I retired several years ago. My long term and instant goal was to get "out there". WAY out there. Often. Included in that dream was time with my kids in wild and natural places. I've been able to largely accomplish that goal. Each of my three children have gone with me. But...I hadn't been able to accomplish the one thing I'd been thinking of very often - going with my two boys together. When they were younger we regularly camped at Pismo Beach and other places and they are some of the best memories of my life.
For many years as they were growing up we all lived together. However, to my great regret, I spent far too much time away from home while trying to "change the world" and never spent as much time as I wanted to spend with these two young men- who, along with their sister, are simply the greatest joys of my life.
What gave me solace was knowing that "some day" after I retired we could finally spend quality time together for an extended period of time. But, my friends, you know how that goes. They grow up and guess who's busy now?!
But, HEY! We finally made it happen. Our original plan was to camp at Indian Cove in Joshua Tree National Park, but, thanks to the genius in the White house our reservations were canceled. We quickly made plan B - getting the LAST spot available in the Borrego Palm Canyon campground (the big one) in Anza-Borrego State Park.
Anza-Borrego is in the Colorado Desert which becomes the Sonoran Desert as one moves eastward and it changes into something much different. I love Anza-Borrego but it's rarely as green as the Sonoran and has different flora - no saguaros for example. It's more stark and barren. But, after the rain we've had this winter though Anza-Borrego was greener than I've ever seen it. I'm guessing the wildflowers will be spectacular in just a few weeks. It was gem-like.
The photo above is taken from the campground on a very windy late afternoon. My son Kevin arrived on Wednesday, on his motorcycle, after driving through some very frigid weather. Check out the sign at the higher elevations near Culp Valley.
After Kev arrived we went on the short walk to the Visitor Center.
Jordan arrived the next day and I decided to take them to Little Blair Valley and the pictograph trail. Except, well, except, er, I didn't drive to the pictograph trailhead. I took them to the Morteros trailhead. Oops! Dad screwed up. AGAIN! We did have a nice walk though but at some point the trail petered out and we were forced to scramble over and around and between rocks. The old man ripped his pants and knocked the eyepiece off his camera and finally - when we saw the end of the canyon - I knew we'd gone wrong. DUH! We did see ONE pictograph and the Kumeyaay Morteros are pretty cool.
This was the end of the line...
The next day Jordan and I drove out to the Peg Leg Smith monument and Clark Dry Lake to scout out some potential boon-docking spots. The day was spectacular.
We found an old abandoned building with graffiti indicating there was a, "DEAD BODY". I sent Jordan in to check it out.
Nope. No dead body. Thanks, Jordo for checking...
Here is a panorama of Clark Dry Lake
Other photos from our day:
I know I have many readers from out of California- if you do happen to make your way out to our overcrowded but wonderful state - please check out Anza-Borrego. You will not be disappointed. If you are from California, what are you waiting for? This spring will be sublime.
So, yep. We had a marvelous time. I don't mind saying that my kids, all 3 of them, are excellent campers. My theory that you learn a lot about a person in 24 hours of camping proves that I am one lucky father! Here's to many more years of camping together.
I'll sign off with a gallery of black and white photos, as is my way. Thanks for coming along. See you on the road!
About a year and a half ago I was extolling my Utah love to my daughter in law Meredith. She looked pensive and said, "Will you take me there?". Well, of course! I figured it was just one of those things people say. Along the lines of "someday". After all, my daughter in law had just given birth to twins 6 months before. I figured she was going to be too busy to go on an extended trip for, oh say, at least 5 years.
I was wrong (again). She was determined to go. Cool. I still was unclear if my son would join us and what of the twin grandchildren? As it turns out...the more the merrier. The 2 year olds were comin'! In fact, there was even a last minute addition, Meredith's brother Matt who would accompany me on my drive while the grandkids and their parents would be in another car.
I had asked Meredith if she wanted southeastern (Arches & Canyonlands, Four Corners) or southwestern Utah (Zion, Bryce). She wasn't sure and although Zion has become a zoo I figured it was a closer drive and it is, after all, a must see. Then I figured we'd go to Bryce and a favorite of mine - Kodachrome Basin.
Zion National Park, while being world class in scenery, continues to get worse and worse as a destination. My first trip there, in the early '80's was sublime. Uncrowded, easily driveable, and scenically stunning it became a favorite and I've been there a dozen times over the years. Sad to say this will probably be my last visit - perhaps in this lifetime. I may return in winter sometime but the crowds and the associated Ranger Rules are not my cup of tea.
While acknowledging that my back "going out" before leaving on the trip probably colored my point of view, I could spend paragraphs explaining my frustration and sadness with Zion National Park but I'll leave it like this - it ain't what it used to be and the West is too big and wonderful to go to a place that is being overrun and is poorly managed by an overwhelmed and unwelcoming National Park Service. Maybe I'm just getting old and curmudgeonly but I don't think so. I don't believe, unless you fully experienced these Western Parks before the great tourist invasion, you can understand the disappointment regarding what has happened here.
By the way, "GET OFF MY DAMN LAWN!".
The weather was wonderful when we got there but changed, as forecast, to a steady and persistent rain on the second day. It did provide for some good photography opportunities however. I brought my camera as an afterthought, this was a family vacation, but I'm pleased with some of the photos. As a reminder you can purchase relatively inexpensive prints at by clicking here. Blog subscribers receive a discount. E-mail me at SouthwestDude@SouthwestDude.com for more info.
Here are some photos of the first day and a half before the big weather change.
The rain started to fall heavily and all five of us were cooped up in my little trailer - El Correcaminos. I decided to sleep in the truck for everyone's sanity but was told I needed to move the truck as we were "over the vehicle limit" despite having 50 feet of empty pavement in our campsite. I really despise this kind of nonsensical bureaucratic foolishness but I moved the truck 1/4 mile away and sulked off to fitfully sleep. No use raising Hell to an unresponsive, stodgy, overworked and underpaid Park Service.
The next day we took the kids on the Riverwalk trail, I tried my best to clear the trailer of the mud and mess from the rain, and made some more photos. That night we had a wonderful dinner of shrimp and orzo salad. We ate s'mores which I very rarely do and enjoyed a long conversation around the campfire. When the world pisses me off with its stupidity nothing gives me more relief than family. I loved every minute. It was a good day and we geared up to move to Kodachrome Basin. Here are some photos of the walk.
After the Riverwalk I stopped at the Courtyard of the Patriarchs. Don't forget you can click on the photos to make them larger.
That evening I ran out to take some last minute photos before saying goodbye, perhaps for the last time, to my beloved Zion National Park.
We left Zion, the weather was perfect, my back spasms had improved a bit and we drove the short distance to Kodachrome Basin State Park. Now, this was my kind of camping — a quiet and secluded campsite with hikes and views and friendly, helpful State Park Rangers. We settled in for a few fine days. I had intended to take the short drive to Bryce Canyon but that would have necessitated taking two cars and we didn't think the Rim drive would thrill the 2 year olds. Instead, we went on short hikes and wandered around Kodachrome saving awe-inspiring Bryce for another trip.
I was really hoping to get in a long hike or drive with my son but it didn't work out. Hopefully, next time. He's quite a remarkable young man. I am deeply proud of his sensitivity, love of and devotion to his family, his affection for art and the poor and the indigenous people of our country. He is a humanitarian. In short, he gets it and I probably don't deserve to have such an incredible person for a son. We did have an unforgettable few days and I can't wait until the next time.
I got a few photos of the family and a favorite is the two year olds, Finley and Joaquin, in full flight, loving being outdoors. I'm impressed with the emphasis that my son and daughter in law are putting on the little ones, already, to experience and enjoy nature to the fullest.
In discussing this trip with friends the question of how "Kodachrome" came to be the name of the State Park came up frequently. My tiny bit of knowledge is that in 1949 National Geographic Magazine sponsored an expedition to the area (with funding from Kodak) and hence they donned the name Kodachrome State Park after their iconic film. It is a beautiful place which features sand (or sedimentary) pipes. Large sandstone formations that jut straight out of the ground. I'm told that they are only found in this particular area. Here are some photos of sand pipes and slickrock and typical southwest vegetation replete with junipers and pinon pines.
Here is a striking example of a sand pipe. This is known as "Chimney Rock".
The following was our campsite view in Kodachrome. It was glorious.
Lastly, I offer a couple of panoramas. The first from Zion and the second from Kodachrome. I don't know how many of my friends and subscribers have been to Utah but it is, to me, a sacred place. I fell in love when I crossed the state line nearly 40 years ago and the state never leaves me. Through the trials and travails this life provides I know, no matter what, I have sweet Utah...here in photos, often in my mind, and thankfully just a few hundred miles down the road.
Thanks again for coming along.
Until next time...be well.
I was unprepared to retire when I did. While the circumstances might be unique for each "retiree" I don't think I'm alone in that feeling. Most of us go from being productive "members of society" to being a little lost with this new stage of our lives. That probably sounds strange to many of you still working who look forward to retiring- I know it was a foreign thought to me. But, like many things in life, you can't realize how different it feels until you're there.
I remember telling a friend I went from daily trying to make the world a better place to having little purpose. She asked me, "So, you wanted to change the world? You did all that academic work, got your doctorate, and worked in school districts to help kids and change the world, right?" "Yep", I replied. Her response?
"How'd that work out for you?".
Brilliant, even though it did sound a little like Dr. Phil. It was a painful truth. She said three things that resonated afterwards...
1. Trite as it may sound, maybe all any of us can do is be the best person we can be. Set that example and quit trying to "change anything" except yourself.
2. Do all the things that you've wanted to do. That's not selfish, that is leading a productive and meaningful existence and following your heart is an opportunity that many people never get.
3. Surrender to what is.
So, I took her excellent advice.
I have been a traveling fool since that conversation. I work at being the best husband, father and friend I can be. Two new lights of my life, Finley and Joaquin, have been born. I have found a new love- photography. I have embraced my love of music and literature. I have re-established some long lost relationships that are deeply meaningful to me. I have seen and been places I wanted to see my entire life. This year is no different. I'm getting into my "golden years" and I'm loving it. Turns out this next stage of my life is a powerfully poignant and beautiful time.
Here's where I'll be the next few months:
April - I'll head to Utah and the Colorado Plateau. Zion, Monument Valley, Canyonlands NP, Kodachrome Basin and the Valley of Fire in Nevada.
May - Arizona - Painted Rock Petroglyph CG, Kartchner Caverns, ghost towns, Chiricahua National Monument, Bisbee, Madera Canyon.
June - San Onofre, Pinnacles NP with Lilly.
July - Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming and Glacier NP in Montana with Lupe. Point Mugu with Lilly and Lupe.
Aug - High Sierra fishing with son Jordan (and maybe Kevin?). Sequoia NP with daughter Lilly.
September - Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Redwood NP, and Harris Beach in Oregon.
October - Arizona and a visit to Little House Customs for some improvements to my little trailer and camping along the Mogollon Rim.
November - Still not determined but that sounds like desert time, doesn't it?
Come on and join me!
See you on The Road...
This isn't about my travel but, instead, something even better that we are all very excited about. The birth of our first grandchildren! (You read that right- it's plural as in twins- a boy and a girl). These are pictures that I took during the baby shower that was held on Sunday, 9/21/2014 at our home. It was a ton of fun and thanks to everyone who came to share in the joy!
The new parents, my son Jordan and his wife Meredith, are two of the finest people anyone could ever know. What fantastic parents they will be.
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.