On Thursday morning we discovered that a visit to the Desert Botanical Garden was a popular choice for lots of others in Phoenix. After nabbing a parking spot vacated by someone leaving, we joined throngs of camera toting folks looking for pictures of blooming desert vegetation. Here are some of the plants we saw in bloom: Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus, Engelmann’s Hedgehog, Desert Marigolds, Brittlebush, Creosote, Littleleaf Cordia, Spire Aloe, Alow Hybrid, Yerba-Mansa, and Texas Mountain Laurel. There were different varieties of pricklypear such as Purple and Rooney’s. We liked the shape and color of Queen Victoria Agave. Another visitor pointed up to his wife and clued us into an example of a crested saguaro. “The Earth Has Been Good To Us,” a sculpture using Shona Opal Stone by Mashford Kanyemba confirms our view of this wonderful world we inhabit. The Butterfly Exhibit in a new 3,200 square foot space attracted many visitors including bus loads of school children. The dominant butterfly species was the Zebra Longwing. A white butterfly didn’t appear on the board identifying butterflies on exhibit. We walked the Desert Wildflower Loop Trail, the Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail, the Plants and Peoples of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail, and part of the Desert Discovery Loop Trail. We took special interest in the Akimel O’odham House and appreciated the quiet waters surrounded by tall Huachuca Water Umbel. We considered having lunch at Gertrude’s but decided they were too busy. Spring is a good time to visit the Desert Botanical Garden.
St. Patrick’s Day in Las Vegas Sunday, Mar 19 2017
We started St. Patrick’s Day with a visit to the Mob Museum which opened in 2012. Their mission is “To advance the public understanding of organized crime’s history and impact on American society.” This National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement.is located in a former federal courthouse and U. S. Post Office built in 1933. Its three floors with 17,000 square feet of exhibits house a large number of artifacts and effective multi-media presentations. The Prohibition era from 1920-1933 was especially important to the rise of the Mob. A brick wall backdrop is used to tell the story of the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. On the second floor, the remodeled courtroom sets the scene for learning about the Kefauer hearing held in the room. Specifically, on November 15, 1950, the seventh of fourteen hearings by the U. S. Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce was held here.
We exited the museum and crossed the street where we joined a crowd to watch the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fremont Street. The Las Vegas Valley firefighters wore kilts and played bagpipes and drums following a single file of flag bearers. The Celtic Crown Academy of Irish Dance participants were followed by a fire truck, the Grand Marshall in a green Cadillac, and a Clown Car brought up the rear. Musical groups played Irish music on three different stages while various street performers sought money for pictures. We were impressed with the work of a spray-paint artist. Periodically, zip liners passed overhead from the 12-story Slotzilla, designed to look like a giant slot machine. We also watched men throw a basketball at hoops 20, 25, and 30 feet high. There were many beverage options including different shaped containers available along Fremont Street.
After resting in our RV parked at the Las Vegas KOA at Sam’s Town, we headed to the Las Vegas Strip for the evening. We nabbed a parking spot in front of Macy’s and walked across the street to tour the Wynn Hotel complex. Back on the strip Venetian gondoliers were busy. I liked the sunset light on the Mirage where the Cirque du Soleil is still performing “Love” that we attended several years ago. I took pictures of both “David” and “Caesar” statues in front of Caesar’s Palace. The Eiffel Tower is always distinctive in the night light. I also liked the lighting on the ships at Treasure Island. We wandered through the Bellagio looking unsuccessfully for a shortcut to the Cosmopolitan. We eventually found our way to the Wicked Spoon for a most memorable gourmet buffet. St. Patrick’s Day in Las Vegas was a great way to end our spring break adventure!
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Sunday, Mar 19 2017
On Thursday we drove to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, approximately 12 miles west of Las Vegas. This 197,000-acre preserve in the Mohave Desert, administered by the Bureau of Land Management, features an interesting13-mile one way loop. We made a quick stop at the modern, well-designed Visitor Center that has several interesting outdoor exhibits with great views of red rocks.
Our first hike was the Calico Tanks Trail that starts at the Sandstone Quarry parking lot. It winds through a wash with views of red and white sandstone. We walked about one mile of this 1.25 mile hike.
Before eating lunch in the Willow Spring Picnic Area, we took a short 0.15 mile walk on the Petroglyph Wall Trail. It ends with one rock formation with several images.
After lunch we took the 0.7 of a mile Lost Creek Canyon Trail to a waterfall. This rocky, uneven terrain includes a section of boardwalk over a section that can have water. The waterfall was flowing. It was difficult to get a picture as other people wanted family shots and selfies.
2.6 miles southwest of the 13-mile scenic drive, we walked about one mile on the 1.5 mile First Creek Trail that leads to the mouth of the canyon. Although the entire walk was exposed to the sun, we got some interesting views of the mountains. The Red Rock Canyon is a pleasant contrast with the sights in Las Vegas.
Death Valley National Park Sunday, Mar 19 2017
After arriving in the early afternoon at the Beatty RV Park, we drove over Daylight Pass, elevation 4,316 feet, and descended to sea level at Stovepipe Wells. Death Valley National Park, comprising some 3.4 million acres, is the largest national park in the continental U. S. and is about twice the size of the State of Delaware We hiked a short distance into Mosaic Canyon with its interesting rocks including marble and great colors! On our return to Beatty we viewed the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Also, we noted a temperature drop from 92 degrees to 75.
On Tuesday we started our visit in the park with a stop at Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at 284 feet below sea level. It was amazing to see snow on the nearby Panamint Mountains while walking through the salt flats of Death Valley Canyon.
We then hiked the out-and-back Natural Bridge Trail. It was about a half mile to the Natural Bridge. We continued beyond it for a short distance to a point that would require some scrambling. I would contend that the elevation gain for this trail was more than the 86 feet advertised in park publications.
After lunch at the Furnace Creek Inn, we toured the Furnace Creek Visitor Center and viewed the twenty minute video, “Seeing Death Valley” narrated by Donald Sutherland, highlighting this national park. Displays look at geology, climate, wildlife, and natural history, including information about the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe who were recently recognized as a tribe and allowed to live within this national park. We had stopped in the morning to pick up maps when the temperature was 65 degrees. Later in the afternoon when we left it was 95. In 1913, Furnace Creek recorded a temperature of 134 degrees, the hottest temperature ever recorded in the world.
Our final hike of the day was the short loop at the Harmony Borax Works which was active from 1883-1888. Near the end of the 0.4 walk we joined a ranger giving a tour. I discovered that my camera setting was wrong so this gave me another opportunity to capture pictures of this interesting place and learn more about its history. Some 40 Chinese men, for example, were paid $1.50 a day for their hard work in this project before paying the company for their housing and food.
We saw more than a dozen wild burros after exiting the park and less than four miles from Beatty. Another great day discovering America!
Rainbow Basin Sunday, Mar 19 2017
During our stay at the Barstow/Calico KOA, we made a trek to the Rainbow Basin Natural Area. This area, maintained by the Bureau of Land Management, is known for its fossils. The one way dirt road in the Basin features hair pin turns and dramatic, colorful rock formations. We stopped at a parking spot about half-way around the loop drive for a hike in a wash. Also, movies picturing Martian landscapes have been filmed here. So, an out-of-this-world experience!
Sometime after our return I lost my key to the smart for two. I usually keep it in my pocket or have a specific place within the RV where I keep my keys. It is a mystery to me where the key is. Fortunately, we have a second key. After three days the key resurrected from being entombed between my mattress and where I normally keep it inside the Via. What did I learn? My memory can fail and I need humility in my humanity. I’m glad we again have two keys!
Joshua Tree National Park Sunday, Mar 12 2017
Our spring break adventure started with a dead battery. Fortunately, the Via has a battery booster that taps the house batteries to assist the chassis battery. After this start we made an emergency stop at Mercedes Benz of Chandler where Sprinter service rep Bill and technician Vincent replaced our battery in a timely manner (one hour) and under warranty. We drove with a slow down to one lane for several miles of road construction east of our destination Indio, California.
On Saturday we entered Joshua Tree National Park with a stop at the Cottonwood Visitor Center where we picked up maps. Interestingly, we drove some 27 miles before seeing the park’s namesake, a Joshua tree. The park encompasses two deserts, the Colorado Desert which is part of the Sonoran Desert and the Mojave Desert. We hiked about 3.4 miles on the Split Rock Trail, the Discovery Trail, and a small segment of the Skull Rock Trail. On the Split Rock Trail we saw blue sky between rocks three times. Face Rock, in my opinion, was more dramatic than Skull Rock. Because Skull Rock is adjacent to the road, however, it is a very popular stop. We ate lunch in the Split Rock picnic area. We were lucky to get a parking spot near the Hidden Valley Trail, a one mile loop in a valley surrounded by boulders. Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed Joshua Tree National Monument in 1936. In 1994 the area became a national park that now protects 792,510 acres. We exited through the Joshua Tree Visitor Center and looped back on Highway 62 and Interstate 10 to our camp site at Shadow Hills RV Resort.