"Egret" N4674 - Scott and Mary Flanders
Ed. note: On February 10, 2011, Scott and Mary Flanders, on board their Nordhavn 46, Egret, arrived in the Canary Islands. In doing so, Egret became the eighth Nordhavn to circumnavigate the globe. It had been four years, five months since the couple departed Gran Canaria, intent on seeing as much of the earth as possible, although not necessarily with an end goal to circle the globe. Voyage of Egret do cuments the Flanders’ entire trip, an endless adventure that has put them intouch with the most fabulous places and interesting people. Much route planning and forecasting was required in order to get to some of their ports of call. But the days of detailed planning are over…for now.“Egret” is now back in Fort Lauderdale, the place the couple called home for so many years, and, ironically, the starting point of their world wide cruising escapade that began with the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally in 2004. They currently travel hither and yon, sometimes by boat, sometimes not. Here, the latest update from the Flanders as they keep us continually apprised.
February 28, 2014
Position: On anchor half way between Cottonwood and Sedona, Arizona. This area is central mid-state, mid-desert in the Red Rock Country.
Hello mis amigos, let’s wrap up Death Valley and move along. Actually, we haven’t been in Death Valley for a while so I have to re-construct the emotion of what we saw. The last VofE got lost in space between the Miami Boat Show and super bad East Coast weather. So anyhow……….
Death Valley is spectacular. It isn’t the barren landscape you may think it is. There are more variable colors in DV than a northern forest. The valley floor is a mixture of salt flats, salt pools, sand and scattered desert scrub. The valley is bordered by two mountain ranges. So here’s what happened a while back in lay terms. More than a few years ago the earth cracked down a fault line. As the two halves folded downward the far ends tilted upward creating the mountains. So the middle sunk to the lowest point in North America at 282’ below sea level. Over time the valley had as much as 600’ of water between the mountains and later there was a 200’ lake. Today of course, there is little left but a few springs, some are fresh, some are salt.
The mountains on both sides are slowly wearing away creating giant alluvial plains (fans of small rock) from water flow. It is quite graphic when you see it from high up looking down on the valley floor from the mountains on the other side. During the day the valley floor and surrounding mountains change colors according to the angle of the sun. Areas go from drab surroundings to appearing as if they were molten during sunrise and sunset. The winter sun is at a low angle so it isn’t as harsh as it is during summer. We were lucky this year to visit during a very early spring and see the desert come to life. What is sorta funny is I was taking pictures of a landscape and checking it that evening on a computer editing program and it seemed to have a green patina over the flatter areas. I was using a new camera and thought this new &^$##$^** camera was causing a color shift. It wasn’t. Later in another area it became more graphic and the green was exactly what the camera saw, a light patina of new growth from a recent misting of rain.
So anyhow, we’ll show some Death Valley landscape photo’s and move along. We’ll show a time period from before sunrise until 9:00 am of a single day. (We were in DV around 2 weeks – you can imagine what we saw) The first photo was taken before sunrise at iconic Zambriski Point looking west. It was windy and cold AND I forgot my coffee. Bummer. The second photo was taken to the south by moving a hundred feet away as the sun rose a bit more and Ihad walked All The Way Down And Back Up to retrieve my coffee. Then we beat feet down the road and entered the 20 Mule Team Trail. It was spectacular. The views were behind us as we drove along. Rubi gets the nod in this photo. Then we reversed ourroute and took Bad Water Road south to the salt flats. Here we walked a half-mile or so on a salt trail to meet the sun as it rose above the mountain behind us. We literally walked quickly shooting away as the edge of golden light moved back toward the road. This year the salt relief was more pronounced than the lily pad circles with raised edges we experienced last year because it has been drier.During wet years with flash floods that flood the valley, the salt returns to a saline solution and the evaporative process begins once again. And the last iconicDeath Valley photo we’ll show is a Bad Water pool reflecting the sunrise brilliance on the mountain behind it. And then we left and had breakfast at Furnace Creek Resort after a hard morning’s work. So that was cool.
Let me explain something quickly. Mary and I are interested in nearly everything. We have great enthusiasm for the moment. When I write, I’m still full of this enthusiasm. This is real and not artificial. That’s why it may appear at times we are slightly embellishing what we see but we aren’t. It is exactly how things appear to us at the time and how we feel. So this is why I have to move along with the experiences of day to day life keeping everything timely and fresh and not re-constructing Death Valley as I am in this posting giving it less than it deserves. A lot has happened between the time we left and today.
OK, so we left DV taking back roads thru ghost towns, living ghost towns* and small towns avoiding traffic and the masses. We are so predictable. This year we traveled many of the same roads we did last year completely by chance because it made sense and avoided the busyness of civilization. One new road we took is a twisty, mountain road remnant of Historic Route 66 that went thru the former mining town of Oatman. This place is wild!! Oatman still has the main street façade of the ol’ tymes, and even has ‘wild burros’ panhandling food from tourists standing under the storefront overhangs trying to keep out of the sun.
*Living ghost towns are just that. A few locals trying to make it happen who haven’t figured it out and are hanging on by sheer will.
So let’s bring this American honky-tonk town to life complete with it’s characters. The townsfolk have to Want To Live Here because they can’t commute. Oakman is a 3 block town with nothing but a few scattered shacks behind Main Street. Some locals have most of their teeth, some don’t. They all have money to spend on ink (tattoos), cheap Indian jewelry, jeans and Big Hats with no money to spend on haricuts. The far majority live by the hustle. It’s really fun to watch the dynamics between the locals and the touristas.
Oakman has several claims to fame. After it’s mining days, it was used as a set for a number of early westerns including some staring The Duke, John Wayne. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard honeymooned in Oakman and returned a number of times because “they enjoyed the solitude and played cards with the miners”. The Oatman Hotel where Clarkie G. honeymooned is still thriving and its dining room and bar are covered floor to ceiling in dollar bills. This photo shows a couple locals enjoying the suds. Saloon Girl was hustling Hat Boys for drinks or whatever, then made a feeble attempt to hustle me for taking this photograph.
At High Noon (and at 2:00) there is a shootout on Oakman’s Main Street. A local miner got caught cheating on his wife so she drilled him with his own 45 pistol slipped from his holster while he was waving his hands claiming his innocence. After getting ventilated he fell to the street and laid there for a bit before getting up and passing the hat. All the while she is waving a giant red bra to prove his evil deeds. Then she passes the bra to fill up the you-know-what’s. Its pretty cool and the tourists love it. This photo was taken seconds after the bullet passed thru his lyin’ cheatin’ heart.
Leaving town we passed a small area near the top of a mountain with an American flag flying and 5 white crosses below. So we turned around to see what was whipping. It turned out to be a memorial an 80 year old man built for his recently deceased brother in law who was a Korean War Veteran. In the end he made the memorial for all Veterans. The 5 white crosses were in memoriam for 2 Korean War Veterans, one WWII and two Vietnam War Veterans. Below the memorial was a strongbox for donations to local Veteran Organizations. So we contributed for ourselves and a good friend who is a Purple Heart Viet Nam Veteran. It was pretty cool.
Working our way thru the twisty mountain road in near darkness after leaving Oatman we came across this recently resurrected gold mine that is going full blast We met a camper who tried to dry camp near the mine a few days before and he was met by a miner dude with a gun and told to beat feet, sorta like the ol’ days.
And now we are back in Red Rock Country of the Verde Valley, mid-desert Arizona. The most recognizable town to most would be Sedona, just a few miles to the north of Bubba’s anchorage. We rarely, if ever show a photograph of a church or cathedral. However, the Chapel of the Rocks is Sedona is pretty unique. In addition to enjoying the landscape, why do you think we are here? Here’s the deal. We’re on a training mission. Sedona and the surrounding area are full of four-wheel drive trails. Some are easy, some are moderate and others are rated difficult. (Green-Blue-Red) Easy is sorta bumpy and a normal, girlish AWD could do it without any issues. Moderate is kinda doable in a lesser vehicle but there is risk and it isn’t worth it. Red is RED. The carnage trails you may have seen on U-Tube aren’t included in our guide and we’re not interested.
There is a parallel between our off road education and boating, however there is a difference. We have been taking 1 or 2 trails a day. Most days, I drive the trail first then Mary repeats the trail. Yesterday she did two new trails and I didn’t drive at all because those took most of the day. The trails we approached tenuously last year and found a bit frightening, this year are a yawner. We are learning and within a few months our learning curve will be much less steep. Its simply because we’re working at it and increasing our skills and comfort level.
Boating is actually easier. After time on the water during the early weeks and months, the learning curve begins to lessen. After the first year on the water, you will look back at your ‘old self’ and laugh. After 2 years it happens again, but to a much, much lesser degree and your confidence and comfort level, physical and mental, is thru the roof. I believe that many of the greatly anticipated purchases and early re-sales come from simply being uncomfortable and those not taking the time to learn their new craft – pun intended. I have written about this before. If you are comfortable with 3’ seas, try 4’, then 5’ and so on. Leave an inlet when you may not normally choose, but give it a go. You can always return. Now don’t do something stupid and scare yourselves silly, just ease into it and you’ll see. And don’t just one of you run the boat. Both of you run the boat. Run it up sea, down-sea, cross-sea and if there is any apprehension, idle down-sea (things will immediately settle down), talk about it together as a Team and do it again and again. In no time your confidence will be on the rise and you are on Your Way. It is very exciting! You have So Much to look forward to.
Now back to Rubi. We have been naughty. Of course you know there is a difference between Want and Need. Normally we keep our Wants to a minimum because, well you know, we’re squeakers, but Rubi is getting some awesome new additions. Early on we cheaped out and installed a Cheapie Joe (CJ) lift kit, which raised the body 2” higher than stock to give it more rock clearance. Well that was OK, but in the Oregon sand dunes we got into some deep ‘whoops’ (sand waves). The whoops weren’t large and we weren’t going fast, perhaps 5mph but still, we bottomed out the springs top and bottom. If you interpolate this into coming down a steep rocky shelf and this happens with a brake misstep, it could get Real Bad quickly. So today Rubi got pampered with a la di da lift kit including new, taller springs, Bilstein shocks (our favorite shocks when we were doing the race deal) and once they figure out how to install the new Warn winch (its sorta like a windlass for a Jeep) over the tow bar rig for towing behind Bubba, we’ll have a new winch. And of course, we Want new tires that are a little taller to help with Big Rocks, so those are on order. Our goal is to be as totally independent as we can so when we are Out There and get stuck, we can get out on our own. Just like boats.
We met a nice couple the other day who are on a 5 year plan, or sooner if the Admiral gets her way. Scott and Heidi drove up from southern Arizona and met Mary and I for lunch. Scott had a printed list of questions we discussed and Heidi had her own for Mary. We talked until we closed the place. This couple has The Fire and someday down the road you’ll be reading about them on their own Personal Voyage of Discovery. It’s pretty cool seeing the next generation coming along. They have So Much to look forward to. Or did I say that before?
Now we must pay tribute to our friends on N55 Sea Fox. We met Dennis and Julie on the NAR (Nordhavn Atlantic Rally) in 2004, and have been in touch since. If you remember, Mary and I visited D&J* recently in Mexico. A couple days ago D&J announced they were celebrating their 50th Anniversary and were heading to a local Mexican resort for a few days. So we wished them the best as did others for this couple who choose to Live Their Life. So if a couple thousand of you would like to participate, click on the link and send your congratulations to this great couple at firstname.lastname@example.org. Won’t that be fun? Don’t tell them where you heard it.
*Some years ago Dennis and Julie gave Mary and I a cast bronze bell with the Egret logo. Occasionally at sea when we are really bouncing the D&J bell rings. We have written a number of times over the years about the D&J bell and this is The D&J of bell fame.
Today we drove Broken Arrow, the most popular trail in Sedona. It has a RED or Adventurous rating depending on the guide. It was pretty cool. What was most spectacular was the trail wound thru the woods and climbed the slickrock between the red rocks peaks. Technically it was somewhat challenging, in fact if a rental Jeep* person did Broken Arrow as their first Jeep adventure, it will burn a deep hole in their memory. It’s sorta like leaving the dock by yourself for the first time ever-ever and running into 6’ to 8’s with 25 knots of breeze. I drove the trail first then Mary drove. Both of us took the most difficult route and did a number of obstacles a second time just to learn. She was great! In fact, she has now driven down a steeper rock face than I have. It was sorta like driving Down the wall of a 2 story building. The infamous Pink Jeep Tours had 3 Jeeps full of folks on a training class. So they invited Mary to show the newbies how to do it. A Pink Jeep guy spotted her (gave advise on the approach and descent) and Mary was awe-sum as she slowly creeped down the slope hanging by her belts, slightly riding the brake and the gear in low-low. This wasn’t planned and unfortunately I didn’t get a picture because she was in Rubi, I wasn’t and didn’t have a camera.
*The rental Jeep in the photograph is from Barlow Jeep Rentals in Sedona. A young couple with 2 children had rented it for a week and this was their last day and time to tackle Broken Arrow. Pretty cool. The are mountain biking trails in the area as well but follow their own paths, not for motorized vehicles or motorcycles. This particular mountain bike group flew in from out of state and rented bikes.
We received an unexpected e-mail today. A true boating blast from the past and another example just how small the world really is. I’ll copy it in its entirety. You will find it interesting even if it is a bit personal.
(What predicated this e-mail is we had re-written a Passagemaker Magazine article about wintering in Stewart Island, New Zealand for the CCA – Cruising Club of America publication – Voyages.)
Hi Scott and Mary,
I believe we last met at AFASyN (Yacht Club) in Ushuaia! (Argentina) I just read your article in Voyages, and thought, hey, I know these people. I'm a CCA member in the San Francisco station.
I thought you'd want to know what happened after we parted, and how much you had to do with it. When we met I was sailing with Steve, an English guy. We'd sailed down from Buenos Aires with my dad, but my dad split around New Years (2006/2007)...which reminds me, I think in your article you said you were down there in 2009, and I'm sure I was there in early 2007. Did you go back, or have the sands of time made the dates flexible? Anyway, Mary met a nice French girl who was walking the docks looking for a boat, and got her email address. She passed it along to Steve and me, but we weren't looking for crew, and I threw it in my junk drawer.
Steve was going to sail up to Valdivia (Chile) with me, and our plans were fairly set, but I got the bug to sail to Antarctica, as I remember you did too. I brought this up with Steve, and he pretty much freaked out, so I dropped it and we stuck with our original plan to sail on up the channels. We loaded up on all our provisions in Ushuaia - Steve paid for half - checked out of Argentina, and went over to Puerto Williams to check into Chile and depart for points north. While in Puerto Williams I chatted up the only tourist girls in town, two Italians, and Steve disappeared. The next morning I asked what became of him, and he had a complete jealous meltdown. Turns out he was gay and had a major crush on me? I don't know, but he hired a water taxi that very morning and jumped ship...and didn't ask me to pay him back what I think was close to $1000 in provisions.
Suddenly I found myself solo in Puerto Williams...where the hell is that girl's email address that Mary gave me? I found it, got in touch with her, and she was over in Puerto Williams in a day or two. Steve's departure also opened up the Antarctica possibility again.
The French girl, Pascale was her name, was actually very irritating, but we went around the Horn together as a trial run, and she ended up sailing to Antarctica with me and Ken, an American singlehander I met in Puerto Williams. In hindsight, we shouldn't have brought her, but I had it in my head that another pair of hands would be good, when in fact those hands are a liability if they're inexperienced.
Antarctica was the adventure and accomplishment of my life, and still haunts me. Absolutely amazing, and on my little fiberglass ketch, no less.
With lesson learned about irritating crew, and confidence gained in Antarctica, I soloed it through the channels to Valdivia, and ditched poor Pascale, who certainly wasn't evil or anything. In fact she really tried to be helpful, but just got on my nerves, as is often the case in close quarters on boats. Strangely, she was waiting for me in Valdivia two months later, a coincidence I'm sure, but the last person I expected to see. Just to set the record straight, there was never any romantic connection...I think she just really liked being on my boat.
I ended up soloing it most of the way back to California, and ended my circumnavigation in May of 2008. Moved to San Francisco, got married, had a baby boy (13 months now), and now I work for Spectra Watermakers, which I'm sure you're familiar with.
Congratulations on your circumnavigation and great stories!
Later. We said our goodbye’s to Clark in 2007, did not see Pascale again but did see Ken the singlehander in the Juan de Fernandez Islands off the coast of Chile, and again in Easter Island. I believe Ken left Easter for the Marquesas and we haven’t seen him since; however a British sailboat couple we met in New Zealand met Ken somewhere later along the line. Small world, eh?
OK, back to The Box. (The Soapbox) If you could be a fly on the wall when two long distance cruisers meet and didn’t know the story, you would probably think these folks were the world’s biggest name droppers working on one up man ship. This isn’t slightly the case. This is Our World. There is no pretension. There is no one up man ship. It’s simply how we talk just as you witnessed in this personal e-mail. This could be your world as well if you work at it as Clark did, Scott and Heidi most likely will and thousands more who follow. Or you could sit at home and be…..gasp!…. normal.
Later after re-reading Clark’s e-mail. There is something else you won’t read into the e-mail, but let me give you a ringside seat to peer cruisers discussing a voyage. I’m going to copy two sentences.
“I soloed it through the channels to Valdivia,”
“I ended up soloing it most of the way back to California, and ended my circumnavigation in May of 2008.”
These sentences are huge understatements. No muss, no fuss, just a fact. Do you have the slightest idea how difficult it is to solo thru the Chilean Channels? I promise you couldn’t come within 10% of imagining the degree of difficulty. Soloing from Valdivia to California is difficult but not as extreme. What Mary and I did was super easy compared to Clark. First of all, we have a powerboat. Second, we have each other to help and Clark had no one. It was just facts to Clark. He knows what he did as do we. We are genuinely happy for each other and this is something we don’t talk about to others who don’t have any idea, and why we are So Happy to hear from folks we met here and there, particularly in High Latitudes.
Here’s something that is special to us. If you click thru VofE’s photographs, they tell that particular posting’s story. However, here’s a little secret. Keep hitting previous and you’ll see two photographs from Isafjordur (Iceland). One is of the town and one is of Egret’s winter berth.
The adventure charter sailboat in front of Egret begins its winter/spring ski series next week. Siggy takes skiers to the West Fjords, drops them off with a guide and they traverse up the mountain and ski down the other side to a waiting boat with plenty of hot toddies waiting. If you are into extreme skiing in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, this is for you.
So that’s it for this posting. We’ll leave you with this final photograph of Death Valley’s sand dunes. We plan to leave the Sedona area this weekend with Rubi totally upgraded waiting for the next adventure. We’re heading for northern Arizona and southern Utah. More to follow.
Egret is for sale. http://youtu.be/AAR5wK-sWRs
February 14, 2014
Position: On anchor, Sunset Campground, Furnace Creek, Death Valley, California.
Hello mis amigos, let’s move along to the second posting to bring Death Valley’s 3 million acres to life. This will be a short VofE in order to time this posting with Valentine’s Day. So let’s assume you’re not an American and have brought your precious to the U.S., have berthed somewhere for the winter and are exploring in the car you shipped over from where ever or even bought a car here for your time in North America. The reason I say North America and not just the U.S.A., is that our Canadian first cousins are just as friendly and welcoming as this country and they too live in a beautiful spot in the world. Between the two you could spend years exploring before you move along.
This VofE we’ll concentrate on the flora and a few critters and next VofE will be the spectacular landscape of the valley.
By now we have taken a number of daily drives, most of which are 4 wheel drive outings. However a lot of what we have seen can be seen from close to the roads with a little hiking effort. The othernight a front swept thru from the northwest bringing just a tiny bit of precipitation that immediately transformed the desert into life. Death Valley is the driest place in North America so when even a sniff of water is in the air, the local plants spring into action. The Brittlebush is the most prolific larger plant whose leaves have opened to receive the moisture and sent their bright yellow flowers skyward. Not only do the flowers serve their purpose they also harbor a number of insect critters you can see. They in turn keep the sparrow size birds happy. This was the first Brittlebush on this particular day’strip and it was in the middle of nowhere. Brittlebushes are mostly found in canyon washes where water may seep or pour thru during the summer flash floods.
This flower we can’t identify with our two pamphlets but it appears to be some type of poppy. We saw very few of this example. The next flower was identified by the visitor’s center Park Rangers as a Desert Rock Pea. . In the higher areas there are a number of barreltype cactus growing. The most prolific is called the Cottontop. There are 7 different varieties of barrel cactus in the Park.
Walking along a wash, Mary came across these dried Desert Trumpet flowers with layers somewhat like an onion. The flowers had a hard shell and the stems were dried as well. Later we saw some less dried but it appears they are hard shelled.
Not all the plants tower and have multiple flowers. Some are quite small like this one. I put a penny next to the flower to give it a sense of scale*.
*Earlier I put a nickel on the colorful rock Mary was sitting on to give it a sense of scale in a close-up photograph as well. Of course I forget the nickel so this time I used a penny. And of course I forget it as well. So you can see VofE comes at a price.
And then came critters. On a seldom traveled road we came across a group of Bighorn Sheep that had come down from the heights to feed on green shoots beginning to surface after the last misting of rain. Look closely in front of the sheep and you can see the shoots. These are the first bighorn sheep we have seen up close since last year when we came across 3 in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Last VofE we showed a photo of a coyote alongside the road. Coyote’s have been serenading us each night with yipping and howling in the distance. Today in fact, we saw 3 young coyotes playing in the desert near the road. Perhaps they are part of the evening’s juvenile choir of yips. However, the antithesis of a coyote is the roadrunner. We have only seen a few in our travels and then it was just a glimpse. So the other day we came across this young male as he was looking for a snack. Check out the red, white and blue colored stripe behind the eye. I read a book on road runners and it said and showed in photographs how they use their long tail and wings to leap out of the way of a striking snake. They prefer small, non-poisonous snakes, lizards, large insects and mice but do attack rattlesnakes and horned toads. Pretty cool, eh?
Even the gnarly mesquite bush turns bright green when it sniffs water. This old tymer was lit up in the soft light of late afternoon. In some of the washes there are remnants of old mesquite stumps ground into short, fat pieces lying where there seem to have been no trees in the past. When we saw a few old, large examples did we understand where the wood originated.
In any case, in order to live in Death Valley or nearby, the flowers and animals have evolved thru years in order to survive. It’s never easy. The Pacific North West has more than enough rain but its soil quality is poor. The temperate areas in between are in severe drought. The desert is always on the edge and it’s a feast or famine affair.
Yesterday we took another 4 wheel drive trail up and over the alluvial plain into the canyons of the mountains to the west. The 4WD trails in the park have ratings from 1 to 5 according to one off road book on the park. 5 is guaranteed carnage and strong 3 or perhaps a very weak 4 is about our limit of want and ability. (Of course with more stuff it becomes easier………we’re working on that.) So anyway, at exactly 5.3 miles from the dirt road turn in, the trail ended in a flash flood induced nightmare. To continue would have meant running over bushes and making a trail from nothing. We don’t do that. First of all, it’s against park regulations and secondly it is not the right thing to do. So anyway, we turned around and before returning up a very steep uphill climb to the top of the alluvial plain we entered a colorful narrow canyon. We parked Rubi and hiked up canyon to see what was whipping. This is the view at the beginning of the canyon. So we puttered here and there until we came to the end. Of course it wasn’t the end, it just turned a corner (to the right in the photograph), then another corner and another until we came to a dry waterfall type deal. I climbed up first then Mary followed when I told her about the interesting colored rock I found up top. It is rare she doesn’t have her camera with her and this wasn’t particularly easy but still she handed mine up. It is also rare she asks me to take her picture but she did. Isn’t she a beauty? Her shirt says it all. LIFE IS GOOD. Take A Walk On The Wild Side. Can you imagine doing anything different? Can you imagine living a life where the Wild Side may be trying a different restaurant, a different bottle of wine or adding a few friends to Facebook? Gasp!
One day we did have a little excitement and did our good deed for the day. We were 50 miles or so from the campground. All but the first 6 of those was a gravel road then we made a turn west into something less friendly but more interesting. We were bouncing along for a bit and then we saw a Person walking our way. No Way baby. We were Out There. Yup, a person. A person in the land of no cell service, no help for 50 miles, no nothing and this person was walking by themselves. As we got closer we saw it was an attractive lady by herself wearing a backpack heading for the gravel road and hope someone would stop by to help. She had been camping in a tent by herself and her rented SUV had a dead battery. We didn’t have battery cables. I KNEW BETTER. We have tons of stuff aboard Egret but that didn’t help us then.
To make a long story short, we folded Rubi’s back seat into place and took Sarah 50 miles back into Furnace Creek to see if we could buy jumper cables and get her going. The general store didn’t have any cables and the gas station was closed. So we went to the campground and found a motorhome with a Marine Corps flag flying and asked if they had jumper cables and could we borrow them? Yes, and yes. So back we went and eventually got Sarah going. (Her battery was so dead it took a while of charging from Rubi to even get a solenoid click on her starter). She said she wasn’t going stop until she got cell/internet service, found an Avis dealer and exchanged her car.
After Sarah left we headed back up the canyon for another look-see and was it an adventure or what? Last summer’s flash floods have destroyed much of the upper end of the canyons to the west. We managed to get to the end of this canyon but on the return had to build a rock ramp down into a washout in order to get thru. We made it in the end but still gouged three wheels. Cool stuff.
We haven’t had a good rant for a while and this one comes at the expense of the United States Government. A Government by the people, FOR THE PEOPLE. You know they spend billions and billions on stuff to kill people but when it comes to National Parks for it’s citizens and visitors from other countries, there is very little money. Death Valley has 3 million acres and 1,000 miles of roads. They have one grader and one grader operator to smooth hundreds of miles of gravel roads and NO funding to keep the canyon trails open. Can you imagine the irresponsibility of these morons? Of course no one makes any money from keeping the parks up to nick like they do when they build defense stuff and the connected cronies take care of each other. Grrrrrr.
After 8 days living on solar alone the batteries were slowly working their way down. Today we dropped the Bubba pop top and drove slowly north checking out the scenery, and of course charging the batteries. We returned with fully charged batteries, topped off with water and all is well. We’ll stay a couple more days then slowly head east.
What will tomorrow bring? Don’t have a clue but we’ll most likely explore another off road trail.
Last VofE we promised a second Valentine Day treat so we’ll leave you with a little story about this beetle MS came across in a canyon wash. I’m sure you will recognize this from biology class as aPinacate Beetle. As you can tell this is a young male and from what we can see, he has come across the perfect Valentines Day gift for his sweetie. A heart shaped rock. So now all he has to do is lug this piece of rock back to his sweetie and life will be good. Days later we learned this young free spirit couple has big plans. They hope in the future to find a large piece of bark near a stream; near enough they can launch it into the water and float away into the unknown to live a life of freedom and adventure. Pretty cool, eh?
Egret is for sale. http://youtu.be/AAR5wK-sWRs
February 7, 2014
Position: Furnace Creek, Death Valley National Park, California
Hello mis amigos, let’s talk about the Oregon coast south of the Columbia River. Highway 101 follows the coast thru Oregon and California. 101 is Not for making miles. Interstate 5 farther east is. However, 101 is the Real Deal in Oregon. Every time you get a water view is seems better than the last. It seems the state has state parks every couple miles. Some are day parks and some including camping. There are more RV parks per north/south mile along this coast than anywhere in our travels by far. We spent last night on anchor in a small RV park off Seal Rocks at mid-coast. So after setting up we walked down to the beach to watch the surf and the sunset. Offshore it was flat calm. As the swells reached the beach things change. Because the beach has a long sloping shallow approach, the waves stand up fairly well. I can only imagine the surf in a storm.
So we snapped a few then retired to the Bubba camper.
We try to drive no faster than 45mph along the coast and slower when can get away with it and of course when twisting and turning or foggy. Oregon is kind enough to have a number of pull overs and wide spots to let us pull over without losing to much speed and let cars pass. This time of year there is little traffic anyway. I imagine in summer it is very different.
So, OK we’re driving along and came to areas with Oregon Dunes State Park picnic areas and a few campgrounds. Dunes with 4 wheel rentals? Hummmmm. Finally I couldn’t take it any more and we went in and guess what? Yes there was a campground and yes there was an entrance to the dunes. We dropped Bubba in a campground slip asap. So then we aired Rubi’s tires down to 14lbs and off we went. With so little air in the tires it was like riding on a cushion. In fact, we did some of the dunes in 2wd just to see if we could. Rubi is awe sum. The dunes go on forever to the north. It is really a beautiful work of nature. With the wind and rain, the dunes are self healing even after a busy of weekend 4 wheel traffic. Later we ended up on the beach but didn’t get far. A Park Ranger in a dune buggy deal pulled us over and asked if we knew why he stopped us? Well duuuh, of course not.
In any case he said the recreational area rules are posted in the parking area saying we need an Oregon permit of some kind and a tall whip with a flag. Rules are for other people and we never read that stuff*. So anyhow, he was nice, wrote a ticket and said if we get the sticker and a flag and e-mailed the receipt to him that he would not send the ticket in. So that was fair and we returned to a Jeep and dune buggy rental place and purchased both. So with the decal in place and the flag flying high above Rubi, off we went. Mary drove most of the time to get used to the dunes. At first she was tentative, but by taking it easy at first she got more comfortable as the afternoon went on. Some obstacles we did 4-5 times trying to improve on the approach speed and descent. We had a great time and learned something new. Here’s Mary doing her dune deal.
*We follow our own rules. We always leave a clean wake, treat other folks well and don’t do stupid things.
So now we’re back in the State Park campground living on batteries. Because the camper is all LED lights (like Egret) we have little draw and its cool enough the fridge isn’t cycling much and if it gets chilly we’ll turn on the propane heat. No problem.
The market was kind to the Egret crew last year, so like last year we are going to treat ourselves to a couple things we don’t need. But we want. By the end of tomorrow we’ll have a few things coming our way to General Delivery in Death Valley.
One thing we’ll mention is a little more camera stuff. Of course we have really good equipment but this is in addition to. Last year at treat ourselves time, we (OK, I) went crazy and bought a giant Nikon lens we didn’t need but wanted. Wanted Real Bad. The problem is, it is really a specialty lens. It requires taking an everyday camera out of service hoping for a long shot of whatever. That works great on the boat at sea for bird or dolphin shots but the rest of the time it is difficult. I won’t bore you with the details but shortly we’ll be able to reach waaaay out and touch something at will and keep the regular cameras regular.
Its sorta like boat electronics. To do a present day circumnavigation you don’t need to spend much in the way of electronics. This includes back-up for critical items like GPS and navigation software. However, most folks want more because they may think they need it, but most likely because they can, and they Want It. It’s OK, who are we to say? Of course we have our opinion if the Want to have all this stuff precludes going in the first place because it stretches the budget to thin.
It goes back to a lot of things. A great photographer doesn’t need equipment as capable as ours, nor does a good golfer need the latest clubs, a good fisherman need the latest rod/reel and so on.
So after the Oregon coast we headed inland to pick up the interstate (5) and head south to Yosemite National Park. If we could describe this area in a few words it would be dry and dusty. Southern Oregon and California are in a terrible drought. What was most telling is there was no snow in usual snow areas so there won’t be any spring melt water, at least so far, and a reservoir named Shasta something was down to a tiny bit of water and the dry sides that stretched to the trees went waaaaay up. It’s very sad.
Last year, Yosemite was the Bubba campers’ first destination. We camped in snow, walked in the snow, went snowshoeing, drove in the snow and so on. This year there was just a tiny bit of residual snow along the streams from a December snowfall. Yosemite falls, that last year was pumping water and had frozen ice on the sides is dry. No waterfall. Nada. Zip. So for the past few days we have been walking around snapping a few pics and seeing the sights. Its like summer.
Even without snow, Yosemite has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. The park roads are perfectly placed to see the iconic vistas. One thing that is so visible is how glaciers years ago carved the valleys out of solid granite. One of the most famous landmarks is Half Dome, a high granite sculpture that was carved from a round mountaintop into a half round. This close-up was taken just after sundown when the sky turned the half dome and the opposing peak into what appears to be molten granite. From a lookout called Tunnel View, where Ansel Adams took his most famous image (Clearing Winter Storm), you can see exactly how the glacier moved down the valley with HalfDome in the background. This is a re-creation of Adams’ image but with the clearing winter storm.
Because of the lack of snow and clouds, we photographed during the day during periods of sun peeking thru the overcast in order to turn the color shots into black and white. A well done black and white photograph does more justice to an area telling a better story than a color in many cases. Mary’s image in last VofE of the crumbling dock and ex-fish cannery pilings from a bygone era was an excellent example. In color, the photograph was a throwaway. The next day we took a 5+ mile hike today to nearly dry Mirror Lake. Mirror lake was nearly dry. Last year we hiked thru the snot and ice to the same spot.
We’ll leave in the morning heading toward Death Valley. We enjoyed Death Valley last year and who knows what we’ll see this year. But that’s the fun of it, isn’t it? The unknown. The every-day known is OK for a while then it becomes boring. The unknown is never boring.
OK, so we left Yosemite after a heavy overnight rain which the park and all of California so desperately need. It rained until mid day the day we left. So we took it easy and ended up in a Lake Isabella campground a day from Death Valley. We liked it so much we stayed 2 days and drove around in Rubi seeing the sights, got haircuts, did some grocery shopping and the like. One late afternoon when the light was getting good, we took a 4wd trail high over the town and Lake Isabella. Our favorite snap of the trip was this tree bare of leaves until spring. One sad side note; Lake Isabella, which is a dammed lake feeding southern California cities and farms, is at 10% of capacity. Not 10% down, down to 10%!!
Next was the drive into Death Valley from the west on Highway 190. I remember we blabbered about Death Valley last year and this year won’t be any different. You simply cannot believe the beauty. Death Valley is ground zero for geologists and anyone interested in geology. Its all here and its so available. The colors of the rocks, the colors during the daily cycle are staggering. There is life here but everything has adapted to live in this wildly varying landscape by the season. On the way in to the valley we came across a pair of coyote’s hanging out in the desert and got this shot of this wily coyote thru the car window. It seemed healthy and looked great in its winter coat, unlike their scraggly summer coat.
The campground we stayed in last year is full, whereas last year it was empty. I suppose it is because its Super Bowl weekend but nevertheless there is a large dry campground a few blocks away across the road. It’s interesting. Both are run by the Park Service. One has power at its sites but those are usually taken for a year in advance. The other sites have water at the site but no power. It costs $18 U.S.P. a day for a water, but no electric site. Across the street it costs $6 for a dry site with water a few hundred feet away for the campers. So I believe we’ll stay put and save a few pesos unless we can get a powered site. Here’s the view from the campground. Ho hum. I’m sure you know by now we’re squeakers and only spend what we have to unless its something we Want. Then of course we spend foolishly with total abandon. So what, eh?
Today was our first day in the park. At a ranger station we bought a plasticized chart of Death Valley showing 4WD trails and a book on Death Valley 4WD trails. So we took two close by trails. The first, Echo Pass went to an abandoned mine from the very early 1900’s. Along the way we drove past 500 million year old rocks and a rock formation called eye of the needle. It really wasn’t a 4WD trail, even a girlish AWD could have made it if it had reasonable ground clearance. So we puttered around the mine, took a few snaps, ate a picnic lunch then headed back to the second trail, Hole In The Wall. HITW was easy for a while then we did use 4WD on occasion. Mary drove this trail and the last half of the first. The HITW trail was about rock formations, and as the sun got lower, it lit up like someone turned on a switch.
Let’s think about this for a minute and pretend you are a Big Dog and have the horsepower to make this happen. The ultimate way to see anything, and particularly around the world or at least the most interesting parts, is by boat. There is no way anyone can fly where ever and get the same experience because all they did was burn plastic to see the sights. Seeing it by boat means you had to think, learn and actually do something Yourself to make it happen. I have written about this a few times before. The feeling of personal satisfaction can’t be bought. It must be earned. Now, I will say that some of our most memorable experiences were inland traveling, mostly with other cruisers, or by ourselves. So now let’s suppose you have a car at your disposal in more reasonable places like Europe, South America, New Zealand, Australia or South Africa/Namibia for example. So if you have the horsepower, rather than spending zillions for electronics you think you need, take the difference between what you Want and what you Need and move the car around the world via container as you move. It costs less than you may think and it’s entirely doable.
OK, so we have been wandering around the off road trails the past few days. It is difficult to describe the diversity and beauty of Death Valley. There are fresh water springs, mineral springs, salt ponds with their own endemic fish, endemic to what particular pond they happen to be in where it be fresh water, high salinity water, hot high salinity water or even underground. There are all subspecies of pup fish, around 2-3 inches long. This is the lowest point in the U.S. and across the valley is an 11,000’ mountain. There is low desert, mid desert and high desert. Some of the first flowers are beginning to bloom. At this point they are yellow flowers only. We’ll do this and more in the next VofE.
We’ll end this VofE here because we need to devote the next couple VofE’s tying to bring this 3 million* acre park to life.
*Death Valley is the largest park in the lower states.
And last but not least, we’ll leave you with this Yosemite scene. This Valentine Tree is the first of two Valentines Day shots from the Egret crew. We’ll have the second next VofE.
Egret is for sale. http://youtu.be/AAR5wK-sWRs
Ed. Note - The glossary of Egretism terms will be posted on the Captain's Log home page for easy reference.