East Coast expeditions - part one!
Wednesday 8th August 2018
We returned to the east coast after touring Florida with the intention of seeing some national parks, beaches and the sights of Las Vegas.
On the drive down from the airport we stopped in at Fletchers Cove for a walk along the beach. We saw some fantastic piles of seaweed, like mounds of spaghetti. We also saw a lot of dead seagulls, something we hadn't encountered on any other beaches in all our travels. Whilst it was pretty free of rubbish, in fact we barely picked anything up, it was sad to see these birds dead with their necks tangled in fishing line. The beach itself was fantastic, misty and grey and pretty deserted and we really enjoyed strolling along looking at the houses and imagining a life living on a beach like this.
We arrived in San Diego for a couple of days and decided to visit the Botanic Gardens. We've got really into places like this on our travels as we all enjoy being outdoors, love nature and they're usually very reasonable entry prices.
The gardens here have some great kids attractions, we really liked the Spell and Smell garden that had and A-Z of sensory plants, like the mint chocolate herb, or Lamb's Ear that's so soft and velvety to touch.
There was also a music garden, and incredible edibles section and a huge treehouse, great for an impromptu game of hide and seek!
I especially love plants and especially taking pictures of them, I love the different textures and colours and the beauty that nature can create. I also love a succulent and enjoyed wandering around the dedicated cactus garden. We also discovered the garden's resident giant tortoise, although he was some way away in an enclosure not open to the public.
We headed off and found nearby Torrey Pines Gold Club, Nikki is a massive fan of golf and couldn't help but want to visit this prestigious course.
After a drive past the entrance, we turned down a side road and found the rear of the course right on the edge of a huge cliff. There was a large car park and to our astonishment a huge gliding club, where people were literally running off the edge of this huge cliff strapped onto wings and swirling around above us. It was strangely mesmerising and fascinating to watch although we all agreed we definitely did NOT want to give it a try!!
Some people were going so high and others were swooping low so it prompted a good discussion about the physics of it and how you can move about up and down and left to right without any sort of engine. It looked incredibly peaceful and you can only imagine how beautiful the views would be but it was just so high and the thought of smashing into the cliff wall or tumbling into the sea was just at the forefront of our minds! We really enjoyed watching it though and Nikki got to watch a few golfers playing their holes too.
We headed towards Mission Beach for something to eat and came across Luigi's at the Beach, where they will give you a FREE 30 inch yes THIRTY INCH pizza if you can eat it all!!! There are strict rules (no bathroom breaks, no throwing up etc) and you also get a t shirt if you manage it. I love pizza and was pretty tempted to give it a go but after seeing the size of one slice I realised even I would be beaten!!
Mission Beach had a nice feel to it and we enjoyed walking round and seeing the shops and cafes and the beach itself.
We headed off ready to leave for Death Valley early in the morning. We were really enjoying our road trips and the girls have got really good at finding their own way of staying entertained. We sing songs, do spellings and maths, play car games and enjoy the usually interesting scenery.
We stopped off in Baker where they have world's biggest thermometer. It wasn't too hot though and we enjoyed driving through this little town en route to the desert.
We arrived at the appropriately named Furnace Creek and the girls wanted to head straight to the playground and pool. There's only a limited amount of hotels and places to stay and booking last minute didn't work out in our favour so well as the lodge type places get booked so far in advance meaning we had to pay more than we wanted to for a Hotel stay.
What made it worse was that the hotel was undergoing redevelopment and the service was shockingly bad. We were disappointed with the venue but luckily the location made up for it as we were right in the heart of death valley and had a great itinerary planned.
We headed or first to an actual real life ghost town. Rhyolite began life in 1905 when people poured in to the region in search of gold. It was a bustling town of up to 5,000 people with electricity, water mains, a school - even an opera house but as we arrived it was eerily deserted with only ruins remaining.
It's an astonishing testament to the gold rush, mining companies poured money into the region and people flocked here, however as quickly as it rose it soon fell and by just 1911 the population had dropped to a thousand as the mine closed and by 1920 was down to zero. Earthquakes and financial uncertainty led to the desertion of Rhyolite.
It now houses a sculpture park, some creepy ghost like statues at the main entrance, but we were more fascinated by the buildings. You could see the ruins of the school and a huge saloon type building. It was really possible to imagine this as a bustling spot.
Many films have been made in and around Death Valley, it's unique geological formations make it the perfect spot to create landscapes that look as stunning on film as they do in real life.
We headed next to the oxymoronic sounding Mesquite Flat sand dunes where the early Star Wars films were made. They're relatively easy sand dunes to climb in that they don't require sand buggies, but it was still incredibly hard - and hot - work to climb. You could see snake tracks in the sand and the photos we took don't do justice to the heights of the dunes. We had so much fun climbing up and running down but then we realised quite how far from the car park we had wandered and the walk back seemed endless!
Off next to the Badwater Basin, a mind boggling 280 feet BELOW sea level. It's so strange to get your head around and we had so many discussions about the earth and its history and what might happen in the future.
Where the water in the region dries and evaporates the most beautiful hexagonal shapes are created. It's crunchy to walk on and we were mindful of trying not to disturb the patterns but it just so vast and so incredible you can't help but be blown away by the scale of what is happening here.
The girls were really fascinated by it. It looks like frost and sounds like ice to walk on. It tastes salty and has formed this incredible geometric pattern. It's astonishing. So different to anywhere we've ever been on the trip or at any other time and we could have stayed for ages despite the absence of anything else here. It's just so interesting what happens on this earth.
Our last day in Death Valley was spent on another drive around, first of all through the Artist's Palette, a weird natural occurrence of colours as you drive through the canyons. It's amazing to see these pastel colours ranging from pinks and lilacs to greenish turquoise and you could probably spend a whole day here watching the colours change as the sun alters the light on the rocks.
Caused by oxidation of metals and minerals it's a really pretty example of nature's artistry. It's also another spectacular example of this region and the natural spectacles that exist.
Our final stop was the unimaginatively titled Natural Bridge, requiring a short walk to find essentially a rock bridge. Whilst it was brilliant and much bigger than we expected, we enjoyed the walk as much and especially liked examining the different formations. The girls stood at the bottom of this huge cylindrical chimney, which has to have been formed by water however many thousands or millions of years ago. It's so smooth and perfectly formed it doesn't look as though it can have been naturally created but it has to be. We loved looking at the rocks and exploring naturally formed walkways and shelves.
The view from up here over the area was pretty breathtaking too, it looks quite desolate but there is so much life here and a fascinating history.
It was time to head off though for a very different spectacle, the bright lights of Vegas! Join us for part two of the adventure.