Day 268 - Still loving it

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."  

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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

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.

Fossil Creek for Thanksgiving

Thankful for the beauty of nature
Thankful for our family
Thankful for our health
Thankful for the life we lead

Thankful for this very special Thanksgving Day

Sedona Trails

One of the best things about Sedona, besides the beauty around every turn, is the fact that there are so many trails we can take off in two different directions and both get what we are looking for. Bob on his wheels, and me on my feet - a great day for both. 

A Day in Ruins - Exploring Anasazi Country

Spent the day traveling along Hwy 95 in search of ruins from the Anasazi period. Found three sites that gave us a wonderful representation of this period of history. 

Butler Wash Ruins 

Canyon Cave Tower

House on Fire

Marching Men to Tower Arch

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.

Grand Teton NP

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 :}

Across Nevada

June 24-25

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. 

The Road to South Dakota

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.  

Buckskin Gulch

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. 
Hints:     
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. 

 

Valley of The Gods

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. 

Hints:
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.