Archive for Touring

The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass

For those 62 or older, you can get a discount pass to reduce fees at many recreational areas owned by the Federal Government. See the Senior Pass page. The cost is only $10 or, if you use USGS online store, $20 with the extra ten for ‘document processing.’ This is a lifetime pass. It supercedes the Golden Age Passports that are no longer sold. See America the Beautiful Passes for information about 4th grade, military, and other versions of this discount pass and additional information.

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What a wet winter means for western deserts

There’s likely to be a lot of color in the desert this spring: This desert in the Southwest is experiencing a wildflower ‘superbloom’

A wildflower superbloom is underway in the desert Southwest in March after seven inches of winter rain. Anza-Borrego State Park in California hasn’t experienced a bloom so prolific since at least 1999 according to park officials.

The Washington Post story has a lot of pictures, too. Maybe it’s time to get out there, grab your walking shoes and a camera, and go see for yourself!

Also keep in mind that there’s going to be water in places you might not expect. This means a possibility of soft ground in some campgrounds that might present problems for a heavy RV or reduced access to some areas due to flooding. Erosion and washouts, like the SNU encountered at Sweetwater Summit last year might also be a problem. Then there’s the bugs and critters …

take care.

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Are you a photographer of just a camera operator?

A.B. Watson at the Photography Blog asks the question. In looking at photo collections he wonders “Where is the photographer’s unique thumbprint, aside from on top of their shutter button?” What makes the picture special?

When people think about photography they think of cameras. They look at a photo and say I could have done that. If they were in that exact moment, they wouldn’t be wrong. That is if they had the technique and knowledge, with a few dedicated days to learn it. Which amazingly anyone can get on the internet, now just a click away. What makes a photo historic is its ability to capture a moment. Photography is mainly used as an archive medium. That’s all well and good if that’s all you use photography for. Many people love photography for this aspect alone. But for me, that just makes you a camera operator, not an artist.

You feel the something when you are there, something that prompted you to pull out your camera. Can you capture any of that feeling when you take a picture for your memory book? 

I feel that the collective group of photographers out there aren’t putting their own brush strokes into their work. We aren’t capturing an idea, rather just a moment. The majority of us are camera operators, obsessed about settings and techniques. Instead of focusing on concepts and our own unique vision. So what’s the meaning behind your work? Where does your camera end, and your idea begin?

Learn more about the craft from studying what you like about the photographs of others. Hit a YouTube video or other resource to improve your knowledge, understanding, and skill. Look for your own pictures that stand out above the others and try to learn what it is that makes it a special picture.

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An ampitheater out towards Fernley?

From the Road: Talus Stripes and Shorelines along the Truckee River

It was a late fall day, and I stopped along Route 447 to see if I could get close to some of the brilliantly colored trees along the Truckee River a few miles north of Wadsworth. I didn’t end up finding a good spot for pics of fall colors—other than maybe this one taken down near the Numana Hatchery—but I did find lots of wonderful talus stripes and some Lake Lahontan shorelines.

At two stops a little farther to the north, at and near the junction of 447 with Chicken Road and at the Historic Marker 448 pullout, I grabbed a hodgepodge of photos.

A good portion of the river in this area runs parallel or sub-parallel to Walker Lane strike-slip faults. Wadsworth Amphitheater, which shows up in the Google Earth images

Maybe she’ll help you see things you never noticed before when heading east out of Reno on I80.

Between this and that Flyover Country app described earlier there’s no excuse for not knowing about the country you visit.

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Is this you on tour?

It started with a link to a post about young men from Animal House to Zulu that lead to a post from the same author — When Nerds Travel. That has a list, here are some of the items.

  • You hit the museum book-n-stuff shop first, then go to the museum.
  • Modern: your e-reader is loaded with local and regional history. Coming back, your luggage is full of books and maps even though . . .
  • You plan your family trips on a theme, such as the Oregon Trail this year, then the fur trapper rendezvous, then the Mormon Trail, then Civil War battlefields, then US colonial history, and so on.
  • Someone asks you where you got that lovely silk scarf and you say, “The gift shop at the Prado. It was part of an exhibition on pre-Reconquista art and it is based on a pattern from the third main room of the Alhambra.” (True story but not me)
  • You plan your vacation around museums and zoos and planetaria* and botanical gardens.

Check out the full list. Maybe you can add to it?

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Travel Geology

The GPS Tracklog notes: New GPS App Shows Geological Points of Interest Along Route.

This app, created by the University of Minnesota Department of Earth Sciences and funded by the National Science Foundation, allows users to download a track and then use GPS to learn about interesting geological and fossil sites on a hike, road trip, or even flight.

The home website is http://fc.umn.edu/ and the app is available for both Android and for Apple. Here’s their blurb:

Flyover Country is a National Science Foundation funded offline mobile app for geoscience outreach and data discovery. The app exposes interactive geologic maps from Macrostrat.org, fossil localities from Neotomadb.org and Paleobiodb.org, core sample localities from LacCore.org, Wikipedia articles, offline base maps, and the user’s current GPS determined location, altitude, speed, and heading. The app analyzes a given flight path and caches relevant map data and points of interest (POI), and displays these data during the flight, without in flight wifi. By downloading only the data relevant to a particular flightpath, cache sizes remain reasonable, allowing for a robust experience without an internet connection.

From the list of sources, the app is quite a mash-up. It will be interesting to see how it works and whether budding amateur geologists can get a batter handle on the country they travel.

See also GeoSpace: Flyover Country—The next generation field-based research toolLake County News Chronicle WKS graduate creates smartphone app.

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Where is the Great Basin?

The question isn’t simple. You’d think the Great Basin was the area of the ancient Lake Lahontan or the area that drains into the Carson Sink. Links: Here Are a Few, But Great, Great Basin and Great Basin Divide Links provides a few other thoughts about the boundaries of the Great Basin. A Google Earth image is provided:

Google Earth image of the West with a lot of lines. The Great Basin divide according to me is in magenta, wrapping around the Great Basin. Note the two possibilities at Pahranagat Lake, and no Salton Sea.

It seems that the Sierra Mountains define the western border, The Snake River drainage is to the north and the Colorado River drainage defines the eastern and southern boundaries for some. That gets into a lot of territory over a wide range of elevations with most of it desert of one sort or another.

The blog has some interesting exploring of Nevada with a geologist’s point of view. It is a good resource for touring the Great Basin and getting a better handle on what you are seeing.

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Virtual exploring – finding a place to camp before you get there.

What with Google’s Earth and Maps and other resources, you can explore before you go from home. All you need is a decent I’net connection and a PC or tablet (screen size matters in viewing satellite pictures!) Dave Helgeson’s 26 Minute YouTube video include tips and techniques you can use to determine if a spot you find is suitable for an RV stayover.

Published on Oct 4, 2016
This is part three in a series: RV Boondocking expert Dave Helgeson presents his popular seminar “Boondocking Using Google Earth.” Even if you have boondocked for years, you’ll pick up some valuable tips here about how to find places to camp “in the middle of nowhere” before you even leave home! Dave will show you how to spot promising locations by using Google Earth, and then determine how to get there, and even to know if the terrain suitable — even level enough — for RVs. This should be a must-view for all RVers who like to camp away from the crowds using their on-board systems to sustain them for days or even weeks at a time. Nearly all the locations Dave shows you are on public lands, where the camping is free.

Google Earth will tell you the altitude as you traverse the pointer over a route. From that you can tell if the road has a significant grade or elevation change. Dave didn’t mention that Google maps will provide an altitude profile when you set the transportation mode to bicycle. So, if you can get maps to show you a route from, say, the highway to your campsite, you can see a graph of altitude along the route.

Others have used the satellite and road views to check out fuel stops as well as to look for camping areas. It’s virtual touring where you can see if an actual visit is feasible for your rig. One caveat though: things change. We had a gully wash out on the road to our Sweetwater Summit camping area that was almost enough to block getting through. That was due to recent rains and providing a reminder that surprises can happen, especially when you get off ‘official’ routes and roads where there isn’t much traffic. Take care. Be prepared.

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USGS topographic maps courtesy National Geographic

There’s another way to get those high resolution USGS topographic 15′ and 7.5′ maps courtesy of National Geographic. See ngmaps.maps.arcgis.com. This should come up with a US overview. You need to hit the +/- buttons to zoom in and drag to the area of interest. Once you zoom in far enough, you’ll see a grid of red markers on the map. Click on one of these markers to pop up a map reference. Click on the map icon in the box and you’ll get a 5 page PDF with the first page a 15′ index to four 7.5 minute maps on the following pages.

Of course, you can also go to the USGS store and order the traditional paper copies or get free online versions (if you support the proper plugin). The NFS also has maps which have a lot of detail to the national forests for hikers and campers. If you are planning on travel in the forests with any vehicle “The following motor vehicle use maps have been prepared and issued under 36 CFR 212.56, and identify those roads, trails, and areas designated for motor vehicle use.” The MVUM are needed so you can make sure to keep your vehicle only on authorized roads.

To avoid the experience of those who blindly followed a personal navigation device (GPS) and have a tale of doom to tell, keep in mind Rule 1: never travel blind. Know your maps and where they came from.

The USGS and NFS maps have a lot of roads and trails you would not want to take your RV on. The state map have road maps a bit more suited for planning an RV trek (Nevada Department of Transportation Maps here). You can also often get a free paper map (Request a Nevada State Highway Map) that shows the major roads and has good tourist and visitor information as well.

The problem with PND/GPS maps is that they are hidden and electronic and the only source you know about is the brand name on the device. Fortunately, technology is making it easier to keep maps up to date, to cross verify maps with other sources, and to obtain current traffic and hazard information. The 511 home (nvroads.com) now provides links to highway cameras so you can see current traffic in some areas. Google also provides road traffic flow information for those who are using cell phones with location turned on. Waze is a social media app that can be used to report traffic situations, too. 

Maps can be fun, educational, and attractive art as well as utilitarian. The options available now are incredible. Be informed. Travel safe.

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A trip south on 95

Here’s one: Death Valley Trip, Getting There: Highway 95, Redlich, Columbus Salt Marsh, and Another View of Boundary Peak

Through Nevada, Highway 95 wanders around quite a bit, attaining a nearly north-south bearing only within four relatively short sections: 1) the Winnemucca to McDermitt section, 2) a section south of I-80, running from Trinity to Hawthorne, 3) the Tonopah to Lida Junction section, and 4) the section running from Boulder City to the California state line. Much of 95’s wanderings, especially those that occur between Hawthorne and Las Vegas, are caused by the highway’s attempt to stay within the state while being subjected to Nevada’s western diagonal border. To do that, the road keeps cutting east, then south, then east again, every now and then actually attaining near parallelism to the diagonal, while completing three major south-to-east curves. These curves are at Hawthorne, at Coaldale Junction, and at or just south of Beatty.

The Silver Fox mentions Lucky Boy and Anchorite passes by description but doesn’t name them. She provides a good rundown on the route and provides some pictures to peruse. For more on this route, see our Destinations page Down the middle of Nevada on Highway 95 – The Bonanza Highway.

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Might you one day have a custom tour guide for your RV?

A geologist decided it would be nice to share what he could see out the window on airplane flights. He built an app. John Farrier describes How a Geologist Designed the Perfect App for the Window Seat.

You can look out the window on the airplane and see beautiful mountains, seas, islands, rivers, and more. What are you looking at? There’s an app for that. Shane Loeffler, a geologist, developed Flyover Country, an app that shows air travelers what geological formations they’re flying over. He tells Fast Co Design that he came up with the idea while flying on a plane

Loeffler wants to develop the app further with augmented reality so that you can simply hold up your phone and Flyover Country will automatically display the geology of the area.

You can get a bit of this with GPS devices and apps that show contour lines. For the RV tours, it would be nice to do this with a tour guide that would tell you what was coming into view and what was interesting or significant about it. There are some steps in this direction but it remains an open opportunity. There are also some efforts to link Wikipedia with mapping software that head in this direction. You can get an app that will show you constellations and stars when you hold it up to the sky at night.

Some of the features that might be useful include offline caching such as Google Maps uses, being able to specify commentary focus such as geology, history, agriculture, architecture, local cultural lore, and others. You might also be able to choose a ‘sophistication’ level from ignorant tourist to topic expert to match the commentary to your needs and interests. The tour guide needs to be location and travel aware so it can comment and what is coming up in a timely manner, It needs to talk to you so as to minimize driving distractions. 

Tour books have been around for ages. A major benefit of touring is knowing what it is that you see. New technologies are raising the possibilities for investigating and learning about the places where you travel and visit. The ingredients are all there. Putting them together in a delicious recipe has some work to be done. 

Can’t wait!

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Real ID and the burden on traveling interstate

As it is, you need to show your papers on demand. Entering any federal facility and, soon, to travel by air. you will need a certified identification. This is called “Real ID” and the Homeland Security Department has a Real ID FAQ page answering common questions about it. A driver’s license used to be sufficient to establish identity for most domestic needs but many states don’t meet federal requirements for a proper identification in issuing driver’s licenses. The Nevada DMV does have a process where you can upgrade your license to one that is suitable for Real ID requirements. See the NV DMV page on the Real ID Act in Nevada. To upgrade your paperwork, you need to dance through a few hoops, again.

You need to present proof of identity, Social Security number, and two residency documents in person at a DMV office one time only.

These are generally the same documents you used to obtain your Nevada license or ID the first time. You must show them again, plus two documents that show your Nevada residential address. You cannot obtain a Real ID card online or by mail.

You may upgrade to a Real ID license or ID at any time. The fee is $9.25, $8.25 for an ID card or $13.25 for a commercial license. Other changes of information, such as an address change or name change, may be included with no additional fee. If you are completing other transactions such as a renewal, the normal fees will apply and there is no additional fee to upgrade to a Real ID.

This isn’t the sort of thing you can do online, either. The question is how long it will take until you need an ID like this for access to NFS or BLM facilities or other federally controlled RV and camping areas. License, registration, proof of insurance … the burdens don’t seem to be getting any smaller.

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Shoulder Season

It is a challenge: winterize the RV or take one last spin. Joe Laing (Marketing Director for El Monte RV,) explains why Why fall is the best season for road trips — “Autumn travel means fewer crowds than summer, better weather than winter, and big savings on vacation costs—if you’re willing to do your homework“.

The leaves are turning, the birds are migrating and it’s time for bargain-minded travelers to plan some time away. Bring an extra sweater and plan to play cool weather golf—the discounted greens fees and uncrowded courses will make this your favorite season. Walk a rocky beach and then go back to the lodge for cocoa by the fire. Learn a mountain dance or two at a folk and bluegrass festival. Take a ranger-led hike in search of elk in heart of a national park.

Days are getting shorter, campfires more delicious, weather less predictable, and there is a tang in the air. It is invigorating is you are prepared.

For the SNU Folks – don’t forget Mesquite Spring in Death Valley at Halloween. A trip down U.S. 395 will likely feature fall colors and perhaps even snow-capped peaks in the Sierra. Maybe also snow covered roads on the passes so keep a close watch on http://nvroads.com/ and perhaps plan your route a day or so in advance with Weather Underground’s road trip planner.

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Maps, USGS, online

From the other side of the country the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Equipped takes note of Nearly Every USGS Topo Map Ever Made. For Free. from the USGS Map Locator and Downloader — “an incredible treasure trove for both map junkies and casual hikers alike.

One important thing to note is that, in general, the most recent topo maps listed are markedly different from their predecessors. Part of the new US Topo Series, these maps have been created as PDFs with geospatial extensions (GeoPDF), which gives you the ability to turn on and off different layers (contour lines, place names, water features, etc.) for viewing, depending on what information you are interested in. Unfortunately, however, trails are not currently included as one of these layers—a significant drawback for hiking.

Lastly, and one of the single-most useful online tools I’ve discovered in recent years, is the ability to overlay every USGS topo map on top of Google Earth, another free (and extremely powerful) tool to add to your trip planning quiver.

While you might be able to take the digital copy down to a local printshop to get a large paper copy, buying the paper copy from the USGS store might get you a better copy at less cost. There’s just something about a big map with lots of detail that isn’t there with the same map viewed on a display. Each has its uses: one is great for virtual exploring with a big table and a good light. The other works for active navigation and map editing. It’s also a lot easier to carry around an extensive map library when it is in the form of digital storage rather than large sheets of paper.

Right now, the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Equipped blog has posts on the status of the New England fall color and Railbikes. Looks like a good blog to watch, even if I’m getting back east anytime soon.

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Manzanar National Historic Site

The U.S. is one of the very few countries to make a monument out of an embarrassment without outside provocation. The park service says it is One Camp, Ten Thousand Lives; One Camp, Ten Thousand Stories. Manzanar National Historic Site is 9 miles north of Lone Pine, CA.


See the photo gallery!

Get a glimpse of the psyche of the American people just after the Pearl Harbor attack. Keep in mind that modern ideas of ethnicity, nationality, and race were a luxury back then. Think about things that don’t change about people and how it could happen again in a different form.

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Mammoth Consolidated Mine August 2013

Just south of Lake Mary in the Mammoth Lakes area is the Mammoth Consolidated Mine, circa 1927-1933. If you are into touring abandoned facilities, this should be on your list.


See the photo gallery!

“The Mahan family was responsible for the Mammoth Consolidated, and donated the buildings and equipment that you see on the interpretive trail where remnants of buildings and machinery still stand.”

Samples indicated less than an ounce of silver and gold in a ton of ore or about $12.70 yield per ton in 1927.

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Mammoth Lakes, Devil’s Postpile, heading down US 395

After the Obsidian Dome rally, what to tour on the way home?


See the photo gallery!

Mammoth Lakes is a resort area and a good home base to tour the Devil’s Postpile, Lake Mary, Bishop, and other spots on the southern end of US 395 eastern Sierra Nevada.

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Sacramento to Gerlach Botanical Travelogue

If you want to know what is growing along the Truckee River corridor and then north to the Black Rock Desert, Tipidan’s Burning Man Botanical Travelogue provides a good summary.

“Herein we present, for the enjoyment and edification of Burning Man enthusiasts everywhere who travel through Nevada en route to their spatial and temporal goal: a botanical travelogue! I am a botanist, and this cyber-nature-walk will include many plants that you’ve seen by the side of the road for years in this desert. It’s time you became better acquainted!”

“The tops of the ridges that flank the Truckee River are covered with growth of a very interesting tree, the Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany. It too, is in the rose family” … ” extremely hard, wavy grained, and nearly impossible to cut with either axe or chainsaw”

“The City of Reno sits squarely within the Sagebrush Zone, but climate and human intervention have made Reno a much more interesting place. Reno has Japanese Red and Black Pines, numerous Ash, Big Tree Sequoia, Eastern Red Cedar, California Incense Cedar, true (Atlas) Cedar, Catalpa and my personal favorite, European Beech.” … “Reno is really a grand horticultural experiment in an early stage.”

Russian olive, tumbleweed, the Dutch Elm stories and many more … There is much to see and a bit of help like Tipidan offers provides a pointer to just what is out there.

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SNU Rally Weed Heights July 2013

When it gets hot, where do you go? Someplace with shade, breezes, and a good connection to the power grid! That puts the Weed Heights RV park high on the list for a July Rally.

weed heights SNU rally July 2013
See the photo gallery of the SNU Rally at Weed Heights.

This place is just outside Yerington in Lyon County about 30 miles southeast of Carson City as the crow flies (32 miles bearing 111). It is near the company housing for the retired Anaconda Mine. With the price of copper these days, there are some interested in going through the 360 million tons of tailings again. The EPA has spend the last ten years trying to find cause to label it a supersite for waste. They’ve spent a lot of money haven’t been able to make the case (yet).

Next year, the plan is to be there when the A Night in the Country will liven up Yerington. The event is a benefit to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Mason Valley. There is dry camping at the Fairgrounds and it looks like that will be one big 24×7 party time there for the weekend.

The Weed Heights RV park is about 3 miles west and will serve as an overflow area or a camping spot for folks who want to spend the night sleeping or whatnot. You can tell the event managers have some experience as they ban booze, guns, and even pocket knives on premises along with video recorders and laser pointers. If you don’t like the rules, then look for Burning Man a bit later in the year … or maybe Hot August Nights, the Balloon Races, the Air Races, or some other event — lots going on in Northern Nevada.

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Toquima Range Tour

Did you notice these photo galleries? The Toguima Range Tour has several photo- tours. If you are thinking about touring central Nevada, check ’em out!

Charnock Pass looking towards the Toyabee Range over Big Smokey Valley

The tours include:

Toquima scenery

Belmont – Established in 1865, at one point it served as the seat of Nye County. The Courthouse is one of the most prominent buildings in Belmont. 1965 Rally in Belmont

Manhattan – Located in Nye County. It was originally established in the 1860’s then died off to be “re-discovered” around 1900.

Kingston – The more level ground around Kingston made it a good place to build mills for mining. Kingston as with many mining towns, had it’s own boom and bust cycle. The town currently has a population of around 200.

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