Saturday, June 27, 2015

Luccock Park UMC Camp, Livingston, Montana

Note - this blog was written in early June while we were volunteering in Montana.  Right now, we are home, home, home.  

Oh! What a gorgeous place to spend three weeks volunteering to help a camp! Right now, we are sitting cozily in the RV with a steady rain hitting the roof, lulling me to sleep. But who caresIt's around 9:30 p.m. and no work in going on anyway.

View of the camp from the dining hall - you can barely
see the RVs parked in the very center of the picture.
This is a view of one of the three mountains that framed
the back of the camp.  That's all Forest Service land behind us.
Luccock Park UMC Camp is located outside Livingston, Montana, about 50 miles due north of Yellowstone National Park. The camp has been here since 1923. Originally, it started as a location where Methodist churches from the surrounding towns could get together for camp meetings. Each town/church built their own cabin. Most of those old cabins are gone now, replaced by newer structures. Years ago, the camp meetings were discontinued and eventually the buildings and land were made into a camp for kids. The buildings surround a huge center field where a softball field, volleyball court, covered picnic pavilion, etc. are located. The road runs between the buildings and the field. Along the outside of the road, a snow-melt creek constantly runs. The water is cold!

Another view of the camp - looking out of the cove towards the
mountains to the west.
The RVs are parked at the far end of the camp just across an area from a National Forest campground. Behind that are three super tall, rugged mountains that still have snow on them. You drive up here about three miles from the main road – the access road to the camp is paved but winds back and forth and makes one really good hairpin turn. Until you get to the top where the camp is, you drive through private property. One rancher has three gigantic long horn bulls – and I mean gigantic! Horns must be two and half feet long each with a span of at least three feet. And we never fail to see little ground squirrels scurrying across the road and lots of deer. Yesterday evening, we saw a doe with two tiny fawns – they could hardly be older than a day old.

The baby bear we saw running across the field just outside the back
of the dining hall.
Oh – the other day, we were all in the dining hall for dinner and someone spotted a bear cub running across the field that's just outside the camp's property. Of course, we all ran outside to the deck and I was able to get a couple of pictures of it. Little fellow! Worried me where his mother was. He was running as fast as his little legs could carry him across the field. The next day, someone spotted him again but this time with his mother. Now, I don't want to come face-to-face with either of them, but I'm glad the little guy had his mother!

Anyway, you look one way and see the mountains. Then you look the other way and can see down the into the valley and across to the mountains on the other side of Hwy. 89 that leads down to Yellowstone. This area is known as Paradise Valley and we can certainly see why! The mountains are so huge and the valley is very wide – something we are not used to. At home, our mountains are right on top of you but here the vistas are long and vast. Right now, the mornings are very cool (comfortable in jeans and a sweatshirt) but the afternoons warm up considerably into the 80s. Then it cools off as the early evening comes along. If it wasn't for the long, very cold winters, both of us could see ourselves living here.

Add ambiance at the camp.  These tepees were put up for a group of
Special Forces soldiers who were have a retreat with their
children.  Purpose was to bond with their children and to
give them a glimpse of what they do while deployed.  A great
group of boys and girls and dads.
What have we been doing here? We were supposed to be building a small cabin but the fellow who was supposed to dig the six foot deep foundation hole in mid-May didn't get the hole dug until today. Now we have to wait for the concrete foundation to be poured and hardened. And we are now halfway through the project. Oh well, as they say - “NOMADS are flexible!” In the meantime, we have kept ourselves busy – building a new wood shed, stacking wood in the available space in the old wood shed (there's a lot of firewood around here!), fixing doors that don't close properly, burning scrap wood, building new bunk beds – you know, all that sort of camp stuff.

Last weekend, we made the drive down to Yellowstone. Interesting place to go in the summer – you are exposed to all kinds of languages. Melissa McGee, one of our team members joined us, and we ate lunch outside at a picnic table with three people from France. One of the ladies spoke English but the couple did not. So we had a nice conversation with her and she
Norris Geyser Basin on a clear day.
translated it for her friends. Later, a man from Italy came up to Bill when he was sitting with Lexi and Belle and started showing him pictures of his dog that was home in Italy. Then Melissa and I offered to take a picture of a couple from Spain.

We drove out Yellowstone's Lamar Valley hoping to see some wildlife. As you would expect, we saw loads of bison but only a few elk and a spattering of pronghorn. When we were here in January 2011, we saw herds and herds of elk, but they migrate back to their usual summer habitats in warmer weather and away from human views. Our winter guide mentioned that the
American bison - not buffalo (they live in Africa) - bison live
in the USA.
elk like to winter in Lamar because the weather is much more moderate than their usual home territory. And, of course, on this visit, we did not see any of Yellowstone's famous wolves. I really didn't expect to see any of them. Besides being very elusive, they would be almost impossible to spot as they blend in naturally with the surrounding vegetation and during mid-day, they normally bed down to sleep. Best time to see them would be at dawn, and, if you know me, that's far too early for me to be awake! We did see one grizzly bear sitting way, way off under a tree munching on something. Didn't get to observe it very long because it had started to rain and, as we ran back to the car, we started getting pelted with hail.

Melissa getting her Senior Park Pass on her birthday.
This next weekend, Bill's brother Rick and his wife Ginni are driving over from Boise, Idaho to spend the weekend with us. Really excited about seeing them! Not sure if we will go back to Yellowstone with them, but we promised Melissa we would take her down on Friday so she could get her Senior Park Pass on her 62nd birthday. She does not tow a car so we are happy to take her with us or where she may need to go. Anyway, we should have a fun time with Rick and Ginni and even get together with their son's in-laws who live here in Livingston. Russ and Jo Ann Ferguson run the Livingston airport and Russ has a crop dusting business. We had dinner with them a day after we arrived here and thoroughly enjoyed their company.

. . . until next time . . .
Photo was taken by team member Walter Leonard - beautiful
sunset on an overcast evening.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Utah Adventures

I am going to let a handful of pictures show what we did for over a week while we camped between Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. Fantastic places to visit and scenery to experience!

Circleville, Utah - Butch Cassidy's childhood home.  His parents
were Mormon and he was the first of 13 children.  Serious doubts
have been raised as to whether or not he died in Bolivia.  His family
said he visited them many times after 1908, the year he was
supposedly shot to death.

Yes, that's a white tail deer and, yes, that is snow/frozen rain.  This
was taken on a drive of Hwy 14 over the mountains to Cedar City, UT.

Zion National Park - a little chipmunk who knew how to pose and
beg for snacks.  He gave me this pitiful look while I was eating
a granola bar.  Didn't work - I ate the whole thing and shared none!

Bryce Canyon - the "amphitheatre"

Another view of a formation in Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon again

Zion National Park - a bit grainy photo - we were fortunate to see
some long horn sheep.  There was a whole herd of them a ways
back from the road, roaming around on the rocks.

Zion National Park - some of beautiful flowers that were blooming

Zion National Park - this picture was taken from
up the top of the switchback roads right after
we exited the 1+ mile tunnel.  We still had to
continue driving down and eventually ended up
on that tiny road at the bottom.

Zion - this mountain is right at the entrance to the East Gate.  It's
significant because it's very common to see the wind striations go left
and right but very rare to have the vertical striations.  It was a huge
rock formation - this picture doesn't do it justice!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

If it's Tuesday, it must be . . .

. . . Zion National Park.

Or was it the Navajo Nation's Monument Valley or Glen Canyon National Recreational Area?

Whatever it was, tomorrow will be Bryce Canyon National Park. But that's a post for another day.

Does this remind you of John Wayne movies?
In reality, this valley is very
sacred to the Navajo people.
We spent a couple of days at the Navajo Nation's Monument Valley that's located right at the Arizona and Utah states' line. This makes it interesting because Arizona does not recognize daylight savings time while Utah does. The park was in Arizona while the campground was in Utah. Thought we were going to need two watches to keep our lives straight but the Navajos recognize daylight savings time so the park was in the same time zone as Utah.

The size and vastness of Monument Valley is awe inspiring.
Another amazing place! Remember the John Wayne movies (along with a whole batch other movies) that showed tall buttes and spires in the background? “The Searchers” and “Stage Wagon” were two movies that come to mind. They were filmed in Monument Valley. Also part of “Forrest Gump” and the third “Back to the Future” were also filmed there. Now I'm going to have to watch those movies again to watch the background.

We drove the 17 mile loop – thank goodness for the Jeep. It was a fairly rough ride. Better than being in the tour guide open air trucks! They were bumping along with kids jumping on a trampoline. But the scenery was awe inspiring. Huge rock structures in all shapes and sizes.

Bill & Lexi trudging up the sandy trail
The second day there, we decided to take the dogs on a hike along the 4 mile trail that went around a butte. Very soft red sandy trail went down, down, down before we leveled off. Noticed a herd of free range goats that were being led by goats with bells around their necks and protected by a good looking Australian shepherd dog. We walked along and walked along, Belle smelling everything in sight while Lexi kept her head in the air, and walked some more. That stupid butte never got any closer to us the longer we walked. When we passed the 2 kilometer marker, we decided the dogs had gone far enough so we turned around to head back. Bill looked over at a sand dune (a real sand dune this time, not some mummified sand dunes that we had become accustomed to seeing) and thought he saw a skinny rock right on the side of the slope. I zoomed in on it with my camera – it ended up being another dog, sitting there as still as a rock. He never moved a muscle the whole time we walked by.

Remember the soft red sandy trail I mentioned above? We had to trudge back up through all that damn sand! Up, up, and up some more, and I never seemed to get anywhere. Even the dogs were having a hard time! Well, obviously, we made it (or I'd be sending this post via mental telepathy from the bottom of the hill). I decided no more hikes that start down first!!
Glen Canyon dam
From Monument Valley, we drove only 170 miles to Page, AR (no daylight savings time there) and spent a couple of days around the Glen Canyon Rec Area. Page did not exist until 1956 when the government decided to build a dam at the narrow canyon that the Colorado created. The builders had a huge problem – this was one of the most remote places in the United States at that time and getting across the canyon meant a 200 mile one way trip. So, before the dam could be started, a bridge had to be built across the canyon. And before the bridge could be built, a narrow swinging walkway had to built. And a town had to be established.

Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado
River, just down river from the
dam.  And another soft sandy
hike to get to.  And it IS a LONG
way down to the water.
A lot to do in a short amount of time. Took a few years, but everything was done. The dam is just 16 feet lower than the Hoover Dam and holds back water miles and miles up the Colorado River.

Me and the rock cairn I built
by the Horseshoe Bend.  I am
leaving these little rock monuments
everywhere we hike.
The main reason we stopped in Page is because we wanted to go through the Antelope Canyon. It's on Navajo land and the only way to get there is to go with a tour company. And wouldn't you know it, it rained the day we signed up to go. At first, we weren't sure we were going to be able to go. The canyon is so narrow, it's subject to flash floods. Thankfully, it only sprinkled and we made it out there without incident – or floods.

So narrow I could reach my hands out
and touch both sides at the same time.
The canyon looks like something a modern artist would have made up. So narrow you can stretch your arms out wide and touch both sides. Then it's sculpted in fantastic shapes that swirl and twirl over your head. Smoothed walls that came from eons of water rushing through with sand and debris acting as sandpaper finely sanding the walls. The canyon is ½ mile long and about 100 feet high – when the floods wash through, the water will reach the top of the canyon.

Looking up towards the top of
the canyon.
We weren't the only ones who enjoyed the walk through the canyon. Again, we heard any number of different languages spoken. On our little tour truck, we had an oriental couple and we think a German couple. I think we were the only Americans on that tour!

Finally - all the people moved out of
the way.  I had seconds to take this
picture before another mob of people
got in the way.
And the same thing in Zion National Park – almost more foreign language speakers than English. I lost track of how many languages we think we heard!
Okay, how do I describe Zion? A huge series of rock formation mountains? A beautiful river that flows through it? Hidden pools of water? A narrow canyon the only to hike is to walk through the river? A very high area called Angel's Perch that's reached by hiking a series of 27 sharp switchbacks? Vast views of orange colored canyons? Very narrow roadways through fascinating rocky formations? A very long and very dark tunnel?
That's a good start! I think I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
Until next time . . .

View of Zion as you drive in from the east.

The colors were gorgeous - too bad it was a cloudy, rainy day.

The river that carved this canyon over million of years.

The whisper of a waterfall that
falls from the upper Emerald
Pools to the lower Emerald
Pool.  We hiked to all three.

As I put one foot in front of the
other - was I going up the trail 
or down the trail?
The upper Emerald Pool.  So still, Bill took this mirror
image picture.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

You Can't Get Here From There - or - An Incredible Day at the Grand Canyon

What an absolutely incredible day we spent at the Grand Canyon! 

But, since we weren't crows, we had to drive around John Robin's barn to get from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon.

If you look at a map, the Grand Canyon is basically due east of the Vegas area. But, there are no roads that get you directly there by going due east. So after we finished the NOMADS project at Camp Potosi Pines (that's located southwest of Vegas), we had to drive back through the city, across the Hoover Dam, south on Hwy 93, east on I-40, then back north on Hwy 64. Altogether, it was 313 miles. Now, if I was a crow, it would have been about 190 miles.

You can see wisps of clouds moving in from the left.
Was it worth it?

Does the snow fall in Montana in the winter? Yes, Yes, Yes! It was definitely worth the time and effort it took to get here.

The Grand Canyon is one of those places you really need to see to appreciate its grandeur.  It's not called the "Grand" Canyon on purpose.  Bill kept asking me why I wanted to go to the Grand Canyon. “See some pictures of it or watch a film about it – it's just about the same” was his usual comment. But I persisted and now I think he's glad we came. But it took some effort . . .

The long drive from Vegas, the crazy drivers on the narrow two lane Hwy 64 (with cars passing us on curves, hills, double yellow lines – I almost had heart failure – but wouldn't you know it, most of those cars were from California!), the snow falling as we set up the RV, and the crowds of people. Only later did we learn there was a half-marathon being run the next day. Ended up having around 1500 people running that race! So much for our quiet day at the Grand Canyon.

 Regardless, the next morning we drove from the campground in Tusayan (pronounced “two-sigh-on” with the emphasis on the “two”), a couple miles south of the park, to the entrance. Thank goodness for our senior park pass – saved us $25. entrance fee. Getting expensive, our national parks.

We wandered around the Visitor's Center and got my little Passport book stamped, then finally wandered out to the rim. Even after all the pictures I have seen of the Grand Canyon, I wasn't prepared for the view that appeared in front of me. Blown away doesn't describe it! The vastness was hard to take in! I also felt as if I was looking through a pane of glass at a 3D image. I remember looking at Bill and asking him if it seemed real to him. And even though it was very chilly and the canyon had a very slight fog hanging in it, you could still see these huge stone monuments that looked like a giant child had been playing at the seashore and building sand castles.

The way the light played on the
cliffs was fascinating.  Notice
the dark sky in the back.
The park has a really nice pathway called the Rim Trail that is paved for quite a few miles. We started hiking it, all along stopping to marvel at the scenes in front of us. All sorts of people were visiting the park today and we started trying to figure out what languages we heard spoken. Some were very obvious – oriental looking people were speaking, guess what? Oh, mostly, Japanese. But we also heard Spanish (not surprising), Italian, a lot of German, then on one of the bus rides, we decided we heard Russian.

Clouds moving in from the west.
Then, guess what – it started snowing. In earnest. And I don't mean a little snow flurry but a full-fledged snow storm. The better part of wisdom told us to catch one of the buses (free shuttle bus service takes you from one end of the South Rim Park to the other), go to the old historic part of the park where all the old hotels are located, and have an early lunch. On the bus ride there, we noticed the snow was starting to stick.

Snowing on the north rim
What to do? It was down-right cold and we were starting to question our better sense. But I decided I hadn't done all this talking Bill into going to the Grand Canyon for nothing. A nice lunch and hot tea later, it quit snowing. We headed for another bus to ride to the far end of the western line to see what we could see.

And am I ever glad we did!!!! We got off the bus at one place where the fog was so thick, we could not see anything except for white. Then through the mist, the canyon begin to take shape. Hardly any time later, the entire way to the bottom and all the rock formations were visible. Bill quickly snapped a couple of pictures – the mist reformed the views disappeared! One lady was passing by and we started chatting. I told her that on a day like this, the Grand Canyon was full of surprises – all you had to do was wait a few minutes for the fog to shift a little, then you could be totally surprised by what you saw. She broke into a big smile and said she had never thought about it that way before. Then off she went one way and off we went the other, all of us looking for more surprises.
This was one of our "surprise" photographs.  Just a
few short minutes before Bill took this picture, it was
so foggy you couldn't see anything beyond the
handrail.  Then the fog started to shift and this
view resulted.  Mysterious looking.

And surprises we found. Three elk wandered out of the woods to the road side, a baby bunny came out of its burrow, birds started flying overhead, and the clouds cleared away. We spent the rest of the afternoon absolutely enthralled by the grandeur of the Grand Canyon.

P.S. Couple of fascinating facts about the Canyon:

It was formed over a time period of only six million years – a relatively short period of time in geological terms.

The head waters of the Colorado River are in the Rocky Mountain National Park. So why doesn't it form a huge canyon there? Because of the moister climate there, the river contributes to wide green valleys. But in the dry desert type climate of northern Arizona, it carved out the canyon.

 And the reason it carved out the canyon is because of all the sentiment (rocks, sand, etc.) that gets dumped into the river acts like sandpaper grinding away at the layers of rock that formed over the millions of years. Add the wind and rain to the action of the river in this dry climate = Grand Canyon.

Until next time . . .

The following are just a fraction of the pictures we took :>)

These people had climbed over the guardrail and
were posing on the edge of a very tall cliff.  Did I
think they were crazy?  Well, my mama raised
no idiot!!!!

Oh how the temperatures dropped!
The snow had not hit us yet but you
could feel it coming!  But I
thought the whole thing was
rather funny.