Archive for May, 2015

Twin Arrows, AZ to Los Angeles, CA

As if my brother hadn’t had enough of me having towed me hither thither and yon, as well as helping me stream line my interior and getting me set up with an outside water tank/shower, we had arranged to meet up for a weekend at Twin Arrows Casino just east of Flagstaff so we could spend Saturday walking the incredibly artistic Antelop Canyon with his whole family! What a treat!

twins arrows casino

Twin Arrows, AZ has come a long ways as to what it offers weary travelers! I got two nights here thanks to my kind brother and his family!

My brother photo-bombing his own photo! I think he thought those crystals on the chandelier were water droplets and he was going to try and catch one in his mouth! --At Twin Arrows Casino lobby with Karolena

My brother photo-bombing his own photo at Twin Arrows Casino lobby with Karolena

We drove through beautiful country up the ever scenic hwy 89 to get to the navejo reservation where Antelop Canyon is (just east of Grand Canyon). The walk was all at ground level as we went through this gorgeously artistic slot canyon. I mean it is impossible to take a bad picture in there. It kind of makes me want to take up painting just so I can paint a picture of it! The striations, the colors, the curves, the lighting…it just bleeds beauty!

Ground level walk-in canyon in Navajo Reservation area. Get it at just the right time of day and this slot canyon lightens right up!

Ground level walk-in canyon in Navajo Reservation area. Get it at just the right time of day and this slot canyon lightens right up!

Hangin' with my family in the Antelope Slot Canyon...I think I misunderstood the directions as to where to look! But I love the pic of us all together (though I miss Julianne, the photographer!)

Hangin’ with my family in the Antelope Slot Canyon…I think I misunderstood the directions as to where to look! But I love the pic of us all together (though I miss Julianne, the photographer!)

I then had to say goodbye once more to my ever gracious and generous brother and sister in love as they headed back to Phoenix and I to the Grand Canyon. Boy was it a happenin’ place, teeming with what appeared to be thousands of people! But the 1-mile deep and 10-miles wide canyon seemed to dwarf us all. I didn’t hike down it (though I’d love to if I could find a willing participant to come along!) but I was able to walk along the southern rim’s edge. The free shuttle service will take you to the end, so you only have to hike it one way!

The only picture I got of myself at the Grand Canyon this time around. It was quite chilly and even snowed while I was there. But that didn't stop the masses from filing in to see this awe-some sight! This is taken at the eastern end of the Canyon at Desert View.

The only picture I got of myself at the Grand Canyon this time around. It was quite chilly and even snowed while I was there. But that didn’t stop the masses from filing in to see this awe-some sight! This is taken at the eastern end of the Canyon at Desert View.

I’ve seen the canyon before and I thought, “oh, I’ll just get my passport stamped and move on.” But each time I see it, it still takes my breath away. A new color pops up, or the clouds and the sun do an incredible piruet over the most upstanding formation along the canyon’s horizon, and it is almost too much for the body to contain…just makes the heart want to burst! So many sites like this along this journey!

A picture of the Colorado River carving its way through the Grand Canyon from Desert View House on the eastern end of the Canyon.

A picture of the Colorado River carving its way through the Grand Canyon from Desert View House on the eastern end of the Canyon.

Though the campgrounds and lodges at Grand Canyon were hopping with people, thankfully the nearby Kaibab Forest was full of trees and sparse with people and I was able to do some dispersed camping on the old back forest roads. BigBlue and I were so far out in the boondocks, I could even take an outdoor modest shower! But it was a bit chilly while I was at the Canyon and so after the shower a fire was much needed! It even started to snow while I was leaving the next morning!

Demonstrating my outdoor shower (that is still curtain-less...but when deep in the woods, one isn't really needed!). I hold it by hand so it doesn't go all over the van like it looks like here. But it does have good pressure and it is rechargeable battery operated!

Demonstrating my outdoor shower (that is still curtain-less…but when deep in the woods, one isn’t really needed!). I hold it by hand so it doesn’t go all over the van like it looks like here. But it does have good pressure and it is rechargeable battery operated!

It looks gorgeous here, and indeed it was, though it was quite chilly (hence the campfire). But that night and next day, it snowed...beautifully as well. BigBlue is so cozy I didn't realize it until I opened my castle door!

It looks gorgeous here, and indeed it was, though it was quite chilly (hence the campfire). But that night and next day, it snowed…beautifully as well. BigBlue is so cozy I didn’t realize it until I opened my castle door!

And then went through Bedrock, Fred and Barney’s stompin’ ground, along hwy 180 with the San Francisco peaks off in the horizon. It is for sale, if anyone wants to take up serving Buffalo Burgers with Pebbles and BamBam full-time! I was tempted, as I thoroughly enjoyed the simple place, but it was about as sparse as Kaibab back forest!

This is what BigBlue would look like if it existed back in the stone age with Fred and Barney! Welcome to Bedford!

This is what BigBlue would look like if it existed back in the stone age with Fred and Barney! Welcome to Bedrock!

I then splurged, so I could get a wildlife fix, since it had been a while since seeing some, and I went to Bearazona Wildlife Adventure in Williams, AZ…while it was snowing! They had both an auto tour and a walking tour, and yeppers…I got my fix! Especially with the informative raptor show, the gregarious otters and the cuddly bear cubs!

bear

I don’t know how these massive beasts manage to do it, but they always look so doggone cuddly!

great-owl

Most owls that sport orange eyes are active around dawn and dusk, here is the Great-horned owl checking out the snow!

red-fox

What should one do when it starts to snow? Why cuddle up and take a nap! That’s exactly what I did inside BigBlue’s shelter! Here a redfox is on his own!

Then I traveled along Historic 66 to get to Kingman’s and finally arrived in California headed to Joshua Tree and on to Los Angeles. On the way to Joshua Tree National Forest I came across the Shoe Fence (which was erected in honor of the Shoe Tree) out in the middle of absolutely nowhere! I just had to pull over and get a pic of Flat Vanley (a name a gal I met gave all my photos with Bigblue in the picture!) next to them all. I almost snagged a pair of boots that were hanging there left there by an Australian, since mine have sprung a hole on the ball of it. But I resisted!

big-blue-shoe-tree

BigBlue taking a break from driving from Williams, AZ to Joshua Tree National Park via hwy 66, 95 and 62 at the Shoe Fence out in the middle of nowhere!

Also on the way to Joshua tree is the Patton Museum at Chiriaco, CA on the site of the entrance of Camp Young, part of the Desert Training Center of World War II. Over 1 million soldiers trained there in preparation for battling in the Sahara. Quite an interesting stop as well as an interesting place to have it!

big blue patton museum

BigBlue at Patton Museum in Chiriaco, CA with an incredibly large collection of tanks used in WWII and the Korean War.

I arrived at Joshua Tree (which does not have any camping but it does have great hikes!). There is a vast array of geography and flora and fauna in this park. Throughout the desert geography (for the Mohave and Colorado deserts converge here) are fan-palm oases the indicate that there is a crack in the Earth’s crust which is allowing the groundwater to rise to the surface. “Welcome to California!” they seem to say!

big-blue-joshua-tree

BigBlue posing with a Joshua Tree, arms outstretched in welcome to the Israelites to the Promised Land (or the Mormons to California!). It has seen as many visitors in the span of time from U2’s album release to date, as the album itself has sold copies! (that’s me trying to be culturally-mathematically relevant!)

The rock formations along the trail looked just like a pile of toy blocks put together by a non-OCD person! Oh, and the name for the iconic tree comes from the Mormon settlers who crossed the Mojave desert on their exodus west. As silhouettes, the trees appear human in form with their extended limbs capped with spiky leaves evoking images of Joshua with arms outstretched, leading his followers into the Promised Land! (And I wish I could have taken a picture of the night sky out in this area…but alas!)

flag-at-joshua-tree

I’m going to have to create a facebook album of the flags over the national parks. I haven’t gotten all of them, but some are just to picturesque to pass up…like this one at Joshua Tree National park in front of an Ocotillo (or coach whip)

As I headed towards Los Angeles and started to encounter some of the traffic, I thought to myself, only the love of family and friends could compel me to come into this expansive city! But onward I journeyed, until I arrived in LA to begin my 3-week visit of family and friends there. I will write some brief snippets of each for the next blog!

deb-camping

Camping in warmer weather as found in the Angeles Mountains outside Joshua Tree and very close to Los Angeles!

 

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Venturing through the Many Southwestern Ancient Pueblos

Once BigBlue was all fixed up with two new tires and two new inner tie rods from Litchfield Auto Repair, I headed down to Tucson to finally catch Saguaro National Park, the place where my two-month-van-repair-detour started on Ash Wednesday! While on the way there I got a ticket for distracted eating, or was that, distracted driving. Either way, it was costly and truthfully, seemed injust on the small scale of things. I was driving safely doing all things right, except having my hands at the 10 and 2 o’clock position because I was eating a cracker! But as the officer said as he approached my window to give me a ticket…”I see you are from out of town…” http://www.centralaz.edu/Documents/business/BUS/BUS260/NoTextingDistractiveDrivingBrochure_CACBUS260_5_12.pdf

bird on saguaro

A bird unto of the tallest type of cacti in the world…the Saguaro (catching sites like this was worth the price of the driving lesson!)

Well, bless that poor man’s heart, because as one who always wanted to be a police officer from the time I was in 7th grade, I know the dream wasn’t so I could be handing out tickets to people munching on a cracker while driving down a 3-lane interstate in the middle of Arizona staying in their lane, wearing their seat belts, driving one mile below the speed limit whose last time they touched alcohol was in 1992 (well, save for communion)!

sunset at saguaro

I don’t know how this came out so purply because the sky was an inky glowing blue, but I like it either way! This is sunset at Saguaro National Park, where the sun set on all our troubles and state trooper encounters!

So I pray for that fellow and other policemen like him who have to do things like this perhaps to meet a quota, and other things that just were never part of their dream of making the world a safer place. May they get to experience real job satisfaction for accomplishing their dream rather than for putting in their 8 hours.

fill saguaro

A rare sight for sure. This is a frill saguaro where all of its arms are on top of their heads (or we could say that they are not arms anymore but a crown!). Only about 1 plant in 250,000 Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) cacti produce this strange deformation

Saguaro National Park, divided into two regions and surrounded by mountains, was a beautiful time of hiking and finally catching the first blooms of the state’s wildflower on the saguaro cactus’! An interesting fact about this tall old cactus is that its scientific name was given in honor of Andrew Carnegie (Carnegiea gigantea). It takes 75-100 years before one grows its first arm, and those that never do grow an arm are called spears. More arms means more reproduction and fruit. And every once in a great while there is a frill Saguaro whose arms are on top of their head!

saguaro in bloom

I caught the first bloom of the flower in the beginning of April! Gorgeous flowers and then it will turn into a bright red fruit in June which can be harvested or left for the animals! (the red flowers around it are from another tree)

Once more I returned to Ken’s for one last Hollywood shower and laundry stop as well as to celebrate my nephew Austin’s birthday.

austins-birthday-celebration

Celebrating Austin’s birthday with his friends and family…yummy food and cake! Happy Birthday Austin!

I then headed northward towards Flagstaff via beautiful 89A. Definitely my favorite highway so far! I stopped by Cottonwood again to see Charlie and Stan and see how Charlie’s van/home was doing. It was all fixed and back on the road again.

deb-at-walnut-canyon

But interestingly, Cottonwood Walmart had changed their policies within the two weeks I was last there and there is no overnight parking allowed anymore! My van is stealth enough but their vehicles are evidential enough that they are no longer staying their nights there. It is is the goal of each “homeless” van dweller I meet…to discover where they can park their home without having to pay a fee or getting a tap on their window from security.

charlie's van

Charlie’s van is all fixed and ready to go…but has to find a new place to park since Walmart changed their overnight policy. I stayed the night hoping that my minivan was stealth enough!

After crossing Midgely Bridge just north of Sedona, the drive through the 27-mile Oak Creek Canyon in Coconino National Forest began, taking me through red-rock desertscape of Sedona and Slide Rock State Park up to the ponderosa pines of Flagstaff in the shadow of the snow-capped San Francisco Peaks. About 8 miles out of Flagstaff was the Oak Creek Overlook which gave a grand overview of the beautiful valley! BigBlue handled the scenic drive like a champ.

midgley bridge

Bridge just north of Sedona along highway 89a called Midgely bridge. Gorgeous beginning to the scenic Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive

After a night in Flagstaff on the eastern side of Humphrey’s peak, I headed to Walnut Canyon National monument to see another beautiful 25-room cliff dwelling by the Sinagua people around 1100-1250ad (contemporaries of Tuzigoot and Montezuma). The 600 foot deep canyon contains Walnut Creek (as well as walnut trees) that flows into the Little Colorado River en route to the Grand Canyon. It seems that the many native American dwellings all seemed to have been evacuated within a hundred or two years from each other, and the reason still remains a mystery.

walnut-canyon

The overlook towards Walnut Canyon dwellings. They are the dark spots which are the niches and carved out dwellings with the Sinagua people lived 1000 years ago. It would be awfully tough to carry the water up the bluffs to get it home for the family!

 

Continuing eastward on historic route 66 took me past Meteor Crater (which I visited in 2010…and once was enough!) and Winslow, AZ on my way to the Painted Desert which is part of the Petrified Forest National Park.

big-blue-rt-66-winslow-911

On Historic Route 66 on the corner of Winslow Arizona where there was also a commemorative sculpture for those lost in 9/11. It was two beams from the World Trade Center.

 

The colorful rock formations and hundreds of impressive petrified logs dotted the 28-mile journey southward towards hwy 180 (and gift shops)! Also, along the way was newspaper Rock full of petroglyphs, layered-rock teepees, an old petrified tree bridge, and Blue Mesas (bluish tinted rock to give a wee relief to all the pinks and reds!).

big-blue-petrified-wood

BigBlue behind a colorful (though it doesn’t show up so well in this photo) petrified log out in the middle of the desert. They were strewn all over the place.

 

At the southern end of the the Petrified Forest 28-mile tour drive are two gift shops who allow travelers to set up camp for however long for free! They even have 30- amp hookup and bathrooms. But one of the fun features was they also had plywood teepees set up where one could sleep! I didn’t give up my comfy van for it, but it was fun to watch the kids giggling and having a good time “living” in a teepee for the night!

big-blue-teepee-camping

Free camping at the southern entrance of the Petrified National Park and that with all the amenities one could want while camping…even a teepee to sleep in!

Just east of the San Francisco Peaks is Sunset Crater Volcano National monument which is a 1,000 foot high symmetrical cinder volcanic cone with a reddish orange hue to it (hence its name!). This critter was active as recently as 900 years ago, leaving lots of ash and lava in the surrounding areas.

big-blue-sunset-crater-black-lava

BigBlue in front of some black lava beds in the foreground and Sunset Crater in the background. From the west side looking eastwards towards it, it has a sunset colored hue more than it does on this side of it. No one is allowed to climb it so it saved me some energy to just click it from below!

 

Continuing on 89 north of Sunset Crater through 18 miles of cinder and lava-covered hills is the Wupatki Nationall Monument which are the ruins of the ancient Sinagua people. They community and buildings were probably abandoned due to the eruption of Sunset Crater Volcano at the same time period. The homes ranged from one-story stuctures to multi-level high-rises as well as a community center. John Wesley Powell marveled at the well-preserved pueblos!

wupatki

Wupatki Ruins National Monument with San Francisco peaks in the background. Looked like it was a gorgeous place to live and have community but the eruption of Sunset Volcano 900 years ago seems to have caused them to abandon it.

 

At this point I had a date with my brother and his family to meet up at Twin Arrows Casino. Boy were we in for a glorious weekend! That will be in the next blog posting!

twin-arrows

The old twin arrows turn off….boy have things changed for them…keep an eye for the next post to see the new updated version!