Tuesday, April 13, 2021

2021.04.13 Lees Ferry and Marble Canyon, Arizona

    Lees Ferry is the only place within Glen Canyon where you can drive to the Colorado River, right up to the first rapid of the Grand Canyon. Adventurous river runners launch their boats here for multi-day trips down the canyon. We originally stayed at the Lees Ferry Campground but didn't like it much, it was just too crowded. So, the next day we had to find another place, this time a nice boondocking spot away from people.
    We've been here, in Marble Canyon, many times before and always ignored the Cathedral Wash Trail, since it looked boring from the trailhead by the road. This time, we decided to hike it, and it sure wasn't a mistake, it turned out to be a pretty amazing endeavor.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

2021.04.06 Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Utah

    We drove by this state park several times before, but never decided to check it out. This time, our main interest was small town Kanab, where we wanted to apply for a permit to hike the very famous trail "The Wave". One can apply on line about four months ahead or you can come in person and try the lottery drawing for the next day. After three days of trying our lottery luck, we realized the chance was very slim. Only 4 permits were issued daily for about 120 people who would show up every morning. In the end, we didn't get the permit and that is totally fine. We went to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes instead and spent a beautiful afternoon here. And the bonus was we found a very nice and quiet campground outside of the park for $2.50/night. What a great deal.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

2021.04.03 Sunset Crater and Wupatki Pueblo, AZ

    Another interesting park we haven't seen before. And we were pretty certain there was nothing left to see for us in Arizona.
    The Sunset Crater Volcano Monument is about 20 miles north of Flagstaff, mostly ignored by the crowds rushing to The Great Canyon. Geologic features like cinders, lava rock, and lava flow compose this interesting landscape. What a great contrast to the red rocks that we're accustomed to around here. We hiked a few of the shorter hikes as it was very hot day but it was still pretty rewarding.
    There is also another national park in the same area, The Wupatki National Monument, connected by a scenic road. There are more than 800 ruins spread around in the desert within this monument, but five of the largest are the only sites open to visitors. All pueblos were built by Anasazi and Sinagua Indians during 12th and 13th centuries, who had to leave the area soon after because of the volcanic eruptions. This unfortunate event left some pueblos in a very good shape, allowing us to discover the way these peoples lived.
    These are two more national monuments we never heard of, but definitely well worth to see.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

2021.03.24 Quartzsite and KOFA , Arizona

    Quartzsite is the most popular place to boondock in the west of the US. Many full timers spend winter season here and every year in January various groups of full time travelers meet to share their experiences and celebrate the lifestyle. The whole town transforms into a huge flea market and you can buy a lot of funky stuff here. It's quite unusual and unique experience.

KOFA National Wildlife Refuge
    The name KOFA comes from the King of Arizona mine located somewhere along the mountain range. Nice and very peaceful boondocking place, but not much to do, except for The Palm Canyon, the most famous attraction in the area. It is the only place in Arizona where native California Fan Palms can be found. The trees grow in a steep, narrow ravine which is in shadow nearly all of the day. Fairly easy hike gets tricky up in the ravine off the main trail, which we of course had to try. Luckily, we have survived.
    The second attraction we found in this area was "Koh-Kopelli Spiral". A spiral labyrinth scraped out of the desert floor, leading to a pile of rocks in the center, along with some trinkets left by people who visited. No one knows who made it, some speculate that it was built by a French artist. The unknown makes it even more interesting. And I have to admit that it was a lot cooler than I expected it to be.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

2021.03.18 Valley of Fire, Nevada

    This was our first visit to The Valley of Fire State Park which is known for its stunning red sandstone rock formations. The impressive landscape glows red for miles and is especially beautiful at sunset. Proximity to Las Vegas makes this park very popular and quite busy. And because we couldn't get a campsite at the park campground, it was unfortunately a fairly short stay. Nonetheless, we really enjoyed hiking through the beautiful and colorful slot canyons, desert vistas, and even a historic movie site where the 1966 Western film The Professionals was shot.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

2021.03.13 Owens Valley and Alabama Hills, CA

    Alabama Hills was on our radar and on my bucket list for a while. Because of the relatively short window you can visit due to the rough climate there, it requires some planning. Now, it is almost spring time, so we decided to give it a try. Lone Pine, a funky little town, is the gateway to Alabama Hills and the Mt. Whitney trail. Mount Whitney is the tallest mountain in California and the highest mountain in the lower 48 states at 14,505 feet. The mountain has also become one of the most popular hikes in the state. So popular, that you need to enter a lottery in order to win a permit to hike Mt. Whitney during the summer months. But this is not the reason why we're here. Our main interest is to spend some time at Alabama Hills, the place we know from many impressive pictures of our fellow travelers. The place did not disappoint, it was as beautiful (and as crowded) as we thought it would be.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

2021.03.09 Death Valley National Park, CA

    This was our second visit at this incredible national park. But first, before the park boundary, we made a stop at the "Pads" boondocking place. This is a large dry camping area with several concrete pads that are apparently leftovers from some temporary housing. Many RVers stay here for a day or two before they head to the national park.
    Later, in the valley, we got lucky and were able to secure a spot in a campground at the Furnace Creek Village. By the evening, the camp was completely full. We feel a little bit uneasy with so many people around us but that's the way it is in all national parks these days. Camping became very popular during the Covid pandemic mainly because that's the only thing people can do. And you can already see the impact on the public lands. After three days of hiking we decided to continue our journey to the next destination, Alabama Hills in Owens Valley, CA.

Friday, March 5, 2021

2021.03.05 Mojave National Preserve, CA

    We planned a short stop at Mojave Desert on our way to Death Valley and Alabama Hills. First time, when we passed through this place a few years back, we were not very impressed. This time though, it was a totally different experience. The place was very quiet, almost deserted, just a handful of people at the Hole in the Wall campground. So we have decided to stick around for a few days and explore the area. 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

2021.02.28 Sonoran Desert, Arizona

    What makes the Sonoran desert unique? It is the wettest, hottest, and most bio diverse desert in North America.The Sonoran desert is the only place on the planet where the saguaro cactus grows in the wild. This giant cactus can grow to 70 feet and live to be 150 years old. They bloom in the night, when the gorgeous white flowers are pollinated by bats. In addition to the saguaro, common plants include the barrel cactus, organ-pipe cactus, prickly pear, cholla, ocotillo, yucca, agave and palo verde, to name a few. After our trip to Florida, returning to Arizona feels like coming back home. It's familiar territory, we have been here several times in the past and we feel comfortable in a desert. This time, we have discovered some great new places around the Tucson area. I have to say, it makes me feel kind of sad that this could be our last time at this beautiful desert land. Maybe not, you never know. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

2021.01.22 Quinta Mazatlan, McAllen, TX

    The adobe home was designed and built by a composer, writer, and adventurer Jason Chilton Matthews during late 1930's.
    The grounds consist of the house and beautiful gardens with sculptures, water features and native trees and plants. You can also find a lot of different species of birds in here; they claim over 250 species, but we only saw a few of them. Overall this little gem in the Rio Grande Valley did not disappoint.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

2021.01.21 South Padre Island, TX

    The very last resort town on the Gulf of Mexico in the most southern tip of Texas, South Padre Island is a very popular place for Canadian snowbirds. The beaches are super wide with beautiful sand dunes. You can found lots of big shells here and we saw a bunch of pelicans resting on the beach as well. It was fairly quiet, not too many people around, just a few fishermen and some people horseback riding. It was relaxing and peaceful, but I have to say it was a long boring drive from Corpus Christi to South Padre Island.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

2021.01.16 Bishop's Palace, Galveston, TX

    The victorian style mansion was built 1886-1892 by Walter Gresham, a steel and railroad tycoon, and designed by architect Nicolas Clayton.
    The house is one of a few buildings to survive the great 1900 hurricane that destroyed almost entire Galveston Island. There are beautiful stained glass windows, elaborate carved woodwork, and impressive fireplaces. This is an interesting historic place that is worth seeing while visiting Galveston, TX.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

2021.01.14 Vermilionville Historic Village, Lafayette, Louisiana

    The village consists of Acadian, Creole and Native American cultures from the time period of 1765-1890. There are 19 structures, including several restored original homes with local artisans that provide demonstrations on a variety of crafts. We spent a pleasant afternoon at this living history museum with a folklife park, and got a brief and very interesting overview of the Cajun and Acadian history.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

2021.01.13 Sculpture Garden, New Orleans

Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana.

    We found this beautiful garden at the City Park in New Orleans by accident. Our primary plan was to stop here for a lunch break and this is what we have run into. The sculpture garden is home to more than 90 sculptures by artists from around the world. And the garden is located within an existing landscape of native Louisiana trees and plants. The exceptional thing was, it is all outdoors and very few people were present here. So we enjoyed it even more.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

2021.01.05 Savannah, GA

    Before we left the East Coast, we decided to venture out little north and visited a coastal town Savannah, Georgia. A few fun facts about Savannah:  The second most haunted city in America. Named one of the friendliest cities in the world, nicknamed the Hostess City. A famous scene from movie Forest Gump was shot here.
    The historic district is filled with cobble-stoned streets, 22 park-like historic squares with water fountains, statues and oak trees covered with Spanish moss.
    We discovered a neat campground close to town, decided to stay for a couple of days and explore this coastal part of Georgia. After that, we quickly visited Tybee Island, a small beach town only 20 miles from downtown Savannah, with beautiful wide beaches and Civil War site at Fort Pulaski National Monument.
    Well, our mission was accomplished, the expedition to the east coast is finished and we are heading back to the West. Taking the same route again, staying very close to the Gulf of Mexico because it's January and we don't want to risk frigid temperatures.