Day Tripping in Idaho

Throughout the months of May and June, Al and I took full advantage of our days off from our work camping gig to explore parts of Idaho via a series of day trips.  The Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho are a sight to behold with their jagged and impressive mountain peaks, and just like so many other beautiful places we visit, photographs don’t always do justice to the majestic beauty laid before our eyes.

Exploring the back roads in central Idaho
Exploring the back roads in central Idaho

We found Central Idaho to be a visual treat and an RVer’s delight with a ton of raw wilderness just ready to discover.  Finding a place to dry camp in remote national forest does not seem to be a problem around here.

Looking toward the quaint town of Stanley, Idaho
Looking toward the quaint town of Stanley, Idaho
Sun Vally
Shopping – loved the European feel

One of my favorite day trips was a loop drive that took us about ten hours to complete.  We started at our home base in Arco, Idaho, and our first stop was the popular mountain town of Ketchum, also known as Sun Valley.

To get to Ketchum we had to drive through Hailey, Idaho, which I was particularly curious about.  Now mind you, I’m not one to get all caught up or go gaga over Hollywood celebrities, but I do have a curiosity about the lives they lead behind the scenes.

Back in the 1990’s when Demi Moore and Bruce Willis started growing their family, they moved to Hailey to escape the Hollywood scene and helped rebuild this struggling little town.  “Why Hailey”, I questioned?  What made this little town so desirable to a couple who financially could afford to live anywhere.  After driving around the town of Hailey …. up one street, down the other on more than one occasion, I don’t have an answer.  Although cute, it certainly wouldn’t be my first choice if money were no object.

Maybe its more about Sun Valley.

Sun Valley Idaho

Sun Valley is a popular winter destination with its challenging ski slopes and European Nordic feel.  However, Sun Valley Idahomoderate weather, wonderful biking and hiking trails, and an eclectic variety of dining options, makes Sun Valley equally popular during the summer months.

Expensive second homes dot the landscape.  The elegant mountain style architecture blends in beautifully with the terrain of rolling, flowersgrassy hills.

Wildflowers speckle the hillsides with color while gardens filled with flowers adorn well manicured yards.  I loved the abundance of flowers seen in all directions.

Although I found the area to be charming, I somehow felt disappointed.  After visiting so many mountain resort towns in Colorado, perhaps I was expecting an unrealistic wow factor.   Various places resonate differently with each of us and just because I wasn’t feeling it, doesn’t diminish its allure or beauty.

Sawtooth MountainsThe mountains around Sun Valley are unimposing, but from what I hear, are steep and challenging for skiing enthusiasts.  Our time in Sun Valley was brief and we didn’t get a chance to hit the trails to really delve into the lay of the land as much as we would’ve liked.

While strolling the streets of Ketchum, we found folks to be particularly friendly and helpful.  And unlike the mountain towns in Colorado, Sun Valley was not crowded.  Let’s face it, it does take some considerable effort to get to this part of the country.The Kneadery

I must share …. we enjoyed a fabulous lunch at The Kneadery  located in downtown Ketchum.  I’m all about décor and atmosphere along with fresh wholesome ingredients and The Kneadery hit the spot perfectly; cute place, a tasty meal, at a reasonable price – highly recommend.Sawtooth MountainsWith tummies full, it was time for us to meander north.  As the road twisted and turned, it wasn’t long before we were greeted by those craggy, snow speckled Sawtooth Mountains.  What a stunning mountain range!  We passed numerous places to dry camp, and as much as we wanted to stop and check out the possibilities, I was on a mission to get to our next stop.Redfish Lake

Redfish Lake ….  Wow!  Thanks Donna and Char for insisting I visit this place.  I haven’t seen such turquoise and pristine waters since I last visited the Caribbean. Redfish Lake

I could’ve sat at that beach for hours admiring the view.  I may not have been feeling it in Sun Valley, but I sure as heck was feeling it at Redfish Lake. The beauty of our surroundings had Al and me feeling somewhat nostalgic  as memories of our Caribbean trips were conjured up.  Then there are the memories of us paddling our canoe in northern Minnesota or taking our kids out on our fishing boat in southern Utah.  Yep, we’re lake people and a beautiful body of water always brings a smile to our faces.Redfish Lake

Al and I grabbed a snack and a drink from the cooler and found a spot to sit.  We initially sat in silence as we watched the kayakers and stand up paddle boarders paddle by.  Sigh!  Oh how I longed to be out on that water.  Al and I reminisced about our boating days and although there are many aspects about those days that I miss,  I somehow felt incredibly content and fortunate to be relaxing on the shore admiring that view.Redfish Lake

We were quite smitten with Redfish Lake and the quaint town of Stanley.  It is breathtakingly, mesmerizingly, beautiful here! It was tough to pull ourselves away, but return home we must ….. though not before checking out the campground for future reference. This area made our “return” list, which I’ll admit, seems to get longer the more we travel.

Thanks Donna and Char. I’m so glad we made it a priority to visit Redfish Lake.  If there’s one place in Idaho I’d say is a ‘must see’, this would be it.

The scenery along the way was every bit as memorable as the stops
The scenery along the way was every bit as memorable as the stops

Now it was time to complete our loop drive with one more exploratory stop before reaching home.

Mackay Reservoir - boondocking along the shores is a consideration
Mackay Reservoir – boondocking along the shores is a consideration

Mackay, Idaho: from a former mining town to a small recreation town …. folks escape the big cities (big for Idaho, that is) to come to Mackay on the weekends to get away and relax.  The water (my personal fav) and back country 4×4 roads are the draw for this rustic and remote area.

colorful mountains around Mackay, Idaho
colorful mountains around Mackay, Idaho

For now, we need to head back to camp, but we’ll visit Mackay in the next post!

Idaho

All that water we saw has me eyeing one of these inflatables… hmm! Christmas is coming – wink, wink dear hubby 🙂  Perhaps there will be plenty more boating adventures in our future!

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Take a Hike in New Mexico

Some places resonate with me much more than others. I’m not always sure why or what the deciding factor might be, but when I stumble upon a unique landscape that gives me goose bumps, I know I’m some place special.

Kasha Katuwe

The blogosphere is one of my favorite venues to search and find exciting travel ideas. The moment I saw a photograph of these cone-shaped tent rock formations, I knew this was a must see.

A visit was in the plans last year, but when our daughter decided to move from Denver to Phoenix, all those plans went out the window.

This year was different, and since we didn’t have any firm commitments after mid August, I knew the timing was perfect to lay eyes on this unusual landscape.

National Monuments35 miles south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a complex and unique geological landscape called Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. This relatively new monument was designated as such in 2001.

The sculpted cliffs and peaked hoodoos were formed from volcanic eruptions that occurred more than six million years ago.

There is a somewhat uniform layering of volcanic material causing bands of white, grey, beige, and pink colored rock.  It’s a fascinating and perplexing sight.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Over time, wind and water sculpt these rocks creating canyons, scooping holes, and contouring hoodoos. Mother Nature’s artistic and creative hand had me awed and smiling during the entire two-plus hour hike.  I found myself hiking this fun trail several times during our two-week stay in the Santa Fe area, and trust me when I say, once is not enough.  I already look forward to returning.

Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Without further adieu, let’s take a hike…..

As we approached the fee booth station, we were greeted by a ranger. There’s a $5.00 daily fee (as of Aug 2016) or free with your Annual National Park Pass (this is a Federal park after all).  From the fee station, we continued for five miles down a paved road that crosses private property owned by the Pueblo de Cochiti.

We are asked to respect the Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monumenttraditions and privacy of the local Indians and thus, no stopping along the way, no photography/video, and no drawing/painting.  Also, no commercial photography within the park is allowed without a permit.

Once we neared the trailhead, there were three different gravel parking lots that can accommodate just about any size vehicle (including RV’s).  There’s a couple of vault toilets, but no water….. so be sure and bring plenty of drinking water.  You’ll need it.

Awed beyond words!
Awed beyond words!

Unlike most national parks and monuments, there are no scenic overlooks near a parking lot around here.  The only way to view the tent rocks and observe this stunning landscape is by foot; hiking via a dirt, sometimes sandy trail.  And by the way, no dogs allowed.  You won’t even be allowed through the fee station with a dog in the vehicle.

Kasha-Katuwe

The 1.2 mile Cave Loop Trail is rated easy and partly handicap accessible.  There are some unique rock formations and a hand dug cave along this trail, but the real gem of the park is the Slot Canyon Trail …… definitely not to be missed.

Kasha-Katuwe Cave TrailKasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

The Slot Canyon Trail is a 3 mile out and back hike with a 630-foot elevation gain and connects with the Cave Loop Trail.

We hiked the combination of both trails making for a wonderful 4.2-mile hike. For my level of hiking ability, this trail offered me the perfect amount of challenge and visual stimulation.

Cave Loop Trail as we hike toward the Slot Canyon trail
Cave Loop Trail as we hike toward the Slot Canyon trail
the beginning of the Slot Canyon Trail
the beginning of the Slot Canyon Trail

Although from Al’s point of view, there may have been way too much visual stimulation (if there is such a thing) which resulted in an excessive amount of photo-op stops, much to his chagrin.  Perhaps that’s why my subsequent hiking visits to Kasha-Katuwe were tackled as a solo hiker 😁

The moment we connected with the Slot Canyon Trail, the cliff walls rose on both sides and I felt like I had entered a secret garden of sorts. I believe, oh my gosh, was uttered by me around every bend.   As the canyon walls continued to narrow, we were greeted with obstacles along the trail.

Slot canyon hiking

Nothing we couldn’t handle … however, those that are vertically challenged or suffer from short leg syndrome, like moi, may find themselves stretching out those leg muscles just a tad.

Easy peasy!
Easy peasy!

In some spots, the slot canyon became very narrow, so narrow that there was only room for one foot at a time.

one foot at a time!
one foot at a time!
one hiker at a time!
one hiker at a time!
How cool is this?
How cool is this?
Fits like a glove!
Fits like a glove!
Loved it!
Awesome!

Once we exited the slot canyon, we were welcomed by those teepee shaped hoodoos …. each uniquely sculpted by the elements and each equally as impressive.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

cairns

hiking

It didn’t take long and we could feel the trail climbing and instead of looking up at the amazing tent rocks, we were now looking down upon them.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

We continued up the trail and stopped frequently to look back.

New Mexico hikingKasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

As we reached the top of the trail, we had temporarily hiked away from the tent rocks. The trail continued out onto a narrow mesa which provided a bird’s eye view of Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.

trail - drop offs on both sides. Birds eye view in all directions. The lake in the background is where we camped to be near Kasha-Katuwe; Cochiti Lake
The trail drops off on both sides. Bird’s eye view in all directions. The lake in the background is where we camped to be as near as possible to Kasha-Katuwe; Cochiti Lake Campground

And of course, a few more “Oh…. my…. gosh’es were uttered as I stood on the edge gazing down.

Standing on the edge gazing in awe!
Standing on the edge gazing in awe!
Sitting on the edge as I admire the view below - hey look, there's the trail
Sitting on the edge as I admire the view below – hey look, there’s the trail
We can see hikers on the trail. Since this is a out and back hike, we'll be down there shortly!
We can see hikers on the trail. Since this is an out and back hike, we’ll be down there shortly!
Heading back down the trail.
Heading back down the trail.
Easy for someone 6'3".... entertaining watching the 5'4" short legged gal
Easy for someone 6’3″…. entertaining watching the 5’4″ short-legged gal
I steady myself
I steady myself
Not an obstacle I couldn't handle on my own!
Not an obstacle I couldn’t handle on my own!
This is where being short works in my favor ;-)
This is where being short works in my favor 😉

The return hike to the trailhead was every bit as amazing as it was entering.

We returned back to the trailhead via the Cave Loop Trail
We returned back to the trailhead via the Cave Loop Trail

The Pueblo de Cochiti people view Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks as a very special place and justifiably so.  After Al and I made this first hike, I returned three more times to tackle this perfect (in my book) hike.  Perfect – even when considering all the obstacles one might bump into.

Oh no, someone wasn't paying attention!
Oh no, someone wasn’t paying attention! At least I managed to stop the blood from running down my leg.  I did attract a little attention from fellow hikers…. You know, those “Are you ok?” looks and comments.

One morning, I hit the trail at 8:15 and encountered only one couple on the trail for that first hour.  It was awesome having this amazing place to myself and hiking in solitude.  All of my senses were alert.

Kasha-Katuwe

The visual delight of the sun peeking from behind a rock was a reminder of a new day unfolding.   I listened to the light sound of a lizard moving, and the loud squawking of birds soaring overhead.  I breathed in the crisp clean air scented of pine.  There was the random sound of tiny rocks tumbling, acting as a reminder that this land is in a constant state of change.

Kasha-Katuwe

There was the occasional touch of admiration and respect for this special and sacred place.

sitting on the edge!
sitting on the edge!

Yes indeed, some places touch my soul more than others and Kasha-Katuwe touched mine more than I ever expected.  I know I’ll return!

My church!
My church!

Kasha-Katuwe

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Columbia Watertight Cap
Waist Pack – Hiking
Merrell Hiking Shoe

A Mirror of Reflections

I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe it’s September already.  Our summer flew by, and although our travels didn’t exactly go as planned, we are not complaining.  Actually, we couldn’t have planned our summer any better.  Sometimes winging it can turn into an amazing adventure.

Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park

The travel God’s smiled on us regularly as we changed directions on a whim.  I mean literally from one second to another we were changing our minds on where we should go and pulling into campgrounds without reservations…. not ideal in the peak of tourist season.  One minute we were in crisis mode pointing the RV in an easterly direction, and the next, with the crisis averted, we found ourselves turning around and heading north; traveling with no real rhyme or reason other than some impending obligations.

Jackson Lake, Wyoming
Jackson Lake, Wyoming

The flexibility and freedom of traveling in a RV can be liberating, exciting, stressful, wonderful, scary, perplexing, and of course, relaxing …… it’s kind of like a rollercoaster of emotions, but minus the word relaxing.  As much as I love a good rollercoaster ride, I’ve never found one to be relaxing – exhilarating yes, relaxing no!  And RVing can be an exhilarating journey.

Jackson Lake, Wyoming
Jackson Lake, Wyoming

Along with seeing spectacular scenery this summer, we met some wonderful people.  More than once we were referred to as “seasoned”.  On July 1st, we entered our fourth year of full-time RV living.  Our one to two year intention of living in the RV full-time has since turned into year four.  I’m not sure when we progressed from “newbie” RV’er to “seasoned” RV’er, but here we are,  still enjoying the journey, and willing to share our school of hard knocks knowledge with any “RV newbie” who asks.

Grand Junction, Colorado
Grand Junction, Colorado

I’ll admit, three years ago as a relative ‘newbie’, I would never have handled the winging it style of travel we embarked on this summer.  I’ve always been a planner and usually have a game plan laid out weeks in advance, and most times, months in advance.  I think, over time, we’ve developed a level of RVing confidence. We have confidence in knowing we’ll always manage to find a place to overnight, even if it’s just a parking lot.

Loved visiting the ducks at Schbacher Landing, Grand Tetons, Wyoming
Loved visiting the ducks at Schwabacher Landing, Grand Tetons, Wyoming

There are days I do miss a home base.  A place to go back to and regroup, but I still haven’t found that spot I’d like to call home.  So the search shall continue.  I do know it won’t be Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  Although amazingly beautiful, and I look forward to returning, my blood is too thin to tackle that weather.  More than once we awoke to temperatures in the 30 degree Fahrenheit range along with a fresh dusting of snow on the peaks and this was in mid July …. beautiful BUT brrrr!

I don't think I'd ever tire of this view, but I couldn't live here - too cold...brrrr!
I don’t think I’d ever tire of this view, but I couldn’t live here – too cold…brrrr!

The moment I realized this weeks photo challenge was mirror, I knew I had to share some images from our summer excursion ….. photographs depicting reflections.  I’m still struggling with my computer issues, thus my lack of blogosphere presence may continue, but now that we’ve decided to slow our travels down a tad and spend the next two months hanging in Prescott, Arizona, I’m hoping to finally upgrade this dinosaur of a laptop.

Yellowstone Bear World, Idaho
Yellowstone Bear World, Idaho

Once I bring home that new laptop, I’ll start writing about our interesting travel stops.  Not only do these photographs depict reflections, as I review them, I reflect on our memories, on our journey, on the adventure.

Grand Junction, Colorado
Grand Junction, Colorado
Slate River Road, Crested Butte, Colorado
Slate River Road, Crested Butte, Colorado

My biggest dilemma was narrowing down the photographs to just a few, which was not an easy task for me.  We managed to visit some stunningly beautiful places during the past few months.  We started in Arizona last April then ventured into Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and now, five months later, have returned to Arizona.

I was excited to see a Pelican fly by - Pelicans in Wyoming?
I was excited to see a Pelican fly by – Pelicans in Wyoming?
Lots of ducks
Lots of ducks
Mountains and Wildlife - love it!
Mountains and Wildlife – love it!

Yep, we had one heck of a rollercoaster ride this summer ….. wouldn’t change a moment….. not the highs, the lows, or the upside downs.  Stay tuned for all the stories!