To the east in the Lamar Valley, we saw several large herds of bison, including this calf and his mother. A few days later on our way to Lewis Lake in the south end of the park, we had to stop while some bison crossed the road and a young calf stopped to nurse, holding up traffic. Sweet.
SUMMER FINALLY ARRIVED HERE with fits and starts. One herald of the season is the hatching of tiny yellow spiderlings that bunch up in tight little knots and… then spread out on gossamer threads–everywhere, like the ones above that I captured as the sun was setting.
Another herald of summer is the beginning of the garden tour season. I went to the Wallingford neighborhood on June 6th where I saw something new, the embothrium coccineum, Chilean Firebush (above) a very tall and flamboyantly flowering tree. I was dazzled and saw a second one near the end of the tour and then again on the Whidbey Island Garden Tour at the end of the month!
I saw a couple of interesting garden ideas on the tour.This fence employed a clever use of old garden tools.
And this was an attractive and creative way to recycle old mattress springs.
So dear reader, the garden, garden tours and a bit of travel took precedence over my additions to the blogosphere. I managed to finally plant all my pepper, eggplant and tomato starts after the late harvest of fava beans. The tomatoes went into the ground the latest ever on June 26th!!
OUR LAST WEEK IN THE SUN WAS SPENT IN DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK. We had such a wonderful time over ten days last year we decided to return and do some more exploring.
After leaving Red Rock Canyon we traveled north to Ridgecrest, CA and then northeast through the Trona Valley and into DVNP. The Trona/Searles Valley is notable for Searles Lake, a large dry lake containing borax and other valuable minerals and the Trona Pinnacles, “… unique landscape consists of more than 500 tufa (calcium carbonate) pinnacles rising from the bed of the Searles Dry Lake basin. These tufa spires, some as high as 140 feet, were formed underwater 10,000 to 100,000 years ago when Searles Lake formed a link in an interconnected chain of Pleistocene lakes stretching from Mono Lake to Death Valley.” (BLM website). There is an annual event in Trona that looks interesting, the Trona Gem-O-Rama. If you are intrigued in any way by rocks and minerals, this could be for you (and me). The big get here is pink halite.
From Trona Pinnacles it’s about another forty-five minutes to DVNP, along a red road with the Slate range to the west and the Panamints on the east.
Panamint Springs is the west entrance to Death Valley. Last year we drove up into the Panamints to see the charcoal kilns, 8,000 feet above the Panamint valley floor. The kilns were built to burn Pinyon pine to produce charcoal for metal smelting some eighty miles away. At Panamint Springs there is a small resort with café, cabins, and RV campground. Last year we had lunch at the café and Tom like the chili so much he wrote to the owner to ask for the recipe. This year we stopped for a chili-to-go order and lo and behold, there on the bulletin board was Tom’s letter extolling the virtues of the chili and recipe request! He continues to await the arrival of the recipe.
Texas Spring campground was our destination for the next four days. (campground overview above as a storm moved through on day two) above Furnace Creek. This is a wonderful c.g. Great view to the west, of Death Valley and the Panamint mountains rising to 11,000 feet above the valley and the Amargosa Range behind, to the east. I had hoped to be here the first week or so to participate in the 29th Annual Painter’s Open Camp/Paint Out sponsored by watercolor artist Howard Lucas (Mt. Lassen Art Center). The paint-out was happening last year when we were camped at Texas Spring and we got to chat with him a bit. This year the weather and forecast weather during the first ten days was not to our liking – cold – so I missed out; maybe next year. There are many reasons we like this campground. Scenic value is at the top of the list with amazing color everywhere; we can strike out to the north and/or east and hike until we’ve had enough, which we did on our second day; there are no generators allowed here, so it remains peaceful. A few photos below illustrate the reason to come here and paint, do some hiking, or just chill. January and February have comfortable temperatures, lots of sunshine — a welcome break from northwest winters.
On day three a massive sand storm moved through, traveling north to south. The wind began blowing late the previous evening and did not stop for another day. It was so windy that as we stepped from the truck at Dante’s View, 5,475 feet above the valley, we could hardly stand up. The temperature was 44° but felt more like 24°! No hiking here, but the 360° views are spectacular. We made a point of seeing sights we missed last trip, so after Dante’s View we toured Twenty Mule Team Canyon, a borax prospecting area, and made the short walk up to Zabriske Point, an overlook to Gold Canyon and out toward DV. By early afternoon the sand had obscured all views of the valley and the Panamints. Texas Spring had plenty of wind, but it’s like a little cove so we escaped the sand devestation. As sunset approached the winds died off a bit and shifted direction and the sandstorm became a wind event only. We had some dramatic clouds to the south and east lit by the declining sun.
Sunrise reflecting on canyon walls in the campgroud.
HAPPENSTANCE AND SPONTANEITY ARE WONDERFUL TRAVEL COMPANIONS. It was nothing more than happenstance that we found Red Rock Canyon State Park (check the video with the link) in California on our way to Death Valley last year, so having no formal plans or time frame, we stopped for a few days before going on to Death Valley. Again this year we had warm, clear weather during the day (and 30’s overnight) and on a Wednesday, only two other campsites were occupied. As it turns out, the warm weather we experienced both trips was an anomaly. Normal temperature range for this time of year according to the park ranger, is usually is high of around 40° and low 15°! But luck was with us so we had two good days for hiking in the park.
This year we hiked over the ridge at the south end of the C.G. and west up the main wash behind the campground to its end (the cliffs just right of center in the photo above) in a box canyon. As we began our walk at the bottom of the wash we were treated to rivulets of running water that fell over a series of small falls before falling a hundred feet to a larger wash below.
The end of the wash or is it the beginning?
As we wandered back down the wash we did some detouring to see if we could find another way back to the campground and up and over some of the ridges. As we climbed up one small rise, Tom spotted a piece of paper rolled up and tied with ribbon snagged in a shrub. At the other end of the ribbon was torn and deflated balloon from a Red Robin restaurant (who knows where). We unrolled it to see the note:
Could it have been written around Christmas time? Sweet. Too bad Gian Marco did not include his address; we could have written to tell him where we found it. Kind of like a message in a bottle.
There were several tiny plants in bloom along the wash edges. This one I think, is mohave brevifolia, the flowers no more than three-sixteenths of an inch across.
A view to the northeast, the big wash below (where the water was headed) and amazing color and variation in the landscape beyond. Next trip we’ll hike this area. There is no end of opportunity for hiking and exploring here and this is one reason we are drawn to Red Rock Canyon. If our luck holds, next year we’ll encounter good weather too.
WE HEADED SOUTH TO FIND SUN AND FUN IN THE DESERT on January 20th. We found plenty of sun and had fun exploring Joshua Tree National Park on the first leg of our trip. Lots of short and medium length hikes and walks. Lots of wind, too. We had been through the park twice before but had never camped there until this trip.
AT JUMBO ROCKS Campground we had our own private grotto of boulders for a campsite–awesome.
After securing a campsite we drove up to Keys View with a sweeping look out over the Coachella Valley, south out to the Salton Sea, the snowy peaks of the San Bernadino mountains, and the San Andreas fault line directly below. The wind was howling here. Back down the road and a short hike through Hidden Valley, once a hiding place for cattle rustlers and now a haven for rock climbers.
Big piles of boulders are everywhere, jumbled up in piles large and small with Joshua trees dotting the landscape. The sky is so blue here it is almost unreal. Surprisingly, the elevation here is at 5,000 feet and more. This is what is known as high mountain desert and two deserts overlap here, the Mojave (higher) and the Colorado (lower).
This opuntia species cactus in Hidden Valley reminded me of Mickey Mouse!
Leaving Hidden Valley we drove over to Ryan campground and picked up the trail out to the remains of Ryan Ranch at the base of Ryan Mountain. The ranch belonged to a mine owner and was built in the early 1900’s. Very picturesque.
DAY TWO was a hike to Barker Dam. A naturally wet seep was dammed up to provide water for livestock. It was a pleasant walk, about a one-mile loop, but as always we managed to spend two hours at it.
A lot of mining and cattle grazing activity took place here through the 1800’s and into the early portion of the 1900’s before mines played out and folks moved on. But there are a lot of remnants left behind, old ranches, mining equipment, mills, and buildings.
ON DAY THREE we drove west to Morongo Canyon Preserve, a great place for bird watching, walking and hiking. This was our fourth trip here. Not too much bird activity this trip, but we did manage to see thirteen species and a hummingbird in the process of constructing its nest! The willows and cottonwoods were starting to ‘bloom’ so there was a great deal of honeybee activity and the hum of bees was quite loud at times.
The bee is not quite in focus, but the willows were beautiful in the sunlight.
Next post: Red Rock Canyon State Park.