RV Camping with the Rock Art Petroglyphs in Gila Bend, AZ

For years we’ve driven back and forth between San Diego and Phoenix on I-8, zipping by the exit for Painted Rock Petroglyph Site. I’d always look out the window thinking wistfully, “Oooh, that must be so interesting!” but it is a ways off the interstate and we were always on a mission to get wherever we were going and didn’t have time to stop.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Sunset at Painted Rock Petroglyph Site near Gila Bend in Arizona

On a recent trip we decided to make Painted Rock Petroglyph Site our destination, and we scooted off the freeway onto a paved side road that wandered off into the desert.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Petroglyphs cover all the rocks and boulders at this site.

In a few short miles we arrived at the site and were delighted with what we found.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Some images are recognizable like the double parallel squiggly lines that probably indicate there’s water nearby.

The sun was setting and it cast a wonderful pink glow across the desert and the pile of rocks that is the centerpiece of the site.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend AZ

Sunset on a sun rock!

Following a trail around the rock pile, we found that petroglyphs literally covered almost every boulder, rock and small stone.

Unlike so many petroglyph sites where the rock art is located high up on a wall or far across a canyon, these petroglyphs were right there in plain site at our feet.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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On one side of the huge rock pile there’s a dry camping campground with lovely widely spaced sites. A few of the campsites are right alongside the trail where campers can have a view of petroglyph covered rocks right from the RV window!

The next day we wandered further and were amazed at the wide variety of patterns, designs and images we saw on these petroglyph adorned rocks.

Patterns Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

A saguaro cactus stands watch over some petroglyphs.

Some of the designs were easy to decipher, like parallel squiggly lines that surely describe the water sources that can be found nearby in the Gila River.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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Others were just crazy designs that seem indecipherable.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Crazy patterns!

Almost every face of every rock had at least one design on it.

Pattern Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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There were also lizards with tails — very similar to the little guys we saw scurrying between the rocks — and some images of people too.

Bullseye Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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Bullseye Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

A lizard and a bullseye.

It was also intriguing that there were quite a few bullseye types of designs. Some were concentric rings.

Man and Bullseye Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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Bullseyes and animals Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Concentric circles form two bullseyes.

And some were spirals. Was this accidental or did the two styles of circular designs have different meanings? Or were these things just random doodles after all?

Spiral Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

A spiral pattern.

It is thought that these petroglyphs were pecked out of these rocks by the Hohokam people who lived in this area between 350 AD and 1400 AD, the same time frame spanning the Mayans in Central America and the ancient Khmer in Cambodia and Thailand.

There are ancient dwellings and rock art sites all over the southwest and they are impossible to protect from roaming vandals. Sometimes they bear scars from bullets or spray paint and sometimes an over eager collector has cut the entire face of the rock off to take elsewhere.

Navajo pattern Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

A cool and complex pattern defaced with bullet marks.

Stealing defacing petroglyphs Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Someone chiseled the whole surface of the rock off to take elsewhere.

But there are still thousands of pristine images carved on rocks all over this area that have survived as much as 1,000 years or more in the hot desert sun. Staring at them stirred my imagination as I pondered what motivated the ancient people to leave this legacy of art work strewn across the massive expanse of barren and inhospitable landscapes that makes up this part of the Sonoran desert.

If you find yourself traveling on I-8 with your RV about 18 miles west of Gila Bend, Arizona, take a detour off the highway and check out the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site!

More links below.

RV camping boondocking Arizona

Painted Rock Petroglyph Site is a little gem for RVers about 90 miles southwest of Phoenix, Arizona!

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City of Rocks State Park, NM – RV Camping in the Hoodoos!

November 2015 – Scooting across New Mexico, we left the display of aging missiles at White Sands Missile Range Park and made our way to a place on the map that looked too fun to miss — the City of Rocks. As we traveled, stunning sunrises and sunsets continued to punctuate the start and end of everyday.

New Mexico Sunset CIty of Rocks

A wonderful New Mexico sunset!

The City of Rocks is a huge collection of massive boulders clustered together in a vast open plain. For miles, all we had seen was wide vistas of nothing, barely a bush and not even a tree. Then we suddenly saw “the city” ahead.

City of Rocks New Mexico

The City of Rocks!

New Mexico has turned this “urban” landscape into a wonderful state park that is essentially a huge campground with hiking trails scattered through and around it.

RV camping City of Rocks New Mexico

New Mexico’s City of Rocks is a little camping paradise.

At the entrance to the park there is an area with electric and water RV hookups.

RV hookup campsites City of Rocks Campground New Mexico

There are hookups if you want them.

The rest of the “city” is filled with charming campsites that snuggle up against the rocks.

RV camped at City of Rocks Campground New Mexico

You can be off on your own communing with the hoodoos!

RV camping at City of Rocks New Mexico

What a neat campsite!

We were enchanted. What a fun place to camp!

Motorhome at City of Rocks Campground New Mexico

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We hopped on our bikes and checked out the trail that encircles the whole area. This is a very pleasant trail for walking (it’s just a few miles long) or for biking.

Moutain biking City of Rocks New Mexico

There’s a short trail for hiking or biking.

We had fun taking our bikes around the campground loops.

Mountain bike ride City of Rocks New Mexico

A very fun place for a bike ride!

The trail also climbs a steep hill at one point, and we had a blast bombing down the road.

Bicycling City of Rocks New Mexico

Barreling downhill towards the city.

Early one morning, we spotted a hawk that was surprisingly calm and didn’t seem to mind us too much.

Bicycling City of Rocks New Mexico

A hawk keeps an eye on me but doesn’t get spooked.

Each campsite is unique, and they come in various sizes and shapes.

Camping in an RV at City of Rocks New Mexico

I just love a retro trailer. This one is actually almost brand new!

Some campsites are fairly level and some are very unlevel, but each one is charming.

Motorhome camping at City of Rocks New Mexico

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On the Pegasus North Loop you can get away from it all and be quite far away from the “hubub” of “the city.” However, if you want to stay more than one night on that loop, you have to reserve in advance.

RV with solar panels City of Rocks New Mexico campground

On the Pegasus Loop you need to reserve ahead or just stay one night.

We loved this little spot, and highly recommend it to anyone planning a visit to New Mexico. For RV travelers that are headed east-west on I-10, the nice thing is it’s not too far from the freeway — just under 30 miles.

Motorhome RV camping City of Rocks New Mexico campground

A beautiful pink-and-blue sky… I love those skies in the early evening in the western deserts!

The cost when we stayed at City of Rocks was $10/night for dry camping and $18/night for electric and water hookups. The cool thing about New Mexico is that you can purchase an annual State Parks camping permit (currently $225 for non-New Mexico residents and $180 for the lucky in-state crowd) that gives you huge discounts on overnight camping. If you have one of these nifty camping permits, the dry camping sites are free and the electric/water sites are $4/night. More info below…

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Boondocking at Big Bend National Park – Cheap & Scenic RV Camping

How to “Boondock” at Big Bend National Park

Big Bend in Texas is an unusual park in the National Park System because they offer a few inexpensive RV dry camping sites scattered about the park grounds. It isn’t really “boondocking” like you’d find on other government public land managed by the US National Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. However, it is a very inexpensive and scenic alternative to staying in a conventional RV park or campground. For first-time boondockers, it can offer a great introduction to dry camping amid nature and solitude in your RV.

Big Bend National Park assigns these campsites on a first-come first-serve basis, as if the entire National Park were one huge campground. The sites that are big enough for large RVs are very few and are tightly controlled, and the system for obtaining a “Backcountry Camping Permit” to stay in one can be confusing. Here is what we learned about the system when we took part in it for two weeks during February and March, 2015.

RV Boondocking and camping in Big Bend National Park Texas

“Boondocking” at Big Bend National Park

All five of the Visitors Centers in the park have computer access to a database of dispersed campsites throughout the park. You can obtain a permit and reserve a site in person from a ranger at one of these Visitors Centers 24 hours ahead of your stay. The permit is $10 and you can reserve up to 14 consecutive nights in specific campsites on a single permit, reserving as many different sites as you like and as are available.

An important point is that the permit is good only for the actual nights and sites you reserve through the ranger when you purchase the permit. If you want to extend your stay or change your campsite after you buy your permit, you have to cancel the remaining nights on your permit and buy a new one. Also, you can’t obtain a permit to reserve a site without appearing at a Visitors Center in person.

As a courtesy to other campers: if you don’t use all the nights on your permit (the weather might turn and send you scurrying, as it did to us), be sure to cancel the remaining nights on your permit by stopping in at the Visitors Center or calling them. Otherwise, the site will sit vacant while other RVers are wishing they could use it.

Big Bend National Park Texas RV boondocking_

“Boondocking” at Big Bend National Park

Many RVers have small driveable rigs and there is no evidence they are using a site during the day while they are out hiking, so unless you tell the Park Service you are vacating your site, they will have no way of knowing that you left early.

Our Experience Getting a Permit

From what we observed, there is one computer at each Visitors Center that has access to the backcountry camping permit database, so a line for permits forms during popular times. We stood in line at the Panther Junction Visitors Center in the middle of the park for 30 minutes on a Saturday morning when the weather for the next few days was predicted to be sunny and in the high 70’s.

The other people in line were primarily backpackers and car/tent campers getting permits either to do extended overnight hikes across the park or to camp in remote dispersed campsites we could never reach with our truck and trailer. We were the only RVers in line waiting for a site big enough for a big rig.

Each person spent about 5 minutes with the ranger, first reviewing the map of the National Park to pick out a campsite and to learn from the ranger what the site was like, and then filling out the permit application, and lastly listening to the ranger read the camping rules aloud.

Big Bend National Park RV camping and boondocking in Texas_

Hannold Draw

When our turn came, we were advised against staying in a particular site that we later found out would have been perfectly fine. However, an RVer had complained at one time that the site was unlevel, so this particular ranger decided not to present that site as a viable option to other RVers with big rigs.

It is wise to study the National Park map (click here and go to “View Park Map” — the campsites are the light colored tents) and even to drive to the various dispersed campsites to assess whether or not your rig will fit and whether you might enjoy camping there. In general, rigs under 30-35 feet in total length end-to-end (hitched up) would fit in most sites along the main roads.

One of the rules that appears to be enforced is that you are not allowed to run a generator in backcountry camping sites. We overheard two rangers discussing a tent camper who had hidden a generator in his tent! If you don’t have solar power installed on your RV, a small portable solar power kit may be the way to go.

amping in Big Bend National Park in an RV in Texas

“Government Spring” site at Grapevine Hills

RV Camping Strategies at Big Bend

It is common to find that all the campsites are booked for the first few days after you arrive. So, plan to stay elsewhere at first and keep checking back until a site opens up.

The campground at Rio Grande Village on the far eastern end of the park has both full hookup sites that can be reserved online and dry camping sites that are first-come first-serve. Rates range from $33 for full hookups to $14 for dry camping to half that for Seniors with the Senior Access Pass.

The other two campgrounds inside Big Bend National Park — Cottonwood, towards the southwest near the Santa Elena Canyon hike, and Chisos Campground, up in the mountains near the Lost Mine and Window Trail hikes (review of those hikes here) — have smaller sites that may not accommodate bigger rigs. However the Big Bend Resort & Adventures RV Park in Terlingua-Study Butte just outside the western boundary of the park offers full hookups and advanced reservations.

Each of the “boondocking” campsites we saw in Big Bend has pros and cons. One strategy for tackling Big Bend National Park with an RV is to spend a few days camped on the western side at Big Bend RV Adventures, a few days of “boondocking” in the dispersed campsites in the middle and a few days in Rio Grande Village at the eastern end of the park, as there are outstanding things to see and do in each of these locales. Camping near your planned activiites will cut way down on the commuter driving you do across the park!

For those with more rugged rigs, there are some fabulous sounding campsites that will get you deep into nature. We didn’t camp at or even see these locations, but friends with an Earth Roamer RV enjoyed some true backcountry camping experiences in their rig.

RV camping boondocking in Big Bend National Park Texas

Grapevine Hills

Summary of the Larger Backcountry RV Campsites in Big Bend:

Grapevine Hills

There are three campsites on this dirt road that goes 6 miles out to the Grapevine Hills hike with the balancing rock. The first is 0.3 miles in on the left side and is suitable for a big rig. This particular site is also known as “Government Spring” and can accommodate a big rig and a smaller one comfortably if friends are traveling together.

Campsites two and three are 3.7 miles down the road on the right hand side and they are essentially a double site. The views of the Chisos Mountains are lovely, however this is a very busy road with lots of people flying by at wild speeds to get to and from the hiking trail at the end, so it can be very dusty.

Paint Gap

There are three campsites on the first part of this dirt road. The first at 0.9 miles would be suitable for a rig of 35′ or less end-to-end. The second and third are 2.1 miles in and are good for a trailer of 25′ or so. We weren’t sure we could have squeezed our 36′ fiver in there. See the comment from Robin below who had a great time there with a 24′ travel trailer.

Croton Springs

There are two campsites in a huge open area at the end of this dirt road down about 0.5 miles. Probably 3 or 4 big RVs could fit if friends were traveling together. This is the site that one RVer apparently felt was too unlevel for a big rig, but when we drove down here we thought it would have been an awesome place to stay and just wished the ranger had mentioned it as an option.

K-Bar

This is a very rough dirt road that has a small site for a small trailer, van or truck camper at 1.1 miles. Further on, at 1.5 miles, there is a little more room, but it would take some jockeying for a big rig to get set up. See the comment below from Robin who said they loved the second site and got their 24′ travel trailer into it just fin!

Hannold Draw

This is a highway maintenance yard about 0.1 miles down a dirt road that has a huge site big enough for several RVs and even has a horse corral. The entrance is quite steep and we used 4×4 Low Gear to climb out. The enormous trash heaps are a little off-putting as you drive in (“Are we going camping in a junkyard?” we asked each other!), but there is a berm on the west side that provides wind protection (if it’s from the west), and the mountain view is beautiful.

Dust on the road camping in Big Bend Texas

Dust can be a problem at some sights (this is Grapevine Hills).

Notes

  • The busy seasons at Big Bend National Park are Thanksgiving, Christmas and Spring Break in March.
  • There is water at the Panther Junction VIsitors Center (limit: 5 gallons per person per day)
  • There are RV dump stations at Big Bend Adventures RV Park outside the western boundary of the park and at Rio Grande Village at the eastern end of the park.
  • Cell phone and cellular based internet access is acceptable at the boondocking sites with a WiFi booster and antenna. WiFi is sometimes available at Rio Grande Village, however when we were there we heard it had been turned off because someone had been abusing the priviledge.

 

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Wupatki Nat’l Monument – Ancient Indian Ruins & Great Camping in AZ!

Flagstaff's San Francisco peaks seen across the meadow outside Bonito Campground.

Flagstaff's San Francisco peaks seen across the meadow outside Bonito Campground.

Coconino Forest's ponderosa pine woods.

Coconino Forest's ponderosa pine woods.

Wildflowers at Bonito Campground, Flagstaff, AZ

Wildflowers at Bonito.

Sunflowers and San Francisco Mountains, Flagstaff, AZ San Francisco peaks, Flagstaff, AZ

San Francisco peaks.

National Forest Service campground, Bonito Campground, Flagstaff, AZ

Bonito Campground.

NFS Campground, Coconino National Forest, Bonito Campground, Flagstaff, AZ Coconino National Forest, Bonito Campground, Flagstaff, AZ Coconino National Forest, Bonito Campground, Flagstaff, AZ Meadow near Coconino National Forest Bonito Campground.

The meadow that used to be filled with

sunflowers is now parched and cracked.

Sunflowers outside Coconino National Forest Bonito Campground.

Some sunflowers line the road.

Ponderosa Pine outside Coconino National Forest Bonito Campground. Sunset Crater National Monument

Sunset Crater just before a downpour.

Nalakihu Dwellings in Wupatki National Monument.

Looking down at Nalakihu from Citadel Pueblo.

Nalakihu Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.

Nalakihu Pueblo.

Box Canyon Dwellings in Wupatki National Monument.

Lomaki Box Canyon dwellings.

View from inside Wupatki Pueblo, Wupatki National Monument.

View from inside Wupatki Pueblo.

Lizard spotted at Wupatki National Monument, Flagstaff, AZ Lizard spotted at Wupatki National Monument, Flagstaff, AZ Box Canyon Dwellings at Wupatki National Monument, Flagstaff, AZ

Lomaki Box Canyon dwellings.

Lomaki Pueblo at Wupatki National Monument, Flagstaff, AZ

Lomaki Pueblo.

Window in Lomaki Pueblo at Wupatki National Monument, Flagstaff, AZ

Lomaki Pueblo.

Citadel Pueblo at Wupatki National Monument, Flagstaff, AZ

Looking out at the high desert plains from Citadel Pueblo.

Wupatki Pueblo and Kiva at Wupatki National Monument, Flagstaff, AZ

Wupatki Pueblo and its round Kiva (gathering place).

Wupatki Pueblo at Wupatki National Monument, Flagstaff, AZ

Wupatki Pueblo, home for about 100 people.

Blow hole at Wupatki National Monument, Flagstaff, AZ

Mark plays with the blow hole's breezes.

Imminent thunderstorm and downpour in Coconino National Forest outside Sunset Crater National Monument

Our picnic is cut short by looming black skies.

Lightning in Coconino National Forest outside Sunset Crater National Monument

Lightning!

Bonito Campground & Wupatki Nat'l Monument, Flagstaff, AZ

August, 2011 - We crossed the Sea of Cortez from just north of Bahía Concepción on the Baja side of Mexico to San Carlos on

the mainland side in late June, a 75 mile jaunt.  It was the very best sailing day in our entire seven months spent cruising the

Mexican coast: bright sunny skies, flat seas, and a sprightly wind drawing us along on a close reach.  Our arrival in San Carlos was

the first step of our re-entry into civilization and the US, and each stage of re-entry was a shock.

Perhaps the most jarring

moment in this process was our

first trip to a Super Frys

supermarket in Phoenix.  What a

staggering abundance of

gorgeous produce, so beautifully

presented and in such perfect

condition!  Mark and I stood and

stared in amazement, mouths

open in awe.  "Where's my

camera?" I cried.  Our friends

thought we were nuts.

Getting to Phoenix from San

Carlos required an 11 hour bus ride,

and we then returned to San Carlos by

truck (a mere eight hour drive) to deliver

some things to the boat and relieve the

boat of other things

we didn't need any

more (winter

clothing!).

Then over the next

six weeks we

skidded from being

merely bone tired to

being utterly

exhausted as we ticked off the endless items on our "to do" list of

chores.  We lived as perennial house guests, bouncing between

generous friends' homes.

The madness culminated with finding new tenants for our

townhouse.  Sleeping on an air mattress in our empty

townhouse during a frantic week of repainting the interior, we

realized we had come full circle.  Four years of traveling, with

only the briefest visits to Phoenix, and here we were back in

our townhouse again, surrounded by the same smells, the

same noises, the same sensations that had been the essence

of our old home.  What had the last four years meant?  Had we

grown or just taken a big detour through life?  There was no

time to think about that; there were chores to do!

Once our

responsibilities were

behind us, we grabbed

the trailer out of

storage and dashed up

to Flagstaff as fast as

we could go.  We made

a beeline for Bonito

Campground, our all-

time favorite

campground.  Despite

being die-hard

boondockers, we splurged on a weeklong stay there while we re-familiarized

ourselves with the RV lifestyle and restocked the trailer with everything we had

pillaged from it for the boat.

Here at 7000' elevation we finally began to take stock and get some perspective on all

that we'd been through.  When we left Phoenix in 2007, real estate was peaking at

astronomical prices.  Now, on our return, there was a sea of homes in various stages

of financial distress and foreclosure.  Few real estate signs were visible, however.  The

panic was largely on paper and online, and too often was manifested in midnight

moves.  Some of our once-wealthy friends were now scrambling to pick up the pieces

of their lives, while other less well-heeled friends were suddenly able to afford

gorgeous homes.

The city's everpresent, massive

expansion into the outlying pristine

desert was temporarily on hold while it adjusted to the new economy.  Our

memories of Phoenix as it once was were overlaid onto Phoenix as it is today,

and there were areas where the images meshed, and areas where they were

like two different places.

Some of the changes were within ourselves as well.  Our souls were the same,

but all this traveling had expanded our knowledge of the lands around us, and

we had come to know ourselves better too.  These thoughts swirled around us

as we rested and strolled about Bonito's pretty grounds.  Life aboard Groovy in

Mexico felt like a far distant dream.

The land surrounding Bonito Campground has changed too.  Last year this part

of Coconino National Forest was devastated by the Schultz wildfire which wiped out some

15,000 acres, mostly on the area's mountain slopes.  Campers at Bonito were evacuated

twice, first to escape the fire and later to avoid the erosion-caused floods.  As a ranger

explained to us, the floods altered the landscape forever and

even moved floodplains.  Many nearby homes were damaged

or lost, a young girl drowned, and the water rose to about 8' in

the campground's amphitheater, leaving the place buried in

sludge.

Knowing some of this before we arrived, it was with trepidation

that we approached the campground.  The meadow that is

usually teeming with bright yellow sunflowers at this time of

year was devoid of blooms and parched and cracked in

places.  But what a thrill it was to see and smell our beloved

ponderosa pine woods.  Bonito's soul is the same, just singed

a bit here and there.  The wildflowers still line the edges of the

roads and promise to return to the meadows.  The

hummingbirds still buzz the campers looking for easy

meals in feeders.  Some ponderosas have blackened

trunks, but the tops are green.

However, the Schultz fire was

nothing compared to the volcano

that erupted at next-door Sunset

Crater around 1050 AD.  Spewing

marble-to-football sized chunks of

rock into the air for a few months

(or possibly several years), the

evacuation of the local farmers

lasted for generations.  The

volcano layered the land for many

miles around in a thick blanket of

cinder.  In its last moments it spat

out a final burst of cinder that was oxidized to a rust color.  This gives the mountain a distinctive

orange-red top to this day, and the sun and shadows spend their days playing with the color.

We took a drive through the

nearby Indian ruins at Wupatki

National Monument.  These

were built 50-100 years after

the eruption by the so-called

Sinagua people who returned

to the area to find that the

blanket of volcanic ash now

helped keep rare moisture in

the soil.  They somehow eked out a farm life, living essentially

"sin agua" or "without water."

The ruins are like tiny dots on vast open plains, each located

several miles apart.  The San Francisco mountains line the

horizon, but there are few trees or other protection between the open lands and the sky.

We opted to start at the far end of the drive, visiting the more remote

ruins first. These were built above small box canyons that are

essentially ditches in the ground bounded on two or three sides by 100'

rock cliffs.  The cliffs provide the only weather protection in the area.

The Sinagua people understood real estate:  location location location.

It was early

morning and utterly

silent.  The

crunching of my

feet on the gravel paths made the cottontail

bunnies run, and lizards of all shapes and

sizes scurried for cover under rocks along

the trail.  We were the only visitors at each

ruin, lending a sense of magic to each

place.

At the biggest ruin, Wupatki Pueblo,

Mark played with the natural

"blow hole" air vent.  The

National Park Service has built

a structure around it, but the

blow-hole itself is the real deal,

blowing air out or sucking it in

depending on ambient

temperatures and air pressures.

As we returned to the

campground the sky turned

black, thunder rolled and

lightning streaked the sky.  For

seven months on the boat in

Mexico we hadn't seen a single

drop of rain.  The deluge that came now was fantastic.

We drove through it

laughing, barely able to

see the road ahead, and

we jumped back in the

trailer, glad to have real

shelter.  It was so great to

be back in our RV lifestyle

again.  The rain pummeled

our roof all afternoon, and

we fell asleep to the plink

plink plink of raindrops

overhead.  Little did we

know the downpours

would continue for several days.  The sun finally returned in full blaze

as we took off to head north to Dixie National Forest in Utah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Valley of Fire, NV – A Cauldron Cooled

Valley of Fire State Park, Las Vegas, Nevada

Red Rock flames lick the edges of the older dolomite hills.

Arches in Atlatl Campground, Valley of Fire State Park

Arches and holes near the walk-in tent sites.

Scorpion petroglyph on the Atlatl Rock panel

Scorpion petroglyph.

Arch Rock at Valley of Fire State Park

A red rock hand forms the "okay" sign.

Red rock chaos

Chaos resulting from cosmic clashes.

The Beehives at Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

One of the Beehives

The Beehives at Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Elephant Rock

Red rock sandstone and dolomite mountains

A glance across 350 million years of

geological evolution.

Dolomite mountains from an ancient seabed floor

Geological look back across time.

Petrified log at Valley of Fire State Park

Petrified log.

Valley of Fire Scenic Drive

View across the valley.

Seven Sisters formation at Valley of Fire

RIbbon of road near the Seven Sisters formation.

Valley of Fire Scenic Drive

Snaking road near the east entrance.

The Cabins built by the CCC in 1935

The CCC Cabins built in 1935.

Fireplace inside one of the cabins

Cozy fireplace inside a cabin.

View out the window of one of the cabins

What a view out the window!

View out our RV window

Great views here too, plus running water and a fridge!

Dime store photo booth!

Red rock canyon walls at Petroglyph Canyon / Mouse's Tank

A thin desert scrub flourishes.

Petroglyph rock art, people holding hands

Holding hands at Mouse's Tank.

Petroglyph rock art, people holding hands and two big horn sheep

Another group of four plus two sheep.

Nature's bouquet.

Petroglyph rock art, footprints

How many toes?

Petroglyph rock art at Atlatl Rock panel

People, shapes, fat animals with short horns,

thin ones with long horns.  What does it all say?

Fire Canyon / Silica Dome overlook, Valley of Fire State Park

Fire Canyon / Silica Dome: red and white sandstone

reaches back to dolomite seabed rock.

Fire Canyon / Silica Dome overlook, Valley of Fire State Park Pink and white sandstone

Pink and white stripes burst apart.

Scenic Road to White Dome hiking trail.

Scenic Road to White Dome hiking trail.

Valley of Fire, Nevada (2)

Late September-Early Oct, 2009 - Just as Interbike

ended, Las Vegas was engulfed by a ferocious heat

wave.  We escaped up I-15 to Cedar City, Utah.

Creeping back down again a few days later when the

temps had receded, we made our way to Valley of

Fire.  We had visited this gorgeous state park two

years earlier and loved it so much we wanted to

return for more.  Born from the dark fossilized

organic remains of an ancient sea bed, the area is

dominated today by flaming orange petrified sand

dunes, making the whole park appear as if red rock

embers burn against charred hillsides.

There are red rocks everywhere you turn.  Even in the campground, where

walk-in tent campers can tuck themselves deep into the crevices of these

fantastic formations, we couldn't stop our cameras from clicking.

The face of Atlatl Rock bears a

huge panel of petroglyph rock

art placed so high up in the air

you have to climb several

stories' worth of stairs to get to

it.  I had seen it two years ago,

but wanted to check it out

again.  The foggy plexiglas

protecting much of the rock art

had thankfully been replaced.

So this time, along with the big

horn sheep, people, footprints

and shapes I recognized from

before, I also saw a scorpion.

Around the corner is Arch Rock, which looks to me a little like an enormous

hand making the "okay" sign with thumb and forefinger.

The visitors

center has some

outstanding

displays, and

one describes in

detail how a

warm sea

covered most of

Nevada and parts of Utah off-and-on for 400 million years beginning

about 550 million years ago.  On the last retreat of this sea, sand began

to blow in from nearby ridges, creating huge, shifting sand dunes.

These dunes were stained red by

underground mineral-rich streams

and then, under their own weight,

compressed into rock.  Wow!  I

know I had learned all this over at

Red Rock Canyon last week, but

I still found it hard to fathom.

Over time, the tectonic plates

clashed, as the one supporting

the West Coast tried to sneak

under the one supporting the rest

of the country.  The solid dark

seabed and bright orange

sandstone were thrust about,

creating the chaotic shapes

of the park today.  Some shapes are random, but others seem to

have been created with a specific image in mind.

Coming in from the

east, you look across

350 million years of

time, from the young

200 million-year-old red

rocks to the ancient

dark dolomite of the

seabed floor that has

been thrust upwards by

violent eruptions from

the earth's core.

The park even has two areas

with petrified wood logs.

They are fenced off, so they

are a little awkward to see,

but they are definitely logs

that are wood no longer.  It is

hard to imagine the geological changes that have happened over the

vast reaches of time, as there isn't a tree anywhere in the park or in

this part of the world for many miles.  Amazingly, these logs were from

large trees.  The theory is that they floated in on the sea.

We had to scramble up a

gravel slope to see one

of the logs.  Once

up on the precipice,

we looked back

towards the valley

where the road

brought visitors

from other sights.

Maybe it's just my

love of travel, but

my favorite aspect

of this park is the

two beautifully

maintained roads

that run through it.

Both roads sweep through dramatic

turns, climbing and diving through hilly

terrain.  They run along expansive,

scruffy valleys, dodge between jagged

red walls, and loop through pink and

white domes of sandstone.

The Seven Sisters is a series of seven

towering orange monoliths that simply

refuse to fit into a single photograph,

so I contented myself with capturing

the silky road that slips past nearby.

Back in 1935, the CCC built three tiny

adjoining stone cabins.  Used by park

workers as they built the park (it was the first

Nevada state park and opened in 1936), the cabins

were later used by park visitors.  Each cabin is just a

single 9'x9' room, barely large enough for a small

bed and chair, but the setting is to die for.

There is a small door and window in each room, and a

tiny fireplace too.  It must have been incredibly rustic

accommodations for those early tourists, complete with

uneven stone floors, but it sure put them right in the

heart of the Valley of Fire experience.

What a view to wake up to -- but how did they make

their coffee??  There was no mention of how those

tourists got their meals or even how they got water.

There was a plaque, however, that described how in

1915 a soldier who had survived the Civil War fifty years

earlier perished under the shade of his open-air horse-

drawn buggy because he couldn't find water.  The Colorado River, now the dwindling Lake

Mead, is just a few minutes away by car, but less than 100 years ago this exquisite land cost

that sergeant his life.

Besides the enticing roads and views, the campground is my other

favorite feature of the Valley of Fire.  We had inspiring images of red

rocks out every window.

One morning I woke up with a bright idea -- let's get a photo of us

with the buggy in this very cool place!  I quickly set up the tripod,

trying to ignore Mark's groans about the idea.  Kids were climbing all

over the rocks around us, still in their pajamas and bare feet,

shouting to each other as they played hide-and-seek.  Their bleary-

eyed parents were stumbling about their campsites, coffee cups in

hand, as the aroma of frying bacon quickly filled the air.  It felt a little

funny, in the midst of all this action, to be taking pictures of

ourselves as if we were in a dime store photo booth.  But ya gotta

have something for mom's Christmas card!

The major sight we had missed in our

previous visit was the hike through

Petroglyph Canyon to Mouse's Tank.

Mouse was an outlaw Paiute Indian

who found a large rock bowl that

would fill with many gallons of water

when it rained.  Deeply recessed at

the far back of a canyon, this gave him

a great place to hide out.  As we

walked into the canyon, trudging

through soft sand, the rock walls

towered on either side with very

sparse sprinklings of vegetation.

The petroglyphs aren't marked.  Instead it is left

as an exercise for the hiker to find them.  Most

are 10-20 feet up in the air.  At least two show

groups of four individuals holding hands.

In these groups,

two people look

human and two

don't.  The

scientific experts

think the two non-humans might be shamans or ghostly spirits

from another world, perhaps leading the two humans towards

the afterlife.

Mark spotted

a flowering

bush growing out of a

crevice.  It looked like a

bouquet of flowers

hung on the wall.

Other petroglyphs

showed images of

hands and feet.

Looking closely, I

noticed that in one pair of feet, the right one had just four toes.  I've seen

this missing digit theme in other rock art.  Why did they do that?  Even if

the people who pecked these pictures out of the rock lived 4,000 years

ago, they knew how to count.  They never drew animals with three or

five legs.  "Maybe they just ran out of room," Mark suggested.  Or

maybe it wasn't meant to be a human footprint.

Who knows!  I really love this odd, other-wordly graffiti.  I just wish there was

an accurate petroglyph-English dictionary so we could know what it all means.

Recent rock scratches from our own culture nearby looked amateurish in

comparison.

Out in Fire Canyon

- Silica Dome we

got another

glimpse of the

sandstone set

against the

dolomite

mountains.

Evidence of sea creatures has been found in the distant dark rock.

Here, in this canyon, some sandstone was evenly striped but had

been broken apart by tectonic crushes and uplifts.

We took our time on the scenic drives, stopping frequently to

scramble up the sandstone walls where we tried to gather the

dramatic scenes into a single photograph.  The pinks and reds and

oranges sometimes looked as if they were sliding downhill,

perched on a perilous slope.

After a few days, we got blown out of the Valley of Fire by a huge

windstorm that swept all the dust for miles around into enormous,

billowing clouds.  The campground was sandblasted for hours on end.

Shaking the dust out of our hair and wiping it out of our eyes and off

our cheeks, we slammed the doors of the truck and tore out of there

as fast as we could.  A thick wall of dust swirled around the back of the

trailer behind us as we drove off.  Onward, southbound, to Laughlin,

Nevada, where we could escape to the climate-controlled indoors until

the wind died down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Zion NP, Kodachrome Basin & Snow Canyon, UT – Great Red Rocks!

Chukar at Kodachrome State Park, Utah Kodachrome State Park, Utah Ballerina Leg at Kodachrome State Park, Utah

Ballerina Leg

Chukar at Kodachrome State Park, Utah Soft sandstone at Kodachrome State Park, Utah Zion National Park, Utah Zion National Park, Utah Zion National Park, Utah Zion National Park, Utah Zion National Park, Utah Zion National Park, Utah Zion National Park, Utah Zion National Park, Utah Zion National Park, Utah Snow Canyon State Park, St. George Utah

Snow Canyon

Snow Canyon State Park, St. George Utah

Snow Canyon

Zion NP, Kodachrome, & Snow Canyon, UT

October 7-19, 2007 - From Goblin Valley we took the gorgeous scenic

byway along Route 12 through Torrey, Capitol Reef National Park, and

Escalante to Kodachrome Basin State Park.  Like all the Utah state park

campgrounds, this one was lovely.  There was a flock of chukars (birds

closely related to the quail) that

wandered about the grounds happily

taking food from my hand.

We hiked the Panorama Point View trail,

soaking in the immense redrock

formations.  Several had cute names,

including Ballerina Leg, which truly

looked like a ballerina's leg.

Sandstone is very soft, and we found

a huge sandstone rock that other visitors had

rubbed.  It was fun to put your hand in the handprint

in the rock and rub.  The rock would granulate into

sand beneath your fingertips.

From Kodachrome Basin we headed over

to Zion National Park.  Because we were

towing the trailer and we were 52 feet from

end to end, we opted to approach the park

from the west side rather than taking the

really cool twisting road in from the east.  So we didn't see the

amazing rock formations that flank the roads on the eastern side.

However, once we arrived at Zion we took an exquisite bike ride along

the bike path that leads into the park.  The road into the main canyon

is closed to motorized vehicles, and we thrilled to the mammoth cliffs

on either side of us as we rode deep into the canyon.

There was an organized bike

ride going through Zion a few

days after we did our bike

ride.  It would be fun to be

part of a large crowd of

cyclists taking over this pretty

road through the park, but we

enjoyed the solitude of riding

by ourselves beneath the

towering spires.  We had a

perfect day with warm

temperatures, clear blue

skies and lots of flowers in

bloom.

We were continuing to press on

southwards, barely staying ahead

of the winter weather behind us.  At

Snow Canyon State Park we found

another delightful campground

where we tucked ourselves right up

against the redrocks.  We rode our

bikes on the beautiful park road

and looped through some pretty

new masterplanned neighborhoods

on the outskirts of St. George.

At last it was time to leave

Utah.  We decided we would

return in the Spring of 2008,

as we had barely touched

upon the areas we wanted to

see.  In the meantime,

however, the cold was

forcing us out, and we drove

south to the outskirts of Las

Vegas, Nevada, where we

found the spectacular Valley

of Fire State Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Goblin Valley, UT – Where the Ghosts Are

Goblin Valley, Utah The Greeters at Goblin Valley, Utah Campground at Goblin Valley, Utah Campground at Goblin Valley, Utah Dribble castles make up the rock formations at Goblin Valley, Utah Goblin Valley, Utah Goblin Valley, Utah Goblin Valley, Utah Goblin Valley, Utah Goblin Valley, Utah

Sea turtle

Goblin Valley, Utah

Mushroom

Goblin Valley, Utah

Gorilla head

Goblin Valley, Utah

Space ship taking off

Goblin Valley, Utah

Ducks

Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah

Goblin Valley & Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah

October 1-6, 2007 - Continuing south from the San Rafael Swell, we

stopped in at Goblin Valley, Utah.  This state park is a gem.  As you

arrive you are welcomed by a trio of goblins who stand apart from the

valley, greeting visitors with otherworldly expressions.  Beyond them an

enormous formation dominates the flat horizon, looking like a bright red

gothic cathedral.

The campground is nestled into the buttresses of the redrock

cathedral, with shade ramadas at each site.

The rock formations are very tall and imposing, but when you walk up

close to them you discover that much of their structure is like a sand

dribble castle kids make at the beach.  The sandstone is literally

dripping down the sides of the formation and it is very delicate to the

touch.  Tap it lightly and it sounds hollow.  Touch it any more forcefully

and it breaks off.

We wandered

down into the

actual Valley of

the Goblins, a

fantastic open area of redrock formations that look like creatures.  We

learned that these formations evolve in the same way as the arches do

at Arches National Park, but in this neck of the woods the result is

goblins instead of arches.

You are allowed to climb on the goblins, and they stand two to three

times human height, making a great climbing playground.  As we

walked down into the valley a little kid rocketed past us yelling, "This is

heaven!"

Many of the formations are recognizable shapes....

One day we hiked

the Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon.  This is

an 8 mile hike but only about an hour of it is

spent in the slot canyon.  The slot canyon

was very narrow.  At times the gravel path

was wide enough for just one foot at a time.

But it wasn't scary at all.

The canyon is wide open to the sky

above, and the narrow portions last

only a few feet.   Don't hike these

things when rain threatens, because

the water gushes through.  After a

rain it takes a few days for the water

in the slot canyon to subside.

Feeling a chill in the air in Goblin Valley, we made our way towards southern

Utah along the incomparable Scenic Route 12, stopping first at Kodachrome

Basin and then riding our bikes through Zion National Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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