Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Welcome Home-Base at Joshua Tree - Rock Reach - September 23, 2015, Day 9

At night the stars are just unreal, compared to our limited views in the East

After 3,620 miles, we came to rest for seven whole days at Rock Reach House, in Yucca Valley, just outside of Joshua Tree National Park.  What a relief to think about not moving for seven entire days, except to explore the local countryside. 


from the living room
On day one of our Joshua Tree adventure, I want to talk about the house! Rock Reach House is spectacular!  We found out about it from Dwell Magazine, although I'm sure we saw it in a later article than this one from 2010, it was sometime in 2013 we read about being able to rent it and had not stopped thinking about it since. 
You can see here just how close the house is to Joshua Tree National Park

The house is actually what started the whole road trip discussion and our trip plans eventually flowered around Rock Reach as the center point. 


That's me down there enjoying the lounge chair on the deck! 

It was the perfect place to experience the desert, immersing ourselves in the mesogranite formations surrounding the house and the beautiful landscape. You can see Rock Reach being built in this video by Blue Sky Building Systems. It is set on 2.5 acres in Yucca Valley, CA, and the only visible neighboring home is Black Desert House, an impressive black monolith that is currently for sale for $975,000. Check out the amazing images of this house here on the Crosby Doe Associates site!
Image from Crosby Doe Associates

Image from Crosby Doe Associates

Our view  of Black Desert House from Rock Reach

Needless to say, this part of the world is VERY different from Massachusetts on so many different levels. Firstly, it feels like there is no water, and in reality, there really isn't much.  There has been a drought in California for the past four years and it is evident as you move around the landscape. Even though I've never been in the desert, it's apparent that things are extraordinarily dry here.  


A panorama of the landscape
Jeff surveys the landscape from above Rock Reach

some plant material I gathered from the Grand Canyon
We finally had a chance to catch up with our thoughts about the trip so far, including writing in our travel journals that my sister & brother-in-law so thoughtfully gave to us. I collected some plants along the way and had fun sewing them into my journal. 










Sunset from Rock Reach



Friday, April 24, 2015

From Canyons to Blind-Ass-Jump - Day 8, September 22, 2014

The night proved to be a wonderful adventure in sound. We were surrounded by bugling elk all night and into the early dawn hours. I really wish we could have seen one, but despite sounding like giant, raging elephants, they were elusive. Yesterday, we had arrived at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, and landed the most amazing camp site, but sadly we had only one night to stay here. You can read more about Desert View Campground and the previous day at the link above. 



In the morning we met an older couple who were camped across the way from us, Steve and Valerie from Wisconsin. They were breaking camp as well and offered us a canister of gas for our burner. They were getting ready to head home after a nice, long vacation.  We built a campfire and made ourselves some coffee and breakfast burritos from some of the stuff we had left in the cooler, after which we got a relatively early start. 

64 West heads through the long expanse of the South Rim, winding its way along 26 miles. There are any number of turn-offs on the way, in which you can stop and take in various views of the depths and distances of the canyon. 








Not too far from the campground, we ran into a little bit of backed up traffic. After crawling along for a short distance, we saw that there had been a terrible motorcycle accident. There were several motorcycles (as far as we could tell) that had plunged off the road into the scrub. It didn't look good. We think that they had been heading east, and possibly were dealing with early morning sun in their eyes. Like I said in an earlier post, I wouldn't even want to try to navigate some of these roads on a bike. Since then, I've tried to search for information about the accident but have turned up nothing.

Because we were so startled and freaked out, we pulled into the next turn off so we could walk around and try to feel a little better about the day. It turned out to be a spectacular view from this point. (See the rock formation above.) We started to take a closer look at the vegetation as well, given that a lot of it was in flower.  We continued our drive on 64 heading west, which ultimately brings you to Grand Canyon Village and then out of the park, through Tusayan, Valle, and on to Williams. 


These gorgeous yellow flowers were shot with the tilt shift lens. I think they are Snakeweed, but cannot be certain. It was here that Jeff discovered the close up possibilities with this lens. Both the long distance, like the canyon below, and the feathery seed pods (following) look amazing through the tilt shift. The plumed seeds of the Cliffrose appear in the fall, all along the South Rim.







Another beautiful lookout point along the way on 64.


Leaving Grand Canyon we hit Williams and turned right onto 40 taking us into Kingman, AZ. At Kingman, we turned south towards Lake Havasu City.  Part of the Colorado River forms the Lake here. We stopped and ate at a local brewery called Barley Bros. on the other side of the river, which is still in Arizona. Pizza and ribs sounded pretty good, seeing it was already well past lunch and it was now 102 degrees and the heat was unrelenting. 

After a well needed lunch, we continued south on 95 along the Colorado into Parker. Here we crossed into California onto 62. The car was stopped at the border at the Vidal Border Station, part of the California Border Protection Stations, in order to be inspected for fruit or plant materials. Having never gone through this process, and being caught completely unaware, we showed the border patrol several pieces of very sad looking fruit that we had in the cooler, and thankfully they were not infested with any invasive insects. 



Here we leave Arizona, and venture into the Mojave Desert and California, crossing all kinds of incredible landscape. We passed the Turtle Mountains, the Granite Mountains, Old Woman Mountains, and Sheep Hole Mountains, all along 62. Parts of 62 are insane. One section, around Rice and coming up on the Granite Mountains, was a crazy roller coaster ride of some amazing road dips. There were signs that said "Dip" to warn you of the impending fun. We were driving pretty fast and sometimes I think the wheels actually came up off the road on the upside of the dips!  Such fun! Such chaos!  I didn't count the dips, but there were LOTS of them, and each one was unique in its trajectory. 

If I had to travel that road every day I'd have a name for each dip... like "mad snake dip" that starts the downside, turns into a curve in the middle and shoots you out the top like a mad rocket, or "blind ass jump" where you can't see the road that falls off in the distance so it looks like you are driving off the edge of the Earth. Awesome!  Not only this, but we were driving directly west, directly into the setting sun that was blazing in the window at maximum solar intensity. 




This insanity eventually traverses the northern edge of Joshua Tree National Park and brings you into Twentynine Palms, Joshua Tree, and Yucca Valley, where the house we rented was located. To the North on 62 is the largest US Military base I've ever seen. The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms. Officially known as Twentynine Palms Base, it has its own zip code. 


We took a total of two photos after we left Grand Canyon on the 22nd.  The one above of the road and wind turbines, and the one below showing 3,619.9 Miles to Joshua Tree!  

It was an 7 hour drive covering 425 miles!  I can't wait to show you our photos of Joshua Tree. More soon. Good night!!















Thursday, January 1, 2015

Differing Perspectives - From North Rim to South Rim, Grand Canyon - Day 7 - September 21, 2015


After the exciting day of travel the day before, we were in for the most staggeringly beautiful day yet on this trip. It's hard to believe now, in retrospect, everything that we saw in this remarkable part of the country on this one day. Waking up in our camp site on the North Rim, we cooked some breakfast over a fire, enjoyed our coffee, broke camp, and then it was a short drive to the Lodge and the trail head for Bright Angel Point. 

It has taken the Colorado river over six million years to carve this canyon from the rock, and at some points it is 6,000 ft. deep and 18 miles across at its widest.  This is considered "arid-land erosion" and the canyon is 277 miles long. In its geologic formations, you can see three of earth's four eras of geologic history. Let's consider it a work in progress.



It was a short, but precarious, walk from the lodge to the overlook even with the paved trail to get out there. Bright Angel Point basically sits at the end of a needle-like peninsula that sticks out into the canyon. I can imagine that a lot of people become unable to go further, if they suffer from fear of heights or vertigo. Worth the effort to get past the nominal fears the trail and heights induce though.


Here's an awesome example of my video taking skills!  Check out the view from Bright Angel Point! 


North Rim - Grand Canyon - September 21, 2014 from Briana Taylor on Vimeo.

Setting out early, so that we could enjoy some time at the South Rim before sunset, we traveled back through Kaibab National Forest, past the Vermillion Cliffs, back over the Navajo Bridge, and followed 89 South until we hit 64 East, which is basically the entrance to the Grand Canyon from the Eastern side. This is not the main entrance to the Park, as it seems most people are coming from the Flagstaff area. We were hoping to get a camp site at Desert View Campgrounds, just inside the Park. We had reservations at the Mather Campground near the main Grand Canyon Village, but that would add another 26 miles to our estimated 189 we were due to travel that day. Desert View was also more isolated, with only 50 camp sites, and on a first come, first serve basis. 

Traveling back through Kaibab we stopped in this burned out area on top of the ridge that leads back down to the Vermillion Cliffs. In the photo below, you can see them looming off in the far distance.  The burned out area was exquisitely beautiful, and despite it being the end of September, it was full of spring colors. Chartreuse, and an abundance of white, purple, and pink flower, and thistles in full bloom. The contrasting black of the burned trees and various logs laying around the landscape was stunning, surrounded by such new growth all around. 


 Crossing the Navajo Bridge again ...
We had luck, and found a camping spot at Desert View on the far Eastern edge of the South Rim. It was site #44, and being a first come, first serve campground made it likely for us to find a spot so late in the season. The spot was so perfectly isolated from the rest of the campground, and we only had one neighbor across the way which we could see. I'll tell you about them in the next day's post!


I had spotted elk prints out behind our camp site and when Jeff returned from paying the camping fee, I brought him out to show him the tracks I had found. We were surprised by a small tarantula, who was quickly moving along the elk tracks. Not what I expected to show Jeff at that moment, but it was a very cool surprise. After, I walked over to the restrooms, and visited with the camp host, whose camper was right next to the facilities. I told him about the tarantula, and he informed me that they were migrating at this time of year!  Tarantula Migration... Seriously?!  These amazing arachnids migrate...  So very cool, and scary too.  We were certain to close up the tent every time we went in and out so that we wouldn't wake up to a furry friend nested in our bed.

Our camp host hailed from Maine, and this was his first year at Grand Canyon. He looked like Walt Whitman, with a giant white and gray beard, and larger than life build. He was busy sweeping one of the said tarantulas that had wandered into the ladies room. He said he hoped to hear the elks bugling on this night. It was now high rutting season for the elks and the males were busy scouting, fighting, and bellowing for mates.



Here, you can see by this map, we stayed in Desert View, instead of traveling over to Mather campground. We had come around from the right side and entered the park on the Desert View side. 


Taking the opportunity to get a glimpse of the South Rim from Desert View before the sun would set, and also needing some supplies for the camp, we headed over to the Visitor center. It's a small center, compared to Grand Canyon Village, 26 miles to the west of this spot, but the views are spectacular from here and it's much quieter on a tourist level.  The sun was setting pretty rapidly, but we felt very leisurely about walking along the rim of this part of the canyon. It was very quiet with not too much wind, as at Bright Angel Point in the morning.  I've never seen anything like it, and was stunned by the sheer vastness of the landscape all around. I found it hard to get my mind around the scene, and it all seemed so unreal. I felt myself looking and looking, and now, three months later, I finally feel like I've recorded this scene in my mind as a reality. Revisiting these photos as time progresses actually has had the effect of anchoring the memories in my mind. 

Later, after setting up the camp site, we did hear the bugling of the elks! They began their calls in the early afternoon, and continued to call throughout the night into the early morning. If you are interested in hearing what they sound like, check out this video on YouTube of an elk calling.


The following photos will sum up the views we took in from this side of the South Rim. I hope to go back here and get to stay for some time.