Thursday, September 21, 2017

Family Vacations (July to December 1989): California, Nevada and Utah

(JULY 22, 1989)

Mom Kenison visited and we took her to the Los Angeles State and County Arboretum in Arcadia. The weather was warm, but we enjoyed it immensely. We found beautiful orchids growing in a rain forest exhibit and Rachael and Sam both enjoyed feeding peacocks by hand that roamed the grounds. I particularly enjoyed a pond that had turtles in it, moss hanging from their backs. We threw bread into the pond to coax the turtles near us, but large catfish came up and snared the bread. I believe these are the first wild turtles I’ve ever seen. We spent time by a beautiful waterfall with koi swimming in the pool at the base and looked at a carriage house and beautiful house where the previous owners lived. The Santa Anita Racetrack is nearby, started by the individuals whose grounds these once were.

We left the Arboretum  and ate at the Sizzler nearby. We decided not to go to the Norton Simon Museum, the kids were too tired. Instead, we drove to the water fall in Forest Falls. Mom,  Judy, Rachael and Sam decided to cool off by wading in the stream. Andrew and I got wet involuntarily by a group of touring Japanese who started a water fight nearby.

(AUGUST 5, 1989)

We visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History in Exposition Park, across the street from the University of Southern California and right next to Memorial Coliseum where the Los Angeles Raiders and USC play (and where the Los Angeles Olympics were staged). We enjoyed the dinosaur bones and stuffed animal exhibits. We saw a mega-mouth shark, caught off of Catalina Island, only one of two ever caught (the other was caught off the coast of Hawaii). The museum had a triceratops skull, a stegosaurus (from Utah), a tyrannosaurus rex skull, a plesiosaurus, and others. The Discovery Room had a whale skeleton hanging overhead, animal skins and a stuffed polar bear (Andrew’s favorite), tiger, etc.

After the museum, we went to Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles, a tiled street with Mexican shops and restaurants. We ate tostadas, rice and beans at a restaurant, and bought a mango from a vendor. Olvera Street has the first pueblo or house built in Los Angeles.

(AUGUST 26, 1989)

The La Brea Tar Pits are right off Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Natural gas bubbles to the surface and black tar collects in pools on the surface. A life size replica of a mastadon is on one side of the pit and a replica of a woolly mammoth, trapped in the pit, is on the other. Another mammoth and young mammoth watch from the bank. Inside the George C. Page Museum are the skeletons of a giant sloth, lions (the beast that was more feared than the saber-toothed cat), giant buffalo, mammoth,  saber-toothed cat, etc. Also wolves, eagles, condors and other birds of prey. Over 400 wolf skeletons were found in the pit and the majority of the animals found were predators, apparently caught themselves while feeding on animals caught in the tar pits. The skeletons are a brown color, the result of staining by the asphalt in the pit. A mammoth skeleton inside was the replica for the mammoth models outside in the tar pits. The bones bring the reality of the animals home. This is a wonderful place to come and learn about the past. The remains of only one human, a woman, have been found. She lived about 9,000 years ago and was 4 feet 10 inches, and between the ages of 20 and 25. Other areas outside the museum and away from the pit still have tar bubbling out of the ground. We all loved it. There is also a connecting atrium with beautiful greenery.

We visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (next door), which Andrew cut short with his screaming, and Farmer’s Market which is blocks away. The food at the market looked wonderful, but too expensive for us on this day. So we drove to Chinatown, near downtown Los Angeles and Olvera Street. It is amazing that Olvera Street is predominantly Mexican, very few whites. Just a few blocks away in Chinatown, it is predominantly Chinese: Chinese newspapers, signs, food, etc.

(SEPTEMBER 2, 1989)

Judy and Rachael elected to stay in Bakersfield with the Jackmans while Sam and I and Denise and Tommy Jackman elected to drive north to Sequoia National Park. We first took the one-half mile walk to Crystal Cave, down a beautiful mountain trail. The cave is nine miles off the main highway down a narrow, winding road, which takes about 40 minutes to drive. The cave was discovered in 1920 by two park employees, about 30 years after the park was established. The cave is in limestone and marble, near a beautiful meandering stream. The cave maintains a constant 48.6 degree temperature year round. Sam was wearing his Wisconsin t-shirt and shorts and got quite cold inside. The inner workings aren’t as spectacular as Colossal Cave, but it is a clean, wet, slimy, living cave, like Timpanogas Cave.

Near Moro Rock was one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever seen. Large sequoia trees had sunlight filtering through to the forest floor. Leafy green ferns were at the bottom of many trees and many trees had green moss clinging to their sides. In the distance was the blue light where the mountain dropped off and distant mountains of the Sierras in the background. So many shades of green. It was other worldly, almost first visionish. We climbed to the top of Moro Rock. Metal banisters or rocks line the path. The walk up is breathtaking. On the south side is the narrow, winding road up from the bottom of the park. On the north is a mountain range which shields Mount Whitney, the continental U.S. highest mountain, from view.

We visited the General Sherman Tree, the largest living thing on earth. It is 275 feet tall, has a 103 foot circumference, is 2,500 years old and weighs 1,385 tons. From a distance it isn’t so spectacular, but up close, the tremendous width and height is awe-inspiring. We walked a portion of the Congress Trail. I was impressed by the number of trees with black fire burn marks. The bark has less sap in it so that it won’t burn as well. The fire kills the parasites and insects that inhabit the trees and clears out other competing trees. We enjoyed a sawed-off cross section of a sequoia tree that was three or four times the height of a man. The size is staggering.

(DECEMBER 2, 1989)
The Redlands IV Ward Young Men and Young Women took a trip to Las Vegas to see the new temple. Rachael accompanied me, along with Robby Pister, Lars Sveen, and Scott Abbott. Nearly 30,000 people joined us today in the temple tour. We also drove by the fabulous Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, with its beautiful waterfalls.

(DECEMBER 22, 1989 TO JANUARY 1, 1990)

We did not keep a journal of this trip, only snippets were written down.
We have a picture of Andrew touching a pet garter snake of Uncle Matthew. He showed no fear at all.

Sam, Andrew and I visited the Bean Museum at BYU while Judy, Rachael and Grandma Kenison went to the Nutcracker (no contest between which place we’d have rather been). We saw a python devouring a rat, the rear end and tail hanging out of the snake’s mouth. We enjoyed stuffed animals, including a standing polar bear and tiger.

We visited the Utah Museum of Natural History on the University of Utah campus with Dave and Bonnie Kenison, who were also visiting from Colorado. Sam, Andrew and Sarah loved a dinosaur fountain, the water coming out of the jaws of the mouth. Exhibits included skeletons of a stegosaurus and a couple of allosaurus.

On December 29th (as indicated on our fishing license), Rachael and I went ice fishing with Paul Stringham, his sons, Jack and Tom, his brother, John Stringham, and his sons. We went to Causey Reservoir, east of Ogden, Utah. We drove through Huntsville, Utah, where President David O’McKay grew up, a beautiful area. To be able to fish, a hole is drilled through the ice on the lake with an ice auger. The line of the fishing pole is then dropped to the bottom of the lake. It is a rather boring and very cold enterprise. Unlike regular fishing where you are casting and re-casting, with ice fishing you wait with your line staying static. A bald eagle watched us from above the cliffs where we ice fished and they usually see a moose each year when they go up (but not, unfortunately, this year). Rachael got playing around and accidentally put her foot through a hole in the ice. That provided some impetus for us to leave, none too soon. I caught two of the three fish we caught that day, a cutthroat and two rainbow trout, so the Stringhams let us take the fish home to Grandmother Cannon’s home where we had them for breakfast the next morning.

We attended Tutu’s Christmas party and the children each got a gift from Santa Claus, who attended.

We went with Uncle Matt, and some of the Sines (Taylor and Ben) to Tracey Aviary in Liberty Park. Much of the Aviary has changed since we left Salt Lake 6 ½ years ago, including a new bald eagle and snowy owl exhibits.

On the drive back to California, we detoured through Delta, Utah, over to the newly established Great Basin National Park near Ely, Nevada, established in 1986. First we went to Lehman Cave, the best cave we have been in so far (better than Timpanogas, Colossal or Crystal Caves) with wonderful, very intricate, formations, types not seen anywhere else. The temperature inside the cave is about 50 degrees and the tour takes about 1 ½ hours. After going through the cave, we drove several miles p the Wheeler Peak road. We spotted about eight deer on the side of the road. The contrast between the Utah west desert we had just driven through and the mountain range with 13,000 foot Wheeler Peak, was incredible. Wheeler Peak is spectacular, the beauty is a rugged deserty beauty that I really enjoy.

We drove from Great Basin National Park to Ely and then in a straight run at night to Tonopah in eastern Nevada (where I got a speeding ticket on New Year’s Eve going 75 in a 55 mph zone). We spent the night in Tonopah. In the morning, we ate breakfast at a casino in Tonopah and drove toward Death Valley. As we left Tonopah, we had a beautiful view in the distance of several sets of mountain ranges, the closest being barren desert mountains, with more distant sets being snow capped, a beautiful contrast.

From Hwy 95 at Scotty’s Junction, we went toward Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley National Monument. The entrance to the Monument was interesting with a narrow winding road through barren mountains. Scotty’s Castle was built as a vacation home by a wealthy Chicagoan. It is near a spring that puts out 200 gallons of water a minute. We took the tour of the home, but had a miserable experience. Andrew was howling, so Judy or I needed to stay at the back of the tour bouncing him around. Then, in the kitchen, Sam fell over and hit his head on a cabinet and started to howl. The National Park Service employee rudely asked us to leave the tour. Embarrassed, I took Sam and Andrew and made my way through about 20 people as the guide led us out. Judy and Rachael were able to finish the tour of the house.  Sam, Andrew and I walked around the grounds while the remainder of the tour went on. We could see Scotty’s grave up on a hill, but didn’t have time to hike up to it.

From Scotty’s Castle we drove 8 miles to Ubehebe Crater. The crater was formed by a volcanic explosion and is 500 feet deep and one-half mile across. . It would have been fun to hike in, but it was cold and windy. It was much more spectacular than our pictures indicate. We picked the right time to visit Death Valley as January is the coolest month of the year with an average high temperature of 64.6 degrees. By contrast, July, the hottest month, averages 116.2 degrees and has a record high of 134 degrees, the hottest in the United States.

The best part of Death Valley was the sand dunes near the intersection of Hwys 374 and 190. We took off our shoes and spent some time wading through the dunes with our bare feet. The temperature was a beautiful 70 degrees or so, and the top layer of sand warm, but the bottom layer had a cool feel. It was wonderful to sink our feet into the sand and feel the contrast. The kids loved running up and down the dunes.

We went to the visitors center in Furnace Creek and went through it. There are palm trees in Furnace Creek, one of the few places with any vegetation. We found prices there incredibly high and ended up eating burritos out of the General Store. Borax resembles quartz crystals and originated in hot mineral springs or in the fuming vapors of volcanic eruptions. Borates were deposited in the remains of old lake beds and eventually moved by groundwater to the floor of Death Valley, where evaporation left a mixture of salt, borates and alkalis. Borax is used in glass, porcelain, enamel, soap and detergents, fertilizers, cosmetics, building materials, fire retardants and shields for nuclear reactors. The largest use is in fiberglass production, such as in boat hulls, auto bodies and airplane sections. 20 mule teams used to take the borax out of Death Valley.

At Devil’s Golf Course, a 30 foot lake existed 2,000 years ago. Salt precipitated from its drying waters and formed a salt layer three to five feet thick. Below that is 1,000 feet of alternating layers of salt and deposits from other lakes. Lake Manly used to be more than 100 miles long and 600 feet deep. The salt pinnacles are caused where the rain dissolves the salt and carves sharp edges and points. The pinnacles grow as a salt solution comes up from the water table. The water evaporates and the salt crystallizes.

At Badwater, the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, 282 feet below sea level, a spring forms a pool along a fault that parallels the valley. The pool never gets completely dry, even in the summer. It may also be the hottest place in the world. For several years the temperature was taken at Badwater and the temperatures ran a few degrees hotter than at Furnace Creek. At Furnace Creek the temperature was 134 degrees and the world record is 136 degrees. Death Valley ranges from four miles to sixteen miles in width and is 120 miles long. Elevation ranges from –282 feet at Badwater to 11,049 feet at Telescope Peak, one of the greatest contrasts in height in the country. Mount Whitney, over 14,000 feet and the highest point in the continental U.S., is only a few hundred miles away. Temperatures at ground level in the sun have been recorded as high as 190 degrees and the average rainfall is 1 ½ inches. A lake 12 feet deep would evaporate in one year. A person can perspire as much as three quarts of water in an hour. Man should drink at least one quart of water an hour when exposed to the hot sun. At Badwater we hiked on the salty floor of the valley. It was just like hiking through slushy snow. We understand that the Europeans are very enamored by Death Valley and go there by the droves in the summer.

We left Badwater as the sun was going down and it was completely dark by the time we left the monument. We drove down Hwy 127 through Shoshone to Baker and home on I-15 which was very crowded with end of holiday traffic. 

1 comment:

  1. Lots of fun times. I especially loved that visit to Death Valley, in spite of crying boys in Scotty's Castle. It's okay because Badwater was much more fun than that old house anyway.