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.
What a beautiful place to boondock. We needed to spend a couple days in Flagstaff so Bob could get his new bike, but we didn't know that we would find such a quiet peaceful place to park. If you are in the area, well worth the stop. A day for the monuments, a day relaxing overlooking the San Francisco peaks and a day in Flagstaff then it was back on the road headed for points north.
Hints: From Flagstaff, Hwy 89 north for 12 miles
Turning into entrance for Sunset Crater, take the FIRST LEFT onto FS road. Gravel but well maintained. Go in about a mile, great spot on the right overlooking San Fransicso Peaks. There are gravel trucks that run M-F, so take care when exiting.
We moved from Cottonwood area over to Prescott Forest this last week. We wanted to give the boys a chance to see a different part of Arizona, and get in a few hikes in this area. With help from the US Forest Service office in Prescott a couple of weeks ago, we had already scouted out a great campground about 7 miles south of the historic area of Downtown Prescott. Far enough from town that you are in the dense forest, but close enough to be near stores, library and good eats.
We had decided to head over here on a Tuesday, ahead of the upcoming Easter weekend as all the sites are first-come, first-camp. Lucky for us, because we managed to score a beautiful pull-thru site on a hill that overlooked the forest with a creek at the bottom. We quickly set up boundaries for the boys - not past the creek, and not out of whistle range. Off they went exploring while Bob and I got the rv set up. That first day we just hung in camp and I took a little hike by myself up..up..UP towards Goldwater Lake. Never made it all the way, but found a beautiful little swimming hole to stop and take a rest before the return downhill. When I got back Bob and Carson took off into the forest in search of firewood and then a quick trip uptown to get the making for s'mores that eve. Fireside giggles, and lots of choc marsh later, everyone turned in.
Next day we got up early, had breakfast and packed our camelbacks for a hike. One of my very favorite places to hike, so far, is a place called The Dells. A few lakes in northern area of Prescott that are surrounded by what Bob and I call "Flintstone Rocks" because they remind us of cartoons from our youth. I have wanted to take the grands' here since we hiked it for the first time three years ago. This year we were able to make it happen.
The trailhead is at the no wake- boat ramp, and leads you along the water's edge until you start to climb up the huge grippy granite boulders. About 2 miles in came the steepest part, the boys not having any trouble, jumping from one to the other. After a quick downhill we found ourselves at the bottom of the dam with a nice shady spot along the creek for a picnic. Bob and Cash climbed another mile or so up the "Over The Hill" part of the trail, while I relaxed at the creek and watched as Carson jumped from one water spot to another.
The hike out was hot, but after a cool drink, and the accidental dunk in the water for Carson at the end, it made for a great day. I watched as the boys threw the last of their bagel snacks to the ducks and geese and reminisced about the times I taken their Mom to do just the same. Having her toes bitten by a massive goose at the age of 4, she never let me forget it and I told the memory to the boys. I can't believe in just a few days we will put them on an airplance to head home. The time has gone by too quickly, but the memories will last a lifetime.
White Spar Campground - 14.00 per night, no hook-ups/dump but there is drinking water to fill containers and like many Forest Service campgrounds it is 1/2 off fee with an Interagency Pass. There are tons of really nice trails that lead right out of the campground.
The Dells - Take plenty of water! There is not much shade on the trails.
This is a "no-wake" lake. Kayak and canoe rental available in Mid-April. Wish we had ours with us.
Spent the day with the boys visiting some historical areas in the area. We started the day at Montezuma's Castle National Monument. There is a short paved walk up to the actual preserved dwellings built by the Southern Sinagua culture between 1100 and 1425 CE. On the way we passed by volunteers that gave the kids info on the Junior Ranger program and a booklet to fill out to get their badge upon completion. It's hard for me to imagine what life was like 800 years ago, so I am sure it was for the boys also, but they took it all in and seemed to appreciate it.
Next stop was lunch picnic and quick dip in Beaver Creek. VERY COLD, Cash was the only one brave enough to get in the water. Beautiful spot to spend the early afternoon.
Final tour was at V Bar V Heritage Site, the largest known petroglyph site in the Verde Valley of central Arizona, and one of the best-preserved. The rock art site consists of 1,032 petroglyphs in 13 panels. We were fortunate that when we arrived up to the panels we had an informative guide pretty much to ourselves. It was fun to watch the boys try and find the different pictures that he was describing. I found it fascinating to see how the seasons were integrated into the panels. With a portfolio of pictures that the guide had taken over the course of a year, he showed us how the sun would shine on the petroglyphs at the solstices and equinoxes of the year.
The boys favorite time of the day, and possibly the whole trip. Pa taught them how to make a whistle with a blade a grass. It was another great day.
Our friend Will, who we met here in Cottonwood last year, has lived in this area for 15 years or so. Over those years, he has probable logged a thousand miles or more of hiking in the area. He is a very spiritual person that has regaled us with stories of the ancient people that lived here and their native customs. Last year he took us to two caves, Shamans and Hidden Cave. We knew that if we ever had the boys here with us that we would love for them to experience the hike to one and also if possible to have Will as their guide. Lucky for us, when we arrived this year Will was still in the area and over the weeks before the boys arrived we had been able to spend many nights around the campfire rekindling our friendships.
This day we set off with the four of us in the jeep, and our friend Brenda driving with Will out to Hidden Cave. Located off a fire service road about 15 miles north of Cottonwood, I can’t really tell you how to get there other than 4 wheel drive helps. A relativley short but steep hike leads you around the base of a mountain and up the path to the cave. An even steeper, cactus lined, path takes you straight up to the entrance of the cave. Will stood at the entrance and asked for permission from the spirits that we may enter in peace. The boys are young, and while I don’t think they understood what exactly it was he was doing with his hand on his heart and eyes closed, I do feel they knew it was important.
We entered the cave quietly and the boys walked around in the darkness looking at the ceiling as Pa explained the ceiling was black because of the fires the ancient people had used to live in it. A large cave, at least 30' deep, part of the roof had caved in and gave us our seats as we had our snack and listened as Will told us the Legend of the Boy who turns into a Eagle. A Hopi Indian boy is banished from his village after he defies tribal law and frees a sacred, sacrificial eagle. After surviving in the wilderness he returns to his village where he is again rejected. Fleeing, the boy climbs a cliff and jumps off but before he reaches the ground turns into an eagle. Our boys listened silently and gazed out of the mouth of the cave to the mesa on the other side of the wash.
As we left the cave Pa asked if they wanted to hike over to the mesa, so we left Will and Brenda to relax in the cave and headed across the brush. The first "brush with cactus" of the whole trip was had by Carson, but he was a trooper as Pa took out the thorn.
A great day hike, ending with a rock skip contest when we found an animal watering hole.
This first-time Bob and I hiked up to Broken Arrow trail we had started at the trailhead (TH) to Little Horse, then connected to the Arrow right after crossing over Chicken Point. It was a beautiful hike, light breeze and big puffy white clouds filled the sky. When we were about a mile into Broken Arrow we started hearing, and then seeing, all the Pink Jeeps coming up over the hills. Seems this route is a favorite for the tourist rides. I watched in amazement as they careened close to the sides and then over the large boulders, but Bob says “that’s really nothing”. Not sure how he is going to get me up some of the trails he has planned in our jeep.
The hike back to the TH was a nice easy downhill most of the way, and the entire loop was about 6 miles. We knew we wanted to bring the boys back here as one of the many trails we had planned, so Bob started doing some research to see if there was a shorter route.
A week later: Bob had found another route up to Broken Arrow that cut off about 2 miles of the hike. We parked at the Chapel TH, this time with the boys along for the hike. This would be our first longer hike with them this year. The Chapel truly is a church built into the side of the Red Rock and is a tourist mecca all on its own. We strapped on our Camelbacks and set out across the red rocked rim towards the rock formation known as Two Nuns. The boys are great hikers, and after a few minutes I was left in the dust, literally, red dust, as they and Bob took off up the steep hill towards Chicken Point.
Hiking with young ones is totally different then with just an adult companion. We all hike, or wander, in our own way. Bob likes to have his music up loud and set out for a destination. I prefer to wander at my own pace, lost in my thoughts and being brought back to reality by a bird overhead singing or a photo that needs to be taken. The boys however are boys! Lizards need to be chased, cacti need to be avoided, every large rock is just a kick-off point to get to the next one, and everything is new and exciting.
We made it up to Chicken Point, so named apparently by the Pink Jeep drivers because some would not venture to the edge. The rock formation overlooks the valley below with Big Bell and Baby Bell off to the south, and Two Nuns staring down upon you. The wind had really picked up by this point, and Carson kept a tight grip on Pa’s hand as they, and Cash made it out to the edge for a photo op. From there it was on to Broken Arrow trail and another couple miles of exploration.
The trail at this point runs along the east side of Two Nuns, so it was wind protected and shady. We tucked in by some trees and settled in for our snack with the perfect view of Pink Jeeps. It was also the week before the big Jeep rally in Moab so there were lots of others to watch as they climbed up and over the huge boulders.
The hike out always seems so much shorter, and the wind was picking up as we made it back to the Jeep. A stop at BRobbins on the way home concluded a great day and the first of many hikes to come.
Looking towards Cathedral Rock from Crescant Moon Ranch
Some days you just need to take off alone, in search of eye candy. Such was this day as I drove off from Cottonwood in search of visions to record. My first stop was at a local garden center. Always on the lookout for inspiration for another website I tend, I wanted to get some early spring shots. Found a gorgeous little place about 3 miles east of town called Verde River Growers. Reminded me a lot of the vibe we had going at The Flower Tree. Filled with perennials and native plants it was exactly what I was searching for. I asked at the front outdoor counter if they minded if I took some photos, I have found it is always best this way so they don't think you are competition scouting them out. Got into a nice lengthy discussion with one of their growers and found out that on the 15 acres they supply most everyone in the valley with product. Great stop to start the day.
Left there and headed east for Sedona. The skies were filled with an ominous look of rain, however there was none in the forecast. I took the turnoff to Red Rock State Park and proceeded around the big bend. Thankful that I am a slow driver when there are so many beautiful things to see, a large group of deer bounded out from the side of the road and crossed right in front of me. Camera in the front seat with me, a quick shot was in order. From there it was on through the loop and was once again rewarded with wildlife, this time in the form of a family of javelinas. Much larger than I imagined they would be, I kept my distance, but still got close enough to pull off the road and hop out for a quick shot.
The skies were starting to change, quickly, at this point. I still wanted to experience Crescent Moon Ranch so I took the chance, paid my fee, and set off with my raincoat in my backpack. An old homestead, it is now a US Forest Service maintained day park. The trail map posted at the entrance gives you a good idea of all the trails winding through the area, but I knew there was one spot that would give me the water reflection that I was hoping for, and it wasn't on the map. Took off in search, and found it tucked into a little offshoot away from the main trails.
I took most of the other trails, and wound up down by Oak Creek. Beautiful spot to sit and have a snack and watch as the few others that ventured out in the storm were building cairns around the vortex area. Took another trail and was rewarded with a beautiful hummingbird that seemed so tired from the approaching winds of the storm that I was able to get close for a shot. On the return to the mail trail I watched as a beautiful hawk circled and circled and then flew off only to be rewarded by him posing not 20' from where I took another rest.
As I returned to the jeep the rain was coming down in buckets but i didn't mind. It was the perfect day....to be alone.
We are headed for Cottonwood, AZ to spend the next month or so. Located about 15 miles east of Sedona, it has all the hiking and jeeping opportunities we are looking for. Combine that with perfect warm weather and breathtaking scenery and you will see why we return here every year.
The best part about this new path is we really have no time constraints whatsoever. We are comfortable with the "boon-docking" philosophy of travel. With plenty of water and power we can stay quite comfortably for 14-20 days without having to move. Hopefully BLM or Forest Service land is in our path, but some nights will find us in large vacant lots, and even the occasional Wall-Mart parking lot, especially back east where public land is few and far between.
Last nights stop in a large area outside Beatty NV was quiet and comfortable. We made it through Las Vegas during the early morning hours and then over the Hoover Dam bridge and down HWY 95 till we met up with Interstate 40 in Kingman. Quick stop for some fuel, and then it was east for about 20 miles till we met up with HWY 93S, which runs between Wickieup and Wickenburg AZ. We thought we might make it all the way to Cottonwood that day, but when we came across Burro Creek, a BLM Recreation site/Campground we decided it looked so peaceful that we would pull in and check it out. With the Sonoran desert in the background filled with tall saguaro cacti, and the beautiful blue waters of Burro Creek in front of us, it had all the makings for a beautiful relaxing stay. One night turned into 4, as we explored the backcountry, hiked the desert and settled into the groove of being back on the road.
*Golden Age pass honored, brings price from 14.00 to 7.00 per night/ water and dump station
*Fits big rigs and tents
*There are NO STORES worth mentioning for anything other than ice in Wickieup, so make sure you have all supplies with you. Wickenburg is another 60 miles south.
Traveling south through Nevada and then into Arizona I am once again in awe by the change in landscape. From the wide-open desert of southern Nevada to the saguaro filled open expanse of Northern Arizona we travel along in good weather and even better spirits. The last few months have been a daily push to get everything in order to leave for this journey. While my time was spent more on deciding what stayed and what went, as we packed up our home of the last twenty years, Bob’s time covered not only the task of physically doing the pack out, but also the intense amount of work to get our new “home” ready.
The last three years we traveled in a very comfortable set-up of a 2012 Heartland Greystone/32ft 5th wheel, and a Mega Cab Dodge that pulled it easily up and over any mountain range in our path. Most of our trips where three months at a time, the longest was almost four, and the farthest we went was from our home in Nevada to Georgia and back last fall. It always felt comfy and we never had any real major issues or problems. I liked the fact that when we unhooked we still had a vehicle to go and see the area. When the decision was made to lease out our house and become “full-timers”, it was time to listen to Bob’s concerns and get a different set-up. Water storage, tank size, comfort level and ease of set-up was all on his mind and as the passenger along for this wonderful ride, the decision was majorly his. We started looking for a motorhome and stopped at every RV dealer we saw when we did the cross-country trip. After looking at what felt like 100’s, we found the exact one we wanted, and even better, it was in our price range. Then the task of finding the right vehicle to tow behind it was begun, and that too all came together. Today we are driving a 2006 40’ Monaco, with a 2005 Jeep Wrangler. With only 30,000 miles on the home, and 50,000 on the jeep, they were a good choice for us.
Now it’s time to start the journey.
We are almost ready to hit the road. The easy part, making the decision to travel for a couple years. The hard part, all the logistics that have to happen in order to actually get moving down the highway. Over the past three months we have worked on getting our house packed up and purging as much as we could of our 42 years of married possessions. It hasn't been an easy task, but we have started each day with the goal of getting just a little closer to starting the journey. We are ready....almost.
Walking along the beach the other morning this feather caught my eye. I think because it was the only one that I saw that wasn't soaking wet. It fluttered in the slight winds and landed close to my feet. I thought about how many times things fly right by us, and we don't notice the simple beauty of their existence. I want to notice....
a beautiful day spent watching the storm roll in
After many attempts I finally got to see Nevada's State Bird, the Mountain Bluebird. Hanging out on the branches of an old Russian Olive Tree, a group of 4 or 5 kept us entertained.
|view out our window in Bishop|
After an almost mystical and amazing adventure on the coast at Pt. Mugu, we left for home so we could get there before the incoming snow storm that was forecast for Fallon. We got as far as 3 miles south of Bishop. BAMMMMMMMM!!!!! The breakdown began. The Dodge Ram 2500 that we "Oh so CAREFULLY" decided on when we knew that we wanted to travel across the county, hopefully many times, decided to take a turn of it's own. Down the path of breakdown. After finally finding someone who would come out and tow us on Thanksgiving eve at 7pm, we landed in the Kmart parking lot. Not as bad as you might think. We spent five days there, one of which was Thanksgiving. We watched as that day turned to Black Friday and the multitude of shoppers filled the parking lot. We made friends, we actually even ran into someone I used to work with 20 years ago who had also broke down on the north side of town.
5 days later, we finally made it home on Sunday, thanks to some very helpful friends, Charmaine....who came and picked us up at Topaz Lodge, (did you know that tow trucks can't pass the border??? and another truck from Reno had to come and meet him) and Dan O. who loaned us his pickup to go the three hours south to pick the trailer back up.
So what did we learn;
1. You can plan all you want, but stuff happens.
2. It's ok to sign up for AAA and Good Sam and anything else you can think of. Why? See # 1
3. Always be prepared. Thankfully we had full propane and water tanks, plenty of food...and oh did I mention a Starbucks and Kmart within walking distance.
4. If you have to do it, make sure and break down in a really great little town. Bishop was filled with thrift stores, coffee shops, antique places and great bike riding. We lucked out on that one.
But the most important thing I took away from this part of our adventure, I really can spend 14 days (or more) in a small enclosed place with the man I have been happy to have around for the last 40 years. Yep, I guess I can see now why Mom and Dad had it figured out.