Watch here for updates to our walkabout adventure – 2021
Updates posted as often as we have internet / cell access. In this part of the world, that is iffy. 🙂
Monday, October 25 – Forest Service dispersed camp just east of Mancos, Co.
We loaded up camp and left Valley of the Gods early this morning. A family was coming to our camp area to scatter their son’s ashes in a spot he loved. They told us their story yesterday, and we moved out early to be gone so their family could have their time.
Headed down the road and decided to stop here because we were tired. The campsite is surrounded by oak trees and a few pines. The oaks have passed their prime color and are dropping leaves, so it looks a little desolate – but the air smells so good! And the area is good to be in. Two weeks ago, the oaks would have been at peak color. It’s supposed to rain tonight – and maybe tomorrow as a front comes through. We have good cell service and even some TV here, so we may just stay tomorrow and wait out the weather.
Sunday, October 24 – Valley of the Gods, Utah
Stay in camp day. David spent his time flying the little drone Brian gave him a while back. Lots of fun. We’ll figure out how to edit and post some of his aerial sightseeing.. I spent my time trying to revive some watercolor skills.
Saturday, October 23 – Valley of the Gods, Utah
Beautiful skys here over the bluffs and desert. I got some nice shots of sunset and moon rise of the full moon. We got the little drone going this morning and then took a drive through the canyons. Another absolutely stunning drive. David got to take us up the Moki Dugway road (State 261 section of very steep, heavy switchbacks, unpaved, washboard with cliff on one side. Quite the road. Not quite the match of the hogback earlier, but exciting still.
No cell service at camp, so I’ll post pictures and updates when I have a chance.
Friday, October 22 – Valley of the Gods, Utah.
We broke camp at Lees Ferry this morning. Took a while to dump and refill fresh water and then to Page, AZ where we planned a stop for gas and groceries. It took an hour to travel the 10 miles or so as the crow flies. The road had to go around a large bluff that took as 30 miles or so south before we could turn north. Found an excellent Walmart there and re-stocked on veggies and hot chocolate. Then on to Valley of the Gods. The road took us through a little neck of Monument Valley. The valley is on the Navajo Reservation and not an open and easy place to visit. We saw what we could from the highway and travelled on. Valley of the Gods is all BLM land and so is open to campers at no charge. It is also very remote and has occasionally challenging dirt roads, so not that many people go there – but the bluffs and sandstone monuments are amazing, nontheless. We have a camp a good ways in at the bottom of a bluff, and will try some drone flying and sightseeing tomorrow.
Thursday, October 21 – Lee’s Ferry
We stayed an extra day to have time to visit the North Rim of Grand Canyon. Where we are parked at our camp is right beside the Colorado River. The North Rim is 6100 ft above the Colorado. Pretty amazing scenery. Our internet access is almost nil at present unless we stop at a little town along the way (like right now). I’ll post pictures when I get a chance.
Wednesday, October 20 – Lee’s Ferry, Marble Canyon, Arizona
Nice drive today. For a while it looked like we were leaving the mountains behind. A long stretch of flat sagebrush finally climbed into a forested area. We went through a pretty large section that had burned in a wildfire not too long ago. Then reached fresh forest again. The road had climbed back up to about 8,000 ft. when we pulled into a Chevron station that seemed particularly busy for a place totally out in the middle of nowhere. There are zero towns for 50 or 60 miles. Then I looked at the map and realized we were within about 45 minutes of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon!
We had thought we would pass up the Grand this time because it seemed it would take us the wrong direction. Not so.
We knew we needed to go ahead and find our camp spot. It was a first-come first served campground here at Lee’s Ferry. This was one of the few ways pioneers headed west could cross the Colorado river and is located right at the beginning of the Grand Canyon. What an amazing place! The river is just below our camp and the Vermillion Cliffs are all around. We will make a trip to North Rim tomorrow and stay here at least one extra night. Maybe 2.
Great internet access here. I’ll try to get some photos added below.
Tuesday, October 19 – Same camp. A water line was frozen this morning. Temps were about 20 degrees when we woke up. Glad I had enough extra water in the camper to make coffee!! There were still some places close here to explore, so we will stay one more night.
Mammoth Cave is an off-the-beaten-track kind of cave. It amounts to holes in what was long ago a volcanic field. There are 2100 ft of lava tubes to explore – but even were I to decide I wanted to go caving right now, many of the tunnels are closed to protect the habitat of seven different species of bats that hibernate there in the winter. We’ll stay here tonight and then move on to (hopefully) Lee’s Ferry just south of Page, Arizona. See – we’ve made a turn and are headed back toward Texas!
Monday, October 18 – Same camp. Visit to Zion National Park. It snowed this afternoon! I’ll share pictures later. This internet connection is not quite up to that this evening.
The big tunnel in Zion is 1.1 miles long. Built in 1930. It must have been a herculean effort at that time.
Other than the tunnel, We will remember Zion for the sheer majesty of the rock mountains and the haphazard directions of all the layers in the geology cake in each one.
Sunday, October 17 – Dixie National Forest just east of Duck Creek Village, Utah
Today we moved on toward Zion National Park – one of the areas on our bucket list. We had scouted out a good campsite yesterday on our return from Camping World. We spent the two previous nights at Kodachrome Basin State Park about 80 miles north of here. No cell signal at all, so we couldn’t post updates here – but two busy days. I’ll try to catch up below. Today started with replacement of the toilet and travel to this forest site. Nice upgrade, but the timing could have been better. It’s beautiful here. We’ll set up camp and plan a trip to Zion early tomorrow morning.
The nearest ‘town’ is a little village called Duck Creek about 5 miles away. We have a very private spot in a National Forest open camping area. Nearest neighbor is about 2 miles away.
Saturday – October 16 The day started on a good note with a beautiful trip through Bryce Canyon National Park. The tall column formations are called hoodoos. The paiute legend says that Coyote was unhappy with some of the ancient people who were doing bad things and he turned them into these stone formations. Some of the hoodoos could certainly look like people.
I thought the overall image seemed more like ancient castle walls – one after another.
Once through the canyon, we decided to go on to St. George, UT to find a Camping World store for a replacement toilet. (Read yesterday’s adventure for more). It was a quick 10 hr. jaunt and we were exhausted when we got back to the camper.
Friday – October 15 A great travel day from Fruita to Kodachrome Basin State Park. This was down State Hwy 12 – aptly enough labelled as a ‘scenic byway’. I heartily agree and will cautiously recommend the drive to anyone in search of adventure and tolerant of heights and roller coasters.
It started with a nice mountain drive through fresh snow. Very pretty and great views.
In another section of the road, we were driving on fairly flat terrain (actually a large mesa top reminiscent of west Texas. Sagebrush and rabbit bush and some scrub pines). Along the way, we noticed there was a canyon a ways off to the right. And a little later a canyon appeared to the left. Not gently rolling hills, but actual canyons many hundreds of feet deep as we see in this area. Nice scenery. As we went on, the canyons gradually were closer to the road. And closer. Until we were driving down a narrow two lane highway on a tiny crest of mesa with virtually no shoulder to the road – only a small 3″ curb separating the lane from the drop-off. And this went on for a good while.
I wish the pictures could capture it, but it’s so difficult to find an angle with depth perception while you are moving down the road. I found a video online where a guy has his drone following the car. It gives a better impression than the pictures I took, but even this, unless you look closely, cannot capture the feel of the actual drive. As much as I’ve driven mountain roads, I’ve never been down one like this.
It was, shall we say, exhilarating!?! Two days later I can think about it and still feel my innards tightening. Wow! I’m sure some of the other scenery was great – but everything after on that day was anti-climax.
When we got to camp, we discovered the toilet in the camper had cracked and was leaking onto the floor. Yeah.
Thursday, October 14 – Near Fruita, Utah
Busy day. We set an early alarm so we could find the post office and pick up breakfast at Wendy’s to take up to Arches with us. The line was already pretty long, but we did get in and drove through the park. It was interesting, but not as awe inspiring as some of the canyons we’ve been seeing along the way. Still, you can use some imagination on the shapes nature has carved here. I’m pretty sure some mountain trolls were caught by the sun here.
After the tour of Arches, we packed up Roo, and took care of filling all the good tanks and dumping the bad, we ran both the truck and the camper through the car wash. That’s the David powered car wash. He’s earned his keep on this trip, for sure. Then headed north so we could take the scenic drive to the south on the far side of Canyonlands. There are no roads from here to there without going somewhere else to start. We want to see the Bryce Canyon and Zion areas. A good bit of the drive was on a huge, flat mesa that felt a lot like Texas – until it fell back into a whole different canyon country. The geology of this state is amazing! It ended in an area called Capital Reef. Not sure why it was named like that, but once again the variety of colors and shapes in the canyon is unique.
Our camp for the evening is in a National Forest dispersed site (no services, no rules) just outside of Fruita. It’s one of the prettiest campsites we’ve been in. And great internet reception. I got to visit with Dad by Skype and David even picked up a good TV station and is watching his football game as I type. Here’s the campsite.
Wednesday, October 13 – Moab, Utah
Got up early this morning. The propane ran dry and the heater quit. Had to fold up our bed to get to the propane bottles to change over to a fresh bottle. Since we were up, we decided to try for the laundry again. Early seemed like it would be more accessible than it was yesterday during the rain. Had I mentioned that this town (which includes a population of approx. 500,000 camp trailers) has only one small laundromat with only about a dozen washers and dryers. Yesterday, the line was almost out the door. This morning at 8:30, we found plenty of machines. And breakfast from the Wendy’s across the street. Yay! Clean clothes. And since we will empty tanks and refill fresh water tomorrow morning on the way out of town, it will be a great time for a long, hot shower! (Is it sad when the lead story when on vacation is laundry?)
After laundry finished, we tried for a trip through the Arches National Park. The park was full by about 9:30 AM and no more vehicles allowed to enter until some left. We’d really like to see this park, so we will pack up the camper early and get it ready for a travel day – and then head for Arches about 7:30 AM. Cross our fingers we are early enough.
We did take a different drive – out to Dead Horse Point State Park. This is on a high mesa overlooking the Colorado River as it winds through the canyons. Well worth the drive.
Monday, October 11 – Tuesday, October 12 – Moab, Utah
Monday was a travel day from Gunnison to Moab. Beautiful drive. Getting through Grand Junction took an hour or so because every road through town was under construction and diverted to detours that were not well marked. Won’t go back through there for a long time.
We got into town a bit later than usual to find that Moab is in one of its peak seasons. In Colorado, all the parks were shutting down. Most closed the end of September and there were few campers when we were there. No problem finding a good campsite.
Not so in Moab. We finally settled in to a spot in the Sand Flats Recreation Area, run by BLM. The rock formations are very different to the Colorado River canyon just a few miles away. There were few to no campsites left in the areas we checked – and this on a Monday afternoon. Quite the popular area. This recreation area would be great for jeeps / 4 wheelers and dirt bikes. There are tons of trails specifically for those. Here is the view this morning from our campsite.
The area around our campsite looks like sand dunes – except that they are rock. The cliffs of all the canyons show the layers of rock laid down over the past 350 million years or so. They call it dune sandstone and part of the top layer of the geologic sandwich that makes up the canyonlands (the Navajo escarpment).
And then it rained. And blew. Makes for good sleeping if not for great outdoor adventure. Our high Tuesday as this front came through was 45-isih. We took a beautiful drive through the Colorado River canyon. Next time we are here, I want to camp down that canyon and fish the river. Some beautiful sites to stay back in there. This drive is magnificent! The red cliffs are in the second layer of sandwich from the top. And the black streaks are “desert varnish”
Sunday, October 10 – Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado
We couldn’t resist staying one more night so we could go see the canyon here. No matter how often you’ve seen this one, it still is amazing. We camped on the south rim and had a great evening. The milky way just gets brighter with every stop. So many stars we just don’t see at home.
It was about 20 degrees that night, but with an electric hookup we could run both a little electric heater and the propane heat in the camper. Oh, and the heated mattress. Needless to say, we were not cold. Really nice campsite and we were able to have a nice campfire that evening.
============================================================================Saturday, October 9 – Gunnison, Colorado
Maps in Colorado are misleading. I thought it would be a long drive from Lake Isabel to here. But no. Half-way across the state took less than 3 hrs. It took us 3 days to get out of Texas….
Planned stop at the reservoir state park west of here didn’t pan out. The lake is so low that the area is almost abandoned. We did find a good place to dump black water and fill fresh. Our camp is in town in a small commercial park where we have internet access to accomplish this little blog. Temps at night in the 20’s and they are expecting 3-4 inches of snow in another day, so I’m sure we’ll move a little more west and south. It will still be cold – but not what the mountains here will be.
Thursday, Oct 7 and Friday, Oct. 8 – Lake Isabel, CO.
Happy Birthday, Brian!!
Passed Capulin volcano. It’s my landmark for ‘almost to the mountains!’.
We got to Raton pretty early in the day and then had to decide where to camp. The goal was to come up in altitude a bit slowly. I looked up various elevations and since we really wanted to be in the mountains tonight, we settled on this little lake out of Rye, CO. Rye is at 6800′. We thought we could manage that nicely. The lake just 10 miles away, turned out to be at 8900′. We stayed two days just learning to breathe again.
It was a good choice, though. The fall foliage is just at peak colors and a drive up to Florence for lunch was absolutely beautiful! The golden mallorn trees of Lorien have nothing on the golden aspen of Colorado! (apologies to Tolkein) The color saturation with sun on the leaves is startling and truly a joy to see. Our timing for this trip could not have been more perfect!
Telephone cameras do nothing at all to share that. We will have to get out the good camera and find some stopping places.
We stumbled across Bishop’s Castle on our drive. Our kids will remember going through this castle many years ago. A lot of work has been done since that time. The castle was started in 1969 by James Bishop and built single-handedly by him. It is completely amazing from that perspective, especially. Lots of fun details have been added, including a fire-breathing dragon from the top of the main building and a wrought iron observatory at the top of one turret.
Wednesday – Oct. 6 – Palo Duro Canyon State Park
This is a good park. We’ve discovered that internet access in a camping spot will likely be pretty sporadic. We have some cell signal when we are on the road, but not when we are settled for the night. We’ll have to stop in a parking lot during the days to upload anything or answer e-mail.
Our campsite had the company of a flock of wild turkeys. Very entertaining, as they were pretty accustomed to people. The matriarch of the group stood quite tall and made sure all the younger hens stayed with her.
Primary activity here was taking pictures of canyon formations. We camped down in the bottom of the canyon, so the canyon walls cut out the city light from Amarillo (about 25 miles north of us). The milky way was nicely visible, but I couldn’t see all the constellations I am accustomed to find. Looking forward to some nice celestial views in Utah.
Tuesday, Oct. 5 – Finally! We’re off! First stop at Arrowhead Lake State Park just south of Wichita Falls. About 4 hrs drive from home. We have reservations for tonight and tomorrow. After that, we’ll see what we can find.
The claim to fame for this park is a pump-jack that has been running since 1955. The little poppin’ Johnny engine that kicks the flywheel around has a non-synchronous kick that slows at the end of a cycle and then speeds up when the engine kicks in. It makes an interesting sound to incorporate into one’s sleep. A good night and happy to be on the road. Also ready to push along.