Sunday, November 27, 2011

Death Valley

Monday, November 21, 2011

  We left home at 8 am and met Joan and Ted for a quick breakfast in Petaluma.  Got on our way to Tehachapi at around 9:30.  We grabbed lunch at a fast food restaurant in Kettleman City and rolled into Tehachapi around 4:15, after being led on a slight detour by Velma (Joan and Ted’s GPS), in Bakersfield.
It was breezy and cool when we arrived at Mountain View RV Park in Tehachapi, so we decided to head out for dinner at Don Juan’s Grill . The food was delicious, the best Central American/South American I’ve had since Costa Rica.  Before dinner we were served a basket of bread with a fantastic chimichurri dipping sauce.  Mark had a pork carnita stuffed poblano, Joan and Ted had pork carnitas tacos, and I had Pork Panama with Pineapple BBQ Sauce served atop cabbage with fried plantains, rice and black beans.  Almost makes it worth the drive to Tehachapi, which was fine once we left the valley.  Back at the camp site we retired to our warm camper with electrical hook-ups and enjoyed reading in our comfy cozy bed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I think this was about the coldest morning we’d had camping in a long time, my phone said it was 25 degrees.  Thank goodness for the heater!  We bundled up and walked to the glider port for a verrrry leisurely breakfast, a one woman operation that was very slow.  I could have cooked it in half the time, easy.  The view of the Tehachapi mountains from the coffee shop was beautiful.  We left somewhere between 9:30 and 10 for our next stop, 

Randsburg, CA.  Stopped and strolled what’s left of the town and enjoyed the sunshine!  

 Next stop was to be Trona, CA  for gas and a shooting expedition for Mark, 

except he was shooed away from photographing  the plant, and there was no gas, back to Ridgecrest for us to gas up, reminded of driving in Alaska, never pass a gas station!

Next stop was the road to the Trona Pinnacles.   

 After  a brief stop at Stovepipe Wells, we arrived at our final destination, Furnace Creek Camp Ground.

   We arrived at the campground around 4:30, just as the sun was beginning to set.  We had a site without a campfire ring (66) so we set up camp at Joan and Ted’s site (51) which was a little less out in the open and had a fire ring.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
After breakfast we headed to China Ranch Date Farm.
 After driving from Death Valley towards HWY 15 in Baker, we turned off the road in Tecopa Hot Springs and went through a beautiful canyon where we came out at an incredible oasis with a date farm. 
All the bunches of dates were covered with colorful cloth, soon to be harvested.  Lunch was a delicious date shake from an eclectic store. 
 After enjoying the view we were of to Death Valley Junction and my sister in law, Nette’s,  favorite hotel at the Amargosa Opera House
 A family with kids asked workers at the desk for a ghost story, they were unwilling to ablige, said they get bored with it, although they feel their presence  often.  So glad to have my bed on my back and not sleep with unknown ghosts!
This place needs to be written up in Sunset, if it hasn’t.  What a beautiful piece of work by the federal government.  The web site explains how it came to be, but the government has done a beautiful job of building raised walkways and bridges to view and preserve the wildlife.  We stopped at 2 sites and ran out of time.  So much to see!  Incredible to find this so close to Death Valley.  The visitor center closed early on Thanksgiving Eve, so we missed it.    That was it for today, back to camp!
Thursday,  November 24, 2011, Thanksgiving
On the road at 5:30 so Mark could shoot the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.
 I stayed in the camper in the parking lot and made coffee and breakfast, while he went out in the cold dawn wind to photograph the dunes. 
 Joan and Ted met us at 7 and we headed for Beatty, Nevada for gas and a quick stop at an empty casino. 
After a cup of coffee and winning $10, we were on our way to Rhyolite, Nevada.  A short lived boom town of the gold rush. 
From there we did a little off roading to get back to the main highway and the turnoff for Titus Canyon.  
I thought Mark and I had driven this road when we were here in the mid 80’s, but I think not.  A pretty  unforgettable drive through a beautiful canyon
Next, we  made a short stop at the Historic Stove Pipe Well.
and a different view of the dunes and then we wereoff to find Grotto Canyon
or so I thought.  Mark and I were busy looking at how good the light was on the dunes and I missed the unmarked road to Grotto Canyon, instead we ended up at Mosaic Canyon, which I would have skipped had I realized that it was a 1 to 2 mile hike into the canyon, we we’re all getting a little tired.
It was, by far the most crowded place we’d been to, full of people,  one of those hikes where you say we’ll go round just one more bend…and we ended up in a beautiful polished marble canyon.  Back to the campground we found everyone had set tables for their Thanksgiving Feasts, and we did the same.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Our last breakfast at Death Valley, and then home on Hwy 395.  Where we stay tonight no one knows…
Our drive from Stove Pipe wells to Lone Pine led us over volcanic terrain with panoramic views of the valley and some huge sand dunes we have yet to name.  We drove along the infamous Owens Dry Lake and up Hwy 395 to Lone Pine.
The Highway and towns along it, Independence, Big Pine, Bishop and Bridgeport were quiet this fall weekend.  The views of the snow covered Sierra Nevada’s were breathtaking as was the snow on the ground, but not the road. What a welcome change from I-5! 
 We stopped for lunch at Mono Lake Visitors Center.  The gardens were beautiful with little to no foliage.
Definitely worthy of a stop.  
 We decided to check out Topaz Lake as our overnight stop.
 At $20 with electricity and hot showers we were set!  Our sites overlooked the lake, a beautiful sight to see in the morning. 
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Another cold morning where heat was welcome.  After a lovely breakfast in the casino overlooking the lake we began our journey over the Sierras to Sacramento and home sweet home from a week full of adventure!

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