Saturday, October 31, 2020

10/31 Willow Beach & Desert Big Horn Sheep

 Willow Beach is a secret of sorts.  At least it is not listed on the two big reservation sites:  Reserve America and  It is my go-to place when I am looking for a quiet scenic place and getting away from family crowds.  There are a few families, but mostly I manage to come here when it is slightly off-season.  

One of the disadvantages is that is is down a 4 mile long road that is paved but really needs to be replaced.  Also, while there are a couple of fairly new gas stations about a dozen miles away, basically, it is 25 miles from grocery stores.  Location?  It is on the Arizona side of the Colorado River and about 13 miles south of Hoover Dam.  There is a big marina with a lot of rental boats, a visitor center, and a fishery, but I will take some photos of those tomorrow.  

Another disadvantage is that there is absolutely NO cell service here.  Luckily, there is pretty good internet service, which is what I am using right now.  The campground has showers and a little laundry room, plus all of the camping sites except the tent sites are full hookup and paved, which means I have electric, water, and sewer.  It is very open so good satellite service also.  And sites are very spread apart so you have some privacy.  Oh, and because it is a federal site, seniors get their sites for half price, which is a real bargain.  I'll also take some photos tomorrow of all of the little desert bunnies and the Gambel Quail that run around constantly, cheeping nonstop and worrying about getting lost from their flock!  Funny birds. 

Here is the road, headed north from Kingman, AZ.  A lot of Arizona is dry, but this area is REALLY dry!  But it has some beauty to it, anyway, because of the shapes and colors.  In the next few photos, the Colorado River is off to the left a couple of miles and down in a canyon, but it is very hard to access it, except at the Willow Beach Marina site.

Amazing how the color changes in places. 
This is an animal bridge.  It is fenced so that animals who might be trying to cross the roadway are guided safely to this and a couple of other animal bridges.

I have never seen a big horn sheep or other animal on the bridges, but I suspect they are heavily used at night.


There is not much of a sign to let you know this is the right road.  And it really is not a lake, just a slightly wider place in the river.  

This is part of Lake Mead National Recreation Area, so there is a fee to get in,  unless of course, you are a senior with a pass, like me.  When I first started coming here about six years ago, the entrance booth was closed.

This is the road to the river.  It really needs to be replaced, and I was told a year ago that money had been allocated, but they have to build a completely new road because this one "goes down the wrong canyon," as I was told.  What that really means is that when it does rain, all the rain from a very large area goes down the canyon and wipes out part of the road.  They keep heavy equipment to repair the road each time.  So, the plans are to build a new road that does not go through this particular canyon so it won't get wiped out so often.

I really intended to take some photos of the river and the marina, but will do that tomorrow in a separate posting.  Today, I wanted to show some photos I took of some desert bighorn sheep that came by today.  This photo is taken from my RV site, but the sheep were on the hill near the last RV on the right.  (I found out that desert bighorn sheep are slightly smaller and lighter colored than Rocky Mountain sheep.)

A few of the sheep were on the ridge.  I believe these two are rams, based on their horns being thicker.  Ewes have thinner and shorter horns. 

I am pretty sure the one in the front on the left is a ram, but it is hard to tell because they all have horns.  Rams have bigger horns and, as the lady on Life Below Zero calls them, "dangly bits." Can't see the dangly bits, but his horns are definitely thicker and longer.

All the ones below are ewes.

These two rams definitely have "dangly bits."  They also have thicker and longer horns and are bigger in body size overall, so they are probably fully adults.

The one on the far left is a ram.  Overall, I saw about 12-15 big horns, which is a good-sized herd. 

My campsite. 

The campground, looking down toward the river, which is about a thousand feet away.

By the way, every single patch of grass or bush in the campground has its own drip irrigation system.  The greenery encourages a large desert bunny population and several flocks of Gambel quail, but more on that tomorrow. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

10/25 Bike RIde on East Rim of Grand Canyon

 Today, I rode my bike to the market area just behind the Trailer Village campground.  What many people do not realize is that the Grand Canyon Village area is a real village with both seasonal and permanent residents, nearly all employed by the national park Xanterra, the company that runs the hotels and campground.  Seasonal employees tend to live in dormitories, but there are also families with children who live there full time.  

So, there is a market, a post office, and a real bank.  There is even a school and a public library.  Hidden in the woods are apartment buildings and even a few single-family homes for park administrators.  In fact, Trailer Village used to be half permanent mobile homes for staff, although it is now only about 25% permanent mobile homes, and they are all clumped together at the far end, separated from the tourists. 

Anyway, I went to the market for a few things like milk and bread, took it home, and then went off on my bike ride.  Here is the market.  The post office and bank are at the far end.  Good place to pick up a picnic lunch or regular groceries, by the way. 

I was disappointed that the main visitor's center was closed.  Usually this area would be packed with tourists.

There is also a gift shop, book store, and bike rental place in the visitor center area, and they were open, but I pushed my bike the few hundred feet to Mather Point to take some photos.  Restrooms were open, by the way, but water fill stations were shut off.

Most people who visit the park, spend most of their time in the Village area to the west of this visitor center, but the views on this east end are just as fantastic.

This looks like a pleasant place near the bottom of the canyon.

And part of a hiking and mule trail.  I used my telephoto lens for these last two photos.

This is Mather Point--lots of people on it.

Even though the visitor center was closed, there were a lot of posters that gave you information about the park.

This is the bike trail that goes along the east area of the South Rim.  You are only about 10 feet away from the edge in some places.  There are walkers on the trail, but it is wide enough to avoid them.

Had a couple of people offer to take my photo, so this is one of the results. The top part of me had several layers on, but I wore only cutoffs and sandals.  Probably at least should have worn socks with my sandals.

So, next time you go to Grand Canyon, either take your bikes with you or rent bikes at the main visitor center!  Best way to see the park.

10/24 Grand Canyon, Trailer Village to Hermit's Rest

I have been to Grand Canyon several times.  It is always a pleasant place to stay for a few days, and I enjoy the elk and the wonderful, wide, paved bike paths that go throughout the park.  I also like Trailer Village because it has full service hookups and a lot of visiting elk. 

This time of year was no different, except that the elk seemed to be a lot thirstier than usual.  A few years ago, they learned to work the levers on the water fill stations, but at least those are spring-loaded so they turn themselves off.  Now, some of the elk have learned how to turn on the water at campground sites.  Only problem is that they are not very good at turning the water off!  This was the empty campsite next to mine.  I did not see this female turning the water on, but I did watch her drinking.  

The RV sites are paved and plenty large enough.  There used to be grass between sites, but grass was removed from all parts of the park a few years ago to supposedly convince elk to hang out elsewhere.  And there are cages around all landscaping and shrubbery to prevent them being nibbled by elk.  However, it has not dissuaded the elk at all, and during the day, you can find anywhere from a handful to more than a dozen elk wandering around grazing on the leaves on the trees. 

 It is winter at Grand Canyon, or at least almost winter.  At an elevation of 7,200', the weather was predicted to be even barely acceptable only for two days this week--Saturday and Sunday.  Also, there are no shuttles running in the Village area, so I decided I would take two long bike rides this week--one on Saturday down to Hermit's Rest and one on Sunday, on the eastern end of the Canyon.

I could have taken the shuttle that runs from the western end of the Village to Hermit's Rest, but since I had to ride my bike the mile to the shuttle pickup, I figured it would be just as easy to ride the entire distance.  So, I bundled up with long-sleeved shirt, heavy sweatshirt, and wind breaker.  

First stop is at the edge of the Village where the train is in. 

If you have been to Grand Canyon in July or August, you will notice the lack of cars and the lack of crowds this time of year.  Makes it a lot easier to ride a bike.

This is taken from the area near the El Tovar Hotel and the museums.

 This photo was taken with a telephoto lens from the first pull-over area on the road to Hermit's Rest, which is at the far western area of the park.

Don't know how I missed this before, but this is a monument to John Wesley Powell.

Nice to have nice, quiet viewing areas instead of crowds of families with screaming children.

It's about a 3.5 miles ride from where the shuttle route begins to the end of the route, where Hermit's Rest is located.

The little gift shop was open, but if you wanted ice cream or a drink from the little food stand, you had to order from inside.  

This is the amazing fireplace that was designed by famous architect, Mary Colter.  She designed many of the buildings for the Fred Harvey Company and the Santa Fe Railroad.

 Just one of the photos taken on the way back.  I was getting cold, so I did not stop much on the ride back.