How to Replace Electric Fifth Wheel Landing Legs – Easy DIY!

Have you ever wondered how in the world to replace electric fifth wheel landing legs? Well, it turns it’s a surprisingly easy DIY project! We’ve done it twice now, once on our full-timing Hitchhiker fifth wheel 10 years ago, and again on our current Genesis Supreme Toy Hauler a few weeks ago. Yikes!

How to Replace Electric Fifth Wheel Landing Legs

.


At the end of our RV trip to Colorado last summer, our 2022 Genesis Supreme toy hauler fifth wheel landing legs started acting up when we were getting ready to hook up and leave one day. Our fifth wheel landing legs are electric, not hydraulic, and they are driven by two separate motors, one for each leg.

Suddenly, the driver’s side leg started making a clicking sound as we raised the front of the trailer to hitch up. The sound was coming from the gear box which is driven by the landing leg motor. The gears were slipping for some reason.



The Reese Goose Box was a GAME CHANGER for us. We got the bed of our truck back (yay!) and hitching/unhitching is easy.

Check out our review: HERE!



We were able to get hitched up despite the slipping gears, and we stayed hitched up all the way from Lake Granby in Colorado, to our home in Arizona. We didn’t unhitch once the whole way!

When we got home, Mark removed the landing leg from the trailer to do some investigating. With the trailer hitched to and supported by the truck, it was easy to remove the driver’s side landing leg to check it out.

When you remove the top cap from the leg, you should be able to turn the shaft on the side of the leg by hand. However, he could barely turn it. Something was binding and making the leg very stiff to retract or extend.

We weren’t sure just how stiff this gear should be, though. So, just to verify whether the gear on this leg was unusually stiff, he removed the passenger side leg and repeated the process. On that side the leg was butter smooth and he could easily turn the shaft by hand.

10 years prior, we’d had a similar problem on our 2007 Hitchhiker fifth wheel. However, that fifth wheel had had only one motor to drive both landing legs — not a very rugged frame design.

We’d been pleased when we bought the Genesis Supreme that it had a dedicated motor for each leg. Nevertheless, here we were again! Argh!!

The Hitchhiker landing leg motor was made by Venture Manufacturing in Ohio. So, when those landing legs failed, Mark purchased a replacement landing leg kit from them. He installed it while we were boondocking in the Arizona desert. We never had any trouble with our landing legs after that.

Mark called Venture Manufacturing again this time to see if they could help us with the binding landing leg on our new toy hauler.

He was delighted to speak to the same customer service rep as he had 10 years prior, Sue Haller. She asked him for some details about the landing legs on our toy hauler. It turned out that they were made by a Chinese knock-off company.

Once he heard that, he decided to replace both landing legs, gear boxes and motors with parts made by Venture Manufacturing. These come in a kit.

The installation was surprisingly simple and the new parts are super smooth. We now feel confident in our trailer’s landing legs as we get ready for our next adventure.

Venture Manufacturing Fifth Wheel Landing Leg Replacement Kit

All the parts that are in the Venture Manufacturing replacement landing leg kit.


Having a good quality socket set in your RV is really helpful. Find out what other tools we keep in our RV basement and in our truck here: Basic RV Tool Kit - Essential Tools & Supplies for RVers



 

Here are the basic steps for replacing the landing legs on a fifth wheel trailer:

  1. With the trailer hitched to the truck, run the landing legs all the way up.
  2. Turn off the battery disconnect switch
  3. Pull the spring pin and drop the lower legs and foot all the way out and set them aside
  4.  
    Do these next steps for each landing leg:

  5. Cut the positive and negative wires to the landing leg motor
  6. Remove the 8mm bolt from the lower gearbox shaft and slide the plastic collar off
  7. Remove the two 10mm bolts (11 and 5 o’clock position) from the motor and slide the motor off the shaft
  8. Slide the gearbox assembly off the motor shaft.
  9. Remove the two 9/16” nuts and bolts holding the leg onto the “U” channel
  10. Spread the “U” channel slightly to slide the leg out.

To install the new landing leg assembly, simply follow the above steps in reverse order!

Here are some pics from our installation:

How to replace Fifth Wheel Landing Leg - Venture Manufacturing Lower Leg

Remove the lower leg section to be able to drop the upper leg assembly out from trailer.

How to replace fifth wheel landing leg - Venture Manufacturing leg view From Outside

Looking in from the outside: The landing leg and gearbox.

How to replace Fifth Wheel Landing Leg - Venture Manufacturing Plastic anchor

To remove the gearbox just remove this screw and slide the plastic piece off the shaft. The gearbox will slide off next.

How to replace fifth wheel landing leg - Venture Manufacturing leg view From inside

Motor & gearbox removed.



If your fifth wheel has electric landing jacks but didn't come with Quick Release Pull Pins, they'll make you're life easier and they're super easy to install!

 
 
How to replace Fifth Wheel Landing Leg Upper Bolt

To remove the upper portion of the leg, remove the upper leg 9/16″ nut.

How to replace Fifth Wheel Landing Leg - Venture Manufacturing Lower Bolt

Remove lower 9/16″ nut. You may need to spread the “U” channel a bit to slide upper portion of the leg out.

How to replace fifh wheel landing legs - Looking from inside

Ta Da! New motor and gearbox attached.

All done! To install the replacement fifth wheel landing legs, do these steps in reverse order.

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

More Info:

More RV tech tips:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.   New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff. Also check out our COOL NEW GEAR STORE!! *** CLICK HERE *** to see it!

><-Previous || Next->

Lost Dutchman State Park: GORGEOUS scenery & RV campground!

March 2024 – Lost Dutchman State Park is one of Arizona’s most beautiful and most loved state parks. Nestled up against the towering cliffs of the Superstition Mountains, it is a showcase for stunning Sonoran Desert scenery, and it has a lovely RV campground with paved loops that is ideal for both RVs and tents!

Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona

.

All that wondrousness and popularity makes it very hard to get a campsite, though. Years ago, the campground was first-come-first-serve. But every morning from Fall until Spring a line of RVs would be waiting at the gate to get a campsite. Now all the campsites are reservable a year in advance, and you have to be online at the stroke of midnight if you want a specific site on a specific date!

Dramatic skies at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona

Lost Dutchman State Park is nestled up against the Superstition Mountains.

Fortunately, campers’ plans change. We snagged a cancellation for a pretty campsite during the prime spring season, and we enjoyed a wonderful weeklong stay. Many of the campsites are fairly large and private, and we had a nice view out the back end of our toy hauler.

View out the back of a toy hauler RV at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona

Sunshine pours into our rig — Nice!

The view out the windows and front door wasn’t bad either!

RV Camping at Lost Dutchman State Park

The stunning Superstitions are visible from all over the campground.

When we arrived, we had beautiful summery weather too — so welcome in mid-March!

Happy Camper at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona

Summertime in March!

We had hoped to find Lost Dutchman State Park full of wildflowers. It is considered one of the best spots to go wildflower hunting in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert.

The winter rains had other plans, however, and although we found a few patches of flowers here and there, they weren’t as copious as they’re known to be. We were a week early!

Wildflowers at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona

We saw patches of flowers but heard the flowers really popped a week after we left!

Lost Dutchman is an incredibly scenic park, though, both with and without flowers. On the first night we had a clear sky studded with bright stars. Dawn the next morning brought a soft glow around the Superstition Mountains.

Stars over Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona

Starry starry night.

Sunrise at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona with coyote sculpture

The sun rose behind the mountain and cast a beautiful halo around it.

There are lots of hiking trails at Lost Dutchman State Park that go out towards the Superstition Mountains and then deep into them. We walked along the Siphon Draw Trail, Treasure Loop Trail and the Cross-Cut Trail which all wander between the campground and the mountains.

Superstition Mountains and saguaro cactus at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona

We loved the play of sun and shadow on the cliffs.

Many hikes penetrate the mountains, and if you go far enough or even do a multi-day hike, you’ll find oases with waterfalls, streams, caves and more. Or so we’ve heard. We haven’t done that yet!

Saguaro cactus and setting moon at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona

The moon hovers in the background.

As the story goes, a German (Deutsch) immigrant found gold in the Superstition Mountains in the 1800s, but the location of his strike died with him, and the legend of the Lost Dutchman was born.

Lots of people have tried to reconstruct where that gold strike was, but to this day it hasn’t been found.

Sun lights up a saguaro cactus at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona

No one knows where the Lost Dutchman’s gold is located in the Superstitions, but the golden glow of sunlight illuminates the saguaro cacti all the time.

As the days progressed during our stay, a storm began to blow in and the sky became increasingly dramatic. It began one night with soft pastel colors in the sky.

Pastel sunset and saguaro cactus at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona

Soft colors in the sky.

Each night after that, the heavens presented a varied and colorful light show.

Saguaro cactus at sunset in Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona

As a storm approached, the sunsets were colorful each evening.

Sunset at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona with view of Four Peaks

We could see the side of Four Peaks in the distance.

Crazy saguaro cactus at sunset in Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona

Pink pink pink!

Saguaro cactus at sunset Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona

A little orange.

Lost Dutchman State Park Campground Arizona

Lost Dutchman is a beautiful place to camp!

And of course campers weren’t only ones sleeping at the Park. One campsite had a saguaro cactus with a huge nesting hole in it, and a little owl thought it was a great place for a snooze!

Owl sleeping in a saguaro cactus Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona

In one campsite an owl was napping in a hole in a cactus. What a fun surprise for the campers in that site!

During our first few days, the high temps had been in the low 80s and we’d been in shorts. But as the storm clouds began to form, the temps dropped lower and lower and winter began to wrap its icy fingers around the campground. The skies grew ever more ominous.

Saguaro cactus under uncertain skies at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona

Brooding skies began to form.


We used two of these solar panels to upgrade our toy hauler's factory-installed 200 watt system to a 600 watt system.

See our DIY installation details here:
RV Solar Power Upgrade
.
Lost Dutchman State Park in Arizona view of Four Peaks

Snowy mountains and desert cacti.

RV Camping at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona

There were wild stripes above our neighbor one morning.

And then the clouds became downright spectacular. We’d come here for the flowers, but this drama was every bit as thrilling!

Lost Dutchman State Park RV Campground Arizona and Superstition Mountains

Temps dropped and the sky began to rage!

RV campground at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona

.

As Mark and I walked around the campground with Buddy, snapping pics of the drama that was unfolding around us, I noticed a scene that I particularly liked. It was the contrast of light and shadow on the boulders and grass in the foothills of the Superstitions.

I had a wide angle lens on my camera, though, so I couldn’t capture what I had in mind. Mark’s camera had the Nikon 24-120 lens on it and could reach out and grab what I saw. So he handed his camera to me saying, “Take it with mine!”

When I looked through the viewfinder, it wasn’t as close in on the rocks as I’d wanted. And for some reason, I assumed the lens was already all the way out at 120. So, I just snapped the shot, even though it wasn’t what I had in mind, and handed the camera back to Mark saying, “I didn’t get it. You’ll have to crop it down on the computer to make it right!” And we walked on.

Lo and behold, it turned out to be one of our favorite shots just as it was. I’d inadvertently captured both the bright light in the sky and the highlights on the ground. I love it when we talk about a scene and cooperate to take a photo, either on his camera or mine. And sometimes blooper shots are the best ones!

Stunning landscape at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona

What I saw was the light and shadow on the small peaks, but the hole of light coming down from the heavens gives the image something extra!

The storm finally hit full force and we had two days and a night of downpours. What a deluge! These were quiet indoor days with occasional sprints outside to get the wiggles out. We were cozy, though, with the heat running inside all day long.

Puppy in his dog bed in a toy hauler RV

“When’s the rain gonna stop?!”

Finally the storm passed and we were able get outside again.

Lost Dutchman State Park has cabins for rent, and we explored the little loop where they are. These look like a fantastic way to enjoy the beauty of this state park in relative comfort if you don’t have a big RV and don’t want to stay in a tent.

There are five cabins and each one has a front porch, back porch and a small back yard with a campfire ring. Inside there are two bunk beds with mattresses and a queen bed as well.

There’s electricity and heat and air conditioning but no plumbing. Guests bring their own bedding or sleeping bags as well as cookware and camp chairs. There is a bathroom and shower building, with a large outdoor sink behind the building for washing dishes. These are rustic “camping cabins,” after all, and not hotel cabins.

This might sound a little austere, but the setting is divine. The cabins are located away from the rest of the campground and they have a fabulous view of the Superstitions in one direction and of open Sonoran Desert in the other.

Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona camping cabins

The cabins have some of the best views in the park!

And the Superstition Mountains are what it’s all about. Mark caught a beautiful image of the mountains in the golden hour with the full moon soaring overhead.


We use these two-way radios EVERYWHERE!
Hiking, biking, shopping and parking the rig!

For more of our RVing tips, visit this page:
RVing Tips & Tricks
Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona full moon

The full moon flies over the Superstitions.

That moon was so darn quiet we didn’t pay much attention to it. But then, early one morning, we went out at oh-dark-thirty looking for a cool sunrise, and I turned around to see the full moon setting behind me. I smiled as I noticed a saguaro cactus was playing with it as it fell through its branches.

First the cactus cradled the full moon for a moment. Then it rolled off its fingertips. And then it caught it in its lower branches.

Saguaro cactus holds the full moon

A cactus cradles the moon in its arm.

Full moon rolls off saguaro cactus arm

Oh no… It’s rolling off!

Saguaro cactus catches the full moon

Ahhhh… Good catch!

When we returned home, we climbed over the mountain pass around Strawberry, Arizona. The two days of rain we’d seen down in the desert had been two days of snow up in the mountains, and it was just beginning to hail as we drove through the small village (and stopped for pie at the fabulous Pie Man shop!).

Arizona sure can conjure up some crazy weather. It was hard to believe we’d been in shorts enjoying a bit of summertime at Lost Dutchman State Park just a few days before!

Snowstorm near Strawberry Arizona

A huge hail storm blew in as we crested the mountains around Strawberry.

Snowstorm descending into the Verde Valley Arizona

We faced a slippery slide down into the Verde Valley.

Lost Dutchman State Park deserves to be on every RVer’s bucket list. Granted, it’s full every night from October to April, but it’s worth the effort either to get online at midnight (or shortly thereafter) 365 days before you want your reservation to begin OR to check back frequently for cancellations closer to the time of your trip.

While we were there, we looked into reserving a site for the same week next year. There were sites available, however all but one of the best sites was already booked! Crazy, huh?!

Sunset at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona

Lost Dutchman State Park is a beautiful spot!

Oh yes. We stayed in the Rustic Loop 105-134. Some surveyors were surveying the campsites in our loop and we asked them why. They said the campsites in that loop are being prepared for electric and water hookups. So, that may be coming in a year or so.

Prices in 2024 were $25/night for a dry site in the rustic loop and $35/night for an electric/water site in all the other loops.

Teardrop trailer at Lost Dutchman State Park

Lost Dutchman State Park is a very special place

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

More info about Lost Dutchman State Park:

Other special campgrounds we’ve enjoyed:

Other blog posts from our travels in Central Arizona:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.   New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff. Also check out our COOL NEW GEAR STORE!! *** CLICK HERE *** to see it!

<-Previous || Next->

CargoBuckle Retractable Ratchet Tie-Downs – SO EASY!

Trying to tie down an ATV, side-by-side or boat on a trailer for safe towing can be a real pain in the neck! Fortunately, we’ve discovered the CargoBuckle Retractable Ratchet Tie-Downs which are a total game changer for us.

CargoBuckle Retractable Ratchet Tie-Down System is SO EASY!

Easy to install and a cinch to use, the CargoBuckle retractable ratchet straps revolutionized our tie-down process!

For the past six years, we have towed our Polaris RZR 900 side-by-side in three towing arrangements:

  1. On a flatbed trailer behind our fifth wheel in a “double tow” arrangement (also known as a “triple tow”)
  2. On a flatbed trailer behind our dually truck (with and without our truck camper)
  3. Inside our Genesis Supreme toy hauler.

 

TRADITIONAL TIE-DOWN RATCHET STRAPS – NOT GOOD!

Using traditional tie-down ratchet straps, we found it was nearly impossible to keep the straps fully tightened as we drove. We’d have to stop after an hour or so to tighten the straps, and then we’d stop to check them every hour or so after that if the trip was long. More often than not, they’d have loosened again and we’d have to re-tighten them.

Also, the setup on our flatbed trailer had some sharp corners and awkward angles that the tie-down straps had to cross in order to secure the side-by-side onto the trailer. This caused the straps to sever completely multiple times. We bought at least three sets of ratchet straps in just a few months of towing our side-by-side!

Needless to say, all of this was very annoying, and also made us quite uneasy when we were underway!

Triple tow Fifth wheel and flatbed trailer with side-by-side double-tow arrangement

Traveling with The Train, we got a LOT of chucking in the caboose…!

Tow Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition on utility trailer-min

Mark used traditional ratchet straps at first.

 

CARGOBUCKLE RETRACTABLE RATCHET STRAPS – WHAT A GREAT CONCEPT!

Cargo Buckle Retractable Ratchet Strap secures a side-by-side onto a flatbed trailer

CargoBuckle G3 Retractable Ratchet Tie-down permanently mounted on a flatbed trailer.

Mark did some research and found a product called the CargoBuckle Retractable Rachet Tie-Down System that mounted permanently to the flatbed trailer, one for each corner of the side-by-side.

In order to tie down the side-by-side, you simply pulled out each strap and hooked it onto a tie-down location on the RZR and ratcheted it tight. To unload the side-by-side, you simply released the tension on each strap to unhook and then let it retract. Easy peasy!

Mounting the straps on the utility trailer eliminated the need to tie everything down from scratch each time we secured the RZR to the trailer. Instead, the strap was right there where we needed it. All we had to do was pull it out!

CargoBuckle Retractable Ratchet Tie-Down system for permanent instsallation

CargoBuckle G3 (2″ strap).

This is a super slick concept and it completely revolutionized our tie-down process. Now we could tie the RZR down in just a few minutes by pulling out each strap, hooking it onto the RZR and ratcheting it tight. Even better, the straps never loosened underway, so we never had to stop to tighten them or worry that they might come loose as we drove.

Cargo Buckle Retractable Ratchet Straps for front of a side-by-side on a flatbed trailer

The front of our RZR is tied down with two CargoBuckle retractable ratchet straps mounted on the front of the flatbed trailer.

Two CargoBuckle Retractable Ratchet Straps secure the back end of a side-by-side on a flatbed trailer

The back of our RZR is tied down with two CargoBuckle retractable ratchet straps mounted on the rear sides of the flatbed trailer.

It was just a matter of a few minutes to get the RZR off the trailer too. All we had to do was release each ratchet handle, unhook the strap from the side-by-side and let the strap retract. Best of all, we didn’t have to deal with long messy tie-down straps or stow them anywhere.

We loved this whole concept so much that when we bought our fifth wheel toy hauler we got another set! In addition, we got an S-hook Adapter to bolt onto each CargoBuckle so we could hook the CargoBuckles into the D-rings rather than bolting them permanently to the garage floor.

CargoBuckle Retractable Ratchet TIe-Down System for a toy hauler

The CargoBuckle G3 ratchet strap is bolted to an S-adapter hook for removable installations like the D-rings on a toy hauler floor.

Besides providing a very secure tie-down as we drive, these straps are work with that we don’t hesitate to unload the RZR to go exploring for an while and then load it back into the toy hauler and carry on. This is ideal for seeking out boondocking locations down unfamiliar dirt roads.

 

FLATBED TRAILER CARGOBUCKLE INSTALLATION:

Our first CargoBuckle installation on our flatbed trailer was straight forward.

We aligned each of the retractable straps so there was a straight line between the CargoBuckle and the tie-down point on the RZR. Then we drilled a hole in the frame of the trailer for each strap and bolted the CargoBuckle onto the trailer frame. Done!

We angled the CargoBuckles slightly to ensure the straps wouldn’t cross over anything sharp that could make them chafe through. And that was it!

Use an awl before drilling a hole in the side of a flatbed trailer

First we made a starter hole in the flatbed trailer frame with a center punch.

Before drilling into a flatbed trailer frame spread 3-in-one oil on the drill bit

Then we lubed a small drill bit with 3-in-1 oil to keep the metal cool while drilling.

Drill a hole in the frame of a flatbed trailer before mounting CargoBuckle Retractable Ratchet Straps

Then we drilled a pilot hole.

We then selected larger and larger drill bits and repeated the lubrication/drilling process until the hole was big enough to fit the bolt.

Bolt the CargoBuckle Retractable Ratchet Strap onto the frame of a flatbed trailer

Once the hole was drilled, we bolted the CargoBuckle ratchet strap onto the flatbed trailer frame.

Cargo Buckle Retractable Ratchet Strap secures a side-by-side onto a flatbed trailer

One down, three to go!

 

FLATBED TRAILER CARGOBUCKLE TIE-DOWN PROCEDURE:

Securing the RZR to the flatbed trailer was now just a matter of extending each retracted strap and placing its hook in the tie-down point on the RZR and then ratcheting the strap until it was tight. Once all four straps were hooked up and tightened, the RZR was fully loaded and ready to go.

Unloading the RZR was equally easy. We released the tension on each strap, removed the hook from the RZR and retracted the strap into the CargoBuckle on the trailer.

We didn’t even have to mess with coiling and storing any long straps because they retracted out of sight on the side of the trailer!

CargoBuckle Retractable Ratchet Strap tie downs for a side-by-side

We positioned the front CargoBuckles close together to absorb the most severe shocks which is front-to-back.

The straps are 2 inches wide and are made of the same material as a car seatbelt. The ratcheting and releasing mechanisms are very smooth.

We’ve towed our flatbed trailer behind our truck, both with and without our pickup camper, for about 1,000 miles with no trouble whatsoever!

 

TOY HAULER INSTALLATION:

Polaris RZR side-by-side with Genesis Supreme Toy Hauler

Buddy checks out our toy hauler as the RZR waits patiently to be loaded.

The garage floor on our Genesis Supreme toy hauler has D-rings mounted on the floor (bolted to the frame) that are intended for tying down whatever toys you bring along in your travels — ATV, side-by-side, motorcycles, etc.

With an open box floor plan like ours, our garage is also our living room (yes, the RZR travels in our living space!) and the D-rings are right in the middle of our living room floor! So, the permanently mounted CargoBuckle retractable ratchet straps weren’t suitable.

Fortunately, the manufacturer of CargoBuckles, IMMI (Indiana Mills Manufacturing Inc.), makes S-Hook Adapter Straps specifically for situations where the CargoBuckles can’t be permanently mounted.

The S-Hook Adapter Straps gets bolted onto the CargoBuckle (G3) creating a single unit that has an open hook at one end, a locking hook on the other end and a ratchet mechanism in the middle.

Attaching the S-hook adapter strap to a Cargo Buckle Retractable Ratchet Tie-Down System for a toy hauler installation

The CargoBuckle G3 ratchet strap is bolted to an S-hook adapter so it can be hooked to a D-ring in the toy hauler floor.

Bolting the pieces together took no time at all and gave us four ratchet straps to hook into the D-rings in the garage floor and clip onto the tie-down locations on the RZR. The D-rings are not positioned symmetrically in our toy hauler.  However, we found four that worked well for tying down the RZR, two in the front and two in the back.

CargoBuckle Retractable Ratchet Tie-Downs for use in a toy hauler with D-rings on the floor

All four CargoBuckle ratchet straps have S-hooks attached for use in our toy hauler.

 

TOY HAULER CARGOBUCKLE TIE-DOWN PROCEDURE:

When loading the side-by-side, we simply hook the CargoBuckle S-hook onto the D-ring in the toy hauler floor, extend the strap so it can reach the tie-down location on the RZR and clip the CargoBuckle hook onto it. We do this for all four contact points on the side-by-side.

When unloading, we release the tension in each CargoBuckle, unclip it from the side-by-side and unhook the S-hook from the D-ring in the floor. We stow our CargoBuckles on the floor by the toy hauler ramp door along with the rubber mats we place under the RZR wheels to protect the flooring as we travel.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS:

We have towed our RZR using the CargoBuckle retractable ratchet tie-downs 10,000 miles so far. We’ve set up camp in 64 different campsites and loaded and unloaded the side-by-side each time. In addition, we’ve loaded and unloaded the RZR dozens of other times for scouting and exploring while in transit.

Loading and unloading the RZR has been a sheer delight, and the whole setup has been rock solid in the garage and has never loosened once.

Tightening a CargoBuckle Retractable Ratchet Strap

Tightening the CargoBuckle at the rear of the side-by-side in the toy hauler.

Tightening a Cargo Buckle Retractable Ratchet Tie-Down

Ratcheting the rear of the RZR in the toy hauler.

Perhaps the most impressive testament to the security of this tie-down system was our 94 mile drive between Shiprock and Gallup, New Mexico, on US-491 in 2023. If you can avoid this highway, please do! It is loaded with shallow dips you can’t see as you drive but that sent our entire rig flying any time we were going faster than 50 mph.

When we finally got to our destination, we were astonished to find that the RZR hadn’t budged and the CargoBuckles were all still completely secure. However, the Lifetime cooler that we keep tied down in the back of the RZR was another story, Even though it was tightly secured on the side-by-side, it jumped clear out of the RZR on one of those flying dips.  When we opened the toy hauler ramp door, we found it dangling off the back end of the side-by-side!

Back end of a Polaris RZR side-by-side is tied down in a toy hauler using CargoBuckle Retractable Ratchet Straps

.

If you have to tie down anything in your travels, whether it’s a side-by-side, ATV, motorcycle or boat, no matter what kind of trailer you’re tying it down to, your life be a whole lot easier if you use CargoBuckle Retractable Ratchet Tie-downs!

These clever retractable straps transformed our whole attitude towards bringing our fun little RZR along on our adventures!

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

More info about CargoBuckle Retractable Ratchet Tie-Downs:

More RV tech tips:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.   New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff. Also check out our COOL NEW GEAR STORE!! *** CLICK HERE *** to see it!

<-Previous || Next->

Exploring the Lower Salt River and Apache Trail in Arizona!

March 2024 – The Salt River in eastern Arizona boasts some of the finest Sonoran Desert scenery in the state, and it’s one of our favorite places for exploring, hiking, biking, photography and relaxing in the lush desert!.

The river flows westward from Arizona’s White Mountains, and as it approaches Phoenix, a portion of it known as the Lower Salt River flows through a series of dams, creating Roosevelt Lake, Apache Lake, Canyon Lake and Saguaro Lake. The Apache Trail parallels the river on an impossibly winding and gorgeous route.

The contrast between the dry desert and these lakes makes for a unique landscape, and in the springtime it is bursting with flowers and wildlife.

Sitting in the Lower Salt River Arizona poppies

A little wildlife amid a lot of flowers!.

We had so much fun photographing the Arizona poppies along the Bush Highway last March that we just had to return this year.

Last year the poppies exploded in a fabulous super bloom. This year the fields of gold weren’t as extensive as before. However, it was still a magical experience to see the pretty flowers and walk between the thick patches of yellow and orange.

Buddy made himself at home and promptly laid down in a thicket of poppies.

Puppy in the poppies on the Lower Salt River in Arizona

“This is nice here!”

People all around us strolled slowly in wonder, stopping now and then to get selfies amid the flowers. We were no exception!

Happy photographing the poppies along the Lower Salt River Recreation Area in Arizona

Right in the thick of it…

Photography in the Lower Salt River Arizona poppies

Getting down to business!


We use these two-way radios EVERYWHERE!
Hiking, biking, shopping and parking the rig!

For more of our RVing tips, visit this page:
RVing Tips & Tricks

These joyful flowers grow in abundance all around the Phoenix area. For some people whose yards are overrun with them each spring, they can actually be something of a nuisance. But to us, their happy faces smiling up at the sun are the very essence of Spring.

Lower Salt River Arizona poppies with a lupine

Poppies herald the arrival of Spring in the Sonoran Desert.

Lower Salt River Arizona poppies on the Bush Highway in the Lower Salt River Recreation Area

Smiling faces.

Arizona Poppies blooming on the Bush Highway in the Lower Salt River Recreation Area in Arizona

Poppies’ eye view of the sky!

A little further down the Bush Highway, we stopped at the Water User’s Recreation Area. This is a huge parking lot and river frontage area where people launch kayaks, standup paddle boards and let their dogs and kids play in the water. There’s a fantastic view of the Salt River from the edge of the parking lot.

Water Users Recreation Area Lower Salt River on the Bush Highway

A natural river flows through the desert.

Water Users Recreation Area Lower Salt River on the Bush Highway

This is a great place to play in the water on a hot day.

Lower Salt River on the Bush Highway Water Users Recreation Area

Just love those cliffs!

Sometimes when we’ve stopped at this spot we’ve seen the wild horses that are residents of the area. They come down to the water here for a drink. None were out on this particular day. However, Buddy waded in the water and took a long drink.

Dog in the Salt River on the Bush Highway at Water Users Recreation Area

.

There are a lot of recreation areas along the Bush Highway, and each is a little different. There are cliffs and beaches and even some mesquite woods at the Coon Bluff Recreation Area.

We hiked on the short trail that parallels the Salt River and wanders between the lush green grass and mesquite trees.

Coon Bluff Trail in the Lower Salt River Recreation Area in Arizona

We watched a wedding shoot in this grove of trees a few years back!

Down on the riverbank we suddenly heard a loud chirping coming from a pile of boulders. Buddy quickly ran over and stared into a hole between the rocks, sniffing continuously. Sure enough, there was a ground squirrel in the hole. He came out into the sunshine for a split second and chirped for us and then darted back in the hole.

Squirrel at Coon Bluff Trail in the Lower Salt River Recreation Area in Arizona

“Watcha doin’ ?”

Up in the sky, a pair of geese flew by. One was honking loudly. The wildlife around here had a lot to say!

Geese flying at Coon Bluff Trail in the Lower Salt River Recreation Area in Arizona

“Take a left!”

We drove on a short distance and stopped at the Phon D Sutton Recreation Area. This spot is at the confluence of the Salt River and the Verde River, and there’s not only wildlife all around but lots of human activity too. it’s a beautiful place to spend an afternoon.

We hiked a short trail that goes along the river’s edge, and Buddy suddenly stopped and laid down for a brief rest while he surveyed the pretty landscape from a nice spot in the shade.

Dog relaxes at Phon D Sutton in the Lower Salt River Recreation Area in Arizona

Buddy takes a breather in the shade by the Salt River.

Four Peaks appeared far out on the horizon. From this vantage point we were seeing the “front” of Four Peaks while when we RV camped at Roosevelt Lake further upstream on the Salt River a few weeks ago, we were looking at the “back” of Four Peaks.

Salt River at Phon D Sutton in the Lower Salt River Recreation Area in Arizona

View of Four Peaks from Phon D Sutton Recreation Area.

In the opposite direction, Red Mountain cast a reflection in the glassy water.

Red Mountain Lower Salt River Arizona

Red Mountain checks its reflection in the water.

As I mentioned, Phon D Sutton (along with all the other Recreation Areas on the Salt River) is a popular place for all kinds of outdoor activities. While we were there, a group of people began bringing inflatable kayaks down to the water’s edge. First it was two yellow kayaks. Then two yellows and a red. Then two yellows, a red and a green. In no time the shoreline was filled with a rainbow of kayaks.

Rafting in the Lower Salt River Arizona

A group of kayakers brought a kaleidescope of kayaks to the shores of the Salt River.

A fly fisherman stood in the water casting his line, and a photographer grinned happily between shots.

Fishing in the Lower Salt River Arizona

The Lower Salt River recreation areas along the Bush Highway are all about having fun in and near the water.



The Reese Goose Box was a GAME CHANGER for us. We got the bed of our truck back (yay!) and hitching/unhitching is easy.

Check out our review: HERE!



Photography in the Lower Salt River Arizona at Phon D Sutton

This is a great area to bring a camera.

The Bush Highway, Coon Bluff and Phon D Sutton are all near the city of Mesa. Further upstream on the Salt River, on the northeastern edge of the city of Apache Junction, lies one of Arizona’s most spectacular scenic drives: the Apache Trail (State Route 88).

This incredible winding road goes through some of the finest Sonoran Desert scenery in the state on a road that began as a trail used by the Apache Indians before the settlers arrived.

In 1903 road construction began to link the city of Mesa with the construction site for the Roosevelt Dam. In just a year, the first 64 miles of the road from Mesa to the Roosevelt Dam (which created Roosevelt Lake) was completed for a cost of $200,000. Two years later, in 1905, the entire 112 mile long road through this very treacherous terrain was completed for a total cost of $500,000.

The road builders were predominantly Apache Indians, and they built the road using pick axes and shovels along with dynamite. What an impressive feat!

Apache Indian road building crew on the Apache Trail, courtesy Bureau of Reclamation

These guys built 112 miles of road through perilous terrain in 3 short years!

Today, the 37 miles of road through the most treacherous part of the original 112 mile long Apache Trail goes from Apache Junction to Roosevelt Lake and takes dozens of sweeping turns on a hilly run out towards the dam.

Only the first 15 miles are paved, however. And the 22 mile long dirt portion, which used to make for a very exciting ride, is currently washed out in a few places due to flooding in 2019, so it’s closed.

As we drove this beloved road, we reminisced about racing our bicycles on the paved portion after work on hot summer Wednesday evenings back in the day! It was a crazy race, but so much fun. It was typically 115 degrees, and we’d both put in a full work day already, but all our cares slipped away as we rode at top speed on this scenic route.

The Apache Trail in Arizona is a winding road

One of dozens of tight turns on the Apache Trail.

On our drive last week, we were alarmed when we saw a sheriff’s car and an ambulance parked by the side of a particularly tight turn, lights flashing.

People routinely drive this road way too fast, and a surprising number go over the edge. Seeing the car at the bottom of the cliff was a great reminder to take our time and drive slowly. After all, why rush on such a beautiful drive?!

Saguaro cacti in the Lower Salt River area in Arizona

The Apache Trail is one of the best places to see gorgeous saguaro cactus stands.

721 Saguaro Cactus on the Apache Trail in Arizona

.

Along the way, two trestle bridges cross tributary streams that flow into the river.

Bridge on the Apache Trail in Arizona

There are two trestle bridges on the Apache Trail.

The Apache Trail follows a portion of the Salt River that is dammed to form a series of lakes: Roosevelt Lake, Apache Lake, Canyon Lake and Saguaro Lake. As we turned a corner, we could see Canyon Lake in the distance.

View of Canyon Lake on the Apache Trail in Arizona

Canyon Lake appears in the distance.

A delightful way to see Canyon Lake is to take a ride on the Dolly Steamboat. We enjoyed that wonderful boat ride a few years ago when a crew from Camping World was filming us for a promotional video. It was a lot of fun to float through a Sonoran Desert canyon!

We’ve also taken the boat ride on Saguaro Lake aboard the Desert Belle. If you have a chance, either boat ride (or both) is well worth doing. Drifting through spectacular Sonoran Desert scenery is a captivating way to spend a few hours.

Dolly Steamboat ride on Canyon Lake Arizona

Dolly Steamboat cruises down Canyon Lake.

There are also several recreation areas near the Dolly Steamboat dock, and we stopped at Acacia Recreation Area to explore. This is a gorgeous spot with a beach, picnic tables, shade trees and stunning views of the canyon walls across the water.

A young family was enjoying a picnic on a blanket while a little girl and her dad fished at the water’s edge.

Acacia Recreation Area on the Apache Trail Arizona

What a beautiful place to bring the family on a hot day.


We used two of these solar panels to upgrade our toy hauler's factory-installed 200 watt system to a 600 watt system.

See our DIY installation details here:
RV Solar Power Upgrade
.
Canyon Lake on the Apache Trail in Arizona

Far in the distance, the Dolly Steamboat is dwarfed by the canyon walls.

The paved portion of the Apache Trail ends just beyond Tortilla Flat, a small complex of historic buildings with a restaurant. This place is a magnet for convertible drivers and motorcyclists who love to ride the sweeping turns of the Apache Trail and then stop for lunch.

On our way back we saw an opening for a small trail that went down to a stream. Buddy cooled his paws in the water and Mark did too when he accidentally stepped into deep water that came in over the tops of his boots!

Fun in the water on the Apache Trail in Arizona

Buddy and Mark cool their paws in the water.

The whole Lower Salt River area from Roosevelt Lake to the Apache Trail to the river access points on the Bush Highway is a rich playground for outdoor lovers, and we keep going back and back again!

Camping in Arizona

RV camping in the Sonoran Desert – fun fun fun!

Arizona poppies blooming on the Bush Highway in the Lower Salt River Canyon Recreation Area

Poppies, poppies, poppies!

If you liked this post, please do us a big favor and share it with a friend!

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

Check out all the goodies in our GEAR STORE:
RLT Gear Store Categories

More info about the Lower Salt River recreation areas and the Apache Trail:

Other blog posts from our visits to the Salt River and Apache Trail:

More blog posts from our trips to central Arizona:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.   New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff. Also check out our COOL NEW GEAR STORE!! *** CLICK HERE *** to see it!

<-Previous || Next->

Basic RV Tool Kit – Essential Tools & Supplies for Rvers

RVers preparing to go RVing full-time have asked us, “What are the essential tools and supplies we’ll need for the RV life?” That’s a big question, but when we began gathering items for our online Gear Store last week, we realized it was a perfect time for us to provide an answer and outline a good solid basic RV tool kit.

Mark just completed two sizeable repair projects in the last few weeks too: replacing the landing legs on our fifth wheel toy hauler and replacing the start motor plus relocating the start relay (so it’s easier to access) in our Polaris RZR side-by-side. Since he had just pulled out all of the tools necessary for these jobs, the whole issue of “essential” vs. “not-so-important” tools was fresh in his mind.

RV Tool Kit - Essential tools for RVers and RV living

What are the “must have” tools when you run off to a life of adventure in an RV?

I asked him to do a pretend shopping spree and assemble an RV tool kit on Amazon while I took Buddy for a walk. When I returned, he’d put together a terrific basic RV tool kit. He’d also discovered a few cool tools he didn’t have yet, and they were all sitting in our Amazon shopping cart!

Well, the Master Mechanic in any RV or boat can never have too many tools, right?!

Mark keeps most of his tools in the basement of our fifth wheel. He also has two additional mini tool kits. One mini tool kit lives in the truck and has duplicates of all the most basic tools he might need for a breakdown on the road or a tire change. The other mini tool kit lives in our Polaris RZR side-by-side in case it has a breakdown or needs a tire change.

You can find all of the tools discussed here in the “RV Tool Kit” curation in our Gear Store or click the blue boldface titles or the images below.

HANDHELD TOOLS for an RV TOOL KIT

RV Tool Kit - Handheld Tools

Handheld Tools

Handheld tools are the heart of the tool kit. Craftsman is a great brand that comes with a lifetime warranty. So, a lot of the tools listed here are Craftsman. If a Craftsman tool breaks, you can just take it to a hardware store that carries Craftsman and they’ll replace it free of charge.

Mechanic’s Tool Set – A good place to start is to get a robust mechanic’s tool kit that has a wide variety of tools: hammer, screwdrivers, sockets, drill bits, pliers, etc. Mark keeps his in the truck so he doesn’t have to go digging for a tool in the basement when something comes up as we drive.

Socket Set – This particular set includes both SAE and metric sizes as well as 1/4 and 3/8 inch drives.

Wrench Set – A robust set like this one includes wrenches of every size in both metric and SAE. Some sets skip certain sizes, so verify that you’ll be getting all the sizes you need. This set can also be rolled up in its fabric case so it’s easy to carry and store.

Adjustable Wrenches – A big one and a small one will do the trick.

Screwdriver Set – Be sure to include both Phillips head and flat head screwdrivers. Want more variety? here is a bigger set.

Screwdriver #2 Square Head – Many RVs are built with things that require a #2 square head screwdriver. We use ours all the time!

Basic Pliers Set – This set includes channel locks and needle nose along with regular pliers. This bigger set has more variety.

Hand Saw – You might need to cut some lumber (we have!)

Hack Saw – You might need to cut some metal pipe (we have!)

Folding Saw – Sometimes we use this saw to cut back overhanging branches at our campsite.

Telescoping Inspection Mirror – With some projects it’s super difficult to see into the deep recesses of where you’re working. A telescoping mirror makes it possible to see the backs of things and around corners.

Telescoping Magnet Tool – If you drop that vital nut down into an impossible to reach spot, you can retrieve it with this nifty tool.

Measuring Tape – Handy if you need to measure something.

Level – Handy if you want something to be level or square.

Kneeling Pad – When you’re working on something low, it really helps to have a kneeling pad to cushion your knees. Mark uses his all the time!

CORDLESS POWER TOOLS for an RV TOOL KIT

RV Tool Kit - Cordless Tools

Cordless Tools

Several companies make a suite of cordless power tools that all use the same battery pack. If possible, stick to one brand to avoid storing a variety of battery packs and chargers (although we’ve ended up with a mix ourselves!).

Ryobi, Rigid, DeWalt, Milwaukee and Makita all make sets of tools based on their battery packs and are good reliable brands. However, each brand offers a different suite of tools. The products linked to here are all Ryobi which we like a lot. We keep two battery packs on hand so we can be using one while the other is charging…or use both at the same time!

Cordless Drill – We not only use ours for standard drilling purposes, but we also use it to raise and lower our landing jacks. We did this on our full-timing fifth wheel and now on our toy hauler. Both trailers came with manual landing jacks. To set up our drill for this purpose we put a 1/4 to 3/8 socket adapter in the chuck and attach an 8 inch extension and a 3/4 inch deep socket with 3/8 drive.

Drill Bit Set – There are bigger kits, but this is a good basic selection.

Cordless Screwdriver – This little gem is fabulous and saves your wrists if you have a lot of screwing and unscrewing to do.

Cordless Screwdriver Hex Bits – These are super handy to use in the cordless screwdriver if you have a lot of bolts to tighten.

Cordless Tire Inflator Air Compressor – This tire inflator can inflate all kinds of tires (Schrader valve) and basketballs too! We use it to inflate the air bags on our Reese Goose Box.

Cordless Dust Blower – After driving our side-by-side, we use this to blow the dust off ourselves. It can inflate air mattresses too.

Work Light – A super bright light that can be hung right over your work area makes it much easier to see what you’re doing.

Hand Vacuum – RV floor space and storage space is so limited that we prefer to use a hand vac instead of a stand-up vacuum.

Flashlight – You can never have too many flashlights. This one is a good all around bright light in a modest size that Mark uses every day.

TOOLS & SUPPLIES FOR RV ELECTRICAL WORK

RV Tool Kit - Tools for Electrical Repairs

For Electrical Work

Multimeter – This is critical for anything and everything electrical. If you want to test what’s going on in a specific location, a clamp-on meter can be placed around a wire and you’ll see the current at that spot.

Aligator Test Clip Leads – Vital for troubleshooting problems

Heat Shrink Butt Connector Kit – This suitcase style kit has marine grade butt connectors from 22 to 10 AWG and comes with a heat shrink tool and crimper. Mark lovs this kit!

Black Electrical Tape – Scotch is a good brand for electrical tapes. Cheaper brands are a waste of money. Get the good stuff!

Colored Electrical Tape – Same as the above but for cases where you want to color code your work.

TOOLS & SUPPLIES FOR RV PLUMBING & GAS WORK

RV Tool Kit - Plumbing Tools

For Plumbing & Gas

PVC Pipe Cutter – It’s really hard to cut PVC without one of these, and they also cut the blue and red PEX water lines with ease.

Tubing Cutter – Use this to cut copper pipe (we used it when installing our vent-free propane heater)

Teflon Tape – Blue Monster is the best brand of teflon tape. We learned about it from a plumber, and Mark has never gone back to the brands he used to use!

TOOLS FOR CHANGING A TIRE

RV Tool Kit - Tire Changing Tools

In case of a flat!

Heavy Duty Lug Wrench — To screw and unscrew the lug nuts on the wheel

Hydraulic Bottle Jack — Get one strong enough to lift your RV or your truck.

18” Breaker Bar — If the Lug Wrench can’t crack the lug nuts loose, a breaker bar and deep impact socket will do the trick. Then switch to the Lug Wrench to finish screwing or unscrewing the lug nut.

Deep Impact Socket — Works with the breaker bar. Match the size of the socket to the lug nuts on your vehicle’s wheels

1/2 inch Drive 10 inch Socket Extension — Necessary to change the inner rear wheel on a dually truck (Mark demonstrates that HERE!).

Flat Tire Repair Kit – It may be possible to patch the tire rather than use the spare.

Fix a flat – When all else fails, it doesn’t hurt to have a can on hand!

Small compressor – Get that baby pumped up!

Tire Pressure Gauge – It’s important to check the tire pressure!

TAPE & FASTENERS

RV Tool Kit - Tape and Fasteners

Tape & Fasteners

Gorilla Tape — All purpose super sticky tape that can attach virtually anything to anything

Alien Tape — Thick double-sided tape that is great for mounting things

Velcro Extreme Mounting Tape – Excellent for mounting things you’ll remove at some point (like clocks that need batteries).

WORK GLOVES

RV Tool Kit - Work Gloves

Hand Protection

Leather Gloves – Protect your hands when doing heavy lifting

RV Dump Gloves – Disposable Nitrile gloves are great protection while doing the dirty deed at the RV dump.

Cut-Resistant Work Gloves – Protect your hands when dealing with sharp metal parts and tools

Are there tools in your RV tool kit that you depend on and that we’ve missed here? Please list them in the comments below!

Check out all of these essential tools under “RV Tool Kit” in our online Gear Store HERE. Or click the image below to see our basic RV tool kit plus all the other goodies we’ve put on the shelves!

RLT Gear Store Storefront

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

Tech Tips related to RVs and Trailers:

Tech Tips related to Trucks:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.   New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff. Also check out our COOL NEW GEAR STORE!! *** CLICK HERE *** to see it!

Windy Hill Campground + Tonto National Monument

January 2024 – Roosevelt Lake is a beautiful lake in Central Arizona that was created by damming up the Salt River, and it is one of our favorite places to go winter RV camping in Arizona. When a warm “January thaw” swept through the state, we took advantage of the spring-like weather and spent a few days at Windy Hill Campground.

Four Peaks seen from Windy Hill Campground Roosevelt Lake Arizona

Mist rises from Arizona’s Roosevelt Lake in view of Four Peaks at dawn.

There are several campgrounds around Roosevelt Lake, but our favorite is Windy Hill Campground. There are quite a few campground loops at Windy Hill, and each is lovely. Some campsites can be reserved, but we always take our chances with first-come-first-serve because there are usually dozens and dozens of empty sites.

This year we had an entire campground loop to ourselves. What luck!

RV camping at Windy Hill Campground at Roosevelt Lake Arizona

We had an entire campground loop to ourselves at Windy Hill Campground.

Many of the campsites are near the water’s edge. This year the lake level was quite high, so it was just a few steps down a short trail to get to the water from our campsite.

At sunrise the world was very quiet as wispy clouds painted pastel shades of pink and orange across the heavens. Reflections appeared in the water below.

Sunrise Windy Hill Campground at Roosevelt Lake Arizona

Sunrise at Roosevelt Lake, Arizona.

In the distance, we could see the winter snow on Four Peaks in the early morning glow.

Four Peaks at sunrise Windy Hill Campground at Roosevelt Lake Arizona

Pink everywhere.

The light was constantly changing and once the mist cleared, the mountains took on a fiery hue for a few moments.

Four Peaks over Roosevelt Lake seen from Windy Hill Campground

“Morning has broken…”

Roosevelt Lake is especially loved by fishermen, and there are fishing tournaments year round. There weren’t any fishing tournaments going on during our stay this year, but there were plenty of anglers out on the water.

Fishing on Roosevelt Lake at Windy Hill Campground in Arizona

What a place to fish!

Hiking trails hug the water’s edge around several of the peninsulas just below the campsites, and we happily hit the trails each morning and evening. The campground hosts had done a great job of keeping these trails clear.

All the campground loops are paved while the campsites themselves are gravel.

One day while returning to our campsite, the shadow of Buddy’s inner wolf suddenly appeared in the road.

Inner Wolf

On a late afternoon walk, Buddy was stalked by his inner wolf.

Despite the shadow monsters out there, we felt a wonderful peace in the air and just hung out and relaxed.

RV Camping at the Windy Hill Campground at Roosevelt Lake in Arizona

Soaking up some winter sunshine in our campsite.

Just chilling in the RV

Just chillin’ on the sofa.

Sunsets are just as dramatic as the sunrises at Roosevelt Lake, and they were a bit easier to enjoy since we were already up and out of bed!

Sunset reflection at Roosevelt Lake in Arizona.jpg

Sunset!

Sunset view of Four Peaks from Roosevelt Lake Arizona.jpg

Wow!

For such a beautiful RV camping area in such a scenic setting, it has always bewildered us that very few of Arizona’s thousands of winter RV snow birds ever go there. Oddly, even fewer locals have ever heard of it!

The US Forest Service recreation areas around Roosevelt Lake were built decades ago with great anticipation that hordes of campers and boaters would flock to the lake from both Phoenix and Tucson, each about 100 miles away. There were hundreds of campsites built on both sides of the lake in all kinds of pretty settings.

Although the campgrounds at Roosevelt Lake, including Windy Hill Campground, are dry camping only, the loops are paved, the campsites are spacious, each one has a shaded picnic ramada and campfire ring, there are ample water spigots around each loop and there are bathroom buildings with flush toilets and showers.

But the expected crowds never came.

Roosevelt Lake is 2 hours from both Phoenix and Tucson, and it is just too far for a family to go for a Saturday night camping trip. Lots of people come for longer stays like Spring Break and the big three-day weekends, but not at any other time. As for winter RV snowbirds, most want hookups, and who can blame them in January when the onshore lake winds pipe up and temps turn chilly?

But if you choose a campsite that isn’t waterfront property (I know, it’s hard to do that!), then there’s little wind and it’s a lot warmer.

The USFS has allowed the Roosevelt Lake campgrounds to fall into decay, and they are deliberately letting several loops at Windy Hill Campground sites “return to nature” as one camp host put it. The picnic tables and campfire rings have been removed and the campsite pads are disappearing under the weeds.

Yet, at the same time, they installed a major upgrade this past year: a new RV dump station! They rerouted the road on one of the closed campground loops, and although it’s not the best dump station layout we’ve ever seen, it’s there and it’s open and it’s a lot more convenient than going to the other RV dump station at Roosevelt Lake located 10 miles away at Cholla Bay Campground.

In 2024, campsites at Windy Hill Campground cost $25/night ($12.50/night for seniors with the Federal Interagency Pass).

Roads Less Traveled Amazon Store

⬆⬆⬆ Check out our GEAR STORE where we've gathered together the things we love and depend on! ⬆⬆⬆

One big surprise this year was that they now allow winter RV snowbirds to stay at Roosevelt Lake for as long as they wish. In the past, they wanted RVers to leave after the standard 14 days. During our stay we met several RVers who had been there for a few months and were planning to stay for a few months more. For seniors, at $12.50/night or ~$375/month, it’s a great deal for monthly rent in a scenic spot with paved loops and good sized campsites.

Roosevelt Lake isn’t near anything, and that may be part of the reason that most Snowbird RVers don’t flock there. The bustling town of Payson, Arizona, is 50 miles away to the north and the mining town of Globe, Arizona, is 80 miles to the east.

However, right across the street from Windy Hill Campground is a wonderful ancient Indian cliff dwelling ruin, Tonto National Monument. Even though we have visited several times before, we decided to go there once again during our stay this year.

Tonto National Monument trail to Lower Ruins

A paved path heads up to the Lower Cliff Dwellings cave at Tonto National Monument.
This is across the street from Windy Hill Campground.

The fun thing about these ruins is that you can go right inside the pueblo and get a feeling for what life might have been like for the ancients living high up on this mountainside.

There are two sets of ruins, the Lower Cliff Dwelling and the Upper Cliff Dwelling. Each set of ruins was found very much intact by the settlers in the 1800s, and there were fabulous artifacts strewn about as if the former inhabitants had just moved out last week.

In the 1940s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built a hiking trail to each ruin, and the Navajo Mobile Unit that had worked on stabilizing the massive ruins at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico were brought in to stabilize these ruins.

The paved half-mile trail to the Lower Cliff Dwelling is very steep and has lots of switchbacks. But between our huffs and puffs as we tackled this vertical hike, we paused to soak in the fantastic views of Roosevelt Lake behind us.

View from Tonto National Monument trail to Lower Ruins

We enjoyed sensational views as we ascended and descended the trail to Tonto National Monument’s Lower Cliff Dwellings.

View from Tonto National Monument trail to Lower Ruins

It’s worth it to hike up to the cliff dwellings just to see the views!

Roosevelt Lake didn’t exist 700 years ago when these cliff dwellings were built, but it sure is pretty today. Back then, the Salt River meandered through the valley below but its flow was temperamental during droughts and floods.

Roosevelt Lake seen from the trail to the Lower Cliff Dwellings at Tonto National Monument

The ancient Indians didn’t have these mesmerizing lake views…

Saguaro skeleton Tonto National Monument trail to Lower Ruins

Saguaro cacti leave exotic skeletons behind when they die.

The hike to the Upper Cliff Dwelling is 3 miles long and you can only do it on a ranger guided tour (the tours are free).

When we did that hike a few years back, the ranger explained that current theories about the Salado People who lived on these hillsides and in the valley 700 years ago were that the valley dwellers arrived and built homes before the cliff dwellers did. They farmed the flat lands by the riverbanks and in the river’s flood plains.

View from Tonto National Monument trail to Lower Ruins

Ancient farmers raised crops in the valley before the cliff dwelling builders arrived.

Tonto National Monument trail to Lower Ruins view of Roosevelt Lake

.

As this modern theory goes, the cliff dwellers arrived at a later date, and because there was no room to set up housekeeping on the valley floor, they built their homes into the cliffs. It is also thought that the cliff dwellers were tradesmen and made pots and other things for trade with other peoples elsewhere (macaw feathers from Costa Rica have been found in this area, perhaps traded for a pot or two!).

So, you had two groups of people living here, farmers in the valley and artisans on the mountainsides.

Tonto National Monument Cliff Dwellings Roosevelt Lake Arizona

Today’s theory is that these cliff dwellings in the mountainside caves were inhabited by artisans while farmers lived on the valley floor.

Tonto National Monument cliff dwellings Arizona 2

There is even a theory that the Salado People manufactured clay pots specifically for trade and the pots were warehoused in structures built just to store them.

Dogs are allowed on the Lower Cliff Dwelling trail, but only up to a certain point which is marked by a trash can. That is the holding area where you can either tie up your pooch and take a quick peek at the Cliff Dwelling or leave him with another member of your party and take turns roaming through the ruins.

We took turns, and Buddy patiently — but a bit nervously — waited for each of us to go up to the ruins and have a look around. He wasn’t keen on having his pack separated!

Other dogs arrived and had to wait too, so we all chatted together. The wonderful thing is that we could take our dogs on the trail at all and enjoy the hike together. It is understandable that they don’t want any peeing or pooping mishaps inside the ruins because that would attract wild animals into the ruins when no one is there.

Tonto National Monument cliff dwellings Arizona

The front of the cave was originally walled in.

Tonto National Monumnet Lower Cliff Dwellings Arizona

Photos from over a century ago show these walls extending much higher.

For me, one of the most interesting tales related to these ruins is that of Angeline Mitchell who rode her horse five miles through the brush, tied him to a tree and then scrambled up the mountainside to “the caves” with five friends, Melinda, Clara, Tom, Frank and Bud, in December, 1880.

She describes the mountainside as being covered with debris from the ruined walls and says she and her friend found traces of 33 rooms, 18 of them in “fair preservation.”

She describes the ruin as seven or eight stories high, or more, and says there was originally no opening in the outer wall and that the people got into the pueblo via the second story.

Tonto National Monument cliff dwellings Arizona

This cave is not seven or eight stories high, so perhaps Angeline Mitchell was writing about a different cave nearby (there are other ruins in the area that are inaccessible).

She mentions that another person who explored the ruins found the skeleton of an infant and that the fingerprints of the builders were as “perfect as the day ages ago when the hands were pressed into the plastic clay.”

Tonto National Monument cliff dwellings Arizona

A metate for grinding grain sits on the ground today. Angeline Mitchell wrote in 1880, “The floor is formed partly by a big rock…and in this rock were 1/2 a dozen metates hollowed out of it and varying in size, depth & shape.” Again, I’m not sure she’s writing about the Lower Cliff Dwellsing or about another cave in the vicinity.

In another cliff house, she and her friend found 22 rooms of which 16 were in “fair order, three of them and a hall…as perfect as the day they were finished.” That might be the Lower Cliff Dwellings as there appears to have been a hall at the front of the cave.

While marveling at the “fine state of preservation” of these rooms, her friend Clara suddenly fell through an opening to a lower level and landed in a pile of cholla cactus. Ouch! Removing just one barbed cholla cactus thorn will pull out a hunk of flesh with it. I can’t even imagine falling into a pile of chollas!

Nonetheless, Clara was eventually freed from the chollas and the group reconvened in another room.

Tonto National Monument Arizona cliff dwellings

It seems many of the rooms were fully intact when the ruins were first explored. Here there’s a hint of a roof.

Angeline later writes of the reactions they all had to this unbelievable adventure:

“It seemed so strange to be chatting and laughing so gaily in a house built unknown centuries ago by people unlike us in appearance but who had known joy and grief, pleasure and pain same as our race of today knows them, and who had laughed, cried, sung, danced, married & died, mourned or rejoiced their lives away in this once populous town, or castle, or whatever one would call it! It made an uncanny feeling come over us as we rested till moon rise and talked of this long dead people and told the little we knew concerning them.”

Juniper roof structure Tonto National Monument Arizona cliff dwellings

A few relics lie on the floor today. Whole pots and other treasures were in abundance when the dwellings were first explored.

Even though the ruins and the experience of seeing them today is nothing like what it was for Angeline and her friends in 1880, those sentiments of wonder about the people who “had laughed, cried, sung, danced, married & died, mourned or rejoiced their lives away” are still very much alive today.

We heard exclamations of “This is incredible” “Wow” and “I had no idea…” from everyone who came up into the ruins from the steep path.

We’d had a great adventure too, and as we left, I spotted two saguaro cacti waving goodbye to us.

Happy Trails to You

“Happy Trails to you, until we meet again…”

For some reason, I instantly thought of the song sung by Roy Rogers and his wife Dale Evans at the end of every episode of the Roy Rogers TV Show, “Happy Trails to You!”

I didn’t see the TV show when it aired 60-70 years ago, but I heard this song when we were at an Escapees RV park a few years back and some folks were watching the Roy Rogers Show on TV in the common room.

Its simplicity and sincerity touched me, and as you can see by the YouTube comments, it is beloved by thousands who grew up watching the Roy Rogers show:

Lyrics to the song “Happy Trails to You” (here) — There’s a cool surprise in the last verse!

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

More info about Roosevelt Lake, Windy Hill Campground and Tonto National Monument:

More from our travels to Roosevelt Lake and Tonto:

Other blog posts about ancient ruins:

Other special campgrounds we’ve enjoyed:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.   New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff. Also check out our COOL NEW GEAR STORE!! *** CLICK HERE *** to see it!

<-Previous || Next->

20 Years Later! Hassayampa Inn and The Dells

Way back in the Dark Ages of 2004, a long long time ago, back when flip-phones were cool, when “social media” was a phrase no one had heard of and a “big screen TV” was smaller than 40 inches, Mark and I tied the knot.

Hurray for 20 years of wedded bliss!

FB Valentine's Day Way Back When

.

It was a second marriage for both of us, so we didn’t want a traditional wedding. Visiting a Justice of the Peace on Valentine’s Day was just our speed.

Well, it was just our speed until Mark read an ad in the newspaper (yes, there were newspapers back then!) for a big Valentine’s Day celebration taking place at one of the newer and swankier resorts in Phoenix.

The event, “Lover’s Lane on Main,” was happening in the Kierland Commons plaza between all the boutique shops next to the fancy new Westin Resort and Golf Course.

Complete with horse drawn carriage rides, a big band playing romantic favorites of yesteryear outside all evening, and wine tastings and chocolate sampling going on in the boutique shops, the highlight of the event was going to be three weddings.

To top it all off, the three lucky couples getting hitched would receive a one night honeymoon stay at the Westin Resort!

All you had to to do to be one of those happy couples was write a paragraph about why you wanted to be married during this unusual event. So easy!

I got my most poetic thoughts together and wrote a little Harlequin Romance description of how fun it would be to ride down the resort’s Main Street in a horse drawn carriage as a newlywed couple. Lo and behold, we won! We were the 7:30 p.m. wedding. (There was one at 7:00 and another at 8:00).

On Valentine’s Day morning, we showed up at our weekly bike club ride and invited everyone to come to Kierland Commons that evening for our wedding. At the appointed hour, the minister asked that everyone who knew us come forward from the crowd to watch our special moment.

After the magic kiss, we were whisked away in a horse drawn carriage to the Westin Hotel. What fun!

We’d barely gotten settled into our beautiful hotel room when the bellhop knocked on our door and brought in a cart loaded with all kinds of colorful boxes and packages wrapped with bows. It turned out the various boutique shops were sending gifts up to our room!

“This is just like a real wedding!” Mark said, laughing.

At 10:00 pm that night, we flipped on the TV and watched ourselves getting married on Fox10 News! They’d covered the event, filmed our “I do” moment, and interviewed some of our friends. I called the station for a copy of that brief clip, and that became our wedding video!

The next day, when Mark returned his tuxedo, the owner of the tux rental shop asked him, “Do I know you? Are you someone famous? I saw you on TV last night!”

What a total hoot.

Wedding pic 4

A night to remember!

One of the funniest moments happened after our carriage delivered us to the Westin Hotel. The enormous hotel lobby was chock full of people, and as I looked around, I realized I was one of five brides in fancy white wedding dresses in the crowd!

Three of us were slightly older brides (all second marriages) who’d just gotten married outdoors under the little arbor at Lover’s Lane on Main. The two others were younger brides wearing big fluffy dresses with elegant veils and holding bouquets of flowers. They’d just arrived by limo from more traditional ceremonies to host their receptions in the grand ballrooms.

Of course, stars were in our eyes as we gazed at each other and drifted through this incredible evening, and we had no idea what lay in store for us in the coming years.

Arizona Delorme Atlas

If someone had said, “You’re going to run off in an RV and have a ball traveling full-time for 13 years and sharing your pics and stories!” we would have laughed and shaken our heads, “No way!”

If they’d added, “You’re going to sail the whole Pacific coast of Mexico and fall in love with Mexican culture,” we would have thought they were crazy.

Looking back at that fabulous kickoff to our married life, we decided this year that we wanted to celebrate our 20th anniversary in a special way.

After tossing around a few ideas, we settled on going to the Hassayampa Inn in Prescott, Arizona, a historic inn in a historic cowboy town that caters to couples in love with Romantic Getaway offerings.

More important, the Hassayampa Inn caters to four legged guests too. That cinched the deal for us!

Happy 20th Anniversary at Hassayampa Inn Prescott Arizona

Happy 20 at the Hassayampa.

The Hassayampa Inn was built in 1927, and the owners have kept it as original as possible. The lobby is a big open space with comfy chairs in the middle, arches along each wall, southwestern tile accents and a beautifully decorated ceiling.

Hassayampa Inn lobby in Prescott Arizona

The Hassayampa Inn has a big and inviting common room on the main floor.
A cozy fire was burning in the fireplace throughout our stay.

Ceiling of the Hassayampa Inn Lobby Prescott Arizona

The ceiling is very cool.

A man was playing piano at one end of the room. As soon as we’d taken our bags to our room, we came back downstairs to relax in the cushy chairs, listen to the music and savor a peaceful moment.

Music in the Hassayama Inn lobby in Prescott Arizona

Piano music set the mood just right.

Right opposite us we noticed there was a little window with various coffee offerings. Perfect! We promptly indulged, Buddy most of all.

Territorial Cafe at Hassayampa Inn lobby in Prescott Arizona

The Territorial Cafe was serving fancy coffees.

Puppaccino at Hassayampa Inn

Buddy dove into his puppaccino

Guests with dogs can order food from the dining room to be brought up into the lobby common room where there are two dining tables ready to go. They were still serving breakfast at nearly 2:00 in the afternoon, so we made ourselves at home and ordered eggs Benedict and blueberry pancakes.

This was living!

Pancakes at Hassayampa Inn

The blueberry pancakes were out of this world!

Buddy promptly stretched out in the sun while we enjoyed our late breakfast at the table. He looked over at one point and said he really liked this 20th anniversary thing!

Happy dog at Hassayampa Inn lobby in Prescott Arizona

“Can we have another 20th anniversary next week?!”

We mentioned in passing to our server that this was our 20th anniversary, and she brought us a fabulous complimentary fruit tart with ice cream. How cool is that?!

When we checked in, I was given a lovely single long stem rose. Up in our room a bottle of sparkling cider was chilling on ice along with two champagne glasses and a platter of the most delicious homemade chocolate covered fresh strawberries. (Champagne had been an option but we love sparkling cider!)

It was so much fun to be pampered.

If your Arizona travels coincide with an important occasion in your life, consider splurging for dinner or for a night or two at the Hassayampa Inn. When we were traveling full-time by RV and sailboat, the times that we stepped out of our those lives to do something different for a night or two all stand out as being among our best memories (here, here and here).

Rose and shadow

Me and my shadow.


RV patio mat 9x18

The town of Prescott is a fun blend of old shoot ‘em up cowboy history and modern artsy flair. Doc Holliday and Wyatt and Virgil Earp all hit Prescott’s bars on Whiskey Row and there’s a fantastic modern performing arts theater on the Yavapai College campus.

We roamed the main Courthouse Square at dawn and at dusk and loved seeing the area lit up in shades of pink and orange.

Yavapai County Courthouse and band stand in Prescott Arizona

The band stand and Yavapai County Courthouse at dawn.

Downtown Prescott Arizona at dawn

Looking up Gurley Street at sunrise. The Hassayampa Inn is the further building on the left

Painting of downtown Prescott AZ

Here’s the above photo converted into framed a painting via Photoshop!

Mark even snuck out an hour after sunset to get a fabulous photo of the Hassayampa Inn all lit up in its evening finest.

Hassayampa Inn in Prescott Arizona at night

Hassayampa Inn at night

Prescott sits at a much higher elevation than the Sonoran Desert areas of Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma, so they have four distinct seasons. The heavens had just dumped two feet of snow on the town in the weeks before we arrived, first one foot of snow and then a second foot of snow a few days later.

Dog and snowman in Prescott Arizona Courthouse Square Arizona

We’d arrived in Prescott right after back-to-back snow storms!

Although it was cold outside, the bars on Whiskey Row were filled with laughter and warmth.

We stopped at Matt’s Saloon, but Buddy is still underage, so we could only look in through the door.

Matt's Saloon on Whiskey Row Prescott AZ

Buddy’s too young for a brewski…

I just had to check out the swinging saloon doors, though. They’re right out of an old Western. What fun!

Swinging doors at Matt's Saloon on Whiskey Row in Prescott Arizona

I’ve always loved swinging saloon doors!

Just beyond the north edge of town, there is an incredible outcropping of fantastic rounded granite boulders next to Watson Lake known as The Dells. We had explored this area a little bit last spring when we took our trailer to Lynx Lake, and we were excited to explore a little more once again.

The Dells in Prescott Arizona

The Dells in Prescott

Ryobi drill set

The easiest place to get into the heart of The Dells is at the main boat ramp in Watson Lake Park, so we made a bee-line there.

Buddy recognized the parking area before we were parked, and he started scrambling to get out of the car before the door was open!

This has to be one of his all-time favorite places.

Puppy in the Granite Dells Prescott Arizona

Dog heaven

The Dells at Watson Lake in Prescott Arizona

The Dells is a wonderland of boulders and water.

Granite Dells Prescott Arizona

.

We had hoped to catch The Dells with some snow on them. Most of the rocks were bare, but we did find a few spots with snow.

Granite Dells in Winter Prescott Arizona

Curvy snow.

On another day we hiked the Peevine Trail. This is a rails-to-trails path that goes along the eastern side of the lake.

Peevine Trail Prescott Arizona in The Dells

Peevine Trail is a wonderful rails-to-trails path

The first 1/2 mile has no views, but then all of a sudden you find yourself walking between fabulous rock formations and cliffs. You can just imagine a train making its way between the cliffs that were carved away just so it could pass. What a score it would have been for an engineer or conductor to be assigned that route!

Granite Dells in Prescott Arizona

Views everywhere.

A little further on we caught a glimpse of a small cove that is just exquisite.

Peevine Trail View in the Dells in Prescott AZ

View from the Peevine Trail.

View from the Peevine Trail in Prescott AZ

.

On our way back Buddy plopped down in a shaded snow patch to cool off. He was one happy dog!

Dog resting in the snow on the Peevine Trail in Prescott Arizona Dells

Buddy cools his jets in the snow.

And so were we. Our little excursion to Prescott was the perfect getaway to commemorate our beginnings and to give us inspiration for our RV travels a few months from now.

Granite Dells in Prescott Arizona

.

RV hose Water Bandit

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

More info:

Other milestones in our journey:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.   New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff. Also check out our COOL NEW GEAR STORE!! *** CLICK HERE *** to see it!

<-Previous || Next->

Northwest Passage Scenic Byway (US-12) RV Trip

June 2022 – Traversing the state of Idaho between Montana and Washington, the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway (US-12) follows fast flowing and wildly zig-zagging rivers for about 200 miles, paralleling part of the 8,000 mile route that Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery took on their famous out-and-back cross-country expedition in 1805-06.

We had eyed this route on the map several times and had heard how beautiful it is from friends, but we’d never ventured down it with our RV.

What a wonderful RV trip it turned out to be, especially the eastern portion in Montana and just over the border into Idaho!

Camas in bloom in Packer Meadow at Lolo Pass on US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway Montana

Camas flowers in bloom on the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway in Montana

Starting on US-12 in Lolo, Montana, just northwest of Missoula, the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway goes for 200 miles, branching into two forks west of Kooskia, ID, that reconnect in Spalding, ID, and ending at sister cities Lewiston, ID and Clarkston, Washington.

Mark always jokes that if there’s a big straight freeway and a little narrow squiggly road nearby, I’ll always put us on the twisty route. Well, there isn’t a freeway option with this route, and it’s about as squirrely a route as you can find on a map.

I confess, I was a little nervous when we started.

US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway in Montana and Idaho

US-12 is EXTREMELY twisty and made us a little nervous driving a big ol’ RV on it!

But it turns out that what looks like a crazy, kinky and possibly scary road with a big RV is actually a beautiful and wide highway that gently winds steadily downhill if you start at the east end of the Byway in Montana. Towing our 33’ fifth wheel toy hauler on this road was not a problem.

Northwest Passage Scenic Byway US-12 highway in Idaho and Montana

It turned out the Northwest Passage Scenic Drive on US-12 in Montana and Idaho is actually easy to drive with an RV as it’s fairly flat with gentle sweeping turns.

We stopped at Lolo Pass to learn a little about the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway. We found out later that this is the only place on the road with information about what lies ahead until you get to some of the big towns near the western end of the Byway. It’s also the last spot for reliable cell phone and internet access. So, if you take this RV trip, stock up on whatever literature you’ll need at Lolo Pass and do whatever online research you need to do before you leave that visitors center!

A ranger mentioned that the Packer Meadow lies out back behind the visitors center and that the famous Camas flower was in full bloom at that moment.

We’d never heard of the Packer Meadow or its famous flower, but we discovered we’d been fortunate to arrive here when the flowers were at their peak. A big flower festival was going to take place there the next day, so right now was the best time to enjoy these flowers by ourselves without hundreds of fellow tourists.

Buddy was thrilled at this news and promptly ran into the meadow.

Sitting in the wildflowers

Buddy ran into the meadow and then stopped to smell the flowers!

The sun was getting low in the sky and we quickly made the most of this incredibly special opportunity.

Photographing Camas flowers Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

We were so fortunate to see Packer Meadow at sunset at the peak of the Camas flower bloom. We’d never heard of either the meadow or the flowers until a ranger told us to step out back and check it out!

B&W Gooseneck Ball for Ram Trucks

We later learned that Packer Meadow is a place where the Lewis & Clark expedition stopped on two occasions.

The first was on September 20, 1805, when the Corps of Discovery met members of the Nez Perce trib. They conversed a bit in sign language and then the Indians offered them some tasty buffalo meat and soup.

The second occasion was on their return trip on June 11, 1806, when the “quamash” flowers were in full bloom!

Lewis wrote a very detailed botanical description of the flower, complete with drawings and the latest in anatomical descriptions according to the botanical books they carried in their portable library. Besides his extremely precise description of this flower, he wrote eloquently:

“The quamash is now in blume and from the colour of its bloom and at a short distance it resembles lakes of fine clear water, so complete is this deseption that on first sight I could have swoarn it was water.”

And so it was during our visit 216 years later.

Blooming Camas flowers Idaho US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

“I could have swoarn it was water…”

In addition to making sure we saw these mesmerizing fields of lavender tinged blue flowers, the ranger had also mentioned that we absolutely had to stop at the Lochsa Lodge about 16 miles further down the Byway because they had the best huckleberry cobbler in the world.

With visions of huckleberry cobbler dancing in our heads, we hustled down the road and found a spot to stay next door at Powell Campground. We were up first thing the next morning to check out the cobbler at the lodge!

Lochsa Lodge is a beautiful rustic log cabin with a fabulous dining and bar area inside and a large porch overlooking the mountains out back.

Lochsa Lodge Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

Lochsa Lodge is famous for its huckleberry cobbler.

And the huckleberry cobbler is truly out of this world. They served it with a big scoop of huckleberry ice cream and four big dollops of whipped cream.

Huckleberry Cobbler at Lochsa Lodge Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

Nevermind breakfast — this was a feast fit for a king and queen at 7:30 in the morning!

Despite the early hour, we dug in with gusto.

Eating Huckleberry Cobbler at Lochsa Lodge Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

Nope, our eyes weren’t bigger than our stomachs. This went down very easily!

Powell Campground is a very pleasant USFS campground with paved loops, reservable sites with hookups and a few first-come-first-serve dry camping sites.

We liked it so much we ended up staying for four days. And we hit the Lochsa Lodge for a piece of huckleberry cobbler every single day!

Kids had a blast riding their bikes all around the campground loops, and there were some wonderful stands of tall fuzzy white flowers in the woods.

Powell Campground Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

Powell Campground was full of happy kids riding their bikes on the paved loops.

Unusual flowers Powell Campground Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

These unusual flowers filled the woods all around the campground.

While we were at the lodge one day, we started chatting with a fellow at the next table who seemed to be a regular. It turned out he was in the area getting trained to man a wildfire lookout tower, a job he did each summer.

“My wife does it too,” he said casually.

“That must be really nice to have all that quiet time together in the tower,” I said, kinda wondering to myself how all that togetherness would work out.

“Oh, no, actually, she takes a job in a different tower!”

Well, I guess having lots of quiet time apart can be beneficial too!!

He told us there was a fire lookout tower right across the street up on a mountain, so we took the RZR on the dirt road over there and went hunting for the tower.

Forest road view from a Polaris RZR

We headed out in the RZR in search of a fire lookout tower up some mountain somewhere!

The road climbed up and around and we felt out way at the various intersections, sticking to the bigger trail at each one. Eventually we spotted the tower in the distance.

We were at a pretty high elevation by now, and there was a huge patch of snow on the ground in front of it. Pretty good for mid-June!

Fire Watch Tower Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

There was still a patch of snow on the north side of the fire lookout tower.

Happy Camper Holding Tank Treatment

There didn’t appear to be anyone in the tower, and there was a sturdy metal door blocking the stairway that went up into it.

Fire lookout tower Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway-2

We couldn’t go up the stairs, but the fire lookout tower sure had a great 360 degree bird’s eye view!

The watchman keeps watch in a single room at the top that has windows on all sides. They’re in communication with the other towers in the area and with a central office too. If any of them spots smoke, word spreads quickly.

Fire lookout tower windows have panoramic views

Looking out from this tower, the watchman can let the USFS know if there’s smoke anywhere.

Years ago, I met a man who was spending a summer in a fire lookout tower in Flagstaff, Arizona. He was delighted to have a curious visitor on a mountain bike show up at the base of the tower, and he gave me a tour and told me a little about the job.

It seemed like a pretty lonely job, but he explained there was a real need to have eyes on the surrounding forest at all times. He was working on a novel, and he said that if he couldn’t get his novel written in these gorgeous and utterly isolated surroundings, then he never could!

Today there’s lots of sophisticated technology available to detect smoke and heat sources out in the forests, but in certain places a watchman is still needed.

This fire lookout tower sits at the top of a mountain with views in every direction.

View from Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

The views around the lookout tower went on forever.

Views from Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

.

The wildfire tower watchman stays at the tower for extended periods, so there’s a wood stove inside and an outhouse down the hill.

Outhouse on Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

“Hmmmm…what’s in here?”

Unlike most bathrooms, this outhouse had a lock on the outside of the door instead of on the inside.

Outhouse door lock

The outhouse door locked from the outside…

Once inside, we understood why: to keep the wildlife out! The toilet had a special cap under the seat that came with instructions to keep it in place when the toilet wasn’t in use so the critters wouldn’t make a mess!!

Toilet seat instructions in an outhouse

Keep the critters out!

The Northwest Passage Scenic Byway follows the Lochsa River downstream. There had been a lot of snow that past winter, so the spring runoff made the river run fast and furious.

Lochsa Rivder Idaho US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

The Lochsa River was running very fast.

Lochsa River on Idaho US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway 2

We took little excursions from Powell Campground down US-12 in our truck to catch glimpses of the river and visit some of the pack mule bridges that cross the river. These are historic old suspension bridges that make it possible to get from the highway side of the river to the rough trails on the other side.

Suspension bridge on Idaho US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

There are several suspension bridges that cross the Lochsa River

RV Keyless entry door lock
Suspension bridge on Idaho US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway 2

The trails on the far sides of the suspension bridges were pretty rugged.

We also hiked the Warm Springs Trail. This easy out-and-back trail took us deep into the woods. Buddy was completely in his element running ahead of us on the soft dirt trail under the towering pines. He had to wait for us slow pokes a lot, but he was okay with that.

Hiking Warm Springs Trail Idaho US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

Buddy waits for the two slower hikers in our group on Warm Springs Trail.

Warm Springs Trail Idaho US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

Warm Springs trail was a lovely stroll on a soft pine needle bed beneath ramrod straight towering pines.

Mark was in his element too. What a beautiful place!

Hike Warm Springs Trail Idaho US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

Mark was in his element.

Sun in the trees Idaho US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

The sun peeked through the trees every now and then.

Tree tops

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes.
– e.e. cummings

Here and there we spotted tiny wildflowers blooming too.

Wildflower in Montana

Such perfection. This flower was tiny.

We finally tore ourselves away from Powell Campground and continued down the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway with our trailer in tow.

We caught a glimpse of the Selway River and then made our way through the small towns in the western portion of the Byway until we landed in Clarkston, Washington.

Selway River Idaho

The Selway River branches off near Kooskia, Idaho.

Selway River Idaho 2

The Selway River was a little calmer than the Lochsa River.

Much of the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway is simply a winding road between two walls of tall pines, and we stopped in the various small towns at the east end to check them out, but these pretty spots in Montana at the west end were our favorites.

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

More info about this part of the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway:

Other blog posts from Montana:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.   New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff. Also check out our COOL NEW GEAR STORE!! *** CLICK HERE *** to see it!

<-Previous || Next->

Christmas Traditions Past and Present – Lebkuchen!

Christmas is such a special time. it is my favorite holiday — a time of full of wonder and love on many levels. Family traditions are the cozy essence of Christmas for many people, and activities in the kitchen are especially beloved.

Merry Christmas

We’re not thinking about Christmas too much in this photo from Crested Butte, Colorado, but what fun it has been to relive an old Christmas tradition this year.

I love Christmas cooking. However, having chosen to live unusual lifestyles most of my life — living on a sailboat in Boston Harbor in the 1990s, living in our office when my former husband I and founded and ran an IT consulting firm, and then cruising around North America via RV and sailboat for 13 years, I haven’t had the kind of kitchen that was conducive to Christmas fun.

One of my favorite childhood Christmas memories, however, is of baking and eating a special kind of German Christmas cookie called Lebkuchen from a recipe that had been in my family since my ancestors lived in Germany in the early 1800s.

It is a honey-based cookie that tastes like no other, and I remember fondly dipping the cookies in milk and later in dipping them in coffee all day long on Christmas Day and for many days afterwards.

My great-grandmother, Emily Riesenberg, learned the recipe (along with many other recipes) from her immigrant mother growing up in a log cabin in Wisconsin, and she became very skilled in the kitchen.

Emily Riesenberg

My great-grandmother and her son Sidney Riesenberg (my great-uncle) in New York’s Yonkers Statesman, June 1, 1928

Although I was blessed with her name, her outstanding culinary skills didn’t make it across the generation gap to me!

She raised four children, one of whom was my great-uncle, Sidney Riesenberg, that I wrote about when we saw the mules at the Grand Canyon last June. He became a well known illustrator in New York. His older brother, Felix Riesenberg, became a well known explorer, tall ship captain and bestselling author.

When Emily had finished raising her family around the turn of the last century, she began submitting her recipes to newspapers and magazines. She was 50 at the time — in 1906 — and as she later told an interviewer with a New York newspaper, “Now it was time for my career!”

Her recipes were published in many publications, including Ladies Home Journal, and she had a weekly column in a Chicago newspaper. Her column, recipes and tips were very popular, and in 1931, at age 76, she published a cookbook called “Easy Baking” that included all her favorite baking recipes.

Renogy 200 watt solar panel

When I was a child, my mother had a cherished copy of this cookbook. It was well worn and stained from being used every year for Christmas baking. My mother would carefully open the book to the Lebkuchen recipe some time in early December and cover the open book with Saran Wrap to prevent us from making any new stains on those precious pages!

A few years ago, my sister found some copies of the cookbook and gave one to me. It had a treasured home in our RV and then in our house. However, each Christmas came and went without me trying my hand at making Lebkuchen.

Easy Baking cookbook by Emily Riesenberg

“Easy Baking” by my namesake!

This year, however, I dove in with gusto. It is an interesting recipe that calls for boiling honey and butter for 5 minutes over a “low fire.” This becomes a very frothy thing! “Soda” is added to water in another step and then the whole thing becomes an extremely sticky batter that has to remain in a covered bowl for 4 days as it “ripens”

Lebkuchen dough ripening for 4 days

The dough has to “ripen” for 4 days. It’s impossible not to peek!

I loved the mystery of all these steps as a child. As I made my way through the recipe this year, I wondered what my great-grandmother would think if she saw me in my kitchen today. It was over 50 years ago that I made these cookies with my mother. 100 years before that, my great-grandmother made these cookies with her mother in a log cabin!

The recipe calls for “citron” or candied citrus fruit peels, and I remember being fascinated by this odd, sticky food that had to be diced very finely. It is a key ingredient in these cookies. Unfortunately, there was none to be found in any of the stores within a half hour drive of our house and none at a reasonable price online either. I imagine that all the true Christmas bakers out there who plan ahead bought it all up before I even got the idea to make these cookies!

I’m sure my great-grandmother would have been quite distressed that I wouldn’t be including any citron in these cookies, but I learned my lesson to start thinking and planning ahead at Thanksgiving. Next time!

After four days of ripening, the dough is extremely dense and requires a huge amount of manipulation to get it to a point where you can roll it out. This was a job my mother always did, and as I wrestled with the dough this afternoon, I remembered watching her putting her whole body weight into getting that dough to comply. I had to do that too!

I didn’t have a rolling pin, but I was able to order one with my Instacart grocery order a few days ago. What would my great-grandmother have thought about my fast flying fingers typing on a keypad so a week’s worth of groceries plus a rolling pin would be delivered at my house the next day?!

Lebkuchen dough ready to be rolled out

The dough is a beast to deal with at first – dense and totally unpliable!

When I was little, we had a huge paper bag full of cookie cutters in all kinds of shapes. There were santas, stars, snowmen and other things. My great-uncle’s favorite cookie cutter was the pig, so we always used that one a lot so there would be plenty of cookies for him.

I don’t have any cookie cutters in my very simple kitchen, but I found that the rim of a mason jar top worked just fine. I could feel my great-grandmother shaking her head at my unpreparedness, but I knew she was smiling too because I was trying, and I had her book open with plastic wrap protecting the pages from flying flour.

Using a mason jar cap to cut Lebkuchen cookies

No cookie cutters? A Mason Jar cap rim did the job very well! I’ll get the ones below next year!

Christmas Cookie Cutters

Back in the early 1900s, ovens didn’t have thermometers, so the Lebkuchen baking instructions were to use a “very moderate” oven (as opposed to a “fast oven” or “slow oven” that were required for her other recipes). No time was given for when they’d be done either — just test them with a toothpick!

I remember my mother being perplexed about what temperature “very moderate” might be and how long to leave the cookies in the oven. And so it was for me today. Would that be 325 degrees or perhaps 350? And for how long? 10 minutes? 20 minutes? 30??

I found other Lebkuchen recipes online (what would my great-grandmother have thought of that?), and the recipes were totally different than this one. None of them let the dough ripen for 4 magical days (and oh yes, we kids often snuck lumps of uncooked dough to snack on secretly when no one was looking — and then we’d be reprimanded when the dough had shrunk by the time baking day rolled around!). The other Lebkuchen recipes online used temperatures anywhere from 300 to 400 degrees, so that didn’t help much!

When I was a little girl, the cookies always got baked somehow. I remember fondly, however, that we always had a batch or two that was quite dark or even burnt on the bottom and a few batches that were too light. Eventually, we’d get our rhythm and they’d all turn out perfectly.

Baking Lebkuchen Christmas cookies

Oh, for my great-grandmother’s skill in the kitchen!

We always made a double batch so we’d have plenty to give away. This involved sifting over 14 cups of flour! On baking day, the cookie sheets went in and out of the oven in a magical, sweet smelling dance all afternoon.

I got a soul enriching whiff of all those memories this afternoon as I listened to Christmas carols and cut little mason jar cap circles out of the dough. I’d made just a half batch of dough, and the smell and taste were right on. They turned out a little hard, however. In fact, they are very very hard! We’ll have to dip them in milk or coffee and tea for a long time!

But that’s part of the fun, and it is exactly how we always dealt with the dark and burnt ones way back when.

German Christmas Lebkuchen cookies

My humble first try. Now I have lots of notes for next year!

My great-grandmother’s recipe (and all the online Lebkuchen recipes) call for icing the cookies, but in our house they never made it that far…eager hands pulled them out of the cookie jar too fast and they disappeared into happy bellies! And so it is at our house this year.

Reese Goosebox

Here is the recipe:

Lebkuchen Recipe by Emily Riesenberg in her cookbook Easy Baking

The ingredient list for making Lebkuchen

Lebkuchen recipe by Emily Risenberg in her cookbook Easy Baking-2

Instructions. Quite different than modern recipe instructions!

For comparison, here is the recipe given by King Arthur Flour. They recommend refrigerating the dough for a day and baking at 350 for 20 to 22 minutes. A commenter suggested wrapping the dough in plastic wrap before refrigerating to keep it moist.

Also, here is the introduction to Emily Riesenberg’s cookbook — an essay by her son, Felix Riesenberg, about the importance of baking homemade bread for the health and happiness of your children!

The importance of baking bread for your children from the cookbook Easy Baking by Emily Riesenberg_

Written by her son, Felix, this little intro speaks volumes about a world of simpler and more wholesome times in America in the 1800s.

Here’s a little about my great-grandmother from the front of the cookbook:

About the author of Easy Baking Emily Riesenberg

About my great-grandmother, Emily Riesenberg

Also, here are the opening paragraphs of the first chapter: key tips every “up to date cook” needs to know about flour!

What Every Cook Should Know introduction to Easy Baking cookbook by Emily Riesenberg

What a different and special world my great-grandmother lived in!

Note added Christmas morning:

Mark and I surprised each other when we opened our gifts and saw we’d gotten each other the same thing! A neighbor who has an artisan woodworking shop invited all the neighbors to come check out his work and buy gifts, and we both snuck out with a gift for the other of a boy (or girl) with a dog. What a sweet coincidence!

Boy and girl with dog made by Rust Art

Mark and I gave each other almost identical gifts this year…with Buddy close to our hearts!

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and that you take a moment to reminisce about your fondest traditions, even if they aren’t a part of your festivities now. We’d love to hear your stories too!

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.   New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff. Also check out our COOL NEW GEAR STORE!! *** CLICK HERE *** to see it!

<-Previous || Next->

Sego Canyon, Utah – Hidden Histories of Vanished People!

September 2023 – We were chatting with friends the other day about travel research and travel prep, and we agreed that the most exciting travel experiences usually show up unexpectedly, without any advance planning!

And so it was in for us in Utah as we were flying down I-70 with our RV in tow at the end of our summer travels in Colorado. Little did we know that we were about to embark on a thrilling adventure of discovery about remote Sego Canyon, Utah, a place whose history dates as far back as several millennia and as recently as just a few decades ago.

Sego Canyon Rock Art and Mining Camp History 3

As we cruised out of Colorado and into Utah, some beautiful cliffs on the north side of the freeway caught our attention.

Cliffs seen from I-70 near Thompson Springs Utah

These cliffs lured us off the highway!

Peering at them intently (at highway speed), we saw there was a freeway exit and a dirt road leading into their midst, so we decided to stop and look around. This turned out to be the exit for the town of Thompson Springs and the start of a wonderful adventure on our Polaris RZR side-by-side.

Polaris RZR 900 side-by-side ready for a ride

Our magic carpet ride to adventure.

It was a beautiful morning, and we zipped through the dilapidated town of Thompson Springs fairly quickly. There were a few homes and many abandoned buildings. What on earth happened here that made everyone leave? It was like a modern day ghost town.

We continued on towards the cliffs and got onto a dirt road. It weaved right and left between rolling scrub covered hills.

A dirt road in the countryside in Utah

The road into the canyon twisted and turned between scrub-covered hillsides.

Suddenly, we found ourselves surrounded by fantastic rock formations. Huge overhanging cliffs were covered with desert varnish. It looked as though black paint was dripping down the beige cliff walls.

Desert varnish on the cliffs at Sego Canyon Utah

One of Mother Nature’s modern art drip paintings.

“This looks like a place that might have petroglyphs!” Mark said eagerly.

We scoured the walls, and then he spotted a rock art panel. Bingo! Such eagle eyes he has!

The images were the familiar trapezoidal people typical of southwestern rock art plus some bison and horses, all overlaid with more modern graffiti.

Ute Rock art in Sego Canyon Utah

Mark’s sharp eyes spotted this very cool rock art panel on the cliff wall.

We were so thrilled to have made this “discovery” simply by heading down an inviting dirt road. A Jeep pulled up, and a woman got out and began telling us how excited she was to visit this spot and see the petroglyphs.

We realized that this is actually a known destination, remote as it is! We learned later that this spot, the Sego Canyon Rock Art area, is managed by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management). It turned out that this particular rock art panel was etched by the Ute people, probably between 1500 and 1880 AD.

The logic for archaeologists giving the etchings those dates is that there appear to be horses in this rock art panel yet horses didn’t arrive in North America until Christoper Columbus brought them here on his second voyage in 1493. At the other end of the date range, the Utes were moved onto reservations in the 1880s so they wouldn’t have been in this location after that.

We kept studying the cliff walls to see if there were more petroglyphs, and around the corner, we found another rock art panel. These petroglyphs were quite different than the others, much more clearly defined and more deeply etched into the rock face.

Fremont Rock Art Sego Canyon Utah

We found another rock art panel of petroglyphs nearby!

Again, the people were trapezoidal, but the etching was far more distinct and the people were wearing elaborate headdresses and jewelry and were depicted without arms or legs. It has been suggested that these figures resemble mummies.

Interestingly, to the right of the right-hand figure is another ghostly image with a similar shape but it isn’t outlined. Whether that was original or added later is hard to tell.

Fremont Rock Art Sego Canyon Thompson Springs Utah

We learned later that this is presumed to have been created during the Fremont period.

Fremont rock art is considered to date from the first century through the 1300s.

There were some cloven hoofed bovines with long curved antlers near the people. Although these types of animal images are often labeled “big horn sheep,” to me they don’t look much like big horn sheep. Big horn sheep have shorter and very sharply curved horns and no tails per se. These animals (which are very common in Fremont rock art) seem more like ibexes to me — but ibexes aren’t native to this continent!

There are other critters in this panel that could be a beaver and a grouse.

Fremont Rock Art Sego Canyon Utah

.

Utah Delorme Atlas

We prowled around some more and came across a THIRD rock art panel that, again, was completely different than the other two!

We later learned that this third panel is from the Archaic Period which is estimated to be between 8000 BC and 1000 AD.

These are pictographs which are images rendered onto the rock with paint or dye. They are different than petroglyphs (the technique used to create the other two rock art panels) which were pecked out of the rock with a tool.

Considering how difficult it is for us in our current era to get house paint to last for twenty years, it is incredible that this dye has endured out in the elements and unprotected for thousands of years.

Archaic rock art panel Sego Canyon Utah

Ghostly figures of the Archaic Period (8000 BC to 1000 AD).

If the Ute and Fremont images with their odd looking humanoid shapes had been a little bizarre, this Archaic Period rock art panel was way out there! Also, for its age, it was the best preserved of the three. In fact, it seemed that the least durable rock art was the most recent work created by the Ute people just a few hundred years ago.

The Archaic Period images are more rounded and less angular, and the people have a very ghostly appearance with huge hollow eyes.

Archaic Rock Art Sego Canyon Utah

Otherworldly.

Archaic Rock Art Sego Canyon Utah

It turns out this particular rock art panel was etched by the Ute people, probably between 1500 and 1880 AD.

Archaic Rock Art Sego Canyon Utah

Odd things on its head.

It is intriguing that this one area inspired ancient peoples to make their mark on it across several millennia in very different styles. It’s impossible to know why they put their mark in this spot or what it depicted — especially the very odd humanoid figures — but it is fascinating to ponder.

The BLM is the most secretive of the government’s land management agencies. There are no big signs announcing the location of this special place, and it gets just a brief mention on their website. Like most of their incredible treasures, this spot remains as it always has been, totally unprotected.

Vandalism is a serious problem with every ancient site, however, and all the land management agencies have to deal with the trash that visitors leave behind as well as clean out the vault toilets and move that waste from those toilets to sewer treatment plants periodically.

The BLM often approaches all this with a sense of whimsy, and sometimes they post amusing signs reminding people to be considerate. In the vault toilet at this site we found a metal sign hanging on the wall above the toilet. It was complete with a pictograph person waving to grab our attention:

BLM vault toilet warning sign

This sign was hanging on the wall inside the vault toilet.

Several dirt roads criss-cross this whole area and go in different directions. A few other people were out enjoying the beautiful day on their side-by-sides too.

Side by side on the BLM roads in Utah

The rugged dirt roads in this area are popular with ATVs and UTVs.

Our little trail scout, Buddy, wanted to show us the way to our next discovery.

Trotting down the road in Sego Canyon Utah

Buddy leads the way.

Before long, we noticed a structure off the side of the road. It was built very low and somewhat into a hillside. Perhaps it was an old root cellar. But who lived here — and when?

Ruins of a root cellar in Sego Canyon Utah

What is this??!!

1000 Places to See Before You Die

We turned around and spotted a large and very well constructed building in the distance. What the heck?!

Remains of a building in the Sego Canyon coal mining camp

Oh my! Gotta check that out!

When we got closer we were impressed by the size of this structure. It had three large openings in the front that must have been windows. But what was it doing in the middle of nowhere down a rarely used dirt road?

Remains of a building in the Sego Canyon coal mining camp

This is a big, important and awfully well built building for such a remote place!

We later learned that there had been a coal mine back in here and a mining camp with homes and commercial buildings! Coal was first discovered in the area by rancher Harry Ballard, and it was very high grade. A hardware store owner named C.F. Bauer bought the property and formed the American Fuel Company and began developing the area in 1911.

In its heyday, there was not only the American Fuel Company Store (the building we saw), but a boarding house, some mining buildings and settlement homes all around.

American Fuel Company Store in Sego Canyon coal mining camp

The old American Fuel Company Store.

Inside the American Fuel Company Store in Sego Canyon coal mining camp

There had been a basement level and a main floor with high windows near the ceiling.

Inside the big building, plaster was peeling off the walls revealing the masonry work beneath. We’ve seen plenty of imitations of this effect in modern replicas of old buildings. How very cool to see the real thing!

Peeling plaster on a wall of the American Fuel Company Store in Sego Canyon coal mining camp

There was classic peeling plaster on the interior walls.

A short ways away there was another building in ruins. Behind it were the remains of a car. It looked to be a 1940s vintage car but we couldn’t determine anything about it, not even the make.

Building ruins in Sego Canyon coal mining camp

This ruin was nearby.

Old car in Sego Canyon coal mining camp

At one time, someone was thrilled to drive this home from the dealership.

Nearby we found a massive pile of wood. We later discovered that this was the old boarding house. It was still standing in 2011.

Fallen down boarding house in Sego Canyon Utah

The boarding house was still standing in 2011 but is now just rubble on the ground.

We drove further on the dirt road and found another building. All these buildings were about a century old, but the masonry work was holding up pretty well.

Ruins of a building in Sego Canyon Utah

Another solid building.

Ryobi drill set
Well crafted bricks and lintel in a ruined building in Sego Canyon Utah

We could see the saw marks on the stones.

We came back to the trailer marveling at what we’d seen. At that point we had no idea what any of it was — it took some digging on the internet later to figure it all out.

But what a cool layering of history we found, all within a few miles. From far ancient times, possibly thousands of years BC, up to half a century ago, people lived and worked in this canyon.

Beautiful Utah skies

The extraordinary breadth and depth of human history can be found even in a remote Utah canyon.

Who Were the Most Recent Inhabitants of Sego Canyon?

In 1914, the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad built a 5 mile long spur line from nearby Thomson to the mining camp, but the mine was never as profitable as hoped. The low water table made the mine inoperable at times, the trains had problems on the tracks, and a big investment in 1927 to obtain electricity from Columbia, Utah, 100 miles away all contributed to meager profits.

At its peak, the mine employed about 125 miners and there were 500 people living in the community around the general store building we’d seen. However, the mining company missed their payroll a bunch of times, paying the miners in scrip to use at the company store instead. Disgruntled, the miners joined the United Mine Workers Union in 1933 and they began being paid regularly.

It didn’t last, however. Employment dwindled to 27 miners by 1947. They pooled their money to buy the mine and had high hopes. Unfortunately, two years later, a fire destroyed the huge structure they used to load the coal into the rail cars, and then the train ceased operations.

When I-70 was built and came through about six miles south of the canyon in the 1970s, the mines closed and everyone left. A bitter blow came in 1973 when two carloads of treasure hunters showed up with metal detectors. They burned all the buildings and took whatever they could find in the smoldering ashes.

In 1994, Amtrak moved their passenger rail stop from Thompson Springs to Green River in 1994, and the town of Thompson Springs that had once connected Sego Canyon to the outside world withered away to just a handful of residents.

What a dizzying story this was to uncover. When we’d pulled off of I-70, we’d just hoped to see some cool cliffs up close!

But for us, that is the sheer joy of travel — accidentally bumping into unexpected gems!

Brooding sky and camper in Utah

.

Ken Burns National Parks DVD Set

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

More info about Thompson Springs and Sego Canyon:

Petroglyph and rock art sites we’ve found in our travels:

Corps of Engineers Campgrounds

Other blog posts from Utah:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.   New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff. Also check out our COOL NEW GEAR STORE!! *** CLICK HERE *** to see it!

<-Previous || Next->