The truck’s long shadow

The truck’s shadow is elusive at first but toward the middle of the clip it comes out in all it’s glory and gets down with the funky music.

Welcome to the Dalton

Jack welcomes you to the Dalton, but kind of in the wrong order.  Instead of just getting on the Dalton, he’s just leaving it.  At the very end you can see the Elliot Highway to the right where it continues on to Manley, and at that point he has left the Dalton and is on the Elliot.  It’s a lot simpler than it sounds.  The Elliot Highway was finished in 1959, goes north from Fairbanks and turns west toward Manley, a town a few miles from the Tanana River.  The Dalton Highway was built in the 1970s to supply and access the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and starts where the Elliot turns west to Manley.  If Jack could, he’d redo this video so it goes the right away, welcoming you to the Dalton at it’s beginning.  But it’s such a beautiful day!

Jack swims in the Salton Sea

Well, he didn’t really swim, because the sea is very shallow.  But he submerged everything but his head!

If you don’t know anything about the Salton Sea you may be wondering why this is even a topic.  But if you have heard of the sea’s notoriety, you might be alarmed.   The sea is located in California, near Palm Springs, and it was actually created when irrigation canals from the Colorado River overflowed in 1905.  The Salton Basin is over 200 feet below sea level so the water flowed to the lowest point and stayed there.  Native Americans say this area has flooded in cycles over the centuries.  Now though, it is saltier than the Pacific Ocean and the sad benefactor of much agricultural runoff.

We don’t know if it is dangerous to swim in… search the internet and you will find arguments going both ways.  Why Jack insisted on swimming in it I do not know.  Maybe it’s a been-there-done-that type of thing. We do know that it was a fun day of exploration full of so many normal and decrepit things to photograph like the multitude of flies that love dark-colored cars, and the infinitesimally interesting makeup of the ground.

Dead fish abound and the beach in some parts is actually made up of massive amounts of bones and shells of dead sea creatures.  What look like millions of small barnacle carapaces are what you actually walk on to get to the shore.  And part of the shore itself is like a crust that you can put your foot through. Not exactly a body of water that screams “Jump in!”

That being said, there are tons of seagulls, sandpipers and other water birds foraging on the shore and generally making themselves at home.  They eat a tiny worm which is prolific, according to one article I read to Jack in the car on the way there, but the only fish that can survive the high salinity is tilapia.

There is a certain tragic beauty in places like this.  The area was a popular vacation destination in the 1950s and 60s but things took a downturn in the 70s and lakefront property turned into dry foul-smelling plots worth a fraction of what they were purchased for.  The shrinking of the sea caused increasing salinity levels which in turn caused massive fish die-offs.  Hence the beach (or shall we call it a fishboneyard) became a testament to a bounty of riches that was no longer.

But we had a fabulous time and even got to meet some new people!

There’s a video at the end that shows us at the beach along with piles of dying flies and an audio of bubbles of hot steam from the San Andreas fault hitting the surface in the far distance.  For a great but alarming short article on the Salton Sea, go to The dying Salton Sea on USA Today.

The Shelf Road of Colorado

If any of you are very familiar with the great state of Colorado you may have heard of the Shelf Road that runs between the towns of Canon City and Cripple Creek (lots of Cs in that part of the world).  It’s a mountainous dirt road with steep drop offs, hair-raising corners, and not even a hint of a guard rail on the whole 24 miles.

The Shelf Road is actually part of the Gold Belt Byway, a string of scenic roads in Colorado so called because of the gold mining in the area.

The average person wouldn’t drive this road, but my husband is not your average person.  After buying a pick up in Texas and a camper to sit on top of it in Colorado, he chooses to christen our new rig by taking it on the Shelf Road.  Let me just say right now, as the person who sat on the side of the ledge, that it was total insanity.  It may have been enjoyable in a Jeep or something but as it was, our huge lumbering beast met a small truck and I was so busy white-knuckling it that I forgot to take a photo!

Below are photos of the drive, with some captions that you can see if you click on the image and scroll to the right, and below those are some photos of Cripple Creek and the mountaintop mine nearby.

Our reward for completing the harrowing Shelf Road was getting to Cripple Creek, a town that is clearly proud of their mountaintop removal!  Here is a satellite image of the mine and some from the town itself.  Hope you get there someday if you haven’t been already.

 

Bandelier Cliff Dwellings, New Mexico

Happy Fourth of July!  Here are some photos from Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico.  Cliff dwellings are always fun to see and this is one of the best places to experience them.  There’s more info on the captions and in order to see them and the photos at original size, click on the first photo and scroll to the right.  Be careful with those fireworks!

Jack’s new truck & Palo Duro Canyon

Jack bought a new pick up truck!  We picked it up in Amarillo, Texas and drove through Palo Duro Canyon State Park before heading on to New Mexico.  Click on the first one and scroll to the right if you are interested!

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Loud hail storm in the mountains of New Mexico

On The High Road to Taos (highway 518 in New Mexico) Jack and I ran into a pretty powerful hail storm.  Even Jack felt the need to pull over at this point.  At the very beginning of the below video you can see a little bit of lightning and later the road was totally white, it looked like snow.  There are photos below it.

Northern lights & Davidson Ditch

Here are more photos of our late summer camping trip up the Steese Highway.  Chilly, but hardly a cloud in the sky…

You’ll see Davidson Ditch, a water pipe built in 1920s, that runs 90 miles along the Steese Highway.  It used to bring  about 180,000 gallons of water per day to the gold dredges in Fox, Alaska from the Chatanika River.

(Click on the first one and scroll to the right.)

A Glorious Morning on the Road

An amazing thing happened when I was on the road with Jack one time.

We woke up at what the truckers call 62 Mile, a good-sized pullout used by truckers and tourist buses and just anyone traveling the road.  It was Pink Birch Tree on the Daltonlate September and the drive up north had been sunny and crispy cool.  I could not have gotten luckier on a time to be on the Haul Road.   Orange and yellow autumn colors abounded and even a pink birch tree showed up every so many miles.  (Click to enlarge.)

Tourists on the Dalton HighwayNo snow had fallen, but when we woke up that morning at 62 Mile the tundra outside was a winter wonderland.  There were tourists milling about, gazing at the frosty grasses that surround the pull out.

Tourists on the Dalton HighwayAnd as you can see, there was a long line at the restroom, so I decided to take a walk out onto the tundra, and I’m so glad I did.

I discovered frost-covered fireweed, spider webs glinting in the morning light, and best of all, an absolutely stunning mist rainbow.  I hadn’t known they even existed before, but now I have proof they do.  As the frost was evaporating off the tundra, the water vapor in the air created a rainbow that shimmered in the sun’s light.  As I stood watching, the sunlight slowly burned off the frost on the ground, leaving plants thawed on one side and still frozen on the other, and the glorious rainbow eventually faded away with the warmth of day.

A moment of astounding beauty.  Luckily, I took a quick video and lots of photos, some of which may give an inkling of how amazing that morning was.  If anyone ever tells you that the arctic tundra is a frozen wasteland with no redeeming qualities, here is proof that it is not true.

(Click on the first one and scroll to the right.)

 

 

Elk antlers in a tree trunk

Check out this elk skull and antlers that got engulfed by a tree!  The skull is encased by wood completely; the antler tips stick out on either side of the trunk of the tree that grew around it.  Jack and I found this display at the Prairie Creek Visitor Center in northern California along the Pacific Coast.  Will wonders never cease!?