Puget Sound Post

Home Again, With Photos and Memories of the Desert

By: PugetSoundPost, 4:14 PM GMT on April 03, 2013


April 23, 4:45 pm

A busy weekend has passed. My sister came and we spent the weekend sorting my mom's things further, deciding what to keep and what not to. We made good progress but I still have a mess in my basement. A few days on my own should make a big difference with that.

The weekend weather was mainly crummy. A lot of rain from Friday-Sunday. Not steady, but enough to boost our monthly total so far to 4.68" rain. Lots of clouds and cool too.

Then yesterday dawned sunny and bright! A much better day - very pretty spring day that highlighted the blossoms that have been trying to stand out but struggle against the gray background. It was a very pleasant day to go out to the cemetery as well, and check to see that the grave marker was finished off and re-set into the ground properly. It was nip and tuck between getting away with just long sleeves or needing a light jacket, but gloriously sunny. Today has been just about the same, then tomorrow should be similar and the warmest of the week - may reach 70! Soon after the decline comes again and rain by the end of the week and much cooler again. Today's high was 67.


April 18, 3 pm

After a bit better few days lately - some afternoon sunshine inbetween broken "spring clouds skies" and a few gentle showers that have truly signaled "spring", today we are headed backward again. Overcast all day, cool (51 currently) and rain on the way in. The next few days should be similar. BUT, hope seems to be on the far horizon! A chance of sunshine and much warmer by later next week! Now I hope it comes true.

Oh, I see the rain is here now. Pretty light so far.

More sorting of my mom's things ahead this weekend with my sister and perhaps some garden planting by my kids - at least a partial planting. We'll see how all of this ends up going.


April 13, 11 AM
Miserable Day Outside

A very unsettled day here today. Currently it is overcast, gusty breezy, 43 degrees, and rain is certainly possible. We had a third of an inch overnight. The forecast calls for increasing showers this afternoon and a good chance of thunderstorms with hail as well. It surely doesn't look much like Spring outside, but it is a crummy, raw spring day. No interest in being out there much. The fireplace is friendly and feels good.

This whole last week has not been very good. As I worried about earlier, spring is not proving to be very "spring friendly" so far. Right around Easter was nice, and since then, nope. Lots of clouds, nearly no sunshine, and rain most days. For the month of April we are up to 3.05" rain, and officially we are over the "average" amount for the whole month already. A cool and wet spring so far.

No gardening for us so far, although my son does have some pepper seeds started indoors. Yikes, I am still hoping to just get our grass mowed soon! It is long and wet. Going to be fun for whoever finally gets a break and gets out there to do it!

Update at 8:30 PM:

Almost a miss for us today with the exciting weather. This afternoon a thunderstorm did blow up, but mostly around us. We did hear several thunderclaps, but none particularly near, not very much rain, no wind, and mainly NO hail! I say that because areas not far away were hit quite hard with all of the above, including quite a hail storm, leaving a thick layer totally covering the ground, and window rattling thunder. My girls over in Seattle experienced all of this, plus a multi hour power outage! So, it was near, but seemed to avoid the hole over us quite well.



April 7, 10:30 AM

Another .80" of rain just overnight, and it is currently 46 degrees with a very socked in sky. Time to look at more desert photos!


Devil's Golf Course in Death Valley. All of the formations seen on the valley floor are pure salt deposits. They are hard, and hard to walk on. Somewhat like walking on coral. It is easy to fall and who wants cuts caused by salt?



Here is a closer look at the salt and the crystals



I've titled this "Salt Bergs in the Desert". This is right at Badwater, the lowest spot in North America at -282 feet elevation. Since it is spring there is a little more water here, with no place to go. So, eventually only salt is left behind. The little "bergs" are made entirely of salt. They are actually probably more little islands sticking above the very brackish, salty water.



This one is a "River of Salt". At the Badwater visitor area (seems to be all newly rebuilt - nice "dock" area in the water and boardwalk for a ways out onto the salt) you can walk out onto the salt in the basin. It looks a bit like a river. You can barely see the visitor area in the distance at the base of the mountain. Mostly it is pretty smooth and hard to walk on, but in places it was a bit slushy with the water level right there. You could kind of smoosh up the salt into kind of a ball in your hand, so similarly to a snowball.



Onto another canyon walk, this time to Natural Arch. It was a beautiful walk too. That's my kids and I under that arch.



This one is a dry waterfall that was quite impressive in the same canyon with Natural Arch.



A paved road sample on the Artist's Drive route. Very colorful canyon walls along this drive, but the road was fun to dip down and up with that distinct "rollercoaster" feel!



For a change of pace, here is the view from our lunch picnic table at Furnace Creek. So different from what we are used to!



An iconic image of Death Valley, the 20 Mule Team Borax wagons at the old Harmony Borax Works. This was the most profitable mineral ever mined in the valley, although many tried for more glittery elements, such as gold, etc. The 20 Mule Teams would haul these wagons, loaded with up to 36 tons of borax and supplies out of the valley. Chinese laborers were used to scrape up the borax from the valley and get it into processing there on site. Thankfully for the Chinese workers, and the mules, borax isn't "workable" (processible) in the high heat of Death Valley summers, so they closed during those extreme months. Does anyone remember (or use?) the old laundry additive "20 Mule Team Borax"? I figured that product must be long gone by now, it seems rather quaint and of a bygone era to use in laundry, with all of our modern washers and gadgets. But to my surprise, without even looking for it this week in the supermarket, I spotted it still on our shelves! So I bought a box and am going to use it. It still says it is "all natural since 1891" and they promote it for laundry as well as many household cleaning jobs.



Salt Creek. This creek was a new place for us to visit and quite delightful. It runs with moving water along the valley floor for only part of the year and will be soon gone once the high summer heat hits. A little fish called Pup Fish live in this creek, maybe an inch or so long. When we were there is their most active time of the year and they are very busy. The creek is very salty but they can manage. For awhile. In a short span of time they must live quickly. Only a remnant of them will survive the summer, the ones in deeper pools as the rest will dry up. And the winter is harsh for them, only a remnant survive that too, also in the deeper pools where they are more sheltered from the colder temps, and then those that manage to survive must mate and produce offspring quickly in the spring, in order to repeat the cycle and keep the species alive. And when we were there they were very busily doing their duty to the species and zipping all around in the surprisingly fast moving, but shallow, water that is rushing toward the Badwater basin with nowhere to go. A very nice boardwalk takes a circular half mile route around and over the creek.



We finished this day with a trip to the Sand Dunes to catch the evening light and sunset over them. We walked out quite a ways up and down over several ridges of dunes. The last set was quite high and steep and I made it to the top just a very few moments before the sun set behind the western mountains. But Mr. PSP took this photo, as well as several others in this list, but it was so beautiful to stand high among the dunes.



Here are a few photos of our trip home,up through far eastern California. The first one is a shot of the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, Calif. This is the area of a lot of filming of Westerns over the last many decades. It felt a bit like a Hollywood set, perhaps because we have seen this place so much without really realizing it.



I shot this photo on the grounds of Manzanar War Relocation Center in Owens Valley near Independence, CA, one of the Japanese internment camps of WWII. The weather was changing while we were there, and we did manage some time in the visitor center shortly before it closed, but the moodiness of the sky, mountains, and stark desert-scape, seemed to really match the mood of the place. Well worth a visit as a counterpoint to the stories of truly amazing American feats of WWII; this one was a dark hour for us. I believe an old boss of mine long ago was held here during this time, which added a personal note to this experience.



The entry way into Manzanar



Two shots from the cemetery in Manzanar. It is still active with just a very few remaining graves. Not many were actually ever buried here and most of those were moved by family after the war, but a few remain.





Two last shots from our last day on the road home. The first is at Smith Rock, in central Oregon. Very scenic and also very crowded on this day. Such a lovely early spring morning!



This one is for BriarCraft - the Columbia River from the Washington side and only a few more hours till home. The view is from the Maryhill State Park area. All of the spring color, water, and so on was so captivating to us after so many days with so little vivid color.


So, a wonderful trip that went smoothly and was a lot of fun. So nice to be able to travel and see all that is out there in our great country!










April 6, Noon

A heavy downpour of rain is passing overhead right now. Blustery, few sunbreaks, mainly heavy overcast, and rain showers today, heavy at times, like right now. Sooo, more photos going up!



This photo is in Golden Canyon in Death Valley National Park. Very barren but beautiful colors and textures. The orginial Star Wars movie had a scene filmed in this canyon, when R2D2 was captured, then a short while later sold to Luke. Other scenes are there as well. It is a wonderful walk/hike to head up through this canyon.



Golden Canyon Scenes:









While we lunched at a picnic table near the visitor center, a roadrunner joined us nearby. He brought his own lunch with him, thank goodness!



Evening fell over Death Valley, and the rising of the very nearly full moon was a spectacular sight.











April 5, 3:30 pm

Another blustery, unsettled day. We had some heavy rain this morning, then cloudy and breezy ever since. Sooo, more photos going up.


Racetrack in Death Valley. In this place the rocks slide along somehow, no one really knows for sure how. It seems that either the dry lakebed surface (very hard) gets slick when a little wet, or with a little ice, then the strong wind may blow them along, leaving the track behind. It is mysterious and cool to see.





img src=http://icons-ak.wunderground.com/data/wximagen ew/p/PugetSoundPost/252.jpg



Here is a sample of the roads in the Racetrack area


The next morning we took the Titus Canyon trip - about 26 miles by dirt road through Titus Canyon and the approaches to it. It is a one-way road, good thing, as it gets very narrow toward the end. It was a beautiful drive and trip - you range from high elevation looking down on the big canyons and valleys, to down at the narrow bottom of steep canyons. This was probably one of the top highlights of the whole trip.

This photo is looking down on Red Pass and you can see the road crossing below.That lone car way down there is ours. Mr. PSP and my daughter climbed up to the top of this rocky peak above the pass for a wonderful view.


This shot is toward the end of the road, in Titus Canyon - a deep and very narrow canyon that is spectacular to drive through.






April 4
Rain Returned

It is cool (55 degrees) and lightly raining under a soggy looking sky. So, to break that up, I will begin posting some photos over time from our trip to Death Valley here in this space. We arrived home too late to really post very many on the WU gallery (and too hard and time-consuming to do on the road), so I will add them into this blog you all can get an idea of our trip!


Snow Geese in Flight near the Snake River


The trip through central Nevada






The remnants of a building in the ghost town of Rhyolite, NV, built around 1906 during a short-lived mining boom:



The only forest tree around, a Joshua tree:



I'm still getting photos onto the website, so I will keep puttering away on this.



April 3, 9:15 AM
Reflections on Our Desert Trip

Spring has arrived more clearly since we left on our trip, and while we had to give up some heat and lots of sunshine to return home, it is a nice consolation to find blooming trees, bushes, tulips and daffodils. The new color and life showing around town and the neighborhood do let us know that we are marching onward in the season and there is light at the end of our long, dark tunnel of winter weather. Now to just add more sunshine.....

We are home from a terrific trip and all that we saw and experienced. We left home in a little bit of snow, spent that first day on the road flirtng with more snow in places, but by the second day that was behind us and the sun had taken over, to remain in charge the rest of the trip. Although it was cold/cool until we were closer to Death Valley. The high altitude drive down through eastern Oregon and central Nevada was sunny, but early spring temps have a long way to go to reach their full pleasant potential. Sitting in the car most of the time, other than running out for photos, kept us comfortable. It did warm the further south we went and once actually in Death Valley, the switch flipped and signs of things to come crept in for valley dwellers. We got up to just about 90 degrees for our highs in the valley, and it was Wonderful!! It was kind of odd, however, since we were staying outside of the park, back up to 3,000 feet elevation, so we would enjoy nice warm/hot daytimes, then "go home" to much cooler nights. I kind of would have liked to just remain with the warmer weather ALL day but that didn't work out. However the days were wonderful and we packed in a lot of activities. Some of what we did was repeat from years past, and other things were new to us, so a nice mix. Two driving trips were highlights, especially the trip out to Racetrack, where the rocks mysteriously move along the dry lakebed floor leaving tracks behind them. This is a 26 mile dirt road that is rough with sharp rocks, but we did just fine and had no flats or any car trouble. Thanks for asking Calpoppy! We drove a 4x4 Expedition and had no trouble the entire trip, with careful driving in places. The other highlight on the road was the drive through Titus Canyon. About the same length as Racetrack, with spectacular mountain and canyon scenery, very curvy narrow up and down dirt road, and just breathtaking most of the way. Both trips took us a long time each day, with frequent stops to enjoy the ride. We also did a couple of short hikes, into Golden Canyon and Natural Arch, and other favorite, popular stops through the valley. We climbed up and down and up and down over sand dunes that were just beautiful (but a lot of hard work!) in the early evening light, and enjoyed a walk along Salt Creek, that really only runs in the spring, complete with very busy little pup fish swimming in a hurry to stay alive, as most of them will die by the time the summer extreme heat dries the creek.

The drive home was wonderful too. North along the eastern side of the Sierras and back up through eastern/central Oregon and central Washington. Desert the whole way. We stopped at interesting places along the way - the base of Mt. Whitney (my daughter has a friend who is going to climb that one this summer, the Alabama Hills area, where so many western movies have been filmed, Manzanar War Relocation center where the Japanese were held in WWII (I had an old boss long ago who I believe was held there, a dark hour for America), walked through Virginia City outside of Reno, stopped to see some old family heritage in the Goose Lake area (ancestors of mine who came by covered wagon and settled there awhile around 1870), looked at Smith Rock in central Oregon quickly, and more family heritage in Goldendale, Washington (those same great-great grandparents eventually were there, too, before finally moving into western Washington. Along the way we saw a variety of wildlife, most notably two separate herds of pronghorns, and also sand-hill cranes that were fun, along with lots of deer - more than I could have ever expected to see. We drove hundreds of miles on very long and empty two lane highways through all of these states. Never see another car for long stretches at a time. And big, wide open, empty, but beautiful landscapes the entire way. Most of the West is just empty, empty. Only pockets of mass population grab all of the attention. But the empty parts have much to offer too. Stark landforms that just grab your eyes and don't let go. Wonderful.

I am still working on photos and do have some posted here now. I will try to put up more that will just go into archives on WU, but I will move some onto this blog. So many wonderful photo opportunities everywhere a person would look! A great trip and time with our family too. Now a lot to do at home since returning - getting resettled and needing to move onto new projects too. It has been pretty non-stop busy since getting home late on Saturday night. But, I am making my way up for air bit by bit.


March in Review
I was gone so much of March, with so much missing data, that I will just give a few summaries from the month this time.

Highest Temperature: 72 (3/31 - we returned to glorious Easter weather!)
Lowest Temperature: 30 (multiple days)
Wettest Day: 3/20 (.75")

Total Rainfall: 3.30"
Total Snowfall: about 1" (3/22)



April 3
Sunrise: 6:42 AM --- Sunset: 7:42 PM (PDT)
(gaining 3 min, 26 sec tomorrow)

Updated: 11:45 PM GMT on April 23, 2013

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About PugetSoundPost

Weather has been a lifelong passion for me; while my husband and 4 kids all in college and beyond, one now married, have patiently gone along with me!

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