Our 33 Day, 6731 Mile Road Trip–part 10

>> Friday, June 29, 2012

After spending a couple of nights and a day with a friend, as mentioned in part 9, we got back on the road May 13th, the 22nd day of our road trip.  The goal for the day was to reach a campground near Grand Canyon National Park.  One thing that we anticipated when leaving California was that we would be leaving Pacific Daylight Savings Time and would be entering Mountain Time zone.  We were changing our watches, etc. but discovered a bit later that the state of Arizona does not change to Daylight Savings Time, consequently the time on the clock was the same as what we had been on in the Pacific Daylight Savings Time.

We arrived at the Ten-X campground just a few miles from the park entrance about 4:30 P.M.  We found the campground to be very nice.  There are 70 camping spots and they are spread out so that one does not have extremely close neighbors.  Here are a couple of photos of our camp spot.



In the photo of our van you can see that the windshield and side windows are covered, but since there was nobody camped behind us we did not cover the back window.  We were able to look right up at the stars, and there were lots of them.

After our breakfast the next morning, May 14th, our 23rd day of our trip, we were off to the canyon.  We have visited the canyon at least three previous times, the last time being in October of 1988.  Even though one may visit numerous times it is still awe inspiring.  Connie and I both took a lot of photos, it was hard to know when to quit.  All of them are impressive in their own way and it is hard to choose only 2 or 3 to post here, but here are some.




Once we completed the drive along the south rim of the canyon we headed on back south. 

We have friends living in Cottonwood, AZ and had made arrangements to spend a couple of nights and a day with them.  We had a very good visit with them.  In the next post we will continue the story of our 33 day road trip.


Our 33 Day, 6731 Mile Road Trip–part 9

>> Tuesday, June 26, 2012

As I mentioned at the end of part 8 we stopped for the night on May 10th, the 19th day of our trip,  at a county campground in Lone Pine, California.  Portagee Joe Campground is just outside the city of Lone Pine in Inyo County and lies to the east of Mt. Whitney.  Although Mt. Whitney is taller than Mt. Shasta that we posted a picture of in part 7 it did not appear that way since there was no snow visible. 

I had a few questions about this campground that I did not get answers to until I returned home and did some research on the internet.  There was a sign at the campground stating that the property was leased to Inyo County by the City of Los Angeles.  How was that? 

There was a small stream that flowed through the campground and I wondered where the water came from since this was desert.  I discovered that it seemed to originate under a “concrete river.”  What was that ?  I’ll explain a bit of what I discovered after I post a photo of the campground and our camping spot.


What I discovered rather gave me the answer to both questions.  The City of Los Angeles acquired the property when the first of two aqueducts were built (the first one 1908-1913 and the second 1965-1970) to bring water from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles.  This created about as many problems as it solved and can be some interesting reading if one has an interest.  Anyway, the “concrete river” right up behind the campground is one of the aqueducts.


This picture was taken looking right up from the campground.  Mt. Whitney is in this chain of mountains.  The aqueduct is right over the near rise, close to the power poles.

On day 20 of our trip we continued on South.  Having looked at a free magazine that I picked up (Scenic 395  The Official Guide) I found an interesting article on the borax mine at Boron, California which was only about 6 miles off of our route.  We drove over to Boron and first stopped at the 20 Mule Team Museum which contains a lot of interesting displays and information on the mining of borax, beginning with the mining that began in Death Valley. 

We didn’t take photos in the museum but I snapped this shot of the sign out in front of the building.  After our visit here we headed out of town about 3 miles to the borax mine.


You may or may not be able to read what was printed on the sign outside the visitor center but it states that this site is one of the biggest and richest deposits of borax on the planet and the mine supplies nearly one half of the world’s need for borax.  First begun in the 1920’s as an underground mine it was converted to an open pit mine in 1957.


This view is from the visitor center of the mine pit.  Barely discernible in this photo in one of the large mine trucks hauling ore up and out of the pit.


This shot was a zoomed in view of the truck and it still is hard to see, yet it is a huge truck.  The capacity of the truck is 255 tons, the truck bed is 46 feet long and 25 feet wide.  The tires are 11 feet tall (and cost $40,000.00 each!)  It has  a 2500 horsepower diesel engine that drives an alternator that powers 2 rear electric wheel motors.  Maximum speed is about 30 miles per hour but when hauling ore it moves only 3 to 5 m.p.h.

After leaving the mine we drove on south another 50 or 60 miles and spent a couple of nights and a day with a friend we have known for over 50 years.  In our next installment we’ll take you with us as we get back “on the road.”


Our 33 Day, 6731 Mile Road Trip–part 8

>> Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The goal for May 9th, the 18th day of our road trip, was Yosemite National Park.  As we neared the park we stopped at the Groveland Ranger Station to check on available campsites in the National Forest, outside of the park.  We were told that there were plenty of campsites available in all of the campgrounds so we decided to drive on another 12-15 miles to the Sweetwater Campground.  This campground was only about 10 miles from the part entrance.  We paid for and marked our campsite and drove on to the park.

IMG_4634We entered the park at the Big Oak Flat Entrance.  We drove to Yosemite Valley as many of the famous sites can be seen there.  We were last at Yosemite over 47 years ago.  The mountains and waterfalls haven’t changed much but there have been a lot of changes to the roads, etc. due to a much higher number of visitors.  Where roads had been 2 way, 2 lane roads they are now one way roads.  Yosemite Village was something we remembered from our previous visits and thought we would stop there.  However, the signs told us that there was a 10 minute walk from the parking lot so we decided to pass on that.  Here are a few pictures of some of the things that have remained much the same.


There are a number of spectacular waterfalls at Yosemite.  This is one of the first ones we saw after entering Yosemite Valley.

IMG_0712This is Upper Yosemite Falls.  It is the larger and more spectacular of the upper and lower falls.

This is Half Dome.  If you have seen any photos of Yosemite you probably have seen a picture of Half Dome.  After spending some amount of time in the valley we headed back to our campsite, where we spent a relaxing evening.

IMG_0727This photo was taken from the parking area where we parked our van.  Behind the trees on the left in the picture you can make out a large metal box.  That was our bear locker.  All food items and cooking material were to be placed in the box overnight to keep bears from raiding.  Thankfully we didn’t see any bears but we put our items in the box.

We had originally thought we would drive across the park and over Tioga Pass and drive down US 395 but all reports indicated that the road over the pass was closed due to winter snows.  However, when we got in the area we began to see signs that Tioga Pass was open.  In fact it opened on Monday and we were able to cross on Thursday, May 10th.  Here are a few photos taken as we drove across. 

This is another view of Half Dome—the back side—taken from Rt. 20 as we crossed the park.

IMG_4797This pix is of some of the beautiful scenery along this route.


Just to prove that we actually did cross Tioga Pass Connie snapped this shot as we were stopped at the booth prior to exiting the park.  We still had a lot of downhill driving to do to get us down to US 395.

We drove south on US 395 and stopped for the night at a county campground in Lone Pine, California.  More about that in our next installment.


Our 33 Day, 6731 Mile Road Trip–part 7

>> Saturday, June 16, 2012

When we first began planning our trip we had discussed the possibility of visiting Crater Lake National Park.  But, everything I read indicated that the roads coming from the north and or northwest would possibly still have snow.  And, as I checked on-line I found that the road around the lake had only a limited area open.  But, all reports were that the weather was nice so we decided we would make that side trip.  We left our son’s home about noon of May 7th, the 16th day of our road trip and drove south to Central Point, Oregon where we spent the night at a Pilot Travel Center.

By 7:00 A.M. the next morning we were on the way to Crater Lake.  We stopped a few miles further along by a rushing mountain stream to eat our breakfast.  As we neared the park we began seeing huge piles of snow that had been pushed off of the highway.  We found that there was still a lot of snow at Crater Lake and that was why much of the road around the park was closed.  They feel good if they have the road open all the way around the lake by the 4th of July.  It is a big job removing the average 44 feet of snow they receive each winter.

We had to climb over the snow banks to get to where we could view the lake.  We felt blessed because at least 50% of the time in winter and spring one can not see the lake for clouds and fog.  Here are a couple of photos of the lake.



We hadn’t stopped by the visitor’s center at the park on the way in so decided to do so on our way back out.  The ranger we talked to said that they didn’t have a lot of snow left.  To us it looked as if they did.  This picture was taken in the parking lot of the visitor’s center—the snow was in the middle of the lot.


We were unable to use the main entrance to the visitor’s center as it was still blocked by snow.  We were told that during the winter the snow is completely over the top of the building.

IMG_0682After leaving the park we headed on our way toward California.  By traveling south-southwest we were able to get back to I-5 at Weed, California.  On the way we were in sight of Mt. Shasta for many miles.  Mt. Shasta is 14,162 feet above sea level and 11,000 feet from it’s base to the summit.


We stopped for the night of this our 17th day of our road trip at the Pilot Travel Center in Dunnigan, California, just north of Sacramento.  The next day we headed for Yosemite National Park—we’ll cover that in the next installment.


Our 33 Day, 6731 Mile Road Trip–part 6

>> Thursday, June 14, 2012

We arrived at our son’s home the afternoon of our 6th day, April 27th and stayed until about noon of May 7th, our 16th day.  During this time we visited several interesting places within driving distance of Salem. Oregon.

One day we took a drive to see several historic covered bridges, taking along a picnic lunch.  The first two were in the town of Sweet Home, Oregon.  Both are pictured below.

IMG_0586This is the Weddle Bridge at Sweet Home, Oregon.  Although the bridge is no longer in use by vehicles one is able to walk across.  There is now a park at this location and it was here that we ate our picnic lunch.

IMG_0588This small bridge is just a few feet away from the Weddle Bridge pictured above.  It was built for pedestrian traffic but it is closed to all traffic now.  It is the Dahrenburg Bridge.

IMG_0592The Short Bridge, as it is called, is still in regular use, being used to span the South Santiam.  This bridge is about 12 miles east of Sweet Home, Oregon.

IMG_0599The Crawfordsville Bridge spans the Calapooya River and it also is closed to vehicular traffic.  It is located at the west end of Crawfordsville, Oregon beside Hwy. 228.

On another day we spent a few hours at the Willamette Heritage Center at the Mill in Salem, Oregon.  The following information is taken from their web site.

“A visit to the Willamette Heritage Center at The Mill is a stroll through the history of the Willamette Valley. The five-acre campus is home to fourteen historic structures that present the stories and richness of Oregon's past.

Pioneer buildings at the Willamette Heritage Center at The Mill take visitors back to the early settlement of western Oregon. The 1841 Jason Lee House, arguably the oldest standing wooden frame house in Oregon, pre-dates the first wagon trains crossing the Oregon Trail. These structures provide a glimpse into the lives of the missionaries and pioneering families when these early founders were putting down roots in the Valley.

The 1895 Thomas Kay Woolen Mill, one of the best-preserved Victorian-Age factories in the West and designated an American Treasure by the National Park Service, vividly tells the story of industrialization in the West.”

I especially enjoyed the tour through the mill.  Even though it has been closed since 1962 all of the machinery is still in place and the tour guide did a great job explaining the entire process of taking the wool fleece and turning it into woolen blanket material. 

IMG_0615This photo is of the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill.  The mill was in operation from 1889-1962.  The original mill burned in 1896 and was replaced with this brick building.  The entire mill was powered by water power, which turned a turbine.  A set of crown gears transferred the motion from the vertical turbine to a horizontal shaft that powered all of the machinery in the main mill.

One thing that Connie desired to do while in Oregon was go to the coast.  So, one day was spent driving to the coast, driving up the coast and driving back to Salem.  One of the first spots we visited was the historical Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.  It was only in operation for three years, 1871-1874.  The lighthouse lamps burned whale oil and could be seen for 12 miles.

IMG_0627The Yaquina Bay Lighthouse was the only lighthouse in Oregon that provided living quarters for the lighthouse keeper and his family.  A larger lighthouse with a light that could be seen for 22 miles was built only 3 miles away and forced the decommissioning of this one.

IMG_0638Just a short distance from the lighthouse, in the town of Newport,  we were able to view these California Sea Lions.  These are all males.  The females never leave the waters of California and the males return during the mating season, spending the rest of their time along the Oregon coast.

We stopped along the coast for our picnic lunch at a popular whale watching site.  We looked but never saw any whales.  Our son said that on previous trips he had seen a few.  Here is a picture of the Pacific along the Oregon coast.


To conclude the visit to Oregon’s coast we stopped at the famous Tillamook Cheese factory at Tillamook, Oregon.  They seem to be known for their ice cream as well and we all had to try one of their cones before heading back to Salem.



Our 33 Day, 6731 Mile Road Trip–part 5

>> Monday, June 11, 2012

As I mentioned  near the end of part 4, when we left the Pilot Travel Center at Biggs, Oregon on Friday morning, April 27, our 6th day on the road, we drove across the bridge into Washington state.  The bridge, by the way, is called by several names.  The official name seems to be The Sam Hill Memorial bridge.  It is also known as the Biggs Rapids-Sam Hill Bridge.  Samuel Hill was a business man and entrepreneur, the bridge was his dream.  He had run a ferry at that location for several years, beginning in 1925.  It was one of many that ran at that location from 1868 until the opening of the new bridge.

Crossing back across the bridge into Oregon we got back on I-84.  A few miles further west we pulled into Memaloose Rest Stop.  In the middle of the Columbia River is Memaloose Island, or island of the dead.  When Lewis and Clark visited the area in 1805 they called it Sepulchar Island.  Here is a quote from their journal.  

"... passed three large rocks in The river the middle rock is large long and has Several Squar vaults on it. we call this rockey Island the Sepulchar ..." [Clark, October 29, 1805]   Below is a photo taken from the rest stop.


A few miles on West we came to the area of magnificent waterfalls, perhaps the one best known is Multnomah Falls.  We stopped to see it first before getting onto the old historic highway so that we could view several of the others.  Here are a few pictures.

IMG_0507This is Multnomah Falls.  The upper and lower falls together are 620 feet high.  The bridge you see in the photo is 45 feet long and is 105 feet above the lower falls.  We hiked up to the bridge and Connie walked across.  I preferred to stay on firm ground.  I did take her picture!  There is a trail that one can take to hike to the top of the falls but when we were there it was closed due to a landslide.

IMG_0531The falls pictured here is called Horsetail Falls.  It is named that apparently because it looks a lot like a horses tail!  It is 192 feet tall.

IMG_0555This is Bridal Veil Falls.  We had to hike about 2/3 of a mile roundtrip to visit this beautiful falls.  As can be seen, there are two “drops” to this falls and it is 118 feet total in height.

Here are two additional waterfalls that we visited, and we didn’t see them all by any means.  The one on the left is Wahkenna Falls and the one on the right is Laturell Falls.


Here is one more photo of the Columbia River taken from the Crown Point Overlook at Vista House.


Vista House was first proposed by Samuel Lancaster, an engineer for Multnomah County who supervised the Columbia River Highway Project.  Vista House was designed to be an observatory and a rest stop.  Construction began late 1916.  Here is a picture of Vista House.

IMG_0581It is hard to tell but that is Connie in front of Vista House.  Other than a brief stop for some lunch this was our last stop before arriving at our son’s home about 2:45 P.M.  In the next installment we’ll show you some of the places we visited during our visit.


Our 33 Day, 6731 Mile Road Trip–part 4

>> Friday, June 8, 2012

Our fifth day on the road, April 26th, started out with rain.  We received a light shower or two during the night and woke up to a rather cool and damp morning. We got on the road a little later than normal, about 9:00 A.M. Mountain Daylight Time, primarily because we planned to make a stop about 75 miles on up the road and the place didn’t open until 9:00 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time (the time zone was just a few miles from us.)

Here is a photo Connie took as we traveled.  Some of her photos taken that morning showed a lot of rain drops on the windshield so this must have been during a slight let-up in the rain or she caught it just after the wiper blades had cleared the glass.

Oregon 1 
Our stopping point for the morning was the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center near Baker City, Oregon.  As their brochure says,  “The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center at Flagstaff Hill brings to life aspects of the Oregon Trail experience through living history demonstrations, interpretive programs, exhibitions,  and special events.”  We came away, after our nearly 3 hours there, with a much greater appreciation for the hardships, endurance, etc. of the 300,000 plus immigrants that made the journey westward along the Oregon Trail.  And, those folks traveled much the same route we took, without the interstates and highways that are there now.  It is hard to imagine facing the mountains, rivers, etc. with nothing more than a wagon and a team of oxen.

IMG_0467This is a view of a full size representation of a wagon and people making the trip.  We learned that of the 300,000 plus that made the trip, nearly 30,000 died in route. 

IMG_0473 Another representation.  It was interesting to look at the many exhibits showing the limited amount of space in the wagons and the amount of food, tools, and personal effects each family tried to take along.  Much had to be discarded along the way due to various factors.

We were amazed to learn that over 300 miles of wagon ruts from over 150 years ago still remain.  We were able to view some on the grounds of the Center.  The ruts were so deep and packed so hard that to this day they are free of weeds and other growth and erosion has not totally wiped them out.  You can make out the ruts in the photo below.


By the time we had traveled northward and reached the Columbia River and began going westward again the rain had come to a stop.  The view along the river was great.  I’ll post some photos of the river in the next installment. 

We stopped for the night at a Pilot Travel Center at Biggs, Oregon.  The parking lot overlooked the Columbia River.

IMG_0488This photo was taken from the corner of the Pilot lot.  The mountains in the picture are in the state of Washington.  Although we had been in the state of Washington before we just had to drive across this bridge the next morning before continuing westward, just to say we had been in that state on this trip.

In the next installment I’ll post some pictures of some gorgeous waterfalls.


Our 33 Day, 6731 Mile Road Trip–part 3

>> Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I promised in part 2 that I would include some photos of the mountains we began to see as we got into Wyoming.  Here are a couple.

Wyoming 4This was taken by Connie out of the windshield, somewhere in western Wyoming.

Wyoming 7As we neared Cheyenne, WY we began to see snow on some of the mountains in the distance.

Day four of our trip, April 25th, we left the Wal-Mart lot in Rock Springs, WY and continued our westward journey.   Less than two hours later we were entering into the state of Utah. Within a few miles we left I-80 and got onto I-84, which we would follow all the way to Portland, Oregon.  Although we were unaware of it prior to coming upon a turn-out situated for viewing it we saw a quite unusual geological formation called The Devil’s Slide.  It consists of two parallel limestone strata that protrudes 40 feet out of the side of the mountain with a 25 foot wide channel between that runs down the mountainside for hundreds of feet.  Here is a photo Connie took.

Utah 1 
By taking I-84 we did not go through Salt Lake City nor did we really get to see the great Salt Lake,  just a few spots where we got a brief glimpse of some inlets.  We did continue to see mountains.  Here is another photo taken in Utah.

Utah 7We were obviously going down at this point, as you can see the road stretching out in front of us.

Our goal for our fourth day had been Mt. Home, Idaho but as we had been getting ahead of our goal the previous couple of days we did so quite easily this day as well.  This was another 500+ mile day and we crossed into Oregon and stopped for the night at a Pilot Travel Center in Ontario, OR.  It was here that we “bought” our first shower at a truck stop.  We found the shower rooms to be very nice and well maintained.

With the next installment we will begin to detail the many places we visited in the state of Oregon.


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