Toadstools and a Slot Canyon

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

Toadstools

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

An easy hike

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

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

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

the trail is clearly marked

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

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

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

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

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

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

A slot canyon hike with an obstacle

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

Wire Pass Trail Utah

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

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

Not long afterwards, the fun began.

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

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

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

Guess I was wrong!

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

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

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

Wire Pass Trail ends at Buckskin Gulch trail.

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

Buckskin Gulch

Buckskin Gulch Trail – I tried staying out of the mud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think the trail is actually more interesting on the return

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women’s Hiking Shoe

Merrell Men’s hiking shoe 

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Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

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

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

Grosvenor Arch

Grosvenor Arch – Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Big Water Visitor Center

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

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

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

The drive begins …

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

The start of our excursion

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

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

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

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

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

Cockscomb range

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

Cockscomb

Cockscomb range

Are we there yet?

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

Finally wowed!

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

cottonwood canyon

Cottonwood Canyon – now this is what I hoped for!

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

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

Crème de le crème

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

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

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

A stunning state park

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

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

Cottonwood Road

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

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

We are but a minuscule blip in history

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

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

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

More than rocks …

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

dead trees

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

Grosvenor Arch

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

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

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

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

Best Spot for Lunch near Page, AZ

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

Alstrom Point

Best overlook on Lake Powell

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

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

camping with friends

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

Lake Powell, Page, Arizona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lunch at Alstrom Point

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

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

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

Memories of a bucket list destination

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

Lake Powell

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

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

Lake Powell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

boating on Lake Powell

Fast forward

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

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

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

houseboats on Lake Powell

lots of houseboats on Lake Powell

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

Antelope Point

Lake Powell near Antelope Point Marina

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

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

camping near the shores of Lake Powell

I’m finally wowed!

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

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

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

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

Alstrom Point

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

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

(affiliate Links)

 foldable Solar Panel

Daypack with 3 Liter Water Bag  

Women’s Wide Brim  Sun Hat

Hiking a Slot Canyon with Friends

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

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

What is a slot canyon?

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

Water Holes Canyon slot

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

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

Friends plan a hike together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hiking near Page, Arizona

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

Unanimous decision

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

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

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

the trail from the parking lot to the canyon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave and I compare camera settings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

slot canyons

Hiking a slot canyon with friends

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

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

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The Trip to Lake Powell

I can’t think of a better way to start the day than by watching a beautiful sunrise while drinking a tasty cup of hot strong coffee.  Throw in some stunning scenery and it just doesn’t get much better.

sunrise at Lake Powell

It’s Easter Sunday and while enjoying the view this morning … and the sunrise and the coffee, I couldn’t help but feel grateful and did a little reflecting. You might say, I was feeling a little spiritual. Since I’m not one to get too serious about things here on the blog, let me just say, it was the perfect way to spend my Easter morning.

We arrived in Page, Arizona, last Sunday, and the week has flown by, but then again, we’ve been very busy …. and social.

slot canyons

Hiking a slot canyon with friends

Our travel day

Last Sunday we bid farewell to Lake Havasu City. The drive from Lake Havasu City to Page, Arizona was just a little over 350 miles (564 km) and took us just shy of eight hours in driving time. I must add that in addition to stopping for gas, we spent over an hour stopped northeast of Flagstaff for lunch and to check out some boondocking spots for future reference in the Coconino National Forest near Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.

Coconino National Forest

Our stop for lunch – Coconino National Forest near Sunset Crater

That stop would add to an already long day and for a split second we thought about overnighting right then and there (well, not exactly ‘there’ because there was a sign clearly stating no overnight parking 😔). We could’ve gone down any number of dirt roads in the national forest and found a place to camp, but at 8,000 feet in elevation at noon time the wind was already brisk and cold requiring us to don a coat. Therefore, we knew once the sun went down, the temperature would plummet …. burr.  Time to keep the wheels rolling.

We don’t usually drive that kind of distance in one day. After all, we live on RV time and prefer to meander. Initially we planned to break the drive up by spending the night near the south rim of the Grand Canyon and boondocking in the Kaibab National Forest where we did last September, but the weather there was also too cold for our desert acclimated bodies – near freezing temps overnight. Therefore, the weather kept us on the move.

By the time we arrived in Page, we were exhausted and more than ready to park the RV. If we were traveling with only one truck, we could easily switch drivers making the long day less tiring, but since we were traveling with both trucks (Al in the F-250 pulling the 5th wheel and me in the Toyota Tacoma), it made for an exhausting day.

When we travel outside of Arizona, we usually leave the Tacoma at our sons home in Phoenix, but since we’ve hung around Arizona all winter, we’ve been traveling with both trucks. As our week progressed, we were glad we had the Tacoma available for a little back country exploring, but that tale deserves its own post.

Getting stuck in the sand

When we finally arrived at the dispersed camping area north of Page and Wahweap Marina, we were eager to assess the road and get the RV parked. The Lone Rock Beach area is a popular spot with day users and campers alike. Located along the shores of Lake Powell, this would be our fourth time camping here.

Lake Powell, Page Arizona

One of the things we learned during our second visit here is the lay of the land is ever-changing. The sandstone buttes, mesas, and monoliths that make the landscape so incredibly stunning are formed from wind and rain, which means you can expect a regular dose of wind around here.

cairnsAnd all that wind, likes to rearrange the sand.

One year, the best packed road leading down toward the water might be to the left of the restroom building while another year it would be best to take the road to the right. Folks get stuck in the sand here all the time and this year it was our turn.

In an attempt to make his princess happy and give her an optimum view, Al attempted to find a nice spot closer to the water than where we’ve previously camped. After all, there were Class A’s and 5th Wheels bigger than us camped at the shore. Unfortunately, the packed gravel like areas are mixed in with the pure sand areas making it a guessing game about finding a good place to park.

It was near dusk. The wind was howling and whipping up the sand. We were exhausted from the long drive. Al stopped the truck and RV so we could talk about exactly where to park (remember he wants to make his princess happy), but what he didn’t realize was when he stopped, the 5th wheel tires were in a soft sandy spot. Once he tried to drive forward, the rear truck tires started spinning and digging deeper into the sand.

Lake Powell, Page, Arizona

Teenagers from the class A came to our aid.

Two teenagers camped in the Class A motorhome came running toward us with a shovel and wood blocks. This was one time I was glad it was spring break with kids everywhere. Between rearranging the sand with the shovel, using the blocks under the tires, and locking the hubs into four-wheel drive, Al managed to pull out of the sand and kept his momentum going until he found a solid gravel like area to stop.

Lone Rock Lake Powell

We kept the truck and 5th Wheel hooked up for the next two days while waiting for our friends to join us and then deciding together where to park our RV’s for the coming week. Little did we know, we’d be sharing some great adventures. What a week!

Here’s a hint of some of those adventures ….

Those tales will need to wait until I have some down time to write about them. Right now, we have some more exploring to do with our friends before it’s time for them to move on. Such is the life of an RVer!

Wishing you a wonderful Sunday! 🐰🥕🌼

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Goodbye Lake Havasu

After almost three months of hanging around Lake Havasu City, Arizona, the itch to roll became too strong to ignore. So today we said goodbye to Lake Havasu City. We’ve hitched up and the wheels are rolling in search of new scenery. However, we won’t be venturing too far from the Colorado River. We’re actually going from one man-made Colorado River lake to another.

sunset at Lake Havasu

The sunsets are always beautiful!

When jello jiggles

lighthouseWe’ve thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Lake Havasu City. It was never our plan to visit western Arizona this winter, but when hurricane Harvey hit our favorite Texas Gulf Coast town square in the middle  …. well, let’s just say the jello jiggled  and we were onto plan B.

When an RVer says, “Our plans are written in jello“, they basically mean their travel itinerary is flexible, ever-changing and not firm. Your lesson for the day on RVing jargon 🤣

Once our friends, the one’s we met last summer in Prescott, heard we weren’t going to Texas, they encouraged us to come spend some time with them on their property in Lake Havasu City (sure, twist my arm).They were eager to share their town with us and show us why they love living in Havasu.

When Al and I sold our Colorado home on a whim five years ago, we thought we’d only be doing this full-time RVing thing for a year or two. Thus, we’re always looking at real estate, especially me. It’s one of my favorite pastimes. Hey, you can’t take the home builder/realtor out of me just because I live in an RV. I still love architecture and home design.

golf course

Golf is popular in Lake Havasu City

With that said, our search to find a new home base started the minute we sold that last house. But if we’re being honest here, this RVing gig is kind of addictive and the thought of putting down roots in one location usually finds us hitching up and rolling before putting any ink to paper. To say we can’t (don’t want to) make a commitment would be an understatement.

float plane

We feel very fortunate to have stayed and explored some beautiful parts of this country, and when we have the opportunity to immerse ourselves in an area, we think about the possibility of a home base. That certainly doesn’t mean we’d ever give up RVing. Nope, we enjoy RVing way too much to stop anytime soon!

What we like about Lake Havasu City

For starters, there’s a lake here along with a ton of other recreational opportunities. All that recreation makes for a great destination for a variety of people. During winter months, the town attracts retirees from colder regions around the U.S. and Canada. During spring months, the community fills with university students on spring break.

Whatever hobbies or interests you may have, it’s most likely happening around here. There are all kinds of activities available for all ages. There are clubs to join for those living here and festivals to attend for locals and tourists alike.

If you enjoy gambling, there are a bunch of casinos up and down the Colorado River and many offer live entertainment including top name talent.

A variety of competitions take place in Lake Havasu City. Just a few of the events include the International World Jet Ski Races, a pyrotechnics convention, a speedway, professional fishing tournaments, custom boat regattas, charity events, a balloon festival, and more.

Toys, toys, and more toys! It’s all about the toys around Lake Havasu City …. Boats – you’ll see everything from kayaks to jet boats and everything in between. Cars – hot rods, sports cars, old cars. 4×4’s – Jeep’s, ATV’s, UTV’s. Aircrafts – large and small. RVs of all shapes and sizes with plenty of RV parks, state parks and boondocks to camp.

Weather – From October to April the weather is wonderful and perfect for outdoor activities. The mild winter weather is a snowbirders delight.

A regular part of our day included a three-mile out and back walk along the Bridgewater Channel. Al and I would start our walk at Rotary Park and walk under the iconic London Bridge and turn around at the Lake Havasu State Park. Hiking the stairs at the London Bridge became part of daily exercise routine.

Bridgewater Channel

walking along the Bridgewater Channel is a popular activity

Housing and property taxes are relatively affordable and most lots have room to park those toys. There are some great hiking trails at the south end of town at Sara Park, and where there’s water, there are birds. So even though I didn’t get a chance to do my usual bird photography along the Gulf Coast this winter, I still managed to capture a few bird photos along the shores of Lake Havasu.

lighthouses of Lake Havasu City

Location – the location is great for connecting with like-minded folks. We kept very social during our stay, not only with our Havasu friends and their friends, but with other RVers. With Quartzsite only an hours drive to the south and Laughlin an hour to the north, there’s always someone passing through or stopping in Lake Havasu City.

Our latest meet up was with Debbie and Steve when they spent a week in the area. Then a week later when Al and I needed to make a Sam’s Club run up to Bullhead City, we reconnected not only with them but also with their friends.

RVers meet up at Bubba Gumps in Laughlin, NV. We meet some of Steve and Debbie’s friends. From left to right – Craig, Steve, Debbie, Al, me, Steve Dianne, Jo

The downside to Lake Havasu City

Weather is not only a huge plus half the year, it’s also a negative. Summer gets hot around here. Lake Havasu City is lower in elevation than Phoenix, Arizona, which means summertime temperatures soar into the 100 degree Fahrenheit range regularly. Lake Havasu City holds the all-time record high temperature in Arizona history with 128 °F recorded on June 29, 1994. However, on December 31, 2014, snow actually fell on the town.

The desert landscape around here is rather barren. You won’t find any majestic saguaro’s or desert wildflowers, but you will find plenty of rock. The longer I was here, the more I was bothered by the lack of vegetation.

Shopping is limited. However, Havasu pretty much has everything I need these days. The biggest draw back for me personally is the distance to the nearest city. The closest major city is Las Vegas which is a 2 1/2 hour drive away while Phoenix is a 3 1/2 hour boring drive away. That means I can’t just pop in on my kids for lunch in Phoenix. Yeah, a bit too far away for a spur of the moment visit with one of the kiddos.

London Bridge

London Bridge, Lake Havasu City, Arizona

Recommended businesses

When we spend a prolonged amount of time in a new location, we have the opportunity to learn about the area and that includes where to shop and good places to eat. Just in case you find yourself visiting western Arizona, here are some businesses in Lake Havasu City that we enjoyed and feel comfortable recommending.

Palm treesGrocery stores: I’m usually fond of shopping at a Kroger Grocery store (aka Fry’s or Smith’s in Arizona) but in Lake Havasu City, I prefer Arizona’s local supermarket brand, Bashas. The produce is fresh, local (when possible) and reasonably priced. Safeway comes in second. There’s also a RV friendly Walmart in town for non-perishables.

Repair shops: During our drive from Phoenix to Lake Havasu City, we discovered we had a broken shackle on the RV. Once we set up camp and reassessed the situation, Al decided he didn’t feel comfortable doing the job himself. After all, we were on private property plus set up on gravel. With a little research, we scheduled the work with  Adrenaline Trailers. They were more than happy to sell us just the parts, but we decided this seemed like a good time to have the bearings repacked and the trailer brakes tested along with having all the shackles replaced. They did a great job, although they were a tad messy with the grease.

My truck needed general maintenance. This was the second time I used this small, two-man shop for service on my Toyota Tacoma and both times I was pleased with the work and the price. I even recommended E & J Auto Repair to fellow RVers, Laura and Kevin, for needed repairs on their Xterra. They too were pleased with Ed’s work. He doesn’t have a website but he can be contacted at – E & J Auto Repair, 1600 W. Acoma Blvd #60, Lake Havasu City, AZ (928) 854-9399.

Lake Havasu Arizona

Lake Havasu, Arizona

RV Parts: The top rubber seals on our RV slides were starting to deteriorate from all the extreme sun that we experience here in the desert southwest. We have used rubber conditioner, but being exposed to over 300 days of sunshine a year and 70-100 degree F temperatures takes a toll on our equipment. (I know, tough job dealing with all that sunshine 😁) The folks at Sunshine RV were very helpful in making sure we ordered the right rubber slide seal for our RV. Sunshine RV became our go-to shop for RV parts. A new propane valve and shower seals were part of our purchases.

Computer Repair: Whiz Kid was extremely helpful when I encountered some computer issues.

Car wash: Our equipment was in dire need of cleaning. Mesquite Car Wash is owned and operated by a husband and wife team who enjoy RVing. As a matter of fact, they spent a year RVing full-time and would like to hit the road again if they could find a good manager for their business. Al and I had both our trucks detailed and the RV washed. They even have a nice outdoor sitting area and an inside ‘tiki shed’ with TV for entertainment while you wait. Good job and super friendly staff!

Restaurants: Lake Havasu City offers a nice variety of local establishments as well as some of my favorite chain restaurants. This is a tourist town after all. On the local front, our first stop had to be Mudshark Brewery for their Vanilla Caramel Porter and Burger Monday special. Al  loves this porter and first discovered it being sold at Total Wine & More in Phoenix. Once Al realized the maker of this tasty porter was located in Lake Havasu City, a visit to Mudshark Brewery became tops on the ‘must do‘ list.

Next up was Hangar 24. Monday through Thursday during lunch they offer all their burgers at a special price of $7 and after 7:00 p.m. the appetizers are $5. The food here is really good, and I insisted we eat here one more time before heading out of town. A fun bonus for me was the ’70’s/’80’s rock music playing in the background. Guess with all the silvers in town, they considered the lunch crowd when choosing what music to play.

Hangar 24

Hangar 24 has a very casual party atmosphere with picnic table seating, occasional live entertainment, and even an outdoor swimming pool. Yeah, you read that right … a brewery/restaurant with a swimming pool. I’m pretty sure this is a popular spot for spring breakers. Silvers for lunch and breakers at night …. smart marketing!

Barley Bros Brewery

Barley Bros Brewery has a great location – check out the view of the London Bridge

I had heard mixed reviews from fellow RVers about Barley Brothers Brewery. So we decided to check it out ourselves. The location is prime. Talk about a view! Of the four breweries we sampled, this one seemed to be the most expensive and didn’t offer any specially priced items. Although we enjoyed our meal and drinks, we enjoyed the view and location more.

College Brewery Lake Havasu City

Meeting up with Steve and Debbie at College Brewery

Near the end of our Lake Havasu City visit, we met Debbie and Steve at College Street Brewery and were pleasantly surprised with the happy hour prices … good food, good drinks, and of course, good company. Steve’s flight of beer was $6 while my margarita was under $4. College Street Brewery turned into one of those restaurants we would definitely return to for happy hour.

Overall, Al thought Mudshark had the best beer. We both thought Hangar 24 had the best burgers. College Street Brewery had the best happy hour and Barley Brothers offered the best view!

The end of our visit

We had a great time hanging around Lake Havasu City and know we’ll be back … just not during the summer months. Hmm, after writing this post, perhaps Lake Havasu City should go on the short list of places to consider when we’re ready for that home base. It’s a thought!Lake Havasu Arizona

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Boondocking – Love it or Hate it

We attended a social gathering last month. With the exception of Al and I, all the attendees owned homes here in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. About half also owned some form of RV, but none had ever lived in their RV full-time. These were RVing part-timers and some-timers.

During the ebb and flow of normal social conversation, we discussed RV travels and exchanged a few of our favorite places. Somewhere during the conversation, I mentioned how much I was looking forward to boondocking at Lake Powell at the end of the month. My comment was met with cocked heads and wrinkled noses.

boondocking Lake Powell

Boondocking at Lake Powell, Utah – we experienced harsh storms during that November visit!

Definitions

For those unfamiliar with the term boondocking (aka dispersed camping) it generally means, camping in the “boonies” on public lands where permissible with no fixed sites or services … meaning no electric, water, restrooms, or a designated campground. Boondocking is usually free, but not always. National Forest land along with BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) are the most common places RVers like to boondock. One might even boondock for a night in a retail parking lot like Walmart, Cabela’s, Cracker Barrel or a Casino. When we overnight in a retail parking lot, we usually make a purchase making it a win for both parties.

Dry camping is camping without hook-ups in a designated campground for a fee. Stealth camping is also a form of boondocking, but usually in a big city. Stealth camping is most popular with Van dwellers. They are able to park on any street where street parking is allowed, and overnight. Because they don’t look like a RV, they’re able to overnight ‘under the radar‘ so to speak.

Back to that conversation …

wild burroI found the cocked heads and wrinkled noses perplexing. As the conversation ensued, their common attitude became clear.

Since there’s a fair amount of BLM Land to the north and south of Lake Havasu City, during the winter months, the open land is dotted with RV’s boondocking.

Most of these RVers are like Al and me and living in their RVs full-time (or part-time) by choice, but some are not as fortunate, and I’ve heard these folks referred to as “sketchy people”. It’s this later group that these homeowners associate with boondocking; people who can’t afford to stay in a RV park or campground.

I tried to explain why “I” like to boondock, but sadly my words fell on deaf ears. And that’s fine by me … means there’s more land for me to enjoy without neighbors. We wouldn’t want every RVer out here boondocking.

camping in Utah

God rays in my front yard while boondocking in Utah. This is why I boondock!

Through the eyes of a photographer

Photography has helped me ‘see things‘ and given me purpose in our travels. As such, I love immersing myself in beautiful landscapes. When I can sit in the comfort of my RV enjoying my morning coffee while watching the sunrise, I’m in my happy place.

J. Robb State Park sunset

When I’m surrounded by stunning scenery, landscapes adorned with wildflowers while wildlife drifts about, I feel alive and grateful. Boondocking gives me a sense of freedom, a sense of living on my terms, by my rules. Ah, don’t get me wrong, there are government rules and unspoken etiquette amongst fellow boondockers, but that doesn’t overshadow the overall sense of feeling alive and freedom that I experience when I immerse myself in nature.

Boondocking is hard work

I love RVing and I love boondocking, but it can be hard work, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. While boondocking, there’s the constant concern of electrical usage, water usage, and monitoring tanks. Boondockers are a rare bunch willing to give up conveniences for experiences. We know what it’s like to carry our crap around physically and literally.

Lake Powell beach

Boondocking with a RV is one step above tent camping in my opinion. The RV does provide a fair amount of conveniences not available with a tent, but there are still things to consider.  If the idea of sponges baths or baby wipe baths in lieu of a regular shower doesn’t appeal to you, then most likely RV boondocking won’t either. (I won’t even begin to talk about my boondocking squat and hover talents because that would just be T.M.I. 😆)

I grew up camping and feel the beauty I see and experience while boondocking usually can’t be fully replicated while staying in a private RV Park.

Route 66 ArizonaMost state and regional parks come the closest to the outdoor boondocking experience with the added conveniences of some amenities.

Our Havasu friends are totally fine with private RV Parks and feel they get a very similar nature experience to what I get boondocking, although I might beg to differ.

Don’t misunderstand, I love the comforts of full hook-ups, and we spend 75% of our time camped in either a private RV Park or public Campground, but there are times I’m ready to give up the comforts of normal living for a secluded picturesque spot in the hinterland.

camping at Lake Powell, Utah

But let’s get real! The visual appeal, as seen in the photo above, as well as reading blog posts about folks having a fabulous time free boondocking in stunning locations is enticing, but the realities aren’t always fully disclosed. Do you know why we had this amazing slice of land almost exclusively to ourselves?  That’s because Al and I, along with three other RVs, were the only crazy insane idiots hardy folks willing to brave the elements.

It was November of 2012, and the weather turned cold and windy. During our stay, we experienced winds gusting in the 30-60 mph range. At one point there was sleet blowing sideways and the sand on the beach was being whipped into the air. The RV was rocking and rolling and not in a fun way! It was actually scary at times, and we had concerns about possibly blowing over. We questioned our decision making.

camping at Lake Powell

It was so cold, even our dog wore a jacket.

When we arrived at this location near Page, Arizona, two days earlier, the weather was warm and sunny. People were swimming and boating. There had to be well over twenty other RVs scattered around the area, but once the weather forecast predicted high winds, snow, and plummeting temperatures, the place cleared out quickly, leaving behind only us adventurous RVers.

It was quite the adventure, not one I’d care to repeat too many times. But that scenery and the ever-changing skies were like nothing I had ever seen before. It was a truly amazing experience and sight to behold. It made boondocking at Lake Powell totally worth not showering for three days. Hmm, maybe that’s what our friends meant when they used the term sketchy people …. perhaps the name Pig-Pen might be more fitting 😏 But that certainly wouldn’t pertain to us!  Baby wipes are the best. We always stock up before heading out on any extended boondocking excursion. Sponge baths work too, but we’re usually concerned about water conservation.

I’m in my happy place with this for my yard!

We have friends that love boondocking and do it exclusively. We have friends that hate boondocking and joking say roughing it to them means not having a sewer connection, and then there’s us. We fall into the group who enjoys a combination of camping options … a little bit of everything, but we totally understand the realities and what we’re signing up for. There’s a lot more forethought, planning, sacrifice, and physicality to boondocking. Some folks love it, and some folks hate it!

Would you be willing to give up comforts for scenery?

“The greatest fear in the world is of the opinions of others. And the moment you are unafraid of the crowd you are no longer a sheep, you become a lion. A great roar arises in your heart, the roar of freedom.”― Osho

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When a Bar is more than a Bar

When a visit to a bar is as much about the experience as it is about the beverages, it’s time to grab some friends and make a day of it. The Desert Bar is one of those places that’s quirky, unique and fun, and the drive to get there is part of the entertainment.

Desert Bar Parker Arizona

The main road leading into the Desert Bar

We were first introduced to the Nellie E. Saloon, otherwise know as the Desert Bar, five years ago, and when blogging friend, Laura, expressed interest in going, we were quick to invite ourselves.

bloggers strolling along Lake Havasu Arizona

Al, me, Kevin, and Laura

We met Laura and Kevin of Chapter 3 Travels for the first time a few days earlier for a tasty lunch at the Mudshark Brewery followed by a stroll along the Bridgewater Channel here in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

The Desert Bar is one of those places where the more the merrier. So gather your friends and prepare for the fun to begin with an interesting drive for starters.

Getting there is part of the fun

The Desert Bar is located in the desert southwest boonies in the heart of the Buckskin Mountains just north of Parker, Arizona.  Once we turned east off Highway 95 on Cienega Springs Road, we continued into the undeveloped desert on a rough, dusty dirt road for about five miles (which took about thirty minutes …. yep, 30 minutes to drive 5 miles).  Although driving a truck was a plus, I’d venture to say an all terrain vehicle would be the perfect mode of transportation.

UTV and the Desert Bar

perfect mode of transportation to get to the Desert Bar

We did see vehicles of all kinds traversing the rough road, but personally, I wouldn’t recommend a low clearance vehicle. It shouldn’t be a problem for a  CRV,  SUV, or any kind of truck. We drove our Toyota Tacoma and Laura and Kevin drove their Nissan Xterra with no problem.

Desert Bar road

For the more adventurous or those off-road enthusiast, you have the opportunity to drive to the Desert Bar via the “back way”. Nothing like experiencing more extreme hills, rocky terrain and unique desert scenery. You might even find the landscape dotted with old, abandoned mining shafts and relics. Obviously, the back way is for 4×4 vehicles only.

Desert Bar

These folks drove in the “back way” … over them thar hills!

The Desert Bar is an open air establishment and powered 100% on solar.  The bar is only open on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to six.

Desert Bar Parker ArizonaWe went on a Sunday afternoon and this place was buzzing with activity … drinking, dining, dancing, and live entertainment.

I thought the live entertainment was really good and with plenty of people dancing, I think others shared my opinion.

There were three different food vendors to choose from that day and each offers a specialty. Al and I went with the hamburgers, and were not disappointed. Yum! There were two bars that are both fully stocked, and although the choice of beer is limited, our margaritas were tasty.

Desert Bar, Parker, Arizona

The Desert Bar – powered 100% on solar

Desert Bar solar

Solar panels act as shade cover from the intense desert sun

live entertainment at the Desert Bar

I really enjoyed the live entertainment. The band played a little bit of everything.

In 1975, Ken Coughlin built the Desert Bar at the site of an old copper mining camp. Although the remnants of the original mining camp are mostly gone, the western spirit lives on. The parking lot is located on the very site where the mining camp once stood. At first, the saloon was a three-sided enclosed room, not much bigger than a small storage shed. Today, while maintaining its Old West character, the owner continues to expand it along with adding more vintage relics adorning the landscape.

Not a church, but yet a church

Another novelty stands outside of the saloon in the bar’s parking lot. What appears to be a “church” rising from the desert floor, is more of a façade than an actual building. The well-aged patina of its copper roof, adds unique character to this one of a kind structure.

The church is constructed of solid steel with walls and ceilings made from stamped tin. There is a tiny inside area. On the interior walls are plaques bearing the names of people who donated money to help build it. There are no actual services held here. The structure simply provides a picture perfect backdrop with old west appeal.

During our first visit back in 2013, we did see a couple renewing their vows on the church steps …. complete with minister, witnesses, flowers and dressed in old west wedding attire.

A true taste of Arizona

If you ever find yourself in western Arizona, consider visiting the Desert Bar. It’s an entertaining, fun one of a kind experience in the desert southwest!

Desert Bar, Parker, Arizona

one of a kind bar

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Cost of Full-time RVing – Part 2

This is a continuation of my previous post on what it costs to RV full-time. In my last post, I shared my budgeting list and began to break down that list by sharing costs and additional information to consider for living a nomadic life.

full-time RVing

By keeping track of our expenses, I’m able to see exactly what it costs us to travel and live full-time in the RV. It allows me to compare living a minimalist mobile lifestyle to that of our former life in a sticks and bricks dwelling.

Continuing down the budget list

RV and vehicle maintenance and repairs – With so many diverse RV’s (recreational vehicle) on the market, it’s impossible to generalize this expenditure. So much depends on the type of equipment chosen and its age. It’s also one of the most important things to consider when shopping for a RV. Sure, you might be able to afford the RV, BUT can you afford to maintain and repair it?

Larger RVs cost more in every way. So if you have a smaller budget, buying a smaller RV will set you up for success and be less stressful over the long term. Also the more expensive the RV, the more complex it is to work on. A simpler RV will allow any semi-handy person to save money by doing their own repairs.

The most expensive option is a Diesel Motorhome with a towed (toad) vehicle. Not only is a diesel motorhome the most expensive RV to buy, it’s also the most expensive to maintain and repair. Annual service (oil change, filters, etc.) on the motorhome can cost upwards of a $1,000 annually. New tires can cost well over $4,000. For comparison sake, new tires on a travel trailer or 5th wheel might average around $700 and normal service for a diesel pick-up truck can average around $300 annually (depending on how much you travel and frequency of oil changes). That’s a big difference to consider if budget is important to you.

hummingbirdThe least expensive option is a gas vehicle pulling a travel trailer. The smaller the trailer, the more options you’ll have for a tow vehicle. We’ve seen travel trailers being pulled by a variety of vehicles … everything from a basic pick-up truck to a van to a SUV and even a 4×4 Jeep. The simpler the equipment, the more economical the maintenance and repairs.

Van dwelling is becoming more and more popular and can be a cost-effective option, but you’re also giving up a great deal of space. Al and I would consider a van for part-time travel, but we would never consider the small space for full-time, not if we both intend to stay alive 😆

Expenses are somewhere in the middle for a gas motorhome with a toad (towed car) or a diesel pick-up truck pulling a 5th wheel or travel trailer. These are very popular options. We’re definitely happy with our set up and most years our maintenance and repair costs are minimal. In 2016 we spent $710 on our 2005 F-250 which included two new batteries, and $40 on our Fifth Wheel RV. Not too bad!

Lake Havasu Arizona

2017 wasn’t as kind on our budget. Our truck needed new injectors, repairs from damage incurred by a pack rat, and a few other major things. So along with normal maintenance added to the major repairs, we spent $5,100 on our truck.

The RV – in ’17 we replaced most of the window treatments and repaired a few other items totaling $450 for the year on the 5th Wheel.

Note: Always have an emergency fund and be prepared for breakdowns. Repairs and maintenance are part of the RVing lifestyle regardless of the RV and its age.

cost of Full-time RVing

RV and vehicle insurance and registrations – These fees vary significantly based on equipment and your home state (domicile). Some states charge a flat rate for licensing while other states charge based on value. The same holds true for insurance rates. Where you live (domicile) and what you drive will be the deciding factor on costs.

Another cost that might need to be added here is a payment. I guess if you’re hitting the road with a full-time location independent job, a RV payment is a mere replacement of a mortgage payment and interest might even be tax-deductible (check with a professional tax specialist).

Personally, I couldn’t fathom enjoying this adventurous RV life with the stress of debt hanging over my head. New RV’s depreciate rapidly (poor investment, and yeah, we bought new, but paid cash) and there are so many good quality older RVs which provide a good bang for the buck. Chances are even if you do buy a brand new RV, you’ll still do some remodeling. There’s a big difference between using a RV for vacations versus moving into one full-time. When you live in a RV full-time, it becomes your home, and as such you’ll want to personalize it. So if you can’t afford to pay cash for a new RV, consider buying used, maybe even a fixer upper and tap into your inner Joanna and Chip creativity.

Mail service and domicile – There are so many factors to consider when choosing a domicile. In the U.S. we all have to have a legal residence for the purposes of a driver’s license, registering our vehicles, healthcare, voting, homeland security, etc. The domicile you choose will have a significant impact on your budget as well as your healthcare.

cost of full-time RVingThe three most popular states for domicile for full-time RVing are; Texas, South Dakota, and Florida. All three states do not have a state income tax making them desirable. South Dakota is falling out of favor with a lack of health insurance options for those under the age of 65.

When Al and I were transitioning into full-time RVing, we set up a Texas address with the Escapees RV Club. However, I soon realized that in order to keep my health insurance, we needed to keep a Colorado address. This is when family in Colorado stepped up and we used them for our mail service and domicile for the first two years on the road. We are forever grateful to my brother and sister-in-law for helping us out. We’re now based in Arizona, and never did use that Texas address.

Note: I am not an attorney, CPA, or any other professional, and acknowledge I may not know what I’m talking about 🤪 Therefore, do your homework before making any decisions on domicile. There are legal consequences to consider.

My personal advice would be figure out your healthcare needs first. Most insurance companies, medicare, and the VA, require elective procedures be preformed in your home state (domicile). So let’s say you need knee surgery … ask yourself what would be your ideal location for dealing with a medical situation? Would it be in your current home town? Near family or friends? Or maybe it doesn’t matter?

Once you answer those questions, you can research other factors including costs of vehicle licensing, taxes, and if a vehicle inspection is necessary. Most states also require you spend a certain amount of time in their state as a domicile requirement. So will your domicile state be one in which you intend to spend a fair amount of time visiting? Please do your homework, ask questions, and research!

Mail service companies can be found in just about any state, but you’ll want to check exactly what services they offer. America’s Mailbox and Escapees specialize in handling mail for full-time RVers, but some UPS Stores offer similar services and all give you an address that is not a P.O. Box. Please, do not consider using a “P.O. Box” address for full-time RVing. P.O. Boxes are not recognized as a legal residential address.

Full-time RVing cost

Clothing, shoes, and personal items –  Most RVers will tell you that you can expect this expenditure to be a fraction of what you once spent. It’s all about space and needs.This is another category that will vary a lot from person to person. We spend a lot less on clothing and shoes than we ever did living in a standard sticks and bricks home. One – I don’t have enough closest space in the RV to be adding items …. sigh! and Two – this lifestyle has us dressing simply. Simply does not necessarily mean cheaply. I spend more money on hiking shoes than I ever did on dress shoes. But today, I only own two pair of hiking shoes versus the dozens of dress shoes once housed in my former large walk-in closest. Fortunately, the RV has plenty of room for several pairs of flip-flops, sandals, and tennies. This gal has shoe needs after all 🤫

Storage facility – Ah, the cost of storing crap personal heirlooms. Do as I say, not as I do! We moved into the RV full-time on a whim and thought we’d only travel full-time for a year or two. Therefore, we have two 10 x 10 storage units back in Colorado full of stuff. We’re now into year five of full-time RVing, and still paying for that crap stuff to be stored … sigh!

We all have personal mementos, heirlooms or other things we don’t want to part with, so getting a storage unit makes sense. However, be ready for storage rent fees to be increased each year. If you have children, this would be the time to pass down those family treasures.

My recommendation …. purge! If you do find after a year that RVing full-time is not for you, then you’ll have fun redecorating a new sticks and bricks home. I know when I finally do get my stuff out of storage that I’ll end up getting rid of half of it anyway 😣 Al and I are in discussions on how best to eliminate at least one of those storage units, but every time we talk about it, we end up with margarita’s involved and no solution determined 🍹 Ah, to go back in time … learn from my mistake, save money, and purge!

costs of living full-time in a RV

Medical expenses and health insurance – sorry folks … I don’t feel qualified to help on this subject. You can try this site for starters. You might also want to check out how this young couple is dealing with a healthcare issue.

Membership fees – You’ll find through trial and error which memberships are most cost-effective for your needs. We love our Escapees RV Club membership and this is the one membership we’ve maintained from the beginning of our adventure. It is also important to have some sort of Roadside assistance (AAA, Good Sam, Coachnet). Other memberships you might add to your budget; Amazon Prime, Passport America, Harvest Hosts, Campground memberships, just to name a few.

Entertainment – Park passes, museums, concerts, movies, satellite TV, streaming services, etc.

Miscellaneous – pets, alcohol, haircuts. Depending on your interests and habits you might have other costs in this category that I haven’t thought about or we don’t use.

Let’s review that budget list …

  • Camping Fees
  • Gasoline and Propane
  • Groceries and dining out
  • Phone and Internet
  • RV / vehicle maintenance
  • RV / vehicle Insurance and registrations
  • Mail service and domicile
  • Clothing, shoes, personal items
  • Storage facility
  • Medical expenses and health insurance
  • Membership fees
  • Entertainment
  • Miscellaneous

Cost of living in a RV full-time …

So now that we’ve reviewed all the costs associated with full-time RV living, what exactly does it cost? As I mentioned before, one size does not fit all, but I can give you some averages.

The average cost of full-time RVing seems to range from $2,500 to $4,800 a month. We know some folks who manage to live on less than $2,000 a month while others need well over $6,000 a month. Just like living in a traditional home, it’s all about the way you like to live which will ultimately determine your budget. Hope this post was enlightening and helpful.

What Will Your Full-time RV Budget Be?Full-time RVing costs

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Cost of Full-time RVing

Every now and then, I’ll receive an email or comment asking what it costs to RV full-time?  I know a lot of people are either curious for the sake of general curiosity or because they have a genuine interest in the lifestyle. Seems folks either think you need to have a lot of money to travel full-time, or they think you’re down and destitute and the lifestyle barely costs anything. With that said, full-time RVing can be as expensive or inexpensive as you choose. It’s all about personal preference.

Lake Havasu State Park Arizona

The first thing to consider when it comes to breaking down monthly costs is the type of  RV you have (or will have), and whether or not you’ll have a  monthly payment or pay cash for the equipment. The next considerations are how often you travel, where you park, and the activities you do in the places you visit.

Budgeting for full-time RVing is a very personal thing with lots of variables, and one size does not fit all. I’ve put together a general list of items most RVers can expect to pay to sustain the nomadic life of full-time RVing.

Budgeting list

  • Camping Fees
  • Gasoline and Propane
  • Groceries and dining out
  • Phone and Internet
  • RV / vehicle maintenance and repairs (perhaps a monthly payment)
  • RV / vehicle Insurance and registrations
  • Mail service – domicile
  • Clothing, shoes, personal items
  • Storage facility
  • Medical expenses and health insurance
  • Membership fees
  • Entertainment
  • Miscellaneous – pets, alcohol, hair cuts, etc. Depending on your interests and habits you might have other costs I haven’t thought of or that don’t pertain to us.

Full-time RVing

Monthly expenses

Camping Fees – Similar to living in a fixed location, you need to consider monthly rent. There are quite a few options available. There are people who boondock year-round and only pay small fees to dump their holding tanks and take on fresh water. A bunch of RVers enjoy workamping in exchange for a free place to park, and then there are others who enjoy all the amenities of a RV Park and budget accordingly.

egretIf you boondock (camping on public lands with no facilities) or you work camp (volunteer at a campground, State Park, National Forest, Wildlife Refuge) in exchange for a free campsite, your camping costs can be zero.

Private RV Parks can range on average between $300 to $900 a month. On the other hand, those looking to splurge might pay upwards of $1,800 or more a month for a fancy resort-style RV Park. Location and amenities are the major factors in such a fluctuation of fees.

Al and I tried work camping once and didn’t find the risk/reward to be worthwhile for us personally. Be sure and do your homework and know what you’re signing up for when you agree to work camp (aka workamp which is a trademark of Workamper News ). The thought of a free campsite is enticing, but do the math and understand the physical demands! Plus ask yourself, “Is this a place we would gladly pay to stay? Is it worth the risk for the reward gained?”

Let’s do the math …. Many state parks now charge about $30 a night (or more). If you were to stay a month, the cost would be $900 for the month (30 days times $30). If you decide working in exchange for a campsite would be ideal, keep in mind these state parks require couples to work 20 hours a week – per person. Thus, between the couple it’s 40 hours a week or 160 hours a month. (Two people for the price of one campsite. A single person would be required to work 20 hours for the same campsite. If you ever wonder why parks prefer couples, you just got your answer. ) So back to the math …. $900 a month divided by 160 work hours = $5.60 an hour per person. For an individual it would be $11.25 an hour ($900 divided by 80 monthly hours).

Colorado wildflowersSome folks love volunteering and don’t care about the numbers, while others are dealing with long-term injuries incurred while work camping.

In lieu of work camping, Al and I manage our monthly rent budget by utilizing a combination of options. When we stay in a private RV Park we go for a monthly stay or at the very least, weekly. The monthly rate is always the most economical.

Daily rates are usually the most expensive unless you’re able to utilize a discount membership rate through an organization like Escapees or Passport America. The nightly discounted rates quite often apply for one night only and are not available on weekends or holidays, but each park is different. So be sure and call ahead for clarification. We’ve actually stayed at places up to three nights at the discounted rate.

We love staying at National Parks, National Forest Campgrounds, and Corp of Engineer Parks, all run by the Federal Government. With Al’s old fart’s card (America the Beautiful Senior Pass), we usually pay half of the nightly fee. There are also special benefits for military personal, veterans, and the disabled. We love those discounts, but not all federal places offer the special discounted rates. As the government turns over the managing of these campgrounds to private management companies, these companies are given free rein to charge what they want and to honor or not honor any special passes. We’ve even noticed these private companies charging higher camping fees for holiday weekends.

State Parks and Regional Parks are always a campers delight, but too many nights at a rate of $30 – $60 a night can really put a crimp in anyone’s budget. This is when a little boondocking (aka dispersed camping) can help off set those monthly expenditures, but dispersed camping is definitely more work and requires much more forethought living off the grid and is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea.

As you can see, there are so many camping options with a wide range of fees. It took Al and me well over a year of full-time RVing to find our groove, but that doesn’t mean we don’t change it up on a whim and end up throwing the budget out the door, but we always end up back on track.

Since Al and I enjoy the diversity of private RV Parks, state parks, regional parks, and boondocking, by mixing things up in 2017, we managed to keep our monthly rental expenditure under $400 a month. This works for us, and we feel we handled our campground budget well in ’17.

Next on our list

Gasoline and Propane – Gasoline is entirely dependent on how much we travel and the price per gallon we pay. Obviously this number can fluctuate a lot, and it’s something we have no control over other than to drive less when gas prices sky-rocket. But what fun is that?

gas prices in Death Valley

gas prices – February 2012 in Death Valley …. ouch!

Propane use also varies depending on how cold the weather gets, and thus how much we use the furnace. We also use propane for cooking and our refrigerator when we’re not hooked-up to electric. If the weather is cold and I’m baking a lot, then our propane will need to be filled more often. Propane prices also fluctuate.

Last year, we spent about $125 on propane (for the entire year) and an average of about $325 a month for gasoline. Not too bad, but we did slow our travels in 2017. With the exception of our winter excursion to the Texas Gulf Coast, we spent most of the year meandering around the state of Arizona. In previous years, we traveled further with trips to Idaho, Wyoming, Texas, Illinois and all parts in between. In 2016 we spent around $350 a month on gasoline and in 2015 it was closer to $410 a month.

Farmer's Market

Groceries and dining out – We find these costs to be very similar to what we used to spend living in our sticks and bricks home. We don’t go out to eat very often, but when we do, it’s usually to socialize or learn more about an area. We enjoy looking for local places that offer lunch specials or visit a local brewery or winery.

Part of the fun of traveling is exploring new places which includes local farmers markets, dining out at local restaurants, and meeting new friends. Connecting with fellow bloggers is always so much fun. And not all my blogging pals RV and yet we seem to have a lot in common. One (of many) upsides to a nomadic life is the people we meet.

Phone and Internet – Staying connected is vital to us. I have an iPhone 5, Al has a dumb flip phone, and we have a Verizon hotspot with 30 Gigabytes of data. If we’re not careful by monitoring our daily gig usage, we can easily gobble up those 30 gigs in a couple of weeks. Therefore, we’re currently shopping around for other plans, including the unlimited ones.

This subject makes my head spin and again there are so many variables. I know RVers who spend around $100 a month for phone and internet while others spend well over $300 a month. It just depends on your needs.

To be continued …

In my next post, we’ll work our way down the rest of that budgeting list 🤑

sunset over Lake Havasu

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