Return from the Desert

Discussion in 'Let me tell you about my trip' started by Unstable_Tripod, Oct 23, 2010.

  1. Unstable_Tripod

    Unstable_Tripod Well, there's your problem!

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    May 20, 2008
    Seattle, Washington
    I just got back (last night) from an almost four-week trip to the southwestern desert area. I was in Zion NP (UT), Valley of Fire SP (NV), Joshua Tree NP (CA) and Death Valley NP (CA) to name the major stops. Much more, including some pictures, later. I'm somewhat swamped with the unloading and clean-up effort right now. Wait until I tell you about the "hurricane" we had in Death Valley. Now I know how tough my PUP is because it sure took a pounding!
     
  2. Full Circle

    Full Circle Greely, Ontario, Canada

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    Apr 4, 2009
    Greely, Ontario
    Wow, a four week trip, looking forward to some pics...
     
  3. Countryboy5711

    Countryboy5711 New Member

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    Sep 12, 2010
    Yup! Me too . . . looking forward to the pix!! :)
     
  4. Twisty

    Twisty New Member

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    Aug 24, 2008
    Hillsboro, Oregon
    Good for you, UT!
    I'm looking forward to a long trip down there myself.
     
  5. MtnTrails

    MtnTrails New Member

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    Sep 19, 2010
    I'm envious of that trip! We just returned from Southern UT, east of Zion in GSENM, and are considering a trip to Death Valley sometime during the winter... Looking forward to some pictures and info!
     
  6. Unstable_Tripod

    Unstable_Tripod Well, there's your problem!

    14,279
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    May 20, 2008
    Seattle, Washington
    In Death Vally I recommend against the Sunset CG at Furnace Creek. It is literally just a giant parking lot. Without doubt the ugliest CG I have ever seen in my life.

    Please bear with me on more descriptions and pictures. I spent three hours yesterday scrubbing half of Death Vally off the PUP. It was filthy after the big storm and the run back to Seattle. I thought most of it was surface dirt that would hose off but noooo, that stuff was plastered on there. Today I have to go after the inside. The storm covered everything with a super fine grit that coats every surface, inside and outside of every cabinet and bin. This is going to be quite a "detailing" job.

    Also, I'm still downloading and beginning to process the 1,000+ pics that I took.
     
  7. Countryboy5711

    Countryboy5711 New Member

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    Sep 12, 2010
    O...........K.........

    Take yr time....... [:(]

    lol :)
     
  8. MtnTrails

    MtnTrails New Member

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    Sep 19, 2010
    Thanks for the heads up on Furnace Creek. Looking forward to the travelogue [:D]
     
  9. Unstable_Tripod

    Unstable_Tripod Well, there's your problem!

    14,279
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    May 20, 2008
    Seattle, Washington
    I thought I'd start with my route and stops. Those of you in other parts of the country will probably want to skip past the descriptions of some of the places I stopped but people in this area might find them useful for their own future camping plans.

    This was intended to be a six-week trip but it ended up being only four due to weather issues.

    PART 1
    The first day (a Tuesday) I left Seattle and headed east on I-90, crossing the Cascades. I picked up I-82 and went through Yakima, into Oregon and connected with I-84, which runs SE through NE Oregon. Part of that area is high desert (Pendleton -- as in the shirts) and then you go through the beautiful Blue Mountains. I stopped for the first night at Farewell Bend State Park (Oregon) right on the Snake River which forms the boundary between Oregon and Idaho in that area. It's a nice little park about 20 miles north of Ontario, OR and I had a site with a view of the river. No problem getting a site because the place was 75% empty. The CG is divided into upper and lower areas. The upper loops have semi-privacy via hedges, bushes and various small trees. The lower loop is wide open with no privacy at all but it offers views of the river. They have hook-ups (water & electric) flush toilets and showers. (I didn't use the hook ups -- I just don't need them.) It was not cheap, though. I had to pay $22.

    On Day Two I pressed into and through Idaho, continuing on I-84 to Twin Falls. At TF I switched to US 93 and headed south into Nevada. I wanted to go through Wells in hopes of catching up with a friend who lives in the area. (I screwed up and forgot to send him a message far enough in advance -- he was out of town.) I continued south on US 93 through Ely and stopped for the second night at Cave Lake State Park (NV). This was a nice little park in the mountains. There are two CGs there. I stayed in Elk Flat. I can't remember the name of the other one. Elk Flat had flush toilets, free showers and a water spigot at each site, although that spigot was not intended to be hooked up to a camper -- it was near the road. Reasonable privacy between sites was provided by small trees, bushes and large rocks. No problem getting spot because the CG was mostly empty. It cost $17.

    Another reason I took US 93 was because I wanted to hold some options open. I planned on visiting Zion NP in SW Utah and Valley of Fire SP in Nevada, NE of Las Vegas. I was watching the weather reports because at the time it was still quite hot in the Nevada desert because it is much lower than Zion on the Colorado Plateau in Utah. On Day Three I decided to go to Zion first so I turned east off US93 and took US6/50 into Utah. I passed the Great Basin National Park on the way. It looks like a beautiful place to stay and poke around so I have it on my list of stops on a future trip.

    NV21 would have been more direct but the US6/50 route was supposed to be much more scenic. It was, but it was also a terrible road surface and I got pretty tired of being bounced around (the PUP jerks on the Explorer on bumpy roads). I passed a huge salt flat west of Delta. I then connected to I-15 and took it SW to UT9, which leads to Zion. I followed that into the park.

    Zion has two campgrounds, Watchman and South. Watchman is 100% reservable and is therefore almost always completely unavailable (unless you know your travel plans many months in advance and are willing to commit to specific days only -- I don't operate that way). South is FCFS but you need to be there early in the day because it fills every night in Spring, Summer and Fall. I really didn't expect to get a campsite in the park that late in the day and had a backup plan involving a small state park 20 miles down the canyon. However, I've learned that you always ask even if the signs say everything is full, which they did. When I asked the ranger in the entrance booth he said South was indeed full but to check with Watchman because they might have a cancellation or no-show. Bingo. I got a one-night site in Watchman (Thursday night). The next morning I tore down and was at South at 9:00 AM. I got a nice site there which is where I stayed for the duration of my time in Zion (Friday-Tuesday). South was filled by 11:00 (check-out time). The sites there are $10 but I only pay 50% because I have a lifetime Senior Access Pass (which only cost me $10) to all federal facilities (I get in all of the parks free, too.)

    Remember that I said I went to Zion first because it was very hot in Nevada? Well, when I pulled into Watchman it was 96F. They said it had hit 104 earlier in the afternoon. It was in the low 80s that evening. These may sound like high temps to some of you but the humidity is extremely low and there is usually a breeze. I found it quite comfortable in the shade and after sunset. Gismos on the bunk-end roofs and Reflectix inserts in the windows facing the sun (with the opposite windows wide open) kept the PUP comfortable, too. The temps declined slowly over the following days.

    In Part 2 I'll describe the unseasonable heavy and long-last rains that caused me to leave Zion earlier than I intended.
     
  10. NJGuy

    NJGuy Active Member

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    Apr 20, 2010
    Unstable, I was camping in Ridgway, CO or Moab, UT while you were in Zion NP. I live about an hour drive from Zion. Too bad we could not meet. Regarding CGs in Death Valley NP, CG at Stovepipe Wells is just a parking lot also. We stay a Texas Springs, which is further up the hill from Sunset. Probably filled during your stay. Furnance Creek is the nicest, but reservations are highly recommended.
     
  11. Unstable_Tripod

    Unstable_Tripod Well, there's your problem!

    14,279
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    May 20, 2008
    Seattle, Washington
    I think we'll cross paths sooner or later, NJGuy, because I'll be back in that area again next year.

    I saw the sign for the Texas Springs CG and I could have gotten in there but it was a "No generators" CG. I thought I'd have to pull my little Yamaha out at least once during my stay to charge my batteries. It turned out that I never used the genny so I could have camped in Texas Springs.

    I used the showers at the Furnace Creek Ranch but did not look into their campground. Everything about the place looked expensive, though. Plus -- you know me and my attitude toward reservations. I am constantly changing my plans on the fly.

    I just completed a review of my transportation costs for the trip. I drove a total of 4,204.8 miles and consumed 287.467 gallons of gasoline at a total cost of $918.94. This gave me a total travel cost of 22 cents per mile. Overall trip MPG was 14.627.
     
  12. MtnTrails

    MtnTrails New Member

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    Sep 19, 2010
    We've become pretty familiar with the route from Seattle you describe, but continue on I 84 to I 15. I've been doing some renovation for relatives in the Seattle area (Mt. Baker neighborhood). I've eye balled Farewell Bend on the way by a couple of times. Of course I have the wrong trailer behind me but... I suppose I could curl up next to the miter saw w/ a thermarest pad. [;)] Might be we'll all cross paths next year.
     
  13. Unstable_Tripod

    Unstable_Tripod Well, there's your problem!

    14,279
    19
    May 20, 2008
    Seattle, Washington
    PART 2
    Before I left on this trip I did a lot of research on the 'net about climate and weather conditions. I found that Zion historically gets about 2" of rain in October. I figured I was in good shape. Well, they had an unbelievable storm that came in Sunday evening and then dumped rain constantly through Friday. It got so bad that they closed the trails, would not let anyone in the Narrows because of rising water and finally would not even let people off the shuttle bus. They could ride through the canyon but that was it. Got some good photos Friday, Saturday and Sunday but was nowhere near finished with this beautiful park. However, I had to make a call. Did I want to sit in the PUP for two, three, four or more days waiting for the rain to stop or cut my losses and move on? I decided on the latter. Zion will still be there in the future.

    So, on Wednesday I tore down in the rain and headed out of the park on UT9 over to I-15, which I took through St. George, the NW corner of AZ and into Nevada. Valley of Fire State Park is adjacent to (but not on) the north-south arm of Lake Mead. It is about 55 miles NE of Las Vegas. This place is wonderful. It is full of huge pock-marked red rocks and interesting plant life. I stayed for four days and gots lots of great shots.

    There are two campgrounds. One (Atlatl) is used primarily by RVs. It has a section with hook-ups. It has flush toilets and free showers, too. The other (Arch Rock) is dry. I headed for that. TIP: If you go there, there is a main loop in a little valley. Campsites there are OK but have little privacy. There is a spur that goes up the hill and exits from the campground about a quarter mile from the main entrance. Campsites up there are much more secluded, being tucked into spots between the huge red rocks. Try for Site 24 if you go there. This place isn't cheap though. It cost $20 per night and I stayed there four nights.

    Three nights would have been sufficient but I hesitate to relocate on Friday or Saturday because that's when the local weekenders come out to play. Getting sites is more difficult. I certainly wish I could have moved a day sooner though, because Saturday night was when I encountered the most rude, outrageous, disgusting thing I've ever seen in a campground. As many of you know, I go camping to connect with nature. I love the desert nights because I can listen to the sounds of the animals, enjoy the beautiful starry sky that can't be seen as well in the city and feel the wonderful warmth and breeze. Most of all, I like the QUIET.

    Not only did we have two large party groups of about 20 each, we had a bozo who brought a portable movie system. This b@st@rd set up a screen that had to be at least 12' wide. He had a dolby surround sound theater system and a digital projector. When it was dark at 8:00 he gave us a full-length movie whether we wanted it or not. I'm sure the coyotes could hear that abomination 20 miles away! When you consider that the definition of Quiet Time (as stated on the rules posted at the entrance to the campground) is that sounds may not be loud enough to be heard beyond the limits of one's campsite you have to wonder where this jerk's head was. (I have good idea but Steve would probably edit my post if I say it.) The problem was that there was no one to whom I could complain. The CG has no host and the ranger only comes once a day in the morning to collect fees and check sites. This #^$*% has to rank #1 on my all-time list of thoughtless, moronic, scumbag boors! I certainly wish that one of the sites on the spur had been available. I would have still heard the damn thing but I would not have seen it.

    After that little episode I was eager to move on. Sunday morning I headed south on the road that parallels Lake Mead and went to the Hoover Dam. I spent about an hour there. The first thing you notice is how low the water is. The cliffs are white where they were once under water. The long-term drought in the West with its water supply issues is serious!

    I left the dam, taking AZ93 to Kingman where I picked up I-40 south. I took it to Exit 9 where I got on AZ95 southbound to Lake Havasu City. I needed a maintenance day so I had to camp near civilization. I did alright. Lake Havasu State Park is actually right in the city. It is on the Colorado River but it is right behind an industrial area and you can see/hear the highway from the campsites. Sites were $20 with $2 off for seniors so I payed $18. I arrived early because it wasn't far from VFSP so I had plenty of time to grocery shop, get gas, refill my propane tank and go to a restaurant for lunch. (When I'm out for a long time I like to get a big salad at least once per week because I don't carry fresh fruit or veggies.) I also bought a steak at the grocery store and went all out for dinner -- I even had sauteed muchrooms. I rarely cook much because I don't have the time. This was a rare exception (well -- actually it was medium rare).

    The next morning I was up and out early, heading south on AZ95 to Quartzsite on I-10. I had breakfast in a cafe in Parker. Great food at a good price. I took I-10 into California at Blythe and continued to Exit 168 where I entered Joshua Tree National Park. I originally thought I'd stay at the Cottonwood CG in the south but after checking with the Visitors Center I discovered that most of the Joshua Trees and other interesting formations were in the north and it was a forty minute drive up there. Not wanting to do a long commute every day I decided to head for one of the campsites up there. I settled on Belle. It was great. Once again, no problem getting a spot. The CGs are all FCFS and don't fill until late in the day on weekdays. I had my pick of half the campground.

    More in Part 3. Yes, I know... pictures. Still working on them. Most of you download your camera to the computer, put the pictures on a photo site and link to them. I don't do that. I put them all in Photoshop, edit them (i.e., toss out the ones I don't like) and then process the rest. That means a lot of time doing color correction, saturation, sharpening, cropping and many other adjustments on each image. After that, for each image I want to post on the web, I have to make a copy, re-size it, change it into a .jpg file and then upload it to my ISP so I can link to it.
     
  14. NJGuy

    NJGuy Active Member

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    Apr 20, 2010
    It is a bad idea to camp on a weekend around Las Vegas (or any city for that matter). City people are used to noise. They tend to stay up later. I am not saying they are bad people or that all city folk act that way. The best I can hope when I camp in those areas is they settle down a hour or so after quiet time. Usually, it is just a cheap get away or social event for them. However, we camped at Valley of Fire SP during the week and had a good experience. We camped once at Boulder Beach in Lake Mead NRA near Hoover Dam. There was traffic noise all night and even speed boats on the lake 4:00 in the morning. Also, we had German tourists next door that just picked up rental RVs. They were pounding down the hard liquor. At the time, we were relative Newbie PUP campers. Now, I would pay them a visit and inform them about quiet time. Yes, I realize they probably just flew in to Las Vegas and their body clocks were all messed up.
    Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge opened 10/19, saving about a 1/2 drive over taking NV95 and other roads to Kingman, AZ.
    We have not made it to Joshua NP yet. However, we are going to stay at a LTVA south of Quartzsite several times this winter (15 degrees warmer tham STG).
     
  15. Unstable_Tripod

    Unstable_Tripod Well, there's your problem!

    14,279
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    May 20, 2008
    Seattle, Washington
    I have some pictures. This first batch is from Zion National Park in Utah (1-4) and the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada (5-8).

    1. The Watchman at Sunset
    [​IMG]

    2. Zion Canyon from Emerald Pools Trail
    [​IMG]

    3. Lizard on a Rock -- on the Emerald Pools Trail
    [​IMG]

    4. Rock at the Temple of Sinawava -- north end of Zion Canyon
    [​IMG]

    5. Highway and Red Rocks -- Valley of Fire
    [​IMG]

    6. Critters I found at sunrise near the White Domes
    [​IMG]

    7. My Campsite at Arch Rock
    [​IMG]

    8. The desert floor
    [​IMG]

    Comments about what you like or don't like -- and why -- would be deeply appreciated. More images to come very soon.
     
  16. bsvirginian

    bsvirginian New Member

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    Apr 22, 2010
    Is that reflectex on your pop-up? I envy your trip.
    I might be going on my last of the season trip in a couple of weeks to Chincateague, Md. Good luck and thanks for pics.
    bsvirginian
     
  17. hudson98065

    hudson98065 New Member

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    Nov 4, 2006
    your pics. Are great and worth the wait! More, please! Really enjoy your narrative. Been camping at Furnace Creek in death valley in February and enjoyed it very much. So much to see and photograph. Going back to AZ in January until April, want to avoid Seattle cold. Thanks again for a great story and pics. Bil, Snoqualmie WA
     
  18. Unstable_Tripod

    Unstable_Tripod Well, there's your problem!

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    May 20, 2008
    Seattle, Washington
    bsvirginian, yes that is Reflectix in the windows. I have Pop-Up Gizmos on the bunk end roofs. I also have a set of Reflectix window inserts for the car windows. I use it the same way as the PUP: put it in the windows on the sun side and leave the opposite side windows open. It makes a tremendous difference. (I set the pieces I'm not using on top of the cooler.) I plan on returning to the Joshua Tree and Death Valley area in the Spring when the wildflowers and desert plants bloom.

    Thanks hudson98065. I've decided to shorten my NW winters by taking late fall and early spring trips to the SW every year. (We still need to be here for the holidays to be with kids, grand kids and in-laws.
     
  19. Unstable_Tripod

    Unstable_Tripod Well, there's your problem!

    14,279
    19
    May 20, 2008
    Seattle, Washington
    Here are four more images. These are from Death Valley.

    9. Zabriski Point at sunrise
    [​IMG]

    10. Roadrunner
    [​IMG]

    11. My campsite in Sunset CG at Furnace Creek in Death Valley. This is the ugliest "campground" I've ever seen!
    [​IMG]

    12. My view from my campsite
    [​IMG]
     
  20. NJGuy

    NJGuy Active Member

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    Apr 20, 2010
    Unstable, great job with trip reports and pictures. I have been to Zion NP at least 20+ times since we live a relatively short drive away. So rich in detail, it is hard to pick out a single iconic feature of the park. Actually, the more you go, the more you see. I am most impressed with #2 Zion Canyon because it captures a large area distinctly. #4 Rock at Sinawava Temple brings out vivid colors of the sandstone even on a cloudy day. Valley of Fire Highway and Red rocks #5: red sandstone contrasts well with a less colorful rock formation in background. Looking forward to seeing your next installment.
     

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