For those of us that embrace travel, it might be safe to assume that many of us also enjoy capturing images of the various landscapes we visit. If I had to pick one genre of photography, I’d probably choose landscape photography.
So many of the places that I’ve traveled to beg to be photographed. Sometimes the vision before me is jaw-dropping gorgeous or the lighting and colors seems surreal.
Whatever the reason, I love wandering around new places and capturing images of landscapes. Many times, my photographs fail in capturing the stunning sight before me, but the photograph will always prompt my memory and how I felt while making the image.
I feel very fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to witness so many stunning landscapes. Narrowing down my hundred’s (more like thousands) of my landscape photographs for this post was no easy feat.
The photographs I picked for today’s post were chosen not necessarily for the composition but rather for the memories each photograph elicits for me personally.
Wandering Wednesday – Landscapes
This weeks photo prompt theme is Landscapes. We’d love to see YOUR landscape photographs. So let’s share and connect … join in and share a link in the comments below or link back to this blog in your own post.
Will your favorite landscape photographs be for the composition, the memory behind the image, or both?
Wandering Wednesday – Ingrid’s Inspirations
Each Wednesday I post a different photo theme 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 your camera in search of a composition or peruse your photo archives. Whether you shoot with your phone, a DSLR or something in-between, don’t be shy 🤗 share your photos anytime between now and next Wednesday when I’ll post a new prompt.
Upcoming prompts – Garden, Birds, Black & White …. get out and shoot or peruse those archives!
I’m not sure if I prefer sunrises or sunsets …. both can be pretty spectacular and can offer either the perfect way to start the day or the perfect way to end a day.
Yeah, I’d say enjoying happy hour while watching the sun set is a pretty darn good way to end a day. Can you think of a better way?
Wandering Wednesday Photo Theme – Sunset
Join me for this weeks photo challenge by sharing photographs of Sunsets.
We’d love to see YOUR sunset photos. So let’s share and connect … join in and share a link in the comments below or link back to this blog in your own post.
Wandering Wednesday – Ingrid’s 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 your photos!
Upcoming prompts – the Little Things, Food, Landscapes, Garden, Birds …. get out and shoot or peruse those archives!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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!
enjoying lunch at Kodachrome State Park
Dead trees serve more than a unique photographic subject
chimney rock – can you spot my little red truck?
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!
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.
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!
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
I had a fabulous week boondocking in the Kaibab National Forest. After spending four months in a RV Resort in Prescott, Arizona, it felt fantastic to get the RV rolling, and camp by ourselves in a forest of soaring pine trees. We found a lovely slice of land to call home, and it was only fifteen minutes down the road from the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
Although it did take a little effort on my part to leave the solitude of my beautiful campsite, I did venture up to the Grand Canyon a few times for photo ops. Most of the time, Al chose to stay at camp. He’s not a fan of the Grand Canyon nor of the hoards of tourists. I never mind venturing off on my own especially when hubby has a roaring campfire waiting for me upon my return.
While I, along with hundreds of other people, waited for the sun to set at the south rim of the Grand Canyon, a storm started brewing. I could hear thunder in the distance and see an occasional flash of lightening.
The approaching storm along with some lingering smoke haze from forest fires in the west made for a very interesting sky.
The sunset was definitely worth waiting around for, and the stormy sky added a touch of drama. I’m glad I pulled myself away from camp to experience the beauty of the Grand Canyon at sunset as a storm approaches. Yep, worth the wait!
I had one of the most amazing mornings yesterday. For some reason, I woke up earlier than normal. I jumped out of bed energetic, and was ready to tackle a new day. By 6:30 a.m. I was already on my second cup of coffee.
Sunrise wouldn’t be for another forty-five minutes and I contemplated hopping in the truck to capture a few sunrise photos along the Texas Gulf Coast. The RV was dripping with dew and the windows were coated with moisture rich humidity blocking any potential view. I needed to open the RV door to check the sky for cloud coverage.
The past couple of weeks have been a total bust for sunrise photography. The sky was either totally cloudless (boring) or covered in a thick layer … blocking any notice of a sunrise. The mornings when the skies did cooperate, my body didn’t, and my sluggish exit out of bed found me missing the opportunity to capture those perfect skies.
Yesterday morning when I stuck my head out the RV door, I was greeted with nothingness. I could barely make out the shape of the tree just five feet away. Fog … a thick layer of fog engulfed the landscape. The assault of humidity had its way with my natural curly hair. Nothing a baseball cap couldn’t fix. The moist sea air upon my face made my skin feel ten years younger. Frizzy hair and dewy skin … oh well 😏
Wow …. I had to get out there, even if the lighting wasn’t good for photography. The atmosphere was amazing. I threw on some clothes. Topped off my coffee and jumped in the truck. I wasn’t sure if I’d find anything worth photographing, but I didn’t care. I reveled in the quiet. In the solitude. In the peacefulness. Aaah, how wonderfully calming, yet eerie and mysterious!
By 7:30 the sun had been up fifteen minutes, yet I saw no signs of her presence. I didn’t mind. I was enjoying a glorious morning by myself. And although I may have been alone, I was not alone.
I was bushwhacking strolling through damp grasses and weeds amongst a grove of oak trees that serve as the roosting grounds for Great Blue Herons and Egrets. I could hear their rustling, grunts, and squawks in the trees above me. When one of the birds would take flight, I could even hear their wing movement. I know …. how cool was that!And then there were the ducks and Coot swimming in the pond. Rumor has it, there’s even an alligator that calls this place home. Such company, I can do without. Birds yes, gators no!
What a wonderful morning it was, and although I didn’t photograph the kind of images I originally set out to capture, I was pleased with the photographs I did make. By 10:00 a.m. the fog had burned off, my stomach was growling, and it was time to return to the RV … feeling refreshed, renewed, and happy.
“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.It 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.
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.
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.Since 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.
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.I 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.Hurry 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 😉
My 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.Fortunately, 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?
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.
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.
I 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 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.
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 wheel 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.
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.
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.
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 😉
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 overnight 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.
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 at 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.
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!
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 any 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?”
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.
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……
Some places resonate with me much more than others. I’m not always sure why or what the deciding factor might be, but when I stumble upon a unique landscape that gives me goose bumps, I know I’m some place special.
The blogosphere is one of my favorite venues to search and find exciting travel ideas. The moment I saw a photograph of these cone-shaped tent rock formations, I knew this was a mustsee.
A visit was in the plans last year, but when our daughter decided to move from Denver to Phoenix, all those plans went out the window.
This year was different, and since we didn’t have any firm commitments after mid August, I knew the timing was perfect to lay eyes on this unusual landscape.
The sculpted cliffs and peaked hoodoos were formed from volcanic eruptions that occurred more than six million years ago.
There is a somewhat uniform layering of volcanic material causing bands of white, grey, beige, and pink colored rock. It’s a fascinating and perplexing sight.
Over time, wind and water sculpt these rocks creating canyons, scooping holes, and contouring hoodoos. Mother Nature’s artistic and creative hand had me awed and smiling during the entire two-plus hour hike. I found myself hiking this fun trail several times during our two-week stay in the Santa Fe area, and trust me when I say, once is not enough. I already look forward to returning.
Without further adieu, let’s take a hike…..
As we approached the fee booth station, we were greeted by a ranger. There’s a $5.00 daily fee (as of Aug 2016) or free with your Annual National Park Pass (this is a Federal park after all). From the fee station, we continued for five miles down a paved road that crosses private property owned by the Pueblo de Cochiti.
We are asked to respect the traditions and privacy of the local Indians and thus, no stopping along the way, no photography/video, and no drawing/painting. Also, no commercial photography within the park is allowed without a permit.
Once we neared the trailhead, there were three different gravel parking lots that can accommodate just about any size vehicle (including RV’s). There’s a couple of vault toilets, but no water….. so be sure and bring plenty of drinking water. You’ll need it.
Unlike most national parks and monuments, there are no scenic overlooks near a parking lot around here. The only way to view the tent rocks and observe this stunning landscape is by foot; hiking via a dirt, sometimes sandy trail. And by the way, no dogs allowed. You won’t even be allowed through the fee station with a dog in the vehicle.
The 1.2 mile Cave Loop Trail is rated easy and partly handicap accessible. There are some unique rock formations and a hand dug cave along this trail, but the real gem of the park is the Slot Canyon Trail …… definitely not to be missed.
The Slot Canyon Trail is a 3 mile out and back hike with a 630-foot elevation gain and connects with the Cave Loop Trail.
We hiked the combination of both trails making for a wonderful 4.2-mile hike. For my level of hiking ability, this trail offered me the perfect amount of challenge and visual stimulation.
Although from Al’s point of view, there may have been way too much visual stimulation (if there is such a thing) which resulted in an excessive amount of photo-op stops, much to his chagrin. Perhaps that’s why my subsequent hiking visits to Kasha-Katuwe were tackled as a solo hiker 😁
The moment we connected with the Slot Canyon Trail, the cliff walls rose on both sides and I felt like I had entered a secret garden of sorts. I believe, oh my gosh, was uttered by me around every bend. As the canyon walls continued to narrow, we were greeted with obstacles along the trail.
Nothing we couldn’t handle … however, those that are vertically challenged or suffer from short leg syndrome, like moi, may find themselves stretching out those leg muscles just a tad.
In some spots, the slot canyon became very narrow, so narrow that there was only room for one foot at a time.
Once we exited the slot canyon, we were welcomed by those teepee shaped hoodoos …. each uniquely sculpted by the elements and each equally as impressive.
It didn’t take long and we could feel the trail climbing and instead of looking up at the amazing tent rocks, we were now looking down upon them.
We continued up the trail and stopped frequently to look back.
As we reached the top of the trail, we had temporarily hiked away from the tent rocks. The trail continued out onto a narrow mesa which provided a bird’s eye view of Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.
And of course, a few more “Oh…. my…. gosh’es were uttered as I stood on the edge gazing down.
The return hike to the trailhead was every bit as amazing as it was entering.
The Pueblo de Cochiti people view Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks as a very special place and justifiably so. After Al and I made this first hike, I returned three more times to tackle this perfect (in my book) hike. Perfect – even when considering all the obstacles one might bump into.
One morning, I hit the trail at 8:15 and encountered only one couple on the trail for that first hour. It was awesome having this amazing place to myself and hiking in solitude. All of my senses were alert.
The visual delight of the sun peeking from behind a rock was a reminder of a new day unfolding. I listened to the light sound of a lizard moving, and the loud squawking of birds soaring overhead. I breathed in the crisp clean air scented of pine. There was the random sound of tiny rocks tumbling, acting as a reminder that this land is in a constant state of change.
There was the occasional touch of admiration and respect for this special and sacred place.
Yes indeed, some places touch my soul more than others and Kasha-Katuwe touched mine more than I ever expected. I know I’ll return!
I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe it’s September already. Our summer flew by, and although our travels didn’t exactly go as planned, we are not complaining. Actually, we couldn’t have planned our summer any better. Sometimes winging it can turn into an amazing adventure.
The travel God’s smiled on us regularly as we changed directions on a whim. I mean literally from one second to another we were changing our minds on where we should go and pulling into campgrounds without reservations…. not ideal in the peak of tourist season. One minute we were in crisis mode pointing the RV in an easterly direction, and the next, with the crisis averted, we found ourselves turning around and heading north; traveling with no real rhyme or reason other than some impending obligations.
The flexibility and freedom of traveling in a RV can be liberating, exciting, stressful, wonderful, scary, perplexing, and of course, relaxing …… it’s kind of like a rollercoaster of emotions, but minus the word relaxing. As much as I love a good rollercoaster ride, I’ve never found one to be relaxing – exhilarating yes, relaxing no! And RVing can be an exhilarating journey.
Along with seeing spectacular scenery this summer, we met some wonderful people. More than once we were referred to as “seasoned”. On July 1st, we entered our fourth year of full-time RV living. Our one to two year intention of living in the RV full-time has since turned into year four. I’m not sure when we progressed from “newbie” RV’er to “seasoned” RV’er, but here we are, still enjoying the journey, and willing to share our school of hard knocks knowledge with any “RV newbie” who asks.
I’ll admit, three years ago as a relative ‘newbie’, I would never have handled the winging it style of travel we embarked on this summer. I’ve always been a planner and usually have a game plan laid out weeks in advance, and most times, months in advance. I think, over time, we’ve developed a level of RVing confidence. We have confidence in knowing we’ll always manage to find a place to overnight, even if it’s just a parking lot.
There are days I do miss a home base. A place to go back to and regroup, but I still haven’t found that spot I’d like to call home. So the search shall continue. I do know it won’t be Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Although amazingly beautiful, and I look forward to returning, my blood is too thin to tackle that weather. More than once we awoke to temperatures in the 30 degree Fahrenheit range along with a fresh dusting of snow on the peaks and this was in mid July …. beautiful BUT brrrr!
The moment I realized this weeks photo challenge was mirror, I knew I had to share some images from our summer excursion ….. photographs depicting reflections. I’m still struggling with my computer issues, thus my lack of blogosphere presence may continue, but now that we’ve decided to slow our travels down a tad and spend the next two months hanging in Prescott, Arizona, I’m hoping to finally upgrade this dinosaur of a laptop.
Once I bring home that new laptop, I’ll start writing about our interesting travel stops. Not only do these photographs depict reflections, as I review them, I reflect on our memories, on our journey, on the adventure.
My biggest dilemma was narrowing down the photographs to just a few, which was not an easy task for me. We managed to visit some stunningly beautiful places during the past few months. We started in Arizona last April then ventured into Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and now, five months later, have returned to Arizona.
Yep, we had one heck of a rollercoaster ride this summer ….. wouldn’t change a moment….. not the highs, the lows, or the upside downs. Stay tuned for all the stories!
Beauty comes in many forms. Sometimes beauty is in your face obvious while other times it takes a little longer to seek out. From my first scenic overlook sighting at Bryce Canyon National Park to each subsequent visit, wow was usually the first word I uttered. The scenery was breathtaking, stunning, mesmerizing, and obviously beautiful.
After spending an incredible week exploring Bryce Canyon Country, it was time to move on. Although I must admit, I could’ve easily spent another week staring at those mind-boggling hoodoos.
Our journey from Panguitch, Utah took us north through Salt Lake City, Utah. We enjoyed a quick overnight stay at Willard Bay State Park camped near the shores of the Great Salt Lake. We thought about spending a second night which would allow us to explore the main part of the state park, but the bugs were rather bad and the next day a severe storm was heading in our direction.
Thus, with high wind warnings in the forecast, we hightailed it out of there early the next morning before the 66 mile per hour gusts of wind arrived. A little over three hours later, we were setting up camp at our summer home at the Mountain View RV Park in Arco, Idaho. Al and I decided to give “Workamping” a whirl this summer which is how we ended up here. Once I get a chance, I’ll do a separate post on life as a Workamper.
The biggest draw to this part of Idaho is Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. Since arriving in Arco, Idaho, I’ve had the opportunity to visit this park a few times. During my first visit, Al and I gathered information at the visitor center and drove the scenic loop while stopping at a few points of interest. Knowing we had the entire summer to explore Craters of the Moon NM, we focused on a general overview.
On our next visit, we embarked on a hike that took me out of my comfort zone. I’m not usually a fan of enclosed spaces like caves or crowded elevators. So, I didn’t exactly jump at the thought of hiking a Lava tube tunnel, but I am on an adventure after all, and the last thing I was going to do was allow a little phobia to hinder my explorations.
On my third visit, I focused on the beauty found around this harsh landscape. Just like at Bryce Canyon National Park, I uttered the word “wow” routinely, but more in a strange and curious tone as opposed to wow that’s beautiful.
When I first laid eyes on Craters of the Moon, the word beautiful was not at the forefront. I think my thoughts were more along the lines of …. stark, harsh, unforgiving, barren, mean, bewildering, and maybe even ugly. With each subsequent visit my opinion seemed to change …. intriguing, fascinating, perplexing, and yes, beautiful.In my attempt to find the beauty, I visited the morning after a heavy rainstorm. As I meandered along a trail, I could hear water trickling between the rocks. Birds were chirping. Chipmunks were running around foraging for food, and the wildflowers were springing to life. There seemed to be a bevy of activity.
I found myself surrounded by a strange beauty, and couldn’t help but feel a level of respect for all things surviving in this severe landscape.
I found beauty in the strangest place. I assure you, there will be more posts about Craters of the Moon. Stay tuned….