A Different Kind of Valentine’s Day

For Valentine’s Day this year we decided to bypass the traditional candy, flowers, or dinner at a crowded restaurant. With a desire to enjoy the sunshine, avoid crowds, and spend some together time away from life distractions, we packed the camping gear, loaded up the car, and headed to our favorite place…

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I know, doesn’t sound very romantic, does it?  For some crazy reason (to some anyway) we love this place! Over the past 30 years we have been here about 25 times and each visit is unique as well as beautiful.  Maybe it is the serenity, the diversity, or  the peacefulness that calls to us but we are drawn back here year after year. Last spring we came in early March to experience the Super Bloom.

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2016

Once every decade or so, the desert comes alive with a magnificent show of flowers. The almost magical conditions of dormant flowers seeds, rain, and weather have to be just right for this phenomenon to occur.  It really was a sight to behold.

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2017

 We left home at 4:00 am and arrived before 9:00 am. The campground much busier than expected but we found a couple leaving so we were able to get a great campsite. We had packed light for our brief visit and set up was completed in no time.

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We now had a full day to soak up some much needed sun and enjoy the day.

After settling in and taking some time to appreciate the day before us, we decided to head over to the pool at Furnace Creek Ranch. There is a marvelous spring-fed swimming pool that maintains about a 80 degree temperature year round. For a mere $5.00 each we could use the pool and showers for an entire day. We had a lovely swim with snow capped mountains in the background. I actually forgot to take a picture but more information and pictures are found in the provided link.

A few hours later we headed back to the campsite for lunch and a brief nap.

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 We wanted to make the most of our short visit so soon pulled out our beloved Scrabble game for a few ‘friendly’ (but competitive) games.

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It was Valentine’s Day after all so we continued the celebration with some bubbly.

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We completed a lovely day with barbecued steak and baked potatoes, a campfire, and star gazing. The nighttime sky is unbelievable!

Before we knew it we were enjoying the sunrise from our tent…

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…and it was already time to pack up and head back. We might have stayed another day but we have two new kittens at home and were not yet comfortable leaving them for any length of time. I know our cat-sitter had things under control but you know how new parents are!

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After breakfast in the cafe, we decided to take the scenic drive out of the park and headed towards Badwater, at about 279 degrees below sea level. Furnace Creek is almost at sea level. You can see the snow capped Panamint Mountains in the distance.

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While I was snapping pictures of the salt flats at Badwater, Thommmee was snapping pictures of me!

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We lingered along the way…in no hurry to leave.

Jubilee Pass

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It is not often you see such green in the desert. We have had a great deal of rain this season with more expected. This is seriously helping our drought situation!

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For us, this was a perfect way to spend Valentine’s Day.

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Death Valley-Super Bloom

A special treat is happening in the Death Valley……spring flowers! With only an average annual rainfall of 2 inches a year, this season, the park got  3 inches of rain so far! Three rare storms in the first two weeks of October was enough to cause millions of dormant wildflower seeds to spring forth.

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Our yearly camping trip to Death Valley Nation Park is at Thanksgiving so the chance to visit this past weekend during the super bloom was a special treat. The roads, campgrounds, hotels, and just about everywhere we went was full of enthralled spectators. Never before had we experienced such unique splendor. Death Valley, despite its name, is such a beautiful place anytime of the year. Although barren of many plants, trees, and shrubs, the diversity and beauty of the park is not to be missed. It is this diversity that makes this park so incredibly appealing-from the salt flats to the sand dunes, the mountain tops  to the badlands, and the sunrises to the sunsets. It is a land of extremes.

We were going to see Death Valley in the spring and during the extraordinary blooming of spring flowers!  Out the door at 3:30AM we arrived full of anticipation and excited to explore. We spent two days driving around the park with many stops along the way.

This is some of the highlights of our trip.

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Desert Gold

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Deep Purple Phacelia

(If touched can cause a rash)

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More than 20 species of wildflower bloom in the park at various elevations.

We saw these at a higher elevation but I don’t know their name.

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The Desert Five-Spot

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The Gravel Ghost

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(see how seems to float from the very interesting leaves hugging the ground?)

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The Charcoal Kilns. No flowers but a group of young people making a video!

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Badwater Basin. 282 feet below sea level. That is not snow in the background…

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…it is a salt flat.

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This was a shrub growing among the Desert Gold flowers.

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On a normal trip the landscape would look more like this…

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…instead of this!

 Our second night  we were sent packing with 45-60 mph winds… which collapsed our tent….so…we slept in the car! Not the best way to end our trip but worth every minute to have been able to enjoy such a rare sight.

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A day earlier than planned we soon found our way home. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it though!

Camping-Silverwood Lake

We finally decided to take out new tent out for a trial run.  Since we had not been out for a while our tent had languished in its original box for about 5 months. In our area it is very difficult to find an open camping spot without advance planning so we chose a mid-week trip to a nearby lake. You should understand, lakes in this part of California are few and far between, so they are usually full of boaters and crowds.  Mid week and before the kids were  out of school we had no problem getting in and very few neighbors. Even the park ranger looked  surprised when we arrived, no reservation, and asked to camp for one night!

We chose Silverwood Lake in the almost high desert located in the San Bernardino National Forest.

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This would not be a place I would venture to mid summer as temps can hit the 100’s quite often. I am also afraid of rattlesnakes (well to be honest, any snakes) which are quite common in the desert heat.  The other draw for this spot is the less than one hour drive to get there.

When you think of desert camping you don’t often think of trees…

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…which they had plenty of…

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…or water…

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…or beaches.

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They had plenty of that too.

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We had a lovely campsite, plenty of room for multiple tents.

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(Site 41)

It was a little breezy and mildly warm temperatures.

A homing pigeon stopped by for a rest on his way to wherever.

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Thommmee was so excited when he saw an eagle scoop up a small squirrel in its talons and fly off. Of course we didn’t have time to get a picture of nature in action.

The desert has a variety of beautiful and unique flowers.

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We didn’t get many pictures because I actually turned my phone off for 24 hours!  Yes, it was hard but it was also very relaxing. No internet, no connecting with anyone else or thinking about anything else except enjoying God’s beauty and spending time with Thommmee.  I had time to be alone and reflect.  We took a few little hikes to appreciate the exquisite diversity of the desert scenery. Although it was only one night, there was something about the quiet time that replenished me.

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It was just what I needed.

Welcome December!

Just as expected…

Thanksgiving has come and gone.

Hard to believe

We had a wonderful celebration on our Thanksgiving desert camping trip…

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…had a fabulous turkey dinner…

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…enjoyed the sunrises…

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…and the quiet.

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We had this view looking out of our tent…wpid-20141129_092201.jpg

…and enjoyed afternoon temps of 85 degrees!

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The views were fantastic.

Now it is time to begin the excitement of Christmas. We received three cards in the mail today.

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Thommmee started pulling out the Christmas decorations.

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Its beginning to feel a lot like Christmas……

If you are new to my blog you might not be aware that I retired in January of this year. I am looking forward to celebrating this Christmas season without the distraction of a job. My days are free to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, bake (and bake some more), make some gifts-shop for others, plan a menu for our big Christmas Eve celebration, listen to Christmas carols to my hearts content, and get together with friends and family. No rush-no hustle-no frantic push. (sigh)  🙂

Hooray Hooray for the first of December!

 

That time of year again…

Thanksgiving!

One of my favorite holidays. We celebrate a very untraditional Thanksgiving which started in 1986.  Not that I don’t love spending holidays with family-don’t get me wrong-it was just that  things changed in my life around that time. I am like most people who don’t like change but decided to make this a positive experience…

…so…

Thommmee and I decided to go camping. We packed up our little car (a Volkswagen Golf) gathered together our meager camping supplies,  popped a turkey roll into the ice chest (with a few other essentials of course), and set our sights on Death Valley, California.

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We began our journey-just the two of us-thinking we were probably crazy and that no one else could possibly have the same idea. We took in all of the sights along the way, stopped at Badwater (the lowest point in North America),

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and enjoyed the magnificent views. We saw a few people here and there but figured we would pretty much have the place to ourselves.

Wrong!

We arrived at the campground (that did not take reservations) and found the place completely full! As we aimlessly wandered around trying to decide what to do, a nice couple offered us a small corner of their campsite to share (after looking us over to make sure we did not have any kids or pets in tow-which we didn’t). We made a makeshift campfire, warmed up our little turkey roll, unsuccessfully tried to light our propane lantern, and hunkered down in our little tent for the night. This was only a humble beginning of many wonderful trips to come!

Come to find out, Thanksgiving weekend is the busiest time of the year for desert camping and for Death Valley. We spent most of the next 27 years camping in Death Valley during the Thanksgiving weekend. Some years we explored, sometimes kids came with us, sometime we went alone. Occasionally we talked people into driving out for a full turkey dinner and once we ate at the small restaurant in Furnace Creek.

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We got much better at this and Thommmee learned to smoke an entire turkey. We have stuffing, mashed potatoes and the entire meal with all of the fixings! Some of the kids learned to love it as much as we do and continued coming with their families and some of them have never again set foot there. We have listened to a multitude of ranger programs, hiked many trails, explored back roads, and appreciated a quietness that is hard to explain. We have had magnificent sunsets, wind, rain, and cold but have loved almost every minute of it. Well, maybe not the wind. Something about sleeping in a tent during a windstorm is just not fun. The wind is pretty much the only thing that will keep us from heading out there. A few years the Santa Ana winds have kicked up pretty bad so we have endured, left early, or not gone at all. Many people think we are a little nuts and are always asking us what is the attraction!

Ahhh…

This year we are doing something different. We are driving a little closer to home-to Anza Borrego State Park .

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This is largest state park in California and, the second largest in the continental US. It is located in Northern San Diego County and will be about a two hours drive and not the five hours it takes us to get to Death Valley. Our oldest daughter and her family will be going too. They love this about as much as we do. We are all feeling a little sad to miss our usual place but are anxious to see if this will work equally well.

The turkey is defrosting, Thommmee has started packing the car, dusted off our bicycles, pulled out the tent, and I am packing up the food. We leave in the morning for three nights and four glorious days.

This time in the desert allows me time to reflect on the year, count my blessing, commune with God, prepare my heart for Christmas, and spend time around a very unconventional Thanksgiving table. Except for the beauty of the desert in winter, there are few distractions.  I have so much to be thankful for and look forward to this time. It helps me prepare for the Christmas hustle bustle and is the calm I need to face the next few weeks.

Wishing you all a very

Happy Thanksgiving!

More of ‘The Good Life’

We unexpectedly had the opportunity to go camping this past weekend. My daughter and her family had been camping since Friday. She sent me a text early Saturday morning and invited Thommmee and  I to come out and join them. Being a retired person who is developing a spontaneous attitude, I said yes! We grabbed out tent, sleeping bags, air mattress, and a few other essentials and headed out the door to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

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About 20 years ago we  made this 2  1/2 hour trip but were surprised to be reminded of this treasure so close to home. This is a great day trip as well as a camping place. (Reservations recommended). Anza-Borrego is California’s largest state park!

We arrived about noon, quickly set up our tent and begin enjoying this lovely afternoon in the desert.  After lunch we headed to the visitor center, drove around  a bit then headed back to camp for a game of Rumicube, some time with the kids, and relaxing. As we prepared dinner, we were dazzled by the sunset.

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(love those sunsets!)

After dinner we headed over for the ranger program to learn about the big cats in the area and some of the other desert inhabitants. We completed the day toasting marshmallows over a campfire and then off to bed. A few things about sleeping in the desert-it gets pretty cold at night and it is very quiet.

With the morning sun the temperatures rise fairly quickly so in no time at all we were back into out shorts and t-shirts. My daughter prepared a fabulous breakfast of pancakes, we took down the tent, packed the cars, and took off for some exploring before heading for home. They had hiked the Palm Canyon Trail to the palm oasis  before our arrival. If you decide to visit this park, you will not want to miss this 3 hour round trip hike.  The desert is so diverse and there really is so much to see if you take time to look.

Due to our drought conditions this year, the desert flowers  are few. Some years the spring trip to the desert are worth the flower viewing alone! This year we observed

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and

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(Both of these plants have some serious thorns!)

Our first stop was Slot Canyon. We headed down a dirt road to what seemed in the middle of nowhere. When we arrived, we saw we were not the only other visitors to this remote location. This slot canyon is a narrow wash and is a great place to explore.

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After some time in the canyons, we headed to The Village Site which was another dirt road and remote site.

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(Thommmee loves this stuff!)

Although we had a quick one night trip, we agreed that it seemed much longer. Something about getting away and enjoying God’s beauty is soothing to the soul. We really appreciated our daughter inviting us. I commented that had I not been retired I might not have gone. Surely I would have had some dusting or laundry that just could not wait. I am becoming more spontaneous these days!!!  Ahhhhhhh retirement! The good life!