Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
Melanie and I camped at MacKerricher State Park for a few days near Fort Bragg, California. The park has a walking/bike trail that runs into town and to within a mile or so of Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.
As is often the case, Melanie was the one who suggested the gardens so stopping off at Glass Beach and then lunch nearby, we cycled our way to the gardens for a nice walk about. As you'll see, the Rhododendron were showing off.
Just a quick mention for Tuttle Creek Campground just outside of Lone Pine California.
My intention was to camp in the famous Alabama Hills at a free BLM campsite located somewhere there.
When we discovered that due to recent weather causing major damage to roads the area was largely closed for camping, we punted and chose Tuttle Creek for a night.
While the campground itself is nothing special, dry camping, relatively primitive sites, pit toilets, the view of the Sierra-Nevada range is worth the price of admission ($5.00 with senior pass).
The Trona Pinnacles are a unique geological features in the California Desert Conservation Area. The unusual landscape consists of more than 500 tufa spires, some as high as 140 feet, rising from the bed of the Searles Dry Lake basin. The pinnacles vary in size and shape from short and squat to tall and thin, and are composed primarily of calcium carbonate (tufa). The Trona Pinnacles have been featured in many commercials, films, and still-photo shoots.
The Trona Pinnacles were designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1968 to preserve one of North America’s most outstanding examples of tufa tower formation.
There have been a number of films that have used the Pinnacles for location shots.
We explored in Chicano Park in Varrio Logan yesterday taking in the murals underneath the Coronado Bridge in San Diego.
Melanie and I took a relatively short walk on the Cactus Loop Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park this morning on our way to Escondido, California. We'd heard there might be desert in bloom.
Located about 30 miles north of Deming, New Mexico, City of Rocks State Park in Faywood, New Mexico has quickly become one our favorite over the couple days we've spent here.
Remote, The park encompasses a one square mile area in the scenic Chihuahuan desert region of southwestern New Mexico at an elevation of 5,200 feet. The “city” is a geologic formation made up of large, sculptured rock columns, or pinnacles, rising as high as 40 feet and separated by paths or lanes resembling city streets. These rocks were formed about 34.9 million years ago when a very large volcano erupted. Then, erosion over millions of years slowly formed the sculptured columns seen today, creating a stunning, otherworldly landscape (NMSP Website)
The park has 55 campsites, 10 of them water/electric. There's a shower house located near the front of the park in the office complex and pit toilets scattered around. Water is also available in several spots around the camp. There's no dump station.
You can ride your bike and walk about through the rocks or out into the high desert landscape.
If you travel in a van of 25' in length or less these are the sites we deemed best: 10,12,16,17,18, 19,25,28,29,34,45. Electric site E-10 is the best only because it's located on the end of the electric sites closest to a great view of Table Mountain and the desert.
Finally, I believe our site 14 may be among the best. It's remote from other sites and has great views near 180 degrees Northeast to Southeast.
Good afternoon from Valley of Fires Recreation Area near Carrizozo, New Mexico where we are camped for a couple of nights.
Valley of Fires recreation area is located immediately adjacent to the Malpais Lava Flow. Approximately 5,000 years ago, Little Black Peak erupted and flowed 44 miles into the Tularosa Basin, filling the basin with molten rock. The resulting lava flow is four to six miles wide, 160 feet thick and covers 125 square miles. The lava flow is considered to be one of the youngest lava flows in the continental United States.
From a distance, Valley of Fires appears as barren rock but when you walk through the nature trail there are many varieties of flowers, cactus, trees and bushes typical of the Chihuahuan desert. Animals include bats, roadrunners, quail, cottontails, mule deer, barberry sheep, and lizards. It's also a virtual birdwatcher's paradise with great horned owls, burrowing owls, turkey vultures, hawks, gnat catchers, cactus wrens, sparrows and golden eagles. From Bureau of Land Management's website
As I type, we're being buffeted by 30 mile an hour winds. Tonight, more of the same, but with gusts of up to 50 miles an hour and a chance of snow. We got a dusting yesterday just after we set up.
Wanna explore? Sometimes Mother Nature makes it a challenge, but fortunately for us low temps have been right at or above freezing and we have been able to get out, walk and explore the campground and lava field located adjacent to the campground.
While we haven't stayed in very many BLM campgrounds that are developed like this one, Valley of Fires is undoubtedly the best we've seen. Most all the sites have great views of the lava fields and the surrounding mountains.
The 25 sites offer asphalt pads, water and electricity and there's a dump station centrally located. The shower house is spacious, also centrally located and very well maintained. I might add the shower house is also heated.
Highly recommended even in February. 😎
CARLSBAD CAVERNS NATIONAL PARK
There was a time in my early 20's when, on occasion, I'd go with a group of friends spelunking. I can't remember who I went with, but I do remember Jack Daniels, a spirit I'm not particularly partial to, and how dark it became when all our lights were turned off. My hand directly in front of my face was..., not there. Total darkness.
Melanie and I checked out Carlsbad Caverns on a self-guided tour that lasted for hours. We walked in the Natural Entrance, made our way down to the Big Room area and around and exited via the elevator (755 feet below ground). It's a walk of about 2.5 miles total.
While the cavern is selectively lit, it took walking a while before I could get my bearings. Old eyes getting used to dim light, I suppose. Walking down into the caverns was slow going and relatively steep in the beginning and by the time we reached the Big Room, I'd worked up a bit of sweat even though the cavern was relatively cool.
The other worldly Stalactites, Stalagmites, Soda Straws, Draperies, Flowstones, Columns, Lily Pads, Cave Pearls, Popcorn, Helictites, Aragonite Crystals, and Rimstone Dams were worth the effort.
All photos were made using the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
We passed through San Antonio, New Mexico at the end of January on our way to Albuquerque for a short, but great visit with friends, Beth and Keith, who still reside in Birmingham, Alabama, our hometown.
I mention this because we happened on the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge located just down the road from our great campsite at Chupadero Mountain View RV Park.
As we arrived the first time, we were greeted by a number of Sandhill Cranes who spend some of their day away from Bosque Del Apache NWR at Chupadero. Neither of us had seen the cranes up close though we witnessed thousands of them migrating south through Arkansas during our first year of travel.
They are beautiful large prehistoric looking birds and make a very distinctive sound.
The calls of Sandhill Cranes are described as trumpeting, bugling, rattling, or croaking, but these adjectives do not fully convey the volume or quality of the sound produced by a mature Sandhill Crane. Birds of the World
So, after our visit with our friends in Albuquerque, we traveled back south, first to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico and then back north to San Antonio, New Mexico and visit to Bosque Del Apache.
While we didn't close enough to the cranes for photos at the refuge, I'm posted a few shots from Chupadero RV park. The remainder of the shots are from our mostly drive through of the refuge.
We visited Piedras Maracas Canyon within the Petroglyph National Monument outside Albuquerque, New Mexico with our friends from Birmingham, Keith and Beth Johns, on a brilliant cool winter day last month.
Steven and Melanie