Saturday, April 22, 2017

Painted Hills: Wonderful world of color

Last official day of my road trip! I left Winnemucca, NV and headed north into Oregon. I would occasionally see small ground squirrels run across the highway...I almost ran over one! I also saw the corpses of some that DIDN'T make it. But, in the circle of life, they became food for the crows and magpies. At one point, I saw a large bird land on the sagebrush and as I passed by it, I saw it was a magnificent golden eagle! I'm sure the ground squirrels are included on its menu, too.

After driving about seven hours, I made it to John Day Fossil Beds Painted Hills Unit. I had visited this park on a past road trip, but didn't get a chance to see this area. The colorful hills are evidence of past climate change events, and the late afternoon is the best time to see them. First, I drove to the Painted Cove Trail. Because of scattered clouds, the colors weren't showing too well, but I was still impressed. I captured some animal tracks...probably deer...preserved in the dried mud.

Next, I went to the Leaf Hill Trail. This area has actual fossils with leaf imprints. It was a bit hard to see any actual was fenced off to discourage people from collecting...but, I took a few photos of the shards anyway. Maybe you see something in there?

The third place I checked out was the newest...the Red Scar Knoll/Red Hill Trail. This is almost an understatement. The hill is really, really red! By this time, the sun was shining brightly and I got awesome pics!

The last area that I visited was the Painted Hills Overlook. I saved the best for last. The sunshine was holding out and I was treated to magnificent views of many colorful hills. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.


It was a wonderful ending to yet another fun road trip. Tomorrow, I do the final leg of my road trip...driving home! Hotel beds are usually pretty comfortable, but nothing beats my own bed! And, I can't wait to hug my cat!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Devils Hole and the highway

I left Las Vegas later than planned because I decided to get a little more sleep. Pretty much every day of my road trip I've only gotten about six hours of sleep per night. And, the lack of sleep finally seemed to catch up to me. Because I had a lot of driving to do today, I didn't do much in the way of fun. As I headed north through Nevada, I made a little side trip to Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. I wanted to check out Devils Hole, home of the rarest creature on earth...the Devils Hole pupfish.

During last year's road trip, I visited Death Valley National Park and saw many Salt Creek pupfish, which are a different species. Devils Hole is also part of the park, but in a rather remote area of the refuge. Because the Devils Hole pupfish are so rare...and to keep them safe from danger including from humans...the hole is fenced off. Which means you can't actually see the fish, at least from the viewing area.

Devils Hole is actually a geothermal pool, with the temperature of the water in the 90s. I found an interesting article with video that tells a little about the history of the hole and the pupfish.

After a quick lunch at a nearby rest area, I spent about 5 1/2 hours driving to my nightly pit stop. But, it was a pleasant drive because Nevada has VERY nice roads, even the less traveled state highways. The same could not be said of Arizona. Even their interstate freeways need a lot of work. Tomorrow, another day of long driving, but one park visit on the agenda!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Las Vegas: Jerky and Keno

I left my pit stop in Williams, AZ and traveled west about three hours to the outskirts of Las Vegas. Today was basically my day of rest and relaxation. In the town of Henderson, I had lunch at Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers. Delicious, especially the custard! Then, onward to my destination for the day and night... California Hotel and Casino, located near Fremont Street in downtown Vegas. Established in 1975, this hotel attracts visitors from Hawaii with attractive vacation packages and a Aloha atmosphere. In a way, I feel right at home considering my parents are from Hawaii and I was born there, too.

After taking my stuff to my room, I walked down the block to Fremont Street. Here, you can see one of the most iconic signs in the city, Vegas Vic. Actually, I was more excited to shop at The Beef Jerky Store. If you want beef jerky, this is the place! They also have a LOT of snacks that Hawaiian locals love. 

The biggest reason I'm staying at The California is I have a comp (free) room, thanks to my heavy play on the gaming machines on my last visit to Vegas. I went home a winner and I didn't have a problem playing with the house's money today. My game of choice is Caveman Keno, a variation of your standard Keno but more fun. At first I was holding my own, but the machines went cold on me, and I ended up losing $60. But, that was really not my money, so I didn't feel bad. Tomorrow, I'll be driving pretty much all day as I continue my return trip home. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Grand Canyon: Trekking below the rim

It was seven years ago that I last visited the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. At that time, I spent the day walking the western section of the Rim Trail. Today as I left Flagstaff, AZ, I was hoping to do a rather strenuous hike more to the east. The plan was to trek down the popular South Kaibab trail to the Ooh Aah Point overlook. It would be my first walk below the rim and it would prove to be quite challenging. I took a shuttle bus to the South Kaibab trailhead and ate my picnic lunch. Before I got started, I snapped some pics of a couple of Rocky Mountain elk.

The distance from the trailhead to Ooh Aah Point is listed as 1.8 miles round trip. Even though it was easier walking down the trail, I had to be careful because of my old age knees. There were a number of switchbacks before the trail straightened out.

As I walked along, I spotted a squirrel scrounging for food.  I took a picture of it...I think it's a rock squirrel.  I also noticed a mule train coming up the trail far below.

After a half hour of walking, I finally reached Ooh Aah Point and the views were spectacular!  Well worth the hike...and having to hike back up.

While I was taking in the views, the mule train of tourists showed up and continued up. Here is my view of the trail just before I started my return trip.

As I was preparing to leave, I noticed another two mules trains coming up.  They appeared to be pack mules, probably supplying the park camps at the bottom.  And, as I slowly made my way up the trail, the mule trains caught up and passed me.  Just below the switchbacks, the guides stopped to give the mules a breather.

My excuse of frequent rest breaks as I hiked back up was to take more photos...oh, and to rest, too.  Here a little more scenery and some flowers...white phlox and some kind of milk vetch.

When I finally got to the top, I took one final photo of the view. So beautiful! And I got another great view at the Pipe Creek Vista as I headed back to the parking lot. 

As I walked the paved Rim Trail from Pipe Creek Vista to the parking lot, I noticed some small, gray butterflies flitting around. I think it's called a Pacuvius Dusky Wing. I took a pic of one, plus a Western Scrub Jay in a tree above me.

Before leaving the Rim Trail, I took one last shot of the canyon views. It's really hard to take a bad picture. Tomorrow, I make the drive to Sin City to take in a museum and do a little gambling. Will I continue my winning ways from last December's trip to Vegas? 


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Old West and old instruments

When I left my hotel in Tempe, AZ this morning, the temperature was already in the low 80s. It looked like it was going to be another scorcher. Because I really can't function in such heat, I decided it was prudent to take in a couple of museums. I started things off by visiting Western Spirit: Scottsdale's Museum of the West. This wonderful museum opened in 2015 and showcases exhibits on Western themed art and memorabilia.

There were a lot of impressive paintings and sculptures. I wasn't familiar with most of the artists, but I did recognize the names Frederic Remington and Charles Russell.

I was amazed that some of the oil paintings were so realistic, they looked like photos! I looked at the paintings very carefully and I could barely see brushstrokes.

There was a display of western themed items from a private collection that encompassed pretty much everything you could think of.

In the afternoon, the temps were again in the low 90s and I took refuge in the Musical Instruments Museum in Phoenix. This place is awesome! The biggest museum of its type in the world, there are thousands of instruments on display from many different countries.

What was also cool, you are issued audio players with headphones, and at each display, music is played. Not only do you get to hear a lot of the instruments you are viewing, you also get to experience the cultures of many nations. It was quite an education for me. It was interesting how musical instruments are made according to the materials you have available to you.

As I was walking through the Native American section, I came to the Nez Perce tribe and recognized one of the artists that made a particular flute. I actually knew Kevin Peters when I had a seasonal job at Nez Perce National Historic Park in Spalding, ID back in the mid-80s. Kevin is currently a ranger at the park.

I found myself less interested in the more modern musical stuff, especially the American and European sections. Still, there were some interesting things. Here are outfits worn by Alice Cooper and Roger Daltry. And, there were instruments played by Dizzy Gillespie and Steve Vai.

I was there over 2 1/2 hours looking and listening, and I could have been there even longer. Next time I visit the Phoenix area, I'll have to go back to this excellent museum again. I spent the rest of the afternoon traveling north where the temperature is much cooler than where I was this morning! Tomorrow, I'll be revisiting the Grand Canyon and doing a little hike, too. Looking forward to it!