April 14 & 15We arrived in Needles after quite a long and windy drive, but it was good to be back on track with everything working well in the LD. Chuck gave us a look when we told him where we were headed. He pointed to the palm trees down the block and said that when they bend the far in the wind, he knows it is bad on the highways. According to the weather reports, we were at the southern edge of the wind warning region and felt it wouldn’t be a problem, though we could defiantly feel the rig rock as we drove. As we came into Needles, over on the opposite side of highway 40, a large semi lay twisted on it’s side down a steep embankment, it’s cargo scattered all over the medium. About a dozen Caltrans pick-ups were parked all over the medium while workers cleared the wreckage. Guess it depends on the gust. We had planned to keep going the next morning, but the wind warning region was shifting south with us right in the middle. We decided to stay in Needles an extra day to let it pass.
There isn’t a lot to do in Needles. We did have Route 66 to play around on, so while it was still quite windy, we set out in the Rav. The portion of 66 we were near was not terribly exciting though. It did boast a small dusty and battered enclave known as Oatman, but it was so overtly touristy we didn’t even get out of the car. On the way up to town, we came across a section of road where folks had decorated the various creasote bushes with Christmas ornaments and tinsel and such.The real draw for us were the burros. At our campground, the owner said they had pretty much taken over Oatman, so you know, we had to check it out. as we drove through, we only saw one wandering along the street getting snacks from the tourists. A little disappointing then, but as we reached the outskirts, out in a large clearing were the rest of the bunch.
There were well over a dozen out there lurking like a bunch of juvenile delinquents. When we got out of the car, they began approaching. First one, then another, and eventually we were surrounded by these very docile animals. They just stood there around the car waiting. One always worries about an animal that can, well, kick like a mule, so we were careful. Eventually they completely surrounded the car to the point some were actually leaning against it and wouldn’t move. By then, Mary was back inside and I had to have her reach over and open my door to push a burro away enough for me to get in. He moved reluctantly, but he moved.
Little Painted Desert
Thursday, April 16
We read about this place in one of our photo guidebooks. It is a little known county park that sits on the rim of a badlands like canyon. Located about 13 miles north of the Homolovi campground, it is touted to be every bit as nice as Petrified Forrest/Painted Desert National Park, just on a smaller scale. So we decided to check it out for a day or so. It highly lived up to it’s reputation for beauty. The park itself is just a couple of rundown and graffitied viewing structures and picnic tables along the rim. There is a chopped up gravel road with a few turnouts to enjoy the view. We visited twice on two different days and no one was there either time – and this is at sunset when the is great. The first evening there, the wind was stiff and icy. We could only be out 15 minutes at a time before scurrying back to the warmth of our car.
Of course it is a much smaller area, but well worth the trip out there Afternoon thunder showers are not unusual around here, and it often leads to spectacular cloud and sunset pictures.
Our next stop will be the actual Petrified/Painted Desert National Park. As luck would have it, it will also be a free weekend for all national parks. Not sure what it will be like people wise.