Southern California

When we started our Thanksgiving trip we planned to visit Jeff and Debbie, though we hadn’t planned our route to their house.  When Leslie sent Jeff pictures of the Painted Desert and told him how much we had enjoyed it, he insisted we should stop at Red Rock Canyon State Park, which was forty or fifty miles from our route, a mere pittance compared to the 4,000 miles we ended up covering on our trip.  
Despite the fact that it overcast and dark, the cliffs were quite spectacular,

though not as spectacular as some shots I saw online.  I’ll have to return on our next trip to see for myself if the rocks are really as red as some of those shots portray.

We spent two nights and a part of two days in Fresno. Surprisingly,  it was my first time birding in nearly three weeks.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have my birding lens and camera with me, but the Sony RX10 IV managed to get some pretty good shots, like this one of a Bushtit, 

a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, 

and a Say’s Phoebe, which may even have been a first for me.

The highlight of the short visit, though, was getting a chance to see Jeff Hallock play his harmonica with Kornbred, one of several bands he plays with regularly.  

I purposely didn’t have a camera with me that night, but my iPhone 11 managed some pretty good shots.

Route 66 to Oatman

The biggest disappointment of our Thanksgiving trip was that it was so cloudy and threatening that we decided to skip Grand Canyon this trip.  On the other hand, because we had an extra half-day we decided to drive sections of Route 66 rather than staying on the much faster Interstate 40.

I’ll have to admit I was surprised that “Route 66” attracted so many tourists.  A lot of the small towns we drove through would probably disappear without the tourist trade. We began our morning with a stop at the Route 66 Bakery.  

Probably not surprisingly, I took a lot more landscape shots than I did shots of old buildings. The plants were quite different from the vegetation I remember in the Mojave Desert around Ft. Irwin,

and the vegetation changed dramatically as we climbed the mountain range.

As we climbed even higher, what little vegetation there was gave way to rock gardens.

Route 66 to Oatman was quite the challenge.  The road was narrow and the drop off so extreme that Leslie refused to look out the window until we stopped at a pullout at the summit.  Looking out from the top of the pass, it was hard to believe that anyone would ever have chosen this as the main route from Los Angeles to Chicago.  

Oatman seemed like a tourist trap, but the rocky cliffs provided a dramatic backdrop for the town.

I did stop at the edge of Oatman to take a shot of an original gas station that has been restored, though the pumps no longer pump gas,

but I refused to pay $2.00 to park so that we could feed the burros carrots or visit the shops selling Indian crafts to tourists. Still, it was pretty clear that lots of people were more than happy to do so.  I don’t know where all the people came from since we didn’t see a single car on the highway, but the town itself was bustling with tourists.

Our Thanksgiving trip covered nearly 4,000 miles.  When you cover that many miles you’re grateful to have anything that detracts you,  reading about and seeing landmarks from the original Route 66 certainly helped make the trip more interesting than it would have been if we had just remained on Interstate 40 the whole way.

A Few More Shots

Here are a few more shots of the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest just in case I haven’t already convinced you that it’s definitely worth a visit.  

This rock formation reminded me of an ancient warrior standing guard over the path below him.

He overlooks a paved trail where you can explore the painted desert up close.  If it’s not too hot and I’ve managed to adjust to the altitude,  I would love to spend two or three hours exploring the winding trail the next time we visit. 

Considering the shots I got from the road when the light was good,

I imagine you could get some truly spectacular shots when taken from a lower angle. 

There was one more attraction on the site, an old car indicating the original Route 66.

We bought a book describing Route 66 while in Broomfield and used it to follow parts of the original route, all the time thinking that these travelers must have been a lot hardier than we are to have braved these desert roads in the kinds of cars where a radiator could boil over any moment and air conditioning meant opening all the windows and sticking your head out a window to catch a breeze.


The Petrified Forest is at the end of the road when you enter The Painted Desert from the east, but we began to see signs of petrified trees long before we reached the official site.

I kept seeing brilliant orange objects on the top of distant ridgelines and couldn’t figure out what they could possibly be. Leslie took out the telescopes and said they looked like petrified trees.  At first I didn’t believe her, but a quick shot through the telephoto lens confirmed her observation. It almost seems that fallen trees have kept the ridges from eroding by blocking rainfall.

Though I didn’t find the Petrified Forest as compelling as the Painted Desert, I’m not sure that’s true for most people. A brochure explained that trains used to stop nearby so that riders could gather pieces of petrified trees, and we saw several people walking among the ancient forests, 

which seemed quite extensive.

Up close, some petrified stumps displayed brilliant orange-red colors. 

Although there are very few examples of whole trees, one stop shows a petrified tree that bridges a chasm (with the help of some concrete).  

Although I don’t think I would go out of my way to visit the Petrified Forest again, we will probably see it again because I do want to visit the Painted Desert again.