Autumn Road Trip

Autumn Road Trip

For the last three years during the last week of October I have taken what I now call my annual autumn road trip. My first, three years ago, I stayed within the State of Kansas. Camping 6 days and 5 nights in couple different campgrounds all within 2-3 hours from home. Last year I decided to make it an actual “road trip” and spent 2 days at Indian Cave State Park in Nebraska, two days back in the Flint Hills region of Kansas and then 3 days at Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma. It was a great time camping every night under the stars and exploring new lands each day.

This year I headed to the Ozarks of Southern Missouri and once again I was not disappointed. I arrived at my 6 day 5 night home away from home about 30 minutes before sunset. Alley Springs Campground, approximately 5 miles west of Eminence MO. I wasted no time setting my tent up, building a small fire and enjoying the peaceful sounds of nature. Alley Springs Campground is a fairly large campground. There were only two other campers there making us all spread out as far as possible from each other. I had a spot backed up to the woods and had the pleasure of listening to a couple of owl’s hootin’ back and forth each night a couple of hours after dark. Nights were cool dipping down to the high 40’s to low 50’s and the morning were all very misty and foggy. The campground runs next to the Jack Fork’s River which helped with the misty/foggy mornings. For fun here is a google maps link to my exact camping spot. Campsite Alley Springs Campground.

When I decided to make the Ozark areas of Missouri my destination I knew I would need some advice on places to go and what to expect. Being a faithful follower of Tim Ernst and his Journal  I knew where I could get a couple of good books on the area. I ended up purchasing three books. Missouri’s Natural Wonders Guidebook by Don Kurz, Scenic Routes & Byways by Don Kurz, and Arkansas Nature Lover’s Guidebook by Tim Ernst. My main source of information was culled from Missouri’s Natural Wonders Guidebook. All three of these books are fantastic sources of information for the areas they represent. Complete with information and most importantly GPS coordinates for each area. This proved to be very valuable information.

Daily accounts of my stay started the night before and deciding where to go the next day. Then plugging GPS coordinates in to my trusty Garmin and hitting the road. Each day started about an hour before sunrise. Crawl out of the tent and start the coffee! The first two hours of daylight and the last two hours before sunset were my main “serious” photography times. The middle parts of my days were spent checking out new areas for the follow day, or hiking and exploring further in present locations.

Places  I managed to visit were: Klpezig Mill, Rocky Falls, Mill Mountain Natural Area, Prairie Hollow Gorge Natural Area, Virgin Pine Forest, Devil’s Well, Blue Springs, Grasshopper Hollow Natural Area, Lick Log Hollow, Welch Springs, Alley Springs, Stegall Mountain Natural Area, and Johnson’s Shut-Ins. This kept me busy to say the least! Plus I hiked a few hours on the Ozark Trail that ran through a couple of these areas. Each one of these areas are wonderful with unique features of the landscape. It was a trip well worth the time and effort and one that I may very well repeat in the future.

As with my last post on my California trip I have put together a collection of images. This collection will more than likely grow a bit more as I continue to go through the hundreds of photos that were taken.



Desert Time

Desert Time

Before I jump into some travel to a couple of desert regions that I have done over the last few months, I should mention a few things about the present. First of all, this Autumn season. This season has been one of the strangest I can remember. As of this writing we should be seeing mostly bare trees having already shed their colorful foliage. Instead, the color has been almost non-existent and many trees still have green leaves on them and it’s the middle of November! What happened to Autumn? There are spots of colorful foliage, now almost all gone, but in general not much at all and it looks like there isn’t going to be. Strange to say the least.

This post has been long (too long) in coming. I have made a couple trips since my last entry. Both involved a good deal of photography as planned. September 17th my young bride (of 10 years) and I made our way to the Southern California area. This was a trip/vacation that had been planned for the past twelve months. The main purpose was to see my second oldest Son who had moved there a little over a year ago. Once kids become adults and chose to move long distances away it becomes a little scary. Not for them, but for the parent, at least with me it is. As one grows older the hands of father time become much more apparent in the weeks, months, and years. No need to get into that whole life is to short thing. We all play by the same timekeeper. It is much more important what one does with their time rather than simply having more of it.

We spent 7 days and six night in Palm Desert California. The stay was great and weather for the most part cooperated well. This was my first time experiencing a desert environment and I must say I was impressed and delighted.

Being in Palm Springs put me within an hours drive of Joshua Tree National Park. This is a place that one simply can not describe. I now feel privileged to have spent some quality hours there. If you ever get a chance to visiting, just do it. Even if all you can do is experience it for a couple of hours. Of course, you will be sorry you didn’t have more time. When you read about it and hear statements such as; “there is no place like it on Earth”, believe them. It is not just a saying. I actually made 4 separate visits to the park and each one was as great if not greater than the previous.

There is really just one main road that runs the greater length of this 1,234 square mile park. If I remember correctly it is a 50 plus mile drive. That is a lot of land for not many roads. There are other road in the northern section that branch off to a few unique areas and campgrounds. There are even a few back roads in the northern section that put you in more remote areas. I am sure the vast majority of this park remains unexplored. You can see for miles so you get a since of it expansiveness, but I would feel safe in guessing not many if any have just taken off on foot and explored the majority of it. That in itself puts it high on my list of best places. Joshua Tree National Park is a place I would and will recommend to anyone as a top destination to visit.

A few weeks before our trip I asked the question on the forum if anyone had any other recommended places to visit and explore. I got one simple reply. Anza Borrego State Park. JTNP is northeast of Palm Desert and Anza Borrego State Park is Southwest and slightly further in drive time. For the better part of one day we spent time driving and exploring. Our excursion took us to and around The Salton Sea before entering Anza Borrego State Park.

The day was very nice temperature wise, in the mid 70’s which is amazing for this time of year. It was over cast with a slight drizzle falling most of the day. We both didn’t mind this but it did put a hamper on us getting out and exploring and taking pictures. While in The Salton Sea area we had to make a to stop at the somewhat famous community of Bombay. This sets right along the eastern shore of the Salton Sea. What a bizarre and interesting place. It’s like a ghost town that still has people living in it. At one time during our journey around the Salton Sea we were over 200 feet below sea level. I find these experiences fascinating. Pictures or not (which we did get some snapshots) it was well worth the hours of travel. Before we left the area we stopped at a nature center for a short visit with the employees. They informed us that the late Senator Sonny Bono, yes of Sonny and Cher fame was instrumental in the protection of much of this land. A commendable thing indeed.

We made our way from the Salton Sea area and onto Anza Borrego State Park and to the small desert town of Borrego Springs. It turned into a really great day since neither of us had been in this type of landscape before and we found everything fascinating. As a bonus (at least in my opinion) the light drizzle that had been falling most of the day made everything seem more cozy. I felt privileged on my first trip to the desert to have experienced rain. It was awesome!

Anza Borrego State Park is very large expanse as well so my experience touches on a very small slice of the landscape. As we made our way out of Borrego Springs from the lower desert area and into the higher desert region we drove hwy S22 west up the winding road and into areas that I simply had no idea existed, anywhere. We found one of the few places that we could exit hwy S22 right in the heart of this incredible land. Culp Valley primitive campground was like driving into a high desert painting. The light rain/sprinkle amplified the desert colors and contrast. We both set in our rental vehicle with the windows down trying to take it all in. With the light sprinkle going on I did not get out and explore the trails that ran through the area. But I must say, Bobbi, with her small point and shoot camera got some fantastic pictures without even leaving the vehicle. I was both excited to have found this place and bummed that I wasn’t able to spend hours exploring it. But, as life goes, there was always tomorrow. And tomorrow it was. I made plans to return the very next day in hopes of spending time on foot exploring this land.

The weather for my return visit the following morning to Anza Borrego and onto Culp Valley was almost as nice as the day before. For some reason it just didn’t seem as nice as the very first time I seen it. I didn’t have the company of my lovely bride for one thing and I had raised my expectations so high that it was near impossible for anything to live up to them now. But I was not disappointed once I started hiking around the area. No rain or drizzle just nice cloudy skies and mild temperatures. The entire day was great. I never knew the high desert was so beautiful. This was even at the end of Summer, I can only imagine what Spring must be like. Hopefully one day I will find out.

I wanted to do more than just share a picture or two from my time spent in Joshua Tree National Park and Anza Boreego State Park and that is part of the reason for the delay in getting this post here. I came back with over 700 images and am still going through them. Here are a couple dozen that I have found that do a good job in helping to relate my time and experience in this wonderful place on our planet.

In the next post I will be sharing my more recent Autumn road trip to the Ozarks. And yes I have hundreds of images from that to go through as well.