Friday, April 28, 2017

Joshua Tree National Park

We're on the road again. We're headed west to California and then up to the Northwest for the summer. We got a later start than normal this year due to the need to meet our new grandson and pack up a house, but now we're on the go - it feels good. First stop is to visit Joshua Tree National Park.

We've seen Joshua Trees before on the drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas on US 93. We're obviously very familiar with the desert having lived so long in Arizona so I wasn't sure how special this national park would be for us. As usual, the National Park Service taught us information and effectively directed us to the highlights of the park. I could give away information (like Joshua Trees aren't really trees, what two deserts meet here) but I don't want to spoil it for you. Due to our background we made it through the park relatively quickly (4 hours) and are, once again, thankful for the National Park Service for preserving/guarding special places and endangered environments. This is a special park, like the rest of the NPS managed locations, so don't hesitate to make a visit (and give money to the National Park Foundation!).


Skull Rock

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Spring update

View from the deck of our townhouse
It's mid-March, March Madness is upon us along with an early batch of 90 degree weather. I guess it is to remind us to hit the road for the summer, as if we need to be reminded. It is supposed to get back to those glorious mid-70s after a few days so this is just a teaser. If you've never been to AZ, 90 degrees feels great here with essentially 0 humidity, so it isn't like we are suffering.

We've been all settled into the townhouse for a while and able to get some hikes in. We are generally relaxing and enjoying our new place. We'll be flying to the Frozen Four this year (in Chicago) in early April and come home via Tacoma where we'll see our new grandson who will be "out" and ready for visitation by then. Once we get back it will be time to prepare for our summer trip.
Pool and stream at end of
Hieroglyphic Trail

Look for trip posts to begin the last week of April - the first stop will be Joshua Tree NP.

Here are a few pictures from hikes in the Superstition Mountains near our home.

Hieroglyphic Trail
Petroglyphs on Hieroglyphic Trail
Gold Canyon from top of mountain

View along top of mountain

Lost Goldmine Trail
Lost Goldmine Trail

Monday, December 19, 2016

2016 Wrap up

After Bullhead City we did our usual stop for a couple of weeks in the Phoenix area to tend to business (mostly doctors, but other stuff, too) and visit friends. We then headed to Tucson for our annual stint to work for the U.S. Forest Service at Sabino Canyon. The intent was to work there into April before heading out on another summer's adventure.

Like I said, that was the intent. However, when in the Phoenix and Tucson areas we usually check out the condo/townhouse situation to see if there are any lock-and-leave options that we could see ourselves living in for the winter. We usually look at a few each year but never find one that comes close to meeting our criteria. This time, we looked at one that caught our attention in Gold Canyon. We looked at it a second time the day before we drove to Tucson. Long story short, after deliberating we made an offer, came to an agreement and closed on the place on December 14. We will be spending the next couple of months moving in and getting it setup exactly the way we want it. 

We will continue to travel but now we have a home base for the winters where we can come back to our stuff. We hope that family and friends will come and visit and warm up. 

Now it is time for my annual travel wrap up. This was an unusually big year for travel. The Frozen Four in Tampa pointed us to the southeast. With that pivot point, a plan formulated to see a bunch of things as described throughout this blog. The emphasis, as usual, was on historic sites, national parks and state capitols. We drove the truck over 17,000 miles, towed the fifth wheel 8,500 miles, visited 36 national park locations (National monuments, historic sites, parks, etc.), toured 13 state capitols, visited a lot of friends and family and made it safely back to Arizona without any major problems. This was an extremely fulfilling year! 

Here is the route map with 2016 in green

Coming attractions - the plan for 2017 will be to travel north through California, Nevada, Oregon and into Washington. This will take a couple months. We'll spend a few months in Washington and then start moving south through Oregon, Idaho, and Utah before getting back "home" (been a while since we said that).

Friday, October 28, 2016

Death Valley National Park

Our next move was to an RV park in Bullhead City, AZ. This stop allowed us to rest and clean after a busy five weeks in Utah. We also took a few days to drive to Las Vegas to visit family and then go on over to Death Valley National Park

This national park is very large and has extreme differences in geologic features and ecosystems. It contains mountains with peaks as high as 11,000 feet and it has the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level. Our spontaneous visit happened to fall on a very windy day making some places intolerable to spend much time. There were also some closed roads keeping us from seeing some park sites such as Scotty's Castle. We entered the park at the far south end near Shoshone and drove all the way up the valley. It is definitely a drive like no other. 
Driving on Badwater Road. The day
started out overcast so it kept the
temperature down.

View along Badwater Road

View along Badwater Road

Badwater Basin - lowest point in
North America

Crusted salt at Badwater Basin

Devil's Golf Course - salty, rough ground
View along road near Furnace Creek

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Zion National Park

View from Angels Landing
Our next move was to Zion National Park to complete the Utah "Big Five" National Parks. This is a popular National Park even in the middle of October. We didn't have any problem with parking and beating the crowd by getting to the visitor center between 8 and 8:30 am.
View along Riverwalk to The Narrows
As with other parks, Zion is very pretty and has unique characteristics. In this case, these are very high, sheer cliffs of various colors. The main part of the park is Zion Canyon. You have to take a shuttle into the canyon but it is very efficient and there are a lot of stops where you can get off and on to enjoy the views. There are a number of hikes with varying difficulties to suit anyone. The iconic hikes are Angels Landing and The Narrows. Both of these are very busy so get going early. Read the conditions and difficulties of these hikes before attempting them.

Court of Patriarchs
There is a west part of the park called Kolob Canyons which we did not get to on this trip and there is an east side that we also didn't get to because we didn't want to deal with special tunnel permits for our dually truck. These areas have their own special features so keep them in mind if you make the trip and want to avoid the big crowds.

We thoroughly enjoyed our week here, punctuated by a number of good hikes.

View on trail to Observation Point

View from Observation Point

View behind History Museum

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Bryce Canyon National Park

Queens Garden Trail
We've been full-timing in an RV for over six years. People often ask what our favorite place is that we've visited. It has gotten to a point where we've seen so many great places that it was impossible to pick one. Driving the Going-to-the-sun-road in Glacier National Park has held a steady place in the top three, if not the number one position. After spending two entire summers based near Yellowstone NP we have a huge appreciation for it so it is in the top three. I think that after spending the last few days hiking and driving in Bryce Canyon National Park, it has definitely captured a spot in the top three as well. I really want to emphasize hiking. This adds a dimension, a depth of appreciation, that cannot be experienced any other way.

Navajo Trail
Bryce Canyon National Park is great to view from the rim but to experience it from the trails is sensational. Now, I must say, we had clear skies and cool temperatures so we had perfect conditions. We hiked the Queens Garden/Navajo Loop trails one day and I hiked the Fairyland Loop Trail another day. The latter is 8 miles with a lot of uphill making it a tough hike but the beauty amazing.

Some hints: go in to the park early because it will fill up. Plus, that works out great for hiking while it is cool (it was 22 degrees Fahrenheit one morning for us). Have a plan - spend multiple days and have targeted things to see/do each day (I recommend this no matter where you go) so you can nab your parking spot and have fun.
View at Farview Point

Navajo Trail

Fairyland Canyon at Fairyland Point
On Fairyland Loop Trail

On Fairyland Loop Trail

View from Rim Trail, part of
Fairyland Loop Trail about 1.5
miles from Fairyland Point

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Cedar Breaks National Monument

View along Hwy 12 in Grand
Staircase-Escalante Natl Monument
Our next destination to spend some time was Bryce Canyon City, UT. It was an amazing drive from Torrey, UT (Capitol Reef NP) down UT-12 to Bryce Canyon City. This is one (of many) Scenic Byways in Utah. It goes over a high pass and across Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. There is a lot of up and down, tight curves and amazing scenery along this narrow road. It requires a lot of fuel and a lot of nerve with a big RV.

View along Hwy 12 in Grand 
Staircase-Escalante Natl Monument
We were in need of an oil change so we used our first day based in this location to drive to Cedar City. That worked out well because we could also go to a real grocery store and go to Cedar Breaks National Monument on the way back. This monument is another NPS location on the Colorado Plateau that shows the colorful cross-sections of the earth rock layers. The monument elevation is over 10,000 feet so it was quite cold on an October day.

Here are a few pictures from Cedar Breaks National Monument.

View near Visitor Center

View on trail to Spectra Point

View on trail to Spectra Point

View from Sunset View Overlook

View from Chessman Ridge Overlook