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Life In The Slow Lane With Eric & Laurel

~Because it’s all about the journey~

A Technicolor Landscape: Southern Utah

A Technicolor Landscape: Southern Utah

Posted by on Jul 23, 2016 in Gallery, Hiking, Travel | 26 comments

It’s quite possibly the most stunning landscape we’ve yet seen. Cliffs striped in crimson, orange, and violet stand tall against a cobalt sky; cinnabar colored hills rest against pillowy white clouds; giant red and white rock toadstools rise from a lunar setting.

On a brilliantly sunny day with just enough clouds to add to the photographic drama, we embarked on a day trip from Lake Powell to visit a small portion of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah.

At close to two million acres, this is our country’s largest national monument. Our agenda was to visit three close-by places within the monument. A short hike to the Toadstools, a visit to the colorful ghost town of Paria, and a stop at the Big Water Visitor Center made for a perfect one-day adventure. All of our destinations were conveniently located off of Highway 89, traveling west out of Page.

First stop: The Toadstools. A magical Alice-in-Wonderland landscape, this is a wonderful concentration of unique rock formations known as “hoodoos.” (A hoodoo is a spire of rock composed of a relatively soft rock topped by a harder rock; the softer rock erodes more quickly than the capstone, creating unusual rock sculptures.)

An easy three-quarter mile trail leads to the Red Toadstool, one of the most spectacular and photogenic hoodoos. But there’s more—if you follow the footpath that parallels the dry creek bed (with just a bit of scrambling), you’ll discover panoramic views of the surrounding colorful badlands and many more hoodoo toadstools, including a moonscape of brilliant white hoodoos. (Travel west on Highway 89, the trailhead is just past milepost 19 on the right.)

 Second stop: Paria Townsite. Originally settled by Mormon pioneers in 1869 (they called the town “Pahreah”), the community was abandoned 40 years later after recurrent flash floods washed away their farmland, their homes, and their dreams. In the 1940’s, Hollywood discovered the scenic area, built an Old West movie set, and filmed here through the mid-1970’s. The Old West movie set is gone now, too, victim to time and pyromaniacs.

But the real attraction—at least for us—is the magnificent multi-colored cliffs and hills. There’s also a lovely picnic area with a gorgeous view of the banded hills. (To reach Paria, drive another 12 miles west on Highway 89, turn right at milepost 31, and drive six miles of steep and twisting dirt road to the parking area and picnic site.)

 Third stop: Big Water Visitor Center. One of four visitor centers scattered across Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the focus here is on dinosaurs. Apparently the monument has recently been discovered to be a premier location for dinosaur fossils. My knowledge about dinosaurs pretty much ended with what I learned in elementary school. But at Big Water, I learned that all dinosaurs had feathers. Seriously? I was not taught that in school. Feathers on most dinosaurs obviously weren’t meant for flight, but were probably for insulation. Somehow I find dinosaurs more appealing when I imagine them covered in feathers. (Heading back toward Lake Powell, located just off Highway 89 in the town of Big Water.)

Unlike the tourist magnets of Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend that we visited earlier in the week, we saw few other people on the trail to the Toadstools and in the former township of Paria. And at the Big Water Visitor Center, we were the only visitors, which afforded us an opportunity to talk with the amateur paleontologist who discovered his own dinosaur while casually hiking in the monument.

Next Up: Beautiful Snow Canyon: St. George, UT

Technicolor Hills Of Paria

At The Toadstools Trailhead

Stark Yet Beautiful Landscape

Distant View Of The Toadstools

The Most Photogenic Toadstools

A Close Encounter With The Toadstools

Red And White Badlands

Transported To Another Realm

Toadstools Of A Different Color

Bizarrely Beautiful Landscape

Feeling Pretty Small

A Bit Of Scrambling Involved

Gorgeous View From Above

A Few Tenacious Wildflowers

On The Road To Paria

An Amazingly Colorful Landscape

A Short Hike Into The Hills

Cinnabar Colored Mountains And Clouds

So Vibrant It Seems Unreal

A Perfect Place For A Picnic

Big Water Visitor Center

He Discovered His Own Dinosaur

Technicolor Hills Of Paria
At The Toadstools Trailhead
Stark Yet Beautiful Landscape
Distant View Of The Toadstools
The Most Photogenic Toadstools
A Close Encounter With The Toadstools
Red And White Badlands
Transported To Another Realm
Toadstools Of A Different Color
Bizarrely Beautiful Landscape
Feeling Pretty Small
A Bit Of Scrambling Involved
Gorgeous View From Above
A Few Tenacious Wildflowers
On The Road To Paria
An Amazingly Colorful Landscape
A Short Hike Into The Hills
Cinnabar Colored Mountains And Clouds
So Vibrant It Seems Unreal
A Perfect Place For A Picnic
Big Water Visitor Center
He Discovered His Own Dinosaur
Technicolor Hills Of Paria thumbnail
At The Toadstools Trailhead thumbnail
Stark Yet Beautiful Landscape thumbnail
Distant View Of The Toadstools thumbnail
The Most Photogenic Toadstools thumbnail
A Close Encounter With The Toadstools thumbnail
Red And White Badlands thumbnail
Transported To Another Realm thumbnail
Toadstools Of A Different Color thumbnail
Bizarrely Beautiful Landscape thumbnail
Feeling Pretty Small thumbnail
A Bit Of Scrambling Involved thumbnail
Gorgeous View From Above thumbnail
A Few Tenacious Wildflowers thumbnail
On The Road To Paria thumbnail
An Amazingly Colorful Landscape thumbnail
A Short Hike Into The Hills thumbnail
Cinnabar Colored Mountains And Clouds thumbnail
So Vibrant It Seems Unreal thumbnail
A Perfect Place For A Picnic thumbnail
Big Water Visitor Center thumbnail
He Discovered His Own Dinosaur thumbnail

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A Spectacular Hike In Buckskin Gulch

A Spectacular Hike In Buckskin Gulch

Posted by on Jul 15, 2016 in Gallery, Hiking, Utah | 30 comments

Buckskin Gulch—the longest, deepest slot canyon in the Southwest—has long been on our hiking bucket list. Located in the Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness in southern Utah, the canyon is an undulating, narrow, 13-mile long corridor of sculpted sandstone.

We enjoy challenging hikes. But when I happened across an article in Backpacking Magazine that described Buckskin Gulch as one of the most dangerous hikes in America, I started having second thoughts.

Tackling the entire canyon requires an overnight trip (it’s a 21-mile journey); wading through waist-deep pools of cold, muddy water; and navigating rock and log jams with 15-foot or more drop-offs. What makes the canyon so perilous, though, is the risk of flash floods—with no means of escape along most of the route.

Still, we wanted to hike Buckskin Gulch—not the entire length, but part of it. And preferably, not the part with the deep, cold, mud baths, or the part with the rock falls that require ropes and canyoneering skills. With some research, we came up with a plan.

We stopped at the BLM contact station to inquire about the current conditions. The ranger assured us that with no impending storms within a 50-mile radius, it was a good day for hiking the canyon. The road to the trailhead had even been recently graded. But when I inquired about the condition of the trail, the news was less encouraging.

Our plan was to begin hiking at the Wire Pass Canyon trailhead, an option with more interesting scenery and a quicker route into the heart of Buckskin Gulch. But I had read accounts of the rock fall that blocks access to Wire Pass Canyon, with some people saying it was a four-foot drop off, others saying it was ten. “The canyon changes with every flash flood,” said the ranger. “Right now, there’s at least a ten-foot drop off.” Could we climb down the rock fall? “Probably not—but there’s a workaround.” Is there a marked trail? “Nope, but you can’t miss it.” And with these rather vague but encouraging directions, we headed out.

As promised, the road to the Wire Pass trailhead was an easy drive over a recently graded dirt road. We signed in at the trailhead and started out along the sandy wash. After an easy three-quarter mile hike, we entered the slot canyon, wanting to see for ourselves just how challenging the rock fall would be to navigate. We had already encountered several people on the trail who had turned around, discouraged, when they reached the enormous choke stone blocking the trail. “What about the alternative trail?” I asked. Everyone told us there wasn’t one.

We reached the choke stone, looked over the edge, and I said, “No way.” But finding the workaround was not as easy as the ranger had promised. With no marked trail, we started a sharp ascent up the sandstone cliffs, scouting the edge of the canyon until we reached a place where descent was possible. I have no pride when it comes to these kinds of challenges—crawling, scooting on my butt, I don’t care what it looks like—my focus is on getting down without falling over the edge. Once in the slot canyon, it was a remarkably easy and beautiful one-mile hike to the confluence of Wire Pass Canyon and Buckskin Gulch.

At the confluence, you have a choice: turn right (down canyon), and you’ll likely encounter mud or deep water about a half-mile in. Turn left, and you wend your way through the magnificent slot canyon of Buckskin Gulch for about two miles before it opens up into a wash—a wonderland of swirling sandstone and fanciful rock formations that look like soft serve ice cream. You can guess which way we chose.

Hiking back, we retraced our steps through the sandstone cathedral of Buckskin Gulch. This time, though, we opted to tackle the boulder fall that chokes Wire Pass Canyon, figuring it couldn’t be much more difficult than the workaround we chose on the way in.

The rock fall is easier going up than coming down because you can see what you’re doing. But at least in my case, being taller would have helped a lot. After I quite gracefully (at least in my mind) climbed the rock fall and hoisted myself up onto the boulder, I got stuck on my belly, unable to move forward or backward because I couldn’t reach a wall to gain leverage. I started doing little pushups, trying to move myself along, but was stuck so far back on the boulder that I wasn’t making much progress. And then I started to laugh, which didn’t help at all. Fortunately, two kind hikers at the top each grabbed an arm and pulled, while Eric climbed up the rock fall behind me and pushed on my feet. (I told you I have no pride when it comes to these kinds of situations.)

If You Go:

The best and safest time to hike Buckskin Gulch is the dry season (April through June), when the likelihood of a flash flood is minimal. It’s also the most popular time to hike the canyon, but in mid-May, we saw few other people.

To access the Wire Pass trailhead from Page, travel west 34 miles on Highway 89. Be sure to stop at the Paria BLM contact station for updated road and canyon conditions. Turn left (south) onto House Rock Valley Road (BLM Road 1065) and drive approximately 8 miles to the trailhead parking area.

Permits are required for hiking and can be obtained at the self-serve pay station at the trailhead. The fee is $6.00 per person/per dog. Be sure to take plenty of water, because there’s none available at the trailhead.

Next Up: Toadstools And Technicolor Hills: Southern Utah

A Spectacular Hike In Buckskin Gulch

The Road To Wirepass Trailhead

At The Wirepass Trailhead

Beginning The Adventure

Fragrant Blooms Along The Trail

The Rock Formations Start To Get Interesting

Descending Into Wirepass Canyon

Change Of Plan, Searching For A Way Down

That's Where We Need To Be

A Possible Route Down

The Honorable Technique Of Scooting

Now It's Easy

Wirepass Slot Canyon

A Beautiful Stone Labyrinth

One More Obstacle In Wirepass Canyon

Just Before The Junction For Buckskin Gulch

A Few Petroglyphs Pecked Into The Walls

Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyon

Dwarfed By The Canyon Walls

No Clouds And A Perfect Day

The Trail Opens Up

An Interesting Landscape Of Sandstone

Vast Sandstone Ledges

Beautiful Sandstone Swirls

Back Into The Canyon Cathedral

Sculpted Waves Of Sandstone

It's Harder Than It Looks

On The Trail Out (And Happy)

A Spectacular Hike In Buckskin Gulch
The Road To Wirepass Trailhead
At The Wirepass Trailhead
Beginning The Adventure
Fragrant Blooms Along The Trail
The Rock Formations Start To Get Interesting
Descending Into Wirepass Canyon
Change Of Plan, Searching For A Way Down
That's Where We Need To Be
A Possible Route Down
The Honorable Technique Of Scooting
Now It's Easy
Wirepass Slot Canyon
A Beautiful Stone Labyrinth
One More Obstacle In Wirepass Canyon
Just Before The Junction For Buckskin Gulch
A Few Petroglyphs Pecked Into The Walls
Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyon
Dwarfed By The Canyon Walls
No Clouds And A Perfect Day
The Trail Opens Up
An Interesting Landscape Of Sandstone
Vast Sandstone Ledges
Beautiful Sandstone Swirls
Back Into The Canyon Cathedral
Sculpted Waves Of Sandstone
It's Harder Than It Looks
On The Trail Out (And Happy)
A Spectacular Hike In Buckskin Gulch thumbnail
The Road To Wirepass Trailhead thumbnail
At The Wirepass Trailhead thumbnail
Beginning The Adventure thumbnail
Fragrant Blooms Along The Trail thumbnail
The Rock Formations Start To Get Interesting thumbnail
Descending Into Wirepass Canyon thumbnail
Change Of Plan, Searching For A Way Down thumbnail
That's Where We Need To Be thumbnail
A Possible Route Down thumbnail
The Honorable Technique Of Scooting thumbnail
Now It's Easy thumbnail
Wirepass Slot Canyon thumbnail
A Beautiful Stone Labyrinth thumbnail
One More Obstacle In Wirepass Canyon thumbnail
Just Before The Junction For Buckskin Gulch thumbnail
A Few Petroglyphs Pecked Into The Walls thumbnail
Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyon thumbnail
Dwarfed By The Canyon Walls thumbnail
No Clouds And A Perfect Day thumbnail
The Trail Opens Up thumbnail
An Interesting Landscape Of Sandstone thumbnail
Vast Sandstone Ledges thumbnail
Beautiful Sandstone Swirls thumbnail
Back Into The Canyon Cathedral thumbnail
Sculpted Waves Of Sandstone thumbnail
It's Harder Than It Looks thumbnail
On The Trail Out (And Happy) thumbnail

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A Week Of Adventures: Lake Powell, AZ

A Week Of Adventures: Lake Powell, AZ

Posted by on Jul 5, 2016 in Arizona, Gallery, Hiking, Kayaking, Travel | 33 comments

The first glimpse is surreal—a vast sapphire body of water shimmering against a backdrop of picturesque, orange-hued sandstone buttes. At 186 miles long and with more than 90 side canyons that snake into the desert landscape, Lake Powell holds the title as the second largest artificial lake in America.

Honestly, we prefer our lakes created by nature, and our rivers running free. But Lake Powell, straddling the border between Arizona and Utah, happens to be close to some unique places that have long been on our list—Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Lower Antelope Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend, among others. And so, mid-May found us at Wahweap campground on the shores of Lake Powell, just upstream from Glen Canyon Dam. With our apologies to Edward Abbey and the Sierra Club (both of whom ardently opposed the dam), this is an undeniably beautiful place.

Once a remote desert canyon, Lake Powell came into existence after the dam was completed in 1963. An ambitious 10-year project that corralled the mighty Colorado River, the dam was built to control the flow of water downstream and generate a cheap supply of electricity. As perhaps a not-so-surprising side note, Lake Powell has become a mecca for water recreation in the arid Southwest.

But damming the river has come at a high price—as the lake filled, it drowned canyons of legendary beauty and hundreds of archeological sites sacred to the native peoples. The environmental issues are equally devastating, from pollutants caused by heavy recreational usage to erosion and loss of native species. Everything and everyone downstream has been affected—including the Grand Canyon, a close neighbor. Obstructing the natural flow of the river also means that the reservoir behind the dam—Lake Powell—is slowly filling up with mud.

More than five decades after the last bucket of concrete was poured, Glen Canyon Dam continues to be plagued by controversy. (It’s obviously a complicated situation, but if you’re interested, the Glen Canyon Institute presents an intelligent discussion of the issues.) Whatever your point of view, in another 150 years, the dam will likely be obsolete. By then, Lake Powell will have amassed enough silt to significantly impact storage capacity, and the dam will be decommissioned. However, proponents of removing the dam advocate acting sooner rather than later to facilitate cleanup and restoration of the canyon (as you can imagine, it’s easier to remove 50 years of silt than 200 years accumulation).

In years to come—probably not in our lifetimes—there will be those fortunate to once again explore the beautiful canyons that currently lie beneath the lake. As for us, we thoroughly enjoyed short hikes to nearby Horseshoe Bend and Hanging Garden, both within the National Recreation Area, as well as a guided trip into Lower Antelope Canyon. These are not places one can commune with nature in solitude—especially the famed photography destinations of Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. But they’re renowned for good reason, and well worth a visit.

Antelope Canyon lies just outside of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on Navajo Nation Land. An extraordinarily beautiful slot canyon famous for a just-right combination of sculpted sandstone walls, color, and ambient light, it’s the most visited and photographed slot canyon in the Southwest. If you go, expect to be in a herd. Despite the crowds, we thought it was worth the $26 entrance fee (per person). The tours are well run, and our guide was enthusiastic and informed.

We’ve visited both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons, and prefer the lower canyon—it’s much less crowded, and in our opinion, more interesting. The half-mile walk through the canyon involves steep stairways and tight passages, so if you’re claustrophobic, this tour isn’t for you. Some photographers favor the upper canyon because the light shafts at certain times of day are especially striking, but we think both canyons are equally beautiful. If you go, choose a sunny day—that’s when you’ll see the best colors in the canyon.

We also experienced—I can’t say enjoyed—kayaking on Lake Powell. We put in at Antelope Point Marina, intending to explore some of the side canyons. Too many speedboats and too many people not paying attention to the “No Wake” signs made it more stressful than fun. In talking later with a kayak guide, he recommended putting in before 7:30 in the morning or after 3:30 in the afternoon—and never on a weekend.

Last but certainly not least, we enjoyed meeting up with fellow full-time RV’ers Mike and Kathie  (Life Rebooted) who also happened to be staying at Wahweap. We had fun sharing happy hour and stories of the traveling life on a scorching afternoon at our site—it was so hot that I couldn’t motivate myself to get out of my chair to get my camera. We hope to catch up with them in Florida this winter—and we’ll be sure to get a photo next time around.

About the RV Park: Wahweap RV Park and campground is within the National Recreation Area but run by a concessionaire. The park is well kept and the views are amazing—depending on your site. The older section (loops A, B, C) is tiered, with spacious pull-through and back-in sites, asphalt or concrete pads, and full hookups. (We stayed in loop C in a back-in site and loved it.) The newer section (D and F) is laid-out in typical RV-park rows. Nice bathrooms, coin operated showers and laundry, and decent Verizon coverage. It’s an expensive option for a National Recreation Area ($44 per night with AAA discount!) but it was a relaxing stay with a gorgeous view.

Next Up: A Spectacular Hike In Buckskin Gulch

Lake Powell

Our Spacious Site At Wahweap Campground

View From Our Site

Houseboats On The Lake

Antelope Point Boat Launch

Ready To Go Fishing

Kayaking On Lake Powell

Sea Of Humanity At Horseshoe Bend

Don't Expect Solitude

A Condor Sails Overhead

Colorful Horseshoe Bend

Trying To Get The Entire Circle

Full View Of Horseshoe Bend

On The Hanging Gardens Trail

The Hanging Gardens

Orchids And Ferns In The Desert

Expansive Views From The Trail

Glen Canyon Dam

Overlooking The Lake From The Dam

Bridge Across The Colorado

Ken's Tours, Lower Antelope Canyon

John, Our Excellent Tour Guide

Heading Down Into The Canyon

Not For The Claustrophobic

Photography In A Herd

Worth The Crowds

Incredible Sandstone Swirls

Sunlight Illuminating The Curves

Alone For One Second

In Beautiful Antelope Canyon

A Demonstration Of Sand And Light

A Shower Of Sand

The End Of The Tour

Emerging From The Canyon

Lake Powell
Our Spacious Site At Wahweap Campground
View From Our Site
Houseboats On The Lake
Antelope Point Boat Launch
Ready To Go Fishing
Kayaking On Lake Powell
Sea Of Humanity At Horseshoe Bend
Don't Expect Solitude
A Condor Sails Overhead
Colorful Horseshoe Bend
Trying To Get The Entire Circle
Full View Of Horseshoe Bend
On The Hanging Gardens Trail
The Hanging Gardens
Orchids And Ferns In The Desert
Expansive Views From The Trail
Glen Canyon Dam
Overlooking The Lake From The Dam
Bridge Across The Colorado
Ken's Tours, Lower Antelope Canyon
John, Our Excellent Tour Guide
Heading Down Into The Canyon
Not For The Claustrophobic
Photography In A Herd
Worth The Crowds
Incredible Sandstone Swirls
Sunlight Illuminating The Curves
Alone For One Second
In Beautiful Antelope Canyon
A Demonstration Of Sand And Light
A Shower Of Sand
The End Of The Tour
Emerging From The Canyon
Lake Powell thumbnail
Our Spacious Site At Wahweap Campground thumbnail
View From Our Site thumbnail
Houseboats On The Lake thumbnail
Antelope Point Boat Launch thumbnail
Ready To Go Fishing thumbnail
Kayaking On Lake Powell thumbnail
Sea Of Humanity At Horseshoe Bend thumbnail
Don't Expect Solitude thumbnail
A Condor Sails Overhead thumbnail
Colorful Horseshoe Bend thumbnail
Trying To Get The Entire Circle thumbnail
Full View Of Horseshoe Bend thumbnail
On The Hanging Gardens Trail thumbnail
The Hanging Gardens thumbnail
Orchids And Ferns In The Desert thumbnail
Expansive Views From The Trail thumbnail
Glen Canyon Dam thumbnail
Overlooking The Lake From The Dam thumbnail
Bridge Across The Colorado thumbnail
Ken's Tours, Lower Antelope Canyon thumbnail
John, Our Excellent Tour Guide thumbnail
Heading Down Into The Canyon thumbnail
Not For The Claustrophobic thumbnail
Photography In A Herd thumbnail
Worth The Crowds thumbnail
Incredible Sandstone Swirls thumbnail
Sunlight Illuminating The Curves thumbnail
Alone For One Second thumbnail
In Beautiful Antelope Canyon thumbnail
A Demonstration Of Sand And Light thumbnail
A Shower Of Sand thumbnail
The End Of The Tour thumbnail
Emerging From The Canyon thumbnail

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A Stroll Through The Petrified Forest

A Stroll Through The Petrified Forest

Posted by on Jun 23, 2016 in Arizona, Friends, Gallery, Hiking, Travel | 21 comments

Ifirst visited Petrified Forest National Park about 20 years ago, in mid-August, at mid-day. It was scorching hot, the sky hazy, and the petrified logs were uninspiring brown lumps. As you can imagine, I was in no great hurry to return.

But Eric had never been, and wanted to see for himself. “There’s not much to see,” I told him. But because we were passing by on our way from Lyman Lake to Flagstaff, we decided to make a quick stop. I was so wrong! Apparently time of year and time of day make all the difference here. This place is gorgeous—a couple of hours weren’t near enough, and Eric ended up having to drag me away.

In mid-May, with big billowy clouds sailing across the sky, the Petrified Forest was a wonderland of undulating dunes and colorful wood turned to stone by the magic of time and geologic processes. The names bestowed to the trails and historic structures enticed us deeper into the park: Rainbow Museum. Crystal Forest. Agate House. Jasper Forest. We walked several miles of trails, fascinated by the landscape and the spectacular rainbow colors of the petrified wood, remnants of the sub-tropical forest that stood here 200 million years ago.

With only a couple of hours in the park, we explored only a fraction of what we wanted to see. And sadly, we didn’t get to the Painted Desert, which is part of Petrified Forest National Park. Although there’s no camping within the park, just outside the entrance are two campgrounds associated with gift shops—Crystal Forest Campground is free, with no hookups; the other has electric hookups for $11. We’ll return, and we’ll stay in one of those campgrounds while we explore the rest of this unique and beautiful park. (I assure you, it will not be in August.)

Although we were headed for Flagstaff (another 120 miles away), a late spring snow storm in the mountains ahead deterred us, and we stopped instead at Homolovi State Park, halfway to our destination. It was no hardship—we love this little gem of a park. We first discovered Homolovi 10 years ago and have stayed here several times in our cross-country journeys.

Considered by the Hopi to be part of their ancestral homeland (Homol’ovi means “place of the little hills” in their language), the park—which includes seven sites with ruins—is a combined effort between the state and the Hopi people to protect this sacred place. The Hopi live on nearby mesas and regularly make pilgrimages to Homol’ovi for ceremonies and offerings.

Two of the ruin sites are open to visitors. Pathways wind among the adobe rubble of ancient villages, the only sound the gentle rustle of the wind through the grasslands and the harsh calls of the ravens. The most fascinating part of wandering these ancient villages is the abundance of potsherds left behind by the people who lived here between 1260 and 1400 AD. Painted, inscribed, coiled, and stamped—thousands of pieces of pottery are scattered throughout the ruins. Picking up and admiring the pottery is permissible—but of course, you can’t remove anything from the ruins.

After a peaceful night’s sleep and a morning of exploring the ruins, we continued another 85 miles to our campground just south of Flagstaff. (The snowstorm the day before had passed, and we arrived in perfect weather.) We’ve never found a private campground in Flagstaff that we like, so we always stay in one of the nearby Forest Service campgrounds, which are lovely, spacious, and peaceful. There’s one drawback—both Bonito Campground and Pine Grove Campground are almost 20 miles from town. But it’s an easy drive, and worth it for the tranquility and beauty.

It was a quick stopover for us in Flagstaff this time—just long enough for some truck maintenance and a couple of hikes, including part of the Arizona Trail in the campground, and the Fatman’s Loop in the hills above Flagstaff while we were waiting for our truck repairs to be completed. Lunch at Café Daily Fare was also on our short list of things to do—the food is creative and delicious, and we always make it a point to stop here when we’re in Flagstaff. (Do not bring your rig—the parking is atrocious!) To round out our stay, we had a surprise call and delightful meet-up for coffee with our hometown friends Brenda and Morey, who were heading to the Casita factory in Texas to pick up their new rig. So much fun to meet up with friends on the road!

About the campgrounds:

Homolovi State Park seems to be somewhat of a hidden gem. It’s conveniently located just a few miles off of I-40 near Winslow, Arizona. The campground is peaceful, with spacious sites, fabulous sunsets, and dark night skies. It has an excellent visitor’s center and short but fascinating hiking trails. Although the campground seems to be getting more popular, we’ve never had a problem walking in and getting a site. Water and electric hookups, immaculate bathrooms and separate, private showers, good Verizon; $20 per night ($15 for non hookup sites).

Pine Grove Campground is a Forest Service campground 18 miles south of Flagstaff. Aptly named, the campground is situated in a beautiful forest of fragrant Ponderosa pines. If you choose a site on the exterior of the loops, your backyard will be an expansive view of pine forest and open meadows. Open from May through October, half of the sites are reservable. No hookups, but clean bathrooms, one coin-operated shower facility, dump station and water fill station, good Verizon. $22 per night, $11 with the Senior Pass.

Next Up: A Week Of Adventures: Lake Powell, AZ

A Stroll Through The Petrified Forest

Entering Petrified Forest National Park

Rainbow Forest Visitor Center

A Blustery Day In The Petrified Forest

The Colors Are Amazing

On The Giant Logs Trail

In The Crystal Forest

Trail Through The Crystal Forest

Trees Millions Of Years Old

Wood Turned To Stone

So Vibrant

Trees Naturally Split Into Rounds

Campgrounds Just Outside The Park

Crystal Forest Campground

Nice Sites For Free

Campsite At Homolovi State Park

Trail To The Homolovi II Ruins

Ancient Hopi Dwellings

Searching For Pottery Sherds

Ancient Pottery Pieces

Collared Lizard

Pine Grove Forest Service Campground, Flagstaff

Our Backyard At Pine Grove Campground

On The Fatman Trail Above Flagstaff

Some Fun Rock Formations On The Trail

Cool Bark On The Alligator Juniper Trees

On The Arizona Trail

Blackberry Duck Tacos At Cafe Daily Fare

Brenda And Morey, Friends From Home

A Stroll Through The Petrified Forest
Entering Petrified Forest National Park
Rainbow Forest Visitor Center
A Blustery Day In The Petrified Forest
The Colors Are Amazing
On The Giant Logs Trail
In The Crystal Forest
Trail Through The Crystal Forest
Trees Millions Of Years Old
Wood Turned To Stone
So Vibrant
Trees Naturally Split Into Rounds
Campgrounds Just Outside The Park
Crystal Forest Campground
Nice Sites For Free
Campsite At Homolovi State Park
Trail To The Homolovi II Ruins
Ancient Hopi Dwellings
Searching For Pottery Sherds
Ancient Pottery Pieces
Collared Lizard
Pine Grove Forest Service Campground, Flagstaff
Our Backyard At Pine Grove Campground
On The Fatman Trail Above Flagstaff
Some Fun Rock Formations On The Trail
Cool Bark On The Alligator Juniper Trees
On The Arizona Trail
Blackberry Duck Tacos At Cafe Daily Fare
Brenda And Morey, Friends From Home
A Stroll Through The Petrified Forest thumbnail
Entering Petrified Forest National Park thumbnail
Rainbow Forest Visitor Center thumbnail
A Blustery Day In The Petrified Forest thumbnail
The Colors Are Amazing thumbnail
On The Giant Logs Trail thumbnail
In The Crystal Forest thumbnail
Trail Through The Crystal Forest thumbnail
Trees Millions Of Years Old thumbnail
Wood Turned To Stone thumbnail
So Vibrant thumbnail
Trees Naturally Split Into Rounds thumbnail
Campgrounds Just Outside The Park thumbnail
Crystal Forest Campground thumbnail
Nice Sites For Free thumbnail
Campsite At Homolovi State Park thumbnail
Trail To The Homolovi II Ruins thumbnail
Ancient Hopi Dwellings thumbnail
Searching For Pottery Sherds thumbnail
Ancient Pottery Pieces thumbnail
Collared Lizard thumbnail
Pine Grove Forest Service Campground, Flagstaff thumbnail
Our Backyard At Pine Grove Campground thumbnail
On The Fatman Trail Above Flagstaff thumbnail
Some Fun Rock Formations On The Trail thumbnail
Cool Bark On The Alligator Juniper Trees thumbnail
On The Arizona Trail thumbnail
Blackberry Duck Tacos At Cafe Daily Fare thumbnail
Brenda And Morey, Friends From Home thumbnail

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Delightful Lyman Lake State Park

Delightful Lyman Lake State Park

Posted by on Jun 16, 2016 in Arizona, Gallery, Hiking, Travel | 24 comments

Every so often, even with our new and improved plan of slowing our travels way down, we still end up with an overnight stay here and there. It’s just how things work out sometimes—and honestly, we don’t need to spend multiple days every place we go. But even when we’re landing somewhere for only a night, we try to find a location that offers something more than just a place to park our rig.

After a day of travel, it’s refreshing for body and spirit to have a beautiful view and a peaceful night’s sleep. A convenient hiking trail makes it all the better—otherwise, we’re walking circles around the campground trying to get in a bit of exercise after a day on the road. Lyman Lake State Park, in east central Arizona, was the perfect stop on our route north from Silver City, New Mexico.

At only 177 miles from Silver City, we had time for a last stroll through town (and were able to watch a few races of the Tour of the Gila) before heading out. We didn’t have high expectations for the campground—for some reason, a neighbor at our RV park in Silver City told us that Lyman Lake wasn’t anything special. Apparently his criteria are different than ours.

We arrived at Lyman Lake State Park to find a pretty little campground with spacious, immaculate sites, and gorgeous views of the lake. It was quiet, peaceful, and the night skies are wonderfully dark—with no big cities nearby, great swaths of stars are visible.

Best of all, there’s a wonderful hiking trail within walking distance of the campground. The trail wends along the lake and around picturesque rock formations, with hundreds of ancient petroglyphs pecked into the rocks. We’ve seen lots of petroglyphs in our travels, but it’s always a thrill to search for the rock art left behind by native peoples thousands of years ago, and to try to decipher the meaning of the ancient graffiti.

We hiked a couple of miles of trails in the late afternoon, and again in the morning before leaving. Should you be traveling this way, we highly recommend this sweet little campground and the hiking trails.

About the campground:

Lyman Lake State Park is situated on the shores of a 1500-acre reservoir at an elevation of 6,000 feet. The sites are lovely, each with an individual ramada for shade. Nice bathrooms and showers, terrible to nonexistent Verizon (no big deal for one night, right?). If you head to the day use area to hike the trail, you’ll have excellent Verizon coverage and all of your emails will arrive in one big deluge. Water/electric sites are $28, non-hookup sites are $20.

Next Up: A Stroll Through The Petrified Forest

Delightful Lyman Lake State Park

Path From The Campground To The Trails

Late Afternoon On The Trail

Gorgeous Rock Formations

Petroglyphs Hidden In The Rocks

Petroglyphs Beneath Our Feet

The Trail Overlooks Lyman Lake

King Of The Mountain

A Windy Afternoon On The Trail

Repeating The Hike The Next Morning

Up The Stone Stairway

Ancient Stories

Elk Or Deer

View Of The Campground From The Trail

Most Likely An Eagle

An Ancient Turtle Petroglyph

Trail Back To The Campground

Campsites At Lyman Lake State Park

Delightful Lyman Lake State Park
Path From The Campground To The Trails
Late Afternoon On The Trail
Gorgeous Rock Formations
Petroglyphs Hidden In The Rocks
Petroglyphs Beneath Our Feet
The Trail Overlooks Lyman Lake
King Of The Mountain
A Windy Afternoon On The Trail
Repeating The Hike The Next Morning
Up The Stone Stairway
Ancient Stories
Elk Or Deer
View Of The Campground From The Trail
Most Likely An Eagle
An Ancient Turtle Petroglyph
Trail Back To The Campground
Campsites At Lyman Lake State Park
Delightful Lyman Lake State Park thumbnail
Path From The Campground To The Trails thumbnail
Late Afternoon On The Trail thumbnail
Gorgeous Rock Formations thumbnail
Petroglyphs Hidden In The Rocks thumbnail
Petroglyphs Beneath Our Feet thumbnail
The Trail Overlooks Lyman Lake thumbnail
King Of The Mountain thumbnail
A Windy Afternoon On The Trail thumbnail
Repeating The Hike The Next Morning thumbnail
Up The Stone Stairway thumbnail
Ancient Stories thumbnail
Elk Or Deer thumbnail
View Of The Campground From The Trail thumbnail
Most Likely An Eagle thumbnail
An Ancient Turtle Petroglyph thumbnail
Trail Back To The Campground thumbnail
Campsites At Lyman Lake State Park thumbnail

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Colorful People & Places: Silver City, NM

Colorful People & Places: Silver City, NM

Posted by on Jun 11, 2016 in Art, Food, Gallery, Hiking, Hot Springs, New Mexico, Travel | 31 comments

As we started our hike up the trail overlooking Silver City, a man appeared on the path, seemingly out of nowhere. He wore a pair of slides reinforced with silver duct tape (incongruous footwear for the rocky trail), a white-and-black straw cowboy hat, and carried a guitar slung around his neck.

“First time here?” he inquired affably. We told him it was our third visit to Silver City, but our first time on the trails above town. “This is one of my favorite places,” he said. “I come here a few times a week to play my guitar in the hills and hunt for amethysts. I’ll show you, if you like.” As we studied the map, he started up the trail, strumming a lovely Spanish tune on his guitar. We followed behind, intrigued by the music and his tale of amethysts.

Sure enough, about a mile up the trail he veered off into the scrub, reached beneath a large sagebrush, and dragged out a heavy maul hidden there. With a few swift blows, he laid open several large rocks, exposing lavender amethyst crystals within. “Take whatever you like,” he offered. Obviously, traveling with a rock collection isn’t practical for our lifestyle, but we couldn’t resist picking up a couple of amethyst chunks.

Silver City is awash with colorful landscapes, art, buildings, and people. The sky is cobalt, the perfect backdrop for the sagebrush and mesquite-covered hills. Vividly painted doors and windows adorn adobe buildings (many in various stages of decrepitude). Home to a disproportionate number of artists and galleries, the town has also somehow become a mecca for foodies—which makes no sense at all, given that it’s a long way from any major or even minor metropolis.

Colorful locals (in addition to our amethyst benefactor) include Jake, the owner and chef at Café 1zero6, who sports full sleeve tattoos, decorates with Buddhist/Hindu/Bollywood flair, and cooks delicious creative fusion cuisine three times a week. We plan our visits to Silver City so that we can be sure to have a meal there (the small restaurant is open only on weekends).

Another evening, we had a most unique dinner at The Curious Kumquat, crafted of local wild foods from the nearby Gila Wilderness. Our six-course tasting menu included artfully presented and delicious offerings made with spring cattails, acorns, watercress, wild mushrooms, amaranth, nettles, and more, along with locally raised meats and vegetables.

In an attempt to balance our eating adventures, we hiked the lovely nearby 3-mile Dragonfly Loop Trail, the trails on Boston Hill above the town, and made a day trip through the Mimbres Valley to the Gila Wilderness to hike to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and to Lightfeather Hot Springs (a three-mile round trip easy hike on the Gila River that involves two river crossings).

It was a relaxing and fun week in Silver City, filled with all kinds of colorful adventures. We’ll be back—there’s always more to explore, and there’s no telling what kinds of unexpected treasures await us on the trail (and in the restaurants).

About the RV Park:

This visit, we stayed at Manzano’s RV Park, just a few miles outside of town. It’s a small, family run park, with large sites and attractive desert landscaping. Full-hookups, excellent free Internet, good Verizon; $30 per night. It’s very “homey,” with a house on the property that serves as the clubhouse/laundry/bathhouse.

Next Up: A Delightful Visit To Lyman Lake State Park 

Colorful Yankie Street In Silver City, NM

A Colorful Silver City Local

Following The Music

Finding Treasures On The Trail

Cracking Open The Rocks Reveals Amethysts

Our Trail Friend Moves On

View From The Trails Above Silver City

Visitor Center In Silver City

On The Corner Of Yankie Street Arts District

Murals On The Street

Downtown Silver City

El Sol Theatre, Circa 1934

One Of Our Favorite Silver City Restaurants

Cafe One Zero Six

Dinner At The Curious Kumquat

Pickled Cattail Appetizer

Our Favorite Coffee Shop

Tour Of The Gila Bike Race

Speeding By

Cheering On The Cyclists

Wonderful Collection Of Mimbres Pottery Here

On The Dragonfly Trail

I Think I See A Cairn

The Dragonfly Petroglyph

On The Trail Of The Mountain Spirits

First Glimpse Of Gila Cliff Dwellings

Artistic Warning

Painted Redstart With A Bug

Climbing Up Into The Dwellings

Exploring The Cliff Dwellings

Hiking The Middle Fork Of The Gila River

Another River Crossing

Pretty Trail Along The Middle Fork Of The Gila

Natural Hot Pools Along The River

But Only Knee Deep

Enormous Site At Manzanos RV Park

Colorful Yankie Street In Silver City, NM
A Colorful Silver City Local
Following The Music
Finding Treasures On The Trail
Cracking Open The Rocks Reveals Amethysts
Our Trail Friend Moves On
View From The Trails Above Silver City
Visitor Center In Silver City
On The Corner Of Yankie Street Arts District
Murals On The Street
Downtown Silver City
El Sol Theatre, Circa 1934
One Of Our Favorite Silver City Restaurants
Cafe One Zero Six
Dinner At The Curious Kumquat
Pickled Cattail Appetizer
Our Favorite Coffee Shop
Tour Of The Gila Bike Race
Speeding By
Cheering On The Cyclists
Wonderful Collection Of Mimbres Pottery Here
On The Dragonfly Trail
I Think I See A Cairn
The Dragonfly Petroglyph
On The Trail Of The Mountain Spirits
First Glimpse Of Gila Cliff Dwellings
Artistic Warning
Painted Redstart With A Bug
Climbing Up Into The Dwellings
Exploring The Cliff Dwellings
Hiking The Middle Fork Of The Gila River
Another River Crossing
Pretty Trail Along The Middle Fork Of The Gila
Natural Hot Pools Along The River
But Only Knee Deep
Enormous Site At Manzanos RV Park
Colorful Yankie Street In Silver City, NM thumbnail
A Colorful Silver City Local thumbnail
Following The Music thumbnail
Finding Treasures On The Trail thumbnail
Cracking Open The Rocks Reveals Amethysts thumbnail
Our Trail Friend Moves On thumbnail
View From The Trails Above Silver City thumbnail
Visitor Center In Silver City thumbnail
On The Corner Of Yankie Street Arts District thumbnail
Murals On The Street thumbnail
Downtown Silver City thumbnail
El Sol Theatre, Circa 1934 thumbnail
One Of Our Favorite Silver City Restaurants thumbnail
Cafe One Zero Six thumbnail
Dinner At The Curious Kumquat thumbnail
Pickled Cattail Appetizer thumbnail
Our Favorite Coffee Shop thumbnail
Tour Of The Gila Bike Race thumbnail
Speeding By thumbnail
Cheering On The Cyclists thumbnail
Wonderful Collection Of Mimbres Pottery Here thumbnail
On The Dragonfly Trail thumbnail
I Think I See A Cairn thumbnail
The Dragonfly Petroglyph thumbnail
On The Trail Of The Mountain Spirits thumbnail
First Glimpse Of Gila Cliff Dwellings thumbnail
Artistic Warning thumbnail
Painted Redstart With A Bug thumbnail
Climbing Up Into The Dwellings thumbnail
Exploring The Cliff Dwellings thumbnail
Hiking The Middle Fork Of The Gila River thumbnail
Another River Crossing thumbnail
Pretty Trail Along The Middle Fork Of The Gila thumbnail
Natural Hot Pools Along The River thumbnail
But Only Knee Deep thumbnail
Enormous Site At Manzanos RV Park thumbnail

Read More