Too Much Sunshine?

Is there such a thing as too much sunshine? I grew up in the Midwest and I remember well the days that would turn into weeks where the sun stayed hidden behind a thick layer of cloud cover. The month before we packed up and moved west, we experienced an entire month with seeing the sun shine. Talk about depressing!

sunshine Prescott Arizona

That gloomy weather made it a lot easier to say good-bye to family and friends as we packed up our family of four plus furry dog and moved west to the unknown. We didn’t have jobs. We didn’t know a soul. All we knew was we weren’t meant to stay in the Chicago suburbs.

sunshine in Prescott ArizonaWe purged more than half our stuff. Items we couldn’t part with, like our canoe and a few family heirlooms, were stored at Al’s sister’s farmette in northern Illinois. We packed up our full size van and a small pull behind U-Haul trailer and off we headed west to Las Vegas, Nevada ….. in January, no less. Our larger pieces of furniture were moved by Mayflower.

Yeah, there were a few people who thought we’d lost our marbles moving from Chicago to Las Vegas in the dead of winter with our young children – 3 and 5 years old at the time.

When you know in your heart that it’s time for a change, time to move on, why procrastinate? Al and I share a favorite scene from the movie Paint Your Wagon ….

Elizabeth: Then simplify your life, Jacob. Sell me.
Jacob Woodling: But Elizabeth: you don’t know what you’ll get.
Elizabeth: But I know what I’ve had.

It’s a line Al and I share regularly when discussing a change, a change of any kind, “I don’t know what I’ll get, but I know what I’ve had“. Sure, there’s always that fear of the unknown, but Al and I have never allowed fear to hold us back. Although, I assure you there was a fair amount of fear with an incident or two crossing the Rockies in the middle of January with two small children and a dog in tow.

reflections

The highlight of that cross-country move happened in Colorado. The Eisenhower Tunnel located 60 miles west of Denver, Colorado on Interstate 70 is over a mile and a half long and sits at an elevation exceeding 11,000 feet. The moment we exited that tunnel, we were greeted with the most spectacular sight. Laid out before us were stunning snow-covered mountains in all directions along with the brightest blue sky I had ever seen. I’m sure my mouth dropped open in awe.

On Interstate 70 near the town of Frisco, Colorado, is a scenic pull-out. (I highly recommend this stop when traveling westbound on Interstate 70) We stopped here to stretch our legs and take in the amazing scenery. We no sooner exited the vehicle when all four three of us started complaining, “The sun, the sun! I need sunglasses!”  I don’t think I’ve ever seen such brightness in nature. I started seeing spots like I’d been hit with the flash of a camera.

Although, Mr. Aviator sunshineHusband always sported cool dude aviator shades, the kids and I rarely found the need to wear sunglasses in the mostly overcast Chicago suburbs. Ah, little did we know, but this lack of sunglasses habit was about to change 😎

Three days and 1,800 miles later, we arrived in Las Vegas, Nevada, and our introduction to life in the desert southwest began. We went from an average of 189 days of sunshine a year to over 300 days.  Oh yeah, bye-bye seasonal depression … bring on the sunshine!

But is there such a thing as too much sunshine? It’s a question I’ve recently been asking myself. Now that the forest fire is contained and the air has cleared, I’m getting back to exploring the Prescott area with my camera. Never in a million years did I ever think I’d return to the RV complaining to my husband about a boring blue sky. But that’s exactly what happen the other day.

sunshine
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t dare swap these lovely blue skies for the grey gloomy ones in the Midwest. It’s just nice to change it up every now and then. We’ve gone over six weeks without a drop of rain and hardly a cloud in the sky. I find myself collecting sunglasses and stashing them in all the necessary locations …. a pair in the car, one or two in my purse, another pair on my desk. They seemed to have multiplied and partnered up with my old eye cheater glasses that I also have lying around every where 🤓

Prescott Arizona Willow Lake

Ah, so much sun, but patience is a virtue. I keep my eye on the sky. I’m longing to photograph one of those amazing desert sunsets, and I need a smattering of clouds to fulfill my quest. Considering it is officially “monsoon” season here in Arizona, I shouldn’t have to wait too long. I keep the camera at the ready.

Monsoon season in Arizona

Willow Lake Prescott, Arizona

And finally a storm rolls in. It didn’t exactly produce the shot I was envisioning, but I’ll take it. The storm passed through rather quickly, but it smelled wonderfully refreshing while it lasted. And now that I’ve had that quick little fix of storm clouds, bring on the sunshine. Yeah, I don’t think there’s such a thing as too much sunshine or having too many pairs of sunglasses 😎

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you!

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Full-filling Dreams

June is always a time for Al and me to do a little celebrating. We have a couple of important anniversaries to celebrate. Sometimes I don’t know where the time has gone. Time can be fleeting. On one hand it seems like yesterday that I was preparing to walk down the aisle and marry my partner in crime and on the other hand it seems like a lifetime ago. The last thirty plus years have sure been one heck of a ride!

outdoor weddings

over thirty some years ago – where has the time gone

So not only did we celebrate another wedding anniversary, we celebrated our full-time RV living adventure. At the end of June, we completed four years of living in the RV full-time. Funny how what was suppose to be a year or two has now turned into five. As we enter year five, we have no immediate plans to change things up.

I was feeling a little nostalgic the other day and started reading some of my earlier blog posts about the transition of selling the house and moving into the RV. I thought I’d re-share a post I wrote back in April 2013 as we were preparing to move into the RV full-time.

outdoor wedding

let’s take a look back

 A look back……

Skirts AloftI came across a book titled “Skirts Aloft“.  I smile, sit down, and open the front cover.  On the inside of the book in handwriting it says, “Ingrid, may all your dreams come true. Love, Mom”. I had lost my mom exactly a year earlier and coming across this handwritten message brought tears to my eyes.

Ah, the memories ……

I was seven years old the first time I traveled to Europe.  It was the mid 1960’s and my parents had not been back to Germany since they immigrated to the United States in the late 50’s.  My mom had been experiencing twinges of home-sickness.  So after a year of hard work of scrimping and saving, our family of five was off to Germany for a three-week vacation.

It never ceases to amaze me what memories my mind chooses to recall.  My mom, an excellent seamstress, had made matching dresses and coats for my three-year old sister, myself, and our Thumbelina dolls.  These were the years everyone dressed up to travel, white gloves and all.  Our outfits were the latest, most up to date fashion in Jackie O style.

We boarded a Lufthansa plane.  My three-year old sister sat at the window. My mom sat in the center and I sat on the aisle.  My dad sat across the aisle with my eleven year old brother.  I remember being bored and having trouble sitting still.   My mom was exasperated and embarrassed as the gentleman sitting in the seat in front of me had to repeatedly turn around and ask that I stop kicking his seat.  Come on, it’s a long trip to fly from Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany, and this of course, was long before any kind of technology for entertainment.

My mom thought traveling with a three-year old would be a challenge…..not….sister slept most of the time when she wasn’t eating.  What a good little girl.  The seven-year old, moi …..well, the kicking of the seat, the whining, and the frequent visits to the bathroom were just a precursor to the ensuing fun for mom.

Flight AttendantWith an hour left before landing, the crew came through the cabin taking care of last-minute clean up and paperwork.  I’m mesmerized by the pretty gals in their navy blue uniforms adorned with bright yellow scarves.  This is when I tell my mother, “I’m going to be a Stewardess when I grow up”.  “That’s nice honey”, she responds, clearly exhausted.

As the plane starts the initial descent, that’s when I reach for the first barf bag.  Did I mention, I have a problem with motion sickness?  Not a big surprise for dear mom as she had plenty of practice with my car sickness.  Once again the three-year old sits quietly and is duly entertained by looking out the window while poor mom deals with the puking seven-year old.  Two barf bags later and an empty one in hand, we’re in my uncle’s car heading to his house.  That’s when my mom turns to me and asks, “So, you still want to be a Stewardess when you grow up?”

The car is warm.  I’m sitting in the middle in the backseat.  I have my barf bag in hand.  Before answering mom, I dry heave into the bag then respond, “Yes mommy, I still want to be a Stewardess”.  My dad chuckles and shakes his head in total amusement, while mom clearly could use a break from this seven-year old.

Nine years later at the age of sixteen, I board a Lufthansa flight by myself bound for Frankfurt, Germany, for a summer abroad.  Hugs and kisses goodbye are plentiful.  Mom goes in for a second hug and whispers in my ear, “Don’t forget to keep one of ‘those’ bags within reach just in case you need to throw up”.  “Yes mom, thanks”.  Yep, at sixteen I still needed one of those bags.  Oh, how embarrassing!

My summer in Germany was amazing and in many ways, life changing.  And although I still endured motion sickness, the dream to become a Stewardess did not falter.

Chicago skyline

In my early twenties I fulfilled this dream and was hired as a Flight Attendant for a small airline based in Chicago.  My first day on the job was a six leg flight schedule.  Each flight is referred to as a “leg”.  This was my flight schedule that first work day as a Flight Attendant…..

  1. Chicago to DetroitChicago
  2. Detroit to Chicago
  3. Chicago to St. Louis
  4. St. Louis to Chicago
  5. Chicago to Detroit
  6. Detroit to Chicago

Sounds glamorous, doesn’t it?  Strap on throwing up eleven times!  No problem with next months weigh-in for this vomit comet.  Yes, those were the days of regular weigh-ins.  You had to maintain a certain weight or risk being fired. Heels, make-up, and nails done were also requirements back then.

My second day on the job went a little easier…..

  1. Chicago to Kansas City
  2. Kansas City to Chicago
  3. Chicago to Washington D.C.   Arrive in D.C. at 9 p.m. and spend the night.  The next morning check-in at Regan National Airport for a 6:30 a.m. departure.
  4. Washington D.C. to Chicago
  5. Chicago to Detroit
  6. Detroit to Chicago      Off for three days…..time to rehydrate.

The vomiting stopped after six weeks, but the headaches and occasional dizziness would still rear its ugly head from time to time, especially in the spring time when the cold and warm air currents were mixing.  To me, the movement felt like the gentle rolling of a sailboat riding the waves ….. NOT the kind of movement that agrees with me.

Trips to the Caribbean confirmed my lack of love for sailing.  I love the water but prefer a speed boat, jet ski, or even a canoe.  Cars?  I’ll take a Jeep over a Cadillac any day of the week.  When the airplane would encounter severe turbulence, I was fine.  It’s that gentle rolling motion I can’t handle.  I’ll refrain from saying, “I like it rough” for fear some folks might take this statement the wrong way 😉

It was during my third month on the job when I walked into Flight Operations to check in for a flight.   There standing at 6 feet 4 inches tall was a German-Norwegian hunk of a man in a navy blue uniform.  What is it with me and those navy blue uniforms?

outdoor weddingI introduce myself, “Hi, you must be new around here.  My name is Ingrid.  I believe we’ll be working together for the next few days.”  I never imagined I had just introduced myself to my future husband…. First Officer Al. And they said it wouldn’t last!

I was a Flight Attendant for five years and feel very fortunate to have full-filled the dream of a once naive seven-year old.  My mom always questioned my ability to be a Flight Attendant due to my motion sickness and encouraged me to go to school to be a nurse or a teacher. She’d say, “just in case, you know“, but she never discouraged or tried to squash my dream.

I have the fondest of memories of those years flying….the good as well as the bad.  Yes, there was plenty of bad like the Air Traffic Controllers strike in the 80’s.  A flight from Chicago to St. Louis usually takes about an hour.  We’d pull back from the gate and sit in line on the tarmac for one to two hours waiting for take off.  FAA regulations requires the Flight Attendants and passengers to remain seated at this stage….no drinks, no potty, no fun, and lots of complaints.  Not the fondest of memories.

Washington DC

Then there’s the travel benefits.  One year for her birthday, I took my mom to Washington D.C. for lunch.  We caught the first flight out of Chicago to D.C.  Several of the pilots I worked with had spent years working at the Pentagon and obviously were very familiar with the D.C. area.  A few restaurants were recommended and I chose one that was known for southern cooking, complete with black-eyed peas, and housed in a historical building.  Mom and I had a great day.

Another time, my folks joined Al and me for a Boston layover and witnessed us at work.  Al was the Captain and I the head Flight Attendant.  I was the one in the front of the cabin doing all the talking…..I love being in charge.  “Look, mom.  No puking”.  She was proud.  Fun times……ah, the stories are plentiful.

Life changes, we grow, and we move on.  New dreams are forged. With that said, time for me to get back to sorting the other boxes here in the basement …… I have a new dream chapter to get started on after all.  Here’s to all your dreams coming true!

*******************************************

That was then, this is now ….. So while Al and I toast to another year in the books, we discuss tentative plans for this next year of full-time RVing ….. plans that are written ‘in jello’ with lots of wiggle room. Although we’ve narrowed down our options, we’re still torn with choices….. our journey continues!

outdoor wedding venue

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Fire, Confusion, and Compassion

I awoke to a burning in my throat and the smell of a campfire, same as I had the previous four days. It was around 5:30 in the morning and the sun hadn’t risen yet. The winds were calm, thank goodness, and the air was a crisp sixty degrees … perfect for sleeping with the windows open.

Goodwin Fire Prescott Arizona

Fairgrounds RV Park can be seen on the left side of the road – my current home base – photo taken 6/28/17

Although I slept great, there was a restlessness about me. It was Thursday, June 29th, and under the circumstances that restlessness was justified. No longer sleepy, I jumped out of bed, went downstairs, started the coffee and quickly went to the window to check for the plume of smoke. I was flooded with a sign of relief as the sky appeared clearer than it had the last couple of days.

I’m sure the calm winds played a major role in allowing the firefighters to try to get a handle on this out of control forest fire.  The Governor of Arizona declared a State of Emergency due to the Goodwin Fire located to the south and east of Prescott, Arizona. The fire started on June 24th and has since scorched over 25,000 acres.

Goodwin fire Prescott Arizona

Goodwin Fire – photo taken 6/29/17 from the Yavapai County Fairgrounds, Prescott Valley, Arizona

Evacuations and road closures have been an ongoing event and although Al and I haven’t been personally affected (other than the continuous campfire scented air), Al does have a good buddy that has been affected. Hubby’s friend was in one of the evacuation zones but wouldn’t leave his property. During Al’s first phone call with the friend, he seemed confused and unsure what to do. Al did his best to make recommendations and suggestions along with our offer to help. Regular communication ensued checking in on his well-being.

Goodwin Fire Prescott ArizonaFortunately, the evacuation order for the friends neighborhood was only in effect for two days. Once the evacuation was lifted, the friend was obviously relieved there was no longer an immediate threat of fire, but more importantly, his out-of-town guests were finally able to visit so they could all attend the big rodeo in town together. Important stuff out here in the west, ya know. Yep, let’s get our priorities straight 😆

Considered the world’s oldest rodeo, Prescott Frontier Days is a huge event that locals always look forward to attending.  Since 1888, this traditional rodeo has occurred annually over the 4th of July weekend.  Although the Prescott Rodeo Grounds and events were not affected by the forest fire, the slew of extra horse trailers around town proved to be a benefit.

A disaster, like this forest fire, seems to bring out the best in people …. compassion sums it up nicely. Folks have come together and rallied to help one another in any which way they can. The small towns of Mayer and Dewey, which were located within the evacuation zones, are rural and many homeowners live on acreage with all kinds of animals, large and small.

Goodwin fire livestock

This gal seemed stressed and restless

Goodwin Fire evacuated animals

Yavapai County Fairgrounds serves as animal shelter for evacuated animals of all kinds

goodwin fire animal shelter

animals from the evacuated areas being brought to temporary shelter at the fairgrounds

Goodwin Fire animal shelter

With smoke-filled skies and ash falling, this was a scary and confusing situation for people and animals a like. Folks from all over the surrounding Prescott area were hitching up their trailers and driving into the evacuation zones to offer help in transporting animals. Unfortunately, not all animal owners have the equipment to transport their horses or livestock, in which case corral gates were left open for the animals to escape. These three alpacas were picked up by a Good Samaritan and brought to the shelter.

goodwin fire animal shelter

These alpacas were found skittishly roaming. They seemed very confused and scared.

Yesterday during my afternoon walk, I checked in on the alpacas. Apparently, the relieved and grateful owner had picked them up that morning.  We talked with a couple of volunteers and they informed us there was a very good system in place to reunite the proper owners with their animals.

Goodwin Fire animal shelter

With evacuation orders being lifted (July 1st), the pens in the make shift animal shelter were a mere quarter full versus the near full facility just two days earlier. The shelter was offered all free of charge ….. the animals were cared for by volunteers, food had been donated, and a veterinarian was available. This had to offer peace of mind for the owners. I know it would me, an animal lover!

Goodwin Fire Prescott Arizona

photo taken late afternoon July 1. Goodwin Fire in the distance – over 40% containment and light winds.

The compassion didn’t end with the animals. For anyone who was evacuated and owned an RV, they were welcome to park in just about any parking lot around Prescott Valley. One of the local RV dealerships even offered up the use of their RV’s on site. I’m not sure which dealership it was or any of the circumstances, but I did find the story interesting.

A Red Cross shelter was setup at the Prescott Valley High School and the parking lot there had a bunch of RV’s in the lot as did the local Walmart, grocery stores, and shopping centers. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many RV’s scattered around a town…. take that back, I know I never have. The rules for overnight RV parking were bird photographyoverlooked during this trying time.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”  ― Charles Dickens

Even though there’s been some misinformation posted on social media, most of the posts have been positive, compassionate, and offering help.

As we celebrate this 4th of July weekend, I can’t help but feel proud of the camaraderie I’ve seen this past week … the American spirit at its finest. My thanks go out to all the fire fighters who put their lives on the line daily to ensure our safety and to all the volunteers who lend a helping hand. The Goodwin fire continues to burn, but at the moment (July 2nd), no towns are being threatened and containment continues to improve. Let’s hope the winds don’t kick up!

Wishing you all a wonderful and smoke free 4th of July!

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How to Plan for a Camping Trip

With our mother/daughter trip already a month in arrears, Ashton and I still haven’t stopped talking about our exciting adventure.  Looking back, I wonder what made this trip such a fun adventure and total success. No doubt, I attribute it to good planning and organization which ultimately lead to a wonderful camping trip experience.zion national park

Our Utah excursion was one of the best trips my daughter and I have ever shared and that’s saying a lot. Let’s face it, it’s no easy feat beating a trip to Disney World. Our Disney vacation and a trip we took to South Dakota a few years ago still rank pretty high on our list of epic excursions, but this trip to Zion National Park may have topped those two previous vacations.

When Ashton and I decided we were long overdue for a gals get away, our scheming began in earnst weeks in advance. So what exactly did we do that helped make our camping trip so successful?how to plan for a camping trip

This post contains affiliate links. However, I only share items we use and believe in.  

OUR TOP 9 TIPS FOR PLANNING A GREAT CAMPING TRIP…..

1. Location & Budget: Where to go on vacation? Ashton and I pulled out the atlas and began searching within a large radius around her home in Phoenix, Arizona. First and foremost, we discussed budget. Our budget was the main reason we decided to drive versus fly and camp versus hotel.

The length of our trip would be five days and four nights. We looked for a scenic location that we could drive to in one day but could also break up the drive if there was a scenic place to stop along the way. Zion National Park fit the criteria for our excursion perfectly.

Once we decided on a national park as the destination, we knew we wanted to tent camp. In my opinion, camping is a much more intimate experience with the environment than staying in a hotel. Camping puts us up close and personal with our surroundings and wildlife. Trust me, I’m not saying there isn’t a time and place for the comforts of a hotel room, I just feel closer to nature when I camp, especially in a national park, but I do like mixing it up depending on where my travels take me. Ah, this is why an RV is the best of both worlds 😎 I do love my RV!

Since taking the RV for this particular trip to Zion National Park wasn’t an option, tent camping was the best choice for these two gals and at $20 a night, we easily stayed within our budget. We knew driving and camping would be the biggest bang for our buck.

2. Create check lists.  Our first list included the items needed for camping which obviously encompasses the tent, air mattresses, bedding, flashlights, ax/knives, lighter/matches.

We started a second list of equipment needed for cooking which included the Coleman Stove(s), cookware, plates, utensils, cleaning supplies, towels.

Our third list was for our personal toiletries and clothing. When you’re camping, you need to think about where you’ll be cleaning up and showering. A beach bag and flip flops have served me well over the years in keeping me organized while using a public facility. However, when a campground offers no place to shower, like the South Campground at Zion National Park, there’s nothing better than a package of baby wipes to keep you feeling fresh especially after a long arduous hike. Who knew baby wipes had multiple uses?

how to plan a camping trip

Bring equipment that serves a multi-purpose use. The use of the dish pan soothed my aching feet after the hike to observation point.  Filled with warm water, you could use it for a sponge bath – in the privacy of the tent 😉

When it came to clothing, we focused on bringing items we could layer and made sure we brought rain gear and cold weather gear. Hiking shoes with good traction were also a must. Be sure you have a realistic grasp and understanding of the type of climate and landscape of your location and pack accordingly.

3. Food planning and preparation.  Ashton and I decided we didn’t want to eat out much. Plus, we’d be traveling through some remote countryside while passing by the occasional small town. It was important to us that we be totally self-sufficient, eat healthy, and not rely on trying to find a place to grab something to eat.

how to plan a camping tripWe made a meal plan (another list) and then divided up the grocery list and cooking preparation.

We cooked meals at home weeks in advance (like spaghetti and chili) and then froze these meals. During our trip when it was time to eat, we simply needed to reheat the food at our campsite.

We also pattied out burgers, marinated chicken breasts, then seasoned and individually saran wrapped everything and froze. The morning of travel, we took all the frozen items and placed them in our cooler topped with a bag of ice. Which ever item thawed first, dictated the order in which we ate the meals.

I could do a whole separate post on our meals and snacks. We really did well in our planning and prep. We never felt hungry, we ate healthy, and stayed within our budget.

4. Plan for travel. I’m a huge believer in physical maps. We’ve all heard the horror stories of a GPS leading folks astray.  There’s nothing wrong with using a GPS, but in remote country, it’s always wise to confirm the route with a physical map so you don’t find yourself on a one lane gravel, rutted road in the middle of no where. It happens!

You can’t possibly do too much research or have too much information. Always stay updated on weather and road conditions.

Are there forest fires anywhere near your destination or along your route? How about road closures, landslides, construction? If you have a reservation, call and confirm ahead of time. If you don’t have a reservation what are your chances of finding a campsite or lodging? What are your backup options?

Have a plan A, B and C. When it comes to travel, flexibility is key and things DO go wrong. Never did we think we were going to get snowed on during that first night at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. Thank goodness we packed extra blankets. It sure got cold! There was never a mention in the weather report or on radar about the severity of the storm we experienced. I did my homework and things still went askew. But it added to the adventure, thus no complaints.

5. Don’t procrastinate and wait until the last minute to throw things together. Planning ahead of time is crucial. Off in the corner of daughters garage, we started gathering a small pile of camping gear weeks in advance.  We spent time checking and rechecking the equipment. We practiced pitching the tent in the backyard, which made us look like pros at the campground. Yes, we impressed 😎

We also made sure all the gear was clean and in good working condition with no missing parts. And in the case of tent stakes and propane bottles, we made sure we had extras.

how to plan for a camping trip

you can see our camp with all our stuff – daughter putting on her makeup

6. Organization – load up. I like using water-tight rubber bins to keep us organized. As long as we’re not in bear country, we can keep the bin with kitchen supplies (pans/plates/utensils/matches) handy on the picnic table. It’ll keep squirrels, mice, and water out. We used another bin for our dry foods but did keep that one in the car at all times.

We used different sized bins determined by the amount of supplies and separated by subject.  BUT before filling the bins, we made sure they, along with the cooler, fit into the back of the Honda CRV.

By having everything organized in one spot in the garage, on the day of travel, it was convenient to load up and hopefully not forget anything. This made life easy for Ashton considering she was loading the car by herself. I was located an hour away.

7. Review essentials – medications and camera gear. A day or two before travel day, make sure you pack medications, check your first aide kit, review your camera gear making sure batteries are charged and you have extra media cards, have emergency contacts written on paper in case cell phones die or won’t work, pack last minute things.

I love this power inverter. We were able to keep things charged. We couldn’t find any outlets at the campground not even in the restroom. Thus, this inverter saved us by keeping our phones and cameras charged.

8. Communicate with loved ones regularly.   In this day of technology, it’s easier than ever to stay connected. Keep your loved ones back home up to date on your where abouts. That way, should something unfortunate occur, your loved ones will have a general idea of your last location. This is also the perfect excuse to take selfies and share, but please don’t overdo and annoy your friends and family stuck back home working.

how to plan a camping trip

Don’t leave loved ones in the dark – let them know where you are and what you’re doing.

I usually texted my husband once in the morning letting him know our general itinerary and again later in the day when we returned to camp. My daughter would do the occasional post to Facebook or Instagram.  When we overnighted at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, we had no cell service but the ranger was kind enough to allow us to use the land line so I could call hubby and let him know where we were spending the night. Thus, we didn’t how to plan for a camping tripdisappear for five days leaving loved ones back home worried.

9. Be flexible. Things happen and may not go according to plan. The weather may not agree on the day you have that epic hike planned. Don’t force the plan, adjust. Maybe a rainstorm is the perfect excuse to visit local stores, or a coffee shop, or brewery. Or spend a little extra time at the visitor center learning about the area. How about a museum?

Remember safety and prevailing on the side of caution should always be paramount. Changing plans at the last minute on a whim or due to unforeseen circumstances, has provided some of my most memorable experiences.

 

So let’s review my top nine tips on how to plan for a great camping trip ….

  1. choose a location and budgettop 9 tips for camping
  2. create check lists
  3. plan meals and do food prep ahead of time
  4. plan the travel and do research
  5. don’t procrastinate and wait until the last minute 
  6. organization is key
  7. review essentials and continue to review your check lists
  8. communicate regularly with loved ones back home
  9. be flexible and have a good time

And how’d we do on that budget? Awesome! First, let’s not take into consideration our groceries. Whether on vacation or at home, we still have to eat. So that cost is an everyday expenditure and not associated exclusively with the trip, but I will included the two meals that we did eat out and the stop at the coffee shop at the Zion Lodge. I’m also not including my $80 seasonal national park pass which I had purchased at the Grand Canyon a month earlier.

Five days and four nights cost us just shy of $200 which covered our campsite fees, gasoline, and eating out (2 meals). Ashton and I split the cost making our five day camping trip a whopping $100 per person for the entire trip. Quite the deal, wouldn’t you agree?

So are you ready to get out your camping gear and visit the nearest national park? I know I am and can’t wait to go again!Observation Point Trail Zion

This post contains affiliate links, which means under certain circumstances I might receive a small amount of compensation for linking a product. I’ve shared products we use and love. By sharing, it is my hope you find the links helpful, creating a win for both of us. LiveLaughRV is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Thank you for your support!

When Cold water is Hot

Living a minimalist mobile lifestyle can be enlightening, fun, and rewarding but it can also present challenges. Last summer, Al and I meandered around Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado and although we had a fantastic time, the transient way of life can be stressful at times.

Moab, Utah

A transient lifestyle can be challenging but oh so amazing!

Wanting to keep our schedule flexible, we didn’t make any reservations last summer. That sense of freedom and rolling on a whim is one of many things we love about this RVing lifestyle. But there is a down side. Summer is a time for family vacations, peak travel season, which means state parks, national parks, and private RV parks are usually booked months in advance and for us that meant finding a place to camp was no easy feat without a reservation.RVing

This summer we decided to park in one place for a few months and see how long it would take for hitch itch to set in. This summer we’d have no worries or stress as to where to camp. In the past, I’m usually good for a month, maybe two, parked in one spot and then I’m ready to get those wheels rolling again.

Prescott, AZI’m enjoying my time camped here in Prescott Valley, Arizona, and there’s only a small part of me missing the adventure of travel …. just a little anyway. However, I’m sure my latest adventure with my daughter tempered that need to roll.

So to overcome any hitch itch, I’ve been keeping myself busy. When the weather isn’t scorching hot, which it unfortunately has been this past week, I’m out an about hiking or exploring with the camera in hand.

One of my favorite places to hike in Prescott, Arizona, is at Watson Lake. I’m never at a loss at finding a photographic composition in this unique little spot. And when the light isn’t quite right for those landscape shots, I always manage to find a willing model or two to focus my camera on.

Watson Lake

Not only is it a fun adventure exploring new landscapes, learning the idiosyncrasies of a new location can be equally amusing.  In early May when we moved up to Prescott from Phoenix, up to 5,200 feet in elevation, we thought we would be escaping the extreme triple digit heat which is normal in Phoenix. Boy, were we wrong!

First off, Phoenix has been experiencing record high temperatures this past week and that heat has permeated into every square inch of the state of Arizona, including Prescott. Now granted, we’re still at least ten to fifteen degrees cooler than the city of Phoenix, but who’s counting when the temps rise over 100 degrees Fahrenheit 😲

Watson Lake

me hiking at Watson Lake when the temps were still comfortable

With those high temperatures in mind, when I take a shower in the late afternoon, I have a fun time adjusting the water temperature. I try putting the faucet nozzles in the same position all the time. Lately, the water is hot, I mean unusually hot. The other day when our thermometer was registering 108 outside, I kept turning the hot water nozzle down in hopes that the water temperature would cool.

bird photographyEventually, I had the hot water nozzle  turned totally off and just the cold was running. No cold water for this gal! Considering we only have a six gallon water heater and I’ve become quite adept at taking a quick Navy shower, the excess hot water was a treat. Yep, the cold water was hot …. how interesting!

I’m always learning something new with each place we call home.

Eventually, the water did turn cold, but it did take awhile for the above ground and shallow below ground water lines to be cleared of the heated water.

Watson Lake

This photo was taken in May. You won’t find any puddles around these days.

A transient RV lifestyle is anything but boring, and there’s always something new to learn and experience. And although there’s a part of me that would like to be on the move exploring like we did last summer, I’m enjoying the lack of stress associated in finding a place to park. Plus, I still have so much more to see around here, and I haven’t even mentioned our active social life yet.

There’s definitely an upside to being stationary for a time, but I assure you my transient RVing lifestyle won’t be coming to an end anytime soon. That freedom to roam is addictive!

Watson Lake

Pain at the Grand Canyon

It was approaching seven in the morning and the tops of the canyon walls in Zion National Park were starting to light up with sunshine. The winds were gusting causing the tent walls to whip about. The camp stove was sitting on the picnic table, and after several unsuccessful tries at lighting it, Ashton recommends we break camp and stop for coffee and breakfast along the way. That sounded like a fantastic idea…. better than bringing the camp stove into the tent in hopes of blocking that wind.

north rim of the Grand Canyon

Another day, another scenic view!

We quickly broke camp and did a fantastic job battling the excessive winds. We were getting good at this tenting thing and working instinctively well together. We managed to control the thin nylon tent and keep it from taking flight like a kite. We then loaded up Charlotte (Honda CRV) in a neat and organized manner. We still didn’t have a firm plan in mind for the day, but we were living on RV time and rolling with the winds.

Echo Canyon Zion National ParkBefore driving off, we took one more look around the campsite making sure we hadn’t left anything behind. We glanced over at the neighboring campsites…. no movement. Appears our camp comrades were still sound asleep. Fortunately, we had bid farewell to our neighbors the night before over a campfire.

With a nostalgic wave to our new friends and the gorgeous Zion Canyon, we reluctantly drove down the road. The day before, the Mt. Carmel Highway on the east end of Zion National Park had closed due to a landslide which required us to come up with an alternate route.

Recalculating and turning our road trip into a big loop turned out perfectly. We experienced things that we totally would’ve missed out on had we stayed with the original route.

First and foremost on the agenda was breakfast. We ended up driving through the quaint town of Springdale, located just on the outskirts of Zion National Park. For some unknown reason, nothing caught our attention. About thirty minutes later with our tummies growling and cravings for coffee increasing, we pulled into the River Rock Roasting Company. And what a find this was!

River Rock Roasters

Great coffee, great food, great view – River Rock Roasters, La Verkin, Utah

Ashton and I enjoyed the coffee and breakfast bagels so much so, that she and I agreed we’d go out of our way to visit this place again. Was it the view or the fact we were hangry or was it our need for caffeine (coffee addiction satiated) or is this place that good? Didn’t matter to us. We were a couple of happy campers and ready to face the day after our plates and coffee cups were empty.

About an hour or so down the road, we saw a sign noting the mileage to the Grand Canyon. In our typical mother/daughter fashion, we glanced at each other and said, “Hey, we’re this close, might as well stop”.

north rim of the Grand Canyon

Me on the left, Ashton on the right – at the north rim of the Grand Canyon

Turns out the north rim of the Grand Canyon had just opened to tourists a few days earlier. Good timing for us. I’ve driven this stretch of 89A in northern Arizona a couple of times in years past, and Road 67 to the Grand Canyon was always closed. Therefore, a visit to the north rim would be a first for both of us.

Access to the north rim is limited to the summer months, or rather from about mid May until the first serious snow fall which can occur in September or October. The south rim stays open year-round.

We found plenty of parking at the visitor center. As I stepped out of the car, I felt pain … pain all over and immediately used some colorful language. Not one of my finer moments considering I wasn’t setting a good example for my daughter. The car door was still north rimopen which allowed her to hear every inappropriate comment I uttered.

From inside the vehicle, I heard my daughter exclaim, “Mother. What is your problem?” Just then, she exited Charlotte and in our typical mother/daughter fashion, she joined me in voicing colorful expletives…. “Holy sh*t! WTF! OMG!” Thank goodness the parking lot was relatively empty and there wasn’t anyone else within ear shot of us. With each step we took, another expletive escaped our mouths along with a few laughs. Gosh, we hurt!

That eleven mile, strenuous, 2,148 foot elevation gain hike the day before in Zion National Park had finally caught up with us. Ah, the cockiness we expressed just hours earlier had come back to haunt us. We were feeling just fine when we woke up that morning. Guess our muscles just needed a little extra time to process the abuse from the day before.

We slowly and gingerly worked through our pain and walked to the visitor center and picked up a park map. At this point, any sane person would’ve called it a day and returned to their car. Nope! Not us. Let’s do some more hiking!north rim

We were at the north rim of the Grand Canyon which required a little sightseeing and photo taking and the fact that we had trouble walking due to pain was merely an inconvenience. Did I mention how much we hurt?

north rim of the Grand Canyon

“I can take pictures of the Grand Canyon from here”, exclaimed Ashton

When an Adirondack chair presented itself, Ashton didn’t hesitate to take advantage of the situation.

After strolling out to a popular scenic overlook (Angel Point – I think) and a little more photo taking, we enjoyed lunch at the Grand Canyon Lodge cafe. This is when we came to the realization that the thought of setting up the tent later in the day would be a grueling endeavor. Something we didn’t look forward to. We even had doubts that we could physically handle it.

Recalculating! Exuberantly, I said to Ashton, “Dad is in Phoenix spending the weekend with your brother, which means the RV in Prescott is empty. How about we drive all the way to Prescott and sleep in a bed tonight? Let’s forget about the tent.” I barely finished talking when Ashton, rather loudly, exclaimed, “Sold!” Yeah, a few heads in the restaurant turned, but we didn’t care. Neither one of us thought we were capable of the movement necessary to pitch a tent, let alone sleep on the ground. Once we made it to the ground on our air mattresses, we doubted we could get back up. Did I already mention how much we hurt? 🤣

Lee's Ferry Historic Site

Ashton finds another spot to take a break – historic site at Lee’s Ferry

With our new plan mapped out and a renewed spring in our step, we headed off to our next location – Lee’s Ferry. Even though our original plan to camp here was nixed, I still wanted to stop for a quick visit. It had been nearly twenty years since I last drove by this area and I wanted a refresher.

Colorado River boat tour

Boats return from a tour up river thru Horseshoe Bend and near the base of Glen Canyon Damn

When the boats pulled in after their scenic tour up river, I had an aha moment. So this is where the boats come from as they motor up the Colorado River through Horseshoe Bend and to the bottom of the Glen Canyon Damn for sightseeing.

I remember peering over the cliff edge at the scenic Horseshoe Bend and wondering where the boats down below came from. How does one go about boating this stretch of the Colorado River? Lee’s Ferry is the answer.

Grand Canyon rafting

These are supply boats getting ready to head downstream through some serious whitewater rapids.

Lee’s Ferry is also the starting point for an incredible whitewater rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. Ashton and I watched these supply boats getting ready to head down stream. I explained to Ashton …. rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is a memorable once in life-time kind of adventure. When one signs up for such a trip, all they need to bring are their personal items. Thus, crews are needed to haul all Lee's Ferry historic sitethe supplies, camping gear, and food as well as do all the set up and prepare the meals. These were the boats we were observing – the supply boats and crew.

I’ll admit, I was relieved when I didn’t hear the comment, “Let’s do that for our next adventure“. I’m sure our current state of fatigue accompanied by sore muscles came into play.

It was getting late in the day and as tempting as it was to grab a campsite and call it a day, the thought of pitching a tent had us moving on down the road.

Three and a half hours later, we pulled into the RV park in Prescott Valley and a real bed in my home. It had been a long day of travel, twelve hours to be exact, but we weren’t complaining. We had just completed the best mother/daughter trip to date; a trip filled with amazing scenery and even more amazing memories.

I’m not sure how we’ll ever top this adventure, but we can sure try!prickly pear

What goes Up, Must go Down

The view was mesmerizing and stunning.  We knew it would be beautiful, yet we were still awed, not only with the landscape but with ourselves. It took us nearly four hours of grueling uphill climbing to get to Observation Point in Zion National Park.

Zion Canyon

The view from observation point – breathtaking!

hiking zion

We hiked from the valley floor to the top of the mesa. Over 2,100 feet in elevation gain!

The high fives and exuberance were short-lived as we soon came to the realization that we still needed to hike back down to the valley floor. What goes up, must go down! At this stage of the hike, I would have gladly entertained any other way back down the mountain.

Observation Point Zion

Proof we made it to the top! Observation Point trail in Zion National Park

Hmm, as I glanced over the cliff edge thoughts of repelling, paragliding, or base jumping came to mind …. tempting but obviously not available options. So after one more photo-op showing proof that we indeed made it to the top (made it to observation point, known as one of the more strenuous hikes in Zion National Park) we slowly meandered our way back down the trail.

Zion National park hiking

Hiking on top of the mesa was enjoyable and relatively easy.

All was well and good that first mile. The trail was still pretty much on the mesa. The views were lovely and the trail easy, but once we started the decent …. well, let’s just say, Ashton and I were not a couple of happy campers.

hiking zion national park

Ashton hugged the wall, even when passing uphill climbers.

hiking Zion

She did great confronting her fear of heights, but she sure did walk fast going down.

Ashton’s pace quickened as the trail zig-zagged and offered staggering drop-offs. She knew she needed to get through this section of the trail without letting her fear of heights kick in. As for me, I stopped to tighten my shoe laces a couple of times trying my best to keep my toes from jamming into the front of my hiking shoes.

top of the mesa

Me taking a much needed break!

I’ve always been prone to cramps in my toes, especially if my shoes are laced too tight, but under these circumstances, I was left with no choice. After tightening up the laces, I managed to keep up with the downward trek at a somewhat reasonable pace until the balls of my feet started burning. My feet were hurting like never before and I’ll admit I was overcome with a little panic.  We were barely a quarter of the way back down the mountain and I was having trouble walking. “How in holy heck was I going to keep going another two hours?

hiking zion national park

Can you spot the hikers on this ledge portion of the trail?

Zion national park hiking

Ashton was a ways in front of me as her focus was getting beyond this part of the trail with the sheer drop-offs. Once I caught up to her and the switchbacks seemed less daunting, I sat down in a nicely shaded area. I was on the verge of tears as my emotions were filled with concern and pain. Thoughts of Reese Witherspoon flooded my mind ……..   A month earlier after my daughter and I binge watched Netflix’ the Gilmore Girls, I rented the movie “Wild”. This movie is based on a true story. Although, I thought the movie itself was merely ok, it did have a thought-provoking impact on me. What possesses a woman to hike 1,100 miles by herself? Would I ever entertain such a silly notion?

As I sat there on the side of the trail in Zion National Park with my shoes and socks removed attempting to ease the throbbing pain in my feet, scenes from that movie played in my head along with some very non-lady like expletives. Just then, I remembered the medical/sports tape and knife in my pack. Oh yeah, let’s tape up these paws!

First it was up and around the second toe wrapping the tape in two directions. That toe has been sensitive ever since I lost the toenail last fall from all the up and down hiking I did at the Sonoran Preserve. Then it was around the balls of my feet – round and round, I wrapped the tape around the front of my feet …  shoes and socks back on …. laces tied tight …. when I stood up, the discomfort was gone. I was overcome with relief and nearly (I said nearly) started to skip down the trail. Oh thank God I brought that tape!

photo-op

There’s always time for a photo-op

photo-op

Now we were making good time, rarely stopping and keeping a steady pace. After about an hour, we seemed to be somewhere at the half way point of the hike back to the trail head. It was at this point I thought I was out of water. I couldn’t suck any more water out of my camelbak, but I didn’t think that would be a problem considering we were getting closer to the trail head with each step.

light at the end of the tunnel

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Are we there yet? Oh, please Lord!!!!!!!

However with only about fifteen more minutes to go and the shuttle bus stop in clear view, my legs started shaking uncontrollably. Sure they felt a little weak but not falling down weak. I found it humorous but Ashton was seriously concerned for my well-being.

She grabbed my pack and started fiddling with it. Low and behold, there was still some water in the pack. After a healthy slug, the shaking subsided and I responded with, “Thank you, mommy”.  Which daughter swiftly responded with, “Oh be quiet and keep walking. I really don’t want to have to carry you down this hill, and as tired as I feel right now, just be glad I don’t roll you down”. 😆

hiking Zion

Yes, we had hiked up there!

With the shuttle bus stop mere minutes away, we moved quickly down the remaining switch backs. Once on the bus, we snatched one of the last remaining seats and plopped ourselves down. A huge aaaahhhh escaped our mouths simultaneously. Our heads turned to look at each other and we burst into laughter and shared another high-five.

camp cooking

Spaghetti for dinner!

During the entire twenty-five minute bus ride back to camp, we sat in a silent and exhausted state. We exited the bus at the visitor center and still had to walk back to our campsite which resulted in a few ow, ow, ow’s with each step.

Along with our sore muscles, we were famished, and the homemade spaghetti waiting for us in the cooler, begged to be heated up. Over dinner, we discussed the events of the day. There were so many highlights, but what impressed Ashton most were the friendly folks who’s paths we kept crossing on the trail along the way to the top of Observation Point.

hiking zionWith the steady uphill climb, there was a lot of stopping to catch a breathe by everyone… young and old. One minute we’d pass someone along the side of the trail only to have them a few minutes later pass us as we were stopped to catch our breathe.

We engaged regularly with a family of three; mom, dad, and teenage son. They enlisted our help when they had trouble finding the trail head for Hidden Canyon. When we pulled out our map and informed them that they had passed the spur an hour ago, they laughed and decided to go in our direction. The stopping for air had us passing each other regularly which resulted in smiles and chuckles.

When we passed them as they were having lunch sitting on the side of the trail, the mom wanted to make sure we brought our lunch, because if we hadn’t they had an extra sandwich we could have…. complete strangers willing to share their lunch. How awesome is that? A little while later once we had all reached our goal, we took turns handing each other our cameras for those special photo-op moments.

We also engaged with another couple along the trail who visit Zion National Park regularly. This was their second attempt at hiking observation point. Right before the serious zig-zag, cut in the rock portion of the trail, we noticed the wife sitting along the side of the trail by herself. Her fear of heights kept her from continuing yet again, and she sat waiting while her husband went on to complete the hike. We sat with her for a little while and visited. It was amazing how much she and I had in common. We literally could’ve sat there and talked for hours.

Sometimes it’s these little encounters that are like adding a cherry to an ice cream sundae. It’s the topping to an already amazing adventure.

camp cooking

We enjoyed a wonderful homemade meal back at camp.

According to Ashton’s Fitbit, we hiked 11 miles, climbed 249 flights of stairs, almost 25,000 steps, and burned over 2,800 calories. She received a bunch of Fitbit awards that day!  Observation Point Trail took us almost four hours to hike up and two hours to hike down. I’m sure our socializing on the way up, impacted that time 😉

hiking zionShortly after we were done eating, our two neighbors returned from their hikes and we once again shared a campfire together. The three families all met while waiting in line for a campsite and we ended up camping together.

There was the couple from Germany traveling in a rented Class C motorhome with their two small children, and then there was the retired Canadian couple from Quebec traveling in a Class B Van and then Ashton and me in a tent.

This camaraderie with complete strangers that we encountered on the trail and at camp was new to Ashton and added a unique fun element to our overall adventure.

Ashton also became familiar with the term “RV time“. Whenever she’d ask me a question regarding our plans for the day, I’d usually respond with, “Doesn’t matter. Whatever we feel like. We’re on RV time”. Which basically means, we might have a tentative schedule, but if one of us wants to change things up, no problem. If one of us didn’t sleep well or is hungry or doesn’t feel well, we’ll adjust the plan.  We roll with the flow and change directions on a whim if we need or want to. There’s no time clock, no rules, no schedule, and no competition = living on RV time.  Her biggest goal now, is to figure out when she can start living every day on RV time.

Ashton learns more about RV time the next day when the road we want to take is closed due to a landslide …. which way do we go, which way do we go?

hiking zion

Look who took our picture!

zion national park

There’s always someone on the trail willing to help take a photo!

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

An Epic Hike in Zion

It was six o’clock in the morning on May 19th, 2017. As I laid cocooned in my sleeping bag, I listened to the sounds on the other side of the nylon tent walls. I noticed it was getting light outside and the sun would be rising soon. Although with the towering canyon walls, I wasn’t sure when the warmth of the sun would actually reach our campsite.

Observation Point Zion

Me on the left, daughter Ashton on the right. Angel’s Landing off my right shoulder.

The fluttering of wings as the birds flew from one tree to another along with their continuous chirping put a smile on my face, but there was another sound, an unusual sound, that took me a moment to figure out.

I quietly (as quietly as possible) unzipped the tent and then slowly stepped out.

deer in Zion

The deer in the campground were not bothered by people. This was a rare opportunity to photograph wildlife with a wide angle lens.

The unusual sound I heard while laying inside the tent was made by deer … it was the ripping of grass and chewing.  A deer had been grazing just on the other side of the tent wall, mere inches from my head, but by the time I stepped out of the tent, that deer had moved on. However, two other deer were across the street grazing.

Quaker oatmeal and coffeeThese deer are obviously used to people and when the two grazing deer came walking toward and then past me, I stood frozen and silent. This was one time a zoom lens wasn’t necessary. What an awesome way to start the day!

Ashton and I had a couple of hikes in mind that day, and we wanted to get a somewhat early start.

Shortly before seven, I started heating up the water for coffee and oatmeal, and when Ashton stepped out of the tent, I excitedly pointed behind our tent. There in the tall grass lay three female deer munching on grass while watching the tourists pass by. This was their yard, and we were their tolerated guests.

wearing makeup while campingWe knew in our gut, this was just the beginning of one heck of a memorable day.

With breakfast out of the way, we continued to get ready for the day, which for these gals, includes a little makeup. Hey, just cause we’re camping doesn’t mean we can’t do it in style 😆

We loaded up our gear and then hiked over to the visitor center to pick up the shuttle bus. Twenty-five minutes later, we exited the bus at stop #7 for the Weeping Rock and Observation Point trails. We headed up the short Weeping Rock Trail which is less than a mile round trip. It’s a steep paved trail which ends at a rock alcove with dripping springs. Kind of cool and interesting and we thought worthwhile.

Weeping Rock Zion

The trail to ‘Weeping Rock’. It was a brisk morning which Ashton can attest to!

Weeping Rock Zion National Park

Weeping Rock – interesting sight.  Water seeps out of the rock and vegetation grows in crevices.

Little did we know at the time, but this trail served as a nice warm up as to what was to come. After admiring the seeping rock and lush plants, we hiked back to the trail head and took the spur toward Observation Point. We agreed earlier that morning that this 8 mile (12.9 km) round trip strenuous hike with a 2,148 foot (655 m) elevation gain was more than we wanted to tackle. Therefore, we planned to hike about an hour and a half up then turn around (3 hours round trip) to head back to camp for lunch and explore the Watchman Trail in the afternoon. Good theory!

Observation Point Trail Zion

Can you spot the shuttle bus?  Offers scale.  Little did we know, the trail would climb and take us near the top of that mesa – white portion of rock….  😲

From the get go, we could feel the trail climb. We were immediately huffing and puffing and stopping frequently to catch our breath. Although the trail starts out paved, the continuous uphill, zig zag climb is anything but easy.

hiking zion

the trail is a never ending zig zag

As we neared Echo Canyon, we were thankful the trail leveled off and offered a nice reprieve from the continual uphill climbing.

Echo Canyon

Echo Canyon. We enjoy the reprieve from climbing.

Echo Canyon

Enjoying the flat part of this strenuous trail

slot canyon Zion National Park

Ashton’s first slot canyon

This was Ashton’s first ever exposure to a slot canyon and although we only hiked a small fraction of Echo Canyon, it was a visual delight. In order to hike the actual Echo Canyon Trail a permit is required and canyoneering skills are necessary. Yep, not for us. We were thrilled and satisfied with the sliver we did experience.

hiking in Zion

Observation Trail continues

I don’t recall how long it took us to hike to the other side of Echo Canyon, but I do remember Ashton and I being awed by the landscape. The photo-ops were endless and there was no way we wanted to turn around at this juncture … not yet, anyway.Zion national Park

It was onward and upward, and the uphill climb seemed unrelenting, but did we stop?

hiking Zion

Is this our turn around point?

When we came to a trail sign …. (this was the noted spot on our trail map where Ashton and I originally planned to end our climb and turn around) …. we decided, we’ve come this close …. “lets do it“! Truth be told, it was our stubbornness that egged us on. We refused to be each others excuse as to why we couldn’t complete this 8 mile strenuous hike.

Zion National ParkIn other words … there was no way I would accept defeat so my daughter could say, “We couldn’t complete the trail because my mom couldn’t handle it“.  Heck no! That makes me sound old. I may be old, but I’m not that old.

And then, Ashton refused to give in to her fear of heights because she wouldn’t give me the ammunition to say, “We couldn’t complete the trail because of my daughters fear of heights”. Yeah, we’re stubborn!

Ah, but that age thing did catch up with me. At one point, I found the need to actually sit down on the side of the trail to rest and let my heart rate come completely down. All that climbing had my heart pounding rapidly in my ears. Years ago, I worked out with a personal trainer and used a heart rate monitor regularly. Because of that experience and knowledge, I knew I was pushing too hard and needed to take a break for my health and safety. After munching on a Lara Bar, resting, and drinking more water, I felt ready to tackle another stretch of climbing ……  just in time for my daughter to face her fears.

hiking in Zion

Ashton’s fear of heights kicks in! Who’s got the racing heart now?

This would be the final stretch of climbing needed to get to the top of the mesa. The trail was literally blasted out of the canyon wall and offered dizzying drop offs and eye-popping scenery. Not exactly ‘fear of heights’ friendly.

hiking in Zion

can you see the zig zag trail?

hiking Zion

Let’s zoom in a little closer – can you see the trail now? Check out that elevation gain.

hiking Zion

Zoomed in more! This stretch of trail was the most challenging for Ashton, not to mention my lungs.

hiking Zion

Ashton confronts her fear of heights! The popular Angels Landing Trail is just to the top left of Ashton’s head.

Ashton’s fear of heights was news to me. I have to admit, I found the whole situation somewhat humorous and had to ask, “Since when did you develop a fear of heights?” Somewhat hesitantly, she responded in a near whisper, “Since I went bungy jumping in New Zealand”. Her response resulted in more chuckling on my part …. “So you gave me gray hair, and gave yourself a fear of heights.”  Photo-op!

hiking zion national park

Ashton tries calming her nerves – fear of heights! “Seriously, mother!!! You really have to take a picture?”  Yes I do honey, yes I do 😆

zion national park

Another needed stop to calm the dizziness.

hiking Zion

Whew! Climbing has stopped. Mini panic attack over, but we still had further to go… Far left Mesa in the distance – to the left of the red vertical line = “Observation Point”

Once we reached the top of the mesa, we were able to breathe normally, but still had more distance to hike to get to “the point”. Ashton’s racing heart caused by a fear of heights had calmed down, and my racing heart caused from the ridiculous uphill climbing had also calmed. Deep calming breathes were taken by both of us followed by a sigh of relief.

hiking Zion

Observation Point in the distance – note the red vertical lines against the white rock – the V lines point to our destination.

hiking in Zion

Can you see the specs of people at Observation Point?  Follow the red vertical stripe up.

With the goal now in sight, our pace quickened. Ashton and I kept looking at each other with smiles and saying, “We’re doing this. We’re actually doing this. We’re almost there“.

As we exited that last cluster of pinion trees, we were assaulted with the most breathtaking view that is quintessential Zion Canyon. Engulfed with awe, we high-fived each other while huge smiles stretched from ear to ear. “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe we made. We did it!”Zion Canyon

It took us four challenging hours of unrelenting uphill climbing and at times we questioned our sanity. We also questioned each other, “Are you sure you don’t want to turn around?”  “It’s up to you. If YOU want to turn around, we’ll turn around“. “I’m fine. If YOU want to turn around, we’ll turn around“.  “Well, I’m fine too“.  Onward and upward!  Did I mention, we’re stubborn?

hiking Zion

Note the brass survey marker embedded in the rock. As you look to the monolith rock to the right – we are looking down on the infamous Angels Landing. Ashton was ready for a photo-op now!

Observation Point

Observation Point

That view … is that not the most incredible view! Thank goodness we embraced that stubbornness or we might have missed out on this experience. And what an experience this epic hike was. A memorable day indeed …. from start, to finish!

hiking zion

Time for a break! Let’s savor the view.

But the hike wasn’t over yet. What goes up, must go down, and what one thinks might be easy, probably isn’t. Next up, the journey back down the mountain ….

Zion Canyon


A Popular Trail in Zion

When Ashton and I chose Zion National Park as the destination for our road trip, I had only two requests …  stop at the Zion Lodge and hike the trail that was accessed across from the lodge. Other than that, I left it all up to daughter. Sure, I’d offer my input, but ultimately, we’d do and see whatever she would like.Zion National Park

Back in the early to mid nineties, we lived in Las Vegas, Nevada for a few years, and it’s an easy two and a half hour drive from Las Vegas to Zion National Park. While living in Las Vegas, Al and I visited Zion once with the kids in tow and later I revisited with a girlfriend. Both times, I overnighted at the Zion Lodge in one of the rustic cabins. The buildings themselves are unassuming, but the huge green lawn accompanied by a bunch of benches left an indelible impression upon me. A visitor can sit, and admire the soaring canyon walls …

Zion wildlifeAs I sat on one of those benches looking up, I remember feeling awed by the beauty around me. This former flatlander from Illinois was overwhelmed with the unique and stunning landscape.

Today, I was equally awed, if not more so. I’m not sure if it’s my age or the fact that I’m able to travel leisurely on regular basis, but there was a relaxed calmness about me that allowed me to savor the scenery along with each experience and hike I accomplished.Zion National Park

As any parent knows, traveling with small children is a huge distraction which I’m sure had an impact on my first visit to Zion. This go around was different. Instead of me, the mom, constantly concerned about the where abouts and antics of a six-year old and four-year old, my adult daughter was the one in charge and it was her responsibility to keep me (dear old mom) from getting into trouble. No easy task 😆  This new-found lack of responsibility on my part was oh so fun!

Zion National ParkAfter our Riverside Walk, we took the shuttle bus back down the canyon to the Zion Lodge and bought a couple of lattes at the cafe.

We found a bench near the large grass lawn and sat in silence while sipping our coffee. The last time my daughter and I sat here, she was four years old. Wow, how those twenty-three years seemed to have whizzed by!

Not only was I awed by the majestic landscape surrounding me, I was equally awed by the young lady sitting next to me. What a beautiful, caring and successful person my daughter has become. A mom can’t ask for much more!

With our energy boosted from the caffeinated coffees and a stop at the Zion Lodge checked off my list, it was time for a little more nostalgia. I wasn’t sure which trail hubby and I took with the kids all those years ago, but I was pretty sure the trail head was near the Zion Lodge, which meant it had to be the Emerald Pools Trail. What I do remember as the highlight of that day for our family of four was walking behind a waterfall. Thus, Ashton and I were off in search of that waterfall.

Emerald Pools Trail Zion National Park

Walking behind a waterfall – Emerald Pools Trail

Yep, I found the right trail and memories flooded back. It was every bit as entertaining during this visit as it was all those years ago, even though the amount of water falling was light in comparison.

The Emerald Pools Trail is a collection of short trails that meander past a small, lushly vegetated stream that rolls down from the cliffs and forms several interesting pools. Since the trail head is located across the street from the Zion Lodge making it easily accessible, the Emerald Pools trail is one of the most popular trails in Zion National Park. With that in mind, we weren’t surprised we encountered plenty of other hikers on the trail, but even though we had to share the trail, it was still worth the hike.

Emerald Pools

The beginning of the Emerald Pools trail hike

Emerald Pools

We did the entire hike from the lower pools to the upper pools, which is about 3 miles round trip. The last stretch to the upper pools was the most difficult, partly due to the number of other hikers on the trail and partly because of the elevation gain.

Zion National Park

Interesting scenery along the trail

Emerald Pools

Traffic jam at the upper pools. When they say this trail is popular, they aren’t kidding!

Emerald Pools Trail Zion National Park

This was a lovely hike that we enjoyed, but personally, I liked the super easy Riverside Walk Trail a little more. Not because it was easy (well, maybe) but because it offered open views of the soaring canyon walls, the rushing Virgin River, and of course, those lush hanging gardens. The Emerald Pools trail is more about the waterfalls and pools of water. The trail to the lower pool is rated easy, but as the trail climbs to the middle pool and eventually upper pool, it gets a little more difficult which is why this stretch is considered moderate.

From the Zion Lodge to the Upper Pool there’s a 350 foot elevation gain. It’s about 3 miles round trip. Plan around 2 hours – depending on photo stops.

Next up, we’re in search of more stunning scenery, and we’ll tackle the hike of all hikes … our epic hike ….

Zion National Park

Virgin River – Zion National Park

Stunning Beauty at Zion National Park

Although the sun hadn’t risen yet, it was no longer pitch dark in the tent. As I breathed in the crisp cold air, I was reminded of the inclement weather the day before.  With each exhale, I could see my breath.  Yeah, it was cold.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Yesterday was a mixed bag of interesting weather at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes.

I glanced over to my left.  Ashton was totally cocooned in her sleeping bag and still sound asleep. How we managed to fall asleep with the tent whipping about in the severe wind while being pelted with sleet and snow remains a mystery to me.  But we slept great.

Tenting in snowI quietly grabbed my toiletry bag, a towel, change of clothes, and quickly walked down the road to the restroom.

The moment I stepped into the building I breathed a sigh of relief …. heat, glorious heat …. a reprieve from the below freezing temperature. The restroom was heated and offered warm water.  Aaaaahhhhh!

I slowly got ready for the day, and when I returned to the tent Ashton was awake. Now it was her turn to get ready, and while she did that, I headed back over to the dunes with the camera.

Coral Pink Sand dunes

“Come on mom. We gotta get going!”

I could’ve spent hours with the camera exploring the sand dunes, but we both knew we needed to hurry and get to Zion National Park as soon as possible.  We didn’t have a campsite reservation and were keeping our fingers crossed that we’d be able to snag a first come, first serve campsite at the South Campground.  It was imperative we join the line as soon as we could.  The earlier, the better!

Zion National Park

We entered Zion National Park via the east entrance

Zion National Park

Waiting patiently for a campsite at the first come, first serve South Campground. We waited in line for over 2 hours, which wasn’t bad from what we hear 😲

We arrived at the South Campground in Zion National Park about 8:30 a.m. to a long line of cars and small RV’s all waiting for a campsite.  Yeah, we realized we were already late to the game. It wasn’t looking good for us. Check out time was 11:00 which meant it’d be just a matter of time before we’d find out if we were one of the lucky ones to get a site.  As soon as a campsite was vacated, the camp hosts quickly assigned the site to the next camper in line. It was sheer craziness!

Right about 11:00, we were given a site. Yippee! Our new friends in the small Class C motorhome behind us also managed to get a site.  We were some of the last ones to snag sites and felt incredibly lucky.

South Campground Zion National Park

Our campsite in Zion National Park

Ashton and I quickly set up camp and started fixing lunch. Remember, we’d been planning this trip for several weeks which also included meal planning and prepping. No going out to eat for these gals!Coleman Camp StoveGrilled chicken

With tummies full, we were ready to explore Zion National Park. From our campsite, we walked over to the visitor center and caught the shuttle. The shuttle system here is awesome, and at this time of the year, it’s the only option to enter the national park.

We stayed on the shuttle until it reached the end of the line at the end of the canyon; Temple of Sinawava stop. The half hour drive allowed us to get an overview of the national park so we could prioritize what we wanted to explore.

Shuttle in Zion National Park

Ashton admiring the views from the comfort of the shuttle. Great shuttle system in Zion National Park.

The end of the canyon or rather stop #9 Temple of Sinawava is the gateway to the famous Narrows hiking trail, which isn’t a trail per se as much as it is a hike through water.  The ‘trail’ was actually closed during our visit due to high fast waters from snow melt. It wasn’t a hike of Riverside Walk Zion National Parkinterest to Ashton and me anyway, but we did have a curiosity and therefore decided to hike the Riverside Walk trail which leads to the beginning of The Narrows.

The paved Riverside Walk is rated as easy and according to the park info is 2.2 miles round trip (3.5 km) and should take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours.

This is a great hike for anyone including families with small children, elderly, and most of the trail is handicap accessible.

We were pleasantly surprised as to how much we enjoyed this hike. It was the perfect first trail easing us into the stunning beauty of Zion … not that we needed any easing!

The Narrows Zion National Park

Ashton views the start of The Narrows trail – yes the trail is THROUGH the water!

hanging garden Zion National Park

Ashton photographing the hanging garden.

We were fascinated by the ‘hanging gardens’ … a sight we’ve never seen or even heard of before. Water seeping out of the rock sandstone creates a wonderfully lush garden filled with ferns, wildflowers, and mosses. Water was slowly cascading in small streams, sometimes dribbles, and occasionally it looked like miniature waterfalls … all on the the side of a huge rock wall.

hanging garden Zion National Park

Ashton admiring the hanging garden – Zion National Park – Riverside Walk

hanging garden Zion National Park

Unbeknownst to us, Zion National Park is famous for these weeping walls and hanging gardens. Unfortunately, our photographic images did not capture the dripping water. Suffice it to say, we found the steady streams of water and lush vegetation intriguing and beautiful. It captivated our attention and kept our cameras working. No wonder they say the hike can take one to two hours.

Riverside Walk Zion

The Riverside Walk offered plenty of entertainment and stimulation

After admiring the hanging garden and trying our best to capture its essence, it was time to stroll over to the bank of the Virgin River.  All that looking up was putting a crimp in our necks 😄

Virgin River Zion

Ashton photographing me, photographing her along the Virgin River

As we meandered back to the shuttle stop, we couldn’t help stopping several more times just to take in our surroundings. We were in awe! We were hiking in a gorge with Navajo sandstone rock rising skyward. On one side of the trail we were kept amused by the weeping, vegetated rock and on the other side we were admiring the rushing Virgin River.Zion National Park

Our senses were on overload and this was just the beginning. Time to stop at the Zion Lodge for a cup of coffee and then we’re off to hike the Emerald Pools…..

Coleman Camp Propane Grill/Stove