Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Fun With Friends and a New Place to Play

April 13-18, 2017
Las Vegas, Nevada

Thursday is errand day, including Tessa's nearly least favorite (the vet being the very least) which is grooming. While I never tackled learning to clip her myself, when it's just a bath she needs I try to find a self-wash where we can get in and out quickly.

Nothing is close to the RV park, but I find the Soggy Dog in nearby Henderson that has clean facilities with everything we need. Regardless of the amenities, she fails to be impressed.

Bill reaches out to some high school pals who we know aren't going to be at next week's reunion, and Friday we're off to meet them!

First we see Renee who graduated with me and has a part-time home in the area. I think I've only seen her once since graduation and there is a lot of catching up over breakfast at the Bagel Cafe. Which, if you're ever in Summerlin, I highly recommend (lots more than bagels). She's off to Houston the next day so we're especially glad we had the chance to see her.

Bill and Renee
I haven't been to The Strip in ages so we take advantage of our "in between visits" time to make a quick drive through. "Quick" - hahahaha. What a maze of humanity under towering casinos with every inch of space filled in between with shops and eateries and god-knows-what. I nearly break out in hives at the crush that surrounds us.

I know it must be spectacular at night, but after several blocks I bail and head for the highway - whew!

Every high school friend we meet on the road is a special experience. Friday afternoon we meet up with two sisters who are not only high school friends, but were my college roommates. I haven't seen them for years, and Bill has only seen Phyllis once, Judy not at all. What a treat to spend time with these two who were such a huge part of my life for eight years. We will definitely stay in touch, and make plans to see each other again soon.

Judy, Jodee and Phyllis
The temps and spring break crowds continue to increase so Saturday we veg-out at home. 

For three years Lisa and I have read and commented on each other's blogs. Many of the places we've stayed have been based on her helpful reviews. We just missed seeing her and hubby Hans in Tucson, so I'm beyond excited when Hans reaches out on Facebook that they will also be in the area for a few days!!

Plans are made and Sunday afternoon we head to Boulder City for happy hour at their spot. Not surprising it's like meeting old friends - because really, they are :-)) We find a lot in common besides just our love for this traveling life and the time flies by. Too soon we're saying our goodbyes-for-now.

It's getting dark, but I did remember a photo!! Hans, Lisa and Bill.
While at Calico our in-the-door-water from our frig started leaking. Turning off the water to the back of the frig solved the immediate issue but we have an appointment at the Camping World in Henderson Monday morning for a permanent fix.

A lot of folks have had bad experiences with CW, but we've been fortunate that ours have all been positive. Until today :-(  Bill clearly explained what the issue was over the phone, and reiterates all the information at the counter when we drop it off at 8 AM. The tech isn't in yet so we head for breakfast, expecting to kill time for several hours.

Instead I get a call after 45 minutes. The technician explains that they don't have anyone certified to work on residential refrigerators at their facility. What? Then why make the appointment, write up the work order, and send us on our happy way??

Aaaaanyway, we finish our very delicious breakfast of ham and cheese crepes, pick up our un-fixed home and return to our site. We refuse to let it ruin our day, life will continue without cold, filtered water from the front of our frig. Not the perfect life we've gotten used to.....but life nonetheless.  We'll get it fixed down the road.

A small place with a big menu 

Fabulous crepes, wish I could eat it all!
After several days in the big city, we're ready for a nature fix. Tuesday morning we're out early, heading north once again.

Corn Creek Road, off I-95 takes us to the largest wildlife refuge outside of Alaska - the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.

The visitors' center at Corn Creek is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but the trails and restrooms are open. It is a beautiful riparian preserve filled with old growth trees, tall grasses, running water, and an interesting building of endangered fish. We spend over an hour meandering the various trails and enjoying all the birdsong and interesting interpretive signs. There's even a small historic cabin! 

The signage is beautiful and informative throughout the site.

And the views even more so.

Giant trees provide homes for many different birds.

The grass is over eight feet tall and sways gently in the breeze.

At 75 degrees, it is a perfect sunny day to be outside.

The trails are well marked.

This building is actually a pond, recreated to preserve the endangered Pahrump Poolfish. Only 29 remained when their final spring dried up in 1975. They are about the size of guppies and their numbers continue to increase in three preserves throughout Nevada's refuge.

Difficult to see through the green windows, but we do spot a few of the little fish.

This old cabin was built with railroad ties - recycling at it's best, over 100 years ago.

The roof has been rebuilt, but the walls are original - almost no mortar is used between the large ties.

Sparse living.

The lovely sound of Corn Creek keeps us company throughout our walk.

Mulberries are a big surprise.
I love this Medicine Wheel in the walkway near the VC.

This covered courtyard is a wonderful spot to take a break and includes large, clean restrooms and fresh drinking water.
There are two dirt roads within the refuge, both recommend high-clearance vehicles, with the Alamo Road requiring 4-wheel-drive through a dry lake. The Mormon Road goes 49 miles to Highway 93 and through a small mountain pass. Although we're not doing the full 49 miles, we opt for the mountain pass route. 

Washboard and lots of sharp rocks, clearance is not as much an issue as good tires and suspension :-))

Making numerous stops to explore the surrounding desert and to capture the multiple blooms, we spend hours enjoying this magnificent place. After turning off the pavement we only see one other person all day. Perfect.

Just us and a day of Wow!

The views continue to expand as we climb in elevation.

We find dozens of unique rocks in our explorations.

So cool.....
Large bouquets of daisies glow in the sun.
Not surprising given the color of our vehicle, the orange Desert Mallow is a favorite.

New to us are these clusters of barrel cactus - they're everywhere on this route.
They all have these "blooms" which up close look like fungus.
At the top of the pass is a large Joshua Tree forest. The trees aren't large, but there are thousands of them.

This massive uplift is spectacular - the multi-colored layers tell a story millions of years old.

Lining the camera up with the ridge, uses the vegetation to show the steep angle of the lift.

Layers of color and terrain.

It is so quiet up here......
Dark clouds wash the color from the mountains.
Obligatory pink blooms.....they're just so pretty!
What a perfect place to play - next time we'll definitely plan for the full 49 miles to make the loop, but today's trip was great fun. 

Wednesday we're off for our annual reunion in Laughlin where we're expecting the biggest turnout since 2002! 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Back in the Fire

April 11-12, 2017
Las Vegas, Nevada

It is very likely that little of what I post about this stop will look like the Las Vegas you know. We're not here for The Strip - although we did see part of it, from the Jeep.

Our Tuesday morning drive north on I-15 is surprising because I don't remember so many hills to climb, steep hills. My memories of miles of flat desert must be from some other route. A few strong gusts of "where-did-that-come-from" wind break up the otherwise uneventful trip.

Signs of continued, seemingly out-of-control, growth start well before what used to be the beginning of Las Vegas, Nevada. Drought is clearly not the only reason for the lack of water in Lake Mead and the Colorado River. 

The Las Vegas KOA at Sam's Town is on the southeast side of the city, not a great area, but fine for our needs. Access is easy with little driving on city streets. Clean, quiet, safe, and level!! FHUs with 50 amp and good water pressure. No space between sites, you couldn't walk around a chair if you put one out. Gravel sites and asphalt roads. There is a little green space on the perimeter, enough for Tessa to do her business. If we were gamblers we'd appreciate the large casino next door. Our weekly rate combined with our KOA membership give us a reasonable cost of $33/night including taxes.

Our plan was to stay at our very favorite place for the week before our annual reunion in Laughlin, Nevada. However, the dreaded Spring Break is this week and the spaces are first-come-first-serve. At 40 miles to another option I didn't figure it was worth taking the chance. Thus our stay here, which is closer than last year's in Boulder City. Having now done both, I'll take the longer drives with much nicer views over the big city option.

Our first morning we head out for that very favorite place - Valley of Fire State Park. As Sue pointed out, it's nearly impossible to have a single favorite place with everything we see in this life. So maybe it is the most beautiful place we've seen so far, or the most beautiful place in the desert, or the most beautiful natural colors. It's definitely high up on many lists!

A quick drive up the Interstate takes us to the 15 mile, two-lane Valley of Fire Road. It isn't until you're almost to the entrance kiosk that you see the fire. And the Wows continue for the whole visit.

As expected there is a line of cars, and signs tell us the campground is full. A very friendly ranger takes our $10 fee and then we're here - yay! Looking across the valley at the rich red hills I feel like I do when I see Mickey's face of flowers at the entrance to Disneyland! 

Spring Break reality.

The very first glimpse confirms why we've returned.
There's so much "going on" everywhere we look.
Nobody home.
We could spend the whole day exploring just the first stop.
Red dirt make flowers we've seen elsewhere look completely different.
Unique erosion patterns

look like miniature cliff dwellings.
Rock with cool.
There is a stop called Petrified Logs. Having been to the Petrified Forest in northern Arizona, the few pieces surrounded by chain link fence are, well, not very impressive :-) Still, for those who have never seen it in it's natural state, I'm grateful that these examples are being preserved. I didn't even get a photo here. Except for our single wildlife sighting inside the park......

This guy insisted that if he posed for a photo I had to make him look big and menacing (in real life he's maybe six inches long). 
Mouse's Tank Road
Lunch stop at Rainbow Vista
The red rock is beyond known adjectives (note, we have not been to Utah yet), and if the park was only red rock we'd still love it. However, for me, it is the variety of color at Rainbow Vista that fills my head when I think of this beautiful place. The day is hazy so the colors aren't as intense as last year - but I'm not disappointed as we crest the small hill.

"Layers carved from sand deposited when dinosaurs walked the earth."
The White Domes area is at the very "back" of the park and today the parking lot is overflowing, the rocks covered with families enjoying the unique beauty. We drive through slowly without attempting to squeeze ourselves in. 

Domes of silica tower over the red valley.
Baby dome

My reminder that the king size bed won't fit makes Bill reconsider his suggestion that we change rigs.
Even spending hours driving and walking around this park it is impossible to see everything we want to in one trip. That's why we still want to bring our home and stay for awhile. It will have to be a non-holiday week, but we are definitely going to do it!

From this.... this, in less than a mile.
The Fire Canyon area gets you above the red rock and provides yet another incredible perspective. There are very few people here and we take advantage of the quiet to wander and enjoy the views.

Fire Canyon

Hanging out for millions of years, and still looks like it's going to slide "off" at any minute.
Prickly Pear cactus offer bursts of vivid color among the rocks.
When you know Mother Nature is just messin' with you :-)
By the time we move on to Seven Sisters formation, the temps are nearing 90 and we're less enthusiastic about walking around. I take some pics of the gorgeous spot (the rock is more orange than red here), Tessa climbs a couple outcroppings, and we move on to The Cabins. Built by the CCC for visitors to enjoy, these rock cabins look like part of the landscape. The parking lot is full, we spent a lot of time here last trip, and it's hot - so we don't stop this time.

A couple of the 'sisters' just hanging out.
A red island in the dark sea of surrounding desert.

Fluffy dog
What a gift......
The Cabins
Bright yellow Brittle Bush tucks in among the boulders.

Hard to believe, but none of what we've seen all day is the highlight of the trip! Leaving the park through the gray and rocky canyon we pass by a single parked car. I just happen to glance to the right, across from the vehicle, and they catch my eye - I can't believe it! We have looked and looked for these nearly invisible beauties and given up ever actually seeing any in the wild. 

I stop at the next turnout and turn around, trying to hold the wheel with all my fingers crossed that they will still be there. I needn't have worried as once I get pulled over and find them again (no easy task as they blend in perfectly) they move only a couple steps while I take several pics. We are beyond excited!!!!

Our first Big Horn Sheep!!

Even with the zoom he looks like part of the rock.

Hey there handsome.
There are so many wonderful things that make this lifestyle perfect for us. Certainly seeing things we've never seen before is a big part of it. But being able to revisit places that we've fallen in love with is just as wonderful.

Also high on the list is being able to visit great friends we haven't seen in decades, and those we've yet to meet in person, but feel like we've known a long time. 

Both of those happen over the remainder of our visit :-)))).