First stop – Coral Pink Sand Dunes

I love road trips with my daughter. We always manage to find plenty of adventure, and trust me, this recent road trip was filled with lots of laughs, challenges, and new experiences for the both of us.Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

The last time Ashton and I took a road trip she was still in college living in Fort Collins, Colorado. That trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota has always held the fondest of memories for this mother and daughter duo.  We never imagined that we could possibly top that road trip.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Ashton taking a panorama

But oh boy, we topped it indeed.  What an adventure.  One for the books!

sand dune flowersIt all started when Ashton drove up from Phoenix to pick me up in Prescott Valley, Arizona, where Al and I are currently camped with the RV.

She had her new Honda CRV (lovingly named Charlotte) all loaded up with everything we needed for our camping trip.  She and I had been planning and preparing for this trip for the past several weeks, and just like her mom (me), Ashton is well-organized.

Wednesday – May 17th   After loading my personal belongings into Charlotte along with a few items into the cooler, we hit the road.  As the lunch hour neared, I received a text message from hubby thanking me for the yummy food left in the frig.  Say what?  I had a feeling all along that I was forgetting something. I managed to load the cooler with the freezer items, but totally forgot about the frig; the egg salad, lettuce, and turkey in the RV refrigerator were left behind.  At least Al was a happy camper with a full tummy.Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Having traveled this route in Arizona many a time, I knew exactly where we were going to stop for a picnic lunch, or so I thought …..   The plan was to stop at the famous Horseshoe Bend overlook for some photo-ops and a picnic, but as we neared the turn for the overlook, there was a line of cars and RV’s stretching down the highway waiting to enter the parking lot.  Egad …. no thanks!   And with the food targeted for our lunch left behind, it was time to come up with an alternative plan.

Lake Powell

Lake Powell – A scenic overlook north of Page, Arizona. Perfect stop for lunch.

We continued north on Highway 89 and stopped at the Walmart in the town of Page to pick up some lunch meat and groceries along with a couple of Subway sandwiches.  We then had that picnic lunch at the Lake Powell scenic overlook.  Not a bad plan B, but that weather was not looking good.Coral Pink Sand Dunes

We encountered a steady stream of rain and wind our entire drive from Page, Arizona to Kanab, Utah. It was still drizzling when we arrived at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.  Much to my surprise, the campground was full, but they did have a primitive site for us which turned out to be perfect and gave us views and privacy.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Our primitive site F at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Our previous practice pitching the tent in daughter’s backyard paid off in spades.  We managed to battle the wind and rain like pros and had our shelter up in no time.

tent campingWe held off inflating our air mattresses and brought our camp chairs into the tent.

As the rain pelted the tent and the nylon fabric whipped to and fro by the winds, Ashton and I sat inside our shelter wrapped in a blanket watching the weather pass by.  We were warm, we were dry and we were on an adventure.

Eventually, there was a short reprieve in the weather and we wasted no time getting out to explore the sand dunes.  The poor weather actually served to our benefit.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

The Coral Pink Sand Dunes is an off-roader’s paradise.  With 1,200 acres of dunes to explore, the steady roar of engines from ATV’s and dune buggies is to be expected. However, with the poor weather, we practically had the sand dunes to ourselves. There were a few other hikers out and about, but absolutely no OHV’s (off-highway vehicles). We didn’t need to share this amazing scenery with anyone.  How cool was that!Coral Pink Sand Dunes

It was quiet, peaceful, and down right beautiful.  Ashton and I hiked, climbed, and explored the dunes.  There wasn’t a single four-wheeler out on the dunes, allowing us to wander about without concern. What a treat and a privilege to be able to experience this unique landscape in solitude.Coral Pink Sand Dunes

The shutter on our cameras clicked away as we admired the views. We were fascinated by the wildflowers and vegetation. The contrast of colors between the sweeping sand dunes and the mountain backdrop dotted with juniper pines captivated us.  We drank it all in before the second wave of weather began to assault us.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

The dunes were dotted with these lovely wildflowers

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Rain turned to sleet and eventually to snow.  The winds were relentless and the temperature continued to drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.  For cripes’ sake, this was the middle of May!  For some reason, we found a great deal of humor in our situation and by 8:30 p.m. we were cocooned in our warm sleeping bags atop our four-inch thick inflated air mattresses and laughing.  Yes, we were roughing it. No glamping for these gals…. at least not this time!Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Just two weeks earlier as temperatures in Phoenix were hitting the triple digit range, daughter Ashton, a Colorado gal at heart, decided to take her ice/snow scraper out of her vehicle for the first time ever.  Having grown up in Colorado and traveling regularly to higher elevations, she’s used to encountering inclement, unexpected weather anytime of year. We found the timing of her ice scraper removal just another laughable moment.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

We woke up to an iced over car and ice topped tent …. brrrr – it was cold!

At some point during the night I woke up.  I was a little disoriented and not sure when we had fallen a sleep. Probably in between giggles and story telling while the tent swayed hither and yon.

And now it was calm and quiet.  No more wind or rain.  It had to be about one or two in the morning.  Not wanting to wake Ashton, I slowly unzipped the tent, and although I was shivering from the cold, I was awed beyond words the moment I exited the tent. The sky was incredibly clear and the stars shone brilliantly against the navy blue background.  For a split second I thought about waking Ashton and had it been even slightly warmer, I would have.  What a sight to behold and oh how I wanted to linger and drink in that breathtaking vision, but alas the warmth of the sleeping bag beckoned.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

The sand was frozen and felt like we were walking on pavement.

The next morning while we allowed the rising sun to melt the ice on Charlotte, we took another hike across the dunes.  The sand was frozen and reminded us of walking on frozen snow.  It was a very different experience from our hike the day before.

So how did we feel about tenting it in these conditions?  I won’t lie, once it started sleeting the thought of a hotel did cross our minds, but in the end, I’m so glad she and I are both stubborn.  Our experience at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes couldn’t have been any better (well, maybe a tad warmer).  Sure, we were cold, but the weather added another dimension to our overall experience, and fortunately, we maintained our sense of humor which definitely helped.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Frost and snow dotted the landscape that morning

 

And this was just our first stop.  Next up, Zion National Park ….


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Final thoughts on Idaho

From our campsite at the Beaver Dick Park near Rexburg, we enjoyed a few out and back day trips exploring eastern Idaho.  After spending two months in this state, I’ve come to expect the unexpected.  The land around here is some of the most diverse I’ve ever seen.Idaho

July 2016 – home base was situated among rolling agricultural land.   One of our day drive excursions took us past green and golden fields that were occasionally interrupted by quaint towns, small subdivisions, farms and ranches.  Fifty miles northwest of Idaho Falls, hills of fine white sand loomed in the distance.

Elgin Lake at St. Anthony Sand Dunes

Elgin Lake at St. Anthony Sand Dunes

Talk about a playground fit for any age with a diverse landscape that is extremely intriguing ….. huge sand dunes that are bordered by freshly harvested fields to the south, brush-covered lava plain border the north, and a body of water that sits at its base (Elgin Lake).  Fun recreation abounds!

Boys and there toys!

Boys and their toys!

Ah, but lots of girls get in on the action. Isn't she the cutest? Safety first - helmet and gloves!

Ah, but girls get in on the action too. Isn’t she the cutest? Safety first – helmet and gloves!

These out-of-place sand dunes spill across the Snake River Plain in a wide arc and provide endless OHV adventure (off highway vehicle).  St. Anthony Sand Dunes consists of 10,000 acres of dunes rising 400 feet up and look to be quite the thrill…. check out this video….

I did try talking Al into renting a razor for the day, but alas, one of us needed to be the voice of reason.  So that means, I did not get to experience those amazing sand dunes up close and personal…. sigh.  However, hubby did promise – if we ever find ourselves in this part of Idaho again, we would definitely camp at St. Anthony and rent an OHV.

This Sheriff enjoys his job!

This law enforcement officer enjoys his job!

After getting that promise in writing (LOL), it was time for us to head north to the little town of Ashton.  You see, our daughter’s name is Ashton and I just had to get a photo of Ashtonthe town sign, AND she is definitely my adventurous child. Thus, this sign seemed fitting.

But the town of Ashton wasn’t the only reason for us to head in this direction …… The Mesa Falls Scenic Byway.  This thirty mile scenic road meanders through the Targhee National Forest.

The combination of rolling meadows, pine woodland, and views of  rushing water was a visual delight.

The major tourist stop along this route is Upper Mesa Falls.  The Big Falls interpretive center is a great place to learn about the geology and history of the area.

Upper Mesa Falls

Upper Mesa Falls

scenic overlooks

scenic overlooks

From the interpretive center there are several developed trails, allowing visitors to view the falls and rushing water below.

The interpretive center building was charming

The interpretive center building was charming

Upper Mesa Falls is 200 feet wide and drops about 110 feet, and although I found the area to be difficult to photograph, the setting was perfect for a picnic lunch.  While munching away, we Mesa Fallsbreathed in the fresh scent of pine as the sound of rushing water below and singing song birds above serenaded us.

Our picnic table was pleasantly located under the shade of pines near a meadow filled with wildflowers.  Yep, great place to relax and enjoy our lunch .

We did stop at lower Mesa Falls, but the view is from a roadside overlook and the falls are pretty far away.  The view was a bit of a disappointment and almost not worth the stop, but there were some large informative signs that enlightened us on the flora, fauna, wildlife, and geology in the area making it Mesa Fallsworthwhile after all.

Personal opinion ….. Upper Mesa Falls definitely has better views than lower Mesa Falls.  We thoroughly enjoyed this visit.

Other Idaho note worthy sights……

Henry’s Lake just north of Island Park and not far from West Yellowstone offers a state park with camping, but if you don’t mind driving to the other side of the lake, the Bill Frome County Park offers free dry camping.  Donations are appreciatedcampingAl and I had every intention of moving up to this location so we could explore West Yellowstone, but we had some commitments that required us to head east, thus the timing didn’t fit.  Plus, I was starting to miss my beloved Colorado.  We’ll save a stay at Henry’s Lake for another time.

Henry's Lake looked like a great place to park for a while.

Henry’s Lake looked like a beautiful place to camp

If you own an OHV or are into four-wheeling, then you’d fit right in in eastern Idaho.  Island Park was loaded with off-roaders having a great time tooling around the back country, but anglers seemed to enjoy the area equally as well with no shortage of places to test their hook and line.

Ririe Reservoir

Ririe Reservoir

Our last camping spot in Idaho was near the tiny town of Ririe – The Juniper Campground.  We ended up staying here for a couple of nights so we could get caught up on household chores and stock up on supplies in nearby Idaho Falls.  Tidbit – you can call the camp host to make a reservation at the Juniper Campground. If you do, please ask for his recommendation on sites.  The map that’s on their website is out of date and labeled incorrectly.

Juniper Campground - Ririe Reservoir

Juniper Campground – Ririe Reservoir

From what we gathered, the majority of the time a reservation isn’t necessary but does give you the opportunity to secure one of the nicer sites.  Many of the sites are unlevel or sloped which would make setting up a little more challenging for some RV’s.  Therefore, checking with the camp host is a huge advantage.  We thought the Juniper Campground was a gem of a park to stay while exploring this side of Idaho.

The Oregon Trail and Goodale's cutoff

The Oregon Trail and Goodale’s cutoff

On a final note …… I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fascinating history found in Idaho.  Idaho has done a fantastic job with signage; educating us on her past ….. reminders of those far more adventurous than today’s full-timing RVer’s.  While I sit on a leather seat in the comfort of a climate controlled truck, pulling my equally comfy home behind me, complete with refrigerator and toilet (my two most important items), I envision the strength and fortitude it must have taken those pioneers to embark on that western migration via horse and covered wagon navigating the Oregon Trail.Oregon trail

Oregon Trail

Many lost their lives.  Many decided to not travel any further and homestead here instead.  Others came to Idaho seeking riches in mining.  Whatever reason they had to leave behind all that was familiar, I can’t help but admire those that paved the path west.

Mackay Idaho

After spending two months in Idaho, it was time for me to bid farewell to this agriculturediverse and fascinating state.

I hiked a Lava Tube for the first time, laid eyes on one of the most picturesque lakes I’ve ever seen, photographed a carpet of unusual wildflowers growing in the harshest of conditions, experienced the roar of powerful waterfalls, witnessed an extreme sport, and followed the trail blazed by Pioneers.

It was an interesting and fascinating visit filled with fond memories.  Auf Wiedersehen Idaho …. until we meet again!

My blogging friend, Char, wrote “Between Hope & the Highway” while living in Boise, Idaho.  Unfortunately, timing didn’t work for us to meet in person, but I do have a copy of her new book on the way!

                

Visit Idaho

The Sands of Time

As I sit in San Antonio, Texas, snuggled up in my comfy RV engulfed in a deluge of never ending rain (it’s finally easing up), I’m given the perfect opportunity to get the blog caught up with our travels. I admire those of you who are able to keep your blogs updated while traveling all the while engaging in the sights and sounds of new territory.  That’s not me… as usual, I’m over a week behind 😉Alamogordo New Mexico

The sands of time; so as time seems to get away from me, what better time to talk about sand dunes…..White Sands Missle Range

Alamogordo New Mexico

Could that be snow? Nope, it’s sand …. sand as far as the eye can see!

Rising from the Tularosa Basin near Alamogordo, New Mexico, sits the largest gypsum dune field in the world – 275 square miles of glistening brilliant white sand aptly named White Sands National Monument.Alamogordo New Mexico

We entered the monument from the east. As we continued driving the 8 mile scenic road west, the dunes increased in size; some of which are over 50 feet tall.  The vegetation also gets sparser the further west we traveled along with changing sand grains.  At the eastern edge the sand grains are very small and round while to the west the sand grains become larger and consist of different shapes.  To categorize this place as unique is an understatement.White Sands National Monument

Al and I climb a sand dune and then another. A child like exuberance comes over me.  I try making a snow angel and then I pretend I’m walking on the moon.  A couple of kids in the distance are sledding.  Yep, sledding on sand!  You can even bring pooch – leashed of course, which is so unusual since dogs aren’t normally allowed on trails in National Parks or Monuments.

White Sands Alamogordo New Mexico

A walk on the moon?

Alamogordo New Mexico

The sand is cool. It feels like no other sand.

And think pooches paws will be bothered by the hot sand?  Think again.  Gypsum does not convert the sun’s energy into heat and thus the sand can be walked on with bare feet even during the hottest of summer months.White Sands dunes

Al and I are awed by the raw untapped beauty. The vision leaves us speechless and we decide to find a place to sit and watch the sun set.   As the sun lowers, we watch a film crew from South America do a photo shoot.  Boy, I’d love to see the finished photos of that shoot.

photo shoot in national Park

a professional photo shoot

Strong southwest winds keep the dunes in a constant state of change.  They grow, crest, then slump but always advance.  We lucked out with sustained winds of only 5 to 10 miles per hour, allowing us to enjoy a beautiful sunset.White Sands National Monumentwhite sands national monumentI’m very glad the weather cooperated and our schedule finally allowed us to take in the White Sands National Monument. It was so worth our time.  🐫Alamogordo New Mexico

Emsco Snow Monster Disc Heavy Duty 26 ” Dia Plastic
Simplicity Pink Scarf with Cute Butterflies in Soft Colors, Fringed Ends