Category Archives: Travel

Which Side of the Canyon is Grander?

I know this has gotten ridiculous, but I’m following through to the end. How did this trip take so many blog posts? Maybe because there were just so many different stops?! In any case this is the last post, and it’s a good one, I think!

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

Moving Along

No Such Thing as a Dead Horse

Feeling at home in Arches National Park

Entering the Fiery Furnace

A Night Off the Ground

The only Good forest is a Petrified forest

What the Heck is a Hoodoo?

And Yet Another Car Insurance Claim

We left off heading away from Zion National Park. Now onto the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We had been to the South Rim in May, but when I started planning this trip I saw that we could swing by the North Rim.

Let me remind you, this trip was born out of the idea that since our National Parks pass from the year before, purchased in the beginning of August, didn’t actually expire until the end of August the following year…why not hit up as many parks as possible again? So that is where we were for this trip: every National Park was “free” to enter, since it had already been paid for the year before. Best $80 ever spent. (Though seniors get a lifetime pass for $10, that’s even better. I do hear that’s going up to $80 soon, but I hope still for life then?)

Anyway, for those who don’t know: the south rim is the side closer to Phoenix so it receives far more visitors per year. The north rim is about 5-6 hours drive (the canyon takes awhile to drive around!) and is only open a few months a year due to the weather, and is much less busy. Of course, the campground was still full and there were people, but not the tour buses and hoards you get on the south rim.

Our plan was to hike down into the canyon a bit, and then turn around. You can hike across to the south rim, you can hike to the Colorado River, but you can’t do any of those things in a day hike, even a day hike they recommend against. (Unless you are running and probably insane.)

It was a nice drive to the North Rim. (I’m being inconsistent with my capitalizing, but I guess “North Rim” should be capitalized.) It took around 3 hours and was uneventful.

IMG_6179

The North Rim is up over 8000 feet elevation, like at Bryce, so the temps would be pleasant and cooler.

IMG_6180

We passed by some areas that had obviously been affected by fire.

We got to the village at the North Rim and found the campground easily. We set up our tent and then walked around to see the canyon.

Image may contain: nature and outdoor

IMG_6181IMG_6183IMG_6185

As you can see it’s quite beautiful. We just wandered around the rim and looked at the lodge and read some of the placards around with the history. We talked with a ranger and planned to get up very early to start our hike the next morning on the North Kaibab Trail—she suggested getting up before sunrise and seeing it rise on the trail, so we decided why not.

I got up early and walked to the bathroom to get my contacts in and wash up. As I was walking back I felt like I couldn’t see with my headlamp as well as I’d like, and then I fell—I rolled my ankle off the edge of the road and fell down. I got up and I could feel my foot was wet but I grabbed my toiletries bag and stumbled back to the camp. Louie was starting to make coffee and I went up to him, crying and freaking out. We looked at my foot and I’d cut my big toe pretty badly and my ankle/foot was already really swollen. It was dark, before 6 am I believe, and we were in the middle of nowhere, and everybody around us was sleeping. He helped me get my foot cleaned up and some ice on my ankle and lying down again, and I told him that I thought he should go do the hike, that if I felt I needed something either he’d be back or I could get a ranger more easily in daylight if I needed. Originally we’d planned to pack up the tent before hiking, but we decided he’d just hike for a few hours and come back and we’d do it.

So that bummed me out. I learned later that evidently my headlamp could be ankled down better and maybe the battery was getting low, and that I should have had better shoes…but anyway, there was no way I could get my foot in boots.

Louie came back a few hours later and said the hike was really nice, though sunrise wasn’t that great from it actually. He’d probably gone much further than we would have together! Anyway, my foot was hurting and swollen, but I didn’t think I needed medical attention, so we just wrapped it up and taped it, (we had an ace bandage and first aid stuff with us, just so you know, though later I bought some more gauze for it) and we packed up and headed out.

We were now heading home. We’d decided to make a trip to Las Vegas, New Mexico to visit an old friend of Louie’s, but we had one more stop before that: Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam and Antelope Canyon.

While planning this trip, once I got to the North Rim, there were so many more things to do! But we were already at the end of the time, and I also knew that longer than 3 weeks was ridiculous for us to be gone so I just picked one more thing. We didn’t go to the Four Corners, we didn’t go to Monument Valley, but Louie had mentioned wanting to see Antelope Canyon, so I made that work pretty well. And this would be our last stop that wasn’t just trying to get home (with visiting friends), so we wanted to make the most of it.

The drive from the North Rim to Page, Arizona was amazing. I had recollections of having ridden the same route as a kid, actually, but only faint. We drove by the Vermillion Cliffs and the views were just incredible.

IMG_6189

That picture definitely doesn’t do it justice.

If there was a theme to this trip, or even to the year, it was the Colorado River. So many of the thing we saw were there because of the Colorado River, plus we crossed it many times! Look at it on a map and you’ll see how our trip followed it quite a bit. It wasn’t part of my planning, but it was part of why these places are how they are, so in a way, it WAS part of my planning.

We stopped at the Navajo Bridge over Marble Canyon (which is where the Grand Canyon starts) and took some pictures. It was really hot and I couldn’t walk very well, but we did our best.

IMG_6190IMG_6191IMG_6193IMG_6194

We kept going and then we got to Page, Arizona. The history of Page is somewhat interesting, because the town exists purely to have built the Glen Canyon Dam, which is quite controversial, or that is, was at the time. The Dam created Lake Powell, which is just an unreal place. It’s a bright blue lake in the middle of all these reds.

IMG_6200IMG_6201IMG_6205IMG_6208

We were staying the night at Wahweap Campground, right next to the Lake. Our first assigned campsite already had somebody on it, so they moved us to another, actually nicer site (I guess there was a miscommunication with the other couple over how many nights they were staying.) The funny thing about this area was that we seemed to be the only Americans—it was like we were at the Mediterranean Sea or something! So many Europeans and then us. We set up our tent and walked over to the Lake—I couldn’t do very much because of my darn foot—I was worried about getting sand in it and worried about getting it wet, and there was all this water and people swimming and I was pretty annoyed and mad at myself, honestly. I’m trying to remember if Louie ended up going for a swim. I’d have to check with him!

Anyway, we showered after a bit (yay pay showers) and then did our usual, make dinner, relax, and even though it was quite hot, we built our last campfire for the trip.

Image may contain: sky, tree, outdoor and nature

There wasn’t much privacy in this campground but the views were great!

The next morning we got up (packed up) and headed to Antelope Canyon. We had time before our reservation so we first stopped at Horseshoe Bend. My ankle was still fairly swollen and I wanted to conserve my walking so Louie went out to see it for himself.

Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon on Navajo land. I’d made a reservation for a tour, but I don’t know how necessary it was. Getting into the area was a big traffic jam with some road rage (not just on our end Winking smile) and getting on the tour was a little unorganized, BUT we ended up going earlier than we’d thought, and then we just waited in the hot sun for a long time. I’ll say the tour company we used wasn’t great, but once we were in the canyon we didn’t care anymore. It was amazing!

IMG_6211IMG_6212IMG_6213IMG_6217IMG_6221IMG_6235IMG_6237

IMG_6285IMG_6323

You get the idea. It’s crazy—the light is so that every picture is unique. It’s just a narrow canyon that you walk through very slowly and everybody is just snapping pictures galore. The whole experience is a bit surreal and you feel like a ridiculous horrible American Tourist, (even though there are loads of European Tourists there too) and yet, it’s really unbelievably beautiful.

After that, we left. See ya, Page!

Okay, I’m going all in and finishing. We drove through some really beautiful land, we drove near Monument Valley, but didn’t have time to stop (I’d been as a kid but Louie hadn’t…another time!) and then we finally ended up on the interstate and made it to Albuquerque where went stayed at a Super 8. We walked to a nearby mexican restaurant and had food and margs, and slept very well in beds.

IMG_6124

The next day we got to Las Vegas, NM in the late morning to visit an old friend of Louie’s and his friend’s family. We hung out all day and stayed the night. Of great interest is that the show Longmire is filmed in Las Vegas, along with quite a few other movies/tv shows over the years! The town is cute with a really nice town square, and New Mexico has some really lovely landscapes.

IMG_6126IMG_6133

That’s us in front of the fake door for the Sheriff’s Department of Absaroka County.

We left Las Vegas the next day and drove to Tulsa, spent the night, and then drove home. I didn’t take any more pictures worth showing, so I guess that’s the end!

It was an amazing trip! It was a hard trip, as I’ve expressed, and I wouldn’t do it the same way again nor would I recommend this itinerary, but we made it through and saw some fantastic stuff. The sites were great, the pace was just tough, and then ending up with two separate deductibles for the car repairs wasn’t the best…but the car is now fixed, and we’ve recovered. Part of why I planned a far less ambitious trip this year is because we were worn out. This August we are going to stay in three different campgrounds in the Great Smoky Mountains for three nights each, and three nights at an AirBNB in Asheville. Rather than seeing a little of everything, we hope to see a lot of a few things. And less unpacking and packing. We are already talking about seeing Glacier the next summer and I might have started thinking of an itinerary involving Theodore Roosevelt NP in North Dakota, a state I don’t believe I’ve gone to? In any case…my ankle and toe are now completely healed, and we are recovered from the trip…I think.

Final Tallies:

Nights Camping: 14

Miles Hiked (estimate): 80, more for Louie

National Parks visited: 7, plus 1 National Monument and 1 National Recreation Area and 3 State Parks

Miles Driven (approximate): 3800

Thanks for staying with me on this journey! I’d wanted to do a post about the budget, but you can estimate what you’d spend: gas, camping is usually $20, food, which can be cheap if you cook/pack lunches (plus you’d have to do that at home), firewood is $6 a bundle usually, and that’s optional in most places unless it’s really cold, showers/ice along the way, plus entrance fees, which we saved a ton on. Honestly I think the whole trip, NOT counting car repairs after, was probably about $2000-$2500 for the two of us.  That’s a 3 week vacation! The bigger expense is my lost wages, but I consider that to be a necessity—I can’t work/teach every week all year or I will lose my mind. For our Smokies Trip this August: so far expenses are camping $180 and our air BNB is $244. Other than that, it’ll be some meals in Asheville and the Biltmore House (next biggest expense at $55 per ticket), plus the cost of gas, firewood, ice. I don’t even know if it’s fair to count groceries, as if we are cooking meals we’d be doing that at home, so it’s a wash. I think we’ll get away with under $1000 for two people for a 12 day trip. Of course you have to already have all the camping gear, but at this point, we do. We’ve spent some money on that over the years, but we don’t have crazy expensive REI stuff, lots of Coleman, stuff from Amazon, and we just try to take good care of it. Having a reliable car helps too, of course, and a sense of adventure.

And somebody that you can spend that much time with in a car without killing them. We didn’t go without disagreements, and we definitely had some challenges, but I am glad to have a partner like Louie that is up for a crazy trip like I am!

And Yet Another Car Insurance Claim

If you are new to the blog, this is a post recap of a 3 week road trip my boyfriend Louie and I took last summer. I know it’s been awhile since then, but I wanted to share it with you and for myself. I’m deep into planning for this year’s vacation, and already brainstorming next year (Glacier and Yellowstone are top of the list) so I figured I’d finally get this done. Or closer. So much to tell you!

previous posts:

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

Moving Along

No Such Thing as a Dead Horse

Feeling at home in Arches National Park

Entering the Fiery Furnace

A Night Off the Ground

The Only Good Forest is a Petrified Forest

What the Heck is a Hoodoo?

We had a reservation at Watchman Campground in Zion for two nights. It was a “walk-in” site, which mean we’d park a little ways away from the campsite. I thought this would be cool, for less traffic sounds, though, it would mean, more carrying things.

Since we were coming in from the East, we came in through the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and would have to (get to) go through the Tunnel there.

IMG_6082

Somehow the landscape had already completely changed from where we were earlier in the day. Unbelievable. Anyway, after you enter the park, you go through a 1 mile tunnel, and then the view just opens up into this incredible scenery, with terrifying switchback turns and places to pull over and breathtakingly try to capture it all on photo, which of course we did.

IMG_6087IMG_6088

Anyway, we got to the “camp” area of the park, and smugly drove past all the “campground full” signs to check in for our TWO NIGHT reservation. Unbelievable, right? We wouldn’t have to put the tent back up the next night! IMG_6091

Now here I just can’t remember, did we set up camp first and then go in search of sightseeing opportunities, or the other way around? I can’t recall, but I’m guessing so as that is very much my style.

Image may contain: sky, nature and outdoor

I took all the tent photos on my phone to instagram them. And most of the other photos were on a point and shoot Canon I have. It’s probably not as good as the phone camera, ha, but it’s got a strap and is definitely better to whip out on the trail.

The campsite was just a bit set back, and quite near other “walk-in” campsites, but ours was in the back, near some trees and a mountain. A deer was hanging out nearby as we set up camp. We had our own bear box so we loaded that up with things that bears like. (Remember, the bear box is SAFE from bears.)

Image may contain: outdoor and nature

And then we caught a shuttle near the visitor’s center. I was getting pretty hot, so we rode a bit, and then decided to get out and walk on an easy trail back to the camp, the Pa’rus Trail.

IMG_6098IMG_6099IMG_6103Image may contain: 2 people, sunglasses, mountain, selfie, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: mountain, sky, outdoor and nature

As you can see, Zion is pretty beautiful. It’s far lusher than the other places, and I guess some might call it God’s Country, hence all the religious names. That picture really has it all, doesn’t it?

We decided to go out for dinner. Something we had learned about Zion is that there is a brewpub right nearby! We just had to walk out of the campground, over a short bridge over the river, and boom! There was a small shopping area with the Zion Brewing Company.

It was nice to sit and have a sandwich and a beer and relax. We were happy to not cook, and then we were happy to go back to the campsite and relax.

The next morning we woke up early to catch the shuttle to get out to hike to Observation Point. Leslie had said she thought this was the best hike in Zion, even though most people talked about Angel’s Landing. (I was terrified of Angel’s Landing, as there is a part with chains to hold onto so you don’t fall to your death, so we were postponing it).  We got going quite early, as was our habit, and in retrospect, we were extra glad. The hike started out with a huge climb, but the views were really worth it the whole time. (Did I say that at the time? Probably not. Probably I complained a lot.)

IMG_6116IMG_6117IMG_6118IMG_6122IMG_6124

The higher we climbed, the better the views were! There were some scary parts for me, but I stayed on the inside and kept moving and it was manageable. (I have a terrible fear of heights.)

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, mountain, sunglasses, outdoor and nature

And then we finally got to the top, where we rested and had our lunch. WHAT a view! We were higher than Angel’s Landing (that’s right) and could see such a long way.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, mountain, sky, outdoor and nature

IMG_6131IMG_6132

Then the clouds started rolling in, and we thought, we’d better get back down.

IMG_6135

IMG_6139

IMG_6140

IMG_6134

So we headed down, and the storm didn’t hit until we were very near the end. And when it hit, it hit hard. We waited for the shuttle in the pouring rain, got on the shuttle in the pouring rain, got back to camp and ran for the car, where we sat.

We were glad we’d staked the tent down well, because this was a doozy of a storm. When the hail started up, I thought the windshield was going to break. It was pouring rain, huge hail, and so windy. Thunder and lightning galore! We sat in the car, listening to the sound of the hail making dents in the car (for 15 minutes! I’m not even kidding!), and then finally the storm had passed through. We got out and surveyed the damage. At first we thought it wasn’t so bad, but then we realized, yes, the car was completely covered in hail dings.  But, the “window” the bear had taken out was still there, our tent was still standing, luckily, and seemed secure enough to withstand more.

IMG_5836

(This is from Capitol Reef, but you can see the duct taped window, can’t you? Zoom in.)

We moved a few things away from the edges of the tent, and decided…well, too rainy to cook. Better just go back over the “town” area and eat at the brewery.

It was a little early though, so we thought we’d get a coffee first. Keep in mind, originally we’d though we’d finish our hike and then do something else, but this storm was insane. We’d heard some huge cracks of thunder in addition to the hail, and then when we stopped to ask a ranger the forecast we heard about this: A “house-sized” boulder blocking the road several miles away! The calm river we’d walked over the day before (on a bridge) was rushing with water, with maybe only a foot of clearance.  And the road we’d driven in on the day before was closed indefinitely. And the park closed as well, which didn’t mean we couldn’t walk around, but did mean they weren’t letting any new visitors in, unless you were at the campground.

Image may contain: mountain, outdoor, nature and water

Another storm hit while we were getting coffee, and finally we decided it was time to give up on any more sightseeing and have a drink and a burger of sorts again. We kept trying to check the weather to see what ELSE would be happening, (in case we ought to actually get out of there before nighttime) but finally decided the storms seemed to be moving through. After dinner we went back to the campground, and made sure everything was still dry enough to sleep. We were lucky, for the record. There were a few campsites that got washed away in the flash floods, but we were on high enough ground.

Image may contain: sky, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: cloud, sky, mountain, twilight, nature and outdoor

The next morning, we had to get up early to pack up, and we moved the car to the visitor’s center parking lot and then caught the shuttle to hike Angel’s Landing. We decided to hike it because Louie really wanted to, and there was a place I could wait while he finished the part with the chains that I wasn’t about to do.

IMG_6144

This was a little scary too, some switchbacks. Not too bad though.

Anyway, we got to the place to wait, and wait I did. I even chatted with a few people—I wasn’t the only one waiting while the rest of my party did the scary part, though I was one of the only ones totally okay with it! (I felt I’d done enough things to fight my fears and was totally fine letting this one get me.) One woman brilliantly had a thermos of coffee with her and I had some.

IMG_6145

Louie bravely continuing on. I thought this part looked scary enough but later he’d have to go through a part where both sides of a chain had steep drop offs. Crazy.

IMG_6148

IMG_6154

This little guy really wanted my peanut butter pretzels, but I wasn’t going to let him. He finally left me alone but bothered some other people. Of course I’d love to feed him but you really shouldn’t feed wild animals (besides the illegality of it, it’s bad for them.)

IMG_6162

IMG_6164

and finally Louie reappeared! He didn’t die!

IMG_6165

He’s very brave! He said the hike was awesome and that I would have been terrified. In case you are wondering why all the pictures are of him, it’s because (ahem, ahem) the pictures of me are on his memory card/camera which he hasn’t uploaded yet!

IMG_6168

After that we took the shuttle back to the visitor’s center and then took one more short hike, the Archeology Trail. It wasn’t very exciting, but we did seem some really cool lizards.

IMG_6173

IMG_6174

And we got a nice view of the campground from above.

Sadly, we had to leave Zion for our next destination, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We stopped in the nearby town of Springdale for supplies and lunch (Mexican!) before really hitting the road.

Nights Camping: 12

Miles Hiked (estimate): 78

What The Heck is a Hoodoo

Road Trip 2016 continued!

Previous posts:

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

Moving Along

No Such Thing as a Dead Horse

Feeling at home in Arches National Park

Entering the Fiery Furnace

A Night Off the Ground

The Only Good Forest is a Petrified Forest

It wasn’t too far to Bryce Canyon from Escalante State Park, and as usual, it was a beautiful drive. Seriously, there’s just no way to understand how gorgeous and amazing the land out there was if you haven’t been. Go!

So as we got closer to Bryce Canyon, I realized since we were arriving around 10 am, we should park outside the park and take the shuttle in. This was easy enough. We made lunch, packed our backpacks, filled our water, and took the shuttle. We hadn’t decided what to do yet (I tell you, it is hard to preplan for an entire 3 week trip, and I just ran out) but we quickly skimmed the newsletter (called “The Hoodoo”, which, if you aren’t sure what that is, I’ll show you in a minute) and saw a hike described as “one ultimate hike!” and knew it was the one. It was listed under strenuous and was called “The Figure 8 Combination. You combine the Queens Garden, Peekaboo Loop and Navajo Loop for a 6.4 mile hike.

Remember, it’s a canyon. Coming out is always harder! But this wasn’t like the Grand Canyon, and after hiking to the Colorado River and back, everything else seems like child’s play.

IMG_5974

Bryce. It’s really unbelievable. All those bits poking up are the hoodoos, and it’s what is left as the parts around them have been eroded away. (I think.) We took the shuttle to Sunrise Point and then hiked through the Queen’s Garden. This part of the trail was super crowded, but for good reason. It was absolutely beautiful and amazing, and while I know I’ve said that before I’m sitting here typing, nearly a year later, and I can remember exactly how I felt, looking around. Terrified, yes, because it was a pretty steep downhill with lots of drop offs, but amazed at the crazy pointy bits and the natural wonders that were simply unlike anything else we’d seen, and yet, here they were. What an amazing world we live in!

IMG_5981

IMG_5987

Hoodoos up close!

The trail, as usual, thinned out a bit the further we got, though it was always pretty well traveled. There were lots of ups and downs, and it was certainly no picnic of a hike, but around each corner there were more breathtaking wonders. I can’t recommend this hike enough.IMG_6014

There were quite a few archways! Being a St Louisian now, I do love arches.

IMG_6015

The trees just add another element. You don’t see so many trees in other parts of Utah. Bryce is a higher elevation-8000 to 9000 feet, so the flora and fawna are different than other parts of Utah that we had seen. It was also cooler, which was a relief.

IMG_6001

IMG_6035

At one point we sat and had a nice lunch break. There were also a few points where there were vault toilets to use, which is always a little funny—you are miles into a hike, and then you wait in line for a potentially really stinky bathroom Smile

IMG_6021

IMG_6038

You can see there are some switchbacks in the hike.

IMG_6039

The hike took us into the early afternoon. Getting out of the canyon was a little terrifying for me, as it was a lot of not looking down and just forging ahead, and the switchbacks getting out were really crowded! But we made it without too much trouble, somehow, and then got on a shuttle bus to go back to the car.

We found an ice cream shop near the car and had a treat before we headed out to our campsite. I couldn’t reserve us a site at Bryce so I got one at Kodachrome State Park, which was about 30 minutes away.  As busy as Bryce was, there was hardly anyone at Kodachrome, and we found our tent-only loop easily enough. The only thing was there were a lot of gravel roads, and there was NOBODY else there, which was a little scary at first! But we settled in, we found the showers at a nearby electric loop, realized there WERE other people there, and then a few more parties joined our campground. All the time we could hear cows mooing, particularly the next morning, which was kind of funny.

IMG_6043

Image may contain: tree, sky, outdoor and nature

I wish we could have relaxed more but the next morning we were up and out of there, and went back to Bryce. It would have been great to explore Kodachrome further, but our crazy schedule didn’t allow it. We hadn’t seen all of the park, so we got there early to drive to the end of it and come back. Another way to avoid crowds is to get up early, and we did that.

IMG_6061

IMG_6071IMG_6080

We took a nice little hike called the Bristlecone Loop and saw more of the hoodoos and the canyon, and then stopped at a few more viewpoints and the visitors center, but it was getting crowded by that point, and we were eager to get to Zion, so we headed out.

On our way to Zion, we got hungry and didn’t feel like eating out of the car, so when we saw a German Bakery/Restaurant called Forscher Bakery, it seemed just the ticket. Oh, and for some reason we ordered a pizza. It was odd, but excellent. To be continued!

Nights Camping: 10

Miles Hiked (estimate): 64

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.

IMG_7601

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.

IMG_7599

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!

IMG_7604

Posing with the tent.

IMG_7608

Louie hard at work chopping firewood into smaller pieces.

IMG_7611

IMG_7615

My view from my chair.

IMG_7619

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!

IMG_7630

I believe this was the Pickle Creek.

IMG_7632

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

IMG_7634

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

IMG_7636

There was almost a view. Maybe in the winter.

IMG_7638

So green!

IMG_7639

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!

IMG_7642

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

The only good forest is a petrified forest

This is a continuation of my trip last summer. Yes, I realize it’s June, but it’s important to me that I have a digital record of what we did, so here you go! If you have any questions about camping or traveling through Colorado or Utah, don’t hesitate to ask, I might have advice on what to do and what NOT to do.

Previous posts:

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

Moving Along

No Such Thing as a Dead Horse

Feeling at home in Arches National Park

Entering the Fiery Furnace

A Night Off the Ground

We left off in Torrey, Utah, after visiting Capitol Reef National Park. Now we were driving to Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, which was only about 1 1/2 hours away, to camp for one night en route to Bryce Canyon. We stopped there mostly because I wanted to see more petrified wood.

When I was a girl, my family took a long road trip through the Southwest of the US. I recall really enjoying Petrified Forest National Park, and then, this is what I really remember, finding it so entertaining that when you left the park, the rangers would ask if you had taken any wood (stone, really) with you. And of course we hadn’t, so we said no, but it wasn’t like they searched. My brother was a very creative type, and he would write hilarious short stories about a bumbling pair of small time crooks who were trying to make a few dollars by stealing petrified wood. Naturally, they always got caught, because that was how the stories ended, but they were just so funny!

IMG_5939IMG_5938

Anyway, we headed out on Route 12 to Escalante. This highway was part of the journey as well as the destination, as the guidebooks said it was pretty amazing and a must-drive. Drive we did! (Well, Louie, because driving on mountain roads freaks me out.) You are basically driving through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which my understanding is that Escalante means staircase, and the whole name of the monument is redundant…but every two minutes you will gasp because the views are just so incredible. To really explore the monument you have to backpack into it, because not too much of it is accessible by car. We weren’t spending much time here because we were on a National parks tour. But anyway! There’s places to pull over, and information about Mormon settlers and all kinds of stuff.

IMG_5938

We stopped in the tiny town of Boulder to get an espresso on the way. Things we did a lot of on this trip: eating ice cream, then getting sleepy and needing coffee. Odd Smile

IMG_5945

We made it to the campsite without much trouble, and set up our tent, took, showers (yay, rare occurrence!) and walked around. This park was by a very nice lake, but we couldn’t find a way to get down to it.

IMG_5951

To be fair, we didn’t try very hard, because we were busy doing other stuff too, and I was tired. (I’m assuming, I can’t remember, but I was often tired.) We were pretty relieved we seemed to be out of bear country for the time being, but we were still paranoid and frantic about bears.

 IMG_6042

You can see the lake in the background. It was a lovely location (site W116), and the campground was really nice. Individual shower areas, a covered picnic table, clean bathrooms, and enough privacy. There were a ton of European families driving rented RV’s, as was the norm in Utah (at least while we were there. I worry this summer will be different.)

Image may contain: sky, nature and outdoor

The next morning we got up and took a short hike from the campground, called the Petrified Forest Trail. We saw some nice rabbits and large rabbits (jackrabbits?) and lots of petrified wood, which I love. I think the hike was about 1 1/2 miles, and not too challenging, but very nice. IMG_5965

We didn’t take any petrified wood, and the signs seemed to indicate doing so would bring bad luck! In any case, if you took some, and everybody else took some, there would be none left to look at.

IMG_5968

IMG_5964

We didn’t want to dawdle long (I think we left around 9 am), so we headed to Bryce Canyon, which was about 1 hour away! To be continued…

Nights Camping: 9

Miles Hiked (estimate): 56

Favorite Camping Meal: Couscous, tuna and white beans, green peas, beer

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!

IMG_7474

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?