Tag Archive for ‘USA’

On the way home – final post from this trip!

On the way home – final post from this trip!

We’ll be on the plane home tomorrow evening after our epic trip in western USA. We’re spending our last night in Napa where the weather is in the 30Cs. We have really been through all seasons in our five weeks away! So here are a few final thoughts from our last few stayovers and some pics.

We strolled around downtown Denver along the pedestrian mall towards the State Capitol on a beautiful late spring day. We came across the local police (hundreds) and friends doing a fun run for the Special Olympics, saw a large bear looking at his own reflection and observed the recipe for Denver Omelet which was supposedly invented to add extra ingredients to stale eggs to disguise their taste!

Denver

I liked the idea of the drive by voting below!

Denver votes!

On to Monterey on the west coast where the sea fog kept the temperature down so it was on with the puffer jackets again! The famous Cannery Row (made so by John Steinbeck in ‘Of Mice and Men’) is now very touristy but we had a fabulous seafood meal right on the waterfront. Though there are still some derelict cannery works (lower left) I doubt that the sardine fishermen and cannery workers would recognise the Row. Not far from the main tourist area there were many divers and even more seals. The little chap on upper right below was grabbing and crunching what look like mussels in quick succession – must have been hungry!

Monterey

A scenic 17 mile drive took us along the coast to the Pebble Beach Golf Course where the preparations were proceeding at apace for the upcoming US Open . Two of us wondered whether more volunteers might be required! We viewed the 1st tee and 18th green – will be fun to remember when we are home watching the golf on tv! Hope it warms up a bit for the players.

Pebble Beach Golf Course

Coming in the spring, we have been fortunate to see a lot of plants in flower and I’ve taken pics of them along the way. As you can see they reflect the nature of the areas we’ve been through – from the cacti in the desert, to the alpine plants in the higher elevations.

Thanks for reading!

Another degree north – At and Around Lake Powell

Another degree north – At and Around Lake Powell

Our next stop was on the shores of Lake Powell, a huge expanse of water formed by the damming of the Colorado River at Glen Canyon Dam. Much of it is in Utah – we stayed south of the border near Page in Arizona – below is the view from our window taken in the late evening with shadow on the water and the desert beyond still in sunlight. Quite an incongurous sight, especially with the large marina in view as well. Apparently several million people visit the lake area every year from all over the US and some from further afield too for aquatic activities and hiking.

Lake Powell

A highlight for me of these few days, was our trip to the upper Antelope Canyon – which is a slot or crack canyon. It is east of Page and, as it is on Navajo lands, we were only able to visit by guided tour. It was extremely well organised, nothing allowed except a camera and 14 or so people in tight groups were taken through the 100 metre walk in single file by our navajo guides starting in the narrow opening (below left).

The narrow canyon is formed by water finding cracks on the surface and running down into the sandstone aided by flash flooding during rain periods making the narrow ‘corridor’ deeper and forming the beautiful graceful flowing shapes of the walls. As it is open at the top wind blows sand in and through it too. We went through on a windy day and ended up rather gritty from the sand coming through above us. The guide had his face very sensibly covered!

There has been some spectacular photography in this canyon – a few images have apparently sold for milliions!! We all had fun with our cameras and with the filtered light, graceful curves and the colours of the sandstone it was hard not to get some beautiful shots especially as our guide helped too. Here is a collage of some of mine (except lower right which the guide took for me! ).

Upper Antelope Canyon

We also took a memorable boat ride through the lower Antelope Canyon which has now been flooded by the the Lake. It was a windy, cold and dull day as you can see from below! Here the canyon is wider and there were many (most likely freezing) kayakers there too. Apparently it is wall to wall aquatic craft in the summer. The Lake is quite low now as can be seen from the “hanging” boat ramp which is too far above the lake to be currently used. Cherrie is coming back up the walkway from the marina where we caught the boat – the whole marina and the walk way are “moored” to the ground above highwater mark and rise and lower with the level of the lake. This year’s snow melt is just starting to impact on its level.

Lunch in a locals’ diner where we were probably the only tourists! It was the young chef’s birthday and he was embarrassed when the whole room sang Happy Birthday.

You might recognise the next photo.

Horseshoe Bend

It is Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado downstream from the dam wall. We were way high above it on a viewing area as you can see from the size of the boats on the river in the middle of the photo above. We could just make out campsites and people fishing too. Quite spectacular! It’s an incised meander for the geographic tragics like me.

Above is the walk to the Bend (with only a few others too!!!) and the trio at the overlook. There were the usual game or silly people climbing rocks without guards to get a better view!

Outside the Antelope Slot Canyon – taken by Cherrie
And on to 36 Degrees North – The Grand Canyon!

And on to 36 Degrees North – The Grand Canyon!

As I’m sure everyone knows the Grand Canyon is simply huge – in its size, its geological and human history and spectacular scenery. Even though we had all visited before, the Grand Canyon is (to use an unfortunately overused descriptor) truly awesome. This year is the 100th anniversary of becoming a National Park and though we were visiting early in the season once again we were surprised by the huge numbers already there.  Kudos to the National Park Service not only for its conservation measures but also for its traffic and people management skills. It would be shambolic without them.

Our first view this time was from a flight above the canyon in a small plane. Not to be boring but the Canyon is about 450 river kms long, up to 29 km wide and 1.6 km deep.

plane

Our plane flew about 1000 feet (300m) above the top of the Canyon and we had a great view of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers running through it and yes the water colour does vary.

Aerial

Looking really closely we could just make out some of the famous rapids ( above right – the white water about a third of the way down) and a few boats moving down the river. From this height the rapids look quite benign but many are evidently very challenging with huge waves, big drops and big rocks. Brave souls who take that on now in kayaks, zodiacs or similar, imho; but braver still were John Wesley Powell and colleagues who travelled in four small wooden boats along the river and took on the rapids in wooden boats in 1869. Nine set out and six returned.

Took lots of photos out of the window – they are never great in my opinion but give an idea of the scale of the Canyon and the erosion by the river over millions of years as the plateau was uplifted and then wind and water did its bit.

We did a couple of walks along the South Rim – the North Rim (behind the trio below, bottom pic) is a bit higher and is closed in the winter – we could still see snow on it from the plane.

Rim walk flag

The rimwalks are well organised with shuttle buses dropping walkers at sites along their routes and the many information markers that can be read along the walks. The flag at the Visitor Centre was half mast for peace and police officers memorial day.

Deer view

Not only are the geological shapes spectacular but the colours are amazing as well – generally there is a reddish colour but there are lots of shades of brown and grey as well. In the top left pic a path can be seen snaking its way down into the canyon floor and there is a close up below. It apparently takes 4-6 hours to walk down and 9-11 to walk back up – or – if you book far enough in adavnce – you can ride a mule down and back.  There is accom on the canyon floor. Or for the truly fit, there is also a rim2rim2rim ultra running course which is around 45 miles (72km) which you could also do! I believe the record is about 6 hours!!

Mules

There are always a few jokers who go out over the fenced view points to look over the edge or more likely to take a selfie or photograph someone else……

idiotic

We had our own private venue for happy hour – just outside our rooms – even if a bit chilly by the evening!

End of the day

Next post will be also along the Colorado – from Lake Powell.

To Death Valley!

To Death Valley!

We headed off from Yosemite, descending from the cooler heights of the Park area to the more moderate temperatures of the Central Valley, overnighting at Bakersfield (associated with lots of things but for music aficionados the late Merle Haggard and Buck Owens – sadly (?) no available concerts by local performers for those in our group interested in the genre!) and then on to Death Valley.

Our route along Highway 99 to Bakersfield took us through miles and miles of nut and fruit trees, grapevines and other produce too. Very intensive farming, all irrigated via the mighty Central Valley Project which brings water hundreds of miles from Northern California. No photos to show – a new zoom lens I bought for the trip failed (or is DOA as an expert in a camera shop in Fresno told me) and so for the rest of the trip I’m relying on a little prime lens. We left Bakersfield turning east to Mojave and then northwards for Death Valley. For the geographically minded there is a shorter route to Death Valley across the mountains from Yosemite but it is still closed from the winter.

En route

Couldn’t resist a shot of this shiny new truck, the driver was delivering health drinks to the service centre as we were getting gas (petrol) (around $US4 per gallon). As we drove eastward it became (unsurprisingly) drier and more desert like as we entered the Mojave Desert. We passed thousands of wind generators and huge solar farms en route as well as an interesting clothes shop near Mojave (note the models!) and a field of stored non operational aircraft near there too, obviously the dry air is good for storage. Those who know us might be surprised at the destination of choice for morning coffee – yes – you’ve guessed – it’s the golden arches! Some confusion as to the order – straight lattes or cappuccinos served hot without any additives except milk but we’re becoming more adept at ordering.

As we continued on to Death Valley we passed through a huge mineral area where various salts, borax and other mineral products are produced from the huge dry salt lake, all transported out of the desert by train – surprising to see seemingly uninhabited desert we’d been driving through. We were also very surprised to find a sign to Ballarat. Just the place to eat our picnic lunch while gazing into the distance trying to find Ballarat!

Ballarat

It’s now a ghost town which can just be seen behind Cherrie’s head as she takes a photo of the Ballarat Road sign. Named after Ballarat in Victoria, I would guess because miners moved to and from both places looking to find their fortune in gold, it once boasted seven saloons and three hotels and a morgue but no churches! Truly the wild west!

Death Valley sign.jpg

The temperature as measured by the car climbed as we proceeded north, by the time we got to Burnt Wagons inside the Park, it was 106F (41C). Burnt Wagons was where gold seekers who were seeking a short cut to central California in 1849 burnt their wagons (nothing else to burn there) and dried the meat of some oxen in order to survive to struggle on westward. Don’t know how many did survive. Not far away there are some sand dunes which as you can see it is not advised to walk after 10am due to the heat, nonetheless there were car and bus loads of people all heading out into them.

Heat 1.jpg

Furnace Creek  lived up to its name – very hot! It’s below sea level and spectacular in the starkness of the huge salt pan surrounded by towering mountains some still crowned with snow. Nonetheless we woke on our second day to see a rainshower over Furnace Creek (top pic below).

Death Valley salt flats.jpg

We visited Badwater Basin where there is a small basin of salty water and a huge salt pan which is 282 feet (86m) below sea level but from which you can also see Mt Whitney the highest point in mainland USA (not including Alaska). You can just see the snow cap in the lower right pic. The little white dot above Richard is a label of where sea level is and Wayne and Cherrie are gazing at it leaning on a sign warning people about heat and dehydration, which did not seem to make a big impression on walkers.

Zabriskie Point

Hardly any vegetation anywhere but the landscape is beautiful in its topography, starkness and the colours of the rocks. Particularly spectacular is the landscape around Zabriskie Point – as we and about 400 others saw as we climbed to the viewing point! I think I did well to keep the pics peopleless!

Mates

Waiting for the wives taking photos! Such patience!