First Time at Crater of the Moon

One of the main reasons we stayed in the Twin Falls area was for easy access to Craters of the Moon National Preserve.  I heard about it from our friends Greg and Cori and wanted to check it out. It is a huge area in the middle of nowhere Idaho that is the site of the youngest lava flow in the continental United States.   I should say before I go any further that because it was early in the season a chunk of the park was closed to us.  I saw pictures later of what we missed and if you like lava tubes this is definitely a place to check out.  Personally though I am not a huge fan of this type landscape and for me at least it was definitely blah. Here’s the pictures though…judge for yourself.

The landscape leading to the park

 

Still some snow in the area

 

The visitors center.

 

I will say they had one of the best movies I have seen in a Monument. Astronauts used this site to practice for both the moon and mars which is cool if you are into that sort of thing.

 

My favorite part was about this cute little critter called a pika. We didn’t see one, but Jack smelled them everywhere. I think I need to start picking these up for my future grandchild.

 

Jack smelling for Pika

 

The campground was pretty cool but there were only a couple of  sites that would fit a rig our size (42, 12 and 35.)  The campground also had no cell coverage at all.

 

And as I mentioned most of the scenic drive was closed. We could have hiked in, but wasn’t sure how the dog would do.

 

We did walk on a short paved trail through Devils Garden,  It was cold in the wind and unfortunately Lee didn’t have a coat with him.

 

The pavement was made of black rock, which I liked.

 

I didn’t like the preachy signs. I like being educated but don’t like it when I feel like I am being scolded.

Here’s an example of a tree that died due to mismanagement

That tree kind of summed up my overall feeling about the place.  I just found it a bit depressing.  That being said I really liked the drive and we stumbled across a couple of cool places.  First off we found this cute little post office and I was able to mail something to my daughter.  She is now 32 weeks pregnant and looks cute as a button.  I liked the small post office because the woman helped me find the cheapest way to send my package and I saw the cutest advertisements posted.  Gotta love small towns.

I would totally hire these kids.

The absolute best part of the drive though was when we stumbled across a place for lunch called Picabo Angler.  It literally was the only place for miles and we walked inside with little expectations.  Most of the time, these impromptu stops are a disappointment, but this was absolutely amazing.

We walked in the door and saw this cool dining area

 

The chairs were wicked comfy and cool

 

We got a little confused because the grill is in the very back corner. We had time to browse while the food was cooking.

 

Part Museum, part general store, great stuff in every direction

 

Loved this original cash register

 

The founding brothers of the town

 

There was a post office

 

A general store

 

And a large fly fishing store.  If funds were no issue I would have bought a pair of these in a minute.

The most amazing thing though was in the corner of the fly fishing area there was a tiny Hemingway museum.  Here we were in the middle of nowhere and Hemingway was friends with the owners.

Signed copies of his books gave me tingles

 

Lee liked two of his guns they had on display.

Finally our food came and it was really terrific.  I had the best BLT I have had in a really long time and Lee loved his burger. We really had a nice time eating there and if you are ever passing by absolutely recommend a stop.  If you are a fly fisherman go out of your way to visit.  They had an amazing selection of flies for sale.

 

 


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

April 2019 Budget

I think April was the most expensive month we have ever had while we were on the road.  We ended up spending $8,905 this month on a variety of things.  The big ticket items were $1,500 for new trailer tires, $400 for a new television and an additional $1,500 to repair our outside wall. We also spent $1,100 in gas, and pretty much ended up blowing our budget in almost every category.  Amazingly though we managed to squeak by without taking money out of savings, because Lee’s freelance pay for the show he did in Phoenix came in, and we got our first paycheck from our summer job before the American Express bill was due.  It is sobering though that in one month we spent 1/5 of our annual net income.  Considering what our mental state has been post-heart attack I would say that much of this was a necessity.  For more detailed information, see below.

Campground Fees – We did great the first three weeks of the month boondocking, but spent more than expected at the end.  If we would have boondocked as we traveled it would have been much cheaper, but both of us wanted full hookups.  We have also included money spent at dump stations in this category.

Propane – As I have said before boondocking isn’t 100% free.  It was chilly in Bryce and Torrey and we had to use propane to heat.

Groceries – Part of this is we always spend more when camping with friends, but mostly it’s because we were in the middle of nowhere Utah and groceries were expensive!  We also stocked up on meat before heading to Timothy Lake and that’s never cheap.

Dining Out – Whew, we really blew it in this category. going $444 over budget.   We had one $140 dinner with Cori and Greg and we haven’t done that in years.  We were also forced to eat out several times while traveling because of the nonsense with the tires.  Mainly though we just wanted to.  I had a “screw it” mentality when it came to this category.

Entertainment – We only went over $100 in this category because most of what we did was free.  We did buy our annual America the Beautiful Pass which accounts for some of the overage.

Truck Fuel – This was $1100 because we traveled from Arizona all the way to Oregon in this month with lots of driving in between.  I always say the day we can’t afford gas in this lifestyle is the day we need to rethink our choices, but obviously few people could have gas bills like this every month and make this work.  I always recommend looking at the annual costs in this category.  We’ve done pretty good annually year after year.

Clothing – We went over $285 in clothing because of all the T shirts we bought while we were vacationing.  This is another category it is best to look at annually, because we tend to buy all of our new shirts in one month of the year.

Cigarettes – In case you are wondering, this is for my e cigarette that I tried.  I am taking a few puffs a day which is definitely helping me stop smoking, and Lee isn’t doing anything at all.

Home Equipment – As I talked about earlier we really went nuts in this category as well.  I think its interesting that under pressure Lee spends more in this category and I spent more in eating out.  That’s because doing those things makes us happy. (A wall that isn’t broken, a replacement TV, and new tires. I’m out of control. – Lee)

To be honest I initially freaked out when I saw the numbers, but took a breath and went with “it is what it is”.  We are not perfect people, and under pressure we do not always stick to our budget.  Did we expect to go that far out of whack?  Of course not, but we did, and now we have the summer to dig us out of that hole. (Except we are not in a hole. We will work through the summer and leave with plenty of extra money. – Lee)


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

First Time Replacing our TV

One of our favorite features of our RV is the front living room window, and the television which is in front of the window when we’re watching TV, but slides down behind our fireplace when we’re not.   Lee knew that if the TV ever went out it would be a major pain to replace, but we liked the feature so much we accepted the risk.  The last couple of years we have even talked about proactively changing out the TV for a smart television, because this would cost us less power when we are boondocking by allowing us to connect a hard drive directly to the TV to play movies and TV shows without also running our PC, but it’s hard to throw away a perfectly good TV.

Those conversations aside, we were both pretty surprised when one day we saw a bunch of bright lights in rows and partial rows in the picture of the TV.  This is a representative shot of what it looked like, taken from a YouTube tutorial on how to fix it:

 

Inside the TV are multiple layers of materials, and at the rear, are strips of LED lights, and those are diffused by plastic lenses and reflectors, which are often glued on with a single dot of glue which can eventually fail and the lens falls off and now you’re just looking at a bright white dot of light.

 

 

Here’s what they look like before they fall off…

 

Since TV and movies are still a pretty big part of our lives this wouldn’t fly for long, so we started talking about how to replace it.  In my mind this was the perfect warranty item, and we should try and find a place to get it done at a shop.  For Lee the warranty has been more trouble than it has been worth and he didn’t want to mess with it.  So when I was searching for a campground and stumbled across one that had a service center attached to it, that seemed like the perfect compromise.

We checked into the campground the day after we arrived, and I immediately started talking to the owner about getting some service work scheduled.  Unfortunately  as soon as I mentioned warranty she was resistant and said they hated fighting with warranty companies and most people paid them cash and got reimbursed later.  Since the whole reason I wanted them to do the work was because I didn’t want to fuss with the warranty company either I was really disappointed and Lee of course just gave me that look because once again he was right. (I wasn’t right, I just get tired of fighting with people who’s entire business model is based on not providing a service you’ve already paid for. – Lee) 

The good news was after looking at the TV and the mount, Lee thought he could replace it.  The big problem was we currently had a 48″ monitor and they no longer make those.  We either had to go with a much smaller screen or find a way to make a 49″ fit.  Smaller screen was not happening so Lee bought the 49″ and proceeded to work on fitting it in. (Never go down in screen size. Always go up. What are we, animals?- Lee)

Lee removed the old TV and was checking the hole measurement

 

Really nice new Sony smart TV for only $400

 

He had to put the mount from the old TV onto the new TV because the mount is a custom design for our rig.

 

Super carefully because once we started, we owned it.

Initially when we tried to slide the TV in, we realized the hole was not wide enough, so Lee took a hand saw and made the hole just a little bigger.

Not super pretty but got the job done. Lee said that later we would clean it up.

After he expanded the hole we tried again to put it on the frame.  This time it fit, but we realized we couldn’t lower it all the way because the mounting holes were just a little different. The metal frame has screws that you have to slip the back over and because it was different, Lee needed to move the screws.  This meant he had to go buy new screws and use a drill to put holes in the metal. (I couldn’t just take out the old screws, I had to drill them out, because the heads were completely stripped out by the guy who installed the TV at the factory. – Lee) Eventually after a couple of tries he got it right and the TV could be lifted and put down completely.  Whew…nothing is easy, and every time I helped lift the TV I was super nervous about something going wrong.

These were the screws that needed moved.

 

The TV stuck up this far initially until he moved the screws.

 

Voila!!!

Finally it was done and despite the unexpected cost I am glad we did it.  We got a high quality television and we know the job was done correctly.  We both were a little nervous the first time we moved, but the TV is doing great, and we are having no issues at all.  Once again I am super grateful that I have a husband who is so handy, because if I had to rely solely on repair techs I think I would probably spend most of my time going from shop to shop.


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

Idaho State Sticker

When we first started on the road I made a big deal about  what criteria had to be met before putting a state sticker on our map.  In retrospect it all seems rather silly, but since that is how we started, we’ve kept the same methodology for the last four years.  Since our decision was that we had to spend one night AND do something specific to the state, our map has lots of holes in it.  In some cases, like Idaho, we have traveled through the state almost every year but never done anything special and don’t have the sticker.  Since we had some extra time on our hands I decided now was the time to get that sticker.  First I had to figure out where to stay, and since it was still early in the season, many public campgrounds weren’t open yet.  Then I started looking at Passport America campgrounds and stumbled across one that also had an RV repair shop attached to it.  Since every camper carries around a few things that need done, that seemed perfect, and I booked a few days in the park in Twin Falls.

Another draw of that particular area was Shoshone Falls.  I heard about these falls from several people and everyone said I would love them.  To be honest I was dubious, because I generally don’t like waterfalls being harnessed by power companies, but it seemed like the perfect thing to do to get our state sticker.   I was also interested in visiting the Crater of the Moon National Monument, again more for something to do to get a sticker than anything else.  In any event, we got settled into the RV park with no problem, and first thing the next morning we headed out towards the falls.  I didn’t really know much about them at all so we just put it in our GPS and drove that way.

We were both surprised when we got to a small shack and learned their was a $5 day use fee to visit the falls.  There was a viewing area up top that was free, but we paid the five dollars and headed down. It’s actually a really large park area, and even has its own snack stand.  We got there and parked, surprised by how many people were visiting.  Then we got our first proper look at the falls, and simply put, wow!  It wasn’t the size of the falls, or the viewing platform which was also really nice.  It was the absolutely perfect double rainbow that was at the base of the falls. You can just make out the second one above the first one, not as bright.

I’ve since learned that we were incredibly lucky.  The water levels aren’t always that high, and on cloudy days it’s not nearly that beautiful.  I couldn’t imagine a more stunning view though, and felt very blessed that a “check the box” kind of activity turned into something so special.  Here’s my favorite pics:

Crazy right? The rainbow looked like a solid thing and stayed throughout our stay.

After the falls, we were both pretty hungry so we headed into Twin Falls to check out the town.  Turns out it is a great little town, with all the conveniences and some uniquenesses that are all its own.  For one thing this was the site of the famous Evil Knievel attempt to jump the snake river, and we found the bridge and walked to viewpoints from both sides.

Bungee jumping is really popular from this bridge I guess.

On one side is this really cool twins sculpture that i loved.

And while we were exploring we stumbled across a Shopko that was going out of business.  That was worth a look and ultimately we ended up cleaning up on the savings.  We bought some things that we always hold off on buying (socks, plastic containers, etc) because they were so cheap and Lee got a great deal on a brand new iPad. We also visited a great used bookstore that had some titles we were looking for.   Waterfalls, bridges, a bookstore and shopping turned into a great day and left me eager to explore more of Idaho.

The Paperback Bookworm had several of the titles we have been looking for!!

 

Jack got this $2 hot dog which is his new favorite toy.

 

And I got to put my state sticker on!

 


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

 

Real life Rears its Ugly Head

It’s always tough for us when our April “vacation” ends, and this year was no different.  We tend to put off unpleasant things as best we can during this month because it is the most stress-free time we have all year.  Consequently those items start to build up, and towards the end of our time we often have to deal with them.  We decided to take our last free week and go to Idaho and see if we could get some things done.  Before we left we had one last night with Cori and Greg, and splurged on a dinner at Hell’s Backbone Grill.  We had passed the restaurant several times and even looked at the menu, but it was way too expensive for a casual lunch.  Cori was curious and did some research and found out the restaraunt has a very special story.

It was started by two women and founded on Buddhist principles, which is incredibly unusual for a restaurant in Utah, in a town of 400 people.  Despite it’s location it is highly acclaimed and has won numerous national awards.  More importantly, to us at least, the owners have been active in the fight to preserve the Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument and since that matters to us, we wanted to support their business.  We made a reservation (can’t remember the last time I did that) and arrived to a packed house.  Coincidentally it was Easter evening, and they did have a few special menu items.

The cook book with a picture of the two owners in the corner. The older woman came to our table but unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to talk to her.

 

I liked their manifesto, especially not eating anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

 

The forward was written by Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt who talked about how concerned the locals were that the park area would be ruined. Turns out that isn’t the case and I think it’s a good example of the government doing something right.

 

This page talks about how the women felt when they started the restaurant and how long it took them to be accepted. I will say if two liberal Buddhist women can be accepted in rural Utah then there is definitely hope for this country.

 

The main dining room. we were in a side area that was smaller.

 

The light covers were all old colanders which we all thought was pretty cool.

As neat as all of that was I will say the meal was a mixed bag.  Keep in mind it was $140 for the two of us, and I can count on one hand how often I have spent that much on a dinner in the last five years.  Oddly the entrees were the absolute best part of the meal (that’s usually where I am let down), but the appetizers were mediocre and the deserts were a 50/50 split.  Service was OK…took a long time to be seated and a longer time to get our initial drinks, but once we started rolling he did a really good job.  This restaurant falls in the category of “I am glad we went once, but I probably wouldn’t go back”, but it was a very nice way to end our time with Cori and Greg.

We were all excited about the deviled eggs, but they were pretty bland. The only thing I liked about them was the carrot chip sticking up. It was pretty and tasty and I may steal that the next time I make deviled eggs. It was $6 for 3 with an additional half for $1.  Because the eggs are organic they are very small and again I found them bland.

 

Cori and I got the filet and it was excellent. Local beef, cooked perfectly and VERY tender. The boys had meatloaf, again local grass fed beef, and loved it.

 

We decided to splurge and all order a separate desert so we could try them all. Lee loved the lava cake.

 

The lemon cupcake which I was really excited about was again very bland.

 

I didn’t care for the gingerbread cake at all although Cori liked it. I am not a huge fan of ginger.

 

Greg’s carrot cake was OK, but we all agreed Bill’s is way better.

It ended up being a late night, and we all took our time leaving in the morning because we were expecting a short day. Jack seemed excited to go and I was happy that we were going to have enough time to see a little bit of Idaho.  We had blown through the state several times but never really stopped and done anything there.  While researching I found a combination RV Center and RV park and thought maybe we could kill two birds with one stone and get a little bit of work done and sight see.

It was a nice day and a pretty drive as we slowly headed up towards Salt Lake City.  We even found a cool Flying J along our route that had a petting zoo with a camel.  That was a first!

Just not something you expect to see, but good for the owner for having something unique.

As usual, we pulled into the truck lanes and for once were the only vehicle there.  As Lee was pumping gas a gentleman walked over and started talking to him about our tires.  This particular truck stop had a tire repair shop attached, and since it was the Monday after Easter and early in the day I guess they had some extra time. We knew we had to get our trailer tires replaced before the end of the summer, but the repair tech said they could do it immediately if we were interested.  Needless to say this was highly unusual, but two thoughts went through my head.  First was is this some sort of scam, and second was maybe God was nudging us to not wait, and get it done now.  It would cost us nothing but a little bit of time to get a quote so we finished getting gas and pulled next to their bay.  While Lee talked with them about the cost, I took the puppy for a walk in the nearby field which was full of pretty flowers.

They came back with a quote of $1500, which was on par with what it would cost us later.  My only concern was they only had tires that were made in China, but they were able to show us a very recent born on date.  Again, we were back and forth with whether we should get it done, so we phoned our friend Bill to see what he thought.  After some quick research he said the tires seemed to be OK, and verified the cost wasn’t completely out of whack.  Mainly because I couldn’t bear the thought that we would pull out and then get a flat, I agreed it was a good idea and Lee and I went inside to have lunch while they changed the tires.

This Dairy Queen sign was awesome.

 

Did you know they have fried cheese curds at Dairy Queen? Wow were they good. I know not great as a diet food, but I only ate a few of them.

 

In case you think we didn’t really need the tires…

The repair unfortunately took longer than the hour that was quoted and while we were waiting I called the Passport America campground we were planning on staying to get their after hours check in policy.  Imagine my surprise when the answering machine message said the office was closed Monday for Easter holiday  and no walk-ins would be allowed.  WTH??!!??  Since we had stayed there twice before that was the last thing I expected and started looking for somewhere else to stay.   Lee wanted full hookups so we could flush and fill after being without hookups for so long and the limited choices in the Salt Lake area  were all really expensive.  Finally I found a campground with some openings and and paid over the phone to avoid any issues with late check-in.  While I was doing all of this, the tires were finished and the tech came and talked to us about the balancing crystals he had put in the tire.  Lee was worried about our tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), but the tech said they should work fine together.  Lee also watched him hand torque every single lug nut, because we have several friends who had new tires come off because they were not put on properly.

Crystals used to balance the tire were pretty cool. We had never seen these.

 

Two types of valve cores. The top one is a standard valve core, and the bottom one has an extra piece to prevent the crystals from clogging the airway.

We started down the highway, and less than 12 miles later Lee got an emergency warning on our TPMS.  He immediately pulled off the freeway and got out to take a look.  One of our trailer tires was completely flat, and we were stuck on the side of the highway.  Lee called on the phone and the tech said they would drive out and help.  It took about a half an hour to get to us and the tech stated there was something wrong with the valve or core. The tire would need to be taken off, taken back to the shop, and looked at, but they needed to go back to the truck stop to get the right jack to lift the heavy fifth wheel.  We were both pretty upset, but what could we do, so we sat there until they came back to us.  Unfortunately it started pouring down raining and lightning and we knew they wouldn’t be coming back until the storm passed.  If you have ever sat on the side of a busy highway, you know it is pretty unpleasant and the rain and lightning just made it worse.  Jack was freaking out a little bit by the unusual occurrence, so I put him on my lap and petted him so he would stay calm.

The readout on our TPMS

 

Initial visit

 

Started raining

 

Still raining but no lightning when they came back.

The only good thing was when they came back they brought everything they needed to fix it so they wouldn’t have to take the tire with them, and we were on the road again within 45 minutes.  They stated that some of the pellets got caught in the core, but he had changed the cores on ALL the tires there on the side of the road, and everything should be fine now.  Since it was getting late we didn’t argue, but headed towards our RV Park. The “Lakeside Campground” which wasn’t actually on the lake, had nice pull through sites and better still a terrific dog park.  Jack was cooped up all day and definitely needed to run around a little.

The neatest things about the campground was it was right next to a storage place that had tons of cool vintage signs

Really great dog park

 

Easy sites to get in and out of

I thought the lake would be through these trees but it was actually across the street.

Despite the mis-marketing it was a nice quiet campground and after the long day we got a good night’s rest.  Lee was able to flush the tanks and we felt good about continuing our journey.  Unfortunately, this was not to be as we woke up to yet another flat tire.  This was a different one on the trailer and we were both furious by this time.  I called the gas station owner and left a message and Lee borrowed a compressor from the campground to inflate the tire.  They finally called us back and said the tires could be fixed at any tire repair place and they would pay for the repair.  Lee felt OK about driving to the nearest Les Schwab and it was after 11am when we finally pulled out of the campground.  Thankfully we made it to a Les Schwab about 6 miles away and they seemed to know exactly how to fix the problem.  They said all the tire valves needed to be replaced and they were happy to do it.   It was quick and efficient and they didn’t even charge anything for the work.  We were both super relieved that the problem seemed to be solved and drove over to a nearby Chuckarama buffet to celebrate.

The flat Lee woke up to

Nice, clean buffet

The rolls are baked fresh every day and were super yummy

 

One odd thing was it was Tuesday  or “Oriental night.” Watching the video in the lobby talk about how much they loved the “oriental” food was a bit bizarre. They really should update the name and the video.

After lunch, I took a turn driving.  It had been another long day and we hadn’t even got to Idaho yet.  We had gotten smacked pretty hard with real life and both of us felt the vacation was over.

Pooped out!

One more thing  I would like to add… please be careful when you get new tires.  A shocking amount of people I know have had issues with brand new tires that range from flats to tires flying off of trucks or RVs.  If you have TPMS, I personally would never let them use those beads, because they can get stuck in the valves.  I would also watch them tighten every single lug nut and even double check them yourself.  Also, be sure whoever works on them has experience with RV tires.  They are not the same as semi-trucks or cars especially if you have a tire pressure monitoring system.

 


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

Finishing the Mighty Five with Capitol Reef

There are five major parks in Utah, Zion; Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce, and Capitol Reef.  We were excited about visiting this park, but really didn’t know much about it.  We had driven through several times, and the views were stunning, but didn’t really know much about what the park offered.

Gooseneck plateau off the main road. A little underwhelming since we had been to Horseshoe Bend.

 

Despite the gorgeous views, we knew we had only seen a fraction of the park and since it never hurts to start with the visitors center, we made that our first official stop.

This was a great picture of the different rock layers

And here’s a picture of the beautiful rocks

I had heard Uranium was found in Utah, and was glad to see this exhibit explaining it

It talked about the black boulders that were thrown into the area

Which we later got to see.

Waterpockets that the area is famous for

And wildlife. Cori and Greg saw some marmots but no picture unfortunately

What is unique about this park though is the fact that it surrounds the historic settlement of Fruita.  This was a Mormon settlement that took advantage of the river and grew fruit trees.  The settlement has been maintained and many of the original trees still exist.  It also has the original schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, and one of the homes which was turned into a store.  All of that was cool, but what got everyone’s attention was the pies.  Steve and Deb had been here years before and Steve remembered those pies and wanted to make sure Lee got some.  Thankfully he also remembered that they sold out early, which turned out to be the case.  We were lucky enough to get pies (which are made in the traditional pioneer method) twice and cinnamon rolls once.  The cinnamon rolls are often gone by 8:30am…and remember this is all in the off season.

Schoolhouse

We were lucky and saw the fruit trees in blossom

I also tried the sourdough bread which was pretty good.

But really its all about the pies. They look small but there’s lots in there. The apple was so-so but the cherry was…

Seriously the best cherry pie I have ever had. Dee-licious!

There is even a really nice little campground down in this area.  There is no cell service down there at all, but it has a loop of sites big enough for larger rigs and was really nice.  It also has a great dumpstation, which we paid $5 to use.

Really nice views.

After exploring Fruita we talked about what hikes we wanted to do.  The no-brainer was a short walk along a boardwalk that had hieroglyphics.  I had to use my long lens to see most of them, but it was somewhat interesting.

There were areas of the wall where chunks had slid off.

Several of them could still be seen though.

The signage wasn’t very good so we all had to hunt for them and point them out to one another

At the end of this boardwalk was the best one

Unfortunately many of the drawings were damaged by graffiti which in and of itself shows how long people have been visiting this area.

After that short walk I thought I had enough energy to hike the 2.2 mile round trip to Hickman Natural bridge.  I knew from talking to Steve that it was really steep in the beginning, but since I am such a huge fan of Natural Bridges I decided to give it a try.  The beginning was not only steep but rough and they only thing that kept it from being miserable was it was a partially cloudy day which helped with the sun.  The bridge itself was pretty cool, and thankfully the walk back was mostly down hill, but I wouldn’t be in a big hurry to do it again.

You had to be pretty vigilant on the trail

The flowers were pretty, but not much else to look at on way up

 

The bridge itself was cool

And we could walk right up to it and take pictures.

Besides the bridge there was only one other area that was interesting.  It was a mini arch with a water pocket tall enough to stand in.  We stopped and got some cute pictures there.

Like I said, it was ok and maybe I would have liked it more if it hadn’t been at the end of a long couple of weeks. I also really need to remember to bring my hat, because the Utah sun can really get to you on hikes.  Overall I would definitely say Capitol Reef was my least favorite of the five but definitely worth seeing.  If nothing else drive through and stop and get some pie.  Personally I am really thrilled that we have visited all five (among other places in Utah).  We have spent 6 weeks over the last two years there and I barely feel like we have scratched the surface.  Of all the states we have visited since going full time I would have to say Utah would be my favorite.  I wouldn’t want to live there, but it is a wonderful place to explore and enjoy nature.


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here.
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First Time Seeing the Hole in the Rock

Last year when we were touring Monument Valley, we stopped at the Fort Bluff visitors center and learned about the Hole in the Rock.  Essentially, a group of Mormon pioneers were sent to colonize a new area of Utah and because of terrain and hostile natives ended up traveling through an enlarged crevasse in a rock wall.  This was a big deal for a couple of reasons.  First they had to use dynamite to enlarge the hole and second they had to lower their covered wagons down a steep slope to get through the hole.  Still doesn’t sound like that big of a deal?  Check this picture out.

 

Fort Bluff visitors center is a recreation of the little community the pioneers settled in and every cabin has actual heirlooms provided by their ancestors.  When we were touring the cabins we discovered a Perkins cabin.  Turns out the dynamite work on the hole was done by the Perkins’ brothers from Wales.  The leader of the group met them while doing mission work in the mines of Wales and talked them into the expedition.  Since some of Lee’s family is from that area, we were really interested in the connection and it made the story even more interesting.

 

View of the hole from the water (south) side.

 

Memorial to all the settlers

 

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Unfortunately the only way to see the hole from the south is by boat, so we made a vow to see it from the north when we returned to Utah.  When we were exploring Utah we ran across another small museum/visitors center and learned more about the expedition.

This map shows Bluff to the south and Escalante to the north. The road to Hole in the Rock is 57 miles and requires 4WD for the last 7 miles.

The visitors center had numerous stories, but this picture shows my favorite. The very last wagon was the caravan leader and through an over site he was the only man left at the top with his wagon. His wife put her babies on a blanket and helped her husband start to lower it down. Seriously badass.

After those two visitor center we knew this was a Must-Do on our list but we weren’t really sure how to accomplish it without a four wheel drive vehicle.  Luckily Cori, who had initially recommended Fort Bluff to us, was also captivated by the story and she wanted to go.  Since the Chinook has 4WD capability it was an easy decision and the four of us planned a day trip.  One of the best parts of traveling in the Chinook is that the dogs can come as well, and because it was a really long day we brought Jack along.

Jack was excited for an adventure

Lee giving Jack a biscuit

Hobie wants some Lee time.

And Jack wanted to help Greg drive.

One thing I should mention about this road is it is long and dusty.  I mean keep your windows rolled up dusty.  It also has numerous attractions along the route, BUT you need to be very careful about what you do along the way if you want to make it to the end before dark. It simply cannot all be done in one day.  We chose to drive to the end and then stop on the way back, but I am going to show you the stops as they occur from Route 12. In the first ten miles there are several turnoffs and two of those go to slot canyons.   Before going on any side roads I would absolutely do your research and make sure that the canyons themselves are passable.

In contrast Devils Garden at MM 13 is right off the road and easily accessible.  It is also a gem of a place with fantastic rock formation and easy to walk short trails.  There is so much packed into this one tiny area, it is an absolute must see and best of all no 4WD is required as it is relatively close to Route 12. It’s also dog friendly and we let our dogs explore off leash.

Lee’s pic

Lee’s pic

The dogs got so sandy they blended in, but it was worth it as they had a great time.

It even had a small natural bridge

From left: Greg, Cori, me, and Lee

I took this one. It was my favorite of mine of the day.

After Devils Garden there are two VERY cool slot canyons.  Spooky and Peek-a-Boo are both really great but we didn’t have time to do those and hole in the wall.  Next time we will definitely do those and Devils Garden again and the great thing is that is all 2WD accessible.  One thing I should mention is Spooky and Peek-A-Boo are both tight and require some climbing.  They are only recommended for those who are physically fit and should not be undertaken lightly.

After the slot canyons, it is a long 15 miles to Dance Hall Rock historic site.  The pioneers used this natural amphitheater for celebrations and although it doesn’t look like much from the road it is definitely worth the short walk to see it up close.  This area also has a pit toilet, which was the only one I saw on the entire route.

Jack for some perspective. It is a huge area.

These water holes were really neat

There are places we visit where you can feel the weight of history and this was one of those for me. As I placed my hand on the wall, I was fully aware that it was likely a pioneer had done the same over 100 years ago.

Fair warning, after MM 40 the road gets much rougher.  There are switchbacks and hills and sections of slip rock.  Personally I wouldn’t go any farther than Dance Hall Rock without 4WD, but of course it is your call.  At MM 41.5 there is a Boy Scout memorial dedicated to 10 troop members who died in an automobile accident on one of the switchbacks.

These cute signs are all along the road showing you are following the original pioneers path.

You can see that the road was cut through the sliprock. The pioneers had to bring their wagons over it without a road.

The boy scout memorial.

 

Around MM 50 we came upon a plaque on a large rock.  This is the place they recommend you stop without 4WD and gotta say I don’t see the point of going this far if you aren’t going to complete it.  The plaque was pretty lame and ultimately confusing, because this was NOT the spot the pioneers traveled.  Again, without 4WD I would stop at the Dance Hall and turn around.  It’s also worth mentioning that the last 7 miles took 1 hour and 15 minutes to traverse.  As rough as the road could be prior to that, it definitely requires 4WD.  We actually saw lots of ATV’s in that area and that seems like a great way to travel.

We didn’t see any arch.

Thankfully when we finally arrived at the end it was clearly marked and it was everything we had hoped.  The idea that people traveled through this was was amazing to all of us and we just stood their with our mouths open.  The tunnel was blocked a few years after it was opened by a landslide, but it can be traversed by climbing.  Lee and I were both really tempted but when he saw a 10 years old huffing and puffing he decided it was probably best not to try.  If you have time though we were told it was really great.  You can see rings in the walls they used to hold the wagons and you can go all the way down to the water. I wouldn’t mind going back to just do that and I absolutely am going back to do some of the slot canyons.

The end of the road.

You walk up to the opening

To the left is this plaque

And straight ahead this is what you see,

The “path” is blocked by boulders, but we were comfortable with climbing down a little.

With the long lens.

Jack was really brave. I was nervous but he was more sure footed than I was.

 

Lee couldn’t go down so he went up

 

All four of us really felt it was worth it, but honestly you really have to want this.  The last 7 miles is really rough and the entire trip (with stops at Devils Garden, Dance Hall,m and Hole in the rock) took us 8 hours and 20 minutes round trip.  What made it worth it to us was that is was both historically significant and beautiful.  We also realized how special the day was because many people would never get to experience it.  It is highly unlikely that anyone on vacation would take a day to do this and we are always grateful for sites that we know we would never have seen in our old lives.   One last though I would like to share.  This route was hard for us and I can’t even imagine how the pioneers did it.  A six week journey turned into six months but ultimately they made it through.  I think it is worth noting that it is unlikely it would have been accomplished if it wasn’t for the Mormon religion.  The entire state of Utah is full of pioneer settlements that started in the most inhospitable places.

 

If you are still interested, Lee found a couple of YouTube videos about the journey.  They are old but interesting if you want to check them out.

 

 

 


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.