Note: All pictures are highly compressed for the Internet viewing purpose. The originals are available upon request, if anybody interested.

Day 1.

Our 2010 summer vacation started on Friday. We were going to camp around, so the vehicle was pretty well stuffed: three of us packed lots of things: tents, sleeping bags, some tools and the recovery gear, food, water, clothes, and an inflatable boat. We were going to spend 12 days out of town, and we really needed the stuff.

Yosemite

Our first destination was a popular vacation town Mammoth Lakes.  We went through the 120 Highway over the Sierra Nevada ranges. We passed through the magnificent Yosemite National Park. Although it was Friday, there were lots of tourists. Do they need to work for living or what?

View from highway 120:

Full set of Canon SLR Yosemite pictures is here: day01\01.YosemiteNP\canonDigital\index.html

Full set of Point & Shoot camera Yosemite pictures is here: day01\01.YosemiteNP\ps\index.html

Mono Lake.

Our first stop on the other side of the Sierra was Mono Lake. The lake is slowly recovering after the decades of water usage abuse by the Los Angeles metropolis. It is stuffing more water every next year, and the ecosystem is getting better. I wish Walker Lake in Nevada would get the same kind of treatment but unfortunately the fate of Walker Lake is unclear.

 

Full set of Mono Lake Canon SLR pictures is here: day01\02.MonoLake\canonDigital\index.html

Twin Lakes Campground.

We eventually arrived to the Twin Lakes campground, very conveniently located not far from the downtown of Mammoth Lakes. The place is great, but it was a little too crowded for our taste.

 

Another group of our friends joined us in the evening. They were camping in Twin Lakes campground for two nights.

Full set of Point & Shoot pictures of the campground is here: day01\03.TwinLakes\ps\index.html

Canon SLR pictures are here day01\03.TwinLakes\canonDigital\index.html

 

Day 2.

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.

In the morning we decided to visit the Ancient Bristlecone Pine forest, located in White Mountains at the California-Nevada border. The bristlecone pine is known as the oldest non-clone living organism on Earth. The oldest pines are approaching 5000 years. They live on high elevations and have no competition in the harsh conditions. They choose the dry mountains along the California-Nevada border as their main “headquarter”. In the wetter Sierra ranges they face too much completion. I visited this place 8 years ago and I wanted to refresh my memory, and to show the marvelous trees to Vera and Tatiana.

We got to the main pine grove over the long paved road that is going around the southern end of White Mountains. The road surface is good but the road is so twisted that we decided that the unpaved Silver Canyon road that makes almost free fall from the range to the valley floor in just few miles would be easier for the return trip. We were concerned about the numerous creek crossings along the road but the creek was surprisingly dry this time of the year.

 

Full set of Canon SLR pictures is here: day02\01.BristleconePines\canonDigital\index.html

In the night, we returned to the campground and visited the Mammoth Lakes downtown. The pictures are here: day02\02.MammothLakesDowntown\ps\index.html

Day 3.

Laurel Lakes.

Our original intention was to stay at the Twin Lakes campground for 5 consecutive nights and explore the Sierra. Waking up that morning on Day 3, we did not know we are having our last hours on the campground.

In the morning, we went to Laurel Lakes. A moderately rated 4WD trails leads to the beautiful remote location in the Sierra, with twin Laurel Lakes as the main scenery detail. The shelf road offered great view and the jarring ride. We met a horses-and-mules expedition on our way, with mules hauling heavy wooden boxes to the mountains. I guess that were geologists or meteorologists or else.

That was my fourth trip to Laurel Lakes in years, and I am enjoying each time I am there.

Full set of pictures: day03\01.LaurelLakes\ps\index.html

Our doggy Sunny had a chance to play in the snow, for the first time in her life. She was so excited that we made a movie of her getting crazy in the snow: the first movie is here: day03\01.LaurelLakes\movies\DSCN0083.AVI and the second is here: day03\01.LaurelLakes\movies\DSCN0085.AVI .

While we were driving back to Mammoth Lakes, we got into the unexpected thunderstorm, cold rain and hail. The weather report was talking about very minor stuff, but that storm was nothing minor. The weather in the mountains is unpredictable, even in summer. We got to the camp and we made an effort to lockup in the tents and overstay the storm, but with time it was getting clear that the storm is not going to stop any time soon. When the whole camp was under the water, we moved the whole “expedition” to the temporary location at Motel6 in Mammoth Lakes, and we officially abandoned the camp site.

Although all our belongings were cold and wet, we were finally safe and warm and dry in the hospitable walls of Motel6.

Day 4.

The next morning, we had to decide what we are doing next. As our “expedition” hit the wall, and the events turned unexpectedly, we needed somehow to make a new plan. We had a hotel reserved in Las Vegas for Day 6, and we had to find a place to stay for two more nights. After consulting, over the phone, with our friends, we decided to move south, to the Lone Pine area. This area has a few campgrounds, all services, and it presented a good warm alternative to the cold and wet (at the time) Mammoth Lakes area.

We dried and packed our stuff, and in few hours we were in Lone Pine.

Diaz Lake.

We choose Diaz Lake as the campground for the next two nights. This is not the cleanest campground, but it has lots of space, the weather was great, and the lake is large and warm and clean. We spent lots of time in the lake over the next days.

Others pictures of the campground: day04\01.DiazLake\ps\index.html

Alabama Hills.

In the evening, we decided to visit the nearby area Alabama Hills. I had been there before and I wanted to show the area to the ladies. This is a famous Hollywood location where lots of movies have been shot. The dirt road that goes through Alabama Hills is simply named the “Movie Road”.

 

Canon SLR pictures of Alabama Hills are here: day04\02.AlabamaHills\canonDigital\index.html

Point & Shoot camera pictures are here: day04\02.AlabamaHills\ps\index.html

Silly movie how I brave the road is here: day04\02.AlabamaHills\movies\DSCN0185.AVI

Lone Pine

The town of Lone Pine is a friendly stop for the travelers. Some travelers are going on highway 395 to north or south, some are turning toward the Death Valley National Park – Lone Pine is a gateway to Death Valley. We went to the town in the night and walked around.

Others pictures of Lone Pine are here: day04\03.LonePine\canonDigital\index.html

Day 5.

That was a big night for our doggy Sunny – she got acquainted with a raccoon family and almost got her bite of a large raccoon mother of three that was trying to go through our camp eatable stuff… Sunny was very lucky that I got in between the two and saved her from the fight. The raccoon was like four time bugger than Sunny and I can easily predict the outcome of the fight. But Sunny showed that she is a little brave watch dog.

Cerro Gordo.

On day 5, we decided to visit the ghost town Cerro Gordo, located in Inyo Mountains between Owens Valley, Lone Pine and Death Valley. There are two roads to the town – one easy and one difficult. I was planning the difficult road for my April’s expedition with 4x4wire this year, but due to the unforeseen circumstances we had to skip this part of trip in April (simply speaking, we went out of gas). This time, I was with a single car, so for the safety reasons I decided to take the easy road.

Cerro Gordo is located right at the top of the Inyo Mountains crest. We had to climb a few thousand feet in the car. The town is deserted, but it is a private property and it has a caretaker. Overall, the town is in surprisingly great shape for a ghost town. The caretaker can lead a tour over the town, and the old American Hotel in the town is actually semi-functioning – you have to make a special arrangement in advance to stay in the hotel.

 

After the town, the road is descending toward Saline Valley – that is the northern end of Death Valley National Park. We drove few miles in the desolated landscape and found a good place for shooting lessons. Young ladies must know how to shoot – and this is our responsibility as the old folks to teach the youngsters. She was shooting surprisingly well and she could stably hit the wooden log in 5 yards, from 0.380ACP Bersa auto pistol. This is good for a starter.

The full set of pictures is here: day05\01.CerroGordo\ps\index.html

Then we returned back to the camp and survived the afternoon heat sitting in the lake.

Mount Whitney.

In the night, we went to the Mount Whitney portal. This mountain is the highest mountain in the lower states. At the portal, they have tourist amenities and some easy walking trails. The road to Mount Whitney saw its share of Hollywood movies, too.

We shot a small movie, too: day05\02.MountWhitney\movies\DSCN0286.AVI

Full set of pictures is here: day05\02.MountWhitney\ps\index.html

Day 6.

Death Valley.

On 6th day, we were planning to leave the camp and get to Las Vegas, passing through Death Valley National Park. We left the hospitable town of Lone Pine and headed to the east.

Death Valley was, well, hot. We observed as much as 117 degrees of Fahrenheit (which is around 47 degrees Celsius).  In this heat, and in a weekday, there were surprisingly many tourists in the Valley. This place is famous, but this is not a good camping spot in summer. I cannot imagine how I would survive camping in Death Valley in summer.

Zabrisky point:

The point-and-shoot camera pictures of Death Valley are here: day06\01.DeathValleyNP\ps\index.html

Las Vegas.

This city was hot.

The pictures are here: day06\02.LasVegas\ps\index.html

 

Day 7.

On 7th day, we planned a long haul from Las Vegas to Goblin Valley State Park in Utah. On the way, we drove through some very attractive landscapes – Zion National Park, Escalante mountain region, Capitol Reef National Park.

Zion.

The red rocks of Zion are fascinating.

All Zion pictures (plus some views along the 12 highway in Utah) are here: day07\01.ZionNP\ps\index.html

This region was originally discovered and settled by Mormon pioneers. The conditions were tough but they somehow managed to conquer the nature.

Local town Springdale can be seen in this short movie clip: day07\01.ZionNP\movies\DSCN0501.AVI

Goblin Valley Campground.

We drove to the gates of Goblin Valley late in the night, around 9PM, but the lady ranger was still present at the entrance. That was a pleasant surprise; usually the rangers in the state parks leave the entrance around 4 or 5 PM. Overall, the campground is very well organized and comfortable. Some great attractions are within the walking distance. The only complaint was that there was no laundry around, but this is a minor problem. The campground shop had lots of useful stuff, including the firewood.

This park is very remote. The nearest town, Hanksville, is located 32 miles afar. There is no single other inhabitant place around, except for occasional RVs in the middle of nowhere.

The area’s history is connected to “Butch” Cassidy and his famous Wild Bunch group of outlaws. According to the local legend, “Butch” Cassidy, in his usual business-like manner, saved a poor family farm from the foreclosure, in Hanksville. He gave the money to the farmer to pay to the banker, and then he robbed the banker when the banker signed the papers.

Our camp:

 

Others pictures of the camp are here: day07\02.GoblinValleyCampground\canonDigital\index.html and here: day07\02.GoblinValleyCampground\canonFilm\bw1\index.html and here: day07\02.GoblinValleyCampground\ps\index.html

Day 8.

Lake Powell / Glen Canyon.

According to the official trip schedule, we went to the Lake Powell / Glen Canyon national recreation area. We visited probably not the most scenic place on the lake (Bullfrog marine) but the water was easily accessible and we badly needed some swimming to cool down from the summer heat.

I had never been to Lake Powell before and I was surprised seeing how many people gathered in this very remote place. Finding a spot near the water was a challenging task. Eventually I used my vehicle 4WD capability and I drove down to the difficult-to-reach place where the ubiquitous RVs could not get to. About 90% of people were on RVs, and the beach was so jammed that they had to drive RVs even to the places where only 4x4 vehicles are recommended. The beach area is completely open to drive anywhere you want; you are limited only by your vehicle. And the vehicle is limited by the rocks.

Once we found a good spot, we had lots of good stuff to do. We unpacked our boat and tested it – that was our first navigation adventure in this boat. The boat proved to be very convenient and easy to use.

The water was warm, clean and very deep – the bay was bottomless immediately near the beach. We were circling in the bay for hours.

All pictures are here: day08\01.LakePowellGlenCanyonNP\ps\index.html

When we were leaving, I had traction problems climbing out of the spot. The short movie is here: day08\01.LakePowellGlenCanyonNP\movies\DSCN0648.AVI . The movie was shot from a wrong angle, so it looks silly why I am having problems. But in reality, the climb was very steep and the surface was very loose.

 

Day 9.

Arches National Park.

That was a long drive to the Arches, but it was worth it. This famous park packs lots of visitors and can get really crowded, but we were able mostly to avoid the crowds by taking the backroads.

The best view in the park, I believe, is the Tower Arch, located in the northern corner of the park. An easy gravel road leads to the parking lot, and then you have to hike a mile and something to the arch. In the summer heat this hike is too strenuous. But fortunately, there is a second approach road that is much more difficult and only high-clearance good 4WD trucks can make it.  This road comes very close to the arch. We were able to use this road (I had to use a locker once to get through smoothly). We saw very few vehicles on this road, just three of them – a Jeep Rubicon, a modified Cherokee, and a large stock Ford Expedition commercial tour vehicle with a young lady behind the steering wheel. She is making this trip twice a day, so she knows how to go around the obstacles. But when you go through this trail the very first time, solo, without a spotter, it can be fun. This trail has difficulty 6 in one book, “moderate” in another, and the highest scenic ratings in the area.

The trail:

View to the Tower Arch from the 4x4 parking lot:

The trail then goes from Tower Arch toward the southern direction and to the Willow Springs backcountry park access road for about 10 miles. The park service is asking to use the trail only in one way direction – from north to south – to eliminate the trail damage. The trail has lots of places where you have to slide down in deep sand. The park service says that in summer the trail is impassable in south-to-north direction, and I can easily believe that.

This is my short movie clip about an easy part of the trail: day09\01.ArchesNP\movies\DSCN0719.AVI

This is the full Canon SLR digital set of pictures about the park adventure: day09\01.ArchesNP\canonDigital\index.html

This is the point-and-shoot camera pictures: day09\01.ArchesNP\ps\index.html

Day 10.

Goblin Valley.

This day we dedicated to the Goblin Valley State Park, itself. We went hiking to the central Goblin Valley, and I shot two black-and-white films there. The place is very unusual and ethereal.

The first film is here: day10\01.GoblinValley\canonFilm\bw1\index.html

The second film is here: day10\01.GoblinValley\canonFilm\bw2\index.html

Color pictures by point-and-shoot camera is here: day10\01.GoblinValley\ps\index.html

Little Wild Horse Canyon.

Afternoon, we went to the nearby Little Wild Horse Canyon. I had seen the pictures of the canyon on Internet, they were great, and I decided to go through this canyon as far as we could. Unfortunately, the heat was exhausting, and all three ladies in the company (Vera, Tatiana and Sunny) experienced some trail damage, so we had to stop soon. Still, the views were very nice.  The full round-trip trail is 8 miles on harsh terrain, and must be traveled in colder time of the year with better prepared hikers.

Full set of color film pictures is here: day10\02.LittleWildHorseCanyon\canonFilm\color\index.html

Point-and-shoot camera pictures are here: day10\02.LittleWildHorseCanyon\ps\index.html

Day 11.

That day, we were driving toward our home on two very lonely roads: freeway 70 in Utah and highway 50 in Nevada. Officially, Highway 50 is the loneliest road in the USA. But I would say that freeway 70 actually is “lonelier”: for about 107 miles between Green River and Salina along the freeway 70, there is no human habitat, no service, nothing. On highway 50, you can find a service each 50-80 miles.

Sunny was really tired during the drive.

Some pictures on the road: day11\01.RoadThroughNevada\ps\index.html

We came to the rest in the night in town of Fallon in Nevada.

Day 12.

Pyramid Lake.

Next day, we went to Pyramid Lake for refreshing after the long road.

Pyramid Lake pictures: day12\01.PyramidLake\ps\index.html

Sparks, Nevada

Then we visited Cabelas shop on Nevada-California border. Our trip was over. Totally about 2600 miles have been driven, we got very tired, but the experience was simply overwhelming. We now have lots of thing to remember.

Tatiana at Cabelas.

Some Sparks, Nevada pictures: day12\02.SparksNV\ps\index.html