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 ūüėÜ

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 ūüė•

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 ūüėä

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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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 ūü§£ 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 ūüĒ• 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 ūüėĒ 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? ūüėÄ

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¬†ūüėĄ¬†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

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 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 ūüėŹ

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

UPDATE –¬†As of May 2018 access to the Waterholes Canyon trail has been changed. Supposedly permits are no longer being issued and a guide is required. The information regarding this trail is ever changing and confusing. Please do your homework for the latest information before embarking on¬†this hike.

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

Merrell Men’s hiking BootMerrell Women’s
Compass T-Shirt

How to Plan for a Camping Trip

With our mother/daughter trip already a month in arrears, Ashton and I still haven’t stopped talking about our exciting adventure. ¬†Looking back, I wonder what made this trip such a fun adventure and total success. No doubt, I attribute it to good planning and organization which ultimately lead to a wonderful camping trip experience.zion national park

Our Utah excursion was one of the best trips my daughter and I have ever shared and that’s saying a lot. Let’s face it, it’s no easy feat beating a trip to Disney World. Our Disney vacation and a trip we took to South Dakota a few years ago still rank pretty high on our list of epic excursions, but this trip to Zion National Park may have topped those two previous vacations.

When Ashton and I decided we were long overdue for a gals get away, our scheming began in earnst weeks in advance. So what exactly did we do that helped make our camping trip so successful?how to plan for a camping trip

This post contains affiliate links. However, I only share items we use and believe in.  

OUR TOP 9 TIPS FOR PLANNING A GREAT CAMPING TRIP…..

1. Location & Budget: Where to go on vacation? Ashton and I pulled out the atlas and began searching within a large radius around her home in Phoenix, Arizona. First and foremost, we discussed budget. Our budget was the main reason we decided to drive versus fly and camp versus hotel.

The length of our trip would be five days and four nights. We looked for a scenic location that we could drive to in one day but could also break up the drive if there was a scenic place to stop along the way. Zion National Park fit the criteria for our excursion perfectly.

Once we decided on a national park as the destination, we knew we wanted to tent camp. In my opinion, camping is a much more intimate experience with the environment than staying in a hotel. Camping puts us up close and personal with our surroundings and wildlife. Trust me, I’m not saying there isn’t a time and place for the comforts of a hotel room, I just feel closer to nature when I camp, especially in a national park, but I do like mixing it up depending on where my travels take me. Ah, this is why an RV is the best of both worlds ūüė鬆I do love my RV!

Since taking the RV for this particular trip to Zion National Park wasn’t an option, tent camping was the best choice for these two gals and at $20 a night, we easily stayed within our budget.¬†We knew driving and camping would be the biggest bang for our buck.

2. Create check lists.  Our first list included the items needed for camping which obviously encompasses the tent, air mattresses, bedding, flashlights, ax/knives, lighter/matches.

We started a second list of equipment needed for cooking which included the Coleman Stove(s), cookware, plates, utensils, cleaning supplies, towels.

Our third list was for our personal toiletries and clothing. When you’re camping, you need to think about where you’ll be cleaning up and showering. A beach bag and flip flops have served me well over the years in keeping me organized while using a public facility. However, when a campground offers no place to shower, like the South Campground at Zion National Park, there’s nothing better than a package of baby wipes to keep you feeling fresh especially after a long arduous hike. Who knew baby wipes had multiple uses?

how to plan a camping trip

Bring equipment that serves a multi-purpose use. The use of the dish pan soothed my aching feet after the hike to observation point. ¬†Filled with warm water, you could use it for a sponge bath – in the privacy of the tent ūüėČ

When it came to clothing, we focused on bringing items we could layer and made sure we brought rain gear and cold weather gear. Hiking shoes with good traction were also a must. Be sure you have a realistic grasp and understanding of the type of climate and landscape of your location and pack accordingly.

3. Food planning and preparation. ¬†Ashton and I decided we didn’t want to eat out much. Plus, we’d be traveling through some remote countryside while passing by the occasional small town. It was important to us that we be totally self-sufficient, eat healthy, and not rely on trying to find a place to grab something to eat.

how to plan a camping tripWe made a meal plan (another list) and then divided up the grocery list and cooking preparation.

We cooked meals at home weeks in advance (like spaghetti and chili) and then froze these meals. During our trip when it was time to eat, we simply needed to reheat the food at our campsite.

We also pattied out burgers, marinated chicken breasts, then seasoned and individually saran wrapped everything and froze. The morning of travel, we took all the frozen items and placed them in our cooler topped with a bag of ice. Which ever item thawed first, dictated the order in which we ate the meals.

I could do a whole separate post on our meals and snacks. We really did well in our planning and prep. We never felt hungry, we ate healthy, and stayed within our budget.

4. Plan for travel. I’m a huge believer in physical maps. We’ve all heard the horror stories of a GPS leading folks astray. ¬†There’s nothing wrong with using a GPS, but in remote country, it’s always wise to confirm the route with a physical map so you don’t find yourself on a one lane gravel, rutted road in the middle of no where. It happens!

You can’t possibly do too much research or have too much information. Always stay updated on weather and road conditions.

Are there forest fires anywhere near your destination or along your route? How about road closures, landslides, construction? If you have a reservation, call and confirm ahead of time. If you don’t have a reservation what are your chances of finding a campsite or lodging? What are your backup options?

Have a plan A, B and C. When it comes to travel, flexibility is key and things DO go wrong. Never did we think we were going to get snowed on during that first night at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. Thank goodness we packed extra blankets. It sure got cold! There was never a mention in the weather report or on radar about the severity of the storm we experienced. I did my homework and things still went askew. But it added to the adventure, thus no complaints.

5. Don’t procrastinate and wait until the last minute to throw things together. Planning ahead of time is crucial. Off in the corner of daughters garage, we started gathering a small pile of camping gear weeks in advance. ¬†We spent time checking and rechecking the equipment. We practiced pitching the tent in the backyard, which made us look like pros at the campground. Yes, we impressed ūüėé

We also made sure all the gear was clean and in good working condition with no missing parts. And in the case of tent stakes and propane bottles, we made sure we had extras.

how to plan for a camping trip

you can see our camp with all our stuff – daughter putting on her makeup

6. Organization – load up. I like using water-tight rubber bins to keep us organized. As long as we’re not in bear country, we can keep the bin with kitchen supplies (pans/plates/utensils/matches) handy on the picnic table. It’ll keep squirrels, mice, and water out. We used another bin for our dry foods but did keep that one in the car at all times.

We used different sized bins determined by the amount of supplies and separated by subject.  BUT before filling the bins, we made sure they, along with the cooler, fit into the back of the Honda CRV.

By having everything organized in one spot in the garage, on the day of travel, it was convenient to load up and hopefully not forget anything. This made life easy for Ashton considering she was loading the car by herself. I was located an hour away.

7. Review essentials – medications and camera gear. A day or two before travel day, make sure you pack medications, check your first aide kit, review your camera gear making sure batteries are charged and you have extra media cards, have emergency contacts written on paper in case cell phones die or won’t work, pack last minute things.

I love this power inverter. We were able to keep things charged. We couldn’t find any outlets at the campground not even in the restroom. Thus, this inverter saved us by keeping our phones and cameras charged.

8. Communicate with loved ones regularly. ¬† In this day of technology, it’s easier than ever to stay connected. Keep your loved ones back home up to date on your where abouts. That way, should something unfortunate occur, your loved ones will have a general idea of your last location. This is also the perfect excuse to take selfies and share, but please don’t overdo and annoy your friends and family stuck back home working.

how to plan a camping trip

Don’t leave loved ones in the dark – let them know where you are and what you’re doing.

I usually texted my husband once in the morning letting him know our general itinerary and again later in the day when we returned to camp. My daughter would do the occasional post to Facebook or Instagram. ¬†When we overnighted at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, we had no cell service but the ranger was kind enough to allow us to use the land line so I could call hubby and let him know where we were spending the night. Thus, we didn’t how to plan for a camping tripdisappear for five days leaving loved ones back home worried.

9. Be flexible. Things happen and may not go according to plan. The weather may not agree on the day you have that epic hike planned. Don’t force the plan, adjust. Maybe a rainstorm is the perfect excuse to visit local stores, or a coffee shop, or brewery. Or spend a little extra time at the visitor center learning about the area. How about a museum?

Remember safety and prevailing on the side of caution should always be paramount. Changing plans at the last minute on a whim or due to unforeseen circumstances, has provided some of my most memorable experiences.

 

So let’s review my top nine tips on how to plan for a great camping trip ….

  1. choose a location and budgettop 9 tips for camping
  2. create check lists
  3. plan meals and do food prep ahead of time
  4. plan the travel and do research
  5. don’t procrastinate and wait until the last minute¬†
  6. organization is key
  7. review essentials and continue to review your check lists
  8. communicate regularly with loved ones back home
  9. be flexible and have a good time

And how’d we do on that budget? Awesome!¬†First,¬†let’s not take into consideration our groceries. Whether on vacation or at home, we still have to eat. So that cost is an everyday expenditure and not associated exclusively with the trip, but I will included the two meals that we did eat out and the stop at the coffee shop at the Zion Lodge. I’m also not including my $80 seasonal national park pass which I had purchased at the Grand Canyon a month earlier.

Five days and four nights cost us just shy of $200 which covered our campsite fees, gasoline, and eating out (2 meals). Ashton and I split the cost making our five day camping trip a whopping $100 per person for the entire trip. Quite the deal, wouldn’t you agree?

So are you ready to get out your camping gear and visit the nearest national park? I know I am and can’t wait to go again!Observation Point Trail Zion

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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 ūüėÜ

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 Рinteresting 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…. ¬†ūüė≤

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 ūüėÜ

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


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 РMay 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 ….


Beauty Abounds

Beauty comes in many forms.  Sometimes beauty is in your face obvious while other times it takes a little longer to seek out.  From my first scenic overlook sighting at Bryce Canyon National Park to each subsequent visit, wow was usually the first word I uttered.  The scenery was breathtaking, stunning, mesmerizing, and obviously beautiful.

beauty abounds when we open our eyes

beauty abounds when we open our eyes

After spending an incredible week exploring Bryce Canyon Country, it was time to move on.¬† Although I must admit, I could’ve easily spent another week staring at those mind-boggling hoodoos.Bryce Canyon

Willard Bay State Park, South Campground

Willard Bay State Park, South Campground

Our journey from Panguitch, Utah took us north through Salt Lake City, Utah.  We enjoyed a quick overnight stay at Willard Bay State Park camped near the shores of the Great Salt Lake.  We thought about spending a second night which would allow us to explore the main part of the state park, but the bugs were rather bad and the next day a severe storm was heading in our direction.

Note all the bugs in this photo. Traipsing through the tall grasses for photo-ops was probably not my smartest move. I left with more bug bites than photos :-(

Note all the spots in my photo in the sky,¬†those are¬†bugs. Traipsing through the tall grasses for photo-ops was probably not my smartest move. I left with more bug bites than photographs ūüė¶

Thus, with high wind warnings in the forecast, we hightailed it out of there early the next morning before the 66 mile per hour gusts of wind arrived.¬† A little over three hours later, we were setting up camp at our summer home at the Mountain View RV Park in Arco, Idaho.¬† Al and I decided to give “Workamping” a whirl this summer which is how we ended up here.¬† Once I get a chance, I’ll do a separate post on life as a Workamper.

Craters of the Moon National Monument

Craters of the Moon National Monument

The biggest draw to this part of Idaho is Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.¬† Since arriving in Arco, Idaho, I’ve had the opportunity to visit this park a¬†few times.¬† During¬†my first visit, Al and I gathered information at the visitor center and drove the scenic loop while stopping at a few points of interest.¬† Knowing we had the entire summer to explore Craters of the Moon NM, we¬†focused on¬†a general overview.

entrance to a Lava tube

entrance to a Lava tube

On our next visit, we embarked on a hike that took me out of my comfort zone.¬† I’m not usually a fan of enclosed spaces like caves or crowded elevators.¬† So, I didn’t exactly jump at the¬† thought of hiking a Lava tube tunnel, but I am on an adventure after all,¬†and the last thing I was going to do¬†was allow a little phobia¬†to hinder my explorations.

inside Indian Tunnel - Lava tube cave

inside Indian Tunnel – Lava tube cave

On my third visit, I focused on the beauty found around this harsh landscape.¬† Just like at Bryce Canyon National Park, I uttered the word “wow” routinely, but more in a strange and curious tone as opposed to wow that’s beautiful.

Sometimes it takes looking at the smaller details to see the beauty.

Sometimes it takes looking at the smaller details to see the beauty.

When I first laid eyes on Craters of the Moon, the word beautiful was not at the forefront.¬†¬† I think my thoughts were more along the lines of¬†…. stark, harsh, unforgiving, barren, mean, bewildering, and maybe even ugly.¬† With each subsequent visit my opinion seemed to change …. intriguing, fascinating, perplexing, and¬†yes, beautiful.Craters of the MoonIn my attempt to find the beauty, I visited¬†the morning after a heavy rainstorm.¬† As I meandered along a trail, I could hear water trickling between the rocks.¬† Birds were chirping.¬† Chipmunks were running around foraging for food, and the wildflowers were springing to life.¬† There seemed to be a bevy of activity.Craters of the Moon

I found myself surrounded by a strange beauty, and couldn’t help but feel a level of respect for all things surviving in this severe landscape.

I found beauty in the strangest place.¬† I assure you, there will be more posts about Craters of the Moon.¬† Stay tuned….

finding beauty in the smaller things

finding beauty in the smaller things

Moon Idaho (Moon Handbooks)

In Love with Bryce

With the weather being fickle, we¬†decided to pay¬†for two nights at¬†a RV Park giving¬†us the flexibility to rearrange our plans on a whim.¬† When the weather improved, our two-night stop to visit Bryce Canyon Country quickly turned into six nights.¬† And oh my gosh…. amazing!Bryce Canyon

I assure you, six nights was not enough to savor this breathtaking scenery.¬† If it hadn’t been for our workamp obligation in Idaho, we would’ve stayed another week.¬† For some reason, I just couldn’t get enough of those perplexing hoodoos¬†or the layers of texture and colors.¬† Simply mesmerizing!

Where to camp?
With snow and freezing overnight temps in the forecast, we knew we wanted a site with hook-ups and chose the Red Canyon Village RV Park. It was an ok place to stay and even offers cabins as well as campsites. (restroom shown in the photo below)

Red Canyon RV Park, Panguitch, Utah

Red Canyon RV Park, Panguitch, Utah

The park is located along highway 12 just east of highway 89 and¬†road noise¬†can be expected.¬† We paid $31 a night for a full hook-up site which included cable TV. The property is owned and managed by the same company that runs the Bryce Canyon Lodge, Forever Resorts.¬† The location worked fine for us.¬† It took a Bryce Canyon national parklittle less than¬†thirty minutes to¬†drive to the Bryce Canyon National Park visitor center and about¬†10 minutes to get to¬†the town of Panguitch, Utah.¬† Just a couple of minutes away was Red Canyon with some lovely hiking trails that shouldn’t be missed.

Red Canyon is also home to a national forest campground: Red Canyon Campground.¬† It’s basic dry camping in a wooded setting.¬† Although some of the sites would accommodate our size RV, we’re not fans of trees and low-lying branches, and thus this campground is not an option we personally would consider.

As we continue along highway 12 toward Bryce Canyon NP, you’ll find the Bryce Canyon Pines RV Park.¬† We didn’t stop in, but drove by several times.¬† From a distance the¬†park looked ok nestled in the pines with dirt/gravel roads and sites.¬† We noticed RV’s of all sizes parked there.

Bryce CanyonRuby’s RV Park¬†seems to be the¬†most popular¬†spot with its close proximity to the hoodoos, but definitely¬†the most¬†expensive.¬† This RV park is located just outside the national park boundaries which means it offers location, full amenities, and is big rig friendly.

Want to camp even closer to the hoodoos?  Bryce Canyon National Park offers two campgrounds, both with no hook-ups, dry camping only.  The majority of the sites look sloped and mounded.  There were one or two sites at the Northern Campground we liked that we would consider if available.  Sunset and Northern Campgrounds appear to be best for tents, small Class C motorhomes, pop-ups, and small travel trailers.Bryce Canyon

Boondocking РThere are a bunch of places off highway 12 east of highway 63 to boondock (boondocking means dry camping on public lands Рno campground or facilities).  The land is located within the Grand Staircase РEscalante National Monument and a free permit is required for any overnight stay.  Along highway 12 from Red Canyon to the town of Torrey, there are six visitor centers to assist you, provide permits, maps, and answer any questions.

There is also a fair amount of national forest land in the area with boondocking options¬†and no¬†permit needed.¬† Here’s a helpful post on dispersed camping.Bryce Canyon National ParkDuring those times when Al and I do boondock, after about a week we like to refresh and find a RV park with full hook-ups.¬† From a budgetary point of view the Paradise RV Park might be the perfect place to refresh.¬†This somewhat basic and rustic park offers full hook-ups for $15 a night.¬† It’s located a few miles north of the town of Panguitch and about 30 miles from the Bryce Canyon Visitor center,¬† We actually did our laundry there since the Red Canyon RV Park offered one staked washer/dryer on the outside of a building.¬† Not ideal, especially in 32 degree weather.

Joe's MarketGroceries?
Since we were staying in the Red Canyon area, the town of Panguitch was an easy ten minute drive away.¬† Joe’s Market in Panguitch, Utah, is a great place to resupply.¬†¬†We were impressed with the¬†quality of fresh meats, veggies, and eggs¬†that were reasonably priced.¬† Other items were a tad pricy though.

sour dough breadAcross the street from Joe’s Market is a Chevron Gas Station with a fast food place inside.¬† We don’t eat deep-fried fast food so I can’t help you there, but with the oven availability, the owners of the gas station bake fresh bread and rolls daily.

Our first stop at the Chevron was late one afternoon.¬† We filled up with gas and¬†when we¬†stepped inside, we noticed the hand written sign on the window¬†noting fresh-baked sour dough bread.¬†¬†When we asked about the bread, we¬†were informed they were all¬†sold out, but the gal behind the counter was quick to¬†suggest placing our name on a loaf of sour dough bread for the¬†next morning.¬†¬†¬†Yes!¬† It was still warm when we¬†picked it up and perfect for our picnic lunch.¬† I wouldn’t normally recommend buying bread at a gas station, but this is small town America and it’s similar to enjoying a loaf of bread your mom made.

bakeryAnother place we tried was a bakery on highway 12 just east of highway 63.  The groceries and baked goods seemed a little pricy in my opinion, but we still ended up buying some fresh-baked baguettes for our sandwiches which were delicious.  And of course, hubby had to sample a blueberry turnover which received a two thumbs up as well.

One of our favorite little stops after hiking amongst the hoodoos, was stopping in at the General Store located within the national park just around the corner from the Bryce Canyon Lodge (btw Рthe restaurant in the lodge had a menu that was tempting, but our sandwiches made with fresh-baked bread won out).  This General Store along with a lovely picnic area is within walking distance to the Sunrise overlook and trailhead to the Queens Stewart'sGarden Trail.  After a somewhat steep hike back out of the canyon, we managed to work up a thirst.

We try to keep our soft drink intact to a minimum, but when we discovered the General Store stocks Stewart’s….. well…. there was no resisting the cream soda and orange cream.

We enjoyed this little splurge so much that when¬†we¬†received an impromptu email from some fellow full-time RVer’s¬†letting us know they¬†were in the area,¬†I knew exactly where to meet up.¬† We hadn’t seen this couple in nearly two years and certainly had plenty to talk about.

Enjoying a picnic with friends at the general store was perfect.  It was awesome reconnecting, catching up, and sharing some of our favorite Bryce Canyon sites with this delightful couple.

me and Al enjoying our sodas while our friends prefer to stay behind the camera ;-)

me and Al enjoying our sodas while our friends prefer to stay behind the camera ūüėČ

Cheers to friendships, breath-taking scenery, amazing hikes, and cold beverages.¬† It’s official, I’m¬†in love with Bryce Canyon National Park and am already scheming¬†my next¬†visit.

Bryce loves me back. Can you see the rock heart in the center of the photo?

Bryce loves me back. Can you see the rock heart in the center of the photo?

 

Adventure Anniversary

When I looked at the calendar this morning, I realized it’s our 2 year anniversary.¬† Yep, it was two years ago we sold most of our stuff, minimized, and moved into the RV full-time.¬† It’s been an adventure to say the least.Colorado State ParksWe’ve explored some amazing places. Camped amongst some unbelievably stunning scenery.¬† Driven challenging roads.¬†¬†¬†Made wonderful new friends along the way.¬† And learned a lot about ourselves.

WordPress photo challenge

Chatfield State Park, Colorado

We’ve survived flat tires, illnesses, mechanical failures, and Mother Natures wrath.

Moab Utah

traveling along the Colorado River in Utah

Do we miss a sticks and bricks home?  Sometimes!

Dillon Reservoir

my home in Frisco, Colorado, camped along the shores of Dillon Reservoir

How long will we continue to live in the RV full-time?  As long as it remains a fun adventure.

WordPress Photo challenge

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico

Is living in the RV similar to being on a constant vacation?  Yes and no.  Life goes on and sh*t continues to happen.  Bills need to be paid.  Family obligations beckon.

Moab Utah

traveling hwy 128 in Utah north of Moab

But when the stars align, the weather is great, birds are chirping, and wildflowers are blooming….. well, it just doesn’t get much better.

Moab Utah

we enjoy our own personal waterfall (center right) at Ken’s Lake Campground, Moab, Utah

Are we living¬†a dream?¬† No.¬† Although it’s been a fantastic journey, there have been days I felt I was living more of a nightmare¬†than a dream.

Quartzite Arizona

boondocking in Quartzite, Arizona

Everyone’s journey is different.¬† Time can be fleeting.¬† I still miss my dog immensely.

Glenwood Canyon

Interstate 70 driving along the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon, Colorado

Knowing what I know now, would I still move into the RV full-time?  In a heartbeat!

WordPress daily prompt

all mine – my home for a week… somewhere in Utah!

It has been a memorable journey with many more places to see and explore.

San Juan River Utah

camped 2,000 feet above the San Juan River at Goosenecks State Park, Utah

At this stage of the game, I wouldn’t trade my 250 square foot home on wheels for a 5,000 square foot stationary home….. well…… maybe if that home sat on 40 acres in the Rocky Mountains with my own private lake, perhaps¬†then I could be coerced ūüėČ

camping in Colorado

camped on a peninsula at Steamboat Lake State Park

Views…. it’s all about the views, and boy, have I seen some views.

Lake Powell

boondocking at the shores of Lake Powell near the Utah – Arizona border

I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying some spectacular backyards……Lake Powell Utahand front yards……. and side yards…..

Monument Valley

Hwy 163 through Monument Valley – Utah & Arizona

I’ve driven some famous, well-known roads that I’d longed to travel.Rocky Mountain National ParkThe journey shall continue.¬† Let’s see where the road takes us in year three.scenic roadsHappy trails my friends….

This post was written in response to the WordPress Daily Post – photo challenge.¬† Muse¬†= the RV.¬† I’m always taking photographs of the RV either meandering down the road or camped in some amazing place.camping in Colorado

The Next Exit 2015: The Most Complete Interstate Hwy Guide

Let’s talk dirty

We always enjoy our time in Moab, Utah, but there is a down side to this unique and beautiful place.¬† It isn’t always easy to find a place to camp, even the RV Parks can fill quickly on weekends.¬† In general, we usually¬†opt for a little more elbow room than most RV Parks offer and look for state parks, national forest campgrounds, or BLM land for boondocking…. all of which can present a¬†challenge around Moab.¬† This is a popular place and outside of RV Parks the BLM campgrounds can be difficult to find an open spot, especially for larger RV’s.Moab Utah

Moab UtahKen’s Lake is usually¬†our go-to campground in¬†Moab,¬†but our friends, Mike and Linda,¬†snagged a boondock spot on some state land twelve miles out-of-town and were saving room for us.¬† We camped there last year as well and it’s all about luck finding room to park.

And even when you do find a spot, you can expect to have lots of company on the weekends, whether you want it or not.  This area is super popular with the OHV (off-highway vehicle) crowd.  Last year we had a couple of tear-drop trailers join us and this year it was a bunch of tenters.

There’s no boondocking etiquette around here.¬† If there’s open ground, it’s game.

Moab Utah

Friday night we had a couple of tents pitched between us and the road and another one in the rear. The rear tenter remained for a couple of days. Shy guy who didn’t engage in conversation.

Moab Utah

If you don’t leave Moab covered in “Moab Red” you haven’t visited Moab

The Friday night of Mother’s Day weekend brought plenty of rain.¬† And with rain comes mud.¬† Lot’s of mud.¬† Thank goodness there were no plans to move¬†our RV’s because I’m not sure how far down the dirt mud¬†road we could’ve gone.¬†That mud gets slick and you sink easily.

The rain didn’t seem to deter anyone’s travel plans and there was a steady stream of traffic of folks looking for a place to camp. As the sun set, we were quickly surrounded by tents (well, that might be a slight exaggeration – at least 3 that we noticed in the dark).¬† All but one, broke camp the next morning.

Moab Utah

Al works on our broken generator. In the background you can see the campsite next to ours. Several tents and more dirt bikes and ATV’s than I could count. They had fun churning up the dirt…. regularly.

The rains on that Friday kept the four of us housebound and it was an entertaining feat just to walk from one RV to the other.  Once wet, the red dirt quickly turns to slick, thick mud.

Moab Utah

The mud is as slick as ice and all I could think about was not falling on my a*s…. not a pretty sight!

Moab red

My outdoor rug sunk into the mud when I stepped on it. I left a trail of mud on the steps. The bottom of my flip-flops were coated with thick red mud.

Paleo donuts

What do I do on rainy days? Bake! Paleo donuts, orange scones, and chocolate chip cookies

And when it dries, it turns to a concrete like substance.¬† Ever wonder how those ancient Pueblo ruins have survived so long?¬† Well, it’s pretty obvious to me – red Moab mud.

So as much as I love the open views and free campsite, it comes with a dirty price.¬† Once things dry out, it’s the dust devils you have to watch out for.

When the weather cleared, we took full advantage and enjoyed life around camp.  A campfire was built, drinks poured, and homemade treats were served.

Since the weather was so nice, we had our¬†RV windows open and Mike and Linda had their door open as well.¬† While sitting around the campfire, that’s when it happened…. before we¬†could process what was going on,¬†it was over.Moab Utah

Moab redWe were sitting under¬†our Laredo awning and watched a dust dirt devil swirl right past Mike and Linda’s RV open door.¬† Oh my gosh, talk about a trail of dirt left in its wake.

They had a thick layer of dirt covering the front half of their RV interior.¬† I think they’re still working on removing all that Moab red.

Moab Utah

Al, me, Linda, Mike

As much as we love our boondocking and admiring the views, it’s not perfect.¬† And although we didn’t have a dust devil enter our RV, we too continue to clean and find the fine red dirt in the strangest places.¬† But hey, with a camp like this, it’s worth a little dirt…. or in Mike and Linda’s case, a lot of dirt!Moab UtahMoab Utah

Moon Zion & Bryce: Including Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase-Escalante & Moab (Moon Handbooks)

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