Sculpted by time and tide – Hopewell Cape, NB

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Flower Pots Rocks
Steve and the ducks

Steve chatting with the quack-quacks

We finally began our journey back toward the U.S. from Cape Breton Island, via New Brunswick.  We thought we’d left the rain behind us, but our brief stop at Linwood, NS was a washout, too.  I know it sounds like we’re complaining, but cabin fever was setting in and we became antsy.  The sun finally made a grand appearance, and our drive to Moncton, New Brunswick was a happy one.  Steve made friends with the ducks at our campsite and discussed the weather with them.  They seemed perfectly happy about all of the rain that had come through!

Since we had been through here on our way to Prince Edward Island a few weeks ago, this was a “catch our breath” stop and we ran a few errands – like a much-needed trip to Costco.  But we did have time for an interesting excursion that fits right in with my past blogs about the Bay of Fundy, and the effects of the  highest tides in the world.  Folks coming to this area don’t want to miss a trip out to the Hopewell Rocks.

Hopewell Rocks

Low tide at Hopewell Rocks

This drive took us to an interesting geologic feature known as the Hopewell Rocks formation, where the famous “Flower Pot Rocks” are located.  Even though we have been to quite a few formations – Chiricahua Mountains (Arizona)Alabama Hills (California), Stone Mountain (Georgia) etc – the Flower Pot Rocks are quite different.  While rain and ice continue to erode these formations today, they get the additional daily tidal action that wears away at the bases of the cliffs and rocks.  This is slowly disintegrating them as the Bay of Fundy tides continue to change these unusual sculptures.

Flower Pots Rocks, Hopewell Rocks

The average change in water level from high to low tide is 35 ft.  Steve won’t be standing here in a few hours!

The only time these formations can be seen is at low tide.  So, along with busloads of tourists we explored the ocean floor for a fee.  The Bay of Fundy is a huge attraction here in New Brunswick.

Warning Signs, Hopewell Rocks

Keep the time in mind, or else!

Hopewell Rocks

This platform is where the dummies who don’t pay attention have to go, if they don’t get off the beach in time. Then they get to sit there until the tide goes back out hours later. How embarrassing!

Flower Pots, Hopewell Rocks

Low tide at the “Flower Pots”

The formations consist of dark sedimentary conglomerate and sandstone rock.  The huge volume of water flowing into and out of the Bay of Fundy constantly modifies the landscape surrounding it.  Following the retreat of the glaciers in the region during the last ice age, surface water filtering through cracks in the cliff eroded and separated the formations from the rest of the cliff face.  At the same time, advancing and retreating tides eroded the base of the rocks at a faster rate than the tops, resulting in their unusual shapes.

Flower Pots, Hopewell Rocks

Rock Formations at Hopewell Rocks

Little person in a big hole.

Rock Weeds, Hopewell Rocks

Rock weeds cover the base of the rocks.

At Hopewell we could also see the mud flats that stretch as wide as 2.5 miles.  It boggles the mind to contemplate the amount of water that moves in and out of here every day.

Hopewell's Mud Flats

Hopewell’s mud flats and coastline, and the Bay of Fundy in the distance.

After walking on the ocean floor and checking out the rocks, we continued to follow the Fundy Coastline Scenic Drive.  It took us to the town of Alma, a small fishing town where we had (oh no, not again!) lobster for lunch.

Alma Tide, NB

Can you see people walking on the ocean floor?

Low Tide at Alma, NB

Low tide at Alma

Lobsters

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe!

After a sumptuous lobster lunch, we continued on to Cape Enrage, where we had spectacular views of its towering cliffs and a lighthouse.  Interestingly, in 1993 a small group of high school students from Moncton began a restoration project at the site, which was in disrepair and constantly vandalized. They renovated all of the buildings and slowly turned the site into a tourist destination.  A not-for-profit student-run organization maintains the property and now offers climbing, rappelling, and kayaking in the summer months.

Cape Enrage Lighthouse

Cape Enrage lighthouse is one of the oldest on New Brunswick’s Fundy coastline.

We noticed some adventurous women rappelling down the cliffs, and watched them until they reach the ground.  Hmm, I don’t think I will do it even if they did make it look easy!

Cape Enrage

These women made it looked easy.

Cape Enrage

Instead of rappelling we just played “washer pitching”, a game similar to horseshoes.

Cape Enrage’s name came from an early French descriptive, ‘cape of rage’, as exhibited by the turbulent waters often seen in the area.

Cape Enrage

A very windy trip to Cape Enrage – check out Steve’s “bad hair” day!

Cape Enrage

Tidal notices like this abound in beach areas.

Cape Enrage

Tide coming in at Cape Enrage

On the way home we stopped by again at the Hopewell Rocks, just to see how the tourists were doing at the ocean floor now.

Mid Tide at Hopewell Rocks

The tide’s coming in at the Rocks now, but a few tourist are lingering.  Not for long!

There was no shortage of fantastic scenery as we drove home, following the Fundy Coastal Drive.  The open space, green pastures and cloud formations made for a beautiful end to the day!

Fundy Coastal Drive

Fundy Coastal Drive

This time, “home” was at the Stonehurst Golf Course and Trailer Park in Moncton.  We liked it better than the Camper City and RV Resort, where we stayed the last time in Moncton.  Click here to see Steve’s review, if interested.

It was quite an amazing experience to witness the high and low tides of the Bay of Fundy.  The Reversing, Falls at St. John, the sculpted rocks at Hopewell Cape, the immense low tide at Alma and the Fundy Trail Parkway all made this part of our adventure memorable!

Next up:  Our final stop at St. Andrews-by-the-Sea and goodbye to Canada!

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Rock Concert! – Chiricahua National Monument

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We saw a video describing Chiricahua National Monument at the Kartchner Caverns visitor’s center, and it piqued our interest.  We had not previously heard about “The Land of Standing up Rocks” as referred to by the local Chiricahua Apaches, and the “Wonderland of Rocks” by later pioneers.  After seeing it, we simply call it the “Gorgeous giant rock concert.”  We opted to stay in Arizona a couple extra days to check it out and moved Betsy over to Willcox, a little closer and still on our way.

Chiricahua (pronounced CHEER-IH-COW-AH) National Monument, established in 1924, is described as a sky island – an isolated mountain range rising above a surrounding grassland sea.  The unusual rock formations here were caused by a massive volcanic eruption some 27 million years ago by the nearby Turkey Creek caldera, which covered the land with white-hot ash.  As the ash cooled, it fused into dark volcanic rock known today as rhyolite.  The continual natural erosion via water and wind has sculpted these rocks and split them into tall columns, pinnacles  and unlikely balancing rocks.  We have seen many rock formations in our travels (like the ones at Alabama Hills in Lone Pine, California), but here in the Chiricahua Mountains the outcroppings are something to behold!

The eight mile scenic trip along Bonita Canyon Drive made a fairly steep ascent through oak, cypress and pine forest until we arrived at Massai Point, where the road terminates and several hiking trails begin.  Along the way there are pull outs where we could stop to view and photograph some amazing formations, such as the Organ Pipe Formation, Sea Captain and China Boy.

Organ Pipe Formation

Organ Pipe Formation

Hiking is the best option for getting up close and personal with the extensive outcrops of the eroded volcanic pinnacles.  We thought about taking the Heart of Rocks Loop, where a group of impressive and  unusual rock formations can be viewed.  But due to recent snow and the trail being classified as strenuous, the park ranger did not recommend it at this time.  Instead, we settled on the Echo Canyon Trail, and tackled the  3.3 circuit which begins at Massai Point at 6780′ elevation.

Echo Canyon Loop Trailhead

~Echo Canyon Loop Trailhead at Massai Point

The Echo Canyon Trail is the second most popular path in Chiricahua National Monument.  It follows a rocky ridge past many huge eroded boulders, balanced rocks and at this time held a lot of snow and ice!  The trail was slick and slippery, and it took us about 3 hours to complete the loop.  But it was well worth it!  We walked amongst the grottoes and balanced rocks, which is actually a bit unsettling, as you realize these massive boulders over your head could come down and smash you like a bug if there was even a small earthquake.

At one point we passed through a narrow, sheer-walled passage called Wall Street.

Wall Street

Wall Street

Then the path descended to the forested floor of a sheltered valley called Echo Park, which was at this time covered with snow and very beautiful.

Echo Park

Continuing on the trail we rounded a corner to a grand viewpoint high above two deep ravines, and on to a junction with the Hailstone and Upper Rhyolite Canyon trails.  On this north-facing side of the trail the snow had melted so we picked up our pace, walking along the base of the pinnacles lining the Rhyolite Canyon.

Upper Rhyolite

Along this trail we stopped and admired the many eroded boulders that are seemingly ready to fall.  The lichen-covered columns and pinnacles were colored green and/or orange.

There are 17 miles of hiking trails that intersect in the park, but the best option for an all day hike is known as the Big Loop, a 9.5 mile trip to all areas of the various formations.  The Chiricahua mountains was worth our change of plans, what a fantastic place!

Chiricahua National Monument

One final look at the Rocks in Concert!

We discovered while in Willcox that there are a few vineyards that grow and bottle yummy wines, and they are seriously good!  Two have tasting rooms in town – Keeling Schaefer and Coronado Vineyards.  We missed the wineries at Patagonia, so went tasting here and were surprised by the quality of these southwestern wines.  It was a fitting end to our Arizona wanderings.

Farewell, Arizona, until next time!

Traveling highest to lowest in one day!

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Manzanar National Historic Site

Manzanar historic marker

One of the things we did while at Lone Pine was visit the 814- acre Manzanar National Historic Site.  This was one of the 10 camps where over 100,000 Japanese Americans were relocated during World War II without due process of law.  The historic site preserves the many stories of the people who were relocated there in 1942 and enclosed by barbed wire fences.  There is a self-guided driving tour (free) and a pretty good museum – worth a stop if you’re in the area.

Replica of the entire Manzanar Camp

Replica of Manzanar Camp with Sierras as backdrop

Memorial at Manzanar

“Soul Consoling Towers”

Having heard of the high winds expected to pass throughout the slopes of the Eastern Sierras in Inyo County, we started to pack up and get going to our next destination – Death Valley.  We had planned to stay in the Alabama Hills one more day, since we loved the serenity of boondocking there.  Hoping the wind alert for the area wouldn’t pan out, we decided to make our way toward Death Valley anyway.  After driving only 8 miles east of Lone Pine we saw a huge dust cloud (like the one at the beginning of the movie “The Mummy”) ahead of us.  We immediately turned back to Lone Pine and took refuge in the Boulder Creek RV Park until it passed.  At least we would be in a tree-lined area out of the sand if the winds hit.  Driving through that dust cloud in the desert was not an option.

High Wind

Gusts of wind at 60 mph!

We learned that the warning was pretty serious. Schools were out and the town was on “Red Alert”.  A few minutes after hooking up we heard an eerie sound and then – boom! – Betsy was rocking and rolling in the wind.  The gusts of wind passing through were hitting 60 miles per hour!  All day and night we were rocking in the wind.  We didn’t sleep very good that night, but upon waking up the next morning we were rewarded with a beautiful day.  So we broke camp and took off again!.

Heading again toward Death Valley National Park, we left town near the highest peak in the United States (Mt. Whitney at 14,495′) and drove 90 miles east to Death Valley, where the Badwater Basin – at 282′ below sea level – is the lowest place in the Western Hemisphere.

Eastern Sierra Crest

Eastern Sierra Crest, showing the highest peak, Mt Whitney

The drive along Highway 136 and 190 was uneventful as we passed through sparse and barren landscapes with beautiful and colorful mountains in the background.  Betsy easily climbed over the 4956′ summit at Towne Pass, just prior to the descent into Death Valley.  The transmission and air brakes were put to the test that day during the relentless 4,900’+ descent.  Ah, the devine aroma of freshly cooked brake linings!

Towne Pass

Towne Pass summit

Towne Pass

Starting out on the haul into Death Valley

The afternoon we arrived in the park, the winds were picking up and by evening a sand storm developed with rain showers…gasp.  What?  Rain in Death Valley?  It was quite an interesting evening at Stovepipe Wells Village.

Sand Storm

-Sand storm at Stovepipe Wells

Wind, Sand and Rain

-Wind, sand and rain!

The other Alabama…

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Alabama Hills
Alabama Hills

Alabama Hills in the shadow of Mt Whitney

In the shadow of Mt Whitney stands a group of rocky outcroppings with a southern-sounding name known as Alabama Hills.  It is located just west of Lone Pine off of  scenic Highway 395.  The Alabama Hills got their name from Confederate sympathizers who prospected and mined the area during the Civil war.  They were honoring the CSS Alabama, a propeller driven sloop-of-war that burned or captured 65 Union ships before being sunk by the USS Kearsarge in 1864.

This area, which encompasses 30,000 acres is designated as Alabama Hills Recreation Area and a public BLM land.  It was where Betsy resided for a few days.  A shout out  to our friends at Wheeling It who blazed this boondocking trail for us.  You see, we had been following their route along Highway 395 during the past few weeks and they introduced us to this very interesting landscape.

Entering the Alabama Hills makes you feel you’re entering a different world.  The amazing scenery of oddly rounded rocks backed by the jagged high peaks of the Sierra seemed otherworldly.  Here we witnessed big boulders piled upon bigger boulders, and balancing acts rarely seen.   Their unusual shapes have been created by many years of wind erosion and other forces.  Approximately 300 natural arches and canyons have formed in this area.  Due to this amazing setting with the high sierra as a backdrop, the Alabama Hills have been a favorite for movie companies, especially Westerns.  Hundreds of car commercials and short films have been created here as well.

 

Alabama Hills

Betsy on her way to a spot among the rocks

Driving along the dirt road called Movie Road, we found our boondocking spot for the next few days.  We tucked ourselves behind some large rocks and enjoyed the serenity and blackness of the starry, starry night while listening to the howling of coyotes.

Alabama Hills

Betsy’s digs

Being late in the season, we pretty much had the entire Alabama Hills to ourselves – well almost.  Our next door neighbor was parked about a quarter mile across from us. This was our first real boondocking and the perfect spot to experience it.

Alabama Hills

Our next neighbor, a quarter mile away

Using a copy of the Movie Road self-guided tour we picked up from the Museum of Lone Pine Film History, we explored film sets of some of the over 300 movies that were made in the beautiful and photogenic Alabama Hills.  Although the majority of movies made here were westerns, the more recent “Tremors” and “Ironman” used the Alabama Hills as their backdrop.  The latest western movie called “Django Unchained” stars Jamie Foxx and Leo de Caprio and  directed by Quentin Tarantino was filmed here.  It is due for release on Dec 25, 2012.

Museum of Lone Pine Film History

Museum of Lone Pine Film History

Dentist Wagon used in Django Unchained

Dentist Wagon of soon to be released movie “Django Unchained”

James Arness of GunSmoke

Steve next to his hero from “Gunsmoke”, James Arness

While here, it wasn’t just movie locations we explored.  The Alabama Hills is also known for their  various natural rock arches and many interesting formations.  We managed to find natural arches like Mobious Arch and Heart Arch.  The Face Rock is someone’s idea of art and is right next to the road as you approach Movie Road.

Lone Cowboy cruising around the movie flats

FaceRock

Face Rock

Mobius Arch

Mobius Arch

Heart Arch

Heart Arch

Indiana Jones

Wannabe Indiana Jones

Canyon in Alabama Hills

Driving around in the canyon

Alabama Hills

Admiring the long view

Alabama Hills

Neatly arranged rocks

Listening in for the news

During this time we were totally off the grid – no cell, no internet, no TV. We ran our generator once each morning so we could make  coffee and to keep the batteries topped off.  So how did we learn about the election results?  Our good friend Ben gave us a solar radio as a gift, and we turned it on for the first time.  We were really impressed and did not realize what a little gem we had!  Being solar powered, it is perfect for boondocking.  So, that’s how we heard the election results the morning after and also found out about impending bad weather  the following day.

Sunrise at Alabama Hills is magnificent, the sun illuminating the Eastern Sierras with a reddish glow.

Eastern Sierras

Sunrise at the Eastern Sierras

Discovering majestic Mt. Whitney – She’s a beauty!

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Mt Whitney Peak
Lone Pine

Location of Lone Pine in Owens Valley

After having a wondeful time at Bishop, we packed up and drove into Lone Pine  – 60 miles south on scenic 395.  We spent a couple of nights at the Boulder Creek RV Park so we could catch up on a few things, ie. laundry  😦   We also wanted to prepare for what we hoped would be our longest stretch of boondocking (dry camping) yet.  Once we located the perfect patch of desert for Betsy, we moved her there and got set up with fantastic views of the nearby Alabama Hills and Mt. Whitney.

Our next activity was to explore Mt. Whitney while we were assured of good weather.  As you may know, Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the contiguous United States, at 14,497′.  The peak was named in honor of Josiah Whitney, who was chief of the survey team working at the mountain in 1864.  Whitney doesn’t look as imposing as mountains like, say, Shasta, because there are several other high peaks around it. However, it has very striking features and we loved looking at it as we first drove to the 8300′ elevation.

To get an unobstructed view of the peak, we drove  up a long switchback road on Whitney Portal Road (about 13 miles from the town of Lone Pine).  We saw a few deer crossing the road on their way to breakfast.

Deers

Deer hurrying for breakfast

The drive ended at the Whitney Portal Family Campground – elevation 8,360′.  Even if you aren’t interested in hiking further up the mountain from here, YOU MUST drive up this road if you get a chance just to enjoy the enormous panoramic views of Owens valley and the Alabama Hills.  There is also a beautiful  partially-frozen waterfall at this elevation.  Wow, this drive gets a “10” from us! 

Ice Waterfall

Ice Waterfall

Alabama Hills

A pose with Alabama Hills in the background

Jagged Mt Whitney

Mt Whitey as you drive up

Owens Valley

Owens Valley and Inyo Mountains

Owens River Bed

Owens River Bed

Since we weren’t planning (that is, in good enough shape) to climb the higher elevations of the mountain, we settled on a less stressful hike that still provided fantastic views and a good workout.  We took the Lower Trailhead which begins at the west end of the Lone Pine Campground, starting at elevation 5,640′ then climbed to over 7000′.  This trail is 4-miles one-way.  As we hiked up, we enjoyed the views of Mt Whitney, Lone Pine Creek, the Inyo Mountains, the Owens valley and of course the Alabama Hills to the east.

LonePineCampground
Upper Canyon Mt Whitmey
Clark Nutcracker Mt Whitney

We stopped for lunch at the rock grotto near the crossing of Meysan Creek and Lone Pine Creek.  This trail will end up at the previously-mentioned Whitney Portal Campground at the top. And the hike back, as they say, is all downhill.

Log Crossing Rock Formations

Heading back down, the Alabama Hills came to view.  Beautiful!

Alabama Hills

Behind those rocks is where Betsy was happily parked.