We based our operations in Rapid City, South Dakota at the Shadows of Rushmore RV Park, $10/night with Coast to Coast. It was a nice resort and convenient to everything. While there we visited Mount Rushmore, where we met Nick Clifford, the last surviving sculptor of the monument.I bought his book and he autographed it. It was a nice visit and I understand that he recently celebrated his 98th birthday. We also visited Custer State Park, which I enjoyed enough that we went for a second day. The Badlands was also beautiful and breathtaking. Deadwood and Lead were also interesting places with so much western history. All in all this was a wonderful stop but it was cut short as I had to come home due to a family emergency on the 15th. More about that later.
I do recommend visiting this area. South Dakota is a beautiful state and the people are very friendly and inviting. There is a lot to see here. This blog is mostly pictures with descriptions. Please enjoy.
I flew out of Rapid City Regional Airport in South Dakota at 5 AM on June 15, headed to Raleigh Durham Airport (RDU) in North Carolina. The Rapid City Airport had two runways and seven gates. I flew a Delta small jet, capacity 50 people, to Minneapolis. I arrived in RDU around 8:30 PM and was so glad to see my son waiting for me. My mother’s condition had worsened so I had to cut my trip short. Travel is on hold for me for a bit and while it is, I’m going to blog about my family’s journey with Alzheimer Disease. I will be brutally honest, sharing insights, and I hope it helps someone. Please stay tuned.
Welcome to Part two of the Desert adventure. I was remiss in not mentioning (in part 1) that China Ranch has the best date milkshakes on the planet. After traveling in the hot dry air of the desert there is nothing more refreshing than a freshly made China Ranch Date shake. Honestly. Yum!
After the Goldwell Open Air Museum we took a day for Titus Canyon in Death Valley. To see and experience the Canyon you need an early start and a whole day. Titus Canyon is accessed by a 27 mile one way (east to west) gravel, rock and 4 wheel drive road. I love dirt roads so this was an adventure. To top it off, there is a section in Titus Canyon that has PETROGLYPHS which were picked by the Timbisha Shoshone! The Canyon is a deep gorge in the Grapevine Mountain section of the Mojave Desert. The canyon was formed during the Cambrian era 500 million years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed the place.
Leadfield is a ghost town we passed through on the east side of Titus Canyon. It was an unincorporated area 4,058 above sea level. The Western Lead Mine Company, particularly CC Julian, promoted a get rich quick scheme through false advertising to get investors. The town formed and boomed to a population of 300 in 1925 and was abandoned in 1927 as the mines closed (not productive). Mr. Julian simply disappeared. Even in the 1920s if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. The only person to make money was Mr. Julian.
We traveled through the Stovepipe Wells settlement on our way to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. When most people think of deserts they think of sand. Death Valley is less than 1% sand dunes. Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes is expansive and impressive. There are three kinds of dunes there: crescent, linear, and star shaped. It is also a protected wilderness area but they do allow people to go out on the dunes. Very nice. Bring plenty of water!
Next we were off to explore the Harmony Borax Works ruins. It is located at Furnace Creek Springs in Death Valley and it is on the National Registry of Historic Places. Borax was discovered there in 1881 by Aaron and Rosie Winters with William Coleman and Francis Smith obtaining mining rights. They were the original twenty mule team borax folks. The operation began in 1883 and collapsed in 1888.
Manzanar Internment (Concentration) Camp was a very somber experience. It is one of 10 camps where 110,000 Japanese Americans were held from December 1942 to 1945, during World War II. It is now called the Manzanar National Historic Site. This is a sad history of a dark time in our country. Reading and viewing the exhibits was overwhelming. How could this have happened in the United States of America? Can it happen again? We don’t tend to learn from our historical mistakes.
We took a day to experience the Hoover Dam and Lake Meade. The Dam is amazing and it was a great tour. It is on the Colorado River and borders both Nevada and Arizona and was built during the great depression, 1931-1936. It is a marvel, even by today’s standards. One story of interest to me was the Hoover Dam Dog. He was a part lab puppy that was born in 1932 in the crawlspace under the police department of Boulder. One of the workers started bringing him to the dam every day. The pup came and went with the workers each day and the commissary started making lunch for the pup. He carried his lunch bag along with the men. He went to sleep under a truck on February 21, 1941. He was accidentally run over and is buried on site at the dam and was honored with a plaque above his tomb. Hardened construction workers broke down in tears over his death and are responsible for making a place of honor for him at the dam.
The Chicken Ranch! No trip to Pahrump is complete without checking out the Historic Chicken Ranch Brothel, so we did. Got the tee-shirt! It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. We had to be buzzed in and out through the gate and the front door. It was a nice place to have a coke and get some souvenirs. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Lastly, we had a divine lunch at the Pahrump Valley Winery at their Symphony Restaurant. The food was deliciously savory and the ambiance outstanding as was the wait staff. It was a special gift that we gave ourselves. Well worth it. Give it a try if you are in the area.
That wraps up our Pahrump, Nevada adventures. Good fun was had by all! Please stay tuned for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Thanks again for reading.
What can I say about Moab, Utah, population 5,300 (on a good day)! We stayed at OK RV Resort ($41.65/Day with Good Sam’s) on the outskirts of town. Great resort with great amenities and views. Moab is the mecca for mountain bikers, hikers and off-roaders. I have never seen so many Can-Am, Polaris and jeep vehicles in my life! Oh, and the red dirt. It’s famous!
If you love red dirt, warm weather, and the outdoors you’ll love Moab. The Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Dead Horse Point State Park are all nearby and make for great adventuring! The town is eclectic and quaint but busy. Two restaurants we enjoyed were The Moab Diner and Hidden Cuisine. Both reasonably priced with good service and tasty fare.
Our first stop was The Arches National Park. What a great landscape! The Arches has the highest density of natural arches anywhere in the world, about 2,000 of them. The Park is on 76,689 acres on the high desert of the Colorado Plateau. It’s a beautiful place to spend some time. The hiking areas are rated easy to extreme but even on the easier trails water and sunscreen are necessities. We averaged hiking a little over 6 miles in an afternoon. Well worth it. Don’t forget to take your National Park Pass or the entrance fee is $35 per car. How do you choose a photo? It’s difficult.
The park’s terrain appears to be rugged and durable but it is extremely fragile. With more than 1 million visitors each year this ecosystem is threatened by those who think the rules about not climbing (without a permit) and walking off existing trails applies to them. The cyanobacteria, algae, fungi, and lichens can be destroyed for decades with a simple footstep off the trail. There is a $20,000 fine if you are caught. Unfortunately we encountered a few of these folks and we did confront them, only to hear, “I don’t care, Ranger Bob.” Even sadder, they had their school aged kids with them. What are they teaching them?
The next day we headed to Dead Horse Point State Park. They also ask that you stay on marked trails to lessen the impact of your visit. Legend has it that cowboys in the 1800s used the point as a corral to round up wild horses. They would round up the horses and drive them across a 30 foot neck onto the point then close the neck with brush and limbs. One of these roundups was disastrous for the horses as the cowboys picked the good horses and left the “scrubs” to die of thirst on the point. The Colorado River is 2,000 feet below the point. The horses could smell the water but could not get to it. No one knows why the cowboys decided to do this. No matter how I look at it, it’s cruelty in the worst form.
Canyonlands National Park was our last excursion while in Moab. It is another beautiful place in the high desert. Canyonlands is divided into four parts: The Maze, Island in the Sky, the Needles, and the Rivers (where the Green and Colorado Rivers converged. These rivers cut deep creating two canyons. We enjoyed the trails and clocked over 5 miles while in the canyon. More pictures:
Hope you enjoyed reading about this outing. Next up: Torrey, Utah with Capital Reef, Escalante at Grand Staircase, Anasazi Museum and more! Stay tuned.