Another Run to Zion

We are staying at the River Zion RV Park until Tuesday and decided to make another run up to Zion National Park. It did not disappoint us and the lighting for photography was much more dramatic than on Wednesday. We again packed a picnic lunch and Michael dragged the entire bag full of food all the way to the Upper Emerald Pool. The Upper Pool was quite a steady vertical climb but only 1.6 miles from the parking lot. The upper pool was well worth the hike and was spectacular. Zion was much busier on Sunday then on Wednesday, but nothing like the 4.5 million people that visited the park over the summer.

When we were done hiking, we met a fellow photographer, Michael Andrew who is also a Word Press Blogger for dinner at Oscar’s in Springdale and thoroughly enjoyed his company. Michael lives in Zion and gave us lots of good tips while we gobbled up a huge garlic hamburger which is Oscar’s specialty dish.

Michael and I took another jacuzzi when we got back to the RV and it is almost time to call it a day. I have taken another set of decent photographs and love the new lenses on my iPhone 7 plus camera. We have had such a wonderful time here and I feel so much more relaxed than when we first arrived. I am driving the RV while my Michael follows in Lara’s car and it is taking some getting used to driving such long distances. Staying here for an entire week is doing the job. I am now very relaxed!

Busted!

Beware of any beverage glass left unattended with Callie around. She may feel somewhat guilty about it but will take a stab at dipping her paw into your glass if your back is turned. Wine, juice, water, it doesn’t matter what the glass holds, it is the naughtiness of it all that attracts her to the glass. I just happened to look up and catch her in action this time. Actually, it was my daughter who busted her. These are the very same paws that cover up her shit in the litter box. Can you imagine my horror the first time I caught her doing this, and reflected on all of the times I had left a glass on the counter? She can’t be trusted, and I tend to forget. Fortunately, the lovely sounds her tongue makes lapping up the forbidden beverage gives her away.

Snow Canyon State Park

Today we spent the day exploring Snow Canyon, a state park outside of Saint George, Utah and off of Interstate 15. It was only a 45-minute drive from the Zion River Resort RV Park and a perfect way to spend an afternoon. The park is famous for its white and red Navajo sandstone and for solidified, black lava caves. There were also a couple of vernal pools and the trails were well marked and easy to explore.

The landscape is one of sage, yucca, and creosote, juniper, scrub oak and cactus, with the petrified sand dunes in red and white as a stark backdrop. Gila monsters favor this desert along with peregrine falcons, coyotes, Mojave sidewinder, scorpions, the desert tortoise and a banded gecko.

It was an unusually warm day for the end of January and we hiked with our jackets off. The park was popular as it was a Saturday, but I still felt comfortable taking lots of photographs without people interfering with my landscape shots.

There are RV Campsites with biking, rock climbing, and hiking as a big draw to the area. It is not Zion or Bryce Canyon, but still a very attractive natural park in which to spend the day doing any or all of the above. I for one felt it was a very rewarding day of photography.

When Storage is Limited

When traveling in a 24ft RV with one cat and three adults, storage is very limited. In the case of Callie, that translates into very few toys that are packed for her personal enjoyment. One must get very creative if one is to live life to the fullest while on the road. Callie has two mice, a catnip filled stuffed toy and a mouse that squeaks pathetically when mauled. She has also succumbed to the joys of an old box that her Science Diet cat food came in. Put the two mice in the box and you have an instant board game of cat and mouse! The box also doubles as a place to take a quick cat nap in. A down blanket folded up from the previous night’s bedding and placed on the driver’s seat of the RV will have to do for a bed. She is a happy and adaptable camper for sure!

Bryce Canyon National Park in the Winter

Bryce Canyon National Park was a winter wonderland and we spent all day there yesterday after a storm had blown through about a week ago. White snow was still packed down hard on most of the trails and the hoodoos were frosted with the gorgeous stuff like powdered sugar on cookies.

The Paiute Indians tell of a story where the “Legend People” of long ago had behaved badly and were turned into stone by the trickster, coyote.

When you look down on these beautiful sculptures from Sunset and Sunrise Point, and especially Inspiration Point, you too will marvel at the beauty mother nature has on display for you. Pairs of ravens swoop and dive below you as they sail on the currents of wind, and animal tracks are marked in the snow precariously along steep cliffs.

There were no crowds whatsoever and the park was quiet except for the sound of ravens on the wing and gusts of wind that rattled the bare branches of gnarled trees. Zion did not have ideal weather for photography but Bryce Canyon more than made up for it. We again packed a picnic of baguette, Irish cheese, cashews, apples and organic tangelos from Seley Ranch in Borrego Springs, but this time we had to eat in the car with the windows rolled up. Inspiration Point has an elevation of over 8,000 ft so it was much colder than Zion.

I took many photographs, over 100 actually, and will have a difficult time selecting only some of them for you to view. They all look marvelous to me. Thank you, Michael Andrew’s for your suggestion to make it a priority to check out Inspiration Point!

During the day, Callie stayed behind warm and toasty in the RV next to the personal heater that I had provided. When we returned after having been gone all day, her cute little masked face was peering out at us from the upper loft window so that she could greet us. When we opened the door, she flopped down on her back for a belly rub and seemed relieved that we were home.

Look in right hand side of window!

Zion in the Winter

We weren’t sure that Zion would be open due to the government shutdown, but we were in luck and there was a resolution for us just in the knick of time! Visiting Zion in the winter, and having the mild weather to boot has been extraordinary. There were no crowds whatsoever and the trails were virtually empty. 4.5 million people visited Zion last year and you can only get into the park by shuttle during high season. Because it is winter, we were able to drive in by personal car.

Michael, Lara and I hiked to Weeping Rock and took the gorgeous trail along the Virgin River called Hidden Valley Trail. We actually were able to have a picnic outdoors along the river in the middle of January. It was a marvelous day for photography in spite of there not being any clouds in the sky, and I was able to for the first time practice using my new lenses that attach to my iPhone 7 plus camera. Michael bought me the lens and case combination as a Christmas present!

We are staying at the Zion River Resort RV Park & Campground and I give it high ratings. It is conveniently located for day excursions into Zion. The showers are particularly nice with plenty of hot water and a timer set for 7 minutes due to water conservation. It was more than enough time and a friendly beep sounded when your minutes were almost up. We have taken a hot jacuzzi every night after hiking and it soothes the aching joints of middle age.

Today we are going to take the 2-hour drive one way to Bryce.

I will also discuss in more detail the lenses I use on the iPhone 7 Plus. PHOLES makes an awesome 6 lens mount that comes with a sturdy case that is compact and rugged. It has a fisheye, tele macro and wide angle lens. I am much too impatient to drag my Nikon D70s on RV trips and I am also worried about getting broken into. These little lenses do the job for my blog posts. I do not profess to be an awesome photographer, but I will take credit for trying while cheating with my iPhone’s convenience and compact size!

A Full Day of Travel

Yesterday morning we headed to Las Vegas. We packed up the RV with big raindrops plopping down hard on the roof and the thirsty ground, as gusts of wind billowed the clouds up above. The scent of creosote suddenly filled the air and there was a sense of delight and relief in the desert. The plants and animals that call Anza-Borrego Desert State Park their home were parched from the dry spell. It was the longest-running dry spell in California since records have been kept. Rain in the desert is a relief, whereas mudslides in Montecito after the Thomas Fire, were a tragedy.

As soon as the RV starts up, Callie jumps onto the dash to be a dash-cam cat and we are good to go. It was a full day of travel with clouds forming and blowing into mist and snow falling on the mountains. To see the mountains dusted with snow was a welcoming sight. The sunset was really dramatic as we wearily pulled into Vegas, and Callie was tired from keeping her post on the dash for 7 hours. We had one detour at Route 66 that slowed our progress down, but we finally made it as the sun was setting in shades of purple and a flash of deep gold, orange, and burgundy.

We are staying at the Oasis RV Park and it is an assembly line of big rigs and gigantic RV’s. Twinkling lights were wrapped around the palm trees in the entranceway and everything was orderly and well executed. We are staying for 3 nights and our daughter Lara will be joining us as we head toward Mesquite and possibly Zion, weather permitting.*

* with the government shutdown, we may have to come up with an alternative plan…

Lights out for Callie!

Sisterhood

I am one of seven sisters that were raised as a Catholic and my parents wanted a large family. My brother came first and seven sisters later. I am smack in the middle and my parents were sure I was a boy, a baby brother for Tom and that I would be named John. Well, it turns out I was a girl and my name is Joan after the Saint, Joan of Arc.

We celebrated the second to the youngest sister’s 60th Birthday up in Morro Bay and went zip lining in Santa Margarita to get in touch with our wild side. There was wine tasting afterward at Ancient Peaks and I have to tell you, they had some spectacular wine. Apparently, the soil holds oysters the size of soccer balls and this leads to an interesting mineral deposit that the grapevines love.

So all in all, I have a really cool bunch of sisters, and one sister in law to fill in the gap, and I am feeling nostalgic as it is 3 in the morning and I can’t sleep. It was memorable get together because we are all aging gracefully and have gotten closer. I am really proud of all my competent, outstanding women that just happen to be sisters too! COW for short. Life has been challenging for all of us but we have fought the battles with integrity.

This morning we are heading to Vegas with Callie to meet up with our daughter. Another adventure is brewing.

A 7 Sister Reunion

As I have stated in my last post, I am attending a sister reunion in Morro Bay, California for 4 days and 3 nights. One sister couldn’t make it and a sister in law has stepped in to fill in the gap. Frances is a Canadian citizen and my brother, Tom’s wife. We are celebrating her birthday and my sister Janet’s.

I did the drive from Anza- Borrego Desert State Park but split it up by going to visit my sister Gayle first. We then took one car up together, another sister Judy, drove up by herself from Riverside, and Janet and Jennifer came up from Santa Barbara. Jennifer lives in South Carolina but had flown in before Christmas to celebrate Christmas and New Years in California. We were all impacted by the storm that hit Montecito and the mudslides that followed.

Janet lives in Santa Barbara and was evacuated several times due to the Thomas Fire. She has had to listen to helicopters once again flying over her home because of the horrific mudslides that have taken 20 lives and destroyed over 100 houses. The 101 has been shut down for a 30-mile stretch and everyone trying to go north and south have had to detour over to the 5 and the 166.

Frances left Vancouver Island 3 days before by Amtrak, and what a nightmare that was for her. She ended up having to be taken off the train and put on one bus after another. It was all quite chaotic and unsettling. Amtrak was totally unprepared for this natural disaster, but in spite of the chaos, still managed to get her to SLO, almost on time.

To put a cheery spin on this disaster, we all made it safely to Morro Bay and had a fabulous first evening at Elizabeth’s house overlooking Morro Bay. How fortunate I am to have such beautiful and kind sisters and that we all made it safely to her house. The fire and ensuing mudslides are a reminder of the sanctity and fragility of life. I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the incredible heroism of the first responders and emergency crews that are working tirelessly to save lives. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. This will be a sister reunion to be remembered…

The Birthday girls!