Lake Powell – Heart of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

May 2024 – Spectacular Glen Canyon on the Arizona/Utah border was transformed into Lake Powell when the Colorado River was blocked by a big dam in 1963, creating one of the largest manmade lakes in the US. Today, Glen Canyon Recreation Area is a fabulous place to enjoy the outdoors, and we went there last week to do a little exploring.

The beauty of the Lake Powell as it snakes through the Glen Canyon on the approach to the dam is truly awe-inspiring.

Lake Powell in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area with a boat weaving between the cliffs

A boat weaves between the walls of Glen Canyon on Lake Powell.

The views change throughout the day as the light changes. Although the most magical times are at the beginning and end of the day, we thoroughly enjoyed driving the scenic road to Wahwheap that goes past several overlooks. The water was a rich dark blue, making a wonderful contrast to the whites and browns of the cliff walls.

Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell Arizona

Glen Canyon Dam was responsible for creating gorgeous Lake Powell.

Lake Powell Arizona near Glen Canyon Dam 2

These are the tops of Glen Canyon’s very steep cliff walls.

We could see boats far below cruising the twisting path through Glen Canyon. What a fun way to see it!

Boats on Lake Powell Wahwheap Overlook Arizona RV trip 2

What a unique boat ride this would be!

Boats on Lake Powell Wahwheap Overlook Arizona RV trip

Coming and going…

In the distance we could see Wahwheap Marina which is loaded with houseboats and big cruising boats along with smaller power boats. Many are available for rent, and we made a mental note to return someday to get out on the water. It wasn’t in the cards for this trip, though.

Wahwheap Marina Lake Powell Arizona 2

Wahwheap Marina is set against a jaw-dropping backdrop!

Wahwheap Marina on Lake Powell Arizona RV trip

Not a bad place to have a boat — and some of them are huge!

The size and scale of the Glen Canyon Dam hydroelectric project is staggering. Lake Powell began filling with water on March 13, 1963. It didn’t finish filling up until seventeen years later on June 22, 1980!

On a plaque by the dam there are photos of Sentinel Rock which towered 200 feet in the air from the banks of the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon before the dam was built. Once the lake was full, Sentinel Rock was submerged under 300 feet of water!

The lake is not a big round lake. Instead it consists of a long arm of the Colorado River with 90 water filled side canyons coming off of it on either side like tentacles. One of the best spots to see these bright blue tentacles is at Glen Canyon dam.

Lake Powell RV trip Wahwheap Overlook Arizona

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Lake Powell Arizona near Glen Canyon Dam

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Over 5 million people visit the Glen Canyon Recreation Area which each year. They come for all kinds of outdoor fun from boating to hiking, camping, taking photos and playing in the water. Spring and Fall are great because the weather is warm but not too hot. All summer long, the lake teems with people and boats.

The whole area is rich with breathtaking sights, and a drive along US-89 is a journey past towering red rock drama. Now-famous Horseshoe Bend is just a few miles south of Glen Canyon Dam. Amazingly, it was unknown to residents of Page just 60 years ago.

Just a few miles southwest of Glen Canyon dam as the condor flies, US-89 meets up with US-89A at a sharp turn and then reveals the wonders of Navajo Bridge, Lees Ferry and Marble Canyon and “Cliff Dwellers” as you head west. This is Canyon Country, and for travelers coming up into Utah from Arizona, it is the beginning of some of the most majestic scenery America has to offer.

Red rocks at Lake Powell Arizona

Looking at the far shore of Lake Powell from Wahwheap Overlook.

Glen Canyon Dam has large parking areas on either side of it, and you can walk all over the huge boulders that line the sides of the canyon. Buddy and I dashed off to explore the boulders — it was just so inviting!

We could hear Mark yelling, “Be CAREFUL!” far behind us. The wind was whipping, and he was afraid we’d go over the edge into the water far below. However, even though it looked like we were on a dangerous precipice, we were actually quite safe with several shelves of boulders stair-stepping down a ways before we’d be anywhere toppling over into the fast flowing water.

Red rocks near Glen Canyon Dam Arizona

What a place for photography!


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Pup on the red rocks near Glen Canyon Dam Lake Powell Arizona

Buddy’s fur was flying.

The rocks had wonderful lines and shapes. Buddy disappeared into a small slot canyon and then reappeared, trotting happily towards me.

Pup runs through slot canyon near Lake Powell Arizona

Dog heaven.

As I said, Glen Canyon and Lake Powell are stunning at any time of day, but some of the coolest scenes happen early. We returned to the Wahwheap Overlook scenic drive at dawn and waited for the first wink of sunlight to appear across the lake.

Sunrise at Lake Powell Wahwheap Overlook in Page Arizona on an RV trip

Good morning, Lake Powell!

Sunrise over Lake Powell near Glen Canyon Dam and Page Arizona

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The far side of the lake backs up to some wonderful mesas and rock pinnacles. I loved the layers and shapes of the mesas and stone pinnacles in the misty distance.

Distant mesas at Wahwheap Overlook at dawn on Lake Powell on an Arizona RV trip 2

Layers upon layers…

As the sun rose, highlights appeared on the rocks and cliff faces. This was a truly magical time of day. No one was around and the air was still.

Wahwheap Overlook at dawn on Lake Powell on an Arizona RV trip

Sunny highlights appeared as the land woke up.

A car drove on the road by behind me and then two more followed. I could hear them drive all the way to the boat ramp, and then I heard the rev of their boat engines as they took off. Suddenly a series of boats snaked through the canyon and disappeared into the deeper water beyond. Hopefully the fish were biting!

Wahwheap Overlook Lake Powell Glen Canyon Dam Arizona

Fishermen make their way out to the best fishing grounds.

Glen Canyon Dam was controversial when it was built because many historical treasures and magnificent landscapes were lost forever beneath the Colorado River water that filled the lake. Before the dam was built, some folks thought the area deserved to be a National Park. Many felt it was unwise to build the dam.

Interestingly, most of America’s major dams were constructed at a time that followed decades of plentiful rain and snowmelt. The data the engineers were working from was biased towards wetter than normal conditions. However, at that time and even today, no one knows what the Colorado River was like in the 13th and 14th centuries when the ancient Indians abandoned their pueblos all across the southwest and Mexico due to intense and persistent drought. If that data could have been taken into account, Glen Canyon Dam and others might not have been built!

Glen Canyon Dam at Lake Powell in Page Arizona on an RV trip

Lake Powell hovers around 50% of water capacity these days..

Oh well, that’s all water over the dam now. Lake Powell is gorgeous and we’ve just scratched the surface of all there is to see in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Before you pack up and go, here are some notes about the seasons: Spring is a great time to visit Lake Powell, however it can be exceedingly windy. Like 40 mph gusts and dust devils. Summer has much less wind but is very hot. Fall is cooler than Summer and less windy than Spring. Our visit one January was exceptional because there were few tourists and the air was very clear after some winter rains. It’s chilly at that time of year, but it’s a great time to go!

Happy campers and puppy at Lake Powell Arizona

Happy campers at Lake Powell

This little portrait of us was captured by a gal named Beth that we met on the trail. We were lamenting that for once we didn’t have our cameras, and the view was out of this world. She said, “I’ll get a pic of you three!” and she got it on her phone and emailed it to me. What a kind gesture that was, and what a great memento of that beautiful hike and view!

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Sheep May Safely Graze (in the Mountains with Dogs!)

July 2023 – Despite all the dazzling technological advancements in recent years and the ultra fast pace of living these days, there are a few constants that still reach across borders and the passage of time. Raising herds of livestock on vast pastures is one of them.

From biblical times through the Middle Ages to our current era, despite conquests and cultural upheavals and dramatic social shifts, livestock has continued grazing quietly around the world. And surely JS Bach’s musical piece, “Sheep May Safely Graze,” is as vivid a depiction of sheep placidly nibbling on summer grasses as it was when he wrote it in 1713.

Sheep May Safely Graze - In the Mountains With Dogs!

Our furry shepherd…

During our RV trip through Colorado last summer, we were happily camping in the National Forest, minding our own business, when we caught wind from other campers in the area that a flock of sheep was going to be brought in to graze for the summer. How fun!

We had witnessed the thrilling arrival of a huge flock of sheep once before when we were camping in Utah, and we’d gotten a huge kick out of watching the whole process. It was like nothing we’d ever seen before.

RV Camping in the National Forest in Colorado

We were quietly camping when a sheep parade came right by our door!

Sheep like to graze at 10,000’ elevation in the summertime, so they are often driven by truck up into the mountain peaks to enjoy a months-long feast of high elevation grasses and flowers. The flock owners lease the land from the US Forest Service and they hire people to live with the sheep on the mountainsides.

Often these temporary employees are experienced shepherds from Peru that are flown here with special work visas for the summer to camp in the high altitudes of the American West and tend the sheep.

Although we’d been wrapping up our stay and planning to leave, when heard the sheep would be arriving, we decided to stay a little longer to watch the action.

Suddenly, a huge livestock truck rattled down the dirt road, and we could hear the ba-aa-aa of the sheep in the truck. They were making quite a racket!

Sheep livestock truck arrives

A truckload of sheep rolled up!

The truck parked right next to our rig, and we could see little sheep heads peeking out of the openings in the sides of the truck!

Sheep peeks out of livestock trailer in Colorado

“What’s going. on out there?”

Lots of sheep were peering out at us. But we did a double-take when we noticed one of the sheep was actually a fluffy white DOG!

Sheep and dog heads poking out of a sheep livestock trailer in Colorado

Ahem…the one on the right is NOT a sheep!

The dog was a Great Pyrenees. We’ve met a a few of these wonderful dogs before. They are gentle giants. The owners of the flock said it was okay to pet the sheep dog and neither one of us could resist.

Great Pyrenees sheep dogs are raised with their flock outdoors from the time they’re young puppies. So, they get to know and understand sheep very well! They learn their jobs as Guardians of the Sheep from the older sheep dogs in the flock, and they live their whole lives outdoors with the sheep.

Great Pyrenees dog gets a pat on the head in a sheep livestock trailer

“Mmmmm…that feels good!”

The Great Pyrenees have an important job guarding the sheep from predators, but they aren’t the only dogs involved in the sheep management business. Border Collies help the shepherds move the sheep from place to place.

Sure enough, a Border Collie was right there ready to help out. Buddy wanted to know if he could help too, and the owners and dogs said “Sure!” Wow! He was thrilled!

Border collie helps with herding the sheep

This agile Border Collie had the fun job of chasing the flock to move them from one place to another

Dogs at a sheep livestcok trailer in Colorado

“I’m a runner too! I’m ready whenever you are!”

The owners had set up a long chute from the back of the livestock truck over to the pen that would hold the sheep until they were all out of the truck and ready to be moved to a pasture.

The first sheep cautiously looked down the chute, unsure of what to do.

The Border Collie jumped and yipped and the owners clapped and encouraged the sheep to start running down the ramp. The sheep got the idea, and suddenly a whole line of sheep was running down the chute.

Sheep gets ready to run down the chute from a livestock trailer

The border collie did some yipping to encourage the cautious sheep down the ramp.

Line of sheep run down the chute from a livestock trailer in Colorado

And down they ran in a steady stream of woolly white coats.

The sheep were all mamas (ewes) with their lambs, and they were very cute as they trotted down the chute and into the grassy pen!

Sheep run to new grazing grounds in Colorado

“I think the best grass is up ahead!”

Photographing sheep in Colorado

We had a ball watching these sheep running towards their new grazing grounds.

The owners used a small hand counter to count the sheep as they ran out of the truck. It seemed to be a tricky business distinguishing one trotting sheep from another as they passed in a blur of fur, ears and legs.

The sheep had traveled on two levels in the livestock truck. After the sheep on the lower level had been let out, the ramp was attached to the upper level and the sheep on the second floor began to run out.

A sheep jumps from the 2nd level of a livestock trailer

A ramp was set up for a second group of sheep on the upper level.

The owners had a third dog that was their pet. He had the job of Rodeo Clown! He zoomed in and out between all the sheep, in and out of the pen and all around the grass like a madman. He was faster than the Border Collie and probably faster than a speeding bullet! He leapt on and off the chute fencing and did all kinds of acrobatics.

The owners said he was always a little crazy like that. The other dogs paid him no mind, and neither did the sheep!

Sheep grazing in a pen with a happy pup

The owners’ Pet Dog was bursting with excitement. He had the most lighthearted job ever: Rodeo Clown!

Buddy was having an absolute ball as an Apprentice Herder. He seemed to know that he was playing a Junior role, so he never went into the pen with the sheep even though he could have like the other dogs did. He just ran alongside them on the outside of the pen, barking to make them run — and the Pet Dog followed along!

Happy dog runs alongside a sheep pen

Buddy was having a ball in his new role as Apprentice Herder.

Dog excited about sheep in a pen

He just loved getting the sheep to run from one end of the pen to the other.



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In between Buddy’s practice herding runs, the sheep settled into doing some serious grazing. They mowed the grass down by an inch or two in no time!

Sheep grazing in a pen in Colorado

The sheep’s job was to graze.

And in between grazing, life went on for the ewes and their lambs.

Lamb nursing from its mother

Mealtime

At this point we’d forgotten all about the Great Pyrenees sheep dogs, but then we noticed one inside the sheep pen. He stuck his head out under the fencing. There wasn’t a whole lot of Sheep Guarding to be done at the moment, so he seemed a little bored.

Great Pyrenees sheep dog looks out under the fencing of the sheep pen

“I’m on break right now, ’cause there’s not a lot to do!”

When he saw Buddy he perked right up. Here was a new friend!

Sheep dog and pet dog meet over the fence

“Hey there little fella!”

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Suddenly, the Great Pyrenees decided he wanted to be on the outside of the pen. So, jumped up and over the wooden fencing of the chute!

Great Pyrenees sheep dog jumps out of the sheep chute

Up…

Great Pyrenees sheep dog jumps out of the sheep chute

…and Over!

I was floored by the agility of this very large dog. The fencing wasn’t all that sturdy, but he leapt on and off of it with ease and grace.

Once he was out with Buddy the two hung out together and kept an eye on things for quite some time.

Dogs guard the sheep pen

“We’ve got this!”

Meanwhile, the Pet Dog wanted to show off a little too. He straddled the chute fencing, almost as a challenge to the Great Pyrenees!

pet dog Rodeo Clown

“Hey, you’re a pretty good jumper, but can you do this?”

Back at the truck, the Border Collie helped the owners make sure that all the sheep had been moved out and there weren’t any stragglers left inside.

Checking out the sheep in a livestock truck

“Yup, one last one and that’s it!”

Finally, it was time to open the sheep pen and move them to their first real grazing grounds. The gate swung wide, and the Border Collie swung into action. He chased them and dashed this way and that as the owners told him what to do with a special high pitched whistle.

Border Collie runs past grazing sheep in a pen

The Border Collie went to work herding the sheep out of the pen, taking cues from the owner’s whistle

The sheep headed out the gate and munched their way across the grass, mowing it down as they went.

Sheep let out of a pen into a pasture

Noses to the grass, the sheep made their way out of the pen.

We followed from a respectful distance and were really surprised when they headed towards the highway. The owner stood in the middle of the highway to stop traffic. And sure enough, before long there was a line of cars and trucks waiting for the sheep to cross the highway!

A flock of sheep crosses the road in Colorado

Make way for ducklings sheep!

A flock of sheep crosses the road in Colorado 2

After a while there was quite a line of cars and trucks waiting for the sheep parade to pass.

Eventually the whole flock had crossed, and they began making their way to the pasture on the far side. This was quite a production!

Sheep moving from one pasture to another

Everyone is across…

We wandered back towards our rig and noticed there was a bit of commotion going on. We peered a little closer and saw a sheep lying motionless in a bed of dandelions. We heard some of the workers talking, and it seemed she had been pushed to one edge of the flock where there were some brambles and a fallen tree in the way. She’d gotten tangled up in the branches as the flock had rushed along, and she’d stumbled and fallen as the other sheep brushed past.

Sheep resting in dandelions

She stumbled and couldn’t keep up with the flock and got left behind.

It wasn’t clear if she was injured or just stunned. The owner carried her over to the flatbed ranch truck and made a space for her in the back. A little while later she traveled in queenly style and seemed to appreciate getting a chauffeured ride back to the ranch. They assured us that she would be fine and just needed some R&R back home. They’d bring her back the flock in a few days.

Sheep gets a special ride back home

She perked up when she got a chauffeured ride home!

Phew! That was a lot of excitement for one afternoon! We caught one of the owners catching a few winks on the sheep ramp.

Resting after a hard day's work

After counting every sheep running past in the flock, it was time to lie down and count a few more sheep with closed eyes and catch some Zzzz’s!

Then the empty livestock truck rattled its way back out to the highway.

Sheep trailer and RV in National Forest in Colorado

What a great day this was!

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A little more about grazing sheep, both here and in Germany almost 300 years ago:

Related blog posts about animals!

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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 Campground - Awesome RV camping in Arizona

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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.

Dutchman

The sun peaks over the mountains at dawn.

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.


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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

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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.



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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

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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

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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

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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 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!

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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).

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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

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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!

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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:

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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!

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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

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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

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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

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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

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RV hose Water Bandit

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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Ken Burns National Parks DVD Set

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Shelter Island – The Heart of San Diego…on the Waterfront!

October 2023 – We recently made a quick weeklong RV trip to San Diego and had an absolute ball. As soon as we got there and set up camp at Sweetwater Summit Regional Park Campground, we made a beeline for Shelter Island, our all-time favorite place in this beautiful city.

It was a foggy morning, but seeing the sailboats bobbing at anchor and hearing the seagulls mournful cries warmed our hearts!

We had been fortunate to live on Shelter Island in our sailboat, Groovy, for two weeks before our sailing cruise of Mexico and for six months afterwards. For us, it is the heart of San Diego, offering truly elegant waterfront living right on the banks of San Diego Harbor.

Flagship passes by Shelter Island San Diego California

A tour boat makes its way through the fog past Shelter Island in San Diego Harbor.

Shelter Island is a manmade barrier island that was created by dredging some marshy flats and piling up the mud to make a long skinny “island” that parallels the shoreline of San Diego Harbor. It isn’t a true island, however, as a road lined with businesses attaches it to the mainland.

Behind the island — in the dredged area on either side of this access road — there are rows upon rows of boats moored at a series of lovely marinas.

Sea of boats on Shelter Island San Diego California

There are more boats in San Diego’s many marinas than we’ve ever seen anywhere else!

So, being on Shelter Island puts you right in the middle of all the waterfront action of a big city harbor. The “front” side of the island faces San Diego Harbor, with the city skyline in the distance, while the sheltered “back” side of the island is filled with marinas and resorts and is very peaceful and tranquil.

Ryobi drill set

As we drove down Shelter Island Drive onto the island, we had to stop at Marvelous Muffins. When we lived on Shelter Island in our sailboat, Groovy, for 6 months at the end of our Mexico cruise, Marvelous Muffins was a frequent morning stop for us, no matter what we had planned for our day!

Marvelous Muffins Shelter Island San Diego California

Marvelous Muffins was a favorite morning haunt for us!

Nothing about it had changed. Sophie, the charming muffin maker and shopkeeper, was still there to greet us, and her muffins were as delicious as we remembered them being. Naturally, we bought a few extras to take back to our trailer!

Marvelous Muffins owner Sophie Shelter Island San Diego California

Sophie has been making muffins here for over 20 years!

The air was still heavy with fog when we got to the waterfront. San Diego Harbor is a very busy harbor with boats heading to and fro all the time, no matter what the weather! As we watched the goings-on, the Flagship tour boat headed past us on an excursion, the deck filled with eager tourists.

Overhead, Navy helicopters buzzed around constantly. Across the harbor, the Navy runway was very busy with jets that were so loud we couldn’t head each other talk when they took off!

Navy Helicopter Shelter Island San Diego California

The whir of Navy helicopter blades fills the air all the time!

Far out at sea, a really unique looking tri-hulled Navy ship approached. What an unusual beast!

Tri-hull Navy Ship Shelter Island San Diego California

A unique Navy ship approaches through the fog.

Gradually, the fog lifted and streaks of blue filled the sky. We could see the San Diego skyline in the distance beyond a string of sailboats that were anchored along the edge of the harbor.

San Diego Skyline from Shelter Island

Ahhh…San Diego!

The side of Shelter Island that faces the harbor is a wonderful long grassy park. A walking path runs between the grass and the shore. It ducks under flower covered trellises and passes by children’s play areas, picnic tables and statuary along the way.

Bougainvillea Trellis Shelter Island San Diego California

Shelter Island has several trellises along the walking path that are covered with vibrant bougainvillea flowers.

Bougainvillia at Shelter Island San Diego CA

We love it here!

Down at our feet, we noticed that when the sidewalk pavement was poured, someone drew a stick figure of a sailboat. How fun!

Stick drawing of sailboat in the sidewalk Shelter Island San Diego California

Someone captured the spirit of this special place before the pavement dried.

Fabulous enormous trees provide shade throughout this grassy park, inviting all visitors to sit for a spell and enjoy the view.

Sitting in the grass on Shelter Island San Diego Harbor

The vast grassy lawns on Shelter Island are very inviting.

Happy dog in the grass Shelter Island San Diego California

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Buddy thought this place was heavenly and promptly took a snooze!

Dog in the grass

“This is my kind of place!”

There are park benches along this walking path too. It is a very romantic waterfront!

Magma Stackable RV Cookware
Sailboats and park bench on Shelter Island in San Diego CA

If you don’t want to sit in the grass, try a park bench!

The romantic air isn’t just for people either. A pair of seagulls was enjoying a quiet moment of togetherness too.

Twin seagulls Shelter Island San Diego California

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One of the more famous statues on Shelter Island is the tuna fishermen. These three guys are straining for all they’re worth, pulling up an enormous tuna together. Their fishing rods are anchored in belts around their waists, and the fish is fighting mightily.

Tuna fishermen Shelter Island San Diego California

Tuna fishermen strain to land their catch.

A few steps away we saw several fishermen casting their lines. They were after smaller prey and they said they were having pretty good luck!

Fishermen Shelter Island San Diego California

Waiting for the big one!

A seagull kept a close eye on them to see if they might start cleaning their catch and throwing out scraps!

Seagull at San Diego Harbor on Shelter Island

“You got anything for me?”

There’s a small beach on the harbor side of Shelter Island, and now that the sun was out, a few sun bathers settled into the sand to catch some rays.

Beach at Shelter Island San Diego California

“Lazing on a sunny afternoon!”

A man came running past with his dog bounding ahead. Leashes are required, of course, but this lucky pooch was given a few minutes of freedom on the beach. He took full advantage, and plunged into the water for a swim. He emerged looking a little bedraggled but very happy!

Happy dog after a swim

“Come on in, the water’s fine!”

RV Log Book Journal

Shelter Island is home to some truly exquisite resorts that are lined up along the back side of the island. Their fronts faced the grassy lawn park and the harbor. One of these resorts is Island Palms. It looked truly regal under the towering palm trees.

Island Palms Hotel Shelter Island San Diego California

Elegant Island Palms Resort.

With fancy resorts comes stunning landscaping, and there were glorious exotic flowers of all kinds in bloom everywhere.

The climate in San Diego is very temperate, never exceedingly hot or cold. While we were there in late October the daily highs were 75 degrees F and the nightly lows were 65 degrees.

Unlike the vast southwestern desert that stretches for hundreds of miles right up to the coastal mountains that separate San Diego from its arid inland neighbors, this city sees very minimal temperature swings from day to night.

Bird of Paradise flower Shelter Island San Diego California

A tropical Bird of Paradise flower.

Morning glories

Flowers were in bloom everywhere.

Unusual flower

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On the backside of the island there are several marinas, and this is the area we called home for six months. It is incredible that you can live in the heart of San Diego, right on the water, wedged between top flight resort hotels, for the price of a boat and a slip.

When we were there, the country was in the throes of the financial crisis that began in 2008, and although it took several years to make its way into the boating community, when it did, it hit hard.

Before the crisis there was a waiting list for boat slips in the marinas, and the price per month was sky high. However, by the time we lived there, open slips were in abundance and the price was very reasonable. We were blessed with really fortunate timing!

Gate to Kona Kai Marina docks Shelter Island San Diego California

Behind this gate to the boat docks lies a vast field of dreams.

Lots of sailboats at Shelter Island San Diego California

Boats, boats and more boats.

Taking a walk down memory lane, we strolled along the shore and admired the hundreds of boats. We didn’t see any Hunter 44DS sailboats (Groovy’s model), but we did see a Hunter 41DS, the same layout but a little shorter. Then we strolled along the small beach that is opposite the boats. What a place to live!

Resort hotel Shelter Island San Diego California

The back side of the resorts have a view of the boats in the marinas,
and there’s a thin strip of very calm beach too.

Kona Kai Resort & Spa is a gorgeous property, and the fire pits just begged for groups of friends to gather around. Meanwhile, the swimming pool looked sooooo inviting!

Kona Kai Resort Hotel Shelter Island San Diego California

Grab some friends and enjoy a sundowner and a campfire on the beach!

Fire pits on the beach Shelter Island San Diego California

The Mega Yacht Dock is opposite the Kona Kai beach — Nice!

Resort swimming pool Shelter Island San Diego California

Where day-to-day stress melts away.

Down on the beach there were some shade ramadas with cushy seating for intimate gatherings. There was no shortage of places to relax around here!

Picnic ramada Kona Kai Resort Shelter Island San Diego

Buddy got a great taste of tropical resort life.

What a place to call home for a while. While we lived at Kona Kai Marina, we were allowed to use the gym facilities at the resort. Needless to say, the minutes passed a lot faster on the elliptical machine when you were staring out the enormous plate glass windows at all the activity in and around the marina and resort!

Beach chairs at the Mega Yacht Dock Shelter Island San Diego California

Shelter Island, San Diego.

RV vent insulator

If your RV travels take you to San Diego, be sure to swing by Shelter Island. There isn’t an RV park there, but even if you visit for just a few hours, you’ll find that it is a wonderful community unto itself. And for us, it is the true heart of San Diego!

Where to Stay in an RV in San Diego?

On this trip, we stayed at Sweetwater Summit Regional Park, a pleasant park on the southeastern side of the city. The advantage is that it is fairly reasonably priced for San Diego. The disadvantage is that downtown San Diego is a 30 minute drive away via several freeways.

Some of the campground loops were under construction during our stay (October 2023), making it quite noisy during the day. The construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2023.

Also, they have a very serious problem with minuscule sugar ants. The ants have been there for years, and they know all the tricks for how to get into your rig. Diatomaceous Earth and Amdro ant granules help, but when you shut down one spot they’ve been getting in, they promptly find another! We had the exact same issue with sugar ants at the KOA in Chula Vista in 2009, so it may be a common problem with many RV parks on the south side of San Diego.

There are lots of other RV park options in San Diego. We enjoyed staying at Campland on the Bay in our popup tent trailer in 2005. It’s family oriented and full of lively activity and kids. Next door, Mission Bay RV Resort is popular with full-timers and snowbirds.

A new RV park that is closer to downtown was very tempting for this trip — Sun Outdoors RV Park. If you look at the rates now, in November 2023, your eyes will pop out of your head. But last summer they were running a special for wintertime advance booking that was right in line with the other RV parks in the area, about 35% more than Sweetwater County Park. Many people seem to have been very happy staying there and we might try it next time if we can snag a good advance booking deal.

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Hartman Rocks – A Different View of Colorado near Gunnison

July 2023 – During our stay in Gunnison, Colorado (our jumping off point to see the incredible wildflowers in nearby Crested Butte!) we visited Hartman Rocks Recreation Area just south of town. Hartman Rocks is a 22 square mile recreation area managed by the Bureau of Land management. It is filled with 4×4 roads, hiking and biking trails, camping areas and exotic outcroppings of rocks. And it’s a very different kind of landscape than the soaring mountain peaks of the Rockies.

Hartman Rocks Colorado RV trip

Hartman Rocks shows off a different side of Colorado — no towering snowcapped peaks here!

We drove our RZR side-by-side on some of the many 4×4 roads and stopped frequently to crawl around on the various rock formations.

Side-by-side at Hartman Rocks Colorado

Hartman Rocks Recreation Area is filled with 4×4 trails and roads.

View at Hartman Rocks Colorado

Huge boulders poke up out of the earth here and there.

There are some golf course communities just beyond the edge of Hartman Rocks Recreation Area that made a wonderful lush green contrast to the arid desert rocks.

Hartman Rocks Colorado

From our arid vantage point at Hartman Rocks, the lush golf course communities looked very inviting!

Golf course view from Hartman Rocks Colorado

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There are 50 dry campsites scattered throughout Hartman Rocks. The most picturesque spots are tucked between the rock formations and are a good size for tent camping.

Tent camping at Hartman Rocks Colorado

Some of the most scenic campsites at Hartman Rocks are set between the boulders, ideal for tent camping.

We did find two or three campsites that would have been big enough for our trailer, but it was way too hot for boondocking in the dusty high desert in July!!

Even though Gunnison, Colorado, is at 7,700’ elevation, we were surprised by just how HOT it was in the summertime. After all, Gunnison’s record high for the month of July is 95 degrees Fahrenheit! For August it’s 105!! Temps hovered in the low 90s during our stay.

But of course, every summer is different. The record lows in this area are the mid-30s…brrr! So, be prepared for any kind of weather!

The bottom line for us, though, is that Hartman Rocks would be better for boondocking in the spring and fall, especially since there’s no shade in the bigger campsites we saw.

Hartman Rocks Colorado

We had fun climbing around on the boulders.

View between the trees at Hartman Rocks Colorado

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Regardless of the heat, mountain bikers were having fun out on the trails…

Mountain biking at Hartman Rocks Colorado

There are 45 miles of single track mountain biking trails at Hartman Rocks!

And Buddy found a shady spot by a rock to take in the view.

Happy puppy at Hartman Rocks Colorado

Buddy found a bit of shade that was just his size.

Happy Camper Holding Tank Treatment

We returned at the end of the day as the sun was beginning to set and the rocks were beginning to glow. Buddy still kept to the shady spots.

Puppy explores Hartman Rocks Colorado

The rock formations took on a beautiful golden hue at the end of the day.

We loved seeing the rocks light up in the late afternoon sun.

Golden hour at Hartman Rocks Colorado

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There were rolling hills in the distance and mountains further on. The main 4×4 road through the recreation area squiggled off into the distance while flowers poked their heads out from between the cracks.

Rolling hills at Hartman Rocks Colorado

The views from within Hartman Rocks range from lush green grass to rolling hills to neighborhoods in the distance.

View from Hartman Rocks Colorado

Good evening, Gunnison!

Flowers at Hartman Rocks Colorado

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This whole area is definitely a dog paradise. Buddy was happy to meet several new furry friends. In between tail wags and sniffs with these new companions, he kept a close eye out for mice and chipmunks in the rocks!

Puppy sees the view at Hartman Rocks Colorado

“I know there’s a mouse out there!”

Suddenly, the sun sank behind the horizon.

Sunset glow at Hartman Rocks Colorado

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The colors and patterns of the sunset were a little different in each direction.

Sunset at Hartman Rocks Colorado

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Views at Hartman Rocks Colorado

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Hking Trail at Hartman Rocks Colorado

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Sunset at Hartman Rocks Colorado

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We headed back to the trailer for dinner. We were staying at Palisade Senior RV Park (55+). It is a very quiet park in a quiet corner of town, and most of the guests were staying for at least a month. Many were there for the whole season. We even met groups of friends who had been spending summers together at the park for the last 10 or 15 years!

Moon RV USA Routes

We appreciated the lush grassy lawn and big shade trees at this RV park as well as the proximity to downtown Gunnison.

We were fortunate to be visiting the area during the new moon, so after dinner, we headed back to Hartman Rocks to see the Milky Way. We stumbled around a little on the uneven terrain, but the night was clear and the Milky Way was easy to see.

Millky Way at Hartman Rocks Colorado

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On our way home, Mark noticed a very cool old motel sign, a throwback to another era.

Cool hotel sign at night Gunnison Colorado

They just don’t put signs like this on motels any more. We have expected the lower electric sign to say, “Color TV!”

While we were in this area, we spent as much time a possible among the wildflowers up in Crested Butte where the temps are cooler (Crested Butte is at 8.900’ elevation).

On our way, we often stopped at Mochas Coffeehouse & Bakery to get a muffin to go. They make absolutely scrumptious muffins!

Gunnison Sign in the IOOF Park in Gunnison Colorado

We really liked this small park in the middle of Gunnison.

There is a lot to see at Hartman Rocks Recreation Area (in addition to the 45 miles of single track trails, there’s 45 miles of 4×4 roads too!). We hope to get back there when it’s not so hot to explore it a bit more in depth!

RV hose Water Bandit

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