Friday, March 29, 2013

Valley of Fire and Vegas

After a beautiful 2 1/2 hour drive from Bullhead City Arizona, we stopped at Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.  We've been to this park twice before on visits to Vegas, but staying here for 5 nights was awesome!  What a beautiful place!!  The night sky here was something to see.  One night I saw 4 shooting stars, one of which entered the atmosphere!!  I watched it wobble and burn out, it was amazing!!
To learn more about the history of this park visit their website:  http://parks.nv.gov/parks/valley-of-fire-state-park/

We hung a hummingbird feeder on the ladder on the back of the camper.  Here's a pic of one of the cute little things that visited us everyday.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                                               
Below are some of the pictures we took of the beautiful red sandstone formations throughout the park.
 
 
 
There are also several petrified logs, ancient pines that grew in this area approximately 150 million years ago.
They call this formation elephant rock.

Below are some of the pictures of the many petroglyphs that can be found in the park.  They are estimated to be 3000 years old.  These pictures were taken on the trail to Mouse's Tank, which is a natural basin in the rock where water collects after each rainfall.  It is named "Mouse's Tank" because an alleged Southern Paiute Indian renegade named "Little Mouse" hid out here in the 1890's.
                                                                                                                                                
 
Las Vegas, finally!!!  Time to park the fifth wheel and head to a luxury hotel!  Aria sends Cindy offers on a regular basis.  We took advantage of her offer for March which was for 3 nights free, $100 in resort credit and $250 in free play.  She has also been playing slots on Facebook on a site called MyVegas.  You play slots and earn "loyalty points" that you can redeem for real rewards in Vegas.
She has been playing her account and mine, and between the two we got an additional 2 nights stay in a deluxe city view room, two tickets to the Cirque du Soleil show "O" at Bellagio, 2 lunch buffets at Bellagio and 2 dinner buffets at Mirage.  We estimate it all totalled about $1,600!!!  We had a great time and it was, at least for Cindy, a nice break from camping.

Bruce hasn't played poker since the last time we were in Vegas, which was two years ago.  I finally talked him into playing in a small tournament.  Even being out of practice, he still managed to come in fourth place!!  I know if he played regularly, we could afford to come to Vegas more often!

Aria is a beautiful hotel and casino and, for the environmentally minded, it also received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.  They even have beautiful light fixtures in the casino that are made out of the chain link fence that enclosed the construction site.  A beautiful, luxury hotel in Las Vegas and it's environmentally friendly too!!

The chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate dipped coconut bars left as a welcome in our room.  I haven't found these, or chocolates on my pillow in our fifth wheel yet!!                         
                                                             


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Burros, Petroglyphs and Laughlin

After leaving Tucson, and a couple of overnight stops, we ended up in Bullhead City, just across the Colorado River from Laughlin, Nevada.  We camped at Davis Camp, a Mohave County Park, right on the river.  We had a beautiful view out our back window of the river and mountains for Bruce and a view out the door of the casinos in Laughlin for Cindy!  We didn't plan to stay here long, but we both ended up sick with a cold so at least we had beautiful scenery while we recovered.  We did manage to visit Laughlin, no big wins or losses, but we did have a delicious crab leg buffet dinner!

Not more than 50 yards from our campsite were ancient Native American petroglyphs.
                                                                                                                                                              
Towards the end of our stay, we both felt up to a drive to Oatman, Arizona.  This gold mining town was founded about 1906 with the gold boom over in 1942.  The miners left behind their burros, which they released into the surrounding hills.  Descendents of these same burros come into town each day where tourists feed them burro food and carrots.  The little ones come along with "Mom", they are so cute!






Monday, March 18, 2013

Border Patrol, Cactus and Snow!!


Our next stop on our journey, Tucson, Arizona.  On our way, we experienced something totally new and strange to us.  While travelling down the expressway, everyone on the expressway had to exit and go thru a border patrol check point!  They had xray and infrared equipment to scan your vehicles as you passed by and then we were asked if we had anyone in the fifth wheel!  I'm sure that is pretty normal for people living near the border, but we found it quite strange to say the least!!

Once we got to Tucson, we visited the Saguaro National Park.  The Saguaro Cactus are found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert.  Here's a picture of the desert with mountains in the background.

With the right growing conditions, it is estimated that saguaros can live to be 150-200 years old, can grow to be between 40-60 feet tall and weigh between 3200-4800 pounds. It may be 90 years before their first arm appears. 
To learn more about these amazing cactus, here's the website:   http://www.nps.gov/sagu/index.htm

Yep, snow!!!!  We have been camping, mostly in Michigan, for about 30 years and never camped in the snow before Tucson, Arizona!  Must say, we kind of enjoyed it and it was quite pretty!





Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Zoo, Caverns and Mountains!

Our next stop on our journey, Carlsbad, New Mexico. 
The first place we visited was the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park.  Overlooking the Pecos River Valley, this park exhibits the varied plant and animal life of the arid Chihuahuan Desert region.  We got to see mountain lions, elk, wolves and various other animals, but our favorites were the prairie dogs!  We stood and watched and laughed at them for about 30 minutes!!


The next day we visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  This is an amazing place!  It is huge, it is hard to comprehend just how large the "rooms" are, and it is beautiful!  We did the self-guided tour which was estimated to take about 2 hours, but I knew before we started that we would be in there at least 4 hours....I wasn't wrong!  I was afraid I was going to have to drag Bruce out of there!
Here's his thoughts on the caverns:  After seeing the caverns I was struggling to find the words to describe them and the feelings this place invoked.  Luckily for me I ran across these words from Ansel Adams, a world famous photographer, who in 1936 tried to photograph the caverns but was never happy with the way his photos turned out. "...something that should not exist in relation to human beings. Something that is as remote as a galaxy, incomprehensible as a nightmare, and beautiful inspite of everything."
Here's a link to find out more about the caverns: http://www.nps.gov/cave/index.htm

To give you an idea of size, this stalactite towers 85 feet above the cave floor!!!

The next day we drove to Guadalupe Mountains National Park which is actually just across the border in Texas.  The scenery was spectacular, that's the only way I know to describe it!  We walked to the remains of the ruins of the old Pinery Station, once a favored stop on the original 2,800 mile Butterfield Overland Mail Route.
To read more of the history of this and more about the Guadalupe Mountains, visit this website:
http://www.nps.gov/gumo/index.htm