Thursday, July 30, 2015

Rye Patch Reservoir

Tuesday, July 27

We stop at the campground on Rye Patch Reservoir quite often as it's a good distance from our annual 4th of July gathering in Fish Springs (Gardnerville).

Rye Patch Recreation Area is on the Humbolt River. . . yes, there are rivers in Nevada. You might not know this one is here. Driving down highway 80 the scenery is typical dry and dusty sagebrush desert, though this year the rabbit brush is looking nice and bright due to recent rains. The park is about 50 miles southwest of Winnemucca, which has a very nice county museum if you'd like to learn more about the area, and also a couple of good Basque restaurants, so check those out locally.

The drought that has hit the other western states is definately taking its toll on Rye Patch. The reservoir is down so low that boats can't launch from the usual ramps, but boats under 20 ft. can launch from select spots along the shore. 
The river, below the dam, is where our favorite camping area is situated. Our favorite site, right at a bend in the river, was available so we slid in and set up in record time as it is completely level (a rarity!)

We noticed a distinct change in the shoreline this year, not only with the water receding from the banks, but the dense brush that has grown up in the silt that is now damp but not covered with water as it was before. The shoreline is pretty, with the contrast between the silvery blue-gray of the Russian olive trees setting off the green of willow shrubs, sedge plants and the three foot tall giant Indian paintbrush flowers. It would be prettier with more water though!

All I could think of is, when the river fills back up and people come here to fish again there's going to be a lot of tackle lost among those weeds! The fish will love all those branches to hide in of course, but it makes a real challenge for fishermen.

We had a classic dinner of fried trout (thanks to our fishing friends at the Ochoco campout) and then very pleasant evening enjoying the gentle breeze and almost bug free evening. Shade in the campground is provided by sever large Russian olive and other native trees, so it's cool, and the birds have places to settle when they aren't feeding out on the river. I think due to the loss of deep water at their usual fishing holes we didn't see as many cranes and herons as usual, but the birdlife around the river is still worth watching.

Next stop, our friend's place in Gardnerville, where we'll do the final packing before we head North, To Alaska! There probably won't be many updates along the way, depending on connections, but we'll catch up after the cruise.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge

Saturday, July 25
We packed up and left the Junipers RV Resort behind, heading south, and timing our departure so we could have lunch at the Adel store. (Adel is south of Lakeview on 140, on your way to the Nevada border.)

The little store is really more of a cafe, with a few odd bits for sale around the corners, and gas is still available too. The town of Adel was the headquarters for the MC ranch when it was a major working operation (see previous post for more on the ranch.) The area's long ranching history is commemorated in the little store with branded boards, saddles and branding irons hanging from the ceiling, and the many local customers wandering in and out, garbed in the expected boots and hats.

We had a great burger (me) and eggs (Steve) and chatted a bit with a few folks. It's a friendly little place, though not geared for tourists especially. I don't think they get many. It's a homey little place where locals hang out and all seem to know each other's names. Drop in if you're out that way!

Happily stuffed after lunch we continued on to another of our favorite rustic stops.

Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge is in the far northwestern corner of Nevada, a place so isolated few even know it's here.

Driving west on hwy. 140, from the CA/NV border to the interior of NV, looking south, there are only one or two small signs indicating the road into the campground, and not a bit of the beautiful green marsh landscape can be seen from the highway. Tawny, rocky rolling hills appear all to be what lies beyond the blacktop. Not so!

Hunters know about Sheldon, as it's an antelope and bird refuge, so during hunting season it gets quite a bit of attention, opal hunters and other "rock hounds" know it's here, as there are pay-to-dig mines here and the area is famous for its fire opal.

We and a few other hardy souls know it's here because we enjoy the quiet beauty of the area. The Virgin Valley campground where we stay is rustic to be sure, but that's why it's not crowded!

Our favorite spot was occupied (there aren't really any designated sites, just picnic tables scattered about) so we huddled down among the shrubs. That's our rig on the far right in the photo.

We've dubbed this area "hunter's camp", as it boasts a lift hoist and game gambrel, which probably get a lot of use during hunting season.

We spent the afternoon settling in, looking at the changes since the last time we camped here, several years ago. It was a busier campground this time, but that's to be expected on a weekend.

Children and seniors can fish off a little dock on one of the ponds at the edge of the campground, so that's a draw for several of the families. Many visitors are undoubtedly drawn by the naturally heated pool and pink sandstone bathhouse. Others just like the relaxing pace. Shiner enjoyed the opportunity to explore out in the sagebrush with no traffic or other dogs to distract her.

The refuge is a stopover for many migrating birds, so the list of birds you might find here is extensive, depending on the time of year. Now, in early summer, most of the travelers have moved through, and the population seems to consist largely of night hawks, song birds, crows, summer tanagers and the like.

There's a resident jackrabbit who tours the campground on a regular basis too. Fortunately, Shiner was usually looking the other way when he loped by.

Sunday we went for a drive. First venturing down the short dirt road out of camp to view the very impressive Thousand Creek Gorge. This rugged volcanic outcrop towers over the low lying marshes, the red stone provides striking contrast to the green and gold vegetation below.

Though the old maps show the road going through it appears it hasn't for several years.

We backtracked and took the highway east, looking for Baltazar hot spring, which we found on the map. (Toppo map here if you are into such things.)

We enjoyed the scenic geology along the way, but really weren't prepared for the dramatic view when we crested Thousand Creek Summit. Wow! I'm sure we could see most of the state from our vantage point.

According to the maps we consulted, Baltazar Hot Spring is located at the north end of a Continental Lake, a dry lake that is leased for cattle grazing.

We found the road to take us into the area and decided it looked like a good place to stop for lunch. I've never seen a state highway sign hung on a good ol' Texas gate like this one, but this is Nevada, so it didn't really surprise me... and we did shut the gate!

The remains of two stone rooms, or small stone buildings connected by some newer concrete walls, and a stone dugout, gave us an opportunity to think about who might have lived there, and what the intent was of some of the features we noticed about the buildings.

The cows were a bit curious about us, but none ventured too close. They all seemed to be doing well on the grasses growing around the spring and the creek that feeds them.

We never made it to the hot spring itself, as it seemed to be quite a ways out from the road, and we didn't want to disturb the herd.

The area has several hot springs in addition to the one that provides the pool in the campground. Further exploration is possible for those who don't mind logging several miles on gravel roads.

Leaving our picnic site we ventured further on, to the east, to Denio Junction (the intersection of hwy. 140 and hwy. 292), then on north to Denio itself. Denio is right on the Nevada/Oregon border and believe me, there isn't much there. We couldn't locate any business that appeared to be functioning, but there is a post office.

Turning back to Denio Junction we thought we'd drop into the little store and pick up an ice cream or a cold drink, but the store wasn't open. There weren't any hours posted, so we chalked it up to the day being a Sunday, and just enjoyed the sculptures out in front. The cute little car appears to have once had an engine in it, and the gas tank on the motorcycle says "God's Ride". Very creative!
The store appears to still be in business, but no guarantees.

Back in camp we watched dark storm clouds build up, and as the wind began to pick up we contemplated the possibility of a storm. Not wanting to take chances Shiner and I headed out for our after dinner walk immediately after dinner.

Hoping for a good view we worked our way up to one of the ridges near the campground. No view was to be had, just another ridge, but I did get that great distance shot of the campground (middle photo), and some lovely cloud photos to inspire future art projects.

It never did rain, but the winds shook the trailer for a few hours after dark, finally settling down in the wee hours of the morning.

We packed up quickly in the morning and were on the road by 9 A.M. Next stop, another of our favorite desert stops, Rye Patch Reservoir.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Junipers Reservoir RV Resort, Lakeview, OR

Saturday, July 25

Our first stop yesterday, when we arrived in Lakeview, was Les Schwab, for a new set of four trailer tires. If you wonder why, see the previous post.

While waiting for the tires to be installed Shiner and I took a walk, across the street, to the immaculate little white house with a perfect lawn and park benches. 'Turns out it's the MC Ranch Western Heritage Center. See the photo section of their Facebook page for a lot of the photos from the displays. It's a delightful little park and a wonderful collection depicting the history of the famous MC Ranch, so it's worth checking out.  If you'd like a bit of music to go along with the history, here's Ian Tyson's song about selling the MC horses.

Once the tires were installed we headed for the barn, so to speak.

We don't generally stay places with "resort" in the title, but The Junipers Reservoir RV Resort is a delightful exception.

The Junipers is about 10 miles west of Lakeview, then about 2 miles back into a working ranch on a well maintained gravel road.

The sites are large, and arranged in a single row around a large grassy area. All the sites are pull-through, and the park is surrounded by the ranch's native sage and juniper vegetation.

There's  a covered group area for large events, or just for relaxing if it's not reserved for an event, and fishing in their small lake - no license required!

The facilities include a really nice laundry room, which includes amenities like a television, Adirondack chairs, a book selection and a display case with artifacts from the area, the first time I've ever seen that in a campground laundry facility!

You can purchase bait worms and ice near the laundry room.

It's a beautiful, peaceful and very quiet setting, and though they are set up for the trailer and motorhome crowd, they also have tent spaces.

The campers are all so friendly it's hard to make your way around the loop without stopping to visit with several of them, so it your puppy wants a fast walk, you'll have to head out into the sagebrush! When you do, be sure to watch for the birds, there are several varieties, and other wildlife too.

Amenities include free wi-fi, and as opposed to many parks, this system actually works!

This is truly a gem of a park, and we'll be stopping here again. 

Practice makes perfect???

Friday, July 24

70 miles north of Lakeview, Oregon,
on the Outback Scenic Byway. . . .

The tire, which is directly below the kitchen sink, exploded with such force that it threw the dishpan up out of the sink and on to the floor!

I don't know if the routine is "perfect" now, but it took half the time of the last tire change!

Friday, July 24, 2015

La Pine State Park

We're in LaPine State Park, space 128-North Loop, right across from the amphitheater, and it's great! More private than most of the sites, and as there were no programs while we were here we had no neighbors across the road in the  parking area. We also had immediate access to the trails out into the scrub and down to the river, so we didn't have to disturb other campers when we went for walks. We were spoiled at North Davis by having the creek right by our campsite, and the river is farther away here, but worth the short walk to get out to the trail to view it.

Within view of our site is this amazing downed tree. It's been here for years, and is beginning to disintegrate as the bugs and other critters work on it. It was apparently a lightening strike by the look of the part of the trunk still standing. There are a few others this size in the surrounding area, quite old judging by the size.

We took several very nice walks along the river on the nature walk trail. There are still a few wildflowers blooming, mostly the tall graceful pine drops, and the current bushes are loaded with fruit which I'm sure the deer are enjoying. There are no riffles or falls here, so all you hear is the gentle swish of the water as it flows over the downed logs and around rocks and clumps of weeds. Poor Shiner was nearly driven to distraction by all the golden mantle squirrels dashing across the trail (chipmunk, in the common vernacular, though they aren’t really.) One of them came running directly AT us on the trail, without deviating. It just ran straight under Shiner and then into a bush. I can’t blame her for going a little berserk!

After the experience at Ochoco camp we’re trying a packet of the Shake-away rodent repellant in the engine compartment. We’ve never had a problem with critters nesting in the engine before, but there’s always a first time.

This is a busy campground, with only one or two spaces not “reserved” each night, and so available for one night only. It is a nice area, as the trees are thick, and the Deschutes is an old river, so the banks have a lot of character, and it’s very attractive to fishermen and boaters alike.
I know Shiner very much liked dipping her muzzle in the cool water after a dusty walk down the trail.

We've stayed here many times, but just discovered a previously unknown feature of this campground when a fellow camper asked us if we knew the location of the “dog park” that the ranger had told him about. We didn’t even know there was one! Checking the campground map we noticed a location that said “pet area” and pointed to a large area covered by a text box. . . not very informative, but a clue.
The doggie playground
So, we headed out to check out the situation and we found a really nice fenced area with a shaded bench, picnic tables, and lots of parking. Access the dog area from the North Loop via the trail across the road and slightly to the left from the loop entrance. If you’re in either of the other loops you’ll pass a small brown sign on your right marking the area on your way to the entrance to Middle Loop and South Loop (the pet area is on the west side of the road). I didn’t notice any water available, so be prepared if you plan to stay very long. Shiner enjoyed snuffling around, and there’s plenty of room for even a large dog to chase a ball and get in a good run.

We’re here three nights, so long enough to catch up on laundry, a few repairs, and run up to Bend for a shopping run there, and a quick check in at a quilt shop.

Shops in every state are participating in what they call a “row by row” quilt project. They have souvenir “license plates” representing their shops and give-away patterns.

As I always like to visit the various shops and see what unusual things they might have to offer it’s fun to participate in the event. I’ve been trying to pick up at least one of the license plates for each state we hit, but the shop I visited in Bend was out! They promised to mail me one, so I’ll have it when we get home. The shop, Sew Many Quilts, was amazing. I've never seen so many beautifully constructed quilts in one shop, and fabric galore. I had to make myself leave before I scummed to my weakness and trudged out with too much fabric. Gotta watch the space and pounds!

Tailgate Training Camp 2015

The big question at camp this year was,”So, how many years have we been doing this?”
The answer is probably) 13 – maybe 14. We’ll have to dig through photos at home to be absolutely sure. We’ve been meeting in this same campground since 2005. . . so ten years there alone. That’s a pretty good record for a casually organized group event!

This year several camp regulars were joined by our long-time friends Mike and Nina and their two beautiful German Shepherds, making a total of ten humans and 6 dogs . We had five breeds represented and they all got along beautifully.

stories around the campfire
We had a great time – telling stories and eating, mostly, and the dogs played and talked about who knows what. Those of us who are into needlework stitched to our hearts content while we caught up on everyone’s family doings, travels, plans for the rest of the year, and the like.  Two of the men went fishing up at Walton lake and caught their limit of trout both days. Not bad for a few hours out in the beautiful weather we had.

The creek that runs through the campground was lower than usual this year, but it was still running, which Shiner enjoyed on our afternoon saunter. She loves splashing around while she looks for something to chase.

We’ve been meeting at Ochoco Forest Camp (group camp) for so long it feels like home. One thing that wasn’t so homey this time was the rodent onslaught.

By the second day several folks had nests already established under their engine hoods, and at least two ended up with rodents in their RVs. Everyone opened up their hoods and hoped the extra exposure would discourage further nesting.

 It did seem a little strange to be surrounded by all the vehicles, hoods up, like camping in a car lot, but hey, whatever works!

As far as we know we escaped the attack, but we are looking into rodent repellant anyway. They’re always a problem around our shed at home, so if we can find a repellant that is effective we’ll use it in both situations. We are planning to experiment with a packet of Shake-away under the hood of the truck. We’ll report if we feel it’s worth fussing with. The ingredients (peppermint, rosemary, and cedar oil) seem harmless enough to use around pets.

After 4 days of relaxing at camp it’s time to hit the road again.

Next stop, La Pine State Park, so we can replenish supplies and do laundry.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Partying in Nevada

My goodness, our last post was quite some time ago! Time does fly sometimes when you're on the road.

To pick up where we left off in the last post.... We left Fallon at a reasonable hour in the morning and arrived at our friends' place near Gardnerville in the early afternoon.

Not much for wasting time, we soon launched  into a round of  parties, birthdays for two friends and a first birthday for Raylan,
a housewarming for friend Jeanne,
a pool party,

and of course,
the big Happy Birthday America BBQ and Reunion.  

We had to move into the garage for Raylan's party, but can you think of a better backdrop for a little boy's first birthday cake than tool boxes?

Kendra had a bubble machine for the boys, balloons, lots of cake and packages to open (so they could play with the paper and boxes!) and lots of Aunties and Uncles to help with the celebration.  Perfect!

The stormy skies from Texas seem to have followed us, as we had either gray cloudy skies or rain almost every afternoon. Shuffling all the yard furniture and cushions indoors, then out, and back again gave us a considerable amount of exercise! It never was really cold, just wet! We can't complain too much though. The area needs the moisture, and it kept the wildflowers looking very spring-like.

The kids joined us for the week of the 4th, and surviving the weather in a tent was part of the fun.

Our agenda also included a visit to the railroad museum in Carson City. 

We visited the museum a couple of years ago, but Jax is older now, so he will undoubtedly remember more of what he saw.

 We rode in the caboose on this trip, and had a chance to view the cabinets, shelves for storage, and even the wood stove that kept the brakemen warm.

As this was the museum's special July event, they paraded three of their restored trains around so we could really get a good look at all of them in action. The trains really show the loving care the volunteers take with them. There were several volunteers dressed in appropriate period garb, running the engines, managing the crowd, and answering all the questions. They really enriched the experience!

Jax also toasted his very first marshmallows, and after running into the ends of the toasting fork a couple of times he learned that indeed, that fork is hot when it's been in the fire! Due to the local fire restrictions we had to limit the "campfire" to a fire pot, but it worked quite well.

That fire in California, near Markleeville (known as the Washington Fire) was finally extinguished. Over 1,100 fire fighters worked on the fire, which finally burned about 16,00 acres. The smoke that poured over the Sierras into the valley was pretty bad at times, completely obscuring the mountains, and we were crediting it with a cold-or-something that we both came down with. We never decided if it was a cold or allergies, but after three weeks of the sniffles and coughing we are ready for it to be gone!

We spent a few days recovering, first at Ramhorn, (photo album from previous visit) a primitive campground in northeastern California.  The wild horses didn't make it into camp this time, but the scenery was as interesting as ever. The wildflowers are still blooming as the elevation is fairly high. Shiner and I took a hike up to the top of the rim rock for a different view of the campground. She loved the area, as there were lots of little critters to pounce at and lots  of space to run in.That little white spot in the middle is our rig.

After Ramhorn we moved on to Collier State Park (see 2012 post for more pics), just down the road from Crater Lake for a night, and then up into the Oregon Cascades, to North Davis Creek campground, one of our favorite hide-a-ways.

Our campsite at North Davis, was right beside the creek, where we could sit and read, watch the crystal clear water flow by and enjoy the wild flowers. The camp is never very crowded, so it's quite peaceful.

Next, we spent a day in Prineville to stock up before Training Camp. When in Prineville we "camp" at the Crook County RV park, right next to the fairgrounds. It's quite nice, if a bit crowded by our standards, and there's a big open field right across the road where we played ball with Shiner. It's perfect for large dogs that really need space to run. If you happen to stop in Prineville and are looking for a place to eat, try the Ranchero Mexican restaurant. I can highly recommend their shrimp enchiladas.

Next we're heading out in to the Ochoco forest for Training Camp. Wow, will the partying ever end?   I hope not! Good times, visiting with good friends.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Fleece in the morning, shorts before noon

Sunday, June 21

We enjoyed a really cool evening at Duck Creek (down into the 40's) and awoke to sunny skies. We planned an early start, as the day was predicted to hit 90 or more. This kind of temperature range is typical of the high desert, so one has to be prepared for all kinds of temperatures, and weather. Another concern for us is scheduling the day's drive through the Carson Valley (Nevada). The "Washoe Zephyrs" as Mark Twain called them (referred to in other areas as gale-force winds!) kick up every day around 1 or 2 o'clock, so we like to be off the road by then.We have to travel south through the Carson Valley  to get to our destination, and the wind there and it other parts of Nevada can be a challenge to deal with when towing a trailer.

We're following a familiar trail, Hwy. 50, also known as The Loneliest Highway. It does seem lonely in a way, as the traffic isn't heavy, but there's lots to do on the way if you are interested in history, photography, mining, or hiking. There's even an opportunity to search for garnets! We've traveled this road many times, so you can read about some of those adventures in the posts here and here. Those posts touch on the history, the Pony Express era, the charcoal kilns, and more.

Our home for Sunday is the Elk Flat campground, Cave Lake State Park, near Ely, in Nevada. This campground is not the one at the lake, it's the first one you come to after turning off the highway. It's quiet, and not nearly as busy as the one that caters to the fishing crowd. The sites are nice, and fairly far apart, but there are only a few that will accommodate our length, and Steve managed to shoe-horn us into the last one that would work.

True to prediction, it was 90 degrees when we unloaded, but it again cooled down into the 40's during the night. The chilly evenings make the hot days a lot more tolerable than they might be otherwise.

In the morning we were surprised to see a smokey haze in the distance. That thin lavender layer at the horizon in this photo is supposed to be a crisp band of purple mountains, as they are very close, but that's where the smoke settled.

We learned from our friends in Gardnerville that the smoke was coming from a fire in Markleeville, California. (That's south of Lake Tahoe, just inside the CA border with NV.)  As the crow flies, our campsite is about 275 from the location of the fire.
The smoke filled up side canyons in the smaller mountain ranges we passed as we drove, and we were amazed at the limited visibility in some areas. As of 6/23 the fire, dubbed the Washington fire, has burned almost 14,942. Updates on the fire here.

Monday, June 22

Something a little different tonight, we're camped at the Churchill County Fairgrounds in Fallon, NV. $15 a night for hookups, trees and a bit of grass.

It's not fancy and manicured, but we have lots of space, and Shiner has some interesting things to explore. We're surrounded by huge cottonwood trees, and the shade is welcome as the day warmed up to about 90.

The alternatives for RV parks in Fallon are limited, and this is definitely preferable to a paved parking lot next to a downtown casino.

This is the home of Fallon Naval Air Station, and TOPGUN training center, so there are jets overhead quite often during the day, but they fly high enough so as not to be a problem and actually provide a bit of entertainment. 

Tomorrow morning we head for Gardnerville and the annual Happy Birthday America gathering!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Evading the heat

Thursday, June 18
The route we originally planned has been hit by a real heat wave, so we're heading north toward cooler climes.

Our first stop of the day is a sight-seeing tour of El Moro National Monument.

The park is named for the imposing sandstone structure, behind Steve in this photo, that rises above the floor of the desert (a "cuesta", geologically speaking).

The area is historically important as travelers on the ancient trade route that passed by here relied on the pool of water at thFe base of El Morro - a pool of runoff and snow-melt that has never been known to completely dry up.

Another reason this area is of such historic interest is the markings those visitors have left behind. There are so many signatures on the sides of El Morrow that it has come to be known as Inscription Rock.

Ancestors of the Zuni Indians called it Atsinna - "place of writing on the rock." The early Native Americans recorded their passage in pictographs, the Spaniards who explored here in the late 1500's recorded their names, the dates, and the accomplishments of their expeditions. Then, as European immigrants moved west to California, the Mexican-American War (1846-48) and western railroad expansion brought more people to the area, they too left names and dates on the sandstone walls.

The volunteer at the visitors center gave us a loan copy of the guide book and suggested we hit the trail immediately as it was getting warmer by the minute so we took her advice. The trail is paved, .5 miles, and dogs are welcome (on leash), a good thing as we couldn't have left Shiner in the car for that long. The trail is an easy walk, with a few bits of steep grade. The trail is well worth the effort.

We really enjoyed seeing the little pool of water - the primary reason this particular place was so important! There are several
Cat tails and reeds in the desert?
cliff swallow nests along the looming wall above the pool. We were watching the swallows sail above us when the most hellacious noise I have ever heard came echoing out of the huge vertical crack in the sandstone, just behind the pool. After listening to the racket for a few minutes we decided it was crows, defending their nest (or disciplining their children!). Whatever it was, it sounded quite frightening!!

As we walked on we began to see the variety of inscriptions. Some of the engravings are truly amazing, for the age and the messages as well as for the quality and style of engraving.
Copper plate style engraving
Copperplate and flowery script mingle with rough block letters and ancient running goats.

Some inscriptions are accompanied by the initials  UP, indicating they were connected to a survey the Union Pacific Railway conducted through the area. Others, reading "Beale" and "Breckinridge"  are connected to the Army's 1850's experiment using camels as pack animals in the desert areas.
The dry climate has helped to preserve the quality of the carvings, and some look as crisp and sharp as if they were done just yesterday. The El Morro photo album is here.

The rest of the day was driving, our stop for the night, Homolovi State Park. Our site had a bit of shade, and the temperatures were tolerable by the time we arrived (100 degrees at 3 P.M.- by 6 it had cooled of to 95.) Thank heavens for electrical hook-ups!

Friday, June 19
We wended our way through the very picturesque Navajo country - colorful formations all around, and the Vermillion Cliffs, amazing scenery (follow the link as they have photos on days with no smoke!. . .  what we could see of it. A fire up in the forest near Grand Canyon has sent smoke wafting all the way to Homolovi where we camped last night - near Winslow.

We'd been wondering what was making the sky so hazy, and it got worse as we traveled closer to the canyon. Steve checked news reports and now we know the cause. It's not threatening people or structures, so they are letting it burn. Probably a wise decision as fires are a part of nature. It certainly does make for difficult photography though! The haze was so dense we could hardly see the cliffs in front of us!

A 30 minute delay for construction just north of Cameron put a dent in our progress, but we didn't have that far to go. For each mile we climbed toward our destination, Jacob Lake /campground (Kaibab National Foreset), the temperature dropped. It was 99 degrees at the Vermillion Cliffs and 82 up at the campground. Overnight it dropped to the mid 50's. Ah, we're enjoying the cool while we can, as we have a lot of desert to get through before we get to our first real destination, Gardnerville, Nevada

Saturday, June 20
Duck Creek Campground, Utah
We left Jacob Lake fairly early, giving ourselves time to stop briefly in Kanab, just over the line into Utah.
We picked up a couple of things at Honey's grocery store, where we met Rusty. I'm quite sure Rusty is the cousin of Mater (of Cars movie fame).

Kanab is a beautiful little town, and this is the second time we've been here. We vowed this time to come back and spend a few days. The town has so many interesting little shops, historic areas, and the striking contrast between all the green trees and the bright red rim rock and formations that surround the town is a treat for the eyes.

Through Kanab, up hwy. 89 and then west on 14 we finally arrived at Duck Creek Campground.

We were worried that on a Saturday it would be hard to find a site, but there were several available.

We slid into #12, perfectly flat and level, and what would appear to be a whole meadow all to ourselves. We even managed an internet connection (ATT this time).
The campground map shows the trails that lead our of the group site parking area (at the top of the map). The trails are nice, not difficult, and add to the dog-friendly atmosphere.

As we watched the aspen leaves shimmer in the 80 degree breeze we contemplated on the fact that, if we had followed our original plan we'd be in Boulder City (NV), at 111 degrees right now. I'd say we made a good decision in swinging north!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sky City, Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico

Wednesday, June 17

(You may notice, we're getting caught up all at once. We anticipate not having much connection for the next few days, and we haven't had much in the past, so we're taking advantage of the wi-fi we have at the moment. It may be a few days before you hear from us again.)

Today we visited Sky City - Acoma Pueblo is more than just a tourist destination, it's considered the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the United States.This is a rare opportunity to witness a culture that is little known, and has been in danger of disappearing.

The name “Acoma” translates in local dialects to a “place that always was” and legend tells that the Acoma people have lived on the mesa forever. The pueblo is an important part of New Mexico's cultural heritage and Acoma is recognized as the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in North America. It was the 28th Historic Site designated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Cultural Center courtyard
We started our day at the Sky City Cultural Center.  On our way to the Cultural Center we passed a view point along the highway and it was packed with cars and tour buses. Aware that the day was already getting warm (at 9:00 A.M.) and seeing all those people heading the same way we were encouraged us to go directly to the center.

The Cultural Center contains a museum, vendor displays, a cafe, and gift shop. You obtain your tour pass here, as well as a permit for your camera. There are strict limitations on what can be photographed, so it's important to pay attention to their protocols. It's also where the tours of the pueblo begin.

A tour group was leaving soon, so we gathered in the courtyard at the back of the center and boarded a small bus. Our tour guide narrated the short drive up to the mesa top, and then directed us to unload.

On Acoma Pueblo mesa
For about an hour and a half we wandered the short "streets" between rows of homes, listening to her explain the significance of various buildings and symbols and browsed the wares offered by a variety of vendors. Unless one obtains specific permission from the vendor, photographing them or their beautiful pottery offerings is against etiquette. There were 6 areas in the pueblo, with 2-6 vendors in each area, so our shopping opportunities were quite extensive. The traditional Acoma Pueblo designs as well as modern adaptation were available, as well as some jewelery and a few other hand crafted items.

As we walked our guide explained the historical as well as the practical significance of features of the housing and village life that have become tradition, and how necessity often impacted design.

For instance, if one looks closely at the structures (small mounds)  around the cemetery walls you see that they have noses and ears. They appear at a distance as people, constantly on guard and intimidating the aggressors below. This was very important in the old days when other tribes were trying to take food and slaves from the pueblo.  (You can get a larger version of any of these photos by clicking on the photo.)

Cemetery guardians in the distance
The mission church is at the heart of the pueblo's cultural activities. Though it was constructed at the direction of the Catholic church it is now completely managed by the Acoma elders. It is used for a variety of traditional tribal celebrations and events.
San Estevan del Rey

Construction of the Acoma Pueblo mission church, San Estevan del Rey, was a 12-year project, begun shortly after the Spanish founded the mission in 1629 and completed in 1642. The church was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1970.  Photographing the inside of the church and the cemetery is not allowed, but there are photos available on the web that were taken with tribal approval.

Acoma Pueblo is built atop a sheer-walled, 367-foot sandstone bluff in a valley studded with sacred, towering monoliths. In ancient times messengers traveled the area testing locations for settlement. When they heard the appropriate echo from the mesa here they knew this was the place to settle. High atop the mesa they were safe from marauding Navajo and other tribes, and later, the Spanish invaders. At its peak the pueblo had a population of several hundred, now the permanent residents number 20 - 30, with others using their family homes on weekends and feast days. As their is no running water or electricity on the mesa, the smaller numbers of permanent residents balance the little naturally available water. Lights and other amenities are kerosene or gas powered.

The were traditionally entered through the roof, with access via very long ladders.
Kiva ladders
The ladders traditionally extended far above the roof tops, so if an attack happened while the men were away working in the fields the women could raise the ladders by leaning on the very tall ends (good use of leverage!) Nowadays that is not needed for security so the ladders pretty much stop at the roof level. The ladders leading to the kivas are special - more ornate, and painted white.

Unlike the round Hopi kivas which are below ground level, the Acoma kivas are square, with no windows, and at street level. This is the biproduct of persecution by Spanish priests and soldiers who destroyed  kivas as meetings were in progress. By building them to resemble a standard house along the street they avoided detection.

The Pueblo's  web site is full of information and great photographs. The photo album on Acoma Pueblo's site includes a few vintage shots too, which lends a bit of recent historical perspective.  There is more info at the NPS siteOur photo album also has a few additional shots.

El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico

Tuesday, June 16

It's only a 150 miles or so to our next stop, so there's plenty of time to explore on the way. We had a leisurely morning in Datil Well, and then headed for El Malpais National Monument.

El Malpais translates as "The Badlands", which is a fairly accurate description of the terrain. Beautifully rugged, it is especially so today as the backdrop is a mixture of billowy white and threatening black storm clouds. As usual we come in through the back door, and start at the opposite end of the scenic drive from the visitors center.
We enjoyed the scenery anyway. As we passed a massive sandstone arch and beautiful colored layers, eroded into fantastic shapes, raindrops began spattering the windshield. We weren't too worried. A few bolts of lightening livened things up a bit, but not much rain was produced.

The monument includes huge lava flows, lava tube caves, ice caves, and cinder cones. There are miles of trails and area to explore, but we aren't up to that today. We stopped for lunch at the Lava Falls area and enjoyed a short jaunt over the lava flow. Blooming cactus and shrubs have established themselves in this very hospitable environment, softening the effect, but lava is still very unforgiving.
There is a deep, nearly bottomless crevice that one has to step across and cool air drifts up from it. Much of the lava is a frothy, glass-like structure, hard on shoes and even harder on a dog's feet, so we had to be careful where we went for our walks.  It was too hot by then anyway, to spend much time exploring black lava under the blazing sun but there was plenty to admire as we drove the winding road through the park.
There are a few more shots of the Lava Falls area of the park in the album. 

Stop for the night is the RV park at the Sky City Casino, owned by Pueblo Acoma.