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!

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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.

Road trip: Arizona

Thommmee and I visited Arizona during our recent road trip. We love road trips and often head to the Midwest to visit family. We have tried various routes, seen different things…… just enjoy the drive with time to talk and relax without the distractions of life. The big difference with this recent trip is that I had no deadlines and no workday awaiting me! Travel is great but the one thing that does not change……

there is no place like home!

Arizona is an interesting and diverse place to visit. Yes, they have deserts………

Painted Desert National Park

Painted Desert National Park

and tress………..

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and cactus

Saguaro Cactus

Saguaro Cactus

Many of the cactus have incredible blooms in the spring………

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Desert flower

 Oh…and don’t forget the Grand Canyon.

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 Upon crossing the Arizona/California border is

THE RIVER.

Colorado River border

Colorado River border

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In Southern California ‘the river’  means the Colorado River. Water is a somewhat of a novelty to us. Southern California is basically a desert (well, we do have a great big ocean but that is different). The second thing you notice is the price of gasoline. In California we have something called “boutique” gas which runs up to $1.00 per gallon more than in most other states. WOW!

We had a chance to visit Tombstone, Arizona (Thommmee loves the old west). This town has maintained the western history and feel of times gone by. Cute place with many restaurants, old west shops, original buildings…….

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interesting characters…….

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and sites……..

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……including a stagecoach ride around town

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 So, hit the road, you never know what awaits you around the next corner!

Happy Trails

 

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!