The Questionable Tastes of Bighorn Sheep… Plus Mosaic Canyon, Death Valley

Our house is in the final stages of being sold. We signed off on it today. The buyers will complete their part by the end of the month. “We’re homeless,” Peggy declared. “No,” I suggested. “our home is wherever we happen to be.” So what if it happens to be 22 feet long and is pulled by a F-150 pickup.

Right now we are in Flagstaff, Arizona. It’s a lovely community filled with friendly people, great restaurants, a fascinating culture, and bookstores. The Grand Canyon is an hour’s drive north. Sedona is an hour’s drive south. A five minute trip out of town yesterday found us scrambling up and down steep canyon walls searching for thousand year old petroglyphs left behind by the Anasazi, ancestors of our modern Southwestern Native Americans. There are certainly worse places we could be.

But as delightful as this area is, we will be out of here this week. We are modern day gypsies, full-timers as they say in the RV world. The freedom of the open road is ours. We aren’t rookies at this. Once Peggy and I wandered around North America for a year. Another time it was for three years. We don’t know how long we will be this time. Our goal is something like ‘as long as we can get away with it.’ Given our combined age of 151, who knows...

Our focus will be on the wild areas of North America. Once again this will include the National Parks of the US and Canada. We’ve been to most of them, but this time we want to explore places we haven’t been, places where the vast majority of tourists aren’t. Today’s post on Mosaic Canyon is an example.

Mosaic Canyon is easy to get to. It’s just above Stove Pipe Wells, one of Death Valley’s main tourist watering holes. And it’s quite beautiful, as this photo by Peggy shows. But it isn’t advertised as one of the “must see tourists sites,” like Zabriskie Point for example. When Peggy and I visited Zabriskie, there must have been a hundred people there. We ran into a half dozen or so at Mosaic Canyon. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
On our way over to Mosaic Canyon, we passed by the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, which are always worth a photo. The sand dunes are located next to Stove Pipe Wells and are easily accessible for a hike. Note the person on top. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Here is the road up to Mosaic Canyon. It’s gravel and dirt and a bit bumpy but short. (photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
The entrance to the canyon is a wide wash. It quickly narrows down! You can see two of the six people we shared the canyon with. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I captured this shot of the narrows.
Another example. The smooth walls on the left are marble made from Noonday Dolomite.
The national park site recommended walking carefully when crossing the marble because of its slickness. Peggy solved the problem by sliding down. Her shadow makes it looks like she was levitating. “I’m Mary Poppins,” she declared when she saw the photo. But where’s the umbrella?
This breccia is another common rock found in Mosaic Canyon. You can see why it gives the canyon its name.
We were excited to find these flowers growing in the canyon. We had missed the profusion of flowers that sometimes appear in Death Valley after a rare spring rainstorm. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I took a close up. As you can see it’s pretty. But what’s with the hairy leaves. Turns out that this is a desert rock nettle, eucnide urens. If you have ever had a close encounter with nettles, you’ll know that means: ‘don’t touch!’
It’s a message that bighorn sheep ignore. Apparently they love the flowers. I caught this statue of a bighorn at the visitors’ center. I could see where its metal mouth might come in handy!
Eventually, we returned to the exit. Death Valley stretched out before us. We had lunch at Stove Pipe Wells and then returned to our parking lot campsite.

I’m not a huge fan of Sunset Campground at Furnace Creek. It’s a huge parking lot. The advantage is that it rarely fills up, which is not the case for the more desirable sites in the valley. I’ve used it three times over the years, mainly because my trips are never planned months in advance when registration opens up. When Peggy and I arrived, I expected that most of its 270 sites would be full. It was Easter weekend. What we quickly learned was that the campground closed for the season in four days. There were a half a dozen other vehicles in the huge area. When we left, there were two. In addition to normally being available, there are two other plusses: its close proximity to all of the services at Furnace Creek— and the views.

This was the view from our campsite.
Peggy took a close up.
One night we sat outside and watched the sun set in the west…
…and the moon rise. I’ll end my Death Valley posts with this photo. Next, we are off to Zion National Park.

Here Kitty, Kitty: Lyman State Park, AZ… The Backroad Series— Highway 191

Here kitty, kitty, kitty. I was amused by this petroglyph of what appears to be a cougar running at Lyman State Park in Arizona. Other petroglyphs of cougars that Peggy and I have seen in the Southwest often have their tails over their backs.

We had started our backroad exploration of Highway 191 at Arches National Park in Utah and would wrap it up at Lyman State Park in Arizona. The two parks made nice bookends. I’d been by the park twice and considered stopping both times but thoughts of the Rocky Mountains looming ahead had kept me moving. The first time I was on my bicycle and planned to do a hundred mile trip across the range the next day. This time it was getting late and Peggy and I were tired from a long day of driving. We were lucky to get a space.

We went out for a walk as the sun was setting. The comic-appearing rock face on the left caught my attention. The nose was hard to ignore!

Our evening walk had taken us past a sign announcing a petroglyph trail, a happy surprise. Peggy and I have visited a number of petroglyph sites throughout the Southwest, many of which I have blogged about. We hadn’t realized that Lyman State Park also features the ancient rock art. We made a quick trip up the trail and vowed to return in the morning. Both the Anasazi and the Hopi had made their homes along the Little Colorado River, which was now damned up forming Lyman Lake. The petroglyphs were found in the rocks above the river. The Hopi believe they entered this world from another world near where the Little Colorado enters the Colorado River.

A sign placed by the park interpreted this rock art. The wiggly line represents the Water Serpent the Hopi would ask for water when water was scarce. Obviously they found it in the Little Colorado, which meant they could settle in the area. The guy on the right is jumping up and down holding corn they were able to grow. Or maybe he’s excited about his companion having a baby. You can see it hanging down. The umbilical cord hasn’t been cut yet. I’d be jumping up and down too. The wildlife looking on may symbolize the availability of game for hunting.
Behold the turtle who only makes progress when it sticks its neck out. At least, I think it’s a turtle. I also admired the lichen on the right.
A pair of very long snakes? Or at least their trail. Have you ever seen a snake trail crossing a dirt road?
There was also an interpretation sign for this. The thick line in the middle was apparently a migration route. Off to the left are snakes. The guy on the right may be dead since that is how death is sometimes shown in petroglyphs. I wonder if the snakes got him. Or Kitty, which was just to the left.
Land use planning? A sign suggested that this was a map that showed the various farms or settlements along the Little Colorado.
Another example of a petroglyph map.
Who knows?
My interpretation here is of a bear print with lots of sharp claws…

There’s much more to Lyman State Park than petroglyphs. For one, the lake is apparently a popular boating lake. None were there at the time, which pleased us given the likely noise. We wandered around and took in the sights

What the…? How’d you like to come home to this?
Hungry swallow chicks. 🙂
Who lives here? It’s a spider. I didn’t shove my finger down the hole.
Peggy made her way along the Petroglyph Trail.
Which overlooked the lake.
And featured this tree…
Rocks…
And more rocks.
I’ll conclude with this attractive peninsula jutting out onto the lake.

NEXT POSTS:

Blog-a-Book Monday: It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me… I conclude the Sierra Trek story with the greatest surprise of all.

Blog-a-Book Wednesday: The Bush Devil Ate Sam… I contemplate the wandering ways of my ancestors as a factor in my decision to join the Peace Corps. I’ve often been jealous of these early mountain men who travelled with the likes of Daniel Boone. But not Uncle Bill. He had his head cut off by a tomahawk and rolled down a hill…

A Wonderful, Whacky Pelican… Puerto Vallarta

I’ve spent a lot of time watching and photographing pelicans. Their committee-put-together look makes them a favorite of mine. But I have never seen one do this. It delighted me. I think it was trying to scare up a fish. The majority of brown pelicans make their living by diving from the air for dinner. This fellow may have been a bit young and small for the big time.

The Rio Cuale sits in the heart of Puerto Vallarta. It’s a delightful place with a long island in the middle (Isla Cuale) that includes good restaurants, fun shops, and some very interesting art. The island got its start in the 1960s as an airstrip for rich Hollywood types such as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and John Huston. 

My favorite thing about the Rio Cuale, however, is the rich wildlife it supports including a variety of water birds and giant iguanas. Bird life includes pelicans, cormorants, herons, egrets and more. On my recent visit I was particularly taken by the young fellow featured above and a snowy egret.

Here is the young brown pelican behaving more or less like I am used to seeing brown pelicans behave.
I am not sure what the youngster is up to here. Scratching an itch? Spreading oil?
Its action here is clear. It’s preening. The pelican and other water fowl have an oil gland near their tail that they use for oiling their body to make feathers more waterproof.
Here it is again, apparently trying to scare up another fish.
And a final shot of our young friend. We speculated that maybe it was a little young for the normal brown pelican approach to fishing.
A few hundred feet away, brown pelicans were fishing in the more traditional way.
Kersploosh!
I caught this orgy of Pelican fishing in Puerto Vallarta in 2016. The insane dive on the right is one of the things I love about pelicans.
I must say that this snowy egret on the Rio Cuale provided a great photo-op as well.
Here’s the snowy egret in a more traditional pose.

The River Cafe is a short way up the Isla Cuale from where we found the pelican and the snowy egret. We like it for its tasty, well-presented food. But we also like it because you can almost always find iguanas hanging out in the trees and on the ground next to the river. This year we spotted a very green one…

It was so green, it almost disappeared among the leaves. The large flap of skin hanging down from the iguana’s chin is called a dewlap. No self-respecting Iguana would be without one. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

We’ve had numerous encounters with iguanas over the years in Puerto Vallarta. But none matched the time when one came to visit us in our villa. I did a post on our welcome visitor, but just for fun, I decided to put up a few photos on him again.

It all started out with a stranger staring in our window at us. Naturally we had to see who had come to visit.
Outside, we found this large iguana staring at his reflection in the window. There were two possibilities: One he had found the love of his life. Or, two, he had discovered a large rival impinging on his territory. Iguanas can be quite territorial.
On closer inspection, our visitor appeared to be quite handsome. I imagine he was a heart throb.
His claws appeared a bit on the scary side. I, for one, wouldn’t want to get on his bad side.
I looked him in the eye, wondering what a lady iguana would see in him. I call this photo The Eye of the Iguana after the Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr movie “The Night of the Iguana.” The movie, directed by John Huston, was filmed in Puerto Vallarta giving the then small fishing village a kickstart to becoming a mega-tourist attraction.
Of course we had to invite Senior Iguana in for a visit. His tail is still outside. He was a big fellow.
He wandered around looking for his love/rival and then finally settled down on the floor like a dog. I couldn’t help but think he would make a great burglar deterrent! After a while, he stood up, checked our villa one more time and then wandered back outside. Next post I will feature a chalk art festival and several murals in Puerto Vallarta. After that, it’s hitting the PCT again, hiking south from Carson Pass.