In my previous blog (Personal life and a writing slump caused a month-long hiatus) I mentioned that I had some highlights from that nearly month-long trip. You know, the one that lasted from April 6th to April 26th. The main photo is one taken by my husband. We were driving along and saw the horses, and I had us stop and watch the babies. They were SO cute! I don’t know were in the trip we found them, as we were driving for ages, but it was well worth the stop. Anyway, without further procrastination, here are those highlights!
Were the sights gorgeous? Keep reading to find out! But also, it was still cold enough in most places that I didn’t get out of the car, too often. My highlights included a stop at Lost Canyon and Nature Trail, Jack Rabbit Trading Post, Death Valley, Yosemite, Glass Beach, Redwoods, Yellowstone, and Wall Drug Store.
That’s right, we visited an active sinkhole inside a golf course. Located in Branson, Missouri, the Top of the Rock Lost Canyon Cave is truly a gorgeous location to visit. My husband has more photos here from the trip, but below are a few of the gorgeous hand-made creations you can see on the trail. Oh, that’s right, I should mention the golf course is pretty much gone. At least, it is where they started excavating and expanding out from the sinkhole. There is still a golf course nearby. Anyway, now they have a self-guided golf cart tour, complete with fun animal facts and more. The bathrooms were pretty amazing. I took a video to show to friends, and they were impressed. The men’s bathrooms were similar, but they were a bit lacking.
As promised, here are some of my favorite photos of the cute artwork from here.
This particular location is in reference to the jack rabbit billboard “Here It Is” on Route 66 in Arizona. While I wasn't too enthused, my husband was pretty excited to be back to the iconic stop.
No, what I was most excited about was the little shop that was there and my discovery of jackalopes. I didn't take any photos in the shop, but there will be a photo later on of the jackalope. Anyway, as a writer, I was pretty excited to add the creature to my list of go-to oddball animals.
We finally reached California! This was a favorite because we went at night. Nick wanted to do some astrophotography, and I wanted to make sure he wouldn’t be attacked by roving tarantulas (it was mating season for the males, and they roam at night), dangerous snakes (also nocturnal), and coyotes (mostly active at dusk and dawn, but they like hunting at night, too). Oh, and then there were the potential large cats. Also dusk and dawn predators. As a general rule, predators hunt at dusk and dawn.
Yes, the odds were low of encountering the creatures in a populated part of the park, but since we were going at DUSK, the odds were improved. Plus, I don't like ignoring the potential dangers, hence why I did some research on what could be out at night and what to look out for.
Well, turns out, the places he wanted to go were populated with other stargazers and the areas were very well illuminated by the moon. Ironically enough, the bright moon made astrophotography difficult, even if I rather liked the visibility it offered. Oh, about those predators. We saw a coyote that night on the hour drive back to our hotel, but that was it.
Why was this a highlight for me then? Because every 10-35 seconds, I counted, an owl hooted off in the distance. We were there several hours, and that owl kept up its call all night. The stars and the moon were gorgeous, and that little desert owl made it a truly wonderful experience. No one else seemed to care. I know because it was easy to listen in on conversations. The only time I couldn’t hear the owl was when a group of teenagers made a whole bunch of ruckus, couldn’t spot either dipper, decided their eyes needed to adjust to the dark (I found that a bit odd, considering the hike up the hill should have given them plenty of time to adjust to the ‘darkness’), and then they just kept talking and saying dumb things. By that, I mean saying that they didn’t think the North star was out, because they couldn’t see it. Then saying they couldn’t see it because their eyes hadn’t adjusted. I get not knowing where certain stars are or not knowing constellations, but did they have to share their thoughts with everyone? And they were SO loud. Everyone else talked in indoor tones, sometimes hushed, but never yelling. Kiddos were yelling. And how could I enjoy that owl with all the comments about how useless they were with knowing about the stars? Ugh! Well, they arrived as we were packing up, so good riddance! And I heard the owl on the way to the car as we had gained some distance from the obnoxious teens.
Yeah, so there wasn’t much for me at Yosemite. I only left the hotel room for food. My earache was pretty bad at this point, and I had work I needed to do on the laptop, which was super slow. I really need to look into getting that detachable second laptop screen. I’m spoiled working with two monitors, and I know it.
Anyway, if I didn’t go in Yosemite, then why is this on my list? Well, remember how I said I only left the hotel room for food? It was good food, but then we had a bit of a blunder. A small one! But a memorable one.
As we arrived back at our hotel after diner and were parking, I looked at one of the parked cars and saw that the pass on their dashboard was pink, but ours was purple. I almost told my husband, but then I thought the pink pass meant they were there for more than a day and ours was for one day. You know, a color-coded system, like they have with bracelets at amusement parks or at clubs.
Then there was a guy I wanted to avoid who followed us inside, so I moved us through the hotel lobby relatively quickly. My husband asked if the lobby looked a little fancier than before or if he was blending hotels together – This may have been hotel number five or six for the night, at this point. I said it was fine as I rushed us to the elevators, which had a pretty blue or similar color and not the orange glow I thought I remembered from earlier that day when we had checked in.
We make it to the third floor, and I keep us moving confidently toward our room number. Again, I didn’t like the look of the guy from before, so I was exuding confidence I didn’t feel. Anyway, it wasn’t our room, it wasn’t our hotel, and we had totally parked in the parking lot next to our hotel. Woops!
Being sick with a two-month-long sinus infection didn't help make this drive as exciting as it should have been. Still, I did have a few memorable moments. The best one involved two lizards and a disappearing brat.
There was a waterfall trail that led to a gorgeous overlook for the coast. The waterfall was meager and too distant to really appreciate. However, there was a pit of some kind on the side of the cliff, potentially a water runoff spot? And in that hole was a blue tailed lizard! Gorgeous! It fell down at one point, and despite looking, I never found it again.
Instead, I found a lizard that was the same color as the rock. That was exciting as that was a difficult find, compared to a bright blue against brownish gray rock. A few people also enjoyed my find. The area had a lot of tourists coming and going, and not everyone cared to look at a dirt hole with minimal vegetation, not when there was an ocean, a waterfall, blue skies, and a beach to enjoy looking at.
Cue the brat. This inconsiderate nitwit started chucking stones into the lizard hole! I gave the seven-year old a death glare and stood up. I gave a final look into the hole to see if any lizards could still be seen, but nope! When I looked up, the brat had vanished. He wasn't at the end of the trail where we all were, and I couldn't see him running back the way everyone had come from. He was just gone. It was as if someone had chucked him over the edge and let him get swallowed up by the vengeful sea. Only, no one made a fuss, which I'm sure someone would have if a kiddo went tumbling over a cliff edge. Even if all they said was that he bounced well.
Below is a picture from a different Highway One location and a different lizard. Like the first spot, there was another child out to murder the lizards. Only, this one was younger, carried a stick nearly as tall as himself, and was a great deal more violent. I mean, stone-thrower child only threw 5 stones tops. Stick-slasher? He attacked rocks, the ground, the foot trail and anything he fancied with the speed an allergic-to-wasps person might use to swat a swarm away.
I wasn't feeling too great by this point, so I just openly glared from the car. His parents eventually noticed me, and they left shortly after. All the while, I kept an eye on the stick-bearer, because their car was located near a rock with two sunbathing lizards on it (below). Once he was gone, I took pictures.
Located in Fort Bragg, California, Glass Beach has become a popular tourist attraction due to the glass that was dumped there by some company: Full story here.
That wasn't why I liked it there. The glass that remains, at least in the stretch of beach where I walked, was pathetically tiny. I guess a lot of people take the larger pieces, which means there is less and less to enjoy. Also, the sea life there wasn't easy to reach, and I'm sure the colder season is why there were fewer creatures to find.
No, the reason I liked it here was because of a patch of gorgeous orange flowers. I had fun photographing them, as you can see.
The California Redwoods were a real treat for me. While there were only Coast Redwoods where I went, it was an enjoyable experience, all the same. I may have seen Sequoia Redwoods, but while some had been planted in the area, the visitor's centers were all closed when we arrived, so I didn't really have a chance to figure out which was which.
Some quick facts: Coast Redwoods are the tallest of the redwoods, then there are the Sequoia Redwoods, which tend to grow wider rather than taller and can be carved out and driven through, To be fair, some of them do grow wide enough that they can be carved out. It’s just that the Sequoia Redwoods grow much wider. Anyway, then there are the Dawn Redwoods in China. You can see this in the photos below, too. I was just too excited, so I shared it here, too.
Due to poor planning on my part, I ran out of time and wasn't able to do the treetop tour. But, the area was still pretty exciting for me and I accumulated a lot of tree facts while I was there in the State Park (Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, to be exact).
The best part of Yellowstone for me was the Wolf themed hotel. Well, that and the roaming herds of bison. No, I wasn't foolish enough to get out of the car and try walking up to any of them. Nor was I foolish enough to try touching one while they were just outside the car. To clarify, they like walking on the road, so your car can get surrounded by the herd.
Anyway, from plushies (eco-friendly, btw) to a pool with a wolf logo on the bottom, to wolf facts on the walls and elevator, plus wolf wall-art, Gray Wolf Inn & Suites was perfect: The link has a great shot of their amazing pool area, which is also pictured below.
There was a place across the street with wolves, bears, otters, and more. However, I didn't like the cage sizes, so I wasn't a huge fan of the captive animals. It was nice seeing them all, and I did learn that bears don't actually hibernate.
I feel I should clarify that last bit. Hibernation involves a very deep sleep, so deep that it is difficult to come out of. Bears enter more of a stupor. They do sleep A LOT, but they're easily woken up, and they may leave the den to hunt in winter months and then go back to napping - serious napping, that is. Apparently, a lot of animals do this. In that they don't hibernate, but that they enter a less intense sleep. There's more to it than that, science wise, but that's the gist of it.
Wall Drug Store was the last official stop on our journey home. I was excited to be going home and was more than happy to make the drive from South Dakota back to Indiana. But, that wasn't the reason I enjoyed this stop.
The jackalope. That's right! I found some gifts and souvenirs. Plus, there was a giant jackalope you could take photos with, which I declined to do. See photo below.
Ok, aside from fueling my creative side, the place had a lot to take in. Squash-the-penny machines were everywhere along with fresh food, snack foods, puzzles, trinkets, curios, and curiosities. This place had a lot to take in and to enjoy.
That's it! Those were my trip highlights. And then the 16-hour journey home brought me back to these two cuties (below). The end!
May your adventures be many and your inspiration be endless!
Cover photo credit (the horses): Nicholas Klein