Monday, November 2, 2009

Zion National Park

Zion Update: Major roadwork will occur on the Zion Mt.-Carmel Highway in the spring of 2010. Expect delays and temporary closures.

I've been to Zion National Park 3 times. The first time was part of the same Roadtrip that brought me to Bryce Canyon for the first time, that being a Roadtrip who's original destination was Yellowstone, where on a whim it was decided to head south to the Grand Canyon.

Driving south toward Grand Canyon, on U.S. Route 89, you come to a juncture which leads to Bryce Canyon. That juncture was taken, leading to my first redrock experience, driving in Redrock Canyon. Not realizing I was about to see a lot of redrock I took way too many pictures of Redrock Canyon.

After a way too short visit to Bryce Canyon it was back to Highway 89 again. Heading south towards Grand Canyon, you come to a juncture with the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway that leads into Zion National Park.

I knew nothing about Zion, just like I knew nothing about Bryce. Knowing nothing, I had no clue I was about to be quite surprised. As you enter Zion National Park, from the east, the scenery is quite impressive, with formations like Checkerboard Mesa. We stopped at several locations and explored, not realizing we had not reached the main show.

Eventually you come to the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. As you drive through the tunnel you pass 6 portal window views that give you hints at where you are heading. Then you come out of the tunnel to an eye-popping view. You are looking at Zion Canyon. The road then does a series of switchbacks to the valley below.

That first visit to Zion was in a September. The park was not too busy. We stayed overnight in a campground in a tent. It was hot.

The next visit to Zion came several years later as part of a Roadtrip that went through Lava Beds National Monument, Reno, crossed America's Loneliest Road, then into Utah and Zion. That time it was just a quick 4 hour visit to Zion, before heading on to Grand Canyon for a short visit, before ending up in Las Vegas that night, to a very HOT Death Valley the next day.

On that second trip to Zion we came in from the west. Since I'd not come into the park from this side before I did not realize the town of Springdale was just outside the park, with a lot of lodging, food and entertainment possibilities, including Zion Canyon IMAX.

The second time in Zion we went through the tunnel the opposite way. At the exit there is a parking lot. From that parking lot you can hike a trail that leads to a spectacular view of Zion Canyon. On the first visit, Zion was not busy. In the years after that Zion became very popular, to the extent that now there was a person monitoring traffic through the tunnel. An RV or bus has to get a special permit to go through the tunnel, which turns one-way til the RV or bus gets through. This can make for a bit of a wait.

By the time of the third visit to Zion National Park it'd grown so popular that vehicle traffic is not allowed on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive from April through October. Shuttle buses take tourists the 6 mile length of the road to its final parking lot at the Temple of Sinawava. The traffic congestion was horrible, so this is a real good thing, making the park experience way more pleasant.

The third visit took place during a Roadtrip who's first destination was Houseboating on Lake Powell, followed by Mexican Hat and the San Juan Inn, Monument Valley, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (where a blizzard overnight had us stuck til the snowplows arrived) then out of the snow and on to the Zion Lodge where we stayed one night before heading on to Las Vegas, Death Valley and Yosemite.

The rooms at Zion Lodge were very big. The Zion Lodge restaurant was very noisy. I had trouble hearing the waitress or my feeding companions. The grounds of the Zion Lodge are manicured grass, which doesn't seem right for a park like this. The Grand Canyon's North Rim Lodge seems to much more organically fit its surroundings.

We went on several hikes the next day before heading out for Vegas. At the end of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive we hiked into The Narrows from the Temple of Sinawava, along with a lot of other people. On other hikes, like Weeping Rock you also see a lot of people. But on the Emerald's Pool Trail I had more of that solitude type peace I like when communing with nature.

I'd like to spend several days at Zion and do some of the longer, more strenuous hikes, like Angels Landing. The sooner the better, I suppose, before these evermore elderly joints of mine get more creaky.

Zion Canyon is 15 miles long and up to a half mile deep. In 1909 President Taft made the Zion area a national monument to protect it, giving it the goofy name of Mukuntuweap. The locals did not like that name, so in 1918 it was changed to Zion with Congress turning it into Zion National Park on November 19, 1919.

Watch an excellent video of the hike to the top of Angel's Landing.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Houseboating On Utah's Lake Powell

UPDATE: Winter Lake Powell fishing info below.

I did not think I would like Houseboating. Being stuck in what I thought would amount to being in a travel trailer on water seemed like it would be claustrophobic to me. I was wrong. I have gone Houseboating twice on Lake Powell.

Lake Powell was formed when Glen Canyon Dam backed up the Colorado River by the town of Page, Arizona. Flooding Glen Canyon was and continues to be controversial. Lake Powell forever altered some extremely beautiful scenery. But, the lake made what remained of that scenery way more accessible to way more people.

Prior to Lake Powell, not all that many people saw Rainbow Bridge, it being the world's biggest natural arch. Now you can take a boat up a side canyon and dock your boat a short distance from Rainbow Bridge. The Rainbow Bridge side canyon is rather narrow. This makes for some big wakes and some rock and roll boating. We're heading towards Rainbow Bridge in the picture directly above.

The National Park Service authorizes Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas as the concessioner in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah and Arizona. There are 5 marinas on Lake Powell. Wahweap Marina, Bullfrog Marina, Halls Crossing Marina, Hite Marina and Dangling Rope Marina.

My two times Houseboating we sailed out of Bullfrog Marina. You can stay in a motel at Bullfrog or rent a house-keeping unit. We opted for the housekeeping unit, which is basically a large mobile home type place with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen and, on the last Houseboating trip, TV had come to Bullfrog. I didn't like that. Now the TV option has even been added to some of the houseboats.

If Houseboating does not sound fun, you can opt to stay at a Marina's lodging and rent a power boat to zip around the lake. I think if I go to Lake Powell again that is what I would do.

This fishing is good on Lake Powell, if that's your thing. The water was crystal clear the first time I was on Lake Powell, as in you could see deep into the water. The second time the lake was almost overflowing and a bit murky due to all the runoff. It was spectacular, though, that time, to see a big rainstorm, with little waterfalls running down the canyon walls.

Depending on which marina you launch from you are close to other Utah and Arizona attractions. From Bullfrog Basin you can take a ferry to the south side of Lake Powell and continue on to the Moki Dugway, the scariest road I have ever driven, it twists and turns down an escarpment. Monument Valley is visible to your south, the Valley of the Gods is below you. Once you've made it down the Moki Dugway you are a short distance from Mexican Hat and the San Juan Inn. The San Juan Inn may be my favorite place I have ever stayed. (I've now blogged more details about the San Juan Inn)

Go here to see more Lake Powell pictures, including Rainbow Bridge. And a Moki Dugway picture.

Go here to read Big Ed's tale of catching a fish in Moki Canyon on Lake Powell.

Lake Powell's fishing season is drawing to a close. It has been a banner year for all species. Habitat, food/forage and fish numbers have peaked to near perfect conditions. Great fishing will continue into the winter months. Currently shad are still in the shallows, with bass and stripers in close proximity. But a winter storm will drop water temperature into the 50s. Soon winter fishing patterns will be in place. That means top water fishing is almost over for the year. It is wise to have a surface lure hooked up during November, just in case, but the real catching will be done deep.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Grand Canyon Skywalk

UPDATE: Grand Canyon West (location of the Skywalk) has moved up to #10 ranking for New 7 Wonders of Nature contest. Click the link to find Grand Canyon Skywalk special offers.

I want to return to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to stay in the Grand Canyon Lodge's log cabins for several days and do some serious hiking and then drive the 220 miles to the South Rim via Navajo Bridge to do the 8 mile hike to Supai, Arizona to see Havasu Falls.

Havasu Falls has been a longtime Hualapai Indian natural Grand Canyon attraction. On March 20, 2007 the Hualapai unveiled an unnatural attraction known as the Grand Canyon Skywalk.

The Skywalk cost the Hualapai tribe $31 million. It is considered an engineering marvel. Shaped like a horseshoe the Skywalk sticks out 66 feet from the edge of the canyon, 3,600 feet above the canyon floor.

The walls and floor of the horseshoe are built of 2 inch thick glass. The Skywalk can support 70 tons of weight, or 800 176 pound people. However, only 200 people at a time are allowed on the Skywalk. The structure is built to handle 100 mph winds and an 8.0 earthquake.

The Hualapai plan to add a museum, theater, gift shop, lounge, a gourmet restaurant called the Skywalk Cafe and several other restaurants. The development is called Grand Canyon West, with hotels, a golf course and a cable tram to take visitors down to the Colorado River.

Building the Skywalk was, and continues to be, controversial, both in the tribe and outside the tribe. Some tribe members considered the Skywalk to be desecrating sacred ground. The tribe's Skywalk supporters argued that the tribe needed the money the Skywalk hopefully would generate. Environmental groups and National Park officials have voiced concerns regarding the project. To me this would seem a bit hypocritical, considering all the unnatural development that is part of the National Park on both rims of the Grand Canyon.

It is not an easy task to get to the Grand Canyon Skywalk. From Interstate-10 take exit 48. Head north on US 93 for 29 miles. Turn east at the Dolan Springs/Meadview City sign (near mile marker 42) onto Pierce Ferry Rd/Hwy 25. Follow Pierce Ferry Rd for 29 miles, then make a hard right onto Diamond Bar Rd/Hwy 261 for 21 miles. The first 14 miles are very bad. Do not attempt to drive it if thunderstorms are in the area.

You can drive to the Skywalk, but to walk onto the Skywalk you have to arrive on a Skywalk Shuttle Bus that you board by making a reservation at 702-260-6506. The Skywalk Park & Ride is a mile east after you turn on to Pierce Ferry Rd/Hwy 25 in Dolan Springs.

The cost of the shuttle bus ride is $30. That gets you to the Skywalk and 2 other viewpoints. To walk the Skywalk will cost you another $30. Special shoe covering booties are provided to keep you from slipping and to protect the glass. You are not allowed to bring any personal items on the Skywalk. Including your camera. There are 3 photo stations on the Skywalk. You can buy a photo of yourself on the Skywalk in the gift shop. For $29 each.

Methinks the Hualapai are doing a bit of gouging here. I've no information as to how successful the Grand Canyon Skywalk is. I suspect it may not be attracting the number of visitors that the Hualapai hoped for.

Below is a YouTube video of the media event when the Grand Canyon Skywalk opened...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mount Rainier & Mount Rainier National Park

UPDATE: Picnic, Campground, Lodging, Visitor Center Operating Hours & Seasonal Status at bottom below video...

In all my trips to go to Mount Rainier National Park to see The Mountain, in all the years I lived in Washington, I never saw The Mountain up close. It was always covered by clouds, thus invisible.

I must digress and explain that when you live in Washington and use the phrase "The Mountain," it is known that you are talking about Mount Rainier, even though there are many other big mountains in the state, only one is The Mountain. That's why The Mountain is on the Washington State license plate.

As I was saying, I'd never seen The Mountain, up close, then, last summer, on August 11, I drove from Tacoma to Mount Rainier, again. When we got to Paradise, that being the most popular destination in the park, where the historic Paradise Inn is located, and where trails lead to The Mountain, I was disappointed that, once more, The Mountain was shrouded in clouds.

I'd been seeing The Mountain over and over again during my stay in the northwest, I had good reason to expect to finally see The Mountain up close for the first time. The picture on the right is looking at Mount Rainier from the marina at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, near the Vashon Island Ferry Dock.

Other than no mountain to see, it was a beautiful day at Mount Rainier, so me and my hiking group started up the trail that starts by Paradise Inn. Even though the big mountain was not currently available for viewing, there was plenty of other mountain scenery to look at, heather covered meadows, blooming lupines, waterfalls.

We got to one particular waterfall, I believe Myrtle Falls was the name. There was quite a crowd looking at the falls. And then, a miracle started to happen. The clouds began to melt away. Bit by bit Mount Rainier began to appear. People started shouting, "The Mountain is coming out." It actually managed to be an exciting moment.

I was shocked at how big Mount Rainier is up close. I've been on Mount Baker. It looks big, but totally different than Mount Rainier. Rainier just looks mammoth.

A couple days ago I blogged about being surprised at some of the choices on a Travel Channel show listing the Top 10 Wonders of the West. Mount Rainier was not on the list, but Mount Hood, in Oregon was. At #5. That really made no sense to me.

Mount Rainier is one of the oldest National Parks, becoming the 5th National Park on March 2, 1899, not long after Washington became a state. Rainier is the tallest mountain in the Cascade range at 14,411 feet. It is the most glaciated mountain in the lower 48 states, with 26 major glaciers. The Carbon, Cowlitz, White, Nisqually and Puyallup Rivers all begin on Mount Rainier.

The summit of Mount Rainier has two volcanic craters. The last eruption of Rainier was 5 years before it became a National Park, in 1894. In the Tacoma/Puyallup zone there are signs pointing out Volcano Eruption Escape Routes.

Calling the mountain Rainier is controversial to some, like the Native American population. The local tribes called The Mountain "Tahoma" and sometimes "Tacoma." "Tahoma" means bigger than "Koma Kulshan." "Koma Kulshan" is the Indian name for Mount Baker. I don't know if "Koma Kulshan" means bigger than Mount Hood, or what.

The picture at the top is the view of Mount Rainier, early one October morning, from my sister's house on Lake Meridian in Kent. On a clear day Mount Rainier can be seen from as far south as Portland, Oregon and as far north as Victoria, British Columbia.

The YouTube video below was taken that day last August when I finally got to see The Mountain up close.



VISITOR CENTERS

DATES and HOURS OF OPERATION
Call the park at 1-360-569-2211 to confirm road and facility status or check the website for current information.

Longmire Museum
(360)569-2211 ext. 3314
Open year-round.

Open year-round.

October 13 through winter
9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. daily

Henry M Jackson Memorial Visitor Center at Paradise (360)569-6036
The new visitor center is now open.

October 13 through winter
10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. weekends and holidays only

Ohanapecosh Visitor Center
(360)569-6046
Generally open late May through early October.

Closed for the season.

Sunrise Visitor Center
(360)663-2425
Generally open July through early September.

Closed for the season.

Sunrise Road is open weekends only (weather permitting) through October 25. Restrooms are available, however no water will be available on weekdays. All facilities (including Sunrise Road) will be closed for the season by the evening of October 25.



WILDERNESS & CLIMBING INFORMATION CENTERS

DATES and HOURS OF OPERATION

Longmire Wilderness Information Center
(360) 569-HIKE

Closed for the season.

White River Wilderness Information Center
(360)569-2211 x6030

Closed for the season.

Carbon River Ranger Station
(360) 829-9639

Call for hours.

The road is open to the park entrance. The road is closed to vehicles beyond the entrance. Bicycle and pedestrian traffic is permitted beyond the entrance.

Paradise Guide House (Climbing Information Center)
360-569-2211 x6009

Closed for the season.

After Labor Day, climbers may register for climbs at the Paradise Jackson Visitor Center information desk, or self-register at the Old Paradise Ranger Station.



CAMPGROUNDS

CURRENT STATUS

Cougar Rock

Closed for the season.

Ohanapecosh

Closed for the season.

White River

Closed for the season.

Ipsut Creek

The road to the campground is closed to vehicle traffic just inside the park boundary. The campground is open for backcountry use. A wilderness camping permit is required for overnight stay. No pets or fires allowed. No potable water.



FOOD & LODGING

DATES and HOURS OF OPERATION

National Park Inn at Longmire

Lodging, dining, post office.
Generally open: all year

Open Year Round

Hotel Front Desk
7:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m. daily

Longmire General Store
Adjacent to National Park Inn.
Gifts & basic groceries. Firewood sales (summer only). Snowshoe rentals (winter only).
Generally open: all year

Open Year Round

September - October
9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. daily

November through winter
10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. daily

Paradise Camp Deli
and Gift Shop
in the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise

October 13 through winter
11:00 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. weekends and holidays only

Paradise Inn
Lodging, dining, post office, & gifts.
Generally open: May through September

Closed for the season.

Sunrise Day Lodge
No overnight facilities.
Food & gifts.
Generally open: early July to early September

Closed for the season.



PICNIC AREAS

CURRENT STATUS

Cougar Rock

Closed for the season.

Paradise

Closed for the season.

Box Canyon

Closed for the season.

Ohanapecosh Campground

Closed for the season.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Yosemite National Park and Curry Village

Update: Seasonal Yosemite Information Below...

I've been to Yosemite National Park 3 times. The most recent visit was towards the end of a Lake Powell Houseboat Roadtrip, which also found its way down the Moki Dugway, to Mexican Hat's San Juan Inn, Monument Valley, a blizzard in a log cabin on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, hiking in Zion National Park, getting a flat tire in Death Valley, overnighting in Mammoth, then crossing Logan Pass the next morning for a side trip into Yosemite.

That last trip to Yosemite was in October, which had Yosemite having the same problem as my first Roadtrip to Yosemite, as in the waterfalls were not falling a lot of water.

My first time to Yosemite I was not as impressed as I had expected to be. But it was towards the end of the longest Roadtrip of my life and I was having scenic wonder overload. This was the Roadtrip that took me up Pikes Peak, across Royal Gorge and down into the Carlsbad Caverns, into Texas for the first time, hiking into the Grand Canyon, swimming in Lake Havasu, going to Los Angeles and Disneyland and Universal Studios and Knotts Berry Farm, the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park and Sea World. And if memory serves me correctly, Tijuana for a little taste of Mexico. Then back across the mountains to Kings Canyon, Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks.

Yosemite was running a bit dry for my first and third visit. Fall is not the time to see Yosemite in all its glory. That would be spring when the snowmelt has the rivers, creeks and waterfalls moving a lot of water.

My springtime visit to Yosemite took place in the 1990s. It was the only time I stayed overnight. Three other guys and myself rented a big gas guzzling Cadillac. The Goober Twins, Big Ed and Wally, Dale and me. The first destination of this Roadtrip was Reno, taking the route through eastern Oregon that has you entering Nevada via Winnemucca. After a day or two in Reno we headed up to Lake Tahoe, then on to Highway 49 with its fun Miner 49 towns like Placerville, Angels Camp, Sonora and Nevada City.

I had made reservations for two nights at Curry Village, also known as Camp Curry. I knew we were staying in something called a tent cabin. I had no idea what it would be til I saw it. I'd tried to move the boys along so we could arrive before dark, but they dawdled. It was not too difficult to find Curry Village. On the way we saw lights at various elevations on El Capitan. Climbers strapped in for the night.

Curry Village has a large parking lot. It was easy to find the office and check in. We were given wool blankets and directions to the tent cabin. I was not being too pleased. When I saw the tent cabins I was less pleased. Found the cabin, unlocked the padlock, opened the door, found the one bare light, turned it on to see 4 cots and not much else. The cabin was wood framed with a wood floor with everything else made of canvas.

I told everyone I thought I'd make it through one night, but I might be in the mood to bail in the morning. It was a noisy night. And there was this constant roar. When the sun lit up the place I opened the door to see what was making the roar. A huge waterfall was crashing down the valley wall a short distance away. My spirits lifted.

With daylight helping, unlike the night before, I could see that Curry Village was quite large. It sits in the shadow of Half Dome and Glacier Point. There are several eateries and one big cafeteria. Huge restroom facilities to handle the large crowd. I found it all a bit too developed. But Yosemite has had a strange mix of private development and preserving nature from its start.

There is plenty of outdoor patio area at Curry Village. This makes for some pleasant beer drinking and snack munching in the evenings. A bar was overfilled with viewers watching the final episode of Cheers.

Yosemite Village is another unnatural thing on the valley floor. It's like a mall. With big parking lots. Traffic at Yosemite is a bit congested. There is a free shuttle bus to zip you to the various attractions that is very easy to use. Since my last visit I believe the park service has implemented multiple methods of cutting down on the traffic. There are paved trails for biking all over the valley floor. The tent campsites look fun. I want to return with a tent and a bike.

Yosemite Valley is only about 1% of the actual park area. It is easy to get away from the valley crowds by taking a hike. The hike to the top of Yosemite Falls was fairly easy. Yosemite Falls is the highest in North America. The famous falls you see from the Wawona Tunnel, that being the classic Yosemite view (picture at the top), is Bridal Veil Falls. So much water was falling over the veil that you could only make it so far up the trail before being overwhelmed by the pounding mist.

You can also walk among the 3 groves of Giant Sequoia in Yosemite.

The springtime trip to Yosemite turned it from one of my least favorite National Parks, to one of my favorites.

Seasonal Yosemite Information
  • Rivers & Waterfalls: Vernal, Nevada, and Bridalveil Falls are flowing with typical autumn (low) flows.
  • Yosemite Falls has water once again.
  • Bears: Bears continue to be very active in campgrounds and parking lots in search of food: be sure to store your food properly!
Lodging & Other Concessions
  • In Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Lodge, Curry Village, and The Ahwahnee are open.
  • The Wawona Hotel is open.
  • Housekeeping Camp, Tuolumne Meadows, and White Wolf Lodges are closed for the season.
Reservations are available up to 366 days in advance. Visit DNC Parks & Resorts' website for more information.

Campgrounds
  • Yosemite Valley: Upper Pines and Lower, Pines Campgrounds are open; reservations are required.
  • Camp 4 is open on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • North Pines Campground is closed for the season.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park

October 18, 2009 Road Report Update:
Currently 29.0 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are open for travel.

Visitors can drive 15.5 miles from the West Entrance to Avalanche, and 13.5 miles from the St. Mary Entrance to Jackson Glacier Overlook.

The section of the road between Avalanche and Jackson Glacier Overlook is closed due to road construction and weather. Hiker/biker access is available to the Loop, approximately 9 miles past the vehicle closure.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park was built in 1921. It is such a feat of Civil Engineering that the road is both a National Historic Landmark and a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. It is also what may be the most nerve-wracking road I've ever driven, on any of the Roadtrips I've been on.

I drove the Going-to-the-Sun Road on a Roadtrip that started by heading across the North Cascades on Highway 20, continuing east on 20 til it became Highway 2 heading into Glacier National Park.

Highway 2 becomes Going-to-the-Sun Road and then turns into Highway 89 when it leaves the park. After the Going-to-the-Sun Road this Roadtrip went on to cross Montana, stopping at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, the site of Custer's Last Stand, then on to Wyoming and Devils Tower, then South Dakota and Mount Rushmore, Deadwood, Wall Drug Store, Badlands National Park and Wounded Knee, then back to Wyoming through Casper and Yellowstone, then back to Washington.

Glacier National Park and the Going-to-the-Sun Road were definitely one of the highlights of this Roadtrip. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is very narrow and twists and turns, with the portion of the road west of Logan Pass being the most challenging.

Part of what makes the Going-to-the-Sun Road nerve wracking is the lack of guardrails. Due to the amount of snow that piles up, as high as 80 feet at the Logan Pass summit, and numerous rock slides and avalanches, guardrails get wiped out. It takes about 10 weeks to plow the Going-to-the-Sun Road free of snow every year, with the road usually able to be opened by early June with the snow closing it again by mid October.

My drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road occurred in early October. Fall had Glacier National Park's deciduous trees, like aspens, being a brilliant color of yellow.

Due to the narrow winding nature of the Going-to-the-Sun Road there are points on either side of Logan Pass where no vehicles longer than 21 feet are permitted to continue. I imagine that can be a bit upsetting if you are driving an RV and did not know this. That could make for a long detour. I vaguely remember my sister complaining of this when she took her RV to Glacier National Park en route to South Dakota.

For those who are unnerved by the idea of driving a road like this, the park has a fleet of tour buses that will take you over Logan Pass.

Going-to-the-Sun Road is named for Going to the Sun Mountain, which dominates your view as you cross Logan Pass from the west. Going to the Sun Mountain is the peak you see in the picture directly above.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Get A Water Car For Extra Roadtrip Options



I saw a Water Car dive into Lake Grapevine, in Texas, a few years ago. I'd never seen such a thing before. In the water that Water Car did not move too fast. The Water Car in the above video is able to keep up with a speed boat speeding on Lake Havasu in Arizona.

I can see where a Water Car would expand ones Roadtrip options. Just drive to Lake Powell and then drive into the lake. No need for a houseboat.

I'm thinking the novelty of a Water Car might quickly wear off. A Water Car is a rather expensive carboat at $200,000. You could get yourself a nice big boat and car for $200,000. Then again you'd save on the expense of renting a marina space, because you could just park your carboat in your garage.

I wonder what sort of mileage the Water Car gets? 20 mph on land? 5 mph at sea?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Roadtripping & The Casinos Of The American West

I don't remember when it was that casinos started to proliferate in America outside of Nevada. I do know that what had been a trickle, by the 1990s, had become a flood.

Now, in 2009, on a Roadtrip across the American West you will find casinos in almost every state, the biggest casino exception being Texas. But, the states that surround Texas all have legalized casino gambling, with Oklahoma having the world's 5th biggest casino, that being WinStar World Casino Resort, right across the Red River border from Texas.

Oklahoma has dozens of casinos. I would guess only Nevada has more casinos than Oklahoma.

With the 3 west coast states all having legalized gambling, times got tougher for Nevada. Las Vegas had to amp up its uniqueness to remain a destination. Reno has had a much tougher time of it. I've lost count of the number of Roadtrips I took to Reno over the years, back when Nevada was unique.

Nevada being so unique ended years before I moved to Texas. The valley I lived in in Washington, that being the Skagit Valley, has two large casino resorts, those being the Skagit Valley Casino, owned by the Skagit Tribe and the Swinomish Northern Lights Casino, owned by the Swinomish Tribe.

Many of the casinos in the west rival Vegas quality in their theming and architecture. The two photos you see here are from the Tulalip Casino Resort in Marysville. In front of the casino there is a large water feature with Orcas, a giant Tulalip Indian spearing giant salmon, waterfalls and sound effects. You walk into the Tulalip Casino with large waterfalls crashing around you.

Click to see more Tulalip Casino pictures and a list of Washington's Casinos.

One nice thing about the proliferation of casinos throughout the west, pertaining to Roadtripping, is you are usually not far from the next casino, where you can take a rest stop, find cheap eats, usually a good buffet. Or, if you are just thirsty, most casinos I've been in have free drink stations where you can get coffee, tea or sodas.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Roadtripping The Hana Highway On Maui In Hawaii

On the island of Maui, in the state of Hawaii, there is one of the best Roadtripping drives you can go on anywhere in the world. That being the Hana Highway. The Hana Highway, also known as the Road to Hana and the Hana Road, is a 68 mile section of Hawaii State Highways 360, 36 and 31, connecting Kahului with the little town of Hana in east Maui.

After you cross Kalepa Bridge the Hana Highway becomes Hawaii Highway 31, continuing on to Kipahulu.

Even though Hana is only about 52 miles from Kahului, the Roadtrip to Hana takes at least 3 hours. Usually more. The Hana Highway is a very winding road, crossing more than 59 bridges, 46 of them one way bridges, like the one you see us standing on in the picture.

You navigate around 620 twists and turns as you make your way to Hana. You will likely run into a traffic jam or two at the one lane bridges, as you wait your turn to cross.

Hana Highway is on the National Register of Historic Places.

You'll see many waterfalls as you Roadtrip the Hana Highway. Some of the waterfalls may be on private property, with no trespassing signs. All beach property on the Hawaiian Islands must provide public access.

At the end of the Hana Highway you'll find the most famous of the waterfalls, 'Ohe'o Gulch, more commonly known as the Seven Sacred Pools. The waterfalls and pools are in Haleakala National Park. An earthquake, in 2006, closed the dirt road that took you to the Seven Sacred Pools. That road reopened in October of 2008.

There are a lot of scenic lookouts along the Hana Highway. Stopping at all of them will make the Roadtrip to Hana and back an all day affair. I highly recommend making the Hana Highway Roadtrip an all day affair..

Below is a high speed YouTube video Roadtrip on the Hana Highway. Not suitable viewing for those prone to motion sickness...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Roadtripping Chuckanut Drive In Washington



Chuckanut Drive was built, I think, in the 1920s, to connect the Skagit Valley with Bellingham, in Whatcom County, in Washington state. An Interurban train ran between Mount Vernon and Bellingham, above Chuckanut Drive. The Interurban train has been long gone. What remains is known as the Interurban Trail, an excellent bike ride that runs from Larrabee State Park to the Alaskan Ferry Terminal in Bellingham.

Chuckanut Drive twists and turns in places. If you are at all acrophobic this road may make you nervous. In places it is a steep drop off to Samish Bay below. There are several scenic overlooks where you can pull off an enjoy the view.

The fact that I lived most of my life in the Skagit Valley and drove Chuckanut Drive 100s of times is why I can be a bit non-plussed when Roadtripping over roads famed for their difficulty and danger. Like the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado. That one really disappointed me. Or the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park. Very scenic, but not too scary, though way more so than the Million Dollar Highway.

The road I have been on that totally out does Chuckanut Drive in terms of drop-offs and twists and turns is the Moki Dugway in Utah. Just like with Chuckanut Drive, every once in awhile a vehicle goes over the edge to a bad end.

If you drive Chuckanut Drive you will find a couple good restaurants along the way, perched out over a drop off. You will find an oyster farm. There is a very good state park, that being Larrabee State Park. Be sure and stop and make your way to the beach. You will be glad you did. Or hike the trails up Chuckanut Mountain to Fragrance Lake. I used to do that regularly and miss it a lot.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Eddie McStiff's Restaurant Brew Pub & Bar In Moab Utah

I've mentioned before that Moab, Utah is one of my favorite places. I've got a lot of reasons why. I love mountain biking, redrock, beautiful scenery, beautiful people and good restaurants. Moab has all of that and with the beautiful people part, they come from all over the globe to the Mountain Biking Capital of the World.

I don't know how many good times I've had at Eddie McStiff's in Moab. Eddie McStiff's is a sprawling, very colorful, very lively, very loud, very fun restaurant, brew pub and bar. McStiff's makes very good pizza.

The first time I was at Eddie McStiff's they had a bottomless pitcher of homemade root beer on the menu. It was very good. On subsequent visits they no longer had the homemade root beer, so we had to switch to the homemade type beer that has alcohol in it. I tried to develop a taste for the stuff.

I am not alone in Moab being s favorite town. I read a book called Ghost Rider by Neil Peart, he being part of the Canadian band called Rush. Peart traveled 55,000 plus miles all over North America on a motorcycle. He had 3 or 4 towns that he came across that he absolutely loved. Moab being one of them. He had stays in Moab twice during his long journey. Peart's reasons for loving Moab mirror my own.

I was surprised when I looked for information about Eddie McStiff's to learn that it was for sale. I hope this does not mean that Eddie McStiff's and Moab have fallen victim to these tough economic times we are going through. More likely the owners want to retire and know they sit on a gold mine.

You can go to Eddie McStiff's website and watch a video about Eddie McStiff's and check out the menu or watch the YouTube video below, which also shows you several of the reasons I love Moab, including Arches National Park, redrock, the Slickrock Trail and other stuff.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Angel's Landing Hike In Zion National Park



My first visit to Zion National Park I attended a ranger lecture and slide show. The ranger told us about the Angel's Landing Trail. I was not equipped for such a hike at the time, but vowed to return. It would be almost 2 decades later I returned to Zion. But that was part of a spontaneous Roadtrip with no destinations in mind, so arriving at Zion was purely unintentional. So, no hike to the top of Angel's Landing

I've been back to Zion one more time, as part of a long Roadtrip that included Houseboating on Lake Powell, getting stuck in a blizzard at the north rim of the Grand Canyon, an overnight in the Zion National Park Lodge, then a few days in Las Vegas, an overnight in Death Valley and a quick trip into Yosemite.

The above YouTube video is the first time I've actually seen, in graphic terms, what the Angel's Landing Trail is like. In the video you watch Susannah, Samantha and Jason make the ascent for the first time. Watching this video gave me the acrophobic willies. I now do not know if I could make this hike.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ghost Roadtripping The American West

My best friend in West Texas, calling herself the Queen of Wink, was reading a book called Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road, by Neil Peart, at the same time she was reading my Roadtripping Bloggings. She made note of how many of the places the Ghost Rider Roadtripped through in the American West were places I'd blogged about.

Neil Peart is in the Canadian Rock band, Rush. He is also a prolific writer. After losing both his daughter and wife in the course of a year, late in the last century, Peart decided to take off on a Roadtrip to try and heal his shattered soul.

Peart's means of locomotion is a BMW motorcycle. He started his 55,000 mile Roadtrip in eastern Canada, headed up to Alaska, then down to Vancouver. At about the 100 Mile House in British Columbia he was on roads I was familiar with.

I have now ridden as far as Belize with Mr. Peart. He has made me want to go deep into Mexico. It is a lot of narrative to try and describe so many miles covered, so the story jumps a lot of distance at times. And he does a lot of backtracking, particularly in the American West.

I forget where Peart crossed into America. Like I said, he does a lot of backtracking. I think when he entered America, Going-to-the-Sun Road, in Glacier National Park, was the first destination. I also remember he ended up in Boise for one night, and drove by Lake Coeur de Lene. There was talk of heading to Devils Tower, but something intervened and he set off in a different direction.

He Roadtripped through the Columbia Gorge on the first scenic highway built simple for the purpose of making it easy for motorists to experience the Gorge. I believe that highway was built in the 1920s. From Oregon he headed south, if I remember right, routing through Ontario in Eastern Oregon, on the way to Winnemucca in Nevada. I had my one and only auto accident south of Ontario on a foggy winter day on the way to Reno.

From Winnemucca he headed south and got on part of the Loneliest Highway in America and headed east, destination the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Somehow that didn't work out. It gets hard to remember. Like I said he's all over the place. I think it was Bryce Canyon National Park, next, where he hiked the same hikes I've mentioned hiking and stayed at Ruby's Inn. After Bryce he went into backtrack mode, heading back to the Loneliest Highway, driving the full length, then through Reno, then up to Lake Tahoe, heading south on, I think, Highway 49, til he got tired of all the traffic and took a pass over the Sierra Nevadas, passing through Bishop on his way through Death Valley National Park, then heading north, spending the night in Tonapah.

I've spent a night in Tonapah on two occaisions, at the same motel. One of the strangest motels I've ever been in. Strange in a good way. The rooms, huge, with big mirrors making the room look even bigger, huge beds, huge bathroom. I think it was called the Royal Queen.

After Tonapah, he headed towards Las Vegas via Area 51. At some point he heads to Los Angeles, but I think that came later. I think after Vegas he spent a couple days in Zion Canyon National Park, where he hiked to the Emerald Pools and talking of hiking to Angel's Landing, then the north rim of the Grand Canyon, then jumped south, deeper into Arizona, visiting Tombstone and spending the night in Bisbee.

After Bisbee he headed east to White Sands National Monument, then north, hoping to find the Trinity Site. I had the same hope and the same luck. Could not find it.

Then it was west, again, from Santa Fe, spending a night at the San Juan Inn in Mexican Hat before going to Moab and spending a few days, biking and hiking in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Then south to Monument Valley, then quickly to Tuscon and Yuma, driving by the Algodones Sand Dunes, heading north on the east side of the Salton Sea, I think returning to Death Valley, before heading to Los Angeles. At some point he stopped at the London Bridge on Lake Havasu.

I'm likely forgetting some places Roadtripped to on this meandering journey and the precise order of the meandering. It seems like he rented a boat on Lake Powell. One of the reasons it is hard to remember this itinerary is at times there is very little detail, just a casual mention made in passing as the Roadtrip miles fly by.

Anyway, very good book. I recommend it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Racing To The Top Of Pikes Peak



I previously wrote a Roadtripping Blogging about the drive to the top of Pikes Peak. It was quite some time ago that I took my one and only Roadtrip to the top of the 2nd most visited mountain top in the world.

Only Japan's Mount Fuji sees more visitors at its summit.

One memory of being at the summit of Pikes Peak was my surprise at how big the visitors center was. And that there were fresh donuts. Well, the above video confirms the donuts and brought back real clear what the drive to the top of Pikes Peak is like. And how brakes can overheat on the way back down.

The second YouTube video shows a car racing to the top of Pikes Peak. The Pikes Peak Race is one of the oldest in the world. And it's not just cars. Motorcycles also race. Racing up Pikes Peak like this seemed borderline insane to me. Worse than the cars racing to the top, was another video I saw of motorcycles careening around hairpin Pikes Peak corners.

Silverton Colorado

That's Wanda looking at me looking down at Silverton, Colorado in the valley below. We arrived in Silverton on a Roadtripping day that started in Moab, getting to Durango about noon, then on to Silverton, hoping to find a place to stay for the night, before heading to Taos, New Mexico in the morning, via the Million Dollar Highway.

It was October, so there were not a lot of tourists wanting to stay overnight in Silverton. So, we easily found rooms at the Grand Imperial Hotel. I'd never stayed in such place before. Built in the Victorian style in the late 1800s when Silverton was a mining boomtown, the Grand Imperial Hotel has no elevators, which would seem to be no big deal.

The photo of the Grand Imperial makes it appear to be a 3 floor structure. But, I'm sure I remember we were on the 4th floor. Every time I had to climb up those flights I got winded. Silverton is one of the highest towns in America. 9,305 feet above sea level. I have been standing on the planet at a higher elevation, that being Pikes Peak, but I've never spent a night at so high an elevation.

Soon upon our arrival the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad tooted in to town. This had all the stores and restaurants open and the town seeming busy. And then the train left, most of the stores closed, with the town back to its usual 500, give or take a few people, population.

A mountain hovers over Silverton. Part way up that mountain there is a statue. Big Ed and I got out the mountain bikes to pedal around town and then up that mountain. I did not take the 9,305 feet elevation in to account when I decided I wanted to pedal up that mountain. I was breathing so hard to get oxygen it was painful. Eventually I gave up pedaling and hiked to the statue. It turned out to be a memorial to those lost in a big Silverton mining accident.

That night we had dinner in the Grand Imperial Hotel's Restaurant. And then we went to the Grand Imperial's Saloon. Now, I did not know, until that night, that drinking an adult beverage at a high elevation has quite a more potent intoxicating effect than it does at sea level.

Two things stick in my mind from that evening. One was the full moon shining through the saloon's windows. This was the brightest, biggest moon I had ever seen. The other thing that stuck in my mind was our bartender. You can see both the moon and the bartender in the picture.

She asked where we were from. Back then, I'd always say "Seattle," when I'm on a trip, because people know where that is. It's like now I'd say I was from Dallas, because Fort Worth is not all that well known outside of this zone, for the most part.

So the bartender said she'd lived in Silverton all her life, that she has rarely left Silverton, just going to Durango a few times. Then she said her dream was to one day to get to travel to Seattle and see those flying fish. We all looked at each other, puzzled. Then I asked if she meant the flying fish at Pike Place Market? She confirmed that was what she meant.

How those flying fish in Seattle could possibly be someone's thing they dream of seeing is perplexing. I find it annoying when those fishmongers start tossing those salmon.

I don't remember how late we stayed in the saloon. I do know that I slept exceptionally well. I attribute this to the high elevation and that high elevation causing me some heavy duty aerobic exercise that exhausted me. The adult beverages likely had a sedative effect, as well.

Below is the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad arriving in town....

Friday, August 7, 2009

Durango Colorado

That's the Durango train station for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in the picture. The Durango & Silverton Railroad has been taking people the 46 miles to Silverton and back for over 125 years.

I have only been to my Durango namesake one time. During a Roadtrip that spent a week in Moab, hiking in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, then houseboating on Lake Powell, careening down the Moki Dugway, overnighting in Mexican Hat, driving through Monument Valley, then on to Durango, Colorado, overnighting at the Grand Imperial Hotel in Silverton with the next night in Taos and then on to Alamogordo and White Sands National Monument on the way to Yuma and Las Vegas.

Durango is a scenic town, sitting in the Animas River valley between red sandstone bluffs. The town got its start when miners swarmed to Southwest Colorado in the 1870s. The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Company bought the land to build Durango's downtown, which quickly grew with big hotels, Victorian architecture and a three story skyscraper called the Strater Hotel, built in 1887, which is still scraping the sky in present day Durango.

Durango is at the center of all sorts of outdoor fun. Mesa Verde National Park is nearby. Durango has several ski areas. So, you can pretty much have outdoor fun year round, skiing and snowboarding in the winter, rafting and kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, hunting, fishing, rock climbing and camping during the less cold, snowy times of the year.

Due to my blogs and website having Durango as part of the name, I get a lot of Durango oriented questions that I don't know the answer to. I also have a domain called DurangoTradingPost.com which gets some interesting questions due to, apparently, there being a store in Durango called the Durango Trading Post. Questions like "the watch I bought in your store quit working. What should I do?"

I hope to go back to Durango soon. My Durango baseball cap is worn out and needs to be replaced.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Roadtripping 49 States In 9 Days

That guy in the picture is named Dave Schaub. Dave is standing by his 1932 Ford Roadster. Dave is Roadtripping to 49 states in 9 days to raise money for Ronald McDonald House.

You can help the cause and track Dave's progress, as he drives across America, by going to the "Drivin' For The Kids 49IN9" website.

What Dave is attempting to do is a Roadtrip that has never been done before. Driving through all 49 of the continental United States. That would mean every state, but Hawaii. I really do not see how this can be done. All the lower 48 states, plus Alaska, in 9 days?

That is approximately 9,800 miles in 216 hours. In a vehicle built in 1932. Dave has done some modifications to his Roadster to ready it for this monster Roadtrip. He put in a bigger fuel tank and moved the fuel input location to make fill-ups quicker. And he has added cruise control.

Well, I hope Dave successfully makes it to all 49 in 9. Sounds fun to me.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Solo Roadtripping With Me & Rachel



I think I have put a few miles on a few cars on a few Roadtrips over the years. But my Roadtripping is nothing compared to that of Rachel and her Comet Caliente. Rachel bought her Comet, new, over 45 years ago. She has driven it over 540,000 miles.

Rachel is 89 years old. And just like her well-maintained car, well-maintained Rachel is running well on all cylinders.

Rachel is such a good Roadtripper she drove herself on an over 3,000 mile Roadtrip to attend her 70th High School Reunion. Rachel's reasons for loving a solo Roadtrip, match my own. You do what you want to do when you want to do it and don't have to meet the needs of anyone but yourself.

My longest solo Roadtrip started in July of 2001. I was heading home for my mom and dad's 50th Anniversary party. No one knew I was coming.

I left Fort Worth, that's in Texas, headed northwest on Highway 287, through Amarillo, on through a small slice of New Mexico, heading north on I-25, spending the first night in Pueblo, Colorado, then continuing on north to Wyoming, getting on I-80 in Cheyenne, heading west to I-15 in Utah, then I-84 to Twin Falls, Idaho, where I spent the night, before heading on to Seattle.

The route back to Texas, a month later, took I-90 east to Montana, spending the first night in Butte, then continued west til south of Sheridan, Wyoming, where I-90 continued east, with me taking I-25 south til I got to Pueblo again and stayed in the same motel as a month earlier, getting back to Fort Worth the next day, with gas prices having taken a steep jump in Amarillo from the month before.

I want to go on a long solo Roadtrip again.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Million Dollar Highway In Colorado

My Roadtripping over the Million Dollar Highway was part of a Roadtrip that began in Moab, went on to my second Lake Powell Houseboat experience, after another night at the San Juan Inn in Mexican Hat, just like I did the first time I houseboated, then a return to Monument Valley, back to Moab, then south to Durango, an overnight in the Grand Imperial Hotel in Silverton, followed by the Million Dollar Highway the next morning, ending up in Taos that night.

I have driven a lot of mountain roads. You spend most of your life living in the state of Washington, you do a lot of mountain driving. I prefer my mountain driving to have guard rails. As you can see in the picture there are no guard rails on the Million Dollar Highway. But, I have driven many a Washington and California, mountain logging road, with no guard rails, so the Million Dollar Highway's lack was not all that unsettling.

I did not find the Million Dollar Highway as challenging to drive as the Moki Dugway, or even the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park. The Million Dollar Highway does have a few moments, though, tight S-curves, a few steep drop-offs, without those reassuring guardrails, but all in all, the Million Dollar Highway is more scenic than scary.

This section of U.S. 550 is so-named due to way back in the day that it was built to better facilitate supplying mines and towns in the San Juan Mountains, a million dollars was a lot of money to spend to build a short stretch of road. Or so I've been told. Maybe it's called the Million Dollar Highway due to a million dollars worth of gold coming out of mines along the road.

Most people refer to the stretch of U.S. 550 from Silverton to Ouray as the Million Dollar Highway, but the actual Million Dollar Highway is the stretch of the road that runs south from Ouray about 12 miles through Uncompahgre Gorge, up to the summit of Red Mountain Pass. The Million Dollar Highway is part of San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway.

Below is a YouTube video that will take you from Ouray to Silverton, speeding up the drive from 40 minutes to 10.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Death Valley National Park

It's easy to get thirsty in Death Valley. The picture on the left was taken on my first visit to Death Valley. We were pretending to be parched. In reality it was spring and the temperature was in the low 80s.

This was part of a Roadtrip in an ancient Fort Pinto, camping at San Clemente State Park, going to Disneyland and Universal Studios. Then on to Las Vegas, before heading through Death Valley on the way back north.

The next time in Death Valley it was quite a bit warmer. It was in late June. This was towards the end of a Roadtrip that had climbed through the caves of Lava Beds National Monument on the way to Reno, before crossing Nevada on the Loneliest Road in America, then continuing on to Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks before a couple days in Las Vegas followed by a very very HOT Death Valley.

On the Reno Death Valley Roadtrip we wanted to get the full experience of the heat. We brought plenty of liquid and drank constantly. The air-conditioner was left off, both because we wanted the full HEAT experience, and the car over-heated, in the high heat, with the A/C on. At Badwater, that being the lowest point in North America, at 286 feet below sea level, was the first we got out of the car in Death Valley. Badwater is a big salt flat, you can walk out on it. And get very hot. Water is retained in the salty ground making it strangely squishy.

That is Badwater in the picture. If you look at the rock in the background you can see a white dot. That white dot marks sea level.

Death Valley gets very little rain. If a lot of rain does fall it collects at the low point, like it did in 2005, turning into Badwater Lake. The lake did not last long. I would have really liked to have seen Badwater Lake and all the wildflowers that that rain spawned.

On that second Roadtrip through Death Valley we hiked up a narrow side canyon til we could not take the HEAT anymore. A lot of the canyon was shaded, but even so, it just radiated extreme heat, as if you were walking in an oven. I loved it. Something about drinking so much water and then sweating, with the perspiration wicking off so fast you don't notice it, well, it's like an extreme natural sauna. I remember as we descended into Death Valley that day, I had a bit of a Las Vegas headache that seemed to melt away as I slipped below sea level.

The next time through Death Valley was the only time I stayed overnight. This was part of the most complicated Roadtrip I've been on. Houseboating at Lake Powell, overnight at the San Juan Inn in Mexican Hat, driving through Monument Valley, across Navajo Bridge to stay overnight in log cabins at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, where the next day we escaped a blizzard to make it to the Zion National Park Lodge and then 4 days in Las Vegas before heading to Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley and then a night at Mammoth followed by a sidetrip to Yosemite.

Getting to Stovepipe Wells was a bit of an adventure. Sometime after Badwater my van picked up a rather pointed piece of rock in its right rear tire, causing an almost instant flat. We were about 5 miles from Stovepipe Wells. I didn't think it was any big deal, but a pair of my fellow travelers went into what can only be described as panic mode. I usually find that breakdowns somehow manage to add to the fun, causing you to take a detour you weren't expecting.

A spare tire quickly replaced the flat, which was fixed the next day in Bishop, California, and we were back on the road to Stovepipe Wells Village. Our rooms were spread all over the village. I was closest to the pool. I believe it was a mineral springs pool. Very nice. We were in the pool soon after arrival and then again well after darkness fell.


Stovepipe Wells has a general store/gas station. There are souvenirs for sale in the gift shop. I got a Death Valley t-shirt and my fellow travellers bought me a Death Valley Sheriff's Badge for ramrodding this expedition.

We had dinner and breakfast in the Stovepipe Wells Toll Road Restaurant & Badwater Saloon. This is a wonderfully rustic eating experience in a building built from timbers from an old Death Valley mining operation.

After Stovepipe Wells this Roadtrip continued on to overnight in Mammoth Lake in California, then on through Yosemite on the way home.

The last time I was in Death Valley was prior to it becoming a National Park. My two oldest nephews flew me to Las Vegas the August before I moved to Texas. Our first morning in Vegas I read in the Review-Journal that conditions were such that Death Valley might break its temperature record that day.

The nephews were in for the hunt for a record breaking temperature.

So we headed towards Parhump, that being the closest way to Badwater, where the record breaking might take place. Unfortunately, it only got to 124. Not a record. We walked on the Badwater salt flats and checked out Zabriske Point before heading back to Vegas, making a big loop of that Day Roadtrip.

Death Valley used to be free to visit. Now that it is a national park you pay $20 per vehicle. In addition to Stovepipe Wells you can stay at the historic Furnace Creek Inn. It's a bit more expensive than Stovepipe Wells. Furnace Creek Ranch provides motel type rooms near Furnace Creek. At Panamint Springs resort you'll also find a more expensive place to stay than Stovepipe Wells. Panamint Springs also has camping sites. Stovepipe Wells has a few RV campsites with hookups.

Death Valley is open year round. I've had my most fun there when it is real hot in summer. The Stovepipe Wells visit occurred during October. It was quite warm, but not hot. In all my visits to Death Valley I've never gone inside Scotty's Castle, also known as Death Valley Ranch, it's a sprawling 2 story Spanish style villa with a complicated, convoluted history, that is a classic American story of the West.