Pain at the Grand Canyon

It was approaching seven in the morning and the tops of the canyon walls in Zion National Park were starting to light up with sunshine. The winds were gusting causing the tent walls to whip about. The camp stove was sitting on the picnic table, and after several unsuccessful tries at lighting it, Ashton recommends we break camp and stop for coffee and breakfast along the way. That sounded like a fantastic idea…. better than bringing the camp stove into the tent in hopes of blocking that wind.

north rim of the Grand Canyon

Another day, another scenic view!

We quickly broke camp and did a fantastic job battling the excessive winds. We were getting good at this tenting thing and working instinctively well together. We managed to control the thin nylon tent and keep it from taking flight like a kite. We then loaded up Charlotte (Honda CRV) in a neat and organized manner. We still didn’t have a firm plan in mind for the day, but we were living on RV time and rolling with the winds.

Echo Canyon Zion National ParkBefore driving off, we took one more look around the campsite making sure we hadn’t left anything behind. We glanced over at the neighboring campsites…. no movement. Appears our camp comrades were still sound asleep. Fortunately, we had bid farewell to our neighbors the night before over a campfire.

With a nostalgic wave to our new friends and the gorgeous Zion Canyon, we reluctantly drove down the road. The day before, the Mt. Carmel Highway on the east end of Zion National Park had closed due to a landslide which required us to come up with an alternate route.

Recalculating and turning our road trip into a big loop turned out perfectly. We experienced things that we totally would’ve missed out on had we stayed with the original route.

First and foremost on the agenda was breakfast. We ended up driving through the quaint town of Springdale, located just on the outskirts of Zion National Park. For some unknown reason, nothing caught our attention. About thirty minutes later with our tummies growling and cravings for coffee increasing, we pulled into the River Rock Roasting Company. And what a find this was!

River Rock Roasters

Great coffee, great food, great view – River Rock Roasters, La Verkin, Utah

Ashton and I enjoyed the coffee and breakfast bagels so much so, that she and I agreed we’d go out of our way to visit this place again. Was it the view or the fact we were hangry or was it our need for caffeine (coffee addiction satiated) or is this place that good? Didn’t matter to us. We were a couple of happy campers and ready to face the day after our plates and coffee cups were empty.

About an hour or so down the road, we saw a sign noting the mileage to the Grand Canyon. In our typical mother/daughter fashion, we glanced at each other and said, “Hey, we’re this close, might as well stop”.

north rim of the Grand Canyon

Me on the left, Ashton on the right – at the north rim of the Grand Canyon

Turns out the north rim of the Grand Canyon had just opened to tourists a few days earlier. Good timing for us. I’ve driven this stretch of 89A in northern Arizona a couple of times in years past, and Road 67 to the Grand Canyon was always closed. Therefore, a visit to the north rim would be a first for both of us.

Access to the north rim is limited to the summer months, or rather from about mid May until the first serious snow fall which can occur in September or October. The south rim stays open year-round.

We found plenty of parking at the visitor center. As I stepped out of the car, I felt pain … pain all over and immediately used some colorful language. Not one of my finer moments considering I wasn’t setting a good example for my daughter. The car door was still north rimopen which allowed her to hear every inappropriate comment I uttered.

From inside the vehicle, I heard my daughter exclaim, “Mother. What is your problem?” Just then, she exited Charlotte and in our typical mother/daughter fashion, she joined me in voicing colorful expletives…. “Holy sh*t! WTF! OMG!” Thank goodness the parking lot was relatively empty and there wasn’t anyone else within ear shot of us. With each step we took, another expletive escaped our mouths along with a few laughs. Gosh, we hurt!

That eleven mile, strenuous, 2,148 foot elevation gain hike the day before in Zion National Park had finally caught up with us. Ah, the cockiness we expressed just hours earlier had come back to haunt us. We were feeling just fine when we woke up that morning. Guess our muscles just needed a little extra time to process the abuse from the day before.

We slowly and gingerly worked through our pain and walked to the visitor center and picked up a park map. At this point, any sane person would’ve called it a day and returned to their car. Nope! Not us. Let’s do some more hiking!north rim

We were at the north rim of the Grand Canyon which required a little sightseeing and photo taking and the fact that we had trouble walking due to pain was merely an inconvenience. Did I mention how much we hurt?

north rim of the Grand Canyon

“I can take pictures of the Grand Canyon from here”, exclaimed Ashton

When an Adirondack chair presented itself, Ashton didn’t hesitate to take advantage of the situation.

After strolling out to a popular scenic overlook (Angel Point – I think) and a little more photo taking, we enjoyed lunch at the Grand Canyon Lodge cafe. This is when we came to the realization that the thought of setting up the tent later in the day would be a grueling endeavor. Something we didn’t look forward to. We even had doubts that we could physically handle it.

Recalculating! Exuberantly, I said to Ashton, “Dad is in Phoenix spending the weekend with your brother, which means the RV in Prescott is empty. How about we drive all the way to Prescott and sleep in a bed tonight? Let’s forget about the tent.” I barely finished talking when Ashton, rather loudly, exclaimed, “Sold!” Yeah, a few heads in the restaurant turned, but we didn’t care. Neither one of us thought we were capable of the movement necessary to pitch a tent, let alone sleep on the ground. Once we made it to the ground on our air mattresses, we doubted we could get back up. Did I already mention how much we hurt? 🤣

Lee's Ferry Historic Site

Ashton finds another spot to take a break – historic site at Lee’s Ferry

With our new plan mapped out and a renewed spring in our step, we headed off to our next location – Lee’s Ferry. Even though our original plan to camp here was nixed, I still wanted to stop for a quick visit. It had been nearly twenty years since I last drove by this area and I wanted a refresher.

Colorado River boat tour

Boats return from a tour up river thru Horseshoe Bend and near the base of Glen Canyon Damn

When the boats pulled in after their scenic tour up river, I had an aha moment. So this is where the boats come from as they motor up the Colorado River through Horseshoe Bend and to the bottom of the Glen Canyon Damn for sightseeing.

I remember peering over the cliff edge at the scenic Horseshoe Bend and wondering where the boats down below came from. How does one go about boating this stretch of the Colorado River? Lee’s Ferry is the answer.

Grand Canyon rafting

These are supply boats getting ready to head downstream through some serious whitewater rapids.

Lee’s Ferry is also the starting point for an incredible whitewater rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. Ashton and I watched these supply boats getting ready to head down stream. I explained to Ashton …. rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is a memorable once in life-time kind of adventure. When one signs up for such a trip, all they need to bring are their personal items. Thus, crews are needed to haul all Lee's Ferry historic sitethe supplies, camping gear, and food as well as do all the set up and prepare the meals. These were the boats we were observing – the supply boats and crew.

I’ll admit, I was relieved when I didn’t hear the comment, “Let’s do that for our next adventure“. I’m sure our current state of fatigue accompanied by sore muscles came into play.

It was getting late in the day and as tempting as it was to grab a campsite and call it a day, the thought of pitching a tent had us moving on down the road.

Three and a half hours later, we pulled into the RV park in Prescott Valley and a real bed in my home. It had been a long day of travel, twelve hours to be exact, but we weren’t complaining. We had just completed the best mother/daughter trip to date; a trip filled with amazing scenery and even more amazing memories.

I’m not sure how we’ll ever top this adventure, but we can sure try!prickly pear

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What goes Up, Must go Down

The view was mesmerizing and stunning.  We knew it would be beautiful, yet we were still awed, not only with the landscape but with ourselves. It took us nearly four hours of grueling uphill climbing to get to Observation Point in Zion National Park.

Zion Canyon

The view from observation point – breathtaking!

hiking zion

We hiked from the valley floor to the top of the mesa. Over 2,100 feet in elevation gain!

The high fives and exuberance were short-lived as we soon came to the realization that we still needed to hike back down to the valley floor. What goes up, must go down! At this stage of the hike, I would have gladly entertained any other way back down the mountain.

Observation Point Zion

Proof we made it to the top! Observation Point trail in Zion National Park

Hmm, as I glanced over the cliff edge thoughts of repelling, paragliding, or base jumping came to mind …. tempting but obviously not available options. So after one more photo-op showing proof that we indeed made it to the top (made it to observation point, known as one of the more strenuous hikes in Zion National Park) we slowly meandered our way back down the trail.

Zion National park hiking

Hiking on top of the mesa was enjoyable and relatively easy.

All was well and good that first mile. The trail was still pretty much on the mesa. The views were lovely and the trail easy, but once we started the decent …. well, let’s just say, Ashton and I were not a couple of happy campers.

hiking zion national park

Ashton hugged the wall, even when passing uphill climbers.

hiking Zion

She did great confronting her fear of heights, but she sure did walk fast going down.

Ashton’s pace quickened as the trail zig-zagged and offered staggering drop-offs. She knew she needed to get through this section of the trail without letting her fear of heights kick in. As for me, I stopped to tighten my shoe laces a couple of times trying my best to keep my toes from jamming into the front of my hiking shoes.

top of the mesa

Me taking a much needed break!

I’ve always been prone to cramps in my toes, especially if my shoes are laced too tight, but under these circumstances, I was left with no choice. After tightening up the laces, I managed to keep up with the downward trek at a somewhat reasonable pace until the balls of my feet started burning. My feet were hurting like never before and I’ll admit I was overcome with a little panic.  We were barely a quarter of the way back down the mountain and I was having trouble walking. “How in holy heck was I going to keep going another two hours?

hiking zion national park

Can you spot the hikers on this ledge portion of the trail?

Zion national park hiking

Ashton was a ways in front of me as her focus was getting beyond this part of the trail with the sheer drop-offs. Once I caught up to her and the switchbacks seemed less daunting, I sat down in a nicely shaded area. I was on the verge of tears as my emotions were filled with concern and pain. Thoughts of Reese Witherspoon flooded my mind ……..   A month earlier after my daughter and I binge watched Netflix’ the Gilmore Girls, I rented the movie “Wild”. This movie is based on a true story. Although, I thought the movie itself was merely ok, it did have a thought-provoking impact on me. What possesses a woman to hike 1,100 miles by herself? Would I ever entertain such a silly notion?

As I sat there on the side of the trail in Zion National Park with my shoes and socks removed attempting to ease the throbbing pain in my feet, scenes from that movie played in my head along with some very non-lady like expletives. Just then, I remembered the medical/sports tape and knife in my pack. Oh yeah, let’s tape up these paws!

First it was up and around the second toe wrapping the tape in two directions. That toe has been sensitive ever since I lost the toenail last fall from all the up and down hiking I did at the Sonoran Preserve. Then it was around the balls of my feet – round and round, I wrapped the tape around the front of my feet …  shoes and socks back on …. laces tied tight …. when I stood up, the discomfort was gone. I was overcome with relief and nearly (I said nearly) started to skip down the trail. Oh thank God I brought that tape!

photo-op

There’s always time for a photo-op

photo-op

Now we were making good time, rarely stopping and keeping a steady pace. After about an hour, we seemed to be somewhere at the half way point of the hike back to the trail head. It was at this point I thought I was out of water. I couldn’t suck any more water out of my camelbak, but I didn’t think that would be a problem considering we were getting closer to the trail head with each step.

light at the end of the tunnel

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Are we there yet? Oh, please Lord!!!!!!!

However with only about fifteen more minutes to go and the shuttle bus stop in clear view, my legs started shaking uncontrollably. Sure they felt a little weak but not falling down weak. I found it humorous but Ashton was seriously concerned for my well-being.

She grabbed my pack and started fiddling with it. Low and behold, there was still some water in the pack. After a healthy slug, the shaking subsided and I responded with, “Thank you, mommy”.  Which daughter swiftly responded with, “Oh be quiet and keep walking. I really don’t want to have to carry you down this hill, and as tired as I feel right now, just be glad I don’t roll you down”. 😆

hiking Zion

Yes, we had hiked up there!

With the shuttle bus stop mere minutes away, we moved quickly down the remaining switch backs. Once on the bus, we snatched one of the last remaining seats and plopped ourselves down. A huge aaaahhhh escaped our mouths simultaneously. Our heads turned to look at each other and we burst into laughter and shared another high-five.

camp cooking

Spaghetti for dinner!

During the entire twenty-five minute bus ride back to camp, we sat in a silent and exhausted state. We exited the bus at the visitor center and still had to walk back to our campsite which resulted in a few ow, ow, ow’s with each step.

Along with our sore muscles, we were famished, and the homemade spaghetti waiting for us in the cooler, begged to be heated up. Over dinner, we discussed the events of the day. There were so many highlights, but what impressed Ashton most were the friendly folks who’s paths we kept crossing on the trail along the way to the top of Observation Point.

hiking zionWith the steady uphill climb, there was a lot of stopping to catch a breathe by everyone… young and old. One minute we’d pass someone along the side of the trail only to have them a few minutes later pass us as we were stopped to catch our breathe.

We engaged regularly with a family of three; mom, dad, and teenage son. They enlisted our help when they had trouble finding the trail head for Hidden Canyon. When we pulled out our map and informed them that they had passed the spur an hour ago, they laughed and decided to go in our direction. The stopping for air had us passing each other regularly which resulted in smiles and chuckles.

When we passed them as they were having lunch sitting on the side of the trail, the mom wanted to make sure we brought our lunch, because if we hadn’t they had an extra sandwich we could have…. complete strangers willing to share their lunch. How awesome is that? A little while later once we had all reached our goal, we took turns handing each other our cameras for those special photo-op moments.

We also engaged with another couple along the trail who visit Zion National Park regularly. This was their second attempt at hiking observation point. Right before the serious zig-zag, cut in the rock portion of the trail, we noticed the wife sitting along the side of the trail by herself. Her fear of heights kept her from continuing yet again, and she sat waiting while her husband went on to complete the hike. We sat with her for a little while and visited. It was amazing how much she and I had in common. We literally could’ve sat there and talked for hours.

Sometimes it’s these little encounters that are like adding a cherry to an ice cream sundae. It’s the topping to an already amazing adventure.

camp cooking

We enjoyed a wonderful homemade meal back at camp.

According to Ashton’s Fitbit, we hiked 11 miles, climbed 249 flights of stairs, almost 25,000 steps, and burned over 2,800 calories. She received a bunch of Fitbit awards that day!  Observation Point Trail took us almost four hours to hike up and two hours to hike down. I’m sure our socializing on the way up, impacted that time 😉

hiking zionShortly after we were done eating, our two neighbors returned from their hikes and we once again shared a campfire together. The three families all met while waiting in line for a campsite and we ended up camping together.

There was the couple from Germany traveling in a rented Class C motorhome with their two small children, and then there was the retired Canadian couple from Quebec traveling in a Class B Van and then Ashton and me in a tent.

This camaraderie with complete strangers that we encountered on the trail and at camp was new to Ashton and added a unique fun element to our overall adventure.

Ashton also became familiar with the term “RV time“. Whenever she’d ask me a question regarding our plans for the day, I’d usually respond with, “Doesn’t matter. Whatever we feel like. We’re on RV time”. Which basically means, we might have a tentative schedule, but if one of us wants to change things up, no problem. If one of us didn’t sleep well or is hungry or doesn’t feel well, we’ll adjust the plan.  We roll with the flow and change directions on a whim if we need or want to. There’s no time clock, no rules, no schedule, and no competition = living on RV time.  Her biggest goal now, is to figure out when she can start living every day on RV time.

Ashton learns more about RV time the next day when the road we want to take is closed due to a landslide …. which way do we go, which way do we go?

hiking zion

Look who took our picture!

zion national park

There’s always someone on the trail willing to help take a photo!

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

An Epic Hike in Zion

It was six o’clock in the morning on May 19th, 2017. As I laid cocooned in my sleeping bag, I listened to the sounds on the other side of the nylon tent walls. I noticed it was getting light outside and the sun would be rising soon. Although with the towering canyon walls, I wasn’t sure when the warmth of the sun would actually reach our campsite.

Observation Point Zion

Me on the left, daughter Ashton on the right. Angel’s Landing off my right shoulder.

The fluttering of wings as the birds flew from one tree to another along with their continuous chirping put a smile on my face, but there was another sound, an unusual sound, that took me a moment to figure out.

I quietly (as quietly as possible) unzipped the tent and then slowly stepped out.

deer in Zion

The deer in the campground were not bothered by people. This was a rare opportunity to photograph wildlife with a wide angle lens.

The unusual sound I heard while laying inside the tent was made by deer … it was the ripping of grass and chewing.  A deer had been grazing just on the other side of the tent wall, mere inches from my head, but by the time I stepped out of the tent, that deer had moved on. However, two other deer were across the street grazing.

Quaker oatmeal and coffeeThese deer are obviously used to people and when the two grazing deer came walking toward and then past me, I stood frozen and silent. This was one time a zoom lens wasn’t necessary. What an awesome way to start the day!

Ashton and I had a couple of hikes in mind that day, and we wanted to get a somewhat early start.

Shortly before seven, I started heating up the water for coffee and oatmeal, and when Ashton stepped out of the tent, I excitedly pointed behind our tent. There in the tall grass lay three female deer munching on grass while watching the tourists pass by. This was their yard, and we were their tolerated guests.

wearing makeup while campingWe knew in our gut, this was just the beginning of one heck of a memorable day.

With breakfast out of the way, we continued to get ready for the day, which for these gals, includes a little makeup. Hey, just cause we’re camping doesn’t mean we can’t do it in style 😆

We loaded up our gear and then hiked over to the visitor center to pick up the shuttle bus. Twenty-five minutes later, we exited the bus at stop #7 for the Weeping Rock and Observation Point trails. We headed up the short Weeping Rock Trail which is less than a mile round trip. It’s a steep paved trail which ends at a rock alcove with dripping springs. Kind of cool and interesting and we thought worthwhile.

Weeping Rock Zion

The trail to ‘Weeping Rock’. It was a brisk morning which Ashton can attest to!

Weeping Rock Zion National Park

Weeping Rock – interesting sight.  Water seeps out of the rock and vegetation grows in crevices.

Little did we know at the time, but this trail served as a nice warm up as to what was to come. After admiring the seeping rock and lush plants, we hiked back to the trail head and took the spur toward Observation Point. We agreed earlier that morning that this 8 mile (12.9 km) round trip strenuous hike with a 2,148 foot (655 m) elevation gain was more than we wanted to tackle. Therefore, we planned to hike about an hour and a half up then turn around (3 hours round trip) to head back to camp for lunch and explore the Watchman Trail in the afternoon. Good theory!

Observation Point Trail Zion

Can you spot the shuttle bus?  Offers scale.  Little did we know, the trail would climb and take us near the top of that mesa – white portion of rock….  😲

From the get go, we could feel the trail climb. We were immediately huffing and puffing and stopping frequently to catch our breath. Although the trail starts out paved, the continuous uphill, zig zag climb is anything but easy.

hiking zion

the trail is a never ending zig zag

As we neared Echo Canyon, we were thankful the trail leveled off and offered a nice reprieve from the continual uphill climbing.

Echo Canyon

Echo Canyon. We enjoy the reprieve from climbing.

Echo Canyon

Enjoying the flat part of this strenuous trail

slot canyon Zion National Park

Ashton’s first slot canyon

This was Ashton’s first ever exposure to a slot canyon and although we only hiked a small fraction of Echo Canyon, it was a visual delight. In order to hike the actual Echo Canyon Trail a permit is required and canyoneering skills are necessary. Yep, not for us. We were thrilled and satisfied with the sliver we did experience.

hiking in Zion

Observation Trail continues

I don’t recall how long it took us to hike to the other side of Echo Canyon, but I do remember Ashton and I being awed by the landscape. The photo-ops were endless and there was no way we wanted to turn around at this juncture … not yet, anyway.Zion national Park

It was onward and upward, and the uphill climb seemed unrelenting, but did we stop?

hiking Zion

Is this our turn around point?

When we came to a trail sign …. (this was the noted spot on our trail map where Ashton and I originally planned to end our climb and turn around) …. we decided, we’ve come this close …. “lets do it“! Truth be told, it was our stubbornness that egged us on. We refused to be each others excuse as to why we couldn’t complete this 8 mile strenuous hike.

Zion National ParkIn other words … there was no way I would accept defeat so my daughter could say, “We couldn’t complete the trail because my mom couldn’t handle it“.  Heck no! That makes me sound old. I may be old, but I’m not that old.

And then, Ashton refused to give in to her fear of heights because she wouldn’t give me the ammunition to say, “We couldn’t complete the trail because of my daughters fear of heights”. Yeah, we’re stubborn!

Ah, but that age thing did catch up with me. At one point, I found the need to actually sit down on the side of the trail to rest and let my heart rate come completely down. All that climbing had my heart pounding rapidly in my ears. Years ago, I worked out with a personal trainer and used a heart rate monitor regularly. Because of that experience and knowledge, I knew I was pushing too hard and needed to take a break for my health and safety. After munching on a Lara Bar, resting, and drinking more water, I felt ready to tackle another stretch of climbing ……  just in time for my daughter to face her fears.

hiking in Zion

Ashton’s fear of heights kicks in! Who’s got the racing heart now?

This would be the final stretch of climbing needed to get to the top of the mesa. The trail was literally blasted out of the canyon wall and offered dizzying drop offs and eye-popping scenery. Not exactly ‘fear of heights’ friendly.

hiking in Zion

can you see the zig zag trail?

hiking Zion

Let’s zoom in a little closer – can you see the trail now? Check out that elevation gain.

hiking Zion

Zoomed in more! This stretch of trail was the most challenging for Ashton, not to mention my lungs.

hiking Zion

Ashton confronts her fear of heights! The popular Angels Landing Trail is just to the top left of Ashton’s head.

Ashton’s fear of heights was news to me. I have to admit, I found the whole situation somewhat humorous and had to ask, “Since when did you develop a fear of heights?” Somewhat hesitantly, she responded in a near whisper, “Since I went bungy jumping in New Zealand”. Her response resulted in more chuckling on my part …. “So you gave me gray hair, and gave yourself a fear of heights.”  Photo-op!

hiking zion national park

Ashton tries calming her nerves – fear of heights! “Seriously, mother!!! You really have to take a picture?”  Yes I do honey, yes I do 😆

zion national park

Another needed stop to calm the dizziness.

hiking Zion

Whew! Climbing has stopped. Mini panic attack over, but we still had further to go… Far left Mesa in the distance – to the left of the red vertical line = “Observation Point”

Once we reached the top of the mesa, we were able to breathe normally, but still had more distance to hike to get to “the point”. Ashton’s racing heart caused by a fear of heights had calmed down, and my racing heart caused from the ridiculous uphill climbing had also calmed. Deep calming breathes were taken by both of us followed by a sigh of relief.

hiking Zion

Observation Point in the distance – note the red vertical lines against the white rock – the V lines point to our destination.

hiking in Zion

Can you see the specs of people at Observation Point?  Follow the red vertical stripe up.

With the goal now in sight, our pace quickened. Ashton and I kept looking at each other with smiles and saying, “We’re doing this. We’re actually doing this. We’re almost there“.

As we exited that last cluster of pinion trees, we were assaulted with the most breathtaking view that is quintessential Zion Canyon. Engulfed with awe, we high-fived each other while huge smiles stretched from ear to ear. “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe we made. We did it!”Zion Canyon

It took us four challenging hours of unrelenting uphill climbing and at times we questioned our sanity. We also questioned each other, “Are you sure you don’t want to turn around?”  “It’s up to you. If YOU want to turn around, we’ll turn around“. “I’m fine. If YOU want to turn around, we’ll turn around“.  “Well, I’m fine too“.  Onward and upward!  Did I mention, we’re stubborn?

hiking Zion

Note the brass survey marker embedded in the rock. As you look to the monolith rock to the right – we are looking down on the infamous Angels Landing. Ashton was ready for a photo-op now!

Observation Point

Observation Point

That view … is that not the most incredible view! Thank goodness we embraced that stubbornness or we might have missed out on this experience. And what an experience this epic hike was. A memorable day indeed …. from start, to finish!

hiking zion

Time for a break! Let’s savor the view.

But the hike wasn’t over yet. What goes up, must go down, and what one thinks might be easy, probably isn’t. Next up, the journey back down the mountain ….

Zion Canyon


A Popular Trail in Zion

When Ashton and I chose Zion National Park as the destination for our road trip, I had only two requests …  stop at the Zion Lodge and hike the trail that was accessed across from the lodge. Other than that, I left it all up to daughter. Sure, I’d offer my input, but ultimately, we’d do and see whatever she would like.Zion National Park

Back in the early to mid nineties, we lived in Las Vegas, Nevada for a few years, and it’s an easy two and a half hour drive from Las Vegas to Zion National Park. While living in Las Vegas, Al and I visited Zion once with the kids in tow and later I revisited with a girlfriend. Both times, I overnighted at the Zion Lodge in one of the rustic cabins. The buildings themselves are unassuming, but the huge green lawn accompanied by a bunch of benches left an indelible impression upon me. A visitor can sit, and admire the soaring canyon walls …

Zion wildlifeAs I sat on one of those benches looking up, I remember feeling awed by the beauty around me. This former flatlander from Illinois was overwhelmed with the unique and stunning landscape.

Today, I was equally awed, if not more so. I’m not sure if it’s my age or the fact that I’m able to travel leisurely on regular basis, but there was a relaxed calmness about me that allowed me to savor the scenery along with each experience and hike I accomplished.Zion National Park

As any parent knows, traveling with small children is a huge distraction which I’m sure had an impact on my first visit to Zion. This go around was different. Instead of me, the mom, constantly concerned about the where abouts and antics of a six-year old and four-year old, my adult daughter was the one in charge and it was her responsibility to keep me (dear old mom) from getting into trouble. No easy task 😆  This new-found lack of responsibility on my part was oh so fun!

Zion National ParkAfter our Riverside Walk, we took the shuttle bus back down the canyon to the Zion Lodge and bought a couple of lattes at the cafe.

We found a bench near the large grass lawn and sat in silence while sipping our coffee. The last time my daughter and I sat here, she was four years old. Wow, how those twenty-three years seemed to have whizzed by!

Not only was I awed by the majestic landscape surrounding me, I was equally awed by the young lady sitting next to me. What a beautiful, caring and successful person my daughter has become. A mom can’t ask for much more!

With our energy boosted from the caffeinated coffees and a stop at the Zion Lodge checked off my list, it was time for a little more nostalgia. I wasn’t sure which trail hubby and I took with the kids all those years ago, but I was pretty sure the trail head was near the Zion Lodge, which meant it had to be the Emerald Pools Trail. What I do remember as the highlight of that day for our family of four was walking behind a waterfall. Thus, Ashton and I were off in search of that waterfall.

Emerald Pools Trail Zion National Park

Walking behind a waterfall – Emerald Pools Trail

Yep, I found the right trail and memories flooded back. It was every bit as entertaining during this visit as it was all those years ago, even though the amount of water falling was light in comparison.

The Emerald Pools Trail is a collection of short trails that meander past a small, lushly vegetated stream that rolls down from the cliffs and forms several interesting pools. Since the trail head is located across the street from the Zion Lodge making it easily accessible, the Emerald Pools trail is one of the most popular trails in Zion National Park. With that in mind, we weren’t surprised we encountered plenty of other hikers on the trail, but even though we had to share the trail, it was still worth the hike.

Emerald Pools

The beginning of the Emerald Pools trail hike

Emerald Pools

We did the entire hike from the lower pools to the upper pools, which is about 3 miles round trip. The last stretch to the upper pools was the most difficult, partly due to the number of other hikers on the trail and partly because of the elevation gain.

Zion National Park

Interesting scenery along the trail

Emerald Pools

Traffic jam at the upper pools. When they say this trail is popular, they aren’t kidding!

Emerald Pools Trail Zion National Park

This was a lovely hike that we enjoyed, but personally, I liked the super easy Riverside Walk Trail a little more. Not because it was easy (well, maybe) but because it offered open views of the soaring canyon walls, the rushing Virgin River, and of course, those lush hanging gardens. The Emerald Pools trail is more about the waterfalls and pools of water. The trail to the lower pool is rated easy, but as the trail climbs to the middle pool and eventually upper pool, it gets a little more difficult which is why this stretch is considered moderate.

From the Zion Lodge to the Upper Pool there’s a 350 foot elevation gain. It’s about 3 miles round trip. Plan around 2 hours – depending on photo stops.

Next up, we’re in search of more stunning scenery, and we’ll tackle the hike of all hikes … our epic hike ….

Zion National Park

Virgin River – Zion National Park

Homesteading and becoming a Reptile

The more time I spend in Arizona, the more I like it. It’s a fascinating state offering diversity and extremes.  The landscape ranges from stunning red rock country to unique hills filled with cactus to dense forests of tall pine trees.  In the morning, I can enjoy a cup of coffee in delightful 70 degree sunny weather in Phoenix and a couple of hours up the road I can go snow skiing in Flagstaff (that’s if I was into snow skiing).

Grand Canyon

Me at the south rim of the Grand Canyon 5/6/17

This kind of diversity can catch visitors by surprise and quite often does.  A few years ago, we visited the south rim of the Grand Canyon the first week of November.  The north rim had already closed for the season.  We were well prepared for whatever weather Mother Nature had in mind, and I was actually hoping for snow.  By mid October, all the campgrounds located outside of the national park are usually closed for the season.

Grand Canyon

south rim of the Grand Canyon – May 6, 2017

We set up camp at the only campground open year round offering hook ups; Trailer Village.  With the overnight temps expected to dip into the twenties, we connected the electric only.  The next morning as Al and I were ready to head on over to the rim for sightseeing, we chuckled as numerous RVer’s were struggling unsuccessfully with their water hose connections.  Yeah folks, when the overnight low hits 20 degrees Fahrenheit, you can expect things like waterline’s to freeze up.

Saguaro Cactus

Saguaro Cactus are only found in certain parts of Arizona

When we arrived at the visitor center, we glanced at a couple of tour buses that had just pulled up.  The moment the tourists disembarked in their summer attire, they were assaulted by the winter weather. We noticed the shock, disbelief and discomfort on their faces.  While Al and I stood there comfy in our winter garb, we wondered if anyone bothered enlightening these European tourists.

Several months ago, I made mention to a friend back in Illinois that Al and I decided to spend most of the year in the state of Arizona, including summer.  My friend questioned our logic and wondered why we would stick around Arizona in 110 degree weather.

And just like those tourists at the Grand Canyon, my friend had no clue about the elevation changes in this state.  Let’s face it, Illinois is pretty flat.  You want colder weather, you drive north.  You want warmer weather, you drive south.  Easy peasy, huh!  But it’s not so easy in the west.  It’s all about elevation and has nothing to do with north or south.

reptile, lizard

This lizard and I both like sunny warm weather. Does that make us both reptiles?

A little over a week ago, the temps in Phoenix were nearing that three digit mark.  That was our cue that it was time for us to head to the hills.  Our one hour plus drive took us from Phoenix’s elevation of 1,100 feet to Prescott Valley’s 5,200 feet, and the temperature dropped more than twenty degrees…. brrrr.  Al and I were cold.  Had our time in the valley of the sun turned us into reptiles?  Anything less than 70 degrees and we were donning sweatshirts!

Prescott RV Parks

Our home for the next few months!

Since we’ll be staying in Prescott Valley at least a couple of months, I decided to do a little homesteading and plant a garden.

I haven’t done any digging in the dirt since we went full-time in the RV four years ago. I purchased three planters, a bag of dirt, and a bunch of plants;  parsley, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, chives, and tomatoes.

I think I’d be dating myself if I said I was humming a Simon and Garfunkel song while planting my garden ….

It felt wonderful to do a little gardening and even though I’ve never been the best gardener, I’ve always found the activity enjoyable.  That said, Al and our two children have made bets on how long I’ll be able to keep these plants alive. Who needs fantasy football when you can bet on mom and her green thumb or lack thereof 😄

RV gardens

me planting my garden

So our first week in Prescott was a busy and fun one which included a day trip to the Grand Canyon for a picnic lunch.  Fun planting my little garden.  Hiking at one of my favorite locations – Watson Lake.  And trying to stay warm as a cold front accompanied by a record rainfall blew through the area.

Watson Lake

I love hiking at Watson Lake

reflection Watson Lake

Reflections at Watson Lake

I have a few more entertaining things planned for the month of May.  Let’s hope Mother Nature is agreeable and she won’t make me bundle up …. even more!

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Danger in the Desert

With the temperatures rising and starting to surpass 100 degrees, it was time for us to raise the jacks and get the wheels rolling in a northerly direction.  Our two month stay in Phoenix, Arizona, was filled with lots of socializing, some home maintenance projects, and plenty of hiking surrounded by beautiful scenery, vegetation and interesting critters.

I don’t know about you, but I never tire of fantastic scenery dotted with wildflowers. During our first week back in the valley of the sun, we hiked at the Superstition Mountains as much as possible, which wasn’t nearly enough.  It never is.  If I haven’t already told you, well even if I have ….. I love, love, love hiking here .

We were first introduced to this area about five years ago during our six-week road trip with our brand new 5th Wheel.  It was also during this trip back in 2012 when we were enlightened on the concept of full-time RVing.  My how time flies ….  fond memories!

I truly enjoy my time in the desert southwest, but it’s not for everyone and there are dangers to be aware of.

As the temperatures soar, the snakes come out making me a very cautious hiker.  Last spring I had a rather close call that rattled me.

And then of course, the extreme temperatures are not to be taken lightly.  Folks seem to underestimate how dangerous the sun and heat can be and hiking trail rescues become a regular occurrence during spring and summer.

I love it when the saguaro cactus bloom

I love my dear friend, but he can be a prick  😆

The desert feels so alive during spring time!

Watch where you step – the desert can be a dangerous place!

Our time in Phoenix may have come to a temporary end, but our time in Arizona has not. We’re now comfortably parked in Prescott Valley, a mere one hour plus drive north of Phoenix and are settled into a nice campsite for the next couple of months.  I have some favorite places around here that I’m looking forward to revisiting.

More of this to come!

 

 

 

Tony Northrup’s DSLR Book: How to Create Stunning Digital Photography

 

Oh, and one final thought……
Happy Cinco de Mayo – what’s for dinner? I made these delicious hatch chili hamburgers and they were so yummy especially paired with grilled asparagus and a tall margarita. If anyone’s interested, I’ll share the recipe in an upcoming post.  All you have to do is ask 😉

Urban Planning at its Finest

I’ll admit, I wasn’t always a fan of Phoenix, Arizona. Quite frankly, if our son hadn’t moved here eight years ago, I’m not sure how much time we’d actually spend in Phoenix, but let’s add in the fact that our daughter also lives here now …. well, need I say more … this place has definitely grown on me.desert wildflowers

With that said, Phoenix, Arizona, has since become our ‘home’, our home base so to speak.  We always manage to find some place in the Phoenix valley to park the RV for a desert birdlengthy stay and get in as much parent/child time as possible.  Although, from Al’s and my point of view, there never seems to be enough time spent with the kids.

Gosh, they are adults after all and do have demanding jobs and lives of their own.  Thus, we take what time we can get.

Our two favorite pastimes to spend together as a family are hiking and eating, and there’s no shortage of either around here.

As far as urban planning goes, I think Phoenix has done a fabulous job.  Traffic can be a bear just like any other major city, but the road system is laid out in a hikingsomewhat  organized manner compared to other cities and is easy to navigate. There are several expressways looping around the city to assist in keeping the dense amount of traffic moving.

Over the past several years of visiting Phoenix regularly, at all times of the year including summer, we’ve had the opportunity to observe traffic patterns and noticed there seems to be a sharp increase in traffic during the months of January, February, and March when the valley is loaded with snowbirds from the north.  Once these snowbirders move on …. come April, the density of the traffic seems to lighten, and by May the city can once again breathe.

Phoenix, AZ

This sure doesn’t look like a big city, does it? And check out the dense amount of wildflowers.

But what impresses me the most about Phoenix is the park / trail system.  No matter what side of the valley we park the RV, there’s always a trailhead within a short distance.  Quite hiking in Phoenixoften these trails feel remote, are rugged, and vary in challenge.  Don’t be fooled, there are some very challenging hikes in this city.

There’s also tons of groomed, kid friendly parks with playground equipment perfect for families. Yes, urban planning at its finest.

Although the Superstition Mountains remains my favorite place to hike while in Phoenix, I’ve discovered several other wonderful trailheads.

Most recently, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time hiking at the Sonoran Preserve.  The Desert Hills Trailhead was recently completed and is less than ten minutes away from our RV Park.  The Apache Wash Trailhead is located a little closer to where our children live and makes for a great place for us to meet up.

desert wildlfowers

the wildflowers have added a joy to my hiking

This spring has been especially enjoyable hiking with the abundance of dense wildflowers.  I’m a girly girl and a sucker for flowers.

hiking

hiking with my daughter regularly has been a wonderful treat

So, while it may not have been love at first sight, I’ve come to appreciate and embrace all that Phoenix has to offer.  Of course, the fact that my babies live here adds to mommy’s overall enjoyment ☺

Sonoran Preserve

Sonoran Preserve – Desert Hills Trailhead

share the trail

Whether you’re in the heart of the city or further out, you’ll share the trails with all kinds

share the trail

“I don’t mind sharing the trail”

desert birds

it’s not just the sights that are lovely … natures sounds are musical

desert wildflowers

love, love, love the desert wildflowers

happy camper

Me – happy camper, hiking near Lost Dutchman State Park

Moon Take a Hike Phoenix: Hikes within Two Hours of the City (Moon Outdoors)
Lawn Gone!: Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard

Color of Spring in the Desert

Thanks to the unusual and excessive rainfall this past winter in the desert southwest, the hills have come alive.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Phoenix valley so green, but it’s not just an abundance of green that has carpeted the land.

hiking in Phoenix

Superstition Mountain – Apache Junction, Arizona

Everywhere I look, I’m greeted with a delightful kaleidoscope of color. The wildflowers are on steroids this year and I’m loving the view.  Each bloom, bush, and tree is a wonderful sight to behold.

poppies

me photographing the wildflowers

desert wildflowers

The stunning display of wildflowers is an unexpected surprise to those visiting the desert for the first time.  The desert southwest is lush with vegetation and color and a far cry from the drab, barren brown most folks associate with a desert.

Phoenix hiking

Spring hiking in the desert is the best!

desert wildflowers

I always look forward to spring in Arizona, and couldn’t wait to share some of my favorite Phoenix valley spots with my daughter.   First up was hiking at the Superstition Mountain located on the far east side of the valley. This is my absolute favorite place to hike in Arizona.

Superstition Mountain

My daughter – it was a glorious morning to hit the trails.

March 2nd – Al and I managed to snag a lovely campsite in the overflow loop for a couple of nights of dry camping at Lost Dutchman State Park.  This is a popular state park and without a reservation, it’s difficult to nab a site with electric.

Lost Dutchman State Park

Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction, Arizona

By camping at the base of the Superstition Mountains, I was able to hike multiple times throughout the day and photograph the beauty that surrounded me. Sharing this amazing scenery with my daughter was a special treat.

wildflowers

Fields of poppies blooming at the base of the Superstitions

If you ever find yourself visiting Phoenix and looking for an entertaining way to spend a day, here’s a post I did a while back about the Apache Trail that you might find fun.

Lost Dutchman State Park

The desert provides the best skies

Who knew the desert could be so colorful?  ‘I know, I know’, she exclaimed with raised hand!  And once the wildflowers wither, it’ll be time for the cactus to bloom. The color of spring in the desert is a memorable and unique experience …. not to be missed.desert wildflowers

CMT 1 Pair – Anti Shock / Hiking / Walking / Trekking Trail Poles

Pinty 2L Hiking Backpack Hydration Pack with Water Bladder Cycling Climbing Camping Bag (Pink)

Data Diet

I love my mobile lifestyle.  To be honest, the lifestyle can be quite addictive. What started off as we’ll do this for a year or two until we find that special place to settle down has turned into four years and soon approaching year five of full-time RV living.  Egads, where does the time go?Desert Wildflowers

My one big dislike, a bone of contention, to this RV lifestyle centers around the internet.  The internet?  However, did we manage to survive before this remarkable invention?  I still remember a time when the TV flipper was the youngest kid in the family.  The invention of a TV remote control was a life changer for my little sister.

butterflyBack to the internet … when we first hit the road in the RV full-time, we started off with a Verizon mobile WiFi hotspot / jetpack with 5 GB of data that worked fine for a few months.

However like any RV newbie, we were so busy running around exploring those first few months that we didn’t spend much time on the internet. But once reality set in, we needed to get back to business which meant back to needing steady and strong internet connection.

Thus, we signed up for 30 GB of data, first through a Verizon reseller, and then later directly with Verizon.  All was fine until about a year ago.  We never stream. We don’t watch videos.  I don’t use the GPS on my iPhone and yet we seem to gobble up data twice as fast as we did previously.

egret

Data usuage? Gag!

We’ve run in to other location independent folks who seem to be experiencing similar data problems.  Some have switched providers or changed their plans.  I still haven’t desert poppiesfigured out why the increase in usage since we haven’t changed our habits.  If anything, we spend less time on the internet.  It’s been extremely frustrating.  I’m not sure what the fix might be, but in the meantime, I’ll need to curtail my internet fun leaving the gigs for our internet biz.

So yes my dear friends, I’m on a data diet and it does not make me a happy camper 😭

Our two months in Texas really spoiled us.  The RV park offered strong free WiFi right at our campsite. And boy oh boy, did we take full advantage of endless internet.  The you tube videos were rolling regularly … the educational kind, not the funny cat trick kind ……. well ….. maybe the cute puppy dog kind, but mostly educational.

So much fun!  But now that I’m back to using our jetpack with limited data (sigh, sad face, tear), I’ll need to plan visits to the library or coffee shop more strategically, which is just not as enjoyable as sitting at home with feet propped in my jammies and socializing with all my blogging pals.wildflowers

Oh well.  Such is the life of a full-time RV’er.  Life could be a whole heck of a lot worse. Seriously! Check out these photos of the amazing desert wildflowers.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Phoenix valley covered in so many beautiful wildflowers.  It’s crazy pretty around here lately.butterfly

I’ve tried to get out with the camera to capture her beauty, but between RV repairs, health matters, visiting with our children and navigating data issues since our return to Phoenix, Arizona, it has been a bit of a challenge.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way, and with the valley heat soaring those flowers won’t be sticking around too much longer.  Thus, over the next couple of weeks this gal will be hitting the trails with the camera at every opportunity.  Stay tuned!wildflowers

Superstition Wilderness Trails West: Hikes, Horse Rides, and History
Hiking Arizona’s Superstition and Mazatzal Country: A Guide to the Areas’ Greatest Hikes (Regional Hiking Series)

Shhh! It’s a Secret

I was deep in thought as I glanced out the truck window watching the never-ending west Texas landscape pass by.  It’s times like these that my mind wanders and I do my best thinking.  Yes siree, Texas is one big state and a state that has a lot to offer; diverse landscape, fun cities, quaint towns, a Gulf Coast, tasty food, and a variety of weather.  I’d say, a little something to please anyone’s interests.

Medina River

Bandera, Texas – Medina River

Along with a few new discoveries made this winter, I found myself revisiting a bunch of my favorite spots.  For me, it’s all about nature and looking at life through the lens of my ospreycamera.  With that said, what I love about Texas may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine by me.  How boring and crowded it would be if we all liked the same things.

I put a map together to share with you, my wonderful blog followers,  a few of my special haunts along the Texas coast, but shhh, let’s keep these sites between us.  It’ll be our secret  😃  After all, we wouldn’t want the world discovering this unassuming area or encroach on my birds.  Then it just wouldn’t be the same.

pelican

Listen up!

Alright, I’ll admit most of the sites noted on the map aren’t exactly secret, especially during the peak tourist months in summer or those popular holiday breaks, but even then, not everyone knows where to find these magnificent birds.  But I do!whooping crane

Now don’t go getting mad at me if there aren’t any birds at the noted sites.  My feathered friends do have wings and a mind of their own.  And they’re really bad about birdschecking in with me – almost as bad as my children!

Obviously, there’s a bunch of things I left off the map.  I really could’ve added another dozen markers, but decided to focus on the sites I personally have a tendency to frequent the most.  I’m never at a loss of things to do around here and make new discoveries all the time.

With a little time and exploration along the Texas Gulf Coast, I have no doubt that you too will discover your own favorite spots – spots I might even be unaware of – in which case, you’ll be obligated to share!

After spending two months enjoying the Texas Gulf Coast, it was time for us to hit the road and return to the desert southwest.  Crossing west Texas can seem never-ending, Texas Longhornbut with a little foresight and armed with helpful information about hidden gems, the drive can be bearable and maybe even enjoyable.

Before we can get to west Texas, we’ll need to get to Interstate 10.  The last several times we’ve driven through this part of Texas, affectionately called the hill country, we’ve always included a stop in San Antonio.  Wanting to change things up a bit and avoid the big city, we came up with an alternate route.

Besides, driving through San Antonio with an RV is an adventure unto itself, and not always a pleasant one especially when the GPS and wife are at odds.  Poor Al 😫

Texas Hill Country

Spring in the Texas Hill Country – adorable!

Thanks to a recommendation from a wonderful blog follower/friend, we discovered the quaint little town of Bandera, Texas, which is located northwest of San Antonio and south of the town of Kerrville and Interstate 10.

sleeping duckTalk about a great place to overnight and avoid traveling through San Antonio.

Next year, I think we’ll stay here longer and explore the town of Bandera. One night was definitely not enough.  Our RV park neighbor mentioned a tasty place for breakfast located within walking distance from the RV park that piqued Al’s interest.

I remained smitten with all the birds along the river and if the weather prediction for west Texas had been better, we absolutely would’ve hung around another day or two.  But with impending wind and rain in the forecast, we felt it best to keep on rolling west.  Yep, it’s crucial to keep an eye out for that Texas weather, especially high winds that can cause brown out conditions or spur up tornadoes.

Eygyptian Goose

Egyptian Goose checking on her eggs

So where did we stay for our overnight in Bandera, Texas?  On the trip down to Rockport, we stayed at the Skyline Ranch RV Park, and on our return to Arizona we stayed in town at the Pioneer River Resort.  Both places are located along the Medina River, but Pioneer is located right in town while Skyline is a few miles out of town.  You can count on being packed in pretty tight at either RV park.

Bandera Texas RV Park

Pioneer River Resort, Bandera, Texas

Bandera Texas

Bandera Community Park along the Medina River. Pioneer River RV Park can be seen in the far distance on left. Sits on the other side of the highway. Easy walk for me to spend time with these guys.

Bandera RV Park

Skyline Ranch RV Park – photo taken as I was walking back from the river.

Skyline RV Park

At Skyline Ranch RV Park it’s all about the deer. The Axis deer are so cute with their spots.

We really enjoyed both RV Parks and it would be a toss up as to which one I’d recommend.  Guess it boils down to whether one prefers staying in town or hanging in the country.

gazebo

This gazebo reminded me of the ‘Gilmore Girls’

On that note, I think I’ll let the photographs do the rest of the talking and show you what makes Texas special to me ….

Medina River

Bandera, Texas – Medina River – community park.  White momma duck sitting on her nest.

axis deer

Axis deer – Bandera, Texas

Egyptian goose

Medina River

 

 

 

 

 

 

chicks

Spring is in the air!

duck

duck

 

 

 

 

 

 

heron

great blue heron roosting site

pelican

Now that’s a mouth full!

roseate spoonbill

roseate spoonbill

Charlies Pasture

Interesting trails!

cormorants

Life along the coast!

killdeerbird

 

 

 

 

 

sunrise

 

birding center

 

 

 

 

 

Always something interesting to see!

egret

 

 

 

 

 

 

egrethawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

blogging

roseate spoonbills

Until we meet again, my pink beauties!

Adios Texas, until next time…. and yes there absolutely will be a next time!

VIAIR 300P Portable Compressor

the Next EXIT 2017