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Back in 2012, I had a bit of a health issue (see here for those posts). Following my recovery, or at least a good portion of it, we went to Utah and a bit of Arizona for what became known as our “I’m Not Dead Yet” tour. We hit many of the big parks for three night stays in their lodges or nearby and had a blast. Those posts start here if you’re interested. One thing that we learned is that just a few days in these types of locations is not enough. There is a direct line from that lesson to our going full-time in the RV last year. You can’t say we’re slow learners. At least in this instance.

So now we find ourselves back where it started. We booked a 2-week stay just outside Moab and it still wasn’t enough to even begin to see everything there is to see, but we saw a lot. Our lifestyle (ie: staying at a destination location in our own home) allowed us to take our time, but still go see cool stuff. If we decide to take a day off for laundry, chores, naps, and perhaps a bit of Xbox, no sweat.

Obviously this is a target-rich environment for photographers. This post will cover Arches National Park since it was our most visited destination with five separate trips (thank you once again America The Beautiful Pass!). It’s hard to pick just a handful, but needs must.

Sunset view of Balanced Rock, Arches NP, 9/21/20

A closer view of Balanced Rock. Arches NP 9/18/20

Sunset in Arches NP, 9/21/20

Early morning in Arches NP, 9/18/20

Early morning in Arches NP, 9/18/20

Landscape Arch, Arches NP 9/18/20

Pine Tree Arch, Arches NP, 9/18/20

Tunnel Arch, Arches NP, 9/18/20

Navajo Arch, Arches NP, 9/18/20

Arches NP, 9/18/20

Fiery Furnace, Arches NP, 9/17/20

Broken Arch, Arches NP, 9/17/20

The Fiery Furnace, Arches NP, 9/21/20

The Courthouse Wash Rock Art Panel. Arches NP, 9/22/20

Sand Dune Arch, Arches NP, 9/21/20

Broken Arch, Arches NP, 9/21/20

Skyline Arch, Arches NP, 9/21/20

We felt like Randall Flagg was following us around. #TheStand Arches NP, 9/17/20

Skyline Arch, Arches NP, 9/21/20

The plan was to leave the coast and spend a couple of days just east of Portland in order to check out the Columbia Gorge, then go to ground in Boise (with a quick overnight stay en route) for the Labor Day weekend, and then dash to Salt Lake City (with another stop on the way) for several days. Which is what we did. Sort of.

We did, in fact, have a great time briefly exploring the Gorge. Impressive views and several waterfalls kept the “Oh, wow!” factor alive and well. Many of the trails that are acceptable to us (ie: easy-ish) were closed due to the pandemic but we were able to see the sights and take some walks. Lived up to all of the hype. We’d love to revisit in the spring some year in order to see the waterfalls at their best. A common phrase worth repeating: we’ll be back.

As it turns out, we got out of Dodge at just the right time. Wildfires kicked up in the Portland area in a big way immediately after we left. Our run east to Boise was uneventful as was our stay there. Between Covid and holiday crowds, we felt it best to just hunker down, which we did.

One of my trip planning tools is a website called Windy. It provides a nice view of upcoming weather, particularly wind speeds. Wind is not my friend since we are effectively driving a large sail down the highway. Broadside gusts can make life interesting. Looking at Windy showed some strong winds on our travel days due to a front moving through, starting just at our overnight stay in eastern Idaho as well as in Salt Lake City the next day. So we decided to stop for a couple of nights a bit earlier than planned. Twin Falls, ID looked good so I found a park near there and off we went.

This turned out to be a great decision for two reasons. First, the winds were indeed crazy with 90 mph gusts in SLC. Forty-nine semi-trucks were blown over right when we were to arrive! Bullet: dodged. Second: Twin Falls rocked! Beautiful canyon which Evel Knieval tried to jump on his motorcycle, lovely waterfalls, charming downtown area. Significantly better than muscling Sybil and the truck through high winds.

After our layover we headed to SLC for a few nights. Three words describe our stay: lousy air quality. We were happy to move on and start our time in Moab, Grand Junction, and Bryce. More on that next time. Meanwhile here’s a handful of shots from the Gorge and Twin Falls.

Multnomah Falls. Nice trails here but they were closed. You supposedly need a reservation to park and see the falls. Columbia River Gorge, OR 9/2/20

Latourell Falls, Columbia Gorge, OR 9/2/20

The Columbia River Gorge, 9/2/20

Your choice of golf courses in the bottom of the Snake River Canyon. Twin Falls, ID 9/9/20

Twin Falls, ID 9/9/20

 

Before we left the area, we made another trip up to Mt. St. Helens and took a couple of nice walks. It felt great to be out again, seeing sites and taking photos. There are lots of great hiking trails and photo-ops. It was good for our morale to be back in the woods again.

We finished up our quick visit to Washington with a short hop to a nice rv park on the Columbia River. We had a pull-in site that allowed us to sit in our front seats and watch the traffic on the river floating by. It was a bit jarring to see large, open-going vessels gliding by so far inland but we quickly got used to it. My neighbor turned me on to an app called Vessel Finder that I found to be pretty cool. I was able to identify the boats I was looking at or see when a big boy was going to come by easily on my phone for free. Fun. After a week or so I was actually recognizing the specific tugs shoving barges up and down the Columbia.

Southwest Washington is a beautiful part of the country. When some semblance of sanity and safety have returned to the world we will be back to more fully explore this region.

Coldwater Lake, WA. 6/14/20

Spring in Washington. 6/14/20

Hummocks created by the volcano. 6/14/20

Cedar Creek Grist Mill & Covered Bridge 6/19/20

Cedar Creek Grist Mill 6/19/20

Party at the river on a random weekday. 6/24/20

Watching the traffic go by. 6/17/20

Looking for a meal. 6/17/20

Up until now we have, by choice, travelled fairly slowly. This was primarily due to the fact that Nora, our late cat, did not care for travel days. She would be kinda stressed while moving, lightly sleeping but mostly just hanging out with her eyes closed. When the slides came out at the end of the drive, she knew we were done. She’d eat, and then pass out for the rest of the day. She was old enough to have earned some leeway, so we kept our preferred trip durations/mileages as short as possible and stayed several days, preferably a week or so, before moving on.

Now that we have a Nora-sized hole in our RV, we can be a bit more nimble. We still prefer to limit our road time on any given travel day to 3 to 4.5 hours and to stop for several days before moving on, but there are exceptions to every rule. Like last week. 1002 miles in 5 legs over 6 days. The reason? Temperatures of 104 degrees where we were, 60 degrees where we were going. So, Bakersfield to Mt. St. Helens in one swift movement. We were tuckered but happy when we were done. We were back on the road!

So here we are in the Pacific NW until September. As I type it’s raining, it’s been raining, it’s going to keep raining. But at least all 3 air conditioners aren’t running full bore all day. We are running the electric heaters pretty often, though. In my book, a fair trade.

Didn’t take many photos on the way up here, so I’ll toss a few of Mt. St. Helens that I got between downpours.

Stay safe, y’all.

A beautiful moon last week welcomed us back on the road for our West Coast Dash. 6/4/20

Mt. St. Helens in the morning. Overcast & rainy. 6/10/20

Mt. St. Helens that evening. Beautiful. 6/10/20

Mt. St. Helens 6/10/20

Mt. St. Helens 6/10/20

Mt. St. Helens 6/10/20

Momma told this critter to stay put. 5 days old. 6/9/20

 

Here’s a handful of shots from one of our favorite spots near San Diego: Point Loma. We went there three times, including once at the end of our time in the area. It turned out to be the last “fun” thing we did in San Diego. The first couple of times, the tide was in so we weren’t able to enjoy the famed tidal pools since they were under water. We specifically timed our last visit near low tide and we’re totally happy we did. It’s a very cool place where you can be close to nature and still have views of San Diego and the Naval facilities.

The Point Loma Tidal Pools at high tide. 12/16/19

The Point Loma Tidal Pools at low tide. 1/23/20

Point Loma 1/23/20

Point Loma 1/23/20

Critter! Point Loma 1/23/20

Home! Point Loma 12/16/19

Final stop with a view Point Loma 12/16/19

Point Loma 12/16/19

Inbound. Point Loma 12/16/19

 

 

As I mentioned here, between Patti heading back east for family duty and the cat requiring an inordinate amount of attention, we missed doing a couple of items on our Vegas hit list. So, back to Sin City it was so that we could, among other things, go to Red Rock Canyon and the Valley of Fire State Park. It was totally worth the return, so much so that we will go back again when given the chance. Beautiful country, enjoyable walks, even getting up close to some bighorn sheep. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Red Rock Canyon, 11/4/19

Red Rock Canyon, 11/4/19

Petroglyphs, Red Rock Canyon, 11/4/19

Red Rock Canyon, 11/4/19

Valley of Fire State Park, 11/5/19

Gibraltar Rock, Valley of Fire State Park, 11/5/19

“Trail Marker” near the Gibraltar Rock, Valley of Fire State Park, 11/5/19

Bighorn sheep, Valley of Fire State Park, 11/5/19

More bighorn sheep, Valley of Fire State Park, 11/5/19

Another bighorn sheep, Valley of Fire State Park, 11/5/19

Petroglyphs, Valley of Fire State Park, 11/5/19

Elephant Rock, Valley of Fire State Park, 11/5/19

As we’ve been driving around this country we have noticed a consistent phenomenon. We’ll be behind the wheel, either RV or truck, and come around a corner or over a hill and we’ll spontaneously say “Oh, wow!” Everywhere we go are things of natural beauty or, less often, works of man that blow our mind. It’s happening multiple times a week and it never gets old. There’s no need to look any further for reasons why we’re doing this.

During our stay just south of the eastern entrance to Yosemite we had an overload of those moments.

But first a comment on weather. Since leaving Florida we have seen tropical storm strength winds a couple of times, experienced multiple hail storms, and even set up camp in the snow. On Memorial Day weekend. Sheesh. Being from Florida we have experienced strong winds many, many times. Numerous hurricanes and even more tropical storms have hardened us to strong winds. (BTW: the wind, although annoying, is not the worst. It’s the unrelenting noise it creates. It drives us crazy.) But in Florida our concrete block houses don’t rock and roll. Our RV does. Lots-o-fun.

A view of McGee Creek. 9/16/19

While at McGee Creek we got hit with a very strong windstorm. So strong that the power company killed electricity (unannounced) across a large swath of California. This was the first in what has become a pattern for the locals. We learned that a) our RV can live without power as long as our generator has fuel, and b) the campground’s water was fed by a well. A well that required electricity. Fortunately we had a bit of fresh water in our on-board tanks to hold us over. We came through the event okay, although the RV got a bit sandblasted. (Surreal note: sitting in the front of the coach watching the wind blow when suddenly two horses trotted a bit frantically through our site. About 5 minutes later, two frazzled guys with ropes came through. We told them which way they went. It was pretty weird.)

Anyway, two days later we had planned to go to Yosemite, but another wind event was called for that afternoon. We went anyway, but left very early and only did the eastern portion of the park. We only went as far west as Olmsted Point, spending time in Tuolumne Meadows. Wow. Just … wow. The photos that day were awesome. The early morning light on the cloud capped mountains, mist on the lake waters and in the valleys as seen from above, and the spectacular views from Olmsted were just insane. Although our visit was short, it sure was sweet. I can only show you a few of the many gorgeous shots I got. We will definitely be back.

The real prize is that this was unplanned. I had no idea that there was an east entrance to the park until well after we had made our plans. Cool.

While in the area we also visited the extremely salty Mono Lake, again on a very windy day. There are these weird formations called tufas that, well, are better seen than described. Again, pretty cool.

Just another week on the road.

Another good morning in the Eastern Sierras. Driving to Yosemite. 9/18/19

Driving to Yosemite. 9/18/19

Early morning in Yosemite. 9/18/19

Early morning in Yosemite from Olmsted Point. 9/18/19

Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite NP, 9/18/19

A chilly morning in Yosemite. Tenaya Lake is under the mist in the center. 9/18/19

That haze in the distance is dust in the wind. Mono Lake, CA 9/16/19

Tufas! Mono Lake, CA 9/16/19

Mono Lake, CA 9/16/19

A campground visitor. McGee Creek, CA 9/16/19

We reluctantly headed out of Bend and started our meander south with a goal of hitting Vegas by early October. We really liked Bend and will certainly return, but we need to keep moving. Our first stop is an interesting park located smack in the middle of a working ranch. Seriously, we were in the middle of nowhere surrounded by cattle, coyotes and lots of birds. We spent two nights there and did a lot of nothing. We took several walks, I shot some mediocre photos, and we generally just relaxed. Very nice.

From there we started down US Highway 395 which we will stay on the length of California. We spent a week at a golf resort in Likely, California. And by golf resort I mean a pleasant little course surrounded by lots of nothing that had an RV park in the middle. (We were held up by a cattle drive taking place down the middle of the road into the park. Cowboys!) One of the attractions of the place, beyond providing the opportunity to frustrate yourself by whacking a tiny white ball with expensive sticks, is the darkness of the sky at night. You know they’re serious about this when you notice that the date of the new moon is listed each month on their events calendar. They even have pads set up with power provided to support folks with their telescopes. I made my first stabs at night photography by taking some shots of the Milky Way and a “Star Trail” shot of the Northern sky. They came out OK. More to come on that front.

After some walks to waterfalls and around lakes we headed on down 395 for some more adventures. They just keep coming.

My first ever Milky Way shot. Likely, CA 8/28/19

And my first ever Star Trails shot. Likely, CA 8/30/19

Blue Lake near Likely, CA 9/1/19

Mill Creek Falls near Likely, CA 9/1/19

The title of this post is a phrase I use when I’m in an area that is just so beautiful and/or interesting that anywhere I point my camera there is a potential “keeper” photograph. Yellowstone National Park falls well into this category. We had briefly visited the park on a couple of occasions in the past, but this was to be our first extended stay. We were parked just outside the north entrance in Gardiner and were close enough that my morning walks took me from the RV through town and into the park. Nice.

We saw way too much to cover in one post. This one focuses on the geothermal delights to be found in virtually every corner of the park and even many nooks and crannies outside it. It’s odd to be driving down the road and see steam and/or bubbling “water” coming out of the ground. It’s even odder when you just start taking it for granted. One thing we didn’t take for granted was just how pretty these things are. The colors can be spectacular. The bottom line, though, is that things can look pretty damn primal and dangerous. It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature, especially when she has very hot, very acidic liquids flying around.

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone NP 6/17/19

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone NP 6/17/19

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone NP 6/17/19

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone NP 6/17/19

Artists Paint Pot, Yellowstone NP 6/18/19

Random thermal feature seen from the side of the road, Yellowstone NP 6/18/19

The Fountain Geyser, Yellowstone NP 6/18/19

"Gonzo", Eastern Screech Owl, Viera, FL, 4/11/15

“Gonzo” Eastern Screech Owl, Viera, FL, 4/11/15

"Owliver", Great Horned Owl, Viera, FL, 4/11/15

“Owliver” Great Horned Owl, Viera, FL, 4/11/15

"Bella", American Kestrel, Viera, FL, 4/11/15

“Bella” American Kestrel, Viera, FL, 4/11/15