Monday, December 26, 2022

12/20 Hidden View Campground, Lake Hennessy, CA

This is one of my go-to spots when I want to have a few quiet days in a nice, scenic spot, but not too expensive.  This is a Corps of Engineers facility, plus the lake is very low, so there are never very many campers, especially in December!  The area is east of Madera/Fresno and is close to the foothills of the Sierra Mountains, so when it is not foggy, you can see a few snow-capped mountains in the distance.  No boating or swimming, however, at least part of the year. 

There are a few larger sites, and about half of the sites have water and electric, but the road is winding, and it may be hard to get any really large RVs into spots.  Still, it is a nice place and half-price for seniors like me with a federal pass. Here are some photos:

First, a view of my campsite.  See what I mean about the view?  The higher sites, by the way, have better cell service, as I have learned.


Some views from a couple of walks I took:

With some of the campsites, you have to walk down a set of stairs to your picnic table and grill area.  This is because the campground is so hills.  The group in the tent in this photo is one of the only 3-4 other groups of campers in this campground, so it is very private.  (And this day, it was very foggy.)

These next two photos are of tent sites where you have to walk either up or down to them.

The lake really should be 30' higher and cover most of the area in the foreground.  You can see the water line on the other side of the lake. 

Why did I take a photo of a trash can?  This is a tip for wanna-be or current camp hosts.  If you put a small stone on top of all of the trash cans, you can save a lot of time when you go around to empty them by looking ONLY at the ones where the stones have fallen off--indicating that someone has taken the lid off to put trash in them!!   This one is clearly empty.


Thursday, December 15, 2022

12/14 Furnace Creek, Death Valley

Winter is a great time to visit Death Valley, though I have to admit I am VERY glad I am in an RV instead of camping in a tent.  While daytime temps are not too bad, it has been dropping into the low 40s at night.  However, it can get colder.  I was here several years ago and took a photo of ice on Furnace Creek which goes past the campground.  That was a big too cold then, especially since there was a strong wind blowing.  

I went for a walk in the late afternoon, and just watching campers with tents made me feel a lot colder.  I am cozy in my little home, however, with two electric heaters and my rear furnace going all night.  Plus, I am well supplied with a good down comforter!  

I am only here for a few days and next am heading to Northern California.  I was planning to spend longer, but half of the roads and places to see are still closed here because the heavy flooding that took place last summer.  In any case, the sky has been incredibly blue with clear skies and little wind.  Overall, this is a nice place to spend a few relaxing days.  

The sites in the Furnace Creek campground with electric hookups are pretty much full, but the majority have no hookups at all, and I'd guess that maybe only 20% of those are occupied right now.  Most of the tenters seem to be staying only one or two days.  Those of us in nice, warm RVs tend to be staying longer.

This is the view from the campground, looking over the highway to the mountains on the east side of the valley. 

I made a stop at the visitor center to pick up some postcards and a couple of small books. The sign on the right shows the current temp of 62 degrees, but look at how blue the sky is way out here far away from civilization!

A couple of photos inside the visitor center museum.

There is a big hotel at Furnace Creek if you prefer luxuries like a full-service restaurant and a large bedroom with a big shower.  The reason it is here, by the way, is because part of this area is private land from before this was a national park.

Another empty road!!  Love traveling at less busy times of year.

No traffic jams here this time of year.

Notice the signs of occasional heavy rains in these mountains.  In addition, notice that the area close to the road is made up entirely of larger stones, with the sand and smaller pebbles having been washed away.  Had the 49ers who got stuck in the snow in the mountains in the northwest of the valley had been here on a rainy day, they most likely would have drowned instead of starved to death!!

This mountain is darker and made up of very soft rocks, as can be seen in the deep furrows caused by eons of rain.  Did you know that the valley was once twice as deep as it is now?  Over thousands and millions of years, it has filled up with sand and rubble. 

This was my only destination today--Badwater Basin.  It often has small ponds because the water table is only a couple of feet down here.  Actually, there is an underground river in the valley, where water percolates through miles of the sand and rocks in the valley and picks up minerals and other chemicals, hence the water is "bad." 

Badwater Basin is the lowest point in Death Valley.

You have to look closely, but there is a red arrow in this photo that points to a sign placed on the side of the mountain indicating sea level. 

Lots of good parking for my motorhome.

I walked only part way to the end of this trail--about as far as you can see--though it does go farther.  

Some of the bad water which gives this place its name.  The whole area occasionally fills up with rainwater, which then dries up, leaving strange-looking salt formations. 

Hard to tell, but most of these sharp formations are 6-12" tall.  You are required to stick to the flat trail and not walk on these. 

This shows how far I walked.  You can see my rig way in the distance, and there is a tiny red arrow showing the sea level sign on the mountain.

Looking north up the valley.

Heading back north to the campground.  It is pretty barren around here, but the colors and shapes of the mountains give it some beauty. 

Beautiful day today, and supposed to be nice all week.  Plus, this time of year you do not have to worry about carrying a couple of gallons of water or drying out so much.  And of course, no crowds. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

😒 A Confession

I have told almost no one about a problem I have, but I had another embarrassing situation at a recent campground, so I guess it is time to explain about a problem that I have had all my life, but only recognized in the last few years.  

Basically, I have been diagnosed with a mild-to-moderate form of something called face blindness.  It is formally known as Prosopagnosia, and it was once considered very rare.  It basically means I have difficulty recognizing faces.  People with severe forms of this condition cannot recognize even their close family members or children by looking at their faces.  (People with this condition include Oliver Sacks, Jane Goodall, Brad Pitt, and probably a lot of other people.)

I have absolutely no problems recognizing relatives and people I know well, but I do have problems with people I know only slightly or have met only once or twice.  And I NEVER remember which person was my waitress in a restaurant!!  If they are looking for someone to identify people in a police lineup, forget asking me!! 

Here are a few articles about this condition:  

Like a lot of people with this condition, I have tried to develop coping behaviors.  For example, I try to focus on people and remember what they are wearing and what their hair looks like.  In a campground, I tend to recognize people by the appearance of their rigs, the location of their rig, or even by their dogs.  (I have made embarrassing errors when people changed sites!)  When I taught in a classroom, I always had a seating chart and tried to recognize people by where they sat.  However, I made mistakes when someone moved or cut their hair or did something I did not expect.  (Teaching online for the last 20 years was perfect for me since during video meetings, everyone's name showed up under their photos!) 

Luckily, I went to a small school district so I was in class with the same people for many years and had no problems recognizing anyone in my class.  I also had no problems at work with recognizing the people I worked with in my group.  However, I sometimes had embarrassing experiences with customers.  This past fall, for example, I ended up chatting with a fellow camper who was one of the customers at Ford Motor Company with whom I worked on a couple of projects. It has been about 12 years, but he recognized me, and I remembered his name, but was embarrassed when I did not recognize him personally.  (Luckily, when I was working on projects, there would be regularly scheduled meetings with only a small handful of people attending, so it was relative easy to know who was who.)  
The most recent embarrassing moment was when I was doing my laundry in the tiny laundry room at Willow Beach Campground and did not realize that the other woman there was someone who I had sat and chatted with for half an hour the night before!!  She was confused that I did not remember our conversation, so I tried to cover it up and made my escape. I suspect she thought I had the beginnings of dementia. 
At the last high school class reunion, one classmate was insulted that I ignored her, and told a couple of other people that I was really rude and "stuck-up."  The truth is that she had changed a bit in the past 50+ years, and I did not recognize her.  Stuck-up was a tag I was often given in high school, however.
What is the cause of this condition?  It can be caused by a brain injury or can be present from childhood.  The only cause I can see in my case is that I had very poor vision as a child.  I remember being tested with my classmates once and passing the "Big E" vision test, but I must have cheated on it!  I remember going to the movies with my friends and cousins and always wanting to sit in the front row.  I also took binoculars to the drive-in movies, but I still remember having problems following plots and not remembering which movie stars were which. 
My parents, however, did not realize my vision was so bad until the end of 6th grade when a teacher noticed that I was copying the homework questions from the boy next to me because I was not able to see the blackboard.  (Previously because of my last name, I always sat in the front or second row.)  I was taken to an optometrist and discovered that with glasses I could see the little branches on trees for the first time!  
Anyway, I read a book about face blindness a few years ago and then found several articles online that described the varying levels of face blindness that people can have.  I have taken a couple of  online diagnostic tests by non-profits studying this, and also discussed it with my doctor a couple of years ago.  I tested in the mild to moderate level, which is about right.
I am lucky that I have problems only with people I do not know well, but I am writing about this so people I meet will know why I might not recognize them when I meet them a second time.  (It usually takes me 4-5 times meeting and interacting before I can remember and recognize someone.)  
Anyway, that is my big confession, and my secret is out.  So, if you recognize me, but I don't recognize you, I apologize. 

Sunday, December 11, 2022

12/11 Drive to Death Valley

Winter is a great time to visit Death Valley, although it can be a bit cold in December and January.  I have been here a couple of other times in winter, and I like the lack of crowds.  However, last summer, there was a very serious flood here, with the result being that many of the roads are still not open.  In addition, Scotty's Castle has not been open for about 4-5 years due to damage way back then.  In any case, there are still some very nice areas to visit here.

I have always chosen to stay at Furnace Creek Campground because it is the only one in the national park with full hookups.  Cell service is a bit weak and internet might take a while to save, but hopefully, this won't be too much of a problem over the next few days.

I left Willow Beach this morning around 10 am.  The scariest part of my journey was the drive over the three new bridges near Hoover Dam.  US 93 heads north on the Arizona side of the river and then loops down south on the Nevada side. 

The bridges look pretty normal and aren't very tall, but the problem is the steep, rocky hills and canyons in that area.  Any winds get amplified as the hit the hills or come racing up from canyons.  It does not take much to have wind advisory posted.  There is also a sign that tells drivers of higher vehicles to move into the left lane instead of driving in the right, truck lane.

It's a very scenic place here, but it does not take much wind to rock my vehicle and make it hard to stay in my lane.  The tall center strip helps.  The big semi trucks do fine in the right lane because they are heavier than RVs.  

I stopped in Las Vegas at a Trader Joe's to pick up some goodies, and then in Pahrump for some cheap gas.  "Cheap" around here is anything less than $4.00 per gallon.  The good news is that gas in Las Vegas was over $5.00 per gallon when I got there a month ago!  Still expensive in California, so I wanted to be sure I filled up my 55 gallon tank! 

Now THIS road, just west of Pahrump, just over the California border is my kind of road!!  Straight, smooth, and very few other vehicles.  It was still windy here, so nice not to have to worry about being blown into the next lane and hitting another vehicle.  

I have entered the national park, but there was only a self-pay check-in station, and since I have a lifetime senior pass that gets me into any national park free, I did not bother to stop.

One thing to note in the next couple of photos is that the road follows a wash which shows evidence of the most recent flooding.  Note the small sign on the right that directs you to the old 20 Mule Team Borax mine.  The mules were retired a very long time ago, but the same company that mined here now owns a huge open pit borax mine near Boron, California.  If you ever drive by it on CA 56, stop by the Borax Visitor Center on the north side of the highway for some history and a great view of this place.  

(CA 56 is the highway that goes from I-15 from Las Vegas on the way to Mohave and Bakersfield.  Be sure to stop at the bakery and the glider airport in Tehachapi on your way through as well.)

The sun is setting behind the mountains on the west side of the valley, so I was glad I was almost to my campsite.  I do not like to park in the dark! 

Another view of the wash alongside the roadway.  If you missed the articles about the flooding, check out this web site and the photos and video of the flood:  About half of the roads in the park are still being repaired, and some will not get fixed before next summer. 

Another lovely empty highway into Death Valley!!

Finally, the hotel at Furnace Creek came into view.  It looks like their parking lot has been repaired.  A lot of cars were totaled in the flood, and the parking lot suffered major damage.

It looks like part of Death Valley has water on it, and it does!  Will have to check this out tomorrow.

Furnace Creek is a small village with the Inn, a golf course and cabins, campgrounds, and the main park visitor center. 

This is the golf course and cabins. 

And my campsite, where I arrive just as the sun set.  It was cold and windy, but I got the electric and water hooked up.  Will deal with the sewer when I need it to dump in a couple of days.  No sense hooking it up if I decide to drive out somewhere tomorrow. 

A couple of quick photos of the campground and headed into my warm home on wheels to finish putting groceries away and fix some dinner.