale at their little store. How can you beat that in a RV park! and those walnut trees, huge towering trees in the campground. They are spectacular!

The best thing for me about this lovely RV park, the nesting pair of Ospreys right in front of out trailer! They arrived the same day we did and went to work repairing their nest. Dragging sticks from the river as well as taking dead branches from nearby trees. What a delight to watch these beautiful birds! Yes, get ready for an onslaught of Osprey pictures;)

I did spend many hours by the bank between rain showers and gloom watching them rebuild and yes, start making new Ospreys;) I prayed for better light and sun and was rewarded with an occasional break in the clouds!

Groot was not so enthused about the rain. The river went up so much his beach disappeared and the horns on the freighters were most alarming, one day a large loose dog came bounding down his beach, friendly, NOT said Groot! Gamora was scared inside one day by a flock of very loud Sandhill Cranes circling overhead, cat bombers she must have thought, as well as a few low flying planes when the winds shifted so did the incoming plane paths.

I don’t like those freighters

It was a glorious spot for a week though! Even in the drizzle it was lovely! We had a few more outings with our wonderful friend Ian and his wife Sarah, a Brewery, a lovely Thai restaurant and the famous Freaky but true Pelculiarium!

“We are not quite sure how to explain the Peculiarium…it’s truly one-of-a-kind! “Museum” simply does not seem adequate to describe this freaky-but-fascinating collection of Sci-Fi art exhibits, historical oddities, and celebration of urban legends. We’re pretty sure that the city motto “Keep Portland Weird” was invented right after a visit to the Peculiarium! This is one attraction that is definitely not meant for children, but for those of us who love to stretch our imagination (and nightmares!) to the limits, this is as must-see place for truly unbelievable artwork, performances, and events celebrating the creepiest, most terrifying…things…in the world. The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium is not for the faint-hearted, but for the rest of us “weirdos,” it makes our skin crawl in the most excellent way.

— Onlyinyourstate.com

That was a well spent afternoon:) Ha! Love to love weirdness, if you are in Portland-Go! Do you know the city has more than 162 dispensaries? Some great witty signs/names out there full of imagination! Green Gratitude, Canna Bro’s, Cannabliss and Company, Budlandia, Top Shelf Budz, Bigfoot Bud and the list goes on. I should have taken more pictures;) They have embraced their cannabis completely! I did catch the Trump piñata in a store window;)

But it was time to go! North to Vancouver. It was with sadness we left our good friends but Perth was calling and we still had another, well, several thousand kilometres to go! I’ll leave you with this wonderful collection of painted stones scattered around the campground-reminders that it is nice to be nice, and fun to have fun;)

Saludos amigos-stay tuned for Vancouver and points further East!

Bang bang, they hate those road signs….Welcome to America

Are you really so bored the highway signs become your own personal targets? Seems so in Nevada. I don’t think we passed a single sign, other than the Extraterrestrial Highway signs that were not riddled with bullets. Do you pull over to shoot them or like a cowboy do you hang out your car window and take a shot as you whizz by at 75mph?

We left the Little A’le’inn after breakfast and headed North on only what could be described as a long and lonely road. Traffic was scarce on the Extraterrestrial Highway this morning. I think it always is, other than cows, there are lots of free range cows pretty much everywhere.

The Extraterrestrial Highway turns into State Road 6 at Warm Springs, it looks like it could have been inhabited at one point, just not now, an old pool, that may have been filled with hot water is surrounded by an old chain link fence and the windows are boarded up on the buildings, or just missing altogether. I missed a herd of Pronghorn Antelope trotting across the plains as they blended in so well to their surroundings as we made the turn to Tonopah to fuel up. After that, the 6 turns into the 95 North, headed to Mina, our destination for a few days. We were here three years ago and Socorros Hamburger stand makes the best chili relleños we’ve had outside of Mexico so we had to stop and order some, it takes a day or more for them:) You know when you are almost in Mina when you pass the Wild Cat Brothel, just on the outskirts of town. Couldn’t help but think about Father Ted’s Father Jack…Drink! Girls! Watch it, you’ll love it

It hasn’t changed much, maybe a few less inhabitants, last count was 155. The Sunrise Valley RV Park just re-opened for the year so we had a laundry stop as well as tamales. They call themselves an Offroad-ATV Park but luckily none were to be seen or heard, just the horrendous highway noise, makes you realize just how busy the #95 is, mostly heavy truck traffic, but friendly owners with nice smiles and a beautiful rock collection around the entire RV Park. Not a destination for us, or anybody else there at the time, just one night stoppers mostly.

After getting our tamales Sunday morning we made a break for it, further North along the #95 past Walker Lake headed North to Carson City and Washoe Lake State Park. Walker Lake had a herd of wild horses, or maybe not so wild grazing around the shoreline.

Washoe Lake had been dry three years ago when we were there, we kept looking and looking and the ranger was laughing, no water this year she said. A very different sight in 2019. Filled to the brim. We planned on one night here as it was going to be cold and this was dry camping. It is all first come first serve and luckily there were a few spots left. It was closing down in a few days to install power and sewer. Old Beezil loves his heated throw so we can’t freeze him out for too long without power.

The Magpies eluded me as I walked around the Lake. Over to the dunes, then further up to catch a glimpse of the few wild horses I’d seen on our way in. They are scraggly little bony ponies no more. Guess I’m spoiled by our horse flesh, this small group of bachelors was not a handsome lot at all but at least there was some grass coming up for them to eat.

As I scrambled back along the dunes, not sure if the path would actually connect for all the high water many of the paths were under it, a beautiful Bald Eagle flew right over my head, what a glorious site.

Bald Eagle flyby

It did turn out to be a cold night and we ready to move on in the morning. We’d refueled in Carson City, only a few miles to the South and made a stop at our favourite latin market, El Centro, ever. They have hands down, the best carniceria ever. The ranchera/arrachera meat was perfectly marbled, the smoked pork chops are the best we have ever eaten, wish the freezer was bigger and the young butcher gave us a piece of chorizo to try “for free” he said,”I want you to try it”, and it was outstanding as well! Great place to stock up on tortillas, tostadas and fresh vegetables as well:) Estamos Mexicanos cierto!

Snow covered mountains

Sadly the campers next to us ran their frigging generator ALL night long, not exactly pleasant when you are in a quiet State Park-almost all parks have quiet time (if they allow generators at all) from 10pm usually until 7am, so much for effective camp hosts, many just don’t care, just a free spot to stay in exchange for as little work possible:( This park has it’s fair share of weirdos as well, as if we should talk! hahahaha! It’s just a vibe you get when you come in and no one meets your eyes, always feels a bit odd when people turn away:) There was a man camped in his car across from us that had security cameras and signs telling you so set up all around his car…Ok….There are still a ton of fire victims in this area as well as the Western side of the Sierra. The RV parks from Yuba City to Chico are filled with them, now living in trailers as best they can. Talked to a couple of RV spots looking for a space on our way North and all were full with mostly permanents. The Paradise Fire was so very hard on so many people. Not just those 85 people that lost their lives in that horrendous blaze, but the entire city that has been decimated. Many have left the area permanently, unable to find housing or work, or both…and they say climate change is not an issue? my oh my, you may want to ask these displaced folks:(

Enough gloom and doom for this girl, stay tuned for some serious snow as we cross the Sierras back into “Kalifornia”;)

Saludos amigos!

A wee bit of snow up here on the I 80

The Extraterrestrial Highway

The Extraterrestrial Highway

From the “X Files” to “Independance Day” to “Paul” you know you want to drive this Highway;) The truth is out there, in area 51 Tikaboo Valley. “You can drive up the Groom Lake Road, until they turn you around” the waitress said at the Little A’El’Inn.

Walk in… Drive in… Fly in… get to Little A’Le’Inn !!! ET’s & Earthlings Welcome Always

The men in black, who? They forever stand watch along with detection devices, listening devices and cameras mounted among the cactus. The signs read, “Top Secret Military Facility, Keep Out, Use of Deadly force Authorized”…

We left The Valley of Fire and headed North through Overton and the Moapa Valley with very stormy gloomy skies. We were spit on a few times but the showers in the distance were what was spectacular! North through Moapa itself and to Highway 93 a long straight corridor of barren but beautiful desert.

We passed the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, we’d considered boondocking here but not this trip. At Crystal Springs you make the turn left onto the 375-The Extraterrestrial Highway. You have to love places that embrace their inner aliens;)

Where else can your GPS tell you this;)

The desert scenery is astounding. The snow capped mountains and Joshua Trees came into view in the Tikaboo Valley. We pulled over to stop and admire the beauty, and gaze towards area 51. It appears that this may be the only place where two types of Joshua tree, namely the Eastern and Western varieties have come together, wish humans could;)

Tikaboo Valley

We drove past the black mailbox and on down the road into Rachel, Nevada. Population 54. Population humans, yes, Aliens..?

They have 4 or 5 RV spots with 30 amps alongside some of their rooms and the restaurant /bar/grill serves a mean saucer burger as well as breakfasts, and that is about it in Rachel:) At sunset we were treated to a beautiful rainbow after our burger and friendly conversation with the staff. The Alien blood cocktail was delicious;) One more bumper sticker for Myrtle left with us;)

We woke up to spectacular skies and clouds above the mountains that surround this valley. Surreal beauty at dawn as the moon was setting….and it was cold and windy, 34° flintstone scale!

Sunrise. Rachel, Nevada

I wandered about in the cold, trying to get away from the power lines, my arch nemesis they are! Out into the fields. Most of this is BLM land, free range, as a young couple in a pickup truck with a cab over camper found out, after colliding with one in the dark. The truck front end did not look very good to say the least, the bartender was just concerned about the cow “Did ya shoot it?” he was asking the young man, who shook his head and said the Highway Patrol did…life on the range, hard on trucks and cows at night.

Everyone is supposed to have a gun right? You need them to shoot the traffic and directional signs along the highway, what else would one do for sport? But we’ll save that for next time;) Hasta la Vista baby from Rachel Nevada-The truth is out there, we want to believe;)

Leaving Rachel, Nevada

Valley of Fire

Valley of Fire-White Dome trail

There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter. Rachel Carson

I’ve had this beautiful park on a list of places to see for a very long time. There is lots of dispersed camping above Overton on the Mesa, “Poverty Ridge” a storekeeper remarked at the Ice Cream store but it was the campground among the red rocks I so badly wanted to enjoy.

With fingers crossed we drove past the entrance gate and into the park. Past red rock spires with colours dancing off the surfaces. The morning light helped accent the colours as we passed area after area of amazing beauty. The campground is about halfway into the park so with bated breath we slowly made our way in, there were two other trailers behind us, past the petroglyphs on Atlatl rock and into the campground, we worked our way past the smaller sites (all are first come, first serve, no reservations) into the electric/water sites and lo and behold, as least three were available at 10:30 in the morning. We backed into the first one we came across with squeals of glee, yes, me, not Mike and settled in! This was meant to be a two day stop, I could tell already a third day was going to be added;) hahaha!

All this beauty from the windows of your moving home! We took a drive back to the park office for a map of trails after we’d settled in and paid our fees at the campground. As we rounded the bend by the campground I could see a herd of Desert Bighorn Sheep grazing in the field beside the campground. Talk about leaping out of the truck as we got back and grabbing the big lens I was off to stalk sheep!

I followed them around for awhile as they grazed next to a trailer site where there was a large patch of grass, the eventually meandered off into the shrubbery eating as they went, the youngsters play fighting and locking horns. They seemed unconcerned with me as I sat down on a rock and watched them interact. I read that Southern desert bighorn sheep are adapted to a desert mountain environment with little or no permanent water. Some may go without visiting water for weeks or months, sustaining their body moisture from food and from rainwater collected in temporary rock pools. They may have the ability to lose up to 30% of their body weight and still survive, wow, I was wondering where they got water.. This is a bachelors group the camp host told me, 12 or 13 of them hang about here most of the time! I finally went back to the trailer excited about my encounter and eager to look at the shots I’d taken. We took the cats for a walk up in among the rocks and saw the sheep often sleep in the caves around the campground due to the copious quantities of sheep poo:) We know that smell of male sheep urine as well, the cats found it all very interesting;) Later in the afternoon I was amazed to see, as well as Gamora who was watching out the window, the entire herd gallop past the back of our trailer between the picnic table and us. Gamora’s eyes were huge!

Desert Bighorn sheep running

I had to grab the camera again and follow them as they were now posing on the incredible red rocks right in front of our eyes! They drew a gathering of eager photographers and phone videographers as we all watched them move about the rocks. We could not believe our luck and the magic of these beautiful sheep as they easily jumped from ledge to ledge, without a scramble, just easy strides…until…

…the asshole in the campsite facing us lost control of his dog who started to chase them off, you can not believe the comments and yells coming from the onlookers, mostly R rated for profanity, for once I had to say nothing as the idiot managed to get his large dog under control. He had a visit from the camp hosts ASAP. Later she stopped by and she sighed and said sadly this happens often. They had already warned the guy previously to keep his dog under control as it had lunged at several campers walking by. So one man ruins an amazing experience for everyone else and for the sheep, who didn’t come back for the remainder of our stay…leashes people, I don’t care how well your dog is trained…

Why it is called Valley of Fire

The next morning after Kitty walks, turns out they love to scramble among the rocks and explore small caves. I’m always careful to check for any reptiles or spiders before I let them in FYI:) I think this maybe there most favourite stop yet, I have to agree:) And yes, our cats are spoiled;)

We realized how lucky we were to get a spot when nothing opened up the following morning. The trailers, 5th wheels, A,B and C classes and El Monte RV’s circled from dawn to dusk like sharks around their prey to no avail…

We drove up to the White Dome Trail on the end of the road after the visitor Center, it seemed the least populated so we hiked down a narrow trail and past amazing rock formations and colours. The White Domes area was the location for the 1966 movie The Professionals. This western, starring Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale was typical of the 1960s western genre. It was also responsible for the development of the road and access to this remarkable area. The remains of the site include a small portion of the wall of the hacienda. Star Trek Generations was also filmed here for our Science fiction geek friends…goodbye Kirk;)…was that a bad thing?;)

After the short slot canyon you start to make your way back towards the North. A few wildflowers, Preus’s Milkvetch were blooming along the path as we walked.

We headed back to Myrtle after our walk to rest and get the telescope out. It was almost full moon but still so much to show to anyone who wanted a look. Mike had a good crowd with lots of ooh’s and ah’s but the seeing was not that good but still nice to be outside and looking at the moon, the crater Schickard and the Aristarchus regions, and the Orion nebula.

The next morning we awoke to stormy skies. We headed off to hike to Mouse’s Tank Trail as they said there were small water catchments that might be interesting. It is named ‘The Mouse’s Tank’ because an alleged Southern Paiute Indian renegade named ‘Little Mouse’ hid out there in the 1890’s. He was accused of gunning down two prospectors.

Along the path Side Blotched Lizards were warming themselves in the sun and Painted Lady Butterflies dances along the path. What really caught our eye was a lizard high up on a ledge a couple had pointed him out “A Gila Monster” they said. I wasn’t too sure but wandered up the small rocky area to get a closer look. It was a beautiful Chuckwalla-Sauromalus ater. The generic name, Sauromalus, is a combination of two Ancient Greek words:σαῦρος (sauros) meaning “lizard” and ομαλυς (omalus) meaning “flat”. The common name “chuckwalla” derives from the Shoshone word tcaxxwal or Cahuilla čaxwal, transcribed by Spaniards as chacahuala. These guys are herbivores. They browse on a wide variety of leaves, flowers, buds, and fruit. Insects are also eaten occasionally. They deflate themselves to get into crevices to escape predators and then inflate so they can’t be pulled out, how cool is that!

I sat on the rocks after he went into his crevice and watched as he slowly made his way back out to sunbathe. What a beautiful lizard! I loved his yellowish tail. He sat and watched us, looked like he had Bighorn Sheep neighbours up on the rocks as well, lots of droppings so he was used to company;)

Back at the campground the skies were clouding over and looking stormy late in the day. A short walk from our campsite is Atlatl Rock. An atlatl (at’-lat-l) is a device used for launching a spear; usually a short cord would around the spear so that when thrown into the air the weapon will rotate.  The ancient Indians used these weapons and they are depicted in the petroglyphs (rock carvings) located at Atlatl Rock.  Here along the path huge boulders have fallen off the cliffs covered with petroglyphs.

Valley of Fire State Park is home to the largest concentrations of petroglyphs in Nevada. The petroglyphs located here, have been dated by archaeologists, and some have been found to be over 3,000 years old. The first known inhabitants of the Valley of Fire were the Gypsum People who visited the region 1800-4000 years ago. They were nomadic hunter-gatherer people and it’s believed that travelled here for ceremonial and religious purposes, but never resided permanently. Later groups that spent time in the Valley of Fire were the Basket Makers, the Anasazi Pueblo People who farmed the Moapa Valley, and later the Southern Paiute. The depictions of the sheep were especially beautiful!

The blooms and wildflowers along the trail were beautiful. Occasionally you would wander through a cloud of perfume. I think they are the Shieldpod flowers (Dithyrea californica). They smell heavenly!

The White Tailed Antelope Squirrels in the campground provided lots of entertainment for the cats and us. They dug in their holes and snorffled (is that a word?) about in the bushes as they scampered well ahead of them. There was the usual crew of birds, House Finches and White Crowned Sparrows as well as a lone Canyon Wren singing its heart out.

I had to admit I didn’t want to leave…sigh…so quiet and beautiful. Everything you want in a magical place. Astounding scenery, wildlife at your doorstep…Go. If you are ever passing by this majestic land of rock called Valley Of Fire. You won’t be disappointed. Saludos amigos and stay tuned….for the Extraterrestrial Highway….the truth is out there!

Leaving Arizona, Hello Nevada