Thursday, December 27, 2007

An Early Christmas Gift

We received an early Christmas gift this year—it was a phone call. On the Thursday before Christmas I left my cell phone in the car while we went into the mall to walk for some exercise. When we came back to the car, I discovered we had missed a call from our older son, who we hadn't talked to for nearly two months. He promised to call again on Friday, so I carried the phone with me when we went to the gym to work out that morning. Sure enough, as we worked our way around the circuit training room, the phone rang. It was Doug.

John and I went out in the hall to talk. We were on the phone for over 20 minutes while he told us about his life and living situation in Al Habbaniyah, Iraq, where he is stationed with the US Marines. We hadn't talked to him since a couple of days before they shipped out.

In addition to the joy of hearing his voice and learning more about life there, it was good to see that in this deployment he wasn't calling collect. In the 21+ years he has been a Marine, we have received collect phone calls from a lot of very remote and distant parts of the world. But hearing his voice, no matter where he is calling from or how, always gives us a greater assurance he is doing OK.

It is a lonely Christmas for Doug, without his wife and two daughters. It is difficult for all of them. For the many thousands of US troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has been a difficult Christmas season. Please keep them in your prayers.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


            We had a wonderful eight months, traveling and living in our 5th wheel.  As we returned to our stick house in late October, we seriously considered selling the house and either:  1) living full-time in the RV, or 2) moving to a retirement community where we would live in a high-rise apartment house during the months we are in Colorado.  We have been living in 250 sq ft, more or less, for eight months.  The house was too large and we had too much space.  If we don't need something for 2/3 or the year, do we need it at all?  Or want it?


        By the time we reached Centennial, however, we knew we didn't want to go full-time.   Since it is important to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas here, where we have family and friends, it would mean wintering in the 5th wheel.  We don't like staying in it when the temperature goes below freezing for any length of time.  That happens often during Colorado winters.


        About three weeks into our time in the house, we visited Heather Gardens, a community of townhouses, patio homes and condominiums for seniors.  We quickly realized we were not ready for apartment house living.  And it didn't make sense move into one of their patio homes.  Why go to all that work and spend money getting settled when we wouldn't really be downsizing?


        So, for now, the decision is to address all the "stuff" we have.  We are sorting, throwing out, preparing for a massive garage sale, giving things away.  If nothing else, it will make it easier to move to a small place, whenever we do decide to do that.  And we are amazed at how much we have we don't need.   


        The first thing we are cleaning out is paper—old financial records, kept way beyond what is necessary, excess items in John's work files.  Since we have the room, we didn't bother to weed through things.  We just kept it all.  This task will make it easier for us to find things.  And after going through all the files, we will know what we do have. 


        We are also going through the storage shelves in the basement, seeing what we can sell at a garage sale, what we can give away, what we can throw away.  We gave our son two sleeping bags that I made for us in the 1970s.  We haven't used them since we went on an overnight canoe trip in 20+ years ago.  "Build it and they will come."  For most of us, I think it is a matter of "give us space and we will fill it."  We're going to try to let a little air circulate in our space.

Check out AOL Money & Finance's list of the hottest products and top money wasters of 2007.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ready to Winterize

        On our drive from Albuquerque, NM, to Pueblo, CO, today, we spotted nearly 300 pronghorn.  Yesterday it snowed along much of this route, so maybe they were very hungry.  I think the only time we saw that many before was driving on I-25 across Wyoming from South Dakota to Colorado.  We really enjoyed the day.


        We spent the last three nights at the Isleta Casino and Resort RV Park on the Isleta Indian Reservation just south of Albuquerque.  This is the second reservation RV park we have stayed in.  Last year we went to Turning Stone in New York.  Both were excellent places to stop.  At Isleta there was a large grass area at each site—unusual for Arizona or New Mexico.  The sites were plenty long and very wide.  In New York we found probably one of the nicest parks we have ever stayed in.  Both places had spotless restrooms and large, well-equipped laundry rooms.  Casinos are not our idea of recreation and I don't approve of legalized gambling.  But, since it is a fact a life, it is good to see reservation Native Americans profiting from it, building schools and other needed facilities.  And we enjoy their facilities when out in our RV.


        We spent three nights at Isleta because there was a high-wind warning out for Saturday and Sunday.  Add to that a snow storm over the higher elevations on I-25 near the New Mexico-Colorado border, and we decided we would wait a couple of days to move into Colorado and winterize the rig.  Today we were treated to great views of the snow-covered Spanish Peaks and Sangre de Christos, as well as a snow-clad Pikes Peak.  It was a beautiful drive.  And we didn't have to worry about being blown over or slipping and sliding.


        Tomorrow morning we will winterize the water system, then drive back to the stick house, unload eight months of belonging from the RV to the house, and park the rig for several months.  It is both sad and happy—the travels are ending, but we will spend time with family and friends.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Arizona Hikes

We hiked two interesting trails in Arizona, after we left the Grand Canyon.  While we were in Flagstaff, we visited the Sunset Volcano National Monument.  During the last few years, we have learned that National Parks, National Monuments and National Historic Sites are always worth our time, even if, at first, we don't think we are interested.  We had been to the Capulin Volcano National Monument in northern New Mexico, but this was even more interesting and informative.  The hiking trail led us through the Bonita Lava Flow of a volcano that erupted only about 900 years ago.  We learned about squeeze-ups, spatter cones, caves and why lava can be either black or red.  It was fascinating. 


        While in Tucson, we hiked the Esperanza Trail in the west section of Saguaro National Park.  Most of our experience is with conifer forests, but here we saw the cactus forest.  The countryside has a more diverse group of cactus and other plants than we had seen as we drove south through Phoenix. It must be beautiful in the Sonoran Desert (which include Saguaro NP), in the spring when everything blooms. 


        Now we are on our way back to the stick house in Centennial.  We will have been away for almost eight months this trip.  We are so content in our 200+ square feet of space in the RV, we wonder why we need 1800 square feet plus a basement and garage.  We do need to be with family and see friends, as well as get our annual physical exams and other such things.  And it is getting colder in much of the country.  We don't like RVing when the temperature dips into the 20 and 30s outside. 

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Arizona—when I think of the state, I think of warm weather, sunshine, cactus.  But our first seven days in the state were spent in or near the mountains, at 8,000 ft and above at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, then in Flagstaff, where we saw mountains and Ponderosa Pines all around.  The RV park in Flagstaff was closing on October 15 and that also was the last day the North Rim campground would be open.  Obviously, we weren't in the area where snowbirds spend the winter.


        Then we drove to Mesa, an eastern suburb of Phoenix.  At the Mesa Regal RV Park we found a citrus tree at every site—the oranges and grapefruit weren't ready to pick, but if we wanted to stay for a couple of months, we could have picked all the fruit off the tree at our site.  The park had 2005 spaces for RVs and park models—small manufactured homes that can be towed behind a trailer or permanently attached to city utilities.  Summer is just ending, so many snowbirds have not arrived and the park was less than half full.


        The weather was delightful—cool mornings so we could get in our run.  Then we had cool evenings to sit out on the patio or stroll around the park.  The sunsets remind me of many western movies and photographs.  And we didn't encounter bugs, at least right now.


        But we didn't have a fun stay in Phoenix.  The first time I opened the refrigerator, there was no light inside.  That meant it wasn't working—just like in late August at Kodachrome in Utah.  John installed a new fuse and it started again.  About bedtime, I opened the door and the light was out again.  When John tried to install a new fuse, it blew again.  We knew that meant another day or two or struggling to keep the food cold.  But, at least we were in a city, rather than 260 miles from any RV repair facility.  Since the winter season hasn't arrived, several of the mobile RV services weren't open.  It took us half a day on Wednesday to arrange for someone to come on Thursday.  When he arrived, Gene found that some repair work done under a recall had caused a wire to rub against a piece of metal.  That finally caused a short.  We hadn't really needed the circuit board we replaced in August.  He was able to repair the problem, as well as show us how to make the refrigerator cool down about 10 degrees more than it had been doing.


        About two months ago John noticed something in the Rv's suspension appeared to be broken, but he didn't know whether or not it was a problem.  Two men he asked said they didn't think we needed to worry about it. Gene said he didn't know if it was a problem, but suggested we talk to the service manager at RV Traders, an RV sales lot in town. The manager said we should take it to a local welding shop for repair.  We made an appointment for 7:30 the following morning and in two hours had spring shackles, bolts and bushings replaced and repaired.  The tires which had been two inches apart were now about five inches apart.  And when we drove to Tucson two days later, we found the rear end bounce had returned, moving cookbooks and items in the rear cabinets around.  How long had the shackles been broken?  Over a year, at least.


        Saturday we finally had some fun, visiting the Arizona State Fair.  Then we were off to Tucson on Sunday.


        We have found we enjoy the weather in this part of Arizona.  The fall and winter here would be nice enough we can be outside almost every day, without bundling up in heavy coats.  We expect to spend some time as snowbirds in the years to come.  Something we never thought we would do.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

It's a Grand Canyon

September 30 we finished our time at Kodachrome Basin State Park. From there we went to Kanab, a small town on the Utah-Arizona boarder where many movies have been filmed—think westerns, for example. For us, the attraction was that they have three—count them, three—grocery stores and a nice RV park. It was a one night stop to provision for four days at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The drive from Kanab to the Grand Canyon was amazing. We left Color Country—SW Utah with its sculpted colored rocks—and immediately entered flat land with only low-growing sage brush.

As our altitude increased, there were some low dark green bushes. We entered the Kaibab forest, where we commented that it certainly wasn't like the forests we are used to in Colorado. All around us we saw only short trees, called the pygmy forest—pinion pine and maybe juniper. Then, all of a sudden, huge ponderosa pines lined the road.

It is October and wherever there was a sprinkling of aspen, there was a spot of bright yellow. The drive over the top of the Kaibab Plateau and into Grand Canyon National Park was a spectacular mix of green needles and yellow leaves. This is a wonderful place in the mountains. We're over 8,000 feet and they receive 26 inches of moisture a year here—providing the moisture the ponderosa's need..

After we set up our trailer, we realized we were about 100 yards from an overlook on part of the Grand Canyon. It is called the Transept Canyon. We walked the 1.25 mile trail along the canyon to the Grand Canyon Lodge and Visitor Center. The lodge is rustic and beautiful with a drop-dead view of the Grand Canyon.

The next day, we were up early and left the RV at about 6:15 am to watch the sunrise at Bright Angel Point, a viewpoint south of the lodge. It was cold and breezy as we joined 10-20 other visitors to watch the sun come up. Sunrise over the canyon isn't all that special. And we discovered pollution makes viewing the canyon somewhat difficult. After taking maybe 150 photos, we had breakfast at the lodge; we returned to the RV and prepared for a day of photography.

The sky was clear and a deep blue, the aspen a deep shade of gold, with red and orange mixed in. Visiting Point Imperial, Cape Royal and numerous overlooks in between, we captured umpteen views of the canyon. While bemoaning the haze and pollution, there is no denying the Grand Canyon is still one of the premier natural wonders of the world. And we were there at perhaps the most beautiful time of the year, with all the fall color.

The following day we awoke to cloudy skies and wind. How grateful we were for all the photo opportunities of the day before. Leaf peepers got a real treat on the Kaibab Plateau this week. We decided to take the day off and relaxed in the RV. It was such a peaceful day.

By Friday the weather report included a high wind warning, especially hazardous to high profile vehicles. We were glad it wasn't a travel day. We didn't have to leave till Saturday. Under partly cloudy skies, we hiked the Transept Trail to the lodge, then went on to Bright Angel point, taking many photos along the way. The light on the Canyon was different from earlier in the week and the picture taking rewarding.

Our hike took us through the Ponderosa Pine forest and we worried some about the danger of trees coming down in the high wind. Sustained winds of 25-35 mph were predicted, with gusts from 35 to 57 mpg. We made it back to the RV safely and hadn't noticed any really bad wind gusts. But as I prepared dinner, the wind direction changed and it was much noisier. All of a sudden, we saw that a dead tree across the road had broken about 3 feet above the ground and fallen. The 3-foot diameter downed tree wasn't more than 20 feet from a tent that had just been erected. What a scary event for those campers. How fortunate they hadn't placed their tent about 20 feet further east!

We have loved our visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This part of the National Park is much less crowded than the South Rim. We are here at the end of the season—the Lodge, campground and stores all close after October 15. But right now everything is fully booked. Soon the road will be closed by snow till about May 2008. October at 8000 feet is beautiful and very iffy where the weather is concerned. We are boon docking here and look forward to lower altitudes and full hookups in Flagstaff.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Last Utah Hike

Monday we went on our last long hike in southwestern Utah. We drove to the south end of Bryce Canyon National Park—9,110 feet above sea level—and hiked the Riggs Spring Loop, an 8.8 mile hike through the forest. The trail drops 1,600 feet from Rainbow and Yovimpa Points, passes three backcountry (undeveloped) campsites for backpackers, and climbs back up 1,600 feet. We had hiked the loop twice two years ago when we volunteered at Bryce Canyon. This year we haven't been doing as much hiking (our volunteer work is outdoors and at times very physical) and we haven't been living at 8,000 feet. So the hike was difficult and exhausting, but worth it for two 64-year-olds.

We saw so much wildlife on our drive there. We saw three flocks of wild turkeys, totaling about 75 birds, three groups of mule deer and several small herds of pronghorn and we watched a coyote hunting in a meadow. While we ate lunch, several cows were grazing in the area and one came over to see what we had to eat. What a wonderful day! Oh yes, we started our hike at 37 degrees and ended it at about 51. Fall has arrived.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

We Need a City Fix

        We're ready for an urban fix.  We are really in the middle of nowhere.  No cell phone service.  A thunderstorm put out the regular phone service for about 24 hours.  We are 9 miles from a store where we can buy a bottle of milk, 14 miles from a small grocery store, 22 miles from a garage where we can get the truck serviced, 41 miles from a dentist or larger grocery store, 105 miles from a Wal-Mart. 

        Tuesday, on the way to Panguitch (41 miles) for groceries, we stopped at the only national chain restaurant in two counties—Subway—for lunch.  We will leave Kodachrome Basin State Park in 10 days.  After spending a few days at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, we will drive on to Flagstaff, AZ.  Not a really large city, but a city, nevertheless.  We are looking forward to that.

        To cope with our small (8 cubic feet) refrigerator and the distance to a store, I have begun to mix up dry milk for us to drink.  Back when our sons were young, I mixed dry milk with whole milk to save money.  Today I do it to save on gas.  Since we drink skim milk all the time anyway, it tastes just the same.  We save a little money on milk and more on gas.

        After meeting the camp hosts at Cedar Breaks National Park, I decided to try making my own yoghurt.  All I need is dry milk powder, water and a tablespoon or two of yoghurt starter.  It tastes good and means I don't have to plan how many containers to buy each time we go to the store.  I am flavoring it with Splenda and cranberry juice or Splenda and vanilla.  It tastes just fine with my cereal in the morning. 

        We enjoy spending part of each year in the country—where the skies are dark so we can see the Milky Way and other stars, where there are no sirens and very little traffic, where we can hear the coyotes at night.  But this isn't where we want to live all the time.  We are looking forward to getting into a city, especially for cell phone service and fresh vegetables. 

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fall Is Coming

This morning when we reported for work, the park ranger was catching a hummingbird that had flown into the Visitor Center.  He covered it with his hat, then carried it between his hat and his hand to the door, where it flew away.  A few minutes later he asked, "Do you like bats?"  In the evenings, bats fly around the Visitor Center eating the bugs that are attracted to the lights there.  One of the furry brown animals decided to spend the night in a corner outside the front door.

        Those events may not tell us fall is coming, but the weather sure lets us know.  In the past week, we have had morning temperatures in the low 40s and high 30s.  The afternoon high is still in the 80s, but we haven't seen 90 for a couple of weeks.  And by 6 pm, it is cooling down and very comfortable outside.  The temperatures are great.  This is our favorite time of the year. 

        The campers know it is fall, too.  Kodachrome has been busier this week than it was over the Labor Day weekend.  We still see lots of international visitors.  It is amazing how many Europeans come to the United States, some of them year after year.  We talked to a couple from Germany who has been here 14 or 15 times for their holidays.  This campground is really off the beaten track, 20+ miles from Bryce Canyon National Park, over 100 miles from Zion National Park.  Yet we see many international visitors in tents and in rented RVs.  We also see more older Americans, traveling after the height of the summer vacation season.  Friday the campground was full for the first time since we arrived in the middle of August.  Many of the campers are Utah residents who know this is a comfortable time of year to come to this desert campground.

        The only time we find these temperatures uncomfortable is first thing in the morning.  We have a small Kawasaki "mule" to get around the campground and it doesn't have a windshield, doors, rear window or heater.  When the temperature is 40 to 50 degrees, the wind chill at 20 mph is uncomfortable.  But it sure beats working outside in full sun at 92 degrees.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Grosvener Arch

Sunday we drove to Grosvener Arch, about 12 miles south of Kodachrome on an unimproved dirt road. The Cottonwood Road was built in the 1960s when power lines were run from the Glen Canyon Dam north to this part of Utah. It is impassable when wet and a real washboard when dry. Many tourists see the road on maps and think it is a quick way to reach Page, AZ, and the Grand Canyon. It may be the short route, but the maximum possible speed is 20 mph, meaning it takes at least two hours to drive the 40 miles.

Grosvener Arch is quite impressive. We were surprised at the number of cars that drove up to view the arch as we ate our picnic lunch. We enjoyed sharing our meal with a friendly Scrub Jay.

For years we have enjoyed the desert southwest, making numerous visits to Taos and Santa Fe, Canon City, Mesa Verde and Utah over the years. This year we are able to spend eight to 10 weeks in this environment and really get to know its beauty. There is sage brush everywhere, as well as Rabbit Bush, Utah Juniper and Pinon Pine. Most of the stone outcroppings here are tan and white, with a sprinkling of pale red. In other areas, there is more dark red and purple colored rock. The country doesn't have the rich greens of eastern forests, or the towering pines of mountain areas. But it is beautiful with its muted colors.

We saw miles of sage and stone landscape as we drove up and down Cottonwood Road. The longer we drove, the more we appreciated the beauty of the landscape. After we left Kodachrome, we only saw one building—an outhouse at the picnic area by Grosvener Arch. It is truly remote country. What a pleasure to be able to get to know it a little in our time here.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Trail Repair

We spent most of last week repairing damage to the Angel's Palace Trail at Kodachrome Basin State Park. The heavy rain of the previous week, which had cause so much damage on the Nature Trail and in the campground, had also damaged the hiking trails in the soft sand found in this part of SW Utah. First, we worked on a bridge over a dry wash that had been badly damaged when the rainstorm filled the wash with rushing water two to three feet above the bridge. We really wish we had gone out to see what was happening during and right after the rain. It must have been impressive to watch. We gathered stones out of the wash to build a base at both sides of the bridge, then brought in dirt and gravel—road base—to cover the rocks. That meant shoveling the base into our Kawasaki Mule then dumping it at the bridge and shoveling it where it was needed. We also built up rocks at two corners of the bridge to prevent run-off from separating the bridge from the sides of the wash.

Next we filled in a run-off channel in the center of a steep part of the trail, and then we rebuilt the trail-side in two places where logs which had been set with rebar had failed to keep the trail from eroding away. We dug out the side of the trail, then gathered rocks—some as heavy as 80 to 100 pounds—to provide a base for the trail. Then we shoveled in dirt and tamped it down by walking back and forth numerous times.

This work is difficult, back-breaking, and very rewarding. We really feel like we accomplished something last week that will make a difference for hikers—at least until an even worse rainstorm occurs. We also feel good that we are able to do this kind of heavy work at the age of 64. Our weight training and cardio workouts really pay off.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Photos of Kodachrome Basin State Park

Our host site at Kodachrome

Shakespear Arch

Kodachrome skyline

One of 47 stone chimneys in the park
Partridges that live in the park

Life is Good at Kodachrome Park

What a difference it makes to have our refrigerator working again! Finally, the part came in and Shane was able to install it. Then he came into the trailer and slipped in the fuse for that circuit—which caused a spark. We all groaned. That is what kept happening when the refrigerator went out. But John noticed that the lights on the fridge control panel were lit, then Shane checked the fuse and it hadn't blown. Now we have all our food in our own refrigerator, rather than spread between a small, borrowed refrigerator, an ice chest and the Visitor Center kitchen.

Other good news is that we have moved into our permanent host site at Kodachrome. Early last week we had three rainstorms here, one a real downpour. Our newly-made site turned into a sea of mud and we were tracking it in all the time. This site, however, is crowned and covered with gravel and has numerous Utah Juniper trees for shade. It is great and will make the next four weeks very pleasant.

This is the cleanest park we have ever been in. The picnic tables are washed after each camper leaves, the fire pits and grills cleaned, the gravel and dirt raked and the concrete pad under the table swept. The restrooms are spotless—cleaned each morning and each evening.

Because of this standard of maintenance, the rainstorms created a lot of work. The rain and run-off caused erosion and brought mud cascading across roads, the paved nature trail and campground table pads. After the mud dried, roads, trails and pads had to be chipped—much like you chip ice—then shoveled off, then swept clean. Four of us worked hard and long to clean everything for the Labor Day weekend. Now, whenever we see clouds in the sky, we pray—please, no rain!

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Paradise Gone awry

Jackrabbits everywhere, exotic partridges, beautiful rock formations—that was our first experience of Kodachrome State Park, where we are supposed to volunteer for six weeks.  That, and heat.  We expected 90 degree days, but we also expected full hookups and 50 amp electric—meaning air conditioning. 


        It has really been quite a week.  We arrived on Sunday and found that the park staff was still working on a third park host site for us—even though they had known since at least February that we were coming and for at least three weeks the exact date of our arrival.  They offered us a site with no hookups if we had a generator, or a site where we could use regular household electric from a long extension cord.  We chose to use our generator.  The site was private and had great views, but we don't have air conditioning with our 2000-watt generator. When we returned from work our third day here, the trailer was 95 degrees inside while the outside temperature was 91.  We decided to go to a nearby KOA campground the next day, returning only if our electric site was ready on Wednesday. 


        After we set up at the KOA, we discovered our refrigerator wasn't working.  We were 40 miles from the nearest real grocery store, over 100 miles from a Wal-Mart and decent-sized town, over 260 miles from Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.  The KOA referred us to a man who came and checked out the refrigerator.  He determined it needed a new circuit board.  A week later we are still waiting to hear if he can get one.  We are using a borrowed small refrigerator that sits outside, an ice chest sitting in our living room and the Visitor Center refrigerator and freezer. 


        Needless to say, they did finish our site—sort of.  We do have full hookups.  But after two downpours today, our site was first a lake then a sea of mud. 


        Oh yes, one more thing--what duct tape doesn't fix, a bungee cord does.  The latch on the screen door broke.  Obviously, we can't tape it shut.  So a small bungee cord hooked the door to a shelf, so the cats don't escape.  Then John found a spring to repair it a little better.  We are waiting for a new part from our dealer, who reports he is waiting for the part from Keystone.  And yet another problem, the awning mechanism locked.  John had to take it apart.  It took the two of us at least a half an hour to put it back together. 


        We have no idea how long it will take to repair the refrigerator or get our site fixed.  Hopefully, the next week will be better.  We have looked forward to coming here for months and it is really beautiful.  We would like to enjoy it.


        I'm doing all I can to keep John from bolting.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Cedar Breaks

A yellow-bellied marmot and an immense bristlecone pine were highlights of our hike to Spectra Point at Cedar Breaks National Monument. At 10,350 ft, just being able to complete a three-mile hike was an accomplishment.

The marmot was at the viewpoint with its young. When we got too close, the animal played dead while the babies got away. Finally, it became curious and turned to look at us.

Bristlecone pine trees are extremely hardy and live many years. One at Spectra Point has lived more than 1,600 years and in other southwestern states, 4,500-year-old specimens have been discovered. The tree I photographed is certainly impressive, whether or not it is 1,600 years old.

The rock formations at Cedar Breaks in southwestern Utah are beautiful and similar to those found at Bryce Canyon and other places on the Colorado Plateau. We had visited Cedar Breaks for an hour or so, two years ago, but we wanted to spend more time there. So we decided to camp for one or two days, depending on how the altitude affected us. The campground is quiet and most sites look out over huge meadows. There are no hookups, but the water is good, and at $7 a night for seniors, who can complain?

When we were talking to the camp hosts, Ron and Paula, they said they went two months without grocery shopping. She makes her own yoghurt using powdered milk and bakes her own bread in a bread-maker. They fill their bathtub with long-lasting fruits and vegetables and forgo ice cubes till they whittle down the food in the freezer. Many of their ideas didn’t appeal to me, but since I eat yoghurt everyday at breakfast, I’ll have to give that one a try.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Into Utah

(This should have been posted in early August. Somehow, it got lost in cyberspace)

Utah is possibly our favorite state to visit and we will be here for two months. The drive west along I-70 is flat and boring for a while, but the farther west and south you go, the more interesting and beautiful it becomes. The hills grow in size and the rock formations progress from gray to pink to red. By the time we reached Capitol Reef National Park, all of these colors are present—sometimes in different views and sometimes all in one canyon.

We have had two great hikes. The first was over four miles on the Old Wagon Road trail, which has an altitude gain of 1,580 feet. It is a steady uphill climb for at least two miles, and we felt it. But the country is so spectacular, we were glad to be there. The contrast of dark green pine and juniper trees against the red rocks and soil is beautiful. The second hike was 3 ½ miles through Cohab Canyon to overlook the old settlement of Fruita. Capital Reef preserves both the natural beauty of the area and the historic Mormon Settlement of Fruita. Those farmers planted extensive orchards, which are still growing. It is peach harvest time and visitors are allowed to pick their own fruit. There are over 3,000 fruit trees in the park, many 80 to 100 years old. It was fun to pick our own afternoon snack.

Many of the tourists here are from countries around the world. The beauty of our National Parks, especially the major parks in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming, are major destinations for these tourists. Many of them rent RVs from Cruise America or RoadBearRV to see these far-flung parks. It was fun to see German and French speaking visitors picking peaches at the same time we were in the orchard.

The Fremont Indians, who traveled through this area between AD 700 and 1250, left petroglyphs on the rock walls of the park. We were able to get close enough to view some of them on a boardwalk built next to the cliff.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Last Colorado Camping

Got air? We do. After four months living near sea level, we found the Colorado mountains were lacking in air. We felt the lack of oxygen as we hiked and tried to do our three-mile runs at 7500, 8000, 8800 feet above sea level. But here in Fruita, at less than 5000 feet, we found it easy to run. The problem here is the heat—it was 96 our first day in town.

We are staying at the James Robb-Colorado River State Park. It is one of Colorado’s newer state parks. The sites are long and paved, with level concrete pads in the center. We have full hook-ups and 50 amp service—really good in this heat. All this costs only $11 a night, Sunday through Thursday, with our 50% off Aspen Leaf Pass for residents 64 and older. What a great deal. We have a great view of the Colorado National Monument, just down the road.

We are about to end our month-long camping trip through southern Colorado. We spent five days at Ridgway State Park, one of our favorite spots in the state. This was our fifth stay there in the last nine years.

It is a great place for biking—we rode the Uncompahgre Trail into the town of Ridgway and also biked around the state park. Our hummingbird feeder has never been busier—the broad-trailed, ruby-throated and rufous hummingbirds are drinking over a cup of sugar syrup a day. It is such fun to watch them fighting each other for a spot at the feeder. Our cats are very frustrated with all the birds right outside the window and no way to get to them.

On Friday we found our 50th geocache and our first travel bug. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out round trip. By the end of the day, my pedometer had over 17,000 steps recordedto find out. We found it by biking five miles and hiking three miles . The pedometer is our way of maintaining our weight—10,000 steps every day, if possible.

For many years, we spent most of our time off camping in the Colorado mountains. For three of the years we lived in Grand County, we camped two nights almost every week of the summer in the nearby forest campgrounds. Since 2003, we have spent no time in these mountains because of our travels throughout North America. It has been very special to spend a month in Colorado in our RV this year.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Southwestern Colorado

How things change in four years! Since July 16 we have been in southwestern Colorado—a real tourist area at higher elevations, which attracts a lot of visitors from Texas and Arizona, especially. Since we were last here in 2003, the number of RV parks has grown exponentially. We even found a large RV sales lot along Hwy 149 between South Fork and Creede. People from states where summers are hotter and more humid have been spending one to three months in the Colorado mountains for many years. They used to build or rent cabins. Now I think most of them come in motor homes and large 5th wheels. At 30 feet, our 5th wheel looks small. As we drove through Pagosa Springs and toward Durango, we saw yet more RVs. Then again, between Cortez and Telluride, they seemed to be the favored form of transportation and residence. Now we know why we don't see many of them in state parks and forest campgrounds—there are so many full-hookup parks for them.

Creede is a small community at 8800 ft, once the site of numerous silver mines. As we drove into town we discovered the Creede Wood Carvers Rendezvous was in progress. What a treat! John was able to see the many different ways to carve and buy some wood to do his own work. He had used up all the pieces he brought from the house. The rendezvous was set up in caves (or mine entrances) in the hills at the edge of town.

From Creed we drove over 10,850 ft. Wolf Creek Pass to Durango, a college town and tourist location in the far southwestern corner of the state. At 6600 feet, we found it easy to resume our three-mile runs. And the Animas River Trail in town was a great place to do it. We know we are in Colorado when we see lots of fit people walking, running, biking, kayaking and hiking. We had lots of company during our morning runs. The United Campground is right along the Durango and Silverton Railroad-–the main tourist attraction. While we were there, four trains a day were running up and down the tracks. We joined lots of other campers in watching them mornings and evenings.

We also took a five mile hike on the Purgatory Flats trail down to the Animas River. It was a pretty hike, but we didn't enjoy the jog back to the car through thunder, lightening and rain. That is always scary. We had a good lunch at the historic Strater Hotel in Durango and toured the many shops—but we didn't spend much money.

Next we were on to Mesa Verde National Park, just 32 miles west along US 160. We stayed at AA RV Campground just across the road from the Park entrance. It was a good campground where we felt we were staying on somebody's ranch. We had a great view out our windows. We drove the Mesa Top Loop Road to tour the ruins of pit houses and pueblos. We also hiked down to the Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling. The next day we hiked 5.8 miles of the Prater Ridge Trail. It was quiet and peaceful on the Mesa. We saw two young buck mule deer with their antlers in velvet. At one point we looked over the mesa rim and saw a small cliff dwelling. How many are there in the park?

The next drive, over 10,222 ft. Lizard Head Pass to Telluride, then over Dallas Divide to Ridgway State Park, was easily the most beautiful part of our travels this year. We followed the delightful Dolores River Valley. We could see the river was very muddy, meaning they had had lots of rain. The next day we learned it had rained again that night and Hwy 145, which we had driven, was closed by mud slides. We were lucky—the other route to Ridgway through Silverton and over Red Mountain Pass—is even more difficult with a trailer. The rains had put a dusting of new snow on the mountains surrounding Telluride—in July!