Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Snowbound by a Blizzard in a Log Cabin at Grand Canyon's North Rim

You are looking at a mid October view of the Grand Canyon from the North Rim Lodge's patio.

We arrived the night before, not long before the sun set. 2 out of my Roadtrip party of 8 had not seen the Grand Canyon before.

We got called for our dinner reservations before we had time to look at the Grand Canyon before the sun went down.

About midnight wind turned wicked, followed by a blizzard of snow that left about a foot of the white stuff piled up. This made the morning view of the Grand Canyon a bit shrouded.

I had never been in a howling blizzard before, let alone a howling blizzard in a log cabin. I rather liked it. That is Big Ed leading Wanda through the snow to our log cabin.

The post-blizzard morning, on the way to breakfast, we learned that we were snowbound. The snow had closed the only escape route from the North Rim. Snow plows were being sent in from Utah, but it was not known how long it would take.

We were advised to be ready to get out of there when the snow plows made it through. Our next reservations were at the Zion Lodge. The National Park people had kindly informed their Zion counterparts of the situation, letting them know we'd be arriving late.

About noon the snowplows arrived. We quickly left. Soon the snow was behind us as the elevation dropped to the 4,000 feet level of Zion.

I highly recommend the North Rim of the Grand Canyon's log cabins in winter. We were told we were very lucky to experience that storm, that usually the North Rim is closed before the snows of winter arrive.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Manual Monument Valley View

New Year's Eve, 1994. I was Roadtripping from Flagstaff, Arizona to Moab, Utah. I'd spent the day before at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The day before that I was in Las Vegas. Before that Southern California.

I was driving my, then new, GMC Safari Van. As I drove along, enjoying the Painted Desert I looked up to see a scene that seemed real familiar. I pulled off the road and got out my van's manual.

The cover of the manual was the view I was looking at through my windshield, which you are looking at in the photo.

This was south of the turn off from Highway 163 that takes you to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.

New Year's Eve, 1994 started off on Highway 89 out of Flagstaff. Then east on Highway 160. About 10 miles on to Highway 160 I got off the highway in Tuba City and went to one of the most unique McDonald's I've seen. Since I was in the Navajo Nation it should have come as no surprise to find the McDonald's Navajo themed.

Back on the road the next stop was in Kayenta at a Burger King. I'm sounding like a fast food addict. I had a good reason to stop at the Kayenta Burger King. I'd read there was an interesting museum there. And there was. It was dedicated to the Navajo Code Talkers. A story that had not been widely told at that point in time. This lapse has since been fixed. It was the first I'd learned of how the Navajo Nation had helped America win WWII .

At Kayenta I left Highway 160 behind and head north on 163. It was on 163 I saw my van's manual cover staring at me.

Shortly after leaving the Navajo Nation I came to a bridge across the San Juan River and saw the San Juan Inn in Mexican Hat for the first time. I wished I'd stayed there for the night, rather than continuing on to Moab. I didn't make that mistake the next time I was in the area, staying at the San Juan Inn the day I got off a Lake Powell Houseboat.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

California's San Clemente State Beach

That would be me, cooking breakfast, sometime in early spring, likely April, in the 1980s, at San Clemente State Beach in California.

I have many fond memories of this California location.

As a kid San Clemente was our home base for exploring Southern California. I remember so clearly the day we got to San Clemente. Us kids all had our tasks to do when setting up camp, helping set up the trailer, that type stuff.

Mom and dad could tell we were chomping at the bit to get to the beach. I remember mom saying, just go. And we did. To get to San Clemente State Beach a trail takes you down the steep cliffs to reach the Pacific Ocean.

It was in that part of the Pacific Ocean that I discovered the fun of body surfing. And what it felt like to get stung by a jellyfish.

Over the years I returned to San Clemente State Beach many times. I remember one particular time when I realized it'd been 13 years since I'd first stood above the San Clemente cliffs when I was only 13. For some reason this made me feel very melancholy looking out at the ocean and north to the sparkling lights along the shoreline.

When I first saw the town of San Clemente it was a small town. San Juan Capistrano is the next town north. It was also a small town. By the 1980s they were no longer small towns. Instead the towns had all joined together in the type of sprawl that happened all over America. I liked it better when they were still small towns.

Richard Nixon's Western White House, Casa Pacifica, was a very short distance south of San Clemente State Beach. I do not recollect ever seeing Mr. Nixon surfing.

San Clemente State Beach is located on the south end of the city of San Clemente in Orange County.

Location and Directions to San Clemente State Beach

Interstate 5 South
Exit Ave. Calafia
Proceed straight onto Ave. Calafia
San Clemente State Beach entrance will be on your left side in ¼ mile

Interstate 5 North
Exit Cristianitos Road
Turn left and proceed over the freeway
Turn right onto Ave. del Presidente
Turn left onto Ave. Calafia
San Clemente State Beach entrance will be on your left side in ¼ mile

Friday, June 25, 2010

Roadtripping Spirit Lake Highway to Mt. St. Helens Eruption Trail

If you're on a Roadtrip that takes you to the state of Washington, you likely will want to get as close as you can to Mount Saint Helens.

For years after the volcano erupted it was not easy to get close to the volcano.

But now, in 2010, it is easy to see Mt. St. Helens.

If you are driving south or north on Interstate 5, get off the freeway in Cowlitz and head east on Spirit Lake Highway 504 and drive for 52 miles to Johnston Ridge Observatory.

There are several Visitor Centers along the way. Each is worth a stop, with the final one, on Johnston Ridge, being the best, giving you a direct view of the crater and growing lava dome, a mere 5 miles in the distance.

To enter the Visitor Centers you'll need a Monument Pass. A Monument Pass cost $8 for adults. Kids 15 and younger are free.

On the east side of the entry to Johnston Ridge Observatory find your way to the trailhead of Eruption Trail.

This is an easy, 1 mile loop trail, paved and wheel chair accessible, with only 100 feet of elevation gain.

Walking the trail will give you a good luck at the destruction that occurred that fateful day in May, over 30 years ago. You'll see blast destroyed trees still littering the ground.

Interpretive signs explain various aspects of the cataclysmic event. At one point you'll come to the remains of a tree, with the tree leaving you a message in the first person, basically, a talking dead tree that says, “Within a minute, I was struck and scoured by the stone-filled wind. My bark and branches were stripped and scattered toward the edge of the blast zone, 17 miles away. As trees that had stood for hundreds of years crashed around me, my upper trunk stained, then shattered in the nearly 700 mph winds. Only a small part of me remains as evidence of the blast’s power.”

When you reach the top of Johnston Ridge you'll come to an overlook with points of interest pointed out to you.

From the overlook you begin your descent back to the observatory. You'll come to a memorial to the 57 who died that May 18 of 1980, including David Johnston, who's famous last words, uttered nearby, were "Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!"

You'll find other trails to explore, not paved, if you are feeling adventurous and want to see some more views of Mt. St. Helens and the damage done when the mountain blew. You'll also see many signs of Mother Nature recovering from the devastation.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Knott's Berry Farm & Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant

When I was a kid, 13 years old, on our first family vacation to Southern California we had several things we wanted to see. Disneyland, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Universal Studios, Surfing.

And Knott's Berry Farm.

In many ways I enjoyed Knott's Berry Farm the most. Back then it was not as slick an operation as Disneyland. Knott's Berry Farm had a homey feel to it.

And it had a Ghost Town. I've always been a sucker for a good Ghost Town.

When I first visited Knott's Berry Farm, Walter and Cordelia Knott were still alive.

The Ghost Town was Walt's inspiration. Walt began building the Ghost Town in 1940, hauling buildings from old west towns, like Prescott, Arizona. The Knott's Berry Farm Ghost Town took off. Walt added Old Trails Hotel, Bottle House & Music Hall, Covered Wagon Camp, Butterfield Stagecoach, Calico Square, the Calico Saloon, Calico Railway and Calico Mine Train.

By the 1980s Knott's Berry Farm was hugely bigger than when I first saw it. Knott's Berry Farm opened well before Disneyland. The two parks were so different that the two Walt's, Disney and Knott, did not see themselves as competitors. They were friends. The Knott's were invited to the Grand Opening of Disneyland. Walt Disney visited Knott's Berry Farm many times.

The current day version of Knott's Berry Farm is dominated by roller coaster type rides that dwarf the original Knott's Berry Farm and has turned the park into not quite the unique theme park it was when Walt and Cordelia Knott ran things.

Speaking of Cordelia, she is behind my favorite Knott's Berry Farm location, that being Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

In 1934, when times were tough, Cordelia began serving fried chicken dinners on her own wedding china. The restaurant was located on Highway 39. Back then a popular route to get to the ocean beaches. The restaurant soon became a stopping point for beachgoers.

Mrs. Knott's signature dessert was Boysenberry Pie. In the 1930s a man named Rudolph Boysen showed Walt a berry he had cultivated that combined raspberry, blackberry and loganberry. Walt bought a few plants from Boysen's farm and started selling the berries at his roadside Knott's Berry Farm stand. When berry buyers asked what the berries were called, Walt told them "Boysenberries."

On my latest visit to the Knott's Berry Farm area I stayed across the street from Disneyland. I went to Disneyland. I did not go to Knott's Berry Farm, except for Christmas Eve dinner at Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

I had to have myself some of that Boysenberry Pie. And Mrs. Knott's fried chicken is real good too.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Bear On My Car In Yellowstone National Park

That is a Yellowstone National Park bear talking to me through the window of my antique 1965 Mustang Fastback.

As you can see, this bear has stopped traffic.

When I was a kid, me and my siblings had to prove we could behave on lesser summer vacations, working our way up to going to Yellowstone when I was, I think, maybe 12 years old.

Yellowstone went well, so the next year we got to go to Disneyland and California for the first time.

On our first trip to Yellowstone we kept a tally of the animals we saw. If I remember right the bear total was over 30.

At some point in time Yellowstone changed how it managed the bears, so, nowadays, bear sightings are rare.

I remember camping at the Old Faithful Campground, suddenly we heard our mom screaming, standing on top of the picnic table. Because a big bear was lumbering through the camp, looking for food. I can remember this as if it were yesterday.

It was the weeks before my last year of college that I took myself to Yellowstone for the first time. Which is when the bear visited me in my Mustang.

That Roadtrip to Yellowstone had no particular destination. I remember hiking into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and remarking that this is one really grand canyon, let's go see the other Grand Canyon.

And so that Roadtrip headed south from Yellowstone, dropping in on Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park on the way to Grand Canyon. At that point in time I knew nothing about Bryce Canyon or Zion. They were a scenic revelation to me, the likes of which I did not know existed.

I have digressed away from Yellowstone. Yellowstone is big. On the first visit there were several surprises. One being how extensive the highway system is, complete with cloverleaf overpasses. And that there are several geyser basins, all with boardwalks.

I remember in one of the basins seeing a crowd gathered. A geyser was about to erupt that only did so every few weeks. Suddenly the water drained and then it erupted. People fled the blast of steam.

Yellowstone is heavily developed. The Old Faithful area is like a little town. But, you can easily get away from civilization.

I'm hoping a return Roadtrip to Yellowstone is in my near future.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Islands in the Sky in Canyonlands National Park Turned Me Into a Mountain Biker

You are looking at the Islands in the Sky in Canyonlands National Park in the picture.

The two humans in the picture are the Goober Twins, Big Ed and Wally.

I've been to the Islands in the Sky a few times. The view is an iconic American west landscape.

It is from that view, in 1994, that I decided to become a mountain biker.

It was part of a Roadtrip, near the end of December, 1994, that saw Disneyland on Christmas, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum (loved it), and then on to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and Moab.

It was a very cold, snowy New Year's Day that I saw Islands in the Sky for the first time. There was at least six inches of snow on the ground. But the roads were clear.

As I looked down on the river valley below I saw a pair of mountain bikers. I instantly saw the appeal of riding a bike through such scenery. I vowed to buy a mountain bike and return to Moab.

Within a month of getting back to Washington I bought my first mountain bike. Spring of 2005 I returned to Moab, with a group called MudSluts (a northwest term for mountain bike riders) and biked the Gemini Bridges Trail, the Slickrock Trail and the world infamous Porcupine Rim Trail.

I don't think I would have become a mountain biker if not for that moment of inspiration that hit me hard while enjoying the icy cold winter view from Islands in the Sky.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Favorite Hike: Bryce Canyon's Navajo Loop & Peek a Boo Trails

This morning I was on a hike in Texas, on a preserved area of Texas prairie, in Fort Worth, called the Tandy Hills Natural Area. As I hiked I started thinking about all the places I have hiked.

And then I started wondering which of the places I have hiked is a trail I would hike tomorrow if I could.

I thought of the hike to Lena Lake in Olympic National Park, the hike to Ozette Beach in Olympic National Park, the hike up Mount Baker, other Cascade Mountain trails, Delicate Arch Trail in Arches National Park, Bright Angel Trail into the Grand Canyon.

And then I remember Bryce Canyon National Park and the Navajo Loop Trail which leads to Peek a Boo Trail. I believe this is the most scenic, most amazing, most fun and one of the most challenging hikes I've been on.

One reason hiking in Bryce Canyon is challenging is the elevation. In the 8 to 9 thousand feet above sea level range. This makes it really easy to get an oxygen debt.

In the first picture you are looking at the series of switchbacks that take you down to the Navajo Loop. Note, like entering Grand Canyon, you are heading down at the start. That elevation must be regained later. By then you're hungry and likely thirsty.

When you go down below the canyon rim the trails draw you on. With Navajo Loop you soon come to a junction that connects to Peek a Boo Trail.

Before you know it you are several miles from where you started, hiking among an otherworldly display of rock formations.

I have hiked the Navajo Loop Trail on 2 different occasions, about 20 years apart. The first time I was not in great shape. The second time I was easily able to handle the high elevation, strenuous hiking.

Staying at Ruby's Inn at the entry to Bryce is a real good thing. Great restaurants, with a very good buffet to look forward to after burning a lot of calories seeing a lot of incredible scenery.

As I continue to think about it I may remember another hike that I like even better than the ones at Bryce Canyon, but I doubt that's going to happen.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Daydreaming a Roadtrip to Moab, the Slickrock Trail, Porcupine Rim, Arches, Canyonlands & Mexican Hat

This morning I found myself with no one to talk to, so, I asked myself, of the places I have enjoyed Roadtripping to, where would I go right now, if I could teleport myself to a destination.

Moab was my answer.

In the picture that is me on the left, Big Ed on the right, in the area of the Slickrock Trail.

Moab appeals to me for several reasons. One being the setting. Redrock canyon walls hover over Moab.

I don't know what it is about redrock, but just seeing it makes me very happy.

Moab at night is fun. There are a lot of shops to explore. And very good restaurants. And a brew pub, or two.

Unlike some tourist attractions, casinos in Reno and Las Vegas come to mind, Moab attracts a very healthy bunch of tourists. From all over the world people come to Moab to ride the world famous bike trails, like the Slickrock Trail and Porcupine Rim Trail.

I have mountain biked both the Slickrock Trail and Porcupine Rim Trail. Porcupine Rim Trail is the hardest I have ever biked. Exhausting. Incredible. But exhausting.

I am not alone in appreciating the charms of Moab. I read a book called Ghostrider by Neal Peart of the Canadian rock band, Rush. He waxed poetic about Moab being one of those rare tourist towns that you can't help but love.

The entry to Arches National Park is just a short distance north of Moab, Canyonlands National Park's Islands in the Sky district is a short distance further. A little further, to the south, is my favorite place to stay in Utah, the San Juan Inn in Mexican Hat. From Mexican Hat it is a short distance further south, to Arizona and Monument Valley. The treacherous Moki Dugway is just a short distance north and west of Mexican Hat.

In other words, Moab is close to a lot of my favorite places on the planet.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Staying at the Las Vegas KOA, 6 Motel, Excalibur, Luxor, Treasure Island & New York New York

I've stayed in the Luxor in Las Vegas once. Near the end of a long road trip that went through Moab, hiked the Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park, continued on to Durango, taking the Million Dollar Highway from Silverton, then Taos and south to Alamogordo and White Sands National Monument, Yuma and Algondones in Mexico and then Vegas.

I've stayed all over the place in Las Vegas. My very first time in Vegas I camped at a KOA. That sounds pathetic now. The next time I stayed at the Vegas 6 Motel. Equally pathetic and, I think the biggest 6 Motel in the world. It was awful.

After the 6 Motel stay in Vegas, which was New Year's Eve week, hence the unavailability, spur of the moment, of a nicer place to say, the next time to Vegas was near the end of another long Roadtrip, that being my first Lake Powell Houseboating trip, staying at Excalibur.

I like the Excalibur pool.

The next trip to Las Vegas was over Thanksgiving in 1996, staying at Treasure Island. I liked staying at Treasure Island, except my room was about 12 stories above the Treasure Island pirate show, which is a bit on the noisy side, what with cannons and guns booming.

The next time to Vegas was with my nephews, we stayed at Excalibur. I think I already mentioned I like the Excalibur pool.

My most recent time in Vegas I stayed at New York New York. I liked it. But it was in early January, so the pool was not relevant.

Staying in the Luxor pyramid was the most challenging hotel stay I've ever had. I was on, I think, the 8th floor. There are "inclinators" at each corner of the pyramid. When you exit the "inclinator" it is confusing to find your room. Go left? Go right? In the room the outer wall is steeply sloped, due to that pyramid thing. I'd stay in Luxor again. I enjoy the feeling of being lost.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Death Valley Badwater & Zabriskie Point

You are looking at my nephews in Death Valley. That is Joey pointing at his brother, Jason, at Zabriskie Point.

My nephews took me to Las Vegas prior to me moving from Washington to Texas.

The nephews were lounging next to the Excalibur pool when I read that that particular August day there was a good chance that the temperature record for Death Valley might be broken. That record is 134 degrees at Furnace Creek.

The nephews were on board with trying to experience a record breaking temperature. Sadly, it was not to be. If I remember right the high turned out to be 126.

Our route to Death Valley, from Las Vegas, was via Pahrump, location of a legal brothel or two. The nephews saw a billboard referencing those type establishments. I don't remember how hard they lobbied to visit one. I do remember I firmly said NO.

By the time we made it to 282 feet below sea level, at Badwater, it was HOT. Really HOT.

From Badwater we continued on to Zabriskie Point. We had our swimming suits with us. I tried to convince the nephews that a swim at Stovepipe Wells' pool would be a really good thing. But, they preferred continuing with our Roadtrip tour of Death Valley.

Eventually we made it back to Las Vegas to a really good buffet at the Monte Carlo Casino.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Getting Dounts, Coffee, Haircuts and Viagra in Algondones, Baja California, Mexico

You are looking south at the border crossing from California to Algodones, Baja California, Mexico.

Algodones is a short distance from Yuma, Arizona, which makes this Mexican border town a big shopping destination for the army of retired people who populate the area.

There are countless pharmacies in Algodones, with pharmacy hawkers trying to direct you inside. I remember a memorable visit, with my mom and dad, when a pharmacy hawker said to me, "You sir, you look like you could use the Viagra, bargain prices."

Most of the streets are not paved in Algodones. You explore a big labyrinth of shops, like a maze, finding all sorts of good stuff. And things to eat. My mom and dad had a favorite bakery, where they'd go for donuts and coffee after getting dental work or a haircut in Algodones. My mom and dad being so free-spirited surprised me.

I've not crossed the border into Mexico at Algodones since 2000. I do not know if passports are now required, like is now mandatory to cross into Canada. I hope it is still easy to walk across the border to Algodones.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Roadtripping to Disneyland Over and Over Again

In front of the Matterhorn, in Disneyland, stands Maxine & Miss McP, with Big Ed in the middle. This visit to Disneyland occurred sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

Disneyland has been the destination of more of my Roadtrips than any other place.

I was 13 on the best family vacation ever, when I went to Disneyland for the first time. At that point in time the pay one price and go on any ride you want, as often as you want, method had not been invented.

Instead, upon entry, you got a booklet type thing with tickets. An "A" ticket got you a ride on the less popular attractions, with the tickets ascending from "A" to "E" with the "E" tickets getting you on the best attractions like the Matterhorn and Pirates of the Caribbean.

When we were kids we'd pace ourselves with the tickets. I remember mom and dad buying us a booklet of just "E" tickets when we ran out.

There were 2 family trips to Disneyland when I was a kid. The week I graduated from high school I took off for California and Disneyland and Tijuana. The years that followed, for maybe 2 decades, saw a trip to California about once a year.

The last time I went to Disneyland was Christmas of 1995. That is a long time ago. Since then new rides have opened, like the Indiana Jones Adventure. And Disney California has opened in what was the parking lot the last time I visited Disneyland.

I came close to a visit to Disneyland over Christmas week of 2000. I'd been up in Washington, heading to Texas, with a visit to my mom and dad in Yuma, Arizona, on the way. The route to Yuma went through the eastern edge of the Los Angeles metro zone, hence within easy distance of Disneyland. But, I resisted the temptation and had a fun Christmas with mom and dad in Yuma.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

You are looking at one of my all time favorite pictures, taken at one of my all time favorite places.

Arches National Park in the great state of Utah.

I can barely remember who that is standing behind me, but behind her is Delicate Arch, an arch that is pretty much the iconic symbol of Utah.

Legend has it that a map maker mixed up Delicate Arch with Landscape Arch. Landscape Arch, which is truly delicate, was supposed to be so-named, while Delicate Arch, which does sit like a part of the landscape, was also supposed to be so-named.

Turns out the accidental naming of Delicate Arch is a myth.

The trail that leads to Delicate Arch is my 2nd favorite in Arches National Park, with my favorite being the ranger led Fiery Furnace Hike.

To find Delicate Arch, from the Arches National Park entry drive 11.7 miles to the Wolfe Ranch/Delicate Arch turn-off. Drive another 1.2 miles to the Delicate Arch trailhead parking zone. There is limited parking, so try to go during the off-peak time of the day and year, if possible.

The hike is slightly strenuous, with some elevation gain. Some parts of the trail might make an acrophobic mildly squeamish. You can see part of the trail that might cause some to be a bit acrophobic in the video below.

Soon upon starting your hike to Delicate Arch you will walk past the remains of the John Wesley Wolfe Ranch, built in 1888, abandoned in 1910. Next you will cross Salt Wash on a suspension bridge.

The trail route is heavily traveled and easy to follow. As you get near Delicate Arch you will pass Frame Arch, so named because the arch acts as a picture frame for photos of Delicate Arch. At this point the trail is on a ledge blasted from sandstone, and is the part of the trail referenced above that might make those who suffer from acrophobia a bit weak in the knees.

You turn a corner and are in full view of Delicate Arch. Do not climb on the arch. Do not linger too long under the arch, as this is considered bad manners, making it difficult for others to get the personal photo they want to get.

Delicate Arch Trail
Length: 1.5 miles One-Way.
Time: 1 1/4 hours One-Way.
Trailhead: 4,300'
Arch Elevation: 4,800'
Skill Rating: Easy, there is nothing difficult.
Season: Year Round