Torrey, Utah, and Capitol Reef National Park

On Monday, August 6, 2018, we had one more stop in Utah before crossing into the State of Colorado. We couldn’t have been happier when we pulled into our space at Wonderland RV Park in Torrey, Utah. Under large shade trees and backed up against a fence, our view each morning out of our rear window featured cows and horses grazing. The apple and peach trees strategically placed around the park showed signs that harvest was soon near. The only drawback was smoke in the sky. Again.

Wonderland RV View
View from our fifth wheel rear window at Wonderland RV

We ventured out to the information center across the street and then drove into Capitol Reef National Park for maps and pamphlets to help plan our stay.

Capitol Reef National Park

The known history of Capitol Reef and surrounding area dates back to the Fremont Culture. Settling in the area around 500 CE, the Fremont grew corn, beans, and squash. Petroglyphs and pictographs on nearby rock walls tell the story of these ancient people. If only there was a translation of each panel, we could read and understand the meaning of the stories. Instead, we must use our imaginations to figure out what the art depicts. Is the picture below a family portrait, or does it represent an encounter with alien beings?

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The viewpoint of the petroglyphs is 1.1 miles from the visitor center on Highway 24

Mormon pioneers arrived in the 1800s settling in the Fruita Rural Historic District of the national park. They planted apple, pear, and peach orchards, fruit trees that still produce fruit, which is available to pick free when in season.

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One of the fruit orchards on the left side of the photo

Ephraim Portman Pectol, a Mormon Bishop in Torrey, Utah, and his brother-in-law, Joseph S. Hickman campaigned to have the geologically sensitive area protected from development. President Roosevelt set aside 37,711 acres of the Capitol Reef as a national monument in 1937 and in December 1972, the monument became a national park.

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Chimney Rock

The main attraction at Capitol Reef is the varied layered cliffs that rise from the valley floor and the different rock formations. Geological events occurring between 50 and 70 million years ago created the warp in the Earth’s crust. The warp, referred to as the Waterpocket Fold, or monocline, runs approximately 100 miles from Boulder Mountain to Lake Powell.

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Egyptian Temple

Slickrock Divide is a hill that separates Grand Wash to the north and Capitol Gorge to the south. Streambeds channel rain runoff and debris to the respective drainages.

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South view from Slickrock Divide

The Waterpocket Fold is the result of the rock layers on the west side of the fold lifting more than 7,000 feet higher than the layers on the east side. Within the last 15 to 20 million years, erosion has exposed the fold at the surface.

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Water creates fissures in the rock

Erosion gets the credit for creating the colorful cliffs, massive domes, soaring spires, stark monoliths, twisting canyons, and graceful arches that are present today. These formations reveal the geological history from 65 to 290 million years ago. [source: nps.gov/care/learn/nature/geology.htm]

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Cassidy Arch

Only the 7-mile drive requires a fee in Capitol Reef National Park: $15.00 per vehicle, $10.00 for motorcycles, and $7.00 for bicyclists and pedestrians, with the typical passes accepted. Fees for commercial tours depend on seating capacity.

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Yikes! Gated uranium mine tunnels. Don’t get too close.

Developed campsites run $20.00 per night or $10 for senior and access pass holders. During the summer the majority of the 71 sites are offered through reservations, however, a few are offered on a first come, first served, basis. A few primitive campsites, which are first come, first served, no fee sites, are also available.

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White topped reddish mounds appear to support the steep cliffs

Having seen the sign for pies at the Gifford Homestead while driving the 7-mile road, we started the next day with a small pie each and a cup of coffee. Then we drove out to the petroglyph panel. Some of the petroglyphs were so faint we would have missed them if it hadn’t been for a woman who pointed them out to us.

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A hunting depiction?

Next up was a hike to the Hickman Bridge. Rated moderate, .9 mile one way, and an elevation gain of 400 ft. A piece of cake, we naively thought. The heat, thin layer of smoke, and a 6,000-foot elevation conspired to hold us back as we trudged up the hill. Good thing we had the handy trail guide with us. It gave us an excuse to stop, catch our breath, and learn about what we saw on the trail.

View from Hickman Bridge Trail

Capitol Dome is made of Navajo sandstone, which consists of ancient sand dunes. The boulders in the foreground of the photo below are composed of andesite lava. Debris flows from melting glaciers deposited the boulders here from the west side of the park.

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Capitol dome and black boulders

I’m always on the lookout for General Land Office spikes. Jon pointed out this one from 1947. Check out the hefty penalty of $250. That would be $2,867 in 2018.

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1947 General Land Office Survey spike

Shown in the photo below the small bumps on this hard surface are erosion resistant accumulations of iron.

Iron bumps resist erosion

The rock wall in the photo below is composed of sandstone grains cemented by calcite. Acidic groundwater dissolved the calcite and created the holes called solution cavities.

Sandstone wall with solution cavities
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Hickman Bridge
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JT resting in the shade of Hickman Bridge

Our respite was spoiled, when twenty to thirty college students descended on the slick rock near the bridge, chasing other hikers away, and taking up all the space. While they waited for the rest of their group to arrive, they took turns climbing on a boulder and having their photos taken. We worked our way through the crowd and continued on our walk.

Where’s Jon among the tilted and slanted terrain?

Finally, the parking lot, fresh water, and air conditioning. Outa my way, coming through.

Hickman Bridge parking lot and Fremont River

I was so glad we pushed ourselves to the end. The shade was refreshing, the views wonderful, and the bridge unique in that the trail looped around underneath the arch and behind the cliff. It would have been a shame if we had missed it.

Other stops in the park

Panorama Point, Sunset Point trail, and Goosenecks Overlook are other sites in the park. The Sunset Point Trail was .4 mile one way. Although it was 2:30 p.m. and hot on the day we were there, the short hike wasn’t too bad, mostly flat.

Layers of sandstone look like chunks of cardboard piled up

There are plenty of interesting formations outside of the fee area for visitors to see. The Castle is one of these.

The Castle
View from the visitor center shows the layers of rock
Twin Rocks look like they may have been triplets at one time

JT waited in the truck while I investigated Goosenecks Overlook. The views of the canyon were spectacular, but I feared the little kids running around would somehow slip through the railing and drop to their death. Parents, please hold on to your precious children when near canyon cliffs and don’t let them run around playing tag.

Goosenecks Overlook

Panorama Point was truly a 360-degree panoramic view of the park. If a person could only see one thing in the park, I would suggest they check out Panorama Point to get a great overview of the canyons, the colors, and the cliffs.

View from Panorama Point
Another view of layered rocks

Whoa, we saw a lot in Capitol Reef National Park and still didn’t see it all. A visit to the park in cooler weather someday may be in order. Next up are a few other places we visited while staying in Torrey, Utah, before making it into Colorado.

Unfortunately, I have to take a break from the blog posts for a few weeks. When this post publishes at 6:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 11, I’ll be in heart surgery for a mitral valve repair. When I’m feeling up to it, I’ll continue with our Summer 2018 Tour.

Safe Travels

Territorial Statehouse in Fillmore, Utah, and Cove Fort

It was a good day to leave Ely, Nevada, on Saturday, August 4, 2018. After three days of clear skies, we woke up to hazy smoke that blocked the view of the hills only a quarter mile away. We continued on our easterly route stopping in Fillmore, Utah, for two nights, giving us one full day for exploring.

Territorial Statehouse State Park Museum

Brigham Young designated Fillmore as the first Utah Capitol on September 8, 1851. Construction of the south wing of the building started in 1852. Grand plans called for a much larger facility than the one that still stands today. The fifth territorial legislature used the building on October 10, 1855, then in 1856 Salt Lake City became the home of the state government, eliminating the need for the larger building in Fillmore.

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Territorial Statehouse State Park Museum

The building served as a courthouse and county headquarters and housed a Presbyterian Mission School for several years after the Civil War. The primary goal of the school was eliminating polygamy and educating children. The education part worked out fine, eliminating polygamy, not so much. Although the discontinuance of the plural marriages practice was approved by the church’s general conference in 1890,  existing marriages continued until the 1940s and 1950s.

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Territorial House side view

Restored in 1928, The Territorial Statehouse was dedicated as a state museum on July 24, 1930, for visitors to enjoy, except on Sundays and major holidays when it is closed.

The park setting also includes a rock schoolhouse and a few cabins. Informational signs outside of the buildings explain their origin and use.

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Territorial Statehouse State Park and Museum

The first public school in Fillmore, the Old Rock schoolhouse built in 1870, was used by the school district until 1971 when it became part of the state park in 1972.

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Old Rock Schoolhouse

If our timing had been different, we could have seen inside the museum where artifacts include military weapons, pioneer-era tools, a jail cell, musical instruments, and antique china, pottery, and textile displays. Instead, I had to be content to take photos through the windows of the inside of the schoolhouse, which worked out better than I thought when I clicked the shutter button.

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Inside Little Rock Schoolhouse

Cove Fort

Our next stop was Cove Fort, an interesting historical site run by the LDS church. Elder Ray Turley was our guide and a wealth of historical information and stories. Elder Turley gave us a personal tour of the fort, walking us in and out of each of the rooms, leading us to the garden and the barn, all the while explaining how the fort was built, and telling stories about the family who occupied the property.

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Howdy from JT and Linda at Cove Fort

The fort, constructed with four-feet thick walls made of volcanic rock found nearby, housed the Hinckley family who moved to the area to develop a waypoint between Salt Lake City and St. George, Utah. It provided a place for travelers to rest and have a hot meal.

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Another view of the kitchen and dining area
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Kitchen area with dutch ovens galore
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Dining area

He also told stories that brought the site to life, even a personal anecdote about bringing his wife to the fort before its restoration for a romantic camping adventure. He thought himself clever when he set up their newly purchased tent under a tree at the corner of the fort walls, shielded from the wind. When they returned home, his wife showed him what she thought of the trip by burning the tent. They travel in an air-conditioned RV these days.

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View of south side of Cove Fort. Elder Turley camped with his wife under the tree on the right.

Elder Turley hinted that the sister wives were not always happy with the plural marriage arrangement when he told about Ira Hinckley, the patriarch. Ira was married to four women, but no more than three at any one time. He took over the church-owned ranch and built the fort with the help of his brother and other men in 7 months during 1867.

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Telegraph Office
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1800s battery technology used wet cells, which were open containers that held liquid electrolyte and metallic electrodes
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Another view of the telegraph office

Living quarters included a room for the traveling men, a room for the Hinckley boys, and another for the girls.

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The men’s guest room

Ira’s wife Adelaide, their five children, and Ira’s oldest daughter from a previous marriage moved in during 1868, followed by Ira’s wife Angeline (also Adelaide’s sister) and her four children the following month. I sure wouldn’t be happy about sharing a husband with my sister so I could imagine the cold stares and arguments that might have ensued while everyone was busy with their household chores.

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The rolling pin on the headboard lifts off and was used to beat the mattress to rid it of bed bugs
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The tool on the window sill was used to tighten the bed ropes

Although the fort was built to protect against attacks from American Indians, interaction with the neighboring Ute tribe produced only peaceful meetings. The Indians sometimes came to the fort to trade with Ira and were treated as guests often enjoying a good meal during their visit.

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Telegraph office

By 1872 stagecoaches stopped at the fort twice a day requiring the preparation of food as well as taking care of the horses. The railroads arrived by 1881, reducing the need for the fort and by 1890 the Hinckley family left the area. The church leased the property to other ranchers and eventually sold out to free up funds for other projects. Unfortunately, the fort was left in ruins by the time descendants of the Hinckley family formed the Cove Fort Acquisition and Restoration Foundation and deeded the property back to the church. After restoring the fort to its earlier glory, including furnishing the rooms in the period similar to when the Hinckley’s lived there, the church reopened Cove Fort as a historic site in 1994.

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Gunport from inside the fort wall
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Elder and Sister Crow guard the garden
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Garden on the west side of Cove Fort

The original barn had long since deteriorated by the time the renovations began, however, plans were located. Those in charge of the renovations were interested in having the barn built using the same tongue and groove construction from the 1800s so they contracted with an Amish group to build the barn using wooden dowel rods rather than metal plates and nails. Once built, the barn was disassembled and trucked across the country to its new home at Cove Fort.

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The barn constructed with wooden dowel rods built by Amish
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Blacksmith Shop
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Inside Blacksmith Shop

I commented to Elder Turley that I had seen the handcarts at the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City the year before and was amazed that families would carry all of their possessions in a handcart as they traveled across the plains on their way to Utah. He replied that the handcarts were actually the fastest mode of transportation at that time traveling up to 3 miles per hour, compared to horses at 2 miles per hour and oxen at 1-1/2 miles per hour. Hearing that, I think I would have chosen the handcarts too had it been me. Thankfully, these days we travel up to 70 miles per hour and pull our bathroom, kitchen, living area, and bedroom behind us. I’m not sure I would have traveled at all if I’d have to do it with a handcart.

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Cove Fort Gate and Handcart

We enjoyed learning about the history of Fillmore, Utah, and Cove Fort during our short stay, although we missed out on the museum. It was time, however, to continue our drive east. Next stop is Torrey, Utah, and Capital Reef National Park.

Safe Travels

Escaping Smoky Skies in Nevada – Part 2

Continuing with our 2018 Summer Tour, we visit a historic railway, Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park, Cave Lake State Park, and a mining town, all within a short drive from Ely, Nevada.

 Nevada Northern Railway Museum, a National Historic Place and a National Historic Landmark District

Originally owned and built in 1905 by the Nevada Consolidated Copper Company, the railroad and yards served the copper mining region of White Pine County.

Nevada Northern Depot
View of railroad yard at Nevada Northern

The depot, built in 1907 in the Mission Revival and Renaissance Revival, provided service for both freight and passengers.

Nevada Northern Railway Museum

Kennicott Copper Company took over the mining operations in 1933 and gained control over the railway, yards, and depot. Kennecott discontinued passenger service in 1941 although they continued to occupy the offices until 1985 after donating the yard and railway to the local non-profit for preservation.

Not only did Kennecott leave behind train engines and cars, they also abandoned office equipment and all of the accounting records dating back to the inception of the Nevada Consolidated Copper Company. The state of Nevada then acquired the depot for the museum in 1990.

After riding the rails in Skagway, Alaska, and the Black Hills of South Dakota, we decided a guided tour of the machine shop might be more interesting to us.

Waiting for the train to cross
All Aboard

On the tour, we saw building after building of old train engines, train cars, and all the equipment needed to keep them in working order.

Engine 40 at Nevada Northern
A cat named Dirt is the mascot of the maintenance yard
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Dies for casting various wheels
A 200-ton steam-operated press
Maintenance building with a crane and a complete machine shop for restoration and repair still in use today
View from inside maintenance building looking out

We’ve seen recreated and renovated train depots before, but never have we come across one that contained mostly original furniture, office equipment, and documents that date back 100 years. It was a researcher’s treasure trove of payroll and other accounting records. Genealogists would be in heaven if they wanted to fill in the story of an ancestor that happened to have worked for the railway in the past.

The docent who gave us a tour of the offices
Supply room with office equipment and supplies
Note the ergonomic desk. I didn’t know they made them like that. I sure could have used one when I worked in an office and typed all day.
Mimeograph, check printer, and rubber stamps of all kinds

Cave Lake State Park

Cave Lake is a 32-acre reservoir open for fishing and boating for catching rainbow and German brown trout. The no reservation camping facilities looked nice with a fire pit and grill, a table, and space for parking. Showers and flush toilets, but we didn’t see any sites with hookups so campers need to come prepared.

Cave Lake and dock
View of canyon driving to Cave Lake

Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park

The Ward Charcoal Ovens are accessed on a seven-mile gravel graded road about 10 miles outside of Ely. When I see gravel roads on the map I cringe, but there is no need for shying away from Nevada graded roads. They are sometimes in better condition than our California concrete or asphalt roads.

Charcoal Ovens

So what was the purpose of these beehive structures? The 27-foot diameter and 30-foot high ovens, constructed during the mid-1870’s, were stacked with up to 35 cords of wood which was burned for 12 days to produce 50 bushels of charcoal per cord. The smelters required 30 to 50 bushels of charcoal to separate silver and lead from one ton of ore.

View from inside a charcoal oven

In three short years, the silver boom went bust, the trees were stripped from the mountains, and the need for charcoal ended. Prospectors, stockmen, and maybe even a few stagecoach bandits, used the ovens for shelter until it became a State Historic Park.

We took a short trail to the remnants of kilns, and along a stream that gave us great views of the valley.

Remnants of a kiln
View from Charcoal Oven trail
Equipment found along the Charcoal Oven trail

Today the ovens stand as a reminder of Nevada’s history and allow us to peek into the past.

Ruth Mining

Someone recommended that we drive out to the town of Ruth where mining operations are still underway. I’m not sure what I expected to see in Ruth, but the last thing I thought I’d see is a town looking to be swallowed up by the stair steps of a mine.

A neighborhood in Ruth, Nevada

Ruth was founded in 1903 as a company town for the Robinson open-pit copper mine, which as of 2018 was still in operation. In 1955, the houses were offered for sale to the occupants who had been renting. In 1978 Kennecott closed the mines in Ruth and the town went into decline. The mine reopened in 1996 only to close in 1999 and reopened again in 2004.

While some of the homes showed signs of pride of ownership, other buildings looked like they were sitting there waiting for the bulldozer to show up.

This old church has seen better days

Where did that deer come from?

We didn’t expect to see deer near here

Current mining operations not far from the town continue in 2018.

And the mining continues as of 2018

As much as we enjoyed our visit to Ely, Nevada, it was time to pack up and continue our forward motion toward Colorado. Next up, we move out of Nevada and into Utah where we make our first stop in Fillmore.

Safe Travels

Escaping Smoky Skies in Nevada – Part 1

While in Mammoth Lakes, smoke continued its invasion into the Eastern Sierras making the sky look as bad as when we drove through Yosemite a week earlier. On July 28, 2018, we headed north on Highway 395 toward Carson City, Nevada. A four-night stay at the Silver City RV Resort in Minden would afford us time to clean out the trailer, wash our clothes, restock the pantry and fridge, and plan our route to Colorado.

We gulped the clean air free from wildfire smoke when we got to Bridgeport, only to be disappointed to roll into Minden, Nevada, where a layer of smoke hung over the valley. Each day the foul air from California consolidated with that from a fire north of Reno.

We scrapped our sightseeing plans around Carson City, turned on the AC, and stuck close to the trailer to avoid breathing in the particulates. The highlight of our time in Carson City was seeing Bobby Freeman’s 1959 Rockin’ Piano in the RV Park.

Rockin Piano

The owner turned it on and played a couple tunes for the other RVers in the park. He was on his way to Hot August nights in Reno/Sparks, which is held each year during the early part of August.

By August 1, the smoke was at its worse as we drove east on Highway 50 toward Ely, Nevada. The smoke finally started to clear a few miles past Fallon allowing us to make out puffy white clouds in the sky. We stopped in at the Toiyabe Café in Austin, Nevada, for lunch where we found space to park and enjoyed a good old-fashioned hamburger and salad.

The weather was cooler in Ely than it was in Minden and much less smoky. Lightening streaked across the sky with very little thunder and no rain. The KOA was a perfect place to stop and explore the area. I loved waking up to the sound of doves cooing and we had a clear view of the goat pen where we could watch the animals play king of the hill while we ate our breakfast.

With air that we could breathe, it was time for some Ely, Nevada, sightseeing.

City of Ely and Renaissance Village

With murals decorating sides of buildings and statues planted out front, visitors get a sense that the City of Ely celebrates the arts. The city also celebrates its heritage with restored historical buildings. The art focus is thanks to the Ely Renaissance Society, which was founded in 1999. They commissioned the murals to depict the history of the city.

Mining Mural
Train coming to town
Communication past and present
Tsaam Pll Wai Hyunna Yewekante (“Living Well Because of Mother”) by Joe Pachak
White Pine County Courthouse
Garnet Mercantile Restored in its 1920 Art Deco style

The group also purchased a piece of property made up of 12 shotgun houses and a barn that we were told once housed brothels. Each of the houses is decorated with a different nationality.

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Village General Store

Living history presentations and re-enactments are held in the village. Although the village was closed on the day we visited, a woman watering the beautiful gardens opened a few of the houses so we could peek inside.

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Shotgun house bathroom
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Shotgun house kitchen
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Shotgun house living room

Not all of the buildings in town have undergone renovations and gambling and bordellos continue to draw people to the city. This is Nevada, after all.

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A little TLC, please
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Local Saloon & Brothel
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Hotel Nevada Gambling Hall

It may not look like Ely, Nevada, has much to offer while driving by. Digging a little deeper, though, we came to embrace the small town charm that brings tourists in to stay awhile and visit. There are no fancy highrises or gourmet restaurants, just good old-fashioned western establishments that bring to mind American history and a slower pace of living.

Next up we continue exploring the area around Ely, Nevada, visiting the Nevada Northern Railway Museum, Cave Lake State Park, the Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park, and Ruth Mining.
Safe Travels

 

Mammoth Lakes Fishing, Fishing, and More Fishing

Coldwater Creek Campground in Mammoth Lakes was our next destination on our 2018 Summer Tour. We met our daughter Laura and her family at the campground on Monday, July 23. Laura had procured reservations for two sites across the street from each other, which made it convenient for visiting and sharing meals.

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Coldwater Creek Campground Campsites for the Cougar and Westfalia

There are plenty of things to do in Mammoth Lakes: ride the gondola, hike, horseback ride, bicycle around the lakes, visit Devil’s Postpile National Monument, wander around town, shop, and much more, all of which we have done at one time or another during our many vacations at Mammoth. This trip turned out to be all about fishing.

It was time for the grandkids to catch their first fish so off to Lake George with poles, tackle boxes, and a stringer to secure all of the caught fish.

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Lake George

Our grandson Jackson caught the first fish of the day, which was his first fish ever caught. Way to go Jackson!

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Jackson Silvey not only catches his first fish, he catches the most fish for the day

Papa Jon demonstrates the perfect cast while Maya considers his technique.

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Hmmm, was that the right spot?

The hatchery truck showed up, not too far from where the gang was fishing, and dumped out a load of fish to add to the lake.

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More fish to catch

All in all the day was successful. Well, at least for the grandkids. Jackson caught three fish, Maya caught one, and they skunked Jon. That’s okay, though. He had fun showing the kids how to put on the bait, cast the line out, and reel the fish in. Even our daughter Laura and son-in-law Chris helped with the tasks.

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Maya Silvey catches her first fish while Mom and Dad look on

My job was taking photos to document the event and when the action slowed, I sought out other things to photograph.

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Mountain Whitethorn

Squirrels and chipmunks can usually be counted on to pose for a photo.

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Chipmunk

The surroundings and the view are also good subjects.

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Lake George

The next day, my daughter Laura, Jackson, and I took a hike up to Lake Barret while we waited for our son Kevin, his girlfriend Bailey, and Bailey’s nephew Patrick to arrive. No fishing included on this day, just a walk through nature. When we returned from our hike, Kevin, Bailey, and Patrick had their tents set up.

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Barrett Lake
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We arrived!

The next morning, we all chipped in on a pontoon boat for a half-day of fishing. It was well worth the investment. Everyone fishing caught at least one fish and Jackson and Kevin competed for the most caught.

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A great day for fishing

A Croman helicopter flew overhead at one point. It must have been on its way to or from one of the fires on the other side of the Sierras.

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Croman Helicopter

One of Kevin’s many fish caught for the day.

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Come to Papa

Brother and sister work together for our dinner.

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Is it too small? Should we put it back in?

Maya and Bailey work together.

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Maya, I’ve got a secret
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Jackson catches another fish

The gang waits patiently for a bite.

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Here, fishy, fishy, fish

On our last day together as a family, we chose an activity other than fishing, or so we thought. Devils Postpile National Monument won out over a drive to Bodie Ghost Town, no one wanted to sit in a car for an hour drive. We loaded into two vehicles and took off only to find out that we had to ride a shuttle to the monument and no one wanted to wait for the shuttle. Instead, we stopped off at the Earthquake Fault before going to back to our campsites.

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The trail to the fissure

The Earthquake Fault, which is not a fault at all. It is actually a fissure that opened around 550 to 650 years ago when magma pushed its way to the surface.  Although the sides are 6′ to 10′ apart, in places you can see that the sides would fit together like a puzzle. Other areas have experienced erosion and the sides don’t quite match up anymore.

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Fissure

When we got back to camp, everyone agreed that a hike up to Arrowhead Lake for more fishing would be a great way to spend the rest of the day. Jon left his fishing gear back at the trailer and helped out the others when needed.

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Baily works with a lure while Patrick raids her tackle box
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Mom and Dad kick back while Jackson enjoys a snack
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The tedious part of fishing, tying leaders

While the gang fished, I wandered around the lake catching the cliff jumpers in action and finding remnants of wildflowers.

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Cliff jumpers
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Spent purple wildflower

Camping with our kids again brought back so many memories of the vacations we spent in the Eastern Sierras and we had plenty of fun camping with them again. Seeing the smiles of the grandkid’s faces when they caught a fish was priceless and watching Maya cast a line as if she’s been doing it for years made me so proud of her. I’m hoping we can all find the time to have more camping adventures in our future.

On Saturday, July 28, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. While our kids headed to their respective homes, Jon and I turned north to Carson City, Nevada, for a few days to clean the trailer, wash clothes, and relaxation, then a stop in Ely, Nevada, as we worked our way to Colorado.

Safe Travels

Summer 2018 Tour – Mono Lake

We headed out on the road again a month after our Alaskan Cruise. With the truck and trailer in tiptop shape after regular maintenance, we had the State of Colorado in our sights. Before leaving California, though, we headed up to June Lake, California, on July 21 for altitude acclimation before meeting our family at Mammoth Lakes for a week.

It was sad to see that smoke from the Ferguson Fire, which had started on July 13, had filled Yosemite and surrounding areas. Smoke followed us through Yosemite on CA-120 until we transitioned onto US-395 toward June Lake where blue skies and cottony clouds prevailed.

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View from Vista Rim of the World Overlook on CA-120

Although we took it easy while in June Lake, we did manage a trip to Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve. A few years ago, we had visited the south side of Mono Lake taking the trail to the tufas. This trip we stopped in at the visitor’s center, too.

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Mono Basin Visitor Center

Outdoors is a display of huge boulders of the types of rocks that are found in the area ranging from obsidian to granite and a trail around the center with information signs pointing out the views and discussing the types of birds that visit each year during their migration.

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JT takes a look at the obsidian boulder

Inside, we watched a movie on Mono Basin, which summarized the history of Mono Lake from the Paiutes to Los Angeles stealing water in 1941 and ruining the ecological environment.

Mono Lake, one of the oldest lakes in North America, is estimated to be at least 760,000 years old. With no outlet, minerals carried into the lake by streams and evaporation of fresh water has created a lake that is 2.5 times saltier than the ocean with an alkaline content of 100 times more. No fish can survive in the lake but brine shrimp and alkali flies thrive in the sodium chloride and baking soda enriched water, providing food for migratory birds.

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California Gull

The efficient food chain in Mono Lake is the key to keeping the migratory birds healthy for their long trek. Bacteria break down decaying matter providing nutrients for algae. Trillions of brine shrimp, along with the alkali flies, eat the algae. Then the millions of birds that stop at Mono Lake during their migration, eat the shrimp and flies.

Designated as an International Reserve in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, thirty-five species of shorebirds, totaling nearly 2 million water birds, stop along their migration route. Each year, 44,000 to 65,000 California Gulls fly into Mono Lake to breed on the islands. Unfortunately, after a couple of days, smoke had pushed its way over the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, shrouding the islands in a haze.

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Negrit and Paoha Islands

The larger island, Paoha, formed about 300 years ago when magma rose underneath the lake and pushed sediments above the water level. Volcanic eruptions occurring between 300 and 1,700 years ago, formed Negit, the smaller island on the left.

On the south side of the lake, a trail leads to the tufas. Along the way are signs that indicate the level of the lake at certain points in time and one sign shows where the water’s edge will be once the level of the lake reaches its mandated 6,392 feet, the elevation in 1963. Some of the tufas may no longer be visible when the lake achieves its goal.

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Trail to tufas

A few wildflowers lined the sides of the trail in addition to the tall grasses.

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Blazing Star

Up close the tufas look pretty gnarly. I wouldn’t want to get scraped by one.

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Tufa formations

Those black spots in the photo below are the alkaline underwater flies. The flies were a delicacy for Native Americans who also traded the food with other tribes. The many birds that fly in during their migration also feed on the flies. When I heard there might be flies I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to the water’s edge. I had nothing to worry about. As people walked by the pools, the flies would hover above the water for a few seconds before settling back underwater. They had no intention of bothering us humans.

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Alkaline underwater flies

The tufas come in all shapes and sizes. Freshwater springs bubbled up through the carbonate-rich lake water to form the tufa shapes under water. They are composed of calcium carbonate, a whitish limestone deposit that forms the basis of the tufa formations. In 1941 Los Angeles diverted the streams that entered Mono Lake causing the lake to decrease in size revealing the tufas.

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Strange tufa formations

The hazy cloudy skies made conditions perfect for picking up mirror images on the smooth-as-glass water surface. I could have sat for hours watching how the light changed across the surface of the water and played with the tufas. I couldn’t pick just one, so here are four.

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Reflections 1
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Reflections 2
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Reflections 3
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Reflections 4 – Can you find the peregrine falcon’s nest at the top of one of the columns?

While traveling along US-395 each year on vacation during the 1980s, we watched Mono Lake decrease in size and wondered about the white formations that stood like sentries at the south end of the lake. In 1982, the lake was only 69 percent of its 1941 surface area, and by 1990 it had lost 50 percent of its volume. While the tufas are interesting to look at and photograph, I’m glad to see the lake recover and continue as a stopover for migratory birds and a breeding ground for the California gulls.

What would have happened had universities not performed studies to sound the alarm that LA’s diversion of the streams had caused significant ecological damage? Where would all of the migratory birds have gone? It took over a decade of litigation for the California State Water Resources Control Board to issue an order to protect Mono Lake and its tributary streams on September 28, 1994. A lake level of 6,392 feet above sea level is the goal for restoring the lake. On August 1, 2018, the lake’s level was 6,382.1 feet according to Monolake.org.

Safe Travels

Victoria, B.C.

Day 9 of our Alaskan Cruise, found us docked at Victoria, B.C.

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Good morning Victoria, B.C.

We had visited Victoria twice before taking a bus to Butchart Gardens, roaming around Beacon Hill Park, falling in love with Craigdarroch Castle, and touring the British Columbia Parliament Buildings. A stroll through the downtown area was also fun as we walked in and out of the stores and read the menus outside of the restaurants, but this trip there was no time to take in these activities.

With limited time ashore during this visit, we stuck close to the ship. A one-mile walk took us to the Empress Hotel where we had earlier made reservations for tea through Open Table. Our sightseeing in Victoria consisted only of our walk from and to the ship along the harbor.

The Johnson Street Bridge opened on March 31, 2018. The single-leaf bascule (moveable) bridge is the fourth bridge crossing the span.

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Johnson Street Bridge

The Friendship Bell, located in Centennial Park at the corner of Belleville Street and Pendray, was gifted to the city by Morioka, Japan, on May 19, 2015. The bell marks the 30th anniversary of the cities of Victoria and Morioka, Japan, becoming twin cities.

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Friendship Bell

We might not have been able to get to Butchart Gardens, but there were plenty of colorful plants and flowers along our walk.

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Allium

We also walked past Fisherman’s Wharf, a colorful collection consisting of a fishing fleet, live-aboards, float home dwellers, and transient vessels along with commercial operators.

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Fisherman’s Wharf

We arrived early for our reservation so we hung out in the hotel’s lobby. Jon read while waiting.

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Jon busy reading

I, on the other hand, picked up the camera and gawked at the architecture, the stairs, the windows, and a view of the Parliament building.

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Empress Hotel Lobby
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Lobby through the railing
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Hallway to hotel and restaurant
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View of the Parliament building from the Empress Hotel

By the time we settled into our seats for tea, I was so immersed in the quiet atmosphere that I forgot to take photos. A piano playing in the background, white tablecloth and napkins, and an attentive server combined to set a pleasant mood. It was an expensive treat, especially since we upgraded to the rose champagne, but oh so worth it when the three-tier tray piled with mini pancakes topped with cream cheese and smoked salmon, scones, and other treats arrived.

Back on board we went up on the Lido deck and watched the horizon of Victoria B.C. fade away.

Victoria, B.C., skyline

As we neared the open sea, the pilot boat pulled alongside to pick up the pilot that had steered the ship through the channel.

Pilot boat

We kept busy during our last day at sea. There was a presentation by the head chef, with assistance from a couple of his sous chefs, and the head maitre d’ on stage where we learned about how they made the food for all the passengers and crew members. Afterward, they took us behind the scenes into the galley that seemed to go on for a mile. The tour ended with the chef and maitre d’ signed copies of the Princess Cookbook. Ongoing was the end of cruise sale where passengers (including us) picked through tables piled with clothing and other goodies.

The library seemed like a quiet place to relax after the presentation and shopping. Situated along a narrow walkway opposite of the Crown Grill, the library was not the quiet spot I had envisioned. Sounds of a violin, bass, and piano rushed through the open doors from the piazza. Clapping ensued when the musical tempo increased. Jingles and jangles of keys on belts and patters of feet cushioned on carpet announced crew and passengers that passed by. A crew member slid a folding table on its side. Another pushed a luggage cart. A couple’s hush tones snuck in from a table nearby. A boy explained something to his father. Mahjong game tiles clattered against each other. Cards shuffled. Laughter erupted. Knives sliced against a butcher block. The murmur of several conversations melded into a cacophony. Couples and groups gathered in front of the restaurant waiting for the host to seat them.

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Cruise ship library a hub of activity

We headed back to our cabin to pack and get ready for our departure the next morning.

Taking a 10-day cruise was just what we needed to relax and set aside all of our household chores, fifth-wheel maintenance, and technology for a few days. Our interest in Alaska has us thinking about a trip in our RV so we can explore in more depth. Another cruise to Glacier Bay might also be in our future.

Safe Travels