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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 | 23 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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Hiking To Betatakin: Navajo National Monument

Hiking To Betatakin: Navajo National Monument

Posted by on Dec 10, 2015 in Arizona, Gallery, Hiking, Travel | 32 comments

On a sunny and cool late October morning, volunteer ranger Jimmy Black gathers our group of five on the Navajo-rug patterned brick patio behind the Visitor Center at Navajo National Monument. Our destination: Betatakin, one of the best-preserved ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, and one of the least-visited.

I’ve wanted to visit Betatakin for years, and we were finally going to do it. Located in northeast Arizona, in the heart of the Navajo Nation, the remote location had never been a convenient stop in our previous travels. But this time, we went out of our way to visit—and it was well worth the detour.

For starters, the landscape is beautiful. A high desert plateau, dotted with sagebrush, pinyon pine, and pygmy juniper and carved by deep salmon-hued canyons, it is a remote and peaceful place. A little more than a century ago, rancher/explorer John Wetherill (with the help of Clatsozen Benully, a Navajo guide) discovered the ancient abandoned settlement tucked beneath the overhanging cliffs. Constructed of sandstone, mud mortar, and wood, the ruins are remarkably well preserved. At the time of discovery the dwellings contained a vast array of basketry, pottery, grinding stones, and ancient tiny corncobs—all left behind when the people walked away 700 years ago.

Betatakin, which in Navajo means “ledge house,” is comprised of 135 rooms cobbled together and perched on the brink of a sheer sandstone cliff. The ruins are tightly protected—the only way to access them is with a ranger. Hikes are scheduled daily from Memorial Day until Labor Day; but from October through April, access to the cliff dwellings is closed. The Ancient Puebloans must have been smiling on us, because here we are, on a Tuesday in late October, and a hike is scheduled.

We’re taking the shorter (three-mile round trip) but more strenuous trail down to the ruins. Eight hundred precipitous stair steps and a steep trail of many tight switchbacks leads us 700 feet down into the canyon below. Along the way, Jimmy identifies native plants and tells us of their traditional uses. Pointing to sagebrush: “This one, my grandmother made into tea for headaches.” Born to a Hopi mother and Navajo father, Jimmy grew up exploring and playing in the area—his father was employed for decades at the monument, and Jimmy has volunteered here for many years.

At the bottom of the canyon, we sit in a circle while he tells us of ancient tribal ways that continue to be practiced among his people. He tells us of the coming of age ceremonies which last four days; the marriage traditions that include the weaving of the wedding basket (during which time the mother-in-law can say anything she wants to her prospective son-in-law, after that she has to hold her tongue). Married to a Hopi woman, Jimmy tells us that upon marriage, everything belongs to the wife. It is a matrilineal society, and the children are born to the clan of the mother.

Ancestors of the Hopi (the Hisatsinom) lived in this area—as they switched from nomadic hunting and gathering to farming, they built multi-storied stone masonry dwellings such as Betatakin. Other tribes, including the Zuni and the San Juan Southern Paiute, also traveled through and lived in these canyons. And for hundreds of years, the Navajo have lived in the surrounding territory. For the native peoples these sacred places are regarded as ancestral lands, and they hold deep spiritual significance in their cultural traditions.

After an hour of hiking, we have our first glimpse of Betatakin, high above in an alcove, the sun illuminating the red rock. In winter, the southern exposure provides maximum warmth and light; in summer, the dwellings are shaded from direct overhead sun. The ancient peoples farmed nearby low-lying lands, growing crops of corn, beans, squash, and corn.

We draw closer and Jimmy tells us more of life in the cliff dwelling. The rooms are small, with low ceilings—obviously the people spent most of their time outdoors. Some walls are blackened from the fires used for cooking and warmth. Some rooms have entrances just big enough to crawl through, with stones that could be locked in place to seal the entrance—these were granaries, designed to protect crops from thieving rodents. Ancient timbers still survive, hand and foot holds are worn into the steep rock face, faint symbols of the clans can still be seen painted and pecked into the sandstone. For an hour, we wander near the ruins, listen to the wind, watch the ravens catching the thermals, and imagine life as it was 700 years ago in this beautiful and secluded place.

And then, we make the trek back up, all 800 steep stair steps. For those who prefer to not take the strenuous hike down into Betatakin, an easy rim trail leads you to a terrific view from above.

About the campground: Two small free campgrounds tucked into the junipers and pinyon pines are available on a first-come basis. RV’s are limited to 28 feet or less, but we saw sites in the Canyon View campground that looked like they would accommodate big rigs. Water spigots and restrooms are available in the Sunset View campground; the Verizon coverage is decent; and it’s an easy walk to the Visitor Center and the hiking trails. According to the ranger, the campgrounds are never full.

Next Up: Getting Lost On Cedar Mesa

An Unexpected Adventure In Navajo National Monument

Stunning Colors Along Hwy 160

And Some Wild Rock Formations

Navajo National Monument

Shoehorned Into The Campsite

Surrounded By Pinyons And Juniper

Juniper Titmouse In Our Campsite

The Start Of The Trail

Descending Into The Canyon

800 Steep Stair Steps And Switchbacks

First View Of Betatakin

Ruins Of The Ancient Ones

Dwellings From 1250 A.D.

Extended Family Apartments

Rooms For Food Storage

Original Timbers

Pictographs Of The Fire Clan

Pointing Out The Pictographs

Jimmy Telling Us Of Tribal Ways

In The Bottom Of The Canyon

Only 600 More Steps To Go

Are We There Yet?

Walking Path Along The Canyon Edge

The Easy Way To See Betatakin

Betatakin From The Overlook

Wonderful Visitor Center

Patio Designed Like A Navajo Rug

An Unexpected Adventure In Navajo National Monument
Stunning Colors Along Hwy 160
And Some Wild Rock Formations
Navajo National Monument
Shoehorned Into The Campsite
Surrounded By Pinyons And Juniper
Juniper Titmouse In Our Campsite
The Start Of The Trail
Descending Into The Canyon
800 Steep Stair Steps And Switchbacks
First View Of Betatakin
Ruins Of The Ancient Ones
Dwellings From 1250 A.D.
Extended Family Apartments
Rooms For Food Storage
Original Timbers
Pictographs Of The Fire Clan
Pointing Out The Pictographs
Jimmy Telling Us Of Tribal Ways
In The Bottom Of The Canyon
Only 600 More Steps To Go
Are We There Yet?
Walking Path Along The Canyon Edge
The Easy Way To See Betatakin
Betatakin From The Overlook
Wonderful Visitor Center
Patio Designed Like A Navajo Rug
An Unexpected Adventure In Navajo National Monument thumbnail
Stunning Colors Along Hwy 160 thumbnail
And Some Wild Rock Formations thumbnail
Navajo National Monument thumbnail
Shoehorned Into The Campsite thumbnail
Surrounded By Pinyons And Juniper thumbnail
Juniper Titmouse In Our Campsite thumbnail
The Start Of The Trail thumbnail
Descending Into The Canyon thumbnail
800 Steep Stair Steps And Switchbacks thumbnail
First View Of Betatakin thumbnail
Ruins Of The Ancient Ones thumbnail
Dwellings From 1250 A.D. thumbnail
Extended Family Apartments thumbnail
Rooms For Food Storage thumbnail
Original Timbers thumbnail
Pictographs Of The Fire Clan thumbnail
Pointing Out The Pictographs thumbnail
Jimmy Telling Us Of Tribal Ways thumbnail
In The Bottom Of The Canyon thumbnail
Only 600 More Steps To Go thumbnail
Are We There Yet? thumbnail
Walking Path Along The Canyon Edge thumbnail
The Easy Way To See Betatakin thumbnail
Betatakin From The Overlook thumbnail
Wonderful Visitor Center thumbnail
Patio Designed Like A Navajo Rug thumbnail

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Getting Our Kitsch On Route 66

Getting Our Kitsch On Route 66

Posted by on Dec 3, 2015 in Arizona, California, Gallery, Travel | 23 comments

John Steinbeck christened it the Mother Road, and everyone from Nat King Cole to Van Morrison has crooned the catchy tune celebrating the 2400 mile cross-country journey along this most famous of highways. Route 66 is tenacious—almost 90 years after its creation and three decades after it was declared obsolete, this old road lives on in the collective sentiment as a symbol of adventure, freedom and opportunity.

For the most part, it’s a broken down dream, a piecemeal byway lined with fleabag motels, dusty storefronts, seedy bars, out-of-service gas stations, and half-lit flickering neon signs. Nonetheless, every time we near a section of the Mother Road, we’re drawn in, and I begin to hum “If you ever plan to motor West, Travel my way take the highway that’s the best, Get your kicks on Route 66….”.

In late October, our route took us through Williams, Arizona—a small town that proudly proclaims the distinction of being the last holdout on Route 66 bypassed by an interstate. Left to wither on the vine—like every small town along the route when four-lane divided highways left them in the dust—much of the downtown has seen better days. But there’s a revival going on, and unlike many other towns that went belly-up along the venerable old route, Williams appears to be thriving—1950’s era motor courts, mom & pop cafes, scruffy bars, and Indian curio shops share the street with a mix of new businesses (most with a retro twist); and of course, there’s a plethora of shops over-stuffed with Route 66 memorabilia and souvenirs. It doesn’t hurt that Williams is also the gateway to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, but many people visit simply for the nostalgia of a simpler time—wishful thinking though that may be.

We lunched at the new and attractive Kicks on Route 66, and after making two circuits of the main street to peruse all of the attractions, stopped by South Rims Wine & Beer Garage for a flight of local beers. Had we known that the sketchy looking 1912 Sultana Bar was written up in Gourmet Magazine as one of the best bars in America (seriously??) we would have ventured in. If you’re into Route 66 memorabilia, you’ll love Williams. You’ll find everything to decorate your home, your vehicle, and yourself—from tea towels to license plates to stick-on tattoos—emblazoned with the beloved Route 66 insignia.

About the campgrounds: We found two convenient places to stay along I-40, which also happens to be old Route 66. In Needles, California, Fender’s River Road Resort is a fine little park on the banks of the Colorado River. For the very reasonable price of $14 a night (with Passport America) we had full-hookups, laundry, and good Verizon coverage. We especially appreciated the use of a lovely deck overlooking the river, where we enjoyed G & T’s and unwound after our almost 300-mile drive from Lone Pine.

Another 175 miles the next day brought us to Williams and the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park. Although it’s basically a big parking lot, it’s a very nice parking lot, and is conveniently located just two blocks from downtown Williams and the historic district. It’s a bargain at $23 (with Passport America) and includes full hookups, laundry, use of the amenities at the nearby hotel, and good Verizon coverage.

Next Up: An Unexpected Adventure In Navajo National Monument

Getting Our Kitsch On Route 66

Pulling Into The RV Park In Needles

Yep, We're On Route 66

Nice Site At Fender River Road Resort

Sunset Over The Colorado River

On The Main Drag In Williams

Beer Flight At Kicks On Route 66

Last To Fall And Proud Of It

Pete's Route 66 Gas Station Museum

Service Station Turned Cafe

Classic Autos Abound On Route 66

Elvis, Of Course

More Residents Of Main Street

Every Possible Route 66 Souvenir

Local Color On Route 66

1950's Grand Canyon Pullman Railcar

The World Famous Sultana, Circa 1912

South Rims Wine And Beer Garage

Grand Canyon Railway RV Park

Getting Our Kitsch On Route 66
Pulling Into The RV Park In Needles
Yep, We're On Route 66
Nice Site At Fender River Road Resort
Sunset Over The Colorado River
On The Main Drag In Williams
Beer Flight At Kicks On Route 66
Last To Fall And Proud Of It
Pete's Route 66 Gas Station Museum
Service Station Turned Cafe
Classic Autos Abound On Route 66
Elvis, Of Course
More Residents Of Main Street
Every Possible Route 66 Souvenir
Local Color On Route 66
1950's Grand Canyon Pullman Railcar
The World Famous Sultana, Circa 1912
South Rims Wine And Beer Garage
Grand Canyon Railway RV Park
Getting Our Kitsch On Route 66 thumbnail
Pulling Into The RV Park In Needles thumbnail
Yep, We're On Route 66 thumbnail
Nice Site At Fender River Road Resort thumbnail
Sunset Over The Colorado River thumbnail
On The Main Drag In Williams thumbnail
Beer Flight At Kicks On Route 66 thumbnail
Last To Fall And Proud Of It thumbnail
Pete's Route 66 Gas Station Museum thumbnail
Service Station Turned Cafe thumbnail
Classic Autos Abound On Route 66 thumbnail
Elvis, Of Course thumbnail
More Residents Of Main Street thumbnail
Every Possible Route 66 Souvenir thumbnail
Local Color On Route 66 thumbnail
1950's Grand Canyon Pullman Railcar thumbnail
The World Famous Sultana, Circa 1912 thumbnail
South Rims Wine And Beer Garage thumbnail
Grand Canyon Railway RV Park thumbnail

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Between A Rock And A Hard Place

Between A Rock And A Hard Place

Posted by on Apr 8, 2015 in Arizona, California, Friends, Gallery, Travel | 44 comments

The text from Katherine said, “Just passed the ‘Welcome to Anza Borrego State Park’ sign. Excited!” We had left Yuma, Arizona after a couple of nights stay, and were heading for the grand finale of our caravanning adventure together—a week at Anza Borrego State Park. A few minutes later, I got a call. “Stop at the gas station just outside the entrance to the park. We’re having problems.”

We pulled into the gas station to find Ted and Katherine standing beside their little Bigfoot trailer, looking stunned. Just moments earlier, Ted had glanced in the side mirror to see black smoke billowing out of their left trailer wheel.

This was just the beginning of one of the longest nights of our lives. Here is how it all unraveled:

Sunday afternoon, 4:00 p.m. We are in the very small town of Borrego Springs. Ted and Katherine’s trailer is undrivable, the wheel bearings and other innards have disintegrated into black, greasy metal shavings. Desperate, we try the solution of a well-meaning but somewhat unbalanced local, who stops on his bicycle to offer advice. His idea involves a Styrofoam cup, rags, and grease—essentially creating a hub for the wheel that would enable us to travel the mile to the campground. It sounds like a somewhat reasonable idea. It doesn’t work.

6:00 p.m. We encourage Ted and Katherine to stay with us in our trailer, but they don’t want to leave their trailer, and decide to spend the night in the parking lot of the gas station.

Eric and I go on to the campground, one mile away. It’s growing dark. Our campsite is awkwardly angled and despite several attempts, we can’t maneuver into our site.

6:30 p.m. Eric decides to try from the opposite direction and heads for the trailhead parking lot one-quarter mile away, where he can turn around. Waiting in our site for him to return, I hear an ominous grating noise, followed by the sound of an engine racing. It sounds suspiciously like our truck.

I take off running to the day use area, where our trailer sprawls sideways across the road, awkwardly listing to one side. In the process of navigating a hairpin turn, the underbelly snagged an enormous partially buried boulder, unearthed it, and dragged it 10 feet into the roadway. Shocked, we look at each other, look at our poor shipwrecked trailer, look at each other again, and say, “Oh my god…we are so screwed.”

It is now officially dark. We call emergency services and AAA. Eric tells AAA that we are high-centered on a boulder and to send a wrecker. He is emphatic—there is no way a tow truck can extricate us from the boulder. Katherine texts me to say that they’re having dinner in town, and that all is well. I text her to say that we are high-centered on a boulder—and that I think we’ve outdone them.

7:00 p.m. A park ranger shows up and says, “Wow, you guys really are stuck.” She thanks us for not causing expensive damage to the park (apparently a hapless motorhome driver the week before had sheared off part of the entrance booth) and leaves us with a couple of additional emergency flashers. It starts to rain.

7:30 p.m. Ted and Katherine arrive to provide support (such amazing friends). While the guys stand outside in the misting rain trying to figure out a way to free our trailer from the boulder (Shovels? Pry bar? Dynamite?), Katherine and I climb into the listing trailer and open a bottle of wine. The guys assess the damage: twisted front stabilizing jack, bent and unusable front steps, dented black tank, holding tank covers ripped off, cross beams bent, and who knows what else. It’s bad. I say to Katherine, “At this point, I’m just hoping we can drag our trailer into our site, you guys can get your trailer repaired, and we can all enjoy our week in Anza Borrego.”

8:30 p.m. The tow truck finally shows up. The operator has driven in the rain from the town of Julian, 35 miles of slow going on a steep, winding mountain road. We are dismayed to see that he has arrived in a regular tow truck. His first words, “I’m going to have to go back for the wrecker. I’ll see you in two hours.”

10:30 p.m. He returns exactly as promised. It takes an hour of delicate maneuvering to free our trailer. He raises the front end of our trailer several feet into the air, and inch-by-inch, finesses it off of the boulder. In the process, the cable slices through our propane line. We turn off the propane. The boulder then has to be winched off the roadway. It takes a long time.

12:00 a.m. We hitch up our trailer and pull it a few feet into the trailhead parking lot, where we fall into bed. We cannot use our propane, which means we have no heat, no hot water, no refrigeration, and no means of cooking. We’ll deal with it in the morning. Right now, we’re just incredibly grateful to be off of that boulder.

Dear readers, there is a happy ending to this tale of woe. The next morning, we limped into our site. Eric found the parts he needed at the local hardware store to repair our propane tanks. The rest of the repairs could wait until San Diego and an Arctic Fox dealer. (It has turned out to be much more of an ordeal to get our trailer repaired than we ever imagined, but we’ll save that tale for another post.) Ted and Katherine’s little Bigfoot ended up with serious damage, but they found a terrific mechanic in Borrego Springs who fixed them up with a new axle and all that they needed to get their trailer back on the road (although it took two days, a lot of effort on their part, and two nights sleeping in the bed of their truck in their campsite).

If there truly is such a thing as a bad luck day for travel, I think the four of us experienced it. Mostly, we were grateful that although both of our trailers suffered significant damage, no one was hurt. And despite our challenges, we were able to spend a glorious week in Anza Borrego.

Next up: Wildflowers, bighorn sheep, and meeting up with friends!

Between A Rock And A Hard Place

Riverfront RV Park In Yuma

Campsite At The RV Park In Yuma

The Clubhouse

At The Weekly Music Jam

Biking Along The Riverfront In Yuma

Farmers' Market In Yuma

Little Bigfoot In Trouble

Local Character Offers Advice

Trying A Creative Solution

High Centered

The Fox With Emergency Flares

Wrecker To The Rescue

Nope, Needs To Be Higher

Dragging The Boulder Off The Road

Things Look Better In The Morning

The Infamous Boulder

Between A Rock And A Hard Place
Riverfront RV Park In Yuma
Campsite At The RV Park In Yuma
The Clubhouse
At The Weekly Music Jam
Biking Along The Riverfront In Yuma
Farmers' Market In Yuma
Little Bigfoot In Trouble
Local Character Offers Advice
Trying A Creative Solution
High Centered
The Fox With Emergency Flares
Wrecker To The Rescue
Nope, Needs To Be Higher
Dragging The Boulder Off The Road
Things Look Better In The Morning
The Infamous Boulder
Between A Rock And A Hard Place thumbnail
Riverfront RV Park In Yuma thumbnail
Campsite At The RV Park In Yuma thumbnail
The Clubhouse thumbnail
At The Weekly Music Jam thumbnail
Biking Along The Riverfront In Yuma thumbnail
Farmers' Market In Yuma thumbnail
Little Bigfoot In Trouble thumbnail
Local Character Offers Advice thumbnail
Trying A Creative Solution thumbnail
High Centered thumbnail
The Fox With Emergency Flares thumbnail
Wrecker To The Rescue thumbnail
Nope, Needs To Be Higher thumbnail
Dragging The Boulder Off The Road thumbnail
Things Look Better In The Morning thumbnail
The Infamous Boulder thumbnail

Read More