CHANNEL ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK – CALIFORNIA

Our life goal is to visit as many National Parks as we can. National Parks draw you in with splendid beauty, history and protected wildlife. We chose Santa Cruz Island as the park rangers advised it had lots of hiking, animal life and spectacular cliff edge views.

Channel Islands National Park comprises 5 ecologically rich islands off the Southern California coast. Anacapa Island has trails to a 1932 lighthouse and clifftop Inspiration Point. Santa Cruz Island’s many sea caves include the vast Painted Cave. Santa Rosa Island features rare Torrey pines. Thousands of seals gather at San Miguel Island’s Point Bennett. Southernmost Santa Barbara Island draws nesting seabirds.

We began by pre purchasing our tickets the day before through Island Packers Cruises – 805-642-1393 – info@islandpackers.com. You are required to call for reservations and they fill up fast. Super friendly and very helpful people, from making reservations to boarding the boat. At $52.00 a person for round trip tickets it was a bargain, Highly recommend.

So the very early morning began our trip. Up at 5 am packed a lunch, snacks and water bottles for a full day. Water is available at several camping sites but no food, snacks or vending machines available. This is a very remote and protected island twelve miles from the mainland. The catamaran ride from Island Packers dock to the island was spectacular. Smooth sailing, lots of dolphins diving out of the water following our boat on either side. As we approached the island I felt like I was in a Jurassic Park movie. The dock was safe but rustic and no building in site just beautiful hills blooming wildflowers and the deepest green terrain I have ever witnessed. Just approaching the dock was breathtaking, wow what would the rest of the island be like.

We opted to join a 2 hour ranger walk to get a real feel of the island. Highly recommend as he directed us to trails and viewing of wild island foxes, explained the abundance of wild flowers and the protected island scrub jay, also where to view the world largest sea caves. After the tour we set out on our own following the trail map the ranger provided us. The trails were well marked and led to pristine beaches, views of rugged mountains, pure paradise. We decided to stop and have lunch on a cliff overlooking a sea lion rookery and sea caves. Hard to eat when the Ravens wouldn’t stop begging us for food, but rules are do not feed the animals, the birds just dont know the rules. As we continued our hike we periodically came upon small gray foxes as large as house cats and were not frightened by us all which gave us great photo opportunities. The island fox is only found on 6 of the 8 Channel Islands and found nowhere else on earth. They would walk up to you within feet without any fear and they are adorable.

No cell coverage allows for shear peacefulness of this island with only the sound of the rhythmic waves, salty breezes and over 2000 species of plants and animals made us want to stay for longer. We had a full day of hiking over 6 miles and it was now time to head back to the dock. What a wonderful day and we would definitely do this again, possibly a different island next time.

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CHEERS FROM JUST AROUND THE BEND

Gilbert Ray Campground Arizona

Sometimes on our snow bird explorations we find a hidden gem and Gilbert Ray Campground ticks all of the boxes.

Bordering Saguaro National Park and a mier mile from Old Tucson Movie Studio Theme Park is Tucson Mountain Park which included in that park is Gilbert Ray Campground. Located 13 miles from Tucson, Gilbert Ray has 130 RV sites with individual electric hook-ups and 5 designated tent sites.. Water is available and a RV dump station. NO shower facilities. RESERVATIONS ARE NOT ACCEPTED.

The fees are $20.00 a night and a maximum stay of 7 days only. The trick to getting a spot as this is a very popular campground with no reservations accepted is to get there early in the morning, I’d say 7am, yes I said 7 am is best. Its worth it as you will definitely want to stay longer as there is so much to see and do in the surrounding area.

Some of the sites are pretty small, but as you check in they ask the size of your RV and select an appropriate size site for you. No favoritism here you get what they choose.

Tucson Mountain Park has a lot of maintained trails and vista pullouts for spectacular views of the Sonoran desert with plenty of pullouts for vehicles. This particular year was abundant with rainfall and the cactus were blooming profusely. In all of the years we have explored the desert we have never seen so much beauty.

Next Stop The Channel Islands Please Join Us On Our Journey

JUST AROUND THE BEND JEFF AND LIZ

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OLD TUCSON ARIZONA

OLD TUCSON is a theme park and historical film location in Pima County, Arizona. Over 400 movies and television shows were filmed at this location. if you are a fan of old western shows and movies you will probably recognize a lot of the backdrops. Located a mier mile from Gilbert Ray Campground and 4 miles from Saguaro National Park. General Admission is $19.95 and $10.95 for children (4-11) years old. A very large parking lot with plenty of RV room and free. Hours depend on the time of year, check their website as it changes often. Oldtucson.com. Old Tucson is very pet friendly as long as you keep your pet on a leash and your pet is friendly. NOTE: There is water placed for your pets comfort as it can get very hot and beware there is gun fire during part of the days events during stunt and cowboy shows.

Step back in time and plan on spending the entire day as we did enjoying numerous shows, gun fights, saloon musicals, living history and film history tour presentations. Don’t forget to take the train ride and plenty of rides for the kiddos to keep the whole family entertained. A western themed zipline is a very popular attraction located in the middle of the park which is an additional $20.00 a ride or 3 rides for $45.00.

The quality of the performances, whether it was singing, dancing or gunfighting was very, very professional. PERSONAL NOTE: Jeff was very happy as there was excellent BBQ and Good Ice Cream.

Our next adventure in the Tucson Area is The Historic Presidio District

Cheers From Just Around The Bend

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DEAD HORSE RANCH STATE PARK ARIZONA

Another fabulous State Park that is kept in great shape. Clean restrooms that are literally heated, free hot showers and clean, clean, clean. Sites are swept and tables are washed off as soon as it is vacated. The upper loops are $5.00 a night cheaper with great views of the Verde Valley. Quail loop campground was $35.00 a night, the upper loops $30.00 with spectacular views and less trees which make a difference in the warmer weather. Well that’s what the Ranger said anyway. . There are extensive trail systems for hiking, biking and horseback riding. You are miles from Sedona, Jerome, Cottonwood, Flagstaff and Clarksville. There is so much to see and do in the surrounding areas this campground makes for a great base camp.

The first day we visited Tuzigoot National Monument – Indian Ruins and Petroglyphs including a spectacular museum.

Montezuma’s Well WAS NEXT ON OUR LIST-more spectacular Indian ruins

Sedona Valley scenic byway was a beautiful drive with views and snow on the ground.

ALL ABOARD A FUN AND INTERACTIVE TRAIN RIDE

Like I said 2 weeks was probably not enough to see it all but we gave it a good try. In addition we visited Jerome and had a fabulous meal in a bordello called THE BORDELLO OF JEROME . The gyros were highly recommended and fantastic. The cook and owner made everything from scratch including the tzatziki sauce, pita bread and amazing feta crumbles, The lamb/beef mixture was non greasy and fantastic. We also roamed the streets of Cottonwood with lovely eclectic shops and a great BBQ restaurant called HOG WILD BBQ, I know the name is wild, ha but the food was outstanding.

Out next adventure takes us to Gilbert Ray Campground near Tucson AZ – see ya there CHEERS JEFF AND LIZ

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GRAPEVINE CANYON – LAUGHLIN NEVADA

This is one of those local hidden gems that no one tells you about and lucky we found it exploring around Laughlin, Nevada. About a mile off of the main highway on a dusty gravel road named Christmas Tree Road is a protected petroglyph site that beats any petroglyph site we have visited yet in our travels. The parking lot is well marked with a very clean restroom before the trailhead begins. From the parking lot is a easy 1/2 mile walk to the beginning of the cliffs, with plenty of beautiful scenery along the way.

Of course being the Thompsons we packed a lunch and plenty of water and probably spent a good half of a day exploring . The trail meanders around the rocks and petroglyphs for about 2 1/2 miles if you want to walk to the end. It’s a ruff go after the first mile with lots of rock climbing and literally sliding down cliffs but great fun for the young. This is a must adventure if you are in the area.

CHEERS FROM JUST AROUND THE BEND

OUR NEXT DESTINATION IS DEAD HORSE RANCH STATE PARK IN ARIZONA

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LAKE MEAD AND BOULDER CITY ARIZONA AND NEVADA

Boulder City was not what we expected. I thought dry, hot desert, nothing to explore, BORING, well that was not the case. I didn’t realize that a mire 4 miles from Boulder City was Hoover Dam and the expansion bridge which went across The Colorado river was incredible. After the Highway bypass was finished the cities staff went to work revitalizing the town and they did a great job. New bike paths, parks, and a nostalgic downtown with original neon signs. Boulder is one of the few Nevada cities that gambling and prostitution is illegal. This puts a relaxed persona on the town. There was a art and wine tour with live music downtown when we were visiting in February. The park on the way down to Lake Mead has resident Mountain Sheep hanging out in the park for great photo opportunities. We stayed 2 nights at the Elks Lodge RV park with Full hookups for members only. We moved over to Boulder Campground which is part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area ran by the National Park Service.The very scenic sites were 10 dollars a night for senior pass holders and 20 dollars for young folks. There is 2 more campgrounds on the Nevada side and more on the Arizona side of the Lake. There is also some dispersed sites on the lake for free BLM camping. A plus to the campground is a 38 mile paved bike loop which goes along the lake, up towards Henderson and loops back to Boulder City. We had fun in the city and the Hoover dam was fascinating. We were reminded of the Selma Hayek movie Fools Rush In. Boulder won our hearts with great people and a fun nostalgic town. We will be back.

Until our next Adventure CHEERS FROM JEFF AND lIZ AT JUSTAROUNDTHEBEND.BLOG

You are probably wondering where are these Nomads headed to next – Well its to DEAD HORSE RANCH STATE PARK SEE YOU THERE!!!!

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DEATH VALLEY CALIFORNIA

DEATH VALLEY 2019 TRAVELS

We sadly departed Alabama Hills BLM Land and headed over Highway 190 through the Panamint pass, with a 8% grade entering Death Valley. At the very top of the pass a turnout called Father Crowley Vista Point is worth a stop. Just about the time we got out of our truck to enjoy the view fighter jets decided to put on a show of a lifetime for us and before our eyes the jets flew deep in the canyon yet so close to us you could almost see the pilots eyes. The canyon wasn’t straight and to witness the skill of the pilots was spectacular, this went on for over 30 minutes.. From this point on make sure your brakes are good and use your gears, as it is 8 miles at a 8 percent grade yet very scenic.

 We have now arrived at the floor of Death Valley, today it is 82 degrees, I can tell you we are not use to heat and it feels so warming and nice. We arrive at Sunrise  Camp ground with no one to check you in at the kiosk, it’s kind of cool you go to a self-check in stations ( which are scattered everywhere)  enter your information, slide your credit card and presto you go find a site anywhere you want as it is first come first serve.  The fees are $7.00 a night golden age and $14.00 regular. Totally dry camping, you do get very clean restrooms, water and free sewer dump.  Generators allowed with regulated operating hours. The camp hosts are amazing so friendly and helpful. In addition while we visited it was quiet, well except for the howling of the coyote’s, we chose camp site L1 with a vista view of the Funeral Mountains.

After settling in, we immediately head to the visitor’s center for maps, weather info and info on ranger talks. There is a lot to see and do from trail hiking, biking, arches to view and miles and miles of salt beds Ninety-one percent of Death Valley is designated wilderness, you must use common sense exploring this vast land. Before setting off on trails or roadways the park recommends one gallon of water, a day per person is required and you must stay on all trails and roadways. There are overly  friendly coyote’s you must not feed, sidewinder rattlesnakes that burrow under the rocks and sand waiting for kangaroo rats and the cutest burrows that bite and love to block traffic.

PS: Texas Spring is another campground with the same amities. Across the roadway is Furnace Creek Camp Ground with full amities if you desire.

The lonely Burrow

Join us on our next adventure to Lake Mead, maybe the weather will let us launch our kayak and do some water exploring.

CHEERS FROM JUST AROUND THE BEND – JEFF AND LIZ 

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ALABAMA HILLS CALIFORNIA

THE ALABAMA  HILLS

This destination has been on our bucket list for some time, now that we have arrived it is has been well worth the very scenic drive. Alabama Hills is BLM land, with wide open spaces and very large rock formations that look like they could come alive at any minute. Over 400 motion pictures, TV shows and commercials have been filmed here.  Ironically as you enter the area, the roadways name is  movie road. You can obtain a detailed map at the Eastern Sierra Mountain Visitors Center. 

There is a selected few dry camping spots as the BLM is re thinking the usage of the area and in the future may eliminate the free camping. This is due to heavy usage and the destruction of the plants and land. There is two designated camping sites with fees and not much amenities.

Located in the city of Lone Pine, The Museum of Western Film History is worth a stop. For a $5.00 donation the museum includes a history documentary on the film history of the Alabama hills and over 40 on going exhibits containing memorabilia and information about westerns from the earliest days of the silent screen to some of the latest. The staff also offer tours of the Alabama Hills showing you special film locations.

Next stop 15 miles up the roadway is a Internment Camp Museum called MANZANAR. Extremely well presented with actual buildings you can tour and artifacts that humble you. This is a national historic site. Give yourself at least two hours for touring the museum and camp. There is also a drive around the perimeter of the camp with stops along the way. A must see.

Please join us on our next adventure at Death Valley California

CHEERS FROM JUST AROUND THE BEND

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RED ROCK CANYON CALIFORNIA

I was born and raised in California, everyone I have spoken to about our next adventure have never heard of Red Rock Canyon State Park. Its actually on the way to The Alabama Hills so why not, let’s explore one of California’s least known State Parks. We took Highway 58 from Bakersfield toward Mohave and North on Highway 14, in a little over 20 miles of pure desert you begin to travel into a different land. WOW- you would think you were in the middle of a Indiana Jones movie. In fact many movies, videos and commercials have been filmed here.

Most of the campsites are nestled into the brown cliffs and at night the camp fires danced literally off of the rocks. These fluted brown folds are the result of wind and rain eroding the softer materials. Very nice hiking trails, a beautiful nature walk which starts at the Visitor Center..

Restrooms are very clean with a $20.00 dump site fee. Camp fees are $23.00 a night with a $2.00 discount for seniors. Dry Camping includes tables and a fire pit with spectacular views.

On a personal note we could have stayed here a long time, the campground was extremely quiet with just the sounds of coyotes and the breathtaking hiking trails really ticked alot of our personal boxes. Would highly recommend.

Please join us for our next adventure in The Alabama Hills – see you there!!!

CHEERS FROM JUST AROUND THE BEND – JEFF AND LIZ

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Napa Valley Wine Country

The first thing that comes to my mind as we begin to see beautiful rolling hills and majestic vineyards is Calistoga water, The French Laundry and the CIA at Greystone. Napa Valley is a culinary mecca of the finest dining and wines set in the most beautiful valley and climate. We are on our winter journey exploring as we go and this was a must stop. Pulling our 25 foot trailer and trying to visit the beautiful Napa Valley Wine country is a little tricky. So what do you do, you head to The ELKS Lodge (if you're lucky enough to be members) and pay $35.00 a night for full hook-ups, bocce ball ,horseshoes,BINGO NIGHT and of course a full bar. Now that we are parked in a gated and locked secure campground we can venture out to explore the beautiful wine country at a leisure pace.

Visiting the Culinary Institute Of America (CIA) was definitely a culinary dream of ours, we are definitely foodies and this is the place to tour. From the massive carved doors when you enter, the italian architecture and the aromas from the hi tech kitchens we were in culinary heaven. A self guided tour allows you to see years of antique wine stoppers to kitchen equipment which will bring back many memories. I can’t tell you how many items we saw that our moms or grandmas had, very fun. After you are finished with your tour you have to find the CIA’S restaurant and BAKERY.

FIRST STOP: THE CIA

Homemade baguettes, stone ground bread to chocolate hazelnut tarts all made to perfection what a treat. With so much to choose from we opted for a chocolate tart and a expertly made Illy Espresso. We then had to sample their handmade chocolate truffles and maybe take home a calamita olive focaccia bread and a whole wheat stone ground loaf of bread. Yes we went a little carb crazy. We will walk it off right!

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Of the over 500 wineries in Napa Valley, the Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga California is a unique winery and a must see. We purchased the premium tour which lets you visit the dungeons, the torture room and the underground barrel rooms. We each got to taste 5 unique and delicious wines and an additional wine tasting right out of an oak barrel. We are not wine experts but do appreciate a fine glass of wine and as we tasted we were to judge each tasting. We found ourselves rating them all 10’s as EVERY TASTING was some of the best wine we have ever experienced. We had to hold back and only purchase 2 of our favorites but could have purchased all of them. We highly recommend the tour as the castle itself was Dario Sattui’s dream in which he kept the Italian theme. The style of the castle, the vast grounds and their wines make you feel you are in the heart of Italy.

Our next winery exploration was CHATEAU MONTELENA. Now there is madness behind finding this winery as it is the winery they made the movie BOTTLE SHOCK. Its a fascinating story about a struggling little winery back in 1976 that just happened to have one of the finest wines in the USA and needed to prove their excellence to the established French vintners. The grounds of the Chateau are all original and are featured in the movie. What a beautiful winery and their wine well you’ll need to watch the movie and sample some of their finest wine, let’s say we were in wine heaven.

Until our next adventure, thanks for following my blog and CHEERS from JEFF AND LIZ

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY TO ALL

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