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

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

Boating on the Colorado River California-min

The Colorado River is a favorite spot for boaters.

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

Boating on the Colorado River Arizona RV trip

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

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

Party boat on Colorado River Parker Arizona RV trip-min

A party boat rides the current on the Colorado River

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

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

Wild Burros Parker Dam Road Colorado River California RV trip

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

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

Wild Burros Parker Dam Road Colorado River California-min

Wild burros of the Colorado River.

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

Wild Burros Parker Dam Road Colorado River California RV trip

The burros crossed the road to say hi!

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

Wild burros of the Colorado River Parker Dam Arizona-min

A wild burro’s life is pretty chill!

Wild burro Parker Dam Road California-min


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

Wild burro looks into car at Colorado River Arizona RV trip


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

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

Buddy leaned over for a closer look.

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

Wild burro at car window with puppy Parker Arizona RV trip


Then Buddy stared up at the enormous muzzle in amazement.

Wild Burro and Puppy Colorado River Arizona-min


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

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

Wild Burro and Puppy Colorado River AZ-min

The two got a good look at each other.

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

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


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

Wild burro colt at Parker Dam Colorado River California-min


What a cutie.

Wild burro colt portrait Parker Dam Colorado River California RV trip


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

Wild burros meet a puppy Parker Dam Road California RV trip

The burros were very calm and inquisitive too.

Everyone was relaxed and a bit curious as well.

Introducing puppy to wild burro Colorado River Arizona RV trip


What a neat animal encounter that was!

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

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

Kayak on Colorado River Parker Arizona RV trip-min

A kayak on the Colorado River.

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Magical Moments in the RV Life

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

Sleeping puppy under blankets in an RV-min

It’s a dog’s life in our little RV.

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

Dog in RV looking out the window-min

What do you want to do today?

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

Dog looking at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Buddy loves exploring the shores of Lake Pleasant.

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

Duck swimming in Lake Pleasant Arizona-min


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

Feeding the ducks at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Mark and Buddy feed the ducks.

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

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

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

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

Fog mist and snow in Arizona Sonoran Desert mountains-min

Fog and mist swirl around the distant mountains.

Snowcapped mountains Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Snow in the mountains!

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

Balloon flies over Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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

Balloon and seagull in the sky-min

Flying with the birds.

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

Balloon flies overhead-min

Up, up and away!

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

Balloon flies by RV at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

The balloon slipped from view.

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

Bald eagle on the dock Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

A bald eagle stands over its catch.

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

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

Fresh fish. Yum!

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

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

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

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

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

Bald Eagle head after eating fish-min

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

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

Flying bald eagle Lake Pleasant Arizona-min


Flying bald eagle Lake Pleasant Arizona-min


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

Bald eagle flying over Lake Pleasant Arizona-min


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

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

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

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

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

Full moon rising near saguaro cactus Arizona Sonoran Desert-min

The moon set right before dawn.

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

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

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

Rising full moon with saguaro cactus Arizona Sonoran Desert-min

The moon set behind a saguaro cactus…

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

Full moon rising in Arizona Sonoran Desert-min

At dusk a full moon suddenly rises behind a ridge.

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

Fishing under full moon Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Fishing by the light of the moon.

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

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

Full moon setting behind saguaro cactus Arizona Sonoran Desert-min

The moon sets behind a saguaro cactus.

Full moon with saguaro cactus black and white-min


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

Sunset Lake Pleasant Arizona-min


Sunset at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min


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Lost Dutchman State Park Campground – Arizona Gold in the Superstitions

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

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

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

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

RV camping at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona-min

Lost Dutchman State Park has beautiful RV campsites.

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

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

Horses pass us on the hiking trail.

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

Saguaro cactus Lost Dutchman State Park Superstition Mountains sunset-min

Sunrise at Lost Dutchman State Park.

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

Mountain bikers enjoy the trails at Lost Dutchman.

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

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

Chapel at Superstition Mountain Museum Apache Junction Arizona-min

The Chapel at the Superstition Mountain Museum.

I loved climbing into the stagecoach!

Superstition Mountain Stage Coach Line Arizona-min

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

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

Superstition Mountain Museum Saloon Apache Junction Arizona-min

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

Jailhouse Superstition Mountain Museum Arizona-min


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

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

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

Goldfield Ghost Town apothecary and other antique buildings-min

Goldfield Ghost Town

Gold panning at Goldfield Ghost Town Superstition Mountains Arizona-min

Goldfield Ghost Town

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

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


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

Cowboy at Goldfield Ghost Town Apache Junction Arizona-min

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

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

Horses rest between rides.

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

Goldfield Ghost Town train track hobos Apache Junction Arizona-min


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

Goldfield Ghost Town outhouse-min

No ghost town is complete without an outhouse!

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

Buddy in the Goldfield Ghost Town outhouse-min


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

Musicians Goldfield Ghost Town Superstition Mountains Arizona-min


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

Funny musician Goldfield Ghost Town Superstition Mountains Arizona-min

The music never dies.

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

Wooden shutters Goldfield Ghost Town Apache Junction Arizona-min


Goldfield Ghost Town Siphon Draw Arizona-min


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

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

Buddy biscuits

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

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

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

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

Hiking at Lost Dutchman is a real treat.

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

Golden hour in the Superstitions.

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

Superstition Mountains Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona-min


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


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

Sunrise RV camping at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona-min


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

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More info about Lost Dutchman State Park, the Superstition Mountain Museum and Goldfield Ghost Town:

Other special campgrounds we have enjoyed:

More fun places we’ve visited on the Apache Trail:

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Dolly Steamboat – Gliding Through the Arizona Desert on Canyon Lake

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

Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip

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

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

Photography at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

Buddy shows us his slalom skills.

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

Puppy Chow plays fetch at Canyon Lake RV Park-min

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

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

Boating at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

A little sailor dog is born.

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

Walking with puppy at Canyon Lake Marina Arizona-min


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

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

Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake

Dolly Steamboat docked at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

Dolly Steamboat rests at dawn.

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

Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

What would the pup think of a boat ride?!

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

Canyon Lake Arizona RV Trip-min

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

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

Puppy enjoys dinner in the RV-min


And Buddy slept on the idea too.

Puppy relaxes in RV-min


He slept right through the enormous rising full moon!

Full moon Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min


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

Puppy Chow in our RV-min

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

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

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

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

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

Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

There she is!

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

Mark and Buddy walk down the dock.

Captain Jason was very friendly.

Captain Jason Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

Captain Jason.

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

Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

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

Canyon Lake Dolly Steamboat ride in Arizona-min

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

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

Puppy on Dolly Steamboat Cruise Canyon Lake Arizona-min

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

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

Admiring views Canyon Lake Dolly Steamboat Arizona-min

Buddy tests the air with his nose.

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

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

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

Views on Dolly Steamboat Ride Canyon Lake Arizona-min

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

Canyon Lake Scenery Dolly Steamboat Cruise Arizona-min

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

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

Admiring the views Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona-min

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

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

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

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

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

Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min


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

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

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

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

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

Other fun rides we’ve done:

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

Our most recent posts:

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

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

Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Lake Pleasant, Arizona.

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

Golden hour cactus at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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

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

Lake Pleasant Arizona at sunset with saguaro cactus-min

Sunset at Lake Pleasant.

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

Saguaro cactus at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min


Saguaro cactus at sunset at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Sunset over Lake Pleasant.

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

Sunset saguaro cactus at Lake Pleasant Arizona RV trip-min


Sunset at Lake Pleasant RV campground with saguaro cactus-min


Sunrise at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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

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

Travel trailer RV at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min


Sunset at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Lake Pleasant.

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

Saguaro cactus in mystical light-min

Heavy storm clouds hovered over the cactus.

Saguaro cactus at sunset in Arizona-min

A while late they turned pink.

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

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

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

Buddy the RV camping dog in our truck-min

My boys — the Pilot and Co-Pilot!

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

Canyon Lake Arizona speedboat and cactus-min

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

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

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

The local duck welcoming committee.

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

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

Why, hello there!

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

Canyon Lake RV campground on an early Arizona morning-min

Canyon Lake.

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

Sunrise at Canyon Lake on an Arizona RV trip-min

Sunrise at Canyon Lake.

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


Mark gets a few photography tips from our new companion.

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

Sunrise photography at Canyon Lake RV Campground Arizona-min


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

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


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

Buddy the camping dog at our RV-min


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

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

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

Or patiently sitting inside waiting be let out!

The dog Buddy welcomes us home to our RV-min

“C’mon out, Buddy!”

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

Never miss a post — it’s free!

More info about RV camping at Lake Pleasant and Canyon Lake:

Other blog posts from places we’ve visited where the Desert and Water meet:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
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Fall River Balloon Festival in Hot Springs, South Dakota

One of the more unusual types of sightings we’ve enjoyed in our RV travels is hot air balloons flying overhead.

Early one morning last summer while camping in South Dakota’s Black Hills we awoke to the roar of a balloon heater’s flame and we dashed outside to see a balloon floating over our trailer. A few weeks later at the end of August we saw the Fall River Balloon Festival in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

The balloon glow at Fall River Balloon Festival Hot Springs South Dakota-min

Balloon Glow at Fall River Balloon Festival in Hot Springs, South Dakota

This was a small balloon festival with just a dozen or so balloons, but the evening balloon glow was a true delight. The balloonists slowly heated the air in their balloons and raised them to an upright position while holding them down to the ground with tethers.

Inflating a hot air balloon at the balloon glow Fall River Balloon Festival South Dakota-min

During the Balloon Glow the balloons were tethered to the ground so they wouldn’t drift away.
“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!.”

Then, on cue from the announcer on a loudspeaker, they all turned on their heater flames at the same time, lighting up the balloons in the dark.

Balloon Glow Fall River Hot Air Balloon Festival Hot Springs South Dakota RV trip-min

The “Glow” is created by turning on the flame that heats up the air in the balloon.

Fall River Balloon Festival Hot Springs South Dakota RV trip-min

Balloon Glow!

Unfortunately, the wind picked up and the balloon glow had to be cut short. The balloonists did a quick “twinkle” where each balloon turned its heater on and off repeatedly, making the group of balloons appear to twinkle, and then they brought their balloons down.

Fall River Balloon Festival Balloon Glow Hot Springs South Dakota RV trip-min

In a “Balloon Twinkle” each balloonist randomly turns their flame on and off, making the balloons appear to twinkle in the dark.

But the next morning the balloonists were at it again, bright and early, out by the small Hot Springs Airport air strip.

Filling the hot air balloons-min

The next morning the balloonists inflated their balloons for a group ride.

The balloonists arrived before dawn and started laying out the balloons on the ground. Once each huge balloon was stretched out on the grass like an enormous blanket, the balloonist team then began to inflate it with hot air.

Sunrise under a hot air balloon-min

Each balloon was slowly inflated as the sun began to peek over the horizon.

Before long, all the balloons were inflated and sitting on the ground ready to launch.

Fall River Balloon Festival Hot Springs South Dakota RV Trip-min

The balloons were inflated, all in a row, and tethered to the ground.

Then, one escaped.

Fall River Balloon Festival Hot Springs South Dakota-min

A balloon slips away into the sky.

and then another.

Balloon lift-off Fall River Balloon Festival Hot Springs South Dakota RV trip-min

The balloons floated up into the sky one at a time.

And soon they were all in the air, drifting across the open field and following the air currents.

Hot air balloons at Hot Springs airport South Dakota-min

The balloons slowly glide by.

Flying balloons at Fall River Balloon Festival Hot Springs South Dakota-min


We ran across the field, our cameras clicking away. The folks in the baskets waved down at us and seemed to be having a ball.

Up Up and Away in my beauttiful balloon-min

“Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon…”

Fall River Balloon Festival balloons fly over landscape-min


The sun crested the horizon and cast a golden glow across the sky.

Dawn balloon ride Fall River Balloon Festival Hot Springs South Dakota RV trip-min


Balloons at Hot Springs airport in South Dakota-min


Before long the balloons were out of sight, and the little handful of spectators began to fold up their chairs and head home.

Fall River Balloon Festival Hot Springs South Dakota RV travels-min

A small group of spectators watched the balloons vanish from sight.

If you have never been to a balloon festival and you are in Arizona now, there is a fun one going on at Lake Havasu this weekend (Jan 19-21, 2018). We saw it, along with the Buses at the Bridge VW Microbus festival a few years back (blog post here).

Never miss a post — it’s free!

Balloon festivals popular with RVers:

Balloon Events and Flyovers we’ve seen in our travels:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff and check out our GEAR STORE!!

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2017 Travels – RVing the West and Flying to Thailand & Cambodia

2017 was filled with incredible travel adventures for us, from exploring the backroads of eastern Wyoming and the Black Hills of South Dakota in our RV to flying overseas to Southeast Asia and Hawaii. Here’s a quick look back with links to every travel story we published on this blog in 2017!

2017 RV trips and international travel adventures-min


Before the year had even gotten out of the starting gate, we put our trailer in storage in Arizona and flew to Bangkok, Thailand, for a month of extraordinary and eye opening experiences (all our SE Asia adventures can be found here).

Boat on Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand copy-min

2017 began with us putting the RV in storage and flying to Thailand and Cambodia for a month!

Ministry of Defence Grand Palace Bangkok Thailand copy-min

We had never been to Southeast Asia before — what an adventure!

Not only was the architecture dramatically different than anything we’d seen before, the language itself was new to our ears and eyes. It was utterly exotic, and beautiful (and incomprehensible) in written form.

Thai menu copy-min

The Thai language not only sounded exotic, it looked exotic too!

We found it nearly impossible to know what to order on a menu, but when we took a boat ride through a floating market, most of the fruits and vegetables were familiar even though the method of selling them was like nothing we’d seen before!

Fruit for sale damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand copy-min

A floating market on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, was a fascinating excursion.

We took a train ride to Kanchanaburi and hiked in caves where shrines to Buddha adorned the entrances.

Buddha statue in Lawa Cave Kanchanaburi Thailand copy-min

Shrines to Buddha — and to the recently deceased king — were everywhere, including in entrances to caves!

And we saw young monks walking along the tracks of the Death Railway where we learned of the atrocities that took place during WWII along the River Kwai.

Buddhist monks on train tracks Death Railway Kanchanaburi Thailand copy-min

Monks walk the train tracks at the somber Death Railway.

In the heart of Thailand at Cheow Lan Lake we stayed in a floating raft house at the base of towering limestone cliffs. The hosts took us on longtail boat tours around the lake in the early morning mist and after dark under the stars.

Longtail boat Greenery Panvaree Resort Chiewlarn Lake Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand copy-min

One of many highlights was taking longtail boat rides and staying in a floating raft house on Cheow Lan Lake.

We also visited two stunning and very exotic waterfalls, one in Erawan National Park and another in Sri Nakarin Dam National Park.

Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand copy-min

Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall in Sri Nakarin Dam National Park, Kanchanaburi Thailand
(That’s a mouthful!)

At the south end of Thailand we stayed on the beach in Ko Lanta and snorkeled reefs that were teeming with unusual and colorful sea life, from giant purple clams to huge prickly blue starfish to Nemo’s cousins living among the sea anenome.

Ko Lanta Beach in Thailand-min

We relaxed on the beach on the Thai island of Ko Lanta.

Purple Sea Star Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour of Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand copy-min

Snorkeling the reefs we saw giant purple clams, spiky blue starfish and we found both Nemo and Dora too.

We decided to visit Thailand on the urging and invitation of one of our blog readers, and when we finally decided to fly halfway around the world to visit Southeast Asia, he wrote to us with great passion about the ancient Khmer ruins in Angkor Wat next to the town of Siem Reap in Cambodia.

Are we ever glad that he took the time to write such a colorful description of the area and suggest we visit there too. Thank you, Dave!

Cambodia touched our us deeply and has found a place in our hearts forever.

Angkor Thom gate at Angkor Wat Cambodia travel-min

The massive, vast and expansive ancient Khmer ruins in Cambodia were awe-inspiring

Whereas Thailand felt like an Asian version of Mexico — a Second World country coming into its own with lots of bustling and profitable industry and a fairly sophisticated tourist infrastructure — next door Cambodia was a world apart.

Tuk-tuk with heavy load Siem Reap Cambodia copy-min

We found that Thailand was very similar to Mexico in many ways, but Cambodia was unlike anything we had ever experienced before.

There was an innocence and joy in everyone we met that surprised us.

Cambodian school children playing in Siem Reap copy-min

Cambodian schoolkids swing on the vines on their way home from school.

The many miles wide sprawl of endless ancient Khmer temple ruins around Angkor Wat were breathtaking, both for their mystery and because of their toppled condition. The stories we heard of the roles the ruins and their riches played in the conflicts during the latter quarter of the last century were mind boggling.

Angkor Wat ruins in Cambodia-min

The ancient Khmer ruins hold the mysteries of an ancient and sophisticated world.

We even found one temple ruin that was reminiscent of the Mayan step pyramids an ocean away in southern Mexico. The ruins dated from about the same time period too.

Step pyramid Angkor Wat temple Cambodia-min

One ancient Khmer ruin is shaped like the step pyramids of Meso-America.

We spent several days crawling all over these fascinating ruins, many of which are an hour’s drive from the central complex.

Face in the ruins at Angkor Wat Cambodia travel-min

This face is dozens of feet tall.

Faces at the gate Angkor Wat temple Cambodia travel-min

Guards at the gate of an Angkor Wat temple palace.

The jungle is a living being, though, and it has spread its roots across many of the temple ruins, often covering them up completely.

Trees growing over Angkor Wat temple ruins Cambodia-min

The jungle engulfs the ancient Khmer ruins!

We had noticed that modern Cambodian writing and Thai writing are nothing like each other, but we were astonished when our Cambodian guide pointed out the many inscriptions carved on the arches and lintels of the Angkor Wat temple ruins and revealed that he couldn’t read them at all either!

Ancient Khmer Inscription at Angkor Wat temple district Cambodia-min

Ancient Khmer inscriptions carved into the temple door jams and lintels.
The language has roots in Sanskrit.

However, aside from the mysteries of the ancients, it was the tales we were told of recent Cambodian history that left us reeling.

We didn’t know anything about Cambodia before we got there, and our jaws hung open as we heard horrifying stories first-hand from our guides and drivers about what they, their parents and their families had lived through during the same years that Mark and I had been young adults getting our lives started in a country where basic freedoms and extraordinary abundance are easily and often taken for granted.

A day spent visiting a Cambodian family in their home left a moving and long lasting impression on both of us.

Adventure travel in Cambodia-min

We enjoyed a priceless day trip to the home of a Cambodian family where the kids, cousins and friends got a kick out of hamming it up and photo-bombing each other for our cameras.

When we returned to America we stayed around Arizona for a while in our buggy, relaxing in the beautiful Sonoran desert along its waterways and camping amid the rock art petroglyphs of Gila Bend.

Rippling water in Horseshoe Lake Arizona-min

Water ripples in our wake in the Sonoran Desert.

Saguaro cactus in Arizona-min

Saguaro cactus.

Cactus flowers in Arizona-min

Blandly colored cactus have the most brilliantly colorful flowers each spring.

When family members said they were going to Hawaii in a few weeks, we couldn’t pass up the special and very rare opportunity for a reunion with loved ones in the tropics, so we found ourselves at the airport once again!

Honolulu Hawaii travel adventure-min

At the last second we parked our trailer and flew to Hawaii for a fabulous week with family in the tropics.

Back in our trailer “for good” this time, we traveled through Winslow and Holbrook, Arizona, and got our kicks on Route 66.

Winslow Arizona Route 66 RV trip-min

Winslow and Holbrook Arizona are highlights on Route 66.

We did a few hikes in Petrified Forest National Park, scrambling around the magical Jasper Forest and hiking between the vivid white and lavender striped mounds of Blue Mesa Trail.

Petrified Forest National Park RV trip-min

Stone “logs” at the magical Jasper Forest at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.

Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park RV trip-min

Blue Mesa Trail at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.

At Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona we peered over the edges of the sheer walls to the green valley below and watched a brilliant sunset erupt over Spider Rock.

Canyon de Chelly RV trip-min

Spider Rock at sunset in Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona.

Continuing east and north, we stopped by Bisti Badlands in New Mexico where another glorious sunset showed off the famous alien eggs at our feet.

Bisti Badlands cracked eggs-min

Pink skies above the alien eggs at Bisti Badlands, New Mexico.

We were now in Indian pueblo country and we explored both the Aztec National Monument ruins, which are a massive ancient collection of adjoining rooms, and the ruins at Bandelier National Monument, an ancient cliff dwelling community built into natural rock holes.

Aztec National Monument Arizona RV trip-min

The Kiva at the ancient Indian ruins of Aztec National Monument in New Mexico.

Bandelier National Monument New Mexico RV trip-min

Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico has wonderful ladders for visitors to climb up and see the cliff dwellings.

Visiting nearby Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico, we hiked through a slot canyon and then up a steep climb to the sky where rock formations are lined up like a series of tents.

Slot canyon at Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico-min

Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico — the slot canyon.

Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico RV trip-min

Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico — the tents.

The new Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico had recently opened to visitors, and while we were camped nearby we found ourselves in a spring blizzard. But we descended from the 10,000′ altitude to find warmth again outside Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Snow on spring flowers New Mexico RV trip-min

Snow on spring flowers near Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Beautiful sky near Sand Dunes National Monument Colorado-min

The heavens open up near Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.

The end of May marked our 10th year of traveling full-time, and in celebration we published two posts giving an overview of all we’ve seen and done: Part 1 and Part 2. What an unbelievable decade it has been!

We found plenty of snow when we climbed back up into Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, however, and we joined our friends on a Porsche 356 rally where we tucked ourselves into the backs of cute bathtub Porshe roadster convertibles and took photos of the beautiful snowy peaks!

Porsche Rally in Colorado Rocky Mountains-min

What a way to see the Colorado Rocky Mountains — in a Porsche roadster rally!

We made our way to the Black Hills of South Dakota where we explored the beautiful town of Custer and nearby Custer State Park. The Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park is home to all kinds of critters, and we saw prairie dogs, pronghorn antelope and buffalo at close range.

Prairie Dogs in Custer State Park on a South Dakota RV trip-min

Custer State Park has several big prairie dog communities.

A herd of wild burros entertains visitors at Custer State Park, and they have been fed by tourists for so many years and have become so tame that they now think nothing of poking their heads inside the car window to see what kinds of snacks you brought for them!

Wild burro looks in car window Custer State Park South Dakota RV tirp-min

A wild burro peers in a car window at Custer State Park in South Dakota.

Wild burro at Custer State Park South Dakota on an RV trip-min

Some of the wild burros had adorable babies.
This one leaned against me and almost fell asleep!

We had ventured to South Dakota’s Custer State Park to meet up with professional wildlife photographer Steve Perry, and our cameras clicked animal images non-stop for a few days.

Pronghorn antelope in Wyoming-min

Pronghorn antelope.

Buffalo in Black Hills South Dakota-min

A buffalo walks towards us.

Western Tanager in Black Hills South Dakota RV trip-min

A western tanager in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Songbird in South Dakota.

A meadowlarks sings his heart out.

This part of the world is distant enough from big cities that the Milky Way is easily visible, and we enjoyed some night photography in Custer, South Dakota, too.

Milky Way reflects in a lake in Black Hills South Dakota RV trip-min

The Milky Way reflects in still water near Custer, South Dakota.

Custer, South Dakota, was also an ideal place to enjoy an old fashioned small town 4th of July celebration, complete with a parade and fireworks.

Fireworks on the 4th of July Custer South Dakota-min

Fireworks were a highlight of the small town 4th of July celebration in Custer, South Dakota.

We then made our way to Buffalo, Wyoming, and the Big Horn Mountains where we bumped into two weekend-long celebrations, the first one honoring the Longmire TV series and the second one honoring the Basque sheepherding heritage of many of the families in the area.

Buffalo Wyoming RV trip-min

Buffalo, Wyoming, is a wonderful small town near the Big Horn Mountains.

Horse riders in the Big Horn Mountains Wyoming RV trip-min

Horseback riders enjoy a trail ride in Wyoming’s BIg Horn mountains.

Although we had visited the western side of Wyoming (home of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks) several times in the past, this was our first trip to the eastern half of the state, and we loved the quiet towns and less touristy feeling of the area.

Moonrise in Wyoming-min

Moonrise in Wyoming.

Herd of deer Big Horn Mountains Wyoming-min

Spotting a deer is always special, but having a group stop and stare at us was truly fabulous!

The dark night skies drew us outside in the wee hours of the morning for more shots of the Milky Way.

Milky Way at midnight in Wyoming-min


Looping back through South Dakota’s Black Hills, we stopped in at the famous Sturgis Bike Week motorcycle rally and explored Spearfish Canyon and its lovely waterfall.

Bikini Bike Wash Sturgis Bike Week in South Dakota-min

The Sturgis Bike Week motorcycle rally is an over-the-top testosterone fest that was a blast to see.

Spearfish Canyon waterfall South Dakota RV trip-min

Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota

After a pit stop at Wall Drug, South Dakota, the once unknown small town drug store that now boasts billboard advertising worldwide, we visited Badlands National Park where we saw lots of big horn sheep. We were very close to the path of the total solar eclipse that crossed the country in August, and we got a kick out of doing time-lapse videos as the sky darkened and lightened again.

Wall Drug billboard on South Dakota RV trip-min

The funny Wall Drug billboards can now be found far from Wall, South Dakota, and the coffee really is 5 cents!

Big horn sheep in Badlands South Dakota-min

Big horn sheep in Badlands National Park, South Dakota.

Big horn sheep at dusk Badlands National Park South Dakota RV trip-min

A big horn sheep at sunset.

Making a beeline westward, we took a brief time-out to climb up on the Continental Divide in Colorado and then settled into Las Vegas, Nevada, where we saw the most amazing nighttime light show when Mother Nature filled the sky with lightning bolts.

Continental Divide near Buena Vista Colorado-min

Hiking the Continental Divide in Colorado.

Lightning in Las Vegas Nevada-min

Las Vegas is known for big shows, and Mother Nature’s lightning show during our stay was just stunning.

While Mark attended the Interbike bicycle trade show in Las Vegas, I hopped on a plane to visit my mother in Paris. From the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame to ballet and opera performances galore, she took me on a memorable tour of the City of Light.

Eiffel Tower in Paris France-min

The Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Notre Dame Paris France travel-min

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

We took a quick train ride beyond the Paris city limits to spend a day exploring the medieval town of Moret sur Loing. The charming architecture resembled a fairy tale, and I was astonished to read a tourist sign outlining the town’s history and see the first date on the sign was from the year 1045!

Moret Sur Loing medieval castle Paris France travel-min

Fairytale medieval buildings in the village of Moret-sur-Loing just outside of Paris, France.

Back in our buggy in the southwest, we resumed our travels with excursions around the town of Kanab, Utah, first on the scenic road leading to Zion National Park and then to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.

Starburst and red rocks in Zion National Park Utah-min

Zion National Park Utah scenery along the road into the Park…!

Coral Pink Sand Dunes RV trip-min

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Utah

We were blessed with another fabulous wildlife sighting when a roadrunner posed for us within just a few feet, and we had a fun a nighttime adventure in an old movie set where the ghosts and goblins roamed free at Halloween.

Roadrunner in Utah-min

A roadrunner let us take lots of close-up shots in Utah.

Johnson Canyon movie set near Kanab Utah-min

Johnson Canyon movie set near Kanab, Utah.

Just a short distance west of there, Sand Hollow State Park gave us a beautiful waterfront adventure as we camped on the beach enjoying mountain views and glorious sunrises and moonrises.

Lake view Sand Hollow State Park RV camping-min

Sand Hollow State Park reservoir and mountain views.

Full moon at sunset Sand Hollow State Park Utah RV trip-min

A full moon rises at Sand Hollow in Utah.

A side-by-side rally capped off our stay in the orange sand dunes, and then we took a spectacular scenic drive down the west side of Lake Mead in Nevada.

Side-by-side rally at Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

We tried out lots of side-by-side buggies at a rally.

Lake Mead scenic drive Nevada RV trip-min

A little traveled road west of Lake Mead offered some wonderful scenery.

Back in Arizona we found ourselves by water once again as we hiked along the Salt River, one of Arizona’s waterways that brings moisture and life to the Sonoran Desert. We attended a “ranch sorting” cowboy and horsemanship competition in Phoenix to cap off our year of travel adventures during the Christmas week.

Spring flowers Roosevelt Lake RV camping Arizona-min

Central Arizona’s Sonoran Desert boasts many lovely waterways.

Saguaro cactus in Arizona sunset-min

Arizona’s iconic saguaro cactus at sunset.

2017 was an incredible year that brought us endless beautiful photo ops and lots of new and precious life experiences. Here’s hoping for lots more exciting adventures in 2018!!

Fifth wheel RV under the Milky Way-min

Goodbye 2017 — Thanks for the great memories!!

Happy New Year and Happy Travels to all!!

In 2017 we also published several blog articles of RV lifestyle and tech tips. In addition, we organized all of this site’s pages of RV tips into easy to navigate indexes (accessible from the menu as well):

Never miss a post — it’s free!

More summaries of our travels through the years:

An Overview of Our First 10 Years of Full-time Travel + Reflections after 9 Years!

Summaries of Each Year on the Road - All of our travel posts in chronological order:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff and check out our GEAR STORE!!

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2017 Travel Post Recap in chronological order:

Ranch Sorting Competition – Cowboy Adventures in Phoenix Arizona

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

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

Goat watches a cowboy cattle sorting event-min

A goat welcomes us to the ranch sorting competition.

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

Cowboy cattle sorting event in Phoenix Arizona ranch-min

Riders line up before the competition begins.

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

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

Calves waiting to be sorted by cowboys-min

Calves wait to be sorted.

Numbered calves waiting to be sorted-min

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

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

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

Calf sorting event with cowgirl on horseback-min

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

Cowgirl sorting calves on horseback in Arizona ranch-min

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

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

Calf sorting on horse in Arizona-min

First the calf is isolated from the herd…

Cowgirl sorting cattle on a horse in Arizona-min

Then it is chased through the gate…

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

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

Concentrating while riding a horse-min

Autumn concentrates and the horse sticks his tongue out too!

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

Cattle sorting riding a horse in Phoenix Arizona ranch-min

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

Sorting cattle riding a horse in Phoenix Arizona-min

Going after number 9.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All tuckered out…

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

Cowboy sorting calves on a ranch in Phoenix Arizona-min

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

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


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

Calf running away in cattle sorting event-min

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

Cowboy sorting cattle on a ranch in Arizona-min

The riders told us #8 was particularly feisty!

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

Cattle dog with horse and cowboy on Arizona ranch-min

Spectators were treated to a fun event.

Horse eye closeup-min

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

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

Cowgirl chases calf in Phoenix Arizona cattle sorting event-min


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


Cattle sorting event with cowgirl chasing calves-min


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

Cowboy walks horse back to horse trailer-min

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

Never miss a post — it’s free!

More info about Ranch Sorting:

Cowgirl Magazine article explaining what Ranch Sorting is

Other blog posts about our adventures with cowboys:

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

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff and check out our GEAR STORE!!

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Lake Mead Scenic Drive + A Great RV Pit Stop at “Redstone” NV!

December 2017 – We try to avoid interstate highways and big cities in our RV lifestyle, and when we began our trek south from southern Utah towards Arizona a few weeks ago, we wanted to limit our time on I-15 and avoid the congestion and traffic of Las Vegas.

Fifth wheel RV trip to Lake Mead Nevada-min

We found a delightful scenic drive that skirts around Las Vegas!

We took a jog south off of I-15 onto Nevada Route 169 and followed the contours of Lake Mead all the way around to the southeastern side of Las Vegas. What a beautiful and delightful RV trip!

Lake Mead Nevada RV scenic drive-min

The road takes a wonderful journey through rocky and colorful terrain.

The road rose and dipped and swerved left and right, revealing gorgeous scenery all along the way.

RV scenic drive along Lake Mead Nevada shoreline-min


Even though we didn’t have a great day weather-wise, the scenery was fantastic!

As we drove along, happily chatting away about this and that, we passed the turn-off for Valley of Fire State Park. We LOVE this stunning park and have visited it several times (blog posts here and here), but with a bit of regret we passed it up this time.

Suddenly, we saw a sign for the Redstone Picnic Area. We needed to take a break and get a little lunch, so we pulled in.

RV parking Redstone Picnic Area Lake Mead Nevada-min

Redstone Picnic Area – A fun RV pit stop!

What a wonderful surprise this little jewel was! It’s like a little mini taste of Valley of Fire! There were pretty picnic ramadas scattered about the edges of the parking lot.

Redstone Trail picnic area Lake Mead Nevada RV trip-min

Picnic ramadas with grills!

Redstone Picnic Area Lake Mead Nevada RV trip-min

A nice place to take a breather from driving.

Never mind lunch, we had photos to take!

We jumped out of our truck and began snapping away. The red rock formations were so cool we both even took photos of the rocks framing the vault toilets. It’s gotta be a pretty spot when two photographers both feel inspired to take pics of a vault toilet building!!

Redstone Picnic Area Lake Mead Nevada vault toilets-min

We were loving the scenery so much we both took pics of the vault toilet building!

The Redstone Picnic Area has a short hiking trail that leaves the picnic tables behind and ventures out into the red rocks on a lovely loop around a huge red rock mound. I headed out on the trail for pics there while Mark moved in close to the red rock hill and got some great shots of the formations.

Arches on Redstone Trail picnic area Lake Mead Nevada RV trip-min


Window view Redstone Trail Lake Mead Nevada RV trip-min

Views through windows…

Red rocks at Redstone Picnic Area on a Lake Mead Nevada RV trip-min

Tumbled slabs…

Hiking at Redstone Trail on Lake Mead Nevada RV trip-min

The weather was overcast, but what fun we had scrambling around on the rocks.

One of the things that always baffles me about the big rock and mountain formations in the west is the various “uplifts” that have occurred where wide flat expanses of rock have been upended by natural forces long ago.

Uplift in red rocks at Redstone Trail on Lake Mead Nevada RV trip-min

An “uplift” !!

We also loved the various hollows and rounded alcoves and windows we found in the rocks.

Holes in rocks at Nevada Redstone Trail Lake Mead RV trip-min

Natures built-in shelves.

Rock formations on Redstone Trail Lake Mead Nevada-min

Window to the heavens.

Red rock formations Redstone Trail picnic area Nevada Lake Mead RV trip-min


A car or two pulled up during our stay but they moved right along after using the facilities. We were having so much fun crawling around on these beautiful red rocks. We didn’t want to rush our visit!

Huge red rock formations Redstone Trail Lake Mead Nevada RV trip-min

Big rocks, small guy!!

The hiking trail revealed some wonderful views on the far side.

Views on Redstone Trail picnic area Lake Mead RV trip-min

As the hiking trail rounded a bend, we could see far off into the distance.

And the gods painted the skies with fantastic patterns of sun and clouds just for our photos.

Redstone Trail picnic area Lake Mead RV trip-min

The sun played hide-and-seek and cast cool colors across the lens.

Redstone Trail picnic area Lake Mead RV trip-min

The clouds lined up for a photo op.

When we finally got back to our trailer, we got out our lunch goodies and sat down to yummy sandwiches.

Fifth wheel RV trip Redstone Trailhead Lake Mead Nevada-min

What a nice break this was!

Back out on the road we saw more wide open expanses and lovely views.

Scenic RV driving on by Lake Mead Nevada-min

The Lake Mead scenic drive continues.

The colors in the distant rocks and hills were wonderful earth tones — real earth tones — that reminded us of our trip to Death Valley years ago.

Colorful hills Lake Mead Nevada RV scenic drive-min

Reminiscent of Death Valley, California.

Rock formations on Lake Mead Nevada Scenic Drive by RV-min

The brown crus peels off to reveal crimson rocks underneath.

At times we saw pockets of red rocks poking through.

Scenic RV driving on by Lake Mead Nevada-min

Vibrant red rocks add a splash of color to the landscape.

And then we finally arrived at the shores of Lake Mead. We stopped at a big parking area and wandered out to the edge of the overlook. Beautiful!

Lake Mead RV trip in Nevada-min

Lake Mead.

Lake Mead Nevada RV trip-min

From red rocks to lake views – what a drive!

If you are headed south on I-15 with your RV to get to Arizona and other parts of the southwest for the winter, or if you plan to take your RV back up north via that route in the spring, plan a detour around Las Vegas and check out this lovely scenic drive on the back side of Lake Mead!

Some resources:

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More info about this Lake Mead Scenic Drive:

Other blog posts from nearby Northwestern Arizona:

A few posts from Nevada too!

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Zion National Park’s Hidden Jewels – Off the Beaten Path in an RV!

December 2017 – Last year we took our RV to Zion National Park during the incredible fall foliage season in late October, and we were blown away by the beauty. We had visited Zion National Park several times before, but never when the leaves were turning.

We published two posts with pics and stories of our travel adventures at the time (here and here), and I had photos all ready to go for a third post, but by the time I was able to sit down and turn those photos into a blog post, it was January and our other more recent travel adventures were taking precedence.

Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

The scenic drives in and around Zion National Park are spectacular!

But I’ve got a window of time now, so here are our photos from “Hidden Zion,” the back roads that wander through the lesser known parts of Zion National Park and the surrounding area.

Zion Canyon National Park Kolob Canyons-min

We will never tire of visiting Zion National Park. It is one of America’s best!

The “front side” of Zion National Park is accessible from the village of Springdale and is visited by massive numbers of tourists every year. 4.3 million people jammed themselves into Zion Canyon in 2016, a 50% increase over 2014 which had been the busiest year until then. 2017 is surpassing that record by another 5%!!

Zion Canyon — the major canyon in Zion National Park — is without doubt the most dramatic part of the Park, but isn’t all there is to see…

Zion Canyon National Park Kolob Canyons view-min




As I noted a few weeks back, just stopping the car along Route 9 on the east side of Zion National Park and walking 100 yards in from the highway can be a fabulous experience (blog post here).

View on Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min


Cattle grazing Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min


Over on the west side of the Zion National Park lies “Kolob Canyon,” a wonderful area full of towering red rocks and home to a few excellent (and little traveled) hiking trails.

Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min


Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min


There are roads leading towards the Park from several directions, and we poked our truck’s nose down a few to see what we’d find. After climbing for a long way, we were suddenly in the middle of an aspen grove.

Golden aspen Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

Aspen trees light up in fall!

The yellow trees were shedding their leaves in showers of gold, and we walked down a small road deep into the heart of the aspen grove, bewitched by the leaves swirling in the autumn breezes around us.

Yellow Aspen lane Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

An inviting road for a golden stroll…

We love aspen trees. There’s something about the way the leaves shimmer on the branches and the the way the white trunks grow in thick crowds, many adorned with little eyes, that we find very endearing.

Aspen Trees Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

White aspen tree trunks.

What better time for a selfie?!

Aspen Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min


We roamed around some more and came across an unexpected pond. The sky was alive with fantastic patterns of clouds high above.

Kolob Reservoir Zion National Park Utah-min


We started back down again and were enchanted by the golden glow of the fields of gently swaying grass.

Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

Kolob Canyon at Zion National Park

Kolob Canyons View Zion National Park Utah-min


We passed a rancher on horseback moving among his cattle. What a place to graze your herd!!

Cattle Drive Zion National Park Utah-min

Just another day at the office for this cowboy!

In the late afternoon light, the Kolob Canyon views were truly jaw dropping. I was very busy in the passenger’s seat snapping pics!

Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah-min

Kolob Canyon is knock-your-socks-off gorgeous!

Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah-min


Every bend in the road yielded another stunning image.

Kolob Canyons Drive Zion National Park Utah-min

These views kept my shutter finger very busy!!

Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah-min


Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah-min

Talk about a scenic drive!

Zion National Park is one of those places that offers layer upon layer of wonder and is worthy of much leisurely wandering.

Hiking Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min


We thought we’d “been there and done that” years ago on a tent camping trip when we zipped through Zion on our way from Grand Canyon to Bryce Canyon. On our next visit during our first year of full-timing we saw just a little bit more. Finally, on our RV trip to Zion last year, we hung around the area long enough to start exploring the nooks and crannies in depth.

Yet we still haven’t done any of the iconic hikes that make Zion National Park so famous, so it is still rock solid in its position at the top of our bucket list of “must see” places!!

Zion National Park Kolob Canyons RV Trip-min

Zion National Park is worthy of many return RV trips!

When I was in Paris a few months ago, a new friend asked me if we still find new places to go even after ten years of traveling around North America full-time. I had to laugh because we still feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface of seeing anything.

What a beautiful life we are blessed to be living that we can go back to a place like Zion National Park again and again and still find ourselves awe-struck by the scenery and curious to find out what lies around the next bend.

Full moon Zion National Park Utah RV trip-min

A nearly full moon rises at Zion National Park.

Never miss a post — it’s free!

More info about Zion National Park:

Blog posts from our RV trips to Zion National Park:

Blog posts from the area near Zion National Park:

Blog posts from all our travels to National Parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites in North America

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff and check out our GEAR STORE!!

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