Just Off the Desert Road

Just a few turns off the interstate, in the vast open desert, abandoned towns and buildings sit.

Free to explore, there are no fences or barriers.  No one else is even in sight.

The sun was setting over this forgotten little campground. A place where people probably spent many fun summer vacations, now overgrown on a cold day in early March.

There are so many little things to discover in the desert, just off the interstate.

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Bearwallow Mountain

Weeks ago on our short trip to Asheville I was trying to decide on a hike to go on.  My decision ended up being pretty easy when I read about one that mentioned the possibility of seeing some cows at the top of Bearwallow mountain.

We took the 30 minute drive to Bearwallow mountain from Asheville, which ended up being another fun trail at the end of a tiny gravel road. Although at first we weren’t really sure where to find the trail once we parked. We eventually climbed around this fence and found the trail a little ways behind it. Strange!

It was a lovely hike through the lush forest.  Almost entirely uphill, but it wasn’t too bad; just a little less than a mile to the top!

The view was great.  But even more great is that there wasn’t just a couple cows like I was hoping for, there was a whole herd!!

The cows were so cute and pretty friendly.  This was definitely one of the best hikes ever.

 

Cape Lookout

One of my favorite places to be is on Cape Lookout island. It is part of the barrier islands that line the coast of North Carolina called the Outer Banks. Cape Lookout can only be accessed by ferry and no one has lived here since the early 1900s when the island was taken by the government and turned into a national park.

The Cape Lookout lighthouse stands tall above the seas and once provided a helpful warning to sailors along the treacherous jagged shores which were referred to as the graveyard of the Atlantic. Hundreds of ships crashed into the crazy shore line of North Carolina until all the lighthouses were constructed.

The clear blue crystal water can be seen by climbing to the top of the lighthouse. Out of all of the lighthouses I have climbed, no view has compared to this one.

Seeing all the little islands and sandbars standing out against the blue water makes me think I’m someplace tropical.

Cape Lookout is known as one of the best places to find shells. My first time here I came home with over ten giant conch shells.  I still don’t really know what to do with them all, but there they sit, out in the yard, a reminder of my favorite place.

I also like how uninhabited it is. It’s always possible to find a spot on the beach where not another person is in sight.

As soon as I leave, I start dreaming of when I can come back.

Unexpected Mushrooms

It had been too long since we last took a walk. Wanting something different we decided on a nature trail in a park north of town. It was a park I had spent many unwanted hours at  years ago for home school events I wanted no part of.  I hadn’t returned since.  But I decided I might as well replace my bad, semi repressed memories with some good ones.

Rain had been falling every day for weeks but this was the first day the sun had been out for more then a few hours, but it was still very humid and muggy.  I saw this tree at the beginning of the trail, a sign of the mushroom sightings to come.

Moss was everywhere, covering fallen trees and branches with a fuzzy green coating. And around nearly every turn, a different type of mushroom, some I had never seen before.

Also present, were millions of bugs.  I unfortunately had forgotten to bring bug spray so there were times where we raced down the trail at full speed, trying to outrun clouds of mosquitoes and ominous buzzing sounds.

As we neared the end of the trail, we spotted an incredible sight.

GIANT MUSHROOM.

We almost got caught in the rain after this, but luckily is passed over pretty quickly.

 

This trail was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to go back. And maybe I’ll even remember the bug spray!

Two Guns Ghost Town

Just off of interstate 40, formally the old route 66, is Two Guns Ghost Town.
The land where this ghost town now sits, holds many stories.
A group of Native Americans were killed by an enemy tribe that set fire to a cave where they were hidden.  After that tragic event, the area is now known as the Apache Death Cave. Years later the beginnings of a settlement started to appear as construction began on a railroad and bridges over the Canyon Diablo where the Apache Death Cave was. But this new settlement was a town of outlaws and bandits. Reportedly a group of men once robbed a train, stealing close to $200,000 and then buried it somewhere near the canyon rim.  It has never been found.
Eventually a man named Harry Miller, who referred to himself as Crazy Chief Thunder, began the major construction of a town he wanted to call Two Guns.
The town included a small zoo with mountain lions, snakes, and other interesting creatures. He also apparently sold the skeletal remains of the Native Americans who died in the cave nearby.
Crazy Chief Thunder skipped town eventually after shooting a guy to death with whom he’d had a disagreement.  The man’s widow kept the town going and opened a gas station, tourist store and campground. Unfortunately the gas station burned down in the 70s, and Two Guns slowly declined into a ghost town.
Now it sits, right next to the interstate, just some lonely graffiti covered buildings in the middle of the empty desert.
The setting sun was casting extreme shadows over the crumbling buildings as we arrived at the ghost town one chilly February day. The wind was tearing across the flat open land. No one else was around.
The desert is such a strange and mysterious place.

Seven Days in the Desert




An entire week, wandering the desert.

A different hotel every night.

Crazy new landscapes nether of us have ever seen before. 

I want to spend more weeks in the desert.



I stumbled upon a cheap flight to Las Vegas, on a budget airline and couldn’t pass it up. The first evening in the desert was spent wandering under the crazy neon lights.


The next day was the short drive to Arizona across the dam. 

The Hoover Dam is huge. And even huge-er in person.


Ghost towns were explored. Some were abandoned, some were tourist traps, and some were in between.


The realization that it snowed in Arizona, occurred when we arrived at the Grand Canyon and it was in the 20s with snow and ice everywhere.



After a long day’s drive, Monument Valley was full of peace and calmness. 
(Plus amazing Navajo food!)


The wigwams were a cozy destination on another frigid desert night.



The petrified forest national park was full of strange striped rocky hills, trees turned to stone, and the strongest winds I’ve ever experienced.


Silly roadside attractions made for many quick stops for a picture.
(Or 100!)


Another realization that it snowed in Arizona happened while driving though a snowstorm at the top of an enormous mountain range. Upon the decent, we were greeted by a sea of cactuses. 


Sunny southern Arizona is home to hundreds of resting aircraft, in the airplane boneyard.


The meteor crater was at another wild windy location. At the center lies a 6 ft tall astronaut statue, only visible with a telescope.


The last day involved scaling a craggy desert mountain road to get to a town where donkeys roam freely. And follow everyone around in hopes of being fed!


The desert landscapes are crazier than I ever imagined. I can’t wait to go back!

Abandoned Mill Village

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A few more pictures from when my friends and I explored an old Abandoned Mill Village, that was used for part of filming the Hunger Games movies.

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These little homes have sat vacant for at least forty years, while nature engulfed them. Grass grew tall around the foundation, and vines had climbed through the windows, and cracks in the walls.

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I wish I could go back in time and see what this place once was.

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It was the perfect kind of day for exploring, and a day I will never forget.