Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Take 1: Arches National Park~ The Windows & Delicate Arch

The first National Park we visited was Arches, only about 5 miles from downtown Moab, on the North side of town. We weren't sure what to expect, the only National Park we've visited is Joshua Tree, and (for us) it wasn't very exciting. We passed through the entrance gate to Arches ($10 for 7 days for vehicles, $5 for motorcyclists, bicyclists or walkers) and stopped off at the visitors center to get a little bit more information about the park and the absolute musts'. I talked to a Park Ranger named Mark and he was very helpful in giving me tips about where to start, marking them on the map that was provided at the gate, and what to see if we only had a couple of hours, then went on to give me more pointers for extended periods of time if we were to be in the park for more than just one day. The newspaper, they give you at the gate, also has a TON of great information about the park in it, for example; how long and strenuous (or easy) the hikes are. 

We left the visitors center and started driving up the hill to the mysteries that lie beyond the massive red rocks. Wow, what an amazing first impression ....this park is going to be super fun to explore! 
 Our first main stop was going to be right past Balanced Rock, which is really cool, to The Windows. 
 Luckily the parking lots have both compact parking as well as RV parking, so we were able to park without any problems due to the trailer. The park does not allow pets on any of the trails so the dogs had to stay behind in the van, but we have a nice set-up for them inside where they are well ventilated and safe, plus it really helped that the temperatures were nice and cool that day along with a breeze.  

 **Believe me, I'm VERY cautious when it comes to leaving my girls, they are my kids and I make sure they have thee most comfort they possibly can. They go into their room (crate) that has a full water bottle that cannot spill, fans directed on them as well as in a screened side window for ventilation/transferring of fresh air, & a temperature gauge. I open all of our small screened side windows and blacken out all of the big windows, including the front, with reflectix and/or thick upholstery curtains that keep heat/cold out. Joon van is set-up to be able to play the radio without running down the battery, so when I can I will leave the radio on for them so they don't get too lonely, we also do not leave them for long periods of time (due to mommy's separation anxiety). With this method when we come back to the van, they are usually laying on one another, chillin', not even panting, but still excited to see us!**
Alright back to The Windows.....
We parked and set out for our first awesome sight and whoa what a sight! The map says that there are all kinds of "things" that appear in the rocks, some of these include; Parade of Elephants, Aliens, Turrets, Ham, Praying hands, etc. Double Arch at the Windows is one of the easier, shorter hikes, it's about a mile or less (I did it in my flip flops but wished I would have worn closed toe shoes, so I could have climbed a little bit more). 
 You can see 5 Windows from the parking lot, so if you don't want to or can't walk you can still see the spectacular sight of the Windows (but there's nothing like walking underneath them)! 
Jamie is an itty bitty ant!!
 We walked around and under the arches, took some great pictures and tried to take it all in. These arches are just amazing, even sitting under them the view looking out is pretty great too, I don't think the pictures do them justice, but I tried! 

 There are over 2,500 Arches in the park, that have been counted. The Double Arch, that you see in the pictures with the larger opening, has a span of 144 feet (3rd longest in the park) and a height of 112 feet (the highest in the park). It's quite incredible.
 After gazing and shooting hundreds of pictures we thought we would drive around to check the park out a bit and grab a bite to eat. There are no restaurants in this park but they do provide two different picnic areas; Balanced Rock & Devil's Garden areas, where you can get out of the sun and enjoy a nice lunch, within these areas you will also find pit toilets and trash/recycling bins. We drove to the picnic area by Balanced Rock and made lunch; Philly cheese-steak fajitas!! I also changed into better shoes since my flippies were a big flop at the windows 👍 tee hee
After lunch we decided we would go see Delicate Arch. Parking was just a bit harder than the Windows, the spots were big enough but you could only pull in forward, our trailer is hard to back-up due to the short wheel base, but Jamie made it work. We rounded up the pups back into their room, grabbed one bottle of water (which we would regret later) and were on our way to Delicate Arch. There are two different approaches to the trail, the first you walk towards Wolfe Ranch, the second is a round-about where you can walk by Petroglyph's, we chose the latter. In hindsight we should have read the information kiosk to know how long the hike was up to Delicate Arch, we would have gone back and gotten more time! We walked to see the Petroglyph's which is just a small detour around to the trail, how cool that these drawings are still here!! 
 The park has roped off this part of the mountain so people cannot climb up and touch them, oils from our fingers and hands make these babies disappear much faster than usual. We thought we had a short hike ahead of us until we rounded a corner and saw people moving up and down this gigantic mountain, they looked like ants compared to how big this "hill" was! Should have read that kiosk, haha
The red circle are people!!!
 I was already scaring myself because I do not like walking up steep things nor do I like being high in the air on steep things! But, there I was starting to climb this tall mountain, thinking, "What the hell, Oh my gosh, I'm going to die!" haha It actually wasn't steep at all, just big and tall and (to me) scary, but I was still upright so everything was going to be okay. 
Starting the climb
 We also thought that Delicate Arch was just right over the hill....nope! By the time we got to the top my face was beet red (out of shape) so much that people were egging us on, giving their support and telling us, "It's okay honey, you're almost there, only about another 20 minutes...but it's worth it." Ummmm, another 20 minutes!!?? As we reached the top, it started to level off, feeling like you were flat on the ground, even though we were a good mile in the sky. The environment is very interesting up there, even though you are standing on this HUGE mountain of slick rock, there are plants, Juniper trees, shrubs, even cactus and just goes to show that life can live anywhere! 
 My knee started getting a little weak on me before we reached the arch, due to an injury long ago, so I sat down for a few minutes. This moment was perfect to take in this part of the hike, it was so quiet and serene, like we were the only ones on the mountain that day.
After resting, we started back on the trail and reached our destination just a few short minutes after. Since we had only seen where the arch was on the map and didn't stop by the kiosk, we didn't know what to expect. We turned that last corner to a vast funnel-like opening to see our treasure, Delicate Arch and YES, it was totally worth the hike! 
 Not only is the Arch amazing, the view behind it and all around us was out of this world. 
 I am proud to say that I was brave enough, with the help of Jamie of course, to go take a picture underneath the arch! I'm so glad I did it, even if I did crawl over there, haha Definitely a once in a lifetime for me. 
 We sat there for a while talking, gazing and helping others capture the moment by swapping pics for pics under the arch. Man, what an experience! I'm glad I braved it with Jamie, although he isn't scared like I am, he is so patient with me and helped me every second of the climb up and down. 

 On our way back down dark clouds started to roll in, which was very welcome to us due to only bringing that one bottle of water, we got some sprinkles but nothing too bad. The entire hike from start to finish was about 3 miles, taking us 2 hours...and as I read on the map later one of the more strenuous hikes! ha... figures.
Wolfe Ranch was on our way back to the parking lot so we stopped by to check it out. The ranch consists of two weathered log cabins, one much smaller than the other; used for a root cellar, along with a corral. Seeing these cabins from the 1800's definitely gives you a look into the past, it's amazing they are still here and standing!

 Happy to be back on solid ground, back at the van with the pups and resting my knee, the rain started...perfect timing! We decided that we had a full packed day and we would have to come back another day to do the parts of the park we didn't get to today. We drove the last bit of the park and around the Devil's Garden Campground. 
 The campground has 52 sites (all were full), water and flush toilets. Reservations for the campground must be made at least four days in advance; for more information you can visit or call the information line at #435-719-2299.
I think camping here for a night or two would be out of this world, but this time around we are off to find a spot on BLM for the night and maybe even a couple of days for rest.
Come back for more of Arches National Park and my scardy cat like ways...maybe (if you're lucky) you'll even get to see a short video of me crawling around like a spider! :)

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Moab, here we come!

Last Summer, we had plans of going to the Mighty 5 in Utah. If you've never heard of the Mighty 5, it is all 5 National Parks that Utah has to offer: Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion. For those of you that read this blog you know that last Summer we were called back to Georgia for personal reasons and were not able to fulfill these dreams.
Not this Summer baby. This Summer would be the first Summer since we started full-timing that would be ours, not working but traveling and moving around and actually doing the Mighty 5! woot woot!!!
We were sitting in Sedona waiting for the weather to change, (we had been having quite the crappy Spring/Summer) and our route was already "planned". The plan was to go from Sedona to Flagstaff, Williams, hit the Grand Canyon, sit there for a while, scout it out and enjoy it, then head North towards Utah, do the Mighty 5, then.........Well you know what they say about making plans, (or as Miss Cheri would say), "Plans are set in chocolate pudding."
As we sat there day after day after crappy day, it hit us. Why don't we just go to Utah now? duh. So, after 2 days of laundry & packing we hit the road. 
Laundry Bike
First destination: Moab.
Driving to Moab was awesome, we have both never been to Utah. Jamie has driven through it & I've had one layover in Salt Lake but that's definitely not anywhere near spending time there or seeing the beauty that lies within the majestic mountains and red rock. We started by driving North on 89 out of Sedona, going through Tuba City on 160, to 163 passing through Mexican Hat to 191 putting us in route through small view points of Monument Valley then taking us right into downtown Moab. Wowzers!! 
Mexican Hat
Monument Valley
 Moab is a hopping place. As we enter the downtown area, the first thing we hone in on are all the Jeeps, we've seen more Jeeps in this one area than we've ever seen anywhere else before. There are people everywhere; the City Market which is the biggest grocery store in the area (no big box retail stores here like Walmart or Target), walking down the street, at gas stations, at hotels, at rental I said before, this place is hopping. It's definitely the time of year to be here, (late May) it's not too hot yet...maybe low-mid 80's (in the heat of the Summer it gets as hot as 120*).
To be perfectly honest we didn't do a whole bunch of recon/research before getting to Moab, we figured we would just figure it out on our own once we got here, which we did, but it was kinda tough, not just for camping but also for drinking water. Water turned out to be a toughie in this area, which we were amazed at by how much activity goes on here. We did find a great spot to get cold filtered drinking water, at a Twice the Ice on the North end of town (but 2 days later we were driving by and saw the whole building up in the air on a crane, they were removing it!!)
 We did find another Twice the Ice in the center of town that was also twice the price as the one removed, but still had cold filtered drinking water. As for camping, while we were at (North) Twice the Ice, Jamie went into the Inca Inn Hotel next door to ask about dispersed camping. Unexpectedly the guy at the desk gave him a map and written directions to a place just right up the hill that has dirt biking trails among many other activities and only 3 miles from the Arches National Park. We drive up the hill and approach a check-in/pay station (dang), we ask them about dispersed camping and they are very guarded while telling us about Dalton Wells dispersed camping area North of town. We drive back down the hill, putting Dalton Wells in the find, no go. We are back on our own. At this time, I get my 'puter out, turn on the wifi hot-spot and I cannot find Dalton Wells. I go to and find a couple of places...I write them down as well as keep them on the front page of the 'puter and we keep driving. On our way, we find a Maverick gas station that has the cheapest gas in town $2.85 (but with a free members card you get .06 cents off). There are two Maverick's in town, the one at the South end of town has a RV/potty dump, plus a hose on the side of the building to fill up solar showers. After reading up a bit on Utah, as we were searching for camp spots, we learned it is a requirement if you are going to camp on BLM, where toilets are not provided, you must have a porta potty. The state of Utah does not allow you to dig holes to bury your terds nor do they want you pooping in nature!
Now, we have full water, full fuel, full fridge & pantry and an empty potty....we start off on our journey to find a free camp spot for the night or maybe even a week. The first road we drove down from downtown Moab is Hwy 128, we drive down about 20-25 miles to the free site that is posted on freecampsites but we find that the area has been closed off due to revegetation or construction. 
Highway 128
 The only sites available on this land are paid BLM sites that cost $15.00 a night, if you are caught crossing the creek, even one time it is a $250.00 fee. The BLM paid area (Onion Creek) was full of tents and Church vans. We decided to keep on this road and try a few 4wd roads, most of what we found were No Camping, No Tresspassing roads. We did find one road that had no signs at all, although very dicey and rough we drove down about a mile but had to turn around due to rain, bad roads and nowhere to park the van without being on vegetation (which Utah is very adamant about not parking on). 
 We turned around and wound up back down Hwy 128 toward Moab to 191. We remembered one area, while driving into Moab, which had several Class A's, 5th wheels and trailers that looked like they were camping for the night. 
 Even though there were about 8 different rigs parked on this piece of property, there were signs everywhere saying No Camping, but in this life we do what we see others doing, so for tonight we pulled into this spot, off of Hwy 191 (Yellow Circle Road) with an amazing view of the La Sal mountain range. 
Yellow Circle Road

La Sal Mountains
 We are going to sleep here for the night and start fresh again in the morning, hitting up the BLM office for some maps. Here's to an UNeventful nights rest!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Overland Expo West

* Catching up on posts*
We have been camped around the Sedona/Cottonwood area for about a month now and have only gotten about a handful of nice weather days. We have woken up to rain, hail, wind, cloudy skies and Winter-like coolness almost the entire time we've been here and are definitely ready for a change.
Our "plans" were (there's that P word!) to spend a few weeks in Sedona then move up to Flagstaff when the weather got better/warmer, then we would be in the area for the Overland Expo...but warmer weather is definitely NOT happening for us right now in Sedona and since Flagstaff is higher in elevation their rain is turning into feet of snow! Crazy weather, it's almost June!!!
We decided to carpool up to Mormon Lake, near Flagstaff where the Expo is being held, with some friends that we are camping with. We are in a great spot with privacy so our stuff would be safe and all of the dogs would be able to come with us, so really it was a win-win.
We drove up Sunday morning, getting there at about 10:30 a.m. or so. The "gatekeeper" charged us only $15 for all four of us, which was cool because we read that it would cost us $15 per family, so it would have been $30 instead, but not today! We received our wristbands and rolled in instantly seeing a ton of Jeeps, Land Rovers, Adventure bikes, etc. 

We found a parking spot and was given a 15 minute scope out session while our friend made everyone burgers.
Burgers were great! 
After lunch we all set out on foot to see all of the different rigs people had on display. Since it had been raining and snowing for a good week and a half leading up to the Expo it was muddy muddy muddy, there were even points where the walkways totally disappeared due to the water and mud...making it to some of the porta potties was quite a challenge!

We walked around and talked to a bunch of different builders, owners, drivers, and salesmen/women. Due to it being Sunday, some of the rigs we wanted to peek into were being packed up and people were leaving, so we weren't able to get inside views on most of them...bummer.

We did get to walk into a few of them, well up the stairs (due to the mud, the living areas were roped off). There were some really cool exteriors as well as interiors of these rigs. We fell in love with a couple of them, unfortunately these vehicles/campers are well out of our price range, ranging anywhere from $80,000- $500,000. But they sure are fun to look at!
A short list of what we saw:
(I'm sure I'm missing several others)
Unimog, PHX-FG with Fuso Chassis, XP Camper, Sports Mobile; with and without pop tops/pop-ups, Bengal Tiger 4x4, The Global Expedition vehicles: Patagonia, Turtle & Perky Mog, Maggiolina Grand Tour Pop up tents, Rev'it #95 adventure bike, BMW adventure bikes, Jeeps, Land Rovers, and of course a ton of self-made rigs. Most of the bigger campers are custom built for your needs and desires which I think is pretty cool, especially with the money you're spending on these suckers!

 There was a driving course that was open that we thought would be cool to see the bigger rigs on, to see what they could do but we learned that the course was for Land Rover testing and Jeeps. We did a small tour of the course in our friends' van,  that turned out to be interestingly amusing and funny... to us! 

In talking to the owners and/or makers of the campers, a lot of them spend time in other countries than the U.S., I'm guessing that's why we never see them on the roads or camped anywhere. I know a couple of people who would like to see what rigs like these can do at some of the places we camp!! I'm sure they'd be just perfect. It was fun to be able to see these rigs closer, but for us, for now, Joon van Spirit does her job and gets us where we want to be at a much lower cost of...well everything, from tires to maintenance to fuel. 
Here's to dreamin' dreams!