The Lagunas: September 22-24, 2017

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California Goldenrod

 

It might not be the Sierras or the Rockies, but the Laguna Mountains are pretty darn nice and only an hour away!  Yet we seem to only get out there about four times a year to ride our bikes, and every time we ask ourselves, why don’t we come out here more often?  This time we took the Airstream and spent the weekend at Burnt Rancheria Campground.

We were very impressed with the campground.  It has 110 sites, mostly for tenters, but a handful a sites will accomodate trailers our size and larger.  It is very spacious and spread over multiple loops.  Even though it was nearly full, it was quiet.  Since it is at 6,000 feet it’s only open from May till typically the end of October.  Yes, it snows in San Diego County.

According to R, Amelia actually camped here in the fall of 1971 in the family’s VW bus, but she was too young to remember it.

 

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Brand spanking new sign.  Beware, if you are driving north on Sunrise Highway, the sign is immediately past the entrance.  We passed it and had to hang a u-turn, which is always interesting while towing.

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OMB checking out the campground map.

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Yucca loop, site #24, selected for optimum solar power.

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The Birch’s site, Yucca Loop #22.  A beautiful oak canopy spot.  That’s Georgie and Diego on the road.  OMB is backing in.

 

Friday afternoon we did the short hike to the desert overlook.  Saturday morning our friend Quan met us at the trailhead for Noble Canyon, an IMBA Epic ride.  There are two types of riders, those who shuttle and those who don’t.  We didn’t.  Saturday afternoon, Shelli and Osborne came down from Orange County, spent the night with us, and rode the Big Laguna Trails on Sunday with OMB, and another friend Jennifer, who drove out that morning.  After the ride we had a few snacks, broke down camp, hitched up, and were back home in 70 minutes!  One more day sure would have been nice.

 

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Acorn Woodpeckers are all over the campground.  They drill holes into the bark of Jeffery Pines  to store acorns.  It does not harm the tree.  These are called granary trees, from the latin word granaria, a store house for corn.

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Here’s an up close shot.  See the acorns?  When the fresh ones dry out they’ll move them to another smaller hole.

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Boo hoo no bikes.

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The Desert View trail overlaps a small portion of the PCT.  In our dreams, PCT stands for perfect cycling trail.  Someday it will be open to bicycles, but probably not in my lifetime.

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Eastwood Manzanita

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The Desert View.  That’s the Salton Sea way, way off in the distance.

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Amelia, Sara, and the Birches, leaving the Desert View.

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Amelia at the top of the first grueling climb of the Noble Canyon loop: Pine Creek Road, 4 miles and 1,100 feet elevation gain.

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The girls taking it easy before the next climb.

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The next climb is Indian Creek Trail: 2 miles and 800 feet elevation gain, but this is dirt!  Not that easy pavement stuff.

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Indian Creek trail.  If you enlarge the pic you might be able to see Amelia.  That’s Cuyamaca Peak in the background.

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Quan and Amelia taking a quick break at Penny Pines.

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Back at the bottom, sorry no pics of the fun downhill, we were too busy passing and staying out of the way of runners that were competing in the Noble Canyon 50k.

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Amelia and Shelli, bundled up.  It was chilly.  Low 30s in the morning, we even had ice on the truck and Airstream Saturday morning.  The mat and chairs at the rear are a telltale sign of the campground really being for tenters.

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Sara and her two boyfriends.

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Crowded Airstream for dinner, 5 adults and 3 dogs.  Yup, that’s an Alpine Duet IPA on the table!

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Big Laguna Lake

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Amelia, Shelli, and Jennifer

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Incense Cedar

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Jennifer and Shelli

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The blogger

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Big Laguna Trail

 

North Rim Grand Canyon: July 29th -August 2nd, 2017

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The view from Bright Angel Point.

 

We knew the North Rim was going to be fantastic, because the South Rim was, and come on, it’s the Grand Canyon!  But the big surprise was the drive from Jacob Lake to the campground entrance.  Once you get a few miles in, there are multiple huge meadows on both sides of the road.  Green grass, flower fields, and a mixed conifer forest with Blue Spruce, White Fir, Ponderosa, Doug Fir, and Quaking Aspen.

Visiting one of the popular National Parks is kind of like a United Nations field trip.  You hear all kinds of languages.  It’s really quite interesting.  We heard German, Dutch, French, Japanese, and Spanish being spoken.  And those are just the ones we were able to ID.  Of course Amelia busted out her Spanish and chatted up a group.

Unfortunately there were some ugly Americans in the campground.  Three rich families traveling together in their Cruise America RV rentals.  Two on one side of the road, one on the other.  Constantly yelling back and forth to each other; the kids were little shits, and the parents worse.  Just really annoying oblivious people.  They left Monday morning and the campground turned into a serene paradise.

The Grand Canyon is ginormous.  What a lot of people don’t realize is part of it isn’t in the National Park, but instead the National Forest, and on the North Rim there are places you can camp right on the rim.  That’s where we rode the Rainbow Rim Trail on our first day.  It was an hour drive to get there from the campground, mostly on dirt roads, but totally worth it.  The next day we did a strenuous 9.4 mile round trip, 3,000 plus feet drop in elevation hike down into the Grand Canyon to Roaring Springs.  It’s always a whole different perspective being in it and looking up as opposed to just viewing it from the top down.  On our last day we put on our tourists hats and drove the Cape Royal Road to all the view points.

My only negative comment, and I’m sure “they” have their reasons, but National Parks aren’t exactly pet friendly.  Not that Sara is a hiking dog, but it still puts a limit on what we can do with her.

 

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One of the meadows on the drive in.

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Beautiful campground, but between the afternoon clouds and pine trees our solar panel really struggled.  It struggled so much that we even pondered if we should invest in a generator.

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Pineywoods Geranium

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This viewpoint was less than a 5 minute walk from our campsite.

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Rainbow Rim Trail

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Parissawampitts Point on the Rainbow Rim Trail.  Our neighbor thought it looked like a fake movie backdrop.  This is the real deal.  Standing at a Grand Canyon viewpoint is amazing.  Ripping around a corner on a mountain bike and having the view in your peripheral vision is mind blowing.

 

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Another pic of the Rainbow Rim Trail.

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In 1984 a thunder downburst caused a timber blowdown in the Kaibab National Forest.  200 acres were completely destroyed.  This is some of the replant and why it seems unnaturally in rows.  This is off of the FS22 road on the way out to Rainbow Rim.

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Bigelow’s Tansyaster

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Slendertube Skyrocket

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Nodding Dwarf Sunflower

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Oxeye Daisy

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This is the Beagle in Sara.  She’s trying to dig a hole to China.

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I know it’s blurry, but I just had to include it.  Sometimes I just love campgrounds.  This is post downpour and I got a kick out of this couple in their matching clothes, including Hawaiian Juice jackets.  Amelia said something like, “I don’t see why you think it’s so funny.  Look at us we, look like bobbsey twins.  Same black Columbia jackets, khaki shorts, and sandals.”  She had a point!

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On our way down to Roaring Springs we had to pass two mule trains.  Thankfully the mules only go two miles down to the Supai Tunnel.  There was fresh mule shit and puddles of urine everywhere.  Amelia was disgusted.

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Supai Tunnel

 

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You can see Redwall Bridge in this pic and the trail beyond it.

 

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Redwall Bridge, the 2.6 mile mark.

 

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Dwarfed by the canyon walls.

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A Grand Canyon Rattlesnake!  This subspecies is found nowhere in the world but the Grand Canyon.  Some Grateful Dead looking hippie kid from Olympia, Washington pointed it out to us.  He was going uphill, we were going down.  He was watching it slither for 30 minutes.  He said it was the first rattlesnake he’d ever seen.  I told him they were a dime a dozen where we live.

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Roaring Springs, 4.7 miles down.

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Angels Window.  Can you see the Colorado River in the window?

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On top of Angels Window.  That’s the Colorado River to the right of Amelia.

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A Grand Canyon Sunset.

 

Monsoon Season in Flag: July 25-29, 2017

Just so you know, no one refers to Flagstaff as Flagstaff.  It’s Flag.  And the WTF stickers on cars in the area mean Welcome To Flag.

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Airstream living.

 

Well, maybe it’s because I’ve learned to lower the bar in my old age, so not to be so easily disappointed, but Flag exceeded my expectations.  We had a great boondocking spot on Shultz Creek Road, great biking trails just outside our door, we met a great guy, Matt, and biked with him for three days.  All that and my buddy, Acomb, came to Flag with his youngest son to visit us and his oldest son, that lives in Flag, recently graduated from NAU, and works at Mother Road Brewing.

We were able to ride every morning, albeit one day we got soaked at the end of the ride. The novelty of the monsoon season has worn off.  Rain, rain, go away.  Between Prescott and Flag we had rain for 11 straight days.  Amelia thinks one day it didn’t rain, but I think she’s nuts.

So who is Matt?  Here’s how we met him…

Once we got to the dispersed camping area, Amelia pulled the Airstream off to the side of the road and I got on my bike to scout for a proper boondock spot for our 25 foot Airstream.  That’s our routine when boondocking.  The last thing you want to do is get yourself into trouble trying to get to a spot.  It could be a rough road, not have enough sun for solar, or not enough room to turn around.

The first spot had a couple of tents and was difficult to access.  The next spot was perfect: wide open and like a cul de sac.  And that’s where Matt and his Vanagon were.  So I struck up a conversation with him and asked if he’d mind us horning in on his spot.  He said, “Not at all.”  I biked the half mile back down the road, told Amelia we have a choice spot, and to follow me.  We got in no problem and unhitched.  While Amelia was fiddling around in the Airstream, I went over to chat with Matt.  I instantly knew he was a good egg.  And totally out of character, I invited him to bike with us the next morning at 8 am, without even conferring with Amelia!  It’s always the other way around; in our group of biking friends Amelia is famous for inviting strangers on rides.  He seemed happy to have the invite.  The next morning it became quickly apparent that he was like Amelia’s cousin Forest, about one skill level above us, but still we rode together and shared meals and beers.

Matt is in his late 20’s, and has lived outside of Seattle his entire life.  He decided to roll the dice and move out to Tennessee to live with relatives and try something different.  He left the Seattle area in mid June and hopes to be in Tennessee by the end of August. Meanwhile he is mountain biking all the hot spots in the west and visiting friends along the way.  I have a hundred bucks that says he won’t make it to Tennessee by the end of August; he’s having too much fun!

 

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Here’s the spot!  Elevation 7,461 ft.  It’s an optical illusion, the Airstream looks slanted but we are actually level.

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Matt and I at the junction of Dogfood and the Arizona trail.

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Amelia on the Arizona Trail.

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Cutleaf Coneflower

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Matt getting air.

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Flat tire for the blogger.  That’s what happens when big guys try to get air on a hardtail!

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Tachinid Fly on Amelia’s handlebar grip.

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Day two, end of the ride it just poured on us.  Amelia was soaked, cold, and not happy.

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I was feeling like a little boy splashing through puddles, getting muddy, and completely drenched.

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Matt and Amelia, day three, we did a shuttle ride from the top of Elden Mountain, down Sunset to Little Bear to Schultz Creek to Arizona Trail, and down Dogfood to our campsite.

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This part of the trail was faint, around the next corner we saw a herd of elk above us.

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Fungi

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A rare pic of the Harris’ riding together.  Thanks Matt!

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New Mexican Vervain

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It was amazing riding through lush green flower filled meadows.

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Yellow Salsify

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Acomb’s oldest, Brent, and chubby Sara.  She always puts on a few ounces while vacationing, but then again who doesn’t?  We hosted dinner for six on Thursday night in the rain.  Somehow this was the only pic?

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Acomb and I with his two boys, Tanner and Brent.

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Downtown Flag

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Saturday morning, saying good bye and good luck to Matt.

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Sweet curtains in his Vanagon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monsoon Season in Prescott, Arizona: July 18-25, 2017

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Watson Lake, Prescott

 

Every Tom, Dick, and Deborah Harry were telling us it’s going to be hot when they heard of our plans to visit Arizona in July.  If you live in San Diego it’s simple math: Arizona + July = too hot.  Isn’t that why all the Zonies come to San Diego in the summer?  But Prescott is around 5,200 ft., and we were tracking the weather and knew that wasn’t the case.  It’s monsoon season here.  Blue skies in the morning and thunder showers almost every afternoon.  80’s during the day and 60’s at night.  So ride bikes in the morning and relax in the afternoon.  Even while we were here, people were texting us to ask how hot it was.

When I think of monsoons for some reason I think of the Philippines.  Maybe monsoons have been going on forever in Arizona.  But it seems like a new phenomenon or at least it hasn’t been on my radar until this trip.

On our second day, we’ve never heard such thunder.  A few times it scared the hell out of all three of us.  The rain came down at an unbelievable rate for an hour.  We were concerned, especially since a week earlier 10 people died in a flash flood near Payson, Arizona.  When it finally stopped, everyone came out of their rigs and bonded like people always do in any near natural disaster or major weather event.  Everyone was chatting everyone up.  Old timers were saying it’s the heaviest downpour they’ve ever seen.  Complete strangers were friends.  And everyone was talking about the rain.  It’s quite interesting how these type of events bring out the best in most people.   Campground management was out and about assessing damages.  The couple from Montana next to us had to have almost two feet of water pumped out of their site.  The whole campground is dirt, no paved roads.  A couple of the roads had huge ruts that needed to be filled and were that very same day.  One gal said she has lived in Prescott 12 years and had never seen anything like it.  We’ll certainly remember it for a long time.

 

 

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Amelia on Sundog trail the morning of the big rain.

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We were having a jolly good time, sitting under the awning and watching the rainfall, as pleased as punch.

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Then in no time at all, all hell broke loose.  We watched the show mother nature was putting on from the shelter of the Airstream.

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If the mat wasn’t nailed down it would’ve floated away.

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Goodbye road, hello river view.

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The storm was over, but the water continued flowing off the rocks behind us and through our site for the entire day.  That evening it rained again.  I was standing under the awning grilling on our little charcoal bbq in ankle deep water.

 

We stayed at Point of Rocks RV Campground.  It was a unique place.  It looks like a campground, but it’s an RV park.  All dirt, every site a full hook up, and only RV’s allowed.  No tents, no car camping.  You are amidst the granite dells, a short walk to Watson Lake, and a friendly helpful staff.  Two thumbs up!

The biking exceeded our expectations.  Next time it will be even better now that we are a little more familiar with the lay of the land.  A couple more take aways from our visit: there are a lot of senior citizens out here and cicadas make a whole lot of racket.

 

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I bouldered up to take this shot.  On the day of the monsoonal storm there was an amazing display of waterfalls cascading down into our site.  Can you see Amelia?

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Basset Hounds make us smile!  A highlight of every day was when the Bassets walked the campground loop.  This is Clifford and Moose.  Both 6 years old.  Moose, the white one, clocks in at 90 pounds!!

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Just a few flowers out, this one is a Silver Leaf Nightshade.

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Wild Bergamot

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Nice forested single track.

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An itsy bitsy little horned toad.

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You can bet this will be Amelia’s next art project, making stars out of old bike chains.  We saw it at High Gear bikes.

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Tragedies happen all the time, a week later another one happens, then another and people forget all about something that’s only a few weeks old.  The Prescott community has not forgotten about the 19 Prescott Fire Fighters, members of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots that died on June 30, 2003 in the Yarnell Hill Fire.  This memorial is on the trail that leads to Goldwater Lakes.  Throughout the town there’s reminders of the tragic event.

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Way back in 1915, Granite Creek was dammed,  and that created the beautiful Watson Lake.

 

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Watson Lake.  The rocks formations are called granite dells.

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Another pic of Watson Lake.  We thought the lake was stunning.

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Can you see the amphibian?

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The area is a photographer’s dream.

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Aspen Creek trail.

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Dalmation Toadflax, a beautiful flower, but an invasive introduced from Europe in the 19th century.

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My girls on the granite of Willow Lake.  Willow and Watson Lakes are right next to each other.

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The Queen of Willow Lake.

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A man and his dog, above Willow Lake, Granite Mountain in the background.

 

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Jacob’s Ladder on Granite Mountain.

 

And in ending, in case you don’t know, Prescott rhythms with biscuit. 🙂

 

Fort Ord National Monument: June 22-27, 2017

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Coast Live Oaks

 

Fort Ord was an old Army base on Monterey Bay.  It was a part of the military base closures that occurred in the early 90s.  Other recognizable names to long time Californians are March, Mather, McClellan, El Toro, and San Diego Naval Training Center, to name a few.  BLM took over the land in 1994 and in 2012 it was declared a National Monument.

There’s no camping at Fort Ord, however, butted up against it is Laguna Seca Raceway and Campground.  That’s where we stayed.  It’s actually a great location and very scenic, you just need to tune out all the race car noise and the bang, bang, bang from the shooting range below.

Laguna Seca/Fort Ord is also home to the Sea Otter Classic, the world’s premier cycling festival, according to the organizers.  I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s certainly a big to do that happens every April.

Rob & Denise came down from Castro Valley and Mike and Chris drove up from Templeton.  It was very pleasantly non-eventful: riding bikes, eating, drinking, socializing, relaxing, and swapping stories.  One thing did happen, a Western Scrub Jay crapped on us.  First it pooped on Rob, then a few minutes later, with one crap it hit Chrissy, myself, and Rob again!  We finally got smart and moved out from under his tree.

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The weather ran the gamut, as you can see, our first morning was foggy.

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16% grade to get up to the campground.  That’s a serious grade and a little scary on the way down.

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Amelia on trail 47.  All the trails are numbered.  I couldn’t tell you the how and why of the numbers, but there wasn’t a trail 1 or 2 or 3 or 4….

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Sticky Monkey Flowers were everywhere.

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Staying cool in the shade.  This is where the Western Scrub Jay was crapping on us.  Photo courtesy of Denise.

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A little later the fog rolled in and we had to stay warm.  Stupid me, I didn’t pack any pants or jacket, at least I had one of my old tattered Fins sweatshirts.

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Beautiful day on Monterey Bay

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Dudleya Palmeri

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Monterey Indian Paintbrush

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Yellow Sand Verbena

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Another foggy morning, Mike in the background.

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Chrissy rolling down #49.

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Sweet pair of trail reading specs, not to mention the customized righthand biking glove!

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Down by this one pond there was an explosion of tree frogs, more than a hundred, jumping back and forth across the road.  They were quick little things and hard to photograph.  This is the best pic I took.

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Quite a few apparently weren’t quick enough and ended up like this poor little guy, squashed.

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Fort Ord Sand Dunes State Park

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Beachcombing

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We spent a couple of hours on the beach at Fort Ord Sand Dunes State Park and didn’t see a single soul.

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Seaside Daisy

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Beach Suncup

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OMG!  Who is that old man with my wife?

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Our last day we went to Toro Park and rode up to Ollason Peak and down Pipeline.

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Amelia, almost to the peak.

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Halfway down Pipeline.  There’s Hillbillies everywhere.

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I really dig the Spanish Moss hanging off the Coast Live Oaks.

 

If you are interested, here’s a quick summary of the Fort Ord biking trails.  Fire road grinds and single track sweetness.  Not challenging, no baby heads, no loose rocks, and no drops, just flowy fun that’ll leave you grinning ear to ear once you are off the numerous fire roads.  If you want something a little more technical and challenging, head over to Toro Park and do Pipeline.

 

B sides: April 8-22, 2017

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Desert Sage.  JEM Trail, Hurricane, Utah.

 

This was Amelia’s last two-week Spring Break for the foreseeable future.  Her district is going to one week next year, like most districts.  So we kind of went big and traveled a lot of miles, maybe too many miles, over 2,200.  We did a lot more stops and things besides White Sands, Dog Canyon, and Valley of the Gods.  A single stop doesn’t really warrant its own blog.  And how many times can I actually write about Hurricane and Cortez?  Our main objective with the blog is to entertain, educate, and inform.  We also hope we are inspiring people to get out and explore the beautiful country we live in.  And lastly, to put it bluntly, our minds are shit.  We have the hardest time remembering all of our trips.  So this blog provides us with dates and details, a history of our adventures and wanderings, it also helps solving disagreements that always come up between us regarding where we’ve been and when.  🙂  This post is a summary of the two weeks.

We left on Saturday April 8th.  By design our first day was going to be our longest.  We were hoping to get to a BLM boondock spot called Indian Bread Rocks, south of Bowie, Arizona off of Interstate 10.  This was the first time the Airstream had been east of Tucson on the I-10.  When we were 90 miles away from Bowie we saw the first warning sign, 80 miles ahead I-10 was closed due to high winds and zero visibility because of a dust storm.  Apparently, it’s a common occurrence.  There was a detour that routed you north and dropped you off in New Mexico.  Basically, where we wanted to go wasn’t accessible.  Good thing we had a back up plan in case we got too tired, and that was the Cochise Visitor Center in Willcox (with double ls).  And it’s a good thing it wasn’t yet dark, because the iPhone maps directions were all screwed up, but we found it.  A trippy little place that allows you to spend one night in their parking lot.  It took us nine hours.  I’m sure we’ve said this before, but that’s too long to drive and we won’t do that again.

Amelia figured out we could get free wi-fi from the visitor center, no password needed.  It was the fastest wi-fi ever, so we made the most of the situation and streamed a couple of episodes of Grace & Frankie and drank beers.  It was windy all night, and that was the beginning of me saying for the entire trip, “There’s San Diego weather, then there’s everywhere else.”

 

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Cochise Visitor Center.  Willcox, Arizona.

 

Our impression of New Mexico is it’s a poor, sparsely populated, beautiful state.  The population is just a little over two million, with more than half of the people living in the Albuquerque metropolitan area.  There are a lot of Indian Reservations and of course Native Americans.  In the lower half of the state we saw a lot of pistachio groves.  And roadside stands selling pinon nuts and beef jerky are a big thing.  One gas station at the north end of Albuquerque had two different beef jerky vendors set up in the parking lot!  That still strikes me as bizarre.

 

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A cool White Sands pic that somehow got left out of the post.

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There are 154 National Forests in the U.S. of A.  Part of Dog Canyon is in Lincoln National Forest.

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The not so glamorous part of glamping, dumping the tanks at Oliver Lee.

 

After we left Oliver Lee, the next stop was The White Ridge Bike Trails Area, aka White Mesa, outside of San Ysidro, N.M.  Many websites rank this as the number one trail in the state, all sites have it at least in the top 5.

 

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If you are ever on the 380 in New Mexico around the Carrizozo area and need a place to spend the night, the Valley of Fire National Recreation Area is a pretty sweet little campground.  We stopped to check it out and stretched our legs, then got back on the road.

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To get to White Mesa you have to drive through the Res, on an at times rough dirt road.

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What a great partnership to make this very unique place open to mountain bikers.

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Dragon’s Back, the first segment on the 8 mile White Mesa loop, at times it had a high pucker factor.  The wind didn’t help.

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Dragon’s Back was about 3 miles long, often nothing was in your peripheral vision, so that was weird.  And the wind…

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My wife is a mountain biker!

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Some really strange terrain to be riding on.

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It was definitely a unique ride, but if this is one of the top rides in the state, then Utah has nothing to worry about.

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I’m sure there are people who ride past the danger sign, but this time not us.  We started to hike a bike it, but even that was sketchy so we turned around and finished on another trail.

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We spent the night in the trailhead parking lot.

 

Up next was three nights in Cortez, Colorado.

 

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Bernie and Shawn, the two brothers that own this KOA.  They do an absolutely fantastic job running the property.

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If you like mountain biking, then you must go to Cortez to ride Phil’s World.  Rib Cage will blow your mind.

 

After Cortez was Valley of the Gods, then off to Hurricane, Utah.  Where our friend Shelli met us and stayed with us for two nights.

 

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After Valley of the Gods, the old WillowWind RV Park in Hurricane was a visual assault on our senses.

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If your eyesight is good enough to see those two specs, that’s Amelia and Shelli, and of course Molly’s Nipple.  I just had to include a Molly’s Nipple pic!

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I can’t believe that dude is wearing a Dipsea T- shirt from 1994!

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Prince’s Plumes.

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Shelli brought Sara’s boyfriend, Osborne.

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My girls.

 

After Hurricane, we went to Cathedral Gorge State Park in Panaca, Nevada for one night. For the second time this trip, the iPhone maps let us down.  It directed us to a dirt road, that may have taken us to Utah Highway 56, but 8 miles on a dirt road, that we weren’t even sure about, didn’t seem like a good idea.  So we busted out an old-fashioned paper map and corrected course.  Lesson learned, for now on double-check route with a paper map.

 

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There’s a lot of strange places in the west, but Cathedral Gorge is right up towards the top of strange.

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All kinds of slots, nooks, and crannies to explore.

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Tight.

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Quite strange.

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Sara was going bonkers exploring.

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Strange and beautiful.

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Wild horses on the side of Highway 93 in Nevada.

 

Then it was off to Vegas to see my dad and his wife.  We spent the night in the Airstream in front of their house, woke up at 4am and peeled rubber out-of-town.  We really do not like Vegas.

We ended up “free camping” 4 nights, KOA 3 nights, RV Park 3 nights, and 4 nights in State Parks.  We encountered wind, thunderstorms, more wind, more really strong wind, and winds that just wouldn’t quit.  More than one person was trying to tell me it’s always windy in the spring.  All I know is, there’s San Diego weather, then there’s everywhere else.

Two last things Amelia wanted me to mention:  Why is it so hard to recycle in all the states we visited?  We finally, with guilt, just started throwing the cans and bottles into the trash.  And it just felt so wrong.  Secondly, when you go into a grocery store and bring in your own reusable bags, the clerks and baggers just stare at you like you are from another planet.

I guess to a lot of people we are from another planet.

 

 

Valley of the Gods: Easter 2017

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This ain’t the Walmart in Hurricane Utah, like Easter 2014!

 

With the advent of social media nothing is a secret anymore.  The days of a friend telling a friend about a secret spot, you feeling special because you are now in the know, and holding the secret, are over.  Now someone blabs and the whole world knows.  The blogosphere is going nuts about Valley of the Gods.  One can only hope it doesn’t get too popular.  Yet here I am blabbing about it, posting it on the blog, where it will rattle around in cyberspace for all to see.

Being on the road you run into strangers all the time, some folks are genuinely nice. Once we pulled on to the Valley of the Gods road we stopped, got out of the truck, and assessed the rutted creek crossing that every single blabber on social media is concerned about.  Sometimes it’s really bad, sometimes it isn’t.  As we were walking towards it, a guy pulling a Lance trailer was coming at us.  He was solo, stopped, and started chatting us up.

“Don’t worry, you guys can easily cross it.”

I typically let Amelia do the talking since she’s a talker, “Great, we were slightly worried. How’s the road the rest of the way?”

“A little washboardy, but I’ve been on worse.  Is your Airstream a 25 footer?”

“Yes, we love it!” says Amelia, all smiles.

“You two should take the site I just vacated.  It’s elevated a little bit so it can be windy, but the views are gorgeous.  Go 4 miles, and you’ll see it on the left.  If you get to the little Casita you’ve gone too far.”

“Wow, thanks!”

“You know, every time I see a beauty like yours I kick myself in the head for not buying an Airstream.”

What a nice guy.  And what a nice site.

 

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Valley of the Gods, between Bluff and Mexican Hat.  Monument Valley straddles Utah & Arizona.

 

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Front door view.

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Dining room view.

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Boondock heaven.  Free range Puggle.

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As I was relaxing, thinking positive, and writing down my thoughts, Amelia went on a scouting mission to take a look at what looked like a wash from our vantage point.

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It would be dead quiet, then we would hear the wind in the distance, a gust would come up, then absolute silence again.  Occasionally a dust devil would blow through.

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Amelia came back from her scouting trip and insisted we hike down to the water.  Good, because I wanted a shot like this.

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Lime Creek.

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A majestic Cottonwood.

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Droplets were falling from the cliffs.  The water was amazingly clear.

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Free ranging and hunting lizards is exhausting!

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Billion dollar view for free.  What a great swath of BLM land.

 

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That’s the little white Casita trailer about a half mile away.  Our closest neighbor.

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Monument Valley in the distance.

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Sunrise.

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Sunrise on Battleship Rock.

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Time to leave.

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The morning light was just right for seeing all the Indian Paintbrush.

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The worrisome creek crossing.  I know, it looks like nothing, but you have to remember Airstreams have really low clearance and aren’t really designed for off roading.

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Adios Valley of the Gods!

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Run, Forrest, run!

WildFlowers of Dog Canyon: April 11th, 2017

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Golden Columbine.

 

While visiting the White Sands we spent three nights at Oliver Lee State Park.  If this park is any indication,  New Mexico has some nice state parks.  The campground is situated at the base of the Sacramento Mountains and Dog Canyon.  The canyon is a box canyon with a fabulous hiking trail that is over 11 miles round trip with 3,100 feet elevation gain.  We only did 7.5 miles and 2,200 feet after I had the bejesus scared out of me with the closest encounter of my life with a rattlesnake.

Seeing rattlesnakes is a weekly occurrence while biking back home.  I’ve even rode directly over one that was stretched out and sunning himself on the trail.  That gave me a jolt of adrenaline.  Heck, Sara was bit by one in our backyard.

This one totally caught me by surprise.  A nice peaceful quiet trail, Amelia was yards behind me, then bam, out of nowhere the unmistakable loud hiss and rattle.  I was literally six inches away from him, for about a second, then I turned and ran like a striped ass ape down the hill.  I was scared and shaking from all the adrenaline.  The snake was scared, pissed, and sounding like a Rainbird sprinkler.  That was too up close and personal with a Black-tailed Rattlesnake for me.

My wife, she wants to keep on hiking, “Come on, it slithered into the rocks.”

“F you,” I said, “Look at me I’m still shaking!  The last time I was shaking this bad was when I skied Phillippe’s solo.”

“Come on, we can get by it.  Let’s just go around the next corner and up some more.”

“Are you kidding?  Then we have to come back down right by it again.”

“Oh my god, let’s go.”

So of course we kept hiking, eyeing the rattlesnake hissing and rattling at us as we ran past it.  We only hiked for about another half mile and decided it was time to turn around.  We were already out for about two and half hours, and promised Sara we wouldn’t be gone for longer than five hours.  Once we got to the spot above where I almost stepped on the rattlesnake, we started throwing rocks hoping to scare it off the trail in case it was sunbathing again.  We didn’t hear anything so we slowly started walking, saw the trail was clear and felt completely relieved.  “See, I told you,” says Amelia.  Then it rattled and hissed and we ran for our lives down the hill.

 

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Our site at Oliver Lee State Park.  That’s Dog Canyon behind us.  And a 90 degree back-in by Amelia!

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Dogweed.  Kind of a crummy “common name” for such a pretty flower.

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Blackfoot Daisy.

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Firecracker Penstemon.

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Indigo Feather Bush.

 

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Damianita Daisy.

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White Prairie Aster.

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Fendler’s Bladderpod.

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Spreading Fleabane.

 

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The second plateau on the Dog Canyon hike.

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Fragrant Ash.

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Threadleaf Phlox.

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Claret Cup Hedgehog Cactus.

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Black-tailed Rattlesnake.  Look closely, you can even see his tail.

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Gray Five Eyes.

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Puggle.

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Juniper Globemallow.

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Trailing Four O’Clock.

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Paleface Rose-Mallow.

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Rainbow Cactus.

 

No guarantees, but I’m pretty sure we’ve properly identified everything. 🙂

Other-worldly: White Sands National Monument

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Sand dunes bring out the kid in Amelia!

 

We knew the White Sands were white, but holy cow, they are shockingly white!  Snow blinding white.  Crazy white.  Vertigo producing white.  Other-worldly and white.  The sand is white because it’s gypsum crystals.  Even in the warmest weather you can walk barefooted on the dunes.

This is the world’s largest gypsum dunefield.  It covers 275 square miles.  The next largest is a measly 3 square miles.  The National Monument is only a small fraction because the rest belongs to the White Sands Missile Range.  Yes, they still launch and test missiles.  When they do, they actually close down the park up to three hours, as a precaution.  The world’s first atomic bomb was detonated 65 miles north of the park on July 16, 1945.  We stayed by the nearest town, Alamogordo.  While in town I was keeping my eyes open for strange looking people with deformities.  I didn’t see any, then again they are probably all dead now.

 

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What a great sign.

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Our first day had clouds which soften the white sands.

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It was breezy.  Amelia’s hair matched the wispy clouds.

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Just like snow shoeing downhill!  Sometimes we would sink to our knees.

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This gives you an idea of the vastness.

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No camping in the park.  They actually shut the place down at night.  But there’s plenty of room during the day for your rig.

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Better safe than sorry.  We don’t need some missile mishap taking out a bunch of cars on the highway.

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I was so inquisitive about the no alcoholic beverages date range that I tracked down a ranger to ask.  In a nutshell, they do not want the place to become a Spring Break haven for drunk college kids.

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Day two, middle of the day,  no clouds.  Sunglasses were an absolute must.  See that green mound right of center?  That was our goal.  It was further away than it appeared.

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And here it is!  A Skunkbush Sumac.  It grows dense deep roots that help form a pedestal after the dune moves on.

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Beautiful.

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In between the dunes some of the basins looked like this.  It appears to be hard and crusty but you can walk right through it barefooted no problem. 

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We completely lucked out and saw a Bleached Earless Lizard.

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Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

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Purple Sand Verbena.

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I couldn’t help myself, but here’s the sappy last picture!

Palm Canyon Epic: April 1st, 2017

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Sensory overload 2017.

 

Palm Canyon Epic (PCE) is a true SoCal classic mountain bike ride.  The trail begins at the top of the Pines to Palms Scenic Byway (California State Route 74) at 4,400 ft elevation in the Ribbonwood/Spring Crest area and ends in Palm Springs.  It’s not a particularly long or difficult ride, 30 miles and 2,500 feet elevation gain, but you need to be fit, have better than intermediate skills, and no fear of off camber trails with sheer drops.  A good sense of humor is also a plus because invariably there’s always an incident or two.  And the incidents always add hours to the ride, which leaves you on the trail in the heat of the day with the sun sucking the moisture and energy out of your body.  In years past we’ve seen a concussion, broken wrist, cholla painfully imbedded in various body parts, slashed tires that have been unrepairable, broken chains, broken spokes, and flat tires are a given.  Oh yeah, and plenty of blood.

Naturally, the bigger the group, the higher the odds of incidents.  We try to limit the group to 5 people max.  This year was Amelia, myself, Bill, Tim, and Quan.  Bill and Tim had never met Quan.  Quan, Amelia, and I had never met Tim.  None of us had ever ridden with Tim.  And Quan and Tim had never done the ride.

Hmm… sounds like a recipe for all kinds of incidents!  Truth be told, it was just your typical PCE ride.  A slashed sidewall at 3.6 miles.  The sealant wouldn’t seal it, so we inserted a tube.  While Tim and I were doing that, the other 3 were about a half mile down the trail.  The girls got to witness Bill do a triple somersault over his handlebars.  I’m so bummed I missed that!  Thankfully he was not injured, only bloodied.  Miles further down the trail Tim was upside down like a turtle.  A few miles later his chain came off and he crashed into a cholla.  And a potential disaster was adverted towards the end of the ride when the girls noticed Quan’s rear thru axle was loose.

We unintentionally had a new finish to the ride, and it seemed like it was never going to end.  It cost us at least an hour.  If you are ever out here, avoid the Araby Trail.  It’s not the way to finish.  Everyone was out of water, dehydrated, dying from the heat, and barely holding on to their sense of humor.  When it was all said and done, we were on the trail for almost 7 hours.  About 2 hours too long.  We left home at dawn and got back at dusk.  It was a 13 hour odyssey.  What a great day!

 

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The girls at the top. One of the big time sinks is shuttling the cars.  It’s about a 90 minute round trip to drive two cars down the hill, leave the truck at the bottom, because it can carry 5 bikes, then come back up in Tim’s car.  The girls guarded all the bikes and gear at the top.

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Just past the start.

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Scarlet Locoweed.  Small and beautiful.

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My singlespeed is looking good here.

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But somewhere after the previous pic this occurred to my fork, only to be discovered the next day.  Probably a good thing I didn’t realize it during the ride.

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Right around here Bill did his triple somersault!

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And the next day, some nice identical bruises appeared on his hands from the triple somersault.

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There were some really lush spots.

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Quan.

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Amelia.

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Blurry pic of Mallow.

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Miles and miles of yellow from the Brittlebush.  Riding through it was amazing.  I’m sure it’ll be one of those experiences we’ll always remember.

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The group.

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California Barrel Cactus.

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Wow! There are directional signs now.

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White-lined Sphinx Moth Caterpillars.

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The start of a long amazing descent.

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Chia.

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Tim pulling the Cholla needles out of his arm.

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Tim’s cracked phone.  He had a heck of a day.

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Amelia and a dude we met on the trail.  The best female and male riders on the trail that day, hands down.

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Storksbill.

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Chaparral Yucca or Our Lord’s Candle.

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Happy girls on the trail…it is a beautiful thing!