Giants…

The decision was made to skip Joshua Tree National Park and head to Lake Isabella / Kern River Valley KOA for a few extra days to escape the heat of the desert and have some additional down time from traveling.  Isabella Lake is one of the largest bodies of water in Southern California.  Around the lake are numerous campgrounds for RV’s and tenting, which allow direct access to the lake for activities such as windsurfing, boating and fishing.

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A little over an hour away in the Sequoia National Forest is the “Trail of 100 Giants.”  The Kern River Valley is the Gateway to the Sequoia’s.  These giants grow only on the western slop of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.  They are more massive than the coastal redwoods and considered to be the largest trees in the world in terms of volume.  The trail is a self-guided walk through the Long Meadow Grove of Giant Sequoias.  We were absolutely in awe of these magnificent trees.  Even pictures can’t capture the beauty of these giants.  It was like being a little gnome in an enchanted forest!

After a few days of down time we were off to Sequoia Campground and Lodge in Three Rivers, CA, about 2 ½ hours away.  The drive out of Isabella Lake was probably one of the most challenging with the RV, but beautiful.  It was a very narrow two-lane paved road. Some spots were one lane at times due to road work, places where there were no guard rails and no shoulder, with a very steep drop from the canyon wall into a very raging Kern River.  Although, the wildflower display gave the mountains a stunning lavender hue. The canyons and river were amazing.  Both of us were wiping the sweat off our hands and breathing a sigh of relief when we made it to Bakersfield.

The rest of the trip was more relaxed admiring the fruit and nut groves.  The orange groves are very different than Florida orange groves.

The Sequoia Campground and Lodge is 15 minutes away from the Foothills Visitor Center in the Sequoia National Park, the beginning of our trek.  This park is immense and connects to Kings Canyon National Park.  The Giant Forest Museum has some informative exhibits and trail information.  It is also a hub to take shuttles to places you want to see.  The park was busy and parking can be difficult especially with a dually, so we opted to utilize the shuttle service instead of driving.  The first shuttle took us to the Big Trees Trail and General Sherman Tree.  The General Sherman Tree is estimated at 2,200 years old.  Its largest branch is almost seven feet in diameter.  Venture off, following John Muir’s footsteps, onto one of the trails in the area to experience the solitude and majesty of this place.

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View on Generals Highway
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Giant Forest Museum in background

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Sherman Tree
General Sherman Tree

The other shuttle we took was to Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow.  Moro Rock is a dome-shaped granite rock with spectacular views.  Crescent Meadow is wetland surrounded by Sequoias.  Our hike was to Chimney Tree and Tharp’s Log.  Chimney Tree was destroyed by fire in 1914 but still stands defiantly.  Tharp’s Log is named after Hale Tharp described as the first non-native American to enter the Giant Forest.  He used a fallen sequoia log as a cabin. John Muir described it as a “noble den.”

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Moro Rock
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Crescent Meadow “Gem of the Sierras…John Muir”

“When I entered this sublime wilderness the day was nearly done, the trees with rosy, glowing countenances, seemed to be hushed and thoughtful, as if waiting in conscious religious dependence on the sun, and one naturally walked softly and awe stricken among them.” …John Muir

Lake Mead…

The next two nights were spent at Lake Mead RV Village located in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.  About 20 minutes was Hoover Dam.

In the early 1900’s, people wanted to be protected from flooding of the Colorado River.  By building a dam it could regulate the flow of the river, generate electricity and provide water for drinking and irrigation.  At the time it was known as the Boulder Dam and world’s tallest dam built.  The Boulder Dam was completed in 1936 and formed Lake Mead.  In 1947, it was officially renamed the Hoover Dam for President Herbert Hoover.

Sedona, AZ…

A beautiful driving day June 9th from Portal AZ to Distant Drums RV Resort, Camp Verde AZ.  The temperatures reached 106 degrees and the terrain was very diverse.

First sightseeing stop was Red Rock State Park.  Very nice visitor’s center and viewing area where you could see several rock formations, Cathedral Rock, Three Sisters, Seven Warriors and Napoleon’s Tomb.

A little driving tour through the town of Sedona to the Chapel of the Holy Cross.  It is a Roman Catholic Chapel nestled in the red rock formations of Sedona.  Designed by Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a local resident who was inspired in 1932 by the construction of the Empire State Building.  The chapel was completed in 1956 and was built in Coconino National Forest.

The cross in the chapel was made to look like a tree, beginning with two trunks representing the 10 tribes of Israel and two tribes of Judah.  As you move up, the Israel trunk is dead, but “this dead limb of Israel that’s broken off becomes a crossbeam for the Tree of Life,” said Fr. Kleczewski.  On the limb is a single leaf sprouting, representing the Gentiles.  The Judah branch has 12 leaves representing the Apostles, and three golden apples at the top for the Holy Trinity.  The eyes of Christ are open to encounter Christ the face of great love.  The views along the walkway leading to the chapel are stunning.

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You can’t help but wonder who lives below the chapel at 530 Chapel Lane.

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Final stop was Montezuma Castle which gives you a peek of the Southern Sinagua who flourished in the Verde Valley.  They built this five story, 20-room dwelling sometime between 1100 and 1300.  No one really knows why they migrated away from their pueblos by the early 1400’s.  Early settlers were amazed at the structure and thought it’s origin was Aztec thereby calling it Montezuma Castle.

Much to see in Sedona, on a cooler day!

Cave Creek Canyon…

Arrived at Rusty’s RV Ranch late Wednesday June 5th.  We have certainly traveled some of the bumpiest roads recently with our RV and up until today one lamp globe has been the only casualty.  Late this afternoon we exited Interstate 10 onto Route 80 about 15 miles out to our destination of Rusty’s RV Ranch.  A lady flagged us down to inform us we had lost our spare tire from underneath our rig!  Route 80 is a straight two-lane road with very little places to easily turn a rig around.  We decided to continue on to Rusty’s, set up and return to search for our missing tire.  Surely if we had come here to do some birding, we could spot a tire!  Well, there were a lot of used tires discarded along the road and a tire place with hundreds of tires spewed around.  Many stops of looking at tires when finally, we spotted a tire with a rim on it, and it was ours!  Thankful to God that it didn’t happen on the Interstate and no one was injured.  It is now reinforced and will be added to the maintenance checklist.

Now for the reason we came to stay at Rusty’s in Rodeo, New Mexico.  A short drive to Portal, Arizona is Cave Creek Canyon, nestled in the Chiricahua Mountains, known as a birding mecca!  The possibility of seeing an Elegant Trogon, a variety of hummingbirds, and the ability of adding to our life list. All of these lure birdwatchers to this area.  Cave Creek Ranch along with some of the neighbor folk offer great viewing opportunities.

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Rusty’s RV Ranch
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Elegant Trogon Male
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Elegant Trogon Male
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Elegant Trogon Female
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Hooded Oriole Male
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Bullocks Oriole Male

Another stop was the Southwest Research Center, affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History.  They provide scientists, educators and students the opportunity to participate in research, workshops and classes on various fauna, floral, bird, reptiles, bats and more.  On their grounds are hummingbird feeders that attract some of the most beautiful hummers for photography.

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Magnificent Hummingbird
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Magnificent Hummingbird
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Blue-throated Hummingbird
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Magnificent Hummingbird
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Broad-billed Hummingbird

One afternoon we decided to drive the narrow dirt road to the top of the Chiricahua Mountains at around 9,000 feet.  The views were spectacular!

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Yellow-eyed Junco

We actually extended our stay an additional day and were fortunate to see our first greater roadrunner on the last day!  A great place to visit is the Chiricahua Desert Museum that has exhibits of the Chiricahua Apache Indians and Geronimo who surrendered 15 miles south at Skeleton Canyon.  There is only a handful of restaurants in the area and most close fairly early.  If you are into birdwatching, watching wildlife, hiking, relaxing and watching the fantastic sunsets, this place is for you!

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One of very few places to eat, but very good!
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Cute Minions
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Sunset in Arizona

Carlsbad NM…

A two-night stop at the Carlsbad KOA RV Resort, nice level spots and amenities.  Right down the road was Brantley Lake State Park.  Beautiful lake for kayaking and boating along with some interesting wildlife!

The Carlsbad Caverns National Park begins in the Chihuahuan Desert of the Guadalupe Mountains.  Below the desert is a vast underground world of Carlsbad Cavern.  There are two entrances to the cavern.  The natural entrance is 1.25 mile and follows the explorers’ route.  It’s a steep and narrow trail that descends 750 feet.  We took the Big Room route in the Visitor Center by taking the elevator that descends the 750 feet to the caves’ largest 8.2-acre room.  The immensity and beauty of this cave is just unimaginable!

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Of course, we were also excited to see the desert area, wildlife and birds.  The Walnut Canyon desert drive is a 9 ½ mile one-way loop through the desert mountain scenery.  Half way around the loop we hiked down Rattlesnake Canyon.

The day provided us with many pictures of wildlife, flowers and birds.

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Desert Big Horn Sheep
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Male n Female Blue Grosbeak
Male and Female Blue Grosbeak

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Canyon Towhee
Canyon Towhee

Our final stop was at Rattlesnake Springs picnic area.  A beautiful picnic spot in a lush green area.  We scored another bird for our life list that we were hoping to see, the Vermilion Flycatcher.  The turkey put on quite a show for us and his three lady friends.

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Vermilion Flycatcher
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Turkey

Rain started and a storm was a brewing, so we headed home.  Unfortunately, due to the weather, we didn’t get to experience the flight of the Brazilian free-tailed bats out of the cavern into the night.  But the day gave us some unforgettable sights and memories!

Remember the Alamo…

San Antonio from Spanish for Saint Anthony is the 7th most populous city in the United States.  Rich in Spanish culture, it was founded as a mission and colonial outpost in 1718.  The Alamo was founded by Roman Catholic missionaries and was the site of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836.  A step back in time to the beauty of the structure and purpose of the layout.

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The Alamo

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Two who died in the battle were Davy Crockett, “King of the Wild Frontier”, and Jim Bowie known for his “Bowie Knife” and sometimes a reckless adventurer.

A few blocks away is the Riverwalk, a 15-mile stroll along the San Antonio River.  Again, we jumped on the Go Rio San Antonio River Cruise to learn more about the history and beautiful sights along the river.

The Tower of the Americas is located in the Hemisfair district built as a 750’ observation tower/restaurant as a structure for the 1968 Worlds Fair.

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Ben Miliam Bald Cypress stands behind the Drury Inn, according to legend, once the roosting spot for a Mexican sniper.  It measures 25 foot in circumference, which suggests it to be older than 200 years.

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The views are stunning, but even more inviting is the lovely shade from the oaks and cypress trees, great restaurants, the Rivercenter Mall and beautiful architecture.  Can only imagine how awesome it must be at night!

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Magnolia Everything…

Arrived at Austin East KOA Holiday, Austin, TX. Thursday late afternoon after driving 510 miles.  Right friendly folk greeted us and told us about all the sights we wanted to see the next day.

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Friday morning, we drove 1 ½ hours north to Waco to spend the day at Chip and Joanna Gaines, Magnolia Properties, from the HGTV Fixer Upper TV Show.  First order of business was breakfast at Magnolia Table.  A good Texas downpour began just as we arrived and we were told it would be an hour wait!  No worries headed over to the Take Away Café and Gift Area to check it out.

Finally, we were seated in Magnolia Table, beautifully decorated and a delicious breakfast was served!  They had a special Spring menu, we ordered the Lemon Blueberry Pancakes, their traditional pancakes filled with blueberries and lemon zest, topped with lemon butter, served with two eggs, house made Tator Tots, and thick-cut peppered bacon.  The other order was French toast, topped with strawberry butter, served with two eggs, house made Tator Tots, and house sausage.  We were driving right in, then thought of a picture!

 

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Chip & Jo hand prints in concrete at Magnolia Table

Now with our bellies full on to Magnolia Market at the Silos, Silos Baking Co., and Magnolia Seed & Supply.

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Magnolia Market
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Silos Baking Co.
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The Silos

Behind Magnolia Market was a large turf area where kids could play, beautiful swings, a large covered pavilion with picnic tables, lots of food trucks, even selling some of the food from Silos Bakery and Magnolia Table.  Magnolia Seed & Supply had pretty raised vegetable, herb and flower beds.

We were fortunate to recognize and get a picture of Joanna Gaines’ mother and sister!

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The original Magnolia store where it all began is now home to discontinued and sale items.  All of the Magnolia areas are decorated in Joanna’s black and white color schemes.  It is very evident they have bought a good bit of property in the town of Waco and probably will be expanding that area.

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Our last stop of the day was to see the farm that was renovated and is currently Chip and Joanna Gaines home.IMG_9372