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!!