I once lived in Idaho Falls

 

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I once lived in this house.

 

As a child you kind of live in your own world and are oblivious to your surroundings.  If you are lucky you’re just a kid having fun, that was me in Idaho Falls.  We moved there in the middle of 5th grade and left for San Diego at the end of 8th grade, what I consider the formative years.  My recollections of that time are a lot of camping, fishing, hunting, learning to ski, and picking wild asparagus along the irrigation canals.

My Grid Kid football team (just like Pop Warner, but for some reason it was called Grid Kid in Idaho?) got to play in the Southeastern Idaho championship game on AstroTurf at the Idaho State University mini dome in Pocatello.  This is when AstroTurf was a big deal.  Our little league baseball had four teams.  The blue hats, light blue hats, red hats, and green hats.  I kid you not!  I was on the green hats.

I learned to play the trumpet and was even in the marching band.  I also remember the biting cold and having to walk to the school bus stop.  One time we all waited and waited and the bus never showed up, so we went home and school ended up being canceled.  The busses could not start in 20 below zero weather that day.

During the winter, the city would make ice skating rinks on the empty lots in the neighborhoods.  They would just snowplow the snow to form a rink and then the water truck would come by to fill it, it would freeze, and we would skate.

The last time I was in Idaho Falls was 1994, and before that 1978.  In the 44 years since we moved a lot of changes have occurred in the world and Idaho Falls.  My childhood memory of Idaho Falls was not meshing with what I was seeing and feeling.  I guess it’s silly to think it would, but it still brought me down.

It seemed like a clean, neat little Mormon town when we lived there.  What I saw was run down, dirty, and a rough crowd with a bad element.  I’m sure it didn’t help that our first stop was downtown to find a place for dinner.  Driving there we passed payday loan stores, vape shops, smoke shops, liquor stores, and seedy bars with rooms above.  Maybe that stuff was always there, minus the vape shops, but I don’t think so.

After dinner we drove down E 17th St.  The farmer’s field my brother and I used to walk through to go to Albertson’s to eat free donut holes (that’s right free, they hadn’t yet figured out yet they could sell them) was now a mile of strip centers and a Sam’s Club.  Amazingly enough the Albertson’s was still there.

All the old houses on the north side of the street looked worse than their age.  The backstops for the little league fields where still behind the old KID tv/radio building, but you could tell the fields haven’t been used in years.

I called my dad and told him what I saw, he confirmed my thoughts.  Back when we lived there it was a clean, neat little Mormon town.  I had plans to see all my old haunts but after one evening I saw enough, so we stayed around the Ririe area.  And I worked on getting my head screwed back on.  We didn’t go back to IF, we just drove through on our way to the next stop.

 

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Field of mustard seed heading into Ririe

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Sara chilling while we were setting up

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Sunset over Ririe Reservoir

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We did a short ride at this trailhead.

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This part of Idaho is not known for mountain biking trails.  There’s a lot of shared use with ATV’s.

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Osprey are a dime a dozen along the Snake River.  So many, that special platforms are built for their nests.  This couple was making a colorful statement.

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Where I learned to ski, Kelly Canyon Ski Resort.  I can’t believe they are still in business!  It hasn’t changed a bit, still a rinky dink four lift ski area, heck still the same old slow chairs.  I guess 40 minutes from Idaho Falls is what keeps them in business.

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An evening stroll on one of the docks at Ririe Reservoir.

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Juniper Campground, a Bonneville County Park.  It was really quite nice, full hook ups, spacious and no mosquitoes.  It was also quiet mid week, but apparently it fills up during the weekend with loud water enthusiasts using Ririe Reservoir.

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Utah’s state flower in Idaho, a Sego Lily

 

 

Grand Teton National Park: June 25-27, 2018

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Teton Mountain Range

The Tetons are truly mesmerizing.

The National Park Service has a real dilemma on their hands.  The most popular parks are being loved to death.  The crowds overwhelm the roads, facilities, and trails.  On our one hike, we saw two trails that were closed due to damage because of heavy use and were being repaired, so the sign said.  You try not to let the masses impact your enjoyment, but it does.  The idea of getting out in nature, at least for us, has been to escape the crowds and detox from the hustle and bustle of everyday living.  I don’t know what the answer is to the problem, but they need to figure something out before we ruin these national treasures.

When we were planning this trip, even though Yellowstone is only 30 miles away, we decided to skip it because of the crowds.  I’ve been there many times as a kid growing up in Idaho Falls, and Amelia once, but she was so young she only has vague recollections.  Perhaps when she retires we’ll go off season, if there’s such a thing as an off season then.

Just like when we were at the Grand Canyon and Bryce, we boondocked right outside of the park boundary on national forest land.  Our site was just okay.  It’s become a popular boondock spot because of websites like campendium, so you’ll never be alone.  The dirt road is heavily traveled and dusty.  But the reason why we cut our stay short was the mosquitoes!  If West Nile Virus is still a thing, then we most certainly got it.  Our spoiled San Diego skin is not used to being penetrated by mosquitoes.  We must be a delicacy the way they were coming after us.  In the morning and evening, while taking shelter in the Airstream, the mosquitoes were outside clinging onto the screens.  I have no doubt those little rat bastards knew we were inside.

Serendipitously our paths crossed with the Lynch family and they camped right next to us.  It was a real treat to spend time with them.  Jim used to lay tile with my brother and we haven’t seen him and his family since we left Mammoth.

 

 

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A wiseman (my cousin in Tahoe) once told me there are only two seasons in the mountains, white and orange.  He wasn’t kidding.  We hit numerous one lane flagman situations on the drive from Park City to the Tetons.

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Our spot with a beautiful field of cinquefoils and geraniums.

 

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My favorite shot: this was our first evening about 30 yards from our campsite.

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Old lady jonesing on a rawhide.

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The hike to Hidden Falls with the Lynch family

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Me and Jim

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The Lynch family and Amelia at Hidden Falls

 

Play the above video!

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Trying to recapture the famous Ansel Adams photograph.

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Amelia, ankle deep in the Snake

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Love the sign, but it doesn’t matter.  People don’t pay attention.  It’s frustrating as hell to come up on someone, yell at them, and get zero response.

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Amelia without earbuds on the Putt Putt trail.  There wasn’t anything putt putt about it.

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Driving way from our spot

Jordanelle State Park, Utah: June 19-25, 2018

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Every afternoon big puffy clouds would come in.

 

Interstate 15 in Utah has always been and still is a death alley for deer.  You can hardly go 20 minutes without seeing a huge blood splatter on the road and clumps of deer hair.  Then if you look over to the shoulder you’ll see a mangled dead deer.

Jordanelle State Park is located between Heber City and Park City.  Thanks to a pro tip from  Watsons Wander we booked site #44.  It felt luxurious to spend six nights at one spot with a great lake view and more space than some crowded boondock spots.  We had perfect breezy weather with occasional afternoon gusts and never hot.  An added bonus, the free showers had water pressure so strong you didn’t even need soap.  It would blast the dirt and two layers of skin right off of you.

Some communities thrive and grow, others stagnate and die slow deaths.  Park City is the former.  Granted it’s been 25 years since I’ve been here, but I didn’t recognize it at all.  It is now sprawling with a hoity toity upscale resort vibe.  While Heber City reminded me of Bishop.

The mountain biking is stellar, and lucky us, our friend Joy lives here.  She guided us on two rides, Wasatch Crest and some Mid Mountain Park City stuff.  On the other three rides we did she supplied us with great intel and detailed directions.  And as if all of that wasn’t enough, she invited us to a dinner party at her house.  Her husband Tim did a terrific job grilling for nine people.  It was a very nice evening of dining and socializing.

There were even more flowers here than Cedar Breaks.   Amelia and Sara were having a hard time with it not getting dark until 9:30pm.  The problem I was having with the extra daylight was it seemed like I should have one more beer, so I did!

 

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Coexist, now that’s an idea.

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Amelia hike-a-biking to the top of Puke Hill on the Wasatch Crest, just shy of 10,000 feet.

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Wasatch Crest Trail

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A Swallowtail and a Brushfoots butterfly

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Loving her summer vacation

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I couldn’t identify this one, but didn’t want to leave it out since it was so Dr. Seuss.

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Richardson’s Geranium

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Wasatch Beardtongue

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Prairie Flax

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Skyrocket

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Green Gentian: it can get up to six feet tall and live multiple years, but dies once it blooms.

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Sticky Starwort

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Finally a decent sunset

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We did a little hike in the Pinebrook area up to this memorial ski lift bench.

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I brought a little San Diego with us since Utah has such asinine liquor laws.

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If this is what you’d imagined riding in Park City looks like, then you are correct!

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Kudos for the awesome trail system!

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Joy and Amelia

Cedar Breaks National Monument: June 17-19, 2018

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Point Supreme 10,350 feet

 

Cedar Breaks lived up to our expectations.  It was uncrowded and both the scenery and high altitude were breathtaking.  We did a four mile hike to Ramparts Overlook.  There was no doubt we were no longer at sea level.  Everyone knows Amelia loves flowers, and there were flowers galore.  We were told it was still early flower season and in 2-3 weeks it would really be going off.

Unknown to us, but a known issue to Dometic, their refrigerators do not work well while on propane at high elevation.  Every few hours the flame would go out.  I guess it was a good thing this was only a two night stop.

We are off to the Park City area for some mountain biking!

 

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Sitting pretty and getting plenty of afternoon sun for the solar panel

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The meadow across from our campsite. The Spruce Bark Beetle has killed thousands of trees.

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Definitely dangerous, but it’s nice not having everything fenced in.

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Aspen Bluebells, these were everywhere.

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Colorado Columbine

 

 

 

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Silvery Lupine

 

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Yellow bellied marmot enjoying the morning sun

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One tough tree, Ancient Bristlecone Pine

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Parry’s Primrose

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Ramparts Overlook

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I couldn’t identify this one.

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Lanceleaf stonecrop

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Cushion Phlox

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Free range puggle at Lake Panguitch

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Creeping Barberry

 

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Three mile dirt road to the summit.  The Civilian Conservation Corps was a pretty amazing public work relief program.

 

Brian Head Peak looking down on the Cedar Breaks amphitheater

 

 

 

Snow Canyon State Park, Ivins, Utah: March 29 – April 1, 2018

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Glamour shot for the campground brochure, site 18

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Here is reality.  Asphalt with a dumpster and dump station located outside your front door.  If you go to Snow Canyon try not to get site 18.  On the plus side there was no one camping right next to us.

 

The campsite was a dud but you get over it quickly when you are surrounded by stunning natural beauty.  No wonder this place is often called the mini Zion.  The two parks are only 50 miles apart.  Of course, Snow Canyon is a lot smaller and not nearly the  crowd scene that is Zion.  But if you want to camp here you should make your reservations 6 months in advance.  The campground is small and only has 24 sites suitable for trailers.

We turned the campsite into a humorous situation and said things like, “The dumpster is conveniently located outside the front door.”  Then instead of putting a piece of trash in the trash can under the sink, we would just walk it out to the dumpster and toss it in.

It’s kind of gross, but interesting watching everyone dump their tanks.  Some people get really aggressive with the water hose.  The best/funniest thing was this father and his 6 year old son doing laps on their bikes through the campground.  The boy was a real talkative kid and was having a blast riding his bike.  On one lap, the boy points to the dump station and asks his dad, “Do you want to go smell that?”

The dad replies, “No! Do you?”

The kid spouts, “No way!  There’s probably like a 100 poopers in there!”

Amelia and I were just busting up laughing and repeating ‘poopers’ for the rest of the trip.

Snow Canyon has been a filming location in movies, including three Robert Redford movies: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Electric Horseman, and Jeremiah Johnson.  The pictures we took really do not capture the beauty.

As for the biking in the St. George area, we did three rides, two which we’ve done before, Santa Clara River Reserve and Zen.  The one new ride, Barrel, is next to Zen.  Barrel was my favorite.  In my opinion, the St. George area offers great “backyard” riding but not what I consider a destination.  It’s not Hurricane.

And finally, we took the scenic route from Boulder City to Ivins along the westside of Lake Mead.  The 93 to Lakeshore Rd to Northshore Rd which turns into 167, then to the 169 past Valley of Fire State Park through Moapa Valley to the 15 for only 43 miles to the Littlefield/Beaver Dam Arizona exit.  From there east to the backdoor into Ivins via the 91.  It was a fantastically beautiful stress free drive and only about 30 minutes longer than the mind numbing I-15 from Vegas to St. George.  The only thing you miss is the Virgin River Gorge.

 

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Amelia on petrified sand dunes

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Oops!  This is actually a Silverleaf Sunray.  On the previous post, Bootleg Canyon, I made a mistake and called it a Nakedstem Sunray.  The error has been corrected.

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Ah…a hot cup of Huehuetenango and the morning glow

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Great Basin Rattlesnake.  A couple hiking the bottom of Zen trail almost stepped on this beauty.  When we were riding by they were pretty excited to show us.

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Desert Rock Nettle

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Scrambling in mountain biking gloves and shoes.  The day before we walked up the petrified sand dunes and looked down on a small canyon that really caught our attention.  So the next day we rode our bikes on West Canyon Rd, hid our bikes behind a Utah Juniper, and hiked in.  It was amazing and there was one guy climbing the rock wall with two of his friends watching and three other guys just getting ready to climb.

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Basaltic lava flow

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The canyon

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It’s a completely different kind of person that does rock climbing

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West Canyon Rd

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Desert Indian Paintbrush

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Barrel trail

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People…

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Ready to go home

 

Here are four bonus pictures from a hike we did on the drive from Boulder City to Ivins.  It’s in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, a hike from the 33 Hole overlook.

 

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Slots are cool

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Bootleg Canyon, Boulder City, Nevada: March 26-29, 2018

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Bootleg Canyon Welcomes You

 

Our second stop, Bootleg Canyon.  File this under glad we went, but we probably won’t be back.  It’s just not really our type of riding.  Amelia found it to be unforgiving, not flowy, and somewhat intimidating.  It seemed to me like a place where mountain biking trails shouldn’t exist.  It was quite different from any other place we’ve been.  I did get the quote of the trip from a maintenance guy in the RV park.  He was probably my age but looked a lot older, and his riding days were over at least 10 years ago.  When I was inquiring about the trails he said, “There’s no soft rocks up there.”

We spent 3 nights at Canyon Trail RV Park.  We picked it because you can ride from the park to the trails.  It was a really nice RV park, as far as RV parks go.  There was only the occasional waif of cigarette smoke.  And Boulder City is not Vegas, so that’s a plus in its column.

Sorry no pictures of the Hoover dam.  If you haven’t taken the tour of it, you should, it’s quite fascinating.  We did it a couple of decades ago.

 

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Out yonder in those mountains are the trails of Bootleg Canyon

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Amelia monkeying around, I told her remember you’re 50 now, so don’t hurt yourself!

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Mother trail, typical of the lower trails

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Issue on day one.  The short story is Amelia had to walk her bike out a half mile.

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Day two: white caps on Lake Mead, 40 mph gusts

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Brittlebush and a dark blue Lake Mead in the background

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Silverleaf Sunray

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Beavertail cactus flowers

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Sara’s favorite spot  #catdog

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Our neighbor in the RV park.  Customized construction trailer with sweet graphics.  Old man winter on the left mountain.

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Day three, a little elbow room since the neighbors vacated.  The wind finally died and the day was quite enjoyable, too bad the first two days were like being in a wind tunnel.

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The exit from the RV park to head up to the trails.  I love the rubber ducky.

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A view of Mt. Charleston and Sin City from the Caldera trail

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Lake Mead view from Lower Lake View trail

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It’s not all fun and games!

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Awesome manhole cover

Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve: March 24-26, 2018

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Great boondocking spot at Kelso Dunes

 

For a long time now, even before the Airstream, spring break has been about going to the Hurricane/Gooseberry Mesa area for biking.  We were just there in November, so that gave us a good excuse to do something different this spring break.  So our first stop was Kelso Dunes.

When telling friends and family about our plan we were typically left with blank stares when we mentioned Kelso Dunes.  Kelso Dunes is part of the Devil’s Playground within the Mojave National Preserve.  It took us about 5 hours.  Once we got through the unbearable Inland Empire it was an easy drive.  Amelia was driving as we were going up the Cajon Summit and she blurted out, “Whoa did you see that?  Two Bald Eagles just flew by!”

“Are you sure?” I responded.  “I didn’t see anything.”

“Yes, I’m sure, gosh darn it.”  (Only she didn’t say gosh darn it, she cussed.)  “Why do you always doubt me?  Plain as day, two huge raptors with white heads and tails.

A couple of hours later I was driving on the I-40 just past Ludlow, Amelia blurted out, “Oh my God, I just saw a Borrego!”

“A Bighorn sheep?  Come on, are you sure?  I didn’t see anything.”

“Gosh darn it yes!” ( She didn’t really say gosh darn it, she cussed again.)  “Why do you always doubt me?  Plain as day, it was standing a on a hill just off the road.  Horns and all.”

“Riiiight….next thing you are going to tell me is you just saw an orange Orangutan.”

20 plus years and I don’t know who’s the slower learner, probably me because instead of just believing her, I tell her it’s not that I don’t believe you, it’s that I don’t believe anyone.

Once you exit the pavement off of Kelbaker Road to get to the dunes, the first 3 miles were a quasi-paved road, full of pot holes, which wasn’t bad.  Then the next 1.2 miles were terrible washboard.  It sure seemed like we were going slow and being careful, but when we got to our spot the TVs were swinging off the hinges, the faucet handle fell off the kitchen sink, an unknown plastic piece was on the floor, along with some small piles of saw dust.  The Airstream is a lot of things, but it’s not a Sportsmobile.  That kind of explains why we were the only trailer out there.  Mostly it was tents, one pop-up trailer, and a few Class C motorhomes.

 

 

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She didn’t see anything either on the drive.

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The handle to the faucet was on the counter in the corner by the stove!

 

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Sunrise over the Providence Mountains

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Panoramic view of the morning light on the Kelso Dunes

 

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To the right of Amelia on the horizon is the snow capped Mt. Baldy

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Running down sand dunes puts a big smile on Amelia’s face

 

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Eastern view from the top

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About the same pitch as Dave’s Run

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Mojave Fringe-toed Lizard

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It was never warm because of a constant cold wind.  One morning it was 32 degrees!

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Wind ripples

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A dead Dune Primrose, as the plant dries out, the stem branches curl toward the center and produce a characteristic cage shaped skeleton called a Devil’s Lantern.

 

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Evening light on Granite Mountains

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Bladderpod Bush, we saw about 10 of these on the side of the road

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Large Yellow Desert Primrose.  We saw two of these and a few Desert Marigolds.  Other than that there really weren’t any flowers.  I don’t count the Creosote bushes.

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Leaving on the washboard, driving extremely slow, like walking speed.  We didn’t want a repeat of the drive into the dunes.

 

Agua Caliente: March 9-11, 2018

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San Diego County Route S-2 heading east.  The clouds looked ominous but we only had sprinkles.

 

I hesitated to post this blog for the fear of it going viral and having the masses ruin it.  We did the most amazing hike on Saturday.  All the maps don’t name it and only one of our hiking books mentioned it.  When we got home I googled it and a handful of people have posted something about it, so what the hell, why not post it.

It’s called Hornblend Canyon and starts at mile 26.1 on S-2.  There’s a small pull out at the bottom of the hill on the east side.  The canyon entrance is directly across the road on the west side.  Kudos to R for scoping it out.  His last few times out here (this is a guy who has probably spent 150 nights at Agua Caliente) he has been eyeing this wash.  It’s different from most of the hikes we’ve done in Anza Borrego because it begins at 2,300 ft elevation.  It’s at a transitional zone, so you see the typical desert flora at the beginning, but as you gain elevation you get to observe the changes in the plant community.  It’s actually quite fascinating.  We did 6 miles round trip and 1,000 feet elevation gain.  Some scrambling was required.  And look out for the Cat Claw shrub, it’ll reach out and scratch you.  R was a bloody mess by the time we got back to the truck.  If you kept going you’d eventually summit Granite Mountain.

This was our third trip to Agua Caliente with the Airstream.  It’s without a doubt a place to visit mid week.  The campground was packed to the gills over the weekend.  Families with kids running around all over the place.  Camping is a great thing for families to do, especially here since there is zero, zip, nada cell service at Agua Caliente.  It’s like a throw back to another time when kids actually played and did things outside.  It was quite refreshing to see.

 

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G and R at the beginning of the Hornblend Canyon hike.  The next eight pics are from the hike.

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California Juniper berries, of course R had some wisecrack about gin.

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Lichen covered rock was everywhere.

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Two Glorious Beetles foraging on juniper.

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Sugar Bush

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One of the most amazing things we’ve ever seen in Anza Borrego, vertical honeycombs from wild honey bees.  Bees were flying in and out so we were a little scared to get any closer.

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Arizona Dudleya, one section of the hike had dozens and dozens of them in various sizes clinging to the rock walls.

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Looking down on the 10-foot-high dry water fall

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At our turn around point.  Is this whole selfie craze ever going to end?

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As I mentioned, there is no cell service at Agua Caliente.  You have to drive 4 miles west to this spot for reception.  I made the drive on Friday and Saturday.  I just had to know how the San Diego State Aztecs were doing in their conference tournament.  They won it and are on their way to the Big Dance!

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Ocotillo bloom at our campsite

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And then there’s always this guy and lucky us, he was our neighbor.  The lights on his fifth wheel were bright enough to luminate his flag and the entire campground.  I’ll give him this though, he was a flag etiquette guy, once he finally turned off his lights the flag came down.

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Elephant Tree from our short Sunday morning hike up Torote Canyon.  Tortote is Spanish for Elephant Tree.

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A windy Friday night

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No dramatic sunrise or sunsets, but a beautiful view of the early morning light on Sunday.

 

If it’s Presidents’ weekend, this must be Borrego: February 15-18, 2018

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South Fork Palm Wash Slot

 

We had a little AARP get together this Presidents’ weekend.  A few members from the local chapters 92127 and 94552 were present.  Ages: almost 50, 57, 60, 70, 72, and 74.  It was the maiden voyage for the Birch’s as close to new as you can get without being new 2017 Airstream Flying Cloud 25FB Twin.  An Eye Doctor in Orange county bought it seven months ago.  He and his wife never used it.  The furthest they went was a couple of miles from the dealer to a large empty parking lot to practice backing up.  They couldn’t back up, so they drove it back to the dealer, stored it there, and never took it out again.  It had never been slept or pooped in.  The plastic was still on the mattresses and toilet seat.  I never cease to be amazed by people.

We had a nice three night stay at our usual spot off of Rockhouse Trail Rd.  This is probably no surprise to anyone living in SoCal, but the odds of a super bloom this year are less than zero.  The drought is apparently back after a one year hiatus.  We basically saw no blooms.  On Friday, our friend Donna drove out for the day and the group did the South Fork Palm Wash Slot.

 

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Friday morning sunrise

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Glowing like an opal in the dawnlight

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Old Man Birch and Donna entering the slot

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The lighting was magnificent.

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Oops, thankfully a wrong turn.  It might’ve been tough to get everyone up and over.  All of us waited while Donna and Amelia scouted it.

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Amelia, Denise, and Donna

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Exiting the slot, pictured OMB, myself, Donna, and Rob.

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Sara Marie staring at you!

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OMB, Rob, myself, and Amelia relaxing around the campfire.  Georgie and Diego moving fast.

 

On Saturday we decided to see and do something we haven’t done, The Pumpkin Patch, Una Palma, Five Palms, and the 17 Palms Oasis.  After reading up on the Pumpkin Patch we knew it was a 7.5 mile dirt road.  At about 7.2 miles you leave Anza-Borrego State Park and enter Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area.  For some reason I didn’t put one and one together.  Thankfully all the palm stops were in the State Park.

 

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This is what one and one equals.

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The famous Pumpkin Patch

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Una Palma is no más.

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5 Palms: the tall one is the last remaining one of the original five.  5 palms is now 6.

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17 Palm Oasis is now actually something like 26 Palm Oasis.

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Georgie reading the comments in the log.

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Can you spot the Long-nosed Leopard Lizard?

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Our usual spot

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Exhausted from the big Chinese New Year celebration.  Year of the Dog!

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Every year there are more and more metal sculptures.  Now they are also in town.  This one at “The Mall” caught my attention.

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My new bike on Clark Dry Lake.  Yes, neon yellow is back and cooler than ever!

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Saturday night dinner, courtesy of Rob and Denise.

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Rob, Georgie, and crazy eyes

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Saturday evening sunset

 

You can bet we’ll be out here again next Presidents’ weekend, but next time we are thinking about camping in the Split Mountain area.  It’s time to give Rockhouse/Clark Dry Lake a break.

Hot Springs Mountain: January 5, 2018

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Looking down on the old fire lookout tower from the summit.

 

At 6,535 feet Hot Springs Mountain is the highest peak in San Diego County.  Cuyamaca Peak, which most people incorrectly assume is the highest, is actually 23 feet shorter.  Over a decade ago, Amelia, R, and myself were in the area and on a lark thought we would summit the highest peak!  We were so ill-prepared and uninformed that we didn’t even realize it was on an Indian Reservation.  But we pushed forward anyway until we finally got scared of all the signs telling us to get out, so we turned around.  Since then the three of us have been itching to do it.  For a while they were not allowing any access and at one point the tribe leased out 5,000 acres to an off shoot of the infamous Blackwater Security called Eagle Rock Training Center.  The Tribe eventually evicted them.

This time Amelia did all the research, played phone tag with the Ranger that grants access, and eventually connected with him.  The short story is once you enter the Los Coyotes Reservation there is a little ranger station.  You check in there, every person must present their ID, your vehicle must be a 4×4, pay $10 per vehicle, the driver leaves her license in exchange for the key to unlock the gate.  When you come back down, exchange the key for your license.  It all sounded simple enough so we planned a day trip and invited R and our friend Laurie.

We left our house at 7am and arrived at the ranger station around 8:20.  The open sign was hanging and we were all excited, soon we’ll be at the summit of Hot Springs Mountain!  No one was in the ranger station, next door there was a portable bungalow that housed the police station, no one was there.  So we tried the phone number we had, and could hear it ringing in the ranger station.  All we could do was laugh and then begin to feel defeated.  We decided to wait until 9 to see if a ranger would arrive, but I really had to urinate, and wasn’t about to do it on the Rez for fear of being arrested, so we drove down the hill off the Rez to a sunny warm spot so I could take a leak.  Right when I zipped up my pants an Indian dude and a chick pulled up in a truck.  She rolled down the passenger window and he said, “Hey, is everything alright?”

I walked the few feet to his truck, leaned in and surely had the look of amazement in my eyes when I saw how inked up they were and all the awesome piercings she had.

“Actually, we were hoping to drive up to Hot Springs Mountain, but there was no one at the ranger station.”

He laughed, “Just drive up to the community center, we just came from there, there are people there that can help you.”

“How do I get there?”

“You can’t miss it, just drive up the hill, you’ll see tractors on the left and the community center on the right”

“Cool, thanks!”

I went back to our truck.  The three of them had caught most of the conversation.  So back to the Rez!  Once we went past the tractors there was a big sign for the community center.  We drove down a steep little hill and in between the two buildings was a Tribal Police SUV with two cops in it.  We cautiously approached and told our story.  The two rangers/cops couldn’t have been more helpful, friendly, and nice, perhaps the best interaction I’ve ever had with a couple of guys that were armed.  They said to follow them back down to the ranger station.  We paid the $10 cash.  They asked for our licenses.  Ranger Rivers said they take down our names in case we don’t come down off the mountain, he said it’s been know to happen.  They couldn’t find the spare key to the gate, so we got a police escort to the gate.  They unlocked it, let us pass through, and then put the chain back up without locking the lock.  They told us to lock it on our way back.

The Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians have the largest Reservation in San Diego County with 25,000 acres.  It’s an incredible piece of land and a beautiful drive to the top.  Two-thirds of the way up we entered a mixed conifer forest with Jeffery Pine, White Fir, and Incense Cedar.  There was one dicey stretch of road, but the Tundra handled it in 4hi.

The summit was amazing.  The views spectacular.  You could see Woodson, Iron, Black Mountain, Cowles, Fortuna, San Miguel, Cuyamca, Middle Peak, North Peak, Toro, San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, Santa Rosas, Salton Sea, Santiago, and Baldy.  With the binoculars you could see downtown San Diego skyline, Mount Soledad, and Point Loma. We had the entire mountain to ourselves, not a soul in sight anywhere, then two hours later, as we were all taking in the view to the north one last time, two fighter jets buzzed us, a mere 100 feet way.  It was like they were silently suspended in mid air within our reach.  It was dead silence until they passed and the sound caught up to us.  WOW!

 

 

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The red marker is Hot Springs Mountain

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The sign says open, but it wasn’t.

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Amelia with Ranger Rivers after he unlocked the gate for us.

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Excited!

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The fire lookout tower is not the summit.  It was built in 1942.  It was the third and last tower on Hot Springs Mountain.  R and Amelia in the picture.

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The Tank below the lookout

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The girls relaxing at a vantage point

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Lake Henshaw and way, way in the distance Black Mountain

 

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In the near distance is Palomar.  The far peak is Santiago in Orange County.

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My wife

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The tall lump in the distance is Cuyamaca, Middle Peak, and North Peak.

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A magnificent old growth Eastwood Manzanita. You follow the little orange flags to get to the summit.

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Amelia and Laurie on the summit. There’s a concrete foundation on top which may or may not be part of the original fire outlook in the photo below.

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I found this on peakbagging.com  An early photo, date unknown, of the original lookout built in 1912. Thanks to John Robinson for providing this photo.  You can tell it’s the same boulder the girls are standing on.

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A Reference Mark points to the Benchmark. Usually they are within 50 feet of the Benchmark.

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The Benchmark was placed here in 1939.

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These straps were definitely needed to get up and down the summit.

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Santa Rosa Mountains

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Lichen Fungi

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R on the trail leaving the summit

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Group selfie by R

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The end of the adventure, Amelia locking the gate