Last year for Thanksgiving Clinton and I took more than just a few days off and took to the road with the dogs. Our goal was to drive to Death Valley and see where we wanted to go from there. Last time we had been to Death Valley was in 2011 when we worked out in Panamint, and we wanted to drive through some of the same areas. Driving from Page to Las Vegas takes about 5 hours depending on the traffic through various parts on your trip, and another 2 hours to get into Death Valley. We decided to take Hwy 95 to Beatty and turn on 375 towards Stovepipe Wells. We traveled this route frequently when we worked that summer and recognized that most everything was the same. Pretty neat since our experience living in cities means constant change even over short periods of time!
Our trip didn’t end here, though we did decide to head up north towards Yosemite before doing an elaborate loop around the Sierras to get to Sequoia and Kings Canyon later during this journey. On our way back to Page we decided to take another journey we had done back in 2011 to get back into Death Valley and head through Ridgecrest south of the park. Heading north on 198 towards Panamint Springs brought back many memories of traveling in such a remote and desolate place. That being said, we love Death Valley! It is such a unique place. One of my favorite things about this desert is the heat and the sand. It does not have the same red rock or painted desert look that the canyons hold in Arizona, or the stark sandstone formations that are located in Utah. It is dark, with very low cover, and dry sand with cracks everywhere in the earth that surround a hot dry atmosphere. Death Valley is simply an amazing place to sit and watch the world go by – with the comfort of water of course. It’s hard to put into words how great Death Valley is…but don’t let it fool you. Clinton and I always carry more than enough water, which is at least 1 gallon a person. Salty foods are you friend, as is finding shade whenever possible and keeping exercise to a minimum during the hottest parts of the day. Usually 1-4 p.m. In Death Valley it was not uncommon for the temperature to reach over 100 by 9 a.m., however. Be smart and enjoy your visit to Death Valley!
During our visit we had the chance to drive out to the charcoal kilns – one of the best reasons to drive up through Ridgecrest. Wildrose Canyon is host to these amazing architectural features located in Death Valley. 10 total beehive shaped structures about 25 feet high survive as the best example of such type of kilns in the western states. These kilns were completed in 1877 by the Modock Consolidated Mining Company for fuel usage in two smelters located in the Argus Range west of Panamint Valley. There is not evidence that the kilns were used after 1879 which is a good reason these kilns are in such good condition. If you are able to make it out there, and we did with our Honda Civic and Honda Accord on two separate occasions, we definitely recommend visiting this unique and awesome area!
Death Valley is actually full of life. Darwin Falls is a hike near Panamint that starts in the desert sands and ends in a small pool of water with trees and dragonflies. Rainstorms flash across the desert periodically, not normally, but when they do it shows how much life is everywhere in Death Valley. If you end up only having a few hours and can divert you can drive across definitely take the time. You’ll probably never see anything as unique and exciting as Death Valley National Park!
We still have not been up to Scotty’s Castle or the Racetrack – but now that we have our truck we have added this to our list! Stay tuned for an update on this wonderful National Park!
During our travels through Eastern Europe we were able to visit the Czech Republic, in particular Prague. Prague is a very interesting city. For starters, we were on the bus tour so we didn’t have the vehicle independence or public transportation option really nailed down. We did come back to the area one more time when we go our Eurorail tickets but spent the majority of the time going back to the same spots we liked the first time we visited.
Prague is an old city with stone pathways and amazing architecture, along with being one of the largest cities in all of the European Union. It is the historical capital of Bohemia and is considered one of the political, cultural, and economic centers of central Europe. As the capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia and the main residence of several Holy Roman Emperors, the city contains an enormous amount of cultural and historical significance for all of Europe. While visiting the area we were able to see famous attractions such as Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, the Old Town Square, and the astronomical clock. The historic center of town is a great place to not only be in a visitor friendly area fresh with tons of things to do to occupy your time, but is also still a great place to see the “true” character of a global city. Prague is consistently listed as one of the most visited cities in the world, right up there on the list with London, Paris, Rome, and Istanbul.
The Old Town Square in Prague is a delight to visit. There are many memorials in the square’s center, including religious reformer Jan Hus who was burned at the stake for his beliefs in Constance. Erected in 1915 to mark the 500th anniversary of his death, the memorial is only one of many ways the people of Bohemia celebrate Jan Hus. Celebrated as a symbol of dissidence and strength against oppressive regimes, Jan Hus historically opposed control by the Vatican and gave confidence to those in the nineteenth century who would oppose rule under the Hapsburg. In celebration of the end of the Thirty Years War and the end of Hapsburg rule is the Marion Column and in front of the Old Town Hall is a memorial to the martyrs beheaded during the Old Town Square execution by the Hapsburg. So much history spanned over a vast amount of time is astonishing. One could easily spend a few hours just in this main city area.
Another feature in the Old Town Square is the Astronomical Clock. Dating back to 1410 with the first recorded mention of the clock in October of that year, the clock was made by Mikulas of Kadan and Jan Sindel. Later the calendar dial was added and clock facade was decorated with Gothic sculptures. The mechanism of the clock has three main components – the astronomical dial (representing the Sun and Moon in the sky), statues of various Catholic saints, an hourly show of Apostle figures for the clock face striking the time, and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months. There are plenty of outdoor cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating to sit and have a great lunch and watch the astronomical clock in action. Why not have a sip of absinthe while you are in the area? Clinton and I had the obligatory shot and it is absolutely weird! Licorice tasting and extremely strong, don’t drink too much or it may be hard to navigate your way back to the hotel. The food is just as good as Poland and Hungary, with a bit of flare for global blending since so many different cultures seemed to come together in this one square.
Like most major European cities, bridges are a huge deal. In Prague the bridge to view as Charles Bridge, which is as truly beautiful as they say it is! This historic bridge crosses the Vltava river and its construction was started in 1357 under King Charles IV and finished in the beginning of the 15th century. Since the Charles Bridge was the only means of crossing the river until 1841, it was the most important connection between Prague Castle and Old Town. Speaking of the Prague Castle – it is one of the largest ancient castles in the world at almost 750,000 square feet. It is the official office of the President of the Czech Republic and was the seat of power for kings, emperors, and presidents throughout the long history of the Czech Republic. Don’t forget to cross the bridge and visit this beauty during your trip through central Europe!
One of our favorite places to visit is a National Forest. There are so many wonderful reasons to visit a forest, and for us our top three is because #1 usually there are not a ton of other people around or they leave you alone, unlike a popular national park, #2 camping is plentiful and mostly FREE, and #3 our dogs can explore mostly unleashed (and we are good stewards of the land! #PackinPackout)
When visiting a National Park dogs are required to stay on leash, of course, and remain on the trail. While we absolutely agree with this type of regulation as we agree in preservation, etc etc, but realistically we love to travel with our dogs and this does present a problem when we just want our little ones to stretch their legs and not be bothered by large crowds. We like to travel to beautiful places, which means a lot of time in a vehicle. We have always appreciated the national forests that seem to surround or are usually pretty close to a National Park for us to visit. In areas where signs state no dogs, vegetation restoration in progress, etc makes sure to follow those regulations! There is no reason to take advantage of something that is already a good thing. Most of the #TalleyYourMiles were walking along paths after a short drive into the forest for half a day or more. Easily the #TravelingTalleys visited Kaibab National Forest at least a dozen times during the summer for hiking!
Kaibab National Forest is more than just a lovely place for us to hike. We’ve camped in it extensively, and this is the first place where I camped by myself (well, with the dogs) when Clinton was out of town. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is surrounded by the Kaibab, which is one of our favorite places to visit, and we are able to obtain a permit each year to collect wood in the forest. We even were able to get a christmas tree our first year here (we tried the second year but the Accord couldn’t make it as far back and it snowed earlier than we expected) and had a great experience collecting wood with our neighbors.
Another reason to visit a national forest is the crowds. In places where there are an abundance of national parks, like our area, you will see a larger increase in visitation at the forest for those similar minded individuals who like to recreate as well. We usually see mostly ATVs and ORVs more than any other type of visitor, even backcountry camping. We’ve been pretty lucky in finding areas to explore remotely and with our new truck we can’t wait to explore even further!
While we do like to take our dogs off the leash we always maintain control and follow the appropriate signs when we see them – don’t be disrespectful. Remember that even though the area is remote and less traveled – which could easily mean a peaceful experience without the crowds – this also means that there aren’t people to pick up after you or re-seal the trash can you forgot to close properly. Don’t forget to tell a friend or family member when you decide to go off on an adventure to the middle of nowhere and enjoy the trip!