Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Very Special Day

For us, this is a very special day.  A most memorable, romantic, idyllic day.  It happened one year ago, today, and will remain special for us, forever. This also explains why Red Rock Canyon, NV is such a memorable place for us, and will remain so.  Because we had some inquiries from family and friends, we decided to share our very special day.

We so vividly remember this day, one year ago, a simple, casual ceremony, like our life had become, at the spur of a moment, in a Las Vegas wedding chapel across from the Court House, unexpectedly having to go inside when our dually truck wouldn't fit in the "Tunnel of Love" to the drive-thru window for the ultra quick ceremony.  We exchanged the silver wedding bands we had inscribed with "anois agus go deo", in Gaelic meaning, "Love, Now and Forever."  I respectively slipped my grandmothers, Mary Elmira McDougal Loftis' simple silver wedding band from 1926 between my new wedding band and the peridot engagement ring Chris had given me.  Afterwards, we drove to Red Rock Canyon for a celebratory picnic and hike, where we devoured smoked salmon, Tillamook smoked cheddar cheese, Greek olives and still warm French bread.  Following with red velvet cupcakes and champagne we toasted to new beginnings, new adventures, and to "Love, Now and Forever." 
We had both been married once before, many moons ago, with the large traditional church weddings and receptions.  'Been there, done that.'  This time we wanted simple and casual.
Chris and his Mother, 1982 in Largo, Florida

Leslie and her 3 sisters in Tillamook, Oregon, 1985

So the scenery will be much different for us this year.  We again will be en route to Oregon, but this year in the state of California, surrounded and enthralled by the beauty of the majestic snow-capped eastern Sierra Nevada mountains.  Again we will celebrate while sharing a memorable picnic  and  toasts with champagne to our life, our love and our current and future adventures together, and ending with an exhilarating, scenic hike.  How we met 10 years ago in Indialantic, Florida, on a public beach across from 'Big Island Burrito', is another story to be told, another day.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

North by Southwest

We begrudgingly, but excitedly, (oxymoron?) departed Boulder City, Nevada on Tuesday morning, April 15th, for Mt. Hood, Oregon, ready for new adventures and exploration.  We had set our alarm and gotten up at midnight to observe the astounding lunar eclipse, and so very happy that we did.  It was AWESOME!    A spectacular sunrise greeted us the next morning when we got up again, and as we were preparing to leave, as if to say Good- bye, see you in November, when you return for the Winter.

It was so incredibly FUN when we were able to take US 95 South out of Boulder City, instead of heading direct North.

 We had decided to head 200 miles south to Quartzsite, Arizona for a couple days of boondocking, so we could test out 3 new solar panels that Chris had recently installed, and have an amazing night sky to witness the Full Moon on the eve of April 15th.  What better place to test solar than the southern Arizona desert in mid-April?  Besides, we had become enamored with the desert around Quartzsite, a small quirky town,  65 miles north of Yuma, Arizona, when we had visited in January for the BIG annual  RV show.   Quite different back then with HUGH crowds, but not now, as we headed to our favorite spot off West Dome Rock Road, which was BLM, (Bureau of Land Management), and 14 days of Free camping.  Remember, "This Land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York Island, from the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters, this land was made for you and me."
Boondocking for those of you who don't know, is dry camping, or no hook-ups.  No water available, no sewer, and no electricity.  You use what you bring or have or generate yourself.  We love the freedom of being out in some magnificent locations with no neighbors, just us and the wind and wildlife and wide open spaces with gorgeous scenery.  We can open all our blinds and windows and not see or hear anyone else.  It's an amazing feeling, and we LOVE it!  We kinda feel like modern day pioneers.  Of course we are no comparison to the original pioneers and settlers who crossed the country in covered wagons pulled by oxen, without many set roads, enduring the endless, numerous hardships they did.  We know we have it so much easier in most aspects, but I think we share the same common feelings of adventure, and exploring that the original pioneers and nomads felt.  We do have the utmost respect, admiration and total awe for these mighty and brave souls, and thank them for paving the way for us modern pioneers or nomads. (Fellow boondockers or wanna be boondockers, check out the new, very cool and helpful app from Technomadia, appropriately named, "US Public Lands")
So when we did arrive at Dome Rock Mountain, we had the place to ourselves.  SWEET!

So after 2 days of bliss in the desert, and a thumbs up with the new solar panels, we next headed West on I-10.  We stopped and stayed 2 nights in Desert Hot Springs, California, a place we had heard many good things about, and were anxious to soak in the natural mineral hot spring pools and visit nearby Joshua Tree National Park.  So we did, and it was Great.

Joshua Tree National Park,    encompasses 794,000 acres, where the Mojave and Colorado deserts converge.  A very cool place to visit if you ever get the chance.  Surprisingly, numerous cool rock formations here, besides the giant Joshua Trees,  supposedly named by the Mormons.  We found this to be a Good place to be on Good Friday.

                                                                          We found some Spring color in the desert!

We now plan to meander up scenic Hwy 395, and see what we can see.  Next stop is Lone Pine, California where we plan to boondock another few days at historical Alabama Hills BLM, and cook our Easter ham and deviled eggs and etc.  (with propane of course, and no, not green eggs and ham)  Our plan is to arrive at Mt. Hood, Oregon May 1st, and have a few days to settle in and visit family, before starting our workamping positions with the BLM on May 4th, for the summer.
Everyday, we are continuously grateful for the opportunity to live this nomadic lifestyle we have embraced and fallen in love with, for now, while we can.
And so we continue, again, North by Southwest  and  Westward Ho, Oregon or Bust!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tunnels, Mines, Owls, Slot Canyons,Wild Burros, a Bell, a Lake, Bighorn Sheep, an Elephant, a Strip, and a Dam!

These are just some of the sights we have seen on our many hikes in the area, and not in that particular order, mind you.  Plenty to see and do around shortage, whatsoever.  Our goal when we first arrived, was to hike one new and different hike each week while we were here for the Winter.  We accomplished our objective and more.  When we started volunteering for the National Park Service, in their 'Trail Watch' program we were able to do even more new and interesting hikes and pick up litter while we were doing it.  A total win win situation, as far as we were concerned.

Our good friend June passed on a very cool and helpful website to us when we first came here to Nevada in November, and we have used it constantly.  It is most helpful, informative and interesting, and we highly recommend it, if you ever find yourself in the Las Vegas area.

One of our all time favorite hikes that we have enjoyed several times now, is the Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail  which passes through 5 railroad tunnels that were built in the early 1930's to carry supplies and materials to the building site of the Hoover Dam.  The 3.79 mile one way hike starts  outside the fee area, near the Lake Mead Visitors Center and takes you to the Hoover Dam, with spectacular views of Lake Mead along the way, and Bighorn Sheep, which we have excitedly seen every time we enjoyed this hike.  The actual railroad track has been removed, but you can still see some of the old railroad ties thrown over the sides of the trail, that were made from OREGON fir trees.  The 5 tunnels are in good condition and seem so huge with their over sized 25 feet diameter, quite noticeable as you walk through the cool, darkness and  reminded of bygone days of blood, sweat and tears of so many hard working men. 

We encountered some very cool mines on several hikes, specifically Anniversary Narrows, which is a beautiful and amazing slot canyon,  and  then also on Liberty Bell Arch Trail.

Entering the Narrows
and further into the Narrows

                                                                    Old mine along Liberty Bell Arch Trail

We find these old mines intriguing and exciting and difficult not to enter and explore, but we don't, and remember and practice, "Stay out and Stay alive".  Too many sad and scary tales of injuries and even deaths from those who chose to go inside.

                                      Looking for a bell.                                                            
Score!    Ding Ding Ding

White Owl Canyon  is a fairly short hike with  another gorgeous slot canyon to explore.  Named after the Barn Owls that live in the canyon, unfortunately they were either not home or well hidden the morning we paid a visit, but they did leave plenty of remnants behind. 

Trail                                                                                                              Remnants                                                                                                                                            

River Mountain Trail has a most rewarding view once you arrive at the top which is 'Black Mountain Overlook', after 3 moderately strenuous miles with many switchbacks.  Face East and you see sapphire blue Lake Mead, turn 180 degrees to face West and you are greeted with the Las Vegas Strip, with snow-capped Mt. Charleston behind it.
Facing West

                                                                                      Facing East

Besides in Lake Mead NRA, their are numerous more fabulous places to hike in the greater Las Vegas area.  While visiting Nevada's oldest and largest State Park, Valley of the Fire State Park, 60 miles NE of  Las Vegas, for a most memorable Thanksgiving last year with our friends, June and Sphene, we encountered an elephant.   Elephant Rock, to be exact, and just one of many unique geologic formations within this beautiful and extremely interesting and historic gem of a State Park, which is justly named, as you will see when you visit.

I was just reminiscing of when and where we first met June and Sphene.  It was at the RV-DREAMS  Rally we attended in Elephant Butte, New Mexico last March.  What is it with you guys and elephants?

We absolutely LOVE Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area, all 197,000 acres of it, and unbelievably, only a mere 20 miles west of the "entertainment  capital of the world",  Las Vegas!  This is  a very special place for us, for a very special reason, and we always enjoy a scenic hike while here, amid the breathtaking colors and spectacular setting and landscape, while surrounded by more dramatic sandstone rock formations.  We saw these timid wild burros, while hiking among the Joshua trees one day.  Once again, you will see how Red Rock Canyon earned its name, when you visit.

Last, but not least, is the extraordinary River Mountains Loop Trail, a 35 mile scenic loop around the River Mountains, for hikers, bikes and horses, in designated areas.

On a different note, we immensely enjoyed the company of our friends Beth and Grady, who we also met at the RV-DREAMS Rally in New Mexico last March, while they passed through Boulder City for a few days on their way to a summer workamping position at a Utah State Park.  A genuine pleasure getting to know them better, and share several nice meals and a DAM/Tunnel hike as well.  I find it quite ironic that Grady and I were both stationed at NAS New Orleans back in our 'Navy days' in the 80's, but unfortunately missed meeting each other by one year.           Safe travels up to Utah, you guys!

Also, how exciting to finally meet Steve and Joan, (FOSJ) in person after meeting virtually online through RVillage, a very cool new website for RVers from RVers.  We shared a delightful lunch at the Lake Mead Marina, just before they leave for their summer workamping position in South Dakota.  A little more irony is, we lived less than 100 miles from each other in central Florida, but both travelled to Oregon and Nevada, before meeting.  We discovered we have ALOT in common, and we are both coming back to Boulder City/Lake Mead area of Nevada again next Winter, so we look forward to seeing them again then.               Safe travels to SD, you two, too!

Our days here in the Nevada desert are slowly but surely coming to an end and we are preparing physically and mentally to depart the morning of April 15th, heading Northwest ward, and  planning to arrive Mt. Hood, Oregon May 1st.  We are anxious and excited to arrive back in "God's Country", the land of a thousand greens, the Beaver State, aka Oregon.  We look forward to being near family and friends again, and back with the fun BLM bunch on Mt. Hood for our second summer of workamping there.
We are feeling and hearing the call of the wild, of the Great Pacific Northwest and so once again, we will be Northwest Ward Ho, Oregon or Bust!


( I find it quite uncanny that fellow blogger Nina from Wheelingit and I share many similar ideas about the Lake Mead area and many other things besides.  Since I am a new, slow and meticulous blogger, I have been working on this post for several weeks now and was shocked when I saw her latest post.   Check out Nina's awesome  and inspiring blog also, along with a few different ideas about the Lake Mead area.
Safe travels to you 2 too, as you and the beast and paws continue your travels up to the Pacific Northwest, as well.