Lake Powell and Antelope Canyon, AZ

I found my way to the town of Page, AZ and the south end of Lake Powell, where I had to cross the Colorado River at Glen Canyon Dam to get to my campground.  This 710-foot dam is quite impressive. I stopped in the Carl Hayden Visitors Center to look around and learn more.  It took 7 years to build and was completed in 1963. The adjoining powerplant was completed in 1966.  The dam is part of the 1.25 million acre Glen Canyon Recreation Area which spans across part of Arizona and Utah.

Equally as impressive, is the steel arch Glen Canyon Bridge which was completed in 1959. It is two-lane, 1,271 feet long, and 700 feet above the river; making it one of the highest bridges in the United States.

 

Lake Powell is actually a 186-mile reservoir located in both Utah and Arizona. It took 17 years to fill, reaching full capacity in 1980.  It is a major vacation spot with about 2 million visitors a year. One of the unique features of the resort is the rental houseboats. You can rent a 46-foot houseboat that sleeps 6, for around $3000. a week.

 

I did not rent a houseboat but stayed near the marina, at the Wahweap campground. Check out my views-beautiful morning and night. It was a lovely place, with big campsites, showers and very clean adobe style restrooms! These are all important things when traveling in a 4X6 ft van!

 

My first day there I signed up for a boat tour into the lower Antelope Canyon, leaving the marina at 4 that afternoon. Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon, part of the Navajo Tribal Park just east of Page. There are two separate parts of the canyon, the upper “crack” and the lower “corkscrew”. They are only accessible by a guided tour.

 

The lower canyon boat tour provided an up close opportunity to view the narrow, colorful and sculpted geology of the lower end of Lake Powell. The tour travels 4 of the 10 miles into the corkscrew canyon before it narrows. The towering walls are Navajo Sandstone in red and burnt orange. The lighting was beautiful at the end of the day, but unfortunately the camera did not always capture the depth of color.  I will let the pictures speak for themselves!

 

 

The following day I went to Horseshoe Bend Overlook, a horseshoe-shaped meander in the Colorado River located 5 miles downstream from Glen Canyon Dam. It is a long hot hike  to the overlook from the parking lot with no shade. Signs warn of extreme heat and the need for water. They were not kidding! On my way, I met my first wedding party!

 

 

I continued down to the rim of the canyon where there were many people standing way too close to the edge for my liking, including another bride and groom with a photographer.  It really was the most spectacular view! I inched my way up and looked over and took some pictures before quickly moving away from the precipice. Heights are not my thing and when I saw people standing on one foot hanging over the gorge, it literally turned my stomach. I finally asked a woman to take my picture. I did call my grandkids and was able to show them pictures with my phone from near the rim.

 

I left Horseshoe Bend and headed over to the Navajo Indian Reservation at Upper Antelope Canyon. My foot was bothering me (ongoing plantar fasciitis) so I reluctantly decided to skip the hike and drove to the beautiful Antelope Point and Marina.

 

My last night I found a hill up behind the campground where I could look to the west and see the setting sun and look to the east and see the sunset illuminating the sandstone  buttes and plateaus in the distance. It was amazing.

Next: Sedona and the Grand Canyon!

Palm Springs to Arizona

I left Joshua Tree National Park and drove a short distance to Palm Springs to visit high school friend, Brooks and her husband, Bob. They have a lovely home looking out over the city and beyond! I had my own room and bath so I was in seventh heaven after camping in Joshua Tree! Brooks took me to my first foot massage spa. It was wonderful and much needed!  Later, Bob and Brooks took me out for a fabulous dinner and gave me a tour of the town. It was fun to see the sights and the streets named after all the Hollywood legends who once called Palm Springs their home! I was sorry to have to leave the next day, but Arizona was calling my name!

 

 

I left Brooks and Bob mid-day and drove 3 hours through the desert to Parker Dam which crosses the Colorado River between Arizona and California.  I would have liked to explore the Parker Dam area, but my reservation for that night was at Lake Havasu State Park 25 miles east.

 

 

My campsite was right on the lake with my own little beach, but I had no shade. With temperatures over 100 degrees, I rigged up my tarp over the picnic table and spent the hottest part of the days at my favorite haunt, Starbucks, which besides having great iced coffee drinks, always has strong internet and air conditioning!

 

 

 

The town of Lake Havasu was not even established until 1963 when businessman, Robert McCulloch (of the famed chainsaw company) purchased 13.000 acres of federal land surrounding Lake Havasu. ( Prior to that, it was an Army Air Corp rest camp during WWII)  The city was built up out of the desert and has become home to the International Jet Ski races, fishing tournaments, boat regattas, a triathlon, and a balloon festival. In 1970 the census was about 4000 in 2010 this sprawling city had over 52,500 residents!

In 1968, McCullough purchased the London Bridge for 2.5 million from the City of London, England to attract tourists to this new resort city. The bridge was disassembled and the marked stones were shipped to Lake Havasu where it was reassembled and officially opened in 1971. It quickly became the second largest tourist attraction in Arizona after the Grand Canyon!

 

 

The one thing my campsite had was high winds. The first day I returned to my campsite, the tarp had come down and blown away. Fortunately, my neighbors grabbed it and stuffed it under the table for me. I figured out how to reconstruct the shelter so it was windproof!  The sunsets made up for the high winds and the park featured a little nature trail with different plantings which I enjoyed. I never saw any feral pigs thankfully!

 

 

 

I drove 3 1/2 hours to Prescott, AZ from Lake Havasu.  Part of the journey took me on the famous old Route 66.   I arrived late in the afternoon. It was a funny little campground with more permanent residents than casual campers!  I squeezed Sylvie in- between 2 large rigs and went to bed early.

 

 

The next day when I had planned to go exploring in Prescott, it was a rainy day.  Rain was something I had not encountered for many months. I decided to make the best of it and spent the morning at the Sharlot Hall Museum.  It opened in 1928 by Sharlot M. Hall as the “Gubernatorial Mansion Museum” to preserve the original Arizona Governor’s “Mansion”- a rather modest log cabin building that was the home & office of the original territorial governor.

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The museum that now bears Sharlot Hall’s name is dedicated to preserving the history of that region of Arizona. I found it very interesting. They have actually moved all of these historical houses and buildings to this museum site near downtown Prescott. The building called Fort Misery is the oldest log home in Arizona. Not sure how it got the name. One can only imagine!

 

 

 

The next stop in Arizona was Black Canyon City, which was not much of a city or even a town for that matter!  It is the heart of Saguaro Cactus country. This cactus species grows to over 40 feet tall and dots the landscape for miles in this region of Arizona. There is a reason why they are called the “King of the Cactus”! The one with the bird below was in my campsite. I love the contrast of the cactus against that Arizona sky filled with white puffy clouds!

 

 

I stayed at the Black Canyon Campground where I was greeted by the campground mascots, 3 goats! The 2 youngest were called “Briggs & Stratton” because they were so good at mowing things down! They were very cute and entertained me while I was doing my laundry. The next morning they were at my campsite, standing on my picnic table!

 

 

From Black Canyon City I drove south to Scottsdale to visit Denise and Rick who I have known since our days together in high school.  Denise was one of my biggest supporters as I prepared for my trip (sending me articles and map info) and as I headed out on the road, she was promoting my blog!!

 

She and Rick graciously invited me to stay at their gorgeous adobe home, gave me a luxurious bedroom with en-suite and then threw a dinner party in my honor! It was so great to reconnect with them!

 

 

While I was staying with Rick and Denise I went to tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and architecture school nearby.  Taliesin West was Wright’s “winter camp”, that he designed and built to escape the northern winters. It was his “desert laboratory” from 1937 until his death in 1951, at the age of 91. It is now the main campus of the prestigious School of Architecture. 

 

My last day in Scottsdale, Denise and I we went for brunch with another high school classmate, Rosie. We all agreed that we would meet again next year at our 50th (gulp, really? Yikes!) Reunion in 2019.

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From Scottsdale, I was headed north to Flagstaff, but Rick and Denise suggested I make a stop at Montezuma Castle National Monument. I am so glad I did! This park features a 20 room “highrise apartment nestled into a towering limestone cliff”.  The Sinagua people inhabited these cliff dwellings along the Beaver River for over 400 years but vanished over a century before Columbus reached the Indies.

 

 

Montezuma Well is six miles upstream from the castle. Warm (74 degree) spring water enters at the base of the 55 foot deep well and escapes through a narrow opening in the side of a hill. A thousand years ago, the Sinagua farmers diverted water from this outlet into ditches to irrigate their crops. Notice more cliff dwellings were built into the walls of the well. Along the trail, I came upon a big old tarantula, my first ever encounter in the wild.

 

 

I left Montezuma Well and continued north to Flagstaff (elevation 6900 feet) As I came into town I felt the temperature dropping and noticed snow in the mountains. It dropped to 29 degrees that first night.  Thank heavens for my down comforter.  I also had my first real bout with altitude sickness, that had me feeling nauseous with an intense headache. I hunkered down at the campground and took it easy for the next couple of days before heading 132 miles north to Lake Powell. 

 

The climate changed dramatically as I got closer to Lake Powell (elevation 3652) and a smile returned to my face! I was out of the cold woods of Flagstaff and back in the hot desert!

 

 

Lake Powell is coming up!

Joshua Tree National Park in Pictures

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Joshua Tree National Park is large and varied and beautiful.  I spent three days there and every day was different. I just loved the light and shadows of these amazing trees and the huge boulders! Enjoy the pictures!

 

 

 

 

My campsite was outside the park at Joshua Tree Lake. There was little or no shade during the day, but I was lucky to be there for the full moon which was awesome!

 

 

Did I mention there were petroglyphs? Check them out below!

 

 

This is one of my favorite Joshua Tree photos!

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It is a magical place. I don’t think I could live there in the desert. It is too dry for my liking. I am too much of a water girl! I need to be near lakes, rivers or oceans, but I loved seeing and experiencing it!  Hope you enjoyed the pictorial journey through the park.

 

My route from Chula Vista (see previous blog post) to Joshua Tree National Park and a preview of where my journey is going from here.

Next: From Palm Springs to Arizona!

 

A Visit with Friends in Lake Forest, CA

It was my birthday, a beautiful sunny day as I drove north from San Diego on Interstate 5 to visit my friends Barb and Patrick in Lake Forest. Another one of my friends had tipped them off about my birthday and my son Josh had sent me beautiful red roses, which Barb had arranged on the dining room table.   They had a little surprise birthday dinner for me that evening.

 

The next morning we went to the park with Barb and Patrick’s grandson, Max who was also celebrating a birthday that week, his second! After returning from the park, we got to spend a little time with Max’s baby brother, Andy!

 

That afternoon we went to Crystal Cove State Park. The 12 acres of Crystal Cove Historic District along the Southern California coast, is an enclave of 46 vintage rustic cottages. This seaside colony was built in the 1920’s and 30’s. The original residents included artists, movie producers, and directors. Many movies have been filmed there including Beaches (1988). The beach cottages are being restored and some of them are available for rent.

 

I sat on the beach while Barb worked on a sketch of one of the cottages. We had afternoon appetizers and drinks at the Beachcomber Cafe and ended up staying and eating dinner and watching the sunset there as well. It was a fascinating place and it did feel like we were stepping back in time.

 

The next afternoon I went with Barb to her painting class on Laguna Beach. It was another glorious day and I got to enjoy more beach time while Barb painted.

 

That evening was little Max’s birthday party at Barb and Patrick’s house. Fun to be a part of this little man’s second birthday and to get to know Barb’s son and daughter-in-law. Even baby Andy had a good time at the party!

 

Later in the week, my two friends from my high school, Anne and Chris, drove over from LA.  They took me to the San Clemente Pier for lunch. It was another beautiful day in paradise! We had a great time talking about the good old days and catching up on each other’s lives and as well as the whereabouts and stories of other classmates. It was great to see them and I promised I would see them again at our 50th reunion next year!

 

My last night with Barb, I went to her book club dinner at a gorgeous private club on the beach.  I had not read the book, but it didn’t really matter. I had fun engaging with the other women and sharing my travel story. I was surprised again by another special Birthday dessert,  enough for us all to share!

 

It finally came time to move on after a lovely busy week.  I bid Barb and Patrick adieu and set off for one last visit to the Pacific Ocean.

 

I went south (almost to Mexico) to a Chula Vista campground, the closest campsite I could get near the beach on a weekend. My last day on the West Coast, I took Doug’s ashes that I had been carrying with me across the country and scattered them in the Pacific. His dream had always been for us to go to California and swim in the Pacific Ocean and so I felt it appropriate to make that happen. I cried a lot that day, but in the end I was happy knowing he was where he wanted to be!

 

Next I go East to Joshua Tree National Park…

Solvang, Stearns Wharf and driving down the Ventura Highway

I left Hearst Castle mid-day and headed down the coast. I stopped at Point Estero for a short walk out to the beach before going into San Luis Obispo.

Still following the itinerary from Amber and Tim, I made a stop at the colorful Madonna Inn & Coffee Shop before heading out to the Avila Hot Springs and Campground.

I drove to Avila Beach and had my dinner looking out over the beach, boats, and pier, before returning to the hot springs for a nice long soak in the mineral pool.

The next morning I drove into Solvang. This town is known for its Danish-style architecture.  It felt like I had been transported across the pond to Denmark. I enjoyed walking around this sweet town and found a little cafe which served the Tri-Tip steak sandwich which had been highly recommended, ironically by my vegan friend Amber! It is made using a special cut of beef and a great dry rub paired with caramelized onions and horseradish sauce…delicious!!

From Solvang, I headed to Santa Barbara-specifically to Stearns Wharf-where I looked for little souvenirs to take home to my Stearns family! It was a beautiful day for a stroll out on the famous pier. I stopped and watched some amazing skateboarders on the way back to the car.

Next Stop: the Ventura Highway. I did drive down the Ventura Highway looking for a place to camp! I was hoping to snag a campsite on the beachfront (Route 1) in Ventura, but arrived too late to get a spot on the highway or in any of the campgrounds.

Instead, I had to head up into the hills to Ojai, where I finally found a campground way up a canyon called Wheeler Gorge. It was a beautiful drive, but I was tired and glad to finally find a place to sleep!

From Ojai, I went east to San Bernadino and Interstate 15. I drove south to San Marco (near San Diego) to visit old friend Alison and her son, Brian. She has a lovely home with a great outdoor patio where we ate dinner that first night, prepared by Brian. The next day, Alison took me to Cardiff State Beach where we lounged on the beach, watched the surfers and enjoyed a lobster roll lunch at the Pacific Coast Grill.

That evening we drove to Sunshine Mountain Vineyard for music and wine tasting. There was a wedding going on at the vineyard below us! The views were amazing the wine was lovely. It was my first California Winery and I was not disappointed!

The next day, my birthday, I traveled North to Lake Forest to visit college buddy, Barbara and her husband Patrick.

Lake Forest, Joshua Tree and Palm Springs next time!

Hearst Castle

My friend Tom had urged me to visit Hearst Castle. He had spent time there as a child, swimming in one of the pools with Patty Hearst (you may remember her; the granddaughter of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, who was kidnapped in 1974 by the American terrorist group called the Symbionese Liberation Army). Tom’s mother worked for the Hearsts, cataloging their huge collection of artwork!

I was intrigued and signed up for the “Grand Rooms Tour”. The bus drove us up the long winding driveway to the castle. William Randolph Hearst had the hilltop castle built and it was his residence between 1919 and 1947. The Mediterranean Revival estate was filled with art and antiques from Hearst’s vast collection. Today the Castle is a California State Park.

 

The first thing you notice is the magnificent view of the Pacific from what Hearst called “La Cuesta Encantada”, The Enchanted Hill.   First stop was the Neptune Pool named for the Roman God of the Sea.

 

The tour continued in the largest mansion called Casa Grande with stops in the Assembly Room, Refectory Room, Morning Room, and the Theater.

 

The best part was that they let us walk around the beautiful grounds, with all the plantings and statues, for as long as we wanted after the tour.

 

 

The tennis courts and indoor pool complete the tour before boarding the bus back to the visitors center.

 

Next: San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Regions

 

 

 

 

Big Sur

I had been looking forward to getting back to Big Sur ever since I was in California in 1973. On that trip, we drove down the coast in thick fog and never saw the coastline. I was lucky this time. I had clear skies all the way down the coast! I stopped many times along the winding road to view the ocean from the seaside cliffs.