Hovenweep National Monument

As we left Moab our plan was to explore a few more places in the four corners area (where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet). This is one of our favorite areas in the Southwest. Hector suggested we visit Hovenweep National Monument, which frankly I had never heard of, but I am always up for seeing another of our nationally protected sites.

We camped at Cadillac Ranch RV Park, which had been recommended by friends. Check out my review of the RV park here.

We headed out to Hovenweep National Monument in the afternoon after checking in at the park. It was a long drive across a remote corner of Utah, so I was becoming kind of dubious about the whole thing. But it was a really pretty landscape along the way and we continued.

The Visitor Center was closed by the time we arrived and the ruins are only viewable along trails. But we discovered that a couple of the shorter trails were open from sunrise to sunset. And a happy surprise – dogs were allowed on the trails! Yay!

Since Hector still had what he thought was a sprained ankle (which we later found out was actually broken) we decided to take the shortest trail – one mile. That also was best for Angel with her arthritis. Plus it was less than two hours before sunset.

We set out on the path, not fully knowing what to expect since we weren’t able to check out the Visitor Center. Luckily, trail guides were available at the entry to the trails. To my surprise, there were a number of different ruins on this short path. The ruins are situated in a canyon and along its rim. It was a much more interesting place than I had initially thought.

This area was said to have been inhabited over 10,000 years ago by people who moved according to the seasons. Ancestral Puebloans started to settle in the area year-round about A.D. 900, and by the late 1200s about 2,500 people lived here.

They built many types of structures at between A.D. 1200 and 1300 that are known for their careful construction and attention to detail. These include D-shaped dwellings and many kivas, which are ceremonial structures. Some structures that were built on irregular boulders remain standing after more than 700 years.

The Ancestral Puebloans prepared the land for cultivation by creating terraces on hillsides, forming catch basins to hold storm run-off, and building check dams to retain topsoil.

The square and circular towers that they built are particularly striking, but although archaeologists have found that most towers were associated with kivas, their function remains a mystery.

Theories about the purpose of the towers are many: they may have been celestial observatories, defensive structures, storage facilities, civil buildings, homes or a combination of some or all of those. Still a mystery.

The sites were thought to be abandoned when the Ancestral Puebloans migrated south to the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico and the Little Colorado River Basin in Arizona at the end of the 13th century. Although preceded by a prolonged drought, it is still not clear what different factors drove the migration. Another mystery.

As we took in the sights and read about the history, my husband the photographer was getting extremely excited about the fabulous ruins and the beautiful light. It always takes us much longer to cover ground than most other people, even when he doesn’t have any injuries. So it was slow going but very enjoyable.

We were enthralled by the towers and watched the sun set over some of the ruins that sat in the canyon. We only encountered a couple of people on the trail, and only one other this late in the day, another photographer that we spotted on the other side of the canyon. We stood still and enjoyed the beauty and quiet of the place.

Now we had two choices for returning to our car: turn around on the same path we walked out on, OR continue (adding ½ mile) and cross the canyon. Hector decided to go down the canyon. It was only an 80-foot descent, with mostly stone steps, but had some steep spots. So there we were, a guy with a broken ankle, an old dog with arthritis, and me – the only fully healthy one – descending into the canyon.

It was slow going and the light was dimming but we made it to the bottom. After a short walk came the climb back; up another 80 feet. Once back at the top, we just had a final, flat section of the trail back to the parking lot. No photos on this part since it was getting dark and we were focused on getting back.

We barely made it out to the parking area before total darkness. Not our wisest decision-making, but all turned out well. This National Monument is totally worth seeing, and we would definitely visit again to see more of the ruins.

~ Brenda

 

 

 

 

Fun with Friends in Moab, Utah

We made a few more stops after Bryce Canyon and before the end of our walkabout…After leaving the beautiful canyon, we headed east across the dramatic Utah landscape where we planned a brief stop for some fun with friends in Moab, Utah.

As was the case in many of our later travels, our route to Albuquerque from Tucson was turning out to be quite loopy. But since these were the last weeks of our walkabout, we could not pass up the opportunity to see some of our RVer friends once again.

We wanted to boondock in Moab, but weren’t sure about our options, so we reached out to our friend Amanda (WatsonsWander). She told us that several of the better known boondocking areas were pretty full, but suggested Klondike Bluff Road just up a couple of roads from where they were boondocking.

We found a great spot, with 360 degree views and 4 bars LTE signal no less. Check out my review of Klondike Bluff Road here.

Having contacts sure helps when looking for these special out of the way places.

We’ve been turned onto more than one killer (and FREE) campsite through the kindness of fellow RVers.

Thanks Amanda!

Our friend Mona Liza (The Lowe’s RV Adventures) had planned a get together with several folks that were staying in the area on the day after we were due to arrive, and since she knew we were on our way, invited us as well. So that evening we met up with friends for dinner at a restaurant in town.

Amanda and Tim were there with their parents, along with our friends Pam and John (Oh, the Places They Go!). And we met Susan and David (Beluga’s excellent adventure), whom we had heard about from several other RVer friends.  It was a fun time, as it always is with our RVer buddies.

The next day Hector and I took one of our sunrise drives over to Arches National Park. We visited this beautiful park a number of times when we lived in Colorado, but it is another of those places that you never get tired of.

Hector’s ankle was still not doing so well, so we just drove on the park road and stopped for short walks along the way.

Later that afternoon we returned to the park with Angel for a slightly longer drive. This time we drove over to Salt Valley Road which goes to a more remote area of the park. It’s a dirt road with very little traffic, so we had the place virtually to ourselves.

After we had driven for quite awhile, Hector spotted some burrowing owls. Shortly after we realized that this area was also a prairie dog colony. Burrowing owls frequently live amongst prairie dog colonies due to the abundance of insects, one of their preferred foods. They also modify unoccupied prairie dog burrows to lay their eggs.


The burrowing owl are sometimes alerted to predators by the prairie dogs alarm calls. Another one of those very interesting symbiotic relationships in nature. These owls are declining in some areas partially due to prairie dog control factors, as well as habitat loss and car accidents. They are considered endangered in Canada.

We spent a lot of time watching the owls, they are so incredibly cute as they peek out of their burrows! These little guys provided our entertainment for the afternoon. 

Angel got a few walks alongside the road, since there was no traffic.  It was a fun afternoon for all of us, especially the photographer.

The following day Mona Liza and Steve had a little dinner party at their campsite. She made her literally world-famous lumpia (Philippine eggrolls) as well as some pancet, a noodle dish. We had never tried either of these before. Delish!

Pam and John and Susan and Dave were there, and we met two more RVers, Joe and Gay (good-times-rollin) All wonderful people and we truly enjoyed spending time with all of them.  These impromptu gatherings were one of the very best parts of the RV life.

We entered the park one last time for a sunset drive. So beautiful.

The weather had been touch and go and it rained all night the night before we left. This made for quite an exciting exit from our perfect boondocking spot. One of the scariest drives from our entire walkabout. VERY wet and muddy as in – whatever you do, don’t stop! But we made it.

Stay tuned for a few more posts, as we explored a couple of new places on our wandering route before our landing in Albuquerque.

~ Brenda

 

 

Greetings from Corrales, New Mexico

corrales-1Hi everyone! It has been a long time. Hector, Angel and I send greetings from Corrales, New Mexico. We are doing great and really appreciate those of you who reached out to ask if we were ok, since we sorta did just fall off the face of the earth.

In the previous post we were happily bouncing across parts of the four corners on our way to New Mexico. After Bryce Canyon, we went to Moab, then made a few stops in the four corners area visiting friends along the way and then continued to Albuquerque.Moab-9

We had a nice neat plan to only take a preliminary look at houses and not get serious about buying a place until we sold our Denver house and had cash in hand. But this plan got upended when we went to an open house in Albuquerque and found our dream house. So we bought it! It is a cute little adobe in Corrales, a rural part of Albuquerque, New Mexico.corrales-2

Of course this meant we had a million things to do. Close on the house in Denver, sift through and move our belongings from storage, move out of Island Girl, move into the new house, work on projects around the house etc. Much of it during the hottest part of the summer. More on all that later. Continue reading

The Fairytale National Park

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After our longer than planned stay at Zion National Park due to technical issues, we had to revisit our upcoming schedule and make some tweaks. Our next planned stop was Bryce Canyon National Park, another place I tried to get to previously without success. The weather in Bryce was looking sketchy: windy, rainy with a chance of snow showers in higher altitudes. But Hector was steadfast, he insisted on stopping there, if only briefly, because he really wanted me to see the park. And once there, I realized why he was so insistent, I will always remember this place as the fairytale national park.Bryce-2

Bryce-3The drive from Zion to Bryce was uneventful. Yay! Hector wanted full hookup and he chose a park that he had stayed at on a previous visit which also happened to be the absolute closest to the park. Check out my review of Ruby’s Inn RV Park and Campground here.

Bryce-12Bryce-4Bryce Canyon National Park was established in 1928 and protects 35,835 acres. Technically, it is not a canyon but a series of amphitheaters containing the park’s most distinctive features, the hoodoos. These colorful rock pinnacles were formed by frost weathering and stream erosion. Continue reading

Zion National Park

zion-56zion-54I was finally on my way to Zion National Park, a place I tried to visit a couple of times previously without success. I love all of the National Parks and felt very fortunate to be visiting my 37th!zion-4

zion-5Zion National Park protects 229 square miles and is known for its steep Navajo Sandstone cliffs and narrow canyons. It is hard to believe that 250 million years ago those same cliffs were sand dunes in a vast desert.

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Tips for Tours of Antelope Canyon

We did a limited amount of advance research prior to our Antelope Canyon Tour. And we found that there are a lot of details that are important in order to find the tour that is best suited for each person. There are also some important things to know in advance to best capture photographs of these places. So here are some tips for Tours of Antelope Canyon.

0.6 sec @ f13 ISO 250 17mm

0.6 sec @ f13 ISO 250 17mm

Upper Canyon Tours

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4.0 sec @ f9 ISO 400 17mm

4.0 sec @ f9 ISO 400 17mm

The Upper Canyon Tours are the most popular and get the most crowded. March through October is the peak season and November through February is considered off-season.

Guided tours are offered by several Navajo-owned tour operators. Each offers some version of sightseeing tour multiple times a day. These tours spend about one hour in the canyon.

The most popular time of year is summer, followed by spring. This time of year is when the famous light shafts shine into the canyon.

The light shafts appear mid day, when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. That is also when the canyon has the most light. And also the time when the tours fill up the quickest and the canyon is the most crowded.

You may want to consider other times of day and/or times of year that may be less crowded, but may have dimmer lighting with no light shafts. We understand that these times bring out the deeper blue/purple hues that you find in the darker sections.

Each tour company runs a photographers’ tour starting between 10:15-11:30 to catch the best time of the day. These tours require each person to have their own SLR camera and a tripod. It is not necessary to be a professional photographer but they do insist on proper equipment.

AntelopeCanyon-15The photographers’ tours stay between 11/2 and 2 hours in the canyon, and their guides take the groups to the most photogenic spots, while they block traffic in both directions to give the group a very few (2 or so) minutes to get clear shots. It is a bit frantic and all the photographers are shoulder to shoulder, but it works really quite well. Continue reading

Antelope Canyon

AntelopeCanyon-42Upper Antelope Canyon in Utah has been on Hector’s “photographer’s bucket list” for a while. This slot canyon is in the Antelope washbasin within the Navajo Nation. We have seen many iconic photographs of the dreamy red curved rock and moody shafts of light and we wanted to see it for ourselves.AntelopeCanyon-48

But this place takes some effort to get to. Access to the canyon is via guided tours only, and there are three Navajo owned operators that run the tours.AntelopeCanyon-49

There are two kinds of tours. The regular guided photo tour where tripods and monopods are prohibited. And each company runs one photographers’ tour each day which gives more access and time in the canyon.AntelopeCanyon-37 Continue reading

Lake Powell

Lake Powell-19Lake Powell-1Many years ago, we spent several nights in a houseboat in Lake Powell and fell in love with its multi-colored rock formations and the beautiful light reflecting from the sun into the canyon. So on this visit we were hoping to spend some time on the water once again, kayaking or renting a boat, or hopefully both.

Lake Powell-4Lake Powell-9We read about a beach that allowed camping right by the water, Lone Rock Beach. We also read that it had several areas with soft sand so we carefully scouted the beach in our car. And we found a lovely site on hard packed sand and gravel. Check out my review of the campground here.

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Monument Valley and the Milky Way

MonumentValley-11MonumentValley-65MonumentValley-32Hector has been interested in photographing the Milky Way for a long time. But we haven’t really been in the right place at the right moment: a place with limited light pollution with a view in the correct direction, on a clear, dark night, at the right time of year – spring or summer. Not easy. Now that spring is here, the galactic center of the Milky Way begins to make its appearance in the sky. So we made a specific plan to go photograph Monument Valley and the Milky Way.
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This is our third time visiting Monument Valley. The first was a brief drive through the area. On the second visit, we drove from Denver in our Airstream, Luna, and camped in the area. Unfortunately, there was a huge sandstorm for several days during our visit, but we finally had a chance to take a guided tour after the storm subsided.

MonumentValley-1MonumentValley-31MonumentValley-40We were hoping to skip the sandstorm this time and happily the forecast was for good weather, either clear or partly cloudy. There were two nights left before the new moon, so we had a good chance for a clear night on at least one of those.
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The Grand Canyon in One Day

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In the early part of the year, we realized that our planned four day visit to the Grand Canyon was going to coincide with our friends Katherine’s and Erik’s arrival in the canyon. They live in Atlanta, and every year they travel to the Grand Canyon to join a group of their friends and backpack into the canyon for a week.

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Williams is home to the Grand Canyon railway

GC Conspiracy-3Our plan was to drive to the Grand Canyon immediately after we left Tucson and meet them the night before they began their hike into the canyon. Hector was especially eager to see them, as he was not able to make their daughter’s wedding in Puerto Rico, which I attended.

As time went by our schedules shifted a bit, but it still looked as though we would have a chance to meet. Then we realized that we needed to make a slight detour after Tucson.GC Conspiracy-7

Our detour was to Congress, Arizona, where Vern, of Penner’s Mobile RV Repair resides in the winter. We needed to replace an intake valve on Island Girl. Vern worked on Island Girl in February and we were happy with his work so we decided to have him handle the install.

GC Conspiracy-2 Continue reading