RV Camping in the Arizona Woods – Coconino National Forest

June 2019 – Arizona is one of America’s most beautiful and varied states, but lots of people think of it as a place that has only cactus and dry desert landscapes. The surprising thing is that Arizona is home to several radically different types of ecosystems that vary by altitude, and lately we’ve been enjoying some wonderful forest camping in the pines at a cool 7,500′ elevation.

Happy RV campers in the forest-min

We’ve been enjoying warm days and cool nights in the forests of northern Arizona.

Deep in the ponderosa pine woods of Coconino National Forest we’ve been getting out on small two track trails to see what we can find.

RZR ride on a trail in the forest-min

Our RZR took us on some cool two-track dirt roads.

While most of the scenery is just woodsy landscapes filled with pine trees, one day we came across a small stream.

Polaris RZR on the trail in the forest-min

What a neat surprise it was to find a small stream!

It was early morning, and as we followed the streambed we saw some fantastic mirror-like reflections in the almost-still water. In an instant we parked the RZR and began exploring on foot.

Beautiful stream in the woods-min

The reflections in the glassy water were very pretty.

Forest stream in the woods-min

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Reflections in a forest stream-min

I just loved this rock and its mirror image!

Puppy wades into a forest stream-min

Buddy marched right into the reflections.

Stream reflections-min

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After a nice stream-side stroll, we got back in the RZR to explore some more trails and then got out on foot again to hike in the woods and soak in the peace and solitude.

All of a sudden, we saw a wooden cross near a tree. As we came closer we noticed a big pile of stones in front of it.

Was someone buried out here?

Grave in the woods-min

Is that a grave? Yikes! Whose??!!!

The wooden cross was well constructed. When we bent down to get a better look at it, we noticed it had a dog collar wrapped tightly around it. We could see the word “Good” hand-written in pen on the visible part of the collar. Maybe it said “Good Dog” on it?

Carved into the varnished wood was the name, “Mause” (perhaps an “r” was under the collar?). The words “Bird dog” and “Companion” had been carved on it too. On either side of the cross were the dates 11/04 and 04/18. He’d lived to be about 13 1/2 years old.

You could tell just how much this dog was loved by the care with which his owner had buried him. There were flowers placed under the cross. We wondered why this particular spot had been chosen and if it had a special meaning to the owner or the dog, or both.

Grave marker cross in the woods-min

Beloved bird dog “Mause” lies here.

We left the dog to rest in peace but returned to the little stream a few more times during our stay in the woods. Buddy just loved it there, and he’d run in crazy circles between the two of us to let us know just how great he thought this place was.

Perhaps that bird dog had loved the spot near the tree in the woods just as much as Buddy loved this little stream.

Puppy plays on the rocks in a forest stream-min

Buddy loved coming to this stream.

Puppy poses on a rock in a forest stream-min

In between poses, Buddy ran in happy circles between us.

These were lazy, happy days for the three of us, and Mark and I both took endless photos of our playful puppy as he posed and pranced along the stream.

Taking pics of puppy in the forest-min

Mark caught me taking Buddy’s pic…

Pretty puppy poses by a stream in the woods-min

And here’s the pic I took!

Puppy in the forest-min

At home in the woods.

Puppy poses on a rock in a stream-min

Posing one way…

A puppy poses on a rock in a stream-min

…and then the other!

We planned for this year to be our test-run with the new RZR to see if it was fun enough to bring along in our future travels. Even though the triple towing is a bit of a hassle (but, really, would maneuvering a 44′ to 47′ toy hauler be any easier?) we’re finding that our little 4×4 buggy is taking us places we would never get to otherwise.

Polaris RZR adventure on a forest trail-min

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Forest reflections in the early morning-min

A beautiful place for reflection.

Other years we have traveled through five states by June. But covering shorter distances and staying for longer in each place has given us wonderful rewards this year.

Early morning by a forest stream-min

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Sunburst between the trees in the forest-min

The morning sun twinkles between the trees.

Sunrise in the forest-min

Dawn light.

Fifth wheel RV in the forest at sunset-min

Sometimes it’s nice just to relax in the forest and get away from it all!

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More info about this area:

Other blog posts from Arizona’s higher elevations:

Our most recent posts:

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Grand Canyon – A Winter Wonderland with Snow!

January 2019 – Even though we have a new Polaris RZR waiting to take us on lots of exciting back road adventures, we’ve had a hankering to do a National Parks Snowstorm Tour for several years now. Our snowy day trip to Jerome a few weeks ago further whetted our appetites, so this week when a blizzard was predicted for the Grand Canyon, we hit the road!

Grand Canyon National Park in snow-min

Grand Canyon National Park is a Winter Wonderland when it snows!

We drove up from Phoenix to Flagstaff, Arizona, and when we got there we had to laugh at all the signs by the road advertising hats and gloves. Desert dwellers love to go to Flagstaff to see snow in the wintertime, and sometimes they forget their winter duds (or don’t even own any!).

Snow had been in the forecast for Grand Canyon, but we saw only dustings and flurries until we climbed the last few miles to Grand Canyon’s South Rim about 75 miles north of Flagstaff. Then it began to snow hard, as it had been doing there for the last 24 hours.

It was a little difficult to tell what was where under all the snow!

Snowed in at Grand Canyon National Park-min

Things looked a little different at the Grand Canyon than we’re used to seeing !

But much to our surprise, despite the snow, Grand Canyon National Park was hopping. Cars zipped here and there, the shuttle buses from the hotels to the rim were packed, and as usual, the languages we heard around us were from all over the world.

Exhilarated, we bundled up and hustled out to the closest overlook we could find on the Rim Trail.

Ready to walk the snow trails at Grand Canyon National Park-min

There was a lot of snow, but we were ready for it!

What a shock it was to find that fog filled the entire Grand Canyon! We could barely see from one overlook to the next, never mind across the whole Grand Canyon to the other side 10 miles away.

Drifts and blowing snow at Grand Canyon National Park overlook in snow-min

Fog filled the Canyon and even obscured one viewpoint from the next!

Nevertheless, tourists slipped and slid down the icy trails and out onto the overlooks to see what they could see — which was nothing!

Grand Canyon overlook in snow-min

Tourists filled the overlooks even though there was nothing to see!

Despite the lack of a real Grand Canyon view, the fresh snow was beautiful and gave the Canyon a mystique we don’t often see.

Fresh snow in Grand Canyon National Park-min

Fresh snow, fog and mist gave the Grand Canyon a special beauty.

Grand Canyon National Park snow and fog-min

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The fog blew in and out and the snow began to fall harder and harder. A woman standing next to me wondered why I was hanging over the edge taking photos.

Photographer in snow at Grand Canyon National Park-min

A photographer takes photos of…fog?

This was her first trip to the Grand Canyon, and although the snow and mist was lovely, she was really disappointed not to see the real view. “What does it usually look like?” She asked forlornly.

Snow at Grand Canyon National Park in snow-min

When you’ve come all the way to the Grand Canyon, you’ve gotta get out on an overlook,
even if there’s nothing to see!

Grand Canyon National Park overlook in snow-min

Usually this tree has a great view!

If only she’d been able to stay another day. When we got to the rim the next day, the snow had stopped falling and sunlight had begun to shine through.

Rim Trail Grand Canyon National Park in snow-min

The sun came out and cast shadows across the Rim Trail.

And what an appearance it made. The light show across the canyon was spectacular!

Clouds and snow at Grand Canyon National Park in snow-min

The sun and clouds chased each other across the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon National Park stormy sky-min

What a glorious light show!

We were blown away, and so was everyone else. A crowd began to form, and the usual dance of tourist antics and selfies began.

Tourists at Grand Canyon National Park in snow-min

Word got out that the Canyon was on display again, and the tourists lined up!

Views and snow at Grand Canyon National Park-min

Embracing the view.

video

This Aussie/American couple was narrating a video about visiting the Grand Canyon in a snowstorm.

We were mesmerized watching the light and shadows chasing each other through the billowing curtains of mist and fog.

Light and shadow at Grand Canyon National Park-min

Meanwhile the light show went on.

Fog and clouds Grand Canyon National Park-min

Puffs of misty clouds swept by.

Snow at Grand Canyon National Park-min

The Grand Canyon is magical at any time of year, but this was a special moment.

Everyone was taking selfies and handing their cameras around, so we joined right in and did the same.

Happy campers at Grand Canyon National Park-min

We joined the selfie mania. Why not?!

Puppy in snow at Grand Canyon National Park in snow-min-min

Buddy loved the view and being part of the view too!
Fortunately for him, leashed pets are allowed on the trails above the rim.

Most of the Grand Canyon overlooks were closed because the road to them hadn’t been plowed. The whole drive to Hermit’s Rest on the west side of the South Rim was closed and the road to Desert View on the east side was closed as well.

Grand Canyon National Park after a snowstorm-min

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Great Crevasse Grand Canyon National Park-min

The canyon walls in that crack are thousands of feet high!

So, everyone stayed on the Rim Trail and visited just one or two viewpoints. The funny thing is that even though the total number of tourists at the Grand Canyon was a tiny fraction of what you’d see midsummer, because we were all concentrated in one small area it was still packed!

But it didn’t matter and the makeshift nature of things kind of added to the fun. This was a very special moment to be in this place, and everyone was thrilled to be here.

Blizzard at Grand Canyon National Park-min

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Virgin snow Grand Canyon National Park-min

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We all knew the sun would last for only a short while this afternoon because more snow was on its way. So the mood was almost giddy.

Grand Canyon National Park after snow storm-min

What a view!

Grand Canyon National Park snowy view-min

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Grand Canyon National Park snow-min

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We had buzzed up from Phoenix in our truck and left our fifth wheel trailer behind. Even though the trailer camground was open at Grand Canyon and we saw some rigs with snow on their roofs, we’d decided to take a vacation from our vacation and stay in a hotel.

Snow at Grand Canyon National Park-min

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Grand Canyon National Park snow view-min

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The fantastic thing about the Grand Canyon in the wintertime is that a lot of folks cancel at the last minute when they see snow in the forecast. So rooms were available for 50 cents on the dollar.

Clouds and snow at Grand Canyon National Park-min

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Grand Canyon National Park snow at overlook-min

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If you’re in Arizona for the winter and you want to see something very special, watch the weather forecast at the Grand Canyon and head there when the snow falls!

Clouds and fog Grand Canyon National Park-min

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Puppy plays in snow in Flagstaff Arizona-min

Next time you see snow in the forecast for the Grand Canyon, go for it!

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More info about Grand Canyon:

Other blog posts from our RV travels in Northern Arizona:

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Grand Canyon’s North Rim – Magnificent & Intimate by Day or Night!

October 2016 – After driving through the red rock wonderland of the Vermillion Cliffs in northern Arizona, we found ourselves at 10,000′ elevation on the Kaibab Plateau in beautiful pine forests. This is the home of the Grand Canyon where the earth seems to have split apart, revealing the massive crimson hued jagged walls that rise up from the Colorado River thousands of feet below.

Red cliffs of North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

Red cliffs at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon runs east to west for 277 miles and spans as much as 18 miles between its north and south rims.

A huge region towards the middle of the chasm has been set aside as Grand Canyon National Park, and it has two entrances you can drive to, one on the north side of the canyon and one on the south side. At each of those spots you can wander along the rim and peer over the edge to look 6,000′ down.

North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona view through trees

A glimpse of the Grand Canyon through the trees.

The South Rim is much more popular than the North Rim and is quite overrun with tourists, many making a once-in-a-lifetime bucket list trip from far distant corners of the planet. It is wonderful, but it is extremely busy.

Colorful cliffs North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

View from the North Rim.

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is a bit out of the way, so far fewer people go there, and most visitors are from the surrounding states. The North Rim sees 10% of the tourist traffic that the South Rim does and is 1,000′ higher in elevation.

Chasm North Rim Grand Canyon Arizon

Looking across the Big Ditch!

The North Rim has a very special lodge that was built by the National Parks Service in 1927. This wonderful and inviting stone building is perched right on the edge of the Grand Canyon, and the huge picture windows look out on a spectacular view.

View from Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim Arizona

The Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim – What a view!

There is also a huge dining room where diners can eat dinner while watching the sun cast its golden glow across the ridges of the canyon right next to their table!

Dining Room Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim Arizona

A historic and beautiful spot for a dinner…with a world class view!

Outside the lodge there is a low stone wall and a line of big wooden chairs where you can sit and take in the view over a beer.

View from deck of Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim Arizona

The deck behind the Lodge offers a relaxing spot to enjoy a drink and take a few pics.

What a fantastic place!

View from deck Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim Arizona

Tourists kick back at the North Rim.

There is a feeling of intimacy and wonder on the rim here as strangers chat with each other and snap pics and take in the incredible view, enjoying a unique National Parks experience.

Deck view North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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A short trail leads from the edge of this deck out onto a peninsula that just into the Canyon and ends at Bright Angel Point.

Hiking to Bright Angel Point North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

The trail to Bright Angel Point at the North Rim

This is a fun paved path that provides endless opportunities for jumping up on the rock pinnacles on either side to get a better view.

Hke to Bright Angel Point North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

There are lots of places to scramble a little higher for a better view.

Of course, the best light in the Canyon is early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona View

Late afternoon’s golden light brings out the contours of the jagged cliffs at the Grand Canyon.

The sun was sinking in a very hazy sky when we were there, but the towering walls of the Grand Canyon still radiated a soft light, as if from within.

Golden hour North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona overlook

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Rock formations North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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Here and there couples and friends staked out a spot on a precipice to watch the sun fade away.

Sunset North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

Catching the sunset at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

As the shadows crept up the canyon walls from the bottom, the tips of the craggy peaks held the light the longest.

View of Red cliffs North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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In the final few moments of daylight, a thin ribbon of orange hovered over the Canyon.

Chasm view North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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As the sun sank deeper behind the horizon, the colors in the sky grew ever more rich.

Sunset North Rim Grand Canyon

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Once the sun was gone from the sky, the contours of the Grand Canyon flattened out, revealing beautiful patterns.

Color Patterns North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

Patterns in the view at the Grand Canyon after sunset.

Without any shadows to show depth, near and far blended together.

Patterns North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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Cliffs North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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Because of the 10,000′ altitude at the rim, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is very cold, except in midsummer, and the Grand Canyon Lodge closes October 16. The 45 mile drive on Highway 67 between the hamlet of Jacob Lake and the North Rim remains open but isn’t plowed, and the self-service gas station in the park closes December 1.

In mid-October we shivered in overnight temps that dipped into the 20’s. Nevertheless, we snuck out onto the trail in front of the lodge in the pitch dark, lighting the way with our new and very cool Lumintop flashlight (we reviewed it here) and got set up to take some shots.

Overlook night stars North Rim Grand Canyon

Night photography at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Above us, the lodge was well lit and looked very cozy and inviting. Occasionally we heard the excited conversation of revelers out on the deck and saw flashes from their cameras.

Stars over Lodge at North Rim of the Grand Canyon starry night and fifth wheel trailer RV

The Lodge at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Slowly the stars began to shimmer above us, forming a dome full of glitter over the Grand Canyon.

Stars at North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

Stars began to fill the sky

Both rims of the Grand Canyon are decorated with the skeletons of dead trees whose gnarly branches reach out in all directions. The Milky Way formed a majestic backdrop in the sky.

Tree and Milky Way North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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The moon was setting and slowly sank into the horizon. It was nearly full and glowed orange.

Milky Way at North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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Seeing the moon at the horizon below the Milky Way reminded us of our many nights at sea on the Pacific Ocean. Sailors doing their first overnight passages are often shocked as they fly along in the pitch dark at full speed, squinting hard to distinguish the sky from the ocean, and then suddenly see a very bright light on the horizon right in front of them.

More than a few hearts have skipped a beat, and more than a few frightened sailors have dashed to their radar display in a total panic as they tried to figure out what kind of mammoth ship was about to crash into them.

Then they’ve suddenly collapsed in embarrassed laughter when they realized the enormous ship approaching them was actually the rising moon.

We’d read these stories before our cruise, and of course we knew we were far too smart ever to fall for Nature’s little nighttime tease. So, it was particularly funny when it happened to us too!

Milky Way at the Grand Canyon North Rim Arizona

Good night, Grand Canyon!

If the Grand Canyon is on your horizon for your RV travels, you can camp right on the rim in the campground at the North Rim. How totally cool is that?!

However, you need to have a small to mid-size RV to fit into the campsites and drive the camground loop, and it is best to reserve a spot in advance. There are other RV camping options for slightly bigger RVs in Jacob Lake.

For folks without an RV, the Grand Canyon Lodge has a collection of charming small cabins that surround the main lodge building, and they are just steps from the rim as well.

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is quite vast, and many of the overlooks require a drive of 50 miles or so round trip to reach them. We breezed through the North Rim on this RV trip because it was late in the season and we couldn’t drive through Jacob Lake on our route from east to west across northern Arizona without dipping down to say “hi” to the Grand Canyon, if only for a moment.

However, like all the National Parks, the Grand Canyon deserves a week or more to enjoy its many nooks and crannies in depth. During our second year of full-time RV adventures, we stayed for a month at the North Rim.

More info and links below.

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Some details about Arizona’s North Rim of the Grand Canyon:

Other blog posts from our RV travels in Northern Arizona:

All of our blog posts from Arizona
National Parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites we have visited

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What is happening to our Public Lands?

Fifth Wheel Trailer RV near Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

Will photos taken on public lands like this beautiful spot on the Utah/Arizona border require an expensive permit in the future?

October 2014 – There have been some interesting and disturbing developments on America’s public lands lately. For the last month, photographers have been up in arms over a proposal put forth by the US Forest Service to charge big fees for permits to take pics on public land.

This news has gone viral since the USFS first announced the proposal in early September, and there have been oodles of irate blog posts and tweets from some of the biggest online news outlets.

Read More…

Petrified Forest NP and Mogollon Rim – Cool pines & hot rocks in AZ!

RV blog post - We camped in the cool pines of Arizona's Mogollon Rim and hiked amid the colorful rocks of the Petrified Forest National Park.

Getting to the US required 3 planes.

Tulips bloom in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Tulips bloom in Fraser, Michigan. Bleeding hearts bloom in Fraser, Michigan.

Bleeding Heart.

Saguaro cactus blooms in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Saguaro cactus top in

bloom.

Starling chicks emerge from a fallen saguaro cactus in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Starling chicks in a saguaro nest.

Starling chicks emerge from a fallen saguaro cactus in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Mom takes good care of the babies in their fallen home.

A cardinal enjoys a seed snack on our picnic table at Roosevelt Lake, Arizona.

A cardinal enjoys a

snack on our table.

Looking out over the Mogollon Rim, Arizona.

The Mogollon Rim.

Getting a photo from the scary edge of the Mogollon Rim, Arizona.

It's a little scary right at the edge, but

few can resist a shot.

Smoke from the Gladiator Fire approaches the Mogollon Rim.

Smoke from the Gladiator Fire approaches.

Smoke from wildfires obscures the sun at the Mogollon Rim.

Wildfire smoke obscures the sun.

The paved and scenic Rim Lakes Vista Trail on the Mogollon Rim.

The awesome little paved rimside trail.

Standing on the edge of the Mogollon Rim in Rim Lakes Recreation Area, Arizona.

It's great to be alive.

Looking out at the views from the Mogollon Rim, Arizona

Mogollon Rim.

Spring brings new growth to the Rim Lakes Recreation Area on the Mogollon Rim in Arizona.

Spring - a time for new growth.

Wild lilacs in the Woods Canyon Lake Recreation Area on the Mogollon Rim in Arizona. An elk calf rests in the grass at Woods Canyon Lake Recreation Area, Mogollon Rim, Arizona.

An elk calf in the grass.

We ride our bikes down to Woods Canyon Lake on the Mogollon Rim in Arizona.

Woods Canyon Lake.

Jim Gray's Petrified Wood Company has lots of petrified wood for sale.

Jim Gray's Petrified Wood

Company.

Petrified wood logs ready for splitting at Jim Gray's Petrified Wood Company, Holbrook, Arizona.

Petrified logs ready for splitting.

Geodes at Jim Gray's Petrified Wood Company, Holbrook, Arizona.

Geodes ready for opening.

Dinosaur displays at Jim Gray's Petrified Wood Company, Holbrook, Arizona.

Dinosaur country!

Don't get bitten by a dinosaur at Jim Gray's Petrified Wood Company, Holbrook, Arizona.

They're cute, just don't get bit.

Dinosaur head, Crystal Forest Gift Shop, Arizona. Petrified logs at Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona.

Petrified Forest National Park.

We traveled to see colorful petrified logs at Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona. A single tree trunk split into logs at Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona.

A tree trunk that has cracked into drums.

Agate House at Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona.

Agate House.

We hike down to Agate house at Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona.

They built 'em small in 1200 AD

We hike the Long Logs trail at Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona.

The National Park calls these rock structures "teepees."

We meet a collared lizard on the Agate House hiking trail at Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona.

Collared lizard on a petrified log.

Cows watch us as we drive through Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona.

Cows watch us approach.

We hike to Puerco Pueblo Indian ruins at the north end of the Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona.

Puerco Pueblo housed 1,200 people.

We hike past petroglyphs on Puerco Pueblo trail at Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona.

A stork carrying a baby, for sure!!

The Santa Fe Railroad rumbles beneath us at Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona.

Santa Fe Railroad.

The Santa Fe Railroad disappears in the distance at Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona. A rusting hulk of of a car sitting along historic Route 66 near Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona.

A rusting relic near the old Route 66.

Spectacular views at Painted Desert in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona.

Painted Desert.

Mogollon Rim & Petrified Forest National Park

April-May, 2012 - It took us a few days to decompress after our awe inspiring three

weeks in inland Chiapas.  We had studied Spanish in colonial San Cristóbal, seen

Mayan ruins in Palenque, Yaxchilán and Bonampak, and visited sparkling waterfalls

at Agua Azul and Misol-Ha.  But we had received alarming news while in the jungle

that Mark's parents had unexpectedly taken very ill.  Their prognosis for survival had

become bleaker by the day.

We scrapped our plans to

sail 200 miles further to El

Salvador where a rollicking

annual rally of 50 boats was

in full swing, and instead

prepared our boat Groovy for a six month wait at Marina Chiapas while

we made a hasty retreat back to Mark's family homestead in Michigan.

It was jarring and disorienting to rejoin

modern American life after months of

immersion in southern Mexican culture.

Far more upsetting, however, was suddenly finding ourselves face-to-face with the specter of

death.  We passionately pursue our dreams everyday, always feeling the immense pressure of

time, but now the grim reaper was at the door trying to collect.  For days we huddled inside the

drab sterile walls of a modern health care facility trying to be positive while pondering the

incomprehensible.

Fortunately, spring was in full bloom outside.  Flowers were bursting with

color everywhere, and flowering trees seemed to grace every front yard.

Every time we stepped outside we were greeted by the cheerful image

of tulips, a heartwarming flower neither of us had seen for years.

Very gradually, and totally miraculously, both of Mark's parents began to

recover and were able to return home.  As they gained strength we did

too, and the dark, raw emotions in our hearts began to ease.  Out in a

friend's garden a cluster of bleeding hearts reminded us that often the

most precious things in life are also the most fragile, and that life itself is

a gift we receive every day.

When we eventually returned to our own hometown in Phoenix, Arizona, we

found spring had sprung there too.  Our beloved saguaro cactuses were

wearing their little springtime crowns of white flowers on every limb.

Just a few weeks earlier an ancient saguaro in a friend's

yard had died and toppled over.  It now held the fledgling

chicks of a starling that had moved into her condo when

the cactus was still upright.

Despite living in a house that was now eight inches from the ground,

not a great spot for a small bird, she bravely got those chicks raised to

adolescence, and in no time they had all moved out.

We got our trailer out of storage, dusted it off, and set up camp at

nearby Roosevelt Lake.  Still recovering from all that had gone on, and

feeling a bit battle weary, we reveled in watching a cardinal come to

our little seed plate every day.  We could have stayed for a month, but unfortunately the desert temps

were climbing and soon became intolerable.

Fortunately, just 80 miles north of Phoenix we found ideal temps

up on the Mogollon Rim (pronounce "Mugeeyone").  At 7500'

we were in the cool pines, and we found a camping spot right on

the edge of the rim with views to the valley floor far below.

The rim is a jagged shelf of flat rocks that stick out in layers.

The views are expansive and the smell of the ponderosa pines

is invigorating.  There is something about the edge of the rim

that is very alluring and draws people to it, even though the

sheer drop-off is a little unnerving.  At all the scenic overlooks

everyone gets out of their cars and walks right out to the edge

to take in the view and get a photo.

While we were there four huge forest fires were

burning in the valley below us.  The Gladiator Fire

made the national news, and we saw the hotshot

firefighting team's base camp nearby.  Firefighters

had been flown in from all over the country to help

out, and some 1,000 people were fighting the

blaze.  The smoke was intense

at one point, and it billowed

over us like a huge wave.

That evening the sun was

almost totally obscured by the

smoke.  But the hotshots

managed to wrestle all the

fires under control, and in just

a few days the air was clear

again.

We discovered a wonderful

paved trail that runs along the

edge of the rim for a few miles.

Luckily for us, it had just been

lengthened by a mile.  The edge of the rim

is magical, and at every rock outcropping

we found ourselves stopping to get another

look.  This same trail also heads into the

forest towards Woods Canyon Lake where

it weaves past several campgrounds.  We

rode our bikes along the trail and savored

the crisp air and pretty views.

Spring was happening up here too.  The

pines were all adorned with their new

feathery soft needles, and we found flowers

that looked like wild irises growing in a

meadow.

We passed a mother elk

sitting under a tree

chewing her cud.  Nearby

her young calf was

hanging out chewing its

cud too.  They were

totally indifferent to our

presence -- or to that of

the cars that had started

to stack up in the road as

everyone grabbed their

cameras and jumped out

for photos.  We stood

there for quite some time

watching the mouths of

these two large animals slowly working around and

around while their gazes wandered calmly between us

and the cars.  It was as if they were kids hanging around

at the street corner, chewing gum, and waiting for

something to happen.

Woods Canyon Lake is cool and serene, surrounded

by pines.  Families were out fishing and an energetic

guy rowed a skull back and forth.

We stayed in this beautiful mountain forest

for two weeks, settling into our homestead

as if it were our own private mountain home.

Every day we ran, biked and walked.  Then

we read, napped, played on the internet and

watched the boob tube, something we hadn't

done for eight months.  Isn't it amazing, we

kept saying to each other, that we can get 12

Phoenix digital TV stations via our antenna

and good internet from our nifty new Verizon

MiFi unit, while we are camped several miles

down a dirt road deep in the woods on the

edge of a cliff?!

It was hard to leave, but once we

got the wheels rolling on our

buggy, we couldn't wait to get out

and see our beautiful country.  Our

first stop was the Petrified Forest

National Park.  Actually, we

stopped just before the National

Park because the guy who owns

the vast acreage next door has

been mining petrified logs from as

deep as 30' down in the ground for

decades, and the collection he has

on display and for sale at his store

"Jim Gray's Petrified Wood Company" is astonishing.

Petrified logs are created when a log gets buried in sediment, preventing rot, and then becomes

infiltrated by silica in the groundwater, replacing its organic material.  This stuff eventually

crystallizes and "petrifies" the whole log.  Over time, as erosion peels the ground out from under

the log, it cracks into short drum-shaped pieces that for all the world look like they are ready for

splitting.

We wandered through the

endless display of petrified logs

and even found a pile of geodes

out back.  This pile stood almost

10' tall and maybe 30' around at

the base.  What a treasure trove!

This is also dinosaur country,

and the local gift shops have all

kinds of fun making crazy

displays for tourists.  Mark found

a few out by the geodes.

Petrified Forest National Park is an easy park to miss

inadvertently because it sits on a road that cuts between an

Arizona highway and an interstate.  We had made that mistake

years ago.  We had driven along at 55 mph waiting to see a

Forest, and we skipped the pullouts because there was no

evidence there was any Forest there.  After an hour we emerged

at the other end of the park having seen nothing but wide plains

and a few scattered logs in the distance.  That goof-up has been

a standing joke between us ever since.

The only way to see this national park is to get out

and do some hikes.  The hilly field behind the

visitors center is strewn with huge logs, many

resting in a row and fitting together to make an

entire tree trunk.  These things are massively heavy

and are 8 times harder to cut than granite.  From a

distance the crystalized bark, knots and tree rings

look lifelike, but up close the agate colors merge

and swirl in non-treelike patterns.

We hiked on the Long Logs trail which features one tree

trunk after another, each one segmented into shorter

logs that lie end-to-end.  Looking around the sweeping,

empty, grassy plains it is hard to imagine that 260 million

years ago this area was a logjam in an ancient riverbed,

back when all the continents were joined and Arizona's

latitude was somewhere around modern day Panama.

13 species of large but extinct pines forested the area.

Out at the Agate House we

found an ancient Indian

pueblo made of petrified

wood pieces.  Archaeologists

believe it was constructed

between 1050 and 1300 AD.

Those guys built very small

buildings.

The trail took us past tall,

horizontally striped "sand

piles" that are now solid

stone.  It looked like a gravel

yard that had been carefully

layered in different types of gravel.  The heights of the

dark stripes matched from one pile to the next.  There is

an otherworldly quality to this landscape.

As we walked back to the

truck Mark spotted a collared

lizard sitting on a hunk of

petrified wood.  His little pink

mouth seemed to be grinning,

and his long skinny tail trailed

almost twice his body length

behind him.

This is cattle ranching country

too, and before we could get

to the petrified log that spans a chasm -- the Agate Bridge -- we had to

get past a group of cows standing in the middle of the road.  These

guys didn't move an inch as we drove past.  Only their heads turned to

watch us as our enormous truck and trailer nearly brushed them when

we drove by.

The Puerco Pueblo hike took us to an ancient Indian settlement built

around 1250 AD.  It was home to some 1,200 people.  6'x8' was a typical

room size, and unlike the mammoth Mayan and Zapotec buildings we'd

seen a few thousand miles to the south, these ruined walls have been

reconstructed to

just a foot in height.

Far more intriguing

for us were the

petroglyphs that the

ancients had

pecked into the nearby rocks.  One showed what

looked to me like a stork carrying a baby.  I'm sure

the archaeologists would disagree about that, but

these images are often a bit like ink blots -- what

you see in them is up to you.

The park road crosses I-40 and deposits visitors in

the middle of the Painted Desert.  But first you get a glimpse of the

Santa Fe railroad and some relics of the old Route 66.  While we

were wandering the hiking trails closest to I-40 we kept hearing

the horns and rumbles of endlessly long trains rolling past.  I

climbed up on a bridge overlooking the tracks and caught a train

as it approached.  Running to the other side I watched it

disappear around the bend.  These tracks date back to 1882

when the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad went through.  Early visitors

to the park arrived by train and took guided tours hosted by the

Fred Harvey company.

Mark was fascinated by an ancient rusting hulk of a car

that had been abandoned long ago on the side of the

old Route 66.  Stretching 2,200 miles from Chicago to

Los Angeles, that historic road passed right through

this area, bringing tourists to the park in their own

private cars instead of by train.  Now this part of Route

66 is overgrown by prairie grasses.

Our final miles along the park road

took us past some incredible vistas

overlooking the Painted Desert.  This is

a colorful area of more gravel-pit

looking solid stone "sand piles," and

we had taken so long

getting through the park

that we arrived while the

late afternoon sun was

lighting the vivid

landscape to its most

brilliant hues.  Gazing out

at this exotic land, the

sun beating down on us

and our sinuses rapidly

shriveling up in the dry air, it was hard to imagine what the ancients or the early

settlers must have thought or how they even survived.  So harsh and yet so

beautiful.

By now our spirits were fully restored.  As we studied our maps we decided to

head north via the tiny squiggle labeled "Indian Route 12" and head towards

Canyon de Chelly National Park.  This road was marked as a scenic route

but despite being Arizona residents before our traveling lifestyle we had never

heard of it before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parowan UT, Las Vegas NV, Williams & Sycamore Canyon AZ – Wow!

RV blog post - After brief stops in Parowan, Utah, and Las Vegas, Nevada, we spent some time on Route 66 in Wiliams, Arizona, and hiked Sycamore Canyon.

Wildflowers in Parowan, Utah.

Yankee Meadows Lake, Parowan, UT

Yankee Meadows Lake,

Parowan, UT

Antique Tractor Show Iron County Fair Parowan, Utah

Antique Tractor Show

Miss Iron County and her attendants, Iron County Fair Parowan, Utah

Miss Iron County

and her attendants.

Ukele singers, Iron County Fair Parowan, Utah

Ukele singers.

Over the top Las Vegas glam.

Over the top Las Vegas glam.

Fancy racing bikes at Interbike.

Fancy racing bikes at Interbike.

Mark Cavendish's winning Tour de France ride.

Mark Cavendish's winning ride.

Mark got to pose with George Hincapie.

Mark meets George Hincapie.

Big horn sheep wandered into the Las Vegas suburbs.

A big horn sheep in the Las Vegas suburbs.

Time is on standby in Williams, AZ.

Time passes more

slowly in Williams, AZ.

Elvis in Williams, AZ Car culture, Williams, AZ

One tourist came to town in style.

Cruiser's Cafe Williams, AZ

Cruiser's Cafe 66 has live music in the afternoon.

Route 66 memorabilia Williams, AZ.

Route 66 memorabilia is

everywhere.

A cheery gas station from yesteryear, Williams, AZ

A cheery gas station from yesteryear.

A mannequin looks for patrons at the Red Garter Inn.

A mannequin greets patrons at the Red

Garter Inn.

American Flyer in Williams, Arizona combines coffee and cycling, a great match.

American Flyer is a coffee shop for cyclists.

wildflower in Williams, Arizona Mountain biking Kaibab National Forest. The road to Sycamore Canyon outside Williams, AZ

The road to Sycamore Canyon.

Sycamore Canyon, Kaibab National Forest, Williams, Arizona

After 20 miles of dirt roads, we find Sycamore Canyon.

Sycamore Canyon, Kaibab National Forest, Williams, Arizona Sycamore Canyon, Kaibab National Forest, Williams, Arizona Sycamore Canyon, Kaibab National Forest, Williams, Arizona Sycamore Canyon, Williams AZ Sycamore Canyon, Kaibab National Forest, Williams, Arizona Sycamore Canyon, Kaibab National Forest, Williams, Arizona White Horse Lake, Kaibab National Forest, Williams, Arizona

White Horse Lake

Dam outside Williams, AZ

A dam holds the water back from Williams.

Elk bugling in Williams, AZ

Williams, Arizona

September, 2011 - While exploring the hiking trails at Red Canyon our legs were still

itching to run, so we decided to put them to the test a little further south at Parowan, Utah's

Labor Day Iron County Fair 5K.  We had done this race three years prior, and we toed the

start line alongside the local speedsters from the high

school track team, hoping to match our old times.

By some miracle we both bettered our times, and Mark

left his peers in the dust.  But it was the 80-year-old

Paul Flanagan who completed the 6500' altitude race in

a brisk 25 minutes that really got our attention.  Heck,

he was older than most of the tractors at the fair's

antique tractor show, and he was a whole lot faster.

The Labor Day parade

was much as we

remembered it, showing

off both the young beauty

queens and older ukelele

singers.  The arts and

crafts show was filled with

blue ribbons for Best in

Show of everything from

quilts to apple pies to giant

backyard pumpkins.  And

the ferris wheel was

loaded with people swinging their legs and

eating cotton candy while taking in the

mountain views.

We continued down I-15 on our way to Las

Vegas for the annual bicycle industry trade

show, Interbike.  The glitz and glam of this

crazy, over-the-top city greeted us warmly,

and we were soon immersed in the world of

bikes and cycling.  Vendors showed off the

latest in their lineup of snazzy looking racing

bikes, and crowds formed around Mark

Cavendish's multiple stage winning Tour de

France bike.

Cavendish wasn't on hand himself, but Lance

Armstrong's legendary lieutenant George

Hincapie showed up to add a little star power to

the crowd.

Las Vegas is an enormous spread of urban

sprawl that reaches out into a vast desert, but

sometimes there is a little blurring of the two

worlds at the edges.  As we passed through

one of the Las Vegas suburbs on the interstate

we saw two big horn sheep standing at the

edge of the highway watching the cars go by.

The cars, of course, wanted to watch the

sheep just as much, and a huge traffic jam

soon formed as we stared at each other.

Our final destination for this all-too-brief season of

RVing was Williams, Arizona, about 50 miles south

of the Grand Canyon.  It is one of the showcase

towns along the old historic Route 66, and there are

fanciful nods to mid-twentieth century car travel on

every corner.

There is a fun, quirky and festive air to this town,

and every afternoon you can hear live music playing

on the patio at Cruiser's Cafe 66 where the local

Grand Canyon Brewery beers are served.

An antique gas

station features a

vintage car sitting at

old fashioned gas

pumps.  Inside there

are all kinds of Route

66 souvenirs and

memorabilia.

The Red Garter Inn

is adorned with a

woman hanging out

of an upstairs window luring

people to pay a visit.

The American Flyer coffee

shop is a bike-and-bean

bistro with creatively

designed coffee tables and

shelves, all made with

bicycle parts.

Williams sits on the edge of

Kaibab National Forest,

and it harbors a special

secret that I suspect many

tourists miss.  Somewhere

in the fine print of a

Williams tourist brochure I

found a tantalizing

description of Sycamore

Canyon, Arizona's second

largest canyon (after the

Grand one).  We had

never heard of it before

and definitely had to go check it out.

Getting to it requires a long

drive on dirt roads through the

woods.  The directions said to

allow 3.5 hours for the trip but I

figured that was only for

slowpokes.  Four hours later,

as we emerged from our

adventure, I realized that being

a slowpoke is the only way to

get through these woods.

The road

wound up and

down and

around, finally

bringing us to a

plateau where

we drove right

out to the edge

of a huge cliff.

The canyon is

rimmed by

gnarly old trees, and it's basin is

lined with a light smattering of

greenery and bushes that soften

its sharp, jagged edges.

Wandering back along the dirt roads through the woods we came

across White Horse Lake and then returned to Williams past a dam

that protects the town from deluge.

Despite the proximity of the interstate I-40 and the town of Williams, the woods in

this part of Kaibab National Forest feel very remote.  One night we heard loud

animal noises, and in our sleepy state we thought we were hearing coyotes.  The

next night the sound was right outside the trailer and we opened the windows to

listen carefully.  It was a nearby elk bugling.  He couldn't have been more than a

few hundred feet from the trailer, but in the moonless pitch dark we couldn't see

him.  Sometimes in the distance we could hear another elk answering.  The next

morning a small elk harem ran past our campsite.  Six females charged by us

followed by a solitary male

in the rear.

It was really hard to say

goodbye to the magic of

summertime in the

ponderosa pine woods, but

the temperatures were

dropping fast and Groovy

was waiting patiently in San

Carlos, Mexico.  We had some chaotic logistics ahead of us to put the

trailer to bed and re-awaken the boat, but we wanted to catch the warm

water in the Sea of Cortez before winter's chilly fingers took it in its grasp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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Grand Canyon’s North Rim – Its Better Half!

All American Road Route 67 Jacobs Lake AZ to North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona seen from our RV

The road to the North Rim winds through meadows.

All American Road Route 67 Jacobs Lake AZ to North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona monsoon season from our RV

Monsoon season was just starting.

Boondocking in our RV, Kaibab National Forest near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon AZ

A little piece of heaven camping in the Kaibab

National Forest.

Western Tanager in the Kaibab National Forest

Western Tanager

Vista Encantada lookout North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

Vista Encantada

Angel's Window lookout North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

Angel's Window

Cape Royal lookout North Rim Grand Canyon AZ

Cape Royal

Cliff Rose in bloom at the North Rim Grand Canyon AZ

Cliff Rose

Cape Royal lookout North Rim Grand Canyon AZ

Cape Royal

Cape Royal

Walhalla Lookout North Rim Grand Canyon AZ

Walhalla Lookout

North Rim Lodge at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona

The North Rim Lodge has

exceptional views.

Sofa Room at the North Rim Lodge Grand Canyon AZ

Sofa Room at the Lodge

North Rim Lodge Dining Room Grand Canyon AZ

Lodge Dining Room

Sun Porch at the North Rim Lodge Grand Canyon AZ

Sun Porch at the Lodge

Bright Angel Point Trail North Rim Grand Canyon AZ

Bright Angel Point trail

Bright Angel Point North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona Bright Angel Point North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

Bright Angel Point

Bright Angel Point North Rim Grand Canyon AZ

Bright Angel Point

Hiking in the Kaibab National Forest North Rim Grand Canyon AZ

Hiking in the Kaibab forest

Lupines blooming in the Kaibab National Forest North Rim Grand Canyon, AZ

We came across a clearing overflowing with lupines.

Lupines blooming in the Kaibab National Forest North Rim Grand Canyon, AZ Lupines blooming in the Kaibab National Forest North Rim Grand Canyon, AZ make great photos Aspens clustered in the Kaibab National Forest North Rim Grand Canyon, AZ

The aspens cluster together.

Black butterfly in the Kaibab National Forest North Rim Grand Canyon AZ Point imperial Lookout North Rim Grand Canyon, Arizona

Point imperial Lookout

Imperial Point North Rim Grand Canyon AZ

Imperial Point

Hiking Ken Patrick Trail from Point Imperial North Rim Grand Canyon AZ

Ken Patrick Trail from Point Imperial

Grand Canyon - North Rim

June 24 - July 13, 2008 - We left Flagstaff in search of cooler weather,

and we found that and much more at the North Rim of the Grand

Canyon.  The road from Jacob Lake to the North Rim is 44 miles of

graceful beauty.

After descending through dense woods, some of which were badly

burned in a wildfire in 2005, the road shakes out its curves, the tall

pines step back, and you fly along through lush meadows.  These

meadows were green when we arrived in June, but by the time we left

in July there were wildflowers of all colors scattered about.  The

elevation in this part of the world hovers between 8,500 and 9,000

feet, making the warm summer season very short.  When we first arrived the sun was abundant and the air was warm.

By the time we left the summer monsoons were in full swing, bringing

thick, black storm clouds every afternoon.  You could almost set your

clock by the 2:00 thunderstorms.  We camped in a little forest glade

that was pure heaven.  Our only neighbors were a jackrabbit and a

deer, both of which made several appearances, and a gorgeous male

western tanager who appeared near the end of our stay.  Our little

clearing was lined with aspen that quivered whenever the wind blew.

Our first evening in our little paradise we watched the sun set while

listening to John Denver sing about nature.  The warblers chimed in and

the aspen seemed to laugh and

dance in the orange glow of the

setting sun.  It was magic.

Our first trip to the Rim itself took us

on the farthest reaching road,

passing Vista Encantada and taking

us down to Angel's Window and

Cape Royal.  Vista Encantada was

bursting with wildflowers.  Yellows,

oranges and even the bright pink of a prickly pear cactus flower

enhanced the rust reds of the canyon.  The North Rim is not heavily

visited, and we were the only people at this lookout, gazing at the jaw-

dropping vistas while clicking away on the cameras.

Cape Royal, a massive lookout area, lies at the end of this road.

There is a charming paved walking trail through the scrub brush and

woods that leads out to Angel's Window as well as Cape Royal.  We

couldn't believe that we were the only ones on the trail.  Angel's

Window gives you a glimpse of the Colorado River if you peak

through, but once you climb onto the top of this arch formation you

get an unobstructed view.

As we walked we were overcome with the sweetest fragrance.  A

trailside plaque told us that the Cliff Rose was responsible for this

heady aroma.  We breathed deeply and walked slowly.  We were

here at the perfect time of

year.

Returning towards the

buggy, we stopped at some

of the viewpoints we had

skipped on our way out.

Walhalla Lookout is the

gathering place for a daily

ranger talk about the

ancients who lived in this

region, growing crops on a plateau 5,000 feet below at the Colorado River in the winter and moving up to the Rim in the summer.

There were some Indian ruins from 800 years ago, including a granary where they stored seeds for future planting.  From where

we stood we could easily see Mt. Humphreys in the San Francisco Peaks back in Flagstaff.  A 200 mile drive by car, the mountain

was just 50 miles away as the condor flies.  I watched the clouds gathering over Mt. Humphreys as the afternoon monsoons began

to build, and suddenly I understood why the Indians have always viewed the mountain as sacred.  From that hot, dry plateau way

down on the Colorado River, it would be only natural to believe that the mountain held a mystical power to create clouds and rain.

Those clouds and their life-giving moisture drifted over the canyon

and a light rain began to fall.

Another morning we walked the Transept Trail from the campground

to the North Rim Lodge.  This dirt path hugs the rim and occasionally

peaks out at a view that grows broader and broader as you approach

the Lodge.

The Lodge was built in 1928 and reflects the

elegance and simplicity of that earlier time.  It is a

stone and timber structure with enormous windows

overlooking the stunning view.  In the early days

visitors were greeted by singing staff members, and

the first view they got of the canyon was through

the immense windows that drew them across the

wide lobby floor.  Those windows are equally

alluring today, and comfy leather sofas fill the

room.

A beautiful dining room also

has towering windows that

look out at Canyon views,

and it is impossible not to

feel a tie to the past when

seated beneath these

chandeliers.

The Lodge also has a

sunporch with open-air

seating in front of the

spectacular view.  What a

place to enjoy a latte, soak in

the view, and maybe even

read the paper.

From the Lodge we wandered out on the paved Bright Angel Point

trail.  This is a pretty walk that takes you to the very end of the

peninsula that the North Rim Village is built on.

We clambered up onto the towering rocks to check out the many

views.  At the end you can see the widest part of the Canyon laid out

before you, stretching 21 miles to the South Rim.  We were able to

make out the tower at Desert View but couldn't see the other buildings

on the South Rim.  The immensity, colors and shapes were a feast for

the eyes.

We felt very blessed

to be able to stay in

the area for three

weeks.  After each

visit to the Rim we

would spend a day or

two back at the trailer

looking at our photos,

absorbing the

experience.  There is

a lot to see in the

Kaibab National

Forest as well, and

we did a lot of cycling

and hiking, checking out

the maze of dirt roads in

the area.

As we stayed more and

more flowers began to bloom

and on one hike we found

ourselves in a lush bed of

lupines.  There was a variety

of shapes and hues, and we

came back to this area

several times to enjoy the

rich colors.  A little further

down this road we found bunches of

yellow flowers that grew in clumps, like

nature's perfect little bouquets.

Mark noticed these little black butterflies

zipping around us periodically, and one

finally stopped long enough for him to

get its picture.

We drove out to Point Imperial

and hiked a portion of the Ken

Patrick trail to the south.  From

that viewpoint you can see the

Little Colorado River in the

distance.  It is a sheer canyon

that looks like a crack in the flat

landscape.  It almost looks like a

child took a stick and dragged it

across the sand in jagged motions,

leaving a deep trench in its wake.

Point Imperial is not hard to miss.

As we walked along the trail we saw

it shrinking in the distance behind

us.  There were many wonderful old

trees and tiny yellow and red

flowers along the route.  We felt so

grateful to be alive to be able

to experience these wonders.

It was hard to leave our little paradise in the

woods at the Grand Canyon, but the monsoons

turned nasty and we found ourselves in

sweatshirts and long pants for several days in a

row.  We even got hailed on twice -- pea-sized

hail that piled up on the ground for an hour

before melting.  We hadn't seen everything at the

North Rim, but we always leave a few discoveries

for future visits.  We wanted to head a little

further north towards Kanab and Bryce Canyon

in Utah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunset Crater, AZ – Looks Like it Exploded Yesterday!

J
Hithhiker II LS 34.5 RLTG weighs 13,995 lbs GVWR RV truck scale

Getting weighed

Hitchhiker fifth wheel at Bonito Campground in Flagstaff, AZ

Campsite at Bonito in Flagstaff.

Boondocking in the Cinder Hills OHV Area

Boondocking in the Cinder Hills OHV Area

Solar panel installation (Kyocera 130 watt solar panel & Mitsubishi 120 watt solar panels) on our RV, a Hitchhiker fifth wheel

Solar panel installation

hummingbirds visit our RV in the Cinder Hills Flagstaff, AZ goldfinches visit our RV in Cinder Hills OHV area Flagstaff Arizona Bicycling at Sunset Crater Flagstaff AZ

Sunset Crater erupted 800 years ago

Sunset Crater lava flow Flagstaff AZ

Smooth cinder hills alongside the road

Cinder Hills Sunset Crater lava flow Flagstaff Arizona near Bonito Campground

Cinder hills and lava flow

San Francisco peaks and Sunset Crater lava flow in Flagstaff AZ

San Francisco Peaks

Colorful cinders in the lava flow at Sunset Crater in Flagstaff AZ

Cinders are black gravel and red gravel

Bicycling - San Francisco Peaks near Bonito Campground at Sunset Crater outside Flagstaff, Arizona

San Francisco Peaks

San Francisco Peaks near Bonito Campground at Sunset Crater outside Flagstaff, Arizona Bicycling near San Francisco Peaks near Bonito Campground at Sunset Crater outside Flagstaff, Arizona Lava Flow Trail hike at Sunset Crater near Bonito Campground and San Francisco Peaks Flagstaff AZ

View from the top of the Lava Flow Trail hike

Lava Flow Trail hike at Sunset Crater near Bonito Campground and San Francisco Peaks Flagstaff AZ Vermillion Cliffs Arizona, near Lees Ferry AZ seen from our RV on the road

Vermillion Cliffs near Lees Ferry

Vermillion Cliffs AZ near Lees Ferry Arizona seen from our RV on the road Vermillion Cliffs Arizona near Lees Ferry AZ seen from our RV on the road

Neat spot for a house!

Vermillion Cliffs AZ near Lees Ferry Arizona seen from our RV on the road

Vermillion Cliffs - many colors in the rocks

Vermillion Cliffs Arizona near Lees Ferry AZ seen from our RV on the road Our RV starts the climb up to the Kaibab Plateau, Arizona

Start of the climb out of the desert up to the Kaibab Plateau

Sunset Crater National Monument, Arizona

June 4-24, 2008 - We drove from Chanute, Kansas to Flagstaff, Arizona (1,200

miles) in just 3 days.  We stopped long enough to weigh the truck and trailer at a

Flying J truck scale and found we were right at the limit.  Even though we had filled

only 1/3 of the cabinet space, our weight (with water and propane) was 13,850 lbs --

and the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) is 13,995 lbs.  No wonder the truck

noticed the load!!  This wasn't the little Lynx any longer!  We had met a lot of fifth

wheel owners whose cabinets and closets were stuffed to overflowing.  They must

run about 2,000 lbs or more over their GVWR.

As we traveled across

country the air got dryer

and the terrain got craggier.  On I-40 in Texas, 10 miles west of the

New Mexico border, there was a very distinct transition from open

plains to a desert landscape.  We had left tornado alley in the middle

of tornado season and we were glad to leave the severe storm

warnings and tornado watches behind.  However we drove straight

into a vicious headwind all the way across the country, and in New

Mexico and Arizona the winds were staggering.  We were paying far

more for gas than we ever had -- and we were getting 8.2 miles per

gallon!!

At an Arizona

visitors center

we heard

another fifth wheel driver discussing routes to Wasington with the host,

trying to find a way to get out of the horrible winds.  Not possible!  When

we arrived in Flagstaff it felt good to be among the tall pines under clear

blue skies again.  The winds eventually subsided, and we relaxed at our

favorite campground northeast of Flagstaff, Bonito Campground.  We

retired the truck for a while, sticking to our bikes as much as possible.

Flagstaff has a fantastic store for solar power related items (Northern

Arizona Wind and Sun), and just like the previous year, we used our

time in town to purchase a complete solar setup.  We upgraded to

490 watts of power (from 130) and a permanently installed pure sine

wave inverter.  We boondocked in the Cinder Hills OHV Area and

Mark took his time installing the new panels on the roof and the

charge controller and inverter in the basement.  After three days it

was done, and the system has been phenomenal ever since.

Wherever we are, it is always as if we have full electrical hookups.

The hummingbirds loved our feeder, and we

enjoyed watching them zip around.  One

morning a pair of warblers came to the feeder

for a visit.  Their beaks weren't shaped quite

right for the feeder, so they didn't stick around,

but I was thrilled to get their picture through

the window.

We took some leisurely bike rides through

Sunset Crater National Monument.  This is a beautiful area for cycling, as there is no traffic and the road is smooth and scenic.

Sunset Crater blew its top 800 years ago, filling the skies and covering the ground with cinder ash.  The cinder ash (black gravel) is

so thick that little can grow in it.  This makes the area seem as though the volcano erupted just a few years back.  The cinder hills

seem smooth from a distance, and there are places where the gravel is actually black sand.  In other spots the black gives way to

shades of red and brown, again making it seem as though this mountain were engulfed in volcanic flames sometime within my own

lifetime.  There is a region where the lava flowed, and today it is an impenetrable strip of sharp black rock.  If you look closely you

can almost see the ripples and waves as this thick angry goo washed down from the mountain.

In the distance the San Francisco peaks were still snow capped.

Standing over 12,000 feet high, the tallest of the peaks is easily visible

from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon some one hundred miles

away as the condor flies.  The Navajo and other native peoples have

long felt that the San Francisco peaks were sacred.  I had never really

understood exactly why until a few weeks later when we were camped

on the North Rim and were looking back at these peaks across the

canyon.  Every afternoon, like clockwork, the clouds would begin to

form over Mt. Humphreys.  There was no doubt that those mountains

attracted -- or were even the source -- of rain.  Looking down at the

barren plateau on the Colorado River at the bottom of the Canyon I

could understand why the ancients revered that distant mountain.  It

brought them much needed water for their crops.

We took a hike with friends up the Lava Flow Trail and

found some spectacular views of the San Francisco

peaks and the valleys surrounding the mountains.  It

was a steep but short climb up the hill and well worth

the view at the top.

When we first arrived in Flagstaff the overnight

temperatures were in the 30's and daytime highs were

in the high 60's.  After a few weeks the highs were

getting into the 90's.  Even boondocked in total shade

(we found it was a miracle that the solar panels still

fully charged the batteries everyday despite being in

full shade!), we were too hot.  It was time to move on

to somewhere cooler.

We headed to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  It

is a significant drive to get there.  Even though

condors and intrepid hikers

can cross the chasm in just 21

miles, it is a 200 mile trip by

car, because you have to go

way to the east, then a bunch

north, way to the west, and

then drop south to get there.

The drive takes you through

some beautiful desert

areas.  The Vemillion

Cliffs are stunning, jutting

up out of the desert floor

in vibrant shades of

orange, red, and even

turquoise.  There is little

in the way of towns on

this drive, just occasional

hamlets with perhaps a

store and cluster of

trailers.  We drove with

our eyes glued to the

beautiful scenery.

After taking the big left turn near Lees Ferry to head west, the red desert

suddenly gives way to greenery and you begin a steep and winding climb

up onto the Kaibab Plateau.  The desert floor is at about 4,000 feet

elevation and the top of the Kaibab Plateau is at about 9,000 feet.  North

Rim here we come!!