Bishop to Mono Lake, & Owens Valley, California

Now it was time to explore north of Bishop!

I think I mentioned before that even at this time of the year, mid April, many roads and destinations were still closed. Their snow had arrived late in the year but had come fast and furious!

This day we turned north up Highway 395, with more superb views of the Sierra’s!

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First stop was Convict Lake, elevation of 7850 ft, with stunning dramatic mountains, including Mt Morrison, surrounding it!

The lake was named after an incident on September 23, 1871, where a group of convicts escaped from prison in Carson City. A posse, from Benton,  encountered the convicts near the head of what is now Convict Creek. Posse member Robert Morrison, a Benton merchant , was killed in the encounter, and Mount Morrison was named after him. (wikipedia)

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Next up was Mammoth Lakes. Mammoth is mainly known for 2 things, a fabulous ski hill in the winter and amazing hiking and outdoor activities in the summer! Tourism is the #1 industry. We drove through the town and some residential areas. We saw some signs of the ski hill but there was a lot of traffic this day and parking was almost impossible! We did manage to find a restaurant with a few spaces and had a wonderful lunch before moving on up the road!

Next side trip was the June lake Loop, passing June Lake, Gull Lake, Silver Lake and Grant Lake. Mickie loved June Lake, she got to chase sticks and play on the beach!

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Grant Lake was equally as fantastic!

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The Grant Lake overlook offered some incredible views of the river valley leading to the lake.

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Our last destination on this day was Mono Lake. It was something on my bucket list for a while. I had seen many amazing pictures of this strange landscape and wanted to experience it for myself!

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We learned that Mono Lake and the Salton Sea have a lot in common. Neither has an outlet, which causes high levels of salt to accumulate. It also has a productive eco system and brine shrimp thrive in the water. This lake provides critical nesting habitat for two million annual migratory birds that feed on the shrimp and blackflies.

However, “The city of Los Angeles diverted water from the Owens River into the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913. In 1941, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power extended the Los Angeles Aqueduct system farther upriver into the Mono Basin. So much water was diverted that evaporation soon exceeded inflow and the surface level of Mono Lake fell rapidly. By 1982 the lake was reduced to 37,688 acres (15,252 ha) 69 percent of its 1941 surface area. “[By 1990, the lake had dropped 45 vertical feet and had lost half its volume]” relative to the 1941 pre-diversion water level. As a result, alkaline sands and formerly submerged tufa towers became exposed, the water salinity doubled, and Negit Island became a peninsula, exposing the nests of California gulls to predators (such as coyotes), and forcing the gull colony to abandon this site. “(wikipedia)

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The California State Water Resources Control Board issued an order to protect Mono Lake and its tributary streams on September 28, 1994. Since that time, the lake level has steadily risen. In 1941 the surface level was at 6,417 feet (1,956 m) above sea level. As of October 2013, Mono Lake was at 6,380.6 feet (1,945 m) above sea level. The lake level of 6,392 feet (1,948 m) above sea level is the goal, a goal made more difficult during years of drought.

Many of these Tufa’s remain out of the water at this time…

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…but there are a few areas where you find them emerging from the lake!

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Our final outing in the Bishop area was driving the back roads through the Owens Valley, it is such a gorgeous area and was just coming to life after the harsh winter! I am going to let the pictures speak for themselves!

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Our week had come to an end and it was time to continue on our journey home! I will miss this area for sure!

Until next time………

Alabama Hills & Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

The Alabama Hills are such a unique place found in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains and in the shadow of Mt Whitney! The rounded contours of the Alabamas are a incredible contrast with the rugged peaks of the Sierra’s.

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Starting with silent pictures, Hollywood has loved the landscape here. It was close to them and the scenery was stunning. A perfect area to represent the ‘Iconic American West’ in their films.

The first movie totally filmed here was The Roundup (1920), a silent Western starring Fatty Arbuckle! Over the years all of the Hollywood studios have filmed here. The Alabama Hills have appeared in hundreds of movies and TV shows beginning in the 1920s and continuing to now, mostly American Westerns – although for many films, they have stood in for India, the Middle East, the Gobi Desert, China and even Africa in two Tarzan Films. Sci-fi producers have found the Alabama’s “out of this world,” for movies like Star Trek V and VII, Deep Space 9; and a perfect landscape for the backdrops of Tremors, Gladiator and Dinosaur. Countless documentaries, product commercials for TV and print have used the areas unique rock formations and valleys as a palette for their products.

There was some filming happening while we were there but not in our immediate location. However we did get to see some signs of ‘the old west’ come through! They offer trail rides through the hills, what a fabulous way to see them and feel as though you could almost be in an old western movie! Maybe John Wayne would ride around the next corner!

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Alabama Hills are also well known for dozens of  natural arches. The most well known, and widely recognized in film, is the Mobius Arch. It was an easy, and gorgeous, walk in to the arch!

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As with other areas there were many wildflowers blooming also. A wonderful contrast to the natural colour of the rock!

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Our next day trip from Bishop was to drive to see the Bristlecone Pine Forest. From Bishop we went south to Big Pine, then went east on Highway 168 through the Owens Valley, to the White Mountains.

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These Great Basin Bristlecone Pine trees grown at elevations of 9800 to 11,000 feet!

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On the way up into the mountains we stopped to enjoy the view and discovered all the lichen blooming! It was a beautiful carpet of undisturbed nature! I made sure I left it that way!

As it was still early in their season, the road was only open until the Sierra View overlook, at 9271 feet!

 

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When we got there I spoke to a photographer who was just leaving with his drone! He said the pictures he got from that elevations were outstanding, I can only imagine! It was spectacular with just my camera!

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Further along the road is the Methuselah Grove, the location of the  ‘Methuselah’, a Bristlecone Pine that is 4,848 years old! For many years, it was the world’s oldest known living non-clonal organism, until  the discovery in 2013 of another bristlecone pine in the same area with an age of 5,066 years!! ‘Methuselah’ is not marked in the forest, to  protect it from vandals. Not sure we will ever get to see that marvel as our time in the US is limited to the winter months.

It was time to turn around and head back down the mountain, to the valley floor. The Owens Valley, at 4000 ft,  is such a gorgeous area with the majestic mountains framing both sides!

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I loved this ranch that had all these hides drying on the fence post and the White Mountains in the background!

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Next trip we explored north of Bishop. Convict Lake, Mammoth Lakes, June Lake and Mono Lake!

Until next time…….

 

Back in the USA- Ridgecrest, Ca to Bishop, Ca

Once back in the USA we spent a couple of days in El Centro to restock! Then we were back on the road again!

First stop was Ridgecrest for 3 nights. It was my goal to travel home along highway 395 in California. Usually this route is still experiencing winter when we begin our trek north but as we were able to head home a little later this year the ice and snow were gone!

Ridgecrest is just off highway 395, a little west of Death Valley. For our first day trip from there we decided to head east towards Death Valley as I had heard of Ballarat Ghost Town in that area. I love ghost towns and will seek them out!

Ballarat served mining camps from 1897 to 1917, but all that remains now is a few ruins.

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and a few old cars!

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There is a caretaker on the property so we visited with him for a bit. He said the Ballarat area really comes to life on warm spring and fall weekends, it is a very popular spot for ATV’s and off roading and camping…..and partying! He said Easter weekend is a very busy time with sometimes hundreds of people showing up….short of physical harm he said, anything goes! (note to self…don’t think we will be camping here! lol!)

Also in this area are the Trona Pinnacles. They are also known as Tufa pinnacles and were formed under water 10,000 to 100,000 years ago in the now dry Searles Lake bed.

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The pinnacles are mostly made of calcium carbonate, same as the calcium in our bones and in baking soda!

Over thirty film projects a year are shot among the tufa pinnacles! From movies to TV shows to commercials, you may recognize this unusual landscape!

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The next day we decided to head in the opposite direction, southwest to the Red Rock Canyons state park. The park is located where the southernmost tip of the Sierra Nevada converge with the El Paso Range.

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During the early 1870s, the colorful rock formations in the park served as landmarks for 20-mule team freight wagons from Death Valley, that stopped for water.

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We were very lucky to get there as the wildflowers were beginning to bloom! As with everywhere else it seems, they too had a wet winter and the spring bloom loved it!

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It seems like the geology changes around every corner here, from the beautiful orange colored rock faces, to tall spires and slot canyons!

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I found this one formation very interesting, it looked like a big mushroom!

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Time to continue north on Highway 395, next stop is Bishop, Ca for a week. I fell in love with Bishop and felt I could easily live there! I don’t say that about too many places as I really do love where I live in Kamloops, but Bishop called to me! You are surrounded by majestic mountains!

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With peaks like Mt Tom at 13,652 ft, Mt Abbot at 13,715 ft and Red Slate Mtn at 13,163 ft to the west in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and Blanco Mtn at 11,278 ft and White Mtn at 14,246 ft to the east in the White Mountains between California and Nevada it is awe inspiring! Nestled between these 2 fabulous mountain ranges is the Owens Valley.

Mt Whitney, the tallest peak in the contiguous United States at 14, 491 ft, is just south of Bishop.

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We had a week of beautiful spring weather and a map in front of us, what could be better! Some of the areas I wanted to see were not accessible yet due to snow but we were able to get to many of them.

Day one was to retrace our path to a small town we drove through on our way north, Lone Pine, population of approximately 2000.  On the way we stopped to see the Mt Whitney Fish Hatchery, in Independence, about 3/4’s of the way from Bishop to Lone Pine.

It was built in 1916 from 3500 tons of granite! It is one of the most beautiful fish hatcheries in the USA!

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The stones were not cut but sorted and sized , the walls are 2 to 3 feet thick! It was designed to match the mountains and to last forever!

When construction was completed in 1917, it was the largest and best equipped hatchery in California and could produce 2,000,000 fish fry per year.

In July of 2007 a large wildfire burned upstream to the west of the Hatchery. As a result, a year later, on July 12, 2008, a heavy thunderstorm caused a massive mudslide in the fire-scarred Oak Creek watershed that swept downstream, severely damaging the ponds and water supplies of the hatchery, as well as two employee housing units. The main building escaped major damage.

The Friends of the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery organized restoration work that allowed the interpretive center and display pond to re-open on May 30, 2009. However, the future of full-scale hatchery production is uncertain.

One of the main attractions in Lone Pine is the Movie Museum. The Alabama Hills are in Lone Pines back yard and have been the setting for over 400 movies beginning with silent films to today’s block busters!

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Before this blog gets too long I will end it here! Next up: Alabama Hills!

 

Until next time!

San Felipe, Mexico

Well, we are 2 weeks away from one of our favorite places on earth…….aaaaaaah, San Felipe. We missed being there for the last 2 winters due to not being able to travel, it felt great to be ‘home’!

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San Felipe is about 2 1/2 hours south of El Centro, California. You cross over through the border at Calexico. It is an easy drive down Highway 5, in Baja California, with here and there views of the Gulf of California (The Sea of Cortez).

It is a small town, with a population of about 16,702 (in 2010), and swelling by approximately 5000 with the American and Canadian visitors. Many ex-pats own property here.

As San Felipe is on the east side of Baja it does not get spectacular sunsets, but it does get some beautiful ones!

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It really out does itself in the sunrise’s though! Anyone who knows me knows I am not an early morning person, that being said I did manage to see a few in the month we were there!

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Our campsite is right on the beach, it is an amazing thing to just open your door, step on to the beach and see this!

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To say Mickie was in her ‘Happy Place’ is an understatement!

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San Felipe has also had a wet winter/early spring. The wild flowers were blooming in all their glory when we got there!

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San Felipe once relied on fishing as the main ‘industry’ now it is tourism.

In 2016 the government banned all fishing in the vacinity of  San Felipe. The fishing techniques had become a threat to the Vaquita. The Vaquita is a rare species of  Porpoise, endemic to the northern part of the Gulf of California,  and is now the most endangered cetacean in the world. It is largely attributed to the bycatch from illegal gillnet fishery for the totoaba, which is also critically endangered. With the fishermen unable to fish some moved on and some chose to develope a new source of income…..catering to the tourists! They now offer boats for towing people in tubes and on blow up ‘bananas’! Sport fishing is still allowed so that is offered as well.

Most of our days involved playing on the beach!

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At low tide the water can recede up to 2 kilometers! 3 years ago when we were here the high tide came up so high that our patio was covered in sand the following morning!

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When driving around town you can find bakeries, pharmacies, numerous restaurants and car washes! There are 3 bigger grocery stores as well.

A new venture for enterprising business people is to come to your RV and wash and wax it for you! The price was excellent and they did a fantastic job!

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The main street downtown is the Malecon. It is made up of numerous restaurants and shops that sell everything from t-shirts, dresses, trinkets and souvenirs. Last time we were here they were re building their retaining wall along the seawall. The wall is all finished and the new addition this year is the sign!

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It is always relaxing to grab a few minutes of just sitting back and enjoying the view!

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Watching the waves lap upon the shore!

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The Bougainvillea tree in the campground was blooming gloriously! I loved walking Mickie past every day!

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The cactus were sprouting all their new growth too!

A highlight for me was seeing the Saguaro Cactus blooming! Usually we are on our way north when these gorgeous flowers blossom!

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What we like about San Felipe is that there are no big resorts, no big fancy buildings. Actually you see a lot of half finished buildings around every corner. Someone said that when the US gets a cold Mexico gets pneumonia. The recession of 2008 hit San Felipe very hard and it is trying to recover still.

A highlight for us this year was being in town for the Baja 250, Score International, off road race! Racers come from all over the world to complete in the brutal drive across the desert for 250+ miles!

People come from all over to watch!

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And they’re off!

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To say there was a lot of dust and dirt in the air that night is an understatement!

I could go on and on about San Felipe but I won’t bore you any longer. Needless to say it is one of our favorite places to spend some time. We love the vendors coming to the campground to show off their jewelry and dresses and hammocks. Some we buy from, some we don’t. It all adds to the charm of a laid back way of life.

It was hard to leave, but leave we must!

Until next time…………….

 

 

Desert Hot Springs and south!

When we left the Mohave National Preserve we decided to travel along the original Route 66, the National Trails Highway! It was fun to think we were on the same path of the original cross country mother road! How exciting that must have been, to cross America for the first time!!

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There are still some of the original old signs along the way!

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Our main stop was Desert Hot Springs, at the northern end of what I call the ‘Palm Springs corridor’. It is such a busy area with 9 cities altogether, Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio, and Coachella. In the winter the full time resident population of 450,000 swells to 600,000, with approximately 150,000 ‘Snowbirds’!! As you can imagine there is always something to do!

We first toured Cabot’s Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs. What an interesting and unique place! This was a creation of Cabot Yerxa’s. In 1941 he began his Hopi inspired home. It was his single minded devotion until his death in 1964, built out of all repurposed materials! It is 5000 square feet, has 35 rooms, 150 windows and 65 doors!

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In 1913, at age 30, Cabot homesteaded 160 acres in what is now Desert Hot Springs. Searching for water, he dug a well with pick and shovel, discovering the now famous hot mineral waters of Desert Hot Springs. Nearby, he dug a second well and discovered the pure cold water of the Mission Springs Aquifer. These two wells, hot and cold, give the area its name – Miracle Hill. He was one of the first promoters of developing hot springs for tourists in the area.

Cabot Yerxa was an incredible man often described as a visionary, artist, writer, builder, architect, adventurer, explorer, collector, idealist and entrepreneur. He was a human rights activist concerned about the legal, economic and cultural crisis for Native Americans.

 

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He was also an artist and wanted to create an artistic community.

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The Palm Springs area is also well know for it’s wind farms! The San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm is one of the 3 major wind farms in California. It is one of the windiest places in southern California.

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The Walk of Stars is dedicated to over 300 Hollywood stars who loved and played in the desert!

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There is a sculpture of Lucille Ball, sitting on a bench. You can stop and sit and have your picture taken with Lucy!! Lucille Ball was a honorary Mayor of Rancho Mirage from 1958 to 1965, and again from 1971-1973.

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Then there is the Palm Springs Tramway. We did not get to go up as the weather at the top was VERY wintery and the visibility was nil! Yes, they do get snow in the mountains in southern California!

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The Living Desert Zoo is also a fantastic way to spend a day! You can walk or take a tram around and visit all the animals! This year their theme is ‘Save the Cheetah’ (#savethecheetah). The Cheetah is considered one of the most endangered animals in the world. The chief threats to the cheetah’s existence are loss of habitat, poaching and hunting.

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We were also lucky enough to see baby warthogs!

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and were there in time for the Giraffe feedings! Who knew they had such long tongues!!

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Then there was the Leopard and Tortoise!

My husband was very happy to discover the McCormicks Palm Springs Collector Car Auction! (www.Classic-Car Auction.com)

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After 10 wonderful days it was time to move on down the road! Next stop was Salton City. We had briefly stopped there on our way up to Shoshone and wanted to return to learn more about the area. Salton City is situated on the Salton Sea. The Salton Sea is fascinating to learn about.

The Salton Sea is California’s largest lake. At a surface elevation of 227 feet below sea level, it has a surface area of 243,718 381 square miles. The maximum depth of the Sea is about 51 feet and the average depth 31 feet. The annual inflow to the Sea averages about 1,300,000 acre-feet, carrying approximately 4,000,000 tons of dissolved salt.

With an elevation of -220 feet, the Salton Sea is designated by the federal government as a repository for agricultural drainage. Without this use of the Sea, land in the Imperial and Coachella Valleys would be too water logged and/or saline for agriculture.

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In 1905, in an effort to increase water flow into the area for farming, irrigation canals were dug from the Colorado River into the valley. Due to fears of silt buildup, a cut was made in the bank of the Colorado River to further increase the water flow. The resulting outflow overwhelmed the engineered canal, and the river flowed into the Salton Basin for two years, filling the historic dry lake bed and creating the modern sea, before repairs were completed. (Wikipedia) 6 communities sprang up and the area became a playground for water lovers in the 1950’s.

The Salton Sea is beset by several serious problems. Because the Sea has no outlet, water is lost only through evaporation , leaving dissolved salts behind and gradually raising salinity. The Sea’s salinity has now reached 44 parts per thousand, about 25% higher than ocean water!

The Salton Sea is a tragic area. It looks beautiful, and was once a play ground for the rich and famous. However, many of the settlements have substantially shrunk in size, or have been abandoned, mostly due to the increasing salinity and pollution of the lake over the years from agricultural runoff and other sources. Many of the species of fish that lived in the sea have been killed off by the combination of pollutants, salt levels, and algal blooms. Dead fish have been known to wash up in mass quantities on the beaches. The smell of the lake, combined with the stench of the decaying fish, also contributed to the decline of the tourist industry around the Salton Sea. (Wikipedia)

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One draw for the area is for Para sailing.  On our first stop we had seen 3 or 4 flying over and it was one of the reasons we wanted to go back. We met a couple from New Mexico who spend a month there every year just for that reason.

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Salton City is on the west side of the lake. We decided to take a day and drive around the whole distance of the lake. On the east side we came to Niland, California, home of Salvation Mountain! Friends had taken us there years before and we were lucky to meet the founder and developer, Leonard Knight. Salvation Mountain is Leonard’s tribute to God and his gift to the world with its simple yet powerful message: “God Is Love.” 

Unfortunately Leonard has since passed away but the property is being protected, looked after, and restored by a non profit group living there. I believe Leonard ‘squatted’ on the property, never owning the land! It is a place that needs to be seen to be truly appreciated! Hopefully it will be designated as a National Historic Site.

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Next up? Our little bit of paradise, San Felipe, Mexico!

Until next time…….

Mohave National Preserve

Going south from Shoshone we decided to explore Mojave National Preserve. We have visited many National Parks over the years, but not many, (if any), National Preserves. I wondered what the difference was. As close as I could find, National Parks are protected due to their scenic, inspirational, education and recreational value. A national Preserve shares those characteristics but certain activities such as  fishing, hunting, mining, and oil/gas exploration are permitted.

Mohave National Preserve is found in southern California in the Mojave Desert. It is a 1.6 million acre park! We went in from Baker, CA up the Kelbaker road towards Kelso.

The first items of interest were the cinder cones! There are dozens of them seen from the road. These relatively benign lava flows happened as long ago as 7.6 million years, with the more recent ones being (only) 10,000 years ago!

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Further up the road we arrived at Kelso. Kelso Depot once provided food, recreation and accommodations for Union Pacific Railroad employees.

Construction of the Union Pacific rail line began at 2 ends, and by 1905 this railway track stretched from the west coast all the way to Salt Lake City, opening up markets in Southern California. The first depot opened in 1905, followed by a post office, engine house, and eating house.

Competition with the Santa Fe Railway was tight and rail passengers had become accustomed to their famously stylish Harvey House train stations. Therefore, railroad managers chose to design the new buildings on the Salt Lake Route in the Spanish Mission Revival style.

This gorgeous old building, opened in 1924.

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The restaurant and telegraph office each had three shifts, operating around the clock. This continued through the boom years of the 1940s, when Kaiser’s Vulcan mine caused Kelso’s population to grow to nearly 2,000. The closing of the mine coupled with diesel engines replacing steam resulted in the UP moving jobs and families out of Kelso. The depots function ended in 1962, although the restaurant and boarding rooms were still in use.

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The advancement of diesel technology led to fewer and fewer crew members needing to eat or stay overnight, so in 1985 the UP decided to close the Kelso Depot entirely.

There was a threat of demolition but luckily local residents and others worked hard to try and save the building. The Bureau of Land Management already managed much of the land around Kelso as the East Mojave National Scenic Area, so it made sense for the BLM to gain ownership of the Depot. With the passage of the California Desert Protection Act of 1994, the East Mojave National Scenic Area become Mojave National Preserve and the Depot passed into the hands of the National Park Service. Renovation of the Kelso Depot began in 2002.

The building reopened to the public as the new visitor center for Mojave National Preserve in October, 2005.

The last passenger train crossed the tracks in 1997, but freight is still transported.

The next stop up the road are the Kelso Dunes.

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The huge steep sand mounds are known for making ‘singing’ sounds! They are the largest field of eolian sand deposits in the Mojave Desert. The tallest dunes rise up 650ft!

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We stayed at the Hole in the Wall campground. It had such interesting rock formations surrounding it!

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We really enjoyed watching all the Jack Rabbits around the campground!

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Another highlight of this beautiful area are the Lava Beds. Lava flowed from the cinder cones millions of years ago, some flowed quickly, some types more slowly, developing areas where the lava hardened quickly on the surface but kept running underneath, creating tunnels or ‘tubes’ We had never been inside a lava tube before and found it very interesting and beautiful!

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The park is huge, as I said, so we drove around large areas of it, the scenery is magnificent and quite different around every corner, from forests of Joshua Trees, to views of snow capped mountains!

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Thanks for traveling along!

Until next time…….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tecopa, Death Valley and Amargosa!

We really did not know much about Tecopa, California. It was kind of a ‘plan B’ to stay in the Shoshone area, as the Furnace Creek campground in Death Valley was full. It was a ‘plan B’ that turned into one of the highlights of our winter trip! (The China Ranch Date shakes ranking #1!!)

Tecopa is approx 9 miles SE of Shoshone. We had no idea what the area was all about but were soon to find out it was all about hot springs!

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After reading this sign we were not too sure we wanted to go in but there are many people who do. The next thing we discovered was all the hot springs in the area , whether man made pools or not, are ‘clothing optional’!  The scenery surrounding these natural hot springs is stunning!

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The next day we drove into Death Valley along highway 178, the Badwater road. We have been to Death Valley before but had never driven in the lower part of the park.

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We were lucky enough to have this fellow come out and say hello. After we passed him he laid down in the middle of the road, I think he was enjoying the spring heat from the pavement!!

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The road follows along the Badwater basin, the lowest point in North America with an elevation of 282 ft BELOW sea level!

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We discovered ruins of the Ashford Mill, gold ore was processed here in 1914.

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Along the Badwater road is the Artist’s drive. Unfortunately it was closed this year for repairs. We were very disappointed as we remembered it as being unbelievably beautiful. However we were very pleasantly surprised to find that when driving up from the south end of the park the hills leading up to Artists drive are almost as spectacular!

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The formations and tones of these hills are amazing!

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We arrived up at the Furnace Creek center in the late afternoon and turned east along highway 190. We rounded the corner and saw the pull out for Zabriske Point. Somehow we missed this unbelievable area the first time we toured the park! The badlands are incredible!

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I think I could have stayed here for hours, the view was so outstanding!

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But it was time to move on down the road, next stop was the 20 Mule Team drive. It was fabulous driving down into the badlands.

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To finish off a perfect day we arrived at Dantes Point just in time for the most spectacular sunset overlooking the Badwater Basin! The elevation here is 5,476ft so it gives you an amazing view point!

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The next day we traveled up highway 127 towards Beatty, Nevada. Our goal was the ghost town of Rhyolite. We got a big surprise as we got there with the open air Goldwell Museum! It is an outdoor sculpture park next door to Rhyolite. Did not expect to find this!

The Museum began in 1984 with the creation and installation of a major sculpture by Belgian artist Albert Szukalski titled  “The Last Supper”–a ghostly interpretation of Christ and his disciples sited against the backdrop of the expansive Amargosa Valley.

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To make the life-size ghost figures, Szukalski wrapped live models in fabric soaked in wet plaster and posed them as in the painting “The Last Supper” by Leonardo Da Vinci. When the plaster set, the model was slipped out, leaving the rigid shroud that surrounded him. Szukalski then coated the figures with fiberglass making them impervious to weather!

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More sculptures were added later.

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Then it was on to Rhyolite. The town began in early 1905 as one of several mining camps that sprung up in the area. Thousands of gold-seekers, developers, miners and service providers flocked to the Bullfrog Mining District, with many settling in Rhyolite.

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The mining dwindled by 1919 and by 1920 Rhyolite was a ghost town. It then became a tourist attraction and a movie set.

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Another days exploring was to the fascinating ‘town’ of Death Valley Junction, here we discovered the Amargosa Opera House! Death Valley Junction is an historic crossroad. The town was originally called Amargosa but was changed to Death Valley Junction in 1907. It was once a major junction for rail traffic, with a population of 300 people! Now it is listed on the Register of Historic Places with only a few locals!

We found the most interesting story of Death Valley Junction was Marta Becket and the Amargosa Opera House.

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In 1967 Marta Becket left New York to make a new life for herself. She was a dancer and artist who was disillusioned with the ‘big city’ life. She found an old social hall in the middle of nowhere and created her own theater! She named the hall the Amargosa Opera House. She hand painted a 16th century audience on the walls and had performances 3 times a week and on weekends!

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Her murals did not stop, she hand painted all the walls, the ceiling and the stage back drops. Then continued into the hotel dining room!

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On our visit we were told that Marta had recently passed away. She herself had not been performing for a few years, but the productions still went on. She devoted 50 years to Death Valley Junction, with her love of art and dance.

We can only hope that the legacy she began will be preserved. It is an amazing place and so worth a visit. We ate at the small cafe, they have very good sandwiches and try to bring in whatever fresh foods are available in the season.

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So as you can see, discovering the tiny town of Shoshone led to so many amazing places we would not have seen otherwise. Sometimes the road less traveled leads to the best adventures!

I always appreciate your views and comments, so please drop me a line!

Until next time!