Saturday, September 29, 2012

9/28 Flagstaff AZ

I am staying in a campground is just a few feet outside of the Sunset Crater National Monument.  The monument shares a loop drive with the Wupatki National Monument, which consists of several ancient Native American village sites.  The volcano erupted about 800 years ago here and buried several native villages, so the peoples moved slightly away from the eruption and grew crops on the soil which had been enriched by the volcanic ash.  This campground is situated on what is called the Bonito Flow, and you can see that the earth here is black and ashy, and just barely covered with plants.  The Ponderosa Pine do fairly well here, so it is forested, but still vegetation is sparse.

Lesson learned at this forest service campground—they do not provide a dump station or water to fill your tanks.  After much discussion with the camp host couple, I drove over to the group camp host’s setup and he sold me some of his water, which apparently the camp hosts have to pay for beyond a certain amount.  Now at least I have a full tank, which will last me 3-4 days.

Extremely quiet here since we are two miles off the main road and have no power or hookups.  No cell phone service either!  With no cell or internet service, I did some reading, took a hot shower, and went to bed early.  Kept dropping my Kindle, so dozed off around 9:00 pm last night—really early for me!  I really prefer these national/state park and forest campgrounds to the commercial places where you are stuffed almost a handshake from your next door neighbor and can smell what they are cooking and hear their conversations.  Here you are spread out and have much more privacy and quiet.

It rained hard for at least a couple of hours last night.  Perfect weather here—70s in daytime and low 50s at night.  Motorhome gets chilly a night, but I am plenty warm with my down throw and the rear furnace kicking on periodically.
Today, I visited the Museum of Northern Arizona.  VERY nice!!  It has an amazing collection of Native American artifacts, well displayed.  One room, for example, was dedicated to baskets and basket techniques and another to pottery and its techniques as practiced by the various Native American groups over the millennia. I spent a good three hours here and bought a book in the bookshop—got to move faster on reading all this stuff I am accumulating!!

Since the parking lot was almost empty, and they had said I could stay as long as I wanted to there, I got online and wrote out addresses for Lowell Observatory and the Arboretum, which I want to visit over the next few days.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

9/26 Lake Powell & Rainbow Bridge

When I was here three weeks ago, daytime temps were around 95, so I did not take this long boat tour to Rainbow Bridge because the boat was not air conditioned and there was a 1.5 mile hike at the end to actually get to the bridge.  The temperatures have dropped to the lower 80s, and I knew I had to drive past Lake Powell on my way from Bryce Canyon to Flagstaff, so I decided to spend another night here at Wahweap and signed up for the tour.

It is a five-and-a-half hour boat tour, leaving from the nearby hotel.  I chose the noon tour because it would allow me to drive the 140 miles from Bryce.  Got here in enough time to hook up and leave the AC on in my RV.  There is a shuttle to the hotel, so I got a ride so I did not have to hike the half mile down the road. 

Here is the boat going through the channel from the marina.  When we came here with the kids in 1980 and rented a small boat, the water level in this area was about 75 feet higher than it is today. All of this land you see on the sides of this channel and in the distance, except for the cliff, were covered by water, so I remember the lake as being much bigger:

Apparently, they had to blast this 13' deep channel.  When the water goes even lower, they will not blast again, so the boats will have to take a longer route, making it a 7 hour trip instead of 5.5! 

Here is one photo going down the lake:

It is a 49 mile boat ride, and these photos show us entering the narrow canyon.  Can you see the "bathtub ring"?  That shows the mineral deposits left when the lake was higher, but not quite at its highest.

The bridge is sacred to the Native Americans, so this is as close as you can get.  It hard to determine scale, but the top is at least 30' in diameter:
Here is a photo from our trip in 1980 showing water under the bridge.  Then you could take a boat almost up to it, without the long walk, but the water level was damaging.

9/25 More Bryce Canyon

I took a bus tour today to the furthest point in the canyon, except this park is really not a canyon, but a ridge.  It was narrated by a guy who not only told us about the canyon, but also a bunch of detailed stories about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, who were from this area.  Apparently, he has a personal friend who was their relative who told all these stories, and who clearly has to be at least 120 years old!!!  Pretty funny.

Anyway, here are a few more photos:

Monday, September 24, 2012

9/23 Bryce Canyon

Bryce is only about 85 miles from Zion National Park, and a relatively easy drive through several small towns and ranch land.  Because the two parks are so close together, people who see one tend to stop at the other.   The parks, however, and their weather are considerably different.  While Zion is a long canyon, Bryce is actually a single, long ridge of land with “hoodoo” formations on only one side. 

It was a very nice drive in through Red Canyon.  There was a paved bike trail for several miles, which looked interesting, but I think I am confining my bike riding to lower elevations:

Zion is hot during the days because it is only at 3,000’, but Bryce is much cooler because it is at 8,000+’.   Zion is mostly desert with shorter trees and a lot of desert plants, while Bryce has mostly Ponderosa pine and is more forested.  See my campsite for an example of this type of forest at Bryce:

Frankly, I am a little disappointed with Bryce.  There is really less to see and do here.  No real museum and not as many ranger programs as at Zion.  While I spent eight days at Zion without getting very bored, I am getting bored here fast.  I got here yesterday and took the shuttle today around the entire park, getting off at most stops and taking photos.  Here are some photos of what I saw:

There is a longer drive down to Rainbow Point at the far end, and I signed up for a ranger tour of that for Tuesday at noon.  It is three-and-a-half hour tour, so I will need to bring water and a snack.   
It is really cold here, and it rained a bit, which does make me less likely to want to go out and explore.  Kept my furnace running all night and will do the same tonight.  I spent quite a bit of time today researching where I want to go over the next 4 weeks through Arizona and New Mexico, and I made some reservations where I could.  Looking forward to the Flagstaff area and Phoenix! 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

9/22 Leaving Zion National Park

Last day in Zion, so I packed up and headed east back through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel.  Had a long wait this time because so many cars were entering from the other direction.  Nothing else to do, so I did not mind!  If you are interested in this historic tunnel, here is at least one quick website:

I managed to take one photo inside, but decided it was not a good idea to be focusing on keeping a big vehicle headed right down the middle so I had enough clearance and taking photos at the same time:

The few miles east of the tunnel along Route 9 is very different from Zion Canyon.  It consists of ancient sand dunes that were compressed into sandstone, but it must have been a very windy place because the layers are so distinct and at such strange angles.  It was very hard to find places to pull over because they were full of cars and my vehicle needs a lot of room, but here is what I did take:

I am in Bryce now, with no hookups or power.  Not sure how long I am staying here, but I will check out the visitor center tomorrow.  There is a shuttle service here, also, and I am camped within easy walking distance of one of the stops, so I will not be moving until I decide I need to go find the laundromat that is supposed to be in the park.  It is too far away to walk, so drive it will be. 

Looking forward to seeing "hoodoos" tomorrow!

9/20 Still in Zion National Park

As some of you know, I have said that one of my goals in my retirement was to slow down and enjoy life.  I have worked a full-time and a part-time job for over 22 years, spending my evenings and weekends grading papers, and until she passed away, taking care of my elderly mother.  I have gotten used to double and triple-tasking.  I had little time for hobbies or doing things for pleasure.  I had little time for walking or bike riding or doing any outdoor activities, so I kept my winter pallor all year.

I used to squeeze out time from business trips or IACET meetings out of town, to see as much as I could in a limited time.  I actually went to weekend meetings in both Boston and in Vancouver where I left the hotel for only a few minutes over a two-day period!  Philadelphia was one place I did take a few extra hours to see the Liberty Bell and have dinner in a nice restaurant with friends, but it was a rushed weekend.
When I planned this trip, I set my schedule so I would be spending several days to a week in major parks, and stopping for more than an overnight on the way.  I am forcing myself to be bored occasionally, in other words. 
I’ve developed sort of a routine where I try to do one sightseeing thing each day, but only lasting 3-4 hours.  I get up, make my bed, get dressed, have something to eat, and go out to do something.  It might be taking a trail of some sort, visiting a museum or visitor center, listening to a ranger talk, or going shopping for something.  (Today, my big activity was taking the shuttle to the post office to mail some things to my grandkids!)    

Then I go back “home” and read, watch TV, or get online to catch up on the news and friends.  I fix dinner and eat, do laundry if I can, do more reading and such, get my shower, and then go to bed, where I spend a couple of hours reading my Kindle books.   Not very exciting, but I am doing all of this in some very scenic places.  I’ve attended some of the evening ranger talks in some of the places I have been, but sometimes I just skip them and stay home. 

Am I bored?  Sometimes.  But I would be bored at my old condo.  Could I use some company?  Sometimes.  But that would be true at my old condo, also. 

I have all of the comforts of home here, and I can look out my windows and watch the goings on of my fellow campers, which is sometimes pretty interesting.  The best part is that I have more things to see and places to go to, and the next place is always a bit of a surprise.  I’ll be headed to Bryce next, and then maybe stopping back at Lake Powell to take the Rainbow Bridge boat tour and hike, now that the weather is cooler.  Then several days in Flagstaff.  I am working on planning out where I will be in October right now.  Phoenix and Tucson are terribly hot right now, so I am hoping they cool down a bit in a couple of weeks.  Long term plans involve meeting some ladies who do this in Texas at the end of October and making it back to Michigan and Ohio by mid-November.  Onward!! 

9/18 Zion Canyon Riverwalk & Emerald Pools

I’m a few days behind on posting blog entries, but I decided it was safer to tell people what I had done than what I was planning to do.
The canyon that makes up Zion National Park, as is true with Grand Canyon,  was formed by a river, the Virgin River in this case.  Because of the rock structure of several layers of sandstone on top of a mudstone, the water from the uplifted, high Colorado Plateau seeps through the porous sandstone.  When the water hits the mudstone, it has to find a place to go, so it moves horizontally, creating springs and seeps in the canyon wall.  Combined, these add to the water and make the valley relatively lush for a desert getting little rain.  Sometimes it takes the water a thousand years to make this journey, so the seeps and springs contain old water and are not dependent on current rainfall. 

The canyon begins at the south end as a broad river plain, but as you go farther north, it gets narrower and narrower, ending in a narrow, deep canyon.  One of the most popular walks in the park is 1.2 miles long and goes down the narrowest end until there is no place left to walk but in the river itself.  The path is paved and even handicap accessible.   Adventurous people who have brought the right shoes and walking sticks to balance themselves can walk in the river for another mile until the canyon ends in a slot canyon, which is impassable.
I took this walk yesterday, but obviously, I did not make it past the paved part!  Here is the beginning of the trail:

The squirrels were positively aggressive.  There are signs warning you about bites, and after one actually crawled on my lap when I was not looking, I can see how that would be likely.  There is a $500 fine for feeding them!!
And here is the end where people are wading in the river and some are continuing upstream.

Today, I took the shuttle and walked up to Emerald Pools, which is one of those seeps coming out of the sandstone.  The water is dripping over a long overhang and creating pools at the bottom. 

I’ve been trying to do just one touristy thing each day, and then spend the rest of my time housekeeping and relaxing, and of course, watching TV while I have it.  Just four PBS stations here, and no power next week, so no TV then.
Shuttles in this park are marvelous.  I can leave my rig parked and just walk a few hundred feet to the visitor center shuttle stop--very convenient.  There is a shuttle that goes up the canyon and another into town.  The road past the lodge is closed to all but shuttle traffic, meaning that it is less crowded and there is less traffic and parking problems.   

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

9/16 Zion National Park

I arrived here a couple of days ago after stocking up on groceries in Kanab, UT, the nearest town (80 miles) which has a real grocery store.  I found a credit union also and got some cash, so I should be OK for a couple of weeks. I’ve been trying to carry enough basics like paper goods and drinks to last me several weeks so I don’t have to spend money in the very expensive campground or local stores where a pint of ice cream can be as much as $8.50!!
Very nice, scenic road to the park, even though my GPS did NOT want me to take this road and kept warning me how curvy it was.  I need to find a fix because it also keeps warning me about my route taking me over so many miles of dirt roads, even when there are NO dirt roads.  It did this on expressways, so it is really nutty.

The entrance road inside the park has incredible views of what are really huge ancient sand dunes that have become sandstone. This one is called the checkerboard mesa:

Check out the signs on this Zion entrance tunnel.  My motorhome is 11’8” tall, which is very common.  Apparently, they used to let motorhomes drive through with other traffic, but then a lot of them got roof damage.  Now they charge you a $15 fee to close the tunnel and let you drive right down the mile-long middle.  In reality, you are really convoying with several other regular and large vehicles, but it was a neat experience. 
Here is what the tunnel openings look like from the outside and the rest of the entrance road:

And here is my campsite!  I have power, which is nice because the days are very hot.  Nights are very cold and windy, however, and sun rises late and sets early because of the canyon walls, but it stays light for quite a while. Nice to have large campsites which have some shade and a lot of landscaping between each. They ask you to be careful not to walk on plants.  Terrific views from all.
More in a couple of days.

Friday, September 14, 2012

9/13 Hiking the Transept Trail

The lodge on the North Rim of Grand Canyon sits on a point of land, Bright Angel Point, that is about a mile wide and six or seven miles long.  On the east side of the point is Roaring Springs Canyon, where both sides of the rim get all their spring water.  On the west side of the point is the Transept, a 3,000 foot deep canyon formed by a fault that cuts across all the way to the South Rim.

The North Rim Campground is a mile or so up the point from the lodge and visitor center.  Other than driving, the Transept Trail is the only way to get to the lodge along the rim.  It cuts through a lot of Ponderosa Pine forest and has some good views of the canyon. 

My campsite was about 300 feet from the beginning of this trail, so today, after consulting with a couple who assured me that they were out of shape and had managed to walk it, I decided to give it a try, even with the high altitude.  Here is the start of the trail near my campsite: 

And some views along the way:


And here is a 1,000 year old ruin, along the way:

And finally, the lodge at the end!  Climbed up about 40 steps and sat on the porch and rested for a while:

Course, when you get somewhere, you have to hike back.  I decided to take the Bridle trail, which was a bit longer, but supposedly flatter, except it really wasn't.  It was wide and also cut through a lot of forest, but no views of the rim.  Pretty forest, however, and nice walk.

And saw this fellow just before the campground:

Knees were really sore by the time I got back, and the sun was getting low, but overall, I think I did well at 8,200 feet!  Total distance was almost 3 miles.  Whew.

9/12 North Rim, Cape Royal Point

After talking to a park ranger who has lived in an RV for 20 years, I decided to take her advice and take a 25 mile drive on the Cape Royal Point road, even though the sign warned against vehicles longer than 30 feet.  It's really the only scenic drive you can take on the North Rim of the canyon. 

She was right.  It was curvy and had no shoulders, but the speed limit was 35-45 MPH and there was little traffic.  Frankly, it was a LOT easier than driving U.S. 1 on the California coast in redwood country.

I was a little worried because it had been raining for two days and the weather looked iffy that morning.  However, by the time I got out there, the clouds had lifted and the sky mostly cleared. Here are some photos of what I saw:

Unfortunately, at one scenic pullover, I decided to make myself a sandwich and ended up cutting my thumb.  It was hard to bandage it without a thumb to use, but I ended up putting two tight bandaids on it to stop the bleeding and then wrapped it in some of that stretchy wrap.  Big problem was that my carefully put together first aid kit was buried in an inaccessible bottom drawer in my bedroom.  I have now moved it to where I can more easily get it without having to open slides.  Cut turned out to be sore, but not as bad as I first thought. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11 Rain and People Watching

It has been raining constantly since yesterday early afternoon, and cold outside to boot--high today of 60, low last night of 50 or less.  That means I had to cancel the scenic drive I was supposed to take and the long walk I had planned for today.  Since I have no power for TV or DVDs, I have been amusing myself with my portable radio, reading one of the many books I brought along, and getting my class ready for the fall semester.  My coach batteries are going strong and I have plenty of propane, and a refrigerator full of food, so I am all set for a while.  Only problem is fresh water, which I have used up over the last two days.  I probably still have some water in my fresh water tank, but I am parked at a slant and my water pump just cannot get to it.  First thing tomorrow, I will pull in my slides and head out to refill and dump my waste tanks. 

I have moved my recliner around so it is facing the front of the motorhome, which means I have a broad view of both sides and the front--good for watching the few people who are around. 

Actually, the most interesting activities are people arriving and departing with their RVs.  The campground has asphalt roads and camping sites, but the camping sites are semi-circle "pull-throughs" with two problems: 1)  they are fairly tight circles, and 2) they are not level.  Mostly, you pull in and downhill and then the exit is uphill.  There is also a side-to-side slant to the drives.  The trick is to find a place in the middle which is fairly level.  For me, this means running back and forth to the rear where I have my two levels. You have to manuever so as to make sure you do NOT run off the asphalt, because on my site and others, there is a 10" dropoff, which would not be fun.  It would take a wrecker to get the vehicle back up and possibly damage the dual wheels on that side.

I had to leave once, so that makes two times I have gone through the process of getting out and in and out and in, while the engine is running and the emergency brake is set.  I must have done this 10 times. Once I find a good spot, I get out the leveling blocks and put them behind the rear dual tires on the low side, then start the engine back up and back slowly onto them so the tires are perched evenly. 

The fun is not doing this yourself, but watching everyone else do this.  I just watched a guy pulling a 20' Airstream with a large pickup truck drive through his spot twice from one way and once from the other.  He at least had two other people directing him.  After circling the campground to get another run at it, he gave up and apparently went to find another spot because I saw him parked down farther.  He must have spent well over an hour at this, and his spot was a lot more level than mine is.  I have just figured I would walk slightly uphill to bed at night.  The head of my bed, luckily is also uphill, but not by much.

The reason for all of this leveling is mainly to make sure your refrigerator works right and the water tank sensors show accurate levels.  And in my case, the water pump gets all the water out of the tank so I don't have to keep refilling and dumping every two days!!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

9/8 Grand Canyon North Rim

The north rim of the Grand Canyon is a lot different from the south rim.  It is over 1,000’ higher, so not too much bike riding for me, I suspect.  Good thing, however, is that it is definitely cooler—highs in lower 70s instead of lower 80s.  It is also heavily wooded with big trees and is wetter, and most importantly, it is much more out of the way, and therefore less traveled to.  Very, very slow internet here, but at least I have some access. 

I chose to stay in the park at the North Rim Campground.  There are no hookups at all, but there is a dump station, good water, and a market.  I can run my generator twice a day at specified times for two hours to charge up my two big coach batteries.  Not being hooked up also means it is a lot easier to drive to the dump station and refill my water tanks with nice, cold spring water.  That warm Lake Powell water was driving me crazy—tasted funny and you did not hardly even have to use the water heater to get it hot.  So, no AC needed here, and it is nice to be able to open windows to get a cool breeze.  Smells good up here in the unpolluted woods, too!  Here is my campsite:

I arrived yesterday afternoon and other than a couple of long walks haven’t done much of anything.  I’ve been working to get my Fall class ready to open in a couple of weeks, and checking on the Summer semester that is just ending.  As soon as students finish finals, I will enter final grades.  I’ve spent some time catching up on my reading also.  Got a new book about Mary Colter who designed many of the hotels and other buildings for the Fred Harvey Company in the Grand Canyon and elsewhere.  I also got an electronic copy of the Lilly Ledbetter book and have been reading it late at night. 
I’ve been able to charge my laptop, cell phone, and jetpack a couple of times with no apparent effect on my batteries.  Everyone seems to be running generators during the brief times allowed, but I still have lots of power.  Only problem right now is water.  I was parked at an angle when I filled up, and so may not have completely filled my tank.  Now I am on a slightly different angle, even with my leveling blocks, and it reads only ¼ full, so I hope I can get a shower tonight and have enough for flushing.  I’ll go out tomorrow and dump and refill the tanks—this time I will wait until it starts to overfill so I can be sure I have enough for at least three days of careful use.  Sixty gallons does not go far! 

Here are some photos I took today.  Tomorrow I will drive the two miles to the visitor center where the view is better, but these are not bad from very close to where I am camped.

 P.S. It is easier for you to comment now, if you want to. I had the wrong setting that required you to register your email, but it is now fixed.