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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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Havasupai Falls. Leaving the RV Behind. Part I

Havasupai Falls

Hualapai Hilltop Trailhead

There are some beautiful places in this world that can be difficult to get to.

Mount Whitney. Yosemite Half Dome. Crossing the Grand Canyon.

I realize these places are no comparison to the difficulty of reaching Mount Everest. But they are some of the most beautiful and difficult places I have personally dragged myself to.

One place that has been on our “list” is Havasupai Falls. Pictures of it’s incredible blue green waters set against the red rocks of the Grand Canyon created a longing and curiosity, despite the challenges to getting there.

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Satellite View of Havasu Creek and Campground

Havasupai Falls is located on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. The Reservation consists of 188,077 acres that makes up the West side of the South rim of the Grand Canyon. The remote village of Supai, Arizona is an 8-mile hike below the rim and is home to Havasu Baaia, “people of the blue green waters”. Two additional miles past the village is the Havasupai primitive campground nestled along the Havasu creek.

There are no roads to Havasu Falls. Access to this Garden of Eden is strictly by your own two feet or pre-reserved helicopter ride that will drop patrons at the village.

There is a 2,000’ drop in elevation within the first mile. But once you hike the switchbacks the remaining 9 miles is mostly a gentle decline to the campground. However, the trail to the village is completely void of trees so temps can sore at the bottom of the canyon. And during monsoon season you must be aware of potential flash floods, as you will be hiking down the gut of the canyon.

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Probably the biggest challenge to Havasupai Falls is getting a permit. There are only 300 permits issued per day via a very antiquated phone system; that for the most part, goes unanswered. I’ve read stories of people spending hours/days dialing over and over to get a busy signal. With large organized groups scooping up blocks of permits, it leaves very few to those individuals from around the world clamoring to get the rest.

After researching the falls, I didn’t think we would ever make the hike to this special place. We are RV’ers after all. Our camping supplies consist of holding tanks, fully equipped kitchen and queen sized tempurpedic mattress. We don’t own backpacks, sleeping bags or a tent nor do we have the space in the RV to store such items. And then, how would we ever get a permit?

But my attitude changed earlier this year when we noticed an invitation to go to the falls on the Grand Canyon Hikers Facebook page. They had 260 permits available for a 4-day/3-night trip in October of 2017. The permits were snatched up quickly and we put our names on a waiting list if others decided they couldn’t go after all.

Sure enough, as the date approached, people started cancelling and we were able to reserve permits for the trip! We just could not pass up an opportunity to see Havasu Falls.

After purchasing backpacking gear (that I hope to God we use again) we laid out 4 days worth of minimal food, clothing and gear, which came to 35lbs for Jeff and 25lbs for myself.

We met up with our group at the Haulapai Hilltop Trailhead at 6am to receive our group wristband and dropped down the tight switchbacks along the steep walls of the canyon. The view was vast with the sunrise waking up the treeless valley below.

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Waiting in line to pick up permits

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So exciting!

We quickly made it down the first mile and picked one of many trails that spread over a wide-open area. There are no trail markers here and everyone seemed to be on a different trail. But they all led to the same place so if you hike here pick a trail and go with it.

We eventually reached the wash that guided us directly through the canyon. The trail is rocky here but the views of the canyon walls were glowing red from the sun. We started to run into mule trains that were carrying hikers packs up to the trailhead. We also ran into other hikers who had left the campground at 3am to beat the heat.

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Im such a giant

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Running mule train

Once we entered the Supai Village we had to check in to receive a second wristband that allowed access to the campground. By the time we hiked 8 miles and made it to the Village, Jeff and I were miserable. Our legs were doing fine but our shoulders were screaming from the weight of our packs. We are trail runners after all and being newbies to backpacking, we hadn’t quite figured out how to distribute the weight of our packs to our hips.

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Village checkin for CG permits

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Heli pad

We left the village quickly and headed down the last 2 miles to the campground. Thankfully this steeper section was more wooded offering nice shade on the dusty trail.

We started getting glimpses of Havasu Creek and its stunning blue green waters along the trail before reaching Navajo Falls. The water is like nothing we have ever seen before. What the eye sees looks fake. The lime content that cakes the bottom of the creek somehow reflects the blue sky through is perfectly clear water.

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Our first look at Navajo Falls

Further down the trail we got our first glimpse of Havasu Falls. One large fall that spilled into a beautiful blue green reservoir made up of tiny pools of waterfalls. People were already swimming far below. They looked like tiny specs in a vast wall of blue.

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The top of Havasu Falls

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Havasu Falls

By 11:30AM we reached the campground and found a wonderful narrow peninsula wedged between the creek on either side to make camp. If you plan on hammock camping there are plenty of trees in the campground to stretch between. And the creek offers the perfect volume of babbling brook as background noise to shut out other campers.

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Creek on one side

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Creek on the other side

We took a quick nap before we explored the campground and met with our group for a meeting. We were instructed to be respectful, tidy and have a good time at one of North America’s most beautiful treasures.

Day two was Jeff’s birthday. And like any good camper without a calendar or reference for what day it was…I completely forgot!! (BAD WIFE!) Jeff and some friends made the 18-mile round trip hike to the confluence of Havasu Creek and the Colorado River while I made the 8-mile round trip to Beaver Falls. Both hikes follow the same trail that starts at the far end of the campground at Mooney Falls.

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Take your caution seriously

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Mooney Falls

You HEAR Mooney Falls before you SEE Mooney Falls. There are excellent vantage points to see the falls and take pictures. From there, several of us were looking for the trail to head to the bottom of the falls. There was a small cave formed by large boulders, but none of use considered it the trail until I walked back to the area and finally saw a faint arrow pointing into the hole.

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You want me to go down where?

The trail stepped down through the cave and poked out the side of a cliff with an amazing view of the falls. Chains led you a few steps to another cave that stepped down to another opening in the cliff. Visually I lost the trail here only to discover that it drops right over the edge by staggered indentations meant to be stairs, then chains and then a system of slick wooden ladders.

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Coming out of the tunnel

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The trail drops over the edge

My heart was pumping out of my chest! At our group meeting the advise for Mooney Falls was to maintain 3 points of contact at all times. Two hands-one foot. Two feet-one hand. Take your time and be intentional with every movement.

When I finally reached the bottom my head thought, “that wasn’t so bad”. But then I went to take a couple of steps and almost collapsed from my scared s*%tless wobbly legs.

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But as soon as I turned around and saw Mooney Falls up close, equilibrium was restored! IT. WAS. STUNNING!

There are a few picnic tables scattered about and beautiful natural pools of hallucinogenic colors. A rainbow forms from the mist given off by the falls in the sun that was just peaking over the canyon walls. It truly is a Garden of Eden.

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I followed the trail along Havasu Creek. The trail crossed the creek several times and I left my hiking shoes on to protect my feet from the lime coated creek bed. The trail veered away from the creek into what looks like a mangrove of foliage, then back to the creek again.

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It was an easy hike and I reached another set of ladders that climbed up a cliff face and then along a bluff. The views were incredible with more of the same blue green waters along the red rock canyon until I reached Beaver Falls. And WOW!

There were people swimming in the falls and jumping off of rocks. The sun was fully over the canyon. The waters were crystal clear and not overly cold. Just the right temp in full sun and a bit cold in the shade. There are layers of waterfalls that are created by dammed up lime covered logs and branches. The logs are so covered that the surface is fully rounded over creating very nice places to sit and soak.

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It was pretty crowded at the falls and I decided to hike back on the trail just a bit to find a private pool to soak in. It was such an interesting but easy hike (once you are past the ladders) that was a relief from my sore muscles from the day before.

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Can you see the water? Me neither!

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Cooling the dogs

I returned to camp and rinsed out the lime and sand from my shoes and swimsuit.

Part II Next Time

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Real or Fake?

 

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Back to the Midwest

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It’s been 2 ½ years since we’ve had the RV in the Midwest. We have visited plenty of times, just by air. But this time we needed the RV. In the humid Midwest. In the middle of summer. Insert whining.

It’s not that we don’t enjoy the Midwest. I grew up there for goodness sake. But after spending the last 2 years out west, beautifully dry and bug free, we were not looking forward to submerging ourselves in the sweat and mosquito, tick, gnat, fly (insert your most hated bug here) buffet.

We have grown accustomed to the dessert lifestyle. And when you can choose where you WANT to be in the summer it seemed odd to me that we were heading to the most avoided summer destination for RV’ers.

It takes something special to get us to leave the west and we had two events that were worthy of turning the truck east. My Grandma’s 100th Birthday and RAGBRAI.

Growing up in Belleville, IL I had the fortune of living next to my Grandparents. Grandma Tess was the built in babysitter and cook extraordinaire that filled our days with homemade pies, jellies and the most delicious cinnamon rolls you ever tasted. The only thing that rivaled Grandma’s roll was her cream puffs!

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Grandma was a worker bee her entire life and didn’t see much reason to sit down.

Sometime in grade school she moved an hour away and I begged my mom to spend the night at Grandma’s. I spent 4 days washing and waxing the car, learning how to do laundry and iron shirts and cleaning windows. If it weren’t for Grandpa taking me fishing I’m sure there would have been nothing left of my fingers, being worked all the way down to the bone.

I never did ask to stay overnight there again!

Today I can see the fruits of her influence, tenacity and drive in me and I would not have wanted to grow up any other way!

Grandma had been living in a very nice Assisted Living facility just 1 mile from my Mom in St. Louis. She had had some recent falls and was fading quickly. I’m sad to say that she passed away while we were in route to St. Louis, seven days shy of her 100th birthday!

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We had a 100th birthday party for her anyway and I’m thankful that we were able to attend. Family and friends celebrated her life, had food, sang Happy Birthday and ate cake and ice cream. How can you be sad about 100 years!?!

I Love you Grandma Tess!

RAGBRAI

The second reason we found ourselves in the Midwest was Jeff and I had committed to RAGBRAI.

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RAGBRAI, the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, is an Iowa cycling institution held the third week of July every year. I’m not sure what is bigger in Iowa. The State Fair or RAGBRAI.

From the RAGBRAI website…

“RAGBRAI is a bicycle ride, not a race.  It started in 1973 as a six-day ride across the state of Iowa by two Des Moines Register columnists who invited a few friends along.  It is held the last full week in July.  RAGBRAI is planned and coordinated by The Des Moines Register, and riders who participate in RAGBRAI understand that they do so at their own risk.

The RAGBRAI route averages 468 miles and is not necessarily flat.  It begins somewhere along Iowa’s western border on the Missouri River and ends along the eastern border on the Mississippi River.  We change the route each year and announce the overnight towns in late January at the RAGBRAI Route Announcement Party, in The Des Moines Register and on our website.

Eight Iowa communities along the RAGBRAI route serve as “host” communities for overnight stays. RAGBRAI is a guest in these communities and we ask our riders to behave as such.”

20,000-30,000 people show up from around the world to ride this event. This would be our third time to do the ride, but this time we had some friends along for their first time.

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Don’t blink or you will lose your party

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Geoff and Donna under the Bicycle Arch 

Mike and Donna of Flying the Koop and Tom and his Father-in-love Fred from Elkhart, Indiana and Geoff from Austin, Texas. Team “RV there yet”!

We had such a great time. Iowans are a super friendly bunch and you get a feel for small town America at this event.

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Mr. Hassman going for 1000 selfie kisses

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Mr. Hassman mission statement…AMEN!

The RAGRAI route is changed every year and towns bid much like the Olympics to have the event roll through their city. It’s a huge economic boost for RAGBRAI communities lucky enough to be chosen.

Towns are usually very small with populations around 1,500-6,000 that swells with the masses of hungry cyclists ready to purchase as much pie, homemade ice cream, burritos, turkey legs, pork chops, draft beer and brats they can make.

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The Lutheran Church wins “Best Pie” award from our group

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Jeff testing the lick-ability of Beekman’s Ice Cream

The weather was perfect this year! As team “RV There Yet?” head out each morning by 6:30-7:00 AM my job was to get our RV caravan to the next host city before the crowds of other RV’s got there.

Each host town has designated RV campgrounds that are usually located on fairground or school parking lots. The key to getting an easy in, easy out spot is to arrive early and stake your claim and let everyone else figure out how to fit a square peg into a round hole around you.

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Fairground camping in Waukon IA

Our 7am strategy worked perfectly and all three of us were able to park together each day.

As our cyclists ate pedaled their way across the state Mike, Fred and I set up camp and relaxed a bit before the team rolled in anywhere from 1-3pm. After showers and naps we would all gather together for adult beverages and dinner.

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After setting up Sam be like…chill!

The winning food for the week? Mike’s smoked ribs…YUM!!!

About day 6 we noticed that the The Craft Beer tent was about 6 miles from the destination town. So Mike, Fred and I hopped on bikes and back tracked the course to meet up with our team for a cold one. The ride ended up being a bit further than anticipated on a hot day. By the time we reached to tent we were thirsty and hungry.

It was fun pedaling back to the campsite with our team and getting to experience a small part of the cycling event. The energy of this group is off-the-chart and we got to hear all about our groups day.

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Everyday was like rolling through Mayberry. Donna “sit’n a spell” with Aunt Bea.

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A lot of kissing going on at this event!

The last day of RAGBRAI is always a bit crazy. Tiny towns, tight streets and thousands of people trying to pick up their cyclists before heading back to distant corners of the world.

I look back on the pictures from RAGBRAI 2017 and remember what a special event this was, the interesting people we met along the way and all the calories consumed. We were with an amazing group of friends who will now have a story to tell about that time we all went to RAGBRAI.

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Bryce 100 Ultra Trail Run

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While we were camping at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon  Jeff and I wanted to do a shakedown trip to Bryce Canyon before we moved the RV there for the Bryce 100.

I had researched boondocking sites near the Bryce Canyon National Park. We drove down a couple of dirt roads and through the Red Canyon Campground but none of them had any connectivity. After passing through the two arches on Hwy 12 with a 13’6” height restriction, we found an incredible boondocking area on Toms Best Spring Rd, just across the street from the start of the Bryce 100 at Coyote Hollow.

And with excellent connectivity it was the winning location.

Our only apprehension was the height restriction through the arches. Our girl is tall like Jeff and I, so squeezing her through 13’6” was about 6” short of her Amazonian stature. Jeff devised a plan on how we could measure the height. With his 8’ overhead arm reach while holding our 5’ truck bed bike rack we could tell that the arch still had 5-6’ of clearance. As long as we stuck to the center of the lane we were golden!

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Plenty of headroom for the Domani

A couple days later we packed up camp at the North Rim and made the two-hour trek to Bryce.

We left early in the morning and dumped our tanks at a gas station in Kanab. We wanted to get an early start so that we could avoid too much traffic while trying to fit our square peg of an RV through a round hole of the arches. All went smoothly with plenty of clearance and we picked an awesome boondocking spot to spend the next two weeks.

We used these two weeks to scout out trailheads and aid station checkpoints for the Bryce 100. Our campsite happened to be in the perfect location for hitting two different checkpoints on opposite sides of the course. This would allow me to swing by the RV to catch a quick nap and make Jeff a couple of smoothies during the 36-hour race.

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Sweet Bryce campsite..Sam approved!

We took the opportunity to do a couple of training runs in Bryce National Park. Our first sunrise hike was on the Rim Trail that connected to the Navajo Loop Trail. The trip down the canyon was steep with switchback after switchback to make the grade more manageable. What was dynamic about this hike is that the initial trail takes you up close and personal with tall hoodoos and slots that appear to be held up by the smallest of pebbles of crumbling dirt. Just one flick of a finger would appear to bring it all tumbling down.

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Switchback City

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Nature at it’s finest

Another favorite is the Fairyland Loop. Eight miles of dusty dirt to kick up while taking in the sites!

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Hoodoos standing at attention

As the sun came up it set the rocks on fire, heating up the canyon with a warm radiant heat. Every turn gives a fresh vantage point of endless hoodoos that speak straight to my soul. “Come and explore so that I may show you a whole other world”.

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This is why I love Bryce

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Holy smokes I love this guy

God’s creation moves me. It speaks to me. And I am whole again.

After such a moving experience we went to breakfast and did laundry at the Bryce Canyon Inn. Hey, that’s the reality of life on the road. One minute you are basking in the glory of nature, the next you are buying propane and dumping your poop at the local gas station.

As the race quickly approached we met up with two friends from our Arkansas running group who also had entered Bryce 100. Janet and Chris are the ones who encouraged Jeff to run this race with them. Strategies were talked about, meals were eaten and all checked in for the race. The pain fest was about to begin!

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Yup…crazy people!

On June 16 the gun went off and the crowd of 250 shuffled off with high hopes for the next 24-36 hours of 18,565’ of vertical climb.

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6AM start

I stopped at the RV for a quick nap and made Jeff a smoothie before heading off to the first check point about 19 miles out. The tough part of being a spectator at these types of events is that it can be challenging to spectate. Check points can be spread out over 100’s of driving miles down poorly maintained roads.

Proctor Canyon aid station was no exception.

Support crews had to park miles away and wait in long lines to hitch a ride on the back of a pickup truck who then made the 40 minute rock crawl to our destination. Thinking I had left a couple of hours gap before seeing the “Arkansas Travelers” (AT-team) they showed up 30 minutes after my arrival. They were making great time!

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Walking it in to mile 19

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Who is racing 100 miles? This guy!

All systems were a go and Jeff, Janet and Chris quickly moved on. I made the rock crawl back to my vehicle and drove back to the RV to reload for the next aid station at Straight Canyon, mile 41.

Another interesting thing that happens during these races is that you start questioning your timing. You do the math over and over again to insure you arrive at the aid stations when you “think” your athlete will be there. But then they show up early to the first location and throw off all your projected times for the day.

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Got caught in a cattle traffic jam

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Discussing the next leg over a smoothie

So when I made it to Straight Canyon the AT-team was already heading down the road to the next location. I managed to see Jeff for a few minutes, and then we were all off to the next spectator aid station at the turn around…mile 51.

Crawford Pass was 10 miles away for the runners, but only 3 miles for the crew. So I settled in for a bit of a wait. The sun was going down by this time and the temps were beginning to drop. I tried to nap in the truck but I wasn’t able to sleep. So I put on warmer clothes and decided to help the athletes coming in by picking out their needs bags and getting them food.

By mile 51, everyone is getting pretty tired and I saw quite of few people decide to call it quits. Jeff and I had a strategy in place, that if he came into an aid station and wanted to quit I would encourage him to wait to make the decision at the next aid station. These races are as much mental as physical and if you can delay a decision until the next stop, sometimes that’s enough time to get the athletes out of their own head and back on the trail.

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Mile 51

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Taking a break at the turn around

Jeff came into Crawford pass about 10pm and the rest of AT about 40 min later. Jeff used this aid station to take a 30 min nap while I took his shoes and socks off, washed his feet and put on new, fresh socks. Jeff didn’t have a single blister in sight and was feeling pretty good after his nap.

Jeff has always been a VERY optimistic guy and to see him with his happy-go-lucky attitude at this stage amazed me to say the least. There was no hint of not making it to the finish and I knew then that he would accomplish this race!

Our other teammates were not having the same experience. Chris had such an upset stomach that he wanted to drop out. While the rest of us tried to encourage him to delay his decision he walked into the woods to throw up, then announced that he was out!

By this time Jeff had already left the aid station.

Janet wanted to continue on but did not want to run in the dark by herself. She was going to drop out as well until a pacer for another runner (that had dropped out) offered to run with Janet through the night. This wonderful gal ran with Janet until the finish of the race…50 miles away. What a super hero!!!

Since this race was an out-and-back, Chris and I drove back to Straight Canyon, now mile 62. We fell asleep in the truck and woke up just as Jeff was leaving the aid station. He made awesome time again and was still feeling good. Janet followed a bit later and Chris and I headed back to the RV where his car was parked.

I’m not going to lie. By now it was 3am and I was exhausted. The 45-minute drive was pure torture in sleep depravation. Chris went back to his hotel and I slept for a couple hours at the RV before making one more smoothie for Jeff. Our last spectator aid station was back at Proctor Canyon, mile 84. This time Chris and I drove my truck to the aid station and offered up rides to others waiting in the long line again.

Jeff was able to get a text message every once in a while to let me know what time/mile he was at. I knew that he was within 4 miles of Proctor, so I set out back tracking the course to pace him into the aid station. I ran into him with two miles to Proctor and he filled me in on the perils of night running and things that go bump in the night. With sleep depravation, exhaustion and a bit of hallucinations there is quite a story to tell!

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On the trail to Proctor Aid Station for the last time

By now it was getting very hot and the rest of the course was in full sun.

At Proctor we did one last foot cleaning and clean socks and Jeff made a quick exit. His cut off times were starting to get tight and he didn’t want to run the risk of not finishing under 36 hours.

I watched as other runners came into the aid station. Some looking fresh. Some looking terrible. It is scary when an athlete stumbles into an aid station not knowing who they are or babbling something incoherent. It was sad to see one runner who was pulled off the course by the medical team with just 16 miles to go. It was definitely warranted, but sad just the same.

By this mileage there are plenty of runners crying due to pain, skinned knees from falls, blisters on top of blisters and those who just want to stop. I admire all these runners for the perseverance it takes to finish a 100-mile race. My respect goes to each and every one of them…those who start and those who finish! Who does such a thing????

With 16 miles left Jeff pushed his legs further than he ever has and had a kick to the finish with an hour to spare.

Jeff completed his first 100!!!!

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Bryce 100 in the books!

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A well deserved seat!

I cant tell you how proud  I am to see Jeff cross that finish line. All the long training runs, all the mounds of food consumed to fuel that training, all the head games to convince himself it can be done, all the research and conversations from those who have gone before. It all came together for a perfect race!

Janet showed up with her pacer about 20 minutes after the cutoff. Anyone that finishes a 100 mile race is a “finisher” in my book.

Jeff and Janet received their belt buckles!

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Way to go Janet!

48% of the field dropped out of the race that weekend…48%! There were ambulances at the finish to escort some weary runners to the hospital. Jeff got some food at the finisher’s tent, and then we made the short drive back to the RV.

We had a quick travel turn around to make it to Denver. With a flight scheduled to Elkhart IN for meetings within a couple days my plan was to load up Jeff and the RV right after his finish and head down the road. But we were both too exhausted. It wasn’t going to be safe for me to drive so we decided to wait until the next morning to leave Bryce.

After a VERY long day of driving to Frisco, CO we stopped at a campground before making the last push to Colorado Springs where we parked the RV in a friends driveway for our Indiana trip.

Since Jeff’s race 4 months ago (I know…I am waaay behind on this blog) we have been stationary for the most part in the mid-west. We have been hit with some life events back home so I will fill you in on the excitement next time!

Goodbye for now Utah!

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The Wave

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The first time I visited Flagstaff was about 10-15 years ago when Jeff worked for Scotts Miracle Grow. They had their annual sales conference in Scottsdale. We stayed a few extra days to explore Arizona, and Flagstaff was merely a place to overnight so we could see Sedona and the Grand Canyon.

It was such a memorable trip. Cresting the hill driving into Sedona and seeing those red rock formations for the first time. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. Then standing on the south rim of the Grand Canyon looking over its edge. I couldn’t open my eyes wide enough to take it all in.

We had a retirement dream way back then to travel in a 5th Wheel. But I don’t think we ever could have pictured the life that we now have!

On May 11 Jeff and I rolled into Flagstaff for the ? time. We have been here so many times now we no longer need a GPS to get around. It’s familiar, beautiful and one of our favorite places to be.

OVERLAND WEST

We were at Flagstaff this time to work the Overland West Expo being held at the Fort Tuthill County Park. We stayed onsite with thousands of Overlanders who were there to…

“Get outfitted, get trained, get inspired—get going.

The world is waiting.”

With that kind of inspiration it’s no wonder this is our very favorite show to work!

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Another kind of camping

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Off road luxury

What makes this event so special is the location (nestled amongst the fragrant, wispy pines), the dogs (all well behaved non-yappers) and the adventurous people who tend to be a younger demographic than RV’ers.

As an RV’er we tend to think we have a sense of exploration and adventure. But Overlanders? Well, they take adventure to a whole other level. Where (most) RV’ers are limited by the boarders of North America, Overlanders are limited by the globe!

There were no satellite or surge protectors companies represented here. I didn’t see any tempurpedic mattresses or meat smokers either. They are more interest in products that will allow them to access off road places with the minimal amount of stuff. The smaller you can go, the better.

We were there to showcase Dometic’s mobile cooling line of CFX portable refrigerator freezers. They can operate off of 12V or 110 and be powered by solar. This appeals to many Overlanders and the products flew off the shelf! Best of all, I didn’t have to talk to a single person about the use of their RV toilet…and their ensuing bathroom habits.

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It was a great show with a great team and it was our last show to work until the fall.

SOUTH RIM GRAND CANYON

After Flag we moved on to another favorite location, the south rim of the Grand Canyon. We had some friends that were driving up from Phoenix to do a double-crossing of the Canyon and we were invited to go.

Since I prefer a single crossing rather than a double and we have to be responsible fur parents, I sent Jeff across the big ditch with the group while I stayed back with Sam. My plan was to go a couple days later.

This was the 4th trip across the canyon for Jeff and it never gets old. It’s a heart pounding challenge that he used as training for his Bryce 100 race coming up. At 3am we picked up our three friends at the village and I dropped them all off at the South Kaibab trailhead to start their 15-20 hour journey. I picked them up at 10pm with a couple of pizzas. They were exhausted, cold and hungry!

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Jeff, Laurie, Lavinia & Kathi

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Trip down the South Kaibab

A couple days later I headed down South Kaibab myself. I wanted to take a different route this time and decided to jump onto the Tonto trail at Tip Off Point. Tonto runs east/west between South Kaibab and the Bright Angel trail at Indian Gardens. This cuts off 1000ft of elevation and 6 miles of the traditional Rim to River to Rim route.

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I REALLY enjoyed this route. The views are not nearly as stunning crossing the Tonto trail. But what I enjoyed was that I was done within 6 hours, rather than 10-12 hours. The thirteen miles was still a challenge, but I finished in time for a hot lunch at Bright Angel Lodge.

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Mule train traffic jam

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Hot chocolate finish

While camping there we had a quick overnight visit from our niece and her family of 4 little’s. They were making a two-week trip from northern California to Arkansas and back and just happened to be passing through. We invited them to spend the night and see the Canyon at sunrise.

Since our RV is not really set up for overnight guests, we spread out yoga mats on the floor to try and make their sleeping bags a bit more comfortable. The next morning we headed to the south rim for sunrise, then took the kids to a café for a pancake breakfast. It was fun watching the kids and their dad seeing the Canyon for the first time. Standing on the rim in awe.

They were on their way after breakfast while Jeff and I headed to the North rim.

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NORTH RIM GRAND CANYON

The reason for the North Rim was that I had signed up for the North Rim half marathon trail run. I was originally going to do the Bryce Half (of the Grand Circle Trail series) while Jeff was signed up for the Bryce 100. But after thinking about logistics and caring for Sam dog, we decided to split our races.

The thing that we have found about these trail races is that the packet pickup and start/finish tend to be in remote locations down poorly maintained and unmarked forestry roads. GPS is usually not your friend in these instances and connectivity to digital maps does not exist. At one point we had 7 cars behind us following our lead as we tried to find the check-in. Two hours and two flat tires (not us) later we all made it to the start.

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We did discover that our GPS took us on a terrible route…sorry everyone! Our trip back to the RV was on better roads and only took 75 minutes.

Race day was beautiful and fun. But with the 9,000’ elevation breathing was HARD! The route took us on forestry roads and freshly made single-track trails. Up and down hills and along the north rim of the Grand Canyon. It was so amazing runners, including myself, stopped frequently to take pictures during the race. That is one of my favorite things about trail running…stopping for a pretty view regardless of your time is to be expected.

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Always stop for views even during a race

It was a great time and I enjoyed a long hard nap once we got back to the RV.

THE WAVE

 One of the tools I like to use when we go to a new area is Pinterest. I type in our location to the search and see what others have pinned for the area. For Kanab the search pulled up The Wave.

Most of you have seen The Wave, which was made popular by Microsoft as a screen saver. It was a little known treasure that only locals knew about. But once it appeared on computer screens EVERYWHERE, tourists swallowed up the Wave.

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As a result, the Bureau of Land Management had to quickly put some restrictions in place to preserve this treasure.

The Wave is such a small area the BLM limit permits to 10-online lottery entries (6 months in advance) and 10-in person lottery (for the following day) per day. We have always had luck getting permits to other popular hikes by entering in person. Yosemite and Whitney Mountain.

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A room full of hope

But the Wave is different with only 20 permits available per day. Any given day you only have a 4-8% chance at getting a permit. Yosemite allows 300 people per day.

Since the odds are closer to 8% on a weekday, Jeff and I left the north rim early enough to get to the Kanab visitor center by 8:30AM to fill out a permit request. Each request allows for up to 6 people to go. However, if a request is drawn with 6 people, then there are only 4 permits left. Permits are handed out per person, NOT per group.

And if there are only 2 permits left and you have a group of 5, then three people must get left behind. NO EXCEPTIONS. All applications are given a number and you must be present during the drawing. Numbered balls are put in a Bingo tumbler and at 9AM sharp, if your number is called, your party is counted until all the permits are issued.

It’s all over in a matter of minutes and the majority of the room leaves disappointed.

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Pick ME!

We found out that one of our running friends from Bentonville was in Kanab with her family. We asked Whitney if she would like to join us IF we happen to get a permit and we put her name on the application. After going through the drawing process we were one of those who left disappointed. It wasn’t meant to be.

But one of the beauties of being a full time RV’er is that we are flexible, and we decided to make the 45-minute drive to try our luck the next day. And JACKPOT…we were the first number called!

OMG…WE WERE GOING TO THE WAVE!!!

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Its official!

Once our number was called the others were dismissed (sorry folks) and permit holders were educated on the rules and given instructions on how to reach the wave. The trail there is so unworn and so unmarked that you are given paper instructions with pictures of landmarks.

You are warned about paying attention to your surroundings, don’t follow others footprints and taking enough water, food and warm clothing to sustain yourself for 24 hours. People have been known to get lost or injured out there, and connectivity/help is slow or non-existent.

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They put the fear of God in me and I took detailed notes of things to be aware of.

Our friend Whitney spent the night with us at our RV so that we could get a very early start. Jeff had an 11am conference call (we are not on vacation after all) and we needed to give ourselves enough time to explore and get back to cell coverage.

We left at 4am and made the 1.5-hour drive on 35 miles of washboard forestry roads and started our hike at sunrise. This trail is fairly easy, but the written directions with pictures are no joke. We could see quickly how people could get lost. We would have never found it without those instructions.

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Stopping to consult the map

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Stay to the right of the twin buttes

It took us about an hour and a half to reach The Wave… and WOW!

The colors. The textures. The warmth. The contours. All working together to form burning swoops and swirls. We climbed around, on and over this small little jewel and quickly understood why The Wave is limited to 20 people a day. If not the damage would be irreparable and the isolated feel to the experience would be lost.

It was incredible!

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As we headed back to the trailhead, we again followed our paper instructions and landmarks. We did get off course but were able to find our way back to the “trail” with the help of Jeff’s Garman breadcrumbs.

We bid farewell to our friend Whitney and made it back to our RV just in time for Jeff’s call. A few days later I was still reflecting on the beauty of The Wave. It was such a special experience and we feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to go.

I’m not sure how many times we are going to have our name draw for things like these. But we will keep entering our names and keep pursuing the special opportunities in life.

Without the effort there would be no opportunity at all.

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Dogs are welcome at the wave

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

Salt Lake City Trails

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.

Capital Reep

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.

Leeds Utah

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.

Leeds River

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.

Hardware Show

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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