Camping World Video Shoot — RVing is for Everyone!

April 2018 – A few weeks ago we had the extraordinary experience of creating a video with a professional video production crew for Camping World as part of their new YouTube campaign, “RVing is for Everyone.”

Isaac Aaron Video crew Camping World RVing is for Everyone with Mark and Emily-min

We spent an exhilarating three days with the Isaac Aaron Media crew shooting for Camping World.

The casting call came out of the blue, and we weren’t sure what to expect.

It turned out to be three very thrilling, very long and very full days of quasi-acting and interviews that resulted in a beautiful and inspiring five and a half minute video that captures the spirit of our RV life perfectly. The video is included at the end of this article.

The video crew, Isaac Aaron Media, was a team of five who flew out from North Carolina to join us in Arizona. We suggested a few places where we could film in the Phoenix area, and they took it from there to decide on the camping locations and tourist attractions for filming.

Isaac Aaron Media Camping World RVing is for Everyone video shoot-min

Isaac Aaron led the team filming us

Isaac Aaron and his wife Jessica Piche are the founders and owners of Isaac Aaron Media. Their skilled camera crew were videographers Justin, Byron and Ben.

These guys know quite a bit about the RVing life. Isaac and Jessica own a motorhome, and Justin renovated and lived in a vintage travel trailer for over a year.

Isaac Aaron Video crew Justin for Camping World RVing is for Everyone with Mark and Emily-min

“Rolling!” Justin renovated and lived in a vintage travel trailer.

Byron was seeing the West in depth for the first time and loving every minute of it. He handled all the mobile video work during the shoot, carrying a camera on a cool gimbal system and walking around (often backward!) to give the video movement.

Isaac Aaron Media Byron RVing is for Everyone for Camping World-min

Byron’s mobile setup created cool effects

They wanted to shoot some of the video at Canyon Lake Marina and RV Park. When we posted our article about staying there last month, some readers were surprised we had camped there, since — lovely as it is — it is not the kind of place we ever camp at.

But when the video crew arrived, it was clear that the scenery would work really well for the images they wanted of us enjoying the RV life.

As soon as the crew unloaded their gear at our campsite, Byron headed out to the big grassy area behind our trailer and on down to the lake to begin getting scenery shots.

Video shoot for Camping World RVing is for Everyone-min

Byron filmed the pretty scenery at Canyon Lake Marina and RV Park.

The crew told us to just “do whatever you always do.” We had been playing with our new puppy, Buddy, in the grass, so we continued doing that. Suddenly, there were three cameras on us from different angles, and the video shoot had begun.

The entire video was unscripted. However, the director, Jessica, had a clear idea in her mind of what the team was creating. She asked us to walk over to a picnic table and sit down and admire the view as the crew filmed us.

She wanted the video to be authentic, and I had explained to her that we are photographers and that what we do in our RV life is take photos all day every day. She was fine with that. So, as the crew shot video of us, we took still images of everything around us!

I put Buddy up on a rock to get a photo of him with Canyon Lake in the background. As I clicked off a series of images, the video cameras rolled. Afterwards, when Jessica was going through the video footage, she emailed me with wonder, “How did you get Buddy to stay still on the rock like that?” I don’t know. I just put him there, said “Stay!” and he stared back at me while I took his portrait!

Movie star puppy Camping World video RVing is for Everyone-min

Buddy happily poses for me on a rock.

As we were goofing off by the shore, Mark got the idea to lure the resident flock of ducks over to us. These ducks know human actions well, so even though he didn’t have any bread for them, when he tossed a few pebbles in the water they came right over. And the video cameras rolled!

To show the nuts and bolts of the RV life, the crew wanted a few sequences of us breaking down and/or setting up camp. So, they asked us to pack up the trailer and do all the things involved in getting hitched up just like we normally do.

Cameras were on both of us as we folded up our camping chairs, and then cameras were on me as I washed the dishes and packed up the interior and cameras were on Mark as he mounted the bikes on the bike rack and put away the patio mat.

Video RVing is for Everyone Camping World with Mark & Emily-min

The video crew shot scenes of us packing up our rig.

The Apache Trail (Route 88 from Apache Junction to Roosevelt Lake), is one of the most stunning scenic drives in Arizona, and the plan was to capture images of us towing the trailer on this incredible winding road between Canyon Lake and Lost Dutchman State Park.

Until Mark and I drove the Apache Trail out to Canyon Lake a few days prior to the camera crew’s arrival, none of us had realized that the entire road was under construction, complete with cones in the road and big machinery working. Much of the road had been stripped of asphalt and was dirt too!

We would never advise driving a big rig on the Apache Trail without scouting it first, even when it is paved and free of construction crews, because there are tight switchbacks and lots of 15 mph turns with sheer drop-offs and no guard rail. Fortunately, Mark and I both know the road very well because we used to race our bicycles on it years ago!

We hopped in the truck to begin towing our trailer and suddenly discovered there was a video camera hanging from our rearview mirror! Any swearing at the challenging road conditions or crazy drivers would be caught on film (ahem, some of it may have been!).

Dashboard video camera RVing is for Everyone Camping World-min

We got in our truck to find a video camera mounted on our rear view mirror!

The video crew had hired a photography location scout, Alan Benoit, to help them with finding locations to shoot and to give them advice on where the best turnouts would be along the Apache Trail so they could to set up their cameras to capture our rig driving by. He gave them all kinds of pointers and also drove ahead of us in his own car so he could open up a gap in front of us and ensure there would be no cars ahead of us as the video cameras rolled.

The video team fanned out to different locations along the route to catch us at various bends and curves in the road, and we got a kick out of seeing them as we drove past.

Camping World RVing is for Everyone Isaac Aaron Media of Mark and Emily-min

Byron gets a shot of us rolling by in our rig.

The Apache Trail between Lost Dutchman and Canyon Lake is about 11 miles long, so we pulled over a few times to allow the video crew to drive ahead and get set up in new positions to wait for us. We had radios for communication between all the vehicles because there isn’t any cell service out there!

Once the video crew had captured a bunch of scenes of us driving, including going under one of the trestle bridges on the route, we unhitched and dropped the trailer off in a pullout so we could all drive back to Tortilla Flat for lunch. Tortilla Flat is a very popular restaurant offering both indoor and outdoor seating and live music most afternoons.

Lunch break Camping World RVing is for Everyone video of Mark and Emily-min

We check the menus at Tortilla Flat, a fun western themed restaurant on the Apache Trail.

Tortilla Flat has a funky vibe and there’s an old toilet seat hanging up on the porch where you can get a framed selfie.

Just another pretty face movie star puppy-min

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After lunch we went down to the docks to go on the Dolly Steamboat Cruise on Canyon Lake. This is a beautiful and peaceful excursion that takes you out onto Canyon Lake and into the Sonoran Desert by way of the dammed up Salt River.

Dolly Steamboat Cruise for Camping World RVing is for Everyone video shoot-min

We were filmed boarding the Dolly Steamboat before our memorable cruise on Canyon Lake.

Once all the passengers were aboard the boat, the video crew filmed us walking down the dock and giving our tickets to the captain. I’m not sure what the other passengers thought as they watched us do the ticket buying scene a couple of times. Fortunately, it was a quiet Sunday afternoon and no one was in a rush.

I suspect most folks thought it was a bit of a hoot to have a professional camera crew aboard, and there were smiles of recognition, probably from RVers camping in the area, when we explained it was a video shoot for Camping World.

Dolly Steamboat captain Camping World RVing is for Everyone video by Isaac Aaron-min

Byron films us greeting Captain Jasion and giving hime our tickets.

The video team had brought a drone, and they flew it from the deck of the Dolly Steamboat. While everyone on the boat oohed and aahhed at the stunning desert canyon views around us, the drone flew higher and higher above us. Then, after having it zoom around the lake, the crew brought it back to the boat. Jessica reached out to grab it out of the air as it hovered above the deck.

Catching drone for Camping World RVing is for Everyone video-min

Jessica caught the drone after it circled the Dolly Steamboat from high above the lake.

We had had quite a day, and we were all totally pooped as we drove our trailer on the last stretch of the Apache Trail to Lost Dutchman Campground. We all hit the sack early.

Puppy sleeping on RV couch-min

Phew! It’s hard work being a movie star!

Before sunrise the next morning, Buddy suddenly sat up and gave a muffled woof when he heard activity right outside our trailer. We opened the blinds to see the video crew moving around in the pitch dark with headlamps on their heads. They were setting up a timelapse video of our rig silhouetted against the sunrise that would soon begin.

We quickly got dressed and ran outside with our own cameras to capture the pretty pink sky as it slowly began to brighten.

We were all very fortunate that Mother Nature gave us such a beautiful light show and that no one had stayed in the campsite next to ours. This gave the crew plenty of room for their gear and an unobstructed view of our trailer. We stayed at Lost Dutchman for the next three nights after that, and not only was there never as nice a sunrise again but we had neighbors in that campsite every night!

Sunrise Camping World video shoot RVing is for Everyone-min

The video crew was at our campsite setting up a time lapse video before sunrise.

After bolting some breakfast, we were off to the Superstition Mountain Museum for more filming. The museum docent gave the crew pointers on what the highlights were and where the best photo ops might be as we strolled the grounds to view the artifacts from the historic gold mining days.

Isaac Aaron Media Crew at Superstition Mountain Museum Arizona-min

At Superstition Mountain Museum the video crew got tips on where the best photo ops would be.

Making a video involves a lot of waiting around while the crew sets up and breaks down their video gear, and there’s also a lot of repeated movements as each scene is shot a few times. It is trying for people, but is potentially even more challenging for puppies.

Buddy was only four months old and we had had him for only five weeks, but he had been amazing so far. No matter where we asked him to walk or sit, he went along with the flow. Best of all, the guys in the crew loved him, and he quickly became the star of the show.

Puppy becomes an RV movie star-min

Isaac gets a close-up of Buddy.

The Superstition Mountain Museum is a treasure trove of history, and we walked and walked and walked all around the extensive grounds for several hours. Cameras were on us at all times.

As we’d gaze at something or pass through a doorway, we’d suddenly be asked, “Could you do that again?” Some scenes were set up more deliberately, and we had to wait for those classic commands: “Rolling… Action!” The first few times we started on “Rolling!” rather than “Action!” Such rookies!!

After a few hours, Jessica found a spot for us to sit for an interview. The crew used a reflective foil to get the lighting on our faces just right. In addition to answering questions about the tourist attractions. we also answered questions about why we had become full-time RVers, what life had been like for us before we began living this way, and what we loved most about the RV lifestyle.

We spoke from the heart, and she let us go on at length on some topics when we had a lot to say.

Camping World RVing is for Everyone Interview with Mark and Emily-min

The team checked the cameras and lighting before Jessica interviewed us at the Superstition Mountain Museum.

Of course, there was room for bloopers too, and we fell into the same funny trap that several other couples had.

The theme of the Camping World video series is “RVing is for Everyone,” but when asked about our RV experiences, we naturally talked about them in terms of being full-time RVers, not seasonal RVers or vacationers. So, at one point, after describing the wonders and thrills of downsizing out of our house and running away to live in an RV, Mark blurted out, “Of course, it’s not for everyone!”

Isaac chuckled and said, “We’ve heard that before, and what you probably mean is that full-time RVing isn’t for everyone!”

We had lunch all together at the western themed Mammoth Steakhouse & Saloon at Goldfield Ghost Town next door and then went back to our campsite at Lost Dutchman State Park where the video crew got set up for us to do some hiking.

There was a nice hiking trail that led towards the Superstition Mountains right from the back of our campsite, so once the camera gear was ready, off we went with Buddy bounding along while the video cameras rolled!

Video shoot hiking at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona

We hiked the trail behind our campsite at Lost Dutchman State Park.

After our hike, when we came back to the campsite we suddenly noticed the Red Baron bi-plane soaring overhead doing somersaults in the sky. What a perfect photo op, and how typical of our lifestyle that something unexpected and fun zoomed into our lives at just the right moment. Mark and I simultaneously swung our cameras towards the sky.

Red Baron airplane does loops in the sky-min

The Red Baron is a popular ride in the Scottsdale/Mesa area, and Mark got this beautiful shot.

Red Baron airplane circles above us-min

We love shooting shoulder to shoulder because we always get different images. Here’s mine.

Gradually the shadows got longer and then the sky began to get orange. Everyone lined up to get a photo of the sunset around a gangly saguaro cactus that was in a campsite across the street.

Lost Dutchman State Park Camping World Video Shoot with Mark and Emily-min

Back at our campsite at Lost Dutchman State Park we all got ready for a sunset shot.

RVing is for Everyone Camping World Video shoot with Mark and Emily-min

As the sun went down the cameras went up.

Sunset at Lost Dutchman State Park Campground in Arizona-min

An orange glow around a saguaro cactus in the next campsite.

We had all been up since before dawn, and now it was dark again. The video crew left and we crashed in our camper, totally exhausted!

The next morning we all met at Goldfield Ghost Town about a mile away from Lost Dutchman State Park. This tourist attraction is very similar to the Superstition Mountain Museum with lots of paths that wander between antique buildings from the gold mining days.

Camping World RVing is for Everyone Mark and Emily Isaac Aaron Media crew at Superstition Mountains-min

Bright and early the next morning, we all gathered at Goldfield Ghost Town for another day of shooting.

There is a little train that circles the property that was definitely worth a quick video clip.

RVing is for Everyone Camping World video shoot with Mark Emily-min

Ben caught the train on video just as it came around the bend and tooted its horn.

Goldfield Ghost Town is full of fabulous photo ops, and Mark and I had fun just roaming around taking photos. Shooting high or shooting low our creative juices flowed. And the camera crew was there to catch it all.

Scene for Camping World RVing is for Everyone created by Isaac Aaron Video-min

I set up my own shot while the video crew takes theirs!

Mark got a photo of the front of the jail, and we laughed as we read the jailhouse rules posted out front, joking that they sounded a bit like the rules for video actors:

No Complaining, No Profanity, No Loud Talk, Two Visits to the Outhouse Daily, Meals—Beans, Bread and Water.

Well, our meals at the area restaurants had actually been quite delicious!!

Jailhouse Rules Goldfield Ghost Town video for Camping World-min

These rules applied to more than just the jail house!

Mark took a quick trip to the outhouse and Buddy peaked through the outhouse window. They didn’t know that the video cameras were on them even then!

Puppy looks out moon window-min

The video crew caught this moment too.

Goldfield Ghost Town has a Bordello on the second floor of one building, and there’s a neat metal winding staircase leading up to it. The video crew loved that staircase, and we walked up and down it quite a few times as the cameras rolled. Buddy negotiated the stairs really well, and Mark and I got lots of great pics from the top.

Bordello staircase Goldfield Ghost Town Camping World RV video shoot-min

We wound up and down the staircase to the Bordello on the second floor several times!

Goldfield Ghost Town for Camping World RVing is for Everyone created by Isaac Aaron Video-min

The view from the top of the stairs was pretty great!

It was hot and dry walking around Goldfield, and at one point we snuck Buddy off to a spigot on the side of a building to get a sip of water. He was such a little trooper though. A quick rest in the shade and he was as good as new again and ready for more filming by an antique tractor.

Puppy movie star waiting for the next shot-min

Being filmed from sunrise onward wore us all down, but some shade and a drink revived us.

Byron of Isaac Aaron Media for Camping World RVing is for Everyone-min

We had fun playing tourist, and the video crew didn’t miss a moment.

After quite a few hours of shooting we all took a break and then reconvened at our Lost Dutchman campsite once again. Soon, it was time for our main interview which became the voiceover narrative for most of the video.

The Superstition Mountains were lit up behind our campsite in glorious fashion, but getting our faces lit without us being blinded by the sun and without my head casting a shadow across Mark’s face proved tricky. We messed with the chairs and the foil reflector quite a bit and finally got everything set up just right.

Set up for Camping World RVing is for Everyone video shoot at RV campsite in Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona-min

Back at our campsite the crew worked hard to get the best lighting possible for our final interview when the Superstitions lit up at the golden hour before sunset.

The questions were excellent, and we had a chance to express a little of our philosophy of how important it is to pay attention to your dreams, to nurture them and to fulfill them. Mark signed off with a fantastic quote, and when we were finally silent, a hush fell on everyone.

Speaking about the importance of pursuing your dreams and making them come true had swept us all into a spell. We feel so fortunate to live this way, and I suspect the crew was lost in thought pondering their own dreams too.

Coming back to reality, they asked us for one more quickie shot. The sun was setting fast, but we hopped on our bikes for a final scene of us riding around the campground loop.

At last we all gathered at the back of our trailer so I could capture an image of us all together saying that famous Hollywood line: “That’s a wrap!”

Camping World RVing is for Everyone Isaac Aaron Video with Mark and Emily-min

“And that’s a wrap!”

DELETED SCENES – Oh yes, there were quite a few!

Of course, no movie would be complete with our a track of deleted scenes. After three full days of three or four cameras going most of the time, the video crew had hours and hours of video to sift through. Most of it had to end up on the editing room floor, of course, because the final video would be less than six minutes long.

One of the more unusual deleted scenes was at the Superstition Mountain Museum chapel where we discovered a statue of Elvis inside!

Superstition Mountain Museum Camping World RVing is for Everyone Isaac Aaron Video-min

We walked in the chapel to find Elvis, but the scene didn’t make the cut.

We spent several hours on the last day doing a detailed tour of our rig. We showed every corner of our little abode and explained how and why we set it up as we have and why we chose this particular floorplan as our rolling home ten years ago.

We’ve decorated the walls with post cards from some of the National Parks and National Monuments we’ve visited, and the only original piece of furniture we still have is the dining table. So, there was a lot to talk about and see.

The best part of this RV interior sequence was when one of the guys asked Mark offhand what he would normally be doing “right about now” when we started showing off the kitchen. “I’d be getting a beer!” He joked. They said he should go ahead and do just that!

So, they did a full sequence of him reaching into the fridge and pulling out a beer, then reaching into the freezer for a chilled pint glass, and then pouring himself an ice cold yummy beer. He hammed it up a bit and it was very cute.

RVing is for Everyone Camping World video shoot with Mark and Emily-min

We did a detailed tour of our rig, and Mark had fun doing several takes of getting a beer from the fridge!

At Goldfield Ghost town there are several souvenir shops, and we went to two of them and picked out and purchased some goodies. Jessica suggested we buy some salsa, so we set up a scene where we scanned the shelves for locally made salsas and then chose one. The idea was that we would take the salsa back to the trailer later and do a scene where we were eating chips with it.

We ran out of time before we could shoot the scene of us eating the salsa in the trailer, but we sure did enjoy it a few days later!

Camping World RVing is for Everyone with Mark and Emily Isaac Aaron Media crew-min

We were filmed buying salsa at a tourist shop with plans to film us enjoying it later.

We also did a scene where we looked over some handmade soaps and picked out a bar of soap to purchase. Again, the whole sequence involved admiring and the picking out the soap and then, in a different scene, going to the register and paying for it.

The clerk was very cooperative, and the other tourists waited patiently outside the store for us to finish since there was barely enough room for us and a few cameras. In fact, for some of it the cameras were outside the store and shooting in.

During our interview later we talked about how in the full-time RV life you have to be selective about buying souvenirs and make sure they are consumable or else you’ll end up with a rig full of stuff!

Deleted scene Camping World RVing is for Everyone video by Isaac Aaron Video-min

We also chose a homemade soap as a consumable souvenir to take home.

There was also a scene where I showed some of the articles I’ve written in the RVing and sailing industry magazines and talked about how important writing and photography have become in our day-to-day lives. This has been a totally unexpected dream-come-true since we began traveling nearly 11 years ago.

But there were only so many seconds of footage that could be included!

Trailer Life Magazine Roads to Adventure Bedazzled in Banff by Emily Fagan-min

I talked a little about how fulfilling it has been to write for the RVing and sailing magazines, including my back page Trailer Life column.

After the whole video shoot was over, the crew went on to make some other videos in Arizona while we collapsed in our trailer and reflected with awe on what had just happened to us.

What a totally cool and special experience it was to be movie stars for three days!

Thank you, Camping World, for this unique opportunity, and kudos to Isaac Aaron Media for producing a beautifully crafted video.

RV sunrise Camping World RVing is for Everyone video shoot-min

Although we are full-timers — which is not for everyone — RVing definitely IS for everyone.
We loved weekends in our popup tent trailer years ago as much as we love full-timing in our fiver now.

Here’s the video — Enjoy!!

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Waterfront Dining in Arizona – Scorpion Bay & River’s Edge Cantina

March 2018 – The places where the Arizona desert meets the many waterways that flow through the state are very beautiful. We’ve hiked the shorelines and taken boat rides out onto some of Arizona’s desert lakes to see them up close. We’ve also recently discovered two fun places to dine on the waterfront right in the middle of the desert.

Scorpion Bay Marina Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Scorpion Bay Marina at Lake Pleasant, Arizona

Lake Pleasant – Scorpion Bay Grill

The first is the Scorpion Bay Grill at Scorpion Bay Marina on Lake Pleasant on the northwest edge of Phoenix. Lake Pleasant is large enough to have two marinas, one on the east side which is privately owned and another — Scorpion Bay — on the west side which is part of the Maricopa County Parks system.

Friends of ours told us about the Scorpion Bay Grill and suggested we have dinner with them there. Despite having the word “scorpion” in the name, we were totally charmed by this special spot.

The first thing that struck us as unusual and kinda neat about Scorpion Bay Marina was the funicular ride that takes you from the parking lot down to the water. A “funicular” is a kind of enclosed cross between an escalator and an elevator that gets people up and down a steep slope without having to climb a million stairs. We first rode one in the colorful town of Guanajuato, Mexico, which is built on a steep hillside.

Funcular at Scorpion Bay Marina Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

The steep climb down to the marina is easier if you take the funky funicular ride!

You can take the stairs at Scorpion Bay, but we went for the ride. Mark opened the door to the funicular and down we went!

Calling the funcular at Scorpion Bay Marina Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Mark and Buddy head on into the funicular car.

The Scorpion Bay Grill is built on a huge floating dock so the water is all around you. The fabulous outdoor patio has a view of the lake and is a great place to watch the sunset. The fish and chips dinner was outstanding!

There’s special seating for people with dogs, and now that we count ourselves as “people with dogs” we sat there. Each dog is given his own mat next to the table! The dog area is on the shady side of the patio, which is great in the hotter months, but the view is not as dramatic as the people-only area out front, but Buddy loved it.

We had such a great time eating dinner with this up-close lake view that we forgot to take any pics (oops!). But here is a sunset shot on a different night at Lake Pleasant to give you an idea of what’s possible when you enjoy a sundowner at the Scorpion Bay Grill.

Sunset at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Sunset reflections on Lake Pleasant.

Colorado River – River’s Edge Cantina

The other place we discovered is up in the northwest corner of Arizona on the Colorado River in the town of Parker. The Colorado River is a popular spot for boaters and RVers, and there is a VW & Microbus rally and a balloon festival there every winter.

Welcome to Parker Arizona-min

Parker, Arizona, loves visitors and has plenty water sports and RV parks and lots of fun events.

RV park on Colorado River Parker Arizona-min

Lots of RV parks along the Colorado River have campsites right on the water.

There are many places to access the Colorado River around Parker, some with palm trees and others with beaches and picnic ramamdas.

View from River's Edge Cantina Bluewater Casino Parker Arizona-min

Mexican Palm trees along the Colorado River make the scenery reminiscent of their namesake country.

Party boat on the Colorado River Arizona-min

A party boat lands on the beach.

The Bluewater Casino and Marina Resort just east of downtown Parker has a big marina.

Docks at Bluewater Casino Parker Arizona-min

The docks at the Bluewater Casino and Marina Resort

And there’s a little outdoor bar next to the boat docks called the River’s Edge Cantina.

River's Edge Cantina Colorado River Parker Arizona-min

River’s Edge Cantina

Some folks arrive at the River’s Edge Cantina by boat!

Party boat at dock River's Lodge Cantina Parker Arizona RV trip-min

The River’s Edge Cantina is a popular stop for boats going up and down the Colorado River.

The setting gives you a waterfront view and is very casual. It’s a pretty spot for a beer as the sun goes down.

Enjoying a sundowner at River's Edge Cantina Parker Arizona-min

It’s simple but scenic…and dog friendly!

This outdoor patio is dog-friendly too, and we brought our little pooch along. Buddy even tried to order a beer (he wanted a Bud), but they don’t serve beer to people who walk on four legs.

Having a beer at River's Edge Cantina Parker Arizona RV trip-min

Buddy was hoping for a Bud.

Nearby there was a little grassy area to play. When Buddy heard that, he ran down to the docks and jumped for joy!

Puppy running on the docks River's Edge Cantina Parker Arizona-min

“Did someone say it’s time to play?”
All four feet off the ground — pure joy!

This is a great spot to romp with a favorite toy.

Puppy running with pink rope toy-min

Playtime!

Down by the water’s edge you can put a toe — or paw — in the water.

Testing the water on the Colorado River in Parker Arizona-min

How’s the water?

Buddy was quite parched, since his request for a beer had been turned down, so he reached down and put two paws in the water for a drink.

Water tasting Colorado River Parker Arizona-min

The water’s good enough to drink!

He leaned out a little too far and suddenly he fell in. Oops! Well, we all found out he knows how to dog paddle! He got a great bath and came out of the water sparkling clean.

Puppy swims at Bluewater Casino Parker Arizona-min

Oops!

But Cleanliness is not next to Dogliness, he told us. So, he made a beeline for a dirt patch under a bush, plopped himself down in the dirt and started digging holes as fast as his paws could go.

Puppy lies in dirt after swimming-min

What better to do when you’re soaked than start digging in the dirt?!

When he stood up he was shocked to discover he was a muddy mess!

Puppy covered in mud after swimming-min

Wild eyes!

He ran around in circles a few times and then settled down on the dock to lick himself clean.

Muddy dog River's Edge Cantina Colorado River Parker Arizona-min

How many licks will it take to clean up?

He was too cute for words, so our cameras were clicking away.

Taking photo of a muddy puppy-min

Mark gets a close-up.

Muddy puppy cleans up after swimming-min

Nice shot!

With two owners constantly following him around taking his photo, Buddy is now a much photographed dog. And he’s becoming quite aware of his status as a model.

When I crouched down to get a shot of him showing off his backside for Mark’s camera, he squinted his eyes and gave me a sly look and muttered under his breath, “Talk to my agent!”

Puppy photography model River's Edge Casino Parker Arizona

“Talk to my agent…”

Even without a puppy, the boat docks and area around River’s Edge Cantina are a lovely place for a stroll in the late afternoon.

Docks at Bluewater Casino Parker Arizona-min

The docks at River’s Edge Cantina.

Boating on the Colorado River near Parker Arizona-min

Life on the Colorado River in the late afternoon — beautiful!

And at either the Scorpion Bay Grill on Lake Pleasant or the River’s Edge Cantina on the Colorado River, there’s always the chance you’ll get a classic Arizona sunset as you enjoy your lakeside sundowners!!

Sunset at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Sunset at Lake Pleasant

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Wild Burros of the Colorado River – A Puppy’s View!

March 2018 – Continuing our theme this year of seeking out places where the southwestern deserts and waterways meet, we drove the scenic drive that follows the Colorado River from the town of Parker, Arizona, up to the Parker Dam. Starting in Parker, we went up the California side of the river to the dam and then we came back down the Arizona side to Parker.

Boating on the Colorado River California-min

The Colorado River is a favorite spot for boaters.

The Colorado River is a popular place for water sports and water play, and even though the river was cold and the air was springtime cool, there were still lots of boats out enjoying the water.

Boating on the Colorado River Arizona RV trip

The desert mountain backdrop is beautiful and RV parks line the shore for miles.

From power boats to party barges, there was plenty of boating action going on.

Party boat on Colorado River Parker Arizona RV trip-min

A party boat rides the current on the Colorado River

The Parker Dam Road on the California side of the river south of Parker Dam is a combination of wild and natural recreation areas and RV parks. One RV Resort ends and then the next one begins with a smattering of BLM managed Rec areas tucked in between.

As we rounded one bend on this road, we noticed some wild burros in the road ahead of us. How cool!

Wild Burros Parker Dam Road Colorado River California RV trip

We saw wild burros on the road in front of us.

We’d spent quite a bit of time with the wild burros in South Daktoa’s Custer State Park last summer, and we’d watched the wild horses of Arizona’s Salt River many times over the years, but it was still a great thrill to see these guys standing by the side of the road.

Wild Burros Parker Dam Road Colorado River California-min

Wild burros of the Colorado River.

We slowed down as we approached them, and another car coming the opposite way did too. The wild burros slowly crossed the road over to the other car and said hello to the folks inside.

Wild Burros Parker Dam Road Colorado River California RV trip

The burros crossed the road to say hi!

Then I noticed that there were more wild burros on our side of the road. They were standing around just hanging out.

Wild burros of the Colorado River Parker Dam Arizona-min

A wild burro’s life is pretty chill!

Wild burro Parker Dam Road California-min

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Suddenly one of them walked up to our truck and poked his head in our truck window.

Wild burro looks into car at Colorado River Arizona RV trip

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Buddy was fascinated and leaned way out of the truck window to have a closer look. The burro pulled his head back out. Buddy’s face was reflected in the mirror and it made a cool image.

Puppy leans out of car to see wild burro Parker Dam Arizona RV trip

Buddy leaned over for a closer look.

Then the burro poked his head in again. He seemed to be smiling. Buddy shied away a little.

Wild burro at car window with puppy Parker Arizona RV trip

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Then Buddy stared up at the enormous muzzle in amazement.

Wild Burro and Puppy Colorado River Arizona-min

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“What kind of breed are you?” He seemed to be asking.

Buddy braced himself on the window sill to get a different perspective.

Wild Burro and Puppy Colorado River AZ-min

The two got a good look at each other.

Then the burro and the puppy touched noses for a brief second.

Puppy meets a wild burro at the car window Parker Dam Road California RV trip

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I reached out and petted the burro’s mane. He didn’t seem to mind at all. Then the burro slowly moved away, and I noticed a young colt standing off in the distance. He looked like a little stuffed animal!

Wild burro colt at Parker Dam Colorado River California-min

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What a cutie.

Wild burro colt portrait Parker Dam Colorado River California RV trip

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By then, Mark had climbed out of the truck and was taking Buddy over to meet some of the other burros.

Wild burros meet a puppy Parker Dam Road California RV trip

The burros were very calm and inquisitive too.

Everyone was relaxed and a bit curious as well.

Introducing puppy to wild burro Colorado River Arizona RV trip

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What a neat animal encounter that was!

If you are traveling in the northwestern corner of Arizona near Parker and Lake Havasu, the drive on Parker Dam Road on the western side (California side) of the Colorado River makes for a nice excursion. There are thousands of RV campsites to suit any budget, and the lake is a great place for recreation of all kinds.

Hopefully, the wild burros will come say “hi” to you too!

Kayak on Colorado River Parker Arizona RV trip-min

A kayak on the Colorado River.

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Magical Moments in the RV Life

March 2018 – As we started the first few weeks of the Chinese Year of the Dog, we realized that it really is a dog’s life out here in our cozy little RV.

Sleeping puppy under blankets in an RV-min

It’s a dog’s life in our little RV.

The best part about it is there’s always an endless range of possibilities waiting for us just outside our RV window.

Dog in RV looking out the window-min

What do you want to do today?


And for folks like us whose home address is a campsite, there’s nothing like camping out on a lake!

Dog looking at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Buddy loves exploring the shores of Lake Pleasant.

There’s always something going on out there on the lake, whether it’s people fishing from their boats, or folks out sailing, or pretty ducks floating by.

Duck swimming in Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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Mark took some old bread down to the shore to feed the ducks. Buddy was fascinated and watched intently.

Feeding the ducks at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Mark and Buddy feed the ducks.

Since we took Buddy under our wings, we have discovered that he is quite the socialite. Where we kinda stick to ourselves and lead quiet lives, Buddy likes to be the life of the party. He happily trots from RV door to RV door to find out just where the party is.

Puppy sitting on the steps of a fifth wheel trailer RV-min

Buddy is at home on the fifth wheel steps.
But this isn’t our fifth wheel!

As one glorious lakeside day rolled into the next one, we were blessed with many magical moments. One of the first was when we woke up to see fog and snow on the distant mountains. This isn’t very common in the Arizona desert, but it is truly magical when it happens.

Fog mist and snow in Arizona Sonoran Desert mountains-min

Fog and mist swirl around the distant mountains.

Snowcapped mountains Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Snow in the mountains!

Another morning we suddenly noticed a hot air balloon drifting over the lake. What a fun surprise!

Balloon flies over Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

On a cold morning we noticed a hot air balloon sailing over the lake.

Balloon and seagull in the sky-min

Flying with the birds.

In no time the balloon was flying right overhead, the flame easily visible above the basket. On the side of the balloon were the words, “God bless.”

Balloon flies overhead-min

Up, up and away!

And then, in the blink of an eye, the magical moment had passed and the balloon disappeared in the distance.

Balloon flies by RV at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

The balloon slipped from view.

One afternoon I returned from a little hike with Buddy to find a crowd of people staring at the dock. A bald eagle had just landed on the dock and was making short work of a fish he held down with his feet.

Bald eagle on the dock Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

A bald eagle stands over its catch.

I was floored at how big the eagle was. He dwarfed the nearby mallard ducks and seagulls. He was also very calm as he quietly tore the fish apart.

Bald eagle holds fish in feet at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Fresh fish. Yum!

I figured there was no way I could get back to our buggy and get my camera out in time, but I ran with Buddy and grabbed the camera with the big lens on it that was sitting on the table. I noticed it was Mark’s camera, but heck, he wasn’t here. No problem!

Just then, Mark opened the door. I shoved the camera into his hands and said, “Bald eagle! Quick! Run!” and pointed at the dock.

He took off like greased lightning while I hunted around for my camera and got my big 150-600 mm lens loaded onto it. Then Buddy and I took off for the dock too.

Even though quite a few minutes had passed, the eagle was still happily munching away on his fish. Some opportunistic seagulls were milling around nearby hoping for tidbits.

Both Mark and I were able to fire off some wonderful shots of this gorgeous bird as he finished his meal.

Bald Eagle head after eating fish-min

He needed to wipe his beak — which he did right before flying off.

Then he wiped his beak on the wooden dock and pumped his wings hard to fly up in the air. Looking at the photos later, I just loved the puffy pantaloons on his legs.

Flying bald eagle Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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Flying bald eagle Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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And then off he went. It had been another truly magical moment that soared into our lives and then flew away and into our memory.

Bald eagle flying over Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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One morning I woke up early and lazily raised the blinds to see what was going on in the world. To my astonishment, a fabulous orange full moon was in the midst of setting. It was another incredible OMG moment that I wanted desperately to catch on camera.

I tore through my clothes trying to find pants and a jacket and shoes as well as a camera with a long lens and a tripod to mount it on.

Our sweet puppy Buddy is not a morning person at all, but he watched me in amazement from his cozy spot under the blankets as I threw things all over the place in a total panic.

To get the biggest possible orb in the sky, I grabbed my beautiful brand new Nikon D500 that Mark had given me a few weeks prior for my birthday, and I attached my mammoth 150-600 mm lens to it. Being a crop-sensor camera, this effectively gave me a 900 mm lens.

But unfortunately I hadn’t memorized all the buttons on my new camera yet, and as I stood outside shivering in icy blasts of wind, I couldn’t remember how to get the settings I wanted.

Full moon rising near saguaro cactus Arizona Sonoran Desert-min

The moon set right before dawn.

As the moon dropped steadily out of the sky and slipped behind a saguaro cactus, framing a fabulous image I desperately wanted to capture, I chastised myself for not having taken the time yet to study this miraculous piece of gear.

Mark heard all the commotion and suddenly appeared at my side in his skivvies and bare feet as the bitter wind whipped across the lake. He gave me one of those “are you kidding?” and “tsk tsk” kind of looks and calmly showed me the buttons I’d been looking for.

We both got a good laugh, but we couldn’t wait to get another chance for better pics when the moon set at the end of the day. We would be prepared this time!

Rising full moon with saguaro cactus Arizona Sonoran Desert-min

The moon set behind a saguaro cactus…

So, late in the afternoon we watched for the moon to rise which happened right as the sun was setting. (For those who haven’t studied the night sky, that’s how full moons work: they shine all night long, rising at sunset and setting at sunrise).

Full moon rising in Arizona Sonoran Desert-min

At dusk a full moon suddenly rises behind a ridge.

It rose across the lake, casting a beautiful shaft of orange light across the water and the docks where a man was peacefully fishing. It was another magical moment.

Fishing under full moon Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Fishing by the light of the moon.

The next morning we set the alarm so we wouldn’t miss the setting of the moon. This time we were completely prepared with all our gear laid out, including our Hoodman loupes, so we could see exactly what our pics looked like, and our remote shutter releases to help the cameras stay perfectly still as we took each photo.

The moon set about an hour later than it had the morning before, so the sky was lighter, and the moon’s path was quite a ways left of where it had been. We moved our positions so we could line the moon up with a different saguaro cactus. Then, slowly but surely, the moon sank behind the cactus and we each got some very satisfying shots.

Full moon setting behind saguaro cactus Arizona Sonoran Desert-min

The moon sets behind a saguaro cactus.

Full moon with saguaro cactus black and white-min

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It’s hard to describe the beauty of our RV lifestyle, because the most wondrous part is when beautiful surprises come to us unexpectedly. We couldn’t script happier days than these very special ones that were filled with such magical moments.

Sunset Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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Sunset at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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Lost Dutchman State Park Campground – Arizona Gold in the Superstitions

February 2018 – Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction, Arizona, just east of Phoenix, is one of our favorite RV campgrounds. Back when we first started RVing with our popup tent trailer, we visited Lost Dutchman State Park frequently.

Lost Dutchman State Park RV camping trip to the Superstition Mountains Arizona-min

The Superstition Mountains are the centerpiece of Lost Dutchman State Park in Arizona

We recently returned and were blown away once again by the beauty of this State Park and campground that is smack in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, tucked up against the stunning Superstition Mountains.

RV camping at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona-min

Lost Dutchman State Park has beautiful RV campsites.

Not only are the campsites spacious and often positioned with a great view of the Superstitions, but there are hiking trails leading out from each of the campground loops that invite you into the desert. On one afternoon we were greeted by a pair of horseback riders as we hiked.

Horseback riding Lost Dutchman State Park Siphon Draw Trail to Superstition Mountains-min

Horses pass us on the hiking trail.

The sunrises and sunsets are colorful and dramatic, and we enjoyed walking the campground loop in the early morning and early evening light.

Saguaro cactus Lost Dutchman State Park Superstition Mountains sunset-min

Sunrise at Lost Dutchman State Park.

RV camping and mountain biking Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona-min

Mountain bikers enjoy the trails at Lost Dutchman.

For a change of pace from the hiking, mountain biking and desert scenery inside Lost Dutchman State Park, there are two popular tourist attractions just outside the gate: Superstition Mountain Museum and Goldfield Ghost Town.

The Superstition Mountain Museum has lots of buildings and artifacts from the early gold mining days of the mid-1800s and tells the story of Jacob Waltz, “the Dutchman” (actually German) who made a big gold strike in the Superstition Mountains but took the details of its whereabouts to his grave.

Chapel at Superstition Mountain Museum Apache Junction Arizona-min

The Chapel at the Superstition Mountain Museum.

I loved climbing into the stagecoach!

Superstition Mountain Stage Coach Line Arizona-min

Buddy wanted to see the view from the stage coach window.

There is a saloon and a jail and lots of gold mining equipment too.

Superstition Mountain Museum Saloon Apache Junction Arizona-min

Buddy couldn’t go into the saloon because he’s underage.

Jailhouse Superstition Mountain Museum Arizona-min

Jailbirds.

The Superstition Mountain Museum is a non-profit organization that works to preserve the history of the Superstition mountains. Just a mile or so away Goldfield Ghost Town brings history to life with a replica of a gold mining town, complete with a brothel, bank and apothecary shop.

Goldfield Ghost Town Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona RV trip-min

Goldfield Ghost Town has lots of boutique shops and gold mining artifacts.

Goldfield Ghost Town apothecary and other antique buildings-min

Goldfield Ghost Town

Gold panning at Goldfield Ghost Town Superstition Mountains Arizona-min

Goldfield Ghost Town

Between the buildings at Goldfield Ghost Town we caught glimpses of the Superstition Mountains.

Superstition mountains behind Goldfield Ghost Town on Arizona RV trip-min

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There are lots of things to do at Goldfield Ghost Town, including taking a gold mine tour. There are also various rides and guided tours that go out into the desert both by jeep and on horseback.

Cowboy at Goldfield Ghost Town Apache Junction Arizona-min

There are rides available by jeep, on horseback and by narrow guage railway train.

Horses ready to ride the Superstition Mountains Siphon Draw trail-min

Horses rest between rides.

There’s also a narrow guage railroad train ride around the property. As I looked down the tracks to see if a train was coming I saw a hobo and his dog walking towards me on the tracks!

Goldfield Ghost Town train track hobos Apache Junction Arizona-min

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There was even an old outhouse with a moon shaped window.

Goldfield Ghost Town outhouse-min

No ghost town is complete without an outhouse!

A certain someone decided to check out the facilities and then peeked out the window.

Buddy in the Goldfield Ghost Town outhouse-min

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A couple dressed in period outfits sang old folk songs by the side of the dirt road.

Musicians Goldfield Ghost Town Superstition Mountains Arizona-min

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A deceased fiddle player accompanied them in a nearby boutique shop!

Funny musician Goldfield Ghost Town Superstition Mountains Arizona-min

The music never dies.

There were lots of fun photo ops at both the Superstition Mountain Museum and Goldfield Ghost Town.

Wooden shutters Goldfield Ghost Town Apache Junction Arizona-min

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Goldfield Ghost Town Siphon Draw Arizona-min

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For RVers staying at Lost Dutchman State Park who appreciate a yummy cuppa joe and a muffin in the morning, there’s a terrific espresso coffee shop and bakery at Goldfield Ghost Town.

As we approached the door one morning, someone yelled from the deck, “Hey Mark and Emily!” It turned out our dog-loving friends Dick & Katie–who we hadn’t seen in two years–had noticed Buddy trotting up to the coffee shop and instantly recognized him from his pics on this blog. “I know that dog,” Katie said to Dick. Then they followed his leash up to our faces and recognized us too!

Buddy biscuits

Buddy was sniffing around at the pet store recently and found some Buddy Biscuits!

Lost Dutchman State Park is the only public government-run campground in the greater Phoenix area that has a dry camping loop with big-rig friendly non-hookup sites. The terrific benefit for winter RVers is that even though all the dry camping sites can be reserved in advance, the hookup sites are much more popular and get booked up before the dry sites do.

So, unlike other campgrounds in the area, it is possible to stay at Lost Dutchman in a beautiful campsite without reserving a campsite months in advance. If you decide to stay there at the very last minute, there is an overflow area in a paved parking lot too, so you most likely won’t be turned away.

Lost Dutchman State Park RV trip Superstition Mountains and saguaro cactus-min

Hiking at Lost Dutchman is a real treat.

Saguaro cactus Lost Dutchman State Park RV camping trip in Arizona-min

Golden hour in the Superstitions.

For photography buffs, the Superstitions light up with a beautiful golden glow in the late afternoon just before sunset.

Superstition Mountains Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona-min

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Saguaro cactus at sunset Lost Dutchman State Park RV camping Arizona-min

Sunset.

Sunrise is also very lovely at Lost Dutchman, with pink and orange skies framing the silhouette of the Superstition Mountains.

Sunrise RV camping at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona-min

Sunrise.

Here are some books about the mystery of the Lost Dutchman and a hiking guide to the Superstition Mountains:

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Dolly Steamboat – Gliding Through the Arizona Desert on Canyon Lake

February 2018 – One of the most enjoyable ways to experience the beauty of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona is to take a boat ride on one of the lakes around Phoenix. Years ago we rode on the Desert Belle on Saguaro Lake and absolutely loved it. This past week we took a ride on the Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake.

Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip

Dolly Steamboat floats through the Sonoran Desert on Canyon Lake in Arizona.

While we were camped in our RV on Canyon Lake, our new puppy Buddy loved going down on the beach, especially during our early morning photo sessions. He liked to show us how fast he could zip between the legs of our tripods.

Photography at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

Buddy shows us his slalom skills.

When he wasn’t busy doing that, he was sprinting across the lakeside lawn carrying his favorite pink rope toy.

Puppy Chow plays fetch at Canyon Lake RV Park-min

Canyon Lake Marina & Campground has a big open grassy area that’s great for playing fetch.

Late one afternoon while he was down on the beach playing with the waves, he noticed an inflatable boat that had been pulled up on the beach. Hmmmm… a boat ride might be pretty fun!

Boating at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

A little sailor dog is born.

While we were out walking the next morning I was busy snapping pics of our shadows on the ground when we looked up and noticed the Dolly Steamboat moored at the dock.

Walking with puppy at Canyon Lake Marina Arizona-min

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The Dolly Steamboat was patiently waiting to take her first group of passengers out for a nature tour on Canyon Lake.

Docked Dolly Steamboat at Canyon Lake Arizona on an RV trip-min

Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake

Dolly Steamboat docked at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

Dolly Steamboat rests at dawn.

A steamboat ride definitely seemed like it would be a lot of fun to do together.

Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

What would the pup think of a boat ride?!

Canyon Lake is a beautiful big, blue lake in the middle of the desert, and we had been getting lots of photos of it from the shore as we drove up and down the Apache Trail. But seeing a lake from the shore isn’t the same as seeing it from the water.

Canyon Lake Arizona RV Trip-min

Canyon Lake is a big blue expanse of water in the middle of the desert.

We talked about doing a boat ride on the Dolly Steamboat over dinner.

Puppy enjoys dinner in the RV-min

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And Buddy slept on the idea too.

Puppy relaxes in RV-min

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He slept right through the enormous rising full moon!

Full moon Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

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He’s a very quiet little pooch, but he does know how to express himself and let us know what he wants.

Puppy Chow in our RV-min

“I’ve been really really good for days. Can I go on that boat ride now?”

The next day we went to stand in line at the Dolly Steamboat dock. A group of kids in front of us eagerly waited for Dolly to come in from her last excursion.

Kids wait for Dolly Steamboat ride at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

Kids wait for the Dolly Steamboat to arrive at the dock.

Finally, she appeared, and we made our way down the dock and onto the boat.

Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

There she is!

Walking down to the Dolly Steamboat ride on Canyon Lake Arizona-min

Mark and Buddy walk down the dock.

Captain Jason was very friendly.

Captain Jason Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

Captain Jason.

Seen from our truck window on the Apache Trail (Route 88), Canyon Lake doesn’t look all that big. But to our surprise, we traveled three miles into the hinterlands, winding our way through fabulous rock canyons that were studded with saguaro cactus.

Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

Canyon Lake turns out to be a lot bigger than it seems from the Apache Trail.

Canyon Lake Dolly Steamboat ride in Arizona-min

The Dolly Steamboat heads into the canyon where it will disappear from view.

There is seating out on deck, and we found a seat at a table to take in the view.

Puppy on Dolly Steamboat Cruise Canyon Lake Arizona-min

There are wonderful seats on the deck that offer a great view.

While we marveled at the scenery, Buddy enjoyed the new smells.

Admiring views Canyon Lake Dolly Steamboat Arizona-min

Buddy tests the air with his nose.

We were startled at how rugged and dramatic the rock canyons were. As music by Enya played softly over the loudspeaker, we floated past exquisite desert landscapes.

The Captain was hoping to spot some big horn sheep, which are a fairly common sighting on this tour, but the herd was somewhere else that afternoon.

It didn’t matter, though, the scenery was so stunning.

Views on Dolly Steamboat Ride Canyon Lake Arizona-min

The rocky canyon is extremely craggy and rugged with saguaro cacti poking up all over the place.

Canyon Lake Scenery Dolly Steamboat Cruise Arizona-min

There were always more views around the next bend. There are two free boat-in campgrounds too!

The Dolly Steamboat has indoor seating down below, as well as snacks and goodies for sale.

Admiring the views Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona-min

If it’s too hot on deck, there’s a cool spot in the cabin with big picture windows.

But Buddy’s favorite spot was a place in the shade up on deck where he got a dog’s eye view.

Puppy enjoys the view on Canyon Lake Dolly Steamboat Ride Arizona-min

Buddy found a cool spot of his own down a narrow passageway on deck.

Finally, after about an hour and a half of gliding through the desert on glassy water, it was time to head back in to shore.

Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

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If you are traveling through the eastern side of Phoenix, Arizona, and have an afternoon or evening to spare, take a ride on the Dolly Steamboat. They have starlit dinner cruises too!

Dolly Steamboat Cruise with puppy Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

This simple little boat ride is a definite “must do” if you like the desert and want a scenic outing.

Note: The Apache Trail (Route 88 from Apache Junction to the Roosevelt Dam) is one of the most famous and popular scenic drives in central Arizona. It is full of hairpin turns and sweeping views, and there are serious drop-offs too! If taking your rig, scout with your tow vehicle or toad first. As of February 2018, the 18 mile paved portion is under construction for it’s entire length, and the winter traffic is significant, so allow plenty of time for delays — or wait until next year!

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More info about boat rides and camping near Canyon Lake, Ariziona:

Other fun rides we’ve done:

Other blog posts from the east side of Phoenix (there’s a lot to see!):

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Lake Pleasant & Canyon Lake – Waterfront Camping in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert

January 2018 – One of our favorite things in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert is the places where the arid prickly land embraces water. The city of Phoenix was first settled by the ancient Hohokam people who used the rivers to irrigate their crops. The city was named “Phoenix” because the new modern community rose from the ashes of that ancient city like the mythical phoenix bird. Those same rivers still flow today and in places they have been dammed to become lakes.

Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Lake Pleasant, Arizona.

Lake Pleasant is on the northwest side of Phoenix, and it is big enough to house a marina, several boat launches, a few campgrounds and an RV park.

Golden hour cactus at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Arizona’s iconic saguaro cacti light up in the late afternoon sun at Lake Pleasant.

The air glistens with a special light at dawn and dusk, and we made a point to get out at sunrise and sunset to see what we could see.

Lake Pleasant Arizona at sunset with saguaro cactus-min

Sunset at Lake Pleasant.

There is something about the stately saguaro cactus standing watch over a beautiful calm lake in pink and blue light that stirs my soul.

Saguaro cactus at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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Saguaro cactus at sunset at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Sunset over Lake Pleasant.

Sunset steals over the water gradually, changing the sky and water from shades of peach to orange to pink.

Sunset saguaro cactus at Lake Pleasant Arizona RV trip-min

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Sunset at Lake Pleasant RV campground with saguaro cactus-min

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Sunrise at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Our favorite thing about lakeside sunrises and sunsets is the reflections!

The campgrounds at Lake Pleasant are lovely and offer campsites of all kinds, from up on a hill with a view of the whole lake to down on the shores of a narrow cove. Like all the public campgrounds in Arizona, reservations are highly recommended in the peak winter season.

Travel trailer RV at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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Sunset at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Lake Pleasant.

One day the skies turned threatening, and heavy clouds dripping with moisture reached down to the desert floor.

Saguaro cactus in mystical light-min

Heavy storm clouds hovered over the cactus.

Saguaro cactus at sunset in Arizona-min

A while late they turned pink.

The only caveat about camping at Lake Pleasant is that when the wind picks up it really howls. One night our trailer shook and rattled and bounced on its wheels all night long as the lake seethed with whitecaps and wind-whipped waves. It felt like we were back in the Sea of Cortez on our sailboat where the infamous Corumuel winds catch sailors off guard every year!!

After we had been camping at Lake Pleasant for a while, we packed up and moved to Canyon Lake on the other side of Phoenix.

Of course, nowadays “we” means not just the two of us but our new furry companion, Buddy, too.

Buddy the RV camping dog in our truck-min

My boys — the Pilot and Co-Pilot!

Canyon Lake is one of several man-made lakes on the Salt River. Gorgeous Roosevelt Lake is another lake on the Salt River that we have enjoyed most winters we’ve been in Arizona in our RV. This was our first time camping on Canyon Lake, however.

Canyon Lake Arizona speedboat and cactus-min

Canyon Lake is another beautiful desert lake on the eastern edge of Phoenix.

Down on the shores of the lake Buddy discovered a few new duck friends.

A puppy meets a group of ducks at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

The local duck welcoming committee.

One of the ducks was so curious about us he climbed out of the water and waddled up to say hello.

A duck waddles up to say hi at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

Why, hello there!

There is a lot of bird life along the Salt River, from snowy egrets to bald eagles. At Canyon Lake there was a resident flock of coots that spent their days wandering between the grassy shore and the water.

Canyon Lake RV campground on an early Arizona morning-min

Canyon Lake.

Early one morning Buddy ran down to the shore to admire the sunrise.

Sunrise at Canyon Lake on an Arizona RV trip-min

Sunrise at Canyon Lake.

Mark and I followed, cameras and tripods in hand. As Mark set up his shot, Buddy gave him pointers on composition and camera settings.

Photographing-sunrise-at-Canyon-Lake-Arizona-on-an-RV-trip-min

Mark gets a few photography tips from our new companion.

Buddy checked the back of the camera and gave his approval.

Sunrise photography at Canyon Lake RV Campground Arizona-min

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We walked along the water until the sun was all the way up. Down by the water’s edge there were some fabulous gnarly trees, and Mark paused on a lower branch for a cuddle and portrait with the pup.

RV camping with a dog at Canyon Lake Arizona'-min

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Buddy seems to weasel his way into most of our pics these days. We just can’t help it!

Buddy the camping dog at our RV-min

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Whether he’s patiently sitting outside waiting to be let in.

Little RV puppy Buddy waits at our fifth wheel trailer door-min

Surveying the scene from the top step while waiting for the door to open.

Or patiently sitting inside waiting be let out!

The dog Buddy welcomes us home to our RV-min

“C’mon out, Buddy!”

If you are visiting Arizona with your RV this winter and looking for a different view of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, try camping at one of the many beautiful lakes!

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Ranch Sorting Competition – Cowboy Adventures in Phoenix Arizona

December 2017 – On the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona, we’ve found not only beautiful waterways and fall color in the National Forest, but fun western cowboy ranching traditions in the outer suburbs too. Phoenix is home to lots of “horse properties” and small ranches, and our friends took us to a cool ranch sorting competition last week. This fairly new kind of cowboy ranching event is also known as “cattle sorting” or “cow sorting.”

As we walked over to the cow pens, a cute goat stuck his nose through the fence and gave us a smile!

Goat watches a cowboy cattle sorting event-min

A goat welcomes us to the ranch sorting competition.

There were about twenty competitors, both cowboys and cowgirls, sitting astride their horses and waiting for the games to begin. In the competition they paired up in teams of two in round robin fashion so every rider had a chance to team up with the others.

Cowboy cattle sorting event in Phoenix Arizona ranch-min

Riders line up before the competition begins.

There were several pens of ten calves each, and as the competition progressed, each group of calves had a few chances to get sorted. Every calf had a big number on his back, from one to ten.

The calves all turned to look at me when I stuck my camera lens between the bars of the pen to get their portrait!

Calves waiting to be sorted by cowboys-min

Calves wait to be sorted.

Numbered calves waiting to be sorted-min

Each calf has a big number on its back so they’re easy to spot and isolate from the herd.

Ranch sorting mimics the process that cowboys use to separate a single calf or cow from the herd so they can inspect it or administer medication or isolate it for some other reason.

In the cattle sorting competition, a pair of cowboys / cowgirls enters the pen with the calves and waits to hear the number of the first calf they’re assigned to isolate. For the next sixty seconds they chase after the calves in numerical order, starting with the first number they were given and then isolating each successive calf and sending it into an adjoining pen.

Calf sorting event with cowgirl on horseback-min

Our young friend Autumn rides into the herd in search of her target calf.

Cowgirl sorting calves on horseback in Arizona ranch-min

Ranch sorting is a fun way for riders to hone their horsemanship skills.

Working together, one cowboy (or cowgirl) chases the target calf towards the gate to force it into the adjoining pen while the other cowboy or girl blocks the rest of the calves from running into the pen along with it.

Calf sorting on horse in Arizona-min

First the calf is isolated from the herd…

Cowgirl sorting cattle on a horse in Arizona-min

Then it is chased through the gate…

We really enjoyed watching the action. The riders skillfully maneuvered their horses among the calves to find the one they were after and then chased it into the pen next door.

Getting the horse and calves to do what you want looks easy from the sidelines but takes a lot of focus and knowledge. The rider’s body position in the saddle and the way they hold the reins and touch the horse with their feet is the language they use to tell the horse what to do. A wrong hand position or posture in the saddle can give the wrong command to the horse!

Concentrating while riding a horse-min

Autumn concentrates and the horse sticks his tongue out too!

The cowboys and cowgirls were scored based on how many calves they managed to get into the adjoining pen in the 60 second time period. If a calf sneaked into the pen out of numerical order, then the score for that round was 0!

Cattle sorting riding a horse in Phoenix Arizona ranch-min

The distance between the pens is short. Once the calf is isolated, it’s a quick sprint from one to the other.

Sorting cattle riding a horse in Phoenix Arizona-min

Going after number 9.

The biggest challenge in each round was the first calf because cows are herd animals and they don’t like to be alone. When the first calf found itself isolated from the herd and being chased towards the empty pen next door, it would try to return to the herd rather than go into the empty pen by itself.

However, once a calf or two was in the adjoining pen, the next calves were a lot less reluctant to go in there because they saw there was company waiting for them. On rare occasions two sequentially numbered calves would be running alongside each other and would go into the pen one right after the other. A two-for-one!

Calves running in cattle sorting cowboy event on Arizona Ranch-min

Sometimes the rider got lucky and a pair of cows with sequential numbers went through the gate together.

The cowboy life, horses, barns and hay aren’t in my blood the same way sea breezes and hiking trails in nature are, but we had a wonderful time watching this classic western event.

Cowboy resting with his horse at cattle sorting on Arizona ranch-min

Cowboy culture is rich and widely celebrated across the western states. We have loved learning about it in our travels.

Of course, not everyone at the ranch sorting competition was quite as enthralled as we were. One little cowgirl was so tuckered out by the action that she suddenly dropped into the dirt next to the referee (her mom) to relax with her feet up on the fence.

Tired cowgirl lies on the ground at cattle sorting in Arizona ranch-min

All tuckered out…

When we researched the sport of ranch sorting after the event was over, we learned that these cattle sorting competitions are fairly new to the ranching scene and the first Nationals was held in 2007. But they are becoming extremely popular.

Cowboy sorting calves on a ranch in Phoenix Arizona-min

A friend of ours suggested that knowing tackle angles from football would be helpful with anticipating which direction a calf will run.

Cowboy chasing calf in cattle sorting event on Phoenix Arizona ranch-min

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The folks that were at this particular ranch sorting competition were extremely enthusiastic, and they attend events all over Arizona.

Calf running away in cattle sorting event-min

Calf #3 says, “I’m outta here!” while #2 heads through the gate.

Cowboy sorting cattle on a ranch in Arizona-min

The riders told us #8 was particularly feisty!

For us there were lots of neat photo ops and we got a kick out of roaming among the spectators, spouses, parents and loyal dogs.

Cattle dog with horse and cowboy on Arizona ranch-min

Spectators were treated to a fun event.

Horse eye closeup-min

What do the animals think of all this? The horses seemed to love it and the calves got some good exercise and worked up an appetite for grazing later.

Unlike the big rodeo events like roping, ranch sorting is something newer riders can enjoy. For us watching, it was easy to understand what was going on and to root for the cowboys and cowgirls as they whooped and hollered and worked to make both their horses and the calves do what they wanted.

Cowgirl chases calf in Phoenix Arizona cattle sorting event-min

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Cattle sorting event with cowgirl chasing calves in Phoenix Arizona-min

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Cattle sorting event with cowgirl chasing calves-min

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If you are spending the winter in Arizona and want to experience a brief immersion in some of the western traditions of horses and cowboys, look for a ranch sorting competition! We’d never heard of this kind of event until last week, but we got a huge kick out of it!

Cowboy walks horse back to horse trailer-min

What a fun few hours spent in the midst of cowboy culture!

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More info about Ranch Sorting:

Cowgirl Magazine article explaining what Ranch Sorting is

Other blog posts about our adventures with cowboys:

Central Arizona RV travel article index and more from our trips in the whole state of Arizona.

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Fall Colors and Wildlife on the Sonoran Desert Rivers in Arizona

December 2017 – The Sonoran Desert in Arizona is known for its cactus and warm dry climate, but one of our favorite things in the Sonoran Desert is the waterways – the rivers and lakes that flow through the arid land.

Sunset on Verde River Arizona RV camping-min

Sunset on the Verde River

While Spring is an awesome time to see wildflowers in the Sonoran Desert, the months of Fall are a beautiful time to explore the central Arizona waterways because the cottonwood trees and other riverside deciduous trees begin to change color.

RV camping on Arizona Verde River-min

The many waterways in Arizona are wonderful to explore.

Autumn comes later to the Sonoran Desert than most places, peaking sometime in November. Some of our favorite Arizona fall foliage images are in this article about Tonto National Forest here. They are from the eastern side of Phoenix just beyond the edges of the city of Mesa along the Salt River and the Verde River (“Green River”).

This year we returned to the banks of the Verde River once again to witness the colorful display.

Verde River Arizona RV camping-min

A thick bed of fallen leaves leads to the river.

The Verde River rises and falls depending on rainfall and water releases at the dam upstream. In some places the water had seeped up between the trees and made wonderful reflections surrounded by fallen leaves.

Verde River Reflections in Arizona-min

Reflections.

Big cottonwood trees reached out across the Verde River.

Verde River Camping in Arizona-min

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Suddenly a group of wild horses appeared on the far shore.

Wild horses on the Verde River in Arizona-min

Wild horses come for a drink on the opposite shore.

Central Arizona’s wild horses live in small family groups all along both the Salt River and the Verde River. We have seen them many times over in areas east of Mesa along the beautiful Bush Highway which parallels the Salt River.

Suddenly one of the horses crossed the river and approached quite close.

Wild horse Verde River Arizona camping trip-min

The wild horses of the Salt and Verde Rivers are much loved by Phoenix residents and visitors.

His tail and his mane were filled with burrs from running around in the prickly desert. It gave him a bit of a rastafarian look!

Wild horse in Verde River Arizona burrs in its tail-min

This guy’s tail and mane were thick with burrs.

Arizona wild horse with burrs in its mane-min

Quite a hairdo!

We wandered away from the river after the horses left and found some stately saguaro cacti with their arms outstretched toward the heavens.

Saguaro cactus near Four Peaks Arizona-min

Arizona is the only state where saguaro cactus grows, and they bring a lot of personality to every landscape.

A yucca plant erupted in a spray of gold along its spikey leaves as the sun lit it from behind.

Yucca plant in Arizona-min

A sunlit yucca.

Up on a wire we noticed a regal Harris Hawk surveying the scene below him.

Harris Hawk Lake Meade Utah RV trip-min

High wire act — a Harris hawk surveys his domain.

He moved very slowly, first staring in one direction and then staring in another, surveying the ground for any signs of scurrying feet that might make a good snack.

Harris

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Harris Hawk on an RV trip to Lake Meade Utah-min

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We have gotten a kick out of seeing various animals in our travels, including wild burros, buffalo, prairie dogs, mountain blue birds and herds of cows in the Black Hills of South Dakota this past summer (blog posts here and here).

Arizona’s most scenic spots off the beaten path offers the opportunity for some particularly special wildlife encounters too, and I wrote an article in the December issue of Motorhome Magazine describing the wide variety of animals we’ve seen in our Arizona RV travels.

Motorhome Magazine Feature Arizona Animals by Emily Fagan December 2017-min

Motorhome Magazine December 2017 issue
Article by Emily Fagan – Photos by Emily and Mark Fagan

Motorhome Magazine has posted the article online at this link: Animal Encounters in Arizona.

Dead tree in Arizona-min

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From snowy egrets to burrowing owls to peach faced lovebirds to sandhill cranes to hummingbirds and a whole host of four legged critters like big horn sheep and mountain lions (not to mention the wild horses), there are all kinds of animals to be seen all around Arizona!

Arizona is also famous for its beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and we caught a few along the Verde River.

Pink sky at sunset in Arizona-min

Sunsets in Arizona are stunning and surprisingly reliable!

Sunset on the Verde River on an Arizona RV trip-min

Twice the color!

Arizona sunset-min

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Sunset on the Verde River in Arizona-min

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Lots of snowbird RVers are headed to Arizona now and in the coming weeks, and we hope you all take a drive on the beautiful Bush Highway and catch a glimpse of the wild horses and perhaps a Harris hawk or two!

Happy days on an Arizona RV trip-min

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

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More info about the Sonoran Desert and its rivers:

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    Canyon de Chelly – Breathtaking Views Under Vibrant Skies

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

    Route 77 in the Navajo Nation Arizona

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

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

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

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

    Snow on road Navajo Nation Arizona

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

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

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

    Tunnel Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Tunnel Overlook, Canyon de Chelly

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

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

    Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Tsegi Overlook.

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

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

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

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

    Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument RV trip Arizona

    The clouds were moving fast at Tsegi overlook.

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

    Junction Overlook Canyon de Chelly South Rim Road Overlook Arizona

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

    Sliding House Ruin Overlook at Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Sliding House Ruin Overlook

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

    Spider Rock overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Spider Rock.

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

    Sunset spider rock Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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

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

    Sunset at Spider overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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

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

    Spider Rock sunset Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona RV trip

    Sunset’s brilliant display begins at Spider Rock.

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

    Pink sunset Spider Rock Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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

    “Did you see THAT??!!”

    Colorful sunset Spider Rock overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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

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

    Sliding House Ruin Overlook.

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

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

    Sheer cliff warning sign Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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

    It’s a long way down…but what a view!

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

    Nature's artwork Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Nature’s artwork on the rocks.

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

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

    Jackson Pollack — Or colorful lichen on red rocks?

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

    Lizard Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    A lizard looks over at me as he runs by.

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

    Indian Paintbrush Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    A dash of scarlet…

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

    Shadows at sunset Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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

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

    Starburst sunset Sliding House Ruin Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    A fleeting starburst at sunset…

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

    Sunrise Sliding House Ruin Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    …and another at dawn.

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

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    More info about Canyon de Chelly:

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