Friday, April 30, 2010

Some Pictures From the past Few Days

Today I've got an assortment of shots we've taken over the last few days -- they really don't go together, but that's all right too. (Nobody ever said I was all together either...!)

This first shot is going over one of the passes -- 9808 feet -- on Highway 14 going to Bryce Canyon National Park. There was no snow on the road itself, but I was wondering what kind of descriptive words Eskimos would have for the various kinds of snow crystals in these drifts along the road?

This is what was going on back at Auntie Violet. (I took the picture through the window -- the white streaks are reflections...) The birds are going through a sack of thistle seed a day! At one time we counted nine finches and least gold finches on the bag at one time!

This lady was seen along the road on our way to Zion National Park. The sign advertised "longhorns and quarter horses for sale," but she's the only one that was grazing out in the pasture. (We did see some lying down further away chewing their cud by a fence.)

These are another Northwest plant that we saw down along one of the hanging garden areas of Zion. This are Fairy Bells usually seen in the NW woods -- and in our wooded yard at the house in Spokane!

This little beauty "Shooting Star" (Dodecatheon pulchellum) has a range from Alaska to Mexico and was also seen in Zion.

This is the articulated propane-powered shuttle bus that takes you on the scenic drive through Zion. There is no charge and you can get on and off at any of the stops on the way up and back.

I've struggled with the identity of this flower and plant for several days. It is blooming along the road from Saint George to the RV Park. I knew the flower looked like a beardstongue, but the foliage didn't correspond to any of the pictures I had. I finally found a picture of it on the Zion Park website. I'm pretty sure it's Tompson's Beardstongue (Penstemon thompsoniae).

We spotted this unusual Mercedes "bus" in the parking lot at Zion Park. We saw it later at a campground with a side pulled out. There were large gas burner stoves built into the bottom luggage compartments. There were 20+ people milling around beside it getting dinner.

Today was another quiet day at the RV Park. The wind has finally died down, but it is partially cloudy. We'll go over to the clubhouse later to hear another Michael Hargis concert. We were quite surprised to discover that Mike and Christy are now managing this Western Horizons Park. It will be fun to hear him again -- and I'm sure he may enjoy it more than fixing the leaky valve across the road from us that he's had to dig out the last couple of days!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

More From Bryce Canyon

I had to share just a few of the many,many pictures we took yesterday. (I am so thankful for digital cameras -- we'd be broke if we were buying film! And we'd probably not be taking so many pictures...)

If you look closely at the hoodoo on the left, you can actually see a little bristle cone pine growing on top of it. These are the toughest trees, they seem to grow directly out of the rocks, without any soil involved.

This area is called the "silent city." It's easy to imagine a ghost city below --

Remember I said it was cold? That white stuff down between the outcroppings is SNOW!
One of the tunnels where the road goes right through the red rock --

There is no doubt that the scenery in southern Utah is fabulous. This gorgeous outcropping is in Red Canyon before you even get to the National Park!

I'm sure glad we went to Bryce yesterday. It's been nasty, windy and gusty all day. It rained "dust" during the night and both the Toad and Auntie Violet have dirt spattered windows. We ventured as far as the grocery store and Costco late enough this afternoon that Forry could have his favorite dinner of Polish dogs.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Critters and HooDoos, But Not a Flower in Sight!

Today we went to Bryce Canyon -- it's COLD up there! The area along the rim ranges from 7000 to 9000+ feet. It's still winter there! We saw the eroded rocks they call HooDoos --

And lots of critters -- on our way to the Park, we watched this osprey circle a small lake and make one unsuccessful dive for a fish --

This Utah prairie dog is an endangered species. We thought it might be too cold for them to be out of hibernation yet (there was snow yet on an adjacent field), but there were a few of them out and about --

And these ravens with their huge beaks were waiting at every scenic overlook. Do you think maybe they were looking for hand-outs too?

This is one of a pair of pronghorn antelope that were grazing near the road in the park. Later this evening we saw a herd of 6-8 on a hillside as we were driving home on Highway 20.

This lady elk evidently had a pretty tough winter judging by the way her (blurry) ribs are showing. She was by herself getting a drink --

Since it is still winter and there are lots of snowdrifts and snowbanks in the park, we did not see ONE SINGLE flower!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


If I said "Oh, Wow!" or heard Forry say, "Oh, WOW!" once today, I heard it a hundred times -- or more! We left Auntie Violet to guard the campsite at the RV Park (and discovered when we got home that she had given ALL of the thistle seed away to the finches today!) while we drove the Toad over to Zion National Park.

I was "ohing" and "ahing" before we even got into the actual park boundaries. It is so nice to have an "America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass." We bought them several years ago for a whole $10. The pass allows us to get in to the National Parks for free (and for 1/2 price camping), which today saved us the $25 entrance fee!

You can only drive your own vehicle as far as the Visitor Center on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. From there you take one of the free shuttles that travel up and down the canyon. You can get on or off of the shuttle at any of the various stops. We decided to ride the shuttle to the upper end and then walk the trail up the Virgin River to the Narrows (where the trail ends and you have to wade in the river to get through the 16 mile long Narrows.). Our park neighbors had gone yesterday and commented when they returned about how many people were at the Park and we found that to be true as well. The shuttles were pretty full, but people kept hopping on and off, so they were never too crowded (though I understand that later in the season, they are pretty much standing room only).

We saw lots of these busy little critters along the trail. It's obvious they were unafraid of people -- probably used to handouts -- and would come right up to you. There were lots of signs warning of fines for feeding wildlife and I must admit, we didn't seeing anyone doing it.

The trail is very nice, but it's all uphill for the 2.2 mile round trip. This rock was hanging over the trail with no visible means of support, so Forry thought he'd help it out...

What a pleasant surprise to see something common to our former home in Spokane -- I didn't expect to see Oregon Grape growing in a canyon in Utah.

One of several gorgeous waterfalls in the canyon. It's not a stream coming from the canyon rim, but actually seepage along a shale shelf level in the sandstone layers of the cliff.

Another view of the Virgin River --

This is one of the white bluffs called Navajo sandstone in the area known as the "Court of the Patriarchs."

After we returned from the shuttle trip -- and our hike -- we drove the Toad on the Zion - Mount Carmel Highway through the tunnels to the East Entrance of the Park and back again. Switchback after switchback and more absolutely gorgeous scenery!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Saint George RV Park

We were awakened this morning by the sound of birds. The old trees in the park are home to many melodious finches. I have a net thistle seed bag that we have been fastening to Auntie Violet's front mirrors. It has had occasional visitors before, but nothing like its popularity here! It was fun watching this morning as there was usually two-three birds on the bag and as many more picking up dropped seeds on the ground.

The beautiful little guy is no more then four inches long. His back is a gray-green while his belly is bright yellow --

He's a Lesser Goldfinch of the green-backed (Western) variety -- he would dart from the seed bag over to the car when the bigger house finches got too pushy.

Here he's perched on the top end of the seed bag while a much larger (5 3/4") House Finch feeds below him.

When we got back from a trip to Costco this afternoon, the level of seeds in the bag was down a good two inches!

This is the view from the RV Park across the old highway. The snowy mountains in the back really contrast with the red rock of the ridge in the front.

And here is Auntie Violet sitting in the trees. If you have really good eyes, you can see the seed bag hanging from the driver's side mirror on your right.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Here We Are in Utah!

It was a great day for traveling! We left Pahrump a little before ten o'clock and made an easy drive to St. George, Utah by two pm. Of course, we lost an hour as we are now on Mountain Time, but that's okay too. This is another park operated by Western Horizons that we are paying $10 per night at through our RPI membership. We've discovered that most of the Western Horizon parks are older -- and this one is no exception. The nice thing about the older parks is they seem to have more birds as they have older trees. This one also has lots of caterpillars. From the looks of the "nests" in the trees, I would say they are probably the infamous tent caterpillars...

We took Interstate 15 north through Nevada and then across the corner of Arizona and on into Utah. It takes you through the spectacular Virgin River Gorge! I had never seen pictures nor heard of this particular gorge -- it is gorgeous! We are going to have to drive the 15 miles or so back to it in order to take some pictures when we're in the Toad. The river itself was very muddy, most likely from the rains they've had earlier this week.

The roadsides were very green (for desert, that is) and we saw lots of flowers as well as Joshua trees on the way. There are a lot of pear cacti blooming a deep fuchsia and the roadsides had miles of beautiful orange mallows in bloom. We are planning to visit Bryce Canyon while we are here, so hopefully will see many more!

Our thoughts were definitely home at Menno today. The church has been hosting a young couple with a small baby on a pastoral visit this weekend. From all reports the visit went well. There will be a vote next Sunday.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Last Day in Pahrump

Tonight is our last night in Pahrump, Nevada. Tomorrow we are heading for St. George, Utah. We are gradually beginning to start our trek back to the Pacific Northwest. We've been staying for the past two weeks at the Charleston Peak RV Resort. It has one of Nevada's few wineries, but we've never managed to visit it! Even though we've spent two weeks in the area, there are still lots of places we haven't managed to get to -- I guess they'll have to wait until the next trip.

We've certainly had some interesting weather while we've been here. It's been extremely cold the last couple of days, but today it was in the high 80s...

We were tired after our late night return from Las Vegas, so slept in this morning. I spent most of the day doing laundry, getting us all caught up again with clean clothes. Forry did run in to the post office this afternoon to pick up a couple of packages we were expecting, but forgot that it was Saturday and they close at noon! I'll have to call them on Monday and see if there is any way they will forward them to us in Utah?

I have found a new set of books that have had me totally engrossed. Written by the writing team of Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson under the name of Jefferson Bass, they are based on the Body Farm in Tennessee. If you like the Patricia Cornwall books, these books are even more fascinating. Dr. Bass is the world renowned forensic anthropologist who founded the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility.

A Trip to Las Vegas and Fremont Street

We have not spent any time in Las Vegas for many, many years! It was either in the late 70s or early 80s when we were on our way to Mexico with a group of Flying Farmers. Since we always went in the winter time when farming was slow, we would rendezvous in Las Vegas or Reno and wait for everyone else to arrive in their airplanes. Depending on the weather, we might be there for a few days. Circus, Circus was one of the few casinos in those days that would allow children and actually had places for them to play.

Since we are so close to Las Vegas, we decided that we should at least go visit for an afternoon. I had heard that they had closed the old downtown area (where we used to marvel at all of the neon) to cars and roofed it over with a huge light show in order to draw tourists back downtown from the now much more glamorous strip. The 10-15 minute light and music shows are done every hour. They are very bright and LOUD! And the people are almost as much fun to watch as the show.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Snow in the Desert!

It's been a weird couple of days as far as weather has gone. As we were coming home yesterday from Scotty's Castle out of Death Valley National Park along Nevada Hwy. 267, we ran into snow!

I've been trying to figure out what this flower was for a couple of days and I got better pictures of it yesterday. I had narrowed it down to it to being in the Evening Primrose family, but the pictures I had that matched the flowers DIDN'T match the foliage. Finally today I found it! It's Golden Suncup (Camissonia brevipes ssp. brevipes). The flowers look very much like its cousin Golden Evening-Primrose.

Last week we saw two Desert Paintbrush (Castilleja chromosa) plants, yesterday we saw several hillsides covered with them!

Last night it was cold enough to turn the electric heaters back on in Auntie Violet. I even turned on the electric mattress pad on my side of the bed! Today was a day for long sleeves and sweat shirts instead of shorts and tank tops. At one time it was raining on one side of the motorhome while the sun was shining on the other side!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Scotty's Castle

So today we finally made it to Scotty's Castle in the northern portion of Death Valley National Park. It was a couple hundred mile round trip -- but, oh so worth it! The Mediterranean architecture is my favorite style of building and this is a gorgeous example! Built in the 1920s, the house is furnished exactly as it was -- even the clothes in the closets!

Actually built by Bessie and Albert Johnson, Death Valley Ranch became their vacation home. The story of the intertwining of their lives with Scotty, whom they allowed to take all the credit for the "castle," is a fascinating story of the friendship of a con artist and the wealthy Johnsons. The Johnsons willed their home to a not-for-profit foundation which eventually sold it to the National Park Service in 1970.

This bed is in one of the guest rooms (all of the beds had hand-carved headboards) --

This is the gas stove in the kitchen -- it doesn't look too different from current day ones --

And the kitchen sink area. Just look at all of that glorious tile!

This is the formal dining room. It started out as a library, but when Bessie decided she needed a formal dining room, the books were replaced by dishes...

More of the beautiful tile that is throughout the house -- hours and hours of labor to install all of it!

A view of Scotty's Castle from the outside --

The inner courtyard that the house is built around --

National Park Service personnel lead hour-long tours of the building. They dress in period 1930s era clothing -- our tour guide was dressed in the era's Park Ranger uniform. I was surprised that they not only allowed you to take pictures inside, but also to use a flash. There is a tour of the basement which was not available today because of flooding from all of the rain yesterday and last night!

I would have loved to have stayed longer and been able to explore more of the rooms that are not open to the public. As it was, we did not get back to Auntie Violet until after 8 PM -- just in time to watch the Mariners finish their clean sweep of Baltimore!