Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Are you sure you are still doing a blog?

I will admit I have been a little remiss in blog writing lately, so I will make keeping the blog more current my 2010 New Year resolution. Now all of you can see how well I do at keeping New Year resolutions. 

To bring you up to date. Our visit to San Jose was packed with visits with family, friends between the doctor visits. After all of the doctors, dentist and Vet visits we are all three good to go for another year. For Christmas Day we had Kevin, our youngest son, and his girlfriend, Veronica over for dinner. As always Raider was happy to see his big brother.

Like last year we left San Jose the Monday after Christmas and the traffic jam on Highway I-5 went from one end of the state to the other. Also like last year we did manage to go at the speed limit for the most part. We stopped for the night at Orange Grove RV Park in Bakersfield, also same as last year. As we wrote then, you actually park in the grove, with trees just dripping with delicious oranges, free for the picking. Until you have had one you can’t imagine how good a fresh picked Orange is. Also like last year fellow Montana Owners.COM (MOC) members Butch and Susan were staying at Orange Grove RV Park. In the almost three years we have known them and the several times we have met them on the road, we have learned that no matter where we are Susan will say: “We know a place to eat, do you want to come?”. Of course we always say “Yes”. Susan has a remarkable knowledge of great restaurants no matter where we are. One of her favorites is a Basque/French place in Bakersfield. A lot of food and I know I have never had better Rack of Lamb anywhere. We were joined at dinner by Jim and Vicky MOC members we met at a Montana Owners rally in Oregon this past June. We all had a wonderful time catching up on what we had been doing the past six months since we were last together. We made plans for when we get together again in a couple of weeks in Quartzsite Arizona for another MOC rally.

We left Bakersfield after one night and have arrived in North Palm Springs for a week of hopefully warm days. However, so far it has been mostly windy.

By not writing the blog I missed our very important anniversary of December 26th: we have been on the road fulltime now for two years. I went back and read what I wrote on our one year anniversary and so many of the things I wrote then are still true. “Where has the time gone? It doesn’t seem like we have been on the road a whole year.” If anything this second year seem to go by even faster than the first. “So, how has life on the road been? Incredible!” It remains “Incredible!”. Due to Kathy’s surgeries early in the year none of our 2009 plans happened, but traveling without a plan and letting serendipity show us the way was a wonderful experience. We went to places we didn’t know exist and as always when RVing met many wonderful friendly people.

I wrote last year “No doubt many of you are wondering: where is the best place you have been? There is no “best” place.”. There still is no “best” place but there are many remarkable places. Certainly, a month on the Oregon Coast in June, 3 weeks at Glacier National Park in July, 3 weeks in Western South Dakota (Badlands National Park, Mt. Rushmore, Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument) in August, 3 weeks in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in September, 3 weeks in Zion National Park in October! For us total city people our time at the Andersen Farm in Oakes, ND with Terry and Vick were the highlights. This year we learned to stay in one location longer and really get to see the area.

New for me this year was the photography. The shutter counter on my camera says that I have taken an amazing 3,000 picture since I got the camera in May! With the 3 weeks stays in Glacier and Zion National Parks, we did quite a bit more hiking than our previous year. However, our Astronomy and Birding fell way off this year. We didn’t get our telescopes out once all year.  I didn’t even keep a 2009 bird list but, we did see 3 life birds and that brought our Life List to 500 species.

Our plan for year 3 is to do what we didn’t do this year; tour the eastern half of America and if time permits visit eastern Canada as well. As always we will let the weather decide where we go and when we will get there. Hopefully we will get in more birding and astronomy during year 3 than there was in year 2.

Once again, we would like to thank you all for following our travels and we look forward to meeting more of you this coming year.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Yes, we are still doing a blog


Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View

WOW, a month since our last posting!

To pickup where our last blog left off:

We stayed two more weeks at the Escapee Park in Pahrump. Kathy beaded everyday, I read and Raider got in his two walks a day. Although, the weather stayed nice the nights kept getting colder and colder. As planned we left Pahrump on November 18th and had a dull, uneventful two day drive to San Jose. We arrived in San Jose just in time for a wet rainy and windy day. After a weekend of laundry, groceries etc. We went to Kathy’s folks place in Mariposa California for Thanksgiving Week. Mariposa is about 40 miles west of Yosemite National Park (about an hour’s drive). There are very few RV Parks in the area and none open this time of year, so we left the trailer in San Jose.

Over the years we have been to Yosemite more times than we can remember and in every month of the year. November in Yosemite is probably the quietest time of the year. Too late for the summer crowds and too early for the winter skiers. We guessed that is had been about 5 years since Kathy and I had been to Yosemite Valley and even longer since her folks had been to Yosemite Valley. With that in mind we decided to take a day trip  to Yosemite.

As you can see from the pictures we had a beautiful fall day. It was a little cool to be sure but sun was shining and the there wasn’t any wind.


El Capitan


El Capitan up close

Yosemite’s famous waterfalls are reduced to a trickle by November:


Bridal veil Falls


Yosemite Falls


Top of Yosemite Falls


Half Dome


Basket Dome

Thanksgiving was pretty traditional too much food, dinner with Kathy’s folks and her youngest sister and her family.

We are now back in San Jose for Christmas with our youngest son and our yearly doctor and dentist visits.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pahrump Revisited Yet Again


Our current site at Escapee CO-OP Pair-a-dice RV Park

After spending 3 weeks at Zion National Park it was time to move on; the weather was getting colder and the winds were getting stronger. We even added a couple of days to our stay hoping that the winds would die down. Where to go became the question. We had planned to move to a RV Park in Hurricane Utah to meet up with friends from our Montana Owners group, but there is a reason it is called Hurricane. As we got out of Zion Canyon to Hurricane there was a very strong wind. Since we were pointed west it was a tail wind, we decided to take advantage of the tailwind and not stay in Hurricane.

Our destination was the Escapee CO-OP Pair-a-dice RV Park in Pahrump Nevada, which is about 65 miles west of Las Vegas. This is our third visit in the past year. You can read about our other visits in the archive under 2008 November and under 2009 March.

On our previous visits I wrote:

“The Pair A Dice CO-OP RV Park is one of the nicest parks we have been to and is in a very quiet area. Everyone here is very friendly. It usually takes us an hour to do Raider’s morning walk, because everyone wants to pet him and take time to chat. Pahrump Valley has no Interstate highway, no trains and as far as we can tell no airport of any kind. The RV Park is located about 3 miles from the nearest highway of any size and about 5 miles from the center of town. Here in Pahrump everyday has been mid-70s or better. We have had a couple of very windy days, which are good days to stay inside and read. All of the other days have been good days to sit outside and read. So, I guess what we have been doing for the past two weeks is reading and beading. We have also been taking Raider for two walks a day around the park to get us all some exercise.”

All of the above is still true. Kathy has joined the RV Parks beading group for a few sessions and we attended the Park’s Halloween Dinner. Even though we are much younger than most of the park residents they have gone out of their way to make us welcome and part of the group.

This is the first place that we have setup the bird feeders since we were in the Black Hills of South Dakota. As with our previous visits here, we have had Lesser Goldfinch, American Goldfinch, House Finch, Mourning Doves, House Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows and Gamble’s Quail at our feeders. Today we had a Roadrunner pass through our site as well.

IMG_6181 House Finches and Goldfinches.

IMG_6184 White-crowned Sparrow

We originally signed up here for two weeks. Those two weeks have gone by very fast so we have signed for an additional two weeks. As of now our plans are to leave here on the 18th and head to San Jose for the holidays.

In case you’re wondering what the little structure beside our trailer is, it is called a casita. Spanish for “little house”. It is a storage unit for the owners of this site, we’re just renting. So we get to enjoy the shade it provides and a very nice patio for sitting outside. It also provides us some privacy as the other RVer is on the other side of it and we can’t even see them.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Zion National Park 2009 – Part 4 - Flora and Fauna


During our almost three week  stay here at Zion National Park we have seen:






and Flowers.

But mostly we have watched Autumn come to Zion. On our many trips into Zion Canyon we have seen the tress change from  day to day.



The slideshow has a collection of the flora and fauna of Zion National Park we have seen and the changes during our wonderful visit.

Zion National Park 2009 – Part 3 - Emerald Pools Trail and Kayenta Trail


Looking down canyon

The Emerald Pools are a series of small pools, cascades and waterfalls located about midway up the Zion Canyon. The trail begins at the Zion Lodge and the hikes to the 3 pool become more strenuous as you go to the next higher pool. The Kayenta Trail starts further up canyon and traverse a bench about 150 feet above the Virgin Rover and gives nice views until it connects to the Emerald pool complex of trails. This is our favorite part of the Zion Canyon. During the almost three weeks we were here we hiked in this area 3 times. On our first hike we walked from Zion Lodge to Lower Pool and then back.


Waterfall from Middle Emerald Pool to Lower Emerald Pool


Lower Emerald Pool

On our second hike we took advantage of the shuttle system and walked the Kayenta trail from the Grotto shuttle stop to Middle Pool and then on to Zion Lodge.


The trail to Middle Pool


Middle Emerald Pool

On the third hike I walked from Zion Lodge to Lower Pool, then to Middle Pool, then to the Upper Pool and finished my hike by walking the Kayenta trail to the Grotto shuttle stop.


Almost to Upper Pool


Upper Emerald Pool

As you can see the Upper Pool is larger than the other two pools, but none of them really is much of a pool nor did they look emerald to me.

Zion National Park 2009 – Part 2 - River Walk Trail


Entrance to the “Narrows”


Kathy on the River Walk trail

At the end of the road in Zion Canyon is the Temple of Sinawava. Sinawava is a deity to the South Paiute native Americans that lived in Zion Canyon before the area was homesteaded in the mid-1800s. This area is also the trailhead for Zion’s most popular hike the Zion Narrows. The first mile of the trail is paved and named the River Walk Trail. After the first mile the “trail” is the river. We chose to walk the paved section of the trail. This is a remarkable section of the canyon and we shot more pictures on this two  mile round trip than at any other time in Zion.

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Scenes along the trail


The above pictures shows where the River Walk Trail stops and the actual Narrows Trail starts. The “trail” continues on for 16 miles, the water is cold  and in some section the canyon is less than 20 feet wide. Many of the iconic Zion National Park pictures that you have seen in books, posters and post cards were taken further up river. Another thing that the above pictures show is how many people of all ages, sizes and shapes take this hike. Even though these pictures were taken after lunch and in the middle of the week, there are 8 people visible in this picture. One morning a field trip of 30 high school freshmen were on the shuttle, all headed for the Narrows Trail. Our visit to Zion has been in the “off season”, but we have found the park and the trails to be very busy even at mid-week.

Zion National Park 2009 – Part 1 - First few days in Zion


The Altar of Sacrifice


The only other time I had been to Zion National Park was in 1972, for part of an afternoon. Kathy was here on a family vacation trip back in 1965. Needless to say neither one of us remembered the park very well. Zion National Park is smaller than either of us had remembered and Zion Canyon is much smaller than we thought.

In 1999 Zion National Park had a number of days when daily visitation was 3,000 to 5,000 cars per day. However, Zion Canyon only has 450 parking spaces. As you can imagine it was total gridlock. In 2000 the park service banished cars from most of Zion Canyon and started a free shuttle system. The shuttles run from 6 AM until 10 PM and during mid-day the shuttles are only 6 minutes apart. This is absolutely the best run most efficient shuttle system we have ever come across. If only all National Parks had a system like this. At the entrance to Zion National Park is the town of Springdale, Utah. It is a typical tourist town with one RV Park, dozens of restaurants,  souvenir stores and a huge number of hotels, inns and motels. Zion’s remarkable free shuttle begins in town with shuttle stops at the various hotels, shopping areas and restaurants. . Since there isn’t any parking in Zion Canyon the park  service encourages everyone to park in town and to leave their cars behind. We walk out of the RV Park to the shuttle stop and head toward the restaurants in town or away from town to the park entrance. At the park entrance you exit the town shuttle, cross a bridge to enter the park and hop a park shuttle. It takes a shuttle about 90 minutes to complete one loop of Zion Canyon. Along the way the bus has a narrative track of about the history, geology and hiking trails in the canyon. The shuttle makes many stops as it goes up the canyon so that you can get off to take pictures, go for a hike, have picnic or visit the museum.

We came to Zion National Park to stay for a week. After a week we added 4 more days; after those 4 days we added another week. The weather has been wonderful. Since Zion is a “hikers park”, because it has many trails, we have been doing a lot of hiking.   Some easy, some moderate and some difficult. With the wonderful shuttle system, our hikes didn’t have to be out and back. We could string trails together to hike up or down the canyon to any other shuttle stop. Since we have been here we have walked all of the easy and moderate trails and some of them more than once. Because of the deepness of Zion Canyon, the many colors in its walls and sun and clouds passing over it, every scene in Zion changes constantly. Every wall, peak and rock looked different every time we passed it.

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We have taken hundreds of pictures while we have been here and have been trying to edit them down to something manageable. To keep the slideshow manageable we have broken the Zion National park blog entry to four separate entries each with a different theme.

This first slideshow is a collection from various hikes and scenic overlooks and gives a good idea of the diversity of Zion National Park.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The 180 mile Day Trip to Bryce Canyon National Park



Bryce Canyon

We continue our stay at Zion National Park and are sorting the hundreds of pictures we have taken. Unfortunately, every time we return to the park we take even more pictures. So, I am going to hold off on our Zion National Park blog until we leave Zion and write today about our daytrip to Bryce Canyon National Park.

Bryce Canyon National Park is 90 miles from Zion National Park, with one small caveat it is only 90 miles if you go through the Zion-MT. Carmel Tunnel. The tunnel was completed in 1930 when cars were much smaller so the tunnel has size restrictions. Completely banned from the tunnel are “Vehicles over 13'1'' tall.” and “Combined vehicles over 50' long.”. Those parameters exclude us from taking the trailer though the tunnel. Taking the non-restricted way to Bryce Canyon is 150 miles one way. Since Bryce is over 8,000 feet elevation, it is much colder. The trip there and back with the trailer would be 300 miles. We decided to go to Bryce as a 180 mile daytrip. The mile long tunnel also has restrictions on width “Vehicles sized 7'10'' in width or larger, are required to have a 'traffic control through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. Vehicles this size are too large to stay in their lane while traveling through the tunnel.”. However for a $15 fee they will close the tunnel to allow wide vehicles to drive down the middle of the tunnel and thus get through. The tunnel can only be closed for this during the hours of 8 AM to 7 PM.


Tunnel window for light and to let exhaust escape   

Bryce Canyon National Park is a small National park at only 56 square miles and according to their web page “The park is not a canyon. Rather, it is a spectacular series of more than a dozen amphitheaters”. The first proposal sent to congress to make Bryce Canyon into a National Monument was in 1919, however it didn’t become a National Monument until 1923. Bryce Canyon became a National Park in 1928.




The columns and spires of Bryce are known as hoodoos

The Bryce Canyon web page says “The geologic term, hoodoo, lives on at Bryce Canyon National Park as perpetuated by early geologists who thought the rock formations could cast a spell on you with their magical spires and towering arches.”

On a visit to Bryce the road runs about 10 miles along  the rim going from  one unbelievably stunning overlook to the next.




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