October 25, 2004

The Drive from Oregon to New Mexico

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 7:25 pm by diandy2004

You’re reading it right…we’re in New Mexico. We’ve spent the last 5 of 6 days driving 1400 miles from Oregon to get past mountain ranges and snow. Don’t get us wrong, we love playing in the white stuff, just not driving in it – especially in an RV.

Some of the highlights (g00d and bad) of our road trip included:

* Mt Shasta:  while driving south through northern California we came around a bend and saw a “mountain in the road”.  I assumed it was Mt Shasta, but we could only see the base under the clouds.  Then we realized it was “Black Butte”… after seeing all 14,162′ of Mt Shasta further down the road.

Black Butte

Black Butte

Mt Shasta

Mt Shasta

* Diane went for a run in Bakersfield after driving 305 miles.  It was necessary for me to get out after driving for that long, but running along pesticide-tainted cotton fields was not good for the lungs.  I don’t recommend it!

* After three days of towing Ele, we started to worry about her batteries.  So we purposefully detached before reaching our destination in hopes of recharging her batteries.

* Park Moabi in Needles, CA:  Getting charged a fee just for having kayaks on the roof of our car.  This was a one-night stopover arriving just before sunset with no time for fun…what a rip!

It probably would've been a pretty paddle, though...

It probably would've been a pretty paddle, though...

* Wind Farms – awesome.  This one was near Needles, CA:

Wind Farms

Wind Farms

* Gas prices finally dropped below $2 after leaving the state of California.  We’re almost back to our budgeted gas prices!

* We got to see one of the most unique home-made hippie mobiles – – a combination bus & VW van.  And, it’s name was “Spirit”!

Hippie Mobile

Hippie Mobile

* More snow in Flagstaff:

Near Flagstaff

Near Flagstaff

We also got to see signs of the bad weather in the different areas and states: snow, standing water in the desert, and flowing muddy water in the desert.

In Holbrook, AZ we took one day off from driving (the RV, that is) and played in the Petrified Forest Nat’l Park. Spent most of the day driving through the park and taking short walks to check out the stone trees and painted desert. It was quite amazing to see the colors that iron and manganese creates in the petrified wood and the clay dunes. I still love the purples and blues the most. Erosion continues to alter the landscape and bring more and more petrified logs to the surface. It’s a good thing more wood is being exposed considering a lot of the petrified wood has been stolen over the years.

* Our final highlight was to talk with Jim and Chris (Geeks On Tour) and learned they were driving from Santa Fe to Roswell.  They’ll detour to Albuquerque to visit with us.  What fun!

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May 31, 2004

Page, AZ – Mesas and Slot Canyons

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 10:10 am by diandy2004

Unfortunately we did not have as much fun in the Lake Powell area as we had expected to. We spent a week there, and a very frustrating week it was. It took us a couple of days to realize why we could not seem to get good information on various activities from anyone. The problem was that there are too many agencies owning land in the Glen Canyon vicinity – Nat’l Park Service, US Forest Service, BLM, City of Page, Navajo Nation – and none of them provided info on any other agency, nor would they even refer you to them. We probably spent more time trying to get information then actually “doing” anything. Usually we don’t do much research until we arrive in an area – but this time, I wish we did come prepared.

We did still get in some fun activities: we kayaked the one day on Lake Powell (NPS); we hiked in Buckskin Gulch’s slot canyon (BLM); we biked around the Mesa Rim Trail in the city of Page; and we took a guided tour of Antelope Canyon (Navajo Nation).

Buckskin Gulch is in the Paria Canyon area. The hike offered great views of red sandstone and interesting erosion patterns: checkerboard, swirls, holes, and arches. Then, of course, it also offered the slot canyon – not one, but two separate ones. Andy, at one point, had his hands firmly planted on one side of the canyon, and walked his feet up the other side so he was horizontal – that’s how narrow some areas are.

Diane in Slot Canyon

Diane in Slot Canyon

Now, where are we?

Now, where are we?

The bike ride around the city of Page was amazing because Page sits up on a mesa and you bike along a single-track inches from the edge of the mesa rim. The drop off the rim was hundreds of feet. One bad bounce off a rock, and ouch! It still amazes me that the city actually built this thing – ha!

Where's the Trail?

Where's the Trail?

Views from the Mesa

Views from the Mesa

Antelope Canyon is a narrow slot canyon with sandstone walls that have fantastic erosion patterns – swirls, stripes, holes, etc. When the sun is straight up in the sky it creates beams of lights that make their way into this narrow canyon. Not only are these shafts of light interesting enough, but the colors that bounce off of the walls are yellows, oranges, purples, and reds. The picturess just don’t do it justice.

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon

The Ghost of Antelope Canyon

The Ghost of Antelope Canyon

Here’s a view from Horseshoe Mesa Overlook outside Page:

Horseshoe Mesa

Horseshoe Mesa

The other problem that we had with the Glen Canyon NRA was that it basically was a red-neck haven: ATVs, powerboats and waverunners; noise and stink of the boats; graffitti carved into the sandstone walls and trash. So we were actually looking forward to moving on to Colorado at the end of our week there. On any future return visits, we need to schedule our trip to not come over a holiday, and maybe visit another section that would allow for calmer kayaking opportunities up the fingers of the Lake.

May 28, 2004

Page, AZ – Kayaking Lake Powell

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 6:27 am by diandy2004

We’re currently in Glen Canyon Nat’l Recreation Area, aka Lake Powell, and we finally got our ‘yaks in the water. Boy were they happy to get off the car! We put in at Lone Rock and paddled towards Wahweap Marina.

Kayaking Lake Powell

Kayaking Lake Powell

Hike to the Cave

Hike to the Cave

In that area there are two caves back inland. We took a hike to go check them out and realized one is an arch or natural bridge. As you may know, the Southwest is experiencing a drought. It is very apparent at Lake Powell which is about 150′ below normal water levels. Land bridges exist now where water once flowed deep. Marinas are closed because their docks no longer reach water. So boaters are limited to where they can put in and access. Being Memorial Day weekend, we’re expecting a lot of boaters and waverunners – in a ‘compact’ area (since we’re located in Wahweap, one of the only open Marinas). We hope to get our ‘yaks back into the water, but we’ll have to be more careful now that the weekend is here.

Overlooking Wahweap Marina

Overlooking Wahweap Marina

Maybe on our next visit we’ll try some of the other recommended kayaking spots for Lake Powell

We are scheduled to leave here on June 1st, and it looks like we may be heading into Colorado after this. Hope you all enjoy the holiday weekend!

May 25, 2004

Grand Canyon – North Rim

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 5:00 am by diandy2004

Well, we got lucky again – thanks to each of you who said your prayers that we would get permits and get to hike down into the canyon again. We got our first choice, which was the slow and easy route. First night in Cottonwood Campground, second night in Bright Angel Campground, and third night in Cottonwood again heading back out of the canyon. This schedule kept our hiking to 7 miles per day. Which, with the backpacks, is plenty for us. We met several other hikers who were hiking 14 miles down, camping one night, then hiking 14 miles back out. They were either very gungho or very foolish – depending on their physical shape and preparation. Either way, I can’t imagine that they came out of the canyon with the same peace, contentment, and fun that we had.

Getting Ready!

Getting Ready!

Hiking Down North Kaibab

Hiking Down North Kaibab

Our View from Cottonwood Camp

Hiking North Kaibab

Hiking North Kaibab

Hiking North Kaibab

Our Site at Cottonwood Campground

Our View from Cottonwood Camp

When we weren’t hiking we were reading, playing cards, or napping. But we would also walk around our campground, and put our feet in the 55 degree creek to cool off. One side-trip that we did (twice) was from Cottonwood Campground to Ribbon Falls, which was about 1 1/2 miles from camp. This set of Falls was probably one of the most beautiful and unique falls I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t the height, or the quantity of water, but the rock formation in which the creek cascaded upon. The rock was draped in a bright green moss and there were several holes in the rock creating doors and windows that the water dripped past. There were also falls that fell off the backside of the rock formation, that could only be seen from walking up and behind the main waterfall. Then, by accessing an alcove area down the creek further, you could see the multiple levels of falls that existed before it rained off the cliff. While we sat near the creek below the falls, with our feet cooling off and as we listened to the tree frogs baa-ing like big-horn sheep, we watched the falls dance as if performing a show for us with the changes in the wind. The hiking itself was also enjoyable.

Andy Inside Ribbon Falls

Andy Inside Ribbon Falls

Ribbon Falls

Ribbon Falls

The North Kaibab trail differed from the trails on the South Rim mainly for two reasons – it was more wooded at the top and it had large canyons that you had to hike through towards the bottom. We got to see critters surviving in nature – saw a raven capture and eat a frog; 2 whiptail snakes chasing lizards – but our presence foiled the hunt; and saw birds eating beatles and bats flying after insects.

The only ‘problems’ that we had during our hike were blisters (Diane – old and new; Andy – new ones) and breathing going back up the trail. Usually you can get into a proper breathing rhythm that keeps up your energy, but the mule “pies” where soooo stinky that you couldn’t help but hold your breath in spots (which is not a good thing to do when working out!). Needless to say, we did make it to the top, but a little out of breath. Afterwards we figured that we must’ve been breathing in, not only the dust from the trail, but dried, ground up mule p**p. Yuk!

After the Hike

After the Hike

View on the Noth Rim

View on the North Rim

Sidenote: We listened to two ranger-talks at Bright Angel Campground (one on each of our two trips) which were put on by the same Ranger. Unfortunately, I didn’t note the Ranger’s name. But if you find yourself at Bright Angel Campground with a petite female ranger, I *highly* recommend listening to the talk – whatever the subject may be. She’s THAT entertaining!

May 10, 2004

Grand Canyon – South Rim

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 4:55 am by diandy2004

After leaving Sedona we went to the Grand Canyon – South Rim. We had been hoping to get a permit to backpack camp in the canyon so we started preparing days in advance. By “preparing”, I mean shopping – new backpacks, new hydration packs, new clothes, new walking poles, new sleeping pads, pretty much we had to buy new everything! Yes, we became the people we make fun of! We took a trip without testing out a lot of this new equipment. Ha! As soon as we arrived at the Grand Canyon we immediately went to the Backcountry Office and got our names on the waiting list. Fortunately we did get the permit (and all of our new gear worked out perfectly).

Our first afternoon on the rim allowed us time to walk around to take in the views and to learn about the California Condors. There is a 6-week old baby, with a 3-foot wingspan, that is the first condor born in the wild since the 1970’s. It’s not even tagged yet.

View from the South Rim

View from the South Rim

Our second day on the rim allowed us to take a bike ride from Mather campground to “The Abyss”. It took us awhile only because of all of the stops we made to take in the sites. What a great way to tour the Rim.

Biking the Rim

Biking the Rim

Our First Backpacking Trip Together:
Our hike into the grandest of canyons was a loop trail. We hiked down the South Kaibab trail, spent one night on the bottom at Bright Angel Campground, hiked half-way back up the 2nd day via Bright Angel Trail to Indian Gardens Campground, and then the final day we hiked back to the South Rim.

The hike down the South Kaibab was steep and we were experiencing winds of 25-30 with gusts of 40mph. We were very thankful for the walking poles since they kept our wind-blown and knee-aching bodies from being blown off the trail. Of course there was a learning curve – Andy was so intent on where to place his poles that he kept forgetting to think of where he was placing his feet. The campgrounds were beautiful with trees and creeks and canyon walls to admire. The vistas along the trail were breathtaking and we were surprised by several waterfalls. The Bright Angel trail wasn’t as challenging physically, but the number of day-trippers added a new hazard since many don’t know the hiker’s etiquette (uphill hikers have the right-of-way).

Starting our Hike Down

Starting our Hike Down

Andy Hiking South Kaibab Trail

Andy Hiking South Kaibab Trail

First Clear View of the Colorado River

First Clear View of the Colorado River

Bright Angel Campground - Our Site

Bright Angel Campground - Our Site

A Bridge over the Colorado River

A Bridge over the Colorado River

Hiking Near Indian Gardens Campground

Hiking Near Indian Gardens Campground

Our Site at Indian Gardens Campground

Our Site at Indian Gardens Campground

Almost at the Top!

Almost at the Top!

It’s too hard to appreciate the Grand Canyon (in my opinion) without hiking into it – even if only a few miles or few hours. Only when you are “in” it do I think you can see the variety of colors in the rock and many of the small beauties of the canyon. So, if you go, do take a hike – short or long – for a different perspective of this grand canyon. But don’t be a “touron” (tourist-moron) – be prepared with food, water, etc and not have all your gear be brand new (like us!!).

We had so much fun, we’re going to try hiking down from the North Rim. Cross your fingers we’ll be able to get another permit. After landing in Vegas, we’ll probably head to Zion, the North Rim, then on thru southern Utah/northern AZ.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of our family and friends with children!

April 19, 2004

Arizona – Williams, Flagstaff, Sedona

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 9:33 am by diandy2004

We’ve been debating our schedule now for awhile. We were considering shooting for the Grand Canyon, but the weather has been sketchy. We’ve been off and on on a daily- ,and even an hourly-basis at times. We decided to make a go for it. We drove from 29 Palms, CA to Williams, AZ in one day – 300 miles, 6 hours driving. Believe me, it was harder as a passenger then for Andy as the driver!  This was one of our rare, long driving days. Our initial goal was Kingman, but then time and weather allowed us to keep driving and driving, so we took advantage of it.

Main Street in Williams, AZ is right on ole’ Route 66 with old historic shops and restaurants.

We stopped in Flagstaff before driving on to Sedona (prior to visiting the Grand Canyon). We thought Flagstaff was adorable – quaint old city feel, with a young attitude. Lots of adventure/outdoors shops and funky cafes.  We needed to stop in order to get Andy’s backpack from Babbit’s.

Since it wasn’t going to be a long drive, and we had to stop in Flagstaff, we just kept the RV and toad detached.  Sometimes the convenience of two smaller vehicles makes up for the lonelier drive.  Good thing we did, too.  I couldn’t imagine trying to navigate the Sedona switchbacks with a tow making us 49′ in length.  It just so happened to be my driving day (for the RV) – whew!  I wish I could’ve enjoyed that view more…it was such a beautiful drive into Sedona, but it was too hard to sightsee while taking those s-turns.

Sedona is a classy, artistic and touristy town. The National Forest and the Red Rocks that surround the city of Sedona are stunning. You have views from every restaurant, shop, and home practically.  Our first stop after setting up camp was to visit the Oak Creek Microbrewery.  We sat upstairs on the second-floor deck soaking in the incredible views.

Andy at Oak Creek

Andy at Oak Creek

The hiking has been fantastic here. We hiked Huckaby Trail along Oak Creek one day.

Hiking Huckaby Trail

Hiking Huckaby Trail

Another day we made a loop hike by connecting Soldier’s Pass to Brinn’s Mesa to Jordan Trail.

Patterned Red Rock along Brinn's Mesa

Patterned Red Rock along Brinn's Mesa

Sedona is also known for “spiritual vortexes“, so one night we went to Airport Mesa and visited Inspiration Point just to see if we could sense anything.  Not on this visit, but perhaps this could be because I was with Andy (who thought he was looking for ghosts)?

Overlooking Sedona

Overlooking Sedona

Overlooking Sedona

Overlooking Sedona

After Sedona, we ended up stopping in Flagstaff again.  We had done some planning and preparations for our trip into the Grand Canyon (we’re hoping for a last minute backcountry permit) and realized we should have other gear with us – a backpack for me, hydration packs, walking poles, maps, food, and more.  Boy, was this an Expensive (with a capital E) shopping spree!  Yikes!  We better get that permit to make these purchases worth it!  Wish us luck!

March 25, 2004

Arizona – Tucson and Phoenix

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 7:44 pm by diandy2004

We stayed in a campground in Tucson called Desert Trails RV Park.  The campground had trails on their property that connected to trails within Tucson Mountains Park, which led to Saguaro National Park (West).  We rode our bikes through the desert areas several times during our stay.  There is a variety of cacti, not just saguaros but chaintree cholla, joshua trees, ocotillos.  Some that we saw were dead, so all that is left standing is their ‘skeleton’.  Very interesting to see.  I’ve also enjoyed see the jackrabbits with their big ears.  Biking through the parks has been fun and relatively easy.  The hardest part is dipping in and out of the drywashes.  They can be steep and rocky and drop you into a sandy bottom, and usually there is a bend in the trail, but you have no steering in the sand.  You also have to be careful, because if you do fall there is a good chance of landing on one of those cacti.  And I’m speaking from experience!
Desert Biking in Saguaro

Desert Biking in Saguaro

We visited the NP, San Xavier Mission, and the Sonora Desert Museum.  The plants and the wildlife of the desert are very unique.  I’m fascinated by the ocotillos, Palo Verde trees with their green trunks, and other desert bushes and plants.  Many of the plants are in bloom right now – both the cacti and wildflowers.  Andy has also begun to call me a “bird-nerd” because I’ve been trying to identify all the new birds I’m seeing.  I love the hummingbirds.  I also love the song of the Cactus Wren because he sounds like he is laughing, a big-belly laugh.  You just want to start laughing right along with him.  We’ve also had a family of Gambel’s Quails visit our campsite several times.
San Xavier Mission

San Xavier Mission

Hummingbird at Sonoran Desert Museum

Hummingbird at Sonoran Desert Museum

Diane at Sonoran Desert Museum

Diane at Sonoran Desert Museum

In Phoenix Andy and I spent our first day apart.  I went to visit a dear friend – Cathie Jansen, and Andy went bike riding.  Andy rode his bike to Luke Air Force base and watched the F-16’s taking off, landing, practicing touch-and-go’s.  Luke is the largest F-16 training facility in the country.  We found that Phoenix averages about 10 degrees hotter than Tucson, which affected our attempts at running.
Some more of our “Firsts” and other miscellaneous comments:  we’re learning to live with mail-forwarding; trying to run at elevations; dealing with nose-bleeds from the dry desert air; and shooting pool is becoming one of our favorite pasttimes in the RV parks.

March 19, 2004

Arizona – Benson Daytrips

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 5:17 am by diandy2004

Our first stop in Arizona was Benson.  Benson is off of I-10 in the southeastern corner.  We thought we’d stop there for 2 nights to see Kartchner Caverns and keep on moving.  We stayed almost a week – what a pretty area.  The RV Park we stayed at (Cochise Terrace RV Resort) was just part of the reason we were so content.  But we also were not aware of all of the day-tripping opportunities in this area as well.

We visited the historic mining town of Bisbee.  The town is built in a tight valley and claims “1000 steps”.  We didn’t count them, but I’m sure they were close to that.

Historic Town of Bisbee, AZ

Historic Town of Bisbee, AZ

We toured the Queen Mine which takes you into the old mine and shows you equipment they used and heard stories from a miner.  Did you know that the miners would like to keep the rats around (so they fed them) because the rats could warn them of a potential collapse?  If the rats ran out of the tunnels, the miners would follow them!  On the way home we drove through the town of Tombstone (no time that day to visit).

We toured the Kartchner Caverns, which were just opened in 1999 and 2003 (another section).  This was an interesting experience.  The staff is pretty regimented during the tour…almost to the point of being uncomfortable.  Their goal is to protect the cave, but I hope they find a better way for visitors to enjoy the beauty without this negative atmosphere.  We also went hiking in the Whetstone Mountains at Kartchner.  We took the 4.2 mile Guindani Trail hiking through canyons, over 8 stream crossings, up to the summit (there was a 2100′ elevation change), and then down the arid south-facing slope.  We saw lots of birds, explored several old mines, and enjoyed the geology of the area.  I even saw my first Madrone tree, which has a beautiful red-peeling bark and pink, bell-like flowers.

Andy Enjoys Exploring Old Mines

Andy Enjoys Exploring Old Mines

We biked the San Pedro Riparian Recreation Area and visited the Fairbanks ghost town.  We wandered around via our bikes on different trails finding lots of old items:  nuts, bolts, nails, cans, spikes and other items.  We stopped at an old cemetary and an old mill (where they used to make minerals into a powder).  While scrambling around the mill we came face to face with a rattlesnake.  Ooops!  We’ll have to learn to be more careful.

Mountain Biking in the Riparian Area

Mountain Biking in the Riparian Area

Another day we went hiking at Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains.  It was a pretty area with large rocks and boulders, but without maps or adequate hiking information we did not get to see as much as we would’ve liked.  Instead of being *a* trail, the area was a lattice-work of trails.  No map = No clue.  So we had to constantly pay attention to our return path so we could reverse our hike in order to find our car.  Maybe next time we’ll be better prepared.There were more activities we could’ve done in this area, but we decided it was time to move on. Here are some of our ideas for our next visit to this area: Chiricahua National Monument (for large boulders), Amerind Foundation (a Native American Museum), Ramsey Canyon (Nature Conservancy), Patagonia/Sonoita (Also, Nature Conservancy).