Monthly Archives: March 2018

Ridgecrest, Buena Vista REC Area, Hollister, CA MAR 30, 2018

After leaving Death Valley National Park we traveled back to Ridgecrest for three nights. Bill visited the China Lake Museum whose mission is to preserve the history of the Navy’s spectrum of weapons research, development and testing. Formerly located at the China Lake Naval Weapons Center, the museum is being relocated off base to make it more accessible to the public. China Lake was started to develop missiles and also was involved in the Manhattan Project. IMG_20180327_123504IMG_20180327_113458

After three days in Ridgecrest we headed north to Buena Vista Aquatic Recreational Area near the tiny town of Taft, California.  Along the way we passed field after field of solar panels and occasionally wind turbines.20180329_114206

The terrain changed from a dry rocky landscape to the agricultural California Central Valley.  We passed field after field of crops, citrus trees and grapes.20180329_132048

We could see aqueducts helping irrigate the fields as well as political signs from farmers asking for more dams instead of the proposed funding for the high speed rail between San Francisco and Los Angeles.20180401_132331

We had a campsite with a view of the lake and enjoyed a peaceful weekend even though it was Easter weekend and the park was full of families. We enjoyed just relaxing and some walks around the park with beautiful sunsets.IMG_20180330_185258

We left Taft and headed to a campground near Hollister, California for a nine night stay.  Hollister is one of three towns in California claiming to be the “Earthquake Capital of the World” because it was built directly on the very geologically active Calaveras Fault, a strand of the greater San Andreas Fault. One evening we felt the earth gently shake and later learned it was a 3.0 earthquake. No big deal.

IMG_20180403_110958Our main reason for visiting this area was to visit Pinnacles National Park. Formerly a national monument established in 1908, it became a national park in 2013, the 59th national park and our newest national park.

The pinnacles are eroded leftovers of the western half of an extinct volcano that was once part of the San Andreas Fault. The park is divided by the rock formations into an east division and a west division with no road connecting the east and west sections of the park.IMG_20180403_113731IMG_20180403_123837

The park has numerous unusual talus caves that are home to more than thirteen species of bats. Talus caves are not like the typical limestone underground caves.  In fact they are not really caves at all. They are formed when steep, narrow canyons are filled with a jumbled mass of boulders from the cliffs above which happened during the ice age. There is no known evidence of the existence of any Native Americans ever living in the talus caves.IMG_20180403_125057

One day we drove to the eastern section of the park which was more easily accessible from our campground. We stopped by the Visitors Center for trail information.  

We discovered there are not a lot of hiking trails in the park, and the trails they have are either rated moderate or strenuous. After talking with a ranger we chose the Bear Gulch Cave and Moses Spring Trails after her assurance it was not a difficult trail. The hike started with a fairly uphill walk until we reached the cave.IMG_20180403_115953IMG_20180403_115236IMG_20180403_120152IMG_20180403_115516

Upon entering the cave we had to rock hop over a series of rocks to keep our feet from getting really wet. Hmm, don’t remember the ranger mentioning this. As we continued on the cave was so dark we had to use a flashlight and light from our cell phone as we began to climb a series of steep steps cut into the cave walls.IMG_20180403_120957IMG_20180403_121224

Hmm, don’t remember the ranger mentioning this. To our left we could hear, but not see running water. Illuminating the area the best we could with the flashlight, we could see a series of waterfall.IMG_20180403_121123

Our path continued either over rocky terrain or steep steps with occasional very narrow passageways we had to squeeze through. At the end of the cave the exit was so low we had to get down on our knees and crawl out. Hmm, the ranger didn’t mention this!20180403_121606IMG_20180403_121655

Once out of the cave we continued on the trail to the reservoir. Once again we climbed steep rocky stairs and at the top emerged into an oasis of water and a few trees. IMG_20180403_123208IMG_20180403_123417IMG_20180403_123422 

After resting a while and enjoying the view we went back down the steep stairs.IMG_20180403_123929IMG_20180403_124035PANO_20180403_12364820180403_124333

Luckily the trail back to the parking lot didn’t not take us back through the cave, though we noticed some people choosing that option. Once was definitely enough. On the way back we passed along some high rocky walks where Bill heard growling from above.  This made us nervous since the area is known as home to bobcats.20180403_130713

We arrived back at the car hungry for our picnic lunch and a rest.

Another day we visited the west side of the park which required a much longer drive from our campground to access the west entrance.IMG_20180409_11544320180409_12532920180409_13024720180409_130948

This side of the park was much quieter and appeared to be less visited. We enjoyed chatting with the friendly park ranger who suggested a brand new trail. This easy one mile loop gave us great views of the pinnacles.

Next up we head to Yosemite National Park to see the many spring waterfalls.

Death Valley National Park, CA MAR 23, 2018

Death Valley National Park has been on our bucket list for a long time. After three days of wind and rain, we woke up to sunny skies as we left Ridgecrest and traveled to Death Valley.  It was not far, but not an easy drive as we passed over two mountain passes, with the second pass at an elevation of almost 5,000 feet. It was then quite a drop down to sea level, a real workout on the brakes!20180323_11575320180323_11110920180323_110939

Death Valley National Park is made up of 3,336,000 acres, making it the largest national park in the lower 48 states and one of the biggest expanses of protected warm desert in the world. There are four National Parks in Alaska which are larger.IMG_20180324_143846

Death Valley is the lowest point in North America and the hottest, driest weather in the country.  It is officially the hottest place on Earth and holds the world record for the hottest air temperature of 134°F.  The valley’s steep mountain walls trap the rising hot air and recirculates it down to the basin for further heating. It has the lowest average rainfall of any place in the country with less than two inches per year, with some years no rain at all. Once again the mountains are to blame.  The mountains capture moisture from passing storms before it can reach the valley.IMG_20180325_170746

Several people have asked us what the weather was like while we were there. This was a great time of year to visit with daily temperatures in the low 70’s with a nice breeze. At night we slept with the windows open.IMG_20180324_141924

One day we stopped by the Visitors Center and saw a twenty minute movie about the park. We then drove through the south end of the park, stopping at Zabriskie Point with beautiful views.  There are many times in our travels over the past five years where places have surprised us with their beauty and exceeded our expectations. Death Valley was definitely one of those places.20180324_130702IMG_20180324_13095420180324_13115520180324_131240IMG_20180324_131357

We took a drive down the Twenty Mule Team Canyon Road which was named for the twenty mule teams which pulled wagon loads of borax across the desert. The mule teams pulled loads weighing up to 36 tons. The rear wagon wheels were seven feet high and the entire mule team was more than 100 feet long.  IMG_20180324_131058

We also drove the Artists Palette Drive with magnificent colors that are impossible to catch with a camera.IMG_20180324_144117IMG_20180324_144155

We visited the Borax Museum where in 1881 borax was found nearby. The Pacific Coast Borax Company mining was done in the area from the 1880’s until the 1920’s when mining slowed down and the area started to become a popular tourist area.  Death Valley became a national monument in 1933 and a national park in 1994.IMG_20180324_120034IMG_20180324_120155IMG_20180324_120858

We hiked a nice trail to Natural Bridge. It seems like almost every park we go to has a natural bridge!IMG_20180324_161223IMG_20180324_161627

A highlight of the day was visiting Badwater Basin, which at 282 feet below sea level is the lowest elevation in North America.  Up on the mountainside was a sign showing sea level.Inked20180324_153230_LIIMG_20180324_152606

As we drove around the park we would see signs showing sea level and various places below sea level.IMG_20180324_141104

Badwater Basin is made up of salt flats. Sodium chloride, or table salt, makes up the majority of the salt at Saltwater Basin.IMG_20180324_152300

Another day we continued exploring by visiting the Harmony Borax Works, the site of one of Death Valley’s first borax operations from 1883-1888.  While searches for gold yielded little success, borax became known as the “White Gold of the Desert “ and was the valley’s most profitable mineral. Borates, or salt minerals, were deposited in the ancient lake beds where water dissolved the borates and carried them to the floor of Death Valley.  Here they recrystallized as borax which was used by blacksmith, potters, dairy farmers, housewives, meat packers and morticians. Many Chinese laborers were recruited from San Francisco to scrape the borax off the salt flats and carry it to wagons to be sent to the refinery. They were paid $1.30 a day minus the cost of lodging and food. They lived in crude shelters and tents.IMG_20180325_111416

Next we walked the beautiful Gold Canyon Trail and enjoyed every second of the hike.20180325_120342IMG_20180325_123917IMG_20180325_12394420180325_12423420180325_13133320180325_130648

Because we hiked at least two trails in the park we each earned a Death Valley decal.IMG_20180325_113621

After lunch we stopped by Salt Creek Interpretive Trail where we walked on the boardwalk through the marshes. Imagine our surprise to find a stream with numerous pupfish. The water originates from brackish springs and marshes more than a mile upstream. The water becomes increasingly salty due to evaporation as it flows downstream. The stream flows alongside the boardwalk in winter and spring and is more salty than seawater. Soon the stream will be dry up until next winter.20180325_14432920180325_144956

The water is too salty for human consumption but manages to sustain life for many plants and animals, including the pupfish. The pupfish have a lifespan of one year or less so they use this time to quickly feed and breed. They are one of the toughest of all fish and are able to survive in salinity several times that of seawater as well as extreme temperatures.IMG_20180325_144350

On our last day we drove in the northern section of the park to the amazing Ubehebe Crater which is only about 2,000 years old. The Crater is a half mile across and about 500 feet deep. If it hadn’t been late in the day we would have walked the trail around the rim.20180325_161426

We had a wonderful time in Death Valley and can now mark it off the bucket list.  We are currently back at the Elks Lodge in Ridgecrest. Thursday we travel to a recreation area in Taft, CA.

Yuma, Palm Desert, Hemet, Acton & Ridgecrest, CA 2018

After our fun time in Quartzsite we headed back to Yuma, AZ for two weeks so Bill could attend the Yuma Hamfest in mid February.  He had a great time and we enjoyed a sort of reunion picnic get together with a large group from the Quartzsite Hamfest as well as a banquet the last night of the Hamfest.
Leaving Yuma we spent a couple days at a casino on the Arizona, California, Mexico border with free RV parking.  We were amazed at the large number of RVs camped out there. We went inside and signed up for a free players card with $5 loaded on it.  Because it was my birthday I was given an additional $5. It didn’t take us long to lose that $10 at the slot machines. I was very content to walk away at that point.  I am glad neither of us have a gambling desire! We actually enjoyed parking at the casino. It was quiet and very secure with lots of roaming 24 hour security.IMG_20180217_155812
On February 20 we continued on to Palm Desert, CA.  Along the way we passed by the Salton Sea which we could see in the distance. We visited the Salton Sea in 2014.  It is a shallow lake located directly on the San Andreas Fault. Its surface is 236 feet below sea level. The lake’s salinity is greater than the water in the Pacific Ocean.  We also saw agricultural areas with citrus trees and plants. I loved the tall palm trees in the distance.IMG_20180221_120847IMG_20180221_121147IMG_20180221_121237

As we drove we noticed the elevation levels on our GPS fluctuating from below sea level to just above sea level. We are in the desert now!IMG_20180221_122506IMG_20180221_123708

We arrived at the Palm Springs Thousand Trails RV Resort where we stayed in 2014.  It is a beautiful area, part of the greater Palm Springs area with streets named Frank Sinatra, Gerald Ford and Dinah Shore.  You can see billboards advertising such services as the ability to freeze your fat and then re-sculpt your body.IMG_20180224_150535IMG_20180224_151003

It is a beautiful area with blue skies and tall palm trees.  On the downside, the traffic is frustrating and since we are now in California, gas is well over $3.00 a gallon.  When shopping you need to remember to take in your own bags so you don’t have to pay for plastic bags; aluminum cans and plastic bottles all have deposits which adds up quickly.

While in Palm Springs we visited a college friend of Bill’s he hadn’t seen in over 40 years.  We had a nice visit and dinner with Leo and his wife Kathy.IMG_20180224_163543

Also while in Palm Springs we drove over to Hemet to Hemet Dermatology to have a skin cancer spot removed from my leg.  On the way we went through a mountain pass where they had snow during the night. It was beautiful. After the surgery I had to take it easy and wear a tight ace bandage on my leg for 10 days. Unfortunately the rest of our time in Palm Springs was spent with my leg elevated and wrapped.IMG_20180227_064905IMG_20180227_071427IMG_20180227_090700

Next up was Hemet for a week at an RV resort we stayed at twice before in 2014.  We really like Hemet and the Golden Village Palms RV Resort. I continued to recover there and one day we drove over to Menifee to meet Bill’s friend Bob for dinner. Bob and Bill worked together in 1980.

We visited the Hemet Public Library to use their free internet.  I was very impressed with their library, including a way to check out books after hours using an outside library access.  You just reserve the books ahead of time and the carousel lets you retrieve your book without going inside. Really impressive!IMG_20180308_112416

Across from the library at the fire station was a pretty mural.IMG_20180307_155935

Our time in Hemet went by quickly and we headed to our next stop at a Thousand Trails Resort in Acton, CA.  20180313_104833

While there, we left the RV and flew to Florida for the wedding of Bill’s youngest son Sean in Vero Beach on St Patrick’s Day.  We took the red eye flight from Los Angeles to Orlando. We arrived early in the morning pretty tired. We picked up the rental car and met our friends Peter and Beth for lunch in Bushnell.  We last saw them at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in October. It is always great to see them. Sure wish we could have spent more time with them but this was a short visit to Florida.

We enjoyed our stay in Vero Beach with Bill’s sweet Aunt Charlotte. We took her to dinner one night to celebrate her 88th birthday. She is truly amazing.20180316_184939

It is always great to see the Atlantic Ocean and the beautiful Florida beaches!IMG_20180316_12040920180316_114800

Saturday, St Patricks Day, we attended the wedding of Sean and Cathy.  A beautiful wedding and joyous day. We wish them many many years of happiness.IMG_20180317_16584220180317_16253520180317_162950

The next day it was back to Orlando and the long flight back to L. A. One reason we chose Acton was because it was only an hour from the L. A. airport and we could safely leave the RV.

The next day we drove into Hollywood to Sunset Boulevard to tour the CNN building.20180319_103245

Bill’s cousin Jeff works there and graciously offered to give us a private tour of the building. Picture taking is not allowed in much of the building for security reasons so we have only a few pictures to share.IMG_20180319_123058IMG_20180319_115604

Jeff did take us to the roof of the building for a great view of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign.IMG_20180319_110320IMG_20180319_110438IMG_20180319_110222IMG_20180319_110216

We had planned on staying in Acton and visiting Bill’s cousin George in nearby Castaic, but we saw alarming weather forecasts for torrential rains, flooding and mudslides from all the recent fires. So we quickly packed up and moved early to our next destination of Ridgecrest, CA.  We passed by some really cool rock formations on the way. We plan to be back in the Acton area in the fall and will have to check out this area some more.20180320_14002320180320_140047

We are currently at the Ridgecrest Elks Lodge, a great place to stay with full hookups for $20 a night. We have had some rain and the winds are gusting up to 40 MPH. All should be much better tomorrow (Friday) when we head to Death Valley National Park about 100 miles from Ridgecrest for five days.  We are both really looking forward to it since neither of us has ever been there before.