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.


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Laundry Day, Scenic Drive, And Finally A Day Off!!

The next morning, despite our vow to sleep in a little, Lee woke up early and went to do laundry.  There are four laundry places in Moab and two have 5 star ratings, one of which he decided to go to. We don’t always look at Yelp ratings when we travel, but for laundromats we almost always do, because the experience can vary so much.  They had lots of big machines though and he spent the time talking to a young man who is full timing with his wife and two kids and he had a pleasant enough time.
I, on the other hand,  woke up really sore for the first time since we have been in Utah.   It’s not surprising really since I was climbing on rocks like I was a 20 year old and even though it was totally worth it, I was definitely paying for it today.  Lee had said before he left that he wanted to do something today, so we settled on what we thought would be an easy scenic drive.
While Lee was at the laundromat he walked over to a local outdoor retailer called Gearheads and saw they had my brand of Merrell’s.  This winter I had noticed at Amazon that my hiking shoes were pretty much done, but hadn’t had the foresight to buy a new pair since we hit Utah.  Since I really don’t like to buy shoes online I was making do, but yesterday had really brought home they needed to be replaced.  His timing was perfect then in finding a store and once he got back we had some lunch and then headed out.  I was thrilled by both the selection and service in such a relatively small store and they not only had my exact model, but also in my size and at the very reasonable price of $109.  Coincidentally, I have been wearing Merrell’s Moab this entire time and replacing them in Moab itself seemed fitting.

Lee going into Gearheads

I tried them on and they immediately felt good, which is why I am such a big fan and several days later as of this writing there was no “breaking in” needed.  For the record I also buy the ventilated version rather than the waterproof version and prefer these because I don’t like for my feet to sweat when I am hiking.  After Gearheads, we also went down to Shopko where I looked for a shower curtain.  My friends Pam and Vicki both have shower doors like mine and as with mine over time they get cloudy.  Their solution, which I thought was brilliant, was to add a shower curtain, and although the selection was limited in town I wanted to give it a try. When we got home later and put them up I was really happy with how it looked.  Lee is still on the fence about whether he likes it or not, but when it’s just us we can tuck it out of the way.

While we were out I also bought some new socks since the last time I bought any was in Quartzsite two years ago.  The price there was great and I kept thinking we would get back, but finally broke down and bought 6 pairs of socks for around $3 a pair.  I also have had the same $10 pair of sunglasses that I bought in an airport over 5 years ago.  The sand and blowing wind had scratched them up and it was definitely time for a new pair.  I made Lee crazy trying on every pair in the drug store, until I finally found a pair that might work.  They only cost $11.99, so if they don’t work for me I won’t feel too bad about it.
You may be noticing a pattern here, and it is true that on certain things I like what I like, and want a bargain to boot. Lee of all people should understand that, because our next stop was the camera store, and he is a sucker for old-fashioned camera stores.  They are pretty rare in most cities now, but we still find them in smaller touristy towns and Moab was no exception.  He went in looking for lens cleaning paper (which he got), but came out with a rotating, polarizing lens.  Several people had recommended that we try a polarizing lens to cut down on the amount of post work we would need to do after taking pictures, so Lee bought one.  He’s going to try it out and see what the results are, and then I may decide to get one as well.  I’m going to wait and see how different his pictures look with it.
The good news is he did NOT buy the wide angle lens the guy was trying to get him to buy, which I appreciated, but we had talked about what we are going to get in the future.  When my camera dies, which I am sure it will eventually do, I’ll take his and then he can invest in a higher end one. We’ve certainly gotten our money’s worth out of these cameras, and I don’t mind at all investing on something more expensive in the future.  See I am weird like that. (The problem with me buying any new lenses for our either of our cameras (they’re the same model) is that lenses are expensive, and our cameras have a pretty heavily cropped sensor. You can poke around the internet to find out what that means, but basically our sensor is cropped at 1.64, which makes a 10mm wide angle lens take pictures as though it were a 16mm lens. Not really much point in spending the money on a lens if I’m not really getting my money’s worth out of it. – Lee)
On our way back to the campsite we took the scenic drive 123 along the Colorado River.  It was a beautiful drive with several BLM campsites right on the river, that I wanted to check out. The first was Goose Island Campground and had several sites that would work for a big rig.  It was all first-come, first serve and internet was pretty spotty, but still very pretty along the water and much cooler than out in the open.  There is also a really nice bike trail that goes along the river for several miles.

Beautiful red rock cliffs all along the river

 

Farther town there was also Upper Big Bend campsite, which despite stating had no spots for big rigs, we saw several we could fit.  Sites 18 and 19 were tight side to side but would work as would 20.  We also liked 9 and 10, but site 3 was absolutely fantastic. Again all these sites are dry camping with only one bar of ATT, plus first come first serve, but they would be a great place to stay.

Site 3

 

Great views

 

We also discovered that there is a large group campground “C” at Big Bend that is across the street from the river.  It’s a really big parking lot in a canyon and from what we could see looked really cool and could hold several rigs.  I am sure there is no internet back in there and I am not sure what the cost is, but it looks like a great place for a group of friends to gather and is close to Arches and Moab.

After driving along 123 for awhile, and again great canyon and water views, we decided to turn onto the La Sal Loop.  We had read about this loop in a couple of blogs and since they said the road was OK for 4×2 we wanted to give it a try.  Lee was particularly excited because a lot of exteriors in the show West World were shot in Castle Valley, and we recognized several of the views from that show. The valley was cool, and the road was newly paved, but as we started up the mountain I started to get a little nervous because the climbs were steep, the road winding, and we suddenly lost pavement and it went to gravel.

There were even trees down in some sections and although the road was partially gravel and partially paved it was pretty scary.  No good way to turn around though so we stuck it out, but even Lee said at the end that in parts it was terrifying.  Lee loves scary roads, so that is really saying something, and I really didn’t like it at all.  If by the time you get there they’ve finished paving it, it will probably be OK, but if not I would definitely give it a pass.  Not a fan! (The problem (IMO) with roads like this, particularly going up) for a 4×2 rear wheel drive is the very thick layer of loose gravel and washboarding. Washboarding is fine at 35+ mph, but at slower speeds, which are required on hairpins and switchbacks, you bounce a LOT. Going up a steep grade in that stuff the rear tires will occasionally spin, which is no big deal, but this road is very narrow, with sheer drops of hundred of feet on the passenger side with no guard rail or even trees to stop you. With our wide dually and the terrible washboarding, the back end would frequently bump a foot or more to the right (the cliff edge) as we climbed, WAY closer to the edge than is safe. It’s the jumping that freaks me out because it’s unpredictable and uncontrollable. Everything would be fine, I would be maintaining a good 4-6″ from the edge, and then BAM, we would slip, hit a bad washboard and my right rear outside tire would be just over the edge. I don’t like my safety margin evaporating like that, especially since all takes is another bad washboard to bounce me a little farther so that the whole tire is over the edge. – Lee)

We saw these rocks in Westworld in several scenes

 

This small hill (?) in front of the mountains was really coo,l unfortunately too cloudy to get a good pic.

 

What you can’t really see he is this is the edge of the road, which goes to a very steep, yes you would die, drop-off.

 

The higher we got the more snow we saw

 

And even ran into a group of yellow pines

 In all fairness I might have enjoyed it more if it wasn’t such a cloudy day.  And it was pretty popular as we saw several mountain bikers and rock climbers while we were out, but for me it just wasn’t worth it.  It was much cooler up there though, and I could see why it would be a popular destination during the summer heat.  We saw some tent campers and even a couple smaller popups and tiny travel trailers, but I personally would not want to take my RV up any section of the road.

The newly paved road was nice

 

But a huge piece of it was dirt like this

 

And the older paved sections had huge potholes in them

We finally made it to Ken’s Lake and we checked out the campground there.  They are reserveable, had 3 bars of service, and lots of big sites.  We liked 37, 34, 29, 27, in first loop. And in the smaller second loop that is closer to the mountains we liked site 45.

Even saw a camper with some horses

 

After what was supposed to be a relaxing drive I was stressed out and said I simply needed a full day off.  Lee agreed, because the drive was tough on him as well, and he admitted he couldn’t keep up the pace. At almost 50 he doesn’t have the energy he used to, but I told him he had been the energizer bunny for 15 straight days and he should give himself a break.  He seemed a little bummed, but I promised we both had more in us, we just needed one day to rest and recuperate.

The next day I went out for a little while and got a haircut at Parriot Hair Salon, which I highly recommend.  I really enjoyed talking to Mallory about how much Moab had changed and the price at $20 was more than fair.

I also went to the Grocery store and Pizza Hut and got to experience the town a little.  The layout was a little rough though, everything on two sides of one long street, and not great parking for the dually, so I headed back and just enjoyed the rest of the day relaxing.


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Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

Navajo National Monument and “Four Corners”

It was still windy after we went to Garden of the Gods, but since we were traveling back towards Kayenta to meet a friend of mine at 3pm, we decided to make a quick visit to the Navajo National Monument.  As a general rule I am a big fan of the lesser known Monuments,  but this one was a bit of a disappointment.  It didn’t help that the wind was pretty relentless and there were big dust storms along our drive.

Couldn’t see anything as we headed towards Monument Valley

When we finally got to the monument, we were pleased to find out it was free, but the only way to see the large cliff dwellings cave (the main feature of the park) was a 1 mile round-trip walk down a paved, but very steep path. Since it was windy and a little cold, I wasn’t crazy about the hike, but there really wasn’t anything else to see.   I did enjoy how they had small signs along the way describing the native plants and how they were used by the people, but it was really cold and by the time we got to the lookout platform I was definitely regretting not having ear muffs on.

I thought the dinosaur footprint was pretty neat

 

This Hogan was near the visitors center

 

Paved path

 

Lots of these signs along the way. I found this one of particular interest because the Navajo people still eat the nuts today.

 

The valley was pretty

 

Path got very steep at the end although in all fairness we did see a woman in a wheel chair although her young sons were straining while they pushed her back up.

 

The view itself was from pretty far away and Lee and I took turns looking through the long lens of our camera to see the structure. There is one of those giant magnifying binoculars at the end, but I would really recommend bringing your own if you want to see any detail.  The dwelling itself was very cool and was used by different people over the ages.  It held about 125 people at one point and if the climb to the base wasn’t such a long one I would have loved to have seen it from the bottom.

There were several; caves but the one on the far right has the dwellings in it

 

The view with the naked eye

 

Telephoto lens

 

The half mile back up was tough for me and I had to stop a couple of times to get to the top. We were at 7,300 feet and the combination of that and the wind in my face was pretty tough and left me wondering if it was worth it. Quick Update: I was looking for pictures with the girls when we came to monument valley and it turns out we visited this national monument once before.  Neither Lee nor I had any memory of visiting the first time.  Take from that what you will 🙂

My windblown look

Finally made it to the end and there was a really terrific Navajo gift shop at the top. The woman who was working took the time to explain several items to me and I purchased a pair of earrings and this really cool beaded carabiner. We don’t have a ton of space in the RV so I always gravitate towards mementos that are both a keepsake and functional.

After seeing the monument we had just enough time to get to my friend Rich’s house at 3pm.  Thankfully I had asked him his time zone in advance, because despite Kayenta being in Arizona the entire Navajo Nation is on Mountain Standard time.  This is an important thing to note, especially if you have a tour you have purchased, because although the phone did a nice job of keeping the correct time, our GPS seemed confused by it all.

We made it on time and had a great evening with Rich and his wife Susan.  Rich and I grew up together as our fathers and mothers were good friends, and it’s been a really long time since I have seen him. Last year he moved to Kayenta and is a physician at the Kayenta Medical Center.  I was really interested in hearing about working on a reservation and we also spent quite a bit of time catching up on where our lives had taken us over the last few years.

Rich and me

Lee and he got along great, in no small part because he fed us rib-eye and apple pie!  They didn’t read our blog up until this point, so just fed us the kind of foods they liked.  It was a great meal and the conversation flowed and it was really wonderful spending time with him.  Because we were kids together while our Dads were in Medical school, we both shared the somewhat unusual experience of moving from small towns to inner city Philadelphia and then back to small towns again.  Those shared experiences on some level have bonded us for life and it was really wonderful getting to know each other as adults.  Plus it made our Moms happy and that’s always a good thing 🙂

Lee loving his apple pie.  Sorry Susan, I should have gotten a picture of you with Lee and his pie 🙂

We made a point to leave somewhat early, but still ending up getting back to the campground after dark.  As Lee was walking up to the steps he stopped dead in his tracks and I almost ran right into him.  What he saw, which I barely could see, was that the bottom half of our entry door window was broken.  Our initial thought was someone had broken in, but we both soon realized the screen was intact.  Lee cleaned the glass and opened the door and I immediately checked the inside.  Thankfully nothing was missing and it became clear that the window had probably been  broken by a rock or simply by flexing in the strong winds.

It was pretty cold in the rig, and we knew we couldn’t leave it that way overnight.  Unfortunately it was late and the nearest hardware store was 45 minutes away, and closed, so Lee started looking around for something he could use as a temporary solution. I have called my husband the RV MacGyver, and once again, he did not disappoint.  He found this shallow plastic pan that was actually destined to be thrown away in the next purge, and stood outside in the wind as he cut it almost perfectly in the dark with a utility knife.  After he got it in place (on the inside of the door) he used the existing screws to hold it in place, then added some self tapping screws for more stability, and then used black gaff tape (which we never go anywhere without) to seal the edges.  Really good job, especially considering the cold, wind, and dark, and we are going to actually try our next drive and see how it holds in place.  If it won’t hold we can always stop and get a piece of plywood, because we simply won’t be in a situation for a permanent fix until we get to Oregon.  Update:  Turns out our door is no longer made and the piece of glass from the factory would cost $900!!  The tech Lee talked to recommended getting a local glass person to cut a custom piece of glass, and since there is someone who does it in Moab we are looking into getting it done as I write this. Further Update:  The guy replaces glass but can’t cut it, so I guess it will need to wait. 

Lee fixing our door!

(The pan is actually designed to go under a household water heater and catch drips and leaks, but I bought it to use as a soaking pan for our giant round fire pit grill, and the grill surfaces of our Weber Q grill. All of those are large but not tall, so this was the perfect way to soak them. But, I haven’t used it in over a year, so it was going to be purged. – Lee) The next morning we woke up and were pleased to see the solution had held up overnight.  It was still windy and actually a bit colder and I was really over the weather.  We knew that our first 10 days the weather was almost perfect and we were overdue, but it still sucked.  I really needed some time to get caught up on blogging before moving onto Moab, so we decided to just drive up to the Four Corners Monument and step on the square since we knew from talking to other people that was a “ten minute thing”.

The drive was kind of interesting, because driving up we saw our first oil rigs in Utah. We also saw what looked like wild burros, but they also were pretty healthy and had tags in their ears so maybe they actually weren’t.  We arrived at Four Corner and spent $5 each to get in. One interesting sign we saw at the beginning stated that spreading of ashes on Navajo land was illegal because they consider cremation a “malicious desecration”. Good to know.

This burro was tagged so not sure if it was wild or simply escaped ? He seemed in pretty good shape.

 

Driving up to the site we could see there was room for big rigs.

 

The circle

The square is completely surrounded by craft booths and despite the weather many of them were manned. It was crazy windy and very cold, but thankfully there wasn’t much of a crowd.  We took several pictures and then got back in the truck and headed back towards our campground on another road. The best part about the whole thing was I got a sticker for my RV, and we bought gas pretty close by for $3.05 a gallon.  That is by far the best price we have seen since traveling this area.

You know it’s cold when Lee is shivering.

 

I did like the seal very much.

 

Our feet in the very center. (Or ARE they? The answer can be found at the end of the post. – Lee)

 

I get why they have a limit of three photos but since there was hardly anyone there we took more

 

Here is my shot with a hand or foot in each state. I decided to go twister style. Way more dignified than what Lee wanted to try 🙂

 

It was early and cold so the food booths weren’t open.

I was pretty bummed because the Navajo taco stand wasn’t open and I really wanted to try some fry bread.  So we went a little out of our way to the Twin Rocks restaurant in Bluff, and for $12 each got to try some fry bread.  Lee’s had a huge Navajo taco with chili, and I had a Shepherd sandwich, which was a roast beef sandwich on fry bread.  Lee really loved his and I liked the bread, but using it for a sandwich sort of watered down the flavor because there was so much of it.  Plus, Navajo food itself is pretty bland,  even for me, which is saying something, since I am from the Midwest and pretty used to bland food.  Still I am glad we had the experience and I really liked the restaurant.  The  service was great, they had a wonderful gift shop, and the setting was really beautiful.  Highly recommend it if you are traveling through Bluff.

Twin Rocks Restaurant, what a fantastic location

 

Restaurant

 

Lee had Navajo Fry bread which was like chili nachos but on frybread. Pretty good

 

My shepherd sandwich was just too dry. It was all bread, but I am glad I tried it and huge value for the $12. The french fries were actually some of the best I have ever had.

 

Had a great gift shop with local artists.

The last thing we did was stop and take a picture of the rock at Mexican hat.  There is a large pull-off right by the stone pile, and a dirt road that goes around on both sides.  We drove the road and took pictures from it from several different angles.  After all the amazing rock formations we have seen I didn’t think it was that big of a deal but I did like how it looked like different things from different directions.

Mexican Hat rock. I actually though it looked more like a falcon on a rock from this view.

Hopefully tomorrow the wind will stop because we are going to go into Monument Valley and try to take a jeep tour.  We have waited all week for the best forcasted day and Lee is VERY exited about getting to see the places the main road doesn’t allow you to access.  Hopefully it will work out, because I am ready to move on.  Moab is next, and we are halfway through our tour month in Utah, and I know lots of really great things are waiting for us there.

(So here’s the deal with the Four Corners monument, and hopefully this won’t ruin your day. The Four Corners monument is not where it’s supposed to be. It is around 1800 feet east of the actual location where the borders of the four states meet. Personally I still enjoyed the experience, because it’s just cool. Had I known this information while I was there, I would have insisted that we ALSO take a handful of pictures in the actual location. Partly because it would have been funny, but also partly because what’s accurate is accurate. I have read a LOT of information about this, and it bothers me more than a little that the prevailing opinion seems to be that if everyone agrees it’s in the right place, then it’s in the right place, and the longer people agree, then the more solid that “fact” becomes. I am genuinely distressed by this way of thinking. The longer you are convinced that a wrong thing is right, does it not make it less wrong. The boundaries of the states are based on longitude and latitude, and those lines intersect at a real, actual spot. The fact that the monument was built 1800 feet east of that spot doesn’t move the spot, even if 1800 feet is minute in the scheme of long/lat. And it also doesn’t detract from how awesome and cool and kitschy the monument is. It’s not like I need them to change the name of the place (along with all the T shirts and stickers) to “1800 Feet East Of The Four Corners Monument”. They can keep calling it what they call it, I don’t mind, as long as we all understand and agree that it’s close enough. But it’s still off by 1800 feet, and that matters just as much. – Lee)


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Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

First Time at Natural Bridges Monument

The next morning we woke up bright and early, but decided to delay our departure until the clouds cleared a little bit.  We had been having amazing luck with weather, but this morning was sort of cloudy and since we were doing a scenic drive, needed some good sky to get the pictures we wanted.  Thankfully it cleared up by around 11am, so we ate an early lunch and headed out.

There is a big loop that circles the Valley of the Gods and the decision on which way to go was largely determined by the Moki Dugway.  There is a 3 mile section of Highway 261 that is gravel road and seriously extreme switchbacks.  Harry had driven it the day before with his four-wheel drive, so we had the information from his experience, but once again the 2-wheel drive made us more cautious and essentially Lee had to decided if he wanted to drive up the 10% gravel grade or down it.  He decided he would prefer to drive down, which I was a fan of because this put that section at the end of our day.  Consequently we made a right onto Highway 163 and started around the loop.

The first place we stopped was in Bluff, Utah which is right on the outer edge of Navajo Nation.  We followed the signs and turned down the road to an historic loop to stop at the Fort Bluff visitors center.  I mentioned in our last post how frustrated I was by the lack of information in the area and Steven had mentioned that this visitor center was a really good one.  Despite all that we almost didn’t stop, but I am so glad we did, because it was really terrific.

Fort Bluff Memorial for the settlers who made the journey.

The moment we walked in a woman, in historical garb, walked up to us and started telling us the story of the fort.  A group of pioneers were sent to settle the area and in order to make it had to go through Hole-in-the-Wall pass.  They had 125 people, 1800 head of cattle, and an early winter had created snow behind them when they reached the pass.  They thought they would be able to get through with minimal issue, but the journey of 6 weeks actually took 6 months.

They managed to get through by dynamiting larger holes in the rocks and then building a narrow road on the outside of the cliff.  They also lowered the wagons on very steep grades, using men and ropes to manage the feat.  It was a fascinating story and I was completely caught up in it, having never heard it before.  Lee knew the story, but not in that detail and he enjoyed the telling as well.

A picture of the “hole” they came through.  You can visit this by traveling hole in the rock road in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  Landslides have caused this route to no longer be passable.

This picture is a recreation of how they did it. There are men in the back holding onto ropes and acting as human brakes to get the wagons down the steep grades. Absolutely incredible feat.Along with the information, they also took us to a nice little section with lots of free maps and pamphlets, we looked through a very nice gift shop and then went out to walk the fort re-creation, which was built around the one original cabin remaining.

Visitors Center

Original Cabin

The thatched roof was really interesting to see

This is where the visitors center took itself to the next level as every cabin told the story of one of the families and had authentic memorabilia provided by the families descendants.  There were pictures, family trees, items used in the crossing, and everyone had an audio recording about the family that was done in multiple languages.

Every cabin had a short recording of the family including little details about them that really brought them to life

The Perkin’s Brothers were from Wales and were dynamite experts. They were the ones who made blowing the hole wider possible

Sarah Perkins with her 9 daughters. I thought having three girls was challenging!!

Extremely well done and I especially appreciated how they were open about the polygamist families.  I found that particularly fascinating and was happy they didn’t cover that up, but provided pictures of all the wives and many of their children.  The entire experience was the complete opposite of what had happened the day before and the best part of all was it was totally free.  I absolutely recommend taking time to make the stop and they do have spaces for large rigs, if you are just passing by.

This was the local Bishop and pictures of his three wives. I found it particularly interesting that the women all looked alike (they weren’t sisters) except of course they got progressively younger.

After Fort Bluff we got on 191 North and saw a sign for the Hovenweep Monument.  Since it was a 25 mile in the opposite direction from where we were going we decided to give it a pass,  but definitely might be worth a visit on a later date. Next we turned left on 95 West and saw a gas station where we decided to pull in for some gas. Here we had a moment of travel serendipity as we ran into a couple we had seen twice before.

The first time I saw this couple they were at Horseshoe Bend and one of the ladies caught my attention because she had a great smile.  I was hot and tired, walking up the hill, but she was obviously having a great time and it got my attention.  The second time we ran into them was in the Welcome Center the day before as they were walking out as we were walking in.  I mentioned that we had seen them before and introduced myself and we had a great chat in the lobby.

Turns out they are full-timers as well and were staying at the RV park next to Monument Valley.  We said our goodbyes and I thought it was cool I had saw them again, but on this drive third time was the charm.  We pulled into the gas station and they were at the pump right next to us.  I aw one of the women over Lee’s shoulder as he was pumping gas, and immediately got out to say hi.  Turns out they were doing the same route we were but had started in the opposite direction and were just finishing.  They had already done the Moki-Dugway and said they saw motorcycles on it, which made both of us feel better about how our truck would handle it.  I said goodbye and “we’ll see you tomorrow,” and they both laughed, but said tomorrow they might stay in.  We were expecting pretty high winds for the next two days and it’s tough to find fun stuff to do when you are fighting the wind.

We continued on the way staying on 95 until we got on 275 towards National Bridge Monument. We had heard really good things about this park from several of our friends but it completely exceeded our expectations.  There was a $10 entrance fee, but for us was free with the America the Beautiful pass, and can I say we have absolutely gotten our money’s worth from that in Utah.

Visitors Center

The park is a 9 mile drive-able loop with several trail heads and three places to stop and look at the arches. Since the trails to the base of the first two bridges were strenuous with 400-500 foot elevation changes we decided to just go to the viewing platforms.  I would love to do the hikes to their bases at some point, but that’s a bit out of my hiking comfort level for now.

Path to Sipapu.  It was really windy down on the point, but the walk was easy.

This is what we saw. Can you see the arch? Nope me either. Lee had to point it out to me and then I couldn’t stop seeing it. Look right in the middle of the picture for a circle to the left of a round stone with a little tip. The reason it’s hard to see is there are trees on the other side so it blended in at first.

Still can’t see it? Here it is in closeup. Right in the middle.

Next up was Kachina and we stopped first at a trailhead and walked down just a little ways to get views from both sides.  This bridge is a big one and I actually preferred the view from the trailhead over the viewpoint, but both sites were good.  The path to this one was a little steeper and again windy at the viewpoint.

View from trailhead.  Really shows the “bridge” aspect

This is the view from the viewpoint side, which shows less of the hole but more of the bridge.

There was a rock slide (which you can see in top left of hole) which now stops the water from running through the arch.

The first two were cool, but the third bridge, Owachomo, really blew them away.  This bridge is 225 feet long and it was only a 2/10 mile hike (180 feet elevation change) to the base.  Yes, the route was steep, and because of that we almost didn’t do it, but I am incredibly glad we did.  It truly was one of the coolest thing I have seen since the three years we have been on the road and for a little while we had it all to ourselves.

Right from the beginning on the walk down you could see the bridge in the distance which I really liked

The closer we got the better the pictures

Once we were at the base it was like being beneath a brontosaurus neck. You can see me for scale

And the underside of the rock was so beautiful. Really just incredibly cool!!

About the time we were finishing up a group of teenagers came down the path and we were ready to leave. Yes the walk up was tough and I had to take a couple of breaks, but I would do it again in a minute.  I loved the beauty of the rock and the dry river bed, along with the surrounding area.  I hope my pictures do it justice, but even if they don’t if you are at all capable of taking the hike, please do so.  I don’t think you will be disappointed.

 

Walking back up to the overlook you can see it is steep.

 

I stopped for a rest in a little bit of shade I found while Lee took some extra pictures.

 

The day wasn’t done yet though because after the park we still had the Moki Dugway.  The road wasn’t close to the worst we have been on and the views from the top down were spectacular.

One of the many hairpin turns on the Moki-Dugway.

 

The picture is dark but you can see a car waiting for us around the corner at the bottom. The road is 1-1/2 lanes and we had the dually, but folks were really good about looking ahead and waiting in a section that was until our truck passed.

 

We saw several motorcycles going up. I thought that was a little crazy personally.

(Here’s the drive down the Moki Dugway with the boring bits cut out, and the speed at 200%, because it’s such a slow drive. For anyone who would like to know what to expect, it gives you an idea of the width of the road (about 1 1/3 lane wide) and how bumpy it is, etc. We went down instead it instead of up, because I had concerns about our 2×2 slipping on the gravel going up. Going down was a lot of fun, I just left it in a low gear and stayed off the brakes. Amazing views, and some really scary dropoffs. – Lee)

What a terrific day, and even with the late start we still got home by 5:00pm.  Harry and Vicki had invited us down for some appetizers and the great conversation has us staying until after 8:30pm.  At that point I reluctantly said goodnight, because I was starving and we ate a quick dinner, read a little, and then went to bed.  Another big day scheduled for tomorrow, when we hope to finally see The Valley of the Gods.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

First Time at Lone Rock Primitive Beach Campground

By Thursday we were ready to move on to our next region, and we ran into a bit of a snag.  Originally I wanted to head straight to Bryce Canyon from Zion, but the weather forecast was for below 50 degrees every day, down in the 20’s and 30’s at night, and even worse, very windy.  So we changed our plan and were going to head to Page AZ, but I really wanted to find a place to stay closer to Kanab.  Lee was concerned there wouldn’t be enough in Kanab proper to warrant staying there and then moving on to Page, so I called Cori and confirmed there was plenty to do from there.  We’ve been “cheating off her paper” since we started this trip, but I also wanted to have the flexibility to explore options on my own as well.   The trouble was when I strike out on my own, I have to figure out where to stay, and once again I was getting conflicting reviews from Campendium.  There were lots of spots along Hancock Road near the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, but one of the reviews said they were too sandy for big rigs and another said it was fine as long as you stopped on the road and walked the site before pulling in.  We decided to check it out for ourselves, especially since it was only a couple of hours from Zion, and headed to Kanab.

First we had to dump our black and grey tanks, and fill our fresh water, so we stopped at a Chevron on 59 East that we had seen when we went to Gooseberry Mesa.  This was the first time I have ever had to find a place to dump and take on fresh water, and despite having several apps to help me it still was more difficult than I thought it would be.  The Chevron charged $7 to dump, which was fine, but then told us the water was not potable.  I am not 100% sure that was true after seeing their brand spanking new setup, but it wasn’t worth the risk for us. They also had bulk propane, which we needed, but not surprisingly there was no one there who could fill it.  This happens to us all the time. Even at truck stops that have RV lanes there is often bulk propane for sale, but nobody there trained to dispense it. By this time it was 12:30pm so we ate a quick lunch in their very large parking lot, and then got back on the road.

Along the way, near Pipe Springs Monument, we stopped at another Chevron, this one owned and operated by the local reservation.  Even though it didn’t show on any of my apps, they were fine with us filling up with water and had a nice big area on the north side of the building that we could use.  It took about a half an hour to fill the tank, because the flow rate was low, but we both felt better having water in the tank.  Now we could stop anywhere and stay, so we headed to Hancock road.

The road itself was paved, and very big-rig friendly, and the views along the way of the coral colored sand dunes were really pretty.  I wasn’t nervous going down the road, because I saw it ended at the State campground and knew if nothing else we would be able to turn around there if we needed to.  Almost from the beginning there were lots of places to boondock.  Some of the sand roads went back pretty far, and we saw several RV’s tucked back in the trees.  The views were pretty as well and I was getting pretty excited about the spot, but every time we stopped and got out and looked we could see relatively deep ruts in the sand roads.

Impossible (for me) to get the color in a picture but it was a coral pink. Lee, by the way, only saw the sand as tan colored so depending on how you perceive color it might not be this pretty.

If you own an ATV I would absolutely recommend this place. Looks like a ton of fun

 

Lee was getting concerned that I would try to push this issue, but I reassured him that I wouldn’t ask him to pull into anywhere he wasn’t comfortable with.  Unfortunately that ended up being in none of the spots, and we spent a frustrating hour stopping, getting out and looking, and then continuing to drive.  Soft sand, unlike hard packed dirt, can be a real problem with RV’s, and since we didn’t have four-wheel drive and there was no cell signal on the road, it just wasn’t worth the risk.  There was one big spot that would probably have worked near the intersection of Hancock and County Road 43, but it was full of RV’s with ATV’s and wasn’t really what we were looking for. The only cool thing about the drive is we got hit by a pink whirling dervish of sand that was at least 30 feet across.  That surprised both of us, and was really cool. The rest of the time was just frustrating though, especially because the location was perfect for what we wanted to do.

Ultimately we ended up driving all the way to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Campground and because of a cancellation they did have a spot available.  Unfortunately it was just a big parking lot, more designed for people looking to use ATVs in the park, and since we didn’t have an ATV, at $28 a night wasn’t a good bargain for us.  They were doing construction at the park, and it looked like they were putting in several rows of “proper” RV sites, with pedetals and spigots, so that’s a good sign for the future. It was pretty and I loved the coral colored sand, and I would highly recommend it if you have an ATV, but since we didn’t have one and it was around 3pm we decided to keep moving and headed towards Page.

Once we got on 89 the road was absolutely beautiful.  We crossed through the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument, The Vermillion Cliffs Monument, and the south end of Glen Canyon along the way.  It was rough driving right by that stuff without stopping to take pictures and explore, but it was getting later and I was trying to find out more about the Stateline Campground.  This is a small (and free) BLM campground right in the middle between Kanab and Page.  Unfortunately it is down a 10 mile road and once I saw how steep it was (plus dirt) I decided to not even chance it.  If we got there and the sites were too small for us, it would be a long drive back to the main road and then towards Page.

Finally we made it to Lone Rock Primitive Beach campground, and we were pretty stressed from the day.  What should have been a really mellow 3 hour drive, turned into an all day trip and neither one of us was very happy about it.  When we got into the campground we took a moment to get our bearings, and both realized we weren’t exactly sure how to proceed. It was after 5pm, so the entrance shack was unmanned, but there was a pay station that took credit cards.  The campground has fresh water, trash dumpsters, and an RV dump station near the entrance, but not clearly designated camping spots.  We paid for one night, and then drove in and after looking at the sign that read “Deep Sand-Proceed At Your Own Risk” we headed down to the beach.  There were lots of big rigs there, and a place to park higher up if you weren’t comfortable going down, but since there were several roads leading down to the beach area, we weren’t sure which way to go.  Ultimately we picked a path that looked a little rockier and more solid than soft sand, and was to the north and made it down successfully.  I am glad we went that way, because later Lee took the truck alone up a different path on the south end and almost got stuck in the softer sand.

Driving into Lone Rock

The booth which is manned mainly between 9am and 6pm as far as we could tell. Since it’s still off season it wasn’t every day

There is an automatic pay station for after hours. $14 a night, which is steep for boondocking but they do have trash, water, and a dump onsite

We went down, and most of the spots right along the water were taken, but we found a spot just a little higher up that was right across from the lone rock.  It took us a while to place ourselves just right, and to get our RV level, but when it was done we both took a breath because the spot was absolutely beautiful.

If you are not comfortable parking on the beach you can stay up here on the plateau. Our friends Linda and Steve did, and really liked the view from there

The north end of the beach is much safer for bigger rigs

We were told to stay away from the south end so we did

I will say, to be completely transparent, that someone had left a pair of shorts and some toilet paper directly in front of our site, but I put on some gloves and put it in a trashbag and then it was perfect. Despite the amount of people it was very quiet, so quiet I could even hear the beating of a crows wings in the morning.  And at night the sky was a “bowl full of stars” that completely came down to the horizon.  Breathtaking.

I circled our RV in the spot we finally chose. It looks crowded, but there was at least 4 RV lengths between us and our neighbors.

View from our rig

The cliff in the front had an inlet at the base of it and gave us some extra protection from the wind. Plus it was more rocky on the cliff than down on the beach proper.

 

So we are here and not sure how long we will stay because this area requires some research.  Unlike a National Park where the information center has everything you need, this area will require a little more time to make sure we see everything. As of this writing Lee has gone into town and is getting propane and trying to get some information about the area.  I am using this time to get caught up on the blogging so I can clear my mind of Zion and start fresh in this area.

Not surprisingly I am finding it hard to keep up, because of the amount of pictures we are taking.  I am taking Lee’s advice and going to write the narrative first, while it’s fresh in my mind, and then fill in the pictures later.  It’s not so much that I feel pressure to blog in a timely manner as I find that the more time that passes the less I can remember about the experience.  I can only hold so much in that aging brain of mine and want to capture the moment as completely as I can.  I don’t want to spend the daylight hours on that so I am taking time in the mornings and evening as I can to chip away at it.  Thankfully our solar system is working wonderfully,  and I have more than enough power to use the computer anytime I want.

Speaking of that, I want to take a moment and thank Greg of RV Solar Solutions for designing the perfect system for us.  We could never stay in places like this without our solar and I am beyond happy with the system that we have.  They are a great company and provide a great product, and yes, they are friends of ours, but I am a tough customer.  I would do it again without a second of hesitation, and highly recommend them if you want to stay in places with a view like this, for free, or nearly free.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.