Four Corners and Friends

Continuing our catch up posts of our tour last year around the four corners, we could not resist a couple of stops on our way to our next destination just east of Durango to visit our friends, Mike and Linda, and their adorable pup, Lucy.

First on the way was the Four Corners Monument, the only place in the United States where four states – Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah –  intersect at a single point. It had rained recently, so the parking lot and park area, which are not paved, were quite muddy.

Interesting

The monument is a tribal park in the Navajo Nation. There is a granite and brass marker and a Demonstration Center with Navajo artisans and vendors who sell handmade jewelry, crafts and traditional Navajo foods. We managed to take the obligatory touristy photo “touching” all four states.

The next much more interesting side trip was to Mesa Verde National Park. We visited this park years ago, before we became fulltime RVers and knew that we could only make a very brief stop this time around.

So we took the 6-mile driving tour. With short paved trails to views of the Square Tower House, Sun Point Overlook and views of Cliff Palace, it was just enough to wet our appetite to return. Way too short a visit but fine for us at that moment.

There are several breathtaking overlooks of the various groups of ruins along the way.

Of course we ran quite late when arriving at Mike and Linda’s house, but they were completely unfazed (we do appreciate such flexibility!). This was our second experience “moochdocking” –  enjoying the comforts of the RV while parked at a friends’ house.

Linda had cooked a Cuban dish, picadillo, for dinner in honor of Hector and it was delicious. We met these two wonderful people while we were all fulltime RVers. They had sailed around the world prior to that and now they live in a lovely cabin in Colorado. It is a very pretty spot surrounded by big trees and frequented by lots of wildlife. Our kind of place.

We woke up the next morning to a big surprise: SNOW! One of those late spring snows that happens in Colorado. Big, fat, kind of wet snowflakes and just beautiful. Angel particularly appreciated the snow, although she slid around a bit on the wet porch.

If we had to encounter snow while RVing, this was the day to do it. With friends and a warm wood stove to sit by. We had a fun and relaxing time catching up and took a couple of drives including a drive out to dinner in Durango.

Durango is a fabulous town and the area has every possible outdoor activity opportunity (except the ocean). Mining and the railroad made this an important commercial center in the late 1800’s and the discovery and subsequent creation of a National Park at Mesa Verde made it an even more desirable location.

Nowadays, with Purgatory Ski Resort nearby, the town is a combination of a ski town with lots of restaurants and shops and a charming historic town with historic buildings and landmarks. And, nearby, the Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad offers a really cool experience to another historic mining town.

But the focus of this trip was spending time with friends.  It was a perfect stop before our next stop in Albuquerque to look for a house once again.

~ Brenda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natural Bridges National Monument

As long as we were in this remote southeast corner of Utah we couldn’t resist a stop at another nearby National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument. This time we left Angel in Island Girl, knowing that they don’t allow pets on any of their trails.

Natural Bridges National Monument has three spectacular stone bridges that were sculpted by water, along with a very well-preserved ruin, Horse Collar Ruin.

The park has a loop road that goes by each of the Natural Bridges as well as Horse Collar Ruin, hiking trails to each of the Bridges and the ruins, as well as a full loop hiking trail (8.6mi) that goes to all of the Bridges. With Hector’s broken ankle, we planned to do very minimal hiking.

So we got started on the loop drive. The first stop on the drive is Sipapu Bridge, the second largest natural bridge in the world (Rainbow Bridge in Glen Canyon Utah is the largest).

The bridge is named after a gateway through which souls may pass to the spirit world in Hopi mythology.

Although the trail down to the bottom is fairly short it is the steepest one in the park, so we were happy that there was a pretty decent view from the side of the road.

The next stop on the loop drive is an easy trail (.6 mi) to the edge of White Canyon, where there is a view of Horse Collar Ruins in an alcove below.

Ancestral Puebloans moved here around A.D. 700 and left around the 1300s but rock art and stone tools in this area can be traced to people who came here as early as 7,000 B.C. Navajos and Paiutes lived in the area after the Ancestral Puebloans and some may have lived here alongside the Puebloans.

Even though these ruins were abandoned 700 years ago, they are very well-preserved. The most interesting is an undisturbed kiva that still has its original roof and interior, but there are also walls of two other structures, another barrel shaped structure and six or so rooms on the ledge. Although originally discovered in 1907, they seem to have been forgotten after President Theodore Roosevelt established the area as a National Monument (Utah’s first National Park service area) in 1908.

They sat undisturbed until 1936 when they were rediscovered, but this inaccessibility is thought to be one of the reasons that they are so well preserved. And as always, there are several mysteries about these ruins and their inhabitants, the most obvious one is why the structures were not built with their backs against the wall of the alcove.

After spending some time looking at and photographing the ruins we continued on the loop drive to the next Natural Bridge, Kachina Bridge, named after the Kachina dancers in the Hopi religion. This is considered the “youngest” of the three bridges because of the thickness of its span. Although there is not a great view from the overlook, the trail down is another steep one so we skipped it.

Our last stop was at Owachomo Bridge. Owachomo means “rock mound” in Hopi, named for a rock formation on one end of the bridge. This trail is the easiest of all, and .4 miles total, so it was the perfect one for nursing the broken ankle. It was really cool to stand under the bridge and wander around the slick rock that was all around.

The drive and two short hikes allowed us to get back to our RV without leaving Angel for too long.

We highly recommend this National Monument, check out details of the park, the loop drive and the trails here.

~ Brenda

 

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

 

 

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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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.

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The Central Coast of Oregon

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Newport-1Our next stop was along the central coast of Oregon, not too long of a drive but longer than our last one. The coast of Oregon has an endless amount of rocky beaches and coast and many interesting lighthouses and the town of Newport is a great location from which to explore some of those.Newport-6

The last time we stayed in this area we stayed in a marina in the town of Waldport a little further north and really enjoyed it. This time we decided to try the marina in Newport. Both of these marinas offer dry camping at cheaper rates than the Oregon State Parks.

The marina is also walking distance from the Rogue Brewery, so good beer was in our future. And we were the only RV in the dry camping area of with a lovely view of the small boat harbor and the Yaquina Bay Bridge. Check out my review of the Port of Newport RV Park and Marina here.Newport-34 Continue reading

Returning to Denali

Denali 2Eight years ago, when we made an all too brief stop at Denali National Park and Preserve, Denali, the mountain never revealed herself to us. That was a sign that we would have to return someday. Returning to Denali was one of the first things we planned for our trip to Alaska this summer. And our experience in the park has been much richer than we ever imagined possible.

Denali 7To preserve the wilderness in 1972, the 92 mile park road was closed to automobile traffic at mile 15 and a bus shuttle system was instituted. There was much controversy around this but the restriction has remained with some very limited exceptions.

Denali 13Denali 5Earlier this year when we planned our stay in Denali, I discovered that professional photographers have an opportunity to enter a lottery for a one-week permit to drive into the restricted area of the park.

Hector entered the photographers’ lottery, and about a month later found out that he won one of the permits. This type of access to the park is extremely rare, and we were flabbergasted and ecstatic.

Denali and the surrounding area were inhabited by Athabascans more than 11,000 years ago. Because of its remoteness, only a few Europeans came to the area; a few prospectors around 1898, climbers who began attempts to climb the mountain in 1903, then game hunters.

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