Alabama Hills, CA redux - Day Two - Wednesday, 3/27/13

We were ready for our second day here in the Alabama Hills.  Our morning low temp was 48 degrees, and we always like to wait till the temp rises to 50 before we go outside to play!  

Hiking shoes and long pants were the rule today and, tho a west wind blew, we needed Cactus Juice applied around the ears and face to ward off pesky gnats.  Stuff really works.  You wouldn't think gnats would be such a problem at 5,000' in high desert, but they were.

Good Morning! - colorful sunrise over the Inyo Mountains east of us.

We weren't the only ones Out and About this morning!  We think the pilot must have been having fun.

Please, oh please, I give up, don't let it fall.

This is an actual (open) cave entrance, with two chimney holes, in a weird lava flow formation.

Movie Flats.  If you can't decipher this, the sign reads:  Since 1920, hundreds of movies and TV episodes, including Gunga Din, How the West was Won, Khyber Rifles, Bengal Lancers and High Sierra, along with the Lone Ranger and Bonanza, with such stars as Tom Mix, Gene Autry, Glenn Ford, Humphrey Bogart, and John Wayne, have been filmed in these rugged Alabama Hills with their majestic Sierra Nevada background.

The arrow points to lavender-shirted me, taken by...

...orange-shirted Jimmy opposite.  The camera did not have wings; I walked across to fetch and deliver.  You might see us better in the above pictures if you enlarge them.  Gives quite a size perspective.

The area has a lot of arches and holes like these.  This particular hole had a resident!  Based on fresh little poopers and bits of grass and hay, I guessed a kangaroo rat lived here.

Smartie looks Small!  Smartie is Dwarfed!

Wondering if I could get to the top.  Nixed the idea.

When we weren't climbing or hiking, we studied.  I noticed what looked like praying hands at top, left-center.  So easy to see "things" in the rock shapes.

This plaque is a couple of miles away from Movie Road.  I'll decipher for you.  Gunga Din Filmed Here.
In 1938, this hill area, among many others in these Alabama Hills, served as a stand-in for the Hill Country of Northern India when RKO made the classic adventure film, "Gunga Din," on location in Lone Pine.  Hundreds of horsemen raced across the hills, and elaborate sets were built here and nearby while cast and crew lived for weeks in a tent city off Movie Road.  Directed by George Stevens, the epic starred Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Victor McLaglen and Joan Fontaine, with Sam Jaffe as Gunga Din, the water boy who wanted so much to be a soldier.  The plaque was dedicated by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., in 1992... 54 years later!

The camera got a work-out today!  These few photos serve as a sampling of more than 30,000 acres of fantastic rock shapes, formations and piles.  A landscape or a moonscape?  Just a great place to fritter away a few days or weeks.  We recommend!

Tomorrow we plan to continue our drive north on Hwy 395 to Reno, along the Eastern spine of the Sierra Nevada's, with snow-capped peaks all along the way as our backdrop.  One overnight in Reno, and then HOME.  We count this as another excellent three-month Out and About adventure!


Alabama Hills... redux - Day One, 3/26/13

This is our second time to visit these here Hills - we stopped here three-and-a-half years ago (see blog).  Big spenders that we are, we're dry-camped in Tuttle Creek again, a BLM campground that costs $2.50/nite for us Golden Agers!  The best part of Tuttle Creek, other than the price, is the view.  Alabama Hills is part of the Sierra Nevada Mtns, and the picture below is what we see from our windows.

We didn't want to drive up I-5 one more time to Nevada City.  Hwy 395 on the eastern slope of the Sierras is Option B, and that's what we picked.  Leaving Desert Hot Springs in the morning, we made it to Lone Pine on Hwy 395 by mid-afternoon.  Lone Pine and Alabama Hills are the portal to Mt Whitney, the tallest mtn in the contiguous United States.  Our elevation at camp is approx 5,000'.  Mt Whitney is 14,494'.  (It wins the prize!)  After picking our site and setting up, we hopped in Smartie for the short drive to "Movie Road."  I think you could spend every day of your life in these hills and mountains and never tire of it and never see it all.

Afternoon at Tuttle Creek Campground from our Motor Home.

Many movies were filmed here, mostly Westerns.

Jimmy (and Smartie) studying the spectacular landscape.

This ferocious customer is a Mojave Barrel Cactus.  Looks very lethal.

While Alabama Hills is different from Joshua Tree Nat'l Park, it has similarities.  For one thing, the term "monzogranite rocks" is used in both places.  Wikipedia sez, "monzogranite are biotite granite rocks that are considered to be the final fractionation product of magma."  You can look it up on Google to learn all about it, but I can tell you I'd never heard of it before.  Sure makes for some splendid climbing!

And the rocks go on and on forever....

When I looked out Tergel's windshield at dusk, this great Full Moon had risen over the Inyo Mountains to our East.  Like I said, the view here is priceless.  Think we'll stay another day!


Joshua Tree Nat'l Park - Sunday, 3/24/13

Maybe 35 or 40 miles up Twenty-Nine Palms Hwy from our campsite in Desert Hot Springs is Joshua Tree Park.  And I do mean up.  From Desert Hot Springs @ approx 1,000 ft the road climbs to over 4,000 ft.  The Park itself is a vast 1,234 sq miles of mountain ranges and a melding of the Colorado Desert with the Mojave Desert.  Neither of us had ever visited this great park, and we had to choose where in those 1,234 sq miles to go in one day.  We picked the closest places in the Northwest section:  Black Rock Canyon and Indian Cove.  Both areas offer great views and hiking and have campgrounds, but during Easter Week, both were full.  Never mind, we are comfortable at our current site in Catalina Spa and Resort. 

Joshua Tree, a member of the Agave family.  Twisted and spiky, this oddity grows only in the Mojave Desert between 1,300 and 5,900 ft.  Legend has it that Mormon immigrants named the tree after the biblical figure, Joshua, seeing the limbs of the tree as outstretched in supplication, guiding the travelers westward.  Probably as good an explanation as any.

 And, my goodness, we are sooo fortunate to arrive in spring with the Trees in bloom.  Waxy, white flowers form a mass on long stalks at branch tips.  Not much fragrance, but they are breathtaking.

 This beautiful bloom is on the Mojave yucca (which also has spikes that can kill ya!).

Beavertail cactus.  Looks heart-shaped to me....

I think this is a (common) side-blotched lizard.  They were all over the place.

Joshua tree with snow-capped San Gorgonio in the distance.

Half way down the hill, a fellow hiker agreed to take our picture.  Gorgonio still glistening (between us) many miles west.

Here comes the funny part.  When the ranger lady was telling us about the nature trail hike, I thought she called it the Heidi Nature Trail.  I must have had my ears tuned to a different station, because what she really said was, "Hi-View."  We'd figured a 1.3 mile loop would be an easy half hour or 45 min, depending on how often we stopped to poke at things.  Hi-View meant a moderate climb 400 feet to the top of yon mountain!  Took longer, we even got winded a couple of times, but we survived!

* * * * * * * * * *

We debated what to do after our morning hike and decided to drive a few more miles east to Indian Cove, not having any idea what to expect.  Boy, were we in for a surprise!

Hopefully you can see the delineation in the formation:  to the left, dark rock, to the right, light boulders..  Uplift?  Or?  In person, the image was unbelievable.

Who piled up all those rocks?  After lunch, we commenced to explore.

This Chuckwalla wasn't too sure about having his picture taken.  A big fella (or gal), about 12" long.

Towering rock formations makes the area popular for amateurs like blue-shirted Jimmy and...

... red-shirted Nickie.  We scrambled all over these rocks as much as our bodies would allow!  Also saw a number of rock climbers with equipment, climbing and rappelling.

One small sampling of the massive rock pile.

Flowers and climbing rocks, what a great combination.

When we'd had enough fun scampering and hopping from rock to rock half the afternoon, we got in Smartie to drive home.  This is the sign we saw ON OUR WAY OUT!


Ajo AZ to Parker Dam AZ -- 3/20 thru 3/22

We made a day trip to Ajo, "Gateway to Organ Pipe Cactus Nat'l Monument," for a look-around and to see if we could find the Mexican restaurant we ate at five years ago - a really great dinner - but this time it would be for lunch if we could find it.  Yes, we did and had no problem recognizing it at all!  Clicking on all our cylinders!

Creosote bushes are packed with yellow blossoms and buzzing with bees.  These large bushes are everywhere.  Yes, the desert is in bloom, with all sorts of big, medium and teeny-tiny flowers, adding so much color to an otherwise kind of uniform landscape - a joy for the eyes.

 Jimmy at Ajo Plaza, built in 1917 - a burgeoning area of town with lots of store activity.  Train station beyond.

And here 'tis - Marcela's, and the food was just as delicious.  We both got the special of the day and YUM.

A picture of a photo of the immense Ajo Copper Open Pit Mine -- measuring 1-1/2 miles across!  High-grade native copper made Ajo the first copper mine in Arizona; it closed in 1985.  The waste heaps are as staggeringly high as the pit is low.

Lovely artwork on a single family dwelling in Ajo, isn't it? 

Fairy Duster.  A pretty bloomer in the (dry) washes.

Desert Mallow, mixed with the Brittlebush in bloom below, was a highlight from Tucson to the Colorado River.

Brittlebush, a bright, common desert shrub is very abundant and made a spectacular drive for us!

* * * * * * * * * *

 Jimmy at the River.

After leaving Organ Pipe, we drove mostly secondary roads to get to our next destination -- Parker (Dam) on the Arizona side of the Colorado River.  (Good ol' California's on the other side of the River.)  We'd called several campgrounds (resorts is what they call themselves) early in the day and they were full.  When I called La Paz County Park they had a few spots available.  We snagged a W/E pull-thru WITH A TREE for shade, and really enjoyed our quiet night here.  The resorts were quite expensive.  Our cost?  $20.  The River was clear, wide, and flowing nicely southward... and also cool. (Cool, clear water?)  Toward dusk, we walked along the River's edge path from one end of the park to the other.  Very relaxing.  Very nice.  And across the River, wild burros ambled down from the hills to the water to drink, traipsing across yards, but it was too dark to get a pic.  I wouldn't mind if they crossed my yard. 

Tomorrow we'll be on the home turf again:  Cal-i-for-nia!  Heading for home....


Cactus Crazy! Organ Pipe 3/18 -3/21 - 2013

A fun, learning blog:  The Saguaro is a large, tree-like cactus that can grow up to 60 feet tall.  The night-blooming white and yellow flowers (Arizona State Flower) appear April through June and the sweet, ruby-colored fruit matures by late June.  Some specimens may live for more than 150 years.  Whenever it rains, saguaros soak up the rainwater and will visibly expand, holding in the rainwater. Like women with PMS.  It is native to the Sonoran Desert in the US and Mexico.  And, look at these nutty pictures - they have personalities!

Catch me, I'm falling!                                                             Your Majesty!

A little more to the left, please....                                                Kwazy-mixed up!

                           Watermelons, anyone?  Or nice jugs?           Arms, toes, nubbins, warts and prom bumps?

Which way do you want me to go?

 Babies everywhere.

Blew his head off and left his ears on! 

 What a handful...!

Saguaros have a relatively long life span. They take up to 75 years to develop a side arm. A saguaro without arms like those in the background is called a spear.

 Nice hair-do!

Saguaros like to hang out in the desert with cholla, Organ Pipe, hedgehog, prickly pear, barrel and pincushion cactus, etc., as well as ocotillo (not technically a cactus), creosote bush, and Palo Verde trees.  

One more fun fact:  Gila woodpeckers create new nest holes each season rather than reuse the old ones, leaving convenient nest holes for other animals, such as elf owls, flycatchers, and wrens.  Wished I could have seen an elf owl, but that didn't happen, darn it.  All the others were plentiful.

A saguaro forest is a magnificent show.