Road Trip to SD – Day 1 – Driving

I frantically got ready for this trip that I had been thinking about for six months.IMG_1354

This is why we were able to take a road trip in mid-August. It is finally sinking in for Dan that he isn’t going back after a summer break.

We still weren’t ready on Wednesday, the day of departure. I had told Dan that we WERE LEAVING IN THE MORNING. We did, but it was almost noon before we drove out of the driveway. The plan was to drive as far as we could, not stopping at all of the California and Oregon trail markers like we usually do because we wanted more time at the other end of the trip. For that reason and because I was not the driver-in-charge I have a lot of  “drive-by” photos. Many were deleted but some are OK and those are what I’ll share.

Fernly Sink & Hot Springs Mtns, NV

We were driving I-80. I love the scenery of the west, even in the Nevada desert. This is the Hot Springs Mountains that rise above the Fernley Sink.

Fernly Sink & Hot Springs Mtns, NV

According to Wikipedia, an irrigation system was constructed in the early to mid-1900s and “a drainage system was also constructed to carry away excess water and mineral salts from the farmlands. This system consists of channels (5 to 15 feet deep) dug adjacent to fields; it eventually terminates in the sink northeast of Fernley.

40-mile desert-NV

We didn’t stop at all the roadside points of interest but this was at a rest stop. Throughout this trip we thought about the pioneer trails. They are well marked in the road atlases that we have for each state and along the highways. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to pack up the family and head west in the way that the pioneers did. We drove through the 40-mile desert in a little over 1/2 hour.

East of Valmy, NV

The mountains east of Valmy, Nevada.

East of Valmy, NV

We remember Valmy for it’s rest stop where we slept on one of our road trips a couple of years ago when there was a tremendous moth invasion. We didn’t need to stop to sleep here this time. Still daylight.

Humboldt Range, NV

Humboldt Range, southeast of Wells, Nevada.

West of Wells, NV

These photos were looking back west as the sunset.

West of Wells, NV

I had to lean over the seat and reach behind Dan while holding and pointing the phone and the camera in the general direction.

Even though it was getting dark we weren’t ready to stop. If we had left earlier in the day we would made it to Salt Lake City. So Dan kept driving. There is a distinct difference in the town of West Wendover (NV) and Wendover (UT). Bright flashing (gaudy) lights and Last Chance To Gamble on one side of the border and dark and “normal” on the other side. Dan kept driving. We passed through the Great Salt Lake Desert in the dark and finally stopped at a rest stop at the east side of the salt flats.

Those of you who read my blog know that I have written a sort of travel journal with photos each year for the past several years when we have made our annual road trips. I have no idea how many people actually read these, but I write these blog posts because they substitute for the old scrapbooks and photo albums that I was never able to keep up with. I also like reviewing the photos and looking up some of the information that I may have forgotten. It helps me keep it all organized in my brain. If you are one of the regular readers, I’d love to know about it. Stay tuned for Day 2.


Getting Ready

It is always work to get ready to go somewhere. In my case I cram in all the things that I would probably put off if I were here, but now feel like they have to be done before I go. Part of it is to try and make things as foolproof as possible so that the people taking care of things don’t face issues.


Now that the tractor finally works (sort of) I spent some time mowing. Then I wanted to try “spreading” manure. Spreading is in quotes because we don’t have a manure spreader. I have a tractor with a bucket and me with a shovel. Not practical…


…even though I have made some darn fine compost.


To make good compost the manure pile needs turning now and then, but the dryness on the top is deceptive. It’s wet underneath and it’s easy to get the tractor stuck–which requires me with the shovel again. Move onto other things that need doing.


The ewes are on pasture and the white net fences are moved around to change the paddock to be grazed. I moved the ewes to the side of the pasture where there is less risk of them rubbing on a gate and inadvertently (or on purpose) pushing things out of wack while I’m gone.


It’s hard to see in this photo but I set up the next three fences so that my kids don’t have to do it. They will have to close one but then the sheep just go to the next. There are always tricky things (like where there is concrete so the stakes for the fence don’t go in all the way and where you have to block off the irrigation ditch so they sheep can’t go under the fence, etc)


I had the ram lambs grazing in the back but don’t want fence-to-fence contact with them and the ewes so they had to be moved. These are the panels that were keeping them away from the ewes while grazing the back. There is no water in that back field so they needed access to the corral for water. I’m going to leave this in place so that the ewes won’t be near the big ram fence (not a big fence, although it is double, but the big rams). I don’t need any more reason for the rams to try and mangle their fence while we’re gone.


They did this just yesterday.


Here is a temporary fix. They also beat up the other wall and pushed it away from the corner post. That green panel in the upper photo is keeping them away from that part of their shed. Not fixes, but hopefully stopping further destruction for now. I expect when I get back that wire panel over the hole will be mangled as well.


Rusty doing his job of keeping the rams away while we put up the wire panel.


I said that I need to move the ram lambs out of the pasture. Ginny helps with that.


You can see Ginny behind here. She doesn’t work with finesse, but she can do the job.


Back up at the house, the birds are starting to get to my black sunflower seeds. These are for future dyeing projects.


I put net bags and bird netting over the flowers.


I water the garden and picked coreopsis. A friend will come and pick during the week to keep the flowers blooming and take squash from the plant that is taking over. The beans in the foreground look great but haven’t produced anything yet.


This is the wether in with Peyton. He had his leg through the front of the coat the other day so I caught him to take it off. Don’t want that happening while I’m gone and I didn’t have a needle and thread handy to make it smaller.


I was watering my barrels that have been neglected. Ginny knew where my attention was and placed her ball appropriately.

When condense into a few photos this doesn’t seem like much but I was going non-stop yesterday. I realized at about 9 p.m. that all I’d eaten was granola in the morning and watermelon through the day–it was too hot to want anything else. I am now  gathering up the last of the stuff to take. Where is that book about my camera?


Here is a hint about the road trip. Do you think I have enough reading material with me?

MJ Adventure Team Goes to MD – Day 7 – Ponies!

It’s been almost a month since we started embarked on this trip so I guess I’ve had extended enjoyment while organizing photos and thinking about the blog posts.  I don’t know how many people really read my posts, but there have been some who have asked “what about the ponies?”

Day 6 was spent learning about Fort McHenry and exploring Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad. We spent a comfortable night at our AirB&B in Berlin and got on the road in time to get to the Assateague Island National Seashore…  DSC_1017

…when the Visitor Center opened. The area is managed jointly by the National Park Service and Maryland Park Service.


Assateague Island is a barrier island that is 37 miles long and separated from the mainland by Chincoteague Bay and Sinepuxent Bay. The northern two thirds is in Maryland and the southern one third is part of Virginia. If you were a horse-crazy girl once then what you know about these islands is that there are wild ponies living there, made famous by Marguerite Henry’s book, Misty of Chincoteague.  We had come to find the ponies.


Only part of  the island is accessible on a paved road that connects campgrounds and trails. We hadn’t gone far when we found them. Ponies!


Just pretend that you don’t know that they were in a parking lot near the bathrooms. Signs everywhere warn people to leave the ponies alone and don’t offer food. It’s the same kind of warnings that you read in Yellowstone about not feeding bears and packing food away. People are kicked and bitten by ponies and the ponies are hit by cars when they get used to people offering food.

These ponies didn’t seem to be going anywhere soon…


…so we walked to the beach.


We had made it to the Atlantic.


That is Ocean City, about 10 miles north. Can you see the ferris wheel and the amusement park in the middle of the photo? What a contrast when looking from the National Seashore.


The barrier islands are “among the most dynamic landforms on earth”. There is constant change. Assateague Island is moving west, at an accelerated rate after jetties were constructed near Ocean City in the 1930s.  At one time Assateague Island was to be developed, and in the 1950s a 15-mile road was created on the Maryland side of the island. A hurricane in 1962 wiped out structures and covered the road, and legislation in 1965 created the National Seashore.


The ponies are most likely descendants of horses that were brought to the island 300 years ago by farmers who took advantage of the natural “corral” made of water. Farmers were required to pay taxes on their livestock and by turning them loose on the island, they could avoid the tax. I usually try to be scientifically accurate about what I write, but there is some artistic license here. The documentation from the Park Service says that genetically these are HORSES, not PONIES. The small stature is a result of years of adaptation to a diet of abundant, but nutrient-poor salt-marsh grasses.


Sorry. I will continue to call them ponies while I’m talking about our visit. They are used to paparazzi. We were lucky to be visiting in the off-season and on a weekday. There were very few people around. It would have been a very different scene if the parking lots and roads were full.


The ponies wandered off and we drove on to find more.


This looked like a very old pony at an empty campground. The Maryland ponies are managed as wildlife are. From the brochure, “While action may be taken to end the suffering of a gravely ill, seriously injured, or dying horse, no measure are taken to prolong the lives of Maryland’s wild horses. As with other species of Assateague wildlife, horses that are sick or weak do not survive.” The population is controlled using a non-hormonal, non-invasive vaccine, administered by a dart, to prevent pregnancy. With this method the birth rate has been lowered to fewer than ten foals each year which maintains the population at under 125 horses.

A fence that separates the Maryland and  Virginia herds. The Virginia herd is privately owned and produces 60-90 foals each year. The foals are sold at auction after the annual swim from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island and the proceeds go to veterinary care, the fire department, and various charities. There are week-long festivities around this event and you can see videos at this link.


There are three nature walk trails through the marsh, the forest, and the dunes. We started with the marsh trail.



We spotted this osprey that had caught a fish.


We watched for quite awhile while it circled, still carrying it’s fish.


Diamondback terrapins.

American Oystercatcher-Laughing Gull

Two laughing gulls and an American oystercatcher…

American Oystercatcher-Laughing Gull

…who was not welcome.

Short billed dowitcher

Short-billed dowitcher.



We drove down another road…



…where we saw a group of people gathered. From my Yellowstone experience (people stopping in the road when wildlife is spotted), I figured that that meant Ponies!


This group was a little more picturesque, being “in the wild” instead of “in the parking lot”.




There was a Pony Patrol volunteer with that group of people answering questions and making sure that ponies aren’t harassed.

We drove to the next trail–the forest nature trail.


Loblolly pines are the dominate forest species.




Poison ivy.





At the end of that trail we saw the same group of ponies, but from a different view. Notice the paddle-boarders in the marsh. What a great way to see the marsh and the ponies.

One more interesting pony fact: “The Assateague horses drink over twice the amount of water that domesticated horses will due to their salty food supply. All that drinking combined with a high salt diet contributes to their bloated appearance.”


We drove to the Dune Nature Trail.


Chris needed some beach time so Kathleen and I walked the trail while Chris enjoyed the beach, albeit a bit cold and windy.




Remember the road that I said was built in the 1950s? Part of it is still visible.





As we left the park we were faced with that age-old question.


“Why does the pony cross the road?”


Because the grass is greener?

This was another full day (and a very full blog post) but there is more Maryland scenery. That will be another post.


A Sheep Adventure – Part 2

I forgot to put a couple of photos in the last post. Besides the BearFest that was going on through the summer in Grants Pass, there was also a Fifties celebration the week we were there. There was a car show that evening and here are some cars that we saw in the motel parking lot.


I have no idea what they are but I took these photos to show my husband.



This is not how butterflies normally look on my headlights.

We got on the road about 7:30 and drove to Selma, Oregon where Jackie’s sheep had been delivered the day before. She was picking up two English Leicesters that came from Michigan.


Carol Ronan graciously took time to give us a tour of her beautiful farm. She raises Angora goats (above) and Gotland sheep (below). Information about her sheep and goats (and the beautiful farm which is for sale) is at this link.



The animals have access to this 100+ year old barn that has been reinforced and given a new roof (which will probably give it another 100 years).


I don’t remember the dogs names but this was an older one who put up with the nosy sheep.


I took this photo because I wanted to remember this oh-so-simple feeder idea. That welded wire panel is not a fence. There are two panels attached to a 2×6 at the bottom and to posts with slightly tapered pieces of wood on the sides. Perfect for dropping in a flake of hay and feeding on both sides.


We walked to the field with the bucks…IMG_3292

…and examined fleeces.




Here are Jackie’s new sheep who had been housed in the trailer overnight.IMG_3299

They were easily switched to my truck and we got on the road. There are not too many photos of the part of the trip that became more of an adventure. I didn’t want to backtrack to Grant’s Pass and I-5. BORING. If you take Hwy. 199 south from Selma you can turn off onto a road that winds its way through the rugged Siskiyou Mountains to Happy Camp. It wasn’t a good idea for me to be taking photos while driving on this road that was full of switchbacks and Jackie probably would have thrown my camera out the window. We didn’t stop because we had spent a lot of time at Carol’s and had planned to make the next stop by mid-morning (weren’t going to make that) and get home in the afternoon, trying to avoid being on I-5 through Redding at the hottest part of the day.


At Happy Camp we turned east onto Highway 96 and watched for landmarks until we got to this sign and across the road…


…this bridge where we crossed Horse Creek and drove north along hillside edging a green valley . We were supposed to go 2 miles and find the correct street address for the farm where my ram would be. We saw a few numbers on mailboxes, passed what should have been the right place, found a place to turn around and chose a driveway that seemed to be in the right place. We drove in past barns and farm equipment but didn’t see a house, sheep, or any signs of someone looking for sheep buyers who were late. We drove out of the driveway, down the road and chose another driveway with the number that would be the neighbors to the place we were looking for.

As I drove down the steep driveway, several large dogs ran out barking. However I saw someone looking through a window and waited for him to come out. He wasn’t happy about seeing us and told us to go back up the road and take the driveway with “the lifetime gate”. “Can I drive forward and turn around down there?”, I asked. “No” was the answer. OK then. I’ll back up the steep rocky driveway that has a sharp turn onto the road and a steep drop-off to the side, while trying to see the end of my truck through the plywood sheep crate on my truck. I did that with several back and forths and only one minor mishap.


Finally backing into the road in the wrong direction we drove down it again, passing this sing, turned around and came back. (Note: When my sons have fought fires in these mountains they have been turned away from entering access roads to the forest by surly land-owners. The firefighters are warned by their supervisors to be careful in or avoid areas where they have spotted marijuana or equipment for growing or harvesting.)

So we took the same driveway we had before with the barns and cattle equipment. Steep-Driveway-And-Big-Dogs-Guy was there to meet us, having gone from his house, across the creek, through the barns, to this upper driveway. He pointed and said “no, go back to the lifetime gate”. Lifetime gate? When we looked more closely there was a closed gate down a dirt road that branched off to the right of this main driveway. Jackie opened the gate and we drove into what looked like a little used driveway that stopped before you got to a house where I could hear children. So at least someone was home.


I found the sheep owner who strapped her baby on her back and we walked out to the barn with other kids running beside us. We arranged bales of hay to create a step up into the truck and loaded the ram. She pointed us out a dirt road that  ends up on a different paved road which seems to be their main access and is “easier”.


This is the field (sheep in the distance) that Kenleigh’s Legolas left behind.


We drove east through Yreka to I-5 and headed for home. I always stop for a photo at this overview of Mt. Shasta. We stopped several times to check on the sheep. There was really nothing we could do about the heat but the truck thermometer was showing 108 (or was it 109?) through Redding. It was in the 100’s for most of the trip, but the sheep survived. I didn’t dawdle, wanting to get them out of the truck as quickly as we could.


I put Legolas in with the young rams and a wether. They followed him around for awhile.


There was fighting among themselves, but not with Legolas, because it was obvious that he would be the dominant ram of the bunch.


This will be the first year that I will breed the bulk of the flock to 2-horned rams. There is Kenleigh’s Legolas (Lego for short), Meridian Catalyst, a 2-horned lilac ram, and bide a wee Buster, the younger ram with 4 horns.

A Sheep Adventure – Part 1

It took me almost a month to finish the blog posts about our road trip partly because I interspersed other stories into those posts. I’m still catching up on the things I wanted to share. One of those is  another adventure on the road, this time involving sheep.

Just after I came home from Black Sheep Gathering I found out about a ram for sale in northern California. I had just purchased a ram lamb at BSG but, after selling rams this summer, I would still have only two rams here for breeding in October  (except for whatever of my own ram lambs I might keep). The new one was small and I wasn’t sure that he’d be up for the job on October 1. The one for sale was an adult so he would definitely be ready for breeding.

I planned a day trip to the Klamath River area west of Yreka, but in the meantime my friend, Jackie, had purchased a couple of sheep that were to be delivered to Selma, Oregon that same week. We decided to combine the two sheep pick-ups, but that turned the trip into a two-day Sheep Adventure.

The drive north on I-5 gets more interesting once you leave the valley and get into the mountains.


Mt. Shasta, at 14,179′, is in view for many miles. I had never stopped at this vista point. I made Jackie take a photo with me.


I love this mountain and, although I have never climbed it, I spent a couple of summers working in the Klamath National Forest where it was always a presence. My husband has been at the top, but that is another story.


There were bear tracks in the cement walkways.

It turns out that bears became the theme for the day. We planned to spent the night in Grants Pass, Oregon and pick up the sheep the next day. It just happened that Grants Pass was celebrating Bear Fest, “a hands-on touchable art event, proving that art doesn’t have to be “serious” to be great. Local artists decorated, embellished, bejeweled and painted larger than life size bears” which were on display through the summer.


Our motel had bear themed furniture…


…and bear art over the fireplace in the lobby.


This bear was outside the motel. We drove downtown and parked. We took our Bearfest Map and found some of the fifty bears that were displayed around town.


Marge and Rockabilly Bear (with Jackie photographing from another view).


Pierre Bear the Arteest and La Petite Monique.


Not a bear, but keeping (loosely) in the theme of our trip, it seemed that we should eat at this restaurant.


Old Time Beartender.


Boss Henry the Logger Bear.


Vincent Barbera Merlot


Carmen Bearanda


Also seen on the streets of Grants Pass. We had skipped dessert at the restaurant…


…but didn’t stop here…


…because these wern’t edible!

More in the next post…

Road Trip to CO – Nevada to Home

In the last post I wrote that we drove until dark and then kept going. We didn’t have a plan about where we’d stop and Dan just kept driving. (By the way, when I say that “we” drove I mean that Dan drove and I rode. I used to offer to drive but I don’t bother anymore on our trips. Dan likes to do the driving and that’s fine with me, since I’d rather be watching the scenery and napping when I get tired.)

Eventually, somewhere in eastern Nevada, Dan got too sleepy and pulled over. We didn’t try to stretch out in the back of the truck but slept in the front. After an hour or two I got too cold and uncomfortable (and bothered by someone snoring) and switched places with Dan so I could drive. When I got too tired and pulled over we both slept awhile until he recovered enough to go on.


The view when I woke up next.


Have you noticed that the Open Range signs in many places have cattle that look like dairy cows? The Open Range signs in Nevada show what looks like bulls.


Even along Highway 50 in Nevada there are Points of Interest.


It’s hard to see in this photo but there are remnants of a stone building surrounded by cyclone fence. One of the signs at Cold Springs (between Austin and Fallon) described The Overland Stage Station: “Constructed using the volcanic lava rock found throughout the area, the Cold Springs Stage Station was built in 1861. The original Pony Express Station was built 1-1/2 miles to the east of here in 1860. When the stage station was erected the Pony Express moved its operation to this building…Life at Cold Springs was not for the timid. The 2 to 3 man station crew endured the barest, leanest forms of living. They ate, lived, and slept in this crude structure for months at a time. Floors, when dry, were dirt and when wet, they were mud. Sanitary facilities were primitive. The handmade furniture was crude and utilitarian at best. There were no luxuries, only the necessities of life: food, water, and a firearm for protection.”




Additional signs explained the quick progression of communication and transportation milestones that occurred here between 1860 and 1927–the Pony Express in 1860, then the Overland Stage in 1861, telegraph in 1861, (dooming the Pony Express), and eventually the creation of Highway 50.


Here is one more sign. This one is provided by Trails West whose “primary activity is installing, and maintaining, distinctive steel-rail “T” markers along the many emigrant trails leading to California and publishing guide books to enable anyone to follow these trails from beginning to end.” They have placed over 600 markers along 2000 miles of trails.


Putting my iPhone in my pocket it took this photo.



Way back in this post I mentioned a Shoe Tree. Here is another west of Cold Springs. This one is even marked in our map book and described in this internet article.


Not to be a spoil-sport, but I’m not a big fan.  Sure, it is a curiosity and, in this case, a landmark, but I think I’d rather just admire a nice tree growing in the desert. To me it brings to mind the question is graffiti artwork or vandalism?


Sand Mountain is a 2-mile long, 6oo’ high sand dune that is 20 miles east of Fallon and is the site of another Pony Express Station.




Impressive house in Fallon…


..and an auto repair shop featuring a NAVY jet out front (representing Fallon Naval Air Station).


Seen on the highway and reminiscent of a twill pattern in weaving.


Just past Fallon, we left Highway 50, as it headed southwest, to get on I-80 toward Reno…


…and, eventually, home.


California! Only about 2-1/2 hours to home.


We drove about 2800 miles on this trip. It’s marked in pink. Our 2015 trip to Texas is in blue. Orange is to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone in 2014 and Green was to Grand Canyon and beyond in 2013. Where to next year?

Road Trip to CO – Four Corners to Dark

Our 8 day road trip was almost over. We spent Monday night and Tuesday morning in Mesa Verde National Park but needed to be home on Wednesday. We decided to drive through Four Corners and Monument Valley–it wasn’t much out of the way and Dan had never seen the area (and I had been there just once).


Most of the photos in this post were taken from the truck window at 70 mph. I found that I could sometimes roll the window down (yes, roll, there are no push buttons in this truck), sometimes remove the lens cap, and sometimes turn the camera on, but not always all three of those things.


Four Corners is notable for being the only place in the United States where four states meet. It is also marks a boundary between the Navajo Nation and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Reservation. The Navajo Nation runs the Four Corners Monument as a tourist attraction.


This is not the actual monument, but part of a sign about the surveying that began in the 1860’s. Wikipedia says, “the origins of the state boundaries marked by the monument occurred just prior to, and during, the American Civil War, when the United States Congress acted to form governments in the area to combat the spread of slavery to the region.”


The marker itself is in the center of this courtyard. Notice the line of people to the right. They are all waiting to take their photos over the marker. We didn’t join them, but walked around the outside where there are stalls in which Navajo and Ute members sell souvenirs. Then we got back on the road.


We took Highway 160 southwest to Kayenta where we turned north on Highway 163 to head back to Moab, but drive through part of Monument Valley. Wikipedia: “Monument Valley is a region of the Colorado Plateau characterized by a cluster of vast sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 1,000 ft above the valley floor…Director John Ford used the location for a number of his best-known films, and thus, in the words of critic Keith Phipps, ‘its five square miles have defined what decades of moviegoers think of when they imagine the American West.’ “DSC_1416






Spectacular country for it’s rock formations. A tough place to live on the land.


This rock formation kept us entertained for many miles as we drove closer and closer to it. I think it is just north of Bluff, Utah. I have googled a variety of words to describe this near both Bluff and Mexican Hat, Utah, but I don’t see any photos like this.


I do know the highway roughly followed the course of the San Juan River between those two towns. The rock formations that show up on-line are the Mexican Hat for which the small town is named and…


…Navajo Twin Rocks near the town of Bluff.


We continued to see red rock formations as we drove north toward Moab.DSC_1477




We hadn’t started the trip in Moab, but we’d been there just four or five days ago. I checked to see how long it would take to get home. I couldn’t get the phone to show me the route that we planned to take. We were headed to Highway 50 to cut straight across Nevada.


We passed Arches National Monument where we’d spent a day hiking


…and picked up Highway 50 at Crescent Junction.


The plan was to drive west until we needed to stop.


We’d seen some of this spectacular country but it looks different going the other direction.



We drove until it was took dark to take photos and then we kept driving.

To be continued…