Monthly Archives: February 2013

Desert Tortoise Munching in Joshua Tree National Park

This desert tortoise captured our attention for quite a while in Joshua Tree National Park.  He was a magnificent creature.  His shell was over a foot in diameter.  He slowly ate his away along the desert floor, munching so loudly that we could clearly hear him chewing from where we stood several feet away.  He seemed blissfully happy and unaware of the world around him, sort of like how we are when we are hiking these national parks and disconnected from the real world.  This little fellow was such a draw that a weary camper carrying a full pack hiked two miles back to this spot when another hiker told him about the tortoise.

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Doggies Running in White Sands

One of the places on my Bucket List that we got to visit on our trip was White Sands National Monument.  Since I’ve been a kid, I’ve wanted to wander over the miles and miles of desolate white sand dunes and pretend that I’m Lawrence of Arabia.

As much as we enjoyed this beautiful desert monument, the dogs loved it even more.  Since there were no established trails, and the nearest other person was over a half-mile away, the dogs got to run around off the leash.  Although the top layer of sand was warm in the winter sun, the sand underneath was cool, soft and comfy on the dogs’ paws.

It didn’t take long for Shadow to start running and Darby to chase after him.  I’ve never seen a dog who loved to run as much as Shadow.  His long legs and strong stride made him hard to catch but a wonder to watch.

But Darby was no slouch herself.  Though she couldn’t hope to keep up with speedy Shadow, Darby was smart and cunning.  She’d chase Shadow just enough to get him running, then stand idly by until he started to tire.  Then Darby would position herself at a choke point to catch Shadow as he ran by.

It’s sad to think that blind Shadow will never run like the wind again.

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Alligators in Texas? Who Knew?

We may not have believed it if we hadn’t seen it with our own eyes.  Brazos Bend State Park in Texas has the greatest concentration of alligators in the United States outside of the Everglades.  There are an estimated 300 adult alligators in the park, and we saw a total of 120 adult and child gators on our 7-mile hike along Elm and 40-Acre Lakes.


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Interestingly, the dogs never really noticed the alligators, even when the gators were only 10 feet away sunning themselves on a riverbank.  Perhaps it’s because the alligators weren’t moving and/or because they don’t smell much.  In this video, an alligator is floating away in the creek.


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Brazos Bend is also a haven for aquatic birds such as the American Coot.  These pretty black birds have the unusual ability to run across the surface of the lake as shown in this video.  The mechanical sound you hear in the video is a nearby diesel pump that was transferring water from one lake to another.

Wolves Howling at Northern Lights Wolf Centre

The Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre near Golden, British Columbia, is home to nine wolves that have never been in the wild and serve as “ambassadors for their wild cousins.”  The Centre’s mission is to “promote wolf and bear conservation throughout the natural environment.”  Theresa and I spent a few hours at the center in May 2012.  This was the first time either of us had seen a wolf up close.

Just a few days earlier, while dispersed camping outside Kootenay National Park, we were delighted to hear a wolf howling in the forest very close nearby.  It was a long, morose howl that lasted over 20 minutes. 

We asked one of the experts at the Wolf Centre about the howling.  The woman asked us to repeat what we heard.  She listened thoughtfully to our imitation wolf howl.  Then she told us we probably heard a “grandma wolf” who remained home in the den with the wolf pups while the parents were out hunting.

Perhaps the wolves were responding to our howl, or maybe it was just a coincidence, but the wolves at the Centre started howling themselves.  It was such an amazing sound that it brought tears to our eyes.

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Private Waterfall View

Wapta Falls and Yoho National Park

One of our most amazing dispersed camping spots on our trip was just outside Yoho National Park in British Columbia.  We camped for three days at the Wapta Falls Rec Site, which had two private campsites separated by about 100 feet of forest.  Our campsite had a spectacular, unobstructed view of Wapta Falls, which was only 1/3 mile away and roared loudly.  Behind the falls rose two 10,000+ foot glacier-covered mountains.

READ MORE >> for When RVs Have to Go

One of the less enjoyable aspects of RVing is emptying the waste water, also known as “dumping.”  In most RVs there are three tanks:

  • Fresh Water Tank – Holds the fresh water for drinking, cooking, showering and bathing
  • Grey Water Tank – Holds the waste water from the shower, kitchen sink and bathroom sink
  • Black Water Tank – Holds the waste water from the toilet

The size of these tanks vary, but typically the fresh water tank has about the same capacity as the grey and black water tanks combined.  In our RV, the fresh water tank can hold 50 gallons, grey water 28 gallons, and black water 25 gallons.

Black tank and dump connection underneath our RV


Kayaker Rides the Rapids in Jasper National Park

While hiking above Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, we stopped to watch some kayakers brave the rapids in the Maligne River.  It took about 10 minutes for the young man in the white kayak to muster the courage to ride the rough river.  All the while, his friends downstream shouted encouragement and advice.  At one point before he took off, the kayaker noticed that Theresa was watching him bury his head in his hands.  He yelled to her, “I’m not afraid!”  And sure enough he wasn’t, as this video shows the kayaker moments later expertly navigating the rushing waters.

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National Park News

Theresa and Timm at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park

If you love the national parks like we do, please check out our National Park News blog, which includes official news feeds from U.S. National Parks plus other related stories.  You can subscribe on the blog to receive daily email updates or follow us on Twitter.

In the photo above, we are sitting at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park with the iconic Half Dome looming large behind us.