Visit Phoenix and Step Back in Time

Are you an adventurous traveler?  Are you looking for a scenic memorable day trip near Phoenix, Arizona?  Well, I’ve got just the day excursion for you.  Al and I first drove this 80 mile scenic loop several years ago and it still ranks as one of our top favorite day trips in Arizona.Salt River AZ

Arizona History

On the far southeast side of the greater Phoenix valley lies Arizona’s oldest highway. This former stagecoach trail which runs through the Superstition Mountains was Lost Dutchmanoriginally used by the Apache Indians, thus aptly named The Apache Trail.

The Apache Trail is officially known as State Route 88 and links the town of Apache Junction with Theodore Roosevelt Lake.

The trail was developed into more of a road in the 1930’s to support the development of dam’s along the Salt River, creating some beautiful lakes in the process.

There’s oodles of interesting sights and beautiful views along the way which necessitate lots of stopping.  Photo-op anyone?  Thus, the Apache Trail Circle Loop requires an entire day.  It’s also not for the faint of heart, which I’ll explain in a minute.

Be sure and pack a lunch, snacks, and plenty of water because you’ll be exploring some desert backcountry during this scenic day trip drive. It helps if you have a high-clearance vehicle, but we saw plenty of regular cars on the dirt portion of the road from Tortilla Flat to Roosevelt Lake. That doesn’t mean I’m saying a basic car is a good fit for the terrain. It means, I saw regular cars navigating without apparent issue.

My recommendation; be sure it didn’t rain the day before, take your time, watch for bumps, and be prepared for washboard road conditions. When in doubt, check with a Tonto National Forest Ranger for further clarification and up to date road conditions. 
Apache Trail

We’ll start our journey from the town of Apache Junction, Arizona, and head north on State Road 88, aka The Apache Trail.  Our first stop is the Superstition Mountain Museum.Superstition Mountain Museum

A picturesque museum

The Superstition Mountain Museum collects, preserves, and displays the artifacts, history, and folklore of the Superstition Mountains.  Even though we knew we had a long day in front of us, this picturesque museum is worthy of a photo-op and stroll around the historic buildings. We made a note to tour the museum another day.

Exploring a Ghost Town

Just a short drive north of the Superstition Mountain museum is our next stop; the Goldfield Ghost Town.  Goldfield was once a happening gold mining town back in the 1890’s. It’s now a popular tourist attraction which is rooted in Arizona history. It’s a fun and interesting stop. They still actually mine gold here, but that’s blocked from public view.  Guess they don’t want to share them there gold, huh!

Goldfield Ghost Town offers free parking and free walking around, but there is a fee for each attraction.  You can click on this link for more information on those attractions. We don’t usually do the tourist type of thing, so I can’t vouch for any of the paid attractions.

Superstition Mountains

The quaint little shops at the Goldfield Ghost Town offer unique trinkets specific to the area along with the typical tourist stuff … T-shirts, shot glasses, coffee mugs, postcards, etc.  The grounds are loaded with original mining equipment, and it’s obvious, these are the original buildings and have stood for a very long time.  As a matter of fact, during our visit, a museum building was closed while construction workers were busy shoring up a second floor balcony.

Goldfield Apache Junction Arizona

As I strolled around Goldfield Ghost Town, I could envision the harsh realities of life over 100 years ago. These were hardy folks living in an unforgiving and harsh environment. However did they survive living in the desert without air conditioning? And no A/C in that covered wagon either 😱

I found it funny that the Bordello was located near the church. How convenient is that? Play hard …. pray even harder. Sow your wild oats on Saturday, and pray for crop failure on Sunday!

During this particular visit to the east side of the Phoenix area, we happened to be camped just up the road from the Goldfield Ghost Town at one of our favorite campgrounds; the Lost Dutchman State Park. For those unable to secure a campsite at the Lost Dutchman State Park, Goldfield Ghost Town does have a campground.  It’s a bit rustic, but at least it’s a place to park the RV in a pinch.

A favorite state park

Lost Dutchman State ParkSpeaking of Lost Dutchman State Park, this is one of our favorite places to camp while visiting the Phoenix valley.

The hiking trails are amazing and the campsites are comfortably spaced. And the views are absolutely stunning!

For those interested in visiting the Lost Dutchman State Park but not interested in camping, there is a day use area. For a small fee, you can enjoy the trails all day. The day use area offers plenty of shaded picnic tables, restrooms, and easy access to all the trails. Seriously, this is a “must see” place during any visit to Phoenix, Arizona, especially in March when the wildflowers are blooming.

A beautiful body of water in the desert

As we continue our scenic drive north of the state park, the road starts to climb, twist, and bend. I highly recommend driving this stretch of road without an RV for the first time due to potential length and height issues.

Shortly after passing the Lost Dutchman State Park we enter the Tonto National Forest.  The scenery becomes more rugged and stunning with each new mile.  March is particularly beautiful as the road is lined on both sides with yellow blooms from the brittlebush and desert marigolds.Canyon Lake AZ

Twenty miles north of the town of Apache Junction, we round a bend and are graced with the sight of an oasis in the desert.  Canyon Lake with it’s deep blue waters surrounded by rugged cliffs and rocky terrain is a pleasant and unexpected surprise.

Definitely worth a few photo-ops around here, wouldn’t you agree?  Canyon Lake itself is a great day excursion; perfect for a picnic, kayak adventure, or even a cruise aboard the Dolly Steamboat.

Canyon Lake, Phoenix, Arizona, kayaking in Phoenix

Canyon Lake, Arizona. Located on the far east side of the Phoenix valley.

Canyon Lake offers a marina for daily boat rentals; powerboat, kayak, and even SUP’s (stand up paddle board). There’s also a campground, but it is rather pricey for what you get, in my opinion anyway. The last time I checked, it was over $50 a night. With that said, the drive is also something to consider. It could be quite challenging for larger RV’s due to length and height. Considering we all travel with different types of RV equipment and have our own comfort level, I recommend checking it out first without the RV.Canyon Lake

A town with the population of 6

A few more miles up the road, past Canyon Lake, is the cute little town of Tortilla Flat – population 6.  This is the perfect place to stop for a bite to eat, especially if you forgot to pack a meal, like we did.  The restaurant serves up great burgers and has a fun décor.

(to enlarge photos in a gallery, simply click on any image)

The walls are covered with dollar bills stapled all over, as well as old mining tools and historical photos. The bar stools are saddles and the ladies restroom has entertaining painted stall doors. I think this is the one and only time that my daughter allowed me to photograph her in a restroom. I had to bribe her with ice cream. The little general store serves up some of the best ice cream around and the fudge was pretty good also.

The adventure begins

The Apache Trail, Phoenix, ArizonaWith tummies full, it’s time to brace ourselves for the truly adventurous part of the drive.  Just past the town of Tortilla Flat, the pavement ends.

Most rental car companies will not want you driving this road and it’s not recommended for any vehicle over 25 feet in length….  definitely no RV’s. Although, we did notice some guys pulling their boats 😮

The gravel road is wide and in pretty good condition up to the scenic view parking lot.  The vista and scenery is worth the dusty, bumpy gravel road to get to it. For those less adventurous, this would be the perfect place to turn around and retrace your journey home. In my experience, the gravel road from the town of Tortilla Flat up to the scenic overlook is usually in good condition for any vehicle to navigate, but beyond that point, it can get dicey and very interesting.

Tortilla Flat, Arizona, Century Plants

My daughter fascinated by the Century Plant located at the scenic overlook.

Al and I are used to driving unpaved mountain backcountry roads with steep cliff drop-offs with no safety barriers or guard rails.  In other words, this next stretch of road between the scenic overlook and Apache Lake is not for the faint of heart. (Tip: if you’re interested in visiting Apache Lake, but don’t want to drive over Fish Creek Hill, access from Roosevelt Lake. The road between Roosevelt Lake and Apache Lake is much easier to navigate and without the high drop-offs.)

Fish Creek Pass, the Apache Trail, a scenic drive near Phoenix

Fish Creek Pass is the most challenging stretch of the Apache Trail and not recommended for folks with a fear of heights. It’s a one lane gravel road, intended for two-way traffic with  drop-offs and no guard rails. Check out the portion of road on the far right side of the photo… a little ledge of road with no room for error.

As we continue past the scenic overlook the road narrows and winds.  This two-way traffic road narrows down to about a one to one and a half lane wide road. There isn’t enough room in most spots for two vehicles to pass each other. Those going down hill supposedly have the right of way and it’s not uncommon for someone needing to back up to a wider spot in the road so vehicles can pass by each other.

Fish Creek Pass, aka Fish Creek Hill, is the worst part of the journey with sheer drop offs,  a very narrow road, lots of turns, and a steep elevation change. Fish Creek is the most stressful and challenging part of the drive and not for the faint of heart. Once we navigate Fish Creek Hill, one lane bridges and washboard road conditions continue to add to our adventurous day.

Apache Lake

Apache Lake

Once we reach Apache Lake, another beautiful oasis in the desert, the road becomes a little easier to traverse.  Due to the washboard condition of the road and our extra long wheel base on the F-250, it was very slow going for us. This is when my Tacoma or a Jeep would be perfect, but my Tacoma was back in Colorado during this excursion. Even a Honda CRV would’ve been a better choice for this road than the long wheel base of our Ford truck.

Two and a half hours after leaving Tortilla Flat and 22 miles of gravel road later, we finally arrived at the Theodore Roosevelt Damn and Lake. We averaged about 10 miles per hour with lots of photo-op stopping along the way.

Roosevelt Lake, Phoenix, Arizona

Roosevelt Lake

We leisurely tour the campgrounds and the boondocking opportunities along the lake shore. We are pleasantly surprised and make notes.  We will definitely keep Roosevelt Lake as a possible place to camp in the future. It’s pretty. It’s remote. It’s inexpensive, and located within the Tonto National Forest.

I’m entertained by using the term “forest” around this barren looking land. You won’t find any of the usual trees that most folks would expect in a National Forest.This is still the desert and you’ll find a forest of saguaro cactus and their cousins in lieu of any oak or aspen trees.

spring wildflowers, poppies, Superstitions Mountains, Phoenix, Arizona

Spring wildflowers

This unusual forest may look barren at first glance, but upon closer inspection, you’ll discover an amazing ecosystem with the ability to survive and flourish in some of the harshest weather and terrain.

The beautiful scenery continues

poppiesThe fascinating and majestic scenery continues from Roosevelt Lake to the active mining towns of Miami and Superior and onto the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.

Oh, how I wanted to stop at the Arboretum, but by this point in our journey, we were tired, photo outed, and ready to just get home. Besides, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum would require its own day.

There are so many interesting sights along this scenic loop that we wanted to stop and explore further, but we realized we couldn’t see and do it all in one day.

We took notes for future day excursions, as well as future overnight RVing spots and promised ourselves to return again and again. I always look forward to spending time in the Phoenix valley. Whether one is looking for solitude or a host of activities, this part of Arizona seems to have it all, and it rarely disappoints.

I remain in awe by Arizona’s raw beauty and fascinated by the plants and animals that survive in this harsh land. What an adventurous day we had!

discover beautiful lake in the desert surrounded by rugged terrain, road twists and turns lined with yellow flowers, ghost town with old historical buildings

(affiliate links)

Picnic Bag Backpack
Amazing Places National Parks Game
 “Love Pie” Pie Irons

Cooking Up S’more Campfire Fun
Marshmallow Roasting Sticks – Telescoping
Stainless Steel Travel Tumbler with Lids

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Patriotic

It’s the fourth of July in the United States of America and time for barbecues and fireworks.

We think of July 4th as Independence Day…. the day that represents the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation. The Continental Congress declared independence on July 2, 1776 but July 4, 1776 was the actual day that they approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence.

How did the Fourth of July become a national holiday in the United States of America?

In 1817, John Adams complained that America seemed uninterested in its past. After the War of 1812, the Federalist party began to come apart and the new parties of the 1820s and 1830s all considered themselves inheritors of Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans.

In an attempt to increase interest in past history, printed copies of the Declaration were circulated with the date July 4, 1776, listed at the top.

The deaths of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on July 4, 1826, may have even helped to promote the idea of July 4th as being an important date to remember.

biplane

Celebrations of the Fourth of July became more common as the years went on. In 1870, Congress declared July 4th to be a national holiday as part of a bill to officially recognize several holidays including Christmas.

Wandering Wednesday Photo Prompt

For today’s photo theme, let’s share patriotic photographs. Think  flags, fireworks, red, white and blue, or any other image that represents patriotic to you. Share and connect!

Phoenix

The Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza is a park located in front of the Arizona state capitol complex in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. It’s home to several memorials honoring prominent figures in Arizona history as well as memorializing significant wars and other events that have affected the state.

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Wandering Wednesday – Ingrid’s Photo Inspirations

Each Wednesday I post a different photo prompt as a way for bloggers to share their love of photography and engage with other like minded bloggers. Perhaps this prompt will serve as a little inspiration to pick up the camera in search of a composition or a reason to go through your photo archives. Whether you shoot with your phone, a DSLR or something in-between, don’t be shy 🤗 share those photos!

Upcoming prompts – Sunsets, Food, Landscapes, Garden …. get out and shoot or peruse those archives!

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(affiliate links)

USA Flags
Mens t-shirt 
Womens 4th of July American Flag Shirt

 

Homesteading

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page” – Saint Augustine

I love this quote, but I’ll admit, the first time I read it I don’t believe it resonated with me then as much as it does now. Five years of traveling full-time in a RV has opened my eyes to all kinds of new experiences and landscapes.

Pink RoseI’ve always enjoyed travel which is probably why I pursued a career as a Flight Attendant when I was younger. But gallivanting around the country can be tiresome and sometimes a break from  travel is exactly what the soul needs.

With that said, Al and I are doing a little ‘homesteading’ this summer in Prescott, Arizona. We’ve settled into an RV Park for the next several months while we focus on a little rejuvenation …. for us and our aging equipment!

Oh, that doesn’t mean we’ll be sitting in a couple of rocking chairs watching the world go by. No, not us! Hmm …. now that I think about it, does sitting outside with a cocktail in hand while watching the sunset count? Or how about binge watching Downton Abbey or House of Cards? Okay, maybe a little rocking chair time is part of the rejuvenation plan 😏 Yeah, a little down time and settling into a neighborhood is just what the doctor ordered. But anyone who knows me, knows I can’t sit still for too long.

Yarrow

Exploring the local life

So it’s time to explore some of the local sights and take in a little history. When I was younger, I rarely embraced history or historical sites. I’ve always enjoyed geography and studying maps, but the interest in history didn’t kick in until we started RVing full-time. Travel has a way of opening one’s mind!

First off, did you know Prescott was at one time the Capital City of Arizona? Yep, from 1864 to 1867 Prescott was the capital until 1867 when it then moved to Tucson but returned back to Prescott in 1877. Finally, the State Capital moved from Prescott to Phoenix in 1889 where it has remained.

Prescott’s downtown historical area is known as Whisky Row which up until 1956 was a  notorious red-light district. In 1900, a great fire destroyed almost all of the buildings along Whiskey Row. Legend has it that the patrons of the various bars simply took their drinks across the street to the Courthouse square and watched the buildings burn, but the patrons of the Palace Restaurant and Saloon removed the entire bar and hauled it to the square as the fire approached. The solid wood bar was later re-installed after the gutted brick structure was rebuilt. That bar remains in use today.

The Palace Restaurant and Saloon was originally built in 1877, and was rebuilt after the 1900 fire. It is now the oldest continuous business in the entire state of Arizona. Past Patrons include the Earp Brothers and Doc Holliday and well-known movies have been filmed here.

Sharlott Hall Museum

Sharlot Hall Museum

I have fun using the term “homesteading” when Al and I park the RV for an extended period of time, but when I think of the pioneers homesteading after crossing the country in covered wagons, I’m reminded how cushy my life is in comparison.

Rose Garden Prescott Arizona Sharlot Hall Museum

A large Rose garden near the Governor’s Mansion

Being a woman entrepreneur in the early 1900’s was no small feat. I’m always awed and inspired by strong women in history. Sharlot Hall was a poet, author, historian, activist and ranch woman whose passion to the preserve the Territorial Governor’s Mansion led to the making of this museum.

Sharlett Hall Museum Prescott Arizona

A beautiful rose garden greets guests at the Sharlett Hall Museum

I happen to visit the museum on June 11, 2018, as the museum was celebrating its 90th anniversary. The grounds are lovely and each historical building I stepped into had a Docent dressed historically correct, and each Docent was eager to share their historical knowledge on their area of the museum.

Some of the on-site buildings ….

Governor’s Mansion – built on site in 1864, this log structure housed the first territorial governor, John Goodwin. In 1928, Sharlot Hall opened the log-building as a museum.

Governors Mansion Sharlott Hall Museum Prescott Arizona

Across from the Governor’s Mansion is the Victorian Fremont House. Built in 1875, it was home to the fifth territorial governor of Arizona, John Charles Fremont.

The Bashford House was built in 1877 by merchant William Coles Bashford and is a beautifully restored Victorian style home.

Bashford House Sharlott Museum Prescott Arizona

The Ranch House was built in the 1930’s to represent early ranch homes of the area. It’s a little one room log structure. The Docent shared an interesting tale of the stove costing around $100 but the shipping cost was around $1500. That was a lot of money over a hundred years ago … hey, it’s still a lot of money today. Guess they didn’t have Amazon Prime free shipping back then 😆

Fort Misery is the oldest log building associated with the Arizona Territory. Built in 1863, here you’ll find the local attorney. Interesting that they would put the words misery and attorney together!

The School House building is a replica of the first public schoolhouse in the Arizona Territory which was built in Prescott in 1867. Each child’s chalk board reminded me of today’s iPad.

school house Sharlott Hall Museum Prescott Arizona

The Blacksmith Shop and Transportation Building were also interesting.

blacksmith shop

Blacksmith shop

Sharlot Hall Museum Transportation building Prescott Arizona

For a couple of hours, it was fun stepping back in time and imaging what life was like over 100 years ago. The Sharlot Hall Museum was a worthwhile stop that I was glad I took the time to visit.

Prescott Designations

Prescott is located in North Central Arizona and sits at an elevation of about 5,400 feet. The town has received numerous designations.

  • Prescott was designated “Arizona’s Christmas City” by Arizona Governor Rose Mofford in 1989.
  • 2000: Downtown Historic Preservation District (which includes “Whiskey Row”) —one of 12 such National Register Historic Districts within the City.
  • 2004: A “Preserve American Community” in 2004 by First Lady Laura Bush.
  • 2006: One of a “Dozen Distinctive Destinations” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
  • 2008: Yavapai Courthouse Plaza recognized as one of the first ten “Great Public Places” in America by the American Planning Association.
  • 2012: Number 1 True Western Town of the Year for 2011 by True West Magazine and One of the 61 Best Old House Neighborhoods in the U.S and Canada by This Old House Magazine.

Parks, hiking and lakes …

There’s more to Prescott, Arizona, than its Old West history. Guess I better strap on the hiking shoes, charge up the camera battery, and get outta that rocking chair. Time to explore!

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Shows we’ve been watching (affiliate links)  Downton Abbey
House of Cards
The 1970’s movie, Junior Bonner starring Steve McQueen, was filmed at the Palace Saloon in Prescott, Arizona

Junior Bonner: The Making of a Classic with Steve McQueen and Sam Peckinpah in the Summer of 1971 (Hardback)THE Magnificent Seven – Junior Bonner – Steve McQueen Double Feature

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

Oatman and Route 66

A few weeks ago, a friend of a friend asked me inquisitively, “Would you be interested in a free three-day, two night stay at the Golden Nugget in Laughlin?” Without much thought, I quickly responded with a “Sure”. Next thing I knew, I was given an envelope holding the special certificate. The only downside was Al and I didn’t have much time to schedule our get away considering the certificate was due to expire rather soon.

Thus two days later on Jaunary 31st, Al and I packed a small bag and hopped in my little red truck bound for Laughlin, Nevada. Since we were starting our journey in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, we guesstimated the drive would take a little over an hour allowing us plenty of time to dilly and dally and take a detour off the beaten path. And dilly dally we did!

Route 66 Arizona

part of our drive – traveling historic Route 66 in Arizona

One of my favorite things about blogging is engaging with you, my readers. I love your suggestions, recommendations as well as reading your own personal blogs enlightening me on sites to see and things to do. Thanks to a few of you, Oatman, Arizona made my list of places I wanted to visit, and it just so happen to be “kind of” on our way to Laughlin.

Oatman Arizona wild burros

A couple of locals welcome us to Oatman, Arizona.

Off the beaten path

Route 66The town of Oatman started life over 100 years ago as a mining tent camp, and quickly became a flourishing gold-mining center.

In 1915, two miners struck a claim worth 10 million dollars in gold, and within a year, the town’s population grew to more than 3,500.

But both the population and mining booms were short-lived. In 1921, a fire burned down most of the small shacks, and three years later the main mining company, United Eastern Mines, shut down operations for good.

Oatman survived by catering to travelers on old U.S. Route 66. But in the 1960s, when the road was rerouted to what is now Interstate 40, Oatman almost died.

Oatman, Arizona

Souvenir shops line main street.

Since then, Oatman has undergone a tourism renaissance thanks to the increasing interest in Route 66 and the explosive growth of the nearby gaming town of Laughlin, Nevada, which promotes visits to the historic town.

wild burros Oatman, ArizonaOatman is a fun little place to visit. It’s an authentic old western town with wild burros roaming about and gunfights staged in the street. Although the burros are said to be tame and can be hand fed, they can also get aggressive if you have food in hand. We watched one women get surrounded by the burros and nipped when she wasn’t giving them food fast enough.

And when I say food … for $1, purchased from any number of vendors, you’re given a paper bag filled with hay nuggets to hand feed the burros.

The towns people ask that you please not bring apples, carrots, etc. to feed the wild burros. It all has to do with burro poop  💩   After all, someone has to keep the streets clean of dodo for all the tourists. With that said, I do recommend you watch where you step! 🤭

baby burro Oatman Arizona

The baby burros are so dang cute. I couldn’t resist a little scratch behind the ears.

Do note, the little babies, aside from being irresistibly cute, have stickers on their head saying, “do not feed me anything“. They aren’t ready for solid food just yet and are still nursing. Thus, it’s not in their best interest to feed them any hay nuggets or anything else for that matter.

baby burro

Baby burros have stickers on their head requesting they not be fed anything.

Oatman’s “wild” burros are the descendants of burros brought here by the miners in the late 1800’s. When the miners no longer needed them, they were turned loose. Each morning these burros come into town looking for food. They wander the streets and greet the tourists and will eat all day if you feed them. Shortly before sunset they wander back to the hills for the night.

Oatman, Arizona

The town has some interesting signs.

Oatman, Arizona

The Oatman Hotel, built in 1902, is the oldest two-story adobe structure in Mojave County and has housed many miners, movie stars, politicians and other scoundrels. The town was used as the location for several movies such as How The West Was WonFoxfire and Edge of Eternity.

Oatman Hotel

Clark Gable and Carol Lombard honeymooned at the Oatman Hotel on March 18, 1939. Their honeymoon suite is still one of the major attractions at the Oatman Hotel. Gable returned there often to play poker with the local miners and enjoy the solitude of the desert.

Oatman hotel Arizona

Al and I ate lunch in “the Saloon” which is located in the hotel. Although the food was average, the atmosphere was entertaining and anything but average.

Oatman Saloon

Al getting ready to order lunch at “the Saloon”. Thousands of one dollar bills adorn the walls.

What’s in a name?

After a few other names were passed over, “Oatman” was chosen for the name of the town in honor of Olive Oatman, a young Illinois girl who had been taken captive by Indians during her pioneer family’s journey westward in 1851 and forced into slavery. She was later traded to Mohave Indians, who adopted her as a daughter and had her face tattooed in the custom of the tribe. She was released in 1856 at Fort Yuma, Arizona.

Oatman, Arizona

If you enjoy history and quirky out-of-the-way places, you’ll enjoy a visit to Oatman, Arizona.  Al and I spent about an hour strolling around town and another hour enjoying lunch at The Saloon.  It was a fun couple of hours and I’m glad we made the stop, but I don’t think I’d recommend venturing too far out of the way for a visit. Although the drive here was interesting and definitely worthwhile. Another place checked off my list!

Oatman, Arizona

Even Al couldn’t resist the cute little burro!

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Lighthouses of Lake Havasu

With each visit to Lake Havasu City, I learn more and more interesting and fun tidbits about the area. During our first trip to this part of western Arizona back in February of 2012, we learned about the history of the London Bridge . You can read more about the bridge here.
London Bridge Lake Havasu

London Bridge, Lake Havasu City, Arizona

Turns out the land developer, Robert McCulloch, actually thought he had purchased the Tower Bridge and was rather disappointed when the reconstruction of the London Bridge was complete. He wondered where the rest of it was. Where were the towers?
No towers! However, the bridge was reconstructed in Lake Havasu City with one less archway than what was originally used crossing the Thames River in London. The bridge was a tad too long here in Havasu for the span from the island to mainland. Thus, the remaining bricks from one of the archways were stored for safe keeping and are used for necessary repairs, which have been required over the years.
London Bridge Lake Havasu City Arizona

Boating under the London Bridge

If you’re fortunate enough to take a boat ride under the bridge, bullet holes from WWII can be found in the bricks. Imagine, those beautiful stone bricks and the abundance of history they’ve witnessed. And since we’re talking about boating, did you know Lake Havasu City is home to more lighthouses than any other city in the entire country?
lighthouses in Arizona Lake Havasu City

I know, when you think about lighthouses, one would never associate a landlocked desert with lighthouses. However, there are more than twenty-five scaled-down functioning replicas along Lake Havasu’s shores with plans to build even more.

The construction of these lighthouses was originally intended for safety purposes, but have become as much of a landmark as the London Bridge.

The Lake Havasu Lighthouse Club, a non-profit group of independent people, wanted to make the lake safer for night boating and fishing. All lighthouses are built and  maintained by the folks at the Lighthouse Club and meet the coast guard’s navigational regulations. So not only do they serve as a unique tourist attraction, they assist in safe water navigation.

East Quoddy Lighthouse Arizona

East Quoddy Lighthouse replica – Lake Havasu City

All the lighthouses on the west side of Lake Havasu are replicas of famous lighthouses on the West Coast. On the east side of the lake are replicas from the East Coast, and the lighthouses around the island are all replicas of lighthouses from the Great Lakes.

Each lighthouse replica costs about $5,000 to build, which includes $1,000 or more just for the beacon. The majority of the labor is done by Lighthouse Club members and other volunteers, and many of the lighthouses are sponsored by families as memorials for their loved ones. Some of the lighthouses can easily be viewed from land while others can be seen only from the water.

Durrituck Beach Lighthouse Lake Havasu City Arizona

A few  lighthouses can be seen during a stroll along the canal in Lake Havasu City – Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Currituck Beach Lighthouse Lake Havasu City Arizona

Each lighthouse replica is adorned with a plaque

One of my personal favorites is the Split Rock Lighthouse. When Al and I lived in the Chicago suburbs, every summer we would pack up our canoe and camping gear and head to northern Minnesota. The stretch of road along the north shores of Lake Superior between Duluth and Grand Marais is a beautiful and scenic drive … a drive I always enjoyed.

Lake Havasu Arizona lighthouses

Both sides of the road feature interesting sights. On the north side of the road, we see waterfalls. The iron ore rich land turns the cascading water into an interesting copper color which rapidly flows over huge rocks and drains into Lake Superior.

Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse replica – Lake Havasu City

Glancing to the south side of the road is Lake Superior; the largest of the Great Lakes. A rocky cliff shoreline serves as a reminder that these waters can be dangerous. You won’t find many beaches along Lake Superiors north shore but you will find lighthouses.

Split Rock lighthouse Lake Havasu City ArizonaDuring our many travels through this part of Minnesota, a stop or two to capture a photograph of the Split Rock Lighthouse was always on the agenda.

Somewhere in my storage unit back in Colorado are all my vacation photos from those Minnesota vacations.

I had a great time watching the sunset over Lake Havasu. As I stood next to the Split Rock Lighthouse replica, I couldn’t help but reminisce. Ah yes ….  fond memories indeed. Wherever does the time go?

Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu City is a great destination for a get away year round. Just remember, this is the desert and temperatures in the summer do soar, but fall, winter, and spring are an RVer’s dream. For info on a lighthouse tour, click here.

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Can you believe Christmas is just around the corner? I’ll be keeping a close eye on Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. Here’s a few items on my list (affiliate links). What’s on yours?

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites

From Wood to Stone

“Don’t worry”, I yelled over my shoulder to Al while swiftly walking to the truck.  I had my camera slung around my neck, water bottle in one hand, and truck keys in the other.  I was on a mission that morning, and I wasn’t about to let a little weather curtail my fun.

The vast vistas allowed me to see more than 100 miles in any given direction, but with such openness comes wind.  Northeastern Arizona is the windiest section of the state. The relatively flat, lightly vegetated mesas, buttes, and valleys do very little to slow the movement of air.Petrified ForestIt was calm at the moment, but I kept in mind, winds in excess of 40 miles per hour are common around here and gusts over 60 miles per hour aren’t unusual.  Hang on Toto!

Before climbing into the truck, I scanned the skies to the west.  The ominous line of clouds still looked pretty far away.  I figured, I’d have at least an hour before the storm hit.  However, I failed to take into account the driving time needed to get from one end of the park to the other.Petrified Forest National Park

The Petrified Forest National Park encompasses more than 230 square miles (600 square kilometers) with only one main road going through the center.  The 28 mile scenic drive takes visitors from the northern entrance located off Interstate 40 to the southern entrance off Highway 180.Petrified National Park

It was late August 2016.  We spent the night at the Crystal Forest Gift Shop near the southern entrance of the park.  The gift shop allows free overnight camping in an area off to the side. There’s even some picnic tables, but absolutely no other amenities of any kind. It’s free and considering we’re self-contained and self-sufficient this location worked perfectly for my photo excursion into the national park.petrified mapSince I was starting at the south entrance, I needed to plan my stops carefully keeping the weather and my priorities in mind.  The day before, we had entered the national park via the north entrance with the RV in tow and I was able to get a quick overview.

From the north entrance, we travel through an area called. "Painted Desert".

From the north entrance, we traveled through an area called the “Painted Desert”.

Petrified Forest National Park is very doable with any size RV.  Some pull-outs are a little more big RV friendly than others.  Regardless, to really delve into this geologically fascinating park, it’s best to explore without the RV and constraints of finding adequate parking.Petrified National ForestI hadn’t been in the truck driving more than fifteen minutes when hubby called with an urgency in his voice.  He informed me of a severe storm heading our way.  A semi-tractor trailer had flipped over on Interstate 40 due to a wind gust just east of Flagstaff and those high winds, hail, and torrential rain were heading our way.  All I managed to say to hubby before the call was dropped was, “Ok”.  You can assume cell phone coverage to be spotty in this remote park in Arizona.Petrified Forest National ParkHurry Ingrid was at the fore front of my mind as I continued on my quest.  I wanted to touch those fossils and even though there were plenty of petrified logs where we were camped, I wanted to see a forest of them.  Wood turning into stone is a rarity and takes special conditions for the process to occur.  There’s only a few places in the world to find petrified wood and I was exploring one of those places.Petrified Wood

Most of the petrified wood  around here is made up of mostly solid quartz.  The rainbow of colors is produced by impurities in the quartz.  Over 200 million years ago, logs washed into an ancient river system and were quickly and deeply buried by massive amounts of debris and sediment.  Oxygen was cut off.  Minerals absorbed into the porous wood and crystallized within the cellular structure turning wood into stone.

Crystal Forest is a popular spot to see large logs

Crystal Forest is a popular stop to see large logs

Petrified Wood

There are several areas within the national park that have a concentration of these huge petrified logs.  The petrified trees lie strewn across the hills and are broken into large segments.  The smooth ends look like they were cut with a chainsaw.

petrified broken logs can be seen strewn about the land

petrified broken logs can be seen strewn about the land

Who Cut the Wood?  During the gradual uplifting of the Colorado Plateau, starting about 60 million years ago, the still buried petrified trees were under so much stress they broke like glass rods. The crystal nature of the quartz created clean fractures, evenly spaced along the tree trunk, giving the appearance of logs cut with a chainsaw.

The national park is also home to remnants of an ancient civilization.

The national park is also home to remnants of an ancient civilization.

Although the petrified wood is the primary draw to this national park, I had one more quirky stop to make before returning to the RV.Historic Route 66

The famous old Historic Route 66 road used to go right through Petrified Forest National Park and there’s a popular landmark showcasing the location.  This 1932 Studebaker is a fun place for a photo-op.  The original telephone poles (seen to the left of the car) remain standing in the very spot they were originally installed all those years ago.

The weather may have cut my visit short, but it was just enough to pique my interest in a return visit.  I found the fossils and the process of their creation rather fascinating, much to my surprise.  Just one more place going on the must return list 😉

Route 66My visit was a week before my birthday and as such a little souvenir shopping was in order.  As much as I would’ve liked a nice chunk of petrified wood, the size and weight wouldn’t be conducive to life in an RV.  I opted for a lovely bracelet that I found at the Rainbow Visitor Center Gift Shop.

Please, please, please NEVER take rock from national park land.  Not only is it against the law, it undoubtedly would impact the abundance of fossils for all of us to enjoy today and in the future.  Purchasing polished petrified wood that was harvested on private land supports the park system and local economy.  And much of it is very inexpensive, unless you want a huge chunk, then that’ll cost.  The bigger the piece, the more expensive and the heavier.  My cute bracelet, similar to the one shown below, cost less than $25 and is a lovely daily reminder of my adventurous morning.Petrified Forest National ParkFortunately, the worst of the storm bypassed our immediate location, but we did endure some nasty gusting winds and torrential down pouring rain.  I returned to the RV unscathed, to a relieved husband, and looking like a drenched puppy. The minute there was a break in the weather, we hooked up and rolled in the opposite direction from those threatening clouds.  Hmm, where to next?

Sunchains Earthstone Collection – Petrified Wood Bracelet

Our Good Fortune Continued

It was mid August when Al and I were in dire need of a little down time.  With obligations behind us, we were able to meander as our hearts desired.  Just the way we like to roll.

Elks LodgeAfter a four hour drive, we pulled into the Elks Lodge parking lot in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  We found a nice grassy spot to set up camp for three nights.  It’s easy to fall in love with Santa Fe, New Mexico.

It is such an eclectic mix of new and old offering a little something for everyone, not to mention a great farmer’s market.  Ah, yes… worthy of its own post!

And although we loved our boondocking spot at the Elk’s Lodge, the real camping gem we discovered was forty miles down the road.  At Cochiti Lake Campground we snagged a lovely pull-thru site with electric and water.

Loved the Cochiti Lake Campground

Loved the Cochiti Lake Campground – photo taken just before sites filled up and rain started

Each afternoon, a summer storm would roll through gracing me with an artistic show that only mother nature could create.  During these storms, I would try to leave the RV door open or at least a window. Cochit Lake Campground

The smell of fresh rain in this arid high desert landscape was intoxicating and the vegetation and bunnies seemed to relish in the moisture.  And once the storms passed, a rainbow would remind me to smile.  Each afternoon as I sat in the comfort of the RV watching the show unfold, I was flooded with a mix of emotions; comfort, relaxed, awed, alive, lucky, life is good …..  and this is why we RV.

Cochiti Lake Campground

Cochiti Lake Campground

The ten days we spent here were just what we needed to relax and rejuvenate.  Although the majority of the time was spent around camp, I did manage to venture into Santa Fe  a few times and hiked at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument at every opportunity.

Hiking at Kasha-Katuwe NM had me feeling relaxed and renewed

Hiking at Kasha-Katuwe NM left me feeling relaxed and renewed …. aaahhh!  There’s something very special and spiritual about this place or maybe it was my timing.

We also managed to take in a quick visit to Bandelier National Monument. We must return - fascinating!

We also managed to take in a quick visit to Bandelier National Monument.  Fascinating place that we must return to! Unfortunately, weather forced us off the trail.

This area in New Mexico is definitely a place I look forward to returning to and as much as I was reluctant to leave, hitch itch set in and it was time to put the RV wheels in motion.

Our next stop was in Arizona at the Petrified Forest National Park.  On the far south side of the National Park, just outside the park entrance, are a couple of gift shops.  They allow free overnight camping.  We stayed here last year for a quick overnight when we helped our daughter move from Denver to Phoenix.

Our free campsite near the Petrified Forest National Park

Our free campsite near the Petrified Forest National Park – Crystal Forest Gift Shop

During this visit, I was able to linger and explore the park …. well kind of.

Retracing the historic route 66 - those are the original telephone poles. A quick photo before the bad storm rolls in.

Retracing historic Route 66 – original telephone poles still stand. Quick photo before the bad storm hits.

The weather wasn’t necessarily all that agreeable and after I took a fair share of commemorative photos, the lightening and down pouring rain had me hightailing it back to the RV.

In between weather fronts, Al and I decided to hit the road bound for Williams, Arizona.  Fortunately, the winds were short lived and the three hour drive was pretty uneventful.

While we were trying to back in to a site at Lake Kaibab National Forest, the camp host rolled up in his golf cart letting us know he just received a cancellation for a nice pull-thru site ….. sweet!  My how those travel Gods continued to smile upon us.

Our peaceful campsite at Lake Kaibab National Forest Campground

Our peaceful campsite at Lake Kaibab National Forest Campground

my front yard - aaahhh, relaxing!

my front yard – aaahhh, relaxing!

Williams, Arizona, is known as the gateway to the Grand Canyon, but the town has also done an amazing job of rebranding itself and playing up its Route 66 history.  This is a fun little town worth spending an afternoon exploring.  It’s also a great place to grab a bite to eat or a hotel room for a visit to the Grand Canyon since the national park is only an hour drive up the road.

Williams, Arizona - historic Route 66 is the theme around here - fun!

Williams, Arizona – historic Route 66 is the theme around here – fun!

I had every intention of driving up to the Grand Canyon for a day of photography, but I managed to come down with a head cold and with the cool temps that are common in this part of Arizona at the end of August, I longed for some heat.

So down in elevation we went …. to the town of Cottonwood.  Just east of town is a popular boondocking spot (free camping, no services).  It’s amazing how drastic the change in weather can be a mere hour apart.  In Flagstaff the weather temps barely hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit while in Cottonwood temperatures were well into the 90’s.  The heat felt wonderful, although when it reached 104 inside the RV, even sick lil’ol me thought it was a tad too hot.  However, between the RV sauna, chicken noodle soup, and a spicy Mexican meal at Javalina’s in Sedona, I started feeling better in short order.

Boondocking near Cottonwood, AZ. Sedona off in the distance.

Boondocking near Cottonwood, AZ. Sedona off in the distance.

Three days of boondocking in the desert heat had us moving on down to Prescott Valley in search of electric and air conditioning.  We booked a month long stay at the Fairgrounds RV Park.

Fairgrounds RV Park, Prescott Valley, AZ. It was an ok place to park for the month of September.

Fairgrounds RV Park, Prescott Valley, AZ. It was an ok place to park for the month of September.

On October 1st we returned to Phoenix, Arizona, our starting point back in April. We’ve been comfortably parked on the north side of the valley and visiting  with friends and family regularly.

So now you’re all caught up on our summer journey.  I’ll eventually write some posts and share a bunch more photos on the highlights of our summer stops.  We truly had a fantastic six month adventure filled with lots of firsts and a few repeats

Al and me with our daughter and son. We're able to spend the holidays together this year - happy dance!

Al, our daughter, our son and me. We’re able to spend the holidays together this year – happy dance!

For now, I’m off to finish up my Christmas shopping…..

Should I get this pressure cooker or would this  drone be more fun? I like the idea of both, don’t you 😉 I ordered this T-shirt for my daughter!and several gift cards as stocking stuffers.  Yep, I’m getting close to the end of my shopping and starting to wrap’m up.  I’m a shopper and love this time of year 🙂  This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure can be found here.

When Travel Gods Smile – Part 1

I had lunch with a friend last week, and she asked me, “How was your summer?”  Without hesitation, I enthusiastically responded, “I had the best summer”.  Initially I was surprised by my exuberant response, but as I continued to share our summer adventures, it became clear what made the summer so ideal for me.Grand Tetons

First off, I visited some places that have been on my must see list for a super long time, and second the travel Gods smiled upon us each stop along the way.  Quite frankly, our travels couldn’t have gone much better.  Sure, we were faced with some unexpected situations, but with cooler heads, solutions were easily achieved.

Bumble BeeI usually don’t like winging our travels during the most popular travel months of the year (July and August), but circumstances had us doing just that.

The upside – without the commitment of reservations, we were able to change direction and plans on a whim, which we did a lot.  We lucked out in so many ways. This post is about our travel route and the places we camped.  We snagged some fabulous campsites that helped make this summer one of our best since going full-time in the RV four years ago.  I’ll write up the things we did at each location in separate posts.

Jackson, Wyoming – From Ririe, Idaho, our easterly trek took us back to the stunning Grand TetonGrand Teton National Park in Wyoming.  Our first visit to this beautiful National Park was in the early part of the summer, and one visit was not enough… I hungered for more!

During our previous visit, we camped at the Gros Ventre Campground, and although it was very workable, I had concerns that we wouldn’t find an available site large enough for us during peak tourist season. I also wanted something with a view.

This was my home for 5 glorious days

This was our home for five glorious days. Photo taken the day we arrived. Two days later, the place was packed with fellow campers. One night we even had a tent pitched right behind our RV.

And oh my gosh, did we have a view.  After doing a little bit of research on Campendium.com, we decided to scope out the boondocking (free camping) sites in the area.  Normally, we like to explore back country gravel roads without the 5th Grand Tetonswheel in tow, but Al and I were in serious winging it mode and threw caution to the wind.

We arrived at the Teton National Forest on a Tuesday morning with no other campers in sight with the exception of one small domed tent.  Someone was doing a happy dance!

The gravel road was well maintained until we reached the designated camping area. We navigated slowly through some very deep rutted road before deciding on a little slice of land to call home.  Later that evening, we enjoyed watching the sunset as more campers arrived.Grand Teton

There continued to be a steady stream of new campers arriving well into the night. Most were tent camping or sleeping in their cars. We didn’t realize how lucky we were snagging that site or having the ample room to maneuver until we woke the next morning amongst a dozen new neighbors.

Many campers would move on the next morning while others stayed a few days, and by the time Friday night rolled around every square inch of available designated camping land was taken up either by tents or small RV’s. We even had a young man knock on our door and ask if he could pitch his tent right behind our RV. We didn’t mind and even enjoyed visiting with the him.  We were all there to savor the majestic landscape.

Each morning, I sat in bed drinking coffee while watching the sun rise. This was the view out of my bedroom window.

Each morning, I sat in a warm bed drinking coffee while watching the sun rise. This was the view out of my bedroom window.  Free camping at its finest. It was 32 degrees Fahrenheit outside in mid July!

Yep, we got lucky snagging that site when we did and were able to call it home for five glorious days (five day max stay is posted and enforced).  Had we shown up a day later, we would’ve had difficulty maneuvering and wouldn’t have found a spot big enough for us.  Our good fortune snagging great campsites continued throughout the rest of our travels.

During travel days, we occasionally stop at historical pull-outs. History abounds!

During travel days, we occasionally stop at historical pull-outs. History abounds!

Interesting historical site - note the animal bones bottom left.

Interesting historical site – note the animal bones bottom left. Life in the west can be rough.

Since we did have a time obligation requiring us to be in Denver in early August, we ended up two stepping across Wyoming and Colorado….  quick, quick, slow, slow or other times it was more like quick, slow, slow, quick 😉

We did a quick overnight at the Yampa River State Park in Colorado

We did a quick overnight at the Yampa River State Park in Colorado

Craig, Colorado – Reluctantly we bid farewell to the Grand Tetons, and embarked on a long seven hour travel day.  As much as we wanted to linger in Wyoming, that time commitment loomed.  We arrived at the Yampa River State Park in Colorado on a Sunday evening and had plenty of nice sites to choose from.

We originally wanted to Elkovernight at the Walmart in Craig, but there are signs all over posted ‘No overnight parking’.  Al even confirmed with a store manager.

This northwest part of Colorado is known for excellent Elk hunting.  We even passed a herd of Elk grazing near the side of the road.   Could be too many hunters were trying to set up camp at Walmart and thus they ended any RV overnighting. Fortunately, the Yampa River State Park had plenty of room for us.

Rifle, Colorado – The next day was a quick travel day to a Colorado State Park I’d been curious about for years.  As many times as we’ve traveled Interstate 70 through Colorado and stopped at the excellent rest area near the town of Rifle, we never took the time to visit Rifle Falls State Park.  Now was the perfect opportunity to check out this lovely state park.

Rifle State Park - Rifle Gap Campground

Rifle State Park – Rifle Gap Campground. We’re by the water on the left.

Of course, I wanted to camp as close to the falls as possible, but wasn’t sure if that was possible.  There are two campgrounds at the Rifle State Park.  We stopped Rifle Fallsat the main park office for the Rifle Gap Campground where I was able to ask all my questions.

Turns out the Rifle Falls Campground, located further up the road, was full. Had we gone there first, we might have found it somewhat challenging to turn around.  Although the sites do seem large enough to accommodate most RV’s, they do not have a convenient turn around road set up.

Also, the paved road to the campground is a little narrow in spots.  Therefore, it turned out to be more ideal for me to drive just the truck to see the waterfalls.Rifle Gap Campground

We were given a very nice pull-thru campsite near the water at the Rifle Gap Campground. The camp host gave us the option of driving against the one-way so our door could face the picnic table, but due to winds we opted to park with the door to the south.  The next day I drove to the waterfalls for a little hiking and photography.  Stay tuned for photos on that hike!

Our next stop would be Grand Junction, Colorado.  The James Robb State Park Fruita Section is a regular stopping point for us.  It’s the perfect location for me to visit with my brother as well as get in some fabulous hiking.  Without a reservation, we knew snagging a campsite at this popular state park over a weekend would be highly unlikely, but we figured a couple of weeknights shouldn’t be a problem….. wrong!

Our good fortune led to us spending five nights here.

Our good fortune – we were able to spend five nights here.

We were able to get a site for only one night.  Apparently there was a fundraising concert being held the following evening in the day use area, and thus the campground was all booked up, but the ranger did recommend stopping by the next morning to see if there were James Robb State Parkany cancellations.

That morning, we hooked up and were ready to roll, but before doing so I stopped in at the office, just in case.

While the gal was checking the reservation book, I made polite small talk.  And then I heard the preverbal, “Sorry, no cancellations”.   Just as I turned slowly to exit with my head hung in a dejected feel sorry for me stance, the gal said, “Wait one second”.  She then radioed one of the rangers, and I overheard her ask, “Did we decide to open the group campground to the general public because of the concert?”

Our awesome site backed up to the pond.

Our awesome site backed up to the pond.

As my ears perked up, I was told, “If you don’t mind not having a sewer connection, you can stay in the group campground through the weekend”.  YES!  We even got to pick out which site we wanted.  Sweet!  Turns out this was indeed a rare situation proving once again, lady luck was certainly on our side.  We not only had a great campsite at the James Robb State Park, we enjoyed a nice concert.

Montrose is a great place to camp to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Montrose is a great place to camp to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison

After a wonderful six night stay in Grand Junction, it was time for us to move on down the road to Montrose, Colorado.  This would be a quick two-night stay so we decided to give the Elks Lodge a try.  We snagged the last electric site available.  Maybe we should’ve bought a lottery ticket (we didn’t).  But our luck didn’t end here……

LEGO Creator 31052 Vacation Getaways Building Kit (792 Piece)

When History turns into Entertainment

May 2016 – It was Memorial Day weekend and although we knew we were running the risk of encountering crowds, we were on a mission to see what all the hype was about.  We were enlightened on the small town of Mackay, Idaho, from numerous people and all encouraged us to explore its history.Mackay Idaho

When Al and I first heard about the Mackay reservoir with a campground and lots of shore boondocking, that alone piqued our interest, but add in some fun back country 4×4 roads with remnants of yesterdays mining days…. well, let’s just say, we were all in for a day of sightseeing.Mackay Idaho

Located in the south central part of Idaho along Highway 93, the quaint town of Mackay exudes an inviting Western charm and plenty of interesting history. The Mackay Mine Hill Tour is a self-guided  tour of mining locations found in the hills southwest of town.

We picked up a route map at a local gas station and verified we wouldn’t have any trouble on the back country roads with our F-250 truck with extended bed…. the ‘big dog’ isn’t exactly agile with its long wheel base.

There are three different color-coded routes; each designated for vehicle accessibility.

The Green Route (the one we took) is accessible to all modes of transportation.  It’s about 15 miles of graded dirt roads, and although rough in spots it can easily be navigated with a CRV, Subaru, or even a car, if careful.

Points of interest

Points of interest

Mackey Mine Hill TourThere are twelve points of interest along the green route that are clearly marked on the map and along the road way.

The Blue Route adds another five points of interest, but requires a high clearance vehicle.  Considering the road is extremely rough, steep, and narrow making it a challenge for our less than agile length, we didn’t venture onto any Blue trails.Mackay IdahoThe Red Route is open only to ATV’s, UTV’s, dirt bikes, mountain bikes, horses, and hikers.  This is one time I wish we still owned our ATV.  The area is truly an off roaders paradise with plenty of 4×4 back country dirt roads offering interesting sights along the way to keep one entertained.Mackay Mine Tour

Al and I had packed a picnic lunch and set off mid-morning the last Saturday in May.  Although we occasionally had to share the road with groups of all-terrain-vehicles, we were still able to enjoy plenty of solitude considering the multitude of routes available to choose from …. allowing us all to spread out.Mackay mine hill tourEach numbered stop was clearly marked and offered information about the site.   What surprised me most is that much of the land is still privately owned.  Thus, the land we toured is owned either by private individuals, companies, the US Bureau of Land Management, or the US Forest Service.  The tour is sponsored by the South Custer Mining ExhibitCounty Historical Society and White Knob Historical Preservation Committee.

Stop number one is of course the closest to town, most accessible, and definitely a must see stop.

This is a former Smelter site and is now home to an extensive hardrock mining exhibit.

Fascinating Mining Exhibit. The building was filled with tools, equipment, and detailed information

Fascinating Mining Exhibit. The building was filled with tools, equipment, and detailed information

Mackay Idaho

Although most of the smelter facility ruins have been removed, many features remain, including an 8-hole company outhouse …..Smelter siteOuthouse

 

 

 

I guess, when ya gotta go, ya gotta go !  Nothing like being chummy with your co-workers.

Continuing up the road, we came across Aerial Tramway Towers, a Compressor Building, a Sawmill, Tunnels, and several Homesteads.

a homestead

a homestead

I thought I lived in a tiny house! I have indoor plumbing ;-)

I thought I lived in a tiny house! But I have indoor plumbing 😉

Open Pit Mine Site - Produced gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc from 1902 to 1975

Open Pit Mine Site – Produced gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc from 1902 to 1975

I was tempted to step into the building BUT first off, this is private property and second, note the scribble on the black tank. I wasn't interested in seeing that kind of wildlife!

I was tempted to step into the building BUT first off, this is private property and second, note the scribble on the black tank. I wasn’t interested in seeing that kind of wildlife!

From one historic site to another!

From one historical site to another!

Mackay Mine Tour

Interesting tidbit….. Mackay’s Mine Hill: Ore was first discovered in 1879 and was mined into the 1980’s.  Geological sampling still occurs to this date, and mining could Mackay Mine Hill tourbe renewed at any time to withdraw the millions of dollars of Ore remaining in the ground.  Hmm, I wondered – does that mean I was driving over millions of dollars?

All the routes entail a change of elevation from about 6,000 feet in the town of Mackay to about 8,500 feet at the highest point, which (I think) is near site #12. This change in elevation provides some wonderful views but also some changes in temperature. Weather seems to move in quickly.  So it’s best to be prepared for just about anything.Mackay Mine Hill Tour

Al and I had a great time traveling these back country roads and exploring an important part of Mackay’s history.  It was a very fun and entertaining day …. one I would recommend.

Rachael and I check out the old Compressor building

Rachael and I check out the old Compressor building

At the RV Park a couple of weeks later, I met a single gal traveling solo in her Class C Mackay Mine Hill tour Idahomotorhome.  This artistic, talented gal and I hit it off, and I was quick to share the Mackay Mine Hill Tour with her.

We only had time to visit the first three mining sites, which was fine by us considering our focus that day was on photography.

As a solo traveler, Rachael is usually short on photos of herself and asked if I wouldn’t mind taking a few shots of her for her to share on her Instagram site:  @bohemian.dreamer

Little did she know, I was giddy with delight when she handed me her Fujifilm camera.  I always have my eye on new cameras and I was impressed with the color quality and ease of use of this camera Fujifilm X-E2 16.3 MP Mirrorless Digital Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD – Body Only (Black)  Hopefully she didn’t notice me drooling 😅

Mackay Mine Hill tour Idaho

I had a great time trying to tap into my inner Scavullo ….. yeah, I’m a work in progress, but with Rachael’s artistic direction, my photos and her modeling improved as the day went on and we both tapped into a wonderful groove.Lava Tube Craters of the Moon

We enjoyed ourselves so much that we arranged to spend another day together hiking a Lava Tube at Craters of the Moon before it was time for her to hit the road for new territory.  I’m hoping to run into her again sometime this winter so I can play with her camera again…… and oh yes, meet up with her too!Mackay Idaho

Additional RV information on Mackay, Idaho.
Camping: There’s a very nice campground at the Mackay Reservoir called Fallini Campground.  There’s also plenty of free boondocking along the shores (near mile marker 14)  Interested in a quick overnight? There’s free overnight parking in the town of Mackay at the visitor center along with a restroom and free dump station. The visitor center is merely information boards in a parking lot.  There is also some nice boondocking along the river near mile marker 11 but a lot of dense brush that can easily cause some of natures pin striping (aka vehicle scratches).  There are several private RV Parks in the area, but keep in mind, Mackay is a very popular second home location, meaning a lot of folks park their RV’s in a site for the entire season.

👍👍 Two thumbs up for a visit to Mackay, Idaho!  We heard there’s some great hiking in the area, which unfortunately, we never got around to tackling.

My latest mode of transportation?

My latest mode of transportation?

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