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    Road Trip USA: Delaware Nature Walks - Chesapeake & Delaware Canal + Iron Hill Park

    I am spending winter with my daughter and her family in the USA state of Delaware.  Their house is only about a mile from the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal.  I like to ride mt bicycle on bike paths, so I made an effort to get out and explore the area using my Google Maps.  As it turned out, there is a very nice path alongside the canal . . . and a nice road through an Autumn forest to get there.
    Old flood control structures near the canal.

    The path begins at a parking area next to a stream as it enters the canal.

    A very nice paved bike path runs alongside the canal.

    It was a clear and crisp autumn day. The Autumn colors were almost gone in some places.

    A big winter storm came through Delaware a few days earlier and blew most of the colored leaves off the trees.

    There is a bike path, and above it, an access/service road.

    Ah!  Autumn.  I have seen the Fall from across the USA:  from the High Sierra of California, through Utah and Colorado, to Texans and now into the Northeast.

    A beautiful Autumn day.

    I miss these kinds of  woods after so many years living in the tropics.

    Such clear air and perfect light . . . these kinds of scenes can be very difficult to photograph.

    My first gimps of the Summit Bridge over the canal.

    I took the opportunity of the railings on this old pier to take a few self portraits.  Cold to the bone.

    Such a photogenic scene.

    I had fun composing various shots and angles.

    The sun came out from behind the high clouds at exactly the right moment.

    Standing water allowed a nice reflection.

    It is a strange experience standing under such a huge man-made structure while out in a natural setting.  Like some other, and very large, creature has been here and built the thing.

    The bridge supports seemed too small . . . .

    I will come back tomorrow with my bike and explore further up the path.

    Surreal bridge rising above such a beautiful Autumn forest.

    Directly under the bridge . . . I could hear the amplified noises of the cars and trucks speeding overhead.  I turned around at this point and walked back into the sun.

    Such a marvelous spot.

    The underbrush was very dense in some places.

    Plants employ different strategies for survival.  These little green mosses are taking advantage of the lack of tree shade for a quick growth spurt before the frigid winter arrives.

    I cannot imagine these lush plants lasting the winter . . . but they are thriving now.

    Cut and bucked . . . but left behind.

    The 'magic hour' arrived . . . lovely honey colored light makes everything beautiful.

    A few boats made their way back along the canal to their moorings.

    The canal was built in 1839 as a short-cut between the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays to shorten the time for ships and barges between Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.  However, it is also used by pleasure craft and small fishing boats as well.

    The last of the red berries . . .

    The Autumn forest . . . .

    Nearing my camper the sky and trees stood out more sharply from each other.

    An Autumn hillside in late afternoon.

    Yummie color!

    That sky!

    Autumn leaves . . . under water.

    I love these winter green mosses.

    Autumn trees and sky.

    Such a fine Autumn day.

    An old pier along the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal.

    The old truck and camper have served me well.

    Road Trip USA: Chesapeake City, Maryland


    There is quaint and there is QUAINT!  Chesapeake City, Maryland is the distillate of cute East coast seaport village.

    Old wooden houses from America's past. 


    I love these old wooden houses . . . 


    It is November, so the  tourists have gone.  Very colonial.


    Chesapeake City is an old town that was cut in half when the 1839 when the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal was built.  A draw bridge was replaced with a bridge high enough to handle supertankers . . . high above the old village.


    The high bridge across the canal.  The other half of Chesapeake City is on the other side.


    The bridge dominates the skyline from everywhere in the village.


    Chesapeake City is a pleasant place to stroll around on a chilly November afternoon.


    It was my daughter's birthday, so I took her and the granddaughter out for lunch in a sweet old canal side restaurant.


    Beautiful November light . . .


    We ate on the enclosed veranda of the old restaurant.


    We continued our walk around the tiny village where we discovered this tiniest of shops.


    Although tourist season was over, some of the gift and knickknack shops were open.  I loved these table legs in a clothing shop.


    The next time I come to Delaware (just across the bridge) to visit my daughter, my wife and I may stay here.


    Autumnal crab pots.  My daughter pointed out that I have many, many crab pot photos from around the world.  True.


    Some of the summer tourist shops were closed, like this ice cream establishment . . . not needed on this very cold day.


    An idyllic American colonial village.  Sweet.


    Beautiful autumnal/Halloween display.


    Such a nice afternoon spent.  There were several of these old places for sale (hhmmmmm).  We saw some of these being fixed up for AirBNB businesses.

    Road Trip USA: Steens Mountain, Oregon

    [September 5-9, 2018]
    My 'sabbatical year' road trip around the USA brought me back to the Steens Mountain in the far southeast corner of Oregon.

    I am a world traveller, you could say, and as such,I am often asked what is the most beautiful places you have ever been. I usually answer, that among my favorite places on the planet, Steens Mountain (or The Steens) takes a high spot. When I was planning my USA road trip, I realized that I hadn't been back to The Steens for over 30 years!  Were they still as beautiful as I remembered them?

    The road ahead . . . phone poles and mirages. (Color caste is from  tinted front windshield.)

    A road to forever.

    To get to The Steens from my base in western Oregon (Keizer) meant I had to drive across the Eastern Oregon high desert.

    Eastern Oregon has a very special barren beauty.  It is anything but empty.

    A failed homestead in Eastern Oregon.

    The further east and south I went in Oregon, the more mountainous the countryside became.

    The road to The Steens passed nearby the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge . . . a vast plain of colorful wetlands.

    I drove nearly all day under cloudy skies, but when I stopped to take photos of the Malheur Basin the sun shown through.  Extraordinary color and pattern.  This photo has not had the color bumped!

    The beauty of the Malheur Basin.

    I worried it might rain . . . it never did.  The clouds and the wind blew away the wildfire smoke that pervaded the entire western third of the USA over the summer.

    At last I arrived in The Steens!

    The tiny old cowboy town of Frenchglen is the front door to the Steens Mountain Loop.  The Frenchglen Hotel is a listed building that still operates as a hotel to this day - you will want to book well in advance.  I went there for lunch one day (more on this later). My goal was the Jackman Park Campground up 20 miles of washboarded gravel road.

    The flora changed from high desert scrub . . . .

     . . . to sparse grasses and rocky soil.

    Driving up a lower section of the Steens Loop.

    I arrived here just before dark . . . my campground was down in that stand of aspen trees! 

    I found this campsite and quickly unpacked the camper and made camp and went straight to sleep.  I woke in the middle of the night, as old men do, to see more stars in the black sky than I have ever seen in my life!

    My campsite in the morning . . . very dry . . . and very quiet. There were only 8 camping spots in the campground . . . and only one other was occupied, although I never saw or heard them.  The next two nights I was the only person there.

    With the help of my good friend, Jeff Milligan, I carefully selected my camp gear.  This was my set-up everywhere I went (except sometimes I used my own table when there was none provided.)  Coffee is very, very important.

    After breakfast I took a short walk in the aspen grove that surrounded the campground.

    I could not explain why these aspens were all twisted.

    Remains of ancient lava flows wound their way through the grove.

    After clean-up, I drove up the loop to near the edge of the East Rim . . . and Kiger Gorge.

    A north-south escarpment over forty miles long, Steens Mountain is “the largest fault-block mountain in the northern Great Basin.  During the cooler, moister climate of the Pleistocene Epoch, between four million and ten thousand years ago, glaciers carved out the mountain’s dramatic canyons, including Kiger Gorge. (Steens Mountain) The thinning wildfire smoke can be seen in this  photo . . . it would mostly go away in two days time.

    The Steens Mountain Loop road is normally closed due to deep snow from late November until late May.  This is the very last bit of snow left on The Steens in early September 2018.

    I loved walking along the path on the edge of Kiger Gorge . . . looking down into amazing and grand scenes of Nature.

    Kiger Gorge is full of unique wildlife protected by the State of Oregon - it is a kind of vault of nature . . . untouched.

    It is nearly 4000 feet to the bottom of Kiger Gorge. An incredible view.

    Magnificent geology.

    Steens Mountain wild flower against Kiger Gorge.

    I left Kiger Gorge along the Loop Road, hugging the great escarpment.  I love this road!

    There are several points along the Loop Road where you have a grand view of the Alvord Desert below.  Unfortunately, the massive wildfires in the western USA left thick smoke at lower elevations, obscuring what is normally a panoramic view.  It is, nevertheless, a wonderful sight.

    Craggy cliffs form the eastern edge of the great hinge fault that made Steens Mountain.

    Photographically, perhaps the wildfire smoke helps define the rows of sharp ridges . . . .

    This is why I came back to Steens Mountain:  this is the view I had in my memory for 30 years . . . . now renewed.

    Driving along the Steens Loop Road toward Wildhorse Lake.

    The road to Wildhorse Lake had marvelous views of Lower Indian Creek Canyon.

    The view from the Wildhorse Lake parking area . . . .

    At the southwest point of the Loop Road is Wildhorse Lake (aka, Alvord Lake).  Magnificent, smoke and all.

    Wildhorse Lake.  If you look closely you can see a trail to the lake . . . and two small tents on the lakeshore.

    Again, the views from the Wildhorse Lake overlook down to the Alvord Desert were fantastic, in spite of the wildfire smoke.

    I sat here for quite awhile . . . enjoying the grandeur of this actuality.

    I walked out on the Jeep trail I came on . . . a road to the sky.

    Back in the camper and along the rim loop road . . . incredible views wherever I looked.

    At the southern end of the great Steens hinge fault the road begins to wind down the escarpment.

    More ancient, deep glacial valleys fell out of the high plateau on the south end of the Steens.

    I stopped often to take in the beautiful scenery more closely.


    Ancient trees cling to life and the cliffs.

    I turned back to my campground at this point, knowing that I would be driving up from Frenchglen along the south section of the Loop Road the next day.  I was hoping that tomorrow would be clearer . . . without the wildfire smoke.

    I was treated to a beautiful sunset that evening.

    The next morning I woke up to find a camper van had arrived in the campground.  As luck would have it, he was a professional photographer from Portland, Oregon.  We met and chatted and I took him to the twisted aspen grove for a morning of photography in amazing light.

    Scrumptious morning scenes.

    I finally figured out why these aspens were twisted:  There must have been very deep and heavy snow covering them when there ere very small saplings.

    Snow-twisted aspen.

    Morning magic light in a grove of twisted aspen . . . magic indeed!

    Before heading into Frenchglen, I took a three mile walk to check out this stand of aspen trees.

    The grove was fed by a small spring coming out of the hillside.

    I had read that sometimes the early Basque shepherds would camp in these groves and carve their names and their home Basque village names on the aspens.

    Such a calm and peaceful aspen grove.

    I found an old cast iron stovetop among the aspens.

    I found the Basque shepherd tree carvings.

    These carvings are said to date from the 1870s . . . nearly 150 years old.

    There were many of these small isolated aspen groves - each a world of their own.  I wanted to explore all of them . . . but couldn't.

    I drove down off the mountain to the little village of Frenchglen.

    The Frenchglen Hotel is run by the State of Oregon and is an old cowboy rest spot.  I had delicious home made lunch here.

    When I was last here 30 years ago this was an old cowboy bar and provisions store.

    The Frenchglen Mercantile as it is today . . . a general store and souvenir store with a gas pump (thank goodness!).

    The interior of the Frenchglen Mercantile had been cleaned up and reorganized since I was here.  A few dollar bills were still on the ceiling as a reminder of the drinking games the old cowboys liked to play when it was still a bar.

    It is still a very interesting old space . . .

    Out front of the Frnchglen Mercantile.

    An old shepherds chuckwagon stands near the Frenchglen Mercantile.

    Imagine the old time reality of these Basque shepherds.

    I grove out on the paved Oregon Route 205 to the southern entrance to Steens Mountain Loop Road.  I love this high desert landscape.

    Although beautiful, the southern portion of the Loop Road had awful washboarding.  I was reduced to 10mph for 10 miles of bone-shaking and teeth-chattering driving.  Perhaps they only grade it a few times of the year.  I would check before you attempted it.

    The road eventually smoothed out and began to wind up into the edges of Steens Mountain.  This is Indian Creek.  I stopped for a leg stretching.

    Such an idyllic mountain stream.

    The babbling stream echoed against the canyon walls.

    The road climbed back up onto the high Steens ridges.  The light today was the best since I arrived . . . the wildfire smoke was beginning to dissipate.

    I stopped often to take in the grandeur.

    More glacial valleys to the left . . . . and to the right of the Loop Road:

     . . . Big Indian Gorge . . . a glacial valley and source of Indian Creek.  Magnificent!

    In the late afternoon 'magic light' overlooking this glorious glacial gorge.  Overwhelming beauty.

    These cliffs! This light!

    Yellow lichen growing on the sunny side of Big Indian Gorge walls.

    The geology here was fantastical!

    A rocky spine jutting out above the gorge . . . and a path to follow.  This may be my favorite photo from my Steens Mountain experience.

    Approaching the spiny outcrop.

    I took this photo from a bench next to a sign that said, "A Good Place To Meditate."  Gotta Love Oregon!

    Looking out to the opposite cliffs of Big Indian Gorge.

    I took the path out to the end of the outcrop . . . . stunning . . .

    Nearing the tip of the spiny outcrop. I was overwhelmed with the natural beauty.

    At the very end was this old scrub tree . . . hanging on.

    The view up Big Indian Gorge from the outcrop.

    The next outcrop to the south.

    I took my time walking back to the camper along this path . . . composing photographs to take advantage of the extraordinary light.
    As the sun dropped lower toward the horizon, the colors became richer and richer.

    I enjoy taking photos of my camper in these environments . . . it's like pinching myself to prove that it is real!

    I could walk on these wild high desert paths forever . . . .

    So much fascinating geology everywhere.

    Back on the Loop Road taking photos . . .

    These grouse stopped to pose for me among the dry bush.

    The scenes of vast landscapes of tufted grasses were lit in golden light.

    I find this complex scenery incredibly fascinating.

    The Loop Road ahead in magic evening light.  I loved driving through this grand landscape.

    I arrived back on top of the East Rim as the last light was fading.

    Big Indian Gorge in amber shadow.

    I waited outside in the very cold evening until the red sun sank into the thick wildfire smoke . . . .

    My last sunset in The Steens.  I left the next morning for Lake Tahoe and more adventures.

    I awoke on my last day to glorious light and  color in my campground.  I decided to take a short walk with my camera before I packed up and left.

    I walked out across the Loop Road and over this hill to see what I could see.

    What I found was this hidden little valley full of bright yellow aspens.

    I miss this place.

    Looking out and down the Steens hinge fault to the bank of wildfire smoke below.
    I stopped to study the interesting geology on the way back to the campground.

    These almost looked hand made!

    These appeared to be Scottish thistle, just as I have seen in my years in Scotland.

    Surprisingly, I saw very few insects during my entire stay.

    Steens wildflowers.

    I walked back down the hill to take a last look at my camper among the aspens.

    I took a shower at this hand pump every morning . . . there were no people around to see me.

    After packing the camper, I stopped to take a photo of my campground sign on the way out.

    And then I drove down the Loop Road to Frenchglen and a very long drive.

    Road Trip USA: Standing On The Corner in Winslow Arizona 

    On my cross-country road trip I pulled off US Highway 66 in Winslow, Arizona looking for an RV Park and dinner . . . I found the main street closed off, parked, and took a look . . . MY LORD!  It's a hot rod show!!! America!

    The 'Winslow corner' is, of course, a tourist trap loaded with tourist curios (I bought stickers, magnets and a t-shirt).  But on this evening . . . t was Hot Rod Heaven!

    They painted that famous corner as a Route 66 sign . . .

    There were some world class hot rods present.

    I am a big fan of the early Willys gassers . . . there were two fantastic examples here: this red one . . . and . . .

    This orange Willys gasser was all steel . . . and perfect.

    Such a pretty shade of tangerine orange over gold metalflake . . .

    A sweet early Falcon (street driven) gasser.

    For me, the star of the show was the restored historic 70s rear-engine Dart funny car 'The Ol Whine Maker.'

    The Ol Whine Maker was also the star of the evening 'cacklefest' . . . .

    With the blown nitro HEMI started up on Main Street . . . a thrill of a lifetime . . . the RupRupRup bouncing off the buildings . . . WOW!

    My first car, at 16, was a '57 Chevy Wagon . . . I still have a soft spot for them. This one is a faux BelAir - they never made a 2-door BelAir Wagon.

    The '57 wagon had a very nice motor.

    There were also some nice trucks.

    Tri-Five Chevy pick-up.  Perfect.

    All kinds of 'hot rods' . . .

    I spent a lot of time checking out the cars.

    There were some real beauties.

    The cars here rivaled the ones at the hot rod shows my brother and I entered in Washington State with his '55 Chevy.

    A very clean '56 Chevy and Fat Fendered Chevy 4-door.  Nice.

    Very cool 'Other' hot rod.

    The variety and high standard of the displayed hot rods were extraordinary.

    I am a fan of the 'other' unusual makes and models of hot rod.

    Nicely done.

    As always, there are many Deuce Coupes.

    A sharp Deuce Hiboy . . . with top up.

    Super cool and understated . . . the way I like them.

    "Dare to be different!"

    Late 'Vette motor in an early 50s Chevy.  Nice.

    Someone's pride and joy: a perfect '63 Corvette.

    Another favorite: Bad Boy T-Bird.

    Winslow Hot Rod Sunset.

    I had a fantastic time talking to the drag racers and hot rodders in Winslow.  The cacklefest was a proper ending to the afternoon/evening.  I left to find all the RV Parks full . . . no problem . . . I pulled into a well-lit motel parking lot and parked between two Mercedes and spent the night for free in my camper.

    Road Trip USA: Lake Tahoe, California: Hiking the Rubicon Trail

    Two days of hiking the Rubicon Trail along the mountains of Lake Tahoe, California, USA.

    Day One:  Around the Lighthouse Trail, along Emerald Point, to Calawee Cove Beach . . . . and back on the ridge trail.
    Day one began at my friend's house . . . with this beautiful view out over a wetlands reserve.
    The wetlands and the hills nearby . . . amazing colors . . . first day of Autumn.
    Our hike would begin along Emerald Bay.
    Rocky forested mountains and clear blue sky and emerald waters . . . what more could a hiker ask for?
    Stunning trees in clear, bright light.  Our trail was easy to follow, and indeed, we saw many other hikers.
    Views I will remember forever.
    This is my favorite topography: large pines, preferably Ponderosa pine, large boulders, dry forest floor, grand views.
    Such a lovely trail.
    As always, I find beauty in old weathered tree stumps and snags.
    It seemed like around every bend n the trail we would turn back to Lake Tahoe and another panoramic view.
    There was a stretch of trail that ran along a narrow ledge high above the lake.
    But mostly the trail was wide and not too steep.
    Nature's own arrangement.
    Our hike only lasted a couple of hours . . . I cold have stayed all day . . . and decided to come back the next day to 'finish the trail.'
    Evidence of a recent burn, perhaps two or more years ago.
    Remarkable light, pattern, and texture . . .
    The forest floor was strewn with debris in many places . . . no burn passed this way.
    We reached our destination at Calawee Cove, where we saw a casino cabin cruiser servicing the 'high rollers.'
    Calawee Cove Beach is a public park (see map at end of this entry).  We turned around and took a different, steeper trail back to our car.
    Wonderful boulders.
    My favorite view of the day.
    Our trail.
    Our trail back to the parking lot.  A great day with many great views.
    A fine 'hoodoo' rock formation framed by Lake Tahoe.
    Our trail map.

    Day Two: Walking the South portion of the Rubicon Trail past the Vikingsholm and along the shore of Lake Tahoe.

    The Rubicon Trail follows the ridges and contours of beautiful Emerald Bay of Lake Tahoe.
    The towering rocky cliffs of the Sierra Nevada mountains tower over the bay.
    A dry, rock strewn, late summer forest floor lined the trail throughout. Over two days I walked the length of the Rubicon trail.
    The popular Rubicon Trail is not a difficult trail to follow.
    Access to parts of the Rubicon Trail are on old service roads. The south part of the trail starts at the parking lot.
    The service road leads you to the lake shore where there is a dock (swimming not recommended because of the extremely cold water).
    There are also kayaks for rent.
    I had been told that there was an old Scandinavian homestead at the end of Emerald Bay, but I did not expect something so charming as the Vikingsholm!
    Is this 19th century Norway?  No . . . . it's Lake Tahoe, California, USA in 2018!
    A fascinating sight: a sod-roofed shed.
    The Vikingsholm was laid out in typical Scandinavian farmhouse style with a central courtyard.
    A magnificent structure . . . from any period.
    Excellent folkcraft details.
    I marvelled at this old pump . . .  gasoline?
    Vikingsholm was surrounded by beautiful natural grounds and small ponds.
    The Rubicon Trail ranger cabin (and gift shop . . . I bought the t-shirt!).
    The trail to the Lower Eagle Falls began behind the Ranger cabin.
    It has been a long, mostly dry summer,  with a less-than-average snow pack in the Sierras, so the Lower Eagle Falls were not so spectacular . . . although the geology was interesting.
    The Lower Eagle Falls trail had some beautiful giant old cedars.
    The Rubicon Trail to the south shore of Emerald Bay began across this Eagle Creek bridge.  I had a long conversation here with an Indian Motorcycle dealer from Phoenix, Arizona about the future of motorcycles.  He agreed with me that there needs to be hybrid motorcycles that can be run on batteries for in-town commuting . . . and have a 'scrambler' frame and 650 gas engine for long out-of-town road trips with tent and gear.
    So many beautiful and dramatic geological features to see along the trail.
    Many natural wonders to look at.
    Lovely dry forest.
    A weathered old trunk.
    Quiet hiking . . . .
    I saw only four other hikers in three hours.
    There were a wide variety of trees.
    The trail came close to the bay at several points.
    I can understand why this place is called Emerald Bay!!!
    With a tourist boat in the background, some friendly ducks came to sit on a rock.
    I sat here to take a rest.
    Near the point I headed back on the same trail.
    Back along the lake shore . . . .
     . . . and back along the Vikingsholm . . . .
     . . . and back along the beach . . .
     . . . and back along the crystal clear water of Emerald Bay . . .
     . . . and up the steep trail to the car park . . . overlooking the beautiful Fannette Island . . .
     . . . and the view from my camper in the parking lot.  A perfect day.
    Two days of hiking the most beautiful mountain trails with a constant view of incredible Lake Tahoe.  My map.