Utah – Moab and Arches National Park

April 10 – 21, 2014

We looked forward to visiting Moab, Utah.  The last time we were here was 23 years ago when we rented a canoe and spent a week on the Green River in Canyonlands National Park.  We have really fond memories of that vacation and just wanted to see the area again.  I wasn’t prepared for just how special Moab would feel to me!  I love it here!  It has the same special vibe as Durango, Colorado.  I think it must be the energy from all the outdoor activities.  We spent 11 days here and only left because we had a reservation at the Colorado National Monument.  But now we plan to return and spend another 3 weeks here in May.  There is so much to do and it just feels good to be here!

Lots to do around Moab and lots of outfitters to help you do it!

Lots to do around Moab and lots of outfitters to help you do it!

Kayaks on the roof, bikes on the back - a common sight

Kayaks on the roof, bikes on the back – a common sight

Mike loves anything that has that old west feel.

It’s a very casual place

Moab

Moab – so cute

Our blogger friends, Al and Ingrid from LiveLaughRV, saved us a beautiful spot on public land just north of Moab.  It was a large and level spot with sweeping views of the snow-capped La Sal Mountains and Arches National Park.  And it’s free.  Love it!

Our perfect campsite on Willow Springs Road

Our perfect campsite!

View of La Sal Mountains from our campsite

View of La Sal Mountains from our campsite

We were lucky to get a full moon while we were here.

Full Moon rising over the La Sal Mountains - view from our campsite

Full Moon rising over the La Sal Mountains – view from our campsite

The lunar eclipse was also going to happen about 1 a.m.  We don’t stay up that late, so I set my alarm.  I’ve set my alarm in the past to make sure I don’t miss special nighttime sky events, but I never actually get up.  Mike would’ve bet money that I would turn off the alarm and go back to sleep.  But I didn’t!  I actually got up and went outside.  Into the cold cold night air.  I bundled up the best I could, but my fingers still went numb while I watched the eclipse go through its slow process.  I’m not the best photographer, but I was able to capture somewhat of a red hue.  You can see the bright star Spica in the photo, as well.

Lunar Eclipse and Spica

Lunar Eclipse and Spica

There are a few good things about getting older.  Not many, but a few.  One of them is our Senior Pass which gives us free unlimited access to all National Parks and Monuments.  We took advantage of being so near and went into Arches National Park quite a few times to do many of the wonderful hikes.

Beautiful rocks in Arches National Park

Beautiful rocks in Arches National Park

Landscape Arch

Landscape Arch

Double O Arches

Double O Arches

Pine Tree Arch

Pine Tree Arch

The hike into the Fiery Furnace is led by a Ranger.  The trail is rated challenging and sounded like fun.  We wanted to do the hike, so we signed up even though we typically don’t enjoy going with groups.  It moved much slower than we normally go, with many rest stops, but the little talks were informative so we enjoyed it.

Into the Fiery Furnace

Into the Fiery Furnace

Ranger-led hike into Fiery Furnace

Ranger-led hike into Fiery Furnace

We also enjoyed the 7 mile hike through the Devil’s Garden.  Lots of rock scrambling and beautiful views.

Rock cairns mark the way through Devil's Garden

Rock cairns mark the way through Devil’s Garden

Parts of the trail had steep drop-offs on both sides.

Parts of the trail had steep drop-offs on both sides.

17 rock cairns mark the way

Part of the trail was soft sand

Part of the trail was soft sand

Another day, we drove out Highway 128 along the Colorado River to tour the Movie and Cowboy Museum at the Red Cliffs Lodge.  You know Mike loves all that old cowboy stuff, and especially loves to see where the movies were made.  I had no idea that so many movies were filmed in this area!  It was a fun to see the old (and new) movie posters and read the history.

As we were driving along the Colorado River, we pulled into one of the campgrounds on the river.  They had a great site available for us the following morning, so we moved in the next day and stayed for 6 nights.  It was nice to be on the water and only 3 miles from downtown Moab.  Our previous boondocking site was about 12 miles from downtown Moab.  So this was great for running into town for whatever reason.  We also discovered some of the great hiking trails that are not in the National Park, so Lucy could go with us.

Lucy got another pair of boots.  She likes these much better.  They are less awkward.

Lucy got another pair of boots. She likes these much better. They are less awkward.

We hiked an easy trail to Morning Glory Bridge, which had a number of stream crossings.  Mike carried Lucy across to keep her feet dry.

Hike to Morning Glory Bridge

Hike to Morning Glory Bridge

Mike carries Lucy for the stream crossings

Mike carries Lucy for the stream crossings

We also hiked to the Corona Arch.  The weather has been wonderful and everything is in bloom along the trails.  So beautiful.

Corona Arch

Corona Arch

Lots of blooming cactus and wild flowers

Lots of blooming cactus and wild flowers

So much of the hiking around Moab is on slickrock.  It is amazing how your hiking boots stick to it.  You can walk on very steep rocks and feel quite sure-footed.

Hiking up slickrock

Hiking up slickrock

However, sometimes you need a little help.

Sometimes you'll find cables to help on the straight up parts of the trail

Sometimes you’ll find cables to help on the straight up parts of the trail

A special place, perhaps?

A special place, perhaps?

We departed Moab on April 21 because we had reservations in the Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction, Colorado.  But we plan to return to Moab after our visit here in the Colorado National Monument.  We just didn’t get enough of Moab.  We’re coming back for most of May, and we can’t wait!  We will return to our spot on Willow Springs Road because even though it is a few miles further out, we like the freedom of being unregulated by campground rules.  We enjoyed the campground on the River, but they had generator hours that restricted its usage from 8 pm to 8 am.  That doesn’t work for us.  Mike needs his Keurig K-cup at 6:30 am!  Then, he brings my coffee to me in bed.  He’s been doing that for 23 years and I love it.

We don’t have solar panels, so we must run our generator for 1-2 hrs in the morning and 1-2 hrs in the evening to charge our batteries.  If the gen has to be off at 8 pm, that means we have to run it during happy hour when we are sitting outside enjoying our campfire, etc.  When we’re out boondocking by ourselves, we prefer to run the gen later in the evening while we watch TV or whatever.  And if we can’t start the gen until 8 am, we lose a lot of our day waiting for the batteries to get fully charged.  We prefer to get them topped up early in the morning.  Anyway, enough whining about batteries.  We need solar panels!!

The Bear getting a bath in Moab

The Bear getting a bath in Moab – washing off the bugs and red dirt

Up next, Colorado National Monument.  Cheers!

 

 

Utah – Comb Wash, House on Fire, and Natural Bridges

April 7 – 10, 2014

After getting our fill of camping on the edge of a cliff in Gooseneck State Park, we continued north on Hwy 191 toward Blanding, Utah, and turned west on Utah 95 for 14 miles to arrive at Comb Wash.  Comb Wash is BLM land and it is free to boondock at this lovely spot.  We read about this location on another blog that we follow Wheeling It.  We have the same size rig as Paul and Nina, so I always feel confident following in their footsteps.  If they can do it, we can do it!  Plus, they always find amazing places.

Comb Wash campsite with views of Comb Ridge

Comb Wash campsite with views of Comb Ridge

We got a very large level site and set ourselves up so that our refrigerator was on the shady side.  This also gave me the necessary afternoon shade to enjoy sitting outside and watching the late afternoon sun light up beautiful colors on Comb Ridge.

Our view of Comb Ridge

Our view of Comb Ridge

Mike and Lucy get comfy for happy hour.

Lucy knows how to relax

Lucy knows how to relax

Nigh-night

Nigh-night

There are many wonderful hikes in this area, but one that we were particularly interested in was the hike to House on Fire.  This is a Puebloan ruin that looks like it is on fire when the sunlight hits it just right.  We read that late morning was the perfect time to catch the light.  What time is that?  We aren’t early morning people, but I figured that we would be doing good if we got to the trail head by 9:30 a.m.  That would give us plenty of time to hike the 1.5 miles to the ruins and still arrive by “late morning”.  I’m impressed that we actually did make it to the trail head at 9:30, but then I got so anxious about missing the perfect sun moment that we practically ran the mile and a half!  We got there way too early.

Mike and Lucy patiently wait for the sun to be right for my picture

Mike and Lucy patiently wait for the sun to be right for my picture

Finally, at about 11:15 am, the flames appeared.  It was definitely worth the wait.

House on Fire Puebloan ruins

House on Fire Puebloan ruins

House on Fire2 I don’t want to take away the magic for everyone, but I thought I would share a picture of what it looks like when it’s NOT on fire.

When the sun gets too high, the flames fade out

When the sun gets too high, the flames fade out

The sun doesn’t actually shine on the rocks.  They are always in the shade.  It’s a reflection of light at a certain angle that creates the magic flames.  We continued on the trail for another couple of miles and saw other cliff ruins, as well.  It was a good hike.

Dirt trail to House on Fire

Some of the trail is dirt

Some of the trail was sandy

Some of the trail is soft sand

Some of the trail was slickrock

Some of the trail is slickrock

Of course, we had to visit Natural Bridges National Monument.  Lucy couldn’t hike with us there, so she had to stay home.  There are 3 natural bridges at the park.  A natural bridge is made by the erosive action of moving water.  We hiked to Sipapu Bridge which is the second largest natural bridge in the world.  It also has the steepest trail to the canyon bottom in the park, and we felt it!

Sipapu Natural Bridge

Sipapu Natural Bridge

On the trail to Sipapu Natural Bridge

On the trail to Sipapu Natural Bridge

Several ladders on this trail help get you down the canyon

Several ladders on this trail help you get down the canyon

Beautiful view from the trail

Beautiful view from the trail

Climbing back up was the fun part.  Whew.

We're under the bridge

We’re under the Sipapu bridge

Huffing back up the canyon trail

Climbing back up the canyon trail with a little help in some places

We also hiked to Owachomo Bridge, the oldest and most delicate of the 3 bridges.  This was a short and easy hike.

Owachomo Natural Bridge from the trail head

Owachomo Natural Bridge from the trail head

Under the Owachomo Bridge

Under the Owachomo Bridge

We only stayed in Comb Wash a few nights, but we plan to return.  There are many more excellent hikes in this area that we have on our list!

Next up, Moab and Arches National Park.  Cheers!

Utah – Monument Valley to Gooseneck State Park

March 28 – April 7, 2014

We were excited to begin our month of boondocking as we headed into Navajo Nation and the Monument Valley.  We felt like the weather was finally warming up enough  to allow us to leave Arizona and head north into the beautiful state of Utah.  The picture below is the road that Forrest Gump was on when he decided to stop running because he was tired.  Do you recognize it?

I Call This Forrest Gump Highway

I Call This Forrest Gump Highway

We learned of a primitive camp (no electricity or water) on Monument Valley Road about 1 mile east of Highway 163, called Mustang Valley.  Dorothy is the contact person at 928-209-5106.  She can see the camp from her house, which is about 1/2 mile away, and she will drive down to collect the $15 fee each day.

Monument Valley Primitive Campgroup.  Uh-oh, what's Lucy doing?

Monument Valley Primitive Campgroup. Uh-oh, what’s Lucy doing?

We paid another $10 to go into the Navajo Nation Visitor’s Center which was 3 miles further east on Monument Valley Road.  Within the Navajo Nation is a 17-mile scenic drive through Monument Valley on a really rutted bumpy dirt road.  Many people pay for the jeep tour, but we decided to beat up our car and drive it ourselves.  The speed limit is 10 mph, but even that is too fast for this rough road.  I’m actually glad we drove because the jeeps went flying by us and all the passengers were covering their eyes and mouth to keep all the dust out.  That didn’t look like fun.  We were able to pull over whenever we wanted, take pictures or take a walk at our leisure.

17 Mile Scenic Drive Through Monument Valley

17 Mile Scenic Drive Through Monument Valley

IMG_5726 Mike frames Monument Valley

 

We went across Highway 163 to Gouldings Resort $$$ to check out how the other half live.  An interesting sight at the fuel station!

Interesting...

Interesting…

We enjoyed a couple of days in Monument Valley, and then saw that a wind storm was approaching the next day.  We were camped out in the open in soft and very fine red dirt.  We could just imagine what would happen to us if we sat here in 40 mph winds.  We’d never get all the dirt out.  So we decided not to find out.  We hot-footed it up to Bluff and spent the next few days at Cadillac Ranch RV Park.  It was nice to have a full hook-up, I must admit.  And, as predicted, the wind blew!

Dust In The Air During The Wind Storm

Dust In The Air During The Wind Storm – Metal Benches Overturned

What a difference a day makes!

Calm Weather Returns

Calm Weather Returns

After The Storm - Clear Skies

Cadillac Ranch RV Park in Bluff, Utah

The RV Park is across the street from historic Fort Bluff, settled in 1880 by Mormon pioneers.  The story of these 70 families and their 6-month journey covering 260 miles across some impossible terrain was impressive.  Historians consider this expedition one of the most extraordinary wagon trips ever undertaken in North America and I agree!  The presentation we watched was jaw dropping.  These were some tough folks!

Early Mormon Settlement of Fort Bluff

Early Mormon Settlement of Fort Bluff

We also drove another 17-mile dirt road through gorgeous Valley of the Gods.  This is another sandstone valley with stunning rock formations.  It is considered a photographer’s paradise.  This dirt road was MUCH better than the one through Monument Valley.

Valley of the Gods, near Bluff, Utah

Valley of the Gods, near Bluff, Utah

If our rig was a bit smaller, we could camp here.  This beautiful location made us wish we were in something smaller.  This is BLM land, and camping is free.  In the picture below, Mike is standing at a campsite clearing.  Can you imagine waking up to this view?

I Want This Campsite!!

I Want This Campsite!!

Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods

So cute

What Are You Looking At?  (I think they are so cute)

Next it was time to backtrack a little bit.  We had blown past Gooseneck State Park when we were running from the windstorm earlier in the week.  We absolutely did not want to miss camping on the rim of the canyon.  And we were planning to rendezvous with our blogger friends Ingrid and Al of LiveLaughRV.  Then, another weather system decided to head our way bringing the wind back.  It was kind of scary!  We even pulled our slides in.  I didn’t want our slide-out toppers to turn into parasails and send us into the canyon!

Camped On The Rim of Gooseneck State Park

Camped On The Rim of Gooseneck State Park

This is the view from our side window.  Imagine the wind rocking the rig!

This is the view from our side window. Imagine the wind rocking the rig!

We had a blast anyway because we were enjoying fun times with our friends.  Thanks to Ingrid for sharing some of her pictures with me and allowing me to use them on my blog.

Sitting By The Campfire

Sitting By The Campfire

Mike is feasting on Ingrid's yummy guacamole!

Mike is feasting on Ingrid’s yummy guacamole!

Mike and Al solving the problems of the world

Mike and Al solving the problems of the world

If you’ve never seen her blog, Ingrid is a wonderful photographer.  You should check it out at www.livelaughrv.net

Ingrid is always looking to catch the light just right

Ingrid is always looking to catch the light just right

 

Ohhhhhh!  Too close for comfort!

Ohhhhhh! Too close for comfort!

We drove the switchbacks up to Muley Point, which was another vertigo-challenging day.  But oh so beautiful!

Switchbacks on Route 261 up to Muley Point Overlook

Switchbacks on Route 261 up to Muley Point Overlook

I put the camera on a tripod and set the 10-second timer so I could be in the picture.  Then I just hoped I wouldn’t be running so fast to get in the picture that I would fly off the cliff.

Muley Point Overlook

Muley Point Overlook

Lucy must really like to look over the edge of cliffs!

Lucy must really like to look over the edge of cliffs!

Next up, Natural Bridges National Monument, House of Fire and Comb Wash BLM.  Cheers!