Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Day 21: Redding to Bend via Crater Lake; 378 miles

We started off at 7:38 and soon passed by Lake Shasta.  There was some water (but very low) to the south, but the northern part of the lake was dry or nearly dry.  We drove around and saw a houseboat launch area that was completely dry.

After leaving the lake, we started to encounter great snow-covered views of Mt. Shasta.  The snow was thin, but better than what we had seen two weeks ago.  We stopped at a vista point which had a trail of footprints in the cement with factiods about the volcano every so often.  We learned that the last eruption was in the 1700's and that you can see Mt. Shasta from 150 miles away.

We pulled off the highway at Castle Crags State Park and took a windy 1-lane road up the hill to a trail head for a view point.  Too many trees here to have an unobstructed view.  The trail was only 1/4 mile so we took off camera in hand.  It was a curvy trail through the woods, but we were rewarded at the end with a great view of the rocky Castle Crags and Mt. Shasta.

Back on the highway, we passed "Truck Villiage."  I thought T had made that up, but that is the real name.  At the villiage you pass by a number of multi-colored trucks.  We entered Butte Valley National Grasslands and soon spotted the giant flag at Dorris, letting us know we were close to Oregon
When we reached Klamath Falls, we decided to go along the back side of the lake.  We went by Moore Park (where T was married) and north to the Fort Klamath area where T had lived when she first joined the Forest Service.  Near Fort Klamath we saw a sign that said," 36 miles to Crater Lake."  T and I looked at each other.  T said, " how many pictures do you have left on your card?"  I said, "How much gas do we have?"  Concluding that we had both picture space and gas, we turned left and headed for Crater Lake.

There was no snow on the road, but that changed by the time we got to the park.  By the time we got to the ridge, the snow was piled up over our heads (although the road was nicely cleared).  We were worried that we wouldn' t be able to see the lake.  We parked in the lot which was cleared and started following footsteps in the snow.  Once we got on top, there it was.

And it was beautiful.  The reflections were so clear and the snow beautifully framed the lake.

We spent some time tennis shoe-ing in the snow, sinking down to our knees from time to time, but the effort was rewarded with great views and hopefully some good pictures.

On the way back to highway 97, we passed the Klamath Agency, where T lived when she first came to the area.  We stopped for gas at the Kla-mo-ya Casino again and headed north to Bend.  I noticed that there had been some significant clearing of trees along the highway.  T said they had been doing that to make a clearing so deer wouldn't just junp out of the trees into the road.  You had a chance to spot them.  It also made the view from the road less clastrophobic.

Soon we passed the fake police car, then Sun River and we were at T's house. Some take out from "Thai on the Fly" and it feels good to be home (for one of us). I'll take the bus back to Portland Wed. morning after some R and R (rest and re-packing).

Day 20: Sebastopol to Redding

After sleeping in (a treat), a good visit, and unsucessful atempt to locate Lu's parking pass (which J found suspicious), we headed out to Sebastopol for brunch.  We toured the town which is not quite a tourist town (no T-shirt stores), but vey much a northern California, wine-country town.  We had a great brunch at the Gypsy Cafe.  After the obligatory family photo, we bid farewell to Sebastopol and family and headed to Redding where C lives.

We traveled along highway 12 which boosts a number of wineries along the way.  We passed through the "Valley of the Moon."  Having passed through the "Valley of the Sun" near Phoenix, I found this interesting.  There are a number of hot springs in the area.

We passed through the town (10,600 pop.) Of Sonoma and happened to see the "Home Ofice" for Mary's Pizza Shack  the right.   After some road construction wew finally reached highway 505 and proceeded to I-5 north.  After a short stop at the Olive Pit in Corning for tasting, we arrived in Redding just as it was getting dark.  We checked into the motel and walked down the street to a great Mexican place called Cicada that C recommended.  Afterr dinner, T took C home and we turned in.

Tomorrow we will be back in Bend.

Day 19: Tehachapi to Santa Rosa: about 350 miles

As we drove through the hills, we were greeted by the haze (smog?)  of Bakersfield.  The fields were green with crops.  This was more green (verde) than we had seen in the last 2+ weeks.  But once we gott to Bakersfield and headed north up highway 99, we were back to brown.

We followed our route of two years ago  and cut over to I-5 at highway 46. The almond (we think) trees are now in full bloom with pink flowers.  We noticed stacked white boxes here and there under the trees with what we surmised were imported bees.  This theory was confirmed later as T cleaned our windshield.

We passed the feedlots at the Harris Ranch exit and after consulting my previous blog determined that we had spent the night at this stop on our last Tucson trip.      

We traveled along the California Aquaduct which does still have water and passed by "Pea Soup Andersen's" in Santa Nella.  The hills were touched with a green tint (unlike when we traveled this way 2 weeks ago).  Then we came to fields of crops which had signs identifying them as oranges, mandarins, and lemons, and encouraging us to "Eat More Cirtus."

At Wesley, we gassed up, cleaned the windshield, and changed drivers. R got up up 580 to 680 and into Benecia.  Along the way, we passed through another forest of wind turbines sticking up from the rolling grass-covered hills much like the saguaros in the desert.

Ms. D was having fits.  It turns out that T had set her to avoid toll roads and we were headed straight for a toll bridge.  Once the operator error was corrected, Ms. D was back to normal.

We dropped off R at her home in Benecia  and stayed for a pleasant reststop on her warm (80 degrees), inviting patio.  She has a huge Meyers lemon tree, and T and I left with lemons and pleasant memories of a great trip.

T and I headed north to Santa Rosa.  We made a stop in Petaluma to pick up T's son  C and proceeded to our aunt Lu's house in Santa Rosa. After a pleasant visit, Lu recommended we have dinner at a local Italian place called Mary's.  Ms. D could only find a place called Mary's  Pizza Shack -- that didn't sound right--So we let Lu guide us to the place after a stop at Walgreens.  Somewhere between Walgreens and Mary's, we lost Lu's handicap parking tag.  So T had to search for another parking spot after dropping us off at Mary's.

Turns out this was Mary's Pizza Shack.  Still it had a local feel.  That is until C said, " They have one of these in Redding."  The food was good.

After dinner we drove to Sebastopol and broke into cousin's J & J's house.  We watched the Olympics until they returned and after a short visit, we turned in for the night.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Day 18: Zion to Tehachapi, CA ; many miles in the desert.

We bid Zion farewell after breakfast and drove through the beautiful multi-colored hills of Utah to the freeway. Once we were on I-15 we passed through St. George and soon we were in Arizona again passing through the Virgin River Gorge.  The highway cuts across the northwest corner of the state.  It is beautiful country with no development -- like passing through a natural reserve.

We were looking forward to some warm desert weather before heading back to the lands of recent torrential rain.  The rain has probably gone in California, but it is still raining in WA (and probably will be raining until July.)

Soon we hit Nevada and civilization on steroids.  Casinos, hotels, golf courses, and palm trees.  Just outside Las Vegas we spotted our first Joshua trees.  We passed right by the strip with a tall gold building labeled "Trump."  There was a building with what looked like a carnival ride on the top many stories above... not for me.. Huge hotels, castles, etc went on and on.

We went right through with no problem and stopped at Prim which is a Nevada border town.  It is a small town but managed to sport two huge casinos, an outlet mall, various fast food places, a huge rolly coaster, and a monorail to get you over the traffic congestion.  We managed to get gas, find McDonald's for some lunch and get out again, but it wasn't easy.  It was like a mini-Vegas. R noticed that they even had city-wide wi-fi.

Once we were into California, we soon came to the Mojave National Preserve and turned  off onto Cima Road.  If yoo want to see Joshua trees, I recommend you take exit 272 off I-15.  The world's largest concentration of Joshua trees grows on the slope of Cima Dome.

Joshua trees can grow to be 40 feet high.  They are not really a tree, but a species of yucca.  We also found a number of banana yucca (I renamed this plant: "spear-you yucca" because of the sharp, pencil-thick spikes on the plant that will stab you if you accidently bump into them.)

The desert also boasts many strong-scented creosote bushes.  These bushes are said to be the world's oldest living things.  Some colonies in the preserve are over 11,500 years old.

We spent some time in the preserve enjoying the nature and taking pictures.  We visited the train station/visitor center in Kelso and then turned north and traveled by sand dunes and lava domes  as we made our way back to the highway.

We turned off I-15 onto highway 58 at Barstow and stopped for the night in Tehachapi.  It is a very nice small town surrounded by more than 4,500 wind turbines.  They advertise that the town has "four seasons."  I guess that means we are finally out of the desert.

On to the Santa Rosa area to visit with relatives tomorrow.                                                          

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Day 17: Zion National Park

We got up this morning to find 3 deer grazing on the hill behind our room.  Then T and I went for a short walk before breakfast and ran into about 7 more.  They don't seem to mind people much and we could get quite close to them.  I got a lot of pictures.

After breakfast we drove to the Visitor Center and T and I took a hike up the Archeology Trail for some pictures.  We found another herd of deer who kindly posed for us.  Once we got back, we all headed out on the Pa'rus Trail along the Virgin River.  The trail was closed after .8 mile for maintenance, but it was a nice walk and very scenic.  We saw more deer.

After our walk we strolled over to a shopping area just outside the park.  Found a store that was taking 50% off all silver and Native American jewelry.  We spent some time and money in there.  We went back to the care and headed out of the park to Springdale for lunch.

We had lunch at a cute Mexican Cafe (huge portions) and then checked out the town.  The have a number of great galleries and craft stores.   We dubbed this hike the "Shopping Trail."

After a Dr. Pepper pick-me-up, we headed back into the park for more hiking.  We walked the River Trail but stopped at the point that you have to actually get in the river to continue to 'The Narrows."  We did see some hikers that were dressed in waterproof wear that had obviously been in the river.  We saw a mom and girl (about 8 years old) who were returninng from the wet hike. T asked how deep the water was on the girl.  The mom said neck high when she fell, but normally chest high.  T said she saw children much younger returning from the trail....

We stoped at several other viewpoints.  Zion is very majestic and we have now had the experience looking down into the Grand Canyon and up from inside the canyon in Zion.  It is hard to describe the beauty of these parks.

We returned to the lodge in time for dinner.  We are packing up and will be headed for home tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Day 16: Grand Canyon to Zion : about. 250 miles

Got up and bundled up for sunrise again and wasn't disappointed.  How can you be at the Grand Canyon.

We met for breakfast and then packed up and headed east.  We didn't say goodbye to the canyon yet.  We took the desert view road and stopped at Grandview Point (it was), Moran Point and  Desert View.  All points gave us great views of the Colorado River far below.  There was a watchtower at the Desert View area.  The tower was very distinctive and you could climb up four stories under a domed ceiling.  The walls were beautifully decorated with Hopi drawings and artwork.

After leaving Desert View we did say goodbye to Grand Canyon and headed through Navajo country towards Zion.  We stopped at a Navajo regional park on the Little Colorado River Gorge.  Not nearly as majestic as its big brother, but very impressive.  There were a number of stalls near the parking lot selling Navajo jewelry and handicrafts.  R had a necklace specially made for her while we waited.

Back on the road, we turned north on highway 89 headed towards Page.  About 30 miles outside of Page we discovered that the road was closed due to a rock slide and turned onto highway 89A.  Fortunately this took us to our destination as well, but the road went through some mountain passes.  It also took us right by the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.  These are beautiful orange mountains towering over the flat desert.  We also encountered a wind storm which whipped up clouds of red dust and bombarded us with blowing tumbleweeds.  After the cliffs we started climbing and passed the exit for the road to the Grand Canyon North Rim which was closed for the winter.  T got some relief from struggling against the wind in the mountains, but the wind returned as soon as we got to Kanab.  We ran into some road work, but soon got to highway 9 (the road to Zion).

There were ranches and cabins along the road and we saw our first (of many) deer It was a doe and her fawn.  The deer jumped over the log fence and the fawn jumped the quarters of the fence height between the top two cross beams.

We entered the park and went down a windy road and a tunnel that was a mile long as we decended into the canyon.  We stopped many times for pictures.  It was beautiful.

We got to the lodge and checked in.  Our rooms have porches which face the cliff behind the hotel where they told us wildlife like to hang out.

We had a good dinner at the lodge and capped off a long day with Utah-style prickly-pear margaritas.

We will explore the park tomorrow.

Day 15: Grand Canyon

Got up early and rushed to the rim to catch the sunrise with a number of other folks.  I bundled up well since it was down into the teens (no more Tuscon summer.)  Sun rose at 7:13 and we met for coffee at Bright Angel at 8:00.  We are staying in the Thunderbird which is much nicer than where we stayed before.  It is very nice to be right on the rim.

We got on the bus around 9am and got off at the visitor center to look around.  Then we got on the orange line and took that out to Yaki Point (you can only get there by bus.)  The view was great as it is from everywhere.  We tried to keep T from getting close to the edge -- she likes to get off the path.

The rim trails and viewpoints all go right along the edge of sheer cliffs.  At some points there is railing, at others only rocks leading to the edge.  People are taking pictures everywhere and sometimes posing close to the edge.  Last time I was here I saw a Japanese man taking a picture of his wife as she was close to the edge and telling her to back  up.  Today, I saw several cases where parents put their kids on the rocks to take their pictures.  And a Japanese couple perched on a rock over the canyon.

Then when we were at Mather Point that juts out into the canyon, I saw some parents with a child way over the path, guardrail and one fence telling him to go out a little further.  T saw the horror in my face and pointed out to me that there was another fence on the other side of him as he grabbed a toy football he had presumably dropped.....

Later R pointed out to me that there was a thick book in the bookstore that described all the accidents where people had fallen over the edge (some in cars, some not).   We didn't get the book, but I understand how those accidents (and some suicides can happen.)

We spent the day visiting various vistas and hiking along the rim trail and the trail of time.  And had time to visit a few gift shops.  We met back at the room at 4pm and got into the car to take a ride out west to Pima Point.  We could see the Colorado River and some rapids from there.  We could even hear the rapids from several points on the trail.

We bypassed a stop called "the Abyss" and went on to Powell Point for the sunset.    There we met two couples from Nebraska that were traveling together.    We took turns taking pictures of our group and theirs and shivered in the cold wind as we waited for the sunset.  It wasn't all that good because of the clouds, so we finally gave up and went back to the lodge.

The only parking place we could find was a parallel on the left.  T was struggling with it because the car behind was about 3 feet over the line and T's backup warning buzzer was going crazy,  A hotel staff person saw our problem and offered to park the car for T. T didn't feel so bad when she had the same problem. She finally got parked and went back to the room for some local wine and crackers as we waited for 7:45 when we had dinner reservations at the El Tovar.

Dinner was great.  Their dinner special was 10 oz prime rib and T bargained with them for a 5 oz portion.  And they charged us half price.  It was delicious.  We split a chocolated covered strawberry cheesecake.  Yum.

Then we were off to pack and get ready to move on tomorrow after another early rising to catch the sunrise.

On to Zion tomorrow.