Search Results for: moab

Hello Moab

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After a 3-week visit back to Nashville and Bentonville Arkansas…or as I call it, the land of humidity, we flew back to our RV in Mesa.

We had lunch with our RV buddies John & Becky and Don & Debbie at Liberty Market in Gilbert. There was so much to talk and laugh about and so little time before we all headed off into different directions. We are going to miss these guys but are confident we will see them out on the road!

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One last ice cream with friends

We pulled out of Mesa for the last time Thursday, March 10 and started our northern trek to Moab. We would have taken our time for the 488-mile journey but Jeff and I signed up for the Canyonlands Half Marathon & 5Mile run on the 12th.

Our plan was to stop half way, but I find that after we have been in one place for a while, we don’t mind putting in some miles on our first day back on the road. We drove 428 miles (9.5 hours) and got within an hours drive of Moab, stopping in a truckers lot in small town Utah for a free overnight.

Neither Jeff nor I have ever been to Moab and when we pulled into town I felt…disappointed. I guess I had pictured a quaint little mountain town like Breckenridge or Tahoe. But my first impression was…junky.

I hate to say that out loud especially now that we have stayed for two weeks. After experiencing all that the great outdoors Moab has to offer, I’m a fan…sort of.

We were in Moab during the Easter Jeep Safari, when 5,000 jeeps roll into town for this annual event.   Jeff and I worked the Dometic booth at the expo showcasing their mobile cooling products. The patrons were fun and everyone remain completely clothed!

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Jeeps rounding up for an adventure

We camped at the Sand Flats Recreation Area, home of the famous Slick Rock off road trail system. This is a mecca for off-roading anything. Jeeps, ATV’s, dirt bikes and mountain bikes and they flow constantly through this campground…all hours of the day and night.

It wasn’t our customary dispersed camping. That, leave your shades up, silent paradise that we strive for. But more of the dusty, loud, drive as fast as you can in a 25 mph speed zone, don’t care how loud my radio is at 1AM and the rules don’t apply to me type of camping.

But despite the noise, here are the highlights for Moab.

Moab Half Marathon (Jeff) & 5 Mile run (Deb) and Monument Valley Half Marathon

This race takes place on the very scenic HWY 128 that runs along the Colorado River. The city shuts down Hwy 128 where 2300 entrants were shuttled by bus from downtown Moab to the start of the race. We had the entire highway to consume while running through the canyons.

I’m not sure but it felt like the race was all downhill…my kind of race for sure! Either that or I was just taken in by the surroundings. Colorado River flowing on my right, shear red cliffs everywhere I looked, Native American drummers out on the course and lots of local support.

Also, Jeff decided to enter the Monument Valley Ultra Half Marathon the following weekend…It was spectacular!!!

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Monument Valley

Hiking Slick Rock Loop

Slick Rock was just out our RV door, so we laced up our shoes and got after it. This is a 9.5 Mile loop over petrified sand dunes that make Slick Rock what it is.

Contrary to the name, Slick Rock is not actually slick, but very sticky. That’s what makes it the mountain bike & 4×4 mecca that it is. The texture of the rock makes these trails very tacky which is great for rubber to hold on too. It’s a good thing because this trail has some vertical climbs that defy gravity.

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Slick Rock Trail overlooking the Colorado River

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Share the road

The mounds of petrified dunes are endless and all look the same. So I was thankful for the very well marked trails by white stripes painted along the surfaces.

We had to share the trail with mountain bikes and dirt bikes, which isn’t really my preferred nature experience.

We found that the best time to hike/run Slick Rock was before 8AM. By the time we finished up the parking lot and trails became full with people there to enjoy their adventure too.

The Arches National Park

Jeff and I also headed to The Arches National Park. We toured the visitor’s center and watched a very good movie on how arches are formed, then headed to the Delicate Arch trailhead.

The Arches National Park

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch is probably the most photographed arch in the park and requires a strenuous 1.5 mile one way hike to get to. We arrived about noon and the parking lot and trail was crowded. The majority of the trail was wide-open space so there was plenty of area for the crowd to spread out. That is until you get to the last ¼ mile where it is a somewhat narrow trail on the side of a bluff.

Once we rounded the final corner we caught view of this amazing arch that has a natural amphitheater built into its surroundings. You can sit and ponder life or visit with others from all over the world. It really was a beautiful sight to see!

While Jeff went off jeeping one day I drove back to The Arches and hiked Devils Garden loop. It’s a 7.5 mile hike that gives you an opportunity to take in 7-8 arches.

Let me tell you…this trail did not disappoint!

It is probably my #2 most beautiful trails that I have ever hiked (#1 Grand Canyon).

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Balanced Rock

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Hiking along the fins

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Partition Arch framing beautiful scenery

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Landscape Arch

The rocks in this area form as fins that the trail traverses up, over and in between. Each turn around a corner showcased another view better than the last. At one point I just had to stop taking pictures and keep moving.

And the arches…most framed views just like a pretty portrait. WOW!

We made one last trip to The Arches on Easter Sunday morning for a sunrise service then to the Eklectic Cafe for a birthday breakfast (yea me).

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Easter Sunrise Service…glad we didn’t sleep in!

Jeeping Steel Bender

We met a very sweet couple, Jeff and Jennifer, in our camping section, who have been coming to the Jeep Safari for 20 years. Jeff asked my Jeff if he would like to ride along on a group 4×4 ride. How can you say no to something like that!

Jeeping is nothing either of us have experienced. The trails are steep and rugged and with a a name like, “Steel Bender”… they are not for the faint of heart. You creep along with 10-12 other jeeps, each driver challenging themselves to take the hardest route. Things fall off and jeeps break down all from the strain of being tested.

After 8 hours Jeff learned a lot about the jeeping community. If he ever trades in his bicycle a jeep may be a consideration.

Moab Overall

I think my ultimate struggle with Moab was just the shear natural beauty of the area that makes up the Canyonlands while having a feeling of destruction and wear.

It was both beautiful and sad at the same time.

The nice thing about RV’ing is we can move on from here and have a totally different type of experience just waiting around the corner!

Until next time Moab (maybe)….

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I wonder what is over there…hummm!

 

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The Gifts of 2017

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What can I say about 2017?

NOTE: I started this blog back in January…dang it! So here we are in April with a whole lot of travel under our belt for 2018 and I’m getting ready to post something about 2017. That is SO last year!

At the risk of feeling like I am writing about a time “back in the day”, I’m going to post it anyway!

What is it about January 1 that resets everything in our brains to start over?

Start a diet to lose weight. Start working out at the gym. Start emptying the inbox by the end of every day. Organize the kitchen cabinets…I got this!

I’ll be the first to admit that I do this myself… Every. Single. Year.

I started using my Lose It app again to take off these stubborn 10lbs. Why I couldn’t make myself do it October 17th is beyond me. But come January 1? I am so excited to track my intake, count every almond, cut out cream in my coffee and kick my evening piece of chocolate to the curb! Easy peasy.

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But over time the enthusiasm fades, the rules become more like suggestions and I am once again carrying an extra 10lbs around my midsection.

I think from now on I’m going to declare “JANUARY 1” once a quarter, since that seems to be the longevity to my New Years commitments. WHO’S WITH ME???

Despite my lack of stamina for some things in 2017, Jeff and I had a wonderful year of RV’ing. Not everything went as planned, but we are thankful for a lifestyle that allows us to be nimble enough to take on whatever life throws us.

So here are some of our favorites and some of our surprises from 2017

Favorite Boondocking Location

We started the year thinking we were going to go to Rocky Point Mexico. But after pricing insurance for the rig we went to Yuma, Arizona instead. Specifically, American Girl Mine BLM just across the border of California from Yuma.

It’s probably the most barren landscape we have ever spent time at. But the amount of trail running was endless, the Internet speeds were crazy fast, city conveniences close by and a Mexico experience within a half marathon.

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A few “things” you will see in Mexico!

Days are warm. Nights are cold. Unbelievable sunsets. Other RV’s as close or as distant as you please. All free for the taking.

Favorite Work Location

Working in the RV industry we worked plenty of RV shows in 2017.

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Good Sam Rally-Phoenix

The Escapees Rally-Tucson

National Hardware Show-Las Vegas

Overland West Expo-Flagstaff

Easter Jeep Safari-Moab

Overland East Expo-Ashville, NC

By far our favorite show is the Overland West Expo. To start, we love Flagstaff! Camping amongst the pines. The wind creating a very distinct sound through the trees. The smell of pine needles baking in the sun.

Then there are the customers we get to interact with. They are inventive, savvy, astute and creative. They are not only well travelled, but minimalists who travel in modified Land Rovers, Toyotas, Motorcycles and Earth Roamers. They are not confined to USA borders but prefer to explore the backwoods of the world.

Favorite Sporting Event

This category is a bit tough to isolate. Trail Runs, Hiking The Grand Canyon, Ultra Runs, The Bentonville Arkansas Half Marathon, and Vacation Race series.

I’m certain that Jeff would consider his very first 100-mile Trail Run at Bryce Canyon the highlight of 2017. Pushing his body not just during the race, but for a year of training was a challenge. All to see if he could actually do it! What an accomplishment.

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Mile 51

For me was the Bentonville Half Marathon. I ran the race with my sister-in-loves in my hometown surrounded by friends. It was a race and a family reunion that was so special. I ran the Grand Canyon Half too, but Bentonville and family made this one a standout.

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Lastly, the bike ride across Iowa during RAGBRAI was special as well. Riding along with our RV’ing buddies with endless laughter and great food made for a memorable time.

Favorite Hikes

We did a lot of hikes in 2017 but the two that stand out the most are two hikes that are hard to get permits for.

The Wave. What a special experience this was! Having our number drawn for a permit, the challenge of finding it, having our dog Sam and friend Whitney along and the isolation from it all made for a memorable experience. The color and texture was unlike anything I have ever seen and I feel so fortunate to have hiked there.

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Havasupai Falls Part 1 and Part 2. The hike to the falls was not that incredible, but the falls themselves and day hikes from the campground were stunning. Blue green water that appears fake at times, were unbelievable. This was our first ever backpacking trip without the RV and it gave me confidence that, with the right equipment, I can manage some overnight hiking trips in the future.

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Biggest Surprise

Spending 6 months in the mid-west. This was NOT part of the plan for 2017. My Grandmom passed away 7 days before her 100th birthday. So we stayed in St Louis for the memorial. Then I was so thankful that my Mom decided to move closer to my brother. So we sold her house, packed everything up and moved her to a new home.

Then I needed to have two unplanned surgeries. Nothing life threatening. Just necessary. Tests, doctor appointments, surgeries and recovery. All took a better part of June through December.

Second Biggest Surprise

We adopted a new dog. Sammy-do-da is getting up in age (13 years) and we were considering getting a younger dog for Sam to mentor. Sam is an amazing dog and we would love for his good manners to rub off of another dog. We are partial to Wired Fox Terriers and had been keeping an eye out on WFT Rescue Facebook sites.

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Bullet (L) and Sam (R)

Dogs have come up but Foxies have a certain temperament that doesn’t always mesh with kids or other dogs. We can’t have that with our RV lifestyle so we have taken our time to wait for just the right fit for our family.

One popped up in Tulsa just 2 hours from home. Bullet’s description sounded very similar to Sam’s and we reached out to his Foster. We set up a meeting and Sam and Bullet hit it off. That day we came home with a new dog.

Bullet (B for short) it super sweet just like our Sam with about 10 times more energy and hearing that can detect a wrapper from rooms away. We are having to adjust to having a dog that does not come when we call him or mind his manners. Training has become a new priority which leaves us exasperated at times. But he has a good heart and we will continue to do our part to bring out the best in our sweet B.

Well, thats it for 2017. I will hopefully get caught up on our travels in 2018 very soon. Since January 1 has come and gone and I am 17 days into my second January 1, I am committed to getting my blog back on track.

Now where did I hide that chocolate!

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Off to another lame adventure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Adventures in Car Camping

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Dashboard Kitchen

After finishing our backpacking trip to Havasupai Falls here and here we planned an additional six days to car camp in Southern Utah.

Since we had purchased all this camping gear for the falls we decided to give car camping a try instead of getting hotels. And after sleeping on a picnic table for 3 nights, the car felt like a five star hotel (she laughs hysterically)!

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Welcome Back to Utah

We drove from Havasu Falls trailhead past monument valley to find a nice campsite on the rim of Gooseneck State Park. The sun was going down by the time we got there and the temps were a very comfortable 70-ish. We set up our camp mattresses and sleeping bags in the back of our Nissan Pathfinder and left the tailgate open for ventilation.

It was such a beautiful night and the stars were fully visible with the lack of city lights. The rim of Gooseneck is barren rocky land completely void of any scrub or trees, which translates to magnificent sunset viewing. We set up our camp stove on the picnic table and kicked off our sandals just outside the tailgate and piled into the back of the SUV for a great night sleep under the stars.

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Camping along the rim

Car camping was pretty awesome…until about midnight.

I woke to some jostling of the car and the gritty taste of dirt and sand in my mouth. When I finally came too I realized that we were in the middle of a windstorm that had kicked up so much grit in the air that the clear full moon from two hours earlier was a blurred hazy glow.

I had to jump out of the car to shut the tailgate but my sandals were nowhere to be found. I got the gate down and climbed into the side door to find our sleeping bags covered in sand. By now Jeff had barely woken up and wanted to know what I was doing. I swear that guy could sleep through a parade of fireworks.

I settled back in and asked Jeff if there was anything else left outside. When he said that the Jetboil was out on the picnic table, all I could see was hundred dollar bills flying over the edge of the canyon.

The wind was so fierce that I could hardly get the car door open to retrieve the camp stove and to look for both sets of sandals…all of which were teetering on the edge of oblivion. One more little puff and we would have been shoe & coffee-less the rest of the trip.

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Has anyone seen my sandals?

The temperatures were dropping quickly and I forced the car door back open to crawl back into my grit filled sleeping bag. A challenge for a 6’ tall gal with back problems. The car was being battered by the wind. The decline of the rear seats that we were sleeping on made it feel like we were angled down hill. All I could think about was rolling right over the edge of Gooseneck and crashing to a firry death in our rental car. Our remains permanently entombed in the canyon and memorialized with a jetfoil tombstone.

After surviving the night, we woke to 31 degrees. Jeff started the car to get the heater going. The wind had settled down a bit and we made coffee while I shared the story about how we barely survived being lifted in midair by the wind and discarded in the Land of Oz. If it weren’t for our rubber sandals that had wedged under the tires we would surely have been lost forever! (Jeff inserts eye roll here)

We would have done some hiking here but we wanted to reach the Kane Gulch Visitor Center just as they opened. We had read about several Anasazi cliff dwellings in Cedar Mesa and wanted to get more information about a hike to Moon House.

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The stunning Trail of the Ancients Road

Moon House is a multi-room cliff dwelling named for its celestial pictograph depicting the moon in its different phases. It dates to the early 1200’s and is limited to 20 visitors per day via a first come permit system. It’s a rare cliff dwelling as you are allowed access to some interior rooms. Special instructions are given with the permit on how to enter the rooms without damaging the structures.

With permit in hand we headed towards McCloyd Canyon. We traveled about 8 miles down Snow Flat Road, a rough dirt road over rock slabs and rutted sections of sand and dirt. It was slow going and we were glad we had an all-wheel-drive SUV to get to the Trailhead parking area.

We started our hike and headed north on another road. After a mile we came a second parking area at the Moon House trailhead. Getting to this parking lot requires a true 4-wheel drive vehicle and we were glad we didn’t attempt it in our rental.

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We are heading down there

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One giant step for mankind

The trail started over sandstone slabs only visible by Cairns before it quickly starts a rocky decent. We took our time since the slope was steep and the rocks loose. At one point we had to slide down the lip of an overhung ledge to a rock pile down below.

We quickly dropped down into the canyon and reached the sandy floor before ascending the other side to Moon House.

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Now you see me. Now you don’t!

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Still standing after hundreds of years

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Enter with care

Cliff dwellings are amazing structures as they are built into the sides of raised ledges on the side of cliffs. They are very undetectable when you are not looking and sometimes when you are. We didn’t notice the dwelling until we were right up on it!

We explored the ruins and were glad we brought along our headlamps to shine into protected rooms. It was interesting to see the construction of vertical tree limbs smeared in mud to form small interior rooms or apartments.

The ancient pigment that created a long white band of Moon House was still vibrant and corncobs still lie on the floors in some of the rooms.

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Pictograph giving Moon House its name

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We followed more trails around the ledge that led to more buildings. After we started hiking back we turned around to take one last look and realized that we missed a whole other section of dwellings perfectly hidden in the side of the ledge where we sat to have lunch!

It was a nice 4.5-mile round trip hike. We like these destination hikes with history to research and a challenge to get to.

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The rocky road to someplace special

By now it was late afternoon and we started to look for a place to camp overnight. The area is mostly BLM (Bureau of Land Management), which offers free camping off random dirt roads. Right off the corner of Hwy 95 and 261 was one of those dirt roads. We found a spot with the perfect amount of slope to make our bed level for the night.

Night two of car camping was not as volatile as night one, but dang it was freezing cold. The temperature dropped to 21 degrees and we had to run the car a good part of the night to stay warm. Of course I laid awake worrying about running out of gas and I had to get out of the car to pee behind a bush in the freezing cold while stepping through land mines of bull head stickers.

Come morning at the corner of Hwy 95 and 261 we needed to decide to turn left or right. To the left, at the risk of running out of gas, Natural Bridges National Monument. Turn right to Blanding for a service station and on to Moab.

Natural Bridges it is!

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Unnamed tiny arch!

We didn’t know much about this National Monument so we drove through a beautiful little campground within the park for future RVing reference before heading to the visitor center.

It was too early to go inside, so we used the outdoor restrooms and made coffee with our recently rescued Jetboil.

We read about taking the scenic 9-mile Bridge View Drive. The drive takes you to scenic viewpoints that overlook three spectacular arches. Sipapu (place of emergence), Kachina (dancer) and Owachomo (rock mound).

We wanted to do some hiking so we saw that there was an 8-mile loop along the canyon floor to each Bridge…up close and personal.

We started at the Kachina trailhead and descended down a staircase carved into the sandstone. We took the loop counter-clockwise since we thought we would be in the sun on this cold morning.

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Chilly start

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Aspens in October

Once we descending down to the riverbed the trail was flat and serpentine. Each rounded corner revealed new cliff views. We were keeping our eyes peel for petroglyphs and cliff dwellings that we heard were along the trail.

After a couple of miles the trail took a sharp left over slabs and ledges and there stood the magnificent Owachomo Bridge. It was so vast. So tall. The pure blue sky was the perfect backdrop for the white sandstone bridge.

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There she is!

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Owachomo Bridge

The trail traversed out of the canyon and crossed the inner circle of the Bridge View loop over to the Sipapu trailhead. This part of the trail is known for its dramatic vertical drop via sections of ladders and staircases to the base of Sipapu Bridge.

Just our kind of trail!

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Sipapu from above

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Staircase down the cliff edge

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Descending ladders

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Sipapu from below

The ladders were a bit intimidating as first but we were back down in the canyon along the dried riverbed before we knew it. After spending some time at Sipapu Bridge we followed the trail along the cliff walls to Kachina Bridge. We finally found Horse Collar Ruins and came across Petroglyphs along the walls of Kachina.

Petroglyphs are really quite amazing to have stood the test of time. They tell a story of life our modern day selves have never known. Hunting and gathering. Conflicts and battles. Everyday life lived amongst the walls.

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Horse Collar Ruins

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Kachina Bridge

We hiked out of the canyon and back to the car. This was such an enjoyable hike and I would recommend it if ever in the area. I would like to come back and hike it in the opposite direction for another perspective of its walls, bridges and stairs.

After Natural Bridges Jeff and I made our way to Moab. By now it had been 6 days without modern conveniences. After looking at the freezing temps forecasted I cried UNCLE and made a reservation at a hotel. By now my back was killing me from trying to climb around in the back of an SUV and my fingernails were telling the truth about how badly I needed a shower. I couldn’t stand the smell of my own hair another day!

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Ya…I had enough of this!

I can’t tell you how awesome that shower felt! And after that first night in a room and being able to stand up to put my pants on I begged Jeff for another night…then a couple more. We both had to admit at this point that we (ok, maybe me more than Jeff) were not the car camping sorts.

We never did spend another night in that car!

While in Moab we visited the local Laundromat, ate real food in restaurants and Jeff went to watch the start of the Moab Ultra 200 trail race. Being the Ultra runner he is he wanted to see what the next level of crazy looks like. Apparently, once you’ve finished a 100 race, you begin to wonder if you could do 200 (or so I’ve heard).

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Crazy runners!

We took a drive out on the course and then stopped to look for the Moonflower Panel Petroglyph nearby. We took a trail a couple miles back without seeing a single Petroglyph but once back at the trailhead we realized the slab of ancient art was right at the parking lot.

It was very interesting to see the similarities of art from one location to the other.

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While we were in Moab we hooked up with some friends from our RVing group, The Xscapers. We had burgers at Milts Stop & Eat. Milts is well known for their awesome burgers that totally lived up to the hype! It was a great time meeting new friends and getting reacquainted with some that we hadn’t seen in two years.

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Milts Stop & Eat

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Crazy Xscapers friends

After Moab we drove to Park City, Utah for a quick overnight before flying out of Salt Lake City back to Arkansas.

Despite the challenges of car camping, this was an amazing trip. To be nimble in a small vehicle instead of a 32’ RV was refreshing to say the least and we found ourselves exploring/considering other routes and locations that we would not normally have the luxury of considering.

I’m certain we will keep that in mind when we pick our next RV!

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Where to next?

 

 

 

 

 

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Havasupai Falls. Leaving the RV Behind. Part II

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Before we came on this trip, we had heard about Native American frybread. We passed the bread tent on our hike into the campground the day before, but it wasn’t opened. And after seeing the posted sign about its hours, I wasn’t sure it would open while we were there.

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Non-committed business hours

After my hike to Beaver Falls I made the 1-mile hike through the campground to see if they were open. And sure enough, they were! After placing my order I was handed a ticket with a number. About an hour later this one-women show announced that my Navajo Taco was ready. Frybread is very similar to funnel cake topped but not as sweet.  The taco was topped with seasoned hamburger, cheese and salsa. Just what the trail doctor ordered! It was REALLY good and I was kicking myself to for not ordering a sweet bread at the same time.

By the time I made it back to camp Jeff was back from his hike to the Confluence and sleeping soundly in his hammock.

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“The Confluence”…Havasu Creek meets Colorado River

Day three we decided to stay closer to the campground. We started the morning with a picnic table birthday massage for Jeff. I could have made a pretty penny by those passing by ready to be next. Then we packed some snacks and made about a 1-½ mile hike up the campground to Havasu Falls.

 

The mist off the falls was pretty chilly, especially since the area was still shaded. We made it just in time to see a very large yoga class finishing up. One of the tour groups offers yoga and massages at the falls.

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Havasu Falls Smooch

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I still can’t believe this water!

We didn’t have much ground cover so we found ourselves sitting in sand and powdered dirt. We sunned ourselves and explored the falls before heading to the bread tent to place an order. This time we got a 3-layer sweat bread treat (aka Jeff’s Birthday Cake) and a Navajo taco. The sweet bread is topped with nutella, jelly, honey and/or powdered sugar to build your confection as you please. The bread is soft, doughy and the perfect amount of sweetness to go sweet or salty.

This was a special treat especially since we were going on day 3 of nut bars and dehydrated packaged meals.

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So yummy!

After our snack we decided to join some friends and hike up the hill further to explore Navajo Falls. We spent a couple of hours taking a bath splashing around the pools before heading back to camp.

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Navajo Falls

Each night as the sun went down about 6:30 the temperatures plummeted into the 40’s. Campfires are not allowed so all that was left to do to stay warm was go to bed. Surprisingly I slept very well on my camp mattress on top of the picnic table all bundled up in my mummy sack while Jeff slept well in his hammock. Note to self…spring for the tent!

Day four we planned to pack up quite early to beat the sun/heat on the hike back to the trailhead. We had that last mile of climb that we were thinking about. We knew that it would difficult with our heavy packs and didn’t want to add canyon heat to it.

It took us 4 ½ hours to hike down so we thought it would take us an extra hour to hike back up. We left camp at 4:30am to a full moon and made a quick stop for water at the campground spring before starting the two-mile steep incline to the village.

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At the village we saw a long line already forming for those taking the helicopter out. The helicopter is pre-reserved, but the seats are first-come first-serve and can take all day. They still had hours to wait until the helicopter even fired up for the day.

We hiked through the village while it was still dark and followed posted signs directing us to the trail. Things sure look a lot different in the dark and before we knew it we were standing at a creek crossing that neither of us remembered from before. Realizing that we missed the trail somewhere we backtracked about a quarter mile and were led astray by mule poop that followed some miscellaneous path in the woods.

After reaching a dead end we backtracked to the main trail and started back towards the creek again. This time we saw the clear trail that led to a bridge (just steps away) to cross the creek.

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The trail was easy from here as the sun started to rise. Jeff and I were booking it and we found ourselves at the base of the last 1-mile canyon climb before we knew it. I have often said on hikes like this that my mind takes a seemingly mundane molehill and turns it into an impossible mountain. I was dreading this section for days! But after about 40 minutes we were cresting the cliff and snapping pictures of our completed task.

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We made it!

It really wasn’t a big deal and we made the entire trip in 4 hours. The thing that helped A LOT was that we figured out how to cinch up our packs to distribute the weight more to our hips than our shoulders. This made a HUGE difference!

Back at the SUV we offloaded our packs, refilled our water bottles from the gallon jug we stashed in the car and started to drive towards Moab for round two of our RV-less vacation.

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Now where did we park the car?

Next stop…Gooseneck State Park!

Havasupai Falls Trip Tips:

  1. Get to the Trailhead early morning to find a somewhat close place to park. Some vehicles were parked a mile and a half away.
  2. Fuel up in Peach Springs or Flagstaff. From where we stayed in Peach Springs it was about 70 miles to the trailhead. There are neither service stations nor stores along the way, so be sure to plan ahead.
  3. Keep a gallon of water and some food/snacks in your car for your return trip.
  4. Keep your bathroom expectations low…REALLY LOW! They are kept clean, but the smell of ammonia literally made our eyes water. Use the outer bathrooms (not the center) for additional ventilation.
  5. Be sure to have a “rat sack” to store all of your food and suspend it from a rope. Use it to hold your trash as well. Our first night we had a raccoon shred our trash and make a mess.
  6. Pack-In Pack-Out. There are ZERO trashcans at the campground so be prepared to take every ounce of trash back with you.
  7. On your hike out pick up at least one piece of someone else’s trash. You will see trash littered everywhere along the trail either by the locals or by hikers. Treat the land respectfully and do your part to keep this treasure beautiful despite who made the mess.
  8. Get reservations through a group (Check out Grand Canyon Hikers Facebook page). Rumor has it that reservations were moving towards giving large lots of permits to organized groups rather than individuals. This way the Indian Reservation can manage one person responsible for the group rather than trying to police 300 individuals each day. However, these decisions are made season-to-season, so what may be true one year may not be true for the next!
  9. Do not bring drugs or alcohol. We saw one group get busted while we were there.
  10. Do not go to the campground without your reservation wristband. They do check and you will be removed and fined heavily for not following the rules.
  11. DO NOT leave valuables in your vehicle. The day after we left several cars were broken in to at the trailhead parking lot.
  12. You do have the option of mules (Up to 130lbs/mule for $80) taking your gear to/from the campground that needs to be arranged ahead of time. Some hikers split a mule with others to share the cost. There is concern on some forums regarding the treatment of the mules here. So depending on your level of concern this may or may not be an option for you. Also, it takes a long time before your gear reaches the campground and the trailhead. And when it does it is put on the ground where the local dogs love to hike a leg on it.
  13. The helicopter ride in/out (pre-reserved) can take all day to get a seat. Go VERY early to get in line for first come first serve (the local villagers have first right). When we hiked out there was already a long line at 4:30am and we were back in our car before the helicopter even started to run.
  14. Take a couple of empty 1-gallon milk jugs to fill up with water at the natural spring in the campground. Our campsite was 1 miles downhill from the spring. Our gallon jug of water was used for hydrating meals and we filled our water bottles for drinking.
  15. According to the Havasupai website, the spring water at camp is safe, but they leave the responsibility up to you. We did not treat our water and had no issues what so ever.
  16. If you are packing camp fuel to cook meals remember that airlines will not allow fuel canisters anywhere on the plane…not even checked bags. Plan on making a stop at REI in Las Vegas, Phoenix or Flag to pick up fuel if you are flying in for this hike.

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Majestic Utah

Cacti Bloom

Desert Bloom

After working the Easter Jeep Safari Jeff and I headed to Salt Lake City so Jeff could catch a flight to Elkhart, Indiana.

I made a week long reservation at the Salt Lake City KOA for its close proximity to the airport. We have stayed at this KOA before during the Outdoor Retail Show and had found it to be very comfortable despite it not being in the best part of town.

Salt Lake City is surrounded by amazing scenery. Snow capped mountains and lush green foothills that are visible everywhere. And of course Salt Lake is just west of downtown.

I got caught up on expense reports and cleaned up the layer of dust that had accumulated in the RV from windy Moab. Sometimes it’s nice to be parked on concrete just to take a break from the rustic dirt lots we gravitate to. The beauty of living in a tiny home is that it only takes 30 minutes to do a deep clean compared to three hours in my former sticks & bricks life.

While in SLC I wanted to get back on my trail running training plan. Jeff and I are signed up for the Bryce Half marathon (Me) and 100 Mile (Jeff) in June.

 

Bryce Canyon is one of a six trail races held in the Grand Circle Trail Series. The six races are Antelope Canyon (Feb), Monument Valley (Mar), Zion (April), The Grand Canyon (May), Bryce (June) and Tushars (July).

We have a goal to complete all six races. So far we both have done Zion, while Jeff also completed Monument Valley.

The nice thing about the Salt Lake City KOA is that it backs up to the Jordan River Parkway Trail system. The trail is approximately 40 miles long and for the most part, runs North/South along the Jordan River.

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Jordan River Parkway Trail

Within a half mile from the KOA is a huge dog park right along the trail, so if you are looking for a nice walk for doggy, this is a wonderful trail to take. I will say. While running early morning (during the week) I was a bit uneasy, as there were numerous homeless folks that use the Jordan River banks as their overnight beds. Some of the trail got a bit closed in and isolated, which added to my concern. I make sure to make eye contact, say good morning and keep moving.

I needed to take Sam for grooming, so I headed to the East side of SLC. While Sam was getting a once over I headed to the Parley’s Historic Nature Park, a 68-acre open park in Parley’s Canyon. This is a completely fenced in park where dogs are permitted off-leash and free to run. And with Parley’s Creek (what else would it be named) running through the park, there is plenty of drinking spots for pets.

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The entire park is fenced in for dogs

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Creek access

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Beautiful views

The views were amazing and it was such a tranquil place despite running right next to a major highway. One loop around the park was 2-miles with some good hills to get the heart rate up. I was going for 3 loops and got caught in the rain. Luckily I was close to the parking lot where I could wait it out and then jumped back out to get my last 2 miles in.

While in SLC, Preppercon was having its annual show.

Preppercon is an event that showcases disaster preparedness and for some, the apocalyptic zombie invasion. Not really being afraid of Zombies, this is not a topic of interest to us. We went to see if it would be an appropriate event for Dometic to showcase their Mobile Cooling line as a vendor. In case you were wondering…it’s not!

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Kilts?

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Hurricane Simulator…in Salt Lake City

As a full time RV’er, we have run into some very “interesting” people. Especially in Quartzsite. But this a whole new level of interesting. There was no shortage of kilt wearing men (not sure what that is all about), firearms, dehydrated foods, generators, underground storage containers and a hurricane simulator. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Respectfully, it is just not our thaang.

I did enjoy the self-defense course that was offered. I now know how to get out of a mean chokehold! With all of the isolated running situations I put myself in, the class gave me great hands on tips in a matter of 30-minutes. It‘s all about confidence in certain situations and 30-minutes did just that. My plan is to take a full self-defense course soon, as I could quickly see how valuable this training would be!

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Learning how to get out of a choke hold

After Salt Lake City, we had two weeks before we needed to be in Las Vegas for the National Hardware Show.

I really wanted to check out The Valley of Fire in Nevada but the temps were already in the 90’s and too hot to boondock. So we decided to head to higher elevation at Capital Reef National Park. This was a 3 hours detour off course but thought it would be worth the adventure.

We researched boondocking spots in the area and found some camping reviews that said where there was a few bars of cell coverage. But after arriving, we couldn’t find a connection. AN.E.WHERE. Since Jeff had been traveling he had some work to catch up on. We quickly decided that Capital Reef was not going to work for a weekday visit and we packed up the next day and headed to St. George Utah.

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A brief sunset view from Capital Reef

With that 6 hours experiment behind us, we settled into a favorite location in Leeds, where free dispersed camping is offered right along the Red Cliffs. We stayed here last spring as our jumping off point for the Zion Ultra Trail Run (aka Mudageddon) and Zion National Park. After our mouse invasion here last year, I came fully prepared with plenty of mousetraps. I thought maybe the mice were just a fluke. But we were invaded once again! Darn critters!

Despite fighting off the nightly invasions, we really love this location for running.

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Watching repelling lessons from our campsite

You have every possible trail running opportunity here. Single track, ATV roads and gravel roads are easily accessible and we took advantage of them all! Jeff was on one trail and was startled by something out of the corner of his eye. At the sight of a rattle snake he jumped so hard he hurt his shoulder. Of course he was not injured enough to stop for a photo.

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That is one ginormous snake!

It started to get a bit hot while we were here. So hot that we drove into St. George for an afternoon and hung out in a furniture store, then went to dinner just to be in some air-conditioning. The next day we drove down to the holler from our campsite and put our lawn chairs in Leeds Creek and drank smoothies for a few hours. The creek was cool and refreshing, especially after our long runs.

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Yummy single track Silver Reef Trail

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ATV roads along the Red Cliffs

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Gravel Roads to somewhere

We had to park in the campsite right next to the Silver Reef Trailhead, which saw a lot of traffic. Groups were coming out for repelling classes, which were entertaining to watch. But instead of taking the trail, the day-users felt comfortable walking right through our campsite just to avoid a few extra steps to their cars. Either I don’t remember this from last year but the road was non-stop with cars and ATV’s driving by day and night with their hair on fire. The wind was fierce this time too and we found ourselves spending more time inside just to get some relief from the dust being kicked up by the cars.

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Cooling the dogs in the Leeds River

Overall, we still love it here and will probably be back. I just need to restock the mousetraps before we do.

Jeff and I did take an early morning trip over to Zion National Park. We had Sam with us in the truck so we found a shady parking spot and took a short hike to Hidden Canyon. It requires a shuttle ride to Weeping Rock where Hidden Canyon spurs off. It was a short 4 miles round trip, but definitely beautiful and fun.

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Trailhead

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Cut in trail with chains

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To your right is nothing but net

The initial climb is very steep (just like every trail in Zion) with numerous switchbacks. As things begin to level out the trail becomes narrow. Some areas have permanent chains imbedded in the cliff side to give hikes a bit more security. I’m not sure who put in this trail, but they would have had to have nerves of steel cutting in to a sheer cliff face.

We eventually came to a sandy slot and scrambled over rocks and logs to get to the end of the canyon, denoted by a sign telling us to turn around.

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You talking to me?

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Sandy slot

On our way back down we turned on to the short trail to Weeping Rock. This is a paved trail and bit crowded, but non-the-less beautiful. Water seeps through cracks in the cliff face above. All the vegetation is green and lush here with a backdrop of deep red, black and green rock. It was refreshing to catch a little bit of dripping water on our skin.

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Weeping Rock

After our shuttle back to the parking lot we went to Cafe Soleil in Springdale for lunch. We came here a couple times on our last visit and love their fresh salads and smoothies. We can sit outside with Sam in the gorgeous weather and visit with other tourists.

After Zion we pulled up stakes and made the trek to the belly of the beast…Las Vegas. The only thing I can I say about Las Vegas is that we always look forward to when our time is over and we can get back to solitude.

We again stayed at the Circus Circus RV “Resort” just a mile and a half from the Convention Center. This works out well for me to run back to the RV to relieve Sam during the Hardware Show. Even though CC is quite run down and prime for an epic dynamite implosion, they did add a very nice water park since the last time we were here. The laundry room may not have a single functioning washing machine, but the water park will be fun for families who choose to bring their children to the land of debauchery.

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A quick hello with good RVing friends!

We did get to see our RVing buddies John and Becky for a few minutes as Becky was also working the show. Sometimes you just got to squeeze in a howdy and hug where you can, making our Las Vegas trip totally worth it!

Las Vegas was short lived as we left the show a day early to drive to Flagstaff to set up for the Overland West Expo.

Now that’s more our style!

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THE END!

 

 

 

 

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Sammy Scare But Back On The Move

 

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Arches National Park

March-April 2017

If you have never smelled the South or Southwest when grapefruits, lemons, limes and oranges are blooming, you are in for a treat. The smell is fragrant, sweet and a bit intoxicating. It’s another reason we love the Southwest, especially because the blooming happens while the rest of the country is still experience arctic blasts.

We left the blossoms and Sam dog with the sitter while we flew back to Bentonville, Arkansas.

I had to delay my trip a bit because Sam was in bad shape. While we were in Tucson for the Escapees Rally, Sam started to act strangely. He couldn’t keep up with me on a simple walk around the RV Park. When we picked him up he would cry out in pain and he became lethargic.

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Too tired to hold his head up 😦

He was holding up his left front paw and I found an enlarged lymph node on his left chest. We immediately started thinking the worst and scheduled a visit to the vet. It was such an odd feeling to have such a healthy dog who was still running up to 11-miles one day, but was so incapacitated the next.

I’m not going to lie. We thought his lymph node was a sign of cancer and we cried all the way to Phoenix on the way to the vet. We even stopped at his favorite canal trail and carried him to the ducks for one last chase. We were saying goodbye to the best boy we have ever had. We really thought we were going to be putting our beloved Sam down that day.

After blood work and an X-ray the vet assured us that Sam’s demeanor was NOT cancer, but more spinal related and he was prescribes pain killers, muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories. The vet then called a day later to let us know that the radiologist described two degenerated discs in his neck and what appeared to be bilateral ear infections. Antibiotics were added to his long list of meds.

This was all two days before we were supposed to fly to Arkansas. So I rescheduled my flight to later in the week so that Sam was more stable before taking him to the sitter.

It took a couple days, but Sam started to perk up day after day. By the time I left he still was not himself. All that medication made him loopy, shaky and sleepy. But at least his pain was finally under control and I felt OK enough to leave him in good hands.

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You know Sam feels better when the squirrel gets it!

By the time we got back, Sam was more spunky…but completely deaf! After a follow-up visit to the vet he was taken off all pain meds, but left on antibiotics for his ears. Currently, he has regained only a minimal amount of hearing. He is back to short runs and longer walks and now charges the door when we put our running shoes on. A sure sign that he is back!

It’s been a hard 4 weeks for Sam. At 11-12 years old he is finally starting to act his age I guess. We are just so happy he is still with us for a little longer. He is going to be a hard one to replace when the time comes for sure!

I did make it to Arkansas in time for the Bentonville Half Marathon.

Jeff and I and his two sisters, brother-in-love and nephew had all been training since mid-December for this race. We had a lot of fun texting and emailing accountability to the training program and talking about pain points on our bodies. This would be the first time our sisters, nephew and brother-in-love ever did a half!

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Mom so proud of her family of finishers!

In the end we all completed the race! It was a proud and emotional moment for all of us! This trip was about a family reunion, overcoming physical challenges and coming together to support their Mom who we had just moved into a local assisted living facility a couple week prior.

Jeff’s brother had their Mom at the finish line to cheer us all on. Though she has lost her ability to communicate, the pride of a mother over her kids was still evident on her face!

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Sibling spin around the block…Jeff, Jerry, Jan & Jackie!

It was a special time for sure as we spent precious time with our families.

After checking on our lake cabin we flew back to Phoenix, picked up our dog and headed for Moab.

We split the drive into two days and stopped this time at Goulding Lodge and Campground at Monument Valley.

Wow. What a little gem of a campground! It is an RV Park so spacing is closer that a state park. But the sites are laid out very nicely so just about everyone has an amazing view of the monuments off in the distance. It is also on a hillside, so some sites are a little bit challenging to level. They have a nice short hiking trail from the park with perfect viewpoints for taking some awesome sunset pictures.

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Impressive view from the Goulding Lodge and Campground

And if you want to schedule a hiking or jeeping tour, they will schedule your “Goulding” tour right from the campground. Or if you need groceries, stop at Goulding Market. Goulding has everything covered right from their grounds.

Jeff and I took a 5-mile sunrise trail run before we left and it did not disappoint. The red glow of the morning sun set the red rock formations on fire. We followed a horse path up the side of a mountain and hugged a fairly level trail once we got to it. We jumped on a jeep trail and looped us back around to the RV Park through sand dunes. We were chased by a few dogs in the distance on this run. But they quickly gave up the effort and retreated to their respected porches.

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A sunrise to remember! I love this picture!

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Glowing red rocks

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Sand dunes aid station

On day two we made it to Moab by lunch time.

We were at Moab again this year for the for the Easter Jeep Safari (EJS).

From the EJS website…

“The Jeep Safari was started in 1967 by the Moab Chamber of Commerce. The very 1st trail was “Behind the Rocks Trail” (according to what has been told to the club President, the road was made or improved with a BLM employee and equipment.) The “Moab Rim” was then added the next year. In those days, individual ice cream packages were dropped by airplane to the trails at lunch. All the leaders were Chamber members, there was no charge or entry fee, and only a Saturday trail. To register you showed up Saturday morning and signed up for the trail you wanted. The Safari was run this way through 1982 at which point the BLM required a permit and insurance. The Chamber was no longer able to run the safari and approached the club to run this event.

The Jeep Safari itself, and participation in the event has grown since the club officially formed in the early 80s. Once the event was coordinated by the Red Rock 4-Wheelers, the registration moved from the Chamber building north of town, to Lion’s Park, and on to what was called “the Barn” which is where McStiff’s is currently located near Center and Main. Over the years the increase in participation grew to expand the trail riding to more days until it finally reached a nine day event. “Big Saturday” still remains the culmination of the event on the Saturday of Easter weekend. With the increase in numbers, the registration was moved to the Spanish Trail Arena where it is located today four miles south of the city of Moab on highway 191. This also became the location for the gigantic safari raffle, Boy Scout BBQ dinner, and a vendor exposition featuring over 130 national 4×4 manufacturers”.

 

When we were in Moab last year  I have to say that I was not that overly impressed with the area. The views are beautiful, but the area felt worn and a bit junky. I suspect my view of the area was a bit tarnished by the overwhelming amount of ATV’s, motorcycles, Razors and Jeeps that were streaming by our campsite at all hours of the day and night.

But this visit was different.

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Our Forrest Gump Moment

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Scenes on the road to Moab

Last year we arrived a couple of weeks early to get a campsite at Slick Rock, which is a first come first serve campground…right in the middle of all the action.

This year we stayed at the KOA just a block away from the EJS expo, thanks to some creative finagling by fellow Xscapers who work camp here. We didn’t have a reservation anywhere in Moab! (NEVER come to Moab during Jeep week without a reservation!). This KOA is one of the nicer, well laid out KOA’s that we have been to. And compared to last year, made for a quiet relaxed location to enjoy the Moab Brewery and Quesadilla Mobilia Food Truck in town.

Trail running near the KOA is not nearly as convenient as Slick Rock, so we had to be a bit more strategic to get our runs in. My favorite is the greenway that runs through Moab, within a block of the Laundromat. I put in a wash load while I ran two miles. Then put it in the dryer for three more miles. How is that for multitasking!

Jeff and I worked the 2-day EJS expo. Our fellow Xscaper friends Finding Marshall, RV Chickadee and Mamasaysnamaste stopped by to say hello! They were all staying on BLM just north of Moab at Willow Springs.

Willow Springs is a very popular boondocking area, especially during jeep week. Jeff decided to do his long run from our KOA site 25-miles to Willow Springs. His route took him through The Arches National Park. He didn’t exactly take a trail, but a wash that turned into some bushwhacking and creek crossings. I picked him up at Willow Springs where I was visiting our friends.

Before we left on Sunday we attended the Easter sunrise service at Arches. We started with a short 2-mile hike on the Park Avenue Trail by moonlight and finished at the La Sal Mountains Viewpoint, where there has been an Easter church service for more than 30 years.

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We definitely had a much better experience with Moab this time. It is a stunning town with plenty of outdoor activities to last a lifetime. I look forward to coming back again.

After church we packed up the RV and headed to Salt Lake City. Sam and I are currently staying at the KOA while Jeff travels to Elkhart Indiana for meetings. Our next big show is the National Hardware Show in Vegas in about 3 weeks.

Until then, we are going to bounce around Utah and hit up some beautiful BLM sites to continue our training for the Bryce 100 (Jeff) and Half Marathon (Deb) trail run scheduled for June.

Look forward to seeing ya’ll down the road!

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Flagstaff and The Fearsome Four

 

Flagstaff AZ

Sam back on the Arizona Trail

August 21-September 21, 2016

After climbing to new heights at Mt. Whitney Jeff and I had about a week before needing to be in steamy Phoenix for business travel. We wanted to camp where we could get a break from the heat just a little longer, so we headed straight for Flagstaff, Arizona.

We’ve been camping in Flag off and on for the past year, one of our favorite locations. There is an abundance of free forestry land to camp in with endless trails to run, hike or mountain bike just outside your door. This and being close to town makes us feel like we live in the community. Flag is definitely familiar to us now and there is no need for GPS to get around town any more.

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A delightful sunny spot amongst the trees

Not only was the 70 degree temps sublime, but Jeff has been training for the Stagecoach 100. Stagecoach is a 100 mile ultra trail run that starts in Flag and ends at the IMAX theater at the Grand Canyon. Jeff is running a relay with a buddy. 55 miles for Jeff and his friend Jason running 45. Since the race was just 4 weeks away some high altitude trail training was in order.

We camped at a new boondocking site on FR6051 near Snow Bowl on the North side of town. The road was a bit rough, but we were able to wedge our modest 32’ into a nice spot for maximum solar gain. There are endless forestry roads here with several short spurs that connect directly to the Arizona Trail. So getting in our trail runs was a piece of single track cake!

Oh Arizona Trail, how I love thee!

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One of the first things we usually do when getting to a new location is to see if there are any running events happening during our stay. We have done this in Moab, Chico and Whistler  among others, and it keeps us motivated to get out and exercise on a consistent basis. Without the motivation I would struggle with the RV-15 (think freshman-15) and bedsores!

One of the things we learned about is the Flagstaff Fearsome Four Challenge. Four peaks, 34 miles, 10,307 of elevation over 2 days. Sure…why not! As part of Jeff’s ultra training this challenge was right up his ally.

Here is how the challenge works. Hike or run Humphreys Peak, Kendrick Peak, Mount Elden and O’Leary Peak in any order. If you accomplish this challenge under 15 hours (not including driving time) in a 24hr period you are honored with the status of “Ultra” runner. Well then. Lets get to it!

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Kendrick Peak

Things that go bump in the night…what was that noise?

Jeff started at 1am at Kendrick Peak. Besides being scared by some sort of large animal in the woods, this was pretty uneventful. Humphreys Peak, the highest peak in Arizona and most challenging of the four, was next. Jeff ran into a couple of trail runners that run Humphrey’s 9 miles in under 3hrs, twice as fast as I hiked this beast! It had snowed on this peak the day before, so some of the trail was still covered.

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Summit of Humphrey’s Peak

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Rugged trail

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Snow covered trail

After a brief refueling of bacon and a nap at the RV it was on to Elden and O’Leary’s peak. Sam and I joined Jeff for the final two hikes. Though Elden is a short 4-5 miles round-trip, it is very rocky, technical and steep. We were glad to be hiking this one in the daylight!

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Third peak in the bank!

Heading further north we finished with O’Leary’s. This trail was a well-groomed forestry road all the way to O’Leary’s lookout, where we took in sunset views before racing back down the mountain to finished after dark.

Jeff did an amazing job coming in under 15 hours for the Fearsome Four and we celebrated with some late night BBQ!

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Number four…O’Leary Lookout!

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Racing the sun

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Steapest section at O’Leary Lookout

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After dark finish!

The next day we packed up and headed for Phoenix where we jumped on a plane and flew to Dallas. The Dometic show vehicle needed to be transported to Elkhart, Indiana for the RV industries open house.

A stop over in Bentonville, Arkansas was in order and we stayed for two weeks. This gave us a chance to check on family and our beloved Beaver Lake cabin.

I tell ya, when I sit on that porch swing overlooking the Lake, it’s hard to think of ever leaving! I love the smell of fresh lake water, hearing fish flopping in the early morning hours, swimming in water so clear you can scuba dive. I love that I can lace up my shoes and go for a run on lake roads that only a few locals travel. I ended up with 5 of the neighborhood dogs on one of my runs, which helped with missing Sam on our trip.

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The view from our deck

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Well hello humidity! Where have you been?

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Getting in a Saturday morning run with friends

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Quick visit with two of our Guatemalan students in AR on Walton Scholarships to John Brown University…so proud of them!

Arkansas is a beautiful place to call home for sure and I always shed a tear when we leave. But the road calls, and we must go and off to Elkhart we went.

We arrived over the weekend so that we could visit with some wonderful friends. The open house went well and we headed south with the RV to Louisville before flying back to Phoenix. It was a hard pressed 3 week trip and we were glad to get back to our dog and our RV.

With only 3 days before the Stagecoach 100, we were rushing again to get back to Flag for the race. So after landing at 6:45am, we picked up our dog and were on the road with the RV by 9am, and parked in the woods by that afternoon.

Holly moly…that was a tiring trip!

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Critters and Clingers

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Silver Reef, Leeds Utah

After leaving Moab, Jeff and I headed north to Salt Lake City for a day of business. We checked in to the Springville/Provo KOA just south of SLC. I can’t believe I am going to say this, but we were looking forward to some peace and quiet after Moab in a KOA of all places, and it delivered.

We were surrounded by snowcapped mountains right our front door. While we have done well to not experience winter on our travels so far, we got a little flavor of it during our stay. We had rain, sleet, snow and wind. The cold damp air chilled us to the bone and made us thankful that we have only participated in winter 4 days rather than 4 months.

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View out our door at the Provo KOA

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Getting in a quick trail run before leaving our 4 days of winter!

Time to head south towards Zion National Park.

Zion National Park was on our radar for two reasons. 1. Neither of us have been there and 2. There is an Ultra Trail Run that fit into our schedule on April 9th.

Since we were arriving a week before our race we decided to camp near St. George, UT. We read about Silver Reef on Campendium in Leeds, UT in the Dixie National Forest. Free dispersed camping on National Forestry land with designated campsites and good connectivity for work is just our style.

Though this is considered dispersed camping it was “camp in designated campsites only” and we were fortunate enough to snag the last site open. WOW…what a find! Bright spring green vegetation and freshly sprouted cottonwood trees against the backdrop of the red rock canyons. Throw in a babbling creek and gobbling turkeys and we were on sensory overload!

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Now that’s a campsite!

Jeff and I were pinching ourselves at such a wonderful campsite UNTIL… I heard a something at 4AM that sounded like a raccoon INSIDE our camper, munching and scampering around. Jeff on the other hand can sleep through a parade, so I had to wake him up to have him investigate. I love a man who will take on ferocious beasts in the middle of the night in is underwear!

Imagine my surprise when I saw a big scary… mouse run across the camper! That’s it! We are moving!!!

He (the mouse, not Jeff) had been snacking on our bananas and Lara Bar I had out on the counter. Who knew mice like bananas. Avocados? Not so much!

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You dirty rat!

This is the first time we have had a mouse inside our camper.

In 2013, we had a mouse outside making its home in the end cap of our Travel Trailer (that I thought was a raccoon too). That’s when we put out one of those sticky pad mousetraps with a piece of dog food on it. That seemed like a good idea until Sam, not being able to resist his dog food, tried to eat his kibble and ended up having his face stuck to the mousetrap!

You learn something new every day folks!

We went into operation, “kill the dirty rat” and set out traps all over the camper. By 11:30pm we had caught our mouse! YEA…problem solved. I could shut my eyes knowing that some little varmint wasn’t going to snuggle up with me or poop on my pillow in the middle of the night.

But within 30 minutes we could hear movement again and had caught mouse #2. Dang…two mice…in our house!!!

But wait, there’s more! By morning we could hear a third invader stuck to another trap. OMG there were 3 mice!

The next night we set up a trap in a shoe box with a hole in the side outside the camper by our tires to try and catch any additional mice before they got inside. No invaders inside the camper but we caught a 4th in the shoebox overnight!

I’m not sure if we parked right over a rat hole, but all was quiet after that. Peace and harmony was restored. YEA!

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Sam inspecting the carnage…that he slept through!

That is until we had an invader of another sort.

We have heard of this phenomenon from other dispersed campers. One minute you are in private solitude, miles apart from your next neighbor. The next minute someone is parked so close you can smell what they are having for dinner. That my friend is what is known as “a clinger”!

Yes, there are people who will move right in on your designated campsite just because it is big enough for two and then apologize because “there were no other sites open”. Instead of moving on like any normal respectable person would do, they encroach on your space and then proceed to run their generator at 6:30am.

Clinger

Clingers

I put clingers in the same category as those who decide to put their jacks down, set up their satellite dish and put out the mat and lawn chairs at a Walmart parking lot.

Despite our inconsiderate invading “guests” we did have a fabulous time at Silver Reef.

There are miles of places to run, hike, ATV and mountain bike as our camping road connected to the Red Cliffs Recreation Area. All this and only a 15-minute drive to St. George.

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Silver Rim Trail steps from our front door

I needed to get in a 10 mile run so I headed south to the Red Cliffs not knowing where I would end up. I just happen to pop out at the delightful Red Cliffs Campground.

Red Cliffs has only 11 sites with a 25’ max RV length and no hookups. While I was running the loop a camper told me about “the pools”, so I started down a trail right from the CG and ended up at an amazing find! Canyon pools spilling from one level to the next, creating a water oasis in a dry parched land.

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The red cliff pools

What a treat!

With hiking trails, well-maintained gravel roads and incredible scenery we will definitely stay here again. We will just bring extra mousetraps and a can of patience when we do!

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Ahhhh…serenity!

 

 

 

 

 

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Hiking Mesa

Mesa 2016

Views on top of Camelback Mountain

Jeff and I are about to wrap things up in beautiful Mesa, Arizona. We pulled into Mesa on November 6 and will be heading out by March 10.

With the exception of two weeks in Quartzsite, that put us in one spot for four whole months! How is that possible?

It’s been a fabulous stay and Mesa in the winter could not have left us wanting anything more. Pleasant daytime temperatures for ANYTHING sport/outside related, daily sunshine to give a healthy glow, cool nights for snuggle and sleeping perfection. Winter is more than tolerable here in the Grand Canyon State!

Mesa 2016

Unlimited citrus this time of year right off the tree!

Brooks RV Resort

Endless blue skies

Mesa 2016

Ah…sunrise euphoria

Another special thing about this place is that you have some amazing hikes all within 30 minutes of home base. And you can get as easy or as technical as you want.

So here are the hikes Jeff and I did while in the area.

South Mountain

 Our very first hike in the Mesa area was at South Mountain. Jeff and I did a night hike with our buddy Marshall and wrote about our hike here.

South Mountain is the largest municipal park in the US. It boasts 16,283 acres of desert goodness dating back to the Calvin Coolidge presidency (1924) with original Civilian Conservation Corps infrastructure from the early 1930s.

There are 58 miles of trails to mountain bike, horseback ride, trail run or hike…from easy to heart pumping. Whatever tickles your fancy, it can all be done here.

Views here are of the Phoenix. But if you time your hike at dusk you will treat yourself to a fabulous sunset and twinkling horizon as the city settles down for the night.

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Twinkling downtown lights

Superstition Mountains-Flat Iron

I wish I could say I have a love/hate relationship with Flat Iron since it was brutal to the demise of our winter plans. But even in spite of breaking my wrist here I still LOVE this hike.

It’s one of the most challenging hikes (outside of the Grand Canyon) I’ve ever done both in elevation and technicality.

The trail starts from the Siphon Draw Trailhead in the Lost Dutchman State Park and lulls you into a false sense of ease for about the first mile. The trail is a pure gentleman here and is conversational grade with easy footing. La, la, la…look at those pretty cacti over there!

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Scramble, boulder, tumble

Then BAM! After making a left turn you are confronted with the realization that this mountain is going to beat you into over 2000’ elevation submission!

Pure vertical. Pure scramble. Pure bouldering. There are no switchbacks here and your gluts, quads and lungs will be screaming for mercy!

I LOVE this hike despite it showing me whose boss on my way down.

Tonto National Forest

 We just skirted Tonto National Forest on my first hike after my infamous fall. Jeff and I were hiking again with buddy Marshall on Christmas Day and kept things easy and surefooted.

Tonto is the sixth largest National Forest in the US with almost 3 million acres that stretches from the desert floor (1300’) to ponderosa pines (7,900’). Its uniqueness is evidenced by six separate ecosystems in one forest.

I was unable to find out how many miles of hiking are available here. But with 3 million acres…I’m guessing your could hike for a year and still not explore everything.

Easy to challenging hiking, horseback riding and jeeping are everywhere. We stuck to simple jeep trails that could go on for days in and of itself.

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Hiking Tonto with Flat Iron looming in the background

Papago Park

This is a beautiful local park plopped right in the heart of Phoenix.

The park includes two golf courses, the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Zoo and a few miles of red desert trails to explore. It is a popular place for the locals to get their Saturday morning burn on. Nothing too strenuous here and lots of families come for the easy park and hike to “The Hole in the Rock” before hitting the Zoo.

Jeff and I wanting to do some trail running and actually ran around the park twice to get in 6 miles. This place was a bit more crowded and limited than my liking. But for a quick “hike” feel without having to leave the city, it will do in a pinch.

Wind Cave

Jeff and I were really trying to take in some of the top “must see” places in Mesa before moving out of the area and Wind Cave came in as a top destination on our Internet search.

Wind Cave is located in Usery Mountain Regional Park located on the Valley’s east side. Usery has a stunning campground, and once you have hiked up to the cave you take in beautiful views from 2,840’.

I use the term “cave” loosely as Wind Cave is nothing more than an indentation in the side of a small mountain. So inspiring I didn’t even take a picture of it!

The hike is a short 2.9 mile round trip and is pretty popular. Wind Cave is not too challenging and can be hiked with kids. It was a bit steeper than I had been hiking post wrist surgery, so I was a bit unnerved in a couple of spots due to my over sensitivity to falling.

But overall it was a nice morning hike with RV’ing friends that we hadn’t seen in a couple of months.

Camelback Mountain

If you come to Phoenix and ask about a hike, undoubtedly Camelback will be mentioned immediately.

It is the mountain that locals and tourists alike come to conquer at 2,706 at its peak.

Camelback gets its name from the shape of the mountain that looks like the humps of a kneeling camel.

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Camelback…double black diamond hike…I’m in!

The hike is not that long but it is certainly challenging with an accent of 1,280’. There are two approaches to Camelback. The Echo Canyon Trail will get you up 1,280’ in 1.14 miles verses the Cholla Trail in 1.4 miles.

Jeff and I chose the Cholla Trailhead to ease my post fracture fears of scrambling.

This is an extremely busy trail (as is the Echo Canyon Trail). Street parking is at a premium and will require an additional .5 mile hike uphill just to reach the TH. We were actually there for a Thursday lunch hike and had trouble finding a place to park. There are no other parking options except along the street, so we circled a couple of times before a spot opened up.

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Not the greatest parking options at Camelback Mountain

Though dogs are allowed on this trail, we really should have left Sam at home. I ended up going against the leash laws and let Sam off his leash in order to prevent tripping up other hikers. There was a sign posted at the TH that stated that they were holding meetings to discuss shutting the trail down in the future to dogs. This is one of those rare times I might agree with the “No Dogs Allowed” policy.

Camelback truly is a great hike if you are patient and is a moderate hike until the last .3 miles. It is a pure scramble and bouldering for the last push. It was beyond my ability with a still healing wrist, so Sam and I waited in the saddle while Jeff summited the peak.

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Stuck in traffic

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View from the top

The city views are amazing and I am glad that we made the effort to do this well-known hike. But it was too crowded for my liking and we will probably stick to the Tonto National Forest in the future to get our hike on.

So that is my hiking summary for the Phoenix/Mesa area for winter of 2015/16. All in all it’s been a wonderful place to burn up a cold winter in the lap of warm sunny luxury.

We have a three-week trip with multi-stop flights to Nashville for a Sales Conference and 2 weeks home in Bentonville, Arkansas before flying back to our home on wheels in Mesa.

March will have us moving north for the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah to cross another destination off our bucket list. Oh…the tragedy of our life!

Stay tuned!

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Words to live by!

 

 

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