The Back way to Telluride

Stopping in at a local visitor center is the perfect way I like to start exploring a new area. The first time Al and I camped at Ridgway State Park was the first time we experienced this part of western Colorado, and I couldn’t wait to dive in and explore.

Lost Dollar

Last Dollar Road – back way to Telluride, CO

And by diving in and exploring, that meant taking the roads less traveled. One of the activities that is super popular around the town of Ouray, Colorado, is 4×4 back country travel. If you don’t have your own 4×4, there are several businesses eager to rent you a Jeep, ATV, or UTV or you can sign up for a guided tour. Free maps are available noting these back roads with a designation from easy to difficult.

This is another reminiscing post about our travels to western Colorado. Although, I will truly miss a Colorado excursion this summer, new adventures await here in Arizona.

Roads less traveled

It was July 2013  ….  Al and I review the atlas and peruse all the information we picked up at the Ridgway State Park visitor center.  From the state park to the mountain ski town of Telluride should be about a one hour drive if we stay on the main roads.  Al and I talk about it, and contemplate our route. “Hmm, we have all day.  What’s the hurry?” one of us asks.

Telluride

This southwest part of Colorado was a buzz of mining activity in the 1800’s.  Even Telluride’s logo is that of a miner’s pick.   This mining activity created a multitude of back roads throughout the picturesque San Juan Mountains.

Today these back roads are available for Jeeps and OHV (off highway vehicles).

Some of these back roads are assessable by regular automobiles, but most require high clearance, and others demand four-wheel drive capabilities.  The roads might be gravel, dirt, rock or any combination of the three.

Last Dollar Road

Last Dollar Road – this road is classified as “easy”

The back way to Telluride

My little red four-wheel drive Toyota Tacoma should be able to handle most of the roads we were interested in and researched.  Al and I err on the side of caution and pick a couple of “easy” roads to explore …. one of which is called the “Last Dollar Road”.  As far as mileage goes, this is a shorter traveling distance to Telluride than taking the main roads.  However, time wise it would be double.  Obviously, we won’t be driving this road at 60 miles per hour.

Last Dollar Road

some ruts were a little deep, but no problem for us.

For the most part, it was an easy drive even though there were some mud puddles from the storms the day before.  The visitor center publication was informative, spot on, and we were glad to have read it before hand.  Some of the ruts, mud, and water would definitely present a problem for a vehicle without a high clearance.  We encountered no problems, and the drive presented some amazing scenery complete with wildflowers.

Telluride

Telluride

Telluride

It was the end of July and the wildflowers were starting to wane, but I was still thrilled with the tufts of color here and there.

Telluride

The drive from Ridgway State Park to Telluride took us about two hours and that included all the photo-op stops.  I didn’t think that was too bad considering the slow speed that the road necessitated. It was a beautiful drive that I would do again in a heartbeat. Plus it wasn’t too challenging of a drive and was relatively easy to navigate.

I might venture to say, mid July and mid September would be the two most perfect months to explore these back roads. Wildflowers in mid July are at their peak and fall colors mid to end of September are at their peak.

TellurideOnce in Telluride, we stopped at the visitor center in town to gather up some local information. Al always likes to ask locals for lunch recommendations.

We found ourselves at a kind of sports bar housed in an old house off a side street.  It appears to be a favorite with locals.  Lunch was good, but nothing special, and I’m not sure I’d return, especially with so many other restaurants to try.

After lunch we headed over to the gondola station for a ride up and over the summit to Mountain Village.  The folks at the visitor center highly recommended this. Pretty cool that the ride is free considering other mountain towns in Colorado charge upwards of $25 per person for their gondolas. The Gondola here in Telluride operates year round free of charge and is a common form of public transportation for workers, school children, mountain bikers, hikers, and of course, tourists.  Oh, and it’s pooch friendly too.

On the way to the gondola, we encountered a farmer’s market and quickly took notes as to some potential purchases we should make before heading home.  A grocery list quickly formed in my head!

Gondola

 

Once we arrived at the gondola, we noticed all the mountain bikers and hikers. The Telluride side of the mountain is pretty steep while the Mountain Village side appears to be more moderate.  That’s where these two young mountain bikers were heading.  They’ll disembark at the summit and ride their bikes back down toward the town of Mountain Village.  We also saw quite a few hikers doing this as well.  There appeared to be very few hiking or biking down on the Telluride side of the mountain. Too steep perhaps!

Telluride

Telluride

With our ‘tourist’ day coming to an end, we picked up some goodies at the local farmers market held on Friday mornings during the summer months, and promised each other future visits to this beautiful mountain town would be a must.

For our return drive to the RV, we took the highway back to Ridgway State Park and arrived about an hour later.  I’ll admit, even the scenery via the highway was lovely, although not quite as beautiful or adventurous as taking the Last Dollar Road but lovely just the same.

It was a great day exploring amongst some breathtaking scenery and we couldn’t wait to tackle another back country road.

Telluride

Al and me at Mountain Village – love the European feel

Another back country road

From our campsite at Ridgway State Park, I had an unobstructed view of unique rock formations known as Courthouse Mountain and Chimney Rock. My curiosity was piqued and I once again scoured the maps and information that I’d picked up at the visitor center.  The map indicates there’s a back country road labeled as easy that will take me closer to this mountain range.

Ridgway State Park Colorado Site 3

We catch County Road 10 just a couple of minutes south of our camp at Ridgway State Park and head east toward Chimney Rock.  The road is wide and gravel and no four-wheel drive is necessary. We pass some of the most beautiful ranches with unbelievable views.

Ranches near Ridgway Colorado and Owl Creek Pass with Courthouse Rock in the background

Somewhere along this stretch is the field where they filmed John Wayne taking on the bad guys in the movie “True Grit”…. reins in teeth and guns a-blazing.

Ranches near Ridgway Colorado

We continue our trek up and over Owl Creek Pass toward Silver Jack Reservoir.  Although the road is gravel, it’s in great shape and easy to negotiate. This is the perfect Owl Creek Pass Ridgway Coloradodrive for anyone who has a problem with altitude because it doesn’t go much above 10,000 feet in elevation and there aren’t any sheer drop offs for those with a fear of heights.

It’s a great excursion easing oneself into the remote countryside. However, the views aren’t nearly as spectacular as the other mountain passes. Much of this road meanders through forested land.

Silver Jack Reservoir and Campground is about a 21 mile drive from Highway 550 and not the preferred route for RV’s.  The easier route to take for campers would be from the town of Cimarron off Highway 50.

Silver Jack Lake near Ridgway Colorado

Silver Jack Lake, Colorado

The Silver Jack Campground sits in a forest of Aspen and Pine trees in the Uncompahgre National Forest.  Some of the sites are large enough to accommodate our 31′ Fifth Wheel, but there’s no internet service.  We couldn’t even get one bar on our phones 😦 We didn’t find the reservoir to be easily accessible, finding only one road leading down to the water’s edge.  There were, however, numerous hiking trails.

Owl Creek Pass, Colorado

Back road near Owl Creek Pass, Colorado

This was another great driving excursion offering us some beautiful scenery and solitude.

Still on my list

Our time in the area was over before we knew it, and I still had a few more back country excursions on my list. Unfortunately, those roads will have to wait for another time…. there’s Imogene Pass and Engineer Pass, but the Yankee Boy Basin Road remained at the top of my list. It’s classified as moderate and four-wheel drive is highly recommended.  We shouldn’t have any trouble driving Yankee Boy Basin with the Tacoma, but it would be a more challenging drive than Owl Creek Pass or Last Dollar Road.

Mid July, when wildflowers are blooming, would be the perfect time to visit and do a little high country hiking at the end of this out and back road – that is, if I think I can handle the high altitude.

Columbine flower Colorado's state flower

For those of us looking for an “extreme” Colorado adventure, check out this video of Black Bear Pass. This is the one pass vehicle rental companies will not allow you to drive with their equipment. If you do not have your own Jeep/UTV or you don’t feel experienced enough to negotiate this treacherous pass, but are still interested in experiencing this adrenal filled excursion, there are tours available in the town of Ouray – something that’s on my bucket list.

Black Bear Pass is a one way single lane road starting from just outside of the town of Ouray and traversing up and over the mountain into the town of Telluride. The road is only open starting sometime in July and closing sometime in September. Because there have been fatalities, (ya know – folks rolling off the side of the mountain) there are talks of closing off access to this high country pass. So knowing that, would you be interested in such an excursion? I’m game, if you are!

Another glorious day, the air as delicious to the lungs as nectar to the tongue – John Muir

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RVing in Colorado

This will be the second summer in a row that we won’t be spending any time in Colorado… sigh! I love Colorado and called it home for over twenty years. Once we sold our Colorado home and moved into the RV full-time, we still continued to spend our summers meandering around the state, that is, up until last year.

Cherry Creek, Colorado

The RV has allowed us to explore and see parts of Colorado that we never had the opportunity to experience while living in our sticks and bricks house. And while we aren’t returning to Colorado this summer by choice, that doesn’t mean a part of me isn’t missing it.

We arrived at our summer ‘home’ in Prescott, Arizona on the 1st of May and were quickly reminded how weather in the high country likes to surprise us with one last winter storm before giving way to spring.

Our home for the summer in Prescott Valley, Arizona – photo taken May 2nd 🙄

Our first full day in Prescott Valley brought inclement weather in the form of rain, thunder, hail and sleet. Al and I chuckled as the loud sound of hail pummeling the roof of the RV made having a conversation impossible. After five minutes, the hail stopped leaving in its wake a thin layer of white covering the landscape which fortunately melted quickly. And also fortunate, the hail was small in size and caused no damage.

This spring storm reminded me of Colorado and made me smile as fond memories flooded my mind. With that said, I thought I’d do a little reminiscing by sharing with you one of my favorite mountain towns in Colorado. Here’s a blog post I wrote a while back….

Everyone’s Favorite Mountain Town

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t like Telluride, Colorado.  If I had to recommend one Colorado mountain town to visit, it would definitely be Telluride.  There’s a little something for everyone to enjoy. Plus, how could anyone resist a place where there’s usually a herd of elk in a meadow on the edge of town welcoming visitors to the area?

Telluride, Colorado

We’ve had the pleasure of visiting this charming mountain town a few times over the past few years and each visit was truly a joy.  First off, Telluride is beautiful.  I mean, drop dead gorgeous. It sits in a canyon surrounded by steep forested mountains and cliffs along with the stunning Bridal Veil Falls seen at the far end of the canyon.

Telluride was founded in 1878 as a mining settlement.  By the 1970’s, the extensive mining in the area was replaced by ski tourism.  By the mid 1990’s, Colorado’s best kept secret was discovered by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise, and Oliver Stone.

Although Telluride is well-known for outstanding ski slopes, the summer months have actually become more popular with tourists as the town hosts a variety of festivals, including film festivals and endurance events all summer long.  The outdoor recreation is fantastic and even offers extreme hiking: Via Ferrata.

Via Ferrata

Via Ferrate in Telluride. Photo courtesy of Wiki

Telluride, CO

Newer home styles seem to blend in well with the surroundings.

I love the architecture in Telluride. Each structure is one of a kind. There’s a beautiful blend of old and new which captivates my attention and appeals to my taste. There’s a hiking trail that allows one to wander from town all the way out toward Bridal Veil Falls allowing a visitor to admire the houses along the way …. each unique and attractive.

Telluride, CO

I was in love with these houses – restored 1800’s

Trivia:  The famous bank robber, Butch Cassidy, committed his first recorded major crime in Telluride by robbing the San Miguel Valley Bank in 1889 and exiting the bank with over $24,000.

Telluride, Colorado

This charming Rocky Mountain town located in southwestern Colorado is most definitely worth a visit and goes to the top of my favorites list.  The town boasts a population of less than 3,000 and sits at an elevation of 8,750 feet.

Bridal Veil Falls

At the base of Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls in the far distance

We’ve enjoyed hikes to Bridal Veil Falls, shopped the Friday morning Farmer’s Market, and taken the free Gondola ride – a bonus not to be missed. We’ve taken a back country 4×4 road to get to Telluride which I call the ‘back way’.  We’ve eaten at several tasty restaurants, met fellow bloggers for a brew, and generally savored the vibe and beauty that is quintessential Telluride.

Where to eat in Telluride

We’ve eaten at several restaurants throughout town but our personal favorites are eating at the local farmers market or Smuggler’s Brewery. At Smuggler’s Brew Pub, they serve up a great burger along with some tasty brews. Al always orders a beer called “Debauchery“. With its 10% alcohol content, it’s served in a brandy sniffer in lieu of the normal beer glass. With Debauchery’s high alcohol content combined with Telluride’s near 9,000 foot elevation, one drink is usually hubby’s limit, especially if I’ve planned lots of walking afterwards 😄

Telluride, Colorado

Camping near Telluride

Whenever we’ve visited Telluride, we’ve always camped at Ridgway State Park, about an hours drive away.  The park offers sites accommodating tents and large RV’s alike.  Ridgway State Park is one of our favorite campgrounds in western Colorado.

Tee PeeMuch closer to Telluride is a delightful National Forest Campground;  Sunshine Campground.  The campground is super close to Mountain Village where one can park and catch the free gondola taking you up and over the mountain into Telluride.

We would love to stay at the Sunshine Campground due to its stunning views and near proximity to Telluride, but unfortunately, we’d barely fit into a couple of sites and the turning radius to navigate into and around this campground is tighter than our comfort level allows, but this campground is perfect for smaller RV’s.

Further down the road is the Matterhorn Campground, also a National Forest Campground, and this place can accommodate just about anyone, but finding an available site might prove to be difficult. It’s a very popular place.

 For those traveling with tents, vans, or small RV’s,     the perfect place to camp to really immerse oneself     into the Telluride lifestyle is the Telluride Town Park   Campground.  Nestled in a grove of pine trees along   a   creek, it’s within walking distance to festival   venues,   restaurants, and shops.  Obviously where   there are   trees, there are low branches and tight   turning   radius’.  Thus, not an option for us.  Once   again, small   RV’s have the advantage.

Note; during festivals this campground is jam-packed making it difficult for even a Honda Civic to navigate.

Lodging in Telluride

And when it comes to other types of lodging, should camping not be your thing, Telluride has it all.  Check out this guide for more information on planning your visit to Telluride, one of my favorite Colorado mountain towns, and enjoy your own Rocky Mountain getaway. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

With so much natural beauty along with an abundance of things to see and do, it’s no wonder Telluride could easily be referred to as ‘everyone’s favorite mountain town‘.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away – Maya Angelou

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Best Souvenirs

You all know by now, I love photography and I take bunches of photographs at the places we visit. But every now and then, I like collecting something special that serves as a memento.

Canyonlands

When a photograph isn’t enough

Souvenirs are a great reminder of a memorable trip or even a special day. Since we live in our RV full-time, space is always an issue. With that in mind, I’m a sucker for jewelry and t-shirts and neither takes up a great deal of space in the RV.

I’ve purchased necklaces and bracelets from around the country. Wearing the jewelry brings me right back to the place where it was bought, and always elicits fond memories.

best souvenirs

Jewelry and t-shirts are my favorite souvenirs

I love pearls. They remind of sparkling sand and ocean breezes. My pearl earrings were purchased in Hawaii while the pearl necklace was bought in St. Thomas. Our children were teenagers during both those trips and I have wonderful memories of those family excursions. If you asked our children about those trips, that’d both start laughing as stories would quickly be shared. Fun times with plenty of mommy faux pas moments!

bracelet souvenirs

I love my inexpensive bracelets

Purchasing a piece of jewelry needn’t be expensive, and quite often you can find unique pieces that are specific to the destination.

We live a relatively active and outdoorsy lifestyle, which is not always conducive to wearing fine jewelry. I learned that lesson the hard way several years ago when I lost a rather nice bracelet while out boating. Some fish in Lake Powell is adorned with a lovely ruby bracelet 😣

These days you’ll find me wearing multiple bracelets purchased from varying locations. Each one has special meaning to me. My pearl bracelet reminds me of our winter sojourns to the Texas Gulf Coast while the multi colored crystal bracelet reminds me of stunning Sedona, Arizona, and Sedona’s energizing, spiritual vortex, new age thing. Not that I know what that’s suppose to mean, but it’s Sedona, and I’ll roll with it. So far, the crystals that make up the bracelet haven’t energized me nor given me prosperity, but I’ll keep wearing the bracelet since I wasn’t given a time frame as to when those crystals will work their magic 😏

Turquoise stones are easily associated with the desert southwest. Last year, I found this turquoise bracelet in Old Town Scottsdale. Since we spend a far amount of time in Phoenix, Arizona, visits to the Scottsdale farmers market followed by a little souvenir shopping is one of my favorite pastimes. Although I don’t have room or use for the usual souvenir tchotchke, I do enjoy browsing the local shops and buying the occasional trinket.

bracelets souvenirsMy petrified wood bracelet is probably one of my favorite souvenirs. Not because I really like the look of the bracelet, but because it’s petrified wood. Seriously, how fascinating is petrified wood … real petrified wood worn around my wrist … pretty cool in my opinion!

Ah, the memories! My morning exploring the Petrified National Forest was one of my more eventful solo excursions.

RVing has given me the opportunity to experience a multitude of meaningful experiences.  Al and I shared a very special day in Rocky Mountain National Park several years ago.

It moose necklacewas one of those days, we couldn’t repeat even if we wanted to, and probably ranks in our top ten most memorable days as full-time RVers.

If you’re interested in a must do scenic drive through Rocky Mountain National Park or interested in seeing stunning landscapes and amazing wildlife or perhaps curious about why this moose necklace is so incredibly special to me, you can read those posts here and here.

While the words, “I don’t need any more jewelry” will never pass my lips, I do realize I can wear only so much. With that said, what shall we shop for if jewelry isn’t an option?

Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt

National Park t-shirts

National Park T-shirts anyone? Posing with our friends – Dave, Faye, me, and Al

Never worry about the extra space to pack a souvenir if you can wear it! Who doesn’t need a new t-shirt or ball cap? I’ll admit, I’m a t-shirt junkie. If I’m not buying a t-shirt for myself, I’m buying one for Al or the kids. Yeah, I’m one of those mom’s who occasionally brings back souvenirs to her grown children …. sure, thanks mom!

But in all seriousness, our lifestyle necessitates casual and comfortable clothing. So even if we weren’t wearing a shirt with the name of a national park plastered across the front, we’d probably be wearing one that says Nike. Therefore, why not wear a t-shirt with meaning, one that represents a beloved travel destination!

Death Valley National Park

Yep – both of us our wearing “Death Valley” t-shirts while visiting Death Valley National Park

Other souvenir ideas that don’t take up a lot of space

When the photos I take don’t seem like enough memorabilia, I enjoy buying something I can hold, admire or put on display.  My favorite souvenir used to be Christmas ornaments, but with limited space in the RV, my adult daughter has taken over that habit and is now in possession of my collection, a collection that started when she was a little girl. Thus, those ornaments elicit memories for her and our family adventures.

Other popular souvenirs are coffee mugs, shot glasses, and refrigerator magnets. When space is limited, there’s nothing wrong with buying them if you’re actually going to use the mug for your morning coffee or use that shot glass for your favorite whatever or you have a refrigerator that’ll hold those magnets, then why not?

National Park Pins

National Park pins

We have friends that collect logo “pins” from the national parks they visit, and/or have a national park passport book stamped.  If you have small children, signing them up for a Junior Ranger program at a National Park is an educational opportunity, and the workbooks they fill-in or color will serve as a special memento for you, but especially for them.

Items that are locally made are always special; items like blankets or rugs. Think about it, every time you wrap yourself in that blanket, you’ll be reminded of that trip, that day, those remarkable memories.

If you travel to another country, a place where there’s a different currency, save those coins or banknotes. I have a scrapbook from my trip to Germany (many years ago) and added the foreign currency to that scrapbook along with plenty of photographs as well as my plane ticket.

I’ve also been known to collect small stones or rocks (when permitted), but I do keep weight in mind. No  Long, Long Trailer story around this RV 😆  So while I might collect a rock here and there, I have a friend who collects seashells from her favorite beaches.

I treasure my photographs from all the places we visit, but also love having a little sliver of our travels in the form of a souvenir.

Do you collect souvenirs? If so, what?

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”
― Denis Waitley

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I used to have a decorative pillow addiction. Hubby is grateful the pillow collection in the RV is minimal ….. for now 😉

Hey, pillows can also be souvenirs, can’t they?

Happy Mother’s Day

Today, I’m spending the day with my two children, and I can’t think of a better way to spend my day. Being a mother is my greatest joy in life, and I can’t image my world without my two wonderful kids … I’m very lucky.

With that said, Al and I are taking the hour plus drive down to Phoenix from Prescott, and allowing the children to pamper me. Actually, a big hug and kiss on the cheek is all I require to be one happy mama.

Here’s to all the mother’s out there … wishing you a love filled, wonderful day. I leave you with images of desert wildflowers.

Happy Mother’s Day 🌼🥂

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What I don’t like about …

What could I possibly not like about northern Arizona near Page and Lake Powell? After all, I’ve been gushing about it lately. Just look at these photographs showcasing this amazing landscape.

It’s pretty darn special around here, but it’s not a panacea. As a photographer and blogger, I like to showcase the best about an area and sometimes fail to disclose the downside. Yeah, there’s a few downsides … downsides I don’t like.

So let’s get real

Tourism is big business around northern Arizona (Spring, summer and fall). The town of Page is on the schedule as a stopping point for many international tours. You’ll see large tour buses (holding around 50 passengers each, give or take) all around town. You’ll see them parked at McDonald’s, Walmart, the Carl Hayden Visitor Center, Horseshoe Bend overlook, the marina’s at Lake Powell, and of course, the slot canyons at Antelope Canyon.

What an unpleasant treat it is to get in line at Walmart after the bus load of tourists hit the registers or how about pulling up to a scenic area only to see buses unloading hundreds of tourists at a popular site like Horseshoe Bend 😕

Don’t even get me started with the tourists and their selfie taking …… 🤣

Tourists taking a selfie … guilty!

Speaking of Antelope Canyon …. Hiking a slot canyon is an amazing experience. The sight is magical and surreal, but sharing it with hundreds of other tourists and being rushed through the canyon is the reality for many. Most of these unique slot canyons lie on Navajo Indian land, and therefore, tourists must pay for a guided tour if they’d like to experience a slot canyon.

slot canyon

The two most popular slot canyons are Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. There are a few other lesser known slot canyons where group sizes are kept smaller and some specialize in photographic tours. So depending on what your interests are in hiking a slot canyon (fun or photography), you’ll want to shop around.

Weather

I don’t think I’d be exaggerating if I called northern Arizona / southern Utah a land of extremes. The land is stunning, perplexing, and wild and so is the weather.

hoodoos

Mother Nature carves interesting sculptures with wind and time

During our four-week stay (April 2018), we experienced temperatures as high as 84 degrees Fahrenheit during the day to overnight temps as low as 36 degrees F and everything in between. On a nice day, winds were as low as 4 miles per hour, while on a bad day, we experienced sustained winds as high as 25-30 mph with gusts over 50 mph.

Those high winds made camping on a beach lively! The RVers that paid attention to the weather forecast usually packed up and left before the impending high winds started while others were caught off guard. Campers with a pitched E-Z UP didn’t fare so well with those excessive winds as evidenced the next day at the dumpsters.

EZ up

EZ-up frames filled the garbage dumpsters after high wind storms. People can be stupid. There are a total of 5 dumpsters. While the one on the end was overflowing with trash, the other 4 were barely half full….duh!

On those extremely windy days, it was impossible to enjoy any outdoor activities without being sandblasted. I’m sure with all the wind and sandstorms Al and I endured, we ingested our bodily quota of minerals. The grit in our teeth confirmed no additional supplements were needed …. nor did I need to use any of my wonderful exfoliating potions as Mother Nature’s sandblasting quickly rid me of any dead skin cells 🤣

The upside to all that nasty wind was it cleared out the beach leaving only the crazy hardy to ride out the storm …. a reprieve from the crowds, I’ll take it.

But let’s face it, without all the annoying wind, we wouldn’t have this boggling landscape to ogle. And just so you know, March and April are the two windiest months out of the year. Guess we timed it right 😞

Guess I’ll endure the winds so I can admire this bazaar landscape

Camping

In my opinion, the camping options are sparse around the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area especially for the amount of tourism this area receives. Tourists driving RV rentals are everywhere and all vying for a place to overnight.  The nicest and most sought after option is camping at the Wahweap Campground. It’s a beautiful campground if you can find an available site or have a reservation.

Then there’s the private Page-Lake Powell Campground. We stayed here several years ago and it was okay. But with the increase of international tourism and the renting of RV’s, this place fills up fast also.

Camping around sand is pretty on a calm day and not so great on a windy day

During our stay, we camped most of the time at the Lone Rock Beach area located along the Arizona – Utah border. Although it’s dispersed dry camping, there is a fee and a stay limit. The cost to overnight is $14 a day with the use of an American the Beautiful National Park Pass or $21 without the pass – ($7 a night for holders of a senior national park pass) 2018 rates!

Although my photographs may make the Lone Rock Beach area look quiet and enticing, the reality is this can be the wild wild west. People come here to have a good time and in the process bring all their toys.

regular roar of engines heard all day long

There’s a bunch of off-road trails at Lone Rock for folks to play on with their UTV’s.  I’ll admit, it looks like a lot of fun tooling around on the hills and sand. With the water right there, the sound of boat engines can be heard all day long, and of course, a steady hum of generators keeping all the RV’s charged up rumble at all times of the day (Quiet hours are 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.). The sounds of engines, music, and laughter fills the air. This is not a place for quiet solitude, but it can be a very entertaining and fun place to hang out for a short time.

Our friends Faye and Dave being entertained. Who needs TV when you can watch people being dumb sh*ts !

At the end of March, we even had some ‘Spring Breakers‘ show up for a couple of nights. Ah, to be young and silly again!

The guys showed up first with the motorhome and later the gals drove up with a popup camper – Party time!

Yeah, it was party central and the music carried all the way to the other end of the beach. I was more amused than bothered. These college kids were there to have a good time and I’d say they succeeded, BUT temps were only in the low 60’s and seeing them lightly clad had chills running up my spine. I’m sure the liquid heat was flowing freely in the form of spirits so they probably weren’t as cold as I was.

Watercraft

Al and I no longer own any form of a watercraft … sigh! Although there are a bunch of things to do around Page, Arizona, the real draw is the lake – Lake Powell. Camping near the water became more and more of a challenge for me once the weather starting warming. I began to miss my boat and wave runners. Visiting Lake Powell and not getting out on the water with our own boat was probably the thing I disliked most about our stay.

We looked into a bunch of different ideas to get out onto the water, but since it still wasn’t as warm as I prefer for boating, we forewent renting a boat and opted for a one-hour boat tour through Antelope Canyon. That was just enough to satisfy my  boat craving …. for now!

Another beautiful sunrise out my RV window

Most disliked

So aside from not having my own boat, the traffic was my least favorite thing. The way some folks drive around here was down right dangerous. I can’t count how many near head on collisions there are every day. People getting impatient seem to take chances passing slower moving vehicles like RV’s on the two lane highways. Plus, there are so many tourists (foreign and domestic) that slow down and make turns on a whim. Yeah, it’s important to be a vigilant driver on these two lane roads.

Did I already mention there are a lot of tourists around northern Arizona? Not only are they forever taking selfies, they drive like they are the only ones on the road, and have a tenancy to gawk at wildlife. Check out the wildlife and the crazy tourists 😁

I’ll be back

Ah, it was still a very fun and awesome time spent amongst some of the most amazing scenery. Waking up every morning to a gorgeous view and beautiful sunrise made any of my minor dislikes about the area seem insignificant. Yeah, I’m already missing those killer views and stunning sunrises … sunrises that I could literally watch while still laying in bed. How awesome is that!!!

sometimes the sky seemed to mimic the land with its layers

(affiliate links)

E-Z UP Canopy
Beach Bag
Collapsible Portable Corn Hole Boards

Adventures at the Arizona – Utah border

What started off as a one to two-week visit to Page, Arizona, ended up turning into four weeks. Yep, an entire month! Changing our travel itinerary on a whim is a wonderful thing and since we didn’t have our next RV Park reservation until May 1st, we took full advantage of the freedom to roll at will.

cairn

After a month of exploring around the Lake Powell / Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in northern Arizona and southern Utah, one might think we’d seen it all, but such is not the case. Although, we did manage to see and do a bunch of things, I know there’s still much more to discover. Guess that means we have to come back!

Our first week whizzed by as our adventures were shared with friends. We hiked a slot canyon with friends. We enjoyed a back road 4×4 excursion with friends, and we also spent a week boondocking with friends. Sharing our adventures made our time in the area that much more enjoyable and entertaining. That week was filled with hikes, campfires, laughs, and beautiful scenery.

Lone Rock Beach

Lone Rock Beach

Camping with friends

Al and I arrived to the Lone Rock Beach area a couple of days ahead of our friends which gave us the opportunity to scope out the lay of the land.

Once our friends arrived, the four of us found a level spot to call home for the week. Faye and I began to gather rocks and set about building a fire ring. I recall there being a lot of laughter, especially when she and I decided to build some trail cairns to aid Dave in finding his way back to the RV from the campfire 🤣

cairns

Our friend Mona Liza had heard about our antics and expressed concern. Not to worry Mona, we broke no rules gathering the rocks and no rocks were harmed for the sake of our entertainment. All rocks were later returned to their original home …. leave no trace 😁

Unfortunately, our friends had a travel schedule planned and after a week they moved on leaving Al and me to our own devices. No problem …. I had formulated a list of things to see and do over the coming weeks.

Dining at Lake Powell

Our first stop was the Antelope Point Marina.  Al and I enjoyed a very tasty lunch at the recently opened Jádi To’oh Restaurant. Great atmosphere and good food. After lunch, we walked the docks looking at boats … boats or yachts?

Yeah, some of these boats were huge and Al and I had fun visualizing the owners, or most likely companies, that own these floating beauties. Walking up and down the docks served as a great way to not only entertain us, but also get in some exercise.

Next up, was a visit to the Wahweap Marina and the Lake Powell Resort. The views from the resort are beautiful and I would highly recommend a visit here. Al and I stopped by for happy hour and enjoyed drinks and a sandwich in the bar area.

But the dining room …. oh my, what a view! I’d venture to say, it might be worthwhile enjoying breakfast or dinner here in the Rainbow Room (no lunch service). I can’t speak for the food or service, but those views are amazing.

While strolling around the Lake Powell Resort, we stumbled upon a wedding. Wow! What a great spot to get married. “Hey honey, wanna renew our vows?”

Hiking, hiking and more hiking

What can I say about the hiking possibilities around northern Arizona and southern Utah? …. Toadstools, slot canyons, mini waves, a rim trail, a hanging garden, and Horseshoe Bend …. and those are just the few trails we hiked. There’s many more.

Hiking a slot canyon in northern ArizonaWhen it comes to hiking, the slot canyons around here are the crème de la crème and a photographers delight. Folks from around the world travel here to experience one of these slots – Antelope Canyon being the most popular. Since the majority of these slot canyons are located on Navajo Indian land, permits and/or guides are required.

We hiked two slot canyons during our stay in Page. First was the Waterholes Canyon and second was Wire Pass Canyon. Both canyons had obstacles to negotiate, and this is when team work came in handy for me. I could not have hiked either canyon by myself, but I did discover several non slot canyon hikes that are easily doable solo.

New Wave trail – The newest trail around Page, Arizona, is what’s called the New Wave and although it doesn’t come close to the real Wave, these mini waves are made up of the same Navajo sandstone with extensive fine detailing and cross bedding.

Rimview trail – This 10 mile scenic Rim Trail loops around the town of Page. Hikers and bikers can access the trail at any number of locations.  I hiked this trail several times during my visit, BUT fear not, I never completed that ten mile loop. Nope, not me! Instead, I made my own much shorter hike. I parked at a small parking area near the  Lake View Primary School, and by hiking this northern section of the trail, I was able to take in the sparkling blue waters of Lake Powell below me.

Horseshoe Bend overlook – No trip to northern Arizona would be complete without a visit to the Horseshoe Bend overlook, but be forewarned, it’s a crowded tourist attraction that brings in bus loads of people from around the world …. literally, tour buses filled with tourists.

I was lucky to visit during a lull in tourism – spring break was over and ‘the season’ hadn’t yet begun. During spring break, I saw the line of traffic stretch dangerously down Highway 89 and there was no way I was going to join those masses. Currently construction is underway to improve access and parking.

The hike to the overlook is about 3/4 of a mile one way in a sometimes sandy trail and is uphill on the return to the parking lot.

Hanging Garden Trail – This is another short and easy hike not far from the Carl Hayden visitor center (Dam). The trail leads to an interesting rock overhang where vegetation grows out of the rock, but the real fun here begins with a little off trail exploring. Fascinating, perplexing and colorful rock abound with more wave like action.

Scenic drives

If hiking isn’t your thing, how about a scenic drive? We enjoyed two back country 4×4 excursions. Our first outing was to the most amazing scenic overlook known as Alstrom Point, and second was a drive via Cottonwood Road through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

We didn’t need four-wheel drive on either excursion, but found the high clearance on the Toyota Tacoma was helpful, even though not necessary. Also, the weather was very agreeable for both excursions … meaning it hadn’t rained in quite sometime and the ground was extremely dry.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Without the Glen Canyon Dam there would be no Lake Powell, and Lake Powell is obviously the star of northern Arizona, and the Grand Canyon, of course. The Carl Hayden Visit Center is perched on a ledge overlooking the Glen Canyon Dam and the waters of Lake Powell and the Colorado River.

The visitor center is a great place to stop and gather local information, pick up a trail map, take a tour of the dam, or walk the Glen Canyon bridge. Walking across the bridge to take in the sight is a must do, but I’ll admit, I wasn’t a fan of the bridge vibrating when semi-trucks crossed 😮 The bridge and the dam are an engineering marvel, especially amongst such challenging terrain.

Glen Canyon Dam

Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River

The above photograph was taken at a scenic overlook located on Scenic View Road near the Wingate, Baymont Inn and Sleep Inn. The overlook requires a short downhill stroll over sandy slick rock. For the more adventurous, hike around the ledges and bluffs for impressive views in all directions.

Lodging in Page

There’s no shortage of hotels around Page with more being built to accommodate the influx of tourism. However, there is a shortage of available RV parking (in my opinion) especially on weekends which is why many end up boondocking out at Lone Rock Beach or Wallie-docking at the local Walmart.

If money is no object, consider staying at the exclusive Amangiri Resort. No lookie- loos allowed beyond the gate …. sorry, I tried. Perhaps, it’s understandable that if guests are paying upwards of $3,000 a night, that they’d like their privacy. Can’t imagine why they wouldn’t allow this hiking clad RVer into their luxury abode for photo-ops 😏 I don’t think they believed me when I told them my Louboutin’s were back at the RV 👠🤣

Fenced out 😕

Time to move on …

After having more fun in Page – northern Arizona, than we ever imagined, the time has come for us to lift the jacks and move on. It’s what RVers do 🤗 It was a memorable visit …. one we hope to repeat!

 

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Baggallini Crossbody Purse

Portable Propane Outdoor Campfire

Toadstools and a Slot Canyon

When Al and I awoke to a beautiful and calm morning, we were quick to agree on an early morning hike …. early meaning out the door around 8:00 a.m. The previous two days kept us indoors due to high gusting winds. Ah, those pesky winds.

Toadstools

But while a sculptor may use tools like a chisel or rasp, Mother Nature sculpts with wind, water and time. Without all the annoying sandblasting wind, I wouldn’t have all this perplexing scenery to go gaga over. So I endure the bad along with the good, and plan our excursions around the weather.

An easy hike

With an eagerness to get out an explore, we hopped in the truck and traveled about twenty miles north of the Arizona – Utah border. This trailhead and hike will lead us toward what is known as the Toadstools.

This relatively easy and well-marked short trail starts out in a sandy wash.

Therefore, it’s probably not a good idea to hike this trail after a rainstorm. As it was, we encountered a few muddy patches and it hadn’t rained in days.

the trail is clearly marked

The trail is pretty nondescript until you crest a hill and are greeted with the first and most impressive toadstool.

These mushroom like shaped rocks had Al and me tilting our heads in wonder. Bewildered, we were duly entertained and found ourselves drifting from one interesting rock formation to another.

By starting the day early, we literally had the place to ourselves ….. that is, for at least fifteen minutes ….. it was ours, and ours alone, and we loved every minute.

We found the land very strange and a bit surreal.  We briefly felt like we were on some old movie set like Star Wars or Game of Thrones … perhaps, we even spotted ET!

Not having to share this landscape with other visitors allowed Al and I to have fun with the self-timer on the camera. Yeah, there were a few laughs and retakes as I didn’t always run and pose quick enough. It was me against the ten second timer and many times the timer one 😆

If you find yourself visiting Page, Arizona and looking for a fun way to spend an hour or two, consider visiting the Toadstools. It’s easy to get to. It’s an out and back hike and is less than 2 miles total. But be sure to linger amongst the toadstools and stroll in all directions before returning to the trail. You never know what else you might see!

A slot canyon hike with an obstacle

The weather was dictating our schedule and as much as we didn’t want to embark on a well known trail on a Saturday, we did exactly that (April 14, 2018). This time we were out the door by 7:30 a.m.  (Arizona time). After all, we had about a one hour drive in front of us to get to the Wire Pass trail located in southern Utah.

Wire Pass Trail Utah

Upon arriving at the trailhead, we found plenty of room to park. After grabbing our packs and paying the $6 per person trail fee, we were eagerly on our way. Once again our hike started off in a sandy wash which continued for about the first mile.

Eventually, the landscape started to get interesting as the red rocks began to surround us. We entered a small short slot, of sorts, before the rock walls opened again. I felt the canyon was teasing me, and giving me a little taste of what was to come.

Not long afterwards, the fun began.

Before deciding to hike Wire Pass canyon, I had done a fair amount of research about the trail. Al and I do not consider ourselves avid hikers. As such, I wanted to make sure we didn’t get ourselves into a situation beyond our abilities.

I read somewhere that there is one major obstacle in the slot …. an eight foot drop. Hmm, sliding down might be doable, but since this was an out and back hike, I had concerns about getting back up that 8 foot drop. Therefore, Al and I agreed ahead of time that we’d probably turn around at that point.

This is the major obstacle on the trail – 8′ drop

Guess I was wrong!

Before I knew it, Al had negotiated the drop. Of course, I’m always lagging behind with my camera as I snap away. Turns out, someone had placed some rocks and an old tree trunk at the base of the drop to aid in the navigation.

Al was encouraging and quick to help me on my scramble down. I have to admit, I was really glad he was game and wanted to hike further. I felt this obstacle shows up rather quick in the slot canyon. Actually way too soon in my opinion, and at the point, there was no way I wanted to turn around. I wanted …. needed to explore further!

Once over the drop, the canyon proceeded to get narrower and deeper. The lack of light made it difficult to photograph, but oh so fun to hike. The slot canyon was long and deep and we were glad we didn’t need to pass any other hikers. Eventually, the canyon opened up and we were at the intersection where the Wire Pass trail meets the Buckskin Gulch trail.

Wire Pass Trail ends at Buckskin Gulch trail.

Buckskin Gulch is considered the longest and deepest slot canyon in the U.S. Its towering walls make it difficult for the sun to reach the canyon floor and hikers can expect to encounter water and mud. We were here in mid April and according to hikers exiting the slot, water was waist-high in one direction and knee-high in the other, and the water was very very cold.

Buckskin Gulch

Buckskin Gulch Trail – I tried staying out of the mud

My curiosity got the better of me and I had to peek around the corner, but I didn’t get very far before I felt my shoes sink into the mud. I walked Buckskin Gulch in both directions before that mud had me retracing my steps back to the Wire Pass trail. We weren’t prepared or equipped to hike in water nor did I have the inclination.

With hubby antsy to keep moving, I quickly took some photographs of the Buckskin Gulch trail and then we started our return trek.

There was a time when I would prefer and seek out loop trails instead of out and back hikes, but I’ve discovered when hiking in the opposite direction, the scenery can look quite different on the exact same trail ….. and I found that to be very true on the Wire Pass trail.

The scenery in the canyon was spectacular and it looked as though we were hiking a completely different trail on our return. Ah, but this was the same trail, and therefore, we would need to climb up that eight foot drop. Would I have a problem, I wondered?

I decided to go first. I tried one foot there. Hmm, that didn’t work. How about this foot there? No, that wouldn’t work. At 5’4″ tall, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get a firm hold on anything that would allow me to get high enough so I could fling my body over that boulder.

“If I could just hoist myself higher, I’d be able to crawl over that boulder”. Nope! I couldn’t do it. The sandstone walls were slick and didn’t provide any leverage. I couldn’t get a firm grip on that boulder. I could feel a little panic build up inside me. I realized the only other way out of the canyon was hiking miles via the Buckskin Gulch trail that was filled with water 😥

Hopefully, Al’s 6’3″ frame would be tall enough to get us out of here. Fingers crossed!

At that point, we both put on our gloves to help grip the boulder better (yep, we came somewhat prepared). After Al struggled a bit, I lent my hand as another foot hold for him, and then up and over he went. Whew! Now that he was at the top, he helped pull me up and over.

This was the only area in the slot canyon where we ran into other hikers ….  they were coming down, and all appeared to be about half our age. Some navigated the drop like mountain goats, while others were more tentative like yours truly. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to watch anyone else climb back up this obstacle.

I think the trail is actually more interesting on the return

With a new-found spring in our step and a few pats on the back later, Al and I took our time hiking the rest of the way back to the truck. I found the scenery even more amazing on our return trek and I wanted to savor it.

The Wire Pass Canyon trail is a relatively easy hike with the exception of that one major obstacle. Al and I promised each other that we’d hike it again next time we’re in the area, but we’ll be sure to bring rope or some other aid in climbing back up that drop.

The Wire Pass trail is about 3.4 miles round trip. All in all, the hike took us about 2 1/2 hours, but that included lots of stops for photos and lingering on the Buckskin Gulch trail. My Fitbit registered 4.3 miles.

This was a leisurely stroll for us through a fascinating canyon. It was a beautiful day and a fantastic hike that we’d repeat in a heartbeat. BUT if  photography is your goal, I would recommend Waterholes Canyon. It’s much more photogenic yet equally fun to hike 😊

Additional tidbit – near the Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch intersection is an interesting arched alcove with a hanging garden. Along a nearby wall are some petroglyphs…. signs of an ancient civilization. We also noticed water weeping down the walls in the narrowest part of the slot.

Finding the trailhead – From Page, Arizona, take US 89 into Utah for about 34 miles before turning left on House Rock Valley Road (near mile marker 25). The turnoff is in the middle a 50 mph right-angle curve making it a little precarious with impatient traffic. The trailhead is 8.5 miles down this gravel road. From Page to the trailhead, the drive took us close to an hour.

(affiliate links) Next time we’ll be sure to take rope. Our gloves and hiking shoes were perfect for the hike.
Outdoor Climbing Rope       Outdoor Sports Gloves

Women’s Hiking Shoe

Merrell Men’s hiking shoe 

 

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

After our back country excursion to Alstrom Point, I knew I had to explore more of these 4×4 dirt roads. The landscape is so perplexing and surreal that I couldn’t leave the area without delving deeper into Mother Nature’s handy work.

The land here is remote, harsh and unforgiving, and therefore I knew we shouldn’t explore without being prepared. Before embarking on our exploratory excursion into the back country, I made the short drive up to the nearby visitor center located just a few miles north of the Arizona – Utah border in the small town of Big Water, Utah.

Grosvenor Arch

Grosvenor Arch – Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Big Water Visitor Center

The visitor center is a worthwhile stop and the staff are a wealth of information regarding everything Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Don’t expect to get BLM info or any other information pertaining to the area outside of Grand Staircase-Escalante. This visitor center is all about the monument.

In the courtyard before entering the building, guests are greeted by a replicated dinosaur dig along with informative educational signs. Inside the visitor center is a large topographic map of the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument, as well as a fascinating dinosaur display complete with pamphlets describing the exact dinosaurs that once roamed the area.

After receiving a map and having all my questions answered regarding the condition of Cottonwood Road, I felt more comfortable about embarking on our trek through the Grand Staircase-Escalante. It also helped that fellow blogger and friend, Sue, had driven this road just a couple of weeks earlier and was able to share additional information.

The drive begins …

The following day, Al and I loaded up the Toyota Tacoma with plenty of food, water and emergency equipment. We knew we’d be traveling through some very remote territory without cell phone connection and running into another vehicle wouldn’t be a common occurrence. Thus, we’d be on our own!

The start of our excursion

From our campsite along the Arizona – Utah border, we traveled northwest via Highway 89 for about 17 miles and then turned north onto Cottonwood Road. The land starts off stark and barren and the road is easily navigated with the exception of some washboard areas.

Paria River valley – here’s some of the washboard road which had our teeth rattling

Eventually, the scenery changes and we rolled into the Paria River valley. Cottonwood trees line the river’s edge and free-ranging cattle dot the landscape.

I found the speed limit signs and the ‘reduced speed’ sign humorous.

A few miles later as the road bends away from the Paria River, the landscape gets barren once again. The road gets rougher, narrower and we spot a sign … Reduced Speed Ahead. After reading that sign, the first thing out of my mouth was, “No sh*t, Sherlock!” Hmm, single lane road made for two-way traffic, a blind curve, and a rutted road … exactly how fast should I go?

Cockscomb range

As we rounded a bend, we were greeted with a perplexing range of hills called the cockscomb. Each mound seems to emulate the crest of a rooster. Therefore, we can see how this range got its name.

Cockscomb

Cockscomb range

Are we there yet?

The landscape seems to go on forever. At this point we’ve driven over twenty miles (from the time we turned off Highway 89 onto Cottonwood Road) and it has taken us somewhere between an hour and a half to two hours to travel that distance and although the land exhibits a raw beauty, I can’t help but feel somewhat disappointed with the scenery.

Finally wowed!

I’m not sure what kind of landscape I was expecting, but a few miles later when we crested a hill, my mouth dropped open. Wow!

cottonwood canyon

Cottonwood Canyon – now this is what I hoped for!

Okay! Now we’re talking drop dead gorgeous mind-boggling landscape. Of course this calls for a photo-op stop … don’tcha think!

In the above photo, at the bottom of the hill is a pull-off to the right for a trailhead called Cottonwood Wash Narrows. I could see portions of the canyon/slot from the road and was tempted to lace up the hiking shoes, but today was about the drive and I made a mental note for a future outing. Although, I think the hike would be better attempted when camping in Kodachrome State Park or any number of options near Highway 12. The drive to the trailhead would be easier and shorter from Highway 12 than driving up from Highway 89.

Crème de le crème

After lingering and savoring this unique sight, it was time to finish those last five miles to set my eyes on the real gem of our journey …. Grosvenor Arch!

It was a Sunday morning and I couldn’t believe our good fortune. We literally had the place to ourselves … that is, until it was time for us to return to the truck. I’ve wanted to see this famous arch ever since I first heard about it seven years ago.

When we visited Bryce Canyon in the past, I attempted to see the arch, but recent rains made the road to Grosvenor Arch impassable. This is another place you’ll want to check on road conditions at the Cannonville visitor center before embarking on the drive. From Kodachrome State Park to the arch is about a 17 mile drive on a gravel road with a small stream crossing.

A stunning state park

And speaking of Kodachrome State Park …. it was near noon by the time I was done photographing Grosvenor Arch and our bellies were growling. What better place to have lunch than at the state park!

I wish we could’ve stayed longer to explore Kodachrome State Park, but we knew we had a long and dusty drive back to camp and didn’t want the day to drag on too long. We enjoyed our lunch at the group picnic area and afterwards strolled the short nature loop taking in the magnificent scenery. This place needs to go on the list of must see places. It is stunningly beautiful!

Cottonwood Road

And then we were on the road again, traveling the return 47 miles back to highway 89. It was a loooong day, but a fantastic day. We encountered few other people traversing Cottonwood Road on a Sunday (April 15, 2018). Although much of the road can be driven with a 2 wheel drive car, there are portions where a higher clearance vehicle would be preferable.

Driving Cottonwood Road through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument should not be attempted if rain is in the forecast or it has rained the previous days. The road does become impassable even with a 4×4 high clearance vehicle. And do note – a GPS should not be used to help navigate your travels within the monument. You WILL be lead astray.

We are but a minuscule blip in history

Later in the year, I’ll be celebrating a mile-stone birthday, even though I don’t have birthday’s anymore 🤗 It’s a number that has me questioning where has the time gone, but in comparison to this land, I’ve been on this earth but a small faction of time …. a minuscule blip in history.

As I peruse the literature on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, I read the monument has been quietly doing its thing for 50 million to 275 million years. Who’s the spring chicken now 🤣

This Delaware-sized piece of land is the last part of the lower 48 United States to be surveyed and cartographed. Fossil excavations have yielded more information about changing ecosystems and the end of the dinosaur era more than any other place in the world. This remote unspoiled land is a dream for many: geologists, paleontologists, archeologists, historians, biologists, and tourists like myself.

More than rocks …

Although they are an interesting photographic subject, dead trees are an important part of the desert ecosystem. These dead trees provide nesting habitat for insects, birds, reptiles and rodents. These Junipers also help prevent erosion by holding the soil in place.

dead trees

As trees decompose, they release vital nutrients and minerals back into the soil making it possible for new growth to occur. Mother Nature is a wonder!

Grosvenor Arch

If you’re looking for solitude and quiet recreation amongst an amazing landscape, you’ll find it here in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. But come prepared – the land and weather are harsh and unforgiving, but the beauty is like none other.

The finest workers of stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time – Henry David Thoreau

(affiliate links) These essentials made us feel a little more secure exploring this remote land. Being self-sufficient while exploring the remote back country is vital considering you may not see another vehicle for hours and cell reception is rare. Note – a GPS is not to be trusted in Grand Staircase-Escalante

Viair 40047 Automatic Portable Compressor KitColeman Folding Shovel with Pick
Maxtrax
 Tow Strap
Utah Road & Recreation Atlas

Best Spot for Lunch near Page, AZ

After our amazing slot canyon hike just two days earlier, I wasn’t expecting any more epic adventures. Boy, was I wrong! Our back country 4×4 excursion to Alstrom Point was packed with plenty of adventure and spectacular scenery.

Alstrom Point

Best overlook on Lake Powell

Before arriving in Page, Arizona, I did a little Googling on best photographic spots near Lake Powell. Alstrom Point kept popping up and my interest was piqued. It’s known as the best scenic overlook on Lake Powell, and therefore, my camera demanded she be taken there. Needless to say, a drive out to Alstrom Point was put on my ‘must do‘ list during our time in northern Arizona.

Our friends, Faye and Dave, were still in the area, and after spending a couple of nights at the Wahweap Campground, they joined us out at the Lone Rock Beach area for a little dry camping. This would be Dave’s opportunity to try out his new portable solar paneland new generator. Yep, he and Faye were ready for a little boondocking.

camping with friends

Once they were comfortably parked, the four of us set about planning a few exploratory adventures. Since Alstrom Point was at the top of my list, the next day we packed a picnic lunch, cooler full of water and jumped in my Toyota Tacoma for a little back country exploring.

Lake Powell, Page, Arizona

The scenic two-lane highway from the town of Page, Arizona, to our turn off in Big Water, Utah, was about 15 miles. Once in the town of Big Water, we turned east …. opposite direction from the nice visitor center. It wasn’t long before the pavement ended and we crossed a small trickling stream and were greeted with the most perplexing and fascinating landscape.

Lots of stopping for photo-ops. Dave can be seen in the photo, giving scale to the landscape

four-wheel drive was not necessary on this fine weather day

About an hour and a half and a few turns later, this foursome were uttering wow’s at the most incredible jaw dropping scenery laid out before us. The truck was quickly parked, so we could all walk over to the edge and take in the stunning sight.

We weren’t quite to Alstrom Point just yet. So after a few photo-ops, we hopped back into the truck to continue the journey, but we didn’t get much further before needing to stop to assess the road condition. There was a section of road that we all agreed the Tacoma was unable to traverse safely. The length of her wheel base was just a little too long for the hill, rocks, and deep ruts, and going any further might result in the Tacoma turning into a teeter-totter.

Oh well, time to park the truck, strap on the hiking shoes, and get in a little walking. I don’t think we made it all the way to the official Alstrom Point, but none of us were complaining. The views were fantastic and Dave and I were giving our cameras a good working out.

The four of us were enjoying a near perfect weather day. The temperature was in the low 70’s with a slight breeze, and clear blue skies. But at 4,000 feet in elevation the sun was intense, but we were all well prepared. The day before, I got a little too much sun on the left side of my face and neck. Thus, the big hat and cover, but this was definitely T-shirt and shorts weather here in northern Arizona at the end of March.

Our little stroll along the canyon edge had us working up an appetite, and therefore, it was time to find the perfect spot for lunch. And I believe we found it!

lunch at Alstrom Point

The perfect spot for lunch near Page, Arizona (well, 90 minutes from Page, but who’s counting)

I think this has to be the best spot I’ve ever had lunch. We admired the beauty and enjoyed our sandwiches in near silence, which if you knew Al or Dave is a rarity 🤣 After letting our food settle and savoring the scenery, it was time to slowly head back to camp.

But not without a few more photo-ops ….. what a fun day!

Memories of a bucket list destination

I remember well the first time I heard about Lake Powell. It was the early 1980’s. I was a Flight Attendant for a regional airline based in Chicago, and a die-hard magazine reader at the time. One day, in-between flights, I was at one of the airport’s news stands scouring the racks of magazines when I picked up a copy of Outside Magazine.

Lake Powell

This was definitely a far cry from my usual choice of Vogue, Cosmopolitan or any number of fashion magazines that I was partial to reading, but the photograph on the cover captivated my attention. I had to learn more about where that photograph was taken. Hmm, Lake Powell???

I didn’t know how or when I’d have a chance to visit Lake Powell, after all, it seemed so remote and out-of-the-way from my home in the Chicago suburbs. At that point in my life, my vacation travels revolved mostly around cities with trips to Florida, the Caribbean, Hawaii and even Europe, but somewhere in the recesses of my mind, Lake Powell was stored as a must see travel destination.

Lake Powell

That magazine was stored in a dresser drawer for the longest time, but by the late 80’s Lake Powell was forgotten when my focus was juggling a job, children and a household …. until…. until 1993 when Michael Bolton filmed a music video there.

Lake PowellBack then I would use the television for background noise, and quite often, I would have the TV channel set to either MTV or VH1.

Okay folks, no judging here! Those were the days when these channels played music all day long and it was cool at the time and so was Michael Bolton. Therefore, that was my form of background music while doing household chores.

It didn’t matter what I was doing, when the video for “Said I loved you but I lied” came on, I sat down and watched and listened and dreamed. (You can view that video toward the end of this post)

The video renewed my interest in Lake Powell. At the time, we were living in Las Vegas, Nevada, and all of a sudden, Lake Powell didn’t seem so far away. The following April, we packed up our camping gear, two little kids, and dog and headed to the Wahweap Campground along the shores of Lake Powell near Page, Arizona, for a camping trip and the fulfillment of a dream.

Still being a bonifide flatlander at the time, I hadn’t wrapped my head around elevation and weather. In Illinois if you want colder weather, you head north. If you want warmer weather, you go south. Ah, not in the west! It’s all about elevation. You go up in elevation, it gets colder. You go down in elevation, it gets warmer. With that said, it may have been 90 degrees in Las Vegas in April, but not so hot yet in this part of Arizona.

So although I did get to set my eyes on Lake Powell near Page, Arizona, and it was amazing, it wasn’t the kind of trip or experience I had hoped for. The overnight temperatures were still a little too cold for tent camping, and the needs of small children and care of a dog, took priority over my scenic quest.

boating on Lake Powell

Fast forward

It was somewhere around 2006 or 2007. One child was off to college and another was staying at a friend’s house while Al and I loaded up the truck camper, hitched up the boat and headed for Lake Powell. Finally, I’d be able to delve into this fascinating landscape…. only twenty-five years after first hearing about this unique lake. Better late than never, huh!

We were living in Colorado at that time, and therefore the Bullfrog Marina would be the closest location for us to access Lake Powell. It is also in the fricken middle of no where, which made this former city slicker a little uncomfortable. My how times have changed, or rather, how I have changed. Back then, I found the harsh and barren landscape foreboding, and now I love it and embrace its unique beauty.

Unfortunately, that boating excursion out of Bullfrog didn’t meet my high expectations. Don’t get me wrong. It was still a great trip exploring Lake Powell, but the lake feels more river like than lake like around this section of Lake Powell. We loved exploring the various canyons via our boat, but those tall canyon walls had an interesting effect on the water that Al and I had never experienced before and made us feel a little uncomfortable.

houseboats on Lake Powell

lots of houseboats on Lake Powell

Think of sitting in a bathtub full of water and pushing your hands through the water making waves. The walls of the tub don’t allow the waves to disperse creating bigger and bigger waves the more you push the water. Hence, boating through the smaller canyons with a bunch of other boat traffic, boats much larger than our small 20 foot bow-rider, putting out a steady stream of wake, results in the water swishing back and forth between the canyon walls creating constant wave activity which was scary at times in our little boat. The thought of being capsized was not entertaining!

Antelope Point

Lake Powell near Antelope Point Marina

We learned to head out onto the water early in the morning before the boating traffic picked up and returned to the camper around lunch time. By then, the temps were already nearing the 100 degree F range, and we were ready for a little A/C.  After all, it was July. Another lesson learned …. it’s hot 🔥 at Lake Powell during the summer …. and crazy busy.

Although, I wasn’t wowed by that section of Lake Powell, it was still a worthwhile and memorable trip.

camping near the shores of Lake Powell

I’m finally wowed!

The boat was sold along with the wave runners and canoe. As of 2010, we were no longer proud owners of a watercraft 😔 So a few years later, what do we do? We head to Lake Powell with a RV and camp along her shores.

This has become one of my favorite stops while passing through northern Arizona and this recent visit finally left me wowed … seriously wowed! Although, I believe the scenery was more breathtaking when the water level was higher, this gal ain’t complaining. Yeah, water level is somewhere around 60 to 70 feet below the full level established back in 1980.

It’s been a great couple of weeks and I already look forward to returning. Hmm, but next time we may need to rent a boat! Anyone care to join us? 😀

Alstrom Point and Gunsight Butte can be seen from the Antelope Point Marina. To think, we were driving somewhere up on that mesa. Although, we didn’t make it all the way to the point, fun none the less!

Alstrom Point

Me in the back country overlooking Lake Powell with Gunsight Butte in the background. Somewhere off to the top far right is where Michael Bolton stood while filming that music video. Gunsight Butte can be seen in his video as well as he filmed in a slot canyon. (I could do without the corny flames in the video, but then again, it was the early ’90’s 😄 still a good song …. remember, no judging)

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have, if we only seek them with our eyes open – Jawaharlal Nehru

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Hiking a Slot Canyon with Friends

Last week, I took the best hike ever! First off, the hike involved a slot canyon, and second the experience was shared with friends. Yes sirree, it was an awesome morning filled with amazing scenery and lots of laughter.

Up until we started RVing full-time five years ago, I had never heard of a slot canyon. I had no clue what folks were talking about, but by reading blogs, I was introduced to Antelope Canyon. The photographs intrigued me to the point that I had to see and experience this magical sight for myself.

What is a slot canyon?

The first time I heard the term slot canyon, I remember asking myself, “What is a slot canyon?” I was totally clueless. So what exactly is it? A slot canyon is a narrow canyon formed by rock wearing away by water rushing through it. The split rock crevasses are polished by water and time and are a photograper’s delight. A slot canyon is much deeper than it is wide and many slots are formed in sandstone and limestone rock …. the perfect conditions here in northern Arizona and southern Utah.

Water Holes Canyon slot

The most popular and world-renowned slot canyon in the United States is Antelope Canyon which is located in northern Arizona near the town of Page. Folks come from around the world to see this unique and stunning red rock slot.

Since Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo Indian land, the only way to experience these canyons is via a paid tour. Tours are usually not my thing, but ever since I hiked my first slot canyon at Kasha-Katuwe, I was eager to hike one of these red rock wonders. I pondered the thought of a tour …. but then ….

Friends plan a hike together

Mona Liza on the left, Faye in the middle and me on the right

So let me set the stage for you ….. A couple of months ago, these three RV blogging pals began discussions on a potential rendezvous.  You see, Mona Liza and I met online via our blogs over five years ago. A couple of years later, I introduced Mona Liza to Faye, another friend I met via blogging.

friends made via bloggingOver the past few years, the three of us have crossed paths rather happenstance. I’ve bumped into these ladies separately in Texas, Arizona, Colorado and even Idaho.

The three of us have serendipitously  found ourselves camped in Texas and Arizona while Faye and Mona Liza have stumbled upon each other in Utah and Canada.

This past winter, Faye and I spent a month camped at the same RV park in Phoenix, Arizona, but it had been quite a while since either one of us had seen Mona Liza. Thus, a little planning was in order. Since Mona Liza (and her honey bunch, Steve) had a well planned RV travel itinerary scheduled with firm reservations, Faye and I did a little rearranging of our own schedules so the three of us could meet up.

After comparing notes, it was decided Page, Arizona, would be the best place for us to connect even though we’d have less than 48 hours to hang out together. With that said, we didn’t waste any time. During our first happy hour, we discussed potential hikes for the following day.

We all love hiking slot canyons and our first consideration was the Wire Pass Trail, but that would require at least an hours drive north into Utah and the group didn’t want to waste our short time together driving. Plus, Mona Liza and Steve would be heading out-of-town and traveling the next day anyway.

hiking near Page, Arizona

Our group – me center front, Mona Liza on the left, my hubby Al in the red, then Faye, Steve, and Dave

Unanimous decision

After a short discussion over drinks, we agreed on Water Holes Canyon for the hike of the day. Since this self-guided slot canyon trail is located on Navajo land, a permit is required. Obtaining the permits turned into a little laughable fiasco since much of the info we found online seemed to be outdated.

As of this writing, the only place to purchase a permit to hike Waterholes Canyon is at the  Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park Office located on Coppermine Road, 3 miles south of Page and next to the LeChee Chapter House. The cost is $12 per person and the office is closed on weekends.

Note: The state of Arizona does not participate in daylight savings time. We never change our clocks. BUT the Navajo Nation does. Depending on the time of year you visit, you’ll want to verify and double check the time so you arrive at the appropriate time for any tours or stopping by a Navajo business. Nothing like keeping tourists on their toes!

the trail from the parking lot to the canyon

With permits in hand, we hit the trail around 9:00 a.m. (Arizona time). The trail is clearly marked with rocks leading from the tiny parking area down into the canyon. Once we navigated the steep descend into the canyon, we took a left heading east.

The trail also goes to the right, but once you pass under the highway bridge, you’ll need some serious Canyoneering skills…. as in ropes, ladders, strong upper body strength, rappelling, experience – I think you get the picture. So take my advice and go left, east of the highway.

Once you pass under the Hwy 89 bridge, the trail is for experienced hikers with canyoneering skills.

The trail starts out wide and sandy. Our group ooh’s and ah’s at the unique red sculpted sandstone. It was a beautiful morning with few other people on the trail …  just yet.

Eventually the canyon starts to narrow … hence the term slot canyon. More ooh’s and ah’s were heard!

As the trail narrowed, there were a few obstacles for those of us a tad more vertically challenged. But we all excelled in a our team building efforts.

The most challenging part of the entire hike for me was that first ladder because it wasn’t quite tall enough for my comfort level. Thank goodness I had help at the top. Mona Liza needed help being pulled up as well.  The two ladders strapped together made for a rickety setup and we all took caution climbing it.

Once past the ladder, the slot canyon continued to wow us with her beauty. With three out of the six of us carrying cameras, there was plenty of stopping. With all the stopping to admire the canyon and snap photos, there was no cardio workout for this group.

Dave and I compare camera settings

Photographing a slot canyon can be a challenge due to the light, but that’s also what makes it so interesting. I’ve heard great things about the Indian guides at Antelope Canyon instructing photographers on the best camera settings. Dave said he learned a  lot about his camera and the best settings from his guide when they hiked Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon a couple of years ago. Hmm, I may need to take one of those tours yet.

Depending on the time of day you visit, the colors of the rocks can vary greatly. So I highly recommend taking the time to admire the ever-changing light.

A word of caution …. Be sure to check the weather before embarking on any slot canyon hike. Remember how a slot is formed …. rushing water. You’ll want to avoid a flash flood, which can occur even if the rain is many miles away and upstream. This is not something to be taken lightly and even experienced hikers have lost their battle with a canyon flash flooding.

Once we reached the end of the trail (near the overhead power lines), it was time for us to turn around and view the canyon from a new direction. The hike is just as amazing on the return, but this is also when we starting running into crowds. Seems as the day progresses, it can get busy.

Time to climb back out of the canyon. We need to join Al up there!

The climb back out of the canyon is a bit steep and this was another area where I was glad I wore good hiking shoes for traction. In the above photo, the hike up is around that bend and up to where Al is standing. Seems I failed to photograph the trail back up 😏

But here’s one of Dave’s photos showing us hike down, and showcases the kind of rock we had to walk on. This could get real slick if wet. As it was, the rock is dusted with sand and gets a little slippery in spots.

slot canyonWaterholes Canyon is about a 3 mile (total) out and back hike. I loved it! It was so much fun …. partly due to the stunning scenery but a bigger part due to the wonderful camaraderie.

Yep, this was one great hike … a great hike with great friends. Doesn’t get much better!

I’m so glad we rearranged our travels so we could all connect for this fantastic hike. Unfortunately, as full-time RVers, it’ll be awhile before we bump into each other again. Seems we’re all heading in different directions this year.

Laughter and adventure near Lake Powell – Thanks for the memories!

slot canyons

Hiking a slot canyon with friends

Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment. – Grenville Kleiser

UPDATE – As of May 2018 access to the Waterholes Canyon trail has been changed. Supposedly permits are no longer being issued and a guide is required. The information regarding this trail is ever changing and confusing. Please do your homework for the latest information before embarking on this hike.

(affiliate links) Good hiking shoes are a must for this trail for sure-footed traction. Al and I love our Merrell’s…..

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