Thursday, November 19, 2009

44-2009 Camp Verde, Indian Ruins: Arizona

Camp Verde

Exploring Indian Ruins (Off the beaten path)

I’ve had a whirl wind stay here in Cottonwood.  The work camping has gone well and I’ve enjoyed working with all of the staff and other camp hosts.  My newest bestest friends Bill W and John H (they wanted to be mentioned in my Blog) have been great hosts, having me over for dinner and giving me the opportunity to meet many of the locals in the Cottonwood and Sedona area as well.

Learning so much about the 7 vortexes in the Sedona area and the 7 vortex areas around the world.  Sedona is a hot bed of spiritual retreats and awakening.  People pay thousands of dollars to find their inner souls and release from stress and past hang-ups.

The time has gone by so fast, I can hardly believe it’s been a month and a half already.  I guess all the little things that fill up a day really make the time go by quickly.  Just in the past week, I’ve gone to the Cottonwood Festival (great music again this year), out to dinner and cocktails, exploring Jerome (the old mining town up on the hill) and hiking to one of the many Indian ruins in the area. Oh and being a camp host too.

I was telling Les (the Dead Horse Ranch head Ranger) that I was interested in visiting some of the Indian sites not on any of the regular list of National parks.  He was able to give me some direction and off I went on one of my days off to explore and discover on my own.  As I headed over to Camp Verde, about 15 miles east of Cottonwood I decided to stop in the Forest services new building for more information and hopefully obtain some maps as well.  What a rude awakening I had.  When I asked for some information on nearby ruins I was told flatly, “No, we can’t give you that information”.  “We don’t want you finding any of the sites”.  Understandably the Forest service is trying to keep people off the public lands so we don’t destroy these sites, but the attitude of the staff was quite condescending towards me.  Assuming that I would go in and just start destroying these magnificent sites.  Kind of turned me off.  I’ve had similar experiences with the forest service in the past when I would ask for information on campsites or hiking trails.  Often, I would be given a poorly printed map, shoved on my way with little or no insight into the size of the campsites or any additional information that might be helpful.  But they sure do have a great new multi million dollar facility.

But getting back to my tale of exploration.  Les had given me enough info to start my search.  So as I drove along hwy 260, I was looking for evidence along the cliffs of possible ruins.  I found the road Les had mentioned.  Stopped, took out my trusty binoculars and was able to see some cliff dwelling within a short span of searching the limestone cliffs.

I headed back up the road about an 1/8 of a mile and found a small parking area right off of the highway with two vehicles parked (always a good sign indicating hikers or other explorers).  And there, a small sign attached to the fence indicating that this was an historical area containing Native Indian ruins.

I grabbed my water, camera and binoculars climbed through the fence and headed on up the path.  And I do mean UP the path, as it started to ascend the desert terrain almost immediately.  Crossing a dry wash, the path was well defined for the first leg of the journey, but as I continued to ascend the hill, it became rougher, more rocks and rubble and steeper with each step I took.   Three people were indeed ahead of me and much higher on the cliff which gave me encouragement to just keep on climbing.

At one point I was pretty much on all fours climbing up the steep side of the cliff.  It wasn’t a pretty sight, but I was determined to get to the cliff dwellings that I could now see quite clearly.  Hearing bits and pieces of the guide ahead of me explaining the various rooms created from layers of rock and mud enclosing each of the natural caves in the sides of the limestone walls.  there are so many dwellings like this along the Verde Valley.  It’s been estimated that there were easily 800 to 1,000 Indians living in this area over 1,000 years ago.  Les was telling me that in the 1920-30’s that there were more native American Indians living in Verde Valley that Anglo Americans.  We so often think that these Ancient Ones disappeared, but many of their ancestors still live in the area.

As I began exploring the site and meeting the other hikers, their guide (a forest worker on his day off) was pointing out the deep wells in many of the caves, a small ear of corn about the size of your baby finger, easily 800 years old, thin cut stones that were probably used as knives, fitting perfectly into ones hand.  The walls and ceilings were heavily blackened with smoke from the many camp fires that were burning inside of these cliff dwellings.  Outside, the breathtaking views of Verde Valley stretched out below us and as I walked below the cliff dwellings I came across hundreds of pot shards.  More than likely pots would have been thrown out below the cliff dwellings after they developed a crack or had broken in use.

It was a good hike and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Off the beaten path for sure.  The Forest service guy said I was the first person he’d seen on this trail in the many times he had come exploring this site.    Nice to explore a secret site, yet within full view of the highway that now passes far below.  How many other places do we pass each day and not know that there’s a secret waiting to be discovered.

I’ve posted some pics of the Indian ruins on Picasa.

I have one more day of work camping (Friday) and then I drive down to Tucson for my Winter stay at Desert Trails Rv Park.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

43-2009 Cottonwood Arizona Revisited as a Camphost


Note:  I will not be updating the Blog on a regular basis over the next couple of months as I settle in for the winter months, except to report on possible interesting observations and sites I may visit.

Cottonwood, AZ
Dead Horse Ranch State Park

A typical day as a Camp Host.

Background.  I’d been a camp host here At Dead Horse a year or so ago and decided to travel through Cottonwood on my way to my winter destination in Tucson.  So here I am working again as a camp host for 5 weeks.

After setting up my camper in Quall Loop I began work right the next day.  My day starts around 8:30 as I drive my golf cart around each loop,  where I take my list of campsites and check each site out to ensure the folks have paid their fees, leave when their time is up, or renew as needed.  We do this three times a day, as we have to check those who have come in overnight as well and have done a self check in.  I helped clean the cabins over two days as well.

Other duties include cleaning out the fire pits at each site, cleaning the restrooms once a week and chopping wood if time permits.  All in all it’s a pretty busy 4 hour day that usually stretches into 6 hours since our last compliance check is at 2 pm.

It’s fun meeting the campers, as of course one of our jobs is talking to the campers and seeing if they have any questions.  One gal was “walking” her cat.  She would carry her cat about a half a block away from their camper, then the cat would walk back to the camper.  Never away from the camper.  She said her cat was afraid of people but he loved it when I scratched his head.  How spoiled.  I’m coming back as a cat.  One couple had flown into Phoenix from Boston and had rented a Class C camper for the week.  They had never gone camping in their life and were absolutely enjoying the whole trip.  Particularly loving the active ghost town of Jerome.  The next day I helped a guy get his car started after the battery went dead.  Today, I called the main office after seeing 4 horses without their riders.  The horses just walking through my loop and on up a dirt trail.  Come to find out the horses had thrown 4 young riders and had wondered off.  I believe the kids are alright.

I settled into my camp host site (my second one).  I’m up on the hill this time in the loop called Coopers Hawk.  I love this site.  I’m snuggled in a site that has been dug out into the side of the hill, so I have a wall about 4 feet high on two sides.  The views are spectacular of the surrounding mountains, Verde valley below and the old mining town of Jerome up on the side of the mountain.  At night the lights from the town below and Jerome up on the hill light up providing a shimmering display of twinkling lights.

The last couple of days has also brought a full moon against a clear black sky.  I leave my blinds open so I can look out both day and night.

I was sitting out on my patio today after putting in a pretty full day as a camp host.  Starting off with a staff meeting, compliance checks, bathroom cleaning, getting my golf cart fixed (it wouldn’t go into reverse) and finally closing a couple of the gates in the evening.  In between, I get breaks and that’s where sitting out on the shaded side of the patio is so nice.  Reading a book, looking out over this wonderful high desert scenery, just enjoying the quite stillness of the day before doing a few more camp host chores.

The Rangers were mostly all spared some big cuts in the Arizona State Park system, with a few of the staff moving to other parks.  Both the Rangers and the volunteers are so easy to get along with

Tip to future Camp Hosts: .  If you ever camp host somewhere, after your there a while don’t forget to ask if they have any free tickets to any of the local attractions.  There are fringe benefits that aren’t always talked about, and one of them being the free tickets.  If you don’t ask, you may never get them.

A final observation.  An interesting thing happens each time I move to a new campsite.  Although it’s the same camper, because the scenery changes outside the windows, the interior takes on a new character with each move.  The way the light hit’s the oak cabinets and floor differently.  The sun reflects against the full length mirror in the living room and cascades through the blinds partially closed to defect some of the light streaming in.  And looking out, my world view is different each time I move.  This time I have mountain and valley views.  Having lots of windows in a camper truly makes for wonderful changes of scenery.  With each move to a new campsite, the sun comes up from a different side of the camper, creating all new light patterns or it may remain in the shade of a forest.  With each move it’s almost like having a new camper.  Oh and if I happen to just be passing through an area and the commercial campground is a bit ratty looking, the semi transparent shades remain closed and I have a cocoon of soft light filtering the outside world. So whether I’m inside our outside, the vibe changes with each move I make.

Ok, one more final note.  I re-visited Tuzigoot, a hilltop adobe structure over a 1,000 years old with many rooms.  I was hoping to get in on a tour, but the NP does not have any tours of this site.  So for the $5 charge, I got a brochure that didn’t discuss the Native Indians that built this awesome site, but rather described the scenery that the Indians would have viewed from the North, south, east and west.  Woppie. Although there is a small museum, the static flat display cases were of little interest.  A few signs along the path to the ruins were informative but also very lacking in so many ways.   This whole valley was heavily populated with Sinagua Indians and the relationship between the sites must have been impressive.  I’ve reported in past reports on the other sites in the area and won’t rehash that information here.

I’ve uploaded a few more pictures of the Cottonwood area as well as a neat geodesic dome I saw traveling along hwy 40.  Until next time, have a super great day.

Friday, October 23, 2009

42-2009 Pahrump Nevada and the Amorgosa Opera House


Pahrump NV

Campground:  Terrible’s Lakeside Rv Park.  $13 a night, combination of discount and Passport America.  Full hookups, premier sites, concrete pads, grass, lots of trees and small lake.  Check online for discounts before getting to the campground.  I got “pay one night, get one night free”.

This is a bit of a luxury campground, though they have no cable Tv.  Oddly, I found out I could of course get a couple digital channels, but I can also receive regular over the air channels as well. You know the old Analog signals.   What happened to the deal that they were going to discontinue UHF Tv signals??? Hmmmm.

Kind of nice to feel a bit pampered along the way.  Pahrump is about an hour from Las Vegas, but very much a desert scene.  Windy many days, lots of sun and temps are reasonable this time of year.  Though, hot, hot, hot during the long summers.  Palm trees to remind me of my Fla. roots.

A few days later, I went back to Death Valley twice.  Saw some homes, really just hollowed out caves in the hills that miners dug out for a living space.  A few were a bit more elaborate, some even with doors, windows and stove pipes sticking out of the rock.

What I was really interested in was visiting the Amargosa Opera House and hotel which were part of a small town built by the Borax company to house it‘s employees.  Remember the 20 mule team Borax commercials.  I got up bright and early and drove from Pahrump to Ash Meadow Road and headed about 30 miles into Death Valley.  Over the barren jagged rocky mountains that surround Death Valley.  Lonely ribbons of black asphalt that seem to go on forever, then finally disappear around a bend or fade into the vast scrubby desert.  Far off in the heart of Death Valley, I could see two mining operations and off to the left and straight ahead were the white low buildings of the hotel and opera house.

We had a young gal provide the tour and there were two guys from Austria on the tour as well.  She told us a bit about the history of the town and Marta Becket the opera singer and dancer who back in 1967 stopped at this junction in the road to get a tire fixed.  While her husband was tending to the tire, Marta walked over to the hotel and opera house, looking all deserted and forlorn.  The place called to her and she had ended up leasing the property and providing a one woman show from then on.  Her husband divorced her years later, guess the desert didn’t suit him.  Her fascinating story develops as she paints people on the blank walls so that she would always have an audience.  Eventually painting the entire small theatre.  Unfortunately our guide, all of maybe 20 years old had little education and almost no knowledge of anything except the few lines she had memorized.  One of the Austrians asked if the murals were painted in oil.  She said emphatically, “oh no, I don’t think oil paints were invented until the late 1980s“.  Geez how embarrassing.  But at the same time adding character to the whole experience.  Marta is still living at the hotel at the age of 85 and plans on putting on another season of performances, though from a seated position on stage.  Hard to say for how much longer.  You can check out more information on this fascinating place and the woman who has added her own special touch.

So as if that wasn’t enough for one day, I got back to the camper and dove into washing the camper and truck.  I know, I’m in the desert, how could I waste the water.  Well the campground is built around an oasis, with water rights, so with all the dust and dirt that has gotten on the truck and camper I did a pretty good job of washing both down.  With as little water as I could possibly use of course.

Now you’d think that would have been enough for one day wouldn’t you?  Not so fast.  After sitting back and reading a book after all that hard work and enjoying the outdoors in perfect 75 degree weather, light breeze and views of the lake, I decided to treat myself to dinner since this would be my last night in Pahrump.  Had dinner at the casino on property, got a $5 bonus to play the slots and left with $13.  Now that’s a good day!  And I still have friends who insist on working instead of retiring.  Now don’t get me wrong, not every day is perfect, but this is just one of those days that everything just seemed to fit perfectly.

My next stop is Bullhead City.  From here on I’ve reported about these places in past issues, so I do not expect to write further on them unless I find something unique along the way.  I’ll be heading towards Cottonwood and my final winter destination of Tucson AZ.

Possible brief reports will be posted along the final journey as interesting things come along.  Wishing all my readers the best adventures whether near or far.  It’s been great to have you along for this past years adventures.
Hope to see you on down the road.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

41-2009, A BONUS REPORT! from Nevada

41-2009  A Bonus Report

Tonopah to Beatty Nevada

Rhyolite, Nevada (a ghost town)

Death Valley and Scotty’s Castle

Campground:  Baileys Hot Springs.  $18 for elect and water.  If you stay a week or more they’ll give you a site with sewer hookup as well.  The hot springs are included in the camping fee.

Heading south from Tonopah the elevation drops thousands of feet into the dry desert landscape of the Great Basin.  I’m heading towards Death valley.  Nothing grows here except the ever present sagebrush.  Then about 40 miles south on 95, a major highway through Nevada, but looking more like a lonely two lane stretch of highway, I see my first Joshua trees.  Those wonderful cactus with multiple spiny arms looking ever so much like a tree.  They quickly fill the landscape with their unique tree like forms.  The lower elevation also means I’m back into much warmer climate.

After arriving at Baileys Hot Springs, under a couple nice cottonwood trees for shade, I go into the town of Beatty for lunch and to check out information on Death Valley.  My first excursion is to a ghost town called Rhyolite.  It’s just outside of Death Valley on 374 which leads into the park.

Just on the edge of the ghost town is an open air museum called Goldwell.  A Belgium artist who came across this region thought it looked a lot like the Holly Land and proceeded to create some unique sculptures.  The Last Supper being the most famous.  They are often referred to as the ghosts of Rhyolite.  After Szulkalski created these imaginative pieces (including the pink busted lady, he kept having to move them from the town of Rhyolite due to film crews coming in to film for movies.  He found out that a parcel of land on the edge of this ghost town was privately owned.  When he inquired of the owner, he discovered the owner was from Belgium as well.  Needless to say, he was able to move his sculptures to the site they now sit on permanently.

The next interesting story is about the couple that manage the small museum store.  Suzy McCoy and her husband who looks all of a prospector ready to dig up some gold, met some 21 years ago.  Having been divorced, each was encouraged by one of their relatives to go to a local singles get together.   Upon meeting, Suzy was asked where she was from, rather than say her current location, she said Casper Wyoming.  Her now husband said, “well, how interesting, that’s where I’m from as well.  Did you ever know the little girl who was written up in the local paper a couple of times for taking her fathers tractor into town?”  Suzy said, “yes, that was me, at the age of 5”.  She tells of how she was paid, I think a nickel, for helping her brothers with some of the farm duties so she could go into town to see the movies.  But her father forgot tell her she couldn’t go on Saturday, so she just up and took the tractor.

There are no coincidences in life.  Somehow we are led to those we should know or be with.  At least, that’s my thought on the subject.

Getting back to the campsite, Baileys Hot Springs, I was ready for a dip in their springs.  They have three bldgs. Each with a pea gravel floor with some of the rock outcroppings peaking through.  What an awesome feeling after touring all day to be able to soak in the warm super clear spring waters of this little oasis.  No sulfur smells of any kind, just pure clean hot springs.

Later I watched as the mountains changed from yellow to gold to crimson red with the setting sun. Nice way to end the day.

The next day…. I was up early, eager to take a loop tour to Scotty’s Castle and Death Valley.  A gorgeous castle built by Albert and Jessie Johnson of Chicago back in the late 1920’s.  It was designed as a get away and a character came along with the package by the name of Walter Scott.  Scotty loved to tell tales of finding gold.  After Albert and Jessie became friends, Albert let Scotty tell his wild tales to all his guests, including that Scotty owned the castle and had it built from the millions he made from his Death Valley gold mine. Scotty kind of reminds me of my friend back in Fla, Larry K.  Larry always came up with the best stories to tell around our campfires and I’m sure he’s still doing it today.

I was the first one at the castle this morning so I got a private tour, including the above ground and below ground tour.  They said they weren’t doing the below ground tours, but I gave them my best puppy eye sad look and the tour guide snuck me into the basement for the behind the scenes tour as well.

What a gorgeous castle built in the California Spanish style so popular during that era.  A must visit if you ever make it to death valley.  The stories about the house and the discovery that the land they owned was actually a mile away (they almost lost the place to the Government) go on and on.

I continued my tour of Death Valley, you know it’s the lowest place on the Continental U.S.  Having dropped almost 4,000 feet down down down into the valley itself through the mountain ranges that surround it.  And it’s also one of the driest and hottest places most times of the year.  What a strange place, both beautiful, forbidding and desolate at the same time.  Some plants are able to survive out here including the sage and I believe the ironwood tree, though on about an inch of water a year it’s hard to believe.

I came back through Beatty, had lunch and spent the rest of the day enjoying the desert scenery, reading a book in the shade of my big cotton wood tree and having another hot spring soak…. Life couldn’t be better.

PS, the hot springs are for sale, so if you know someone who would appreciate a great place, campground, restaurant bldg and springs, this is the place….

40-2009, Middlegate Nevada, the middle of nowhere and Loving it.


From Carson City to Middlegate.

Campground:  Middlegate.  Free dry camping where ever you want to park your rig.

Campground:  Joy Land, Tonopah.  $10 Passport Amer. rate.  Full hookups.  No cable TV as the local cable provider recently was arrested for stealing another providers signal.

I am so excited and I‘ll tell you why in just a minute.  After getting my campers heater fixed ($220) I have headed out on hwy 50, the Original Lincoln Highway.  Also known as the Loneliest Road in America.  It was the first highway to go from the east coast (Times Square in Ny) to the west Coast.

The excitement came as I headed through the desert, down into shallow valleys covered in a putty colored sand near Fallon Nv where of all places the Navy has a Naval Air Station.  The scenery is for some reason, something I’ve dreamt about all of my life.  Having seen movies made out here, it has caught my imagination and has stayed with me for years.  The bare mountain ranges merge with the valleys and create the most silent still life scenery I’ve ever experienced.

For some unknown reason, I set my GPS to head toward the small cross roads of Middlegate Nevada.  I didn’t even know if anything was there.  It’s at the intersection of hwy 50 and hwy 361.  There was originally an Eastgate and Westgate and they all were stage coach stations.  Middlegate and the others had a short life as the telegraph quickly took over the need for the stage coach lines.

When I arrived here in Middlegate (pop. 9), I found the remains of the old stage coach building which is now a saloon, eatery and  two pump gas station.  A small motel sits on the property with rusted out antique cars and farm equipment lying about.  4 or 5 old trailers that the owners and workers live in.  I can not emphasize enough how a destination such as this has been in my mind for so long. Buried deep in my sub conscious it is a place I have been drawn too.  Remember the movie Baghdad CafĂ©?   It’s something like that.

The worker came out with a ten gallon hat, scruffy beard and unlocked the diesel pump for me.  He told me about a homing pigeon that was recently left here, it’s owners having left with the rest of the flock and didn’t realize one was left behind.  He’s been worried about the poor thing being left out here all alone.  Shortly afterward, the homing pigeon tried to get into my camper as I was setting up.  You see, I have to stay here at least for a day or two.  

So far I’ve enjoyed taking a ton of pictures, just walking around and looking in all directions.  The saloon is built of old weathered boards.  The porch has boards so weathered their worn down from everyone walking on them as they creak and bend in places.  Having a great dinner and the beer is cheap and cold. My good buddies Walt, Ben, Tim and Scott would appreciate that. Part of the ceiling is covered with dollar bills that people have written messages on.  A wall is covered with insignias from the Fallon Naval Air Station.  Top gun was filmed out here.  But it’s the lonely desert that attracts me.  The clear skies the wide open spaces.  What is it that has captured my soul so much out here?

Now it’s not a perfect desert oasis.  They tell me the flies and moths are very annoying during the summer months. Big moths that seem to get into everything.

The owners are letting me stay on their property at no cost.  Just find a place to park your rig and  set up.  The sun has set, a reddish glow over the mountains to the west.  Blackness engulfs the cross roads, the only light coming from the saloons neon red signs, BAR, Miller High Life, Bud and one white sign on the gas pump, “Unleaded“.  Silence, except for a gust of wind now and then.

I head on down the road a couple days later on hwy 361.  I had a couple different directions I could go and of course wanted to go both ways, but had to choose one, so 361 it is.  Now they call hwy 50, the Lincoln hwy the loneliest highway, but I think 361 could easily be a contender.  I drove for over 60 miles and only saw 2 or 3 vehicles.  The wind started to pick up and I must admit, I’ve never experienced the high winds that can occur out here until now.  Gusts as high as 35 to 50 mph.  The camper and truck handled it well, even though I was a bit nervous.  Before arriving at my destination, Tonopah, I also had to slow down to 35 mph due to gravel on the road, wind gusts and sand.  At first I thought, aha, this is one of those famous speed traps in the middle of the desert, but it really was to save a windshield from the passing vehicles kicking up the gravel on the road.  Fortunately there were no other vehicles to worry about.

Tonopah Nevada.  I made it to my destination and did hit a speed zone of 35 then 25 mph through town and lots and lots of state troupers ready to give out tickets to anyone going over the speed limit.

I made it to another Passport America campground, $10 a night, full hookups, called Joy Land.  Did a self check-in as the owners were off to Vegas for the day.  By the way, I check out many of the campgrounds I stay at by using the web site.  I have a link on the blog of course.  It tells me what to expect when I get to some sites.  Like this one which is pretty much three lots, two with back in sites and a third with some pull thrus.  Real basic desert rat type setting, with mobile homes and trash on the other side of the road.  But remember, I’m not staying here for life and I’m getting a chance to experience what it’s like to live in a poor mining town.

Speaking of mining towns, Tonopah has had it’s day as a mining town but continues to survive.  I took a tour of the Historic Mining Park in town, $3 (senior rate).  For my photography buddies, this place is a photographers dream.  Took 85 pictures just of the mining park.  One could easily spend several days taking pictures of this region.  My dear friend Jimmy Marquis would love to see the subtle colors in the rocks, sage brush, tumble weeds and sky.  Jimmy’s a painter and knows all the colors, but I bet there are some colors out here he’s never seen before.  The affect of light on the landscape alone makes it easy to take the same picture 15 times what with the clouds moving overhead, shadows forming over the mountains, highlighting one and keeping another in darkness.  Clouds looking like they have spotlights highlighting each one as they drift on by.

Oh and Tonopah has a unique character living out here.  The Cat Man, as seen on Ripley’s Believe it or Not.  The guy has transformed his features through tattoos to look just like a cat.  I didn’t get to see him at a local casino, besides I didn’t have my camera with me at the time, but if your ever in Tonopah, you just might see the Cat Man.

Next stop Beatty Nevada.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

39-2009 Redding California to Carson City Nevada


Redding Calif. To Reno Nv

Northern California.  I’ve been traveling along the northern corridor of California.  The roads are windy and rising in elevation from sea level along the Pacific coast to 3,000 feet as I enter Redding.  What a modern northern Calif. Town with all the big box stores and restaurants.

I stopped briefly at Whiskeytown National Park Recreation area.  I think this is the first NP recreation area I’ve been too. As you may know by watching the wonderful PBS special “Americas best Idea, the National Parks”, they don’t contain dams.  Well all except one.  Well, NP Rec. Areas do have dams and this one has a doosey, including a  “glory hole”.  Which is actually a round Intake structure for siphoning off excess water in the reservoir.  I was going to stay I their campground,  figuring that a NP would have some great campsites along the lake.  Checked out the one on the far side of the lake.  What a disappointment.  It was a freshly paved rectangular parking lot! On top of a hill.  Surrounded by trees, one couldn’t even see the lake.  No hookups either.  Now who would want to park their rig in a parking lot with a sticky asphalt coating.   I was told the other one near the marina was also a parking lot configuration (no hookups either).  The cost was only $7 off season along with a $5 day use fee, but it still wasn‘t worth it to me.

I’ve been able to use my Passport America discount club to get half off the last 4 parks I’ve been in.  Great deal considering the State Parks in Calif. Doubled their fees to $35 a night and most commercial campgrounds in the area are in the $35 range as well.

Since I was heading south east toward Reno, I decided to drive through Lassen Volcano NP.  $10 entrance fee.  I’d never heard of this NP.  The road leading from Redding to Lassen Volcano was a great secondary road.  Once I got into the park though it was a well paved, as so many roads have been repaved recently, but it was winding and climbed from about 3,000 feet up to 8,500 feet over the top of the volcano.  What spectacular views.  Thank goodness I got to the park early in the morning.  I was able to tow the camper up and over all the winding roads with no problem… as I pretty much used most of the road for driving at the slow pace required.  Not the smartest decision as far as fuel usage goes, but it was actually on my route so it all worked out well.

At these elevations, it has been a cold day.  Temps were in the 30’s to 40’s depending on elevation.  Sunny clear blue skies and bone chilling cold.  I even saw a dusting of snow along the ground and an alpine river had ice forming on tree branches in the river.  Burrr.   The volcano erupted in 1915 and still has some activity today in the form of sulfur works, hot springs, and mud pots.  Not all are viewable from the main roads so hiking is encouraged.  I would have enjoyed some hiking if is wasn’t so darn cold and windy out.  Being able to hike to some of these unique sites without the commercial paved sidewalks and roads would have been really cool.

When I finally drove into the valley below the temps stayed in the 65 degree range but I have to tell you with the huge expanse of blue skies and bright sun I just don’t seem to think it’s that’s cool out.  I arrived at another Passport America campground called Honey Lake Rv and Resort, though I’m not sure I’d rate it a “resort”.  I passed through some small Calif. Towns like Susanville, Janesville, Johnsonville and Milford.  What I’m really enjoying are the large open spaces after having left the high country and it’s massive Ponderosa Pines.

Now I have views of a large shallow valley and the dried up Honey Lake which creates a landscape of white, tans and shades of plum and lavender lines against the soft rounded mountain ranges.  To me a breathtaking view of simple horizontal lines and all in those pastel shades.  The vast distances that one can see are like nourishment for my eyes and soul.  I’ve almost become addicted to these vast landscapes that one just doesn’t get back east.

Nevada.  A few days later and I’ve driven across the Calif.-Nevada line, through Reno and south to Washoe Lake St Pk.  It’s only a couple mile outside of Carson City, the capital of Nevada.  The last couple of days the other things besides the expansive scenery, I’ve also become aware of is how clear the air is.  It’s almost as if everything looks sharper and more distinct.  Like having razor sharp vision or something.

I had to scramble today to find an Rv repair shop that could look at my camper.  The furnace wouldn’t come on the other night and it was really, really cold out.  Had to pile on more blankets on the bed, brrrr.  Apparently one of the circuit boards was damaged by water.  I think it occurred sometime ago when I had some water heater problems, but that goes back over two years ago.  But the damage had been done and rust and corrosion had set in and eventually ruined the board.  It’ll be repaired in a couple of days when the part comes in.  In the mean time, I’ll just explore my polar bear side and embrace the crisp cool air at night and pile on the blankets.

Oh, I stopped in at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City but will tell you I wasn’t overly enthused about their state museum.  Basic museum stuff, extremely small print on most all the exhibits which were average at best and the content just wasn’t that compelling.  Many of the descriptions had the text backlit against a black or red background which didn’t help in being able to read the data.  Maybe the descriptions were compelling, but I just couldn’t read them hey.

I’ve had a couple cheap and very good meals at the Casino’s.  I’m no dummy, I know that many of them compete to get us into their establishments through our stomachs… and it worked.  Like a breakfast of steak and eggs, hash browns and toast all for $4.95.

This is a great location for touring around.  It’s close to Lake Tahoe, Virginia City, Reno and Truckee.  And at $14 a night a good deal.  The feel of being in the country, yet close to all the attractions.  Too much to report on.

I will tell a little story though.  While waiting in line in a store, I mentioned to the lady next to me that it was pretty cold last night (33 degrees).  She said, “yes it was, but as soon as her garden freezes, she’s ready for winter”.  I said, it must be hard to have a garden around here.  (we are in the desert you know).  She said,  “It is, but she had her husband build a raised garden for her with timbers.  But it still doesn’t keep out the snakes.”

The camper should be fixed Tomorrow and I’ll probably be heading out shortly after that.  Heading south, south east.

ps, there are two new photo albums on the Picasa site.

Monday, October 5, 2009

38-2009 Port Orford Oregon to Crescent City Califorina


Southern Oregon Coast

Port Orford Oregon

Smith River, California

Campground:  Evergreen Rv Park.  $15.50 Passport America discount.  Full hookups w/cable Tv.

Campground:  Salmon Harbor Resort.  $19 Passport America Discount.  Full hookups w/cable.

I left the Land of Umpqua and headed back to the Oregon Coast.  Leaving behind the smoke from the forest fires, the great company at the Last Resort campground oh and a few folks with off the wall ideas.  Though if anyone watches the cable channel news programs you’ve probably encountered some of that already.

I missed my turn off, yes even with my GPS on.  It redirected me to what I figured was an alternate route to get me back on track.  I ended up on a really narrow country lane that eventually had a sign posted, “pavement ends”.  What the heck, it looked like I only had a few more miles to go before I’d be back on the road I was supposed to be on.  Well, almost.  The road I was directed to further on down the road dead ended into a farmers gate locked tighter than a you know what.  With signs posted all over not to attempt to drive through this private property.  A kind farmer came on by, gave me the story that yes it would lead me to the highway, but only if I had keys to all 4 gates.  The farmer then opened his own gate to his pasture and let me swing my rig around and go back where I came from.

Back on the right track, I saw the continuing of itinerate campers (hobo’s and homeless) hitch hiking along Oregon’s roads leading south.  Stopped in a small town called Remote for lunch.  The two store town, ok, maybe three stores must have had a religious revival as there were many signs with Jesus printed on them and even some with bible versus.  Wouldn’t you know, the only restaurant in town also had a number of delightful sayings posted throughout the place.

Unfortunately the staff wasn’t as “Christian” as one might expect.  First a local guy, who rode in on a bicycle sat outside with his own can of Pepsi.   He stepped inside to order two scoops of ice-cream and you’d think he was worst individual they’d ever waited on.  He spoke with a gentle voice requesting the ice-cream in a cup so he could add the soda and go back outside to enjoy it.  The waitress was really put off that he had his own can of soda and asked him to leave after he paid for his ice-cream.

A trucker came in to order a sandwich to go.  Mentioned another worker who had waited on him the last time he was there and described her as having blond hair.  The waitress again acted as if someone had stuck a bee up her bonnet and said: “she has a name you know.  You don’t have to call her the gal with the blond hair, she has a name”.  Obviously the guy didn’t know her name and the waitress wasn’t about to tell him either.  He stepped outside to cool off for a bit and when he came back in, he told the waitress that that was the second time she had insulted him.  The waitress’s (there were now three of them at the counter)  acted as if they hadn’t a clue what was going on and said, “gee sorry, we apologize if we offended you“.

It was the oddest place I’ve been in recently.  Like a mini soap opera being played out in the town of Remote Oregon.   I left thinking, all those signs about being saved and Jesus is the one must have somehow gotten lost in the translation.  I had an image of the restaurant being the religious temples and Jesus shooing away the sales vendors.  Like the waitresses were selling everything and forgetting what the signs and messages around them meant.

In any case, that’s what makes traveling this country so interesting isn’t it.  I finally made it to the coastal town of Port Orford.  A small town of 1,000.  Originally a fishing and lumber town, it survives on a bit of tourism.  The town is noted for having the only harbor directly on the ocean.  All of the boats are lifted out of the water and placed on land.  None stay in the water due to the tides and waves and wind.  Speaking of wind, it’s common to get 100 mile an hour winds in the winter with 130 being average as well.  Visitors arrive in the winter to watch the huge waves crash over the ports concrete docks.  It’s also home to Cape Blanco, the westerly most piece of land in the continental U.S.  Rugged gorgeous coastline and lighthouse of course.

A Tsunami?  Can you believe.  Here I am traveling along the coast and I’ve mentioned that there are signs all along the coast that mention this is a Tsunami area.  Well as you probably heard, an earthquake off the American Samoan Island way out in the Pacific Ocean is creating a tsunami which may reach the Oregon coast where I’m staying.  The park manager just stopped by to say that I shouldn’t worry if I hear the sirens going off, he would gather us all together and all we had to do was walk up the hill to safety.  I’m ready and I’ll bring my camera too.

California.  I crossed over….. To California.  Like I’m in the really really northern end of California and the beginning of the Redwoods.  Much of it was cut down years ago and new growth redwoods are now growing in their place.  Hoping to see some original old growth stands in the next couple of days.

I did go to the Trees of Mystery which is one of those cool funky tourist places.  Huge statue of Paul Bunyan and his Ox Blue out front.  A trail through the red woods, Gondola ride to the top of a mountain and a native American Museum.  You can check it out at http//www. The museum is perhaps the second most extensive museum of Indian artifacts I’ve seen traveling throughout the west.  The Smithsonian Museum sent a group to tour it and they said there are artifacts in the museum that they had never seen before.

A little further on down the road and I went to the Redwood tree that you can drive through.  My truck was just a tad too big and I didn’t want to scrape the sides of it, but I did take a few pictures of me trying to drive through…

And Sunday, I’m driving down the California Coast through the Redwood Forests.  Yesterday I drove to Crescent City where I took a driving tour through the Stout redwood forest.  Along a narrow dirt road that led for miles into one of the remaining old growth redwood forests.  What an awesome sight to be among 300 foot trees that seemed as wide as a house.  The floor covered with huge ferns and redwoods that had been knocked down by storms or lighting.  Many that were still standing were scarred with lighting strikes.  Such massive trees.

Enough for this report as I head inland to Redding Calif.

Monday, September 28, 2009

37-2009 Crater Lake and the Land of Umpqua, Oregon


Crater Lake and the land of Umpqua.

Campground.  The Last Resort.  $130/7D Full hookups. Wi-fi available and lots of National Forest scenery.  Including a river pool for swimming and cooling off during the hot summers.

I’m dedicating this issue to a good friend Ione Black who hasn’t been able to read my reports all summer long.  Hopefully Ashley (her teenage granddaughter) has gotten her online to view my stories and pictures. Or maybe to the local library where she can log in herself and view them.

From Reedsport on the Oregon Coast I’m heading inland on hwy 38.  There are covered bridges, lots and lots of waterfalls and lush forests filled with Douglas Fir in the County of Douglas where I, Douglas will be staying for about a week.  I feel sooooo at home.    

Even drove a short distance on hwy 5 which appears to be the only major highway running through Oregon.  It was fairly heavy traffic for the short distance I was on it, but doable.

I then entered what’s called the Land of Umpqua, a native Indian name meaning “ferry me across” or “across the river” as the pioneers would holler out to the Indians, Umpqua, Umpqua, calling to be ferried across the river in their canoes.  Or it could mean “full tummy”.  Our historians must have been asleep in class when they were deciphering the local language.

In any case, here I am in what I would call the heart of Oregon.  A heavily forested land of mountains and hills, rivers teaming with salmon this time of year and fly fishermen everywhere.

My main goal is to get to Crater Lake, so on my second day in the area, I’ve driven the 60+ miles along beautifully paved country roads (though the locals do call 138 a highway).  It’s called a working forest as there are workers cutting timber, maintaining many hydro dams throughout the area and of course lots of campers, hikers and hunters fill the area as well.

Along the way I have a choice to stop and see a half dozen waterfalls and unusual rock outcroppings.  I’m even seeing sand dunes where the roadway has cut through them.  Imagine sand dunes over 150-200 miles inland all covered in thick forests of Douglas Fir, Hemlock and Cedar.

I finally reach the entrance to Crater Lake, $10 to enter per vehicle.  It’s a bummer being single sometimes as I end up paying full price for one person.  I had written a geography report in junior high oh so many years ago about Crater Lake.  And ever since then have wanted to see the place in person.

The entrance is a landscape of pine forests that begin to open up to what at first appears to be alpine meadows, but upon a closer look are mostly barren fields filled with the potash from the extinct volcanoes.  Light wisps of grass growing through the potash.   The road climbs until I reach the first viewing area of the Crater itself.  How exciting to climb up the sandy gravel side of the crater and get my first glimpse of the lake.

The rim of the crater is a shear edge straight down to the lake below and the famous Wizard Island off to one side surrounded by the deepest blue water I’ve ever seen.  I’ve reached another one of those places one just has to see before they die.  It’s the deepest freshwater lake in north America at 1,943 feet which creates the deep blue color.  It’s also considered the cleanest lake in the world.

The crater gets 44 feet of snow each year (528 inches!) and the West, North and East entrances are closed as early as October and the east entrance often doesn’t open until July.  The park is open 24 hours a day year round.  The lakes level is maintained by snow and rain runoff.  No rivers run in or out of the lake.

A boat tour is available for a few months in summer, with a steep decent down the side of the crater on foot.  Less than one percent of the 500,000 visitors ever get down to the lake itself.

Well as I mentioned I’m in the Land of Umpqua and a strange land it is.  I have met some of the campers staying here and some are on the fringe of reality if you ask me.  It all started with the gal next door being overly concerned about the smoke from the forest fires.  After talking to her for a day or so it seems the fires a part of a vast conspiracy (to smoke us out?)  not really sure.  Then today, her and her husband started to talk about the elite people like the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilt’s and Rothchilds and how they are trying to control the masses to their own will.  Like through vaccination shots.  Said she’d never take a flue shot again.  “You know they are even going to stop you along the highways and if you haven’t taken the shot you’ll have to have a band put on your wrist“.  Ekkk!  Even mentioned that the contrails produced by planes have been for years “seeding” the atmosphere with zinc and mercury, criss-crossing the land.  How the military is working directly for the financial houses of the world again to control the masses.

It’s all a bit too much for me to say the least.  Many of the campers actually work in the forest.  At least that’s what I’ve been told.  Working on all those hydro dams and lumber cutting etc. But who knows what they’re really doing in those deep dark forests… hmmmmm  They come and go all hours of the day and evening.

The next day I decided to continue to explore this Land of Umpqua.  This region was occupied by the Southern Molaila, Cow Creek, Yoncalla, Kalapuya and Umpqua Tribes.  What a mouthful and speaking of mouths, each tribe spoke a different language.  Now just think about it for a minute.  Here in a couple thousand acres of land there were at least 5 tribes speaking different languages.  Now suppose the North American continent was as populated as this small area.  How many languages were spoken and what were the real numbers of native Indians in the country before Columbus “discovered” this land.  These tribes were in the area for at least 8,000 years.

I found the Medicine Creek Rock site by browsing the brochures on the local area and forests.  In amongst all the water falls, hiking trails and rivers is this small site with a few pictographs.  These are considered spiritual sites.  This one was off of a forest road, with the tiniest sign indicating where the trail began.  I never saw another vehicle come along this small country road that was at one point a single lane heading up into the mountains.  One of those silent places.  No outside noise, just the occasional bird chirping and the snap of a twig off in the distance.

Nice to be able to hike a well maintained switchback trail through tall forests of old growth pines.  There’s an openness about it because of the huge trees, leaving the ground free of small shrubs and trees like a park yet shaded by the huge trees.  The rock art was heavily disguised by green lichen growing over much of the art.  All of it contained on this huge bolder that had at one time rolled down the side of the mountain, now it’s flat side leaning over creating a shelter of sorts.

Another day of getting in touch with nature.  The airs still smokey from the fires in the area, but it is a reminder that nature grows, builds and lightning burns and a whole new cycle begins again.

The weekend brought lots of fun at the campground.  A pot luck dinner with BBQ chicken and ribs and lots of side dishes.  Mets many of the weekend campers getting away into the country for the weekend.  The campground even had set up an outdoor movie with popcorn and jungle juice.  How cool is that?

Worth getting out there and exploring.  Hope you have the chance real soon.  

and of course more pictures on my Picasa website.