National Park

Doing Time on The Rock, See?

With apologies to Edward G. Robinson.

Carol and I push off from Pier 33 in San Francisco for our first trip to Alcatraz Island. As it turned out, we used four modes of transportation that day: boat, car, train and airplane.
Carol and I push off from Pier 33 in San Francisco for our first visit to Alcatraz Island. As it turned out, we used four modes of transportation that day: boat, car, train and airplane.
Alcatraz is 1.5 miles into the San Francisco Bay first documented by Spanish explorers in 1775 who named the island "La Isla de los Alcatraces" (The Island of the Pelicans). It stands 135 feet out of the water and was a military garrison, then a military prison, then a federal penitentiary, and now part of the National Park System.
Alcatraz is 1.5 miles into the San Francisco Bay first documented by Spanish explorers in 1775 who named the island “La Isla de los Alcatraces” (The Island of the Pelicans). It stands 135 feet out of the water and was a military garrison, then a military prison, then a federal penitentiary, and now part of the National Park System.
A lingering sign from the 1969–71 Native American occupation.
A lingering sign from the 1969–71 Native American occupation.
Apparently, Alcatraz was the only federal penitentiary which provided hot showers for its inmates.
Apparently, Alcatraz was the only federal penitentiary which provided hot showers for its inmates. The theory was, with the warm water, inmates could not get acclimated to cold water, aiding their chance of escape. Inmates were limited to 10-minute showers. Al Capone famously practiced the banjo in the shower block.
Living conditions were not plush at the prison. Cells came with a bed, sink, toilet, seat and table. Ceilings were 7' tall.
Living conditions were not plush at the prison. Cells came with a bed, sink, toilet, seat and table and were 9′ deep, 5′ wide and 7′ tall. Alcatraz housed some 1,576 of America’s most ruthless criminals including Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the “Birdman of Alcatraz”), George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Bumpy Johnson, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Mickey Cohen, Arthur R. “Doc” Barker, James “Whitey” Bulger, and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis (who served 26 years – more time at Alcatraz than any other inmate).
Alcatraz had four cell blocks, A-D, each with three stories.
Alcatraz had four cell blocks, A-D, each with three stories.
The Golden Gate Bridge in fog.
The Golden Gate Bridge in fog.
The exercise yard outside the cell blocks.
The exercise yard outside the cell blocks.
The Alcatraz Island Lighthouse was built in 1852 and was the first lighthouse on the U.S. West Coast. The one that exists today was built in 1909 - it replaced the original which was fatally damaged in the 1906 earthquake.
The Alcatraz Island Lighthouse was built in 1852 and was the first lighthouse on the U.S. West Coast. The one that exists today was built in 1909 – it replaced the original which was fatally damaged in the 1906 earthquake.
The basement of Alcatraz contained some showers and a dungeon (solitary confinement) accessed from A-Block. The green stairway to the basement is on the ride side of the photo
The basement of Alcatraz contained some showers and a dungeon (solitary confinement) accessed from A-Block, and was only used for a few years. The green stairway to the basement is on the ride side of the photo.
The Fog Gods were generally cooperative, but every so often, they would tease us.
The Fog Gods were generally cooperative, but every so often, they would tease us.
San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood.
San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood.
Building 64 were residential apartments, first used by the military, then by the prison.
Building 64 were residential apartments, first used by the military, then by the prison.
Of the many guard towers which existed on Alcatraz, this is the only one remaining.
Of the many guard towers that were on Alcatraz, this is the only one remaining.
As a bonus while visiting The Rock, we got to see part of the Fleet Week San Francisco air show including the Blue Angels.
As a bonus while visiting The Rock, we got to see part of the Fleet Week San Francisco air show including the Blue Angels.
More Fleet Week movement under the Golden Gate Bridge.
Fleet Week movement under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Death Valley, Eureka Dunes, Steel Pass, Saline Valley Rd.

On Friday afternoon we met friends Dave and Irene, George and Vince, and Bob at the Eureka Dunes in Death Valley. The dunes are the second highest in North America, but that wasn’t why we were there. The plan was to drive  up thru Steel Pass, stop to visit the Warm Springs, then exit the park on Saline Valley Road.

George and Vince in the black Bronco are followed by Bob, meeting us at the Eureka Dunes.
George and Vince in the black Bronco are followed by Bob, meeting us at the Eureka Dunes.
Carol shows off our camp site at the dune. We were sure too get there early enough to watch the sunset and shadows on the dunes.
Carol shows off our camp site at the dunes. We were sure too get there early enough to watch the sunset and shadows on the dunes. Here’s a cool video we made of the trip, including a sunset time-lapse of the dunes.
The morning sun reveals critter tracks on the dunes.
The morning sun reveals critter tracks on the dunes.
The backside of the Eureka Dunes.
The backside of the Eureka Dunes.
After leaving the valley floor and the dunes, we head up through Dedeckera Cayon.
After leaving the valley floor and the dunes, we head up through Dedeckera Cayon. The road stair-steps up and over rocks and ultimately tops out at near 5,000′ at Steel Pass.
Carol is the first in our group to take advantage of the Marble Bath, near the summit of Steel Pass. To help the cause, we added a couple hundred blue marbles to the bath (which, as it turns out, is not a lot of marbles).
Carol is the first in our group to take advantage of the Marble Bath, near the summit of Steel Pass. To help the cause, we added a couple hundred blue marbles to the bath (which, as it turns out, is not a lot of marbles).
We checked out the lower Warm Springs.
We stopped to check out the lower Warm Springs. Even though we’re in a National Park, clothing is optional at these springs. Nope, none of us had to worry about sunburning personal areas.
The remaining towers of the Salt Tram near Saline Lake. At the turn of the (last) century, salt was mined, then carried 14 miles over the Panamint Mountains to the town of Keeler in the Owens Valley. It operated sporadically from 1913 to 1936, but ultimately proved too expensive to operate.
The remaining towers of the Salt Tram near Saline Lake. At the turn of the (last) century, salt was mined, then carried 14 miles over the Panamint Mountains to the town of Keeler in the Owens Valley. It operated sporadically from 1913 to 1936, but ultimately proved too expensive to operate.
Bob, George and Dave arriving at the shores of the Saline Lake.
Bob, George and Dave arriving at the shores of the Saline Lake. Remaining towers form the salt tram run up and over the Panamints to the shores of Owens Lake.
Remaining rotted piers, where salt used to be mined in Saline lake.
Remaining rotted piers, where salt used to be mined in Saline lake.
Carol and George get the fire started with the help of a little gasoline.
Carol and George get Saturday night’s fire started with the help of a little gasoline.
Sunday morning sunrise.
Sunday morning sunrise. The drive out of the park on Saline Valley Road was going to be challenging – a week prior it was hit by heavy rains, flooding, mud slides. The water had turned the regularly smooth graded dirt road into 4×4 fun.

Video: Death Valley, Eureka Dunes, Steel Pass, Saline Valley Rd.

Starting at the Eureka Dunes in Death Valley, we drove through Steel Pass and out of the park on Saline Valley Rd., stopping briefly to see naked people. Saline Valley Road had been recently trashed by heavy rains, transforming it from a smooth, graded dirt road, into a genuine 4×4 experience. A seriously fun weekend.

Telescope Peak

Five of us hiked to the top of Telescope Peak in Death Valley National Park, the highest point in the park. From the top, you can see Mt. Whitney to the north, and Charleston Peak near Las Vegas, to the east. Telescope Peak is also notable for having one of the greatest vertical rises above local terrain of any mountain in the contiguous United States. Its summit rises 11,331 feet above the lowest point in Death Valley, Badwater Basin at −282 feet, in about 15 miles (a route we decided not to take).

The Charcoal Kilns in Death Valley. These ten beehive shaped masonry structures, about 25 feet high, were completed in 1877 by the Modock Consolidated Mining Company to provide a source of fuel suitable for use in two smelters adjacent to their group of lead-silver mines in the Argus Range west of Panamint Valley, about 25 miles distant from the kilns.
The Charcoal Kilns in Death Valley. These ten beehive shaped masonry structures, about 25 feet high, were completed in 1877 by the Modock Consolidated Mining Company to provide a source of fuel suitable for use in two smelters about 25 miles from the kilns.
Carol, Loren, Tito and Dave at Telescope Peak trailhead on Mahogany Flats (8,200').
Carol, Loren, Tito and Dave at Telescope Peak trailhead on Mahogany Flats (8,200′). The trail to the summit is seven miles long one-way, and tops out at 11,043, the highest point in Death Valley.
Everyone armed with a camera.
Everyone armed with a camera in a Columbian Standoff.
It had snowed two days before our ascent to Telescope - the dusting was mostly gone, except for the top of the mountain.
It had snowed two days before our ascent to Telescope – the dusting was mostly gone, except for the top of the mountain.
Professional hiking slippers.
Professional hiking slippers.
Badwater Basin, the lowest spot in Death Valley and the Western Hemisphere (-282'), seen from near the top of Telescope.
Badwater Basin, the lowest spot in Death Valley and the Western Hemisphere (-282′), seen from near the top of Telescope.
Resting at the summit.
Resting at the summit.
Jim, Carol and Dave, snapping a photo at the top of Telescope while holding the El Segundo Herald. The photo would later be published in the paper - of course they first ran it through their filter which softens the focus, and washes out colors.
Jim, Carol and Dave, snapping a photo at the top of Telescope while holding the El Segundo Herald (Carol refused to touch the paper). The photo would later be published in the paper – of course they first ran it through their filter which softens the focus, and washes out colors.
Our campground at Wildrose.
Our campground at Wildrose.

Toroweap: North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Carol and I visited Toroweap on the way home from a summer trip to Colorado. Toroweap is on the north rim of the Grand Canyon on the Arizona Strip. The road to the rim of The Canyon is 50+ miles of dirt and silt, finished off with lots of rocks the last few miles. There’s only a few NPS campgrounds, which consists of a table and fire ring. From the rim at Toroweap, you can look straight down 3,000′ to the Colorado River without railings or other people.

IMG_1995

The drive to the rim of the canyon is generally easy and fast. Of course, weather can degrade road conditions making it impassible.
The drive to the rim of the canyon is generally easy and fast, at least until the last few miles which are rocky and slow-going. Of course, weather can degrade road conditions making it impassible. Start in Kanab, UT, then drive south to the Arizona Strip. Stop before you plummet into the canyon.
One day we were driving out to visit some nearby petroglyphs and ran into this guy in a little Suzuki car stuck in a deep siltbed.
One day we were driving away from the canyon to visit some nearby petroglyphs and ran into this guy in a little Suzuki car stuck in a deep silt bed. He kept saying “… but it’s four wheel drive!” Uh, yeah, right.
Looking upstream along the Rio Colorado from Toroweap.
Looking upstream along the Rio Colorado from Toroweap.

IMG_2003

The local residents at Toroweap weren't happy about sharing the neighborhood with the tourists.
The local residents at Toroweap weren’t happy about sharing the neighborhood with tourists.
The view from our campsite.
The view from our campsite.
Our campsite. That rip in the earth, about 1/4 mile behind us, is the Grand Canyon. You really can't see it until you get to the edge.
Our campsite. That rip in the earth, about 1/4 mile behind us, is the Grand Canyon. You really can’t see it until you get to the edge.
Summer temps were very warm, so we just left the ingredients in the sun to "cook" dinner.
Summer temps were very warm, so we just left the ingredients in the sun to “cook” dinner.
Toroweap is the only place in the Grand Canyon where you can look straight down, 3,000 feet, to the river.
Toroweap is the only place in the Grand Canyon where you can look straight down to the river, 3,000 feet below.
Finding the nearby petroglyphs required about 20 miles of driving on remote roads, and a 10 minute, cross-country hike. And some orienteering.
Finding the nearby Nampaweap Petroglyphs required about 20 miles of driving on remote roads, and a 10 minute, cross-country hike. And some orienteering.