We left Point Reyes, CA on a rainy morning and headed north up Hwy 101 to Trinidad, CA. Hwy 101 is very scenic in Northern California. At one point beautiful Redwoods surrounded us.
We stopped by a cute roadside store and learned that it was not only Redwood country, but Big Foot country too!
It was late afternoon when we finally arrived in Trinidad. We had a brief reprieve from the rain so after dropping the RV off at our campground we headed out to the Redwood National Park. We had just enough time to get a walk in along the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail and a drive along the Newton B. Drury Scenic Pkwy before sunset, and before the rain returned. It is amazing to see these mammoth trees up close.
The rain was relentless all night long. We had planned on spending some time hiking at Patrick’s Point State Park, just across the street from our campground, but the ground was saturated and we didn’t have a desire to tromp through the mud. Instead, we decided to check out the small town of Trinidad, with a population of less than 400. We found a very nice trail around the peninsula and as we got to the top lookout point the weather cleared and we were blessed with some beautiful scenery. By the end of the hike the rain returned. There’s a small restaurant at the town’s pier, conveniently located at the end of the hiking trail, called Seascapes. We grabbed a light lunch there and then made our way to Eureka for restocking of groceries.
We enjoyed our short visit to Trinidad. It is a beautiful area of the country. We would have enjoyed a little more time there. After two nights we moved further north, up Hwy 101 to Bandon, Oregon.
Where we stayed:
Azalea Glen RV Park. It was a little tight getting our 40’ Motorhome into the small campground, as there is a very narrow bridge with tight turns you have to maneuver, but once in we had a roomy site. The park is in a perfect location for sightseeing and hiking the Redwood country and coastline.
After spending a week in Napa we made our way to Olema, CA. Olema is a tiny village just outside of Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS), about an hour north of San Francisco. This 71,000 acre National Park encompasses a landscape of beaches, cliffs, prairies, marshes, and farms. It is a wildlife sanctuary for Tule Elk, marine life and all sorts of birds. It is a beautiful area, when the weather cooperates. It rained much of the time we were there.
Tule Elk are native to California and were thought to be extinct in the mid 1800s. However, in 1874 a group of them were discovered on a ranch on the Point Reyes Peninsula. The ranch owner made a preserve to protect them. Today, they are thriving, especially at Tomales Point, the most northern area of the park.
Birds love the environment on the peninsula.
I caught this gopher making his underground home.
Wildflowers were blooming throughout the park.
There is a neat area where you can walk through a Cypress Tunnel of Trees.
There are beautiful hills along the coast.
There are expansive beaches.
Historic dairy farms date back to the mid 1800s. Some still operate today.
Following a rainstorm this beautiful rainbow appeared on Limantour Beach.
Here are a couple more pictures from Point Reyes:
We did not get to explore some key areas of the park during our visit, as many areas were closed for various reasons. The lighthouse was under construction and closed. Drakes Beach was closed due to elephant seal activity. The McClures Beach Trailhead was closed due to numerous landslides. Some beaches were closed due to Harbor Seal Pupping Season. This, along with the onslaught of rain, was a disappointment. Regardless, we did enjoy our short visit to Point Reyes. It is such a beautiful and peaceful area.
We had dinner at the Saltwater Oyster Depot in Inverness. The grilled Oysters were fantastic, as was the Salmon. Inverness is another small village, just outside the park.
Just behind The Inverness Store you will find this shipwreck. I’m not sure how long it has been there, but it is pretty worn down.
Below is a picture of this same ship. I took it about 7 years ago when Charlie and I last visited PRNS. It was in much better condition, and we had much better weather. Apparently some people blew off fireworks in the ship a couple of years ago. The ship’s rear and port sides are now destroyed. I kept these areas out of the picture above.
In addition to visiting the PRNS we took a drive up to Bodega Bay. We stopped at various cheese shops along the way. Cheese is a significant industry in this area of the country.
While in Bodega Bay we enjoyed some clam chowder at Ginochio’s Kitchen. It is a great little restaurant. We went there thanks to fellow RVers, whom recommended it.
We stayed at the Olema Campground during our visit. With all of the rain the park was a muddy mess. The campground was nothing to write home about. It served its purpose for us, as it was just outside of the National Park and accommodated our 40’ Motorhome.
We’ll be working our way up the California and Oregon coasts. More on that later….
Aside from visiting wineries, which is the thing to do when you are in Napa Valley, we visited the Culinary Institute of America campuses and took a day trip to San Francisco.
Because of so much rain this year Napa Valley was unusually green and lush.
Regusci’s winery allowed Charlie to fly his drone. He captured a good picture of the vineyard and winery.
I love to cook and going to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) Greystone for a tour was on my bucket list. Not only did we take a tour, but we also enjoyed an absolutely fabulous lunch at their restaurant. Lunch is served and cooked by the graduating students. They did a fantastic job! Lunch could not have been any better. I even got to tour the kitchen.
The building is beautiful, inside and out. It was built in 1889 as a cooperative wine cellar. From 1945 to 1989 it was owned by Christian Brothers and operated as a winery. In 1978 the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The students in training:
The training kitchen:
Our fantastic lunch:
Because we enjoyed CIA Greystone so much, we decided to see if there were any interesting events at CIA Copia. For clarity, CIA owns both facilities. The students go to school at CIA Greystone in St. Helena, while CIA Copia, located downtown Napa, is used for public events and classes.
CIA Copia’s building is a little more modern than its sister location. This mural, called “The Garden,” was painted by San Francisco Bay area artist Allison Tinati in just 6 days, using more than 100 cans of spray paint.
I love the couple on top of the building, enjoying the views of Napa Valley while drinking some red wine.
A photographic exhibit of Paul and Julia Child was on display so we checked that out and learned a little bit about the couple and how Julia developed her passion for cooking.
We also toured the Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum. There are some amazing collections of cookware in this museum.
One day I wouldn’t mind returning and taking a class in this fabulous training kitchen.
The most interesting thing we did at Copia was to partake in the ‘Le Petit Chef: 3D Dining Experience.’ We traveled with Marco Polo on his journey discovering spices and foods in Marseille, Arabia, India, Himalaya and China. The 3D animation played out on our plates and along the table. As Marco Polo arrived at a new region we were given food to align with it. The food, wine and experience were all great. We put together a short video. It is a little choppy, but gives you a feeling for how the experience was. Here is a link if you’d like to check it out: https://youtu.be/3ruT8i4MFIM
The weather during our stay was cloudy, chilly and rainy, except for the one day we had tickets to Alcatraz. Fortunately, during that day we had clear skies and temperatures in the 60s. It was my first visit to Alcatraz. Below are a few pictures from our visit. Click on the first picture to begin a slideshow.
Following our Alcatraz tour we walked around San Francisco. We stopped in at The Buena Vista Café for Irish Coffee. This place is famous for these drinks. We sat at the bar and watched the talented bartender work his magic, as he did on CBS Sunday Morning. (https://youtu.be/eRK5MdfEi84)
For lunch we dined at McCormick and Kuleto’s Seafood and Steaks. We scored a table next to the window with a view of Alcatraz and the bay. The food and views were both excellent.
After lunch we continued walking around the city, ending the day at The Presidio, a national park site at the Golden Gate Bridge. I wish we had had more time to explore this area.
Below are some final pictures from our San Francisco visit:
The Golden Gate Bridge:
Views of San Francisco from the Alcatraz Ferry:
Looking out over Lombard Street:
Trolleys and busses:
The coolest Ice Cream truck I’ve ever seen:
Our time in Napa flew by. Our next destination is a short stop in Point Reyes National Seashore. More on that later….
Where we stayed in Napa:
We spent 6 nights at the Napa Valley Expo RV Park (http://www.napavalleyexpo.com/rv-park.php)
. The park is small, with just 24 parking spots. All sites were full during our
stay. The park is optimally located, just a mile or so from downtown Napa. It
is very clean and our site was fairly spacious. We would definitely stay here
again, as there are not a lot of alternative options in the area.
Wow! Yosemite truly is an awe-inspiring National Park. We
spent 4 nights at the Yosemite Falls Lodge, in the valley of Yosemite.
Shortly after passing through the Big Oak Flat park entrance you are blessed with beautiful landscapes.
The Waterfalls were flowing quite well due to a winter full
of moisture and slightly warming Spring temperatures.
Below is a picture of Yosemite Upper and Lower Falls as seen from the Sentinel Meadow. The cars in the foreground give some good perspective to size.
We were saddened to see a large number of trees destroyed
from the Ferguson fire, which hit Yosemite last summer. Additionally, the park
was hit hard by winter storms in February.
Many of the trees that survived the fire were weakened to a point that they just snapped when the winter storms came. The fire damage was wide spread.
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is located in the northwest corner of Yosemite. It is about an hour and a half drive from the Valley. We hadn’t heard about this area of the park but it looked like an interesting side trip. The drive is full of scenery and at times, tight mountain turns. We really enjoyed it.
We also took a side trip up to the Yosemite Ski Resort. There was quite a bit of snow at the resort.
There are some beautiful landscape views on the way up to the ski resort.
During our stay we had 3 days of overcast weather, a little rain, low temps in the 20s and highs in the upper 40s.
It wasn’t a washout though so we were able to get out hiking every day. We hiked between 8 – 10 miles a day. It is very easy to do this in the valley as it is pretty flat and so scenic that you forget how long you have been walking.
We enjoyed a walk to Mirror Lake, although with overcast
skies we didn’t get very much of the mirror effect.
The trail was very lush.
On one of our walks we stumbled upon a small cemetery. Some of the graves date back to the mid 1800s.
We didn’t see very much wildlife in the park, aside from these deer and a couple of coyote.
Below are some final pictures from our visit:
The Three Brothers
My favorite view of the Valley is from Tunnel View. We visited this spot numerous times during our stay and it wasn’t until we were leaving the park for good that we got a nice shot with bright blue skies.
And the final picture, with Charlie and I.
Our Stays along the way:
We left Marina Dunes RV Park, near Monterey, CA, March 18th and drove to a winery in Merced, CA. We found Vista Ranch and Cellars through the ‘Harvest Hosts’ app. (https://harvesthosts.com/ ). They allow RVs to stay overnight on their property and they even supply 50 amp power. It was a good location en route to Yosemite. The wine was just average, but we enjoyed the wine tasting experience. We would not stay here again though, as I think the train goes through their front yard. We heard train horns continuously through the night.
On the way to Merced we passed some fields adorned with beautiful wildflowers.
We left Merced early in the morning and made our way to Groveland, CA. The road from Moccasin to Groveland is interesting. It is very steep and windy, an interesting road with the RV.
Groveland is the last town before reaching Yosemite’s Big
Oak Flat’s entrance. It has the ambience of a former Gold Rush mining town. We
parked the RV at Yosemite Pines RV Resort. It is a stretch to call this a
Resort. However, it served its purpose as a safe parking spot for the motorhome
while we stayed at the lodge in Yosemite. The only time we ventured into the
town was for dinner on our first and last nights.
The most unique restaurant/bar in town is the Iron Door Saloon. According to its proprietors, it is the oldest continuously operating saloon in California. We enjoyed a drink there before heading across the street to the Mexican restaurant, Cichio. They have fabulous tacos. We tried all of them; beef, chicken, shrimp and fish.
After we left Groveland we headed over to Lodi, CA where we stayed at another Harvest Host winery: Jessie’s Grove Winery. We parked in a huge grassy field, surrounded by vineyards.
Due to the wet winter and spring, the vineyards were very lush.
The wine at this small winery was pretty good, especially the ports.
While in Lodi we visited the old town district.
We ventured into a fantastic cheese shop. We had a personalized tasting and learned quite a bit about cheeses. If you are ever in Lodi, check out Cheese Central.
Our next stop is Napa Valley. More on that later…..
We spent the last few days just north of Monterey, at the Marina Dunes RV Park. The park is small and next to Hwy 101, so we had a bit of road noise, but the location was great. It was across the street from a beautiful beach and only 10 minutes from Monterey and Carmel.
We enjoyed walking across the street, sitting on the beach and catching a beautiful sunset.
The Monterey Aquarium had been on my bucket list for quite some time, as numerous people have recommended it. I’m glad I finally took the time to visit it, as it is fabulous. Our first stop was the fish feeding show.
Our favorite exhibit was the Jellyfish.
After visiting the Aquarium we strolled through Cannery Row, where we came upon the monument below. Author John Steinbeck is at the top of the rock, with friend and marine biologist Ed Ricketts toward the bottom. The other individuals represent those who once worked in the bustling canning industry on the row.
We then stopped by the Point Pinos Lighthouse in Pacific Grove. This lighthouse has been active since 1855.
In the evening we made our way to Carmel Beach for sunset.
Once the sun set we walked up the street and had a romantic dinner at Carmel Bouchee. We had visited this restaurant 6 years ago, shortly after we became engaged.
We were fortunate to have one day where there was little wind and clear skies. We took advantage of it and spent the day traveling along Hwy 1 from Carmel to McWay Falls, in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Here are some pictures I captured along our way.
We are now on our way to Yosemite National Park. Unfortunately, it looks like we might get a lot of rain during our stay. More on that later……
After spending two weeks in Indio we headed to the LA area for a short stint, as Charlie wanted to visit with a high school friend he had not seen for 45 years. On the way to our campground we stopped by the Nixon Library. We spent a few hours there, found it very informative and well done.
Charlie and I sat behind the desk in the Oval Office and got a feel for what it would be like to be the president :-).
Our campground, Walnut RV Park, was located in Northridge. It was a small campground that, for us, served the sole purpose of being the closest place to Charlie’s friend where we could park the RV. We originally had reservations at the Malibu RV Park, but that park was damaged by the wildfires that tore through Malibu last Fall and it isn’t scheduled to reopen until mid summer. We were quite disappointed.
In the picture below you can see the Malibu RV Park to the left. Note the blue tarp and burnt trees.
This is a picture showing the scorched mountain region around Malibu and a roped off area of where a house once stood. It is really sad to think about what the residents had to endure as the fires raged, especially up in the Paradise, CA region.
As I mentioned earlier, our main reason for visiting the area was so that Charlie could meet up with an old friend of his. Don, and his wife Penny, had us over for a great dinner. Don works in the film business doing sound editing for movies. We were able to see a small portion of what he does, as he was in the process of editing an upcoming movie called Ford v. Ferrari starring Christian Bale and Matt Damon. It was fascinating to see how voices and sound effects are added, accentuated, tweaked, etc. to impact how the movie is viewed.
Per Don’s suggestion, we had lunch in Santa Monica at The Lobster. We sat at a window table which gave us a beautiful view of the Pier, beach and ocean. The food was excellent!
Our last day in the area was spent at the Reagan Library. It is a beautiful facility on top of a hill in Simi Valley. We absolutely loved this library. The Air Force One jet and Helicopter used during Reagan’s tenure are at the library and you are able to tour them. Charlie was imaging what it would be like to be the helicopter pilot.
I was imaging what it would be like giving a speech to everybody from the President’s pulpit.
The Pompeii exhibition was at the library while we were there. They displayed true artifacts, including wall-sized frescos, marble and bronze sculptures, jewelry, and full body casts of the volcano’s victims. The transformation that occurred in this city within minutes of the volcano erupting is almost unimaginable. Seeing this exhibit brings it to reality.
From the LA area we drove up Hwy 101 to Paso Robles. This was our first visit to the area and we absolutely loved it. We found all of the people to be extremely friendly. The city still has a small town feeling to it. We visited a few wineries and enjoyed some great food at the local restaurants.
The area around Paso Robles is just beautiful. I’m sure when the grapes are in full bloom that it is a spectacular sight. We may have to come back for another visit.
We found dinner at Fish Gaucho to be very good, especially the double boned pork chop. Our favorite restaurant though was The Catch. We dined there twice and sat at the bar both times. This gives you a front seat to all of the cooking excitement. The owner, Chico, is the chef. I snapped this picture of him from my seat at the bar, at the end of the evening.
Now, if you like Bloody Mary drinks, then I’d suggest La Cosecha Bar.
We visited the Hearst Castle twice during our week long visit. This was because on our first visit it ended up pouring down rain while we were up at the castle. Therefore, we were unable to see any of the grounds or the views. During our second visit we had beautiful weather. In the end, we took the Grand Rooms Tour, the Upstairs Suites Tour, and the Cottages & Kitchen Tour. We are now Hearst Castle aficionados.
The Hearst Castle architecture is stunning. The house can be seen, sitting on the mountain top, from quite a distance away.
Hearst collected art from all over the world. His collection is outstanding and on display throughout the castle and grounds. The pool is unbelievably gorgeous and the views are breathtaking.
Along Hwy 1, just down the road from the Hearst estate, are beautiful views of the coastline.
While in Paso Robles we stayed at the new Cava Robles RV Resort. We really liked it. There are over 300 sites and while we were there only about 30 of them were occupied. There were more families with small kids at this resort than we had seen elsewhere. That could be due to the fabulous pools and the fact that they have a cafe/bar on-site. Within a couple of weeks the park expects to fill up and remain that way through September. I’m glad we hit it on the off-peak time.
We recently spent 2 weeks in Indio, CA, just outside of Palm Springs. We had a great time visiting with friends and enjoying some outdoor activities.
During one chilly, but partly sunny day, we made our way up to the Joshua Tree National Park. This is an interesting park in that it encompasses two ecosystems. A portion of the park resides at or above 3,000 feet. This part of the park, in the Mojave Desert, is where the Joshua Trees are found. The Joshua Tree is a type of Yucca that grows predominantly in this area.
The part of the park below 3,000 feet, in the Colorado Desert, features natural gardens of creosote bush, ocotillo, and cholla cactus, as well as wildflowers. These wildflowers bloomed following some recent rain.
I spotted a few hummingbirds around the flowers.
Keys View, the highest peak in the park at an elevation of 5,185 ft, is a great place to capture a panoramic view of the Coachella Valley. The temperature, while we were at Keys View, was in the low-30s. The view was a bit hazy, but nice.
Back in Indio, we hiked a 5-mile trail called East Indio Badlands. Charlie used his drone to capture the environment. You can see why they call the area ‘Badlands’.
Although, we did find some wildflowers here too.
We took an interesting day trip through Borrego Springs and to a small mountain town called Justin. We headed south on Hwy 86, along the Salton Sea, to S22 (the Borrego Salton Seaway) and turned westward. Hwy S22 rides along the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument range. We came across some RVers dry-camping with some great views. We may have to try this at some point.
While driving around Borrego Springs we came upon these life sized metal sculptures. There are 130 sculptures inspired by creatures that roamed the desert millions of years ago. The artworks include prehistoric mammals, dinosaurs, horses, and even a 350-foot-long serpent. It was not a great day to take pictures when we were there. To see better photos or to read more about the sculptures check out this article: https://www.desertusa.com/borrego/bs-art.html
We found wildflowers, and some butterflies to go with them, in the desert area around the town.
From Borrego Springs we drove south on S3 (Yaqui Pass Rd) to Hwy 78. These roads are surrounded by the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, making it a very scenic drive. We continued on Hwy 78 to Julian, where we found snow on the ground. Julian is best known for great pies. We couldn’t leave the town without one. While we were in the Julian Pie Company shop I spotted a news article on the wall. It was about how Liz Smothers, the owner of the shop, taught her pie-making techniques to Mike Bulsey so that he and his family could return to his home state of Michigan and open up the Grand Traverse Pie Company. Being from Michigan I am well aware of the great pies served up at GTPC and was happy to learn a little bit about its beginning.
After an early dinner, with pie, we headed back to Indio. We got to the Coachella Valley Lookout just as the sun was setting. You can see Palm Desert in the distance.
Each Thursday night Palm Springs has a street fair. We really enjoyed our evening, walking along the streets, checking out what the local vendors had to offer. The food options were amazing.
We had a mini reunion with some fellow Mountain Falls Resort owners (our home base resort in North Carolina) while in Indio. We enjoyed many dinners and cocktail hours with Kurt & Michelle Ling, Bob & Sue Grote, and Steve & Carol Aasheim. It was great to spend some quality time with our Mountain Falls neighbors.
We also had the opportunity to catch up with friends Deb and Terri, who own a brick and mortar house in Palm Springs. They also own a house in Albuquerque. This means we will see them again at the end of our road trip, when we attend the Balloon Fiesta. We enjoyed some great conversations and dinners with them. Out favorite dinner was at the famous Copley’s restaurant in downtown Palm Springs. The restaurant is located on part of the former Cary Grant estate.
While in Indio, we stayed at Outdoor Resorts. This Class A Motor Coach Resort is very nice, as seen from these photos.
Our next stop is in the Los Angeles area for a few days. We’ll be visiting the Nixon and Reagan Presidential Libraries. More on that later…..
While in Lake Havasu we hiked a couple of trails at SARA Park. (https://golakehavasu.com/activity/attractions/parks/sara-park/) We hiked the 5 mile roundtrip Crack-in-the-Mountain trail. This trail is fun as you have to snake through a mountain, use a rope to shimmy down a 6 foot sheer incline and maneuver over waist deep water on wobbly metal planks. At the end of the trail you end up at the Colorado River where you can dip your feet in the water. It was too chilly for that though.
On another day we hiked ‘The Lizard Peek’ trail. There is a 600 ft elevation gain to the top of the peek, which overlooks a Lizard formation made out of stones. Can you find the lizard in the picture below? It looks pretty small when you are 600 ft above it.
Once you reach the peek of the mountain you are surprised to find a picnic table there. While there we met some fellow RVers.
In the picture below you can see a couple of hikers making their way back down from Lizard Peek.
The hike getting up was a little interesting at times and required some fun rock climbing.
Below is a picture from the top of the mountain.
I mentioned that we met some fellow RVers while at the top of mountain. Well, they invited us over to their RV park (at SARA Park) one evening to view some fantastic fireworks. It just so happens that we were in Lake Havasu during the Pyrotechnic Convention. The show lasted for an hour. Aside from being pretty darn cold, it was quite enjoyable. I captured this photo with my iPhone. While not a great photo, you can see the large number of fireworks going off at the same time.
For those that may not know this, the London Bridge was purchased by Robert McCulloch from the City of London back in the 1960s. It was dismantled and shipped to the US where it was reconstructed in Lake Havasu. Each brick was numbered so that it could be replaced in exactly the same location.
Along the coastline of Lake Havasu you will find numerous miniature lighthouses. They are scaled-down replicas of lighthouses found along the East Coast, West Coast and Great Lakes. They are actually functional and are used to alert boaters of the lake’s coastline. Funny fact: the city of Lake Havasu, in the landlocked desert state of Arizona, has more lighthouses than any other city in the entire country.
A few other notes about Lake Havasu:
We’ve never seen so many RVs in one area. They seem to be everywhere. The city of Lake Havasu is surrounded by BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and RVers can dry camp anywhere they find a spot. If you don’t mind dry camping then it would be almost impossible for you to not be able to find a spot to camp out for a few days.
The Colorado River and Lake Havasu make this area a desert Oasis.
If you like ice cream, then try out Scoops. They have the best homemade ice cream in town.
Somebody has humor in town, as seen by this phone booth.
If we ever return to Lake Havasu I think we will look to stay at Arizona’s Cattails State Park, which is between Lake Havasu and Parker. It is located on the Colorado River, is away from the city traffic and has beautiful scenery and hiking trails nearby.
The weather during our stay was surprisingly chilly, in the 50s and low 60s. We had one day of non-stop rain, which came with flash flood warnings. The cooler weather made hiking nice though. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Lake Havasu.
We are now in Indio, CA for the next 2 weeks. More on that later.
We arrived on Saturday at the Tucson KOA to overcast skies and chilly temps. It was not the Arizona weather we had been looking forward to. It rained nearly all day on Sunday, which was fine with us since it was Super Bowl Sunday and we planned on hunkering down anyway to watch the game.
Charlie spent much of the day on Monday at the Pima Air & Space museum while I ran some errands. He enjoyed touring the museum, except for the portion outside where he had to walk through mud to see the planes.
Tuesday’s forecast remained cold and the winds were picking up so hiking did not seem like a good idea. Considering this, we decided to explore the Kitt Peak National Observatory ( https://www.noao.edu/kpno/ ). Now, one would think that going to the top of a mountain where the wind speed was 20-30 miles per hour and the temperature was hovering around 30 degrees, would not be the wisest choice. I might also add that the mountain top was in the clouds. When we arrived at 9:00 am we were the only crazy tourists there. We signed up for the telescope tours and then strolled through the very informative museum until the first tour began. The Observatory is an easy hour drive outside of Tucson. The Observatory offers 3 telescope tours. The first one we took was to the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope. This particular telescope is used primarily during daylight hours to study the sun and other close stars. The second tour was to the 2.1-Meter Telescope. This telescope originated in 1964 with a mirror made of a new material at the time, called “Pyrex.” The telescope has been instrumental for researchers to understand dark matter in the Universe. The last tour was to the 4-Meter Mayall Telescope. This telescope is the largest optical telescope on Kitt Peak. The telescope is currently being reconstructed for a multi-year research project exploring dark energy.
When we were not touring the telescopes we were learning a lot from our guide back at the visitor center. It was a very interesting day and we were very happy that we went. If you decide to take the tours make sure you take a lunch with you, as we did. It is an all day event and there is nowhere to purchase food on the mountain.
Click on a picture to activate the slideshow:
After a day of getting educated and excited about telescopes we decided to tour the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab at the University of Arizona (https://mirrorlab.arizona.edu/) on Wednesday, since it was again supposed to be wet, windy and cold outside. The Mirror Lab is currently casting eight 8.4 meter segmented mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope which will be installed in Chile. There is no other lab like this one in the world. The hour and a half tour included about 45 minutes of information in a classroom setting followed by a tour through the mirror lab. We learned a lot about telescopes and how the mirrors are fabricated. We highly recommend taking the tour if you ever have the opportunity.
After our mirror lab tour we stopped by the University of Arizona’s Planetarium and Mineral Museum. We enjoyed the Planetarium show and even found the Mineral display to be quite interesting.
Finally on Thursday we got some sunshine and temps in the 50s so we headed over to the Saguaro National Park – East. We took the 8 mile loop drive in the park to check out the scenery and then we drove a few miles outside of the park for a hike. We took a 5 mile roundtrip hike from Douglas Spring. The weather was perfect and the trail led us to a small ‘waterfall’ where we sat and had lunch. I’m always amused with the tall cactus figures, as you can see from the pictures below.
In the last picture, in the distance, you can see snow capped Mt. Lemmon. The road to get up there was closed due to ice and snow so we did not get an opportunity to venture up there.
For our last day in Tucson we hung out around the RV, for the most part. We also had to take our 4 week old Jeep Wrangler to Safelite to get a crack in the windshield repaired. It looks like new now. Hopefully it stays that way.
We did not eat out at all in Tucson because early on I discovered a fantastic market nearby that had the freshest seafood. Yuri, the fishmonger at Rincon Market, has fresh fish delivered up to 4 or 5 times a day. During the week I cooked up Halibut, Ahi Tuna, Scottish Steelhead, and Scottish Salmon. Everything was exceptional. One evening, after our long day of tours, we stopped by the market but I decided I was too tired to cook so we grabbed a bottle of wine from the market, sat at their counter and ordered dinner. I had salmon while Charlie had New York Strip. I highly recommend the Rincon Market https://rinconmarket.xyz/
We are now on our way to Lake Havasu for a short week, and then onto Palm Springs, CA. On our way we are stopping over in Eloy, AZ for a Chinese New Year celebration with friends. More on all that later…..
We left Fredericksburg TX and drove 9 hours to Las Cruces, NM. Our friends suggested the St. Clair Winery and Bistro for dinner. It is just down the street from the Hacienda RV Park, where we were staying. I’m so happy that they suggested it because we thoroughly enjoyed the ambiance, food and wine. We highly recommend it. https://stclairwinery.com/las-cruces/
As soon as we arrived at the Lifestyle RV Resort in Wilcox we unhooked the Jeep and drove the 37 miles to the park. There are no towns or services between Wilcox and the park, but it is a scenic drive.
We got to the park mid-day and decided to just do a short hike up Sugarloaf Mountain for a 360 degree view. It is a short 0.9 mile hike up to the top, with an elevation gain of 470 ft.
The following day we arrived at the park just before 9:00am to catch the shuttle up to Echo Canyon. We then hiked the Echo Canyon Trail and the Upper and Lower Rhyolite Canyon Trails back to the visitor center. It was a scenic 2.5hr walk through the rocks. When we started our hike it was barely 40 degrees on top of the mountain. When we ended it was nearly 50 and partly sunny. Perfect weather for a hike.
In the afternoon we decided to take a scenic drive over the mountain via the Pinery Canyon Road. This road is not maintained in the winter and you drive it at your own risk, but since there wasn’t any snow we did not have any issues.
The only negative with taking the canyon drive was that we ended up on the other side of the mountain, near Portal, AZ and had to drive an hour and a half back to our RV park. Portal seemed like an interesting place with beautiful mountains to hike, but we didn’t have time to explore. Maybe another time.
We are now heading up to Tucson for a week. More on that later…..