This Life We Live
We are camped outside Cottonwood, AZ for the next few weeks. A 20 minute or so drive northeast to the red rock hiking haven of Sedona, and about 45 minutes from the peaceful forests of Prescott to the southwest. It suits us well. This is our sixth extended visit to the area, and it gets more comfortable every time we arrive. As they say, “Home is where we park it”.
Over the last few weeks we seem to have run into more people that ask “where are you from?” Our answers range from “wherever our house is” to “we are nomads” and sometimes we just give them a big smile and say “wherever our hearts take us”. We see the look of confusion wash over the face, and then the "aha" moment. "Oh you mean you live in a RV?" Some people have A LOT of questions, and others like to also share their experiences. We do get the occasional glance that can only mean - "gee, I feel sorry for you, you are homeless."
We follow the weather, in search of 80’ days and 40’ nights. North and south, east and west, we travel along staying a few days or a few weeks – just depends on how much we find to our liking in the area.
We realize that this life isn’t for everyone. We live frugally, but not poorly. We take care of ourselves, both mentally and physically….and we take care of each other. Day 268 of what we hope will end up to be in the 1000’s.
Sycamore canyon is second only in size to the Grand Canyon in the red rock country of Arizona. Stretching from Cottonwood to Williams it is only accessed by horseback or foot. The trail starts with a steep 200' stair step descent into the canyon. Once you arrive at the bottom it follows a lovely tree lined path along the spring fed creek. Sycamore and oaks trees mix with the colorful cliffs and towering pinnacles.
We had attempted to do this trail back in the spring of this year, but at the first stream crossing, of six, we were thwarted by the massive flowing runoff. At that time the water was up to Bob's thighs and flowing fast. To dangerous for me and the water was cold..cold..COLD!
This time we came prepared with water shoes and strong hiking poles. We lucked out with summer time temps on a beautiful fall day. The water was cool and only slightly above our ankles at the crossings. The trail continued winding through the canyon and eventually we did 6 crossings before reaching the springs.
Midway on the trail we came across a beautiful deep swimming hole that would probably be where we would stop next time we do the hike. It is about 3 miles in, making for a nice 6 mile round trip day hike. I don't know why we are always so far off on mileage but this round trip took us about 10 miles, while the trail guide said it would be closer to 7.5. The climb back up out of the canyon was easier than I remembered it in the Spring though, so all the hikes this season seem to be paying off in more ways than just enjoying the beauty of the land.
So glad we re-did this hike in the fall. The colors across the canyon where so beautiful in the late afternoon light. It's always a great day when you arrive back to the jeep with dirt crusted and tired legs.
Directions. Take Highway 89A South from Sedona to Cottonwood AZ. At the junction of Arizona 260 and US 89A, go right and proceed 1.4 miles to Historic 89A. Turn north and drive 3.8 miles to the turnoff to Tuzigoot National Monument. Turn right and proceed 0.4 miles, then turn left on Sycamore Canyon Road and proceed 10 miles to the trail head. Most of Sycamore Canyon Road is unpaved, but it is passable to family sedans except during periods of heavy rain.
This one ranks right up there as one of our favorite, and hardest hikes so far this year. Located inside Bear's Ears National Monument, Natural Bridges was discovered by a prospector, Cass Hite, in 1883. It wasn't until 1904 though that the discovery was publicized in National Geographic, and in 1908 President Teddy Roosevelt proclaimed it to be a National Monument, creating Utah's first National Park System area. THANK YOU Teddy Roosevelt!!! The bridges have had a few names over the years but in 1909 they were given Hopi names to better reflect the area's history and culture.
About a 45 minute drive from where we are boondocked north of Blanding, we stopped at the visitor center and picked up a map of the park and asked about the hiking trails. We knew we didn't want to do the "drive-walk to edge-look down into canyon at bridge-get back in car" thing. We wanted to be able to get down under the bridges to truly experience the magnitude of them. The volunteer gave us some great info and off we went.
We drove to the farthest bridge, Owachomo, which means "rock mound," parked and got all our stuff together and set out. We knew it was going to be about a 10+ mile day, and it was warm, so lots of water and snacks came with us.
Bridges differ from arches as they are caused by the erosive action of moving water, where arches are caused by other erosional forces - frost action, seeping moisture. A nice gentle sloping 180' down over large slickrock took us to the bottom of the canyon. We were under Owachomo, the first of three bridges we would explore on the hike. Somehow - this is where I should explain that neither one of us were really paying attention when we got the map - we were hiking the canyon in a clockwise direction, when we should have gone out over the top of the mesa a few miles, then dropped down into the canyon at another bridge and walked the 7 or so miles back to the car. Climbing out at Owachomo (180').
We never saw a soul on the trail until about 4 miles in. After stopping and talking with fellow hikers, we realized what we had done, and that we got to look forward to the 500'+ climb back out of the canyon at the end. Didn't spend too much time thinking about it because the beauty that surrounded us overtook our senses. The canyon was filled with towering cottonwoods just turning vibrant yellow, tall sagebrush, junipers and cacti.
We came upon the second bridge, Kachina, named for rock art that resembles symbols commonly used on kachina dolls, and wandered around the base with our mouths open in awe. It is massive, 210' high/ 204' long and 44 FEET across the center and 93 FEET thick! When you stop and think about the water that flowed under this bridge to create it...well it is mind blowing to me.
We continued up the canyon crossing the dry stream bed over and over as our shoes filled up with the fine red sand that makes up most of the trail. I kept looking up at the canyon walls that rose above us and thought "yep, at some point we have to climb UP and OUT of here".
We arrived at the last bridge, Sipapu, which means "place of emergence," and I thought how fitting! We were going the right way after all, we were going to EMERGE out of the canyon at just the right spot. Then....I saw the way up.
I am not good with heights, but I have gotten better. It takes me awhile to climb straight up, my breathing takes time to catch up to what my legs feel they can do. But up..uP..UP we went. Using the handholds and ladders placed into the rocks, THANK YOU PARK SERVICE, we scrambled and made our way up the 500' face of the canyon. Feeling a profound sense of accomplishment when we got near the top, we sat and gazed out over the canyon, feeling thankful that we had taken the direction we had. Bob and I both agreed that going DOWN the 500' would have been extra hard on his knees, and on me - because I would have had to actually see how high up we really were and what the drop off was going to be.
When we got to the top we set off across the mesa back to our jeep. The three miles or so was very different than the canyon. This area was filled with slickrock and tall juniper. Back at the jeep we collapsed in our chairs, got out our adult beverages and settled in for the sunset. Beautiful day, beautiful hike. Once again so thankful that those that came before us had the foresight to preserve these natural beauties for us to enjoy a hundred years or so later.
Finding our Space
We left Moab after an amazing three weeks and hit the road south towards Blanding, UT and Bear’s Ears National Monument. Bob had found us a place through freecapsites.net and it sounded ideal. We were only moving about 70 miles this trip so it was definitely going to be one of our shortest moves ever, but it would put us right in the heart of the monument.
Bear’s Ears is massive, covering over 1,351,849 acres of public land. There is quite a bit of controversy surrounding the designation of this area, and I am not going to get into the pros and cons and politics here. What I will say is that after spending a month in this area, we have changed some views….in both directions. Do some research, visit and spend time here. Get to know some of the local people and listen to their thoughts. You will be rewarded in many ways.
We knew that we would need a more centralized location to be able to visit many parts of the monument over the next couple weeks. The directions to get to our spot were a little vague, and we took the wrong road into Recapture Reservoir. Luckily, we had room on the dirt road to unhook the jeep and turn the motorhome around. Drove up to the south end of the lake and I went down in the jeep to check it out while Bob stayed up top. GOOD THING! The dirt and large rock filled road was sketchy even in the jeep, and the straight drop off down the side of a cliff didn’t help. I found a place to turn around and came back up and met Bob at the top, so thankful that he hadn’t made a decision to follow me. We went on into the town of Blanding and stopped at the visitor center and had a great chat with the volunteer. He got us headed in the right direction and we found the wide paved road that led down to the lake. (directions below). Set up camp right near the water, cottonwoods gently blowing in the breeze and the signs of deer prints all around us. We were the only ones there and we watched as the sun set over the lake through the bright yellow leaves of the trees.
The next morning, we decided that we would go ahead and leave the bus there and go exploring. Quickly we realized that it was at least a 75-mile round trip sort of day each time we ventured anywhere. Blanding put us central to what we wanted to see, and the only other boondock area we came across would have put us close to one area, but 125 miles from others.
Over the next week we ventured to Natural Bridges National Monument, Newspaper Rock, Canyonlands, Elephant Hill, Mule Canyon, House on Fire and more. Pics and posts on those to follow.
Hints: The reservoir is great for any size rig.
Directions: If coming from the north on Hwy 191, GO PAST the actual lake and then take the first right after you go around a small mountain. The road is “Radio Hill”. Follow the paved road to camping area. There is a dumpster there, and also a pit style toilet.
From the south, go approx. 5 miles north of Blanding, watch for the Napa on the right, then look for the brown sign that says “Recapture Reservoir Recreation Area“. Turn left on Radio Hill road. Follow the paved road down to the camping area.
Blanding: The museum was lovely, and the volunteers extremely helpful. Once we explained what type of hiking we were looking for, and our ability levels, they got out all kinds of hand drawn maps that they had made themselves and gave us great descriptions and ideas for hikes. They also have a fast free wireless, and a small room where you can plug in and charge and work if needed.
One of our favorite, and toughest hikes, in Moab this year was to Tower Arch. I don't know if it was the extremely warm day, or the fact that I had already hiked to three other arches before this one, but it was a long one. We entered off the paved road through the park instead of taking the 4-wheel drive road from our campsite area. The hike in was soft sand in parts but mostly sandstone rock. The Marching Men formation so accurately described the towering sculptured rocks. Around a few more corners and we arrived at Tower and we made the decision to see if we could get up in the arch to get the "window" shot I had seen in others photos. So glad we did. Another great day in Moab.
The drive from Yellowstone was filled with beauty at every turn, but I sure was anxious to see the spread of the Grand Tetons in the distance. One of those "Oh my" moments when your mind catches up to all the visions it has seen from this area.
We are settled into a beautiful spot in the park, right on the Gros Ventre (grow-vont) river. The area is filled with aspens and cottonwoods just turning their beautiful golden fall colors and wildlife is abundant, if not a little too close for comfort when a massive moose wanders not 10' from the mhome each day. Now we look for this guy every day at early morning and sunset. So far we have seen him every other day or so.
We have spent our days wandering to all the areas of the park that we could get to in the jeep. The 4-wheel drive has allowed us to meander up some roads that didn't look like they had seen any traffic in quite a while.
Notes: Gros Ventre Campground - Inside Grand Teton Park $14.25 per day with Senior Access Pass (half price). No hook-ups, but there is water and a dump station at the entrance. They do have FULL Hookup available, but 58.00 a day is to spendy for our frugal ways. Handles all size rigs, tents too. We had no trouble getting in Late September-Early Oct, but I would imagine it is impossible in the summer without reservations. We choose this campground as it is in the southernmost part of the park, easily accessible to Jackson Hole. 14 day limit. Closes October 14, 2018 for the season.
We did find Forest Service land not far from the park, but this would definitely not accommodate our size rig (40'). If you are in a smaller rig, or tent, it has a beautiful direct view of the Tetons, and IT IS FREE - 14 day limit.
Thanks for spending a few minutes with me today, and remember, photo cards/prints are available of any image you may like :}
July 26 - 31
In Northern Idaho for the last week of our trip with the boys. Bob has been following a great site on the web, freecampsites.net, and found us this little piece of paradise right on Rose Lake. There is only one site by the water, and fortunately we got here early enough in the day that it was wide open for us. There are a few other sites across the lake by the boat ramp, but they do not have the shade this one does, nor are they right on the water. After the last two weeks at Jellystone Park in Missoula, the quiet here is exactly what we needed. The boys ride their bikes up and down the dock, and so far, as of the time of day I am writing this, they haven’t ridden off the edge YET! They have waded out into the water, and cannonballed off the end of the long dock. Carson has tried his best to catch a fish with his hands. I don’t have the heart to tell him it probably won’t happen.
There is a huge sea hawk (osprey) nest right next to us and we watched as the mama flew over with a large fish for the babies’ dinner. Spreading and beating his/her wings, the baby is preparing for its first flight. Perhaps we will get to see it before we leave.
Bob has taken the jeep to Spokane, about an hour west of us. The generator is not working for some reason, and he is hoping to get the part to fix it. He thinks it may have been caused by a big power bump I had while he was gone on his motorcycle trip. I had to reset all the breakers, and plug in a box that controlled the power but it may have done damage anyway. Hoping for the best. He is so good at being able to fix most anything that has gone wrong, we are lucky for sure.
It is so peaceful and quiet here at this site. It is the perfect stop for our last one before putting the boys on the plane back to Sara and Travis. It is going to be so still when they are gone. Trying to ward off the sadness that will surely fill my thoughts the first days after they fly home. Six weeks have gone by in a blink.
Free campsite, approx. 20 miles east of Coeur d’lane, 3 miles south of I-90. BEAUTIFUL SITE, nestled in the pine trees overlooking Rose Lake. Site may not be available for much longer, talked with the State worker and he told us they are having way to much problems with vandalism and drugs. Such a shame, would love for others to experience this quiet and beauty.
Quick overnight stop on our way through Montana found us at this lovely park. Hoping for a spot, we arrived early in the afternoon and were lucky to get a large open area all to ourselves. Camp host came around a filled us in on the caverns and tour that was available and also the talk to be given that night about SNAKES! We got all set up and decided to do a quick bike ride down to the river, real quick…we hadn’t made it ¼ when we had to turn back. The single track, uphill, lined with cactus path was not looking fun for anyone but Bob. The boys and I went back and got the jeep and drove the two miles down to the river to meet him. Our plans were for a quick swim but the 1000’s of mosquitoes that were there to greet us quickly changed our minds. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing and we did learn a few things at the snake talk. We had decided to do the Caverns the next morning before we packed up as it would be cooler walking up the trail to get to them.
Good decision!!! The trail up to the Cavern door was LONG AND HOT. They gave us 30 minutes to get up there and I used every one of them. The boys only mildly complained, but quickly forgot all about the climb once they got inside the cool darkness of the cavern. Bats greeted us, and our tour guide was informative and fun. The caverns were much larger than the ones we had toured in Sequoia a few years ago, and we even had to sit and slide down one very narrow area. Fun day.
Lewis and Clark State Park, 20 miles south of I-90, off Hwy 2, fee was 12.00 no hookups, but very nice park. Cavern Tour was amazing. http://stateparks.mt.gov/lewis-and-clark-caverns/
The highway across Nevada holds little interest for the boys. They are tucked into their recliner chairs playing games and watching videos. Bob and I watch as the miles go by on a cloudless and very warm day. We had stopped in Fallon to pick up some important mail and had an all to quick visit with Steve and Raina. Over the last couple weeks while we were parked in Fallon getting ready for this big trip we had spent quite a bit of time with them and it will be hard to say goodbye. They are leasing our house for the next two years and it will be easy to leave the house and our gardens in the loving and capable hands.
We stopped outside Elko for a visit to the California Trail Interpretive Center. Great place if you are traveling with kids. They had a lot of hands on displays and the boys hopefully picked up a little understanding of the hardships that the pioneers faced as they crossed the 40 Mile Desert. The outside area was set up as a Native American settlement and the docent was informative. After the two hour stop it was back on the road to find our boondock stop for the night, a deserted gravel pit outside Carlin. Not the best, but it works for the night.
We spent a few days together in Lake Tahoe, the big kids, Sara, Travis, Bob and I – and our small ones, Cash and Carson. The campground a couple miles from the lake has been a regular stop for us every summer while we have had the boys for a few weeks each summer. It filled my heart to hear the boys say “Hey, there’s our favorite ice cream place”, and “Look – there’s the bike jumps at the dirt track we rode last year”. Our hope has always been that these weeks we have with the boys each year will help to make lasting memories. I lost my grandparents as a very young child, but when I married into Bob’s family at the age of 18 I gained 2 grandmothers. One lived to be 99 and 11 months, and was a strong influence on not only myself, but on our daughter as well.
I always enjoyed the wild stories that Bob would tell me about his Pa. An early developer of Key Largo, he would take Bob along on rides through the Keys, checking on construction and generally teaching him all the useful things that every young boy needs to learn. The inappropriate lessons somehow always seemed to be taught also. Peeing outside, put pepper on your ice cream so you don’t get a brain freeze, and that ginger ale went really well with bourbon.
Fast forward fifty years or so, and it’s now Bob’s turn to teach the boys some things. How to make a super loud whistle with a blade of grass, that certain rocks skip much better than others and if you hold your arm just right you can get 10 skips in a row on a cool clear river. That ice cream doesn’t need pepper, but it does need to be the biggest scoop you can possible fit in the cone. What to carry on a 5-mile hike, and how not to get lost. He is a great teacher.
We are on the path to South Dakota this trip. This year we have the boys for 6 weeks!!!! With the new travel mode in the motorhome there is plenty of room and should make it real comfy for the miles ahead of us. We said goodbyes to their parental units and down the road we went. It’s going to be a wild ride.
We have been camped off of Hole In The Rock Road for a couple weeks now. Beautiful calm site, if you don't count the droves that venture down the road to all the slot canyons and adventures that lie along the road. This shot was taken behind the Dance Hall Historic Rock. Amazing stormy day that did not allow us to continue THE LAST 6 MILES to get to Hole in The Rock. Slippin and Slidin down the side of a cliff was not my idea of adventure, and thankfully Bob agreed, so we had to turn around SO CLOSE..... to the end of the road. We probably won't try it again this year. Still so much to see, and we are running out of time before we head back to Nevada for a month. Was a beautiful day...again.
Nothing can really prepare you for your first experience in a slot canyon. A few years ago, Bob and I ventured into Southern Utah on a “5 Great National Parks of Utah” tour. We only had a month at that time, but we managed to do Arches, Canyonland, Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion. BUT…. we also made it to Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument that is positioned in between Capitol Reef and Bryce. It encompasses an enormous area of land, over 1,880,461 acres in southern Utah. Thinking we would actually see a “staircase”, was surprised to find out it is named this because of the series of plateaus that descend from Bryce canyon south toward the Grand Canyon, marked by vertical drops at the Pink Cliffs, Grey Cliffs, White Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs and Chocolate Cliffs.
This year we had a lot more time to spend in this beautiful area. We had planned for a month, just in Grand Staircase, and we started in the Vermillion Cliffs, west of Page, AZ, and then wandered up through Kanab to park for three weeks off of Hole in The Rock Road just east of the town of Escalante, UT.
Our first slot canyon for this year was actually over in Lower Antelope Valley, but it was not the experience we were searching for. While absolutely beautiful in every way, Antelope is a very popular area and is only visited with a designated tour guide. Your time inside the actual canyon is extremely limited, and the cost is high. (40.00 per person – approx. 40 minute tour). Located on Navajo land, the tours in the Lower area are run by a brother and sister team. The colors in the canyon were so amazing, but I felt like my eye never left the viewfinder trying to capture it with the camera. I didn’t get the solitude feeling that a slot canyon can bring on and nurture in your soul.
But……the canyons of Escalante are open to all to with a simple day use permit. You can spend a day, you can spend the night. You just have to obtain a permit at one of the BLM offices in the area, or fill it out at the trailhead. We were boondocking right outside the Paria office, but we filled out our permit the day we hiked at the trailhead.
Buckskin Gulch, known as the longest slot canyon in the west – via Wire Pass Trailhead was our destination this day. It was an incredible hike, on a beautiful – but slightly overcast day - and had everything we were looking for. Narrow slots, wide open ones also, slick rock to climb, moss draped rocks, amazing colors, 400’ soaring canyon walls, blooming cacti everywhere and a few challenging climbs. After going almost 2 miles in Wire Pass it will open up and you’ll arrive at the confluence of Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch, but before you exit Wire Pass, look closely on the canyon wall on the right-hand side. You’ll see a panel of petroglyphs of bighorn sheep. We went about 4 miles in before we turned around, making it a nice 8+ mile day. If we had proceeded to the confluence with the river, and then on to White House Trailhead it would have been another 16, and we would have had to have a vehicle at each trailhead.
Permits are needed. $6.00 per person/ You can pick it up ahead of time at Paria, or just fill one out at the trailhead.
This is also where “The Wave” is located. I highly sought-after slot canyon that is only open to 20 people per day. Permits for that can be obtained online, 6 months in advance is a good try, and also through the lottery in Kanab. We tried, but didn’t get one.
The slot canyons can be VERY DANGEROUS if there is any chance of precipitation upstream. Know the weather, and heed the warnings. You will see many places in the canyon where debris has been lodged 20’ up when the water was rushing through.
When you first enter the slot canyon there is a massive rock slide that is about 8’ tall. We didn’t feel comfortable about getting back out, gravity would have gotten us down, so Bob went up and over the slick rock and found us a “social” trail to follow. A bit more climbing, but it drops you down about ¼ mile into the canyon. Make sure and walk back up and see that part also.
You may need water shoes depended on what time of year you are hiking.
Small rattlesnakes are prevalent, we were told, but thankfully…we never saw any.
I thought I was prepared for the view out the windshield as we got closer to Monument Valley, but I wasn't. Growing up in the 60's, our house always had the TV on, and if there was a John Wayne movie playing, guareenteed the channel was turned to it. My Dad could recite every bit of dialogue as we watched, and my Mom would keep us entertained with stories of the stars and what other movies they had been in. Back then you didn't get to just "pick" what you wanted to watch. You anxiously combed the TV Guide booklet that came in the mail each week in search of a favorite movie, and then you made your weekly plans around it.
Back to John Wayne. The campground we stayed in was the original Trading Post for The Goulding's, Harry and his wife Mike. The brick building is now a museum, with a memorial to them out front. They traded on the ground floor, and their apartment, with everything still on display, was on the second floor. The entire 2 miles all around is now filled with a Lodge, Restaurant, gas station, store, campground etc. It is a BIG production now. But back in the late 1920's there was nothing here in the way of trading. I sat and watched as "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" played on the screen inside the museum and I was transported back to those special nights as a child. Dad singing along and my Mom smiling. The history of the film side of Monument Valley evolved during the Depression Years. It was a very tough time apparently for the Navajos and the Gouldings. They got a friend to take photographs, (wish I had written the man's name down) and some are on display in the museum. He drove to Hollywood and showed them to movie director, John Ford, who fell in love with the area. Within a couple of WEEKS, they were there filming "Stagecoach". Starring a young John Wayne. Both John Ford and John Wayne returned again and again to this area for other films.
We did the 17 mile loop through the actual park that is owned and run by the Navajo Nation. It is so beautiful and the people we stopped and talked to along the way were filled with the spirit of the valley. We did a couple off the beaten path, but approved hikes, as permission must be granted by the Navajos to enter certain areas.
A trip to last in the memory bank for years and years to come.
Hints: Goulding's Campground/ Full hook-ups, spendy BUT worth it. We usually always try and boondock (dry camp) so was a little hard to pay - but with the trails right out of the campground and the view, it was well worth it.
Valley of the Gods / 40 miles north
Mexican Hat / small town 30 miles north
Monument Valley Park / Navajo Nation / 20.00 for 3 day pass
Take all your food/water/booze etc in with you to this area. The few stores there are high, understandable when you see how far things have to travel.
Day 63 ~ After arriving at Goulding's Campground about noon, we got settled in and realized we had a whole afternoon free. We decided to drive over to the Monument Valley entrance to see what the cost would be to get in, and also if we needed a tour to be able to do the photography I hoped for. At the gate, we found out that the pass was good for 3 days, so decided to go ahead and get it, check out the Information Center and then spend the entire day there the next day. That left most of the afternoon for exploring so we decided to travel up to Valley of the Gods. About 20 miles north, you travel through the town of Mexican Hat, aptly named as you can see by the first picture. Another few miles and you find the turn-off for the drive through the valley. A 17 mile loop past magnificent awe inspiring formations, we stopped and Bob got on his bike to take off on his own, while I did part of the drive slowly to take photos. Picked him up 10 miles or so later and we continued through the rest of the drive. The new bike is perfect for him. Comfortable and uphill rides seem no problem. Great day, like most all others have been this last 2 months. We are fortunate indeed.
Monument Valley is part of the Navajo Nation /pass is good for 3 days / 20.00 per car - up to 4 people.
Goulding's Campground - 60.00 per night SPENDY - but very nice with all hookups and lots of trails and history of the area to explore.
Valley of The Gods - There is PLENTY of boondocking pull-outs along the 17 mile drive. We would stay here if coming through this way again. Some at the very beginning would fit our size rig, but we wouldn't have taken it on the whole drive as it was very wash-boardy.