Below Sea level – and back again

you may notice that I have left off with the “day” numbering. too hard to keep track now. and simply counting the days we have remaining. Brian is already planning his projects and activities at home to fill the few days before he returns to work. At least he didn’t have his Blackberry with him here – that is like never leaving the office.

Our intention was to camp at Death Valley but fortunately we weren’t relying on that – as most of the camp sites were not fully operational and it was pretty darn windy! We had pretty much had our fill of camping at Snow canyon (pegs in the sand do not a tent hold down) and needed to hang up the tent to dry and shake off the old red sand. what better place than Death valley to dry a tent…stayed at Stove pipe Wells- a really nice resort complex now with restaurant, saloon, pool, store, gas and many motel style blocks of rooms. Tried some plein air painting at dawn out on the dunes…but hey – dunes are caused by blowing sand. you guessed it. sand in the paint. sand in the teeth. sand pretty much everywhere. Not very condusive to creative expression. Will finish it later. after I have cleaned out all my paints. Ahhhhh…the joy of plein air.

but otherwise a great visit – did all the major view points- including the long drive up to Dante’s point viewpoint, Badwater basin, Zabrieski’s lookout, and the Artist’s Drive (not because it shouts out to be painted – but because the hills and rocks are colored with mineral deposits as if someone spilled their paints.)

the dunes at Stovepipe Wells - at dawn


Crazy rock and sand formations. All that empty space again a reminder our earth is still moving, shaking and forming. Took our camp chairs out into the dunes to looks at the stars.


We were still planning to head north up into Yosemite – but some other hotel folks said there was a HUGE dump of new snow and more on the way – their journey down from Tahoe had been quite an adventure – and they suggested trying the western entry route.

So off in the morning south again and then west – across the bottom of the Sierra Nevada mts – through some pretty empty valleys.
dramatic elevation rises and drops, strange industrial towns(I wouldn’t be drinking the water in Trona) sandstorms, Lake Isabelle and a fabulous canyon drive along the winding Kern River – we popped out of the stoney, bare mountain range into green orchards, almond trees in bloom and every square CA inch cultivated near Bakersfield. Zoomed up along busy Hwy 99 to Fresno. A good place to watch the Yosemite weather from.

Well it snowed alright – they were getting another foot to make it 2 feet of new snow…and that is just too much winter for these desert rats. So change of direction and we are chasing the sun back up to Napa.


Calistoga was our favorite spot along the route south through Napa back in January…so I tried to find a nice spot there. Well a sunny weekend and every hotel and B&B for miles was all filled up (or hugely expensive!!!) I decided to go for proximity and not hype. and here we are in a great spot – not 15 miles from Napa – quiet and reasonable priced – at Fairfield. Big huge room and a nice sunny pool – we are back to basking like lizards. And did a great drive today back up through Sonoma, Santa Rosa and looped back through Calistoga on the return leg.

Nice relaxing day. Good coffee and local breads @ Basque Boulangerie,  great wine, ham and fresh cheese from the Sonoma Cheese Factory, and piece of Ghirardelli chocolate for desert and our day is done. A long drive ahead tommorrow – put some miles behind us and head for Grants Pass.


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