Category Archives: Travel

The Friends We Meet

The scenery has been awesome, the rocks, the desert, the animals and wildflowers have all been amazing! But really what fills in the story, what creates the colorful background to our trip are the people we meet along the way.

For instance, back in Moab after having finished a delicious brunch affair at the Peace Tree Cafe, we were walking around town when I spotted a yarn store I had to go into. Really I HAD to go in. The owner of the store was a wonderfully sweet women with her 8 month old baby girl. After chatting awhile, the first thing I noticed was the local fiber producers, and one in particular…a co-ETSY seller, who I had previously bought a few fiber braids from. It is those type of surprise connections that make traveling so interesting.

When I finally finished with my fiber and yarn fixation, I returned outside to find Fred talking to a couple with a VW Rialta. Not only did this couple at one time live in the Santa Cruz area, this couple knew MY BROTHER!!!  I mean, seriously, the U.S. is a big place. And Moab, Utah is a long way away from Santa Cruz, California.

O.K…still not enough. When we finally got back to the Keevan, parked next to it was another white VW loaded down with cargo carrier, surfboards, firewood, bicycles…(and that’s just on the outside.) Fred and I looked at each other thinking this van looked familiar, and sure enough, when we spotted the stickers, we both knew we had again run into Cory and Emily from “Where’s my Office Now?” 

The one and same couple we met in the middle of the desert south of Sedona, Arizona a month ago. Now here in front of a natural food store in Moab, Utah, we meet again.

Crazy, small, forever entwining world it is!

There’s been so many kind and interesting people we’ve met in campgrounds, in the parks, along turnouts, while dispersed camping, and in coffee shops and cafe’s.

There was the couple in Prescott that kindly told us that the YMCA in town would allow us each to take a one time free shower. On that particular day, that was the best gift we could imagine! Then every day for a week, we shared news on trails and hikes we each experienced. We compared camper van notes, retirement thoughts and art pursuits.

Then there was the sweet couple that gave us a huge bag of home-grown tangerines off their cherished tangerine tree back in San Diego, and then really encouraged us in our newfound love of birdwatching! They shared information about field guides, binoculars and good birding places to go.

The Colorado two traveling with their cats, shared so much info about Arizona, kayaks, good restaurants,  archeological ruins, cultural studies, etc. and then invited us to visit and camp out at their high elevation homestead back in Colorado.

The fun-loving VW driving, margarita swinging couple we shared a campfire with for a few nights, and lots of VW stories!!

And my favorite, the Vita-Mix toting green smoothie girl wonder and her fabulous wood-working partner with a VW to envy all the way to Italy for an awning with a easy open crank handle. We really envied that awning, they really envied our solar panels. They also welcomed us to camp on their property.

There was the young couple with a 9-month old baby AND a 2 month old Great Dane puppy…all camping around in their VW. That was a LOT of CUTE!!!

And so many more stories.

See, it’s really not all just about rocks in the desert. These are the real people that are making this adventure so much fun.

Thanks so much to all of you who have shared so much.

Cruising Westward

 Leaving Utah Behind

 

After overloading on so much National Parkitis, we were ready for a little relaxation. The Parks in Utah are really magnificent, but there really is a limit, and taking in so many beautiful vistas in one trip results in a touch of scenic wonder overdose.

The fact is that Memorial Day weekend, a major holiday celebrated in huge fashion around the Moab area, combined with a storm front moving into town, had us looking at the map again. We wanted to spend one more night in the desert outside of Moab, but were concerned about rain on the very sandy roads we were camping on. Checking the weather over and over again, the weather people assured us no more rain would be occurring until mid-day on Friday.

We believed them.

Suckers we were!!!

We awoke at 4:00 a.m. to the pitter patter of raindrops falling on little Ms. Keevan. We discussed staying, we discussed going. We both tossed and turned in bed. The saying goes, if it rains, and you are on back roads in the desert, be prepared to stay put put for day or so, until the rain soaks in and the roads are once again dry and drivable.  We had already decided to move on, and really didn’t want to stay put in the muck for a few days. Back and forth went the discussion, until finally at 4:15, we got up, dressed, threw everything on the bed, pulled the top down, and beat like heck, slipping and sliding out, all the way to the highway.

We drove, trying to get ahead of the rain, which was more of a downpour than a shower, the entire width of the state to western Utah, where we happily camped on dry BLM land with another great view.

The next morning we made our way into eastern Nevada, where we found the most desirable of forest service campgrounds, with lots of “NO ATV’s” on sign posts. Ah bless these parks gods from heaven. Just my type of people. We spent a couple of days at Ward Mountain Campground unwinding, relaxing, reading, and taking a lovely hike through the junipers and pinyon pine forests.

 

Through the Wastelands

 

Nevada. Now Central Nevada is it’s own character for sure. So much nothingness! And in between the nothingness, is missile testing sites, heaped up junkyards, and half filled pee bottles strewn along the highway. Mountain ranges separated by vast flatlands.

Sounds pretty destitute for sure, but in a way it was relaxing, so much nothingness, after so much everythingness of parks, rocks, beauty, tourists, visitor centers, and overpriced souvenirs.

But here’s the real story. When we went with the flow of the nothingness of Nevada, it all came to life!

First we came across a large band of Bighorn Sheep!! Not two or three mind you, but at least a hundred of them. So close to the road, we could tell the rams from the ewes. (By the horns, is how you tell.) They were so amazingly awesome!

Next, after alternately looking for wildlife and reading my magazine, I spot a lone Pronghorn Antelope!

And if that’s not enough, tooling down the highway, over yonder, we start spotting small herds of wild horses! Yes, those horses. The famous herds of wild horses of Nevada.

 

Wild Horses of Nevada
Wild Horses of Nevada

 

O.k. no more wonders of all wonders please!! We need to start looking for a place to sleep for the night, the shadows are getting long, and the sky is dimming. The last mountain range we pass over is the last bit of forest land for a long while, so we’re looking hard for a dirt road to turn off on. I spot one off to the side. Fred does a u-turn, and we turn in to check it out.

Driving slowly over the bumps and lava rocks we come around a bend, and shhh…”Fred, there’s a horse, right there!”  And another, and another, and a young baby in the herd. A beautiful palomino. A Big Black. Wow.

 

End of the Trail
End of the Trail

 

This is where we’re camping.

 

View From the Van Door
View From the Van Door

 

Another wow. This is the view out our door tonight. Dreams of slumber overcome us.

Life is Good. There is beauty everywhere. We just have to allow it in.

 

 

Catching Up…Part 2

Part 2 – Getting Through Utah

 

(May 21 – May 24, 2014)

Near Goblin State Park. 

We didn’t actually go to Goblin State Park.

"Guardian of the Cave"
“Guardian of the Cave”

The Park is named for rock statues that look like Goblins all over the park, especially popular with the younger generation. When we arrived, there were no campsites available, so, as we do, we found a magnificent (do I dare say better) spot to camp just outside of the park. Therefore, we didn’t spend the fee to go inside the next day either. We enjoyed our own Goblins, and as people do in the desert, create their own entertainment by naming the rocks.

 

 

 

Arches National Park

Just when you think, there’s nothing new to see, geologically speaking…

 

 

 

And then…  Canyonlands

See why I’ve fallen so far behind here. Utah is such an underrated state to visit.  We could spend a year here exploring!

 

 

 

 

Around Our Dispersed Campsite 

 

 

 The flowers and solitude of the vast high plateau deserts are such a welcome homecoming after days of visiting scenic canyons and vistas. It brings us back to the simple details and up close comforts of    whats within our reach without the drives and roads and parks and people.

 ❧

For further information on the above parks, check out these wonderful websites below.  Of course, we usually don’t do this, we just show up, and check them out after the visit.  Probably not the best plan of attack, but it works for us…

Goblin State Park

Arches National Park

Canyonlands National Park

 

Catching Up…Part 1

We’re back in California for a brief pause before heading into the northwest for the second leg of our journey. Unfortunately this blog is still way back in Utah…a little out of breath.

That being so, I’m playing catch up by posting a few photo galleries of the past few weeks…in a two part series.

First up – Many Thanks to those below for sharing the land with us as we’ve traveled through their homelands.

 

 

(May 15 – May 20, 2014)
And on to Bryce Canyon – One of the most amazing spots in America! 

 

 

Side Tripping – in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

 

Being Awed in the Capitol Reef National Park

 

 

Part 2 up soon…

Websites of Parks:

Bryce Canyon National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Over The Hills And Through The Snow…

To Bryce Canyon we go…

Via the scenic route.

(May 14-15, 2014)

Before leaving on this epic adventure, we had read and jotted down some notes of places to see along the way. Hwy 143 in Utah was one of them, supposedly one of our most scenic highways!

So off we go, looking for more scenic views! We hadn’t ventured far, when I spotted this little trail I had read about as being a good place to stretch tired legs. Hidden Haven it was called.

A bit more of beautiful cold fluffy snow to deal with, but nothing our trusty hiking boots couldn’t handle. It was a gorgeous sunny blue sky day, so we trekked on up to this lovely bench. (thanks to some random boy scout, getting his eagle badge)

me in snow
Hidden Haven Trail

As we continued to climb the mountain, we realized when the sign said “Road Open,” it was really just opened. With a 15% grade to climb, and the road sometimes one lane, we were sweating it out a bit. But lo and behold the Great White Van performed superbly, although at one point I really knew I could run faster alongside Ms. Keevan.

Brian Head, Utah
Brian Head, Utah

Brian Head. The top of the world! A very cute (what we could see of it) little community renowned for  being the highest community in Utah. Obviously we were between seasons here, as it was deader than a doornail, and we saw I think one person in the whole town.

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Heading Down, Clean Plowed Road

One thing for sure, it was a picturesque and scenic drive.

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Lovely Day in May

Just one of those little surprises, venturing between desert and mountain ranges. The terrain changes so quickly. As do the temperatures.

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Pass at Brian Head

Needless to say, all the side roads, and national forest service roads were closed, so um, no camping here.

Down we go…

and go, and go, until we are bombarded by more brilliant red rocks.

Red Canyon
Red Canyon

Which signifies the beginning of Red Canyon.

Welcome.

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Passing Through

Drive right in and stay awhile.

Thank you very much, we’ve made to it our new home for a  few days…

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Home Sweet Home

A bit of a challenge to get leveled up, but with a little effort, we settled in nicely for a tasty dinner and good nights sleep!

Utah! First Up, Zion National Park

5/13/2014

Zion National Park

We came into Zion National Park, mid-day and were met by more huge monolithic rock mountains…of a different sort.

The many differences in geological formations keeps amazing and awing us.

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We were a little uncertain about Zion, as everything we read said how non pet-friendly the park is, and that you had to take a shuttle to see anything. The shuttle of course doesn’t allow pets, nor do any trails except one paved trail near the park center. Fortunately, it turned out not to be a problem. All the turnouts along the road had ample opportunities to hike and play and walk the dog. As for longer hikes, that will be another trip. And the shuttle just went up one scenic canyon…there was plenty to see without that shuttle trip. We’ve seen so much outrageous countryside, we didn’t miss that canyon. We know we can’t see everything there is to see on one trip anyway.

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I always feel like it takes one trip somewhere, just to get your bearings, and to know what you really want to do and see the next trip.

We did get to encounter these majestic Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep climbing around on the rock hillsides!!

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We went through the longest rock tunnel we’ve ever been through. The park monitors the traffic, and only allows one way traffic through at a time. The tunnel was blasted and carved through these massive rock mountains.

Hanging out around all these massive rocks is no place to think about earthquakes, but being from California, Fred and I both had just those thoughts creeping into our heads.

We tried to just put those ideas far far out of mind, so to chill from the earthquake images, we strolled among the slick rocks.

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And checked out some other canyon life checking out us.

Squirrel at Zion

 

Fred Puts on Shorts!

Since I’m becoming quite behind in this blogging thing, I’m now adding  accurate travel dates to the posts, as the posting dates seem to run about a week behind. Since I am doing this sort of as a reference, it seems like the weather should at least be when it really happened, instead of like the snow falling in the middle of June or something, when it actually fell in May…

May 12, 2014

We left Lee’s Ferry campground taking a scenic route into Utah through Jacobs Lake. We again decide to forgo the Grand Canyon, since the road to the North Rim (where we are now) doesn’t open for another three days, and we are anxious to get into Utah.

At the junction of our turnoff, we see this cute laundry, and needing to do some, stop in for a quick wash and dry, before heading out.

 

Marble Canyon Laundromat
Marble Canyon Laundromat

 

And this was next door!

 

Marble Canyon Showers
Marble Canyon Showers

 

It can’t get any better than being able to take showers, while the clothes are washing. Little did we know that 95% of the washing machines didn’t work, and 98% of the dryers were inoperable. And that the washers were sort of antiques and took forever…and the dryers took even more forever…

But oh well, while there we met two lovely ladies who were about to embark upon a six day river rafting trip down the Colorado. These ladies had been friends for over 30 years, have lived in different states for over 20 years, and decided to venture out together for this once in a lifetime trip together. They were awesome!!

We shared stories, histories, and soon photos and videos of our grandchildren. I can’t remember the names, but I’m sure they had a fantastic trip down the river, and have many many memories to share and take back to their families.

 

Leaving the Vermillion cliffs
Leaving the Vermillion cliffs

 

Hours later…we continue winding away from the Vermillion Cliffs, and head up to higher elevations. Much higher!

 

Fred Finally Dons Shorts
Fred Finally Dons Shorts

 

Those of you who know Fred, know he’s not much of a shorts kind of guy. In fact our kids have probably never seen this picture of their dad. So it’s pretty ironic, he decides to finally put on shorts…and we come across this. More snow.  (O.k., he did just wash his two pair of jeans – which maybe explains it.)

 

Pia Enjoying the Snow
Pia Enjoying the Snow

 

Pia, on the other hand, rather enjoyed the snow.

We made it to Jacob Lake, at almost 8,000 feet, just as it was about dark, and the one and only campground wasn’t open yet. It obviously opens the same day as the Rim Road to the Grand Canyon. Anyway, we found a nice forest road that wasn’t too muddy, spotted a wide area, and pulled over, popped the top and yay…turned on the heater!!!

You see, our Eurovan has a propane heater with a built in thermostat, which we’ve enjoyed quite liberally with all this cold weather.

 

Skipping the South Rim

5/11/2014

Heading north we decided to make a detour and attempt again to enter the South Rim Grand Canyon this time from the eastern entrance. We camped a few miles outside the entrance gate planning to get up and go on in the morning. But…the next morning, as we were sitting in the LWV eating breakfast, I looked out the window, and calmly said to Fred. “It’s snowing outside.”

Within minutes, the snow was falling heavily and blowing everywhere. As we were back on a dirt forest service road, we quickly finished our breakfast, shoved our gear here and there, and scurried down the mountain, again, away from the Grand Canyon.

Vermilion Cliffs here we come!

But first a few stops along the way.

 

Navaho Nation
Painted Desert in the Navaho Nation Lands

 

Driving up 89, we took a little side trip into Tuba City. So glad we did this, as the drive was beautiful!! We gratefully filled up with gas while there.

Later, back on 89 again, we stopped at the Little Colorado River Gorge Navaho Tribal Park. Enjoyed these beautiful deep canyon views, and did a bit of impromptu shopping from the Navaho Artisan Booths selling custom arts, jewelry, pottery, and beadwork.

 

Immerse vertical cliffs down a steep canyon gorge
Little Colorado River Canyon

 

Came upon this…The Navaho Bridge.

 

Navaho Bridge
The Navaho Bridge

 

The bridge on the left is the original bridge built in 1929. It is now closed to vehicle traffic and is open for pedestrians to walk across and peer down almost 500 feet below to the Colorado River .

 

The Colorado River
Colorado River

 

As proof that we did indeed walk across even though the wind was blowing heartily, here is Fred and Pia.

 

Fred & Pia on the Navaho Bridge
Fred & Pia on the Navaho Bridge

 

No kidding…No jumping. We could hardly even look down!!!

 

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Duh!!

 

We weren’t the only ones in the area. These majestic California Condors, once extinct in the wild, now thrive here on the ledges of the Vermilion Cliffs.  They have been bred in captivity and released in remote areas not far from here.  We saw at least six different birds while visiting, including one juvenile. (Obvious because the young birds have dark heads.)

 

California Condors

 

Turning at the Navaho Bridge, we headed 6 miles up this scenic road to Lee’s Ferry…

 

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Rock Sculpture Along the Vermillion Cliffs

 

Enjoyed these amazing cliffs…

 

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A Few Little Pebbles Laying Around

 

Meandered among these tumbled down rocks…

 

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Putting Things in Perspective

 

And realized how small we are compared to Mother Nature.  Yes… that’s our LWV there below the shadow of the rock.

 

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Solitude is a Word

 

A last breathtaking view…before winding up here…

 

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Paria Beach on the Colorado River

 

At Paria Beach, where the amazing Paria River joins the mighty Colorado River.  After a nice hike, and a bit of doggy play, we camped at Lee’s Ferry Campground, and were wooed to sleep once again by the ferocious songs of the crazy blowing winds.

 

This And That Around Flagstaff

Pulled into Flagstaff to be greeted by more cold weather and crazy wind.

We drove out to Sunset Crater to check out the lava beds and trails, but the wind was gusting so hard we could hardly stand up. Then the trails all said “no pets allowed.” It just wasn’t in the cards that day. Many of the Monuments and Ruin sites around here do not allow pets for some reason.

We decided to head back into town, and after a little bookstore browsing and some warm coffee, we thought we would head towards the South rim of the Grand Canyon. We drove about half way and took a nature hike in the cold breezy wind, got back in the van and were met with snow flurries hitting the windshield. It didn’t take long of looking at each other, to rethink those plans. Soooo, we both laughed and decided to head east where the temps were much warmer. Fred wanted to go rock hounding, and the place to look for rocks just happened to be about 20 degrees higher up on the thermometer!

Standing on the Corner
Standing on the Corner…

 

Made this quick stop in Winslow…there’s not a lot in this town, except for this one very famous corner. “Standing on the corner…in Winslow, Arizona…” A tribute to the song “Take it Easy” written by Jackson Brown and made superbly famous by the Eagles. The town now supports this bronze statue of a hitchhiker with a guitar, (donated by the band itself) and the mural painted in the background of the flatbed truck from the song, and the corner sign where tourists now flock to take memorable photographs.  Amazing what a song can do for a rundown town.

We spent the night at Homolovi State Park, a park jointly operated by the state of Arizona and the Hopi Nation. It was abeautiful, sweet, immaculately clean campground, with oh such wonderfully free Hot Showers! Showers that one could stand in for as long as one wished! As it turned out, we were asked to partake in a Park survey, and for return were gifted a pass for a free camping night at any Arizona State Park, so we stayed another night.

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We checked out these Ruins (pets were allowed on all trails here, go figure.)

Besides for the historical and cultural interests and significance, all the trails were again beautifully maintained, with benches, canopies, viewing areas, tables, and nice signage all well placed along side them.

A few short hikes were rewarded by more sweet birds revealing themselves in the desert shrubs, and this awesome jack rabbit I encountered under a bush.

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I do believe he/she was equally surprised by my being as I was by it’s presence. It took quite a while for it to get up the nerve to scamper off.

We did do some rock hounding further on south around Woodruff, and found many beautiful chunks of different colors of chert, agates, and  beautiful smooth lovely rocks. We each collected (allowable here) a small pouch, well, at least my pouch was small…for soveneirs and token gifts. It’s nice to take photographs in parks, but sometimes it’s nice to have something tangible to hold and remember good times with. The drive back into Flagstaff was a “Day of Clouds.”

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We were graced with many beautiful formations all day long, as we went in to collect our forwarded mail. Our last night in the area, we found this lovely little park like setting to spend the night in.

Forest Road Campsite South of Flagstaff

It so reminded us of an alpine meadow like those in the Sierra’s. Onward north toward the Utah border we head. Hoping to glimpse the North Rim of the Grand Canyon this time instead of that Southern Rim, and to see the Vermillion Cliffs.

Pia Goes 4-Wheeling

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Ready for Adventure

 

Our last night in Sedona we took a jeep ride on back country trails around the outlying rim of Sedona.

 

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When making arrangements for the tour, we specifically asked about dogs, and were assured that it was fine if Pia went in the jeep. Dog’s have a special place to ride, the fellow told us…

Well, Tony, our driver and guide for the three hour trip was a crusty chap with lots of desert knowledge, great rock crawling abilities, and stories galore. But he didn’t seem so keen on the idea of the doggy, and was a bit put out at first, as we had to shift to a larger jeep to accommodate her. There were six of us going on the excursion.

Luckily, the other four passengers were all dog lovers, and once we got going, and Pia proved her ability to handle being bounced and jostled around and still remain calm, even Tony softened. After awhile, he kept asking “how’s the pup doing?” Everyone else, took turns petting her, holding onto her, allowing her to perch her head atop any body that was handy.

Secretly, we were not really sure how she would do, and three hours could become a hell of a long time, if things didn’t go right. It was a very rough and rugged trip, with many steep inclines and declines and very large rocks!

Pia was a champ! She came through it with flying colors, and I do believe she had a lot of fun! The wind was blowing through her long black hair and she seemed to be smiling, enjoying the journey.

The rest of us? We all had a blast! My personal thoughts that this was going to be boring, and a waste of time and money, were proven unequivocally wrong. This time.

Sometimes, you just have to get outside your comfort zone. If Pia could do it, certainly I could too.

A grand time was had by all.

 

Fred in Safari jeep
Fred Enjoying the View

 

Our return trip back to Sedona was met by lovely sunset orange glow colors.

 

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 ❧

 

http://www.safarijeeptours.com