Thursday, September 29, 2011

Death Valley and Lion King

Well, I have taken my dear sweet time with this post :) This will be a short one. I promise.
Two weekends ago I went to Death Valley National Park. It was somewhat similar to Mojave, but it did have an abundance of one thing that Mojave did not have...tourists. I was really shocked at how many people were there even though this is still the hot part of the season.

 I did get to see the lowest point in the US, Badwater Basin. It is, basically, a dry salt flat that leaves you feeling as if you swallowed a gallon of salt water after you've walked on them for a while and breathed in the air. Other then that... not too much to comment on.

 Last weekend I did nothing except begin packing in anticipation of my friend, Dawn, coming out here for a few days to travel to some of the parks in Utah with me. In fact, I am waiting for her plane to get in as I write this. I am sure I will have some posts about the places we go!! Yeah! 
Work has been incredibly stressful the last couple of weeks. One of the facilities that I work at is really desperate and when I leave there will be no PT and so far they have no one to fill in. I worked 10 hours today which is crazy and I will just be glad when tomorrow is over.
I cant wait to be home and see everyone! Super excited!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Desert: A tract, which may be capable of sustaining a population, but has been left unoccupied and uncultivated; a wilderness; a solitary place.

My whole life I dreamed about living up north with the evergreens and snow and mountain ranges. Those are the places I have always considered awe inspiring and beautiful. Never did I think of the desert that way... until I went to Mojave. When Holly and I drove through there on our way to Vegas I really liked it and knew I wanted to go back. I had the opportunity to do that this weekend. I am so glad I did.
I began my trek on Saturday morning when I drove just about an hour south of Vegas and into no mans land. The road to the campground was, of course, another dirt road and we had some rain the night before. The dirt roads in Maine never really scared me because they were usually more gravely. These dirt roads, however, are just that. Dirt. Which means they have the potential to become "mud roads." With the rain the night before, and the signs warning that the road was flooded, things were not looking good. But, I was determined, and it was a sunny day so I ignored the signs and pushed on. Thankfully, it was pretty dry, but that doesn't mean it was a peaceful ride. The road was all wash-boarded and my car was bumping around like a jackhammer. I felt like the wheels were just gonna go bouncing off the car any minute. Not a minute too soon, I made it to the campground. Anymore of that bouncing and I probably would have had "shaken Ivy syndrome."
I got the best camp site in the whole place... it was pretty easy considering I was the only person there. :)
This was the first time I have been camping without families with 25 kids running around and huge RVs everywhere. When ever people ask me if I am scared to go camping alone I always tell them that I am never really alone at a campground, and that's always been true.. before.
Well, I was not deterred by the solitude, in fact, it was wonderful. I set up my tent and went off to explore. My first hike of the trip was the Rings Climb. It was a short fairly easy hike until you got to the rings which you had to climb up in order to get up and over the rock faces. This was the first hike I did that required "scrambling" which means you have to use your hands for climbing, not just for balance. So, technically, I am now a grade 3 hiker. So proud. (Course, we just won't tell anyone about how my hands were all red and raw after the hike. They are definitely not used that kind of work.) :)

 I spent the rest of the day exploring and then headed to bed hoping to get an early start the next day so I could see the sand dunes (which were about an hour away) at sunrise. Little did I know how hard it would be to go to sleep that night. Not because I was alone; actually, two other people showed up to the campground while I was out, but because of the storms rolling through all night.
I first noticed the lightning way off in the distance when I got up to go to the bathroom.
Side story: The bathrooms there were just a little room with no lights and a vault toilet (a hole with a toilet seat over it). I didn't mind this so much during the day. I have gotten pretty accustomed to using vault toilets on my adventures, but at night... *shiver*. That's when all the creepy crawlies come out. So, I go to the bathroom with my head lamp on and I scan the room for things I don't want crawling on me, and sure enough, a Black Widow has decided to make her web from side of the toilet seat to the wall. I was in shock. I have never seen a Black Widow before! It was on the bottom side of the web hanging upside down so I could see the abdomen clearly. The trademark red hourglass shape was staring me back in the face. I must have stood there staring at it for at least 5 minutes. Not only was I enjoying the fact that I was seeing something totally new and unusual, but I was also trying to get up the courage to go to the bathroom next to it. Believe it or not, I finally did and then I booked it out of there.
Okay, back to the lightning. I had noticed it far off to the east so I turned and faced west in my tent to try and forget about it and get some sleep. (Had to turn away from it cause I could see it flashing even with my eyes closed.) Of course, the sleep never came and suddenly I was "seeing" flashes again. I got up and looked out of my tent and... oh boy. The lightning was now surrounding me and it was flashing every few seconds. I decided to pack up my stuff and sleep in the car. It was perfect timing because, literally, right when I closed the door to my car it started to rain. The rain did not last long, but the lightning did. It was a spectacular show! At that point, I gave up the sleep idea and just watched the lightning. That's not something you see everyday.

The next morning I got up fairly early and headed over to the dunes. No dirt roads this time. Good thing, too, because there had been some flooding on that side of the park.
The dunes were just amazing. On the hike to the dunes there was a nice breeze and since it was so early in the morning it was still really cool out. Once I got up to the top of the dune the nice breeze had turned into tropical storm force winds, and the term "sandblasting" had taken on a whole new meaning for me. ;) I stayed up there for quite a while. I spent some time sitting on the edge of the dune and just enjoying the view, but one of the biggest draws for me was to hear the "booming". When the conditions are right these dunes are one of the few in the world that can actually create a booming sound when there is a "sand avalanche." The conditions when I went up were not perfect, but I did hear it once. At first I thought it was thunder off in the distance, but then when I came over one of the crests I could see on the other side where the sand had slid and I realized what I had heard. They say that you can make the sound yourself by running along the dune and causing the sand to fall. I tried this many times (probably looking totally foolish), to no avail. I think the sand was a little too wet from the rain. It would just slide down in clumps. Oh well, it was fun anyway.

I followed the main road through the park to the visitors center and had a milk shake at the little diner inside. Holly and I stopped there on our way through and the same four guys were there. Two rangers and the two guys running the diner. They are all really nice and talkative. They probably love it when they have someone else to talk to besides each other. A couple other visitors came through while I was there, but it all pretty much reminds me of a ghost town.
My last hike of the day was the Teutonia Peak Trail. It was beautiful! Looking out over a sea of Joshua trees when I got to the top of the mountain was really cool. I was all alone on this trail too, but at least at the top I had some cell signal so I was able to tell my mom where I was. It's the small things. ;)
 I could go on and on about the Mojave, but I think you get the point. This weekend I hope to go to Death Valley if its not too hot. That should be interesting.
One last thing... I would like to make a special shout out to Tim and Vanessa who are getting married this weekend. Congrats!!

Friday, September 2, 2011

A week full of surprise and "Mystere"

Last weekend I surprised most of my friends and family by coming home for the weekend. I was so excited to see everyone! I didn't realize how much I needed this trip, but with the stress of this particular assignment I definitely appreciated the recharge. It was a huge blessing that Hurricane Irene scooted right by Florida and didn't cause my flights to be canceled. Believe it or not, I didn't take a single picture while I was home. I just enjoyed the relaxation.
I got back to Vegas really late on Monday night, went to work on Tuesday and then that evening I had tickets to see "Mystere", a Cirque du Soleil show at Treasure Island. It was really cool! I love Cirque shows and if you have never seen one I would highly recommend you do so! There is so much going on every second of the show you get serious visual overload! I love it.

the end
Tomorrow I am going on a hike with a hiking group that I met in the area. Should be interesting...