Tulips and Daffodils!

Even though we have been back from our annual extended travels for about a month (and came back from Mexico to nothing but rain, rain and more rain…), we thought you might enjoy our recent visit to the tulip and daffodil fields in the Mt. Vernon (Washington) area.  We stayed near Anacortes for several days in mid-April and spent a lot of time exploring the area – lots to see and do.  Needless to say, the flowers were at their peak and were spectacular: worth braving the crowds to walk through the muddy fields to enjoy them close up.  Not many words are necessary…the images speak for themselves…

We drove around the Mt. Vernon area looking for fields and came across this wonderful planting of daffodils. Dee Dee was happy. (Parking was pretty bad, though. Good thing we had the Jeep because we had to park tipping at a 45-degree angle, towards a ditch.)

As we were driving around looking for tulip fields, we kept seeing crowds of people walking around in the acres and acres of flowers. We finally figured out they were entering a huge operation, Roozengaarde (click on the link for more information.) Very well organized and friendly. And, as you can see, crowded. When we entered their (huge) parking lot, we had to wait about 20 minutes until a spot opened up. Fortunately, they had parking monitors, with radios, who directed us a great spot right near the entrance to the gardens.  It cost $7 per person to enter, but it was well worth it.

Walking around the Roozengaarde fields was a bit of a challenge – there was mud everywhere. No wonder most of the visitors were wearing rubber boots. (Except us…) We saw a small child fall into this pool; they had to dispatch the Whidbey Island Coast Guard to rescue him.

While in Anacortes, we met up with our old friends from San Diego, who now live near LaConner, Frank and Penny Rigoni. Always a real hoot when we get together, and never enough time to catch up.

We also met up with a couple of Dee Dee’s Oak Harbor High School buddies, Jim and Marsha Phay, who introduced us to a terrific restaurant in Anacortes – Calico Cupboard. One of the very best lunches we have ever enjoyed.

 

Death Valley

Our new best friends, wish us the best as we leave Las Vegas (look carefully to the right and you will see Dee Dee waving back)

Our new best friends, wishing us the best as we leave Las Vegas (look carefully to the right and you will see Dee Dee waving back…)

So, after 5 days in Sin City, we were really ready to be ‘Leaving Las Vegas.’  We parted friends with the KOA People at Sam’s Town, even though this stay was a mild hassel.  The drive to Furnace Creek in Death Valley was an easy one, with very little traffic.  Better yet, by the time we arrived, the Thanksgiving Crazies had left and the park was quiet and almost empty.  A great time to be here: post-Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas.

We experienced the same heavy rains as many other southwest US areas.  Some roads here were closed due to washouts (Twenty Mule Team Canyon and Titus Canyon), and there was a lot of water flowing across asphalt roadways, flowing down washes and alluvial fans.

I played golf a couple of times at the Furnace Creek Golf Couse, a nice track in good condition with lightning-fast greens; the 2nd time I had the entire course to myself for the first 15 holes.  Dee Dee took several long bike rides and got to know the area around Furnace Creek a lot better.  This was a somewhat off-year for coyotes;  I only saw 2, on the golf course, and Dee Dee did not see any.  Charlie-The-Dog spent a fair amount of time smelling them.  Dylan-the-Cat was kept on-lease; no coyote bait for him.

We rented a jeep one (very rainy) day and explored Hole in the Wall road, Echo Canyon Road to the Inyo Mine, Chloride City and Titus Canyon (our 2nd trip through).  All of the roads required 4WD high-clearance vehicles.  The road to Chloride City got pretty technical.  Lots of big rocks and steep, slippery turns, due to exposed bedrock and the fact it was raining.  That drive was white-knuckle all the way.  (Ted and Mary Ellen, you would have loved it; I would have jumped out, only I was driving.)  We were probably the last vehicle through Titus Canyon.  It was raining hard and the road on both sides of the pass was starting to wash out.  And, we never saw another person.  The parking lot at the end was empty.  This was one of the very best days we have had in our 40+ years and many visits to Death Valley…lots of excitement and we saw new stuff.

Last night (Thursday, December 4th) Dee Dee was outside and saw huge flames and lots of smoke coming from the historic Furnace Creek Inn.  It looked like the whole place was on fire.  This morning (Friday) we drove up there and found that it was the laundry building across the highway that had burned.  Totally gutted and still smoldering; no damage at all to the Inn.  The entire Valley was filled with haze-induce smoke from the fire, that must have taken most of the night to extinguish.  When we got there, about 9:30 AM, it was still smoldering and they were still doing ‘spot-squirts’ on hot areas.  The Park Service had closed Highway 90 in front of the structure and was routing traffic through the Inn’s parking lot.

Of course we had to visit the local saloon and have a beer (or 2) every day.  Our theory is that beer is good for your health, at least in our book. We rode our bikes the mile up and back, so that balances off the beer (and some days French fries and blue cheese dressing dip.)

Tonite we are having dinner with our good friend, Shellye Poster, who was our NPS Ranger Supervisor when we were Campground Hosts at Stove Pipe Wells in 2010.  Shellye has also published a wonderful book, “The Photographer’s Guide to Death Valley.”

OK…enough words…here are some images (and captions) for our latest installment.  (Our next stops will be Bullhead City, AZ, the Grand Canyon, Prescott (where we are visiting our friends Gary and Debbie), and then Apache Junction (where we will meet up with long-time friend, Neil, who I met in graduate school at ASU, in the early 1970’s.)

(Sherry, this post is dedicated to you…not many words, lots of pictures, just the way you like it…)

Storm clouds over the Funeral Range

Storm clouds over the Funeral Range

Creosote bushes, Echo Canyon Road

Creosote bushes, Echo Canyon Road

Dee Dee and Charlie at the Inyo Mine

Dee Dee and Charlie, Echo Canyon Road, at the Inyo Mine

Old mining equipment at the abandoned Inyo Mine, Echo Canyon Road

Old mining equipment at the abandoned Inyo Mine, Echo Canyon Road

Table at the Inyo Mine where travelers put stuff they found (rather than stealing it)

Table at the Inyo Mine where travelers put stuff they found (rather than stealing it)

Creosote bushes

Creosote bushes

The Bush and The Bob, Echo Canyon Road

The Barrel Cactus and The Bob, Echo Canyon Road

Eye of the Needle, Echo Canyon Road

Eye of the Needle, Echo Canyon Road

Exfoliating stone, at the end of Hole in the Wall Road

Exfoliating stone, at the end of Hole in the Wall Road

Mysterious symbol found at the end of Hole in the Wall Road, probably left by Aliens

Mysterious symbol found at the end of Hole in the Wall Road, probably left by Aliens

Probably an Alien spaceship, commandeered by the NPS, near Furnace Creek

Probably an Alien spaceship, commandeered by the NPS, near Furnace Creek

Dee Dee and Charlie, at Hole in the Wall

Dee Dee and Charlie, at Hole in the Wall

Round the turn at the top of the pass, dropping into Titus Canyon.  We call this "Oh Shit Corner," because that what you say when you get there.  Although can't tell, it's an abrupt 180 degree turn going down a steep slope.

Rounding the turn at the top of the pass, dropping into Titus Canyon. We call this “Oh Shit Corner,” because that’s what you say when you reach this point. Although you can’t really tell from this image, it’s an abrupt 180 degree turn going down a steep slope.

Looking down, from top of pass, into Titus Canyon.  You had to be there to experience the sheer vastness of this scene

Looking down, from top of pass, into Titus Canyon. You had to be there to experience the sheer vastness of this scene

Beginning of Titus Canyon Road washing out

Beginning of Titus Canyon Road washing out

Charlie leaving his mark at Leadfield (on the Titus Canyon Road)

Charlie leaving his mark at Leadfield (on the Titus Canyon Road)

Entering the Narrows, Titus Canyon

Entering the Narrows, Titus Canyon

Sine wash, flowing into Furnace Creek Wash

Arterial wash, flowing into Furnace Creek Wash

Furnace Creek Wash

Furnace Creek Wash

View of burned out Furnace Creek Inn Laundry Building

View of burned out Furnace Creek Inn Laundry Building

View of burned out Furnace Creek Inn laundry building (across Highway 90 from the Inn)

View of burned out Furnace Creek Inn laundry building (across Highway 190 from the Inn)

Dead mesquite trees, NPS Furnace Creek Campground

Dead mesquite trees, NPS Furnace Creek Campground

Side wash, flowing into Furnace Creek Wash, about 4 miles above Furnace Creek

Side wash, flowing into Furnace Creek Wash, about 4 miles above Furnace Creek

'Exploding Bush,' Echo Canyon Road

‘Exploding Creosote Bush,’ Echo Canyon Road