Category Archives: Camping

Hawn State Park and the Whispering Pines Trail

Since summers can get so busy for me (weddings and other fun work events) I decided to set aside a couple of times in order to have normal fun summer activities. This past weekend I planned a short getaway to Hawn State Park near St. Genevieve, Missouri.

We left on Friday, planning to camp two nights and hike in between and on Sunday morning. We’d wanted to bring Mackenzie (my dog) but it was pretty hot and she just doesn’t do well in the heat (too furry) so we left her at a friend’s house. Louie and I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to streamline our camping experience, and this time we’d stored everything, all the odds and ends at least, in a large plastic bin that fit in his trunk, so it was a matter of taking stuff out of the garage, removing stuff from the bin we definitely wouldn’t need, and trusting the rest was there. (It was! This method worked pretty well.) I also planned out meals for Friday night, Saturday day, and Sunday morning, along with some drinks. It was easy planning for a short trip.

Hawn is about 1 1/2 hours away and we got there by 5 pm. We picked up a bundle of firewood just outside of the park but they sold it there, along with ice, so we wouldn’t have had to. I’d reserved site 29, since I wasn’t sure how popular it would be for Father’s Day weekend. It was pretty full but not completely booked when we arrived, but you know me, I’m a planner.

One thing that struck me was just how GREEN it was there. It was a very nice campground, well maintained, and a beautiful state park.

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We set up the tent and then wandered around a little bit, checking out where the trailhead for the hike the next day was. Then we cooked a nice dinner (chili!), sat around the fire, and relaxed. It wasn’t too hot when you weren’t doing anything much, and after the sun went down it was very pleasant. There wasn’t a huge amount of privacy and some of the neighbors were a little annoying, but that’s campground camping for you. Our site was pretty, except the tent backed up to a large patch of poison ivy! Good to avoid.

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There were large wooden poles to hang up your trash on, but the raccoons can scale them. Or at least the raccoon that visited us could. He (or she) came out just after dark, and I didn’t realize until the next day that he’d stolen a plastic bowl and dropped it in the bushes. The following night after dinner he got into our trash and ate an apple core. In any case, he seemed nice, but we didn’t want to feed him!

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Posing with the tent.

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Louie hard at work chopping firewood into smaller pieces.

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My view from my chair.

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Anyway, we had a nice relaxing night, sitting around the fire chatting. We agreed it was good to get out of the world for a bit, to be disconnected and just relax. It’s refreshing when you know you are out of touch (NO service to speak of, data wise-no news, no worries!).

It rained around 6:00 am Saturday, so we waited to get up until 8 am or so. We’d planned to do earlier just to get hiking before the heat of the day, but oh well. Our neighbors were pretty loud (shockingly so for 7 am) but oh well. The good news is the loud ones left that day Smile

We wanted to hike the Whispering Pines Trail, which is 10 miles if you do the north and south loops. The author of my book, 60 hikes within 60 miles recommended starting with the Pickle Creek Trail, and I’m glad we did!

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I believe this was the Pickle Creek.

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10 miles! I forget how far that is when you are walking.

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Why yes, those are purple hiking shorts. Or eggplant, or something.

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There was almost a view. Maybe in the winter.

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So green!

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Cool water area.

IMG_7641The entire hike was buggy, and it was really hot and humid after an hour or so, and we were pretty worried about ticks (we applied liberal amounts of Deep Woods Off), but the Pickle Creek Trail was the best part! It was a nice day, a challenging hike. We packed our usual pb sandwiches for lunch, had trail mix, lots of water, and a few breaks, and by the end I was suffering, but we made it, and lived to tell the tale.

If I did this again, I don’t think I’d do both loops, and I don’t know that I’d want to hike the south loop in the summer, ever again. But in a different season it might be really nice—it was VERY overgrown and often felt like hiking in the jungle (not that I have, but I’d imagine it’s similar, wading through elbow high weeds?)

Afterwards I was thankful the campground had showers and I only found one tiny tick which had not attached itself.  The campground had very nice facilities overall—nice bathrooms (for a campground, to be clear), and there were also vault toilets, I imagine for during the winter.

We relaxed by the fire again for hours after the hike (we hiked from about 9:30 to 3:30) and then made dinner and went to bed eventually.

We were awoken by thunder around 2:30 am. A huge storm swept through, probably at least 1 hour long, of severe weather. Louie and I sat there together in the tent, worrying. There was torrential rain, loud lightning and thunder, and no way to check the radar to see what was happening. Finally it passed and we were able to get back to sleep. The tent stays pretty dry but has some vents that a little wetness gets in through on the sides near the bottom. I was worried about tornados at the time and Louie said later he was worried about a tree or branch falling on us. I told myself that I just didn’t hear of too many people dying in Missouri State Parks in storms…another lighter storm followed that one but nothing too crazy.

Anyway, when morning finally came, we decided to pack up and leave in case there were more storms coming. We didn’t think any more hiking would be very pleasant since the ground was muddy and wet, so we just headed home. It was a nice weekend getaway!

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My view from the tent: I was packed up sleeping bags and pads while Louie made coffee and oatmeal.

Float Trip and Baseball Sized Hail

I never got back to telling you all about my camping trip over Memorial Day weekend. It was meant to be two nights camping with a float trip in between. Louie has some friends that have been organizing the trip for years and years. We went two years ago (it’s not always at the same place) and then last year we were going to go but it got rained out. This year would be different…

We were camping at a place called “One Eyed Willy’s” in Lebanon, Missouri. We brought the dog, Mackenzie (had to get a canoe because no dogs allowed in rafts) and our tent and all our camping gear. We figured we’d be car camping so we didn’t worry too much about what we brought.

When we got to check in the guy behind the desk asked what we drove and we said, well, a Corolla. He guffawed. Evidently the group site we had was on the other side of a creek and he told us we couldn’t drive down there. What to do! We “luckily” met a few members of our party who were up with a pick up truck and we loaded all the contents of our car into the back. It turned out that two people in the group tried to drive their cars down and one hit a large rock and cracked her bumper and another got stuck in the creek and the car was tipping over. I’d like to think we wouldn’t have attempted the crossing in the Corolla, but you just never know.

Anyway, we got all set up and then hung out with everybody around a nice campfire. Mackenzie loves camping, and by that, I mean, she loves going around begging for food: hot dogs, potato chips, whatever. She’s not picky! She doesn’t love the outdoors when she’s not on her turf though, so when I finally brought her into the tent to sleep, she eagerly jumped onto the sleeping bags, getting sand EVERYWHERE (I wish I had a picture of her amazing expression, she was so excited). But she had to sleep on a little yoga mat we brought, and I think it was comfortable enough. Louie stayed up later chatting and the tent was not terribly roomy for the three of us!

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Anyway, the next morning they’d moved the float up because there were supposedly really big storms coming through. I was pretty nervous about this: they kept talking about “baseball-sized hail” and here we were, heading away from the camp to go on the river! They also keep talking about how the gravel bar we were all set up on had flooded earlier in the month, and not just by a little, and the people from the campground suggested everybody move their trucks to higher ground just in case. Our car was already far away on high ground, so we locked some valuables in a pick up (big mistake, you’ll see) and nervously got on the school bus to get a lift upstream. We’d get a canoe, and then 8 miles later be back at the camp. We decided as a group to not dally as much as usual in order to get back, and likely pack up and head home rather than stay another night. I was a little concerned than instead of simply leaving we were insisting on this trip, but I was also determined to have fun.

It rained almost right away when we got started. I had a rain jacket, but poor Mackenzie just sat in the canoe looking miserable. We were the only ones in our group with a canoe (the rest were all in rafts) so we tried to stay with them but it became too difficult and we just decided to do our own thing. It kept raining and not raining, and we just kept going. It was pretty fun, though a nicer day would have been my preference. We got back to the campsite and started packing up. One issue though: our car keys and wallets and such were in our friend’s pickup truck. So we packed up and then we waited. And waited. And then the storm came.

Some members of the group had returned, and as it was pouring, things just got crazy. The campground hosts were taking people up to the top in a school bus, and so Louie decided to start taking our stuff up, get it up there and then find our keys. He headed out with a bunch of stuff and I waited around. It was pretty crazy, I had the dog and tons of camping gear, and neither of us had phones since those were in the truck. We’d found out that there might be a hide-a-key on the truck so Louie was planning to look for that. The school bus came back down and I decided to take the rest of the stuff and make a run for it. It was a mess! I was completely soaked and had Mackenzie, and I got on the school bus and was stuck in the seat with tons of gear all around me trying to get the dog out of the aisle. Luckily she is super cute and friendly and other people were very helpful. We got up the hill and I saw Louie and he hadn’t found the truck, so he headed back down to look again, and I waited then. I started worrying we’d never get our stuff or that we’d get stuck for good, or get lost from one another, so when the school bus showed up again and Louie got off triumphantly showing my purse, I was so relieved!

The next challenge was getting the car out of a dirt parking lot. Keep in mind, it was still pouring, there was mud and gravel all around, and we had ALL of our things with us, that we intended to be using to camp out of our car. But miraculously it all worked—Louie had a little trouble with the car, but he’d recently gotten new tires and I imagine that helped. He pulled up in front of our stuff, we loaded up (Mackenzie was super relieved to lie down in the back seat) and we hit the road. We found out later there had been a tornado in the area, and we did pass some trees that looked like they’d been pulled out by the roots. We were worried about the drive home but the worst of the storm stayed out of our way, though there was quite a lot of rain most of the time.

We got home, unpacked, showered, and hit up the local Mexican resturant, Amigo Joe’s. I decided, never again will I camp somewhere where I need to depend on somebody else to drive me out. Either my car is there or I can carry everything! And never again will I canoe when a huge storm is predicted. But the weekend was an adventure, a team-building exercise (Louie and I prided ourselves on working well together under pressure) and a great story.

I guess, the more you camp and travel, the more ridiculous stories you end up with. Bear attack, hail storms, mosquitos, biting flies, evacuating a campsite in the middle of a storm…it all adds to the travel adventures, right?

Feeling at home in Arches National Park

Next up: Arches National Park!

Previous posts:

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

Moving Along

No Such Thing as a Dead Horse

Day 9 of our trip, according to the itinerary. We finished up looking at Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse State Park and hit the road back towards Moab. It’s about 30 minutes to Moab, which is right near Arches National Park. We decided to make a quick coffee/gelato stop in Moab first before heading back into the wilderness. We also wanted to check email and things like that. In this day and age, it’s hard to go 3 weeks without responding to people, so at least every couple of days we needed to check in! And honestly, after a few straight days of only talking to each other, it’s nice to look at other stuff Smile We had an “incident” later where we’d asked a restaurant if they had wi-fi and the woman said, somewhat self-righteously, “no, we don’t, you’ll just have to talk to each other.” Haha, right? Except get over yourself, we’d been doing nothing but talking to each other for 3 days, and you work in a deserted tourist area where maybe people need to check in for work or just to let their friends and family know they are still alive. But I digress.

We finished up our gelato at a delightful shop that DID have wi-fi and then drove up to Arches. We needed to stop by the visitor’s center to pick up tickets for a ranger led tour we were doing the following day, and whoa, the center was packed! It was a definite change from Canyonlands and Colorado National Monument. We knew Arches was more popular (I guess the beauty is more obvious and you can see more within 10 feet of your car?) but it was still a bit of culture shock.

We had a reservation at Devil’s Garden campground, which was at the very back of the park, about a 20 mile drive, so our plan was to slowly head there while stopping and seeing what interested us. We had the whole day in the park the following day so we knew we’d get to do most of things we wanted.

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Since blogging about this trip has, more than ever, become entirely ridiculous and overwhelming YET I know that I will want this all down in writing to look back at in the future…I’m going to do a lot of photo sharing!

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Many of the rock formations are named. This was called the Three Gossips.

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We took a short walk to get closer to Balanced Rock. The mountains in the background are spectacular. Another thing that really struck us both was how different Arches looked than Canyonlands and Dead Horse even though they are relatively close to each other. What a crazy planet we live on!

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The advent of digital cameras makes this sort of ridiculousness easier. Louie, holding up Balanced Rock.IMG_5739

Seriously, what is this madness??

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Various arches. After checking into the campground we set up the tent and then went on a hike that left from the end of the campground. Oh, we’d hoped to buy firewood to have a fire since we hadn’t been able to for a few days, but they were out! The camp hosts were really great though and told us we could stop by their site and have a few pieces, so we did that. We also found out the campground had had lots of flash flooding the night before, just like at Dead Horse and we were warned to be aware of where we set up our tent. Apparently this was “monsoon season” and flash floods were somewhat common, though the night before had been much more than usual, and some campsites were washed away. We made sure to stake our tent carefully.

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Every arch had a name, but I am bad with names. I think this was Broken Arch though. We also might have seen Tapestry Arch. The hike was a little hard to figure out at first, because it was lots of cairn following, but we managed! We almost got lost at more than one point, but did I mention that it was a lovely cool day in the desert so we probably wouldn’t have died. Just kidding, we only weren’t sure which turn to take and were never too far off from being correct.IMG_5756

This is the view of our campground. Devil’s Garden Campground is one of the most beautiful National Park Campgrounds that I’ve ever seen. Our site (Site 018) was gorgeous too, even though we had trouble finding a flat spot to set up the tent.

Anyway, we finished the hike and then went to relax at our campsite and make dinner.

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We had a lovely fire and relaxed. At one point a small fox (we found out it was a kit fox) came through our campsite, just like one had at Dead Horse! This time we were sort of ready, and Louie took a short video. It was dark though, and you can’t see much. We made a lot of jokes about how the fox didn’t say anything.

We decided to try to wake up to watch the sunrise. We had an amazing view from the tent, and figured this was the time!

Even though I hadn’t slept great because the tent was more slanted than we’d realized and I kept sliding off the pad (oops) I was happy to be awake to get this picture! We also saw several deer who walked non-chalantly through the campsite. It was a beautiful site, but unfortunately we had to move to a different one for the next night (same campground) so after watching the sunrise and breakfast, it was time to pack up. As usual…

Next up: Fiery Furnace, Delicate Arch and more storms!

Nights camping: 7

Miles hiked (estimate): 37

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

 

I suppose I shouldn’t have a dislike of Aspen, but I do! First off, before even going, so many people said, oh, why go to Aspen? Well, we had our family reasons, but UGH after the bear attack…

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Read those first!

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So we spent the day of the bear incident cleaning up. At first we’d thought we’d camp another night and then we realized that was crazy…the bear KNEW our car would have food and now it was even less secure. So we managed to crash at Louie’s dad’s place for a night, but frankly, we were cranky and tired and ready to leave.

The next morning we did, after loading up. We had breakfast at the Main Street Bakery, which would have been really nice except I suddenly wasn’t feeling well and ended up sitting outside on a bench for most of the meal. Altitude sickness? Definitely not morning sickness, which was what a woman at the “community table” suggested to me.

Louie and I were headed to Rocky Mountain National Park next. Yes, it was backtracking, but that’s how we did it. Don’t judge. We had a reservation for two nights at Moraine Campground, which was a different campground than we stayed at the previous year. We decided to leave Aspen via Independence Pass which is a pretty fantastic drive!

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Things that are truly awful: the vault toilets at the parking lot for the top of Independence Pass.

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I was starting to feel a bit better, but not great. Louie drove since I am terrified of mountain driving and he loves it. I won’t lie, some of our fun and excitement was gone. We were tired and stressed, we couldn’t use one of the doors of the car, and we were worried that another bear would attack the car. And now we were driving several hours back east to go somewhere that we didn’t even know if we wanted to go.

We’d been to Rocky Mountain National Park the year before and we’d figured why not return for another short visit. We’d really only have one full day there, but it seemed worth it in the planning stages. Naturally everything took longer than I planned (things to remember) but I think we were still happy, deep down Winking smile

We came into the park from the West side. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous. This was on the Trail Ridge Road, in case you are trying to recreate our trip. Oh, and I should mention, before getting to the park, we made a few stops along the way to try to get a new cooler, since the bear ruined ours. The day before we’d looked around Aspen for one, but everything was super expensive. We ended up buying a $4 styrofoam one to tide us over, figuring we’d easily find a cheaper one. That was a mistake. We saw a $350 cooler at Bed, Bath and Beyond…made the $75 cooler at the hardware store in Aspen look like a bargain! We finally found a reasonably priced one at a Target, but it was small. Oh well.

So we came in on the Trail Ridge Road from the West Side, like I started to tell you a minute ago. Most visitors enter the park on the East Side, so this was definitely the less crowded way to do it! The entrance gate was closed when we arrived so we didn’t get to flash our season pass. I guess probably we were supposed to show it somewhere but it was pretty unclear.

I wanted us to immediately get into tourist/photo taking mood, but it was hard. Louie was tired, I was tired, and we were just worried and stressed. We stopped and enjoyed the views (the Trail Ridge Road is the highest paved road in the US, I believe) but mostly we wanted to get to the campsite and possibly just go to sleep.

By 6:00 or so we got to the Moraine Campground. I’d booked us a “walk-in” site, which seemed like a good idea at the time—the description said you would have to walk a bit from your car to the campsite, which I figured gave more privacy and quiet. What we didn’t realized was that it was up a hill, not terribly private, and that there wasn’t a very convenient bear box (metal box bears can’t open for you to store your food.)

On the one hand, we had a great story. On the other hand, we didn’t want to leave any open food or scented items in the car and we were stressed. We managed to organize things and make room in a nearby bearbox, and we set up our tent, and finally relaxed a bit. Our plan was to get up very early and do a hike out of the Bear Lake Trailhead. Bear Lake is a very popular Trailhead, so we wanted to get there by 7 am or so.

So, we got up, had a quick breakfast, and got moving. People tend to get up early in campgrounds and this one was no exception. I’d slept okay, except I could hear a nearby person snoring! The privacy was not great. We were on the top of a little rocky hill, which was cool, but hard to get to the car or the bathroom!

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There was a rainbow shortly after we arrived though, which was very pretty.

Oh, and a raven or magpie ate one of our sandwiches! I’d packed two and put them in baggies on the table…and when we weren’t looking a bird knocked one on the ground and pecked at it! So I had to pack another, but that was okay.

We got to the parking lot at the Trailhead quite early, maybe by 6:45/7 am. It was only 1/3 to 1/2 full, but by the time we were “geared up” and got our boots on the lot was full! There is a shuttle system you can use, but it didn’t seem terribly convenient from our campground so we wanted to drive if possible. And here’s where blogging a month later (almost) makes you forget things! I recall Louie drove in his pajamas to the trailhead to save time, but I don’t remember what time we got up, nor did I make a note of it. Oh well.

I’d selected the “4 lakes loop” for our day hike. It seemed like it covered a good bit of ground that we hadn’t hiked in the past and would be a gorgeous way to spend the day. We weren’t disappointed!

We “warmed up” by walking around Bear Lake first. It was very pretty and the air was nice and cool.

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We had to do a bit of climbing to get to Nymph Lake, but it was very pretty with all the lilies. This part of the hike was pretty crowded with people, but we knew that would be the case. We did all the add on portions of the hike too: Bear, Nymph, Dream, Emerald (had a lovely snack in a private area near Emerald lake and rested for 20 minutes or so—it was nice to avoid people for a bit!), then Lake Haiyaha-the hike up to that lake was absolutely gorgeous with amazing views! After Lake Haiyaha we went to Mills Lake which was my favorite and went to Jewel Lake too, which was a little anticlimatic. We had lunch sitting by Mills Lake and rested for awhile. Louie walked around to an island nearby but I wasn’t up for going off path. After a long rest there we headed back down, past Alberta Falls (we’d been there the year before) and then a long uphill from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead back to Bear Lake and our car, which was still there and not re-attacked by Bears!

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Looking down on Nymph Lake

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I believe this was Dream Lake

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And I believe this was Emerald Lake.

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Hiking towards Lake Haiyaha. Lots of lakes in view!

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Almost missed this amazing view which was just a little ways off the trail.

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Mills Lake…just gorgeous.

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Louie exploring the island—can you see him? We could hear each other talking the whole time. Alpine Lakes are seriously the best. He said there were lots of cobwebs.

Anyway, as much as I’m terrible at describing hikes (or just not in the mood Winking smile/already forgot) it was a great hike! I think it took us about 7 hours with lots of stops, and we had a great time.

We got back to the camp and just relaxed for the rest of the day. One thing we didn’t see much of was WILDLIFE. The previous year we’d seen ton, but we just didn’t see much. (of course we’d had quite a lot of evidence of wildlife, but very few sightings.)

The next morning we got up early to head out. We were heading west to Grand Junction and Colorado National Monument. In the early hours of the morning we woke up to the sound of whooping and howling—we realized it was a bunch of coyotes making a lot of racket!

Anyway, it was a nice but short visit to Rocky Mountain National Park. I think I preferred our campground the year before (Glacier Basin) but it was nice to try something new. The bathrooms were pretty dirty and the dumpsters were overflowing! We had a nice fire each night though, and Colorado is just gorgeous.

This part of the trip was emotionally difficult for me. I felt like the bear had really stolen our excitement and happiness, and we were just worried what else would go wrong. I felt tired already and that I hadn’t planned well enough (it might be true, but still, I should have been enjoying the moment!) and that I was just worried more things would go wrong. 2016 has been one thing going wrong after another…but this was a vacation! No time for complaining, time for fun! (And rolling thermarest mattresses, so much rolling of mattresses.)

Camping days: 4

Hiking miles (best estimate): 22

Bear Necessities

You know how when you’re out in the woods you hear weird noises? We were camping on our second night in Aspen, and I woke up in the middle of the night, or early in the morning, to hearing somebody throwing a bag of ice around. I couldn’t tell if it was in our campsite or not! I lay there quietly, assuming it wasn’t, because that would be super weird. There was a lot of footsteps, but no noises, no talking, and I decided not to wake Louie up because I didn’t want him making noise. I was pretty sure there wasn’t anybody in our site, who would do that? Or we were getting robbed and I didn’t want the person to notice our tent, as there were no footsteps coming near. I heard somebody rattle what sounded like our bear box (that’s a box where you are supposed to keep your food) and then all was quiet, so I went back to sleep. I had a variety of dreams of waking up and finding that somebody had set their tent up next to ours!

We were in bear country. If you camp a lot, you know exactly what I mean. It seems that every campground has different rules. In Yellowstone they made you sign something agreeing—all your food must be kept in your trunk, all your toiletries that were scented also. No food, water, or scented toiletries (i.e. toothpaste, lotion, etc) in the tent with you. You had to wash your dishes in a certain sink, and make sure that all your trash was in special bear proof trashcans.

At the Difficult campground, they gave us our own bear box. And we usually kept a clean camp, put everything away. But there were a few things: one was that there wasn’t anywhere to wash dishes—they just told us to throw our water in the woods. And that the picnic table had a sign saying to put your things in your car.

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Not only the bear box, but the car. The camp host had told us to use the box though…and laughed. But we had gotten “home” late and forgot to cover or move the cooler.

I woke up early, and got out of the tent to go to the toilet. I figured I’d see that everything was fine. But it wasn’t. The first thing I saw was shattered glass, and thought, OH MY GOD we’ve been robbed. And then I realized our car had been attacked by a bear.

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The bear pulled the top of the car door down and removed the lid of the cooler and threw it on the ground. I started freaking out and yelled for Louie to get out of the tent and come see. We were both in total shock for a bit!

After awhile we started cleaning up. I was worried about the glass at first, but it was safety glass which mean it wasn’t as sharp as window glass would be. There was ice and melted water all over the backseat and the clothes. Most of the damage was on the window though, and nothing on the upholstery, thank goodness!

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If you look you can see the dirty pawprint from the bear shaking this box. This is a bear box. If we had put our cooler in it we might not have had the bear attack. I do take the blame for it, but I’ll say this: I had never heard of this sort of thing happening before—I’d heard that bears would rip into soft top cars and tents, but not metal! I’d also add that the sign on the picnic table at the site says put food in the bear box or a locked car, which we did. And I’d also think that putting dishwater wherever you wanted would attract bears! So we were to blame, but there were other factors. And honestly, I think maybe people in tents shouldn’t camp at the Difficult Campground at all, and they should just say that. We found out later that another car was broken into and a “bear proof” cooler was broken into by the bear that night, and a few campers SAW the bear trying to break into their bear box.

(A google search found that a few years ago the problem at the campground was bad and they banned tents, but lifted the ban. I wonder if they told anyone after our attack?)

So here we were, at the beginning of a 3 week road trip, with a messed up car! We panicked for a few minutes, but then decided to try to do something. We had to drive into Aspen to make phone calls (nothing at the campsite available, no phone other than one for local calls which didn’t include 800 calls, and no pay phone) so we did that, carefully, and after checking with the insurance that it was allowed, Louie and I headed to a hardware store to try to fix up the window.

It ended up working really well. Louie managed to bend the metal back up, added plexiglass, and taped the whole thing with a combination of duct tape and gorilla tape. We realized pretty early that the entire door would need to be replaced, so putting tape on it wasn’t a concern.

We spent a few hours at the True Value in downtown Aspen working on it. The employees there were both really helpful and incredibly nosy too Smile Everybody kept coming out to see the car. People said that this kind of thing happened a lot (news to us, and I’ll bet to most of you) and that bears break glass doors, eat out of the trash, break into cars, etc. I ask, what is Aspen doing to help (the answer seems, very little) and I also ask, why don’t more people know about this? Honestly, we didn’t realize how bad the problem was, and we likely wouldn’t have camped. Maybe that’s why they don’t tell people? Or do they just think all towns have major bear problems? I don’t know!

I do know a few things; I won’t be camping there again, and we won’t be underestimating bears again.

We got the window fixed up though, by lunchtime (a waste of a morning, but it could have been worse!) and thankfully I’m dating an engineer who worked in remodeling and construction and knows how to make stuff work really well! And even though we wouldn’t be able to open that door for the rest of the trip, at least we didn’t have to cancel our trip.

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(I couldn’t find a better picture of the car, but you can see the tape here and how well we fixed it up!)

So, that’s our “best” story from the trip. Our car got attacked by a bear. Oh, and he ate the rest of a bag of Trader Joe’s peanut butter pretzels, 2 apples, half a tub of hummus (left the rest), and even a beer. There was a can of beer that had a claw mark and had been drained. (Louie has a picture I know, but I don’t have it right now. I’ll share it later if I can find it from him!).

Sigh. What a day.  But we weren’t hurt, and the upholstery wasn’t hurt, the insurance would cover it (minus the deductible) and the trip would continue!

Days camping: 2 night

Official hiking miles: 13.5

A Few days in Phoenix, Less than 24 hours in Sedona

After last summer’s big road trip, I mentioned to my sister Leslie that the annual NPS Louie and I had purchased didn’t expire until the end of this summer. She suggested we come out to Phoenix to visit, and take a few days to see the Grand Canyon. She was very generous to offer us their older car to borrow and a bunch of camping gear.

Louie had never been to the Grand Canyon. I had been but not since I was a small child (11 or so). The Grand Canyon is about 3 1/2 hours from Phoenix, which makes for a short drive though not really a day trip. Leslie, who is evidently a wonderful travel agent/itinerary builder, suggested we spend some time in Sedona on our way north, so ultimately I planned our time to have 1 night in Sedona, 2 nights at the Grand Canyon, and then home.

I like to look at the Trip Advisor Forums for advice on traveling, though Louie and I like to hike more than most members of the forums there. I’d found much of their advice last year to be excellent, with the exception of their great love of the Black Hills (it was fine, but we could have spent one night there and been happy rather than two). However, in the Sedona forums, there is at least one member who insists that you must spend 4-5 nights in Sedona in order to make it worth visiting. To me this is ridiculous. Sure, a week in Paris beats a day in Paris, but both are worth it. Maybe not the day if you fly in and out from the US for one day, but it’s a trip from another fairly nearby location, a little time is better than no time!

(I’m overwhelmed by my good fortune in being able to travel sometime, and right now I’m overwhelmed by all the beauty we saw and want to convey it to you.)

Okay, so…first we spent a few days in Phoenix hanging with my little niece Athena, and my sister and brother-in-law.

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We rode the carousel and the train at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale.

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There was a lovely shaded playground.

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We took selfies.

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And we went to the zoo.

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And then on Wednesday of the week, it was time for Louie and I to load up their Honda Civic (with stick shift) and head for Sedona. We piled in our clothes, cooler with food and drinks, tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, camp chairs, hiking boots and poles, stove, and more (maybe) and headed to Sedona. The drive was around 2 hours.

One big potential issue for our night in Sedona. The forecast was for rain and storms!

Sedona is known as Red Rocks Country. Once we made the turn off the interstate we started seeing evidence of this. It was so much unlike Missouri!

Our first stop was at the Sedona Visitors Center. We needed the restrooms, water, and lunch. I talked to a really helpful ranger at the desk as well. I hadn’t planned too many particular hikes for Sedona. For whatever reason, I’d found it difficult to get maps or find exact things to do so I’d figured we’d wing it…I love planning things, but as I’ve told you before, Louie enjoys winging them and being more in the moment, so I figured he’d help out with this part Winking smile The ranger asked how long we were there and when we told him, well, this afternoon and tomorrow morning, he didn’t yell at us that we hadn’t allocated enough time (we wanted to be in the Grand Canyon by mid-afternoon the next day) but instead made a few really helpful suggestions.

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We first visited the Bell Rock area, which was just north of the visitor’s center. The sky didn’t look too menacing yet so we took a short hike up and around.

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My mom is probably worried about all the red dirt. Back in South Carolina where I grew up she hates the red dirt that we would track into the house. It stains, and she would shout “Red Dirt Alert!” to make us stop in our tracks and remove our shoes.

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Hiking: fashion? Those wire trash cans filled with rocks were to mark the trail. There were lots of signs warning us to stay on the trail, which was great until we’d get to a place that was only rock and didn’t seem to have any trail markers at all. It was fun to explore though!

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Louie was smart and wore an orange shirt in order to blend in.IMG_5243

Here you can see the bad weather is starting to move in. We knew we weren’t terribly far from shelter though.

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I took this of Louie when he went up a big higher than I felt comfortable doing so. Some of the rock climbing made me fear of heights kick in. Or perhaps my fear of rock climbing.

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When we got back to the car, it started raining, and storming, and kept up for a bit. We decided to go to the store to pick up a few things we’d remembered that we’d forgotten (ha, good writing there!). The storms had blown threw by the time we were done (Sedona is full of shops and restaurants and places to stay, not remote at all) and we went to drive around something called Red Rocks Loop, that the ranger had recommended. It was definitely still a little rainy but not bad. We didn’t really feel like hiking though…we are tough, sure Winking smile but rain hiking is more work. The loop wasn’t that exciting, so we finished and then went to our campground.

I’d booked a night in a campground north of town called Manzanita Campground, run by the Forest Service.

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Our first time by the campground we missed the turn entirely, but found it the second time. There’s a steep one lane driveway down to the campground and the sites are along Oak Creek. Other than the rain and the fact that the only facilities are vault toilets, I loved it.

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We set out for a short hike before dinner-I’d seen there was a trailhead right across from the campground and we though we’d check it out, just for a few minutes. The rain had stopped, but it was still really wet.

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The hike went through an area that had had a fire recently. Later Peter was telling us about it, but now I can’t remember. It was recent, and it luckily didn’t spread too much further than the small area.

(This article I found seems to be about it. We were camping in the Oak Creek Canyon area.)

I wanted to get back to camp before it was too dark, so we only hiked for about 45 minutes. It was neat and we were sorry we couldn’t go further.

It was a cold night. I believe it ended up being close to 40 degrees overnight, hard to believe it was May and Arizona! (Not everywhere in Arizona is hot like Phoenix, but that’s easy to forget). In any case, we made Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Chili with some sides and enjoyed a beer by the campfire. Sort of. The fire was hard to start due to the dampness (we managed, we are used to rain here in Missouri, despite the camp host almost refusing to sell us wood) but the real problem was that the firepits were about 3 feet tall and blocked all the heat. Oh well.

I didn’t sleep that well-first night camping, cold…it was a bad combination. We got up and loaded up the car and headed further north. We decided to hike the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon.

The ranger had recommended this hike, yes, that’s how we roll (also Leslie and Peter did, but they recommended several hikes that we didn’t get to do either). He’d said he loved it because it was unlike anything else in Sedona. At first that sounded appealing, but then we started to worry, what if it was like Missouri instead? It was lush and green, but luckily it wasn’t really like Missouri.

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The trail goes along the Oak Creek the whole way. It crosses the creek 13 times along the way (and then again on the way back). The creek crossings were quite a lot of fun!

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It seemed they meant you’d have to walk down the creek for 2 3/4 miles! Maybe in some seasons it would be lower, but that just didn’t sound terribly fun to me.

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After finishing the hike we had a quick picnic lunch before heading north (again) towards the Grand Canyon National Park. And that’s where I’ll end today’s blog post, with the two of us in a car, drinking sparkling water, and driving north, looking forward to the next portion of our adventure.