We left Vegas and headed for Death Valley (talk about taking a 180!) but Aldous was not up for traveling so we didn't quite make it to Death Valley. We did stay at the "Death Valley Inn" in Beatty, NV though. We were all able to get a good nights sleep and head off for Death Valley late the next morning. They had a projected high of 105 degrees in Death Valley the day we were there, which also happened to be Friday the 13th. Three mornings earlier we were in a snow storm at the Grand Canyon. We are still trying to get used to the extreme weather changes out here in the west. The descent into Death Valley was uneventful except for the 18 inch stark white lizard that crossed the road in front of us. We headed for a little oasis in Death Valley National Park called "The Furnace Creek Inn." It's a full on resort (even has a golf course!) right in the middle of Death Valley. It's a pretty neat little setup with a bunch of history related to Death Valley and why any humans went there in the first place (borax was discovered there). We got there about 1:30, right around the hottest part of the day, and decided to have a picnic. Now, I don't know if it was 105 degrees or not, but it was HOT as Hades in the sun. In the shade it was not so bad or should I say it was bearable for a 20 min picnic. :) This being Friday the 13th of May, it was Aldous's 1st birthday, so we went to the general store at the Furnace Creek Inn and had a celebratory mocha almond soft serve ice cream. Aldous approved immensely. :) We then proceeded to head north then west on our way out of Death Valley. The landscape is just plane harsh in the Valley. As you can imagine not much grows in the valley as they don't get much rain (they had NO recorded rainfall in 1929 and 0.64 in from 1931-1934). It's an almost lunar like landscape at times....but then all of a sudden out in the middle of the valley you come across this mass of sand dunes like something out of Arabian nights. They were really cool and we even went out on them to take a few pictures, but by this time I'm convinced it definitely was 105 degrees out because the heat was unbearable and walking in that sand with flip flops on was rather painful when that ultra-heated sand rolled over your feet. We saw a few other neat things in Death Valley, but there were a few side excursions down some dirt roads I would like to have taken but with my luck with cars recently I just didn't feel comfortable getting too far off the beaten path with Michelle and the kids on a 105 degree day.
We rolled out of Death Valley and found ourselves just west of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the late afternoon. After looking at the map we decided to head for a place called Lake Isabella that is in the south end of the Sequoia National Forest. I figured a lake this big in that area would probably have a charming little town to go with it. I was wrong. After driving for about 90 minutes we came into Isabella and well let's just say that charming is not a term I would use to describe it. We found one motel in town that was not nearly as inviting as Bates Motel so we decided just to make a run for Bakersfield for a decent cheap hotel and decide then what we wanted to do the next day. We made it to Bakersfield in about an hour, got checked into our hotel and caught some Zs. We woke up this morning, I took Bella swimming in the pool, we hit Target for some replenishing of supplies, got a few coffees at Starbucks and headed for the Sequoia National Park to see the worlds largest trees.
If you have never been to Bakersfield you are not missing much, at least not of the actual city itself. I wouldn't call it ugly, but ummm, well, OK, it's ugly. Having said that, this area is home to some of the most fertile farms in this country. On the outskirts of Bakersfield, on the way to see the Sequoias, we saw thousands and thousands of acres of citrus groves, almond groves, olive groves, grapes, persimmons, etc. etc. etc. We stopped at a roadside stand to buy some local fruit and got some of the best tasting strawberries and cherries I've ever had in my life.
The drive up to see the Sequoias is beautiful. It's up a twisty canyon road that follows a river that flows out of the mountains where the Sequoias are. After the drive to see them, it's hard to imagine how anyone ever found them. They are almost tucked away in a relatively small area. They only naturally grow in about 65 groves on the west side of the Sierra Nevada mountains between 5000-7000 feet. It seems like it takes forever to get to them (once you enter the park you have to drive about 15 miles on VERY curvy 15-25 mph roads to get to them), but once you do, oh my are they ever impressive. Like many things on this trip, I've seen pictures of them before, but seeing them in person is something else entirely. It's just plain hard to believe that these things are real. I thought we had some big oak trees in Atlanta that are a couple hundred years old, but these things just plain dwarf them...both in age and size (some are 3000+ years old). Not only are the trees massively impressive ( or impressively massive, take your pick), but the setting in these mountains is just breathtaking. There are rivers, streams and creeks criss-crossing the whole area and up this high there is still some snow as well. Did I mention it was cold and we were all dressed for the 80 degree Bakersfield weather (there are palm trees all over Bakersfield) we left that morning? One other nice thing about today is we continued our streak of having good luck with seeing wildlife and we ran into what appeared to be an adolescent bear in the Sequoia National Park. He looked to be about 150 lbs and we came within about 20 feet of him. He was obviously just out looking for some food...and when he saw us just moseyed off.
We ended up getting a room just outside the Sequoia National Park and we may go back tomorrow, or we may head for the coast...we aren't sure yet.
Until next time, here are a few pics... :)
|Nobody does excess like Vegas!|
|Inside the Adventuredome...the pic is rose tinted because the rose colored dome tints everything that way.|
|You probably can't see her, but Bella is in the middle car...it gives you an idea of how big the dome is though.|
|Circus Circus from the front. I couldn't even fit it all in my lense when I took this picture from the street.|
|This is the rear of Circus Circus and you can clearly see how big the Adventuredome is.|
|I think this clown is a little creepy. :-)|
|Headed toward Death Valley.|
|Great pic Michelle took of a dry lake bed in Death Valley.|
|The floor of Death Valley.|
|This is what a picnic looks like in 105 degrees.|
|That little line you see is a road that crossed one of the dry lake beds in Death Valley.|
|Death Valley gas prices...coming to a pump near you soon...?|
|It was a beautiful beach...with no ocean to cool off in.|
|Your eyes do not deceive you, those are snow capped peaks in the background. Ironically enough, the lowest and highest points in the contiguous United States are very close to each other....that would be Death Valley and Mount Whitney.|
|Two cute kids and some beautiful scenery but the clear star of this particular pictures is my shaggy beard. ;-)|
|Some Death Valley foliage...|
|The sand was too hot on Bella's feet...it was too hot on mine too. We flipped for it to see who would carry who out, but I lost. :-)|
|The Furnace Creek Inn. I would have happily stayed there, but Michelle had no interest in it.|
|This was our first view of Death Valley.|
|We ran into Smokey the Bear in the Sequoia National Forest.|
|Bella on top of a rock formation in SNP.|
|THe lowest point in DV is 282 feet below sea level, but the best we saw was 262 and this was the lowest point at which I remembered to take a pic of the GPS. :-)|
|Dusk at SNP.|
|Bella in front of General Sherman, the largest tree by volume in the world.|
|Dusk at SNP, notice the moon in the top middle of the pic.|
|That is one BIG tree...|
|River in SNP.|
|General Sherman again, Michelle, Aldie and Bella at the base...if you can make them out.|
|Creek in SNP.|
|The girls and Aldie in a cut out in a felled sequoia.|
|My little tree huggers... :-)|
|Random pic we took of one blade of a wind turbine being transported through Beatty, NV. Each wind turbine has three of these so it shows you how big they are.|