October 2020 COVID-19 Adventure Part Seven

Welcome back to our 2020 COVID-19 Adventure after the holiday pause. I thought I could finish up the series of posts this week. Silly me. With twelve more days of travel and sightseeing, there was no way I could fit it into one post. This week we focus on Alamo, Nevada, where we made a three-night stop on our way to Bishop, California.

Before we left Utah on October 18, 2020, we stopped in Cedar City so Jon could get his second shingles shot at Walgreens and a supply of Blue DEF for the truck. The next day in Alamo, he woke up with mild reactions to the vaccine that lasted about half the day. This reduced our poking around time, which turned out okay. We found only two places to explore while in Alamo.

Extraterrestrial Highway

The Extraterrestrial Highway (Nevada SR 375) cuts off of SR 318 at the Crystal Springs Rest Area and continues for about 98 miles to US Route 6 in Warm Springs. At about half the distance sits the area of Rachael, where travelers will find the Little Al’e’inn restaurant, bar, and motel.

Road, two tall trees, blue sky, and hills
Crystal Springs rest area at the Y

The rest stop was a good place to eat lunch. It’s near the ghost town of Crystal Springs. Before white settlers entered the area, a Native American village used the spring. People traveling the Mormon Trail stopped there to replenish their water supplies. The thermal spring, with an 81 degree Fahrenheit temperature, still supplies water to ranches and farms up to 5 miles away.

Heavily vegetative site
Crystal Springs hides in the vegetation

The Alien Research Center is easy to spot from the road. Look for the giant metal alien figure on top of a hill and in front of a Quonset hut. The center is nothing more than a gift shop for the delight of tourists and alien seekers. It’s worth a stop to see all the items they sell, even if you aren’t interested in buying anything.

Aluminum space alien statue in front of a Quonset hut with woman standing up to its knee
Alien Research Center Gift Shop

Our next landmark was the Black Mailbox. Not sure what we were looking for, we stayed alert and watched the south side of the road, trying to find the box. A bare spot up ahead caught our attention. Sure enough, there was a black mailbox out in the middle of nowhere.

Black mailbox in the desert
The Black Mailbox. A link to Aliens from outer space?

So what is so special about the mailbox? Apparently beginning in 1973, Steve Medlin, a local rancher, used it to send and receive mail. Sixteen years later, Bob Lazar claimed the Airforce was hiding alien spacecraft that crashed in the desert near Area 51. ET-seeking enthusiasts swarmed the region and turned the mailbox into a communication device, leaving messages for Aliens and expecting return mail.

Black mailbox, broken stand for another black mailbox, and painted rock.
Who thought a plastic mailbox was a good idea?

Since then, visitors shot up the mailbox. It was replaced with a white box. Someone stole the white box, and it was replaced, then it was vandalized and replaced again. It appears that Mr. Medlin long ago gave up using the mailbox as his own.

Snacks, rocks, and random stuff inside a black mailbox
Random snacks, rocks, and cans left for the Aliens?

You’d think we would have been disappointed by what we found. Not so. We had no expectations starting out and enjoyed the ride through the lovely desert.

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

The next day we visited The Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, which gave us an opportunity for an easy hike. Along a creek, we enjoyed the abundant flora and fauna along the way.

Tree, dirt road, and sign for Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge
The Pahranagat Visitor Center was closed
Dike , creek, and shrubs
A dike in the Riparian Habitat

Thousands of migratory birds and endangered species use the refuge as a waypoint on the Pacific Flyway. The refuge includes three distinct habitats that provide rest, food, and nesting spots for the traveling birds.

Yellowed plants lining a gravel trail
The trail connects the Upper and Lower Lakes

Cottonwood and willow trees grow at the lake shores and springs, inviting birds to nest and feed. Meadows and grasses attract rodents, reptiles, and small mammals that find shelter and food in the desert uplands. Coyotes, raptors, and roadrunners find plenty of prey to satisfy their hunger in all three habitats.

Yerba Mansa plant and spent flower
Yerba Mansa
Branch covered with spider's web
Spider’s web?

The Desert Uplands portion of the refuge contains lava rock hills and yucca trees and other cactus.

Lava rock hill covered with dry grass and yucca plants
Lava Rock Hill in the Desert Uplands

None of the fifteen free primitive camping sites were available. The sites are spaced along the east shore of Upper Lake. Good luck finding a spot. There were none when we were there. And come prepared because there is no electricity, water, or sewer facilities, only vault toilets. Many of the sites can accommodate RVs or multiple tents. The campground below was a cluster of campsites at the end of the lake.

Large trees, an RV, cars, and canopies
A campground cul-de-sac

Seasonal boating, fishing, and hunting are available. Or enjoy guided walks and wildlife observation at Pahranagat.

Lower Lake of Pahranagat NWR with row of trees and yellowed grass
Upper Lake
Trail on the top of a dike, bunch of trees and brown hills.
Trail across Upper Lake
Birds on a branch
These little birds (finches?) did not want to pose. They preferred flitting back and forth.

There may be more to Alamo, Nevada, than what we found during our three nights there, but we were ready to move on.

Up next is our 7-day stop in Bishop, California, which served as our base camp to see Manzanar National Historic Site, Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, and other locations.

Stay Safe

Goodbye to the Year 2020

Red poinsettia flower

Happy New Year!

Tonight we say goodbye to the year 2020. A year we will not soon forget. At midnight our booming stock market and the devastation of the coronavirus rolls into the year 2021.

Although we are in the midst of the darkest days of the pandemic with countries throughout the world locking down their borders, reinstating restrictions and stay-at-home orders, closing schools and businesses that only recently welcomed back their students and customers, we must remember our country has been in similar straights before, and we survived.

News headlines in 2020 centered on runs for the presidency, house, and senate seats; Black Lives Matter protests that morphed into riots and looting; and the rising virus cases that encouraged pleas to wear masks, keep a safe distance, and stay at home also overwhelmed medical personnel, hospitals, and deaths. Other major stories included the bushfires in Australia, and the wildfires in California and other western states.

The glimmers of positive news stories struggled to cut through the noise. Those stories include the groups who created and donated masks when supplies ran out, the astronauts shuttled to the International Space Station by SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, and the landing of a spacecraft on an asteroid by NASA. Then there were the thousands of people who risked their health by volunteering for the experimental vaccines, the technology company Zoom that connected millions of people with family, friends, coworkers and even doctors, and don’t forget the drive-ins that made a comeback.

One of the bright spots for me was the election. There’s been a lot of talk about what a terrible thing it is for the president to challenge the results. Thirty-six of the 40 cases were withdrawn or lost and four are still pending but not expected to go anywhere. Those challenges prove that our democracy stands strong and that the will of a majority of voters cannot be squashed. Whether we agree or disagree on the outcome of the November 2020 election, the United States democracy works.

Now that the vaccines are rolling out, we wait patiently for our turn to have our arms poked. We understand it will take several more months before we can resume activities without wearing masks, without avoiding people, without fear of illness or death from the virus.

So, as midnight approaches, we prepare to ring in the year 2021, and think about our ancestors, what they experienced in similar situations and how they survived, and that gives us hope.

Hope that someday soon we will hug and kiss our family members again.

Hope that we will meet our friends in person again, shake their hands, and give them hugs.

Hope that children will resume their studies safely in the classroom.

Hope that restaurants and other businesses will once again thrive.

Hope that the unemployed will find work.

Hope that all goes well with the vaccines and the promised effectiveness holds true.

Hope that we will travel again, be it by auto, RV, train, plane, or ship.

We trust all our hopes become reality.

We wait for that day.

Stay Safe

October 2020 COVID-19 Adventure Part Six

We finish up our time in Panguitch, Utah, with two more easy hikes: Arches Trail in Dixie National Forest near Red Canyon State Park and the Kodachrome Nature Trail in Kodachrome Basin State Park.

Blue sky and hikers standing near pine trees
Trailhead for Arches and Other Red Canyon Trails

Hikers can access the Arches Trail two miles east of SR 12 off US 89. Look on the north side for a gravel road and sign that says Lossee/Casto and follow it to the Lossee Canyon parking area.

Rocks and tree limbs form a cache
A cache of some sort, for food perhaps? Too small for a person.
Pine trees, rock formations, and blue sky
One of those rock formations looks like a Hershey’s Kiss.
Rock formations, rock arch, and dead looking tree
An okay sign?

The arches trail is north of the parking lot. I was determined to capture every one of the 15 arches along the three-quarter-mile loop trail when I started out.

Red rock formations, arch, and blue sky
Kissing rocks
Red rock formations and landscape view in the background
View from the top
Red rock formations, blue sky, and wispy clouds
A far view

I soon lost count and missed a few on the way, so ended up with only a handful. Well, let’s make that a handful and a half.

Red rock formations, blue sky, and wispy clouds
A close view
Red rock formations, hole in the rock, blue skies, wispy clouds
Why did the formation erode in the middle of the wall?
Bulbous red rock formations
Totems at play

I spared you the boredom of viewing all the photos I took. You’re welcome.

Landscape view through arch in rock formation, a person hidden in the shadows
Hiding in the shadows
Red rock formations, trail, pine trees, and landscape view in background
The return trail

The nature trail at Kodachrome State Park gives hikers a chance to learn about the park in less than 1/2 mile. Informational signs explain the various points of interest that include trees, bushes, soil, monoliths, and other features seen along the trail.

Trail, red rock and tan and white rock formations, and shrubs
Nature Trail at Kodachrome State Park
Monolithic chimneys that look like Terracotta Army sculptures
The park is filled with monolithic spires and chimneys. These remind me of Terracotta Army sculptures.
Dried Fourwing Saltbrush
Native Americans grounded Fourwing Saltbush seeds to make flour for bread. Birds and rodents also eat the seeds.
Dead Bristlecone pine tree against red rock formation and blue sky
A dead Bristlecone pine tree provides a home for animals and birds, a food source for insects and fungi, a lookout for raptors, a hiding place for rodents, and nutrients for the soil.

This trail is a good place to slow down, take in the sights, and imagine what it must have been for explorers as they encountered the area for the first time.

Mormon Tea
Mormon Tea is used as a beverage or medicine. It may quench thirst, boost energy, or ease stomach ailments.
Red rock formations against back drop of tan and white formations.
The rock mound only looks smooth. It was coarse enough to skin a knee to a bloody mess.
Kodachrome spires and chimneys and rock formations against blue sky
One last look of the chimneys and spires.

To learn more about Kodachrome Basin State Park, visit our post dated November 9, 2017, here.

As our time in Panguitch came to an end, the virus began its worse infection and death surge across the nation. As county after county and state after state slammed their doors shut on visitors, we started our trek home.

Next up, we make a few stops on our way home.

Stay Safe

October 2020 COVID-19 Adventure Part Five

We continue our Panguitch, Utah, visit with more of Bryce Canyon National Park and hikes in Red Canyon State Park.

Kevin and Bailey found the Bryce Canyon to Red Canyon Bike Trail a perfect road for trying out their new foldable bicycles. We dropped them off at Inspiration Point in Bryce Canyon and picked them up at Thunder Mountain Trailhead in Red Canyon State Park.

Man and woman posing with foldable bicycles
Kevin and Bailey pose before their ride.

While Kevin and Bailey navigated the peaks and valleys of the trail on their bikes, Jon and I enjoyed the views at Inspiration Point. What impressed me the most at the point was the overlook that jutted out into the canyon.

People talking at Inspiration Point in Bryce Canyon
Inspiration Point jetty at Bryce Canyon

I had the feeling I was walking on a jetty with views of hoodoos to the right of me and more hoodoos to the left of me.

Pine branch and hoodoos
Hoodoos to the left
View of hoodoos, valley, and trail
And Hoodoos to the right

On our way out of the park, we stopped at a few of the overlooks and went in the store at Ruby’s Inn to wander around the gift shop.

Bryce Canyon hoodoos, walls, and windows
Looking back at Inspiration Point

On Scenic Byway SR-12, we had seen the turnout with information signs that had a splendid view of a meadow and Bryce Canyon Airport. We stopped to see what we could learn from the signs. The airport doesn’t look like much from the road, but it is a valuable asset to the community.

Landscape of Bryce Canyon Airport, meadow, and hills in the background
Bryce Canyon Airport from SR-12

The airport, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, comprises the Great Depression Era hangar built of native ponderosa pine in 1936 through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. Eleven years later, on October 24, 1947, flames erupted on a DC-6. Flight 608 didn’t make it to the landing strip during its emergency landing. Instead, it crashed in Bryce National Park 1.3 miles away, killing all on board. To determine the cause of this aviation disaster, investigators reconstructed the charred remains. A process used for the first time and ever since.

Today thousands of tourists arrive by air each year to visit Bryce Canyon National Park and the surrounding area. The airport also serves as critical emergency support for the area, a staging area for search and rescue operations, and fire monitoring and management during fire events. After reading the information signs, I felt safer knowing that if I was hurt or became ill, help was only a short helicopter or plane ride away.

Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant enticed us with their sign advertising fresh pies and ice cream. While we shared a sandwich and a slice of cherry pie with ice cream, we watched for the bicyclists to pass by but never saw them.

Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant building, sign and cars
Great pies at Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant

We continued on and checked out a few more overlooks on our way to Thunder Mountain Trailhead where we had arranged to meet.

Red rock formations next to a road
View of Red Canyon from Thunder Mountain Trailhead parking lot

So, how was Kevin and Bailey’s bicycle ride? They enjoyed the 18.6-mile ride that took them through the forest at certain points and alongside the scenic SR-12, SR-63, and US-89 roads. Although, they almost gave up after fighting against a steep grade and seeing the truck parked outside of Bryce Canyon Pines. The trail was mostly downhill after that, so they kept going.

We visited Red Canyon State Park more than once. The Pink Ledges Trail is an interpretive hike with numbered posts that correspond to a guide available at the Visitor Center. We followed it along to the Hoodoo Trail and then back to the parking lot.

Remnants of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks deposited here from 200 miles away.

These hoodoos reminded me of sentries standing guard outside of the castle walls.

Red rock formations that look like sentries
Rock sentries
Rock formations that look like angel wings and butterfly
Butterfly and Angel Wings

The Tunnel Trail was a steep climb with switchbacks, one of which seemed carved into the slope of the mountain and would be quite difficult for anyone with vertigo to navigate. The view from the top was well worth the hike.

Red rock formations on top of mountain with pine trees
Fortress across the valley
Pine trees on red mountains and more mountains in the distance.
Visibility for miles
Mountains road with two short tunnels
Two short tunnels

For the Birdseye Trail, we parked at a turnout west of the Visitor Center and crossed the street. This is a well-used trail with Ys and Ws that branch off the main trail and led us off in the wrong direction a few times.

Red sandy hill with a valley in the distance
Red hill
Hiker on red rocky trail
Great views from the Birdseye Trail
Red rock formations at the top of a mountain
Hoodoos in the making

Check out the spirals on this tree. Is it a sign the tree has adapted to the environment? Causes of the spirals might include poorly drained or uneven soil, windy conditions, or a heavy or uneven canopy. The spiral pattern may occur to allow sap and food to more efficiently distribute to all the roots and branches.

Spiral tree trunk
Spiraling tree trunk
Hoodoo that looks like a camel laying down
The Camel (kneeling)
Red rock formations, blue sky, and pine trees
Looking up

Next up in part six, we continue our Panguitch visit by hiking the Arches Trail in Lossee Canyon and drive out to Kodachrome State Park.

Until then, stay safe.