Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Valley of Fire SP, NV

Location: Surprise, United States

After seeing Hoover Dam, we drove north toward Valley of Fire SP, just south of Overton, NV, & right next to the northern edge of the Lake Mead Nat'l Recreation Area. About 2 miles beyond the Park entrance is a free boondocking area. I don't think it's actually BLM, just no one's cares. It’s called Snowbird Mesa & is a couple of fingers of land (flat, gravelly  mesas) above Overton, NV & the Virgin River just before it becomes Lake Mead (the same river cutting thru Zion NP). The highway dips down sharply past the entrance to the area, so the edges of this area are pretty high. Nighttime viewing of Overton's lights was fabulous. It wasn't crowded & everyone was spaced out. Didn't talk to any neighbors & only saw a couple of campers to wave at.

We spent about 3 hours mostly driving thru Valley of Fire SP. There is a $10 self-pay station near the entrance, but the highway comes out on the west side at I-15.

This place is amazing to see & intriguing from a geological point of view. The red Aztec sandstone formations (old sand dunes turned to stone) are younger than the grey, limestone tops of some areas. Very strange. The wind erosion has created awesome formations, including lots & lots of arches (tho none as big as at Arches NP).

We had a pleasant, sunny 2 - night stay here, & Jeff got to watch the Super Bowl as well. We drove into Overton also to the only grocery store in the area. Nice selection & prices weren't bad.

On the way back to Quartszite for the Fiberglass Rally, we took the AZ route into Kingman. South of Hoover Dam is a scenic view where the Colorado River makes a sharp cut west thru the mountains. Pretty spectacular. There's a road down to the River & some kind of recreation area we didn't go see.

We stopped at Walmart on the north edge of Lake Havasu City & spent the night at another Coast to Coast campground in Earp, CA (across the Colorado at Parker AZ). I wanted to do some laundry but the campground was working on the plumbing so the laundry was closed. At least the sunset was awesome.

We made it back to Quartszite on Wednesday & the Rally officially started Friday. Got laundry done finally on Thursday. Met old friends & made a few new ones. Officially had 104 fiberglass rigs show up. Nice weather finally for good solar. We didn't leave until Tuesday cause that 10-day trip up to Death Valley & Hoover Dam & back had us needing to vegetate for awhile. I guess leaving Q means we're now on our way east to MO finally. Boy, the winter everywhere north & east of AZ has just been brutal at times, so once again, we are OUTRAGEOUSLY grateful for the chance to enjoy this winter in the SW. I just love having wheels on my bed!

Hoover Dam & Lake Mead

Location: Surprise, United States

We left Death Valley in the rain & low clouds over the mountains, drove thru Red Rock Canyon in the gloom, & decided to stay at the commercial side of Lake Mead Nat'l Recreation Area (the other side of the camping area with a senior pass discount is dry camping) to replenish our batteries with electricity, fill up with water, & dump our tanks. Plus it's located on the west side of Lake Mead with a good view of the main body of the Lake, & only a few highway miles actually from Hoover Dam.

Although walking along Hoover Dam is free, parking in the multi-story parking garage is $10. Not a bad overall charge for the visit, I guess, & we didn't want to walk all the way down hill (& then back up) from the free area on the east side of yhe Dam. The visitor center charged to just go in (like the one at Gettysburg), & I don't think that's right - so I didn’t go in!

The road to the Dam has gorgeous views of the Bypass Bridge south of the Dam, but the sides on the Bridge are too high to get even a glance at the Dam driving over it. The red rock walls are very tall above the very narrow canyon cut by the Colorado River, so it was a perfect location for the Dam.

There are several nice statues & plagues on the west side of the actual dam. And it was fascinating to see how the concrete edge of the Dam meshed with the sides of the canyon.

And the view from the Dam looking DOWN to the Colorado River nearly gave me vertigo!

The water intake towers are massive, & even more so with the lake so low.

The kewlest part almost was the plague & marker for the Arizona - California border. Jeff has a foot in each state.

We're really glad we made the effort to see Hoover Dam. We've watched numerous documentaries thru the years on the building, dangers, & struggles of building this dam, so now we know up close what a triumph it was.

The Lake must have been even more beautiful when it was fuller. That bathtub ring is rather distracting. The National Recreation Area is on both sides (both states) of the Lake & runs north beyond the Lake area, plus along both sides of the Colorado River until just north of Bullhead City, NV, almost to the southern edge of NV.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Quartszite, Death Valley, & Red Rock Canyon

Location: Wickenburg, United States

From Buckeye Regional Park, we returned (once again) to Quartszite to browse the big RV show & visit with Casita friends. This desolate piece of SW Arizona is starting to feel a lot like home anymore - our third winter visit. This time we camped east of the usual Fiberglass Rally spot (full of Class A's) with a group of "eggs", only one we knew from 2 yrs ago was Jerry & Wanda (of EggRollings blog). We hung out a week, not doing much of anything productive. Lynn & David (of  Casita in the Desert, Casita in the Mountains blog) arrived the day after us. We also meet Julia (a solo from TX), Cookie & Bill, Carolyn (who had a birthday that week) & her husband, Mo (who lives near Little House Custom in TX), & Ruth & husband from Santa Fe in their Liberty. Ruth & I have been FB friends for years but never meet before. We really liked a few of their mods in their Liberty. A couple of other Casitas & one Escape were there, but I don't remember names. The 1st Blogger meet-up was held in Quartzsite on Saturday. . .but I have trouble keeping track of what day it is - & forgot about the meet-up being that day. Heard great things about it & hope to make it to next year's.

We got a few things at the RV show: new but smaller patio mat, cell fon case, sunglasses, t-shirt, & 2 solar lanterns that air up. Unfortunately it was not full sun many days in Q, so our solar panels (2 90W) didn't keep our 2 12v batteries charged all that well.

Jeff had Death Valley & Hoover Dam on his bucket list, so we headed north for a look-see before the Fiberglass Rally back in Q in a couple of weeks. First stop was a Coast to Coast campground in Needles CA - right along side the Colorado River. That water was sure clear & pretty, as well as running very fast. I got some laundry & other cleaning done, but it rained on us most of the one full day stay.

Next was a trip around Las Vegas (no desire to get into THAT circus), thru Pahrump NV, & across the CA border (again) to Death Valley - the lowest spot in the world. We were doing to boondock at  BLM...but those pesky clouds followed us from AZ so we used my Geezer Pass to stay at the Furnace Creek campground. Unfortunately no electric sites were available, so we still had to limp along with the solar panels under cloudy skies.

This Park is HUGE - reminded me of Big Bend NP in TX where the "attractions" are many miles & hours apart. The first morning, we drove up to see Scottie's Castle. We didn't take the walking tour, just wanted to see the area. There was a resident coyote hanging around the Picnic area waiting for handouts. It’s located in the mountains to the east of the Valley so higher elevation & probably cooler. Since the mountains on the west suck out most incoming moisture & the mountains on the east prevent weather systems from moving, air stagnates in the Valley - thus the outrageously high summer temps (something like 130° record). Also at the northern side of the valley are two old cone volcanos. Pretty awesome holes in the ground. On the way back to camp, we stopped by to see one of several old borax processing places around the Park - where the 20-mule team wagons were needed to cart the sacks of borax to civilization.

That first evening we drove south to the Painter's Palette for a "sunset" scenic drive thru a plethora of big, colorful rocks, peaks, & cliffs. Wow - serious eye-candy for me. Then we contined south to Badwater Basin - at 283' BELOW SEALEVEL (& still sinking). It seems the valley floor is tipping lower at this end & pushing up the western mountain range (over 14,000' & currently snow capped). I got a fabulous after-sunset glow over the salt flats.

We headed west on our 2nd day. Lots of miles but not really as much to see, depending on your interests. We got a general "feel" for the area, glad we saw it, but had enough in two days. We wanted to see the view of the Valley on the way out from a mountain peak east of the salt flats - but that darn rain caught us again. Low clouds & raindrops all over didn't work for scenic views or photographs on our way back to the Vegas area.

We went back east thru Pahrump & drove the scenic loop of Red Rock Canyon (just west of Las Vegas). I'm glad our Geezer Pass got us in free because only the first three miles or so right align the red cliffs were interesting. There were numerous hikes along the loop that may have gone to awesome scenery, but not much viewable from the road. Amazing red rock formations, but overall disappointing.

Finally we made it thru the traffic & rain to Lake Mead & Hoover Dam.