Posts Tagged Adventure
After leaving the comforts of our cabin in Arkansas we pointed the RV west. Lingering half the year in the mid-west was nice, but we were ready to get the RV rolling back to the land of eternal sunshine and bug-free living.
We were making the annual trek to Quartzsite for the big show. The difference this year over the last 3 was that we did not work a booth. Instead of a selling event, we were having a consumer insights event with 13 of Dometic’s engineers, product developers, and customer intercepts. It was a nice change roaming the desert talking to folks rather than being stuck in the booth for 9 days.
After Q we followed our Xscapers RV club to American Girl Mine just outside of Yuma. This is one of our favorite camping locations for the beautiful sunsets and endless trail running options. It’s nice being with a group sometimes because we learned of a few new things to explore. One was a local mine shaft that you can hike into quite far. With a pool at the bottom, it makes for an interesting underground destination. We didn’t actually make it to the mine shaft this trip, but look forward to going next time we camp there.
The other fun destination was the Imperial Sand Dunes just 4 miles from camp. The Dunes are such a striking contrast to the scrub and rugged landscape of AGM. It’s as if we landed in Egypt minus the camels. Mountains of sand smoothed and rippled by the wind as far as the eye can see. It is an ATV lovers dream location for off-road anything in designated areas. And then there are those who ride the dunes on sleds and snowboards for additional excitement.
I highly recommend stopping for this destination at sunset!
We pulled out of AGM to make our way to Southern California. We had a scheduled photo shoot for Dometic and needed to scout locations for video and photography and secure RV’s and boats.
We purposed to stop at Borrego Springs for a few nights on a friend’s RV lot. The last time we were here was 3 years ago during Soup Anarchy watching movies on the side of Technomadia’s bus in the desert!
Gosh, what a fun time that was! This was much more low key and quiet compared to our previous trip and we enjoyed the solitude of our location. We were within running distance of the trails at Borrego Palm Canyon Campground to trail run.
If you ever come to Borrego Springs be sure to check out the desert art!
We would have loved to stay longer but we really needed to get closer to the coast.
I had been researching RV Parks along the coast since we needed to park for about a month. Jeff and I had some air travel scheduled mixed in with our coastal scouting and we like to leave the rig plugged in while we are away.
I was not prepared for the sticker shock of coastal living. Holy moly! The reasonably priced state parks were not available for a month stay; only offer dry camping or are too small to accommodate our size. While we were at American Girl Mine we met a couple that has a lot at the Escapees Jojoba (Ho-ho-ba) Hills RV Park in Temecula CA.
Since this location was “only” 70 miles from the coast and $40/night for full hookups or $7.50/night dry camping we decided to make it our home for the maximum 28-day limit.
This is a STUNNING park beautifully maintained by lot owners. It’s your typical 55+ park with tons of activities, a pool overlooking the valley and pickleball courts. Just outside the gates is BLM with plenty of trails for hiking and running.
Temecula is known for its vineyards and old downtown nightlife. We met up with some friends and hit a couple of restaurants during our stay. We really enjoyed this community and Jojoba Hills offers affordable living for those who want to live the SoCal life.
We made several trips to Dana Point, Newport Beach, Balboa Island, and Oceanside. My plan of making quick trips over to the coast was delusional, to say the least. The traffic was insane, turning our 70 miles into 3 hours (6 hours round-trip). It didn’t matter if we left early or returned late the traffic was a consistent gridlock of red taillights.
Despite the painful drives we did see beautiful coastal settings and ate great seafood.
One of the side trips we needed to make was the RV Entrepreneur Summit in Austin TX. We went on behalf of Dometic but we also wanted to attend for ourselves. We rented a park model cabin at the Jellystone RV Park and sat in on many seminars. The speakers were outstanding and we made a lot of new friends.
I flew back to LA while Jeff stayed in Austin for another week. One of Jeff’s goals has been to qualify for the Boston Marathon. There happened to be a qualifying race in Houston… The Woodlands Marathon. He has been getting coaching from a friend and was as prepared as I have ever seen him. He had an awesome race and beat the age group qualifying time by 6 minutes. WE HAVE A BOSTON QUALIFIER IN THE HOUSE! However, even though he has a qualifying time it doesn’t mean he will get to run the race.
Since the number of “qualifiers” exceeds the number of available slots he will now be put in a pool by time. In the fall we will find out if he will actually receive a slot at the starting line in April 2019. (UPDATE: Jeff got a spot and is going to Boston!!!!)
After we were reunited back in Temecula we started to move around for the photo shoot. We hung out for a few days in Newport Beach at the VERY EXPENSIVE ($170/night…gasp) Newport Dunes RV Resort to meet up with the team from Sweden, France and Australia. Then we packed up and caravanned to Lone Pine, California.
Lone Pine is where the Whitney Mountain Portal is to the highest peak in the lower 48. After my failed attempt (and Jeff’s success) to the summit a couple years ago that mountain has been looming in the back of my mind. For a brief moment, I considered making the attempt again on this trip since I now have backpacking equipment to break up the hike. But then I realized that it’s still winter on the mountain and I put my aspiration down for a nice cozy nap.
The photo shoot went amazingly smooth in Lone Pine. This sleepy little town is home to some of the most photographed locations for old Westerns. Of course, the rub in this town is that it runs on small-town time. We needed grocery supplies to keep everyone fed, but the tiny grocery store had limited hours due to “new management”. There was no consistency, rime or reason to their hours and we were forced to drive an hour away just to pick up some supplies for a night shoot.
Despite the strain we put on local restaurants with 12 of us showing up at once, we ended up with some very successful shots.
After 5 days we headed back to Newport Beach to transition to the marine shots. While the team went out on a yacht, Jeff and I spent the day on land returning the borrowed RV’s and catching our breath. Our final day of shooting was at Dohaney State Beach area at Dana Point using our personal RV.
While there, a ranger stopped by our RV and wanted to take a picture of it. He and Jeff got to talking and the ranger offered us a Camp Hosting position at Dohaney State Beach Campground the end of this year. We ended up camping for 3 nights at this park right on the beach and spoke with the current camp hosts for the down and dirty of the job.
After learning that the job only entails checking sites for proper permits and selling firewood for 15-20 hrs a week we decided to commit to hosting for October, November and December. We get a free full hook up site, surfing right from the park and no cleaning of bathrooms!
What’s funny is that I’ve wanted to try workamping but Jeff has been less than enthusiastic about the possibility. What I’ve learned is that he is more than exuberant if you mention surfing. Throw in a great Pacific Coast Trail that runs along the beach just outside your door and you’ve got yourself a winning combination for an “all in”, “why haven’t you suggested this before”, “sign me up on the spot” excitement! I should have thought of that sooner.
Until then we have a lot more travel planned, including a trip back to Arkansas. Stay tuned for another sweltering humidity, bug-filled summer of fun!
After a delightful time in Canada we crossed the boarder back into Washington. This boarder crossing was just as uneventful as the first, except the line was a bit longer and took about 20-30 minutes.
We had a deadline to get back to Seattle so that Jeff could fly to Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retail Show.
While Jeff was in Salt Lake I had my Mom fly from St. Louis to Seattle for a little Mother-Daughter time while we stayed at the Lake Pleasant RV Park in Bothell, WA.
Mom had never been to Seattle before. Though I have been here years ago, I didn’t stay long enough to really sightsee. So I booked some fun events to get a good perspective of what the city had to offer.
Day 1: Whale Watching Edmond, WA
Our first day of exploring I had scheduled a Whale Watching tour ($135/person) through Viator. The boat Ports out of Edmonds on the North side of Seattle, just 8 miles from our RV Park.
My niece Jennifer had moved from Arkansas to Seattle earlier this year, so she joined Mom and I for the 4-hour trip. The boat ride through the Puget Sound took about an hour…just enough time to get caught up with Jen on her life as a new military wife (Air Force).
We motored around for a bit looking for whale tails and water spouts. It took some time but we finally landed in a location that had a small pod of humpbacks. The rules for observation are that the boat has to stay 300yds away from the whales, so our views were not that great.
The boat lingered for about an hour until the captain asked if we wanted to stay or move on to another location to see some sea lions. The consensus was to move on so we headed over to an island where there was more marine life.We saw a speck of a bald eagle here and two sea lions duking it out for the affections of a very portly sea gal.
I wish I could say this tour was worth it, but it was a bit of a letdown. The distance to the wildlife was so far away it was hard to have that interactive experience.
What whale watching lacked in wildlife was more than offset by spending time with Mom and Jen out on the open sea on a beautiful sunny day. And the on-board $3 blueberry buckle (cake) wasn’t bad either!
Day 2: Downtown Seattle
The next day Mom and I were on our own. The plan was to avoid traffic and take public transportation to downtown Seattle.
With bus schedule and a map in hand we drove to the Kenmore Park & Ride about 4 miles away. We got there about 9:30am and could not find a single opening in the parking lot. I drove around the block and found a space in a Daycare center, hoping they didn’t tow!
We took a 40-minute bus ride (exact change required) into Seattle getting off at Union & 6th and then walked a few blocks to the Monorail ($2.25/adult, $1/senior)to take us to the Space Needle Center. The Monorail was super quick and we enjoyed the Space Needle coming into focus right out our window.
We had planned to just LOOK at the Space Needle, and then tour the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum ($27/Adult, $22/Senior).
I had not made any reservations to go up into the Space Needle at $25/person. I didn’t think it would be worth the $50 spend just to look around the observation deck. But I did read that if you went up to the Sky City Restaurant at the top and had lunch, the trip up was free. I had little hope of getting a last minute restaurant reservation but inquired at the desk at the base of the needle anyway, just for grins.
To my surprise, the friendly hostess said that she could get us in as a “walk-in” and to be at the special restaurant elevator at 11am. SCORE!
We waited behind 10 other people (rather than HUNDREDS waiting for the observation deck elevator) and zipped up 500ft in 41 seconds to the rotating restaurant.
The Space Needle was built for the 1962 World Fair and once was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River at 605ft tall. It was the space-age imagination of Edward E. Carlson who originally sketched out the design on a coffee house napkin in 1959, to fit the 21st Century futuristic theme of the Worlds Fair.
Its center of gravity is just 5ft above ground and the rotating top house was so balanced in 1962 that it was easily driven by a 1 horsepower motor. Impressive for sure!
The restaurant seating is for 90 minutes with a $25/person minimum, so you can’t just go for a cup of coffee to avoid the $25 elevator fee. At least this way you get a meal out of it.
It was such a special treat to have a nice lunch while making a 45-minute full rotation overlooking the city. Mount Rainier was visible that day and the Blue Angels were having practice nearby. We saw the Puget Sound, the Queen Anne district and Lake Union as we twirled around. It was THE HIGHLIGHT of the trip for Mom and I and I’m so glad we didn’t miss it!
Since I had a standing reservation for the Seattle Underground tour on the opposite end of town at 2pm we had to abandon our plans of seeing the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, to our disappointment.
Mom and I jumped back on the Monorail heading into Downtown. We walked a couple of blocks to the light rail that took us to Pioneer Square for our Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour ($20/Adult, $17/Senior).
This was a humorous look at the start of Seattle which was built on the back of Lumber and the Klondike gold rush.
Seattle was built on low mudflats. So the local lumberyard thought it would be a good idea to use saw dust from the mill to “pave” the streets. As rains came in the streets of sawdust began to float and Newspapers back east humorously reported that Seattle was built on what appeared to be oatmeal.
On June 6, 1889 a spilled glue pot started The Great Seattle Fire that burned down the entire city. City officials had taken note of how San Francisco was burning down every 6 months, since they continued to rebuild out of wood. So new construction laws required Seattle merchants to rebuild with stone and brick. But not until AFTER the city was going to push two stories of dirt into the mudflats to build up the streets.
As you can imagine, business owners were anxious to rebuild their places of business and couldn’t wait until the city spend months or even years to push dirt around. So they were allowed to build with the understanding that eventually the city streets would be located 3 stories above.
The underground tour took us through the catacombs of those first floor storefronts, now located underground and abandoned. We saw pieces of the original plumbing pipes made out of hollowed out logs, learned about the “seamstress” industry (code for prostitution) and secret underground bars during prohibition.
Overall this was a fascinating 90-minute tour and Mom and I really enjoyed it, though we felt rushed by later tours.
We jumped back on planes, trains and automobiles and made it back to our Park & Ride before rush hour…without being towed. Yea us!
Day 3: Bothell, WA
I had read about Country Village less than a mile from the RV Park. Country Village is made up of quaint old cottages in this small village filled with arts and crafts, restaurants, antique shops and home décor. The village also included the cutest resident roosters roaming the property making themselves known now and then.
Mom and I walked around the very affordably priced shops and the farmers market and picked up some produce, coffee, vinegars & oils and some gifts. We spent most of the day here! We had such a nice time that it was our second most favorite thing we did that week!
Day 4: Port Gamble Historic District
I thought it would be fun to take Mom on a ferry ride. Since Jeff was flying back this day and needed a ride, we had to be conscious of time. So I set our sights on Port Gamble.
We took a quick ferry from Edmonds to Kingston and a 20-30 minute drive to Port Gamble Historic District, a National Historic Landmark.
Port Gamble was the site of the longest operating sawmill in the country, shutting down in 1995 after 142 years. What remains are restored homes converted to antique shops, restaurants, museums and the original general store.
Mom and I leisurely walked the streets and shops and had a wonderful lunch at the General Store Café.
The General Store is a throw back to its origins, creaky floors in all. They now sell souvenirs, ice cream and coffee.The top floor houses an interesting shell museum touted as the largest in the world.
We walked around back of the General Store to the lower level to the Port Gamble Museum ($4/person). What a wonderful piece of history! The museum is small but very well displayed with rich local history.
The museum was the original location of the Puget Mill Company offices founded in 1853 by William Talbot, Andrew Pope, Josiah Keller and Charles Foster, all originally from East Machias, Maine.
When the mill was first started, workers were scarce. With the help of partners in Maine, experienced mill works were recruited to move west. The easterners quickly grew homesick, so homes were built in Port Gamble to resemble New England style architecture to give them a sense of home.
We spent a good 3 hours in this delightful little town and would highly recommend a look for those on their way to the more popular Port Townsend.
Our time exploring Seattle came to an end after only scratching the surface of this amazing town.
We bid farewell to Mom and the cool breezy Pacific Northwest and started a rather hot migration south.
Until next time…
Jeff and I left the magnificent beauty of Yosemite behind to become city dwellers again. After a week of cell & wifi isolation we were ready to get back to some connectivity for work. The temps were rising over 100* so we decided to head to Lodi early to be plugged in before the heat of the day.
We planned a week in Lodi to visit with family and to get caught up on business, so I made reservations at Flag City RV Resort. This is a very nice RV park with nicely spaced, level, concrete sites with a pool and hot tub. We used our Passport America membership for discounts that made our site quite reasonable for the week.
While we were innocently sitting in the back yard of Jeff’s aunt and uncle we couldn’t help but hear the overhead buzz of a prop plane climbing in elevation. Uncle Don made mention that we were hearing a parachuting plane making its assent. He also mentioned that Lodi has one of the countries most popular sky diving centers and if we ever thought of skydiving, this was the place to do it!
Of course this was all the words Jeff needed to hear to get the Spencer, “gee, that sounds like fun; wouldn’t that be awesome; I am going to drag my wife along to scare the living crap out of her but she will love it” wheels turning.
To be fair, last year when I turned 50 I decided that I needed to do something monumental to celebrate such a big milestone! I’m really not a big risk taker and I consider myself very conservative when it comes to… well, anything!
So when the words, “I want to skydive” came out of my mouth I looked around to see who said it! But it was too late. I said it out loud and sort of committed myself to doing something completely out of character. But if George Bush could skydive when he turned 80, then I had some serious motivation to not be outdone by an elderly former president who has no real bearing on my life!
When Jeff checked into sky diving in Arkansas last year fortunately unfortunately the jump appointments didn’t fit into our schedule and I felt a bit relieved that it just wasn’t going to work out.
But here we are over a year later, standing in line at The Parachute Center in Lodi California handing them hard earned money for the most terrifying experience thrill of a lifetime!
So this is how this whole experience went down.
The day before we were supposed to move on from Lodi, I woke up from a nap to see Jeff chewing on his fingernails. Fingernail chewing is my husbands tell that he is conjuring up something in that pretty head of his.
Asking what was up he said he wanted to surprise me with something but didn’t know how to spring it on his “give me at least 2 days to process something” wife. Poor fella! So he let me know that if we ever wanted to skydive, now was the time to do it.
The Parachuting Center draws skydivers from all over the world, most of whom spend their vacations or entire summers living in a tent city right on airport property. They jump from 9AM to 3PM every day of the week, no appointment necessary, just show up, pay your money and jump!
So while I was experiencing a post-nap euphoria I agreed to go skydiving.
We arrived at the Parachuting Center in a big hanger that smelled of parachuting junkies who hadn’t taken a bath in a good week. There were old couches that filled the center of the building with lockers that surrounded the perimeter. Old parachutes, Tibetan and country flags hung from the ceiling and dogs roamed freely.
We were handed a clip board of wavers to sign while watching an old VHS video that had been used so many times that the only thing visible was a faint outline of a long hair/bearded man from 1970-something sharing very important safety tips that I couldn’t hear.
After the informative video we were escorted to the fitting room where they sized us up and put on our harnesses, then introduced us to our jumping buddy. Our brief instruction of assuming the position of a banana was given and we were quickly loaded up into a stripped down airplane.
The plane climbed to 3,000 feet and a small group of hippies with helmets rolled up the side of the plane and jumped out. My jump buddy informed me that if you jump out at 3,000 feet with your own equipment it only costs $5 a jump. Good to know!
Once we reached 13,500 feet the side door of the plane opened up again, more hippies jumped out and all that was left was Jeff and I. We received our last bit of instruction to embrace the banana and remember to breath. And before we could contemplate what we were about to do or if we wanted to change our minds, we were being hurled out the airplane door.
The initial tumble was disorientating and dizzying and all I could do was close my eyes and wait for the spinning to stop. My ears were instantly feeling pressure and I felt myself unable to breath. But then we finally got into the belly down position and I remembered to assume the tomato… or was it bacon?
The photographer was zooming in and out trying to get me to smile. I’m pretty sure at this point I drooled all over my jump buddy as I forced myself to flash my pearly whites at the camera. The photographer was waved off and we pulled the cord to deploy the chute.
After adjusting the biggest wedgie of my life, we floated around making a series of turns to take in some of the vineyard views that consume Lodi. My jump buddy decided it was time to give me instruction on how to land and before I knew it I was lifting my legs and coming in for an amazingly soft butt landing. The jump was over!
THAT. WAS. TERRIFYING! WHAT. A. RUSH!
Jeff was walking towards me and I noticed that he was sweating profusely and white as a sheet. He said his jump buddy took him on a series of turns that gave him so much motion sickness that he just about lost his cookies!
On our drive home we just kept looking at one another wondering out loud, “what just happened”? From the time we left the RV, drove to the parachuting center, received instruction, flew to elevation, jumped out of the plane, landed, waited for our disc of pictures/videos and got back in the truck it was a total of 1 hour.
The only thing I remember from the rest of the day was that I had grass in my underwear and I was still panting and my heart was still racing 2 hours later.
So the lingering questions are…
Q: Are you glad you skydived?
Q: Do you think you will ever do it again?
Q: Are you sure? You didn’t say never!
A: I’ll answer that definitively when I turn 80!
Jeff and I were so excited to snag Half Dome permits. We packed our lightweight running backpacks in preparation for a very long day of hiking. Water reservoirs full, extra water bottles, salty snacks, turkey burgers, string cheese, almonds. We arranged for Sam to be checked on and walked by a neighboring camper back at the RV park.
We are hiking Half Dome Baby!
Jeff and I purposed to leave the Happy Isles trailhead at 6AM and found a place to park near the backpacker’s campground. We took the Mist Trail up past Vernal and Nevada Falls. This trail was like an adult water park and we were drenched by the time we made it through the falls. The Mist Trail is a stair step climb with minimal handrails. The granite stairs are a bit slick from being wet and we were thankful to have our hiking poles.
The top of the Nevada falls is a popular turn around for a lot of hikers. You can either head back down the mist trail or join the John Muir trail and loop back down another route. There are pit toilets here as well and there was quite a congregation of folks hanging out here before turning back.
We kept hiking past the Little Yosemite Valley campground (backpackers only) and another 3 miles further up the trail to Sub-Dome.
Sub-Dome is where things start to get interesting! Permits are required beyond this point. But at 9:30am there were no rangers there, making us wonder why we stood in line the previous day for 5 hours to get a permit. (They were actually there on our way down)
Narrow stairs chiseled out of solid granite, switchbacks and a steep slope was an exercise in vertigo control. I wish I could say what the view was like at this point but I was too focused on where to put me feet without looking down!
We reached to bottom of the cables about 10:30AM and unpacked our rubberized gloves for the final push. The gloves are amazingly helpful for gripping the cables. This section was EXTREMELY STEEP…almost repelling-like, and the gloves helped give extra grip to be more secure.
There was a pile of used gloves at the bottom of the cables that hikers leave for others to use. The wind tends to carry some off so there were a lot of unmatched gloves laying around.
Previously, we heard one of the rangers talking about the permit system for Half Dome. That if you couldn’t get a permit, you hate the system. But if you were lucky enough to get a permit, you LOVE the system. Jeff and I couldn’t have agreed more!
The climb up the cables was intense and I can understand why they put permits in place. After the permit system was instituted, half dome deaths dramatically decreased.
Each turnbuckle had a 2X4 attached to it to provide stable footing to rest or wait for passing hikers. Even with the limited people allowed on this hike we still got caught in traffic on the cables. But what was really cool was that everyone worked together encouraging one another, communicating, holding on giving each other the right of way. It was neat to see and experience, especially since it was so dangerous.
Just when I thought I couldn’t go any further we reached the top with a loud cheer from a few of the hikers on top. The last 500’ took us about 30 minutes and we celebrated by having a snack overlooking Yosemite Valley.
It’s moments like these that I become especially thankful for the ability to hike and climb. To have a body that is healthy and strong. To have a wrist that just 6 months ago was shattered and now I was pulling myself up the cables of Half Dome! We scored a permit to the top and now we are seeing a view not too many people can or will see.
The view on top was so big and grand. Lush green meadows, sparking water of the Merced River, waterfalls spilling over granite cliffs, crisp air, the shear drop off of El Capitan. It was all visible, even palatable from this one spot. What an experience!
Our climb back down the cables was looming so after an hour at the top we started back down. It’s comical to see the different strategies people use to go down. Face first, side-ways and backwards. I chose the backwards method which worked well. I felt very secure and it kept the vertigo in check. It was much easier getting down and we celebrated with our fellow hikers.
Overall this was an 18-mile hike for us that took 11 hours to accomplish. Talk about pooped!
The next day we needed to recover, so we pre-planned taking the Valley Floor tour ($25 each). This is a two-hour open-air tram tour driven by Sam and narrated by ranger Carol. They were affectionately dubbed Yosemite Sam and Christmas Carol!
Jeff and I normally don’t take tours, preferring to avoid tourist attractions. But we REALLY enjoyed this and would highly recommend it. We learned so much more about how the valley was formed, how Muir and Roosevelt worked together to start the National Parks, how bears are controlled in the park, and climbers on El Capitan.
My favorite story was when Christmas Carol shared about the flood of 1997. The rapidly rising water took out over 1,000 lodging sites in the form of campgrounds and lodges. Everyone was safely evacuated and not a single life was lost. Carol shared that the most special part of the flood was that the park was closed for 3 months for cleanup and only workers were allowed in. She said that without the crowds the wildlife came out of the woodwork with such peace and quiet. It gave me goose bumps to think about experiencing Yosemite in such a special way. I was envious of her job!
After our tour we took a stroll over to Yosemite Falls and then called it a day.
Thursday was our last day at Yosemite and we had two things left that we wanted to do. One was to drive to Glacier Point and the second was to hike the Four Mile hike. So much to still see and so little time!
The Four Mile hike (3200’ elevation gain) once was a toll trail developed in 1872 to connect the Valley Floor to The Mountain House lodge at Glacier Point. It is a strenuous hike that was eventually lengthened to 4.8 miles in order to flatten out some areas of steep grade. Even though mileage was added the historic Four Mile trail name was retained. The lodge burned down and the state of California eventually purchased the “private” trail for $2,500. It then became public property and toll free.
My legs were too shot for the 3200’ climb so we decided to drive to Glacier Point where Jeff would drop me off at the McGurk Meadow Trailhead on the way. This is an 8-mile one-way hike from TH to the Glacier Point. Jeff then parked at Glacier Point and hiked the 4-mile trail down, then back up.
Both hikes were beautiful. Mine was secluded with minimal traffic while Jeff’s was exposed on the side of the cliff with A LOT of people. We both ended our hikes about the same time and we had a great view of Half Dome!
We left Yosemite for the final time that day. We were both really sad. We could have easily spent a second week and still not have gotten in all the additional hikes we wanted to do.
I guess that just means we will have to make another trip back!
TEN TIPS FOR A YOSEMITE VISIT
- Come in the off-season if at all possible-shoulder months are less crowded.
- Avoid the Valley Floor during the weekends-there are great hikes around the perimeter of the park that are much less crowded.
- Arrive at the Park entrance gates before 8:30AM-Cars start backing up at the entrance by then and parking is limited. We heard of others waiting 4 hours in traffic just to get in the park entrance and other who circled parking lots for 2 hours trying to find an open spot.
- Take lawn chairs with you-we set up our chairs under a shade tree in the parking lot to get some work done and make business/family calls. Also, its just nice to sit, regroup and rest then get back out there for the rest of the day.
- Expect no connectivity-We had very poor cell coverage and no WiFi at our RV Park, even with our own hotspot and booster. We did find decent coverage in the parking lot in the Valley so we purposed to get some work done there each day after our hikes.
- Make arrangements for pets-Pets are not allowed on hiking trails but can be taken on any paved paths. There are lots of paved routes, but none that will give you any backcountry experience.
- Bring bikes-If you just want to explore the Valley Floor be sure to take bikes. Waterfall spots and lakes are spaced out making it a very long walk. Bikes will keep you from having to give up your coveted parking spot.
- Take the Valley Floor tour-Well worth the $25/person (reservations required).
- Be mentally prepared for irresponsible people who lack manners, don’t pick up after themselves and who ignore park rules-Its very disappointing to see the amount of trash left on the floors in restrooms and around crowded waterfalls.
- Take plenty of sunscreen and water-Even if it is a short distance, the air is dry and the sun is intense.
Ooooof! More excuses why I have been very tardy in keeping up with my blog!
Working with an RV company, the full-on RV season has arrived and our show responsibilities have ramped up.
So instead of trying to catch up with multiple posts I’m going to cheat and summarize the last two months of travel in one. That’s the way we catch up around here!
Zion National Park…A Thing of Beauty
Continuing our visit to the Canyonlands we headed over to Zion National Park. I thought since we were visiting during the early season we wouldn’t have any trouble finding camping around the National Park. After checking the recreation.gov website for camping within the park I found 1 campsite left for 3 nights at the Watchman Campground. Not the week stay I was hoping for but we had to take what we could get.
With our Zion Ultra trail run scheduled we needed some additional reservations closer to the venue. I got reservations at the Zion Canyon Campground behind the Quality Inn Hotel in Springdale. It was literally just across the Virgin River from the Watchman…for double the price.
Our first day at Zion we decided to take a drive through the park traveling through the tunnel on 89A. I’m so glad we did this because we had planned on going out this way on our way out of town. We didn’t realize there was a tunnel for one thing. Secondly, they have a height restriction of 13’2″. Thirdly, if we could have fit (we are 13’ 8”) we would have needed a park escort in order to drive down the middle of the tunnel while traffic was blocked. Lastly, they charge a $15 fee to do so.
Despite all that, it was a beautiful drive and gave us a little taste of what was to come during our weeks stay.
Two days before our race we decided to take in an easy hike and headed to the Emerald Pools. There is a high, medium and low pool and we hiked to all three. This is an easy hike and we purposed to leave before 8 AM to avoid any crowds. This time of year you can only access the Trailheads via the shuttle system that we picked up at the visitors center.
There are flashing signs all over town about the National Park parking being completely full by 10AM until 3PM, so we wanted to be sure to get an early start. We waited for the shuttle with 4 other people to head to the TH’s. But when we returned around 10:30 the lines just to get on a shuttle were about a ¼ mile long. It was crazy!
If you have ever seen pictures of Zion you more than likely have seen Angels Landing. This hike’s iconic knife edge assent with the aid of chains and the infamous Walter’s Wiggles were enough to make this one of our most unique and exciting hikes we have ever done.
And the view from the top… Simply amazing! It’s a great place to have a mid morning snack or a picnic lunch with plenty of room to move around (mild crowds). But if you are scared of heights this hike is not for you!
Be sure to do this hike early morning before the crowds kick in. The chain section is for one rear end at a time and even early we had to share the road with A LOT of people including small children and terrified adults. There aren’t too many spots to just pull over and let someone pass, so expect to hang out on the side of a cliff waiting for your turn.
Zion 100 Ultra
The Zion 100 Ultra offered a 100-mile, 100k, 50 mile, 55k and half marathon distance. Jeff signed up for the 55K while I signed up for the half marathon.
We were watching the weather closely the week leading up to the race and as the race got closer the chance of rain increased. So much so that the race director offered the option to back out of the race even though they were going to have it rain or shine.
But nothing could prepare us for…mudageddon!
It started to rain about 1AM and rained off and on through the entire race. The rain made the trails a soupy sloppy mess and the course had to be altered at the last minute. I finished my half while Jeff pulled out at mile 22 of his 55k. The mud was relentless and we were both exhausted!
We took a rest day and walked to town for lunch the day after our race. Sam was glad to get outside.Though we love our National Parks we hate that you cannot take your dog with you on the trails. We understand the safety concerns and the trails are really too crowded for both people and dogs. Zion does offer one paved walking trail that pets are allowed on and we were thankful for it.
We really wanted to hike The Narrows which is water/river hiking. But spring runoff had the river running too high and wild to do this trip. We hope to come back in the fall for this one.
The little town of Springdale is within walking distance of the Zion campgrounds and a delightful place to grab lunch, ice-cream or coffee. It’s quaint and friendly, but I can only imagine what it would be like to get around in the height of summer tourism. Springdale is bracing itself for the estimated 5 million visitors expected to Zion this year, so if you are planning a trip pack your patience.
Lee’s Ferry, AZ
After leaving Zion we stopped over at Lee’s Ferry campground in Utah. What a gem of a find!
Lee’s Ferry is the only place for hundreds of miles where you have easy access to cross the Colorado River. Back in the mid 19th century it was the site of Lees ferry that provided a way to cross the Colorado River for those making their trek out west.
The water is smooth and calm here and is where all Grand Canyon rafting trips start their journey.
The little first come first serve campground is situated on a bluff overlooking the Colorado River. As with all the Canyonlands, the full beauty of Glen Canyon is revealed in the sunrise and sunsets and boy did it put on a show!
The rock formations glowed with the dawn and dusk sun so be sure to set up your chairs and take in the view!
Phoenix, KY, IL, MO, AR, OK, TX, NM, AZ, NV
Yup…in a matter of 9 days we crossed 9 states and 3 time zones. We flew to Louisville to pick up the Dometic show RV and drove it to National Hardware Show in Las Vegas.
This kicked off 5 weeks of non-stop driving and we are almost finished with our show responsibilities for this round. It has been a whirlwind for sure but next week we will be taking a weeks vacation in the majestic Yosemite National Park.
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!
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!
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!!!
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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)….
It’s been a while since my last post. Partly because of healing my wrist, partly because we have been stationary.
As new temporary residents of Mesa, Arizona we’ve become quite familiar with city streets, favorite Walmart stores, the local cycling club and yummy places for lunch. Even Sam has been in on the action for grooming and walking the canals.
But these RV’s are made for roll’in and roll’in is what we do!
After 3 months, we had to refresh ourselves on how to hook up the Domani. It felt odd to be pulling out of our temporary driveway with something a little bigger than a bicycle behind us.
But just like riding a bike, it all came back to us quickly. We were finally headed away from sirens, helicopters and thumping music of the city and heading towards yipping coyotes, running generators and whipping winds of the desert.
Here we come Quartzsite!
The Quartzsite RV Show, or “Q”, is billed as the largest gathering of RV’ers in the world. Folks from all over North America come to the desert of “Q” for warm January temps and cheap RV living. “Q” is surrounded by unlimited BLM, making this quirky destination a playground for boondockers, solar enthusiasts and ATV’ers.
We were here last year working a booth for Dometic and we were here to do the same this year.
Working a booth at a RV show is a fascinating study in people. Especially RV’ers!
“Q” is always a different kind of show in that the majority (98-99%) of this audience is actual RV owners. And not just owners but what I would consider RV super users… those who live in their RV’s 6-12 months out of the year.
And with super users comes lots of experience and lots of stories! Usually experiences and stories that center around bathroom habits and holding tanks.
I had to laugh when a 70-something woman asked if we had any toilet seats that fit into a receiver hitch of a truck because, “I aint poop’in over a log no more”. I deferred her to Amazon…they have everything in two days or less for Prime membership.
One of our friends shared his story about emptying his black tank at a dump station. Unbeknownst to him, the dump was full which he didn’t find out until he saw his black water running all over the ground. After shutting off the valve he was left with suspending both ends of the hose in the air with his hands in order to contain the sludge until someone would let him dump in another line! OMG!!!
Other toilet discussions at the booth drove me to drink at the end of the day. And since I’m such a light weight, half way through a glass was sufficiently enough to regain my sense of humor.
On another funny note…did you know that Escapees has a nudist club? They sure do! And Jeff and I got a first hand look at it while delivering a Dometic portable refrigerator/freezer to their encampment…on BLM…in “Q”. Y.U.P.
I offered to deliver the item as the purchaser was on a motorcycle and he happily accepted my offer. While being rung up he slipped in a, “oh-by-the-way”, and we were off to the nudist encampment hoping the cool temps and cloud cover would keep the in-the-buff RV’ers a bit more covered!
Of course the ONLY person that was not covered up when we got to the area was this nice gentleman’s wife…buck naked…in front of his coach.
Not being well prepared nor experienced in this sort interaction, eye contact was our top priority as well as a keen concentration to keep our jaws from hitting the desert floor. I was relieved when his wife offered to put some clothes on. But that relief was short lived when she returned with only a wrap around her waist.
Introductions were made and a tutorial on how to operate their new purchase was given…topless…boobs a sway’in in the gentle breeze…bent over the freezer on the ground. There are just things you can’t un-see folks!
After declining their invitation for a beer we were treated to a boob photo bomb while having our picture taken with their rig logo. Yup…in her full glory…in the background of a picture her husband took with OUR phone.
Oh…could it possibly be that I now have seen it all? Probably not.
Jeff and I have had one other run in with nudists. It was on our honeymoon 22 years ago in Jamaica. The resort had a clothing side and a clothing optional side. When we arrive the first night we were informed that our room on the clothing side was not available despite our specific reservations.
The next morning our beautiful ocean front balcony view was marred by the bare butts of wrinkly old men strategically moving their lawn chairs directly in front of our room. Not the full moon over the water view I had in mind!
From my total of two nudist “shock-and-awe” incidents, I’ve noticed that nudists are not usually the bouncing six pack stacked Bay Watch type of people to be gazed upon with appreciation for the human form. But leathery sun worn bodies that have sufficiently been pruned over time. Just my humble unwanted observation!
Butt But you know what? More power to them!
It was an interesting time at “Q” as it usually is. We did see friends and managed to stay an additional week in beautiful desert BLM solitude after the show.
The incredible desert sunrises and sunsets burned new images into my retina’s that I will carry with me as we head back to Mesa. Even the illumination of the full moon will forever be a memory too! 😉