Watch here for updates to our walkabout adventure – 2021/2022
Updates posted as often as we have internet / cell access. In this part of the world, that is iffy. 🙂
September 17 – ?, Boondocking on FSR 383 just off hwy 165 above Rye, CO.
Oddly enough, campgrounds in Colorado tend to shut down by mid-September. Almost all of them. A few of the National Forest Service grounds keep a few sites open for another month with no reservations, but those are hard to find. Boondocking becomes essential.
Not to mention it is now a weekend and whatever sites were there are likely taken already. We researched some NFS access roads where camping would be permitted (and free) and brought up a map on our phones to show us the way. Of course, when we went through the mountains with no signal, the maps were lost.
Starlink to the rescue. David pulled off the road and we set Dishy out of the truck right beside us – plugged in to the 110 plug in the truck and instant internet. Maps recovered and we were on our way. Modern miracles, right?
The second access road we tried had a beautiful spot – at 9450 ft elevation. That’s okay. We can ‘almost’ breathe at that height now. 🙂
We’ll stay a few days to enjoy the last of the mountain air and then head for home – where it is once again in the mid-90’s. It’s almost fall, though. And lots of farming to be done that I’m sure waited patiently for us.
September 16 – Pine Cove Campground, Frisco, CO.
One of the things about not planning ahead is that there is no plan… hmmm….
Finding an empty spot in one of the more popular areas of Colorado on a Friday night – not easy. We had planned to head to an area marked on one of our maps that showed lots of available dispersed camping just beyond Frisco. When we got there, the access road had been permanently blocked. So much for outdated maps.
The nearby campgrounds were completely reserved – except one with sites marked as first come-first served. We headed down there and found a large, paved parking lot marked off in wide spaces – just big enough for a camper with the tow vehicle parked beside it. Sure enough, they had some spaces left and we said “thank you.” The campground host assured us that this was NOT overflow for the campgrounds – but an actual campground with 1/2 the spots already reserved. Wow.
At any rate, much preferable to the local Walmart parking lot and we’ll be on our way in the morning.
September 14,15 – Vedawoo Campground, Laramie, WY
Quite a day. We planned to move south – back into Wyoming and then on to Colorado. As we finished breaking camp, we found that we had a flat tire on the Roo. So – on to changing the tire for the spare and then making an unplanned trip to Hot Springs, SD for a quick tire repair, tank dump and recharge of fresh water and a badly needed wash for the truck. Once we re-installed the repaired Roo tire and re-mounted the spare in its place, we headed for the destination between Cheyenne and Laramie, WY.
David found this little gem while looking for some boondocking spots. We didn’t arrive until almost sunset, so we opted to stay in the NFS Campground here instead of looking for a free boondocking site in the hills behind it. Not a loss. It’s a fun place and I can easily see why it ranked so highly in the online reviews.
The hills here are a stack of huge rounded granite boulders – I’m guessing rounded off and piled up by receding glaciers several million years ago. Perfect for climbers and a really unique landscape for passers-by like us. We stayed an extra day.
September 11-13, Lake Sheridan NFS Campground, Black Hills National Forest, SD
Looking for a place to set up base camp so we don’t move for several days. This one is peaceful if not always quiet. The lake here is enjoyed by
The Black Hills are beautiful mountains. Roads are very, very twisty. One area was called the Pig Tails because the road actually crossed over itself twice on very picturesque and old bridges making turns of 400+ degrees. Three different narrow, one lane tunnels were fun. Each one was designed to frame the Mount Rushmore memorial perfectly if you entered from the south. Of course, we drove from the north…
Mount Rushmore itself was extraordinary in the amount and types of planning that were done to accomplish the task. A short interview with an artist who figured out how to create the shadows correctly on all the faces to give them the right character regardless of time of day or time of year. Talk about talent! And I don’t remember his name already. But I was very impressed by his passion for understanding light.
We took a drive around Custer State Park and the wildlife loop. Pretty, but not as impressive as I’d thought it would be. We did see wild burros (although people were stopping in the middle of the road for longish periods of time – to feed them..), bison, antelope, deer.
Saw the Crazy Horse mountain carving from the road. They are still working on it.
September 10, 2022 – Devil’s Tower, Wyoming
I had thought it was a volcanic core, similar to Shiprock. Turns out it is a magma intrusion into sandstone – sort of a volcano that never erupted. As the magma cooled, it formed into vertical tubes – pretty much hexagonal (like a honeycomb structure). Then the sandstone all eroded away and left the huge rock. There are few such structures known on the planet and this is the largest. All in all, worth the visit.
We stayed in the campground there at the site. Pleasant enough for a one-night stop.
September 9, 2022 – Shell Creek Campground, Big Horn National Forest, Wyoming
We took the East exit out of Yellowstone toward Cody, Wyoming. The plan is to see Devil’s Tower, Mount Rushmore, The Badlands and Wind Cave.
The road east runs through a huge and beautiful canyon for almost 30 miles during which we dropped a little over 3000 ft. I will never think of Wyoming again as plains and wind.. This has been a beautiful and eye-popping day.
This campground is way off the main road down a decent dirt road – right on the banks of Shell creek. Very small campground, but so pleasant! I’d make reservations for this one. And somehow, I never took a picture of it.
Temps were 30 deg or so last night. We had ice on the picnic table and truck, and the pass about 1500 ft above us saw the first snow of the season.
September 6-8, 2022 – Headwaters campground at Flagg Ranch
Just 2 miles to the Yellowstone southern entry.
We got settled in and then decided (about 4:30) to drive on up into Yellowstone to see Old Faithful. Thought it might be less crowded in an evening than in the morning. The drive was much slower than we had anticipated because of the huge amount of road construction going on in the park – most I’m sure is in response to the severe flooding that happened here last June.
That and a car in front of us that simply had no idea how to deal with mountains or road construction and drove scared the entire way. He wouldn’t pull over to let traffic pass him, so the entire line of traffic going in slowed to a crawl for every bump and turn in the road. We finally arrived at the Old Faithful area much later than hoped and had to wait for an hour or so before time for the show. Here’s the video.
Then we drove home in the dark. Time for a good night’s rest and a good early start of seeing Yellowstone in the morning!
2nd Day at Yellowstone we drove the main loop from the south side. This covered the geyser area comprising the mudpots and sulfur springs.
Water here has dissolved sulfur and formed sulfuric acid. It smell just like that, too! The sign tells visitors to stay ON the boardwalk because the land around it is soft and likely to contain acids that will eat through your boots. So, of course, we saw someone had left a footprint in the ground near the boardwalk. Sometimes you just can’t fix stupid. Boiling hot acid bubbling randomly out of the ground around you ought to make one think…
We also drove up to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. Very interesting and includes some beautiful waterfalls.
Lower Falls: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fyL19m_Wcl1aR_ZeE6JSyXw1xRabva4O/view?usp=sharing
Upper Falls: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fypz7b0OX0urWIy1KSGENzi799P44d_a/view?usp=sharing
You can certainly see the lava intrusions into the sandstone/silt/? sedimentary stone that makes up so much of the area.
And of course….
Day 3 we took a drive back toward Grand Teton. That is actually my favorite of the places we’ve visited here. These mountains are simply amazing. I could stay an extra week just to watch them in different lights and fix the changes in my mind. Pictures are so limited in their capacity to capture reality.
September 4-5, 2022 – Hatchet campground near Moran, WY
Hatchet is near the north entrance to Grand Teton and only about an hour south of Yellowstone and our next camp, which will be at a full service campground right between Grand Teton and Yellowstone. Hopefully we’ll have a little time to explore both. The trip up was right through Grand Teton and the weather was beautiful. Amazing, rugged mountains with visible glaciers.
We had the camper attached, since this was a travel day, so we didn’t stop at the outlooks much to take pictures. Figured we could come exploring the next day and take all we wanted. Next morning, the mountains were totally fogged in by the smoke blowing in from wildfires in Idaho.
Hopefully the wind direction will change and move the smoke out again. <hope><hope>
In the meantime, we are parked in a very small forest service campground called Hatchet. There is a small resort next door with a restaurant, cabins, horseback riding and all kinds of ‘to-do’ stuff. We settled in to a nice, private site. $6/night with senior discount. I’m loving the perks….
We did explore Grand Teton on Monday, smoke or no smoke. Didn’t take many pictures though. We also took a drive up the forest road beyond the campground Tuesday morning to an area called Sagebrush Flats. It is a very remote area at about 8,000 ft. elevation. Supposed to be good for wildlife viewing. We didn’t see anything special there. But we did notice a good many boondocking sites up that road. It would be passable for a trailer like ours if you just drive slow to limit the occasional washboard. Might be fun to camp up there sometime, but we have a nice little site down below and the price is still right.
August 31 – September 3, 2022 – Canyon Rim Campground (NF), Flaming Gorge National Rec Area
It was a long day on August 31. We had a great many chores to accomplish before leaving the area, including tank dump, refill fresh water, restock and pick up a couple of essentials at Walmart (I know – but everything will be much more expensive when we get into the smaller towns around Yellowstone…) And then a long-ish drive because the traffic was stopped on US191 N for a blast to take place at a mining operation. It was a long hold, but the blast was huge and dust hung in the air for a lonnngg time.
We didn’t have a reservation for a camp but figured that on a Wednesday we could probably find at least a good boondocking area if not a campground.
The wonderful helper at the Visitor Center in Vernal pointed us to some good areas to try – so of course we tried the best first. Every site was reserved for the coming weekend and we really wanted to stay through the weekend. Canyon Rim campground is literally on the edge of the canyon (exciting!) and as expected – all the empty sites were reserved. Except one.
It was an excellent site, which casts suspicion as to why this one isn’t reserved. I went to the reservation site online — and discovered this site (that we are already parked in at that moment) doesn’t exist on the map or the list. ????
Called the Forest Service office to see if we could stay for the weekend and they had no idea… Is there a brown post with a number on it? Yes. #12. Okay, I’ll go check. Hmm…. Let me go ask someone else…. Okay – it’s your lucky day! It isn’t listed online because it is available for a camp host. But the camp host is using a different site in another campground – so it’s all yours!
Couldn’t be better! And it’s SO nice to stay put for several days! We’ll sight-see this area.
I took a walk around the campground that evening and a bighorn ram charged across the road about 30 ft in front of me! Talk exciting! I finally got my phone out to take a picture and he stopped across a field from me. Pretty far away, but I got a little proof. Maybe you can zoom in.
By the way, the stars are absolutely beautiful! And as the night deepens, the milky way is just beautiful. I’ve been leaving our tent-end unzipped at the head of the bed so I can lay there and watch the stars any time I wake up.
Right now, we are going to set up to stream the new Lord of the Rings prequel on Amazon Prime. Modern camping….
The days we spent here were well-spent and restful. We still did a lot of driving every day, but came back to a camp already set up and ready to rest in. First day we drove to a little town called Milano. It’s actually the only real town in the whole county. But I got no pictures.
Next day we took a scenic drive up to Spirit Lake. I wish we could have camped up there. So quiet and peaceful. It is a looonnng drive up somewhat iffy roads to get to it and yet the small campground was full, as were most of the boondocking sites we passed. And it’s at 10,000 ft. elevation. Still, even a little time was a chance to relax from any of the noise and frenzy of life.
On the way home, we saw the rest of the big horn sheep herd – the does and younger members, that is.
Last day here, we took a drive around a scenic loop called “Sheep Creek Geologic Loop” off state hwy 44. Oh, my. Pictures could not do justice. Absolutely beautiful and striking because the area is so unlike the rest of the geology we had seen. It was like moving into a completely different world.
August 29-30, 2022 – Dinosaur National Monument, Utah
It is a long ways from Black Canyon, through Grand Junction, Colo. and up to Dinosaur Natl Monument in Utah. We did laundry and dumped the tanks in Montrose before we left.
Then there is a great deal of not-very-much between there and here. We took Hwy 139 just west of Grand Junction up to Rangely, Co. We prefer small roads to interstates because they are always more interesting and less traffic. This is no exception.
We drove through lots of flat scrub tree/sagebrush until the climb over Douglass Pass which was beautiful. Then lots more flat. It was a long drive.
However, the Green River Campground at Dinosaur National Monument has been very nice.
A good breeze and shaded by large cottonwood trees made the temps in the 90’s much easier. And, since we are allowed to use our generators, we have been able to cool the camper during the hottest part of the day.
The visitor center is very nice including a tram ride up to the fossil quarry – a very nice facility enclosing the side of a mountain where nearly 1500 dinosaur fossils have been exposed in the natural matrix of the mountain for viewing. It is an excellent exhibit because it is real – not a replica. Here’s the video.
And you can actually touch the wall and bones in one area, which is super-cool for the kid in me…
Some of the exhibits were casts so you can see how the entire dinosaur (this one is allosaurus).
A young visitor asked the forest ranger guide whether they had any T-rex bones. She said “no, because this area was at the bottom of a sea when T-rex was living, but allosaurus here is like T-Rex’s great, great, great, great, great…. grandfather.” I thought it a good explanation.
We followed that with a slow drive through the geology of “Split Mountain” area – where an anti-cline has produced mountains on either side with opposite slants – and the Green River running between the two. The cliff sides contain very many pictographs and petroglyphs left by the Fremont peoples nearly 1000 years ago. The guide book says tools found here are the oldest on the continent – nearly 7000 years old. All in all a remarkable area and very much worth the time.
Tomorrow on through Flaming Gorge. Not sure what that is, but we have a week to explore before we have an actual reservation at a campground between Grand Teton and Yellowstone National parks. Will spend several days with that base camp exploring the area.
August 27 – 28, 2022 – Black Canyon of the Gunnison
David has started doing some videos that show the views better than a still photo. Here’s a link.
One of my favorite places ever! I never get tired of seeing this canyon and the wildlife here. Stellar jays, American Yellow Warblers, Golden Eagles and a little bird that lives near camp that I haven’t identified yet.
We are tired of travel and will stay for a couple of nights. Sunday night is “Draft Night” for David and the boys Fantasy Football League. They always have such a good time with this and it gets them all together – which is rare these days.
We are staying at the South Rim campground in Loop C – first come/first served, no electric or water at the sites. No internet access. No generators allowed. GREAT night sky. However, the starlink wouldn’t run on the small inverter we carry in the camper. Since we couldn’t run a generator to provide a true sine wave current, we needed to find one at a local store. Done. But the inverter proved to have no cables for installation.
Never underestimate the creativity of a man who might miss “draft night”. He got it running using the jumper cables we always carry. We re-charged the batteries today with solar and all set for tonight’s festivities.
Camping in a tech family is its own thing.
I called Dad on Skype last night and we had a good conversation. (And wished Denise a happy birthday!)
Spent a quiet – not travelling – day today. A nap in the woods is so refreshing. We drove the rim trail, took lots of pictures. Made sandwiches for lunch. I’ll stir up a stir-fry for dinner.
August 26, 2022 – BLM Wilderness Conservation area, Poncha Springs
Hoped to camp at the Great Sand Dunes tonight, but – it’s Friday. They were full. Zapata Falls showed on our Ultimate Campground app as First Come, First Served – and it was early, so we thought we had a reasonable chance to find a spot. Nope. They had changed their rules – now reservations accepted and all sites were taken. Seemed like the next best would be to drive on to Poncha Springs / Salida area for the night. There is a large BLM conservation area just north of Poncha Springs.
Yes, it is there. Yes, there are sites at the lower altitudes where folk have camped. We pulled into the first one. Just off the entrance road, but had a great view of the mountains.
We were set up and fixing dinner when a lady came through the camp with her three dogs. Told us it was not a good place to camp. “It is a sort-of trail head’. I’m local and I know….” and off she went into the brush.
Turns out – it was not a good place to camp. Constant traffic came by all night long down this fairly rough dirt road that goes no-where but the hills. And by all night I mean ALL night. About 4:00 a.m. a couple of cars stopped right near our camper and the folk got out and had some conversation. Lots of doors and trunks opening and closing for about 15 minutes or so before they both left.
We suspect maybe we were glad not to meet any of the people that drove by and we packed up and left early next morning. Note to self: BLM land adjacent to a well populated area / crossroads is probably not being used exclusively by well-meaning campers…
August 25, 2022 – Cimarron Canyon, NM
An interesting drive getting here today. We drove north out of Villanueva to Eagle Nest and then back east toward the Palisades. I’ve always loved the amazing cliffs of this area. Much of the drive was through the areas recently burned.
There were many road construction areas where road was washed out from the rains that followed the burn. But the meadows / pastures / valleys were absolutely covered in bright yellow wild flowers! Every bit as picturesque as spring in Texas. I have to wonder whether the ash from the burns has contributed to the beautiful wildflower bloom. Bet the honey bees are seeing a great fall nectar flow!
We are staying in a little roadside state park just off the Cimarron River. Very nice people. Nothing like the Pecos, the Cimarron is more like a happy brook, bubbling over the rocks. One of the campers caught some beautiful rainbow trout from the little ‘gravel pit’ lake nearby. The river had just been stocked a few days ago we hear. We really need to get back into fishing a little bit. Out of state licenses can be really expensive for short stays, tho.
Hwy 64 is providing the ambient noise for the night. I much preferred the rush of the Pecos outside the tent bed.
On the other hand, we picked up 17 channels on the TV in the camper. I watched a PBS concert and an old Dick Van Dyke show. It was that, or count the trucks going by on Hwy 64. 😉
August 24, 2022 – Villanueva State Park, New Mexico
We have travelled in three states today
Started out in Oklahoma, went back through the Texas panhandle and ended here just a ways SE of Santa Fe, NM near a little and very old spanish settlement called Villanueva. A good part of getting here was down I-40 from Amarillo to our back-road cutoff on NM 3. We much prefer the smaller backroads and small towns, but there is a LOT of nothing in that stretch, so crossing it quickly was fine with me. One observation of note was how green everything was. Not everyplace has been as dry as Henderson County, TX. I think my picture doesn’t do it justice – but just so we can remember that one year, it really was green.
We are spending tonight in Villanueva State Park. What an unexpected gem!
It is about 30 miles N off of I-40 just west of Santa Rosa, NM. down a small, but paved road. Toward the end of the road, it drops very steeply into a canyon with the Pecos River running right through it (and about 20′ from our camp site.) The river is running very full, thanks to recent rains, but the camp host tells us it is full of ash and debris from run-off through the fire zones north of us.
A beautiful campsite.
So peaceful and cool. And the starlink works amazingly well despite being in the bottom of a canyon and with some light trees surrounding the area. However, the state park provides free internet. Slow, but enough to send texts and update this little blog.
August 23, 2022 – Quartz Mountain State Park, Oklahoma
We left Tuesday morning – following some torrential rains in Athens / Dallas that broke 24 hr rainfall records in some places – and that also broke the heat / drought spell that was making things pretty miserable in Athens and Texas, in general. We were concerned about how well the bees would survive the drought until that rain hit. Now we can relax and enjoy the trip.
Decided to approach this one by taking new roads. Of course, you have to get past Dallas/Ft. Worth and head ‘sort of’ NW just to reach anything higher / cooler than home, so we did that. We headed for the nearest mountains – in Oklahoma.
I don’t think I’d ever seen the Wichita Range – very, very old mountains with quite a history and just over the Red River into Oklahoma. We drove through Elmer, OK getting there. There was actually a ‘gold rush’ in the Wichita mountains back in the day and much mining for granite. The rocks that make up the ‘mountains’ are very worn, rounded granite boulders that seem mashed together in almost fantasy shapes. Easy to see ‘stone trolls’ living there.
The campground was called “Mountain View” so we expected to see the mountains – such as they are – from camp. Turns out our mountain is the back side of the dam enclosing the lake. Here is our campsite from the top of our ‘mountain’.
Friday, October 29 – Balzano Family Vineyard, Carlsbad, TX
Got an early start this morning and went to Lovington (where I was born) to visit Mom’s gravesite. Easy to find and the memorial stone Denise arranged is stunning. I love the head stones that actually tell a story, and this one, along with the foot stone certainly do. There is some streaking on the back side of the stone where children’s names are listed, caused by water dripping down from the lowest points of the mountain scene at the top of the stone. It looked to me like waterfalls.
My research indicated that there isn’t likely much we could do to change this as the cemetery has sprinklers set up which continually provide the ‘rain’ causing the streaks. The front of the stone has not been damaged as obviously. It is really a beautiful memorial.
Following our visit there, we headed to Carlsbad via the road to Artesia. This passes through one of the largest oil fields in the US. An amazing number of pump jacks, most running ran for 50 miles down the road and as far back as the horizon on both sides of the road. Wow.
We are spending tonight at a winery that is a host for the Harvest Hosts RV program. Free stays at host locations. This was our most expensive “free” stay of the trip. 🙂
Tomorrow we will visit Carlsbad Caverns and then move on to Ft. Davis for a couple of nights. Should be in Harper on Monday for a few days.
Thursday, October 28 – Red Barn RV Park, Roswell, NM
Another travel day. I know. 4 hrs isn’t all that big a deal. We’ve done our share of 15 hr days trying to cram as much vacation as we can into the week or two between work requirements. Not doing that any more. We’ve been planning our travel by 3-4 hrs driving to a destination – and all the sightseeing and exploring we care to do.
This little RV park had really excellent reviews online and was in the right place. The RV’s are all crammed in to a small area – but the owner is so friendly (as are the neighbors in the next-door camper) that we really don’t mind. I’d stop here again.
We will go to Lovington tomorrow and then probably to Carlsbad Caverns. Then on to Texas.
Wednesday, October 27 – Coronado Campground, Bernalillo, NM
Just a travel day. Stopped at a city-owned campground here for a night with electric / water / dump station. We’ve spent the last 10 days without any services, so it’s nice to run the little electric heater and get a shower (it’s always shower night before we dump grey water next morning.)
Tuesday, October 26 – Forest Service dispersed camp just east of Mancos, Co.
Today was a snow day. Pretty much all day. So we stayed put and stayed warm. Except for a quick run back to Cortez for laundry. Still trying to figure out a plan for across New Mexico. It isn’t quite as easy to find camps there as it has been in Colorado and Utah.
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.
The Vermillion Cliffs National Monument is on the road between North Rim and Lee’s Ferry. The sign says this is the only paved road in 2.8 million acres. Color me impressed.
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.