Photography and commentary by Paul Yarnall

Best of the West…. Winter Trek 2012

This winter we packed up the camper and headed west yet again. Last year the mission was to actually purchase the camper in Phoenix, and we saw what we could along the way. This year we gave ourselves a little more time, but left without a clear agenda or very specific destinations. I wanted to see the Indian mounds outside St. Louis and make a stop in Joshua Tree National Park in California. Everything else was a matter of serendipity. We did make it to the mounds, which were interesting, but photographically unremarkable. The surprise, however, was how much we enjoyed the Gateway Arch. Sometimes it is fun to be a tourist and that’s where the Best of the West gallery starts.

Next we stopped in Oklahoma City to see the Federal Building Memorial. A very moving experience. It’s hard to grasp the violence of that day and the state of mind of the perpetrators.

Susie remembered a retired colleague who lived in Santa Fe, a beautiful destination. That led to Taos where we met a family relative for a quick visit. The Gas Museum we passed along the way was a photographer’s delight. There were many photo ops every day that I could not have possibly planned.

A few days were spent in Page, Arizona to revisit Horseshoe Bend and the slot canyons.  Then it was on to Vegas.  I am not a Vegas type of guy, but I get all worked up when I see and hear the famous fountains at the Bellagio. I really wanted Susie to experience that, but we also saw just about every notable point of interest in town.

From there is it was only a days drive to Ojai, California to attend to a motorcycle project.  Next it was a short drive  to Santa Barbara which allowed us to see the Pacific. Our drive westward was over at that point as we headed south to the Salton Sea. (Do a quick Google search on the Salton…. you will be amazed at the history of this body of water, which is nearly as far below sea level as Death Valley.) As we camped along the Salton shore the mountains of Joshua Tree National Park lined the horizon behind us.

Joshua Tree did not disappoint us except perhaps for the temperatures. The high desert can get chilly. High twenties and winds to match finally drove us out, but not before filling a memory card with lots of images to work on.

Our journey eastward wandered off the interstate in Arizona, southern New Mexico, and southwest Texas. San Antonio’s River Walk was crazy eye candy. A personal tour of NASA Houston’s Space Lab training simulators by one of Susie’s former fourth grade students, now a NASA expert, was over the top!  Some of these great experiences did not make it into this gallery, but there are hundreds of shots to remind us of these great experiences.

The big surprise?  The iPhone 4s is a very capable camera!  Susie delighted her friends with eCards she made throughout the trip.  I even have one of mine in this gallery.  See if you can find it without reading the caption. Go here for Best of the West.

I wonder what we’ll see next year?!