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Fleeing the snow and coming to Yuma

Very shortly after I took the pictures at Lagoon (like the next day), it started raining on the Oregon coast. And raining. And raining. And then it started snowing in the mountains, which I had to get across. And then there were storms coming everywhere…so I fled south as fast as I could go. I didn’t miss a blizzard in Nevada, though…I had the pleasure of driving 25 mph through a white-out in a motorhome with no snow tires. That was fun. Also, my entire propane system stopped working. That meant no heat, no refrigerator, and no hot water. In freezing weather.

In addition, I couldn’t make any arrangements for propane repairs because 1) I had no cell service, and 2) there was a winter storm warning for the next day. So I got myself an ice chest and a little electric heater and squatted in the Walmart parking lot in Fallon, NV for a few hours, then continued south.

I made it to Yuma in record time and camped on BLM land west of town. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, but this year I discovered a bunch of interesting things to see that I had no idea were there.

It seems that the Chocolate Mountains have a long history of gold mining, starting early in the 20th century and continuing through several incarnations after that. The American Girl pit mine, which closed in the 1980’s, is apparently the last of these.

Here is the American Girl mine pit. And there’s plenty more of it that you can’t see here. All pit mines look pretty much the same…enormous, desolate pits. The American Girl mine is typical in this regard.

And here is a bunch of equipment sitting on the edge of the pit. I have no idea what all this stuff is for.

Also at the American Girl mine is this battered wooden structure. It is perched on a hill of what appears to be mining leftovers…gravel and sand and rocks.

Here is the front of the structure. The bit of ramp sticking out below the main structure seems to be part of a sluice, although it’s hard to be sure about that. Perhaps this is American Girl Pit Minus One (AGP-1 — previous incarnation).


My next camping spot was at Lagoon, south of Florence. It’s pretty hard to beat Tillicum Beach, and in fact, Lagoon didn’t do so. It was pretty in its own way, though. If you walk across the dunes to the beach, you find a bunch of flatness where many people in OHV’s dash around roaring up and down the dunes. At this time, though, they were not dashing (or roaring) in this particular spot because it was nesting season for the Snowy Plovers and so, temporarily, off limits.

This is what the lagoon looks like, all stagnant and peaceful.

The lagoon is so still that everything appears twice.


On my way from Tillicum Beach to Lagoon, I stopped at a number of scenic places, state parks, etc. The entire Oregon coast is one giant scenic view. These photos were taken near (and at) the Hecate lighthouse.

It is hard to resist taking zillions of pictures of the scenic Oregon coast. So I made nom effort to resist, and here is yet another picture of waves and rocks.

Here is the lighthouse…

And this shows the many lenses of the lamp inside.

Very important and critical vote required

So at Smelt Sands, I took a bunch of photos of the waves crashing into the rocks. I chose two that I like, but was not able to choose which of the two I like best, so I thought we would have a vote. Generally we here at Vagabond Tourist don’t encourage this sort of thing because, well, you can see how easily it could get out of control with people actually expressing their opinions and stuff. We can’t have that!

In this case, though, I couldn’t figure out any other way to break the tie. Please indicate your vote in the comments. There never are any comments, so I suppose the tie will remain unbroken, but you never know. A single vote could decide the entire race! Your vote will never again count for as much as it does here!

Here is wave picture 1

And here is wave picture 2

Smelt Sands

A few miles down Highway 101 (perfect distance by trike), there is a tiny unit of the Oregon State Park system called Smelt Sands. It sounds rather foul, doesn’t it? But it is not foul. On the contrary, it is gorgeous.

Tillicum Beach

Now this is a place worth camping in! It is a National Forest campground right on the bluff overlooking the ocean. You can hear the surf all day and night, and look out your window and see the beach.

We went walking on the beach and looked up at the bluff on which the campground is located. There were these trees sculpted by the wind.

And what trip to the beach would be complete without a wave picture?

Of course I simply had to take pictures of waves on the beach…it is actually quite hard to take interesting pictures of waves. They all basically look the same: a great expanse of beach ending in a great expanse of ocean with lines of waves coming in. You kinda have to have people waving or falling over into the water or something, and my beach buddy (co-pilot Mason) would not go near the water.

Snowy Plovers

Here we are just south of Newport, and the Snowy Plovers are apparently a pretty big deal. These two Snowy Plovers were just hanging out near each other, and may even be a pair sitting on a nest, although this isn’t supposed to be nesting season. “Nest”, for a Snowy Plover, is a shallow hollow scratched out of the sand.

I assume this is Snowy Plover Guy, as he was hanging around next to the one below who might be sitting on [her?] nest

Possible nesting Snowy Plover?

Here is a bunch of Snowy Plovers making out with their reflections in the water. The Snowy Plover is renowned for its high self-esteem.

And here is a bunch of birds doing what birds do best…running away from people.

Mt. Jefferson? Washington? something else?

This is what the east side of the Cascades looks like in Oregon (and Washington, for that matter). There is an informational sign at the spot where I took this photo, but for some strange reason, they didn’t indicate this particular mountain on it, since they were all taken up with the three sisters.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that Imogen messed up the ISO setting and that’s why the sky is grainy…but NO!! THE SKY REALLY LOOKED LIKE THAT!!!!!

Ok, I’m lying. The sky did not look like that, and when I reached the coast, I finally sat down and figured out how I had changed the ISO setting to 6400 and messed up all my pictures. It turns out that when one wildly mashes buttons without looking at them whilst one is fumbling with the camera, it is very easy to change the ISO setting. Which was great, when I finally wanted to change it back.

On the way to Burns, OR

So there we were, bombing down the highway (US 20) in eastern Oregon, and all of a sudden, I saw this Light of Epiphany through the windshield. Naturally, I did what any self-respecting tourist would do…I fished out my camera with one hand, pointed it in the general direction of the phenomenon, and started clicking away. After wading through a few shots of dead bugs and other windshield debris, I got a more-or-less useable picture. Here it is.

Poor me!

I am trying to drum up sympathy for myself by showing you what kind of hell-hole I live in during the three or four months I am not living on the road. Yes, I am being sarcastic.

We are on my driveway looking toward the draw that runs through the property. The draw is where all the birches and aspens are; the remainder of the property is various types of conifers. In the Fall, aspens turn this ethereal gold color that is utterly gorgeous. This year hasn’t been one of the best for Fall color, but even so, it’s still pretty wonderful.

These trees are on the edge of the field that borders the draw.

Here is fog creeping over the mountains looking northwest from the highway to town.

In the Fall, the mountains are dotted with what appear to be dying conifers…but they are actually Tamaracks (aka Western Larch), a deciduous conifer. This is a crappy shot of a tamarack across the street from the foot of my driveway.

Where on earth are we??

I cannot, for the life of me, remember where this is. I think it’s in Utah somewhere. There is something geologically interesting about this pass which I also cannot remember. grr.

The same lingering error that obliterated Monarch pass obliterated most of my photos of this pass, too. And even after it was corrected, there remained this horrible ISO setting that made the sky all grainy and disgusting. Seriously, Imogen. Get a grip.

I call this photo the castle on a hill. It is typical of many southwestern desert-scapes, but it is very hard to resist photographing them because they are so beautiful.

And again…desert rock striae…irresistible.

Last sight of Colorado

Leaving Rio Grande del Norte, we drove back over Monarch pass, which is even higher than Wolf Creek pass. Of course I recorded it for posterity, but due to the same operator failure which destroyed my best photos of City of Rocks, I destroyed all my photos of Monarch pass, also. Therefore, I have posted this lovely wild iris as we wave goodbye to Colorado for this season.

Rio Grande del Norte

Finally, we reached our destination: Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. I had been wanting to see Rio Grande del Norte NM for two years, and now I wonder why. It’s a fairly large National Monument, but there was only one place I could find where the Rio Grande was visible — waaaaaay down in the southern tip near Taos. And (drumroll) here it is!! The Rio Grande! I can tell you’re all as impressed as I was by this awesome sight.

The rest of Rio Grande del Norte NM looked a lot like this…minus the cloud shadows.

Cows. Good neighbors? Or thugs in the making?

We next camped somewhere around South Fork, in an intense thicket of stickery bushes. We encountered these beasts talking back and forth to each other in some sort of coded speech that sounded kind of like moaning. This one appeared to be the ringleader. You can see she stands out from the crowd (show off!).

It was here that one of my cats decided to go AWOL for an entire day. I called and called, and she totally ignored me. Finally, four hours after I had wanted to hit the road, she ran up to the RV meowing pathetically for entry as if I had callously abandoned her in the wild. I hesitated to let her in, frankly, because I felt it was quite possible she had been lured to the enemy side while she was away and was now infiltrating our home for nefarious purposes.

Wolf Creek Pass

After we were shamed out of Pagosa Springs by a promise to be home by June 1 (a promise we were obviously in the process of breaking, since we were heading east in the middle of May and ‘home’ is west) we climbed over Wolf Creek pass. This is the highest pass I have ever driven my RV over. In fact, it is the highest pass I’ve ever driven any vehicle over, although I have hiked over passes this high. As this informative sign shows, the pass is over 10,000 feet high. The RV made it like a champ!!

Here is the view from Wolf Creek pass

I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering, as we all are, why they call this pass ‘Wolf Creek’ pass, and here is the reason: if you wander down from the summit a few yards, you find this sweet little brooklet of water called, not surprisingly, Wolf Creek. Now there’s logic for you!

Pagosa Springs

After our sojourn in Canyons of the Ancients NM, we soldiered on through Colorado en route to Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument. On the way, we stopped in the National Forest near Pagosa Spgs. After months and months in the desert, the beauty of a green Colorado mountain spring was amazing.

This is our camping spot near Pagosa Springs. Seriously…how does it get any better than this? It’s about 70 degrees today, and will be 70 degrees tomorrow as well. We fought our way over a string of deep chasms and dried mud OHV tracks (it might have been a road) and pulled off into this gorgeous meadow.

And this is my front yard looking the other direction.

This light is beautiful. The whole road is beautiful.

This little ranchlet was a the bottom of a hill on one of the USFS roads. I wouldn’t complain about owning this!!

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

From El Malpais, we went north to Colorado to check out Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Unfortunately, we couldn't see any of the canyons because they were basically invisible from the road and the monument is devoid of any road we were able to drive on. And we aren't picky when it comes to roads! The "roads" looked more like eroded stream beds...not possible to traverse without a high-clearance vehicle. This was all very disappointing because I had been wanting to see this NM for a year. 

Fortunately for us, right across the Utah/Colorado border, there is a tiny national monument called Hovenweep, and that had some actual trails with actual views of actual canyons. So our trip was not a waste, but instead a great time in a gorgeous area.  Here are some ruins I saw from the trail.


Here is something called (for reasons that will forever be shrouded in mystery) Eroded Boulder House.

Here are the Twin Towers, with Eroded Boulder House subsiding gracefully into the canyon below them.

This picture is sort of an excuse to photograph the sky. However, in the structure you can see that the walls are two courses thick. All these buildings were built in the late AD 1200's.

This is the largest building in this particular complex, which is strewn along Little Ruin Canyon. There are several other canyons/pueblos in the vicinity, but they are harder to reach. This is at the head of the canyon, close to the "seep" that constitutes the permanent water source that supported these pueblos. It is called Hovenweep Castle.