Tag Archives: travel

Lake Tahoe to Desert Playa

We loaded up the van and headed out last week, stopping first for a couple of days to visit with Troy in Tahoe.

 

Our intention was to travel on to the Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada and maybe into Utah but we had to cut the trip short and head home early so that Darlene could help a friend.  So we spent the couple of days we had checking out Pyramid Lake north of Reno (which is where Lake Tahoe and the Truckee River drain to) and then visiting the Black Rock Desert playa before heading home.

All of this area (and in fact all of northwest Nevada) used to be submerged in a huge prehistoric lake (Lake Lahontan) and the ancient water lines are still obvious along the mountain sides.  There are also lots of cool tufa rock formations in the area, though unfortunately much of the area around Pyramid Lake is off limits to the public and open to tribal members only.  (The lake and surroundings are part of a Paiute Reservation.)

Tufa / calcium carbonate rock formations (or perhaps alien artifacts)

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Colorado Road Trip

I’ve already posted a series of galleries for most of our Colorado road trip:

This last gallery (Florissant, Shelf Road, Flaming Gorge, etc.) contains more miscellaneous pictures — visiting the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, driving the dramatic, unpaved Shelf Road south out of Cripple Creek, stopping by the Royal Gorge Bridge, hiking out to the dinosaur trackways near Red Fleet State Park (Utah), spending a couple of days at the south end of the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, seeing wild horses in Sand Wash Basin HMA in northwest Colorado, and overnight stops in Wyoming, Utah and Nevada on my way to and from Colorado.

Old homestead at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

On the Shelf Road

Flaming Gorge Reservoir

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Dinosaur National Monument

As part of our month-long Colorado road trip, we spent about four days in Dinosaur National Monument but could have happily spent more if not for the worsening smoke from this year’s California wildfires.

One of many canyon overlooks along Yampa Bench Road

 

Coming from the south, we started with the canyon portion of the park and spent two nights at the Echo Park campground.  One day was just biking out along the Yampa Bench Road and checking out many of the amazing river canyon overlooks.

The following day we turned our attention to the dinosaur fossils and petroglyphs in the western part of the park by taking a slow, rough 4WD road to the other side of the park.  (Why take the easy way around??)

At the Quarry Exhibit Hall, you can see hundreds of fossilized dinosaur bones still embedded in the rock:

Lots of petroglyphs along Harper’s Corner Road

And we had a close encounter with a pair of bighorn sheep:

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A Taste of the Kokopelli Trail

As part of our month-long Colorado road trip, we stopped at a fossil quarry site along I-70 near the Utah border called A Trail Through Time where you can see a few fossils still embedded in the rock:

Afterwards we chose to check out the mountain biking trails in the BLM area just across the highway. Turns out this very pretty area, Rabbit Valley, is part of the popular Kokopelli Trail that continues southwest into Utah and all the way to Moab, over 140 miles.  We just ended up riding as far as an overlook of the Colorado River that afternoon before returning to our campsite for dinner and to watch a very cool, very active, distant thunderstorm.  I went for another ride later that night after dark.

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Museum of the Mountain West

As part of our month-long Colorado road trip, we decided to check out the Museum of the Mountain West in Montrose after seeing it in Atlas Obscura.  Jim was our friendly tour guide for several hours and it proved to be quite an amazing collection of old west artifacts.  Very easy to recommend – check it out – but you’ll want a guided tour as as a lot of rooms are now cordoned off for self-guided visitors.  (They kept having thefts.)

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison

As part of our month-long Colorado road trip, we spent a day exploring the south side of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  And yes, it is an incredibly deep, steep and narrow canyon!  We camped on some BLM land just outside of the park and spent a full day gawking at the canyon from the various viewpoints, including hiking out the Warner Point nature trail.

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Creede, Bachelor Loop and Wheeler Geologic Area

As part of our month-long Colorado road trip, we found ourselves in Creede and immediately discovered the incredible scenery of the 17-mile Bachelor Historic Mining Loop starting just outside of town.  We camped on a spur of the loop and then proceeded to follow the historic loop and gawk at the incredible scenery.  I do regret that we didn’t choose to ride our bikes along the route instead but it was still fantastic to see.

 

Later that day we decided to make our way up to the staging area (at 11,000 ft) for the Wheeler Geologic Area, based on an entry from Atlas Obscura.  You can’t actually easily drive the whole way as the dirt road gets seriously messed up and eroded away at points requiring serious 4WD maneuvering.  (Most people seem to take ATV’s or other off-highway vehicles.)  There is also a hiking trail but that’s best done as an overnight backpacking trip as it’s seven miles just to the trailhead leading to the formations.  We opted to follow the 4WD road on our mountain bikes as they aren’t allowed on the hiking trail.  (Except for the carve out for the dirt road, this is deep inside a designated wilderness area.) Interestingly, the Wheeler Geologic Area used to have national monument status until 1950.

As it turns out, the road goes way out-of-the-way to get there (14 miles) and it both gives up and regains a lot of elevation along the way.  Doing 30 miles round trip from our nearby boondocking site at 11,000 ft of elevation with a two-and-half-mile hike in the middle to actually see the formations turned out to make for a seriously brutal day – and that was with our electric-assist mountain bikes.  It was however a gorgeous ride and the geological formations are very cool – definitely worth the effort of getting there.

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Great Sand Dunes National Park

As part of our month-long Colorado road trip, we spent a couple of days at the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

We rented some rather worn out sand sleds, hiked to the high point of the first ridge (while fighting the strong high winds that day) and eventually managed to get the sleds working well enough to glide back down.

 

Sledding down the dunes

We had also planned to take the 4WD route over the mountains (Medano Pass Primitive Road) but were put off by the reports of very deep sand to get through.  We did hike up to see the nearby, cool-to-see Zapata Falls though.

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Visiting w/Martha & Dave

In early August, I met up with Darlene on her way back from Wisconsin and we spent a few days hanging out (and playing games) with Dave and Martha at their home in Conifer, Colorado. We then headed out in the camper van to wander around exploring a bit of Colorado for most of a month.  On our return, Darlene kidnapped Martha and brought her back to California to stay with us for a few days.

Giving Dave & Martha a taste of VR (virtual reality)

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Road Trip to the Pacific Northwest


Humboldt Redwoods State Park (California)

With Darlene out in Wisconsin visiting her family, I loaded up the van with Pan and Hera and headed up to the Pacific Northwest for a couple of weeks, visiting with my brother and some friends in the Portland/Vancouver area as well as exploring a bit of countryside – while avoiding the smoke from the wildfires already flaring up.


Visiting with Corey and his family

And with Jon & Siobhan

 

Glenn and Michele then joined me in their new van for a little tour around Olympic National Park.

 
Hiking in Olympic National Park (Washington)

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Joshua Tree and the Mojave Desert

After the long delay in building out the van due to Covid-19 shutdowns, keeping indoors from the widespread smoke and wildfires, dealing with several pet health issues (and emergency), then more Covid lockdowns across the state, we were finally able to take the Traveling Cat Adventure Van (II) out on a week-long maiden voyage.  We headed south to Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve, away from the storms and snow in the mountains.

   

All the campgrounds across the state had been closed until recently and not surprisingly, all the campgrounds were already booked up in Joshua Tree and the first-come, first-serve sites filled by Thursday afternoon when we arrived.  Not a big deal though as there is dispersed camping allowed in the BLM land just north of the park in and around the Coyote Lake dry lake bed.  As the nearest national park to the greater Los Angeles area, Joshua Tree was already fairly busy on Friday but turned crazy busy on Saturday so we moved on to the much quieter and deserted Mojave National Preserve on Sunday.

The van proved to be super comfortable and worked well for the two of us and the cats, including having to hunker down multiple nights in the midst of heavy wind storms.  We can easily see spending any amount of time (weeks or months) traveling and living out of the van.  And with the smaller size, it’s so nice to be able to easily go and park anywhere, unlike the previous 25-foot Leisure Travel Vans RV.

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Carrizo Plain National Monument

After getting the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle back from the repair shop (following my close encounter with a falling tree limb), Darlene and I decided to get in another little road trip.  I found Carrizo Plain National Monument initially as looking like a nice layover point on our planned way to Joshua Tree National Park, but we ended up deciding to spend our four days just there, exploring the hills and valley.

Carrizo Plain is probably most known for many illustrative pictures of the San Andrea fault cutting across many old creek beds and showing how quickly (geologically) the two plates are moving past each other.  It’s also home to some once elaborate Native American rock paintings, at “Painted Rock”.  Here’s some great side-by-side images showing the terrible damage these rock paintings have been subjected to over the last century.

In the spring, the valley and foothills are often covered in a brilliantly varied carpet of wildflowers.  (See this image search for examples.)

Besides these sights, we got in some hiking, drone-flying and general exploring.  I also brought along my newly acquired digital imaging telescope from Unistellar to see what it can do.

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Vancouver and SHUX 2019

Darlene and I returned to Vancouver, British Columbia last week to enjoy three days of board gaming at Shut Up and Sit Down’s third annual board gaming convention (SHUX ’19) after enjoying ourselves so much last year at SHUX’18.  Once again we got to meet a bunch of new people (as well as bumped into a friend local to the Santa Cruz area) while learning and trying out many different games.  As always, there’s also lots of other gaming-related stuff going on all around the convention hall but we pretty much stuck to the game library and play area for the whole convention this time.

 

We dove in deep starting with the viking-themed, “worker placement”-style game A Feast for Odin.  It’s good but I’m not sure I really want to play it again, and it’s also really time-consuming to teach to new players.  (Luckily we found someone who already knew the game to teach us.)  We moved on to try the tableau-building Valeria: Card Kingdoms (not great), before getting transformed into mice trying to battle and escape our rat guards in the story-based adventure game Mice and Mystics (very cute!).  Then we tried playing classic Disney villains in Disney’s Villainous with just the two of us – and then tried it again when the first game ended rather abruptly.  I give it a pass – you’re pretty much at the mercy of your card draw, with little decision making to do each turn.  The card decks do wonderfully capture the spirit of the feature films though.

We both loved playing the soon-to-be-released Ecos: First Continent and I immediately put in a preorder for it.  Next up was trying Lowlands, a classic euro-style game with the added twist of having to decide whether to give up some of your precious turn actions to work on the community dike holding back the rising seas.  We liked it… but not as much as Istanbul that we tried later in the day.  I’ve had that in my wish list to try for a while and playing it with a group of five turned into an immediate purchase.

Richard joined us for the bizarrely themed and misrepresented Lords of Waterdeep after somebody we met earlier in the day insisted we try it.  It was okay, but it was really just a totally abstract cube-exchanging affair. However, from there we moved on to finding a group to try laying out a suburban neighborhood together in the puzzle-y “roll and write” game Welcome to… – and yes, the third purchase as a result of SHUX this year!

 

We joined up on the last day with another couple to figure out how to play the intriguing time travel-based cooperative mystery adventure game  T.I.M.E. Stories – which turned out to both not be so straight-forward without giving ourselves any story spoilers and reminded me why it got some less than stellar reviews.  The problem is that the game intentionally sets up the story to play out in such a way that you’re going to run out of your allotted actions and fail multiple times and then “get” to experience going back in time again to try again with your new knowledge.  However, unlike a well-scripted time travel movie, it’s not that fun to have to go back and repeat previous sections to gather needed equipment again.  We ended up cheating a bit on the second go-around only to be forced into a second failure anyway where we decided to quit without seeing the first story through to its end.

We didn’t get to finish the last game of the weekend, The Ancient World, with yet another couple before the convention closed down.  This one started out rough and afterwards I discovered that there’s a newer edition of the rules which would have avoided much of the confusion and outright invalid actions we were taking.  Maybe we’ll try it again sometime somewhere.

Darlene had to take off super early Monday morning to teach a class by noon, but I hung out for the day in Vancouver and ended up going for a walk to Stanley Park and spending the afternoon at the Vancouver Aquarium.  Click through for the full gallery:

   

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Glenn’s Sore Feet

My brother is currently embarked on a 500-mile walk across northern Spain.  Glenn’s following the Camino de Santiago, taking pictures, making friends (furry and otherwise) and blogging about it as he goes – it’s an entertaining read if you’d like to follow along: https://www.glennssorefeet.com

   

And here’s Michele’s take on Glenn’s solo adventure: “Smell ya later!”

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Vancouver and SHUX 2018

Darlene joined me for a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, last week to enjoy three days of board gaming at Shut Up and Sit Down’s very own, second annual board gaming convention (SHUX ’18).  I only discovered Shut Up and Sit Down and their most excellent and entertaining board gaming content last year.  I’ve since been hooked on their written and video reviews as well as their podcast. They’re also responsible for me being driven to buy a trunk load of additional games over the past year.  (As if my game collection wasn’t large enough already.)

We got to try out a bunch of games I’ve been meaning to check out, meet some new people, get to see Quinns, Paul, Matt and Pip live and even see a little bit more of Vancouver – including tooling around on some electric bikes for a few hours. It was a great trip and great convention, though I wish we had used our time a little more wisely and squeezed in a few more games as well as been prepared for the early closing of the game-lending library.  Also, would’ve been great to participate in one of the day-long megagames (if the convention were longer) or in a more involved version of Two Rooms and A Boom.  We only got to try the basic version with just a couple of people with roles.  We did get to try and got hooked on several great ones: Bunny Kingdom, Mystery of the Temples, Bårenpark, Great Western Trail, Sagrada, and Azul.  Not so great: Crows, Koi and Kodama: The Tree Spirits.  Terrible: Cat Lady, Nefarious.

I also wish I had thought to take pictures of all of the games we tried (and the folks we played with), but click through for the full gallery:

      

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Summer Road Trip

These are the posts from our eight-week road trip in the RV (with the cats of course!) traveling from California through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Nevada:

Visiting Crater Lake – July 2018
A Close Encounter with Devils Tower – July 2018
Badlands of South Dakota – July 2018
Minnesota/Wisconsin State Parks – August 2018
Passing through Colorado – August 2018
Colorado National Monument – August 2018
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