Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Home Again....

Cold mornings plague us.  I love me some fall, but waking up to frost is getting old.  It was an early morning and another quick packup.  Quicker than Tooele because we had less to worry about. On our way past the farms in Paragonah, the morning watering was freezing in the shade.

We stopped in....I'm not sure what city and had Cracker Barrel for breakfast.  Then onto more nothingness desert.  I read.  I was reading American Gods for the umpteenth time.  It was an appropriate road trip book. 

It warmed up as we got closer to Vegas.  We popped in to see the Hoover Dam on our way south.  I'll have to go back to walk around because the dogs weren't allowed out of the Jeep.

It was dusk by the time we pulled into the driveway.  The dogs were bathed, the trailer emptied and washed off and we settled onto the couch. 

As usual, the melancholy set in long before we pulled into the driveway.  I'm always sad to leave the wild.  Cities are stifling.  People are exhausting.  Getting away, enjoying the air, beauty and silence was welcomed with open arms.  I carry a little piece of that peace home with me but the everyday grind wears that peace away over time. 

Until our next adventure...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Tooele to Paragonah: Heading home

It was cold.  Frost cold.  We didn't even make coffee.  We packed up camp as quickly as possible and made our way to Tooele.  It was lunch time by the time we made town and we stopped at the Bonneville Brewery for lunch.  It was tasty.  They made their own cream soda and beer.  Because of weird Utah laws, Mike couldn't taste a brew, but we both had a cream soda.  It was worth breaking my two year moratorium on soda.

Mike was insistent that we go the long way around through Salt Lake City and Park City so he could show me how beautiful the mountains and falls colors were.  It was worth it.  We pushed through the nothingness of this part of Utah for hours and hours.  Our goal was our camp spot in Paragonah because we were hoping that the missing Foxwing legs were still there.  They were. 

After a long day in the Jeep, we enjoyed showers while the sun was out and it was relatively warm.  We relaxed, enjoyed the sunset and a late dinner and turned in. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Miller Motorsports Park: ST Octane Academy

On Friday, Mike went to the orientation for the ST Octane Academy in Park City. 

On Saturday, we ventured to the Miller Motorsports Park and checked out the Ford museum.  The first thing we saw when we entered the tiny museum is my new obsession:  Miller's first racer, a Ford Falcon:

Miller is obviously a Ford Racing junkie:

Sunday, he raced.  He had a blast.  It was bitter cold on the black top, but that didn't stop the fun. 


Meanwhile at camp, it was colder.  The clouds hung to a mountain peak just west of the teardrop.  We did a very brief hike in the morning, then Elly and I retired to the trailer and blankets. 

I'm doubtful it hit higher than 45 degrees. But by mid afternoon, the sun popped out and we went for another hike.

Mike was home in time for dinner.  Fire and heaters were lit and we enjoyed the evening together.  He regaled me with stories of his day and we turned in.  In the morning we would start our journey south.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A day to Explore Tooele

Mike returned from Park City after dark last night and told me that his race day wasn't until Sunday, so we would have all day Saturday to explore.  We woke to another chilly morning, although not quite as frigid as yesterday. 

Breakfast, coffee and a bit of ambulatory exploring.


Our exploration turned into frustration pretty quickly.  Warning: I am super prejudiced against ATV riders.  This camp site encapsulated why.  Garbage.  Garbage everywhere. There were empty alcohol bottles, beer cans, water bottles and other assorted trash strewn throughout the woods and cluttering up the stream.  This is a persistent theme in wilderness areas frequented by ATV riders.  Mike and I cleaned up our campsite and creek the best we could.  The amount of garbage I saw this weekend could fill a pickup truck bed. 

We loaded up in the Jeep and headed west on the road. And we drove as far as we could until we realized that these roads were better suited for narrow ATV's.

It was a beautiful mountain range and it made me sad to see how people treated it.

We drove into Tooele, so Mike could gauge how long it would take him to drive to the Miller Motorsports Park in the morning.  We stopped into visit the museum, but I'll dedicate a whole post to car stuff later. 

We stopped at a farmers market and were disappointed by its small size considering the amount of farms and ranch's nearby.  But we landed apples, squash and eggplant.  After gallivanting we made our way back to camp to relax.

Elly was less than thrilled with the 50 degree temperature.

We enjoyed a great sunset and good times relaxing together.

After enjoying the fire for a while, we turned in.  He had the Octane Academy in the morning and needed rest. Unbeknownst to us, weather was moving in and it would be a bitter cold night. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Onwards to Tooele!

We woke to frost.  The Jeep claimed that it was 37 degrees when we finally made our way back to I-15.  It was cold.  Before striking our way Northwest, we stopped for gas in a small "town".  I got the dogs out for a quick pee and Elly made fast friends with a Palomino.  The camera was dead and I left my phone in the car, but it was an adorable encounter.  The horse sauntered over to the fence when it saw us and nosed at her. 

We piled back in and made our way through the vast nothingness that is central/western Utah.  Wow.  Most boring landscape ever.

I pulled out the trusty map again, and pointed us in the direction of Deseret Peak.  North Willow road was well used and we kept passing one 5th Wheel camping spot after another.  I wasn't pleased. A little further west and the road got tighter and slightly more difficult: 5th Wheel deterrent.

We found a cute little camping spot nestled in a grove of changing aspens, butted up against a small creek.  If it wasn't directly on the road, it would've been perfect.  But it was good enough.

Mike and I set up camp quickly, as he had to drive to Park City for orientation.  The kids and I hiked.

Our mid afternoon hike was steep.  It wasn't necessarily long, just steep.  Getting down the loose granite slope was tricky.

We walked a bit up the road and found that our creek crossed the road.

I was so excited for all of the beautiful fall colors.  I collected leaves.  I'm a nature junky.

Tuckered out and hungry, we walked back to camp for a quick bite to eat.  As soon as the sun dipped below the western peak, the temperature dropped drastically.  I would've toughed it out, but I had a four legged dog, who swore she was naked and freezing.  We packed it in the teardrop and waited for Mike to return. 

Another night in the wild on the books. Another satisfying day away, to exhale life's woes and inhale fresh, cool fall air for renewal.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Camping and Racing, an Odd Marriage

Last year, Mike bought a Ford Focus ST.  Shortly after, he learned that Ford was putting together a free racing academy for owners.  He followed the academy's progress religiously and signed up as soon as it opened.  Knowing it would be in Utah, we decided a fall class would be ideal so we could make a long weekend out of it and camp.

We woke early and left home as the sun was coming up.  It had rained the night before and it was humid and overcast.  Surprisingly, we made it through Phoenix relatively easy, and headed northwest on the 60 towards Vegas.  We hit highway 93 and were greeted with a new sight: Joshua Trees.  The Joshua Tree National Park is on my bucket list, but we haven't made it yet.  Highway 93 is named the Joshua Tree Forest Highway, and it it very fitting.  We were treated with tree after tree.

Once through Vegas (I'm sorry, I just don't get the appeal), we pushed onwards.  Glancing at the clock, we knew we would not make Tooele today.  And honestly, after 500+ miles in the Jeep, we were all ready to get off the road.  I pulled out a map, and found us access to the Dixie National Forest just off Interstate 15 in Paragonah, UT.  Just a few short miles down Little Creek Road, we found a small campsite tucked off the road among some trees in full fall colors.

We hiked around before the sun set and made dinner before dark.  

We had another long day in the car to look forward to, so we climbed into bed and snuggled away the cold.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

NatGeo Presents: Papago Camp, Fall Edition

It is fall in southern Arizona.  Fall in southern Arizona is vastly different from most of the country.  In New Jersey, for instance, people are breaking out jeans, jackets, boots and lattes.  Leaves are changing color, and both the day and evening are cooling off.  In southern Arizona, people are still in summer wear, but enjoying the mid 80's, to low 90's during the day and nice cool nights.  Those of us touched by the allergy gods are suffering from the grasses the monsoons sprouted.

Allergies aside, fall will always be my favorite season.  At one point this week, I could see my breath in the cool night air. 

It was another week in the desert with no moon.  The moon is about half full, however, it would set just about the time I woke to start my "day".  I still played with my Nikon to figure out night shots: the right amount of light, the right amount of exposure and my fickle remote.  I took well over 1000 shots in about 4 days and narrowed it down to 38.  Then narrowed it down a further 7, so this post is a bit picture heavy. 

On the first day, I was tied up until first light.  This would be the "best" sunrise of the week. 

I sat on a rocky outcrop and watched the sun bathe the valley below.  A few deer were spooked by cattle and took off, but never ran into the sun so I didn't get good pictures of them.  I did enjoy the angle of the sun in the valley.

I hiked around a small mountainous area for a few hours and interrupted this little guy's breakfast.

The second night, I was stuck on a X, but made the best of it.

Ye Olde Border Fence

First light on the western mountains

Last time I was out here, I made good friends with the local birds of prey.  This week however, it was as if they spread the word that an annoying news van was in town and fled everytime I pulled up.  I follwed this guy from cactus to cactus until he made me very aware, vocally, how irritated he was and flew away.

The monsoons have also encouraged the growth of swaths of little yellow flowers.  They were heavy with dew this morning.

The following evening, I played with shutter times.  Here is a star trail after 2.5 minutes.

And zoomed in at about 1 minute. I loved the green on Moon Rock.

Just prior to the sun popping over the Baboquivari Mountains

Also just prior to the sun popping over the eastern mountains.
This scene changed dramatically with every passing minute.  Can you tell how excited I was?

A dead giant.

The little birds were slightly more cooperative than the large birds of prey.  These two little grayish blue guys were playing in this cactus like it was a ball pit.

I literally slammed on the brakes when I saw this.  A delicate little purple flower, wound around a painfully prickly cactus.

Then these jokers.  A small family called this rocky outcrop home and played, fought and socialized like I wasn't sitting 10 feet away.

On my last evening of picture exploration, I ventured onto the abandoned Papago Farms.

A few miles up the road, saguaros are thriving in large numbers.

They dwarf a baby barrel cactus.

After the sun rose, I scared off a large herd of "free range" cattle near the Farms.  I experimented and actually enjoy the effect of pointing my camera directly into the rising sun.

And just prior to packing away my camera for the week, I was extremely excited to finally see a Crested Caracara.  He was snacking on catapillars in the grass.  After I disturbed him, he flew to his buddy about 100 yards away.

I finished the week out by feeling pleased with the progress I've made in understanding my camera's capabilities.  While I'm very critical of my own work, I enjoyed every minute I had my camera in my hands.