Canyon de Chelly – Breathtaking Views Under Vibrant Skies

April 2017 – We left the wondrous Petrified Forest National Park with its incredible hikes and nearby Route 66 nostalgia and headed due north from Holbrook, Arizona, on Route 77 towards Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

Route 77 in the Navajo Nation Arizona

Wide open lands on Route 77 in the Navajo Nation, Arizona

This interesting (although occasionally bumpy) rural road goes through the vast Navajo Nation. We were mesmerized by the classic southwestern vistas that filled our views for the first twenty miles or so. My long lens was in the trailer (sigh), so I didn’t get good shots of the amazing rock formations we passed.

A few years back we made a similar trek on the parallel Indian Route 12 and really enjoyed it. So, again, we decided to forego the more major highway (US Route 191) and take another scenic route instead.

Little did we know it was going to snow on us as we got into the higher elevations!

Snow on road Navajo Nation Arizona

When we climbed from 5,000′ to 6,500′ elevation, we got a spring snow storm!

This was our third trip to Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Canyon d’Shay), but like all of the National Parks and National Monuments, there always seems to be something new to see.

In past visits we explored the overlooks along the northern scenic rim road through the park and hiked to the jaw-dropping White House Ruin. So, this time we decided to explore a few spots along the southern rim road.

Tunnel Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Tunnel Overlook, Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly is a massive canyon formed by uplifts and the relentless flow of water, and today the sheer red rock canyon walls tower 700 feet above the lush green valley floor.

Far below us we saw trucks bashing through the water from recent rains.

Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Tsegi Overlook.

The only way to see the valley of the canyon is to take a private guided tour offered by the Navajo who live on the reservation that surrounds Canyon de Chelly National Monument. However, the North and South Rim Drives are open to everyone to enjoy for free without a paid guide.

Car driving in wash at Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

The only way to get into Canyon de Chelly is on one hiking trail (White House Trail) or on a commercial tour.

As we zipped in and out of the overlooks, the skies began to brood…

Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument RV trip Arizona

The clouds were moving fast at Tsegi overlook.

…and the red rock cliffs seemed to swirl around each other in fabulously exotic shapes.

Junction Overlook Canyon de Chelly South Rim Road Overlook Arizona

The rocks formed beautiful shapes that were so much fun to climb on.

Sliding House Ruin Overlook at Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Sliding House Ruin Overlook

Eventually, we made our way to Spider Rock Overlook, one of the iconic images of Canyon de Chelly. We reached the overlook right at the golden hour before sunset when the rock itself was lit in rich burnt orange hues.

Spider Rock overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Spider Rock.

The day had been very cloudy and windy, but as if by magic, right as the sun began to set, we were blessed with the most astonishing display of colors in the sky.

Sunset spider rock Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

As the golden light faded on Spider Rock and the red rock cliffs, the sky began a light show of its own.

We each ran back and forth on the rim, unsure where to get the best views and which part of the sky would light up next.

Sunset at Spider overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Mark lines up his shot on the next rock outcropping (upper right corner).

Spider rock lost its glow but the fire in the heavens was just getting started.

Spider Rock sunset Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona RV trip

Sunset’s brilliant display begins at Spider Rock.

Once the drama had played itself out in shades of orange, the skies turned vivid pink.

Pink sunset Spider Rock Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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The light show intensified and our two-way radios crackled as we called each other from opposite ends of the overlook.

“Did you see THAT??!!”

Colorful sunset Spider Rock overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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That sunset was breathtaking, but when morning came the next day and we ventured back out on the south rim drive, the drama in the sky was gone. We returned to Sliding House Ruin overlook because there is such a huge area to prowl around there, and looking down into Canyon de Chelly was as astonishing as ever.

Valley at Sliding House Ruin Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Sliding House Ruin Overlook.

At Sliding House Ruin overlook there are endless stretches of flat and undulating boulders that head out in all directions on a promontory. Before we knew it, we had been there for hours running around on the tops of these cliffs and peering down into the tree-filled valleys below.

Of course, if you get too close to the edge in a place like this, it’s all over. A sign near the rim was a good reminder!

Sheer cliff warning sign Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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Red rock cliffs and green valley floor Sliding House Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

It’s a long way down…but what a view!

When I finally had gotten my fill of staring at the immense views in front of me, I glanced down at my feet and was taken with the rich hues and artistic patterns of the colorful lichen that was growing in and around the creases in the rocks.

Nature's artwork Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Nature’s artwork on the rocks.

Standing back and surveying the vast flat lichen covered boulders that stretched in all directions around me, I felt like I was looking at a modern art painting. Perhaps this is where Jackson Pollack got his inspiration!

Lichen on red rocks Jackson Pollack painting Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Jackson Pollack — Or colorful lichen on red rocks?

A little movement in the corner of my eye caught my attention, and I turned to see a lizard scampering past. He stopped and stared at me as I snuck closer and clicked my camera’s shutter.

Lizard Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

A lizard looks over at me as he runs by.

The spring wildflowers had started blooming, and Mark found a beautiful bouquet of Indian Paintbrush flowers.

Indian Paintbrush Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

A dash of scarlet…

We stuck around and soon the sun was sinking low in the sky, and the shadows were growing long and deep.

Shadows at sunset Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Long shadows made for a surprise selfie at Sliding House Overlook.

The clear sky meant there were no colorful theatrics in the sky for our sunset at Sliding House overlook, but the sun gave me a coy wink for a split second before it slipped out of sight.

Starburst sunset Sliding House Ruin Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

A fleeting starburst at sunset…

It was hard to set the alarm for a pre-dawn hour the next day, but we bundled into our truck with hot tea and coffee in hand and drove out to Sliding House overlook once again where Mark caught the sun giving us a wink on its way up.

Sunrise Sliding House Ruin Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

…and another at dawn.

Canyon de Chelly is a special place deep in the heart of the immense Navajo reservation. There is a dry camping campground in the town of Chinle that is run by the Navajo, and a few sites are big enough for a big RV.

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Blue Mesa Trail – Lavender Beauty in Petrified Forest National Park

April 2017 – When we visited Petrified Forest National Park a few weeks ago with our RV, we discovered two true jewels in the park: Jasper Forest and Blue Mesa Trail.

Ready to hike Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Ready to hike Blue Mesa Trail in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

It is really easy to blast through Petrified Forest National Park at 50 mph and miss it all, and we’ve made that mistake in the past. We’ve also done the less spectacular hikes and later wondered where all the petrified wood was! How funny!

As seen in our last post about Jasper Forest, there are some breathtaking landscapes where petrified logs are in stunning abundance.

Blue Mesa is another fabulous region in the National Park where rolling hills are beautifully striped in shades of purple and lavender. There is a wonderful and very easy hike on a paved path at Blue Mesa that wanders through all these hills.

Blue Mesa Overlook Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

The overlook at Blue Mesa in Petrified Forest National Park

At the start of the hike, high up on a plateau overlooking a vast expanse of exotic beauty, we saw a pretty spray of yellow spring flowers and spent a few minutes admiring them.

Yellow wildflowers Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

A vibrant sign of spring greeted us right away.

Mark took advantage of the “Color sketch” option in his Nikon camera to get a very cool effect from this photo:

Color sketch Yellow wildflowers Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

The “color sketch” option is available in most Nikon DSLR’s. Fun!

The Blue Mesa trail begins with a wonderful plunge down to the valley floor, and we got a few shots of the spectacular purple/blue landscape as we descended.

Descending on the Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Blue Mesa trail took us down to the valley floor right away.

As we made our way along the pretty, winding trail, the breathtaking views of these colorful hills surrounded us.

Blue and purple on Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

The purple stripes were magnificent!

Rock striations Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Nature has a wonderful artistic flair!

But where was all the petrified wood? It didn’t take long for us to find the gorgeous rock logs spilling down the gullies between the hills.

Falling petrified logs Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Did a woodsman just cut down a tree?
No! Nature did this over 200 million years ago!!

Every crevice between the hills was loaded with perfectly hewn petrified logs. Incredible!

Petrified log pile Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Solid rock logs that look for all the world like they are wood!

Petrified logs Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Every crevice between the hills was filled with stone logs.

We couldn’t help but scurry up a ways to get different perspectives on these logs. Suddenly, I lost my balance and slipped. I brushed myself off and looked around, a little embarrassed and wondering if anyone had seen me fall. Luckily I was the only witness.

That is, I was the only witness until I saw what my camera did when my finger hit the shutter button on my way down!

Falling on hiking trail at Blue Mesa Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Oops!

I don’t think I could have staged that shot more perfectly!

Blue Mesa trail was largely surrounded with waves of gravelly hills that are horizontally striped in lavender hues. But a few of the hillsides and cracks were gray, and these were strewn with exquisite crystallized tree stumps too.

Tumbling petrified logs Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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Pile of petrified wood logs Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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Surprisingly, even though this was peak season for visiting Petrified Forest National Park, with absolutely perfect sunny, dry, warm weather, there were very few people on the Blue Mesa trail. Every so often, though, we caught sight of someone in the distance.

Tumbling logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

We shared Blue Mesa with very few other hikers.

Petrified Forest National Park has several “Off the Beaten Path” hikes, and there is one that originates at Blue Mesa trail and heads out to the Tee Pees formations. I had hoped to hike at least some of that trail because we had enjoyed the Off the Beaten Path trail at Jasper Forest so much.

Hiking Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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But I was so caught up in admiring the awe-inspiring views surrounding us on all sides that I forgot to double check the page of notes the ranger had given us to see where the gravel trail intersected the paved trail we were on. I think I’d kind of expected it to be obvious when we got there.

Hikers and petrified logs on Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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The National Park Service is a little coy with these special Off the Beaten Path hikes.

First, I’d only learned about them when I asked a ranger to recommend some areas for photography and then watched wide-eyed as he pulled a huge 3-ring binder full of photocopied trail notes off a low shelf behind the counter. More importantly, though, the trail intersection itself isn’t marked with a sign!

Blue skies on the Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Somewhere out here there’s a neat unpaved hiking trail!

I learned later that the intersection is to the right of the one plaque that is out on the paved trail at Blue Mesa, and unfortunately, we’d walked right by it. Argh!

Purple striations at Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Lavender shades all around.

Oh well, it’s a good reason for us to come back to Petrified Forest National Park another time!

Hiker Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Purple haze…

If you take your RV to Petrified Forest National Park, don’t miss the Blue Mesa trail, and keep an eye out for that plaque and head out on the adjoining “Off the Beaten Path” hike! I suspect there are some cool views back there.

RV at Blue Mesa Overlook Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

A cute teardrop trailer at the top of the Blue Mesa overlook.

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Petrified Forest National Park RV Trip – Magic in Jasper Forest

April 2017 – One of the highlights on Route 66 is the Petrified Forest National Park where the enormous trunks of 200 million year old trees have turned to stone.

Photography at Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

The solid stone tree stumps at Petrified Forest National Park are truly impressive!

We have been to Petrified Forest National Park twice before, but it was on this trip that we finally found the true magic there.

Stumps Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

Those tree stumps are solid rock, through and through!

We knew that the best way to see Petrified Forest National Park, like all the National Parks, is to get out on the hiking trails away from the crowds.

Jasper Forest petrified logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

We loved seeing how the logs split over millenia, due to the pressures of moisture and ice,
and revealing the tree rings — still perfectly intact — inside.

But it wasn’t until this visit that we discovered which hiking trails are the most stunning.

Logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

Was the woodsman just here with his ax?

On our first foray into the Park on this trip we explored the area called Crystal Forest.

Logs Petrified Forest National Park Crystal Forest

The logs were scattered everywhere. But there wasn’t a living tree to be seen anywhere!

In every direction we saw the enormous trunks of trees that had been growing millions of years ago.

These trees had toppled over during torrential rains millenia ago, and had floated downstream only to end up in a deep and muddy logjam where they slowly and very gradually crystallized.

Over time, the pressure of moisture and ice within the logs broke them into segments.

Out on the vast treeless plain, we saw countless tree trunks that looked like a lumberjack had just sliced them up with a chainsaw in preparation for splitting them into firewood!

Petrified log Petrified Forest National Park Crystal Forest

We saw many 50+ foot long logs lying on the grass and split into sections.

Here and there, the stump of a tree trunk stuck up from the ground and looked for all the world like the tree had just been felled.

Wildflowers with petrified wood tree stump Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

A rock and a wildflower.

All the tree rings were perfectly visible in a rainbow of crystalline colors.

Tree rings Petrified Forest National Park Jasper Forest

Brilliantly colored minerals have crystallized the tree rings in this ancient tree.

The logs lay scattered all over the place, and in between were beautiful shards of petrified wood.

Colorful agate Petrified Forest National Park Jasper Forest

There were exquisite shards of rock EVERYWHERE as far as the eye could see in all directions.


Some logs had been split so the tree rings were visible while others had been severed lengthwise showing vertical striations from the interior of the log.

Colorful agate Petrified Forest National Park Jasper Forest-2

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In one area the shards that surrounded the logs look like woodchips. It was as if the lumberjack had just laid down his ax! These pale wood chips were very thin, just like ordinary wood chips, but these slivers of rock tinkled like a bell when dropped on each other!

Petrified wood chips at Petrified Forest National Park Jasper Forest

The light colored “wood chips” on the ground were brittle rock shards that sounded like bells
when they fell on each other.

We had wandered out at the “golden hour” about an hour before sunset, and as the sun sank below the horizon we were blessed with a beautiful sunset over these exotic rocks.

Sunset at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Sunset in Petrified Forest National Park.

Even better than Crystal Forest, however, is Jasper Forest which is just a little further north. The overlook takes in a sweeping view.

Jasper Forest Overlook Petrified Forest National Park Arizon

Jasper Forest overlook has an incredible view — see the logs below? — and the trail to the plain below took us down among thousands of logs.

In the distance, far below the Jasper Forest overlook, boulders and petrified logs intermingled.

Overlook at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Huge waves of eroded rock formations were littered with tumbled boulders and petrified logs.

When we stopped at the Visitors Center to find out where the best collections of petrified wood were in the Park, the ranger took out a large 3-ring binder labeled “Off The Beaten Path Trails.” He took out the trail directions, complete with photos, for a few trails and handed them to us. One set was for Jasper Forest.

Sitting on petrified logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

Down among the petrified logs at Jasper Forest.

The trail directions were a bit confusing, but they are actually very easy:

  • Go to the north end of the Jasper Overlook parking lot and look for a narrow trail heading north from the last parking space in the lot.
  • Follow this trail north and then west onto the wide plain that stretches out below the Jasper Forest overlook.
Petrified logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

Two faces from the same log reveal gorgeous tree rings.

From there you can go in any direction you want, and we quickly ran off in opposite directions!

Log with a knot Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

The “bark” on this 200 million year old log even had a knot in it.

We were there in the harsh light of noon, so even though the rock logs were mind boggling, we knew they would be even more beautiful in the rich light of late afternoon.

Petrified logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

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Petrified wood logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

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So, we returned a little later with our cameras, and suddenly the logs came alive in vivid shades.

Petrified tree stump Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

At the “golden hour” an hour before sunset,
all the logs began to glow.

The skies were darkly overcast but the sun snuck through underneath and cast a brilliant light on all the stone tree logs.

Storm clouds Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Storm clouds darkened the skies while the sun peeked through.

Golden light at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Looking at the tree root ends of the logs — in rich light.

As the sun sank towards the horizon, we were in awe of the beauty around us. We were also frantically running around trying to capture it as best we could while the sun teased us mercilessly!

At one moment the sun would pierce through the clouds and light everything up in bright orange and yellow, and at the next moment it would disappear all together behind the clouds!

Petrified logs at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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The clouds were flying across the sky, making an ideal opportunity to use long shutter speeds to make them blur dramatically just as the sun set in a starburst.

Sunset at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Drama in the sky above an ancient world of stones.

Wild skies at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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Dramatic clouds at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona 2

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Petrified Forest National Park is a great place to go with an RV, and it is surrounded by many of the most spectacular natural wonders of America’s southwest.

RV motorhome in Petrified Forest National Park Crystal Forest

A motorhome passes the Crystal Forest turnoff.

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Getting Our Kicks on Route 66 by RV in AZ – Cool Springs, Winslow & Holbrook

April 2017 – Back in the 1930’s to the 1960’s, Route 66 was a 2,448 mile long road from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles, California, that passed through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. It was established in 1926 but was gradually replaced with the US Interstate highway system starting in 1956.

RV on Route 66 Arizona

We’ve been getting our kicks on Route 66!

Portions of it still remain, and we have been bumping into it in our RV travels through Arizona.

RV on Route 66 Arizona

Cool Springs Station Museum on Route 66 between Kingman and Oatman

Route 66 is memorialized in all kinds of songs and folklore, and one of the most iconic songs was (Get Your Kicks) on Route 66 written by Bobby Troup in 1946.

Cool Springs cabins antique Mobil gas station Route 66 in Arizona

Antique gas pumps and an old Mobil Oil sign at Cool Springs Station Museum near Kingman

We’ve been getting our kicks on Route 66 lately starting with a stop we made at the Cool Springs Station Museum between Kingman and Oatman, Arizona last fall.

Antique Mobil Gas station Route 66 in Arizona

What luck – A retro Royal Enfield motorcycle pulled in and parked next to the antique gas pumps while we were there!

This is a cute stone building that has big antique gas pumps out front that will be familiar to our older readers and Mobil Oil signs that were familiar to us from our childhoods.

Inside we found all kinds of charming memorabilia from decades ago, and outside we saw several antique cars that at one time might have rolled down this famous American highway.

Mobil Lubrication or Mobil Oil Antique wooden sign Route 66

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Route 66 chair in Arizona

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Antique car on Route 66 in Arizona

Ready to roll…in a bygone era

Cool Springs Station is in the northwest part of Arizona near Kingman. Way over on the northeast side of the state we stopped in at the town of Winslow in northeastern Arizona a few weeks ago.

Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona Route 66

Route 66 goes through Winslow Arizona

Winslow sits on old Route 66 but it is much more famous for the song Take It Easy, which was written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey and recorded by the Eagles, and features the very memorable lyrics:

Well, I’m a standing on a corner
in Winslow, Arizona,
and such a fine sight to see:
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed
Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me.

Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona Route 66

Winslow has memorialized the Eagles song “Take It Easy.”

Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona Route 66

A painted mural reflection and the real thing:
“It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flat bed Ford, slowing down to take a look at me!”

This corner is now a favorite tourist attraction. Every year the town hosts a huge “Standin’ on the Corner” festival. This year’s event is on May 6, 2017 (link at the bottom of the page).

Five years ago on our way back to our boat in Chiapas Mexico we zipped through Winslow and got a selfie at the corner. This year the corner was a little busy with other people getting selfies, so we’ll just go with the old pic!

Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona

From the archives back in 2012!

Nearby, Mark found an electric guitar…

Route 66 Guitar corner Winslow Arizona

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The opposite corner is dressed up with a vintage coffee and soda shop that has old fashioned seating on stools at the counter inside.

The other corner Route 66 Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona

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This building won the Good Job Award in 2004. I like a town that gives out Good Job Awards!

Good Job Award sign Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona

The world needs more Good Job Awards!

Although Winslow sits on Route 66 it was also an important train depot for the Santa Fe Railroad.

Eagle on Route 66 sign Winslow Arizona

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Wandering around town, we came across La Posada Hotel and Gardens which is a meticulously and lovingly restored Grand Hotel from the heyday of the railroad era, built by Fred Harvey for Santa Fe Railroad and designed by Mary Colter.

Entrance La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

La Posada Hotel and Gardens in Winslow, Arizona

Built in 1929 to the tune of $60 million (in today’s dollars), La Posada Hotel and Gardens gave tourists a reason to take the train to Winslow. They could stay in an elegant hotel home base and visit Arizona’s many very cool sights that lie within a day’s chauffeured drive from town.

Balcony La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

La Posada was southwestern elegance at its best in the 1930’s and 40’s.

The hotel was beloved by the well-to-do from its opening in May of 1930 until it closed in 1957. When it closed, all of the museum quality furnishing were sold off, and the building was turned into offices for the Santa Fe railroad. Over the next 40 years it was slated to be demolished several times.

La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

The restoration has been lovingly done.

Chessboard table La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona

Visitors can watch a fantastic video that explains the details of the original design and restoration.

Fortunately, when the Santa Fe Railroad planned to abandon the hotel, news of the its uncertain fate made its way to Allan Affeldt. After three years of negotiations with the railroad, in 1997 he moved in with his wife, Tina Mion and they began a $12 million restoration.

Hallway La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

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We knew none of this when we walked in the door, but we were smitten with the beautiful renovations and artsy decorations in every room.

Elegant La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona

There are endless common areas where guests can relax and socialize.

The windows and French doors were thrown wide in every room, letting the warm air from outside flow in, and we wandered around the property enchanted by all we saw.

Room with a view La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona

Room with a view.

Balcony overlooking courtyard La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

Let the outside in!

La Posada Hotel and Gardens is a fully functioning hotel today and there is a very popular restaurant that was packed to the gills when we stopped by. We didn’t stay to eat, but unusual goodies drew us to every corner of every room in the hotel.

Piano in La Posada hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

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Turning a corner, we came across a “hall of mirrors” which is part of the hotel’s gift shop.

Hall of Mirrors La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

Beautiful mirrors are for sale in the gift shop.

The gift shop had all sorts of things for sale, but the ones that really caught our eye were the adorable antique trailer bird houses!

Trailer bird house

A bird house for the RV crowd!!

Not far from Winslow, Arizona, we drove through Holbrook, Arizona, and just had to stop at the Wigwam Motel.

Wigwam Motel Route 66 Holbrook Arizona

Wigwam Motel in Hobrook Arizona – A Classic Route 66 stopover.

Unlike the very upscale La Posada Hotel and Gardens in Winslow, this is a fabulous Route 66 motel that reflects the funky and slightly cheesy tourist traps that filled Route 66 in its day.

Wigwam Motel antique cars Route 66 Holbrook Arizona

Have you slept in a wigwam lately?

The wigwams still rent out each night, and we saw people loading and unloading their bags for a night’s stay.

Antique cars and tee-pees at Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

Modern travelers come in modern cars, but antique cars were parked in front of each wigwam!

The motel’s owners have parked antique cars in front of each wigwam, lending an authentic air to this classic Route 66 stopover.

Antique cars Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

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Wigwam and antique cars Wigwam Motel Hobrook Arizona Route 66

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Antique car Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

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Of course, there’s plenty of room for Wigwam Motel guests to park their modern cars by the front office, but part of the mystique of sleeping in one of these wigwams is the fun historical context of being immersed in early American car travel on old Route 66.

Antique Ford at Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

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Studebaker truck at Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

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If you are traveling east-west in northern Arizona, in the neighborhood of I-40, take a detour off the freeway to one of these stops near Kingman, Winslow and Holbrook and get your kicks on Route 66!

RV on Route 66 in Holbrook Arizona

A service shop from yesteryear… Luckily we didn’t need a new muffler or garage mechanic!

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“Cliff Dwellers” on Arizona’s Vermillion Cliffs Scenic Drive – A Fun Stop!

October 2016 – Cutting across the northern part of Arizona from east to west in an RV is a total treat.

RV trip Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

An RV trip through the Vermillion Cliffs area in northern Arizona is a fabulous scenic drive.

We took US-95 south from Page to US-89A, and then followed US-89A northbound towards Marble Canyon, passing through the stunning red rock scenery of Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.

Driving through Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

Classic scenery in the Vermillion Cliffs of Arizona

The most spectacular section of this drive does a 180 degree turn on US-89A near Lees Ferry and Marble Canyon.

RV trip in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

My camera never stops when we drive this part of US-89A!

Every time we pass through this region we are blown away by the scenery once again.

02 761 RV travel Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

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As I was going through our photos this morning, choosing which ones to include in this post, I was amused to discover that a lot of the photos were essentially the sames ones I had taken from the passenger seat of our truck on previous trips through this area on our way to Kanab and Bryce Canyon years ago, and again this past spring of 2016 on our way towards the Canadian Rockies.

It is just that beautiful: even though I have the photos already, I’ve gotta take them again!

Motorhome RV in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

RVing through the Vermillion Cliffs. Wow!

A stop at Marble Canyon and Lees Ferry is an absolute must. We loved visiting that area last spring.

This time, however, we wanted to see something new, and a small roadside stop called Cliff Dwellers was just the ticket. This is essentially a pullout located about 9 miles west of Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon.

Pullout at Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

The pullout at “Cliff Dwellers” on US-89A.

Boulders at Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

The boulders at Cliff Dwellers are huge!

RV at Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

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We had no idea what we would find at this roadside stop in the middle of nowhere, but the first thing we saw was a towering mushroom red rock formation.

Rock formation Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

A huge mushroom rock formation towers above me!

Red rocks at Cliff Dwellings Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

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In the distance there was a rock structure.

Rock formation and rock house Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

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Whoever built this structure had placed red rocks on top of each other to form walls that fit under a huge overhanging mushroom type of boulder which formed part of the roof.

Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

The rock building at Cliff Dwellers isn’t on a cliff, but it probably was a dwelling!

Rock house built into boulder Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

The building is tucked under and overhanging boulder which provides part of the roof.

We prowled around the outside and inside of the building, peering through the windows and door.

Photography at Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

View from the rock dwelling.

Windows at Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

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There were some beams that had once formed a ceiling over part of the structure.

Interior Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

Simple living!

Off in the distance, we found a plaque that probably used to describe the history of the structures and the area, but the plaque was empty. So, we just enjoyed roaming around this odd structure.

Cliff Dwellers rock house Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

The rock house looks small compared to the huge red rock hill behind.

Behind it there was a fantastic red rock hill that had all kinds of striations and textures. Huge white boulders had come crashing down from one of the layers over the years, and they were strewn around the base.

Red rock cliff at Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

Enormous rock boulders had fallen down the sides of this hill and lay around the bottom.

A Navajo woman had set up a folding table to sell jewelry to tourists who stopped by.

Navajo trinkets Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

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This little stopover at Cliff Dwellers was a fun way to spend an hour or two.

Cliff Dwellers red rocks Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

What a great little spot to take a breather in the middle of a truly gorgeous drive!

Motorhome Navajo trinkets Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

Cliff Dwellers Roadside Stop on US-89A.

Continuing our drive west along US-89A, we came to the end of the red rock region where the red rocks of Vermillion Cliffs abruptly give way to the evergreens of the Kaibab Plateau.

RV at Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

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Climbing up a series of tight switchbacks and steep grades, we arrived at a pullout near the top where we could take in the view in all directions and see this incredible transition in the landscape from red desert to green forest.

On one side there were beautiful yellow wildflowers that set off the red rock cliffs in the distance.

Wildflowers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

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There were also some beautiful pink fairy dusters in bloom.

Fairy Duster wildflowers Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

Pink fairy dusters.

Looking east back down the way we came, the road cut a cool s-turn through the desert.

Road in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

Looking back towards the red rock cliffs.

And looking to the north, we saw the very cool divide between the red rocks of the desert and the green hills leading up to the very dense Kaibab forest that surrounds the Grand Canyon.

Red rocks and juniper hills Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

The red rocks of the desert give way to the greenery of the forested Kaibab Plateau which surrounds the Grand Canyon.

More about the Grand Canyon in our next post!! In the meantime, there are links for Vermillion Cliffs below.

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Navajo National Monument, Monument Valley and Bears Ears

March 2016 – The Northeastern quadrant of Arizona and a bit of southeastern Utah is the Navajo Nation, an Indian reservation that is over 27 thousand square miles. It is larger than the state of West Virginia (~24k sq. mi.). It is also larger than the states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Delaware combined, with enough left over to add in the southern half of Vermont.

Just under 175,000 people call it home.

Within the borders of the northern part of the Navajo Nation, the National Park Service manages the Navajo National Monument, an area where there are some ancient Indian cliff dwellings and ruins.

Hiking at Navajo National Monument Arizona

Navajo National Monument is home to ancient Indian cliff dwellings.
One is in a cave across the canyon.

After visiting stunning Horseshoe Bend and Lees Ferry near Page, Arizona, we drove our truck and trailer across the northern part of the Navajo Nation to see Navajo National Monument.

There are three short hikes at Navajo National Monument, each one progressing along the canyon rim and offering views down into the canyons. We started with the Sandal Trail which was an easy stroll on a paved path to a viewpoint at the end which looked across the canyon at the Betatakin Ruin.

Navajo National Monument Arizona

The Sandal Trail took us along the edge of the canyon to an overlook facing the Betatakin Ruins

In the summers there are guided tours of these ruins, but they don’t start until May 29th, and we were there in mid-March. But the view of the ruins — with binoculars or our long telephoto camera lens — was wonderful.

Betatakin Ruins Navajo National Monument

The Betatakin ruins are in the back of this cave.

Ruins at Navajo National Monument Arizona

In the summer months you can take a guided tour of these ruins. We were there too early!

The Canyon View Trail hike gave us views of this same canyon, although there were no Indian ruins to be seen.

Navajo National Monument canyon view

The Canyon View Trail gave us different views of the same canyon.

Unlike the first two “mesa top” hikes, the Aspen Trail hike descended down into a canyon and gave us a terrific stair-stepping workout going down and then climbing back out.

We were definitely missing the “prize” at this park since we couldn’t do any tours of the ruins themselves, but spring was in the air and wildflowers were just starting to bloom.

Spring flower Navajo National Monument Arizona

Pretty wildflowers on the trail.

There are two dry camping campgrounds at Navajo National Monument, and they are free. Only one campground was open (and only two campsites were being used!), and with some jockeying a bigger rig could fit during seasons where there is little traffic. The signs give RV size limits of 25′ to 32′, depending on the sign, not just in the campground but on the road leading to Navajo National Monument, but in reality a 35′ fifth wheel could manage in one or two of the campsites we saw (with patience). Busy summer weekends might be more hair-raising with a big rig.

This is high desert country (7,300′) so it was quite cold during our stay, but we saw a beautiful sunset.

Sunset starburst Arizona

Remote and quiet in March, we had the sunset to ourselves.

Sunset Navajo National Monument

Sunset at Navajo National Monument

Traveling northeast from there, we passed through Monument Valley, which sits on the Arizona and Utah border. This ia a vast flat plain that is dotted with towering rock formations.

The most dramatic rock formations of Monument Valley are in the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park in the Navajo Nation, a four mile detour east of US-191, the road we were on. We decided to save a trip there for another time, but stopped in at a Welcome Center to get some info.

At least, the building had a sign on it that said “Welcome Center!”

When I walked in the door, I expected to see racks of literature and a helpful person behind a desk. Instead, I found myself staring at the backs of several rows of people in folding chairs listening to a man giving a speech. His voice was low, melodic and wistful. And the language he was speaking was Navajo!

Monument Valley Arizona

Monument Valley is dotted with enormous rock formations

I wasn’t sure if I should back out quietly or stick around and see what this was all about. Suddenly, a woman approached me and whispered and gestured towards some pamphlets on a table. She wanted me to sign a petition.

“What’s it for?” I whispered.

“It’s a petition to create Bear’s Ears National Monument,” she said. She handed me a map and a glossy brochure.

Monument Valley selling Indian crafts Arizona

Indians sell crafts from stands on the side of the road.

It turned out that the Navajo Nation (together with 25 other Indian tribes) has approached the federal public land agencies for help protecting their artifacts, relics and ruins. They have been struggling with preventing the desecration of archaeological sites (ancient ruins and petroglyphs), and they want to phase out mining too.

The Navajo have never sought this kind of help before, but apparently they simply don’t have the manpower or the authority to protect the unique archaeological sites. So they are proposing to convert 1.9 million acres of land (about 3,000 square miles) into a National Monument.

Monument Valley Arizona

Towering rock formations in this part of the country often hide Indian archaeological treasures

The parcel of land is enormous. It is the size of Delaware plus half of Rhode Island.

It is a triangle that stretches, more or less, from a bit SW of Moab, Utah, in the north, down about 90+ miles to the Utah/Arizona border in the south, and westward about 50 miles to Glen Canyon, and then about 80+ miles back up on a diagonal along the Colorado River towards Moab.

The popular landmarks and destinations of Natural Bridges National Monument, the Valley of the Gods, Goosenecks State Park, Newspaper Rock and Manti La-Sal National Forest would all be enclosed inside the boundaries of the new National Monument land.

Canyonlands National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area would border it to the west and south. The north-south highway of US-191 would be outside the eastern boundary but would more or less parallel the eastern border of the National Monument between the Moab area and the Arizona/Utah border.

You can see a map here:

Map of Proposed Bears Ears National Monument in Utah

RV at Monument Valley Arizona

This whole area is extremely popular with RVers and other travelers

This proposal is unique because it requires cooperation between several different agencies that manage public land, including the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service, all of which manage portions of the land parcel already (most of the land is currently under BLM management).

The organization that is behind this and that was making presentations and gathering signatures to present to President Obama when I walked in the door is called Utah Diné Bikéyah. “Diné” is the Navajo word for the Navajo people.

I spoke briefly with Gavin Noyes, the Executive Director. He explained that this has been in the works for a few years and that the hope is that Bears Ears National Monument will be created by President Obama before his presidency is over.

He explained that in many ways the process is being modeled on Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, another ~3,000 square mile public land conversion in southern Utah that was designated a U.S Presidential National Monument under the Antiquities Act of 1906 by President Bill Clinton.

Grand Staircase Escalante was created to preserve unique natural treasures (like red rock formations). Bears Ears National Monument will be created to preserve Native American cultural and archaeological treasures (ruins and petroglyphs and ceremonial sites).

RV at Monument Valley in Utah

The landscapes in this corner of the world are stunning.

I asked what the impact would be on recreational use of the land, like dispersed camping, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, etc. Gavin explained that the intention was for better management of the archaeological artifacts and that recreational use would still be allowed, just as it is still allowed in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

Photos in the proposal’s brochure show situations where people have attempted to remove petroglyphs from rock faces by cutting them out with high powered saws. They also show images of mining and other commercial land use. These are the things that this proposal is seeking to eradicate.

Of course, even presidential protection doesn’t guarantee anything. In 1955 President Eisenhower protected a four square mile portion of Tonto National Forest in Arizona, making it off limits to all future mining. In late 2015, that was overturned by the National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law by President Obama, enabling the very same National Forest public land to be sold to a private, for-profit Australian and British mining operation. Eventually, this mine will destroy a beloved recreation area once used by campers and rock climbers that at least one president sixty years ago thought was worth hanging onto. (More info here).

An editorial in the LA Times by former Secretary of the Interior (1993-2001), Bruce Babbitt, spells out all the political back and forth that is going on behind the scenes. Just like the situation that arose in Tonto National Forest where foreign copper mines have trumped recreational use of America’s public land, mining seems to be playing a central role here as well.

Monument Valley reflected in fifth wheel trailer RV

Monument Valley reflections on our RV

All of this was news to me, and perhaps it is news to you too. I am sharing it here because the recreational use of public land is a large part of what this website is about.

Further questions can be directed to Gavin Noyes, Executive Director of Utah Diné Bikéyah by phone: (801) 521-7398 or by email: gavin [at] xmission.com

For more information about the proposed Bears Ears National Monument, see these links:

Further info:

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Things We’ve Learned About Public Land Management Since We Began Full-time RVing:

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Lees Ferry & Marble Canyon AZ + Pretty Paria River Hike

March 2016 – Arizona boasts lots of incredibly scenic drives, and one beauty is Routes 89 and 89A which double back on themselves between Page and Lees Ferry in the northeast corner of the state. This is a portion of the Vermillion Cliffs Scenic Byway, an area that is great for RV travel. After our wonderful visit to the Horseshoe Bend overlook in Page, we drove to Marble Canyon and Lees Ferry.

RV at Lees Ferry Arizona red rocks

Lots of RVs drive the Vermillion Cliffs Scenic Byway

At Marble Canyon, the Navajo Bridge spans the Colorado River. It was built in 1929 and was an important bridge because it made it possible to cross the moody Colorado River without taking the more antiquated cable ferry across at nearby Lees Ferry.

Cars were new in those days, and the ferry system wasn’t great for carrying cars across the river. In 1928 the ferry sank, killing three men, so the bridge, known then as the Grand Canyon Bridge, was a huge improvement.

Today the original bridge is a walking bridge that runs parallel to the newer highway bridge that was opened in 1997.

Navajo Bridge Marble Canyon Arizona

The old Navajo Bridge (left) is now a footbridge. Highway traffic takes the bridge on the right.

Sheer cliffs plunge down to the Colorado River on either side.

Navajo Bridge Lees Ferry Arizona

The Navajo Bridge crosses the Colorado River

We enjoyed a stroll on the walking bridge. The river is a looooong way down!!

Navajo Bridge Overlook Marble Canyon Arizona

The river is way down there!!

We had loved our stay in the red rock country of Sedona, Arizona, a few weeks earlier, but that little town is just the beginning of the southwest’s explosion of orange and pink color in northern Arizona and southern Utah. Spring was just beginning, and we saw bunches of tiny purple wildflowers here and there.

Wildflowers in Lees Ferry Arizona

Wildflowers were just starting to bloom.

The road that winds from Marble Canyon into Lees Ferry is lined with dramatic red rock cliffs, and it is a jaw-dropper of a drive.

Scenic drive to Lees Ferry Arizona

The drive into Lees Ferry is gorgeous.

The towering red walls are still eroding, and in one area there is a massive debris field of enormous boulders that have broken away from the cliffs and rolled downhill. From a distance they look like gravel, but up close these boulders are gargantuan.

Huge red rock boulders Lees Ferry Arizona

Boulders strewn like gravel around the cliffs are actually really massive!!

We meandered among them and took a breather on a rock, totally awed by the sheer scale of Nature’s handiwork.

Hiking the red rocks at Lees Ferry Arizona

We love red rock country!

The forces of wind and water shaped these rocks, and we saw a jagged tributary leading to the Colorado River where a stream carved a zig-zag pattern through the rocks.

Lees Ferry Arizona crack in the earth

A tributary makes its way to the Colorado River

Prior to the Navajo Bridge, Lees Ferry was home to a cable ferry that was originally built by John Lee in 1873. It was the only place travelers could take their horses and wagons and themselves across the tempestuous Colorado River safely.

At the river’s edge there is a boat launch now, and this is a popular put-in spot for river rafters heading down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Two groups of rafters were launching their rafts when we were there. One group was starting a 24 day voyage down the river and the other was starting a 16 day trip. What fun!

Colorado River Rafters headed to Grand Canyon

Lees Ferry is the start of the Grand Canyon, both geologically and for river rafters too.

Just downstream from the boat launch we found the Paria Riffle and white sand Paria Beach where the Paria River joins the Colorado River. This is a really beautiful spot with turquoise water and pink boulders. For those wondering, Paria is pronounced “PaREEa” and not like the word “pariah.”

Paria Riffle and Paria Beach Lees Ferry Arizona

The Paria Riffle and the white sand Paria Beach are very inviting

John Lee’s homestead is now owned by the National Park Service, and we roamed around a little bit. There is an orchard, and visitors can pick the apples and other fruit for free during the fall harvest. We found an old wagon sitting nearby and chatted a bit with an NPS worker who was tending the trees in the orchard.

Old wagon at Lees Ferry Arizona

We roamed around the grounds of the old homestead at Lees Ferry

The farm house itself is off-limits to visitors, and the National Park Service has an engraved padlock keeping folks out.

NPS Padlock Lees Ferry Arizona

No Admittance.
(What a nice padlock!)

The last family to work the farm and live in these buildings left in the 1960’s when the National Park Service bought the property. We wandered out beyond the farmhouse along the dirt road that passes the old farm fields, and we found an old Chevy dually truck sitting out there. As I looked at it, I couldn’t help but think of the day the first owner proudly put the key in the ignition and drove it home. What kind of deal had he struck with the salesman, and what did his wife think of their new wheels?

Antique Chevy truck Lees Ferry Arizona

The last family that lived in the homestead moved out over 50 years ago and left some things behind.

The dirt road that goes by the Lees Ferry Homestead (the homestead is called Lonely Dell Ranch) is the start of the Paria River Trail hike, and we followed the trail for a mile or so along the river.

Paria River Trail Hike Lees Ferry Arizona

From Lonely Dell Ranch, we walked along the Paria River towards Paria Canyon.

The red rock cliffs glowed a deep orange in the afternoon sun, and the cottonwood trees glowed green. What a spot!

Paria River trail hike Lees Ferry Arizona

How beautiful!

Paria River Trail hike Lees Ferry Arizona

Who knew this gorgeous canyon was back here behind Lonely Dell Ranch?!

There was a corral and cattle chute in a more distant farm field. I think farming and ranching would be a pretty enjoyable activity in a setting like this!!

Cattle chute Lees Ferry Arizona

We found a corral and cattle chute out beyond the farm fields.

We walked back towards the farmhouse and caught some trees shimmering in the sun.

Artsy trees Paria River Trail hike Arizona

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The Paria River trail at Lees Ferry is actually the end of the 40+ mile Paria Canyon trail that starts at the White House Trailhead and goes through Buckskin Gulch and the Wire Pass Slot Canyon. As we were walking, we met two hikers that were wrapping up a three day hike through Paria Canyon. They were tired and had sore feet, but they said it had been a glorious hike. That multi-day hike is said to be one of Arizona’s best.

Hikers on Paria River Trail Buckskin Gulch Lees Ferry Arizona

We met a pair of hikers doing the last mile of their 3 day Paria Canyon hike. Wow!

If it is anything like the mile or so we walked at the south end, it must be truly stunning. We were catching the late afternoon sun on the eastern red rock canyon walls, but glancing at the shaded cliffs to the west, we could see that they must light up in spectacular color in the mornings…

Dirt road Paria River Trail Lees Ferry Arizona

The golden hour just before sunset lit the red rocks beautifully

We didn’t stay long at Lees Ferry, but we got a taste that will bring us back. This is the edge of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, and the whole area is ripe for exploring.

Road at Marble Canyon Arizona

Rush hour on the Vermillion Cliffs Scenic Byway

If you are taking your RV through northeastern Arizona from Page westward towards Jacob’s Lake and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Kanab, Utah or north towards Natural Bridges, the detour to Lees Ferry is really worthwhile. The combination of red rock canyons and riverside scenery is hard to beat!

RV camping Lees Ferry Arizona

Red rock country knocks our socks off every time we visit.

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Wire Pass Trail Slot Canyon – A FABULOUS hike further north in Paria Canyon
Two Gorgeous Paria Rimrocks Hikes – Easy to reach (and do) hikes at the far north end of the Paria River

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Horseshoe Bend Overlook – Page, Arizona – Stunning!

March 2016 – Horseshoe Bend is a jewel of spot just a few miles south of Page, Arizona, that’s easy to access and is a fabulous place to spend a few hours or more, especially for RVers headed through northeastern Arizona. As we brought our truck and trailer up from Sedona, Arizona, we stopped at Horseshoe Bend in the afternoon.

All smiles at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

At the Horseshoe Bend overlook it’s easy to be all smiles!

From the parking lot there is a 3/4 mile walk up and over a rise to get to the Horseshoe Bend overlook. Hundreds of people were on this trail going in both directions.

As we crested the rise and began the descent on the other side, we could see people scattering like ants as they approached the Horseshoe Bend overlook.

Walking towards Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Horseshoe Bend is extraordinarily popular, and swarms of tourists roam along the rim all day long.

This is a Very Cool Place. Even though we were there with throngs of other people, we felt a rush of excitement as we neared the edge. Everyone else seemed to feel the same way, and the unprotected rim of the overlook was jammed with tourists peering over the edge.

People at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Tourists were fearless at the edge.

Far down below, rafters were making their way along the Colorado River. The mighty Colorado has carved Horseshoe Bend over millenia, and it is staggering to think of the force necessary to dig this huge ditch through sandstone rock, especially with the river looking so meek and mild down there.

Colorado River rafters Horseshoe Bend Arizona

1,000 feet below, rafters were floating on the Colorado River

This is a great place for selfie shots too!

At the rim of Horseshoe Bend Arizona

I wasn’t the only one who wanted a pic of themselves at this overlook.

Selfie sticks were held high aloft all around us.

Taking selfies at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Selfie sticks were everywhere!

Taking selfies at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

No selfie stick? Use a folded up tripod!

Some folks were pretty creative getting photos of themselves. Others just laid on their bellies to get a shot of the incredible bend in the river a thousand feet down below.

Taking selfies at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Hmmm…. should I take a photo of me or a photo of that incredible view out there??

Some were brave and crept far out on a precipice for a very dramatic photo of themselves.

Horseshoe Bend Arizona Sitting on the RIm

The more daring the photo the better!

I’m not sure how many people had noticed the sign on the way in saying that the sandstone is crumbly and the overhanging edges have a tendency to break off…!

Photographer Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Everyone liked to be right on the edge.

As the afternoon wore on, the crowd swelled as people came in to get a shot of the sun setting over the bend in the river.

Photographers at Horseshoe Bend Overlook Arizona

Photographers lined up on the rim with their tripods.

The rim was packed with photographers getting set up for this special moment. Finding a place to squeeze in along the rim wasn’t so easy!!

Photographers Horseshoe Bend Arizona

We waited patiently for the sun to go down.

The excited discussion between everyone standing on the rim alternated between what kind of photography gear they had and speculation about whether we’d all have a chance to go for a starburst shot at the moment the sun vanished from the sky on the far side of the canyon. One woman said she had gotten a doozy of a starburst photo two nights before. We all crossed our fingers.

But Mother Nature had other plans for us that afternoon, and the sun slipped behind the horizon with nary a wink.

It was still very special!

Horseshoe Bend Sunset Arizona

We didn’t get a starburst, but the sunset was beautiful.

I had an 18-35 mm lens, but the best images were a little wider. Mark whipped out his favorite trusty 14 mm lens and got a fabulous image.

Horseshoe Bend Arizona sunset photo

Mark was able to get a beautiful and slightly wider shot at 14 mm.

As we watched the clouds drift across the sky in shades of orange and yellow, suddenly the river down below began to reflect the color. How cool!

Sunset at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

For a split second, the river reflected pink and orange back at the sky.

We left Horseshoe Bend on a total high, absolutely exhilarated by Nature’s show. If the sunset could be that magical, we thought, then what might be in store at sunrise?

The next morning we were on the trail before dawn. There were three cars in the parking lot, including ours, and a young couple was just ahead of us on the trail, weighed down with some serious looking photography gear.

I got chatting with Brittany as we trudged along the trail in the dark, and I discovered that she and her companion, Justin, were professional videographers with their own video production company, Chiet Productions. They had just landed a gig for a regular show on PBS about a nightclub in Washington, DC, that will begin airing in April. It’s called “Live at 9:30.”

They were here at Horseshoe Bend for pleasure, however, and they were planning to shoot the sunrise using timelapse photography.

Timelapse photography Horseshoe Bend Overlook Arizona

A pair of professional videographers set up three cameras on the rim for a timelapse video of the sunrise.

Mark and I went for stills, however, since that was where our heads were at this morning. it was too early to think clearly enough to figure out everything we’d need to do to set up a timelapse, although I LOVED the idea!!

The sunrise was lovely.

The funny thing is that the sunrise wasn’t all that different than the sunset the night before. The sun had set over the horizon in the distance in front of us, but the sun rose behind us, so it would seem the canyon would look quite different. However, the colors we saw at sunrise filled the sky opposite the sun as it rose, casting a soft light across the horizon front of us.

Sunrise Horseshoe Bend Arizona

This morning’s sunrise was just as lovely as last evening’s sunset.

A little while later, the sun lit up the top of the peak in front of us. As the sun rose higher and higher, the shadow on the cliff slipped lower and lower.

Horseshoe Bend Arizona between the cliffs

As the sun rose it lit more and more of the cliffs across the canyon, while the shadow crept slowly downwards.

When the big show was over, we found Justin and Brittany where we had left them with all their gear on the edge of the canyon. They had done three timelapse videos, one on a GoPro, one on a Sony mirrorless camera and one on a cell phone. Brittany showed me the one she’d done on her cell phone. She had caught the sun lighting the top of the pinnacle in the canyon and had captured the shadow slipping down its front as the sun rose higher. Wonderful!!

Videographers at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Brittany and Justin captured some great timelapse video of the sun rising in the canyon.

The morning wasn’t over yet, though. In fact, the day was just beginning. Where there had been just four of us on the rim at sunrise, we could now see a steady stream of people pouring down the trail, cameras and tripods in hand. The rim slowly became crowded with photographers and tourists once again!

Photographers with tripods at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

After sunrise, we were joined by lots of photographers at the rim.

Curious about some rock formations nearby, we headed off to the right (north). Leaving behind the growing rush of visitors arriving at the rim, we walked out into these cool rocks.

Lines in the rocks Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Away from the fray, to the north, we found some wonderful rock formations.

There were lots of curvy lines and ripples in the sandstone.

Patterns and Lines Horseshoe Bend Arizona

The curving lines and formations in the rocks were beautiful.

Rock crevices Horseshoe Bend Arizona

What magical shapes and formations!

We were both really intrigued by the contours of this fantastic land, and we roamed around this spot for quite some time.

Rock patterns Horseshoe Bend Arizona

The lines and patterns in the rocks drew us in.

If your RV travels take you to Page, Arizona, a stop at Horseshoe Bend is a must.

A few tips:

To avoid the crowds, the best time to get there is early in the morning.

If you are driving your RV, your best chance for finding a place to park it in the parking lot is early morning, not too long after dawn. There is turnaround room (big buses come and go regularly all day long), but it seemed to me that on weekends at peak season, especially holidays, this parking lot probably fills early and would be nearly impossible for an RV. We were there midweek in mid-March, and the number of tourists was mind boggling. The numbers intensify in the afternoon, especially near sunset.

Rock lines Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Horseshoe Bend is an overlook that deserves more than a fleeting glimpse over the edge

As you hit the walking trail to Horseshoe Bend, there’s a sign that says this is a Fee Area managed by the National Park Service. Interestingly, no money was being collected and no one asked to see our Federal Interagency Pass. The National Park Service could be making a small fortune here, as I’m sure several thousand people visit every day.

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More info about Horseshoe Bend:

National Park Service Website – Official description of Horseshoe Bend
Allstays – RV Parks near Page, AZ
Location of Horseshoe Bend – Google Maps (it is mis-labled “Houseshoe” and called a “chapel” – funny!)

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A Glimpse of the Navajo (Diné)

One of the biggest highlights of attending the photo workshop put on by Photography Life in Colorado this past fall was meeting pro photographer John “Verm” Sherman and, a few weeks later, his pro photographer girlfriend Dawn Kish.

Navajo Indian Dreamcatcher in Arizona

An Navajo dreamcatcher twists and turns in the wind

Dawn is a contributing photographer for Arizona Highways and she shoots for National Geographic as well. Her photography is so unique that one of her photos was selected by National Geographic Traveler as being among the Top 30 photos of the Last 30 Years.

Wow!!! Better yet, she is a vivacious and fun-loving woman who spends her leisure time rock climbing and mountain biking.

We were lucky enough to camp alongside her and Verm recently. When I told her we had just done some exploring in the Navajo Nation, she told me she had just finished an assignment making a video of the Navajo Nation Fair.

Suddenly, she plopped her laptop on our table, set up our two chairs to face it so we could watch, and brought up this incredible video.

I was spellbound.

I don’t know much about the Navajo (whose name for themselves is not Navajo but Diné). They are a very private people, and like indigenous people on every continent, they have been continually challenged to try and integrate into the society that enveloped them while hanging onto their traditions.

Dawn’s client asked her to make a video that honored the Navajo, and the result is both evocative and moving. She has captured their spirit and essence beautifully, and I had tears in my eyes as I watched a young Navajo girl dressed in full ceremonial splendor singing the American National Anthem — in Navajo.

Enjoy this beautiful glimpse into the lives of a special people whose roots in Arizona go back hundreds of years. It is ten minutes long and the link is below. Putting it in full screen is best!

If you are prompted for a password, it is Dine.

A few years ago, we watched a fabulous PBS “Independent Lens” documentary of a young Navajo girl who participated in the Miss Navajo Pageant, a competition that tests teenage Navajo girls’ mastery of women’s Navajo traditions, including slaughtering a sheep and speaking the language.

After seeing this PBS documentary, we traveled through Window Rock, Arizona, and saw their unique memorial to the Navajo Code Talkers. I picked up a fantastic book that gives a little insight into the Navajo, their patriotism to America and the unique (and arguably tide-turning) role they played in the Pacific theater of WWII: Search for the Navajo Code Talkers.

Just prior to that, while traveling in Mexico, we also had a special encounter with the little known indigenous Lacandon people of Chiapas who were “discovered” in 1948, a scant 66 years ago.  Like the the Navajo in America, they are working to find ways to integrate with mainstream Mexican society. You may enjoy this post about our trip there:

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Mysteries in the Navajo Nation, Arizona

October, 2014 – The snow in Ouray, Colorado, had transformed the surrounding national forest into a winter wonderland. Each night we looked up to see a dome of sparkling diamonds in the sky. This was a perfect chance to do some astro-photography, and one night Mark got out all his camera gear and his jacket, hat, boots and mittens before going to bed.

Night sky in Colorado with the Milky Way

Stars glitter in the heavens over Colorado

Back of the truck with snow

Even our water bottles were dusted with snow!

Sometime in the wee hours, while I was groping around for another blanket to pull over my head, he snuck outside and got some beautiful photos of the Milky Way and shimmering sky.

Another snowstorm delivered another dusting of the white stuff on everything, and we decided we had shivered enough.

As that night’s snow melted during the morning, we packed everything up, hitched up the buggy and started to pull out.

Snow capped mountains and a lake in Colorado

Our views on the Million Dollar Highway were spectacular.

Well, we TRIED to pull out!

The nice soft dirt that had been under the fifth wheel’s tires when we first set up camp had transformed into thick gooey mud.

Despite putting the truck in four wheel drive, the tires spun like crazy, flinging mud far and wide and splattering the whole front of the trailer. But the trailer didn’t budge! Mark grabbed our shovel and piled dry gravelly dirt in front of each of the truck and trailer tires.

Golden aspen and snow in Colorado

Nature was showing the last of her vibrant fall colors.

After a few groans from the hitch, the rig slowly began to move. We were on our way.

We drove up and over 11,000′ Red Mountain Pass into Silverton and then over two more passes before we dropped down into Durango.

The truck was working hard as it pulled our house along, but it made it through the three big climbs and descents just fine. Mark had recently installed a K&N air intake and an Edge Tuner, and these gave the truck a huge power boost on the many 10% grades.

The scenery was gorgeous, and it was bittersweet to leave the glowing aspens and snow-capped peaks behind.

But the red rocks of Arizona’s Indian country welcomed us.

Driving into Monument Valley Arizona

Monument Valley.

We were on a mission to get to Phoenix, Arizona, so we didn’t dawdle anywhere. However, when the turn-off for Monument Valley slipped by, we did a U-turn and circled back to drive a short ways out on spectacular Route 163 towards the valley.

Monument Valley Arizona

Classic Arizona skyline.

Dream catcher for sale near Monument Valley Arizona

A dream catcher blows in the wind
at a souvenir stand.

We hadn’t done that drive in many years, but it was just as dramatic as we remembered it being.

This is an iconic place, and lots of Hollywood movies have been filmed among these famous rock formations (see a list here).

Monument Valley Mitten formations Arizona

Monument Valley is famous for its mitten formations.

We had recently watched John Wayne’s black and white 1939 classic film Stagecoach and his 1956 film The Searchers which pretends this incredible landscape is in Texas!

5th wheel RV at sunset

A full moon appeared at sunset.

Seeing these monoliths for real on the horizon was breathtaking.

The road into Monument Valley is dotted with simple little structures where Navajo Indians sell their jewelry, pottery and other crafts.

A dreamcatcher fluttering in the wind at one of these open air booths caught my eye as it twisted and turned against the backdrop of the distant red rocks.

I got chatting with the very friendly woman who was selling these trinkets.

Cow silhouette_

Cows appear on a ridge.

Navajo Indian hand painted Christmas Ornament

Hand-painted Christmas ornament

I remarked that she had quite a spectacular view out her “office” window and she smiled and joked that her twenty mile commute along these roads wasn’t too bad either.

I soon found myself picking out a beautifully painted ceramic Christmas ornament.

“Those are painted by my friend,” she said. “She makes each one by hand, and each one depicts a different aspect of traditional Navajo society.”

On our hike we suddenly see a red rock canyon

Rainbow canyon in the Navajo Nation

I looked at the ornament in my hand.

It occurred to me that even though we have driven through the Navajo Nation many times — it takes up a good 15% of Arizona in the northeast corner of the state — we didn’t know much about the people or culture that reside here.

Outside the craft shop two old Indian women stood talking together — in Navajo.

I tip-toed past very slowly, trying to catch the sound of their language that flowed so easily and freely between them.

Guttural, staccato and clipped, it sounded like no other language I’ve ever heard.

“We really need to spend more time here,” I said under my breath to Mark as we got back in the truck, wishing we could stay and get to know these people a bit and learn a little more.

Before I knew it, he’d taken a turn off the main road, and we were bumping down some side road.

He had us on a crazy detour that was taking us far from the busy Route 160 that zips through the center of this land between Cortez, Colorado, and Flagstaff, Arizona.

We drove along a variety of back roads, watching unusual rock formations rise and fall around us as the traffic grew lighter and lighter.

 

Hiking with views on the Navajo Reservation

Suddenly, the land fell away in front of us.

Navajo Nation red rock canyon hike

We were standing on the edge of a rainbow canyon that stretched vast and wide before us.

We ran out to take a closer look and found ourselves staring out at a massive bowl of towering hoodoos made of pink and red and white striped sandstone.

The spires were a thousand feet tall and the canyon stretched to the horizon.

What a beautiful and mysterious place.

Red rock canyon lights up in the morning sun

From what I’ve read, the Navajo are reserved and private people, and they aren’t quick to reveal the secrets of their lives. How fitting that an exotic natural treasure like this lies hidden in the vast wide open plains on their land, unmarked and unfettered by the trappings of civilization. We watched in awe as the sunrise slowly lit the canyon with a gentle glow.

Hiking through red rock hoodoos and canyons in Arizona

Desert southwest hike through red rock canyon of hoodoo formations

I wrote this post over Thanksgiving weekend, and an observant reader reminded me that Thanksgiving was, of course, a celebration shared by the Indians and the pilgrims centuries ago. The celebration took place in the fall of 1621 in Massachusetts, likely at the end of September, and was attended by 90 Wampanoag Indians and 53 pilgrims. The Navajo were a far distant tribe in Arizona, but they shared a similar spirit and heritage with the Indians of the Atlantic coast.

Related posts from Indian Country:

Related posts from exotic canyons with red rock spires:

All our posts from Arizona: Here!

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New to this site? Visit our Home page to read more about our full-time traveling lifestyle and our Intro for RVers to find out where we keep all the good stuff. If you like what you see, we'd love for you to subscribe to receive our latest posts!