Denise Goldberg's blog

Saturday, December 31, 2011


The last day of 2011 brought cool air with light rain turning into fog. It was a good afternoon for a long walk, a ramble in the woods.

tree & reflections, in fog

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Painting on ice

A painting... courtesy of Mother Nature, created by the angle of the sun, trees, and reflections on ice.

reflections, trees on ice

Monday, December 26, 2011

Water & ice

Part of the water's surface is fully frozen, some is still clear of ice. This reservoir was split into three - a section close to shore that was frozen solid, a narrow band of glittering jagged ice, and a large body of open water.

The light hitting the jagged section pulled my eyes, requiring a quick stop.

in the process of freezing, water & ice

Walking in the woods

People, walking in the woods... so small in comparison to the trees.

walking in the woods, Maudslay State Park

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bird hopping backwards

It was a crisp bright afternoon, a good time to watch birds enjoying the bounty of black oil sunflower seeds filling a tray hanging in a tree. I watched a red-bellied woodpecker hop into the tray, select a seed, and hop backwards down a slanted branch to get to a place to enjoy his treat. Seed devoured, the woodpecker hopped back to the tray of seeds, took another, hopped backwards once again.

What a beautiful bird! He has a red head, and an intricate black and white pattern on his back.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Photos! Southwest wander

Photos from my wander in California & Nevada are loaded into galleries and ready for viewing. Start with the top level gallery, California Nevada, 2011 or click on the photos below to enter a specific gallery.

A smattering of desert images:

A smattering of desert images

Death Valley in sunshine:

Death Valley in sunshine

Red Rock Canyon and ...:

Red Rock Canyon and ...

Valley of Fire:

Valley of Fire

Designed by humans:

Designed by humans

Interested in words? You can find my ramblings in my blog entries tagged California Nevada 2011.

Winter? nicely warm

The calendar says that the winter solstice has arrived, but the weather wizard has granted us a one-day delay. Today was graced by 50 degree temperatures, clear skies, and a taste of warmth before winter settles in.

Unexpected green

December isn't the time when I expect to see green leaves in a desert setting. When I think about it though, I know nothing of the snow and rain patterns in Las Vegas; it might just make sense!

green leaves, Red Rock Canyon

This photo was taken on the edge of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Las Vegas, NV.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Same spot, different sky

Pure blue or patterned gray...

I continue to be amazed at differences in images due to the sky. Of these two photos, I prefer the older, grayer image, taken on my first visit to Valley of Fire State Park in February of 2009. Yes, I know, the vantage point is slightly different, and my preference is for the composition of the first image. The sky color and its effect on the overall image makes a big difference, doesn't it?

Valley of Fire, gray sky with patterned clouds

Valley of Fire, pure blue sky

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Finding beauty...

...close to home.

Today was brr! chilly, a sign of the soon to arrive winter solstice. A brisk walk was in my plans - I just needed to decide whether it was a close to home day or a day for wandering along the coast. It was well after noon when I donned warm layers, opened the door, and headed out - close to home.

I walked through neighborhoods, then turned to the trails in the Moncrieff Cochran Sanctuary (on the grounds of Phillips Academy). The sun was dropping lower, angling through the trees. Ponds showed sections of water, sections of ice, and rippled reflections.

This reflection? It reminds me of an impressionist painting.

reflection, trees in a pond

Colors and angles

From my first afternoon's wander at Red Rock Canyon... I'm fascinated by the colors in the desert southwest, the red rocks, the deep yellows of fall groundcover, the angles of the terrain.

red rocks, autumn colors, Red Rock Canyon

mountains and slanted ground, Red Rock Canyon

These photos are from the one day (of seven!) when I had interesting cloudy skies. Only a photographer would complain about pure uninterrupted blue above!

Photo galleries? Soon...

I probably don't need to tell you that Denise is still sorting out the photos from our southwest wander, do I? She told me that she planned to publish her galleries today, but I think it really might be tomorrow or the next day (or maybe even the day after that).

In the meantime, here's a shot of me bouncing along the very red rocks in Valley of Fire State Park. You can look through the sampling of photos in the gallery A smattering of desert images if you haven't already been there. Denise added a few more photos since she published that gallery; I think most of them are in her blog too.

--- Rover

Rover in Red Rock Canyon

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Magic sky

Looking to the south at the exit from the loop road at Red Rock Canyon, magic in the sky...

sky painting, looking south from Red Rock Canyon

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In the valley of fire

Looking down a curving road in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada...

looking down the road, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Monday, December 12, 2011

Quiet water

...near Badwater, Death Valley National Park. These photos jumped into my camera in the late afternoon, just after the sun sank behind the mountains.

at sunset, near Badwater in Death Valley National Park

at sunset, near Badwater in Death Valley National Park

Morning colors Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, just west of the outer loop road around Las Vegas.

fall colors in grasses, Spring Mountain Ranch State Park

pond and late fall colors, Spring Mountain Ranch State Park

Breakfast delight

I was introduced to ground flaxseed as a topping for hot cereal at Peg's B&B during my Newfoundland trip last summer. Somehow I lost the thought when I returned home, but it rushed back when I saw some bags of coarsely ground flaxseed at Whole Foods recently.

Breakfast this morning was oat bran with a bit (OK, a tablespoon) of flaxseed stirred in, topped with walnuts and bananas. Yum!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Slowly emerging

We've been home for 3 days now, and Denise is still wandering through the photos from our desert wander. I just reminded her of the starter gallery we used after our Newfoundland trip; she decided that was a good idea for this set of photos too. She's going to stash some favorite photos in the gallery A smattering of desert images. Take a look now, but check back again because more images will be jumping in to that gallery as Denise continues to go through the photos.

It was really windy when we were in Death Valley - look! my ears were flying in the wind as I bounced down the salt flats!

Oh! You probably want to see some photos of our wanders too, don't you? The first photo (below) was taken from the Keystone Thrust Hike in Red Rock Canyon. Yes, that really is snow on the trail. Luckily there was dry ground too so my feet stayed warm. The second photo is in Death Valley, heading south from the Golden Canyon trailhead. The two parks are very different looking, aren't they?
--- Rover

hiking the Keystone Thrust Trail, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Death Valley National Park, heading south from the Golden Canyon trailhead

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Heading home

Just before boarding time the gate attendant said he had good news and bad news. He asked which we wanted to hear first, and everyone said "bad news". The bad news was bad for the airline but good for the passengers - there were only 48 passengers on a 737, meaning that everyone who wanted a row of seats to themselves could have one. Ah, stretching out on a flight - that's almost unheard of these days.

The good news? Southwest's bad news was good for me, but they had better news too - the flight is due to land early, at 12:30 instead of 1 AM. We'll see.

Oh, this flight has wifi! It's slow, but I'm connected. Nice.

The wifi service includes a banner at the top of the page that shows the remaining flight time and the weather at flight's destination. I like the information but the silly banner almost stopped me from posting to my blog since it sat on top of some of the controls in blogger and the close button needed some convincing to work properly. Luckily it finally decided to behave.

posted from Southwest flight 1265, enroute from Las Vegas, NV to Manchester, NH

Blue skies, that is! The sky was clear (again), colored a deep blue, no cloud decorations. The photos I viewed on my camera showed a blue sky that looks like the color has been boosted or altered. Nope; that's color direct from the sky!

A flight at 5 PM supported a last day of wandering in Red Rock Canyon. I started by a walk along the Calico trail, still fascinated by the colors of the rocks. At the beginning the sandstone wore stripes of white and red, changing to all red as I walked. The ground wore a bit of green, a bit of brown.

I had a conversation with a man and two (little) dogs early on the trail. The dogs were wearing fleece coats when we first met; when I saw them as they were returning from their loop they had shed the fleece, still happily prancing down the trail.

It was a day to try a part of a new-for-me trail. I had parked at the Sandstone Quarry lot, and I noticed a faint trail leading off to the left. I started to follow it, discovering that it was the Grand Circuit trail. It's an 11-mile loop that I'd never considered walking before. Now that I've walked a small piece of it I will definitely consider walking the full trail on another visit. The trail was in the open, winding towards interesting vistas, allowing closer access than I had from the road. It was quiet enough that I could hear the crunch of my footsteps. There were birds flying and singing, and there were small ground squirrels darting around.

It was a good week, over too soon - but somehow my vacations always seem too short. Hmm... maybe I should plan a longer vacation for next year.

I need to remember (before my next trip) to put an order in with the weather wizard for some variations in the sky. I really would have preferred some days with interesting clouds; I really can't believe that every day had clear blue skies. That's a wish more than a complaint though. The nights were chilly but for the most part the days were comfortable with temperatures rising into the low 50s (OK, the low 60s in Death Valley). For December days that's more than acceptable.

posted from Southwest flight 1265, enroute from Las Vegas, NV to Manchester. NH

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Scenery in outline

Las Vegas was visible in the distance as I drove west on I-15 at the end of the day.

The sun was dropping in the sky. I could see the outline of the mountains and the outlines of the buildings on the strip, standing in a mist.

Fire in rocks

I was going to let Denise write today but she said that her brain is thinking in circles. Taking over for her is fine with me; I really like playing with words!

Valley of Fire was today's wandering spot. At first Denise was thinking about leaving very early, by 7 AM, but then she realized how cold it was going to be and she decided an extra hour of sleep might give us a little more warmth when we arrived in the park. We were in the park by 9:30, leaving us plenty of time for exploring.

There were a lot of other people in the park. We still had our alone with the environment time though; as soon as we started walking we were alone, sharing space with the birds and other local creatures. We only saw birds although Denise took a quick look at a close-to-the-ground twisted looking cactus and thought it was a snake. Yikes! Even if it had been a snake we weren't close enough for it to be a problem.

From the park's web site: "Valley of Fire is Nevada's oldest and largest state park, dedicated 1935. The valley derives its name from the red sandstone formations and the stark beauty of the Mojave Desert."

Valley of Fire is really amazing. There are very red rocks, and there are other colors too, yellows, greens, whites, and...

We stopped a lot as we drove through the park, jumping out of the car so Denise could play with her camera. We walked in a few spots too. The trail at the White Domes is a favorite of Denise's, so of course we walked there. The start of the loop heads down, deep sand covering the trail, sand on top of sandstone in a canyon. It was a good place for bouncing; I bounced down and back up a bit to check on Denise. She walks slower than I do sometimes, especially when she thinks she might slip. At the bottom, we turned to the right and went through a narrow slot canyon. Wow! It was really chilly in there. I was happy to come back out into the sunshine to warm up again.

When we drove to the end of the road Denise noticed a small sign labeled "wave" with an arrow pointing to a faint trail. We passed it again on the way out, then we turned around and went back to the small parking area just before the sign. It started as a dirt trail, then continued on hard rock. There was an occasional trail marker, a pile of rocks. Denise looked back to make sure the little trail was findable, and then we continued on walking on rock (no footprints to follow back!). The colors were just amazing. Hopefully some of Denise's photos will give you an idea of the colors. We stopped walking when we came to a smooth rock striped in orange and white. Cool!

--- Rover

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Choosing the scenic route

I chose the shortest route when I drove into the park on Sunday morning. My plans were to reverse that route today, but then I saw a sheet in the visitor center that listed 4 different routes back to Las Vegas - shortest, easiest, ghost town, and most scenic. It didn't take me too long to decide to take the route labeled "most scenic".

I headed south, taking Badwater Road to its endpoint where it met CA-127. The route continued on CA-127 and then onto the Old Spanish Trail. The piece of the route on Old Spanish Trail was 41 miles long - I didn't see another vehicle until the last 5 miles. It was desolate but beautiful.

The scenery changed as I crossed two mountain passes in the Amargosa Range, Jubilee Pass and Salsberry Pass.

It was a drive when I wished for a camera mounted on the car. I could easily have spent more time stopping than driving if I had attempted to document my drive with photos; for the most part the images are only in my mind.

My rental car has a GPS in it so I entered my end point before I started driving, selecting the option to stay off of highways. The GPS's route and the route I intended to follow were slightly different. It had me taking route CA-178 (and then NV-372) to meet up with NV-160 in Pahrump. It was quite unhappy when I continued on CA-127, heading for the Old Spanish Trail. Silly GPS kept telling me to turn around a block, finally suggesting that I find a safe spot to make a U-turn. It wasn't until a few more miles down the road when it decided that taking the Old Spanish Trail would work. Silly computer!

Tomorrow I plan to head to the east, destination Valley of Fire State Park.

Canyons and badlands

One last Death Valley wandering day (for this year)...

Denise thought that today was going to be a three-canyon day; it turned into a two-canyon plus badlands day instead.

We started with a walk through Mustard Canyon. It's just a small loop, a good one to start our day. We wandered out on the salty spots near the Harmony Borax Works then continued around the loop.

Next stop, Twenty-Mule Team Canyon... That's a favorite, a loop that we drove, stopping often. Usually we pulled to the side of a wide spot in the road to play for a bit, but a couple of times Denise just stopped in the road. That wasn't a problem since we didn't see any other people on that loop. Either the other people were moving as slowly as we were or we had the loop to ourselves - and I think it was our private loop today. I wonder if I can convince Denise to walk that one the next time we visit. It's a bit long for a road walk - 3 miles on a winding 1-lane dirt road, then the walk back down the highway to rejoin the car. Hmm... Maybe I'll just plant that idea in Denise's head.

The colors in Twenty-Mule Team Canyon were wonderful even though we were there in the strong morning light. I think the colors would have been more intense in the afternoon; somehow it seems like we've always visited this canyon in the morning. I know there will be a future visit to Death Valley; guess I'll need to remind Denise to try an afternoon loop there the next time.

We stopped at Zabriskie Point for a quick view that turned out to be a long visit. As we stood on the overlook looking down we could see faint trails left by wandering feet on top of the ridges of the badlands below. I convinced Denise that we should skip the next canyon hike and spend our remaining time in the badlands below Zabriskie Point. I think we just found a new favorite spot!

--- Rover

Monday, December 05, 2011

From Salt Creek to Badwater

It was another day of wandering under clear blue skies. The temperature warmed up to (and hovered in) the low 60s, and the wind was howling.

Salt Creek was my first stop of the day. I walked the boardwalk trail to the halfway point, then stepped off and followed a faint trail on the ground, crossing salty ground between several different kinds of plants. Every so often there were larger bodies of water, ponds or a widened creek. The ducks playing in the water quickly flew off when they heard my footsteps.

I followed the road across Daylight Pass, crossing back into Nevada for a quick trip to Rhyolite, a ghost town and home of the Goldwell Open Air Museum. The sculptures were accessible and touchable. The structures in the ghost town were another story, blocked off with barbed wire. That's too bad because one of the buildings was a bottle house. I would have liked to see it from the inside. I was able to walk into a bottle house on Prince Edward Island many years ago; seeing another one would be fun.

Back in Death Valley, sliding down and climbing sand dunes called to me. I was hoping that the seemingly constant wind would have scoured the dunes of footsteps. Nope!

About an hour before sunset I headed back to Badwater, thinking I'd try to catch some late day light. The sun dropped behind the mountains quickly leaving a subtle edge of pink hugging the peaks.

It was another (non-stop) good day.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Seeking water

I'm so glad we left early this morning; we had lots of hours for wandering once we arrived in Death Valley. We started with a walk up Desolation Canyon. I don't remember bouncing there before. It's funny, the dirt road leading to the trail didn't have a sign on it. I guess we were lucky that one of the rangers told Denise about it. That was a good way to start our day!

I thought we were heading to Badwater next, but Denise kept driving south. She was hunting for water; there isn't as much surface water as last year, but there is some. It was well worth the hunt - we found some strands of water in the middle of some crunchy salty ground. After that quick walk on uneven terrain we headed for Badwater. Denise played with her camera for a while and then we started walking. The salty surface closest to the water and the boardwalk is worn flat; we walked out until we started to see patterns in the salt.

Late in the day we followed the road to the north, looking for more sparkles of water in the salt. Denise is really good at spotting sparkles - we had a late afternoon bounce between narrow strands of water cutting through very white crunchy salt. Nice.

It was a beautiful day with a clear blue sky. It's funny though; Denise really wanted some clouds. Do you think that's a photographer's odd wish? Or do other people like clouds too?

--- Rover

How far?

Today it was time to switch states, moving to California and Death Valley. When I checked the directions on Google maps I doubted my memory of the driving time; as it turns out my memory was correct. The distance shown was 128 miles, with a projected time of 3 hours 22 minutes. Hmm...

Much of the drive was on two lane roads, roads with speeds ranging from 45 to 70 miles per hour. The roads were empty, verging on desolate. No traffic, no delays, just over 2 hours elapsed time. I arrived in Death Valley at 9:30 AM, leaving me a full day for wandering.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Windy wanders

Today dawned clear and very windy. The air was cool, warming just a bit as the day progressed. I couldn't resist bouncing down the trails in the afternoon, but I have to admit that I spent part of the day riding in the camera bag. I don't weigh that much and I really didn't want to get blown away!

We started our wanders today at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park. We had the trails to ourselves other than the ducks paddling in Lake Harriet. It's funny, at home big bodies of water are called ponds, and here this relatively small body of water is called a lake. Isn't it a little odd that two words are used for the same thing? I remember Lake Harriett from last year. It looked different today, partly because it didn't contain as much water, and partly because the surface of the water was covered with ripples from the wind. Last year it was a big reflecting pond.

Denise was planning to walk along the red rocks of the Calico Hills today but I convinced her to try a new trail today and to save a stroll along the very red rocks for later. Our exploration of the Keystone Thrust trail took a little longer than expected since we missed the trail at one point. The trail cut across a wash and Denise didn't notice the trail moving away from the wash again. Oops! We walked up the wash for a bit before we chatted with two hikers coming the other way. They were trying to find a loop to connect to the Keystone Thrust; we all turned around. This time we found the trail. Up a gentle grade, the trail was a combination of visible ground and a bit of snow. Then there was a big stone arrow on the ground, pointing down and to the right. We followed the arrow and were treated with a view of the Calico Hills and Turtlehead Peak. Oh! That was a really nice trail.

It was a good day.

Tomorrow? It will be a driving and a hiking day, time for Death Valley.

--- Rover

Friday, December 02, 2011

Three extra hours

It was a travel day, a day with three extra hours. An early flight made it a wandering day too, in spite of the 6 hours flying (across the country).

I started by following a somewhat odd set of directions, looking for a squished building. It took a few loops around the block. Some of the sculpted part of the building is a facade, but other pieces are a shaped building, very interesting.

It was a Red Rock Canyon afternoon, a time for some walking, some driving, absorbing the beauty. There was snow on some of the high peaks, and there were patches of snow on the ground in some of the higher spots along the loop road.

Tired, ready for an early sleep...


Oh! We're at the airport in Manchester, New Hampshire right now, waiting to board our plane. I met a little white dog as we were waiting to go through security. She is really quiet, and she seems to be content to stay in her red bag. Her owner had to carry her through the security checkpoint, and she (the dog) didn't say a word. She seems to be a calm traveler; or, I suppose she could just be sleepy!

Let's see, we are supposed to leave here at 7:05 and arrive in Las Vegas a little after 10. That sounds like we'll be on the plane for just over six hours. I think I'm glad we don't need to drive too far today; we're planning to wander at Red Rock Canyon.

Flying soon now...

--- Rover