Small Town America

Small Town America

We hit the road last Monday, but before we got those RV wheels rolling again, there was one more place I needed to visit. Ok, maybe I didn’t need to visit, but I certainly wanted to visit Bayfield, Wisconsin. My goals were apple picking and photographing fall foliage.

It was the first week in October, and at 6:00 in the morning, it was only 27 degrees Fahrenheit outside. It was definitely cold and I was very grateful the furnace in the RV was running like a champ. When I looked outside everything was coated in a thick layer of white frost. And when I stepped outside, I could actually see my breath ūü•∂

A frosty cold morning – Oct. 4th – 27 degrees F

Al questioned my Bayfield excursion, but I knew it would be a mostly sunny day with light winds. I had to get out and enjoy the day. The prior couple of weeks, the weather had been gloomy and depressing … typical Midwestern weather that I always hated. Thus, I was grateful for a day of sunshine and planned on taking full advantage of the nice weather.

So on a brisk fall morning, I bundled up in layers, set upon scraping the frost off the truck windshield, loaded up a picnic lunch and an extra coat, and jumped in the truck for the 90 minute drive.

A beach along Lake Superior with fall colors

Visiting Bayfield, Wisconsin

I fell in love with this captivating small American town last summer. Picturesque Bayfield, with a population of less than 500, is the gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. It’s located at the far northern edge of Wisconsin along the southern shores of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. The rolling hills, lush vegetation, and beautiful Lake Superior shoreline make visiting this part of northern Wisconsin well worth the out of the way drive. It’s the perfect place for me to escape everyday life and enjoy a little solitude while taking in the lovely landscape.

Blue Vista Farm

There are over a dozen orchards and fruit farms surrounding the town. My go-to orchard is the Blue Vista Farm. Considering my daughter and I had such a fun time picking blueberries here at the end of July, I was really looking forward to re-visiting and picking apples. Unfortunately, due to circumstances surrounding the 2020 pandemic, the Bayfield Apple Festival was canceled, and therefore, the owners of Blue Vista Farms decided to press their harvest of apples this season.

(To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image.)

Oh well, not all was lost. I had a wonderful time walking around the property with my camera and then purchased some freshly pressed apple cider before heading off to my next stop. (BTW … I should’ve purchased more apple cider. It was incredibly delicious and fresh.)

Gil Larsen Nature Trail

On the north end of town, across the street from the library, is the trailhead to the Iron Bridge and Nature Trail. This was a new find for me. I absolutely loved hiking this ravine and was definitely in my happy place. It’s an out and back trail that’s less than two miles roundtrip. So it’s not a long trail but certainly worthwhile and gorgeous.

The trail meanders along a creek and passes under the historic Old Iron Bridge. The trail is a variety of wooden bridges, dirt ground, wood boardwalks, steps, and rocky creek crossings. Fortunately, my visit was during the beginning of October when the creek was merely trickling with water making the creek crossings easy-peasy. And no bugs to contend with … a huge bonus. I would imagine springtime could present a different kind of experience and challenge.

Along the way are benches for visitors to sit for a moment to admire the surroundings and take in the sights and sounds. I was thrilled to photograph the woodpecker and listen to it pecking away at a tree. The thick canopy of trees and tall earthen walls blocked much of the blue skies giving a sense of mystery to my surroundings. The cool damp air added to the unique experience.

This trail felt somewhat reminiscent to me … possibly similar to a western slot canyon. Perhaps this ravine is the Midwestern version of a slot canyon. Did I already tell you how much I loved exploring this nature trail?

Walking across the historic Old Iron Bridge – Rice Avenue

Once I completed walking the nature trail, I decided to walk around town a little bit and eventually walked over the Old Iron Bridge. The bridge towers pretty high above the nature trail as it crosses the ravine. Looking down, it was difficult to spot the trail that I had just hiked due to the dense tree foliage. The autumn colors were vibrant and I was awed by the overall beauty.

small town America along the shores of Lake Superior dotted with fall colors

Beyond downtown

Should you ever find yourself visiting charming Bayfield, Wisconsin, be sure to venture beyond the main street (Rittenhouse Avenue). I was undoubtedly in my happy place as I explored. I was delighted with the architecture, the tree-lined hilly streets, hiking a magical trail, and strolling the friendly quaint town. Basically, I loved the overall atmosphere and landscape that embodies this small American town in northern Wisconsin.

Bayfield is one of those places that has captured my heart. So I guess, it’s safe to say, I plan on returning next season. ūü§ě “God willing and the creek don’t rise!”

Photo Challenges – Sunday Stills. This week, Terri asks us to share images of “Your Happy Place”. Whenever I’m out and about in nature with my camera, I’m in my happy place. Not only was I in my happy place this past summer, but northern Wisconsin also served as a great “Hideaway”. During our four-month stay, Al and I pretty much kept ourselves isolated either on remote private property or out in nature. Lens Artists Photo Challenge #119 – My Hideaway – alone in nature!

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Autumn in the North

Autumn in the North

With each impending day, winter is inching closer and closer here in northern Wisconsin which is our cue to ready the RV and start our journey to the desert southwest. Although 2020 has presented all of us with a lot of interesting challenges, Al and I are fortunate to have enjoyed a great summer and fall on lakefront property with family.

Challenges

But speaking of challenges, this is my first post using the new WordPress editor. Like anything new, there’s a bit of a learning curve, and it has taken me a tad longer than normal putting a post together, but I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. Anyway, I’ll keep this post short and sweet.

Also, we’ll be hitting the road bright and early in the morning and need to continue getting the RV ready to roll. After sitting in one location for four months, it’s always a little nerve-racking preparing the RV and ourselves for the 1,900 mile journey.

a cabin and boat docks on a reflective lake in Wisconsin

Time to roll

The weather is certainly changing and getting a little too cold for a couple of desert dwellers. Ok, we haven’t always been desert dwellers. We actually grew up in the Midwest and then lived in Colorado, but after spending the past eight years in the south during the winter months, we’ve become accustomed to more moderate temperatures. Seems we have lost the ability or rather the desire to deal with cold and freezing temperatures.

Additionally, the skies have been gloomy and overcast the past few weeks with intermittent rain. Those depressing skies are one of the reasons I’ve rarely missed living in the Midwest. One gets easily accustomed to climates offering 290 days of sunshine a year.

Funny how a few short months can change our mindset. When we first arrived in Wisconsin in early June, the overcast sky and occasional rain were a welcome change from the continuous sunshine we experience in Phoenix, but now, those grey skies are getting old, and I once again long for that western sunshine.

Ah and those temps … the temperatures around here have been way too cold for tin can RV living. Overnights have been in the 20 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit range and the days have struggled to get into the 50’s F … brrr. So yeah, it’s time to head south. I’m longing to feel warm again. Will I ever feel warm again? ūüėé

Photo Challenge – Sunday Stills. For today’s photo challenge, Terri asks us to share images of fall colors, particularly ‘ochre’. Fortunately, autumn in northern Wisconsin made this challenge easy for me!

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Going for a Walk

Going for a Walk

It was the third week in September when I was finally able to explore a couple of Duluth parks on my must-see list. Since Duluth, Minnesota is almost a two-hour drive north of my summer home base in Wisconsin, I was really hoping that the fall colors would be popping more than they were. Oh well, the parks were lovely all the same.

Even though I was slightly disappointed with the fall colors, I was very impressed with the trails. Folks around here love their outdoor recreation. Unfortunately, I was in Duluth just for the day and my time was somewhat limited, but at least I was able to take in an overview and walk the trails a little bit.

Lester Park, Duluth, MN

Located on the east side of Duluth, Lester park offers over nine miles of hiking and biking trails and sits along a creek. This is a popular park with locals since it offers picnic tables, a children’s playground, access to a great trail system, and a refreshing river complete with waterfalls. I spent almost two hours meandering trails, crossing bridges, and giving my camera a workout.

(To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image.)

The Lakewalk Trail – Congdon Park, Duluth, MN

Also on the east side of Duluth and along the Tischer Creek is Congdon Park. The park was once part of the Glensheen Estate. Owner, Chester Congdon donated the land to the city of Duluth and paid for its development on the condition that the city would stop using the creek as an open sewer.  We thank you, Mr. Congdon!ūü¶®

The park offers beautiful hiking trails, unique bridges, and lovely waterfalls begging to be explored. However, after having spent a couple of hours at Lester Park, I found myself short on time and was only able to walk about 15 minutes out and back on The Lakewalk Trail and never did make it into the heart of Congdon Park.

Although there’s a nice size parking lot near London Road and 26th Ave, I ended up parking the truck on a side street on 32nd Ave so I could view the Tischer Creek and bridges. The Lakewalk Trail is a beautifully paved trail perfect for cyclists, moms with strollers,  or anyone wanting to go on a walk and take in nature. I know I’ll be back next summer for further explorations.

Goodbye for now!

Unfortunately, with winter inching closer, my visits to Duluth have come to an end … temporarily anyway, and I’m already formulating a list of things to do and places to see next season. Hopefully, I’ll do a better job of planning for next summer by making some Duluth RV reservations well in advance. This year, my last-minute planning didn’t work in my favor. Guess my luck had to run out sometime. ūüėŹ

For Duluth lodging recommendations, you can check out this post.

Photography Challenge … Lens-Artists #117: A Photo Walk. For this week’s photo challenge, Amy asks us to share photos taken while on a walk. She encourages us to pause for a moment and observe our surroundings. Fun time!

Wandering among Landscapes

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.

Colorado National Monument Grand Junction Colorado
Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Colorado

Steamboat Lake Colorado
Steamboat Lake, Colorado

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.

dreamy landscape photo
Copano Bay, Texas Gulf Coast

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.

Jenny Lake Grand Tetons National Park Wyoming
Jenny Lake, Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming

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.

hot air balloons Cave Creek Regional Park Arizona
Cave Creek Regional Park, Phoenix, Arizona

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.

Summit Lake Mt. Evans Colorado
Summit Lake – Mt. Evans, Colorado

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.

Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Will your favorite landscape photographs be for the composition, the memory behind the image, or both?

Mormon Barn Grand Tetons National Park Wyoming
Mormon Barn, Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming

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 ūü§ó¬†share your photos anytime between now and next Wednesday when I’ll post a new prompt.

Crested Butte Colorado
Crested Butte, Colorado

Upcoming prompts – Garden, Birds, Black & White …. get out and shoot or peruse those archives!

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Ultralight Trekking Poles – Enjoy the Outdoors
Audible Membership

Sunsets – A Photo Prompt

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.

sunset over Lake Pleasant Arizona
Lake Pleasant, Arizona

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?

Sunset at San Diego California
San Diego, California

Wandering Wednesday Photo Theme – Sunset

Join me for this weeks photo challenge by sharing photographs of Sunsets.

sunset at the beach
Copano Bay, Texas Gulf Coast

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.

Split Rock Lighthouse Lake Havasu Arizona
Split Rock Lighthouse replica – Lake Havasu, Arizona

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 ūü§ó share your photos!

Upcoming prompts – the Little Things, Food, Landscapes, Garden, Birds …. get out and shoot or peruse those archives!

(affiliate links)
 Portable Camping Chair
Unbreakable Stemless Wine Glasses

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‚ÄďEscalante 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 ūü§ó 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 ūü§£

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

Waiting for the Sun to Set

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.

sunset at the Grand Canyon
me waiting for the sun to set at the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon camping
Our ‘home’ for the week. Aaahhh, can you smell the fresh scent of pine?

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.

sunset at the Grand Canyon
Lots of tourists from around the world waiting for the sun to set at the Grand Canyon – a storm is brewing

south rim of the Grand Canyon
south rim of the Grand Canyon

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.

south rim of the Grand Canyon

The approaching storm along with some lingering smoke haze from forest fires in the west made for a very interesting sky.

stormy sky at the Grand Canyon
stormy sky at the Grand Canyon

stormy sunset at the Grand Canyon

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!

sunset at Kaibab National Forest
This was the sky back at camp!

 

A Calm Morning

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.calm

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.black and white photography

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.foggy morning

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¬†ūüėŹ¬† Texas Gulf Coast

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!calm

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!peace, calmAnd 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.solitude

Lone Star: A History Of Texas And The Texans

 

 

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6

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 ūüėČ

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

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 ūüėČ

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 РReluctantly 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 Рwe 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)