Montana ~ At Least the First Two Thirds

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Montana, Big Sky Country. It was a bit of a surprise, though I have to say, out in this part of the world Big Sky Country fits several states.  We had visited Little Big Horn during our Dakotas trip in 2006, put it on your MVL  (Must Visit List), and thought we knew what the eastern part of the state looked liked.  We were not only wrong, the further we drove the more surprised we were, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Continuing on US Hwy 2 which runs through the top quarter of the state the gas & oil drilling stopped as did most of the crop fields and the landscape became more hilly and drier (this too will change).  Just east of the small town of Wolf Point we dropped south on Rt 13 and pretty quickly took Hwy 528.  Highway here is just a name not a fact.  Running south of the Missouri River this little road turns to gravel almost at once, but good and firm.  Abutting the base of lovely dry grass hills on one side and cropped flood plain on the other and a few open range cattle, for you city folk, that means they’re not fenced into a field but can wander where they please🙂    Eventually the road turns into the hills and if there had been any rain in the last few days we’d have been done as the gravel stopped.  This area is all gorgeous open range and there were lots of good looking beef cattle.

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Beef! It’s what’s for dinner!

Hwy 528 ends at paved Rt 24 where we headed north to our campsite, Downstream COE (Corps of Engineers) Project at Fort Peck Dam.  This astonishing engineering feat was part of Roosevelt’s New Deal Work Projects.  More than 40,000 people came to the area creating 18 boomtowns.  In 1936 there was a work force of 10,564 workers directly linked to the dam project!  The Fort Peck Dam, the largest hydraulically-filled dam in the world is 50 feet wide at the crest and 3,500 feet at the base and is 21,026 feet long!

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From these four towers of the spillway, the curve into the distance is the dam that runs almost four miles long.

There is a very good museum here which tells the story of the dam project details, boom towns, and one massive earth slide disaster during the construction. This being Montana, home of some major dinosaur fossil finds, there is also an excellent dino section at the museum.  I would say if you are out here, do put this on your MVL.

Our next day’s drive included another detour off US Hwy 2 onto O’Brian Rd….road is being polite!  Nobody without 4 wheel drive is going down this if there’s been any rain recently!  Rutted and rough dried mud it had a delightful photo opportunity of an old falling down homestead.  Always a beacon to us🙂  20160804-_EKP8415-Pano

We had, and recommend, the daily special lunch at the West Side Restaurant in Malta; homemade tomato soup, chopped steak sandwich, coffee, $20 with tip!!

In Havre, where we stayed for the night, we got the guided tour at Wahkpa Chu’gn (walk-pa-chew-gun)  Buffalo Jump.  Overlooking the Milk River this prehistoric Indian buffalo jump was discovered in 1961 by 14 year old John Brumley.

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The buffalo jump cliff is on the upper right and today is somewhat filled in from what it was when in use. Each of the red buildings houses archeological dig sites.

Three different Indian groups used this site at various times in its 2000 year history to drive buffalo over the cliffs, a much safer way to provide dinner, clothing, tools and survival in an often harsh land!  This is the second buffalo jump Ed & I have seen, this is however the only one in the country that is displayed as an “open” archaeological site. Because of this, you can see all the layers as they appeared as they were unearthed.  It is very interesting.

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Note the upper concentration of bones and then mostly dirt and below another concentration of bones showing the passage of centuries.

The next day was one of those times when all I seemed to be able to say was,  “I just can’t get over this, it goes on and on and on forever!”  20160805-_EKP8422-PanoField crops were back in acreages that make Iowa look almost second rate.  Farmhouses were further apart as were roads.  It is pretty with the different crop colors and planting patterns but over all there is a much more lonely feeling brought on by the overwhelming vastness to this landscape.  We kept asking each other how did this land, when only endless grass and Indians, affected the pioneers.  Can we even begin to imagine, as we zip across this land in our fully equipped motorhome, the courage, determination and surely fear these men and women in their wagons and on foot must have felt?  I suppose some might find this landscape boring, but we find it truly humbling… and a reminder of what a great country this is and why we are on this adventure.




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Crops and sky.  Those tiny bumps on the left are the Sweet Grass Hills a sacred place for the tribes of the plains.

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Along “Highway” 528 into the hills.

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On THE intersection of Highway 528 and a very long “lane” is this sign posting which direction and how far the local ranches are.  Our favorite name is Ortie Twitchell 8.1 miles west.

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This, boys and girls is mustard ready for harvest.  Can’t say if it’s Grey Poupon or Frenches… but it has a bite to it, yes, we tasted it to confirm it was mustard.

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In the Fort Peck Dam Museum display about the horrible earth slide.  Eight men died.  Six were never found and are interred somewhere in the dam.

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A derelict windmill.

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O’Brien Road off of US Highway 2

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Old farmhouse off O’Brien Road.  Note that something big knocked it off its foundations.

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The oldest layer of bone debris at Wahkpa Chu’gn Buffalo Jump.

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Ed trying his hand at throwing a dart with an atlatl throwing stick.  This is going to take practice before dinner makes it back to the teepee.

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Approaching the old farmhouse along O’Brien Road.

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The harvest is on and they do grow a little wheat out here.

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And the prairie comes to an abrupt end at the Rocky Mountains in the distance where Glacier National Park begins our last third of Montana.

North Dakota ~ Crops, Oil & Gas

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Ten years ago in 2006, Ed and I took our “two Dakotas trip” and enjoyed ourselves very much.  That time out we were mostly in the middle and southern part of North Dakota. Side Note: this is where one of his most popular photographs, “Trotters Church” is from. 

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Trotters Church, North Dakota

This time we drove a northern route pretty close to straight across coming from the east on State Rt. 66 and dropping down to US Hwy 2 at Rugby for most of the remainder.

From Wikipedia –
“A large portion of the western segment of US 2, and a shorter piece of the eastern segment, follows the old Theodore Roosevelt International Highway. This auto trail, named in honor of the late former president and naturalist Theodore Roosevelt, was organized in February 1919 to connect Portland, Maine with Portland, Oregon.”

Along this way there are endless miles of crops; several kinds of grain, sugar beets, corn, canola and some sunflowers although not as much of them as we saw before farther south in North Dakota.   As in Iowa the country is generally flat but the farmsteads are farther apart and many of the towns are really only a few houses and maybe a grain elevator, perhaps a church. Not too much going on.

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Canola fields. North Dakota is the #1 producer in the country.

The land varies with sections sometimes offering softly rising hills and then back to total flat, we started seeing Prairie Potholes, glacial ponds mostly small at first then larger ones as we went west.  These water sources are everywhere and make this land vital to migratory birds.  Even so, what remains is only half of what once was and there is a real effort to save the ones not filled in over the years by agriculture.

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A large prairie pothole.  The farmers plant around these vital waterfowl habitats.

We spent two nights at the Dale & Martha Hawk Museum and RV Campground outside of Wolford.  While we do not recommend this as a campground (it’ll do but don’t expect much and bring your BUG SPRAY) we do recommend coming to see the museum, five bucks a head will get you in.  In fact, if you have any interest in old machinery and farm equipment not to mention STUFF and more stuff, put it on your MVL (Must Visit List)!  We wandered around and around just flabbergasted by the amount of restoration work and attention to detail.  We were flabbergasted by the unbelievable numbers of antique tractors, harvesters, cream separators, cars, blow torches, drill presses, hand tools of every kind, fire trucks, machine belts, typewriters, carriages, old washing machines, on and on and on, building after building, and that doesn’t touch the doll collection, the clock collection, the old church, the old one room school….it’s just flabbergasting!  It’s also FUN!

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For those of us who have spent time riding a tractor, notice the radiator and fan are turned sideways to blow the hot air out the side instead of back across the operator.

As we headed down US Hwy 2 we noticed a lone church about a quarter mile up a dirt road in the middle of nowhere (there’s a lot of that out here). It was so lovely in a classic picture book church way we had to go see.  Although aesthetically more refined then Trotter’s Church it has the same sense of simple, honest faith and beauty.

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The Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church built in 1915 by Norwegian settlers, services have not been held here since 1988.

We saw more and more oil and gas derrick pumps and fewer crops as we got further west.  Many of the vehicles on the road were related to this industry.  To the credit of the drilling companies, most of the pumps, rigs and buildings are painted to blend into the surrounding landscape but the gas burn off flares mark the location of many.  It’s not the booming gas and oil market it was but there are still lots of jobs to be had.

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Up and down, pump, pump, pump.

We spent our last Dakota night at the Lewis & Clark State Park in Epping and recommend this spot to both RV’ers and tent campers alike. The drive to the park down scenic County Road 1804 slides into the N.D. Badlands and is especially pretty after the flat country before.  The park on Lake Sakakawea, a reservoir formed from the dammed Missouri River, has a lovely campground and we had no visible neighbors.  We had a short walk and met our friendly camp hosts Curt and Sheila, one of the plusses of our travels.  It was a nice goodbye to North Dakota.

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The beginning of the North Dakota Badlands along our walk at the Lewis and Clark State Park.




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Sunflowers, you just cannot help but smile…🙂

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At Rugby, N.D. it’s the geographical center of North America.  You know, Mexico, USA and Canada.  This might give you an idea of how large Canada is if the middle of the continent is all of Mexico and way more than most of the USA.

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and literally in the middle of nowhere, near the middle of North America is the lovely old Tunbridge Church.

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The sign on the door invites you to enter but please be respectful.

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Still sitting to the left of the alter is an almost in tune piano.  In the dust on the piano bench and the pews behind it,  it is obvious people have sat. Ed asked me to play Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”.  I tried but it’s been too many years and my fingers forget how.

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North Dakota is #1 in the country in honey production and we saw hives everywhere.

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This is the only operational Hackney Auto-plow in the country. Many of the machines here are still operational.

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This 1929 Model A Roadster with mail carrier’s attachment was originally used by Wallace Froelich a mail carrier in the Crary, ND area. This is what’s known as American Ingenuity.

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1923 (possibly) Horse drawn hearse converted to a Model T pickup was once used as a chicken house by May Bristol. More American Ingenuity.

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Some of the 1350 blow torches in the collection all donated by the same man.

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A thing of beauty, while not the surrey with the fringe on top it was nice to have the shade.

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A wooden thresher.  In its day, it was what the modern combine is now but stationary with the wheat brought to it by human harvesters.

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A one room schoolhouse that had all 12 grades.

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A tall case clock decorated with ball point pens that is a must for the serious collector.

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A North Dakota landscape of grain.

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Okay, so not all the pumps are painted camouflage but note the gas flare and the one in the distance.

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A greener form of energy, windmills are more and more prevalent across this breezy country.

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Marti is cooling her heels in Lake Sakakawea on the Missouri River.

Minnesota – Land of Clear, Blue Water

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We are extremely happy to say that after 3 weeks in lovely Iowa we finally got a working refrigerator (YIPPEEE!!) While we were waiting for said fridge we did some more looking around and visited both the highest point and second highest point in the state.  The highest point in a place that is basically flat (there are some areas with hills, see last post) is a bit amusing.  Getting to the observation tower at Pilot Knob the second highest spot actually requires a short walk up a hill and from the tower the countryside has contours and character.

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View from the tower at Pilot Knob, Iowa

The highest place in the state is Hawkeye Point  and I swear if they cut the grass too close it would lose that designation🙂 , but they’ve done a nice job of marking the spot.

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and Hawkeye Point, the highest point in Iowa… just.

While hanging around waiting for the fridge we also popped down to the Matchstick Marvels Museum in Gladbrook to see Pat Acton’s amazing sculptures made entirely out of wooden matchsticks.  Ripley’s Believe It or Not has commissioned and purchased many of his HUGE pieces but there is also an impressive collection in Gladbrook.  I can not begin to imagine the patience this must take….not to mention the hours.  Stop by if you’re even close to the neighborhood, or a Ripley’s.

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478,000 matchsticks…

One other note about Iowa, A&W root beer milkshakes, (at least at the Forest City restaurant) are worth the trip…. YUMMMMM!!

Next up, Minnesota…land of 10,000 lakes….HA!….there are 11,842 lakes exceeding 10 acres in size and literally thousands of smaller size, and that doesn’t touch the rivers, and streams.  Water, water everywhere and yes, you betcha! mosquitoes but we had fun anyway!

Heading north on I-35 we swung west of Minneapolis and continued north on St. Hwy 169 to Onamia and Mille Lacs Kathio State Park.  The landscape started changing pretty quickly to hills, curves, fewer and fewer crops and more trees.  The park was very pretty, private and almost empty and we would have walked around but in hooking up our electric we were so nibbled on we decided not to venture out, plus we had a thunderstorm shortly after arriving. I nearly spilled my drink with one close by strike.

Next morning we went to the Mille Lacs Indian Museum.  This area is the home of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. The museum briefly tells some of the story of their history and craft, but mostly more recent history.  The Four Seasons Room is however the stand-out reason for making this worth the visit.  Admitted only with a guide, this large room is a circular diorama depicting the four seasons of the year flowing seamlessly from early spring into summer, fall and then winter. It shows how the traditional Mille Lacs lived. On a slightly raised platform backed by a beautiful floor to ceiling painting of the actual surrounding landscape the very detailed scene of wigwams, work utensils, toys, clothing, everyday necessities and tools are exactly and wonderfully, naturally displayed.  The life size mannequin’s faces are of the Ojibwe people who helped build and equip the diorama. It is perfectly done and absolutely delightful, in fact if you’re ever in Minnesota go ahead and put it on your MVL (Must Visit List)!  Oh, and we were there when they opened so we had the place to ourselves!

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Summer season.

After doing the museum we headed up into serious lake/water country via Brainerd (lunch at Last Turn Saloon ~ beautiful bar, really good wild rice/chicken soup) to Itasca State Park and the headwaters of the Mississippi River….yes THE Mississippi !  Side Note: I am phonetically deaf and CANNOT spell but I have always loved spelling that name, it’s practically a song 🙂   It flows out of Lake Itasca as a lovely, shallow little stream. The mighty Mississippi isn’t the “Big Muddy” here.  Interestingly as I was mapping our route and looking for where the river flowed from the park I couldn’t find it until I discovered my mistake.  We are so geared to thinking it’s a southern river that it took me a while to see it actually flows north at the beginning!  This also should be on your MVL.

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Spilling past the rocks, the Mississippi heads for New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico.

As part of our Field of Dreams highlights we headed to Chisholm, Minnesota home of Archie “Moonlight” Graham, who by the way was a real person (“bet you didn’t know that”) to see if there was any remembrance of him or the movie…basically nope!  This part of the state is called the Range after the Mesabi Range which is the chief iron ore mining resource in the country.  The trees hid a lot of it but there were piles and piles of red rock tailings.

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This is an iron ore pit mine that has been flooded.

We went to International Falls because, well because it’s International Falls and the Icebox of the Nation. We stopped in at Sandy’s Place and had lunch.  Tiny, packed with locals, we had the Friday special meatball dinner.  Sandy said she makes 30 pounds of meatballs (the size of tennis balls) and sells out.  The special (and most everything else) comes in small, medium and large and they ain’t kidding about large!  Oh…and strawberry cream (Ed) or banana cream (me) pies…yum!  GO, it’s FUN and pretty darn good🙂

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Ok, so maybe not tennis balls but still good and leftovers for dinner too… $8.50

In looking at the map I noticed a narrow tip going off at the top of Minnesota that I don’t recall ever having noticed before.  Northwest Angle MapCalled the Northwest Angle, it is the northernmost point in the lower 48 and there’s only two ways to get there….by boat or via Canada!  Well, of course we had to go and we only have the RV and I don’t do boats so off to Manitoba we went!

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Oh Canada!

Don’t tell Donald Trump but not only is there no wall, you drive out of Canada into the USA for 8 miles before you PHONE in the fact that you’re in the country!! Helloooo!   We kid you not!! WHAT FUN!!

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Really… this sign is at the border.

While clearly the best way to see this state is with a boat, and indeed judging from the cars and trucks on the roads everyone except us had one, we have enjoyed our visit very much. Plus one of the benefits of all this water is the sky which by early/mid morning begins to transform and by the mid-afternoon was just gorgous with huge puffy white cotton balls of magnificent clouds.  Very nice!  Maybe some day we’ll even try winter up here…..well maybe not!  -30*




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Pick up the receiver, push the button for whichever direction you are heading, and talk to the agent who answers the call.  The American asked us the purpose of our visit, Ed said just visiting.  He said visiting who, Ed said no one, just visiting the Angle.  He said oh, bucketlisting?  Ed said yeah, bucketlisting.  

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Beautiful Minnesota.

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Winter scene at the Four Seasons Room diorama.

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Both sides of the road in Warroad, MN are lined with these lovely petunias.

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One Mississippi…  Lake Itasca flows over these rocks to become the Mississippi.

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Two Mississippi…  Spitting in the river…  Look out New Orleans! (and our friend Michael Verderosa)

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Three Mississippi… 

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At Hawkeye Point the national Highpoint Club has made a display of license plates from each state.

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Notre Dame Cathedral – 298,000 matchsticks.

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Cutty Sark Clipper Ship – 38,000 matchsticks, even the sails. 

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Last Turn Saloon back bar built of solid oak in 1871.

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Rainy River.  Ontario, Canada on the left, USA on the right.

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A local denizen of the upper Mississippi.

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Marti is getting pretty good at this.  Rainy River with Canada on the right.

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Whack-A-Mole Wheels at the tippy top of the lower 48!

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Ed would kill to drive one of these in the snow.

 

 

 

“Is this Heaven?” “It’s Iowa!”

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With sincere apologies for our long absence Ed and I send greetings with great appreciation to all of you wonderful blog readers.  Thank you for sticking with us!

After the funerals for my brother and then Ed’s aunt, we ended up staying home in Maryland for some extra fun and games!  Thank you Carolyn Mackintosh and the Maryland Horse Trials for putting up with us again.  We did spend a week traveling to Upstate New York for a rally of 69 View/Navion owners (our type of RV) from around the eastern half of the country. We are part of a Facebook group and many of us have become “good friends” there so it was super to meet up and put faces to the names.  We had very interesting weather. Cold, sunny and blustery one day, cold, rainy and blustery the next, but it was a great week and lots of fun.

Ed has Dupuytren’s contracture in his hands and after many years it had finally bent his fingers so badly the doctor said surgery now! Since it was both hands, it meant two separate surgeries so…..we were home an extra month and a half.  Life’s an adventure!  Pictures at the very end of this post for those curious!

Because our life is an adventure, the first place we had to go was Forest City, Iowa!  Our RV fridge has been giving us fits for about ¾’s of a year now and finally simply just was not working.  According to many, many reviews, and our personal phone exchanges, the best RV repair place is Lichtsinn RV and since it’s sorta on the way to the Pacific Northwest where we want to go…..here we are!

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Lichtsinn provides free camping spots with electric to customers and we have stayed here multiple nights.

IOWA!  Who knew?  It is beautiful, at least the northeast quarter we’ve been in!  Yes admittedly it’s mostly corn and soybeans but we love farm country and this is some of the prettiest we’ve ever seen.  Contrary to what we expected, it is not all flat, in fact a great deal of it is big rolling hills.  Often the roads seem to be on top of the world and we can see beautiful country side for miles and miles.  Perhaps the most impressive thing is how amazingly clean and orderly everything is.  The farms big and small, mostly big, are organized, yards full of flowers, grass cut, barnyards and surrounds clearly heavily used but not in disarray or knee deep in muck and junk.  20160705-_EKP7251-PanoEvery town, big and small is neat and trim.  Even in the yards of clearly less prosperous homes the grass is cut, there’s no “stuff” lying about and there are often flower beds or pots.  The paint might be peeling, but there is no question of their pride and belief in good honest living and hard work. There’s not even trash along the roads, just masses of wild flowers!

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Although not all in this picture, Queen Anne’s Lace, Thistle, more Bread and Butter flower than we have ever seen, Black-eyed Susans, Cow Parsnip, Chicory and even more line the roadside.

We spent the 4th of July overlooking the lake at the COE (Corps of Engineers) Dam Complex campground at Coralville Lake, IA where the celebratory boating was in full swing.

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By sunset, most of the boats had gone home.

In our particular spot there was also a massive Mayfly mating and molting swarm going on.  Eventually, the rain washed them off the side of the rig.  We didn’t see any fireworks that evening but we did have maybe the best hot dogs ever for lunch! If you’re ever in Galesburg, Illinois stop in at the oldest restaurant in town, Coney Island and have their signature Coney Island hot dog.  You won’t be disappointed and the decor is great too!

Being big movie fans we made a side trip to the set of one of our favorites, “Field of Dreams”.  In Dyersville, IA the farm house (not open, folks still live there), baseball field and corn crop are open to the public free of charge.  I don’t know if it’s the influence of the movie or just the story’s premise, but the place is kind of magical.  If you’re a baseball fan (Ed is especially) you have to stop here (and he got a T-shirt).

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“If you build it, he will come.” – Field of Dreams

We stopped in Waverly at the East Bremer Diner where I had a Midwest favorite called a Cheese Frenchee for lunch.  Basically a grilled cheese sandwich made with mayo, dipped in egg batter, crumbs and deep fat fried!!!  Pretty good heart attack on a plate🙂

From there we headed up St. Rt. 218 to Nashua and The Little Brown Church in the Vale.  In 1857 a young music teacher, William Pitts, was traveling by stage coach to visit his future wife.  At a stop to change horses in the Bradford area while walking down Cedar Street he noticed an empty lot and thought how lovely a spot it was for a church.  Upon returning home he wrote the poem “Church in the Wildwood”, later setting it to music and putting it in a drawer, forgot about it.  Meanwhile back in the town people wanted a real church, which they didn’t have.  Someone donated land, and finally in 1860 limestone was quarried and a foundation was laid. The Civil War slowed things but someone donated timber and others the sawing into lumber and the work continued.  When it came time to protect it from the elements the cheapest paint available was Ohio Mineral Paint which unhappily was brown.   In 1862 Mr. Pitts and his wife moved to the area to be near her parents and he was hired to teach singing at the Bradford Academy.  To Mr. Pitts’ great surprise he discovered a little brown church just where he had envisioned it!   He dug out his song, taught it to his choir who sung to the equally surprised congregation at the church dedication!

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This is a VERY popular place for weddings.

In the town of Decorah, where we stayed at the nice Pulpit Rock Campgound, we visited the Vesterheim (western home) Norwegian-American Museum.  This area was where many Norwegians settled and this extensive museum documents their culture.  Their love of decoration and color in clothing, furniture, household items, and even wall paint is I believe an effort to ward off the cold and depressing bleakness of the Norwegian winter. Fun and worth a visit, although I will admit to a bit of an overload by the end.

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The good “plainer” pioneer Anglo Saxon farm people found these Norwegians and their colorful and decorative homes disturbing.

Just a bit outside of Decorah is the little town of Spillville and The Bily Clocks Museum and Antonin Dvorak Exhibit.  This absolutely needs to be on your MVL (Must Visit List)!   The brothers Frank and Joseph Bily (BEE-lee) made clocks in ALL their spare time!  Many huge and intricately carved, most with moving figures and incredibly complex filigree, they never sold any.  In fact they turned down Henry Ford’s offer of a million dollars for their 8 foot tall, 500 plus pound “American Pioneer History Clock”!  Truly delightful and amazing!

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Just a sampling of the many clocks the Bily brothers made during their lifetime. There is a lot more story at the museum about the family and the clocks.  Go there.

Oh, and the composer Antonin Dvorak lived upstairs one summer in the building that houses the clocks.  Seems he was very home sick and a friend told him about a lovely spot in Iowa where the towns folk spoke Czech as their native language!

Located on the border with Wisconsin, Effigy Mounds National Monument preserves more than 200 burial mounds built by Native Americans. Found in many states across the Midwest these mounds still hold sacred meaning to the Indians of this part of the country. While there is some academic discussion going on as to how relativity recent some may be,  most agree the majority are prehistoric. We had a wonderful hike through the woods looking at them and wondering about the beliefs and meanings behind these complicated and work intensive mounds that can only truly be recognized as animal shapes from the air. Like the Blythe Intaglios we visited out west, one has to wonder who they believed would see them for what they are?

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A long line of smaller mounds.

All in all….we might consider living in Iowa…..except we no longer grow corn or raise cattle.




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“Ray, people will come Ray.  They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom.  They’ll turn up in your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it.  They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past.”

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“Man, I did love this game.  I’d of played for food money.  It was the game…  The sounds, the smells.  Did you ever hold a ball or a glove to your face?”     “Yeah.”

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Iowa farmers are really good at contouring the planting to prevent soil erosion.  They plant grass or alfalfa in the space and harvest that for hay.

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Erik Selland built this house from one pine tree in Big Canoe, Iowa in 1852-1853.  Using very wide hand planed logs from the one tree the house had one room and an upstairs loft.

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Norwegian dress-up clothing is called Bunads.

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Some of the wonderful clocks carved by the Bily brothers in Spillville, Iowa.

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View of the Mississippi River looking south from Eagle Rock at Effigy Mounds National Monument. It’s the border with Wisconsin.

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Some of the larger mounds at Effigy Mounds National Monument.

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One of the highlights of the Puckerbrush Days festival just this past weekend in Forest City, Iowa is a Mudball Volleyball Tourney.  Even though they fell in the knee-deep muck, missed shots and got mud in their eyes we never heard so much as a damn out of these kids.

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and we watched fireworks that night from about 50 yards from the launch site.  Pretty exciting!




SCARY PICTURE of Ed’s hands…

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Hello from Maryland!! 

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We have obviously covered a great deal of country since our visit to Death Valley.  However, before we knew we had to make this run home, we did get to boondock (camping with no water, electric, sewer hookups) in two places we couldn’t manage last year.  First in the beautiful Culp Valley high above Borrego Springs CA and then Joshua Tree National Park CA. We spent four terrific days at each location and had lots of delightful hikes and gorgeous starry nights.  We recommend both for your MVL (Must Visit List), but stay away on weekends and go preferably in February when both places can be pretty cold at night, but much less crowded.

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Looking back into the Culp Valley campground.

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The ruins of Ryan Ranch (on the left) near the Ryan campground in Joshua Tree National Park.

After Joshua Tree we slipped down to Desert Hot Springs for some laundry chores, our posting of the 2nd Death Valley installment, and a long soak in said hot springs🙂   It was during this time we received the news that my brother Bruce had passed away from complications of Parkinson’s Disease.   He and his wife Luanne lived in The Villages in Florida, but he was to be buried back home in Darnestown, Maryland and we had four weeks to make the trip home.

So over the course of 3 weeks we worked our way home stopping at a lot of places we have blogged about before; Prescott, Arizona,  Catalina State Park in the Oro Valley outside of Tucson as well as quirky little Bisbee in southeast Arizona. We did a short visit with our dear kids in Austin and Bastrop TX. Then stopped off in New Orleans where we got to watch the anything goes goings-on for St. Patrick’s Day (oh my, those tiny green stars were paint, not pasties!) and on home via Ed’s sister Susan’s in Tucker, GA.

During this drive back east we also received the sad news of the death of our best man (so many, many years ago) Bruce Will, a back home walking friend Leslie Schwartz, and Ed’s Aunt Lois!  An incredible reminder to do all those things you’ve always wanted to but don’t think you have time for, and most importantly, tell those you love “I LOVE YOU” at every opportunity!

We will be hanging around the mid Atlantic for about a month (we’ll do a post I’m sure) and then plan to head towards the Pacific Northwest, via what route we haven’t figured out yet, but you’ll be the first to know!🙂




 

20160229-A05_Bruce_DeppaWhen I was little of course I knew I had two brothers who were older than me, but what I could not seem to grasp was how to differentiate between the older and the even older, so, to me, Roy was my “little” brother and Bruce was my “big” brother….and OH what a big brother he was!

He could walk on his hands around the yard.

He could crack a bull whip and flip me in the air.

During his college years he’d bring his dates home for Sunday dinner.  It was a heck of a lot cheaper than restaurants and if they’d already met the folks on the first date, well, they sure couldn’t read anything into future visits!  He would always ask me, 10, 11 year old ME, what I thought of the girls he’d brought home!  AND, he REALLY listened to what I had to say!

When I was in high school and shall we say a little much for Mom & Dad to understand (and vice versa), I’d go to Bruce for someone I knew would listen to my frustrations, dreams, raging and mediocre poetry!

He would babysit our very precocious toddler Scott so Ed and I could have a little “us time”… and he must have set a land speed record getting to us when Scott was killed in Iraq.

Bruce always woke with a smile on his face, excited about the new day.

Bruce never met a stranger.

Bruce was kind, understanding, intelligent, interested in everything and everyone.

Bruce was my big brother.




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Clearing storm early one morning at Culp Valley.

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Looking down to Borrego Springs, California from above the Culp Valley.

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Hiking in Culp Valley on a windy day.

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The Cat Claw bush and Ed never did make friends… He has another name for it but this is a family blog.

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A Joshua Tree at Joshua Tree.

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Climbers scaling Headstone Rock at Ryan Ranch.  Joshua Tree is a very popular destination for climbing and bouldering.

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The Joshua trees were just coming into bloom.

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Joshua Tree Panorama.

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Marti left me on a rock pile and went off to look at these rocks.

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While she was away I photographed some of the local flora. It’s called Mickey Mouse Prickly Pear.

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Jumbo Rocks hike.

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Our neighbors, Kimberley and Emily were hiking the California Hiking and Riding Trail.

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Jumbo rocks Campground in Joshua Tree.

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Our new friend a Phainopepla, (FAY no PEP la).

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Mistletoe, the mass of reddish brown on the left is the Phainopepla’s favorite food.  The literature says he will eat 1300 of those berries a day.  We’re not sure… and who counted all those berries anyway.

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Evening light at the end of our hike at Jumbo Rocks.

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More of those Shadow People.

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On the way out of Joshua Tree National Park. What a great name.

#boondocking, #California, #Culp Valley, #Joshua Tree National Park, #Jumbo Rocks, #Phainopepla, #Ryan Ranch

 

Death Valley ~ Part Three

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This final posting on our wonderful visit to the remarkable Death Valley is a collection of Ed’s photographs mostly from our last day there.   We had a terrific time and will get back someday hopefully with a jeep, stronger legs and reopened roads!  If at all possible, please put Death Valley National Park on your Must Visit List.  Oh and if you do, I suggest An Introduction to the Geology of Death Valley by Michael Collier as a very informative read.  You can pick it up at the visitor center in Furnace Creek.




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Just off the road to Scotty’s Castle are the Kit Fox Hills in the Grapevine Mountains.

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Desert Gold, you cannot help but smile when you see these flowers and since we were there,  there has been a massive bloom of them.

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Evening along Badwater Road.

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This guy and his buddy were entirely too friendly and healthy for wild animals.  The tourists must be feeding them.

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Titus Canyon meanders through some very ancient rock formations.  Here, the sunlight reflects off the mountains beautifully lighting this face.

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Titus Canyon in the Grapevine Mountains.  Although the mountain range was geologically speaking uplifted quite recently most of the rocks that make up the range are over half a billion years old. This road runs 24 miles one-way from Rhyolite, Nevada to the exit in Death Valley, California.  From there we hiked back up the road about two miles.

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A formation of Megabreccia or the Jigsaw as it is known locally.

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Travertine (Ed is pretty sure but invites comment from someone who knows better).  There was lots of it in Titus Canyon.

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In Titus Canyon, fractured quartz  with a reddish/pink mineral (feldspar?) intrusion that gives it this pattern.  This piece is about the size of a soccer ball.

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Mysterious pot-holes in the floor of Panamint Valley.

Desert Sand Verbena, L                        Brown-eyed Evening Primrose, R

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A spreading bloom of Desert Gold paints the alluvial fan of the Black Mountains near Ashford Mill.

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Marti climbed up to an abandoned mine to see what she could see and took this photo looking back at our rig on Emigrant Canyon Road in the Panamint Mountain Range.

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Here’s the mine.  She really wanted to go in but promised she wouldn’t.

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Looking south across the Panamint mountains to Telescope Peak, 11,049 feet.

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At the top of Emigrant Canyon in the pass elevation 5318 feet.

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HWY 190 looking east back down eight miles to Stovepipe Wells from Emigrant Canyon Road.

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On our way back to our campsite at Furnace Creek and it’s almost cocktail time…

 

Death Valley ~ Part Two

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As promised, part two of our visit to beautiful Death Valley documented with Ed’s wonderful photos of this unique landscape.

Harmony Borax Works

Borax was discovered near Furnace Creek in 1881 and by 1884 the Harmony Borax Works was processing the ore.  The greatest obstacle to this venture was the 165 mile distance to Mojave, the nearest railhead.  Wagons weighing 7,800 pounds empty were constructed to haul the ore.  A “train” of two of these wagons plus a metal water tank where hitched to a team of 18 mules and 2 horses.  When loaded it weighed in at 73,200 lbs, (36.5 tons) and it took ten days to haul the ore from the mine to the rail yard.  Although only operating for 6 years, the 20 Mule Team is still Death Valley’s most famous symbol.

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The two wagons and the water tank pulled by the twenty mule teams.

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At Furnace Creek there is a wonderful little museum all about Death Valley and the people who lived and died here.  This borax wagon wheel is seven feet high and the iron tire is six inches wide.

Salt Creek

A .8 mile boardwalk loop which affords an up close look at pickleweed and salt grass growing in  the salt marsh and along Salt Creek, which is also the only home to the Salt Creek Pupfish.

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There IS water in Death Valley and Salt Creek is proof of that.  However it is so salty precious little, animal or plant can survive in it or near it. 

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Salt Creek Pupfish can and do survive even though some summers there is only a small bit of water left after evaporating in the heat.

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Pickleweed thrives in this salty soil.

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A harsh place but the sound of streams is nice and the same anywhere.

Devil’s Corn Field

Near the Mesquite Flat Dunes, Devil’s Corn Field is a flat plain covered with large clumps of salt tolerant Arrowweed.  Catching and holding windblown sand at their base, these tall straight stalked grasses look very much like sheaves of harvested corn.

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Mesquite Flat Dunes

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The best known and most easily accessible sand dunes in Death Valley, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes while not particularly high, the tallest is 100 feet, they do cover a vast area.

Ubehebe Crater

The Ubehebe (YOO-bee-HEE-bee) Crater and the smaller Little Hebe Crater and several other small craters in the area, are known as Maar volcanos.  They are created when hot magna rising through a fault flashes ground water into steam which expands with incredible pressure releasing in a tremendous explosion called a hydrovolcanic eruption.

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Ubehebe Crater is over a half mile wide and 400 feet deep.

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You should have heard Marti saying, “Edward!” as I kept inching closer to this 400 foot tumble.

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We circumnavigated the larger Ubehebe and a small unnamed crater next to it and in front of Little Hebe crater.

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Little Hebe has the distinction of its entire rim being intact thus indicating it may be the youngest crater.

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From Little Hebe looking back to Ubehebe note our RV there on the far left edge for scale.

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I be, you be, we be at Ubehebe Crater!  Note again the RV a half mile away across the crater.

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This raven and his missus followed us nearly all the way around the crater until they realized there was no treats coming and another carload of tourists pulled into the parking lot.  Off they went. At one point we watched him dig up an anthill and eat ants. Yummers.

NOTE: Several postings ago I mentioned more research needed to be done about the bones we found in Banshee Canyon at Hole In The Wall.  I did more investigating and we are now 99% sure the bones and certainly the two skulls are Harris Antelope Squirrels which we also saw playing on the rocks there. That being the case, the feasting almost had to be by owls.  Hawks might also partake, but we believe owls would be more likely to live in the holes in the rock walls.

The third and last photo collection of Death Valley is coming real soon!

 

Death Valley ~ Amazing!

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During the summer of 1962 my Dad loaded us up in the station wagon for a sightseeing trip across country.  Among the many places he took us was the desert southwest where he had worked in the 1930s and he and Mom started their married life.  The idea of a place called Death Valley fascinated me and I wanted to go see, but my father said no, there was nothing there worth seeing.   Sorry Dad but WOW you were SOOOO wrong!  In fact, now that Ed and I have been to Death Valley, it is solidly on my top 5 favorite places list!

Covering over 3.3 million acres Death Valley is a place of extremes.  Bordered on the west by the Panamint Range, the highest peak being Telescope at 11,049 ft. and on the east by the Amargosa Range made up of the Grapevine, Funeral and Black Mountains, nearly 550 square miles of the Death Valley basin is below sea level.  In fact at 282 ft below sea level, Badwater Basin is the lowest elevation in North America and the 8th lowest in the world.  It is this valley depth, steep mountain height and relatively narrow shape of the basin that influences the temperatures where HOT does not begin to describe it.

As we all know warm air rises and cool falls.  Here at these extreme low elevations as the soil and rock get very hot and as this hot air rises back from the heated surface it is trapped by the mountain walls and only cooled slightly more than the air temperature. Then this descending air is compressed and heated even more due to the low elevation air pressure. This super heated air cycles though the valley as the ground temperature climbs ever higher adding “fuel to the fire” so to speak.🙂  The highest temperature in the world was recorded here on July 10, 1913 at a whopping 134°, (disputed by some weather historians, they do still claim Death Valley has the highest temperature ever reliably recorded) and that’s just air temperature.  The highest ground temperature is an incredible 201°!

NOTE:  Perhaps Dad was right to not bring his family here during the month of August🙂

There are four major mountain ranges between the Pacific and Death Valley, each depleting the amount of rain-fall advancing eastward.  These rainshadows cumulatively rob pretty much all the moisture before it can fall here, consequently the average rain for an entire year is only 1.94 inches!  Last October however there were back to back storms followed then on the 18th by an incredible storm where 2.7 inches of rain fall in just five hours!  From the Los Angeles Times news article, Death Valley District Ranger Paul Forward, trapped near Grapevine Canyon and Scotty’s Castle, “It started with heavy hail,” he recalled. “Three hours later, the dry wash was transformed into floodwaters 100 feet wide with 20 foot waves. The air was filled with the sounds of massive boulders grinding against each other as they rolled down the canyon.”

This 1,000 year flood destroyed roads and caused extensive damage that will take perhaps two years to repair.   Consequently, there are a number of places now closed to visitors.  There are also a number of places where we would have liked to have gone, but they are only accessible by high clearance and/or 4 wheel drive vehicles.  Even so, over five days we had a fabulous time exploring.

Badwater Basin

All the rain that falls on the surrounding mountains and the valley carries with it dissolved minerals and salts which can not flow out because Death Valley is an enclosed basin.  Badwater, being the lowest place in the valley, is where all this mineral rich water flows to and evaporates leaving behind this layer of salt.

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282 feet BELOW sea level.

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The pool comes and goes.  Look carefully at the red arrow to see the big sign on the mountain side that marks sea level.

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The salt layer is quite thin and the crystals are constantly growing and changing.   Most of the salt is sodium chloride (table salt). Calcite, gypsum and borax make up the remainder.  The crystals are constantly changing with rainfall and evaporation and the tiny hairlike crystals are shaped by the winds as they grow.

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We were there.

Devil’s Golf Course

Devil’s Golf Course is several feet higher than Badwater Basin and consequently it stays dry which allows the weathering processes of wind and rain to sculpt the salts, minerals and mud into a crazy landscape of rough, complicated and beautiful formations.

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Devils Golf Course.  These formations vary from about six inches to knee high.

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Badwater Basin and Mormon Point are to the south of Devils Golf Course.

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The salt spire’s edges are very sharp. Do not fall down in this place.

Dante’s View

Considered one of the most breathtaking views in the park, Dante’s View overlooks Badwater Basin 5757 feet below.

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Looking down on Badwater Basin and eight miles across the valley floor to the alluvial fans of the Panamint Range.

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Looking North towards Furnace Creek.

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and looking South. Note the salt pools which are green and can be quite deep.

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Looking back to Dante’s View (see the RV?) and beyond, the high point is Dante’s Peak. 

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Contemplating the fall…  Hiking up to Dante’s Peak.

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Marti summits the peak!

Artist’s Drive

Artist’s Drive  is a nine mile loop drive back against the face of the Black Mountains noted for its astonishing variety of rock colors.  White, pink, green, yellow, mauve, purple, orange and browns, these colors are caused by the oxidation of the different metals in the rock.

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Heading up the alluvial fan of Artist’s Drive.

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During very occasional rains over thousands of years, the water floods so forcefully down the mountains shooting over the cliff face carrying the stones and sediment away from the wall creating the piles of sand and rock.

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The “Artist’s Palette” on Artist’s Drive.

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Looking back at the end of the drive.

Part Two of Death Valley is coming soon!

 

 

 

Shoshone, California and Ash Meadows NWR

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We left our lovely spot at Hole In The Wall in the Mojave National Preserve, continuing north on the pretty good dirt Black Canyon Rd to Cedar Canyon, which becomes paved and eventually out to I-15S.  We exited at Baker just before noon and stopped at Mad Greek Café, which had a lot of cars and trucks parked outside, always a good sign!  The place is a bit crazy, very busy but service is fast, and our “authentic” Greek pork gyros were really good! The side rice was lukewarm, almost cold but tasty.  We recommend stopping in if you’re in the area at meal time.

We drove on out Hwy 127N to the tiny town of Shoshone just outside of Death Valley, where we were camping at the Shoshone RV Park.  While certainly nothing to write home about, it was quiet and adequate.  We walked into town and had a seat at the bar of the Crowbar Café & Saloon for a drink, wings and chicken quesadillas.  Like the RV park, just adequate, but fun as the two waitresses were trying to fix a broken beer keg and in the process blowing beer all over themselves and nearly us!

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Downtown Shoshone, California

Next day we headed out to Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, the largest remaining oasis in the Mojave Desert.  Wetlands, small streams and seven major springs of 92* warm water bubble up to the surface here creating the greatest concentration of endemic life in the US!  There are two entrances, and not knowing any better I directed Ed to the closest.  This requires driving just shy of four miles over very washboarded dirt road before getting to anything of interest.  Ed HATES washboard roads, but our first stop put him in a better mood. The Point of Rocks boardwalk, a half mile loop trail, wanders over and beside a fast running stream flowing from Kings Pool spring.

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Notice the beautiful cut ironwork and railings.  We love this sort of art that augments the natural beauty of a place.

Ash Meadows is home to four threatened or endangered native fish species, the Ash Meadows speckled dace and 3 different species of pupfish. We had fun watching these very small blue (males only) fish darting about.

Not too far down the still washboarded road is Devil’s Hole, where a vast underground aquifer fills a cavern so deep the bottom has not been found.  Home to the Devil’s Hole pupfish (found nowhere else) earthquakes from as far away as Japan and Chile have caused the water to wave/slosh video here!  Surrounded by a fence to keep folks out of the water and away from the endangered pupfish as well as scientific equipment, even from a distance we could feel the warmth rising from the water!

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Devil’s Hole – The funnels at the bottom are set to catch airborne dust and debris so the scientists can measure what goes into the cavern.

Next stop was the visitor center and the boardwalk out to the lovely Crystal Spring.  We had noted at Point of Rocks and again here the boardwalks were very well done and beautifully decorated with laser cut iron work and decorative sculptures.  The visitor center itself was artistically designed and quite lovely, so we asked the obvious question of the volunteers Kelly and Dave where did the money come from? NOTE: they are full-time RVers like us and write this blog.    Turns out BLM (Bureau of Land Management) owned some property outside of Vegas that folks there wanted, so BLM sold it and used those funds to build Ash Meadows!  WELL DONE!  🙂  While we were disappointed to not be able to see the other parts of the refuge due to flood caused road closures, we do recommend you put this interesting place on your MVL (Must Visit List).

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This is Crystal Spring.  Over 10,000 gallons per minute flows year round,  most of which comes from the seven major springs in the refuge.

 

After one last night in Shoshone we took the time to visit the town museum and Dublin Gulch.  Filled inside and out with mining equipment, all kinds of rocks, old photos, newspaper clippings, stories of bootlegging and brothels, Indian cultural items, fossilized animal tracks and local mammoth bones this free museum was great fun!

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The Shoshone Museum.  Yes, it is in an old gas station.

Just across the road and down a bit on the edge of town is Dublin Gulch, where miners in the 1920’s carved out homes in the caliche (ka LEE’ chee)  clay hillside.  Some just rudimentary others have levels and window openings, the last being occupied until 1970.

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The fanciest home in Dublin Gulch!

Down closer to town right along the road is the old cemetery where either 33 or 55 people (depending on who you ask) have been buried beginning in 1924.  Many of the graves are just lined with stones or completely unmarked.  All in all, a pretty sad sight.

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There are at least six graves in this picture.

Even so, I sort of liked Shoshone.

Oh, by the way, Kelly told us that Shoshone is the only place for miles around where you can buy a Powerball ticket.  They were in town the weekend before the big $1.6 billion drawing and there was not a parking place to be had and the line for tickets was a third of a mile long.  Apparently, you can’t buy a ticket in Nevada so they all come across the border to here. Go figure.

As I type this up Ed is working on the photos from our last adventures.  We give fair warning now…..it might have to be 3 posts, it’s that AWESOME!!🙂




 

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Dublin Gulch, they just tossed the trash out the door… and nothing metallic decays in the desert.

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More cans from who knows when…

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Point of Rocks.

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Point of Rocks from another angle.

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Everything in the desert can bite you.

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Neat rocks at Devil’s Hole.

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We need a geologist to travel with us…

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Amazing fault line on the road up to the nearby town of Pahrump, NV.  We like rocks.

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One more of the Dublin Gulch neighborhood.

 

 

3:10 To Yuma ~Desert Figures ~ Mojave

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Leaving Ajo, Arizona we headed north to Gila Bend and I-8W towards Yuma which is located on the Colorado River in the southwest corner of Arizona.  There’s precious little on this stretch of highway but there is a place named Dateland where surprise! there’s a date grove!  We like dates, and so we stopped, sampled seven kinds (Honey Dates were the best) and bought some of these sweet healthy treats.  We also tried their “world famous” date milkshake…okay dokey, we can scratch that off the list now🙂

As you’ll note in the title above, we had a mission on this leg of our adventure.  Having been to Bisbee we know the 3:10 to Yuma movie had that location all wrong.  However, since the movie ends with the train just leaving Contention City we wanted to actually see the notorious prison Ben Wade implies he will once again escape from.  The first seven inmates entered the Territorial Prison at Yuma on July 1, 1876 ( five days after Custer had his last stand at Little Big Horn in Montana and the year my grandfather Deppa was born) where they were locked into the cells they had built themselves.

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Cell block walk used to be covered with a second story that was the infirmary and offices.

Over the course of 33 years 3,069 prisoners including 29 women (many incarcerated for adultery) were held here.  Although there were many attempted escapes only 2 from within the prison confines were successful.  While we’re not sure it’s worth a trip to Yuma, do put it on your MVL (Must Visit List) if you’re in the area.

 

While plotting our travels on Google Maps I had noted something marked Spiral Labyrinth outside the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge 6 miles down a dirt road off US Hwy. 95 in Arizona.  I was curious, so I did a little searching and found next to nothing about this, but what I did find was interesting so of course we went looking.  Of unknown origin, but not old, this very carefully built stone labyrinth is amazing and fun.  Someone worked really hard and near as I can find it’s almost a secret.  Put it on your MVL…but….you have to find it yourself🙂

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Marti went in the entrance and it took her about 20 minutes to hit the center.  Then she turned around and walked back out…  another 20 minutes.

From the labyrinth, we headed for California’s US Hwy 95 and Blythe where we were looking for the very ancient Blythe Intaglios.  I have known of these geoglyphs for most of my life and was very excited to see them.  The road they are off of went quickly from bad to nope, so we only managed to see 3 of them.  They are behind ugly protective fencing (why can’t people behave?) so some of the magic feeling is gone.  Even so, one can’t help but wonder… why?  Put them on your MVL.

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The image is created by scratching away the darker surface stones which reveals the lighter colored soil underneath.  Unlike the labyrinth, there is no ridge of stones because they removed them. 

After spending the night back at Arizona’s Cattail Cove State Park we headed out for our next California destination, dry camping at Hole In The Wall.  Sandwiched between two interstates, 15 & 40, the Mojave National Preserve and indeed the area leading to it, is incredibly vast and empty…and beautiful.  We found a lovely spot in the almost empty campground and settled in for several days.

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Looking down on our home for a few days.  Note the stratification in the mountains across the valley.  It became very, very windy at night with gusts near 50 mph but this stopped after dawn every day. We asked the volunteer camp host if it was always this windy and he said, “No, only when it’s windier.”

There are a couple of stories about how this spot got named Hole in the Wall.  One is because of all the holes in the rock, but my favorite is because a former gun-slinger finally settled down in the area and named it for his former hide out🙂

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Looking up Banshee Canyon. See the holes?  The holes are in volcanic ash which is softer than other rock and the wind and water erodes the holes.

The first day we hiked all around behind our site enjoying the views and rock formations.   On day two we did the Ring Loop Trail into Banshee Canyon.  It is so named because early settlers said the wind blowing through sounded like a banshee!  It is an incredibly neat place and I highly recommend it go on your MVL.

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From our first night’s walk this scene is just uphill from our campsite.  The yellow lichens are really pretty.

We are currently doing chores in Pahrump NV, not a garden spot but they have real stores, gas stations and a very nice Escapee’s RV park not to mention the Chicken Ranch Brothel just down the road.  It’s Nevada, what can we say?  On Monday we head for Death Valley.  We’ve seen it a bit and WOW…..can’t wait to show & tell you all about it!




 

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This shows a cell with the iron work that surrounded each cell; doors, floors, walls and ceilings.  All the iron work, welding and shaping was done by inmates.  In fact, everything in the prison was made by the inmates.

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This shows two cell doors. 1/4″ thick welded and riveted steel that are connected together to prevent one door breaking without the other.  Note that the locks are a good three feet away from the opening on each side.

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Ahhh… the dark cell.  Solitary confinement in a steel cage.  These cells were hand dug into the caliche hillside.  Caliche is a type of clay/rock that is very, very hard.

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Inside the Dark Cell, only the floor of the cage remains.  There is a ghost story for this cell and while we were in there Marti saw something flit by! She looked again and to her relief it was just bats.

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It’s really magical, especially with the wind blowing.

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About 2/3’s of the way in an optical illusion occurs that makes the ridges turn into waves rolling towards the center. Amazingly cool…!

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Ed at the center of the universe.  I walked in but took the short way out…

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The fence is ugly.  BUT if it was not here ATV tracks would obliterate the figure.  In their defense, these figures are hard to see just walking across the desert.

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People say this is a horse.  They are very hard to photograph from the ground and we took a ladder in.

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Anybody who knows Ed, knows this is a big adventure for him.  These are the first set of rings down to the bottom of Banshee Canyon.

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Marti on the other hand….

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Marti looking up at bat caves, we think, in the bottom of Banshee Canyon.

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We found thousands and thousands of these little bones scattered around this one section of the canyon below what appeared to be bat homes/caves in some of the holes high up.  Note the two femur bones above the quarter.

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and these skulls were there in the bone yard… Birds? Bats? Lizards? Tourists?  We have to do some research.

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From the mouth of Banshee Canyon the valley below.

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This crew joined us for our picnic lunch.  11 horses branded with a W inside a square.  Their meal was not what our horses back home get.

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The astonishing variety of colors in the lichens on the rocks here is beautiful.  Marti counted seven different colors. An artist’s palette.

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Mojave Dawn.  Marti does the before sunrise stuff…

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Barrel and Hedgehog Cactus in morning sun.

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Lovely grasses surround rock and a barrel cactus.

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Hole In The Wall Morning.  

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Directly behind our campsite at Hole In The Wall.

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