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Showing posts from October, 2009

An Easy Day at Zion

It was a relaxing and easy day for us here at Zion yesterday, Friday. We planned nothing and spent the day at Watchman Campground. While it was a bit chilly in the morning, I was running and biking around in just a T-shirt and jeans during the afternoon.

We shared a campfire last night with Jimmy and Julianne, one of the couples we met at dinner the night before. They're camped just up the road from us. We thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and hearing about their rich lives and varied experiences. We burned through all the wood I got earlier in the day -- usually a sign of a successful campfire.

Today, when I'm finished pounding out this quick update, Dar and I are driving up to Kolob Canyon to explore that section of Zion National Park. It's in the extreme northwest corner of the park, about a 35 mile one-way drive from our camp.

Exploring Zion...
Thom

Zion Daze

I'm finding it hard to describe in words what we're seeing here at Zion National Park. The harder I try the less satisfied I am with the result. We've been taking a ton of photos too but even the best of those don't do a complete job of adequately expressing the sensory experience of the Park. To really know Zion, you've got to come here and see it for yourself. It's really something.

But the photos are the best thing we've got. Dar is busy everyday selecting the right pics, adding captions, and uploading more to our photo gallery -- check them out -- [Link]

Yesterday, Thursday, we drove to the furthest point up-canyon it's possible to drive. From there, we hiked another mile along the Virgin River into the narrowing and rising canyon, to where the path ends at a place called the narrows. At that point the walls of the canyon are so narrow that to proceed further entails walking in the river itself and it's possible to continue in that fashion for s…

Bighorn Sheep

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I won't dwell on the weather other than to say it was cold and windy much of the day, Wednesday. But mostly sunny skies helped make our day of exploring enjoyable.

We had our usual long morning, breakfast, talking, working with photos, and writing in the journal. Later in the morning we headed over to the Zion Park Visitors Center, and then to another facility just up the road, the Zion Human History Museum. Both places included some good exhibits explaining various aspects of the Park, had knowledgeable people on hand to answer questions and make recommendations, and, of course, the ubiquitous gift shop. The Human History Museum had a very good 20 minute film -- an introduction to the Park, it's history, the story of how it became a National Park, and an overview of the key features and geography of the area.

We're in what is considered the main part of the Park -- at the bottom of Zion Canyon. The canyon walls, which you've seen some photos of in the past few days, c…

Cooling It In Zion

After moving campsites yesterday, we hung out close to the camper most of the day. The terrible nasty weather never materialized, at least not here. We must be just far enough south to miss the worst of it. We had clouds much the morning and early afternoon, but about 2pm or so, the skies cleared and bright blue sky held the rest of the day. It was colder though -- low 50's, and a brisk wind made it feel colder than it really was. Today we woke to 32f, clouds, and a predicted high in the 40's. But starting tomorrow, Thursday, the forecast is improving nicely with clear skies and temps into the 60's and 70's by the weekend. In the mountainous west, when the sun comes out it warms up quickly.

Today we're going to start exploring the Park in earnest. I'm sure my next journal entry will be more interesting.

In Zion N.P.
Thom

Zion Shuffle

I think I mentioned in yesterday's entry that I was a little surprised at how busy Zion is at this time of year. When we arrived yesterday afternoon we had to settle for a piece of a group campsite, which was OK but not as nice as many of the other sites in this loop of Watchman Campground. The camp hosts said we could move this morning after campers leaving today start departing. And that's exactly what we did. In the process, we met a very nice couple from Switzerland who are touring the USA for a year. They were camped right across the road from our temporary camp last night. After they left this morning we shuffled things around and moved into their spot, which we think is one of the best in the campground. It's right on the banks of the North Fork of the Virgin River and very spacious and private. We may never leave!?

We're mostly hunkered down today waiting for the storm we've been outrunning the past few days to pass. That's OK too. Dar's in the proc…

Camped In Zion National Park

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This will be a quick and short update.

We left Baker, NV. this morning, Monday, just a few minutes after 9am. The predictors of the future, those practictioners of the dark science of meteorology, are relentless in their prognostications that the next few days will be the first blast of real winter in these parts of the Great Basin. So off we lumbered, to the Southeast, in search of safe haven from the storm.

With a bright sun and blue sky, the drive was agreeable. Despite the generally poorer roads encountered in Utah, we made it all the way to Zion National Park about 4pm, after having traveled almost 200 miles and lost an hour of time crossing the border. The drive into Zion, especially with an afternoon sun lighting up the mesas and cliffs ahead of you, is simply nothing short of spectacular. Dar is still recovering from a serious case of the vapors after having seen the colors and dramatic mountain-scapes she saw today.





Although Watchman Campground inside the Park is busier than …

Great Basin National Park

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We came to Baker Nevada (population 120) for the sole purpose of seeing Great Basin National Park. It's one of the smaller of the 58 places designated a National Park, and one of the more out-of-the-way being hundreds of miles away from the closest big towns like Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. The 90,000 visitors they see during an entire year is about what some of the bigger parks have during a long weekend. Created in 1986, it's also one of the newer parks. Until designated a National Park, much of the area was a National Forest and the well explored Lehman Caves, a centerpiece of the new Park, was a National Monument.

Since we were being chased by predicted weather... nasty cold rainy snowy blustery winter weather... we made the decision yesterday, Saturday, to do two days of travel in one and shorten our visit at Great Basin to just one precious day, Sunday. That allows us to drive far enough South, and to lower elevations, on Monday in order to escape the worst of this wea…

Rubber-Necking Our Way Across Nevada

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Our trek from Winnemucca to Baker.

374 miles in one day may not be a record for us during the Sabbatical Project, but it sure ranks up there in the top two or three. We left Winnemucca, NV. about 9am and hopped on I-80 East. I'm not a big fan of Interstate Highways and am becoming less a fan as time goes along, but the 160 or so miles between Winnemucca and Wells, NV. was generally in pretty good shape. Traffic volume was light too. As a point of geo-historical information: for most of it's length between Omaha and Sacramento, I-80 closely follows the alignment of the first transcontinental railroad, built in the 1860's. During our drive I could see the tracks most of the way. Dar drove this leg and we made great time including a 20 minute stop for fuel in Battle Mountain (2.88/gal). She got us to Wells before noon and we found a truckstop parking lot where we could take a break and make a quick lunch in the bus-house.

Especially when on Interstate Highways, I keep the C…

Bus-House Makes it to Baker

evening edition

We're at a small RV Park in Baker, NV. We made it after a very agreeable day of traveling a big 374 miles -- a huge day for us. There may only be one or two other days since we started the Sabbatical project that exceed that number. We don't do long drives like this as a matter of course, but we're trying to get out of the way of a storm and cold front that are due through this part of the country Monday night and Tuesday -- very cold and snow they say. By making it to Baker, we're positioned for a good solid day in The Great Basin National Park tomorrow, Sunday. Then we'll make our escape down a smaller State road to the Southeast, into Utah, on Monday and should be able to find safe haven for a few days near the entrance to Zion National Park.

There is NO cell phone service here in Baker. The only reason I'm able to post this entry is that I'm glomming onto an unsecured WIFI signal from some unknowingly-generous local resident. But I won&#…

Being Chased by Weather

morning edition:

I've been keeping my eye on the weather forecast for the next few days and it now appears we'll have a weather issue to deal with. There's a strong cold front that's expected to cross over the Great Basin -- Northern and Central Nevada and Western Utah -- on Monday night and Tuesday. The front will kick up strong winds, drop the overnight temps down into the teens, and snow will fall... even at the relatively low valley floor elevations. Hmmm.

We wanted to be in Great Basin N.P. during this time. But the high elevations, snow on the ground, and temps well below what our prime-directive calls for, we've got to come up with another plan. So we talked over the alternatives and the plan right now is this: We'll drive all the way to Ely, NV. today -- further than we were planning to go. That's 300 miles, some Interstate and some two lane roads. Depending on how the drive goes we'll find a camp somewhere around Great Basin N.P. and make our v…

First Time in Nevada

Almost 200 miles we traveled today, through country that's variously referred to as "the Oregon Outback" or "Oregon's Forgotten Quarter". But I found it much more interesting and scenic than those labels suggest. It's a mixture of high desert, wide vistas, and almost continual series of small mountain ranges. It's also the northern edge of the Great Basin -- that huge area that encompasses most of Nevada, and parts of Oregon, California, Idaho, and Utah. It's high country, we spent all day today between 4,000 and 5,000 feet, and it's dry. If any water does find its way onto the ground it has no chance of making it to the ocean... any ocean. The Great Basin is just that... a huge basin... there are no natural outlets or streams that escape. The water stays here until it either evaporates or soaks in to groundwater.

We're camped tonight at the Winnemucca RV Park, an old KOA park. Once in a while it's nice to have full hookups so we can…

A Hot (Springs) Stop

After some long good-byes to new friends we made at Clyde Holliday State Park, we were rolling by 10:30 this morning. The weather was bright, the wind very light. Generally, our route today was from John Day to Burns on US-395. The first half of the drive was a slow continual climb through the Strawberry Mountains to well over 5,000 feet before leveling off into wide open valleys where the bus-house shifted into high gear for what seemed like the first time all day. The views out the window were stunning, once again, and we truly enjoyed this drive.

Before Burns, the landscape opens up into high desert... a lot of sagebrush and very little farming. A glance at hills in the distance, 10 or 15 miles distant... they just don't seem that far. It's more of that big-sky, western, ranching country that we haven't seen for a while.

For our camp tonight we settled on Crystal Crane Hot Springs, which has a small RV Park. It's 25 miles southeast of Burns right along OR-78, the ro…

Continuing South

I'm writing this before 8am this morning -- a quick update on our plans for the day.

The weather looks good, with favorable winds, for a southward move today. The options were to get an early start and make a run for Winnemucca, NV., a 300 mile day including some slow twisting mountain roads between here and Burns. Or, we could break it into two days and stay tonight near Burns. The latter option was approved by the SD after she learned about a likely camp about 25 miles southeast of Burns that includes a hot springs. This option is only 100 miles so we may actually have a chance for a good soak before dinner tonight.

Taking it a day at a time...

T
Clyde Holliday State Park near John Day, OR.

More about the Fossil Beds

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In last night's journal entry, I promised to write a bit more about what we learned in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument during our exploration yesterday.

Almost everything about the geology of Eastern Oregon originated with volcanic or geo-thermal activity of some kind, somewhere in the Western part of the USA during the past 50 million years. Of course, some of this activity is still taking place, to one extent or another, in Yellowstone and at various places throughout the  Cascade Mountain Range. Sporadically during the not-so-distant past, the last 50 million years or so, this activity would blossom into very large events that could cover the landscape for hundreds of miles around with layers of ash-fall 50 feet or more deep; or rivers of red-hot flowing basalt that would cover several thousand square miles with a 200 foot layer of solid rock after it cooled; or volcano caused mud-flows that would pour down and cover everything in their paths for hundreds of miles ar…

Taking a Break

9:00AM
I woke to light rain tapping on the bus-house roof this morning, then turned over and fell back asleep. Dar was up earlier, working on photos from yesterday, but I wallowed in bed until almost 8am. There are no explorations planned for today, just work on a chore or two, read, and prepare for heading further south tomorrow, Thursday. The weather is in full agreement with full clouds and spritzes of rain, at least so far this morning, according to my weather stick.

The John Day Fossil Beds

I just now got in from another evening campfire at our site here in Clyde Holliday State Park near John Day, OR. It was another perfect night for a fire... cool temps, little wind, clear skies, cheap wood. Does life get any better?

And I'm serious when I wrote "cheap wood". Dreaded tree-killing insects have pretty much squashed the idea that you can drag your own cheap firewood from Cousin Biff's woodlot in Northern Idaho into a campground for those nightly campfires. Most States now have restrictions about it and demand that the wood you use come from within a few miles of the campground where it's consumed, or, conveniently, you can buy the wood they have available for sale. It seems the going price is $4 or $5 per little bundle... pretty much wherever you go. And it usually takes 2 bundles to have a decent campfire, if the wood is burnable at all. That's why we don't have as many campfires as we'd sometimes like.

Except here in Eastern Oregon. Here…

Golden Flower of Prosperity

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Man-O-Man! I slept great last night... I can't remember when I last had as good a nights sleep. Dar too, she tells me. I didn't stir until almost 8am, and I was up before she was. The almost total absence of outdoor lighting may have something to do with it. And maybe the deafening silence, all night long, is part of the answer too. Whatever it was, I'm looking forward to getting this entry posted and hitting the sack again, hoping for a replay of last night. This may not seem like much of a big deal, but, hey, it's my blog, and I'll write what I feel.

I was expecting to see rain this morning, but it never materialized. You know, there's a pattern forming when it comes to weather forecasts out here and I'm beginning to pay attention to it. When they say it's probably going to rain... it probably won't. Whatever they say, the opposite has a good chance of happening. I guess life will go on regardless of what the atmosphere decides to do or not do, s…

A Day to John Day

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The trek from Arlington to John Day on Sunday was nothing short of sensational. I was a little concerned what the little State Highway, OR-19, would be like, what kind of issues it might present for a 32,000 pound bus-house, and how difficult it would be to negotiate the turns and twists with a car in tow. But my worry was for naught. It was one of the more enjoyable drives that either of us can remember. We followed OR-19 to US-26 east, which led us to the John Day area.

We climbed out of Arlington about 9:45am... and "climbed" is the right word. The road ascends from less than 300 feet of elevation at Arlington to over 3,000 feet in the first 25 miles... not really all that steep, but it was a continuous climb with slow curves much of the way. The sky was blue and bright and the traffic almost non-existent, so we just settled back and enjoyed the slow climb out of the Columbia Gorge, thoroughly enjoying the views of snow-capped Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams off to the West, and t…

Cooling It on the Columbia

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Somehow, overnight, the Weather Service decided that the 80% chance of rain Saturday should be changed to only 20%. The sun was out most of the day and the wind was relatively calm, although it was supposed to pick up to gale strength for a while later in the day -- that could get the bus-house a-rockin'. It all doesn't really matter anyway since we thoroughly enjoyed the day off.

Arlington is where Doc Severinsen was born and spent his formative years. Those younger than about 40 probably don't even know who he is, but those of us who enjoyed the Tonight Show during the 70's and 80's know him well. As a young child he really wanted to play the trombone but his dad, a dentist, somehow brought home a trumpet, which young "Doc" took to quickly. At the age of 7 he was invited to play with the High School band and was touring with a traveling band by his early teen years. He's still alive, living in Mexico, and playing concerts and benefits when he feels …

Easy Day to Arlington

It was just a bit before 7am when I groaned myself out of bed and shuffled to the coffee pot. Dar was up just a short time after that. Since our day was a simple one... get up, get ready, get going, and get there... (and getting there was only 140 miles away), neither of us was setting any land speed records. The emotional exhaustion of leaving was most of my problem. (Hi Ryan, Evan, Andrea and Gage!)

After a couple cups of coffee things started clicking and I was knocking off departure chores like an old hand. We had a little problem with a balky slide-out, the kitchen one, which wouldn't lock after being retracted. The lock secures the slide-out tightly to the rest of the coach's sidewall, and while it's better to have the locks engaged, it is possible to drive without them if necessary. We've had occasional problems with these locks before but have always been able to get them to eventually engage. I'll work more on this issue as we make our way South. Eventuall…

Saying Good-Bye

We had a wonderful evening over at Andrea & Gage's place last night. After dinner at a popular Mexican restaurant in Camas, we went back to the house and talked and watched old videos of the kids and savored those last hours, minutes, seconds before we had to go. The kids, Ryan and Evan, stayed up later than normal and (was it my imaginatiion?) seemed a bit sad too. Dar wanted to be the one to put each of them to bed before we left.

We've had a marvelous visit this past 6 weeks. The opportunity to be surrogate-parents to two of the best little Grandsons I can imagine, for a whole 9 days, was the highlight of the stop. I really bonded with these two little guys and I'm dreading the upcoming separation. Since the bus-house has wheels, we know we'll be back... maybe even this next spring. Thanks Andrea & Gage for a wonderful time.

So this morning while I'm jotting down these words, Dar is scampering around the bus-house stowing those last few things, making s…

Website/Journal Change

Thursday, October 15, 2009
Vancouver, WA

Starting today, I'm making a change to my method of updating readers on "What's New?" with Thom & Dar.

Prior to today, I've been inserting a couple paragraphs of "what's new" stuff on the front page of our tdhoch.com website. It's worked ok, but the downside is that those newsy updates are lost once I put up a new one the next day. And those daily updates drained time and energy away from the journal -- which is where I'd really like to focus.

So, starting with this entry to the journal, I'll provide that "What's New?" information here instead... along with more expanded tales of our adventures as well as my thoughts on things.

OK, so "What's New?"

We're sitting the kids today... the last time for this visit to the Northwest. And we had Ryan overnight last night, as he really wanted to spend one more night in the bus-house. He was our alarm clock this morning, w…

Spewers of Hot Air

Thursday, October 08, 2009
Vancouver, WA

Spewers of hot air?? So, what could this cryptic title possibly refer too? Well, yesterday's explorations took us to the Washington State Capitol Building and Mount St. Helens -- two things that have both spewed incredible amounts of hot air and debris in the past. And because the nature of things doesn't change quickly I expect more of the same in the future.

The Washington State Capitol

Here in Washington the State Capitol Building is referred to as the Legislative Building. For the sake of this article though, I'm going to use the term "Capitol". Built during the mid-1920's, it's the last of the State Capitols built in the traditional domed style. It's the dominant building among a collection of 5 similarly designed buildings referred to as the State Capitol Campus. Some of the functions normally designed into Capitols in other states were decentralized from the beginning and placed in these surrounding buildin…

Mission Accomplished

Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Vancouver, WA

Now that our mission has been accomplished... now that everyone's lives are getting back to normal... I guess I can take the time to document the past 10 or so days. It's been a real whirlwind for sure.

Back in the Spring or early Summer of this year, our daughter Andrea mentioned that she and Gage, our son-in-law, were planning a cruise in the Caribbean this Fall. She wondered if we'd like to time our visit this year to coincide with their trip so we could watch their boys, Ryan and Evan -- our Grandsons, during that time. It didn't take more than, oh, 5 seconds to say "of course", and plans were made. One of the advantages of our lifestyle is being able to adjust and make things like this work out. Of course, on the flip side, one of the disadvantages is not being a regular daily/weekly participant in these little guy's growing lives too. But we'd like to think our longer visits make up for it somewhat, and in th…