We had hoped to stay in the national park. Guess what? Yes, the park’s only campground was full. Due to Covid-19, it has become very difficult to find places to camp. There are commercial campgrounds and motels in nearby towns of Torrey, Caineville, and Hanksville. Federal lands are located adjacent to the park. We found a lovely spot off Notom Road. It was quiet, free, and offered a great view. There were only two other campers, one in a tent by the Pleasant Creek and the other in an Airstream about fifty yards away from us.
Below is another view taken from Notom Road. You need to zoom in to see the two campers. The tent camper was down below us in the trees by the stream.
We got settled and headed for the National Park.
“Capital Reef National Park features towering cliffs, massive domes, arches, bridges, and twisting canyons. Over many years, geological forces shaped the earth, creating this rugged, remote area known as the Waterpocket Fold (a barrier of rock that obstructed early travelers like a barrier reef). Erosion creates waterpockets and potholes that collect rainwater and snowmelt, enhancing a rich ecosystem that is found here.”
There are several hikes to choose from that are rated as easy, moderate, or strenuous. There is also an eight-mile scenic drive throughout the park. If you don’t like the to hike or enjoy the hot daytime sun, the Scenic Drive offers breathtaking views along the way. We started out on the road and immediately picked up two female hitchhikers. They wanted a ride to the Grand Wash, and insisted in riding in the bed of the truck as opposed to the back seat. We parked in the lot and took a short .3 mile walk on Cassidy Arch Trail.
It would be nice to come back someday and finish this 3.4 mile round-trip hike. We got back in the truck and continued on Scenic Drive to the end of the paved road. Beyond this point is specifically for foot hikers and 4WD vehicles. We turned around and on the way back stopped at Petroglyph Panel, which is wheelchair accessible. We were able to see some of the ancient drawings from many years ago. Unfortunately, there was new “graffiti” added, too.
Although we were leaving for Moab the next morning, we stopped in the park again to hike Hickman Bridge Trailhead. It was a short hike but well worth the views.
We made a return visit to Horsethief Campground, which is about 30 miles outside of the town of Moab. This campground has immediate access to some great mountain bike trails with varying terrains for all levels. There are also trails for 4WD vehicles. We had fun here back in October of 2018 when we first came through this area. We started on Rowdy, which was a fairly easy trail. As I approached a slightly uphill, rocky patch, I decided to stop and consider my options. As I came to a stop, I lost my balance and fell to my left. I couldn’t get off my bike and the pedal left a few puncture marks on my calf. Then, I whipped my head on a rock that was jetting out below me. I never saw it, but the backside of the my head hit it. I could feel my brain get washed back and forth a bit, and I felt disoriented for just a few moments. Five minutes later, I decided to get off the bike and rest. The message here is to PLEASE wear a helmet…it can save a life.
Needless to say, Scott went off on his own for a bike ride while I rested and took it easy for the next couple of days. I did have a headache, which eventually dissipated within a few days.
Back in 2018, we tried on a few occasions to get into Arches National Park. “Water and ice, extreme temperatures, and underground salt movement are responsible for the sculptured rock scenery of Arches National Park. The park lies atop an underground salt bed that is responsible for the arches, spires, balanced rocks, sandstone fins, and eroded monoliths of this Mecca for sightseers.”
The ridiculous line of cars entering the park always deterred our plan. Here we were again two years later, determined to get in without waiting on line.
We woke up early and arrived at the park at 7:00 a.m. To our delight, there were only a few other cars coming into the park at that time. The guard station didn’t open up until 8:00 a.m., so we just drove in. There is only one entrance station to this park which is off Hwy 191 from the southwest and 128 from the east. There is one main road that runs from the Visitor Center to Devils Garden Trailhead, the end of the paved road. We hiked 7.33 miles with 626’ elevation gain in just under four hours. It was busy in some areas and yet we found ourselves alone at some arches. We chose to begin the hike in a “counterclockwise” direction. The beginning of the hike featured soft, sandy terrain until we began climbing rocks. We stopped at eight of the eleven arches for a photo op.
Scott walked through the “partition” and took a photo of the view on the other side.
The remainder of the hike was filled with boulders to climb down. There was a solo female hiker in front of us and she was carrying something on her back. Zoom in friends.
For some reason, she took off her shoes to navigate the steep decline. I’d imagine it had to be hot on her feet. P.S. – No dogs allowed on trail. This pup wasn’t exactly “on” the trail.
We had to stop for uphill traffic.
That evening, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset.
The next morning, we got up early again and prepared the rig for departure. Today, we would park the rig in the Visitor’s Parking lot and then drive the truck to Delicate Arch Trail. This is the famous arch that is depicted on some of Utah’s license plates. It is 3-miles, round-trip hike that begins heading uphill on a wide, paved trail. Although we had an early start, this trail was particularly crowded, especially at the arch.
We headed southeast on Hwy 14, north on Hwy 89, and then west Hwy 12 past the entrance road to Bryce National Park, which we visited back in the fall of 2018. There was an off trail hike that Scott was interested in, so we spent a few nights boon docking just outside of Escalante.
We drove an hour from our campground along a dirt road to the trailhead for The Volcano/Cosmic Ashtray. It is a nine-mile out and back off trail offering scenic views and is rated as moderate. There is no shade and while the highest elevation gain is only 974’, the cross country hike is up and down and up and around and back up again. Our total elevation gain on this nine mile hike was 1,453’, and it took us just under six hours. Thankfully, there was a breeze most of the time under beautiful blue skies and temperatures in the mid 70’s.
We saw a jackrabbit on this hike, but we didn’t get a photo. They are just too quick. This is only the second time that we have seen a jackrabbit during our travels. If you have a chance to visit Escalante, you MUST stop at Escalante Outfitters for their pizza. Amazing!! Next stop, Capitol Reef National Park!
We were both quite happy to be leaving Nevada and heading towards cooler temperatures. This picture was getting old.
We drove northwest on Interstate Hwy 15 into Arizona. They do have beautiful welcome signs.
It wasn’t long before we crossed over into Utah.
Most states have Watercraft Decontamination Stations shortly after you cross a border. They are mostly concerned with motorboats, but if you have water toys it is smart to stop and get a clearance. We have stopped many times in the past two years, but this was the first time that our toys were given a power wash. This is a free service that is provided as a means to protect the spread of certain species of mussels. They ask you what body of water your craft was in and then, if necessary, clean it for you.
A few hours later, we arrived in Cedar City and then, headed east on Hwy 14 to Hwy 148 to Cedar Breaks National Monument. There is only one 28-site campground in the park and, of course, it was full. It is only open from mid-June to mid-September. We headed back south on Hwy 148 and got back on Hwy 14 east to Navajo Lake. We were very disappointed to find that all the campgrounds on the lake had closed and gated shut for the season. There was an access road to a boat launch, but we needed to find a place to stay for a few nights. We were able to find a beautiful spot (albeit dusty) off Hwy 14.
We took a stroll up the dirt road and looked back at our site.
The next day we visited Cedar Breaks National Monument. This park is known for its colorful rock formations, bristlecone pine groves, and seasonal lush wildflower meadows. It was “National Parks Day”, which means free entry. We have the annual park pass so all national parks are free for us.
We hiked approximately four miles round trip from the Visitor Center to Spectra Point to Ramparts Overlook and then back to the Visitor’s Center. It’s all about going down and up and down and up. I wasn’t feeling so great and suddenly began cramping about halfway back. Unfortunately, I will remember this hike and its unpleasantries. The good news is that we took some great pictures.
The next morning, we took a walk across Hwy 14 from our campground to play on thelavafields.
We travelled south on “quiet” Hwy 93 in eastern Nevada where the landscape is mostly barren except for sporadic shrub land and the occasional grouping of windmills. We drove approximately 345 miles in just under 7 hours. We missed the entrance for The RV Park at Circus Circus and had to drive around the block. Check out the old sign.
Although we were parked in a parking lot, it was a full hookup. We also had access to the outdoor pool, which was just for the RV Park guests. It was perfect for doing laps, and most of the time we had the pool to ourselves. We also had access to the Casino, which we did walk through to get on the strip. We had no interest in gambling, but I did want to see the inside anyway. Once was enough because it was too dark and stunk of cigarette smoke. How can that possibly be legal?
I chose Las Vegas to celebrate my birthday. I wanted to enjoy some more summer-like weather, and I had never been to Las Vegas before. Well, I was in for a big surprise – triple digit weather numbers! This was not quite what I was hoping for. Yet, we made the most of it. We took a daytime drive down the strip to familiarize ourselves with the area. For you football fans out there, the Raiders moved from LA to Las Vegas, and their debut at their new home, Allegiate Stadium, was tonight’s Monday Night Football game. We saw a flyover of seven fighter jets just before game time.
The following morning we took at drive to the Hoover Dam and learned that it was completely closed to all visitors until further notice. So, we took the Lake Mead Parkway (Hwy 564) entrance into Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
“Lake Mead is a man-made lake that lies on the Colorado River, about 24 mi from the Las Vegas Strip, southeast of the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, in the states of Nevada and Arizona. It is the largest reservoir in the United States in terms of water capacity.” (Wikipedia)
There are several campgrounds (with and without hook ups), picnic areas (some with drinking water, but almost all with restrooms), and some easy and moderate hikes to enjoy. We drove to the Marina and then to Boulder Beach, which is on the western end of the lake. This is where we will launch our kayaks on Thursday.
We drove back to the strip and had lunch in France at Mon Ami Gabi. It sits opposite of The Bellagio Hotel, which is famous for its magnificent fountains. We parked on the rooftop of the Bellagio, and had to walk through the casino to get to the street. Bellagio was much cleaner than Circus Circus. Below is a picture taken on the ground floor near the lobby.
In case I never get to Paris, France, this picture of me standing in front of the Eiffel Tower will have to do. The fountains were not running, and we learned that they don’t go on until 3 p.m. We plan to drive by the night of my birthday. I must see them!
The next day the temperature hit 104 degrees! Even though they have low humidity, it was way too hot. Both Scott and I were taking daily swims in the pool as the water was very cool and refreshing. I am not quite sure how they do that, but I’m am glad they did. Besides swimming, it was a day to stay inside enjoying the A/C. I am happy to say that it works very well in our fifth wheel.
Thursday, September 24: My birthday!! My special day began with a drive to Boulder Beach at Lake Mead, kayak and paddle board in tow.
Scott parked at the water’s edge and set up a tarp to block out some sun.
The air temperature was already at three digits, but the water was delightfully refreshing. The views were great, too.
It took us just over two hours to get to the dam. We took turns alternating kayak and paddle board. Scott was on the board when we finally made it to the dam. You can see how low the water level is by looking at the white section on the surrounding rocks.
I was able to get my wish to see the Hoover Dam. Hopefully, we can come back here again some day and take the tour. I hear it is pretty amazing. It took us another two-plus hours of rowing and paddling to get back to the truck. The air temperature was over 100. We took a swim, rested for a bit, and then headed to I AM THAI CUISINE for lunch. Before my birthday, I had reached out on FaceBook asking for restaurant recommendations. There were quite a few, so we had to do some choosing. Because we had a dinner reservation in a few hours, we ordered some appetizers on line to hold us over since we had skipped lunch. When we arrived at the restaurant, our order wasn’t quite ready. Therefore, I was forced to enjoy a cold glass of white wine while we waited. Later, we enjoyed the best spaghetti “Agio E Olio” and meatballs on the planet at Ferraro’s.
After dinner, Scott drove down the strip again. It was already dark outside, but the lights of the city were everywhere. I took nine small video clips while narrating the sights. I couldn’t possibly bore any of you by posting them. Let’s just say that I was truly enjoying myself, singing “New York, New York” as we passed by. You can only imagine. Below are two nighttime photos of Circus Circus. Cute.
Next stop, Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah.
Great Basin National Park, “a vast region of sagebrush-covered valleys and narrow mountain ranges named for its lack of drainage”, is located in the central eastern section of the state. “It’s streams and rivers mostly find no outlet to the sea, and water collects in shallow salt lakes, marshes, and mud flats to evaporate in dry desert air.” When we arrived at the park, one campground was closed and the other two were full.
This is becoming the norm as of late. Just outside of the park is the very small town of Baker. We were able to find a “full hook up” site in the parking lot of the only gas station in town. Kerouac’s Restaurant owns the only motel in town, StarGazer Inn, as well as the parking lot which has six full hookup sites.
The next day, we left Baker at 5,318 elevation and drove into Great Basin National Park to the Bristlecone-Alpine Lake trailhead. The hike begins at 10,000’ elevation. A lot of this trail was rocky.
We turned around and took the loop for the Bristlecone trees that we passed on the way. It is said that many of these gnarled trees date to more than 3,000 years old, alive since before the days of the Roman Empire, Cleopatra, or Alexander the Great. Their branches look like bristles on a brush.
The trail continued to Lake Teresa and then Lake Stella. In all, we hiked 6.96 miles with a total elevation gain of 1,367’.
For those afraid of heights, you can drive on Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive for some great views of Wheeler Peak. As hikers, we chose to take the fun way up. We hiked 8.7 miles to the peak at 13,063’ in six hours and 40 minutes, with a total elevation gain of 2,821’. The majority of the trail is rocky.
I am glad that I made it to the summit. There is something very rewarding when you make it through a grueling hike. And, I am really happy when hiking back down! Next stop, Las Vegas baby!
We left Glacier NP and headed back south on Hwy 93 towards Missoula again. After dry camping, we needed to refresh the tanks and get some laundry done. Jim and Mary’s RV Park was full, so we spent the night at Jellystone Campground located just across the street. Jellystone is a chain that caters to families with kids, and was not aesthetically beautiful like Jim and Mary’s. If you have the time, click the link to Jim and Mary’s RV Park. The flower arrangements are beautiful. I’ve never seen a RV Park look so pretty. It is one of a kind.
The next morning, we packed up and continued on Hwy 93 to Hwy 12 south and then west into Idaho. I almost didn’t notice the time zone sign. Cell phones will automatically reset, but battery operated and car clocks do not. It tends to get confusing, especially when traveling in and out of some of the western sates.
National Forest Land campgrounds typically charge from $5 – $20 per night. While there are no hookups, this location had fresh water. Of the 12 Federal Campgrounds located along the Selway River and Route 12, O’Hara is the only campground with fresh drinking water. There are 32 campsites. Some sites can be reserved online and some are FF (first come, first serve). Our site, #3, was reserved in advance, but is wasn’t along the river. The riverfront sites had man-made swimming holes made of larger rocks. There are also several “sand bars” of undeveloped beaches. I was amazed at how white the sand was in some areas.
Shelley and Jack arrived late Thursday night. On Friday, we took a ride up route 12 along the Selway River to Selway Falls. This point down to Lowell provides a 29-mile float trip. Permits for floating, canoeing or kayaking are not required below Selway Falls, but are required for above it. Although day temperatures were in the 70’s, we didn’t actually take the toys on the water. We talked about it…but it never materialized. The water was a tad chilly. This seems to be a pattern with northwestern waters.
On Saturday morning, Scott and I were a part of a “virtual” ride to support finding a cure for Parkinson’s Disease. Due to Covid, the annual New England ride in Maine took place in multiple locations. We were happy to represent Idaho. This was our first ride with team, Do Good Marketing. If virtual rides are a part of the future, we hope to be able to join in again.
After our ride, Jack drove us in his FJ to Lookout Butte Fire Tower.
The tower can be rented for $40/night for campers who like high places in the wilderness. That means you get to camp on the ground surrounding the tower, or you can walk up the five flights to the top. Would you consider sleeping in here overnight??
From atop this wooden, glass walls tower, you can enjoy a 360-degree view of four states – Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Montana at an elevation of 5,869 feet. Unfortunately, the view was impeded with haze from the surrounding forest fires.
We really enjoyed each others’ company and just hanging around the fire sharing stories from the early days. Tess, their English Setter, entertained us with her playful disposition scouting out the squirrels and even a skunk one night!
We left the next morning and headed west towards Boise to visit more family. We got stuck in traffic due to a rock slide. I got out of the truck to get a closer look at what was going on. What a mess.
We arrived in Boise and enjoyed fun times with Scott’s family.
Jake was about to perform a piece on the piano for us. He is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! What a gift he gave us!
Next stop, Nevada! We were going to continue northwest into the Northern Cascades; however, the raging fires in California were still polluting the surrounding states. Instead, we decided to head south to enjoy a bit more of summer weather.
A short two minute walk through the woods brings you to your own private beach.
The next morning, we got up early and headed for the park.
From the western entrance, we drove on “Going To The Sun” Road to St. Mary’s Lake. The road was blocked at Rising Sun parking area to prevent you from gaining any further access into the eastern side which was closed. We turned around and made some stops along the way back out of the park.
Scott captured the above picture which is quite similar to the photograph appearing in the park’s map, except we had a cloudy day in a warmer season. Just sayin’.
The next day we drove to Siyeh Bend/Pigeon Pass and began a 9.2 mile, 2,261’ elevation gain hike to Siyeh Pass . It turned out to be a very windy, adventurous day. Hope you enjoy our photos.
It was at this point in our hike that I began to hyperventilate. I didn’t want to get any closer to grizzlies. As much as we both wanted to get to the pass, we both knew that it was possible that the momma bear would turn around and come back in our direction. So, we turned around to abort the hike. Fortunately or unfortunately, we ran into a family of five from Chicago. They had been in the park hiking for the last few days. Today, they planned to hike to the pass and then turn back around to the parking lot at Siyeh Bend where they/we had started. We warned them of the bears, but they decided to continue on with their hike. They asked if we wanted to join them, and we did. For me, it’s less scary when you are hiking in a large group. As we continued up the trail, we all enjoyed watching the two bears from afar. All of a sudden, a LARGE grizzly male was barreling down the mountain from the right, and he crossed the trail at about the same point as the previous bears had. We watched him for a while, and then collectively decided to continue up the trail to the pass. The views at the pass were simply breathtaking.
Our group of eight took turns taking multiple photographs of the beauty surrounding us. At this point, we had two options. Option A: Go back down the way we came in order to return to our vehicles, which would mean the possibility of running into the bears again. Option B: Continue on the trail to Sunrift Gorge, which would require us to hitchhike for a ride back to our vehicles. All of a sudden, our new friend, Pat, came quickly from around the bend to tell us that the male grizzly was back on the trail just around the corner.
The decision had been made. We all started to move quickly down the switchbacks until the bear came into sight. We froze and began to make a lot of noise.
Thankfully, the bear didn’t come towards us. He meandered his way down the mountainside far enough away where we felt safe enough to continue down the trail. That was the end of our bear-sighting for the day! We are glad that we ended up not turning around since the scenery continued to enthrall us.
“The world’s big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” John Muir
“Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” Janus Bahs Jacquet
After eight months on the road, we knew that we needed to upgrade to a truck that could haul our 7,000 pound trailer. Our Toyota Tacoma could pull 6,500 pounds max. We were pushing his limits, as he struggled up and over many passes at maybe 20 mph. In January of 2020, with a heavy heart, we traded in our beloved Tacoma for a 2018 Chevy 3500 HD Silverado.
After roughly 15 months on the road full time, I agreed to continue this journey for another two years. The only caveat was to find a bigger rig that would give us a little more living space. In January of 2020, we purchased a 2020 Columbus Compass Fifth Wheel.
I always thought that my first time in Big Sky, MT, would be to downhill ski – not happening in August. From Little Big Horn, we traveled north west on Hwy 90 to Bozeman, MT, and then south on Hwy 191. We had a reservation at Moose Creek Flat Campground, which is located about fifteen miles from Big Sky Ski Resort on Hwy 191, parallel to the Gallatin River.
Although there weren’t any trees for shade by the camper, there were trees along the river’s edge just behind us.
We took a drive to Big Sky Resort. I bet it looks a bit different in the winter.
The resort was open for biking and hiking, and one restaurant was also open with outdoor dining up on the deck. Masks were required while on the premises. Notice the “Yield” sign for bikes.
The next day we hiked Lava Lake Trail. The trailhead was less than 10 miles from our campground just off Hwy 191.