Archive for category Full Time RV

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.

Flagstaff AZ

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!

Eden Peak

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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Getting High on Mt. Whitney

Mono Lake

Full moon rising over Mono Lake

After leaving Seattle we had three weeks to make our way to Phoenix. Our working travel schedule gave us a deadline and unfortunately we were headed into the belly of the hot molten volcano in the middle of summer. 106 degrees here we come!

We made quick stops in Eugene and Ashland, Oregon, Redding, CA and Reno, Nevada on our way to Mono Lake, CA.

I had read about some great boondocking at Mono Lake on the eastern side of Yosemite. This really would be our last stop at any elevation (6,378’) in order to avoid the southwest heat. Also, when we were in Yosemite in May, we never made it to Tioga Pass. So stopping at Mono Lake would give us that opportunity.

Ashland OR

Quick stopover in Ashland, OR

Well, that was the plan anyway…

Last year about this time, Jeff asked me a question about doing something epic, challenging or scary and I blurted out that I would like to hike the highest peaks in each state. A week later I had bagged my first…Mt. Humphreys in Flagstaff, AZ. at 12,633ft.

Ever since then I have been researching the highest peak of each state that we traveled in 2016. Unfortunately, we have been traveling the states with the highest peaks overall that have been snow covered and required ice axes, crampons, repelling equipment, permits, guides, tents, backpacks, etc. MUCH more equipment than what we have.

So when I read about hiking California’s massive Mt. Whitney at 14,505ft, the highest peak in the contiguous US and it’s accessibility in late summer, I knew California was an attainable peak.

And look. It just happens to be down the road from Mono Lake! Change of plans…we are hiking Mt. Whitney!

Mt. Whitney

Getting an early start…just not early enough!

The Mt. Whitney Trail Head starts at Whitney Portal at 8,360ft via the small town of Lone Pine, CA. A permit is required for this hike and the online permit system said that there were no permits available. Learning from our experience at Yosemite we stopped in at the Forest Service center just south of Lone Pine and easily picked up a permit and mandatory “WAG Bag” (Waste Alleviation and Gelling-Bag) for the next day.

Everything I read about this hike said that this VERY STRENUOUS hike could be bagged in one very long day (12-18 hours), although most people take two. Its 22 miles round trip with 6,100ft of elevation gain, topping out at 14,505ft.

Since Jeff and I had spent the better part of the past month at Sea Level, we knew that this was going to be quite a challenge in elevation and distance. One I was not completely confident in completing. But I knew that what goes up must come down and I could turn around at any point in the hike if it got to be too much for this land lubber.

Walk this way!

Walk this way!

The morning of our hike we got off to a late start, leaving the Whitney Portal TH at 6:30AM instead of our planned 5AM. Apparently we didn’t do enough research because most hikers leave around 1-3AM for this hike. For me, this was mistake #1!

Jeff tends to futz with his equipment, shoes, GPS and phone A LOT longer than I have patience for (sigh) and I headed off on the trail to get a jump. Jeff hikes much faster than I and I knew it wouldn’t take long before he would catch up with me.

What is really hilarious now is that Jeff had read that some folks were getting Verizon Cell coverage on the top of Mt Whitney, so his plan was to get to the top by 10AM for a conference call.

GEEZ! WHAT ON EARTH WERE WE THINKING?!?

I started at the TH and quickly passed the 6-10 informational boards that described the tenacity needed for such a hike. No need to read those of course…we have a conference call to make!

Immediately the trail started with a moderate incline. The sun was up just enough that no headlamp was needed and I made mistake #2 by leaving it in the truck. After an hour on the trail there was a beautiful sunrise that was enhanced by the smoke from the San Bernardino fires that were burning out of control at the time.

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Lone Pine Lake

After about 3 miles I reached Lone Pine Lake. At this point Jeff still had not caught up with me and I grew a bit concerned. Come to find out he took a wrong turn at the beginning of the trail and got on the rugged Mountaineer’s route to Mt. Whitney. He noticed his mistake after about a ½ mile and turned around. That does tend to happen when you hike and post selfies on facebook at the same time!

Jeff finally caught up with me and it was clear that it was going to be a challenge to get to the top before the 10AM conference call. So I sent him ahead to try and make it without me holding him back…with our water filter. Mistake #3 (at least for me).

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After Lone Pine Lake the nice smooth trail quickly changed over to a rockier surface. Footing became a bit more of a challenge as trees thinned out. I passed Outpost Camp with its gorgeous waterfall at a little over 10,000ft. There were a lot of backpackers here stopping to acclimatize on their 2-3 day summit push.

“Gee…Maybe I aught to look into some overnight equipment, scratching my head!

I hit a long patch of switchbacks after Outpost Camp.

In my quick glance lengthy research of this hike I remembered reading about a section of the trail called “the 99 switchbacks” that came after a campground.

Mt. Whitney

The trail turns rugged

I got pretty excited because I new that the 99 were around mile 7. “Wow, I’m making great time”! I asked a fellow hiker coming down if I was on the infamous 99. Imagine my surprise when she told me, “ Oh no. You have quite a way to go before you get to the 99”.

About this time I saw a trail marker that said Mile 4!  I. WAS. CRUSHED!

By now my heart had been pounding in my ears for almost 3 hours. The elevation had reduced my hiking to 45min miles. THIS WAS GOING TO BE A LOOOONG DAY.

The trail switched from dirt and rocks to granite stair steps. I rose high above pretty Mirror Lake and Meadow. After another 1 ½-2 hours I finally reached Trail Camp at 12,039’.

Trail Camp is located on the shore of Consultation Lake. It could have been on the moon as far as I was concerned due to its barren landscape and granite spires. The camp was full of backpackers as well and by now I’m thinking these people are geniuses for breaking this hike up into several days!

I stopped here for a snack and contemplated the 99 switchbacks that were now staring me in the face. That’s 2.2 miles of switchbacks climbing 1,738’ to Trail Crest. I’m not going to lie…I thought long and hard about stopping here and just calling it a day. But after eating some food and catching my breath I decided to give the 99 a shot.

Surprisingly, the switchbacks were set at a low grade, which was much appreciated at this altitude. After what seemed like 999 switchbacks I finally rounded a corner and was hit with an amazing view to the west. Granite rising up, alpine forests and lakes below. My eyes had trouble taking it all in. I get teary-eyed just thinking about it now.

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Reaching Trail Crest at 13,600′

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What’s around that granite spire?

I made it to Trail Crest at 13, 800’!

The Mt. Whitney summit is 2.5 miles from here and a mere 845’ of elevation. But these are the most difficult and most draining 2.5 miles of your life…so I’ve heard.

Once I reached Trail Crest I was for sure going to turn around. But after I sat for about 20 minutes and ate some food and got inspired by the beautiful views I started wondering what was just around the corner.

The trail from here took a dip and I really thought hard about having to make up the elevation I had already climbed. But the trail drew me in and I pressed on, “just a little further”.

The trail from Trail Crest is brutal. BRU.TAL!!!

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The trail is in there somewhere

I scrambled for the next mile over unstable rocks, angular slabs, shear drops and technical boulders. After an hour I sat down for a break and saw the Smithsonian hut on the summit off in the distance. By now I was exhausted. The narrow single track trail was closing in. I was having moments of panic as my mind flashed back to my broken wrist less than a year ago.

I asked another hiker how much longer until the summit. When they responded, “about 2 hours” I was finished!

By now it was 12:30pm. I had been hiking 6 hours with 2 more hours to go. I did the math and figured it would take me 4 hours just to get back to this point on the trail. My heart sank realizing I was going to run out of water and day-light, without a filter that was with Jeff and headlamp that was securely back in the truck.

It killed me to be this close and have to call the hike. Just 1.5 miles left to the summit. For me, it had to be over!

Mt. Whitney

Jeff perseveres! Highest point in the lower 48!

About this time I met Esther. She was making her way back down the mountain after summiting. Wisely, she had left with her husband at 3am.

They had started this hike a few days before, but her husband Joe wasn’t feeling well and they turned around. This morning they started off at 3am again and again Joe didn’t feel well. He encouraged his wife to carry on so that one of them would make it. And that she did!

We started hiking together from here, retracing the technical trail back to Trail Crest. We both moaned at the section where we had to climb in elevation to get there, commenting about our pounding heads.

Down the 99 we went, past camps, meadow, lakes and waterfalls. All the while talking about our lives of adventure and travel. I learned about her amazing two daughters and could hear the affection she had for her husband of many years.

Mt. Whitney

Second half of the battle is getting back down!

Our knees and quads were wearing down, but our time together made the trip so much better. I learned she and Joe take off their real estate business months at a time to travel. Check out their very well written blog here.

We arrived at the TH not a step too soon at 5:30pm, as the sun was going down. I got to meet Joe and instantly noticed they have a relationship like Jeff and I. Those rare relationships when a husband and wife actually like each other, have the same life pursuits and miss each other when we are not together. I can appreciate a happy couple!

I had gotten a text from Jeff that said that he had summited around 2pm, four hours after his missed conference call.

Joe and Esther were kind enough to give me a ride back to my RV Park in Lone Pine, knowing that Jeff would not be down for another 3 hours. I left the keys hidden in the truck so he could drive himself home.

Even though I missed reaching the summit I couldn’t be more proud for reaching 13,000+ feet and hiking 20 miles.

Thanks Esther for getting me down that mountain!

Mt. Whitney, I will be back! But next time I will leave earlier and not plan on making any calls!

Mt. Whitney

Westerly view from Trail Crest 13,600′

 

 

 

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Yosemite National Park-Part I

Yosemite

Let the hiking commence!

Jeff was a Californian for the first 23 years of his life and one of his most shocking statements was that he has never been to Yosemite. Being a mid-west girl myself, I have a much better excuse why my eyes have never gazed upon El Capitan, Yosemite Falls or Half Dome. But to live within 90 miles of this National treasure and never to have seen it. Well, that’s just plane hard to believe!

Yet here we are, California surfer dude and Illinoisan tomboy, taking in this place together for the very first time. It was spectacular! That first view of Half Dome and El Capitan will forever be engrained in my mind. It’s emotional and spiritual and amazingly beautiful!

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WOWZA!

Being in Yosemite this year is especially spectacular since El Nino’ dumped abundant snow. Its spring and the snowmelt has added volumes of water to all of the falls in the park making for waterfall-palooza everywhere you look. Even the parking lots have incredible views!

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Sams loves El Capitan!

It being Memorial Day weekend, I had made a weeks reservation at Yosemite Ridge RV Resort a couple of months in advance. Though the National Park entrance is just 13 miles from the RV Resort, it was still another 30-some miles to Yosemite Valley floor making our commute 45-60 minutes one-way.

We spent our first day (Friday) taking a drive to the Valley floor to get the lay of the land and get information for hiking Half Dome. Then we purposed to avoid the valley floor Memorial Weekend. What a good decision that was! By the time we were driving back to the RV Park each day the lines into the park were backed up for 3 miles.

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Hike to Mirror Lake

We stuck to perimeter hikes out Hetch Hetchy to Tueeulala and Wapama Falls (5 miles round trip). The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir provides water to the Bay area and is so pure, no filtration is required. A ranger told us that they cannot tell you its ok to drink out of it without filtration, however, it exceeds EPA standards. The spray from the waterfalls over boardwalk trails were a real treat since it was getting really warm that day.

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Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

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These falls are big!

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We are about to get wet

The next day we hiked to the Toulumne Grove from Hodgdon Meadows (10 miles). This is where a grove of Sequoia Redwoods stand. We were virtually alone until we reached the grove on this trail, which was on an old paved logging road and part of the original road into the valley.

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Tree Giants

The really cool part of this hike was seeing the Tunnel Tree that was carved out of a fallen sequoia around 1881 as a tourist attraction. The park entrance road drove right through this tree and a toll was collected! Things like this triggered the National Parks ranger program to prevent future destruction of the majestic redwoods and park resources. Because of the discovered Sequoia grove, the park entrance road was later re-routed to where it is today.

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Tunnel Tree at Tuolumne Grove

One of our bucket list hikes, second to The Grand Canyon, has been Half Dome. It’s a long day hike (16-18 miles RT depending on where you park) with the last 500 feet of climb up “the cables” to reach the summit.

A permit is required from Sub-Dome and above. There are only 300 permits issued per day with 60% of them available via online lottery up to 6 months in advance. The other 40% are issued via lottery a day in advance.

Since the 60% permits were already issued during our time there, we took a chance and tried the other 40% permits by diligently applying online DAILY at a $4.50 fee with each try…only to receive our Dear John letter every night at midnight.

Since that wasn’t working we found out that there are additional Half Dome permits available, but only if you apply for a backcountry camping permit. These are very limited also and are given out at 11AM on a first come first serve basis for hiking the following day.

In order to have a chance with this strategy we arrived at the backcountry office at 6AM to claim our spot in line and hope they had permits left by the time we reached the desk. Even at 6AM we had 12 others ahead of us and it wasn’t looking good.

But fortunately we had two groups ahead of us that were offered to start their hike THAT DAY which freed up 6 spots for the following day…and we got the last two permits!

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SCORE! We got the last two permits. Sorry folks!

WE GET TO HIKE HALF DOME BABY!!!!

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Hello beautiful!

 

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California Coast and Naked Runners

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So Jeff and I finished up a hard pressed 5 weeks of work responsibilities that took us from Las Vegas, NV to the northern coast of California. It was A LOT of miles with little sleep and sore rumps. Our schedule was rough (compared to FT RVing standards) but we did manage to experience some amazing places!

Vegas Baby!

We attended the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. This is where retailers “shop” for new innovative ideas displayed by suppliers from all over the world. Other than this show, Jeff and I really don’t have an appreciation for Las Vegas.

Las Vegas

Jack Links…Feed Your GIANT Wild Side

It’s big and loud. For peeps who like to take in scenic runs and prefer dirt of dusty trails it’s just not our kind of place. But sometimes you just do what you gotta do!

We stayed at the Circus Circus RV Resort, which was 1.4 miles from the Hardware Show on the north end of the strip. We picked this park for convenience over amenities so our “camping” was a parking lot with full hookups.

Despite being in the city we found our stay to be quiet, especially since we ran the fan on the air conditioner all night. I’m not quite sure what the neighbors were up to but I did notice a shoe on the roof of their RV one morning.

Las Vegas, NV

Interesting people and rigs at the Circus Circus RV Resort parking lot

Our RVing buddies Donna and Mike Kuper from Flying the Koop were in Las Vegas for the show as well and we had a quick dinner together before we all went our separate ways.

After the Hardware Show we had to zip over to the West coast for a company photo shoot. The shoot took us to Pacifica, Carmel, Santa Cruz, South Lake Tahoe, Auburn and San Francisco.

Jeff jumped on a plane in Vegas for a quick transition to San Fran while I made my maiden solo voyage in the RV. Though I do 80% of the driving, this was the first time I was alone for the trip. It really felt like the very first drive I took after I got my drivers license.

Bakersfield CA

Quick solo overnight stop in Bakersfield, CA

The training wheels were off and I had to make decisions on gas station approaches and clearances and conflicting GPS routing all by myself. I survived the drive and was reunited with Jeff a day later in Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz

We stayed at the Santa Cruz Ranch RV Resort for it’s central location. It also happened to be within a mile of Jeff’s high school swim coach.

Santa Cruz CA

Jeff and our beloved Coach

Jeff grew up in Sacramento and started swimming in high school. His coach would take a group of swimmers to his parent’s trout farm in Santa Cruz every summer. This was the start of Jeff’s career in the Junior Lifeguard program that he still talks about today.

Coach is retired now and lives on that same trout farm, even though the fish are now long gone. But what he lacks in fish he has made up in feathery friends. He has geese, exotic chickens, parakeets and turkeys, all squawking to be fed twice a day.

Coach is a part of Jeff’s family and even though our time was tight we did have an opportunity to have breakfast together and feed his plethora of animals.

Carmel

We had a day of shooting in Pacifica and another day in Carmel. We roped some RVing buddies John and Becky into using their RV at some stunning locations. One spot was on private property on the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean. WOW…what a location!

I had some heartburn watching our friends take their very nice Class A motorhome 4-wheeling on this rough farm property. The photographer wanted the RV as close to the edge of the cliffs as possible so I held my breath just hoping the RV would not roll right off the cliff into the water!

Carmel CA

4-Wheeling in a Class A

Carmel CA

John and Becky relaxing during the shoot

We spotted a pod of whales and a shark chasing a sea otter. The water was turquoise blue, the sun warm and the sunset unobstructed. IT. WAS. MAGICAL!

Since the photo shoot would last into the dark we approached the property owner to let us camp on his property until morning. He graciously agreed and we spent the night in our friends RV being lulled to sleep by the crashing waves. Best boondocking spot EVER!!!

Carmel CA

Best boondocking spot EVER!

Funny story though. While one of the models was changing in the RV the sliding bedroom door got stuck and we couldn’t get the model out! John had to climb in through the emergency window and work on it for 20 minutes before they both could be freed.

Carmel CA

John climbing through the emergency window to save the day!

We wrapped up our Carmel stop with giant strawberries from a roadside fruit stand and big breakfast at Lou Lou’s on Monterey Fishermans Warf. Jeff and I found this little place years ago while Jeff was working for The Scotts Miracle Grow Company. They supported a Walmart junior golfing event a Pebble Beach for 3 years and heard about this place from a local.

The servings are huge and they have a special pancake called The Hubcap. And yes, it is the size of a hubcap! Get there early to get a seat before the line starts to back up around 9:15AM.

South Lake Tahoe

Our next stop was at various locations around South Lake Tahoe. We stayed at the Zephyr Cove RV Resort on the Nevada side of the lake. This was a wonderful campground with a delicious restaurant and beach just across the street on the edge of the Lake.

In 1980-something Jeff swam across Lake Tahoe in a relay. Freezing water made for an unforgettable experience!

South Lake Tahoe

Jeff “lifeguarding” at Lake Tahoe…oh the memories!

We had asked one of Jeff’s high school friends, Sabrina and her significant other Roger to be models for the photo shoot at this location. This gave us time to get reacquainted since high school. They both recently retired and are adventurous people, so playing hikers in the woods of Tahoe was not a stretch for them!

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Sabrina and Roger (R) talking to the photographer

Tahoe is one of my all-time favorite summer places to be. Cold nights and warm days, the smell of pine needles and the sound of wind pushing through the trees…all rejuvenating to my tired soul. But alas, our time was short and we had to get to the next location.

Loomis & San Francisco

Jeff headed to San Francisco with the team while I had pulled the RV to the Roseville just NorthEast of Sacramento so that we could visit with family while we were in the area.

Jeff heard about an epic race called, “Bay to Breakers” that was being run the day he would be in SF. It’s a 12k race that started in 1912. And in typical SF fashion it’s known for its nude runners, costumes and salmon runners who run the race in the opposite direction.

 

Jeff also got to squeeze in a visit with our nephew and his fiancé’ who just moved to SF.

In the mean time I was having some challenges finding a place to park. After calling 5 RV parks I found a spot at the Roseville Fairground RV Park. It was a bit rough there and after spending one night Jeff’s cousin insisted that I relocate to their driveway in Loomis.

Free. Nice views. Safe neighborhood. Wine. What’s not to love about driveway surfing!

Loomis CA

Driveway surfing at its best!

Steve and Vicki were over-the-top lovely hosts and I parked here over a week while Jeff wrapped up the photo shoot and flew off to another event in Flagstaff. I loved my time here with wonderful family. I got a personal tour of the town of Loomis, had some delicious meals, drank more wine than I have in a long time ever. It was a joy to visit and we look forward to getting together again in the future.

It was 5 weeks in a pressure cooker and we were ready for a break. I had made reservations at the Yosemite Ridge RV Resort over Memorial Day week so I can’t wait to show you what we did there!

See you in Yosemite!

Santa Cruz CA

He’s a handsome fellow don’t you think?

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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!

Mesa

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!

Moab

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!!!

Monument Valley

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.

Moab

Slick Rock Trail overlooking the Colorado River

Moab

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).

Arches National Park

Balanced Rock

The Arches National Park

Hiking along the fins

The Arches National Park

Partition Arch framing beautiful scenery

Arches national park

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)….

Moab

I wonder what is over there…hummm!

 

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Migration South

Sedona

It’s been a while since I posted on my blog. My last entry was about our epic hike at the Grand Canyon back in October. I started typing my next post when something went drastically wrong leaving me unable to keep typing!

After Jeff and I left the Grand Canyon we headed back to Flagstaff where we dispersed camped at one of our favorite spots by Lake Mary. The alpine forest, miles of forestry roads to get lost on and hiking on the Arizona trail are some of my favorite reasons to camp here.

We did try a new location just north of Flag after calling the Forestry Department. “There are plenty of camping spots up there”, they said. “Good access”, they said. But after an hour of narrow roads and only two camp spots that were impossible to get in to, we decided to “go with what we know” and pushed on to Lake Mary. Trouble was, we were up a creek without a paddle. Or in RV’ing terms…down a narrow road without a turnout! After carefully backing up a 1/2 mile we finally swung the 5’er into to weeds to get turned around.

Flag

Contemplating how to get this thing turned around

I’ve found the most challenging parts of dispersed camping is that you never know what you are getting you and your rig into.

One persons opinion of “plenty of clearance” is usually nowhere close to the reality of our specific rig. If someone has wedged a 30,000lb forty-foot motorhome in a spot, then I have a bit more confidence in their recommendations. But NEVER take the word of a non-RV’er unless you want to find out what serious heartburn is like.

Lake Mary works out well for a Triathlete in training. The pool at the college is an easy 10 miles away and Lake Mary Rd is a major thoroughfare for cyclists and runners. Perfect for Jeff to continue some high altitude training for the Arizona Ironman.

Arizona Trail

The Arizona trail just steps from our campsite

While Jeff trained, I hiked a portion of the Arizona trail just steps from our camping spot.

The Arizona Trail is a National Scenic Trail that runs from the border of Mexico to the Utah border, traversing the North/ South length of Arizona for 800 miles. It was officially opened December 16, 2011.

The section I hiked was near the Lowell Observatory and Marshall Lake. It was not particularly scenic with primarily flat hiking through cattle fields.

Sam dog is a great little hiker as he follows the trail very well. If I come to a part where I’m not sure where the trail is I just follow him…he knows every time. But he did step off the trail briefly and ended up with a big cholla ball stuck to his front leg. When that happens he tries to keep going because he HATES when I pull those dang things out. He hollers like you wouldn’t believe and comically when I pulled this one out to his great displeasure it flung out and stuck his back leg, doubling the experience. Once we start moving again all is forgiven and Sam stayed on the trail.

We decided to pull out of Flagstaff a day early since wet weather was coming in and we were on soft ground with low batteries. So we pulled up the jacks and headed to Sedona.

There is free dispersed camping available west of town on Forestry Road 525. We camped here last year and learned if you travel about 5 miles back on the washboard roads you are treated with some spectacular views and close hiking trails. We had some great days of sun and got the batteries charged back up to 100%.

Sedona 2015

Scene out our front door

Sedona 2015

Sam tearing it up and turning a nice shade of Sedona red

Sedona is incredibly beautiful and is one of my top 5 places to see thus far in our travels.

Hiking is spectacular in Sedona, but it is also very popular. If you are looking for a get away from it all experience you will have to travel a little further out of town. But what I love the most about hiking here is the sandy red soil contrasted with the green scrub bushes, Junipers, Arizona pines and Pinon Pines. Mix that in with the scent of toasted pine needles on the trail, red rock views at every turn and warm sun and you have yourself hiking nirvana!

After paying a $5 day use fee Sam and I set off on Soldier Pass Trail. This trail is a great loop with incredible views of the red rock formations, slabs and the city. We hiked the trail counterclockwise; since I have hiked this trail clockwise a couple of times before.

Sedona 2015

Trail dog Sam leading the way

The initial accent takes to you to some red slabs with wide-open views. It’s a great spot for a picnic and photos before heading up natural stairs towards Brin Mesa. At the top of Soldier pass the trail flattens out and turns from red to a light sand color. I wanted to take the Brin Mesa tail for an out and back, to log some additional miles.

The Brin Mesa trail takes a steep decent back down the other side of the mountain. I always laugh at myself after descents like these because my mind automatically thinks about having to hike back up. Like the Grand Canyon  my mind blows up the imagined accent to be much more difficult than it actually is. Then I’m always surprised when I get to the top wondering if I still have “the hill” to go. Silly self!

I mistakenly thought the Brin Mesa trail would actually take me to a mesa. But once I ran into a forestry road, my turn around point, I was informed by other hikers that the actual mesa was off some other offshoot from Soldier Pass. I’ll have to catch that one the next time.

Back on Soldier pass, Sam and I started down the west side of the mountain back into red soil. It was getting hot by now and my two bottles of water were starting to get low. Thankfully we reached more slabs on this part of the trail. The slabs have some natural pools that form from bowl shaped indentations in the rocks. These pools had collected fresh water from recent rains, which Sam found refreshing for consumption and wading in, leaving the remaining water in the bottles for me.

Closer to the west side Soldier Pass Trailhead near “The Sinkhole” it gets pretty noisy from jeep tours and ATV’s that are allowed on the trail here. We jumped off Soldier Pass at this point and took the Jordon trail heading east back to our parking lot.

Sam found another pool that was pretty murky and large and waded in to cool his dogs. Problem was it was very deep. To both our surprise he disappeared underwater only to bob back up sputtering. He wasn’t too thrilled about going scuba diving but he was super frisky after that. I guess his bath really cooled him down.

Sedona 2015

Sam cooling down in a shady spot

We ended up hiking 8.5 miles over 3 hours…what a great time!

After a week in Sedona rain and snow moved in. It was stunning to wake up to a ring of white snow on the red rocks at the higher elevations. But to maintain our shorts and flip flop temps we moved on to Phoenix/Mesa…. where things turned very interesting!

Flat Iron

What the heck!

 

 

 

 

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Epic Hiking and Majestic Views All At the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

I made reservations at Trailer Village at the Grand Canyon a couple of months ago so we pressed on after 3 nights in Flagstaff.

This is the third time Jeff and I have been to the Grand Canyon. Our first trip was after a sales conference in Scottsdale about 7-8 years ago. It was December and we only had a few hours to explore. So we hit the South Rim and the restaurant in the Village at Bright Angel Lodge.

Our table was overlooking the rim with spectacular views. Our brief time was enough to create a longing to come back to spend more time at one of the Wonders of the World.

Grand Canyon

Jeff catching his shadow during sunrise hiking the Canyon

And that’s exactly what we did last year (2014). A group of us from Arkansas trained for about a year in order to do the Rim2Rim (And Rim2Rim2Rim), crossing the Canyon from South Rim to North Rim via the Bright Angel trail and the North Kaibab trail. You can read all about the experience here.

After completing such a hike we were left with wanting more. So here we are. At the Grand Canyon. Planning another epic hike into the bowels of the canyon.

This time we wanted to start and finish on the South Rim so we chose to go down the South Kaibab trail to the Colorado River and up Bright Angel…for me (Rim2River2Rim). Jeff on the other hand wanted to do a double, so he started at Bright Angel down to the river then up South Kaibab. Then, turn around and head back. (Rim2River2Rim2River2Rim)

Grand Canyon

Rain and rainbows delaying our hike

The plan was for Jeff to leave at 1am and get to the South Kaibab TH by the time I was starting my hike at 6am.

We arrived at the GC on Thursday hoping to do our hike on Saturday. But thunderstorms were predicted and the hike was called off for the day. Then Sunday…Monday…Tuesday…Wednesday. We had rain, rain and more rain, hail and wind gusts until the weather finally broke the day before we were to leave.

There is a lot of preparation that goes into a 10-15 hour hike, especially when the canyon had some of its water sites shut off

due to repairs. Water, nutrition, extra socks, moleskins, headlamps, electrolytes filled our slim running packs.

Grand Canyon

Stuffing our running packs full of supplies

We had prepared as best we could and the hike was finally on!

Jeff left at 1am sharing that at some points in the hike he stopped on the trail, turned his headlamp off and just took in the stillness, the quietness, the moon and stars in the canyon. Not another soul around. Totally unplugged. Just him and the trail.

I met Jeff about 7:30am halfway down the South Kaibab. What a refreshing face to see! We got to share our experiences up to that point and enjoy a snack before heading our separate ways…him going up…me going down.

The day before the hike I wasn’t feeling up to doing the 18 miles of Rim2River2Rim. So my plan was to hit the Tonto Trail off the South Kaibab which heads west to the Bright Angel trail…cutting off 1000’ elevation drop/gain and 5 miles. But I took my first 10 steps on SK and I new I had to make the full journey down.

I am so glad I chose the longer route. The dramatic cliff views made green and lush from the week of rain. Trickles of water were flowing out of the rocks. Such a fresh smell in the air. It’s all too grand, broad, high, and vast to take in. I couldn’t open my eyes wide enough!

While hiking down I heard a clop, clop, clop sound up in the hills above me only to see my first mule train carrying supplies down to Phantom Ranch. The mules are bred for their solid disposition and sure footing to take packs and people below the rim. Though they had moved out of sight, I could still hear the clopping down below as they continued on.

The SK trail is narrower than BA trail and a little more worse for ware. The mules have worn a steady path into the trail, sometimes 12” deep. And with the recent rains had created a couple miles of deep puddles and sticky mud to navigate.

After 4 hours I made it to Phantom Ranch, 4600’ below the South Rim, to rest, eat and fill up my water bottles. An hour later Jeff had made it back down and joined me there.

I stayed long enough to dip my feet into the Bright Angel Creek before starting the steady climb back up and up and up.

The BA trail is the least steep of trails out of the canyon. From last year I knew that I was in for a hike at the Devils Switchbacks. I was dreading them from the moment I left Phantom Ranch. I remembered them to be numerous, steep and grand. But Jeff and I arrived at Indian Gardens to realize that we had already hiked them. My mind had made them dramatically different than it actually was…to my great relief!

Grand Canyon

Monumental swithbacks on the SK trail

Things look incredibly different when you hike the trails from a different direction. Last year I hiked down the BA trail. This year I was hiking it up and I couldn’t remember most of the trail. Everything looked new. Like I had never hiked this trail before. It was a completely different perspective!

Grand Canyon

Views of the Colorado River

For 4.5 hours we hiked switchbacks with heavy legs and heaving chests as we climbed to higher elevations until we finally crested the top. The glorious, level, finally stop moving, TOP!

The Grand Canyon is one tough hike. But I think the majestic views; the grandness of it all feeds the senses to a point of a natural high that carries you along the trail, one foot in front of the other.

I’m not going to lie…my legs and chest hurt for days. But my memories of this epic hike will last me a lifetime, which should more than cover my momentary pain.

Grand Canyon. I WILL be back!

Grand Canyon

We did it!

PS…We were once again camping with our friends John and Becky and also Paul and Nina of WheelingIt. We had fun with Happy Hour and a grilled pizza night…in the rain…which will make for good story telling in the future.

While we were hiking Paul and Nina were gracious enough to keep Sam for us. It was hysterical to see Sam and Polly together. They were like two long lost pals who where on their first date. I’ve never seen two dogs kiss each other. No, really. They were actually kissing each other. Polly giving Sam sideway glances. Sam sitting as close as he possible could to Polly. It was all so amusing!

Sam had a great time with the WheelingIt crew. I hope we can return the favor sometime soon!

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