Golden Hour – Joshua Trees

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. – John Muir
The other night we drove up to Cold Creek (NV,) and I was surprised to see the flowers on the Joshua Trees so well preserved. They were completely dry after the hot summer, but almost all the trees had the flowers left intact on them. They were very hard to the touch. Beautiful in their own way.
How is your week so far? The week is pretty good here. My daughter and I have dabbled in the art of painting with ink this week. It’s a whole lot harder than it looks!
We’ve also continued with our Nevada project, based on last weekends excursions, and our text book Uncovering Nevada’s Past. A good week so far 🙂 I hope yours is too!

The Weekly Smile – Dispersed Camping in Spring Mountains National Recreational Area


My friend Trent shares a Weekly Smile, and encourage others to join, and get the good energy flowing! There’s so many things to be grateful for, small and big things.


My smile this week goes to our camping trip this past weekend. We often visit Spring Mountains National Recreational Area, which includes both our highest peak Mt Charleston, and Cold Creek. This weekend we visited the other side of the mountain, and drove up Wheeler Pass, on the Pahrump side of Spring Mountain. Wheeler pass goes all the way to Cold Creek, and we could of driven over the mountain and out to Cold Creek, if we had a very high clearance vehicle. The Pahrump side is still dirt roads, and rough at times, but nothing compared to the Cold Creek side. We were happy exploring the area we could safely reach.


My daughter and I prefer to camp in the open desert, or on the mountain, due to less insects, and better views, but this time we went for the cool in the forest. The Mojave Desert is still hot. There was 104 F in Las Vegas when we left town on Saturday. The camping spot we choose had a low of 50 at night, so still pretty warm. We opted to only use the inner shell of the tent.


This is my favorite kind of skylight! At night when the moon came out it was so bright in the tent, that you could read a book. We heard coyotes sing at night, and other animals move around in the vicinity.


It was a rather big clearing where we put up our tent. There are several spots for dispersed camping along Wheeler Pass. There’s no conveniences; water, electricity etc, but free use of the land. Due to the drought there’s fire restriction, and we could not build a camp fire.


Yes, the Tooth Fairy have been a frequent visitor lately..

Luckily there’s many ways to make smore’s, and my daughter is very creative when it comes to making smore’s. She actually calls herself The Smore Queen and Expert. LOL.


Before we drove home the next day I managed to get stung by a bee, and had a slight reaction. Nothing like the wasp incident last year luckily. I’m very thankful for that.


On the way down the mountain we made a stop at the Charcoal Kilns. They were used for a nearby Gold Mine, up until 1910. I’ve been to Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park in northern Nevada, and knew before hand that the ones at Wheeler Pass wasn’t as well preserved, but it was still worth stopping to experience our local history.


As we made our way down the mountain, and the road started to smooth out a little, I thought this maybe you would like to see a short video of what our desert look like? If you look closely, there’s horse manure from wild horses at the side of the road in some places. We did not see any wild horses, or burros, but you could tell that they passed by early in the morning. Have you ever seen Joshua Trees in real life? They require a very unique climate, and the only place on the planet they exists, is in the Mojave Desert. Enjoy!

Getting out of the city always makes me smile. I literally breath easier. Come on, share some of your smiles!





Weekend Coffee Share; Homeschool Math Projects, Organic Gardening & Camping


Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)! Grab a cup of coffee and share with us!  What’s been going on in your life?

I can’t believe it’s already Friday! This week have been a whirlwind of productivity. Our homeschooling projects this week have been focused on math, strategy, and problem solving, interlinked with reading (for our Nevada project.) We’ve worked in our Star Trekk math book, played chess, used an online Adventure Math program, and baked sourdough bread. We made the sourdough start last weekend, and we’ve been feeding it twice a day, every day, until yesterday when we made our two first loaves of bread. They came out great! We talked about all the math and science involved in our every day life, and it generated many great conversation this week. 

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“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight… [Breadmaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world's sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel, that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.” – M.F.K. Fisher #sourdoughstarter day 1 🙏#homemadewithlove #sourdough #sourdoughbread #bakinginmykitchen #makingbread #artofbreadbaking #inmykitchen #feedmysoul #wholewheatflour #stonegroundflour #organic

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The sourdough start last weekend.

Homegrown alfalfa sprouts, on a slice of sourdough bread this morning.

My daughter is very involved with our indoor, and outdoor gardening projects, also a lot of math here. For example; How long does a 2.5 lbs bag of alfalfa seeds (for sprouting) last us? How many lbs of sprouts does that bag give us? 2.5 lbs of organic alfalfa sprouting seeds is about $25 (if you buy them in bulk, online.) That is the price of 16oz sprouted organic alfalfa seeds, if you would purchase it in a popular health food store. If we eat 16oz of sprouts every week, which is about how much we eat, our 2.5 lbs bags of seeds last us ONE YEAR. Then same price that we would pay for one week, if we would buy that amount grown by someone else.

We grow, and eat, a couple jars of alfalfa sprouts, and a couple jars off mungbean sprouts every week. Sometimes I switch it up and try other sprouts, but these are our old time favorites.

I’d say that this is useful math to know. One of the things I love with homeschooling. What type of knowledge does my daughter have actual use for in life? That’s what I want to teach her.

Last year one of our projects involved planting a seed package of yellow squash, and keep track of how many squash we got out of that one package. We then tried to calculate how many cents each organic squash cost to grow, compared to purchasing squash at the grocery store. ..that project worked out too well, we lost count after 300 squash (less than one cent per squash)..I’d say it’s OK if some projects turns out like that. I think she gets the point.

We spent a considerable amount of time planning a camping trip for this weekend. The first since our Mother’s Day trip top Death Valley. It’s just been too hot. It’s going to be three digit temperatures here in Las Vegas this weekend, but we’re going to head to higher elevations. We have a few different options, and will make our final decision based on the air quality and temperatures in the different areas before we go. We’re getting everything ready today. We are very excited, and we both have our camera batteries charged 🙂 Last weekends trip to the mountains lifted my spirits to the sky, and I’m definitely going to ride on that wave!

Gretchen on a camping trip to Mount Charleston a year ago. I love camping in the fall!

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time this week getting the photos for my book project organized. The Mojave Desert is HUGE, it covers 47,877 square miles, and I’ve spent all my free time exploring it this past year (with some exception of extremely hot days.) I’ve narrowed the photos down from about 3500, to 400. I will probably use around 10% of that. I’ve narrowed down the destinations/areas I’m going to write about, down to the top 5 places I return to again, and again. If you follow my blog you might be able to figure out what places I’m going to share with future Las Vegas tourists 😉  I’ve been thinking, and re-thinking this book so many times. I finally feel that I’ve found the angle I want to pursue. My photos are organized after destination, and I am working on the text, and layout (I’m self publishing this guide book.) I really enjoy the process! I’m not set on the title yet. I don’t feel any rush with that, there’s still plenty to do with the book itself. At the moment these are my top three title ideas;

  1. Exploring The Wild Side of Las Vegas – My Top 5 Destinations In The Mojave Desert
  2. Mojave Desert Top 5 Experiences – Exploring The Wild Side of Las Vegas
  3. The Amazing Mojave Desert – Exploring Las Vegas’ Backyard.

I hope your week is amazing so far, and that your weekend becomes everything you want it to be, and more 🙂 What are your weekend plans?



PS. I’ve decided to stop using the pseudonym Ms. Zen on my blog. I figured that it’s been a year since I blogged at NorCalZen. Ms. Zen feels old now. My friends call me Maria.