Thursday, July 26, 2012

I'm going on a Bear Hunt...

I was going to be really disappointed if I did not see a bear. So not being a morning person, I decided to brave the elements, (in the mornings it actually was close to zero degrees) and get up at 5.30 am in the  hope of a sighting of the infamous Knucklehead - the naughty baby bear that frequents the campsite.

I woke and with my trusty camera went for a walk around the campground. After a ten minute walk in bare feet and no longer able to fell my toes I guessed I wasn't going to be successful. I returned to our tent and you would never believe who was their - Knucklehead - right outside our tent!

As I approached Knucklehead decided it was time to move on, I gamely followed him, (from a safe distance Susan). What a cute little, but I'm sure unpredictable little Brown Bear.

Bears were not the only animals we shared our campsite with. We were all in love with the cute little Chipmunks that bounced around daily.

Later in the day we went for a drive up to Horseshoe Lake. This used to be an extremely popular campsite but no is a very eerie and desolate place. A fault caused by a quake has created a space in the east for large amounts of Carbon Dioxide to escape. The CO2 has killed the soil and all trees and is unsafe for humans. It was strangely beautiful and made for some great photographs.

Back at the campground Garry and the kids helped create a warming fire, while I organized our red. I liked the camper van on the label and felt it was appropriate.

I had some fun fooling with images at Sunset. Mammoth Lakes was a really beautiful place to stay!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bodie is an amazing Ghost Town....

We decided to spend our day exploring Bodie State Historic Park, which is an hour and a half north of Mammoth Lakes, along the eastern gateway to Yosemite. Today, Bodie stands just as time, fire and the elements have left it - a genuine California gold mining ghost town. It is maintained in a star of "arrested decay."Bodie was reputed to have been the wildest town in the west - a gold mining town where 35 million dollars in gold was discovered from 1877 till 1888.

By 1879 Bodie boasted a population of 10,000 and was second to none for wickedness, badmen and a very difficult outdoor climate. Robberies, stage holdups and street fights provided variety and the town's 65 saloon's were a place to relax after a hard day of work in the mines.

It was amazing to look inside the windows of bars, the general store and homes and see everything simply left as it was. 

We had the pleasure of spending a number of hours exploring this extraordinary town. I managed to take over a thousand photographs and could not wait to get to a power source, charge my computer and start creating a photographic essay. I did spend some time wishing I cold have had a Year 12 Visual Arts class with me for just an hour!

Mammoth Lakes - I am the Bear Hunter...

I have now lost track of time, days of the week and sometimes have to think twice when I write what year this is? Surely this is a sign that I am truly relaxed and enjoying this trip.

When we arrived in Mammoth Lakes after a long drive we were stunned by how beautiful the Forestry Camp Ground was.

We were looking for a vacant site and were starting to worry that our good luck was starting to run out. So far we have been able to stay at our first choice without having made a single booking during peak season. Again good luck was on our side and we were offered a site for one night.

Relieved we started to set up camp and come to terms with what the Bear Locker was all about. It was clearly explained that all food, toiletries, ice boxes and anything with a scent needed to be secured in the Bear Locker each night - we were in bear country! Bears had been sighted, and were around the camp late at night and in the early hours of the morning.

We were excited at the prospect of sighting a Black Bear - from a distance. When we woke the first morning we were entertained with stories of a large bear sniffing our neighbors through their tent wall. The camp host also reported that he had chased, "Knuckle Head" the baby bear from a picnic table in camp early in the morning. We were all hoping for a sighting! I was going to be on the hunt!

Zion to Beatty....

We were headed for Mammoth Lakes - Bear country! Unfortunately the drive was to long to complete in one day so we decided to stop for the night in a little town called Beatty in Nevada. Beatty was a vey small town with a population of roughly one thousand people. The average wage is only $24,991 per year and ladies if you are looking for a man than Beatty is the place to be with men significantly outnumbering women.

We decided to give the Desert Inn a miss and opted for a room at Motel 6. This was very basic and with Denny's inside the casino or Subway the only food options in town we new this would be a quick stop. Even the internet didn't work well in Beatty.

The next morning we drove out of town eager for a quick trip across Death Valley. We passed many interesting sites - including many advertised services for the men passing through.

Driving through Death Valley was really beautiful with more amazing landscapes. One of the best parts of this road trip is driving the road less travelled and seeing little towns and interesting sites along the way.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Las Vegas to Zion Canyon ...

We drove roughly three hours from Vegas to arrive at Zion Canyon. We had a beautiful camp site, next to the creek and surrounded by a beautiful part of the canyon. It was lovely to experience the rain on the day we arrived.

We were camped next to a lovely family from Vegas who had to younger children roughly the same age and sex as ours and also three young adult children. We were like long lost friends very early on and we shared smores with them after dinner on the first night. A smore you might be thinking - the US  version of roasting marshmallows means putting the marshmallow and chocolate between two gram crackers. Yas and Max could not get enough!!!

We were treated to an amazing rainbow after the storm slightly before sunset. Wow!

The creek provided huge amounts of excitement for the kids, they found a spot they proudly named, "Frog Island". This small islet in the creek contained hundreds of baby frogs - Max was in heaven. Many trips were made to Frog Island during our four night stay. The creek also was famous for its mini rapids which people loved to ride on inflatable tubes. Yas was in heaven, riding the rapids with the big girls.

Our favorite hike was called, "The Narrows." This involved a mile walk along the river, where the canyon begins to narrow. This is where you enter the water and walk or wade through the canyon. This was tricky at times as Max could not touch the bottom, but really beautiful. I was really impressed with how Yas and Max handled the walk/swim. Overall we would have covered at least five miles and they were fantastic.

During the walk we were joined by a number of squirrels - looking for food. They were really game, coming right up close.

Zion was truly beautiful - red earth and giant canyons. My only disappointment was that after a big hike I was looking forward to a cold alcoholic drink or a glass of red. We drove into town and stopped at the bottle shop which was inside a larger store. I was quickly informed by the shop owner that, "You are in Utah dear! You can't buy any alcohol - its Sunday"! I was not happy.

(Note to Kay and Graham - be prepared with wine!)

The Golden Nugget.....

Yes, you would never have guessed, but we headed back to Vegas today. We simply had to escape the heat, and we were drawn back to Vegas because firstly because it was only a four hour drive away. Secondly, I booked us a room at The Golden Nugget for only $47 a night plus tax, (Nic you will be pleased to know that no resort fees are charged)! Finally, the kids will have a chance to swim in the pool with the waterside that goes through the shark tank.

We arrived, completely drained from the heat to discover Vegas was 48 degrees. I do believe this is the hottest I have ever been. But we were straight up to our surprisingly great hotel room and air conditioning. Garry even suggested that we stay at least two nights, so we extended our stay! After a week camping, mostly in dirt, two nights in beds with fresh white sheets and air conditioning is luxury.

The Golden Nugget is apparently famous for being the first Casino in Vegas? When I was researching on the web, I discovered the following image of a really old postcard from the hotel.

This is a very different side of Vegas to that when we visited a month ago. I guess there is a reason the rooms are so affordable. The centerpiece of the newest tower in The Golden Nugget is beautiful, but also very different to that of the Venetian.

The kids were happy to lay on the bed and watch television - even with that amazing swimming pool downstairs. But once we did go for a swim it was very difficult to get them out of the pool. The following pictures explain why.

The swimming pool is called, "The Tank" and cost 30 million dollars and includes a shark tank and three story water slide. It was really cool to be swimming in the pool with only glass between you and sharks! The promo video from You Tube below gives you an idea.

On the darker side we did witness quite a show on our first afternoon in the swimming pool. It involved several women in a brawl, which at one time included a child attacking a security guards from behind to defend his mother. In the end three women were handcuffed and removed. This was a very different atmosphere to that at the Venetian!

We braved the heat to check out the local Vegas action. We witnessed some unusual sights including the Heart Attack Grill. If you weigh 300 pounds or more you can eat for free! To check your weight you have the ability to weigh yourself on giant scales, with the weight lit up for all to see! We watched a number of men weigh in only to miss out by a few pounds - much to their obvious disappointment.

It was lovely to have a nice shower and sleep in beds again. With our batteries recharged we are ready for a new day on the road...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Waking with Elk...

We had just woken and were sitting next to our tent when we spotted our first Elk. Poor Yasemin was still sleeping and missed out, but she would have many more opportunities throughout the day.

We spent our time touring the park and in the afternoon we saw a family of Deer and an enormous male Elk.

We met people from many different countries and had some great conversations. Excluding the heat which is almost unbearable, this was a really great day.