Hiking the “Pig Trails” in Sedona, AZ – Breathtaking! (oink oink!)

May 2019 – The hiking trails in the area around Sedona, Arizona, are so spectacular that they are worth many return visits. The thing is, the trails never look the same because the views and the air and the feeling change as the weather changes.

Sedona Arizona Pig Trail Hikes in red rocks on an RV trip-min

The hikes in Sedona’s red rocks are glorious in any weather.
Here dark clouds loom over the views from the “Pig Trails” hikes.

We decided to explore the trail system that is known collectively as the Broken Arrow system, and specifically within that system we wanted to see what could be seen from the various Pig Trails.

The what?

Well, whoever named these hikes must have seen a lot of javelina rooting around here, because quite a few hikes have pig-related names.

Javelina (pronounced “have-a-leena” despite being spelled a bit like the Greek throwing spear) are not pigs at all, but they have a piggish look about them from snout to tail.

They eat prickly pear cactus pads (ouch!) and leave very fibrous poops behind.

Dead tree and red rocks in Sedona Arizona-min

A dead tree and dark skies — what a delicious morning on the trail in Sedona!

So, the trails we wandered around on had names like “Pig Tail Trail,” “Hog Wash,” “Peccary,” and “Hog Heaven.” How funny!

We got started on our hike a little before 6:00 in the morning on a blustery and overcast day, and the trail was damp from rainfall the night before. We breathed deeply in the crisp fresh air.

I especially loved the smell of the wet creosote bushes. It is a pungent smell that somehow evokes the essence of the southwestern desert for me. That unique creosote smell is especially thick in the Phoenix area during “Monsoon Season” in the summertime.

Buddy didn’t say anything about the smell of the wet creosote leaves, but he barreled around the corners in sheer delight.

Puppy runs on hiking trail-min

Buddy flies around a corner to tell me what’s up ahead!

There was a little archway between the trees on the trail, and we took some fun pics of each other with the red rock spires in the distance.

On the hiking trail in Sedona Arizona-min

Two Happy hikers.

Another happy hiker!

The gloomy clouds made the views particularly dramatic, and with each turn in the trail we got a different glimpse of the distant spires in a natural frame.

Sedona Arizona red rock pinnacles with storm clouds-min

Distant red rock spires framed by dark clouds and darker hills.

As an aside, we just saw the article I wrote that offers a few of our photography tips in the June 2019 issue of Trailer Life Magazine, and it is truly eye-popping.

The editors kindly set aside six full pages for the article — all without ads — and called it, “Shoot to Thrill.” How perfect!

Some of our favorite pics appear in the article along with some notes about things we think about when we take photos in our travels.

I don’t know if they’ll eventually post the article on their website or not, but for those who subscribe to the magazine, please keep an eye out for it! The article talks about framing, among many other things that are all very straight forwar, even with a smartphone camera, and we used an example of the framing technique from Arches National Park since we hadn’t yet taken these photos in Sedona!

Red rock pinnacles with storm clouds Sedona Arizona-min

We kept seeing these cool framed images as we hiked.

Sedona Arizona red rock spire-min

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As we rounded a bend, the trees that had been partially blocking our view disappeared and our jaws dropped as we looked out at the fabulous stormy sky hovering over the red rock peaks.

Sedona Arizona red rock view with stormy sky and puppy-min

Wow!

Sedona Arizona red rock view-min

Will the storm clouds break?

Suddenly, we heard a clap of thunder in the distance. Uh oh! That was it for hiking! We hightailed it outta there and ran for the safety of a coffee shop in town where we enjoyed a latte and a muffin while it rained.

Storm clouds over Sedona Arizona-min

The storm clouds got darker and then thunder sent us scurrying off the trail!

Storm clouds continued to swirl around the Sedona area and dump rain now and then for a few days. One afternoon we saw the most amazing cloud form over our rig.

Fifth wheel RV under storm clouds in Arizona-min

What a cloud!

Then the sun set in brilliant color right over some blooming cactus flowers.

Cactus flowers at sunset-min

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Sunset with cactus flowers Sedona Arizona-min

Cactus flowers give the sunset a nod.

While the skies did the wild thing above us, we spotted some spring wildflowers blooming at our feet. Beautiful!

Pretty wildflowers Sedona Arizona-min

More pretty wildflowers.

Red cactus flowers-min

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When we were out and about around town we saw some gorgeous views as the skies slowly cleared. That’s the unusual thing about this area: even driving around town you’ll see awe-inspiring views!

Red rock views Courthouse Butte Sedona Arizona-min

As the storms began to give way, we saw some gorgeous view around town.

We decided to check out the pig-related hiking trails once again on another morning, and this time, as day dawned out on the trail, there was sun in the sky.

What a difference that made. The subtle coloration on the distant peaks became washed out and the sky was a beautiful blue but not too exciting, so our focus shifted a bit.

We quickly teached the point where we had turned around before and kept going to see what was ahead.

Puppy playing in the red rocks-min

We hit the Pig Trails on a sunny day and the features that captivated us were completely different!

We came to an open area in the trail where we could prowl around on huge wide flat rocks. Buddy sat down to take it all in and wait to find out what was next on our hiking agenda.

Puppy in the red rocks of Sedona Arizona-min

Buddy takes a break and enjoys the view.

The rain had created puddles in places where there probably aren’t any most of the time. There was a narrow ribbon of a stream flowing along a crevice in the rocks.

Sedona Arizona hikes are great for photography-min

Our focus shifted from the distant views to the trickle of water and puddles near our feet!

Mark spotted me with my reflection, and after yelling to me to stand still so he could get a pic, we both started to look around for reflection images. You have to get low for these. Buddy is already low, so he helped out in the search.

Red rock reflections in Sedona Arizona hike-min

Seeing my reflection, Mark gave us both an idea to look for other reflections in a cluster of small puddles!

Photo op in Sedona Arizona on Hog Heaven trail-min

Buddy kept an eye out for lizards while we scouted for reflection images!

Wow, what fantastic reflections we found! For my birthday a few months ago, Mark had given me a Nikon 12-24mm wide angle lens, and this jewel of a lens creates jewel-like images!

Red rock reflections Hog Heaven hiking trail Sedona Arizona-min

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Reflected Red Rocks in Sedona Arizona on Hog Heaven hike-min

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Of course, sometimes just as I get a cool shot lined up it gets photo-bombed by our four-legged friend.

Red Rocks in Sedona Arizona on Hog Heaven hike-min

Oops! Photo bomb!

The little puddles made some beautiful images and an hour quickly passed while we crawled around on our hands and knees peering at the distant red rocks with our faces and cameras just above the water.

Puppy leaps across the red rocks-min

We loved crawling around these shallow puddles, and so did our furry friend.

Puddle reflections in Sedona Arizona on Hog Heaven trail-min

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Interestingly, we ended up on this trail a few days later and the puddles were all but gone!

Mountain bikers love riding the trails in the Broken Arrow system, no doubt because they are very challenging! In some sections you ride on an exposed sandstone ledge — not for the faint of heart!

Fortunately, we had hit the trail so early in the morning that we didn’t see a soul until the final few hundred yards when a mountain biker approached.

Mountain biker in Sedona Arizona-min

At the very end of our hike we saw the first person on the trail — a mountain biker!

We’ve begun to realize that if you are lucky enough to get to Sedona, Arizona, whether with an RV or without one, you can’t go wrong on any of the hiking trails.

Some trails have funny piggy names while others are named for features in the landscape, but either way, they are all fabulous and they are all worth doing!

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Top Sedona AZ Hikes: Little Horse to Chicken Point + Templeton Trail (Cathedral Rock)!

May 2019 – Sedona, Arizona, is a hiking and biking paradise, and during our stay we set our alarm for an early hour on many mornings so we could hit the hiking trails before the crowds.

The National Forest surrounding the Sedona area is filled with a fabulous network of trails, and each morning we started at a different trailhead to explore and experience the beauty for a few hours.

Best Sedona Arizona Hikes Little Horse Trail Cathedral Rock Trail-min

Two great hikes in Sedona Arizona:
Little Horse to Chicken Point and Templeton Trail around Cathedral Rock.

The Little Horse trailhead lies a few miles south of downtown Sedona and made a wonderful jumping off point to get into the incredible red rock views, but we weren’t sure at first if this trail would look its best as the sun rose.

Little Horse Trail Sedona Arizona Hike-min

An early morning hike on Sedona’s Little Horse Trail

The trail wandered east through scrubby woods for a while and the red rock formations ahead of us were backlit as the sun rose, so it seemed we wouldn’t get the spectacular images that Sedona is famous for.

However, the red rock slabs and sand under foot made a great canvas for playing shadow puppets once the sun rose a little way. We looked down off a ledge and saw a cartoon caricature of ourselves!

Playing with shadows during a red rock hike in Sedona Arizona

Who’s that down there?!

Cactus flowers were blooming everywhere. Most were pink or yellow, but as we turned a corner we found a gorgeous clump of red ones.

Red cactus flowers Little Horse Trail Sedona Arizona Hike-min

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Above them rose an equally stunning clump of red rock spires!

Cactus flowers on Little Horse Trail Sedona Arizona Hike to Chicken Point Overlook-min

A beautiful bouquet of red cactus flowers
against a regal red rock backdrop

The Little Horse trail goes to the Chicken Point Overllook, and when the trail opened up at this glorious spot it seemed like the views went on forever.

View from Chicken Point Overlook Sedona Arizona Hike-min

View from Chicken Point Overlook

Chicken Point Overlook view Sedona Arizona Hike-min

Chicken Point is the glorious highlight of several trails

Chicken Point Overlook is one of the most popular destinations in the Sedona area, but for 20 minutes we had the whole place entirely to ourselves because it was still very early in the morning. We wandered all around the massive red rock slabs taking photos.

Patterns in the rocks Chicken Point Overlook Sedona Arizona Hike-min

Without a soul in sight we lined up all kinds of interesting images

Suddenly, as I lined up a shot, a pink jeep on the first Pink Jeep Tour of the day on the Broken Arrow Trail appeared out of nowhere. The driver backed the jeep up to a precipice and teased the passengers in the far back seat who were perched right over the edge.

Pink Jeep Tour Broken Arrow Sedona Arizona-min

The first Pink Jeep tour of the day rolls into view.

Within minutes two more pink Jeeps were parked nearby and the place was crawling with excited tourists.

On another morning we set out on the Cathedral Rock trail in the early morning hours. This trail climbs up a series of stair steps from the Cathedral Rock trailhead and delivers you to the base of Cathedral Rock where there is a fabulous view of Nature’s wondrous cathedral and of the surrounding landscapes as well. At this point the trail intersects with the Templeton Trail.

Dawn on the hiking trail Sedona Arizona-min

A beautiful day dawns

Again, our early start put us on the trail two hours before anyone else, and when we arrived at the wide “slickrock” slabs in front of Cathedral Rock we had acres and acres of red rock playground to ourselves.

When I saw the sun beginning to light up the spires on Cathedral Rock I frantically hunted around for a beautiful foreground to go with it. I couldn’t find anything handy right away, but then I noticed Buddy sitting right in front of me, perched perfectly still as he watched Mark in the distance. Nice!

Puppy in front of Cathedral Rock Sedona Arizona Templeton Hike

Puppy Chow made a lovely foreground when the sun suddenly lit up Cathedral Rock

As the sun glowed on Cathedral Rock I continued hunting and finally stumbled on a gorgeous bed of delicate lavender flowers.

Flowers and puppy at Cathdedral Rock Templeton Hike Sedona Arizona-min

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The air was very chilly, and balloon enthusiasts in the distance were taking advantage of the cool air to fly their balloons. One rose over the landscape. What a wonderful way to enjoy Sedona’s incomparable views by floating just slightly above the land in silence except for the occasional noise of the heater to heat the air in the balloon.

Balloons rise over red rocks in Sedona Arizona-min

A balloon soars on the morning thermals in the distance

We followed the Templeton Trail to the east around the base of Cathedral Rock. The trail took us into the woods where we had lovely views through the trees.

Dawn on Templeton Trail hiking in Sedona Arizona-min

Morning light on the Templeton Trail

After about a mile and a half we turned around. Now the red rock landscape was bathed in beautiful bright sunshine and the air was delightfully warm.

Templeton Trail Hike Sedona Arizona-min

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Slilckrock section of Templeton Trail Hike to Cathedral Rock in Sedona Arizona-min

The Templeton Trail goes along a ribbon of flat sandstone at the bottom of Cathedral Rock.

Templeton Trail is a super popular mountain biking trail, and we rode it a few years ago. It is a challenging trail with lots of rocky obstacles, but the slickrock portion that goes around the base of Cathedral Rock is flat and smooth and fun.

We still hadn’t seen a soul on the trail, either hiking or on mountain bikes, even after two hours of hiking. We rounded a bend and Cathedral Rock soared back into view.

Templeton Trail Hike to Cathedral Rock Sedona Arizona-min

Cathedral Rock.

Hiking Cathedral Rock Trail in Sedona Arizona-min

Approaching Nature’s stunning cathedral

Templeton Trail Hike to Cathedral Rock in Sedona Arizona-min

What a place to hike!

An evening primrose in the shadow of a tree at Mark’s feet caught his eye, and a lovely blue flower dancing before the red rock cathedral caught mine.

Evening primrose on the hiking trail Sedona Arizona-min

Four white hearts with a pretty yellow center

Cathedral Rock and wildflowers in Sedona Arizona-min

Flowers bask in the sun in front of the cathedral

The patterns in the red rock slabs were wonderful. In some places the rock was stained with white and in others there were interesting cracks and crevices.

Red rock patterns and Cathedral Rock in Sedona Arizona-min

There are very cool patterns on the ground.

When we got back to the intersection of Templeton Trail and Cathedral Rock Trail we finally heard some distant voices. Hikers were coming up the trail from the trailhead parking lot.

When we met up with them they said they were going to head west on Templeton trail where it goes around the other side of Cathedral Rock and down towards Oak Creek. We’ll have to go that way next time!

Cathedral Rock Trail Sedona Arizona hike-min

We loved this hike and will do it again heading the other way!

Wildflowers on Cathedral Rock Trail in Sedona Arizona-min

Wildflowers lined the trail

We roamed around some more and found some wonderful puddles reflecting the beauty of Sedona.

Cathedral Rock reflections in Sedona Arizona-min

Mirror image in a puddle

Colorful reflections in the water-min

We just love these kinds of reflections

Reflections in the water Sedona Arizona-min

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Sedona, Arizona, is a nature lover’s paradise! If you haven’t been there, put it on your itinerary. If you have been there, then you know it’s worth many return trips!

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Brins Mesa Trail & Unexpected Delights in Sedona Arizona!

April 2019 – We’ve visited Sedona, Arizona, many times, not only as full-time RVers but also before we started this crazy lifestyle, back when we were living a workaday life and looking for a getaway vacation. The scenery around Sedona is absolutely stunning, and we are always thrilled by the beauty.

RV camping and hiking Brin Mesa Trail in Sedona Arizona

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Sedona is an outdoor lovers paradise, and whether hiking, mountain biking or off-road Jeep/ATV riding is your thing, there are hundreds of breathtaking trails crisscrossing the Coconino National Forest all around town.

Somehow, though, in all our visits to Sedona, we’ve never done many of the “signature” hikes. So on this trip we decided to check out Brins Mesa Trail, a top rated beauty that appears in many Sedona hiking trail lists.

Hiking trail Brins Mesa Trail Sedona Arizona-min

Buddy sniffs the start of the Brins Mesa Trail

Twenty years ago, Sedona was a small town, but today it is not only a huge sprawling community but it plays host to gazillions of tourists all year long. April is one of the most popular months to visit, so we knew that if we wanted to have any kind of solitude on the trail, we’d have to be up at the crack of dawn.

The air was cool when we started, and we were glad we always carry light wind breakers in our truck, because the heat wave that had swept the area lately had left us so hot the night before, it never occurred to us that it might be chilly at 6:00 a.m. when we started hiking. So, we’d arrived in shorts!

Brins Mesa Trail hike in Sedona Arizona-min

What a glorious start. The air was wonderfully crisp and clear — and cool!

Brins Mesa Trail is 3.6 miles long and goes between the Brins Mesa Trailhead at the northwest end and the Jordan Road Trailhead at the southeast end.

There are three trails that originate at Jordan Road Trailhead: Brins Mesa Trail, Cibola Pass Trail and Jim Thompson Trail. Brins Mesa Trail intersects with other trails along its route, so you can hike for miles and miles if you like.

Our plan was to hike out a ways from the Jordan Road Trailhead and then turn around and hike back. We hadn’t thought much about where the turnaround point would be and we hadn’t read about the trail, so we had no idea what to expect.

Hiking Brins Mesa Trail Sedona Arizona-min

We hit the trail at 6:05 a.m.

Ours was the first vehicle in the parking lot, and we had Brins Mesa Trail to ourselves. To our surprise, a runner passed us almost as soon as we started, but he quickly vanished ahead of us, and the only sounds we heard after that were chirping birds.

Buddy was in heaven and he ran in happy circles around us.

Puppy hikes the Brins Mesa Trail hike in Sedona Arizona-min

Buddy waits for us partway up a series of red rock stairs

The sun began to light the sky behind the craggy red cliffs on our right, and we climbed up a series of natural red rock stairs. The scenery was lovely.

Brins Mesa Trail Sedona Arizona hiking with puppy-min

Buddy checks in with Mark about the route.

Checking the view Brins Mesa Trail Sedona Arizona-min

This way.

At our feet we noticed little bouquets of flowers perched here and there as if Mother Nature had set out vases along the trail.

Yellow wildflowers Sedona Arizona-min

Wildflowers were blooming in delightful little bouquets along the trail.

White wildflowers Sedona Arizona-min

Mother Nature had taken some time to get her flower arranging just right.

A thorny cactus had a single flower on the end of one branch.

Cactus flower Sedona Arizona-min

A single cactus flower.

The trail opened up on the left side to a fabulous red rock mound that begged to be explored. We wandered around for quite some time, admiring the wide flat swoopy rocks that looked a little like dough overflowing a pan, and we poked our noses into the woods here and there too.

Suddenly, we realized we’d lost track of the trail. We conferred with each other and with Buddy about where we were and where the trail had disappeared to.

Buddy is a good listener, but when it comes to route finding, he’s top notch and we find it’s best if we do the listening!

Agave plant and puppy Sedona Arizona-min

Buddy listens well, but we listen to him too!

Navigating the Brins Mesa Trail Sedona Arizona-min

Buddy explains to Mark which way the route goes.

Brins Mesa Trail Sedona Arizona with puppy-min

“Hey you guys, it’s this way”

As we backtracked to the main trail, the sun crested the distant peaks and swept across the rocks all around us, transforming them from cool shade to warm sun in an instant. Mark caught a starburst through a hole in the branch of a dead tree.

Starburst sunrise Brins Mesa Trail hike Sedona Arizona-min

A ray of golden sun.

Sunshine warmed the trail ahead of us and lit the distant peaks.

Hiking Brins Mesa Trail Sedona Arizona-min

Sunshine warms Brins Mesa Trail

We decided we’d gone far enough, even though it was just 1.2 miles or so, and we started back down to the trailhead. We knew there were some great 360 degree views somewhere, but the day was heating up and we weren’t sure how much further we had to go to see them.

Brins Mesa Trail Sedona Arizona hike-min

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As we hiked back, we met five or six couples coming up the trail from the trailhead, and we discovered from one couple who does this hike often that if we’d gone just another quarter mile we would have seen the fabulous views. Oh well — next time (and maybe we’ll do it in the afternoon when the cliffs to the east aren’t backlit)!

When we got back to the parking lot it was around 8:00 a.m. there were only two or three parking spaces left. We were glad we’d gone early. What a lovely morning walk that was!

Views on Brins Mesa Trail Sedona Arizona-min

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This visit to Sedona was also the first time we’d had our off-road buggy to take us on motor vehicle-friendly trails to remote spots.

Polaris RZR in Sedona Arizona sunset-min

The sun sets in splendor after a fun day of RZR riding.

We bought the RZR and began triple-towing with it hitched behind our fifth wheel because we wanted to get further into remote areas that we couldn’t easily reach by mountain bike or with our truck. And sure enough, it took us to a hidden jewel on this trip to Sedona.

We took the RZR on a joy ride through some rather boring flat countryside and rode it to the end of a road where a sign stopped us: “No motorized vehicles beyond this point.” We noticed the trail continued, though, so we hopped out and hiked a little further on a woodsy trail.

As we turned a corner, we suddenly heard the trickle of water ahead of us, and then we found ourselves in the middle of a little desert oasis!

Reflections in the water Sedona Arizona-min

Buddy admires the colorful reflections in a surprise little watering hole.

Water reflections Sedona Arizona-min

Glassy water reflects the red rocks.

We arrived at the golden hour in the late afternoon when the red rock cliffs, blue sky and green trees were reflecting in the mirror-like water. Our jaws dropped. What a fabulous surprise!

Water reflections Sedona Arizona-min

We were astonished by this fun little discovery.

Reflections at Sediba Arizona-min

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Water reflections Sedona Arizona-min

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Sedona has quite a few creeks and springs, and there are beautiful hikes to reach them. We loved hiking the West Fork Trail and doing The Crack at Wet Beaver Creek hike. Both hikes led to gorgeous oases in the red rock desert.

Sedona Arizona water reflections-min

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Sedona Arizona reflections in the water-min

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The afternoon was downright summery with a high temp in the high 80s, and that water in front of us was just too tempting not to jump in! Mark took off his shirt and tip-toed in. “Brrrr!” He shouted as he splashed his hands in the water. “It’s COLD!”

But it didn’t take long for his legs to numb up so he could go in the rest of the way!

Swimming hole Sedona Arizona-min

“Come on in, the water’s fine!”

Swimming at Sedona Arizona-min

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I finally put down my camera and joined him!

Buddy waded along the edges of the water, got a big drink, and then leapt back on the rocky shore to chase lizards.

The heat wave in the Sedona area brought fabulous stormy skies each afternoon with Arizona-monsoon-like clouds. The sunsets were just divine.

Sunset on a dirt road in Sedona Arizona-min

A classic Arizona sunset over a lonely stretch of road.

We had planned to stick around the area for two weeks or so, but the heat was getting intense and the winds began to pick, making the dust fly. So, our planned list of things to do in Sedona will probably have to be shelved until our next visit!

RV camping Sedona Arizona-min

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Spring Has Sprung! – Sweet Days at Roosevelt Lake, Arizona

April 2019 – The travel stories on this blog often present the fantastic new discoveries we’ve made in our travels, but sometimes our life on the road progresses uneventfully. And so it has these past weeks.

Revisiting and staying in a place we know know and love, we’ve found that each day has slipped into the next without fanfare or breathtaking thrills. Life has been moving at a sweet and gentle pace!

Sunset in eastern Arizona-min

Sunset in eastern Arizona.

RV fifth wheel trailer under the stars-min

Camping under the stars.

After exploring a little bit of eastern Arizona, we made our way to Roosevelt Lake where Spring was in full bloom.

Roosevelt Lake Arizona-min

Roosevelt Lake

The water level in the lake had been at 49% when we’d visited in January, and was shockingly low. Many former coves and bays had been filled with trees.

Now the lake had swollen to 84% of full volume and showed few signs of slowing down. Lots of hiking trails and dirt roads we’d explored in January were now under 20′ of water!

Arizona Roosevelt Lake-min

Swollen banks and submerged trees!

Roosevelt Lake is the first lake in the chain of dammed lakes in the Salt River as it flows downstream, so this fast rise in the lake’s water level was due to rain and snow-melt upstream rather than the simple opening of floodgates in a dam. How wonderful to see the desert get such a nice big drink from Mother Nature!

Yellow wildflowers at Roosevelt Lake Arizona-min

Yellow flowers dance above the shores of Roosevelt Lake

Yellow, pink and purple wildflowers were in bloom in every nook and cranny of the desert. They craned their faces towards the sun. Some of the cactus varieties had begun to bloom too. Their flowers were big and vibrant, bursting out of the nasty thorny cactus arms in a gorgeous display. It was as if Nature were saying through these blossoms, “Never judge a book by its cover!”

Cactus flowers in Arizona Spring-min

The prickliest cactus bear the most beautiful flowers.

Cactus flowers in Spring in Arizona-min

For the 50 weeks a year that these flowers aren’t blooming you’d never guess what those other 2 weeks are like!

We took our new little RZR out on the roads through the desert to see if we could find more flowers. It wasn’t hard!

Polaris RZR with lupine wildflowers in Arizona-min

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Every now and then we’d get a whiff of a flowery fragrance wafting through the air. Buddy rode with his nose twitching eagerly.

Puppy sniffs the breeze in Polaris RZR-min

Buddy sniffs the air as we drive in the RZR.

For some reason some of the best wildflower displays seem to be along the edges of big paved roads and surrounding parking lots. We found some glorious bunches of flowers in and around Tonto National Monument.

Wildflowers in Arizona spring-min

The wildflowers were most plentiful along the paved highways!

Wildflowers in Arizona-min

And around Tonto National Monument too!

A few years ago we’d visited the Boyce Thompson Arboretum which specializes in Sonoran Desert plants, but the flowers blooming in the parking lot had soaked up all our energy and after two hours of roaming around the parking lot and filling our cameras with photos we’d had almost no energy left to see whatever was on display inside the Arboretum!

So it was here. Tonto National Monument has a delightful picnic area that is rarely used, but the wildflowers around the artfully situated picnic ramadas are lovely!

Wildflowers in Arizona-min

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Wildflowers in Arizona-min

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We couldn’t get over the rise in the lake’s water level, and we wandered down to the water’s edge many times to monitor its progress as it rose each day. Sunny hot days soon gave way to blustery cold days. The waves took on a menacing look and the patterns in the sky were beautiful as the dark clouds raced across the heavens.

Waves at Roosevelt Lake Arizona-min

Wind whipped the waves on the shore.

Curvy tree trunk and swirling cloud-min

An unusual curvy cloud and tree trunk.

Polaris RZR

Storm clouds by the shore.

Every single boat ramp around the lake was open, something we haven’t seen in years, and along with that, many campground loops near the boat ramps that had been closed for a long time were now open as well.

The flip side of that, though, was that one of the lowest lying boat ramps — the one that never has to close, even when the lake level drops super low — was almost completely submerged.

Submerged dock and boat ramp at Roosevelt Lake-min

Not only did you have to walk uphill onto the floating dock, the entire boat ramp was under water (left),
all the way up to the tippy top!

Mark drove the RZR through the water at the top of the boat ramp and had fun making waves.

Polaris RZR driving through water in Arizona-min

Mark had fun splashing in the water at the top of the boat ramp.

Polaris RZR leaves a wake in the water at an Arizona boat ramp-min

Weeee!

As Easter Weekend approached, more and more people came out to enjoy the lake. Hundreds of boats filled the parking lots and fishermen were eagerly casting.

Fishing at Roosevelt Lake-min

The anglers were out in droves, both on shore and in fishing boats.

Buddy’s favorite part of these peaceful days was lizard hunting. His preferred method of going after these lightning fast creatures is to leap in the air and pounce. We spent many happy hours watching him and trying to catch him in the act on our cameras. But it’s not so easy!

Puppy jumping in the lupine in Arizona-min

Leaping for lizards!

Puppy jumping in the wildflowers in Arizona-min

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While he chased the lizards and occasional jack rabbits we savored the brilliant colors of spring.

Pink Wildflowers in Arizona-min

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Wildflowers in Arizona-min

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Delicate wildflower in Arizona-min

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Arizona wildflowers

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Pink and yellow wildflowers in Arizona-min

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One evening the sky gave us an especially dramatic sunset. Above the horizon a huge cloud swirled and rolled over and around itself like a ball of pink cotton candy in the sky.

Sunset at Roosevelt Lake Arizona-min

Cotton candy!

Sunset across the lake brought some lovely reflections.

Sunset over Four Peaks Arizona-min

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And a full moon rose over the desert.

Full moonrise at dusk in Arizona-min

Full moon rising

Sometimes the best times in our travels are the quiet languid days when we slow down and bask in a beloved place once again!

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Black Hills Back Country Byway – Spring Flowers in Arizona!

April 2019 – After our quick trip to southeastern Utah to photograph the red rocks and fantastic rock formations, we took our RV back down south to eastern Arizona. Leaving Utah’s chilly late winter air behind us, we found Spring was in full bloom in the Arizona desert.

RV Camping in eastern Arizona

Exploring Arizona’s Black Hills National Back Country Byway.


The most extraordinary display of wildflowers covered the hillsides at the base of the Salt River Canyon, and we can’t recommend highly enough making a trek there to see the flowing blankets of yellow poppies and purple lupine that ripple between the towering canyon walls at the peak of spring.

Unfortunately, now that we drive The Train, we weren’t able to stop and savor the views. The pullouts are plenty big enough for a rig like ours if it’s the only thing parked there, but each one was filled with cars and happily gawking tourists who were gazing at the wonder.

Next time!

Wildflowers and puppy with mountains in Arizona-min

Buddy romps in a blanket of wildflowers.

But once we set up camp, our RZR got us out into the desert and we saw some beautiful wildflowers.

Mountains with wildflowers as far as the eye can see in Arizona-min

Spring flowers! (Sneeze!)

One day we decided to take the RZR on the Black Hills National Back Country Byway, a dirt road that was first built by settlers in the 1800s as a route connecting the flat farmlands around Safford with the mining communities in the hills around Morenci.

Black Hills Back Country Byway Plaque-min

There are picnic areas and plaques explaining the local history along the Black Hills Back Country Byway.
After Buddy was done reading the plaque, he rested in the cool shade below it.

This dirt road is about 21 miles long and it winds up into the junipers and back down into the desert on its journey.

RZR on Black Hills Back Country Byway Arizona-min

Black Hills Back Country Byway

Black Hills Back Country Byway in Arizona

Arizona’s Black Hills Back Country Byway

The views were very nice, but what caught our attention were the many different kinds of wildflowers tucked into nooks and crannies here and there.

Lavender wildflowers Arizona-min

Delicate and sweet.

Bud and flower in Arizona-min

Before and After (if you can believe it!).

Arizona wildflowers-min

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Purple Arizona wildflower-min

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Big pink flowers in Arizona-min

These things are huge and were in bloom all over the place.

From tiny purple flowers wriggling in the breeze to pretty yellow poppies dancing in the sunlight, we saw all kinds of flowers brightening this otherwise relatively drab landscape.

Yellow desert poppies in Arizona-min

Yellow desert poppies.

Fuzzy leaves with Arizona wildflowers-min

Fuzzy leaves and pretty blossoms.

Purple Arizona wildflowers-min

So cheery!

Wildflowers in Arizona-min

Little pink stars.

Desert daisies in Arizona-min

Desert daisies.

White dandelions in Arizona-min

Surely in the dandelion family!

The fun thing about doing this drive with the RZR is it was easy to hop in and out of it every few miles to poke around and take pics. It was a balmy Thursday, and in our three hours on the road (we go slowly!) we saw only one other vehicle, a motorcycle.

Puppy sniffs wildflowers in Arizona-min

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Buddy sniffed the flowers now and then, but he was more interested in the little critters that make this area home. We had seen two red-headed bugs with antennae flying while linked together. It was spring, and they were doing what the birds and the bees tend to do in springtime!

Then I noticed a patch of purple flowers that was loaded with these red headed bugs!

Bug in the wildflowers in Arizona-min

A bush full of purple flowers was also full of red-headed bugs!

Buddy has discovered the joys of lizard hunting, and he chased quite a few on our excursion. He loves the chase, and on rare occasions he actually catches up to one too. They’re clever though, and they play dead to make him stop chasing!

Lizard with colorful belly Arizona-min

A lizard plays dead at Buddy’s feet.

Lizard in Arizona-min

Buddy found this guy who was actually already quite dead and stiff!

There are several picnic areas along this route with views that look out into the hills. These rest areas have picnic tables and ramadas covered with copper roofs and lots of information about the history of the area.

Black Hills Back Country Byway Phelps Dodge Copper Mine Overlook-min

Black Hills Back Country Byway at the Phelps Dodge Copper Mine Overlook

One of the most amazing views is of the Phelps Dodge copper mine in Clifton-Morenci. This is one of the largest copper mines in the world and has been extracting copper from the hills for almost 150 years.

Phelps Dodge copper mine in Clifton-Morenci Arizona-min

The Phelps Dodge copper mine in Morenci Arizona has been extracting copper since 1872.

Arizona schoolkids learn that Arizona is known for the five C’s – Cattle, Copper, Cotton, Climate and Citrus. We saw two of the C’s together while driving the Black Hills Back Country Byway!

Cow and Copper Mine in Arizona-min

Two of Arizona’s “Five C’s” in one photo – Cattle and Copper!

At the mine overlook there were several big boulders with copper embedded in them along with detailed descriptions of how the copper is extracted.

Copper in a boulder-min

Copper waiting to be extracted. It looks a little like lichen!

It was fun at another point on this drive to see tall red penstemon flowers against the backdrop of a boulder filled with lichen.

Penstemon and lichen_-min

Pensetemon flowers with a lichen covered boulder in the background.

Another thing Arizona is known for is sunsets. The word doesn’t start with a C, but reliably dramatic sunsets definitely make Arizona a very a special place!

Gorgeous Arizona sunset-min

The sunsets in Arizona are hard to beat!

Sunset at Roosevelt Lake Arizona-min

Lakeside sunset overlooking Four Peaks.

Flower Power in Arizona-min

Flower Power!

As we’ve continued experimenting with triple towing, we’ve learned a few more things in recent weeks. One of the attractions of a toy hauler is the very cool back patio deck most have, and I’ve been drawn to several units that had side patios too.

Well, one afternoon I looked at our utility trailer and realized it would make a wonderful little raised patio!

If the rig is positioned right, the whole rear wall of the trailer can shade the patio, and by being up off the ground you don’t get that bitter cold breeze from under the trailer that you do when you hang out on camp chairs at ground level.

RV triple tow utility trailer patio deck-min

The utility trailer makes a nifty raised patio!

Triple tow patio deck-min

A nice spot to share a sundowner… at the risk of someone saying:
“You know you’re a redneck when your back patio is a trailer!”

Another thing we’ve learned is that when you make a super tight turn, depending on the design of the utility trailer, it may be possible for a front corner of the utility trailer to make contact with the back of the fifth wheel trailer.

So, if you are getting set up to triple tow, you might consider taking your rig to a huge and vacant parking lot to try a few slow sharp u-turns to see just how tightly your rig can turn before contact is made between the two trailers.

RV camping in the Arizona desert at sunset

Sunset in Arizona

Arizona is a beautiful state and we’re looking forward to watching Springtime continue to unfold here.

Puppy silhouette at sunset-min

A yawn at sunset.

Arizona starry sky-min

“Blue moon…You saw me standing alone…”

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SE Utah – A Mars Colony, Wide-Angle Photography & Snowy Mountains!

March 2019 – We arrived in southeastern Utah just as snow flurries were abating. It was unseasonably cold, but at twilight the Henry Mountains were utterly radiant, a visual gift that was a happy exchange for having to run around in hats and mittens in mid-March!

Henry Mountains Utah at dusk-min

Henry Mountains at dusk

We snuck out at the first light of dawn and found the red rocks were glowing with an inner beauty.

Utah Red rocks glow in early morning light-min

Radiant red rocks at dawn

When a thick blanket of clouds filled the sky and chased the sun away for a few days, we could see the myriad of colors that are hidden in many of the exotic rock formations.

Colorful rocks in Utah-min

Lots of earth tone colors in the rocks

Off in the distance the classic desert mesas led the way to the horizon in receding layers.

Layered mesas in Utah-min

Mesas on the horizon

An excursion to the Dirty Devil River revealed an immense canyon reminiscent of tributaries within the Grand Canyon.

Dirty Devil River and canyon-min

Dirty Devil River and Canyon

We got a few sunny days, and with the ground still damp from the recent rains, we enjoyed some dust-free rides on our Polaris RZR.

Polaris RZR and puppy with driver in Utah-min

“Are we going for a ride? Yippee!”

Puppy and Polaris RZR in Utah-min

“I want to run alongside for a while.”

These UTV rides took us into the back country of Southeastern Utah where we went from one jaw dropping landscape to another. In some places the desert was flat and wide with immense jagged boulders balancing on the soft soil here and there.

Rock formations in Utah-min

It’s easy to get lost in these rocks!

In other places vividly striped mounds formed a gently rolling landscape.

Puppy explores striped red rock dunes-min

Buddy checks out the rounded mounds of purple, pink and deep brown rocks

Snow capped mountains and purple striped red rocks in Utah-min

Moonscape

“It feels like we’re on another planet!” We kept saying to each other!

This land is so photogenic it’s hard not to take a photo with every step. And it is so whimsical and cheery you just have to strike a pose in a lot of shots too!

Rock formations in Utah-min

Buddy watches Mark pose praising the heavens under a jagged spire.

Utah’s breathtaking and otherworldly landscapes are beloved worldwide, and lots of folks from all over the place come to visit in large numbers between Spring and Fall.

Purple striped red rocks in Utah-min

A huge labyrinth of a layer cake.

When we arrived in Hanksville, a massive and sweeping public land bill had just become Federal law with enthusiastic support from almost everyone in Congress.

We hadn’t known anything about it, but as we talked with the locals we soon discovered they weren’t too pleased. They were frustrated that motorized and mechanized vehicle access to some of the most popular places nearby will be prohibited because they’ll be designated “Wilderness” areas. Also, the locals hadn’t been notified of the bill until three days before it was voted on, so their views were never heard.

With those conversations still ringing in our ears, we were astonished to take our RZR around a corner on a well trodden road on the Bureau of Land Management’s vast square miles of open public land and suddenly see a sign planted in the ground that said:

“The Mars Society. Private Property. No Entry Please.”

Mars Desert Research Station Utah-min

Mars…or BLM land in Utah?

We stood by the sign and stared at the buildings lined up against the striped red rock mounds in the distance. There was a collection of what can only be described as Mars Pods along with a large solar panel array installed on the ground nearby.

We looked at each other in amazement. What in the world was this?

Mars Desert Research Station Utah-min

A Mars colony

We heard voices yelling in the distance and saw the door of the main pod opening and closing repeatedly as young, energetic people ran in and out the door. The yelling didn’t sound like English.

I cupped my hand to my ear to see if I could figure out the language they were speaking, but I couldn’t tell. My first guess was Spanish, and then I thought I heard some French.

Main Pod Mars Desert Research Station Utah-min

There was lots of commotion in a foreign language.

Suddenly, a side-by-side four wheeler came driving out from the pods towards us. There was no engine noise. It looked to be a Polaris Ranger UTV that had been converted to run on an electric engine.

Then two more Mars Rover side-by-sides appeared behind it.

The three vehicles zoomed passed us in a flash and disappeared down the road. One had the word “Opportunity” across the front hood, and they all had a pair of young folks in the seats.

Mars colonizers at Mars Desert Research Station Utah-min

Three UTVs converted to electric engines zipped by

We decided to head into the compound and see if we could learn a little more about what this place was. Driving a short distance, we arrived at the main pod and were greeted by a friendly dog and a young man.

“What is this place?” I asked him.

“Private property.” He said with a strong accent.

“I thought this was BLM land. Public land.” I said.

“We’re borrowing it.” He told me.

Mars Desert Research Station-min

Mars Desert Research Station

I asked if he meant they were leasing the land from the BLM, rather than borrowing it, and he nodded, and then I asked where he and his friends were from, and he said Peru.

He went on to explain that international groups of kids visit this place on two week rotations to live in the Utah desert and drive around in electric UTVs so they can get the feeling of what it would be like to land in a desolate landscape on Mars and establish a human colony.

We later learned that one of their current tasks is to fly teams of 8 drones at a time over the Utah landscape to make digital image maps.

We also learned from some Utah Capitol Reef area tourist literature that describes this Mars colony that whenever the kids step out of the pods into the Utah landscape they are supposed to be wearing space suits just as they would on Mars.

Curiously, we did not see a single space suit on any of the kids going in and out of the pods or driving the UTVs across the desert. They were in street clothes and they looked no different than any other ATV/UTV owners who like to cruise around on dirt roads and go exploring.

Mars colony rovers in Utah-min

Future Mars colonists drive off into the desert in their UTVs to map the desert by flying teams of 8 drones at a time! Despite claims they wear space suits, they actually wore street clothes and looked no different than any other ATV/UTV group playing in the desert.

When we left, we saw a large sign on one of the building pods that said, “All funding by private donations. The Musk Foundation.”

The Musk Foundation-min

Major Sponsors (all funding via private donations)
The Musk Foundation

As I’ve said many times before, the public land debate is immense and complex and there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

We continued on our own little safari at a modest 18 mph down the dirt road, lost in our own thoughts.

Suddenly, a huge SUV came up behind us from the direction of the Mars colony at about 40 mph and swerved around us, narrowly missing the left side of our little open air buggy. The driver hadn’t beeped to let us know he was coming, and we were left in a cloud of dust.

Dust flies off fast car on Utah desert road-min

Yikes! That was close!

We had come Utah very early this spring to attend a photography workshop with Ian Plant that soon got underway. It was focused on how to take wide angle images that emphasize near-far contrasts.

This was fascinating to study, and we had some outstanding experiences both in the classroom and out in the field.

It will take us a while for us to master the techniques we learned, but we had a lot of fun starting to retrain our eyes to look for interesting patterns at our feet and combine them with interesting things in the distance.

Near-Far wide angle perspective-min

We practiced near-far compositions that go from the shapes at your feet to shapes on the horizon

Morning glow on Utah red rocks-min

More practice with some red rock hoodoos at dawn.

Utah pinnacle at sunrise-min

Early morning light envelops a distant pinnacle.

There are quite a few slot canyons in the area, and these proved to be wonderful for wide angle photography and playing with the shapes created by shafts of light.

Leprechaun Slot Canyon Utah-min

Beautiful light inside Leprechaun Canyon

At one point our instructor, Ian, walked towards Mark as he was taking a photo. The light hit Ian perfectly and suddenly he looked like he was receiving a message from God or being beamed up to the USS Enterprise!

Ghost in the light in a Utah slot canyon-min

The ghost of our instructor

Mark also got a fantastic selfie at a slot canyon opening.

Slot canyon in Utah-min

Mark took a selfie.

There are sand dunes in the area too. Talk about an other-worldy landscape!

Sand dunes in Utah-min

Maybe this really is Mars

After the workshop was over, the rain and snow returned. We watched in awe as banks of black clouds came in.

Incoming storm in Utah red rocks-min

An approaching storm

The snow-covered Henry Mountains were suddenly surrounded by swirls of clouds that changed shape with every passing minute.

Henry Mountains with snow panorama Utah-min

Clouds surrounded the Henry Mountains

Clouds over snow capped Henry Mountains in Utah-min

Late afternoon light on the clouds and snow on the Henries

Henry Mountains with snow and red rocks Utah-min

Snow-capped peaks above and red rocks below – Magic!

Snow and clouds on Henry Mountains in Utah-min

The mountain was whisked away by the clouds…!

Snow on Henry Mountains Utah-min

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There is so much to see in southeastern Utah that we feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface despite several return visits. We think we’re headed back south to Arizona now to finish up a few things there, but the lure of these exotic red rocks and spectacular vistas will probably keep us here a little while longer!

RV Camping in the Utah Red Rocks-min

Southeastern Utah is a beautiful area.

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Monument Valley & Hite Scenic Overlook – Stone Towers from Below & Above!

March 2019 – What with triple-towing and having a new Polaris RZR side-by-side these days, we had decided not to travel long distances in 2019. But when I got an email announcing that a photographer we admire, Ian Plant, was hosting a four day workshop in southeastern Utah, we decided to make a run for it and take our RV on a nearly 500 mile adventure ride past stunning scenery between Phoenix, Arizona, and the tiny village of Hanksville, Utah.

Monument Valley framed by Navajo jewelry stand-min

Monument Valley framed by a Navajo Jewelry stand.

After a crazy cold winter in the Arizona deserts, the temps had just started to warm up in the Phoenix area. But we we hightailed it north for Utah’s higher elevation (and colder) red rock and snowy mountain scenery anyway. Brrr!

What were we thinking?

Just as we crossed through the Navajo Nation into Monument Valley on the border of Utah, the navigation screen on our truck began to flash a Severe Winter Storm Warning for the area!

Monument Valley skyline RV trip-min

Monument Valley skyline

Despite (or because of) the incoming storm, the towering rock formations that form the gateway to Monument Valley stretched across the horizon in dramatic fashion, and we just had to get out and hike down one of the dirt roads to get a better look at them.

Puppy at Monument Valley Utah on RV trip-min

It was time to stretch our legs — whether we had four to stretch or just two.

The clouds intensified as we walked. Every once in a while the sun swept across the vast landscape with the dark storm clouds in hot pursuit. Um… in cold pursuit!! Over on the other horizon a row of red rock cliffs lit up as the sun brightened.

Red rocks in Utah with puppy-min

In another direction a line of red rock cliffs glowed for a brief moment in the distance.

Turning back towards the monuments we noticed a cool cloud had formed above them in the sky.

Monument Valley Utah at twilight with clouds-min

An unusual cloud drifts by in the sky.

We hopped back in our truck for another twenty miles or so and were pelted with rain. But when we turned the corner at Mexican Hat the rain abated just long enough for us to get out again and have a look around.

The Mexican Hat rock formation is very easy to spot!

Mexican Hat Utah

There’s no doubt how the town of Mexican Hat got its name!

Just south of Blanding, Utah, we turned west onto US-95, also known as the Bicentennial Highway, and plunged down lots of 8% to 10% switchbacks to the desert floor far below. This is a fantastic scenic drive that leaves our jaws agape every time we drive it. Even this time in the rain and fog — and snow in the mountains we were passing! — it was still a glorious drive.

How funny, though, in the middle of all that majestic scenery to see an old dilapidated Winnebago sitting in the middle of nowhere. Mark hit the brakes so he could run back for a shot!

Old Winnebago in Utah-min

It might be a little drafty sleeping in there!

Some of the best views on this drive are when it descends into Glen Canyon. I fondly remember how the first time we drove it I was so excited by the beauty that I sat in the window of the passenger’s seat snapping pics as Mark drove!

This time we were driving in rain and mist, but as we pulled into the Hite Scenic Overlook the sun made a valiant effort to push its way out from behind the heavy blankets of clouds.

Hite Overlook Utah-min

The Hite Scenic Overlook is well worth a stop.

The view from the overlook was out of this world.

Hite Overlook Lake Powell Glen Canyon Recreation Area RV trip-min

What a view. That is Lake Powell down there!

What a spot for photography!

Photography at Hite Overlook Glen Canyon Recreation Area Lake Powell-min

Mark sets up a shot of the valley (he’s on the far left side with Buddy!)

We hung around for several hours taking photos. We were standing on a peninsula with views in every direction, and the views went on forever.

The massive stone towers on the desert floor below us looked like they had strayed from Monument Valley.

And how amusing it was to look back at a blog post I wrote about this same area seven years ago and find that I took almost the exact same photo (in sunshine) when we were there!

Hite Overlook Glen Canyon Recreation Area Lake Powell Utah-min

I took almost this exact same photo 7 years ago!

The tiny ribbon of US-95 snaked around in front of the enormous stone towers.

Hite Overlook Glen Canyon Recreation Area Lake Powell RV trip-min

Dazzling scenery, even in mist and fog.

Even Buddy seemed to appreciate the view. He was very cautious looking down over the edge too, holding his weight back as he craned his neck forward to look down at the flat land below.

Puppy at Hite Overlook Glen Canyon Recreation Area Lake Powell RV trip-min

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Behind us a row of red rocks that stood cheek-by-jowel like city buildings overlapped snowcapped mountains in the distance.

Snowcapped mountains and red rock pinnacles Glen Canyon Lake Powell Utah-min

No wonder we were in jackets and hats — there were snowy mountains right there!

The skies finally began to clear and the last miles of the Bicentennial Highway were flanked with red rock cliffs as we approached the village of Hanksville.

Views on the Bicentennial Highway Utah RV trip-min

Once the rain cleared I got a few pics of the gorgeous winding road that is US-95
The Bicentennial Highway.

At Hanksville, the Bicentennial Highway joins up with Scenic Highway 24 which heads west into Capitol Reef National Park and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

All of the land in the lower half of Utah is spectacular beyond words.

Red rocks on the Bicentennial Highway Utah RV trip-min

Views on the Bicentennial Highway (US-95).

Hanksville is home to about 250 people, and its two gas stations, restaurants and motels are all clustered around the intersection of US-24 and US-95. Most of the back streets in town are dirt. We went exploring and came across the ruins of an old stone homestead. We learned later that this is part of the Giles Ghost Town.

Stone house window Wayne County Utah-min

Someone put some care into building this solid home.

Those stone walls were pretty thick!

Stone house ruins Wayne County Utah-min

This is part of the Giles Ghost Town

All around the area there were lots of exotic rock formations. Some formed beautiful patterns…

Red rock patterns in Utah-min

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And others made recognizable shapes!

Pinocchio in the rocks in Utah-min

Pinocchio!

Exploring the Utah desert-min

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We’ll be in this area for another week, improving our photography by day and fending off sub-freezing temps by night!

Sunrise on the Henry Mountains Utah

First light!

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Castle Hot Springs and Other AZ Treasures near Lake Pleasant

Thanks for the tips and empathy as I wrestled the latest WordPress editor to the ground. The WordPress Classic Editor plugin did the trick!

March 2019 – Our new little RZR adventure buggy has been giving us loads of fun in the Arizona desert, introducing us to lots of pretty places and even taking us there in the pre-dawn hours so we can catch the sunrise as it happens.

Castle Hot Springs and Lake Pleasant Arizona RV and RZR trip

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From lakes to streams to riverbeds and washes we’ve been seeing lots of new and beautiful places.

Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS with a cooler on the back-min

Ticket to great rides.

Cactus reflections Lake Pleasant Regional Park Arizona-min

Desert meets water.

Lake Pleasant Regional Park Arizona-min

Where the Agua Fria River (“Cold Water River”) became a manmade lake.

The triple towing is working out well, and we’ll have an article on that soon as we gather more photos. It is quite a train!

Fifth wheel RV triple tow with RZR on utility trailer-min

It’s not fully hitched up in this pic, but this is The Train!

Arizona has seen some crazy weather this winter with a huge snowstorm blowing through last week. Before the snow arrived we caught a glimpse of the full moon balanced on a cactus.

Full moon and saguaro cactus-min

A cactus catches the full moon as it sets.

But dark clouds and a rainbow in the distance signaled the storm that was to come. That evening’s sunset was out of this world!

Rainbow storm clouds Lake Pleasant Arizona

Rainbow and storm clouds over Pleasant Harbor.

Wild sunset Lake Pleasant AZ-min

A wild sunset before the storm.

The next morning there was snow on the mountains. Kids in the Phoenix schools had enough snow to make snowballs, and the mountains looked a lot more like Montana than Arizona!

Lake Pleasant RV Campgrounds Arizona-min

Is this the Arizona desert or somewhere far north?

Scorpion Bay Marina with snow on the mountains Lake Pleasant AZ-min

Snow on the mountains behind Scorpion Bay Marina

Lots of rain and a little snowmelt up north made the water level in Lake Pleasant begin to rise. What a surprise it was when we headed down one road and found the tide coming in!

Lake Pleasant high water covers road-min

The lake got so full it began to cover the roads!

One sunny warm day we took the RZR down Castle Hot Springs Road. This is a dirt road that goes off into remote parts of the Sonoran Desert between northwestern Phoenix and Wickenburg.

Side-by-side dirt trail Arizona-min

A spur off of Castle Hot Springs Road

This road can be driven with a regular passenger car, but it was especially fun in the open air RZR. The road heads past some beautiful craggy mountainsides that are covered with saguaro cacti. Just magnificent!

Sonoran-Desert-cliffs-with-saguaro-cactus-min

Beautiful desert scenery

Crazy cactus in Arizona-min

Crazy cactus!

Wild burros live out this way, and we saw a small group watching us closely when we hiked into the brush a ways.

Wild burros Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Wild burros

They wandered around but kept an eye on us as we approached them.

Wild burro Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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Wild burros Lake Pleasant Regional Park Arizona-min

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They weren’t sure what to make of Buddy, but when they’d decided he was close enough one gave chase and he ran as fast as his little legs could carry him.

Wild burro chases dog-min

Buddy loves to be chased and he was grinning ear to ear.

15 years ago, before we started RVing full-time we drove this same road in a car and stopped at the boarded up Castle Hot Springs resort to look around.

Castle Hot Springs first opened in 1896 for city folk and out of state visitors who wanted a genuine taste of the Sonoran Desert in a very remote setting. It was a high end resort and the owners had planted rows of Mexican palm trees all around it.

car in wash on Castle Hot Springs Road-min

Castle Hot Springs Road was under water in places, but it wasn’t too deep.

When we visited all those years ago the resort had been closed for quite some time. The palm trees were still tall and healthy and standing in rows, but the buildings were a little worse for wear. It seemed such a shame that a beautiful property like that would be left to disintegrate in the hot Arizona sun.

Well, much to our surprise, someone has bought it and is doing an unbelievable renovation. The whole thing is now enclosed behind a solid rock wall and an elegant front gate.

Castle Hot Springs entrance gate-min

Castle Hot Springs has been purchased and is in the last stages of an enormous renovation.

Castle Hot Springs entrance gate since 1896 Arizona-min

Castle Hot Springs was first opened in 1896

There is a lush green lawn and we could see the main lodge in the distance. It was a little funny to be blocked from accessing the building, because we had wandered all over the property before and remembered that yellow building well.

Castle Hot Springs Resort Arizona-min

Lush green lawns and elegant buildings.

The palm trees look fantastic and there is a sparkling swimming pool surrounded by lounge chairs and colorful umbrellas. Amazing!

Palm trees Castle Hot Springs Resort Arizona-min

The rows of palm trees were as beautiful as ever.

Palm trees and swimming pool Castle Hot Springs Resort Arizona-min

There’s a gorgeous pool back there.

A guard at the gate told us the property was purchased by the owner of Sun State Equipment, a construction equipment rental company. Just the right folks to buy a property that needed an overhaul!

And the price per night to stay here… Well… For the budget conscious there are rooms in the less fancy dwellings for $800 a night. If you aren’t so concerned about expenses, the upscale rooms go for $1,200 a night.

Main Lodge Castle Hot Springs Resort Arizona-min

Rooms are $800 to $1,200 a night, meals, guided hikes and other activities included.

The old barn is being turned into a restaurant. Construction on that hasn’t really started, but when it opens it will be open to the public. So, if you have a RZR (yes!) or if you don’t mind a long bumpy ride on a dirt road, you’ll be able to get a taste of the good life in the restaurant!

Of course, some guests come in by helicopter.

We got so busy in our conversation with the guard that we didn’t notice Buddy had already found his own way in. He stood on the other side of the gate staring at us as if to say, “What are you waiting for? Come on in!”

Castle Hot Springs Resort Arizona-min

“Never mind that guard. Let’s check out the resort!”

Unfortunately, without a room reservation we couldn’t get past the gate. So we jumped back in the RZR and continued on.

As we rode along we noticed a huge wash alongside the road. Curious, we just had to get out and explore. There was a trickle of water running in the middle of the wash and we saw some little footprints in the mud.

Desert wash with water in Arizona-min

We traipsed down this wash for a while.

Animal tracks in mud Arizona-min

Footprints from something that is probably very cute!

We loved the patterns the mud made as it flowed over the pebbles. It looked a lot like chocolate covered nuts of some kind!

Mud looks like chocolate-min

Mud…or chocolate covered nuts?

Back at Lake Pleasant we caught a few beautiful sunsets. The sky and water were filled with pastel shades.

Sunset Lake Pleasant Regional Park Arizona-min

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Sunset Lake Pleasant Regional Park Arizona-min

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Sunset Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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Sunset Lake Pleasant Regional Park Arizona-min

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Saguaro cactus at sunset-min

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We captured a few sunrises too, and they were worth getting out of bed and going hiking for!

Sunrise Lake Pleasant Regional Park Arizona-min

Mark sets up a photo while Buddy looks back at me.

Dawn sunrise Lake Pleasant Regional Park Arizona-min

Definitely worth rising early and hiking in the dark!

Lake Pleasant sunrise Arizona-min

Fire in the sky!

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Rainbows and Wild Horses in the Arizona Desert!

February 2019 – For us, 2019 started out with a zoom when we bought a new-to-us Polaris RZR 900. But we set it aside for ten days so we we could do a quickie National Parks Snowstorm Tour to see Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon decked out in snow.

When we returned to Arizona’s Sonoran Desert and began to thaw out again, we were ready to ride.

Happy campers in Polaris RZR next to saguaro cactus-min

Two very happy campers ready for some adventure.

Polaris RZR and puppy at campsite in Arizona-min

Our campsite looks a bit different now with our new addition!

We had decided to triple tow the RZR on a small 5′ x 10′ utility trailer behind our fifth wheel trailer, and we were very uncertain how this arrangement would work out.

So, we were absolutely thrilled when we did our first 125 mile trip across the north edge of Phoenix, including a stop at an RV dump station in a fairly tight gas station, and found it went really smoothly!

UTV trail in the Arizona Sonoran Desert-min

The little RZR is our ticket to new thrills!

View from a Polaris RZR in Arizona-min

A new perspective.

Our biggest concern had been how this train of truck + 5th wheel trailer + utility trailer would handle in tight spaces. We do a lot more U-turns in our traveling lifestyle than we’d care to admit, and being able to reverse direction without becoming a bull in a china shop is important!

Polaris RZR on the trail in Arizona-min

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It turns out that because the utility trailer is really narrow — five feet wide as compared to the fifth wheel’s eight foot width — its wheels take a wider turning arc than those on the fifth wheel. What a surprise!

When we were maneuvering in the tight spaces of the gas station to get to the RV dump on the side, we inadvertently rolled the fifth wheel’s tires over a curb.

We expected to feel a second thump-bump of the utility trailer’s wheels going over the curb too, but when we watched the trailer behind us, it scooted smartly around the corner and stayed in the road the whole time with a few inches to spare.

Saguaro cactus and RZR UTV trail in Arizona-min

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Polaris RZR and old wind mill-min

Mark loves old windmills so we always stop to get pics of them!

Once we got our train detached and set up in a campsite, we started taking the RZR out on excursions. What a blast that little buggy is!

We have camped at Roosevelt Lake many times over the years, and have always wondered what lay in the distant mountains and valleys around the lake. Now we could get on the trails and find out.

Saguaro cactus on the Salt River in Arizona-min

Where the desert meets the water at Roosevelt Lake.

Ribbon of dirt trail in Arizona Sonoran Desert-min

A ribbon of road…

Saguaro cactus late afternoon sun on the Salt River-min

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There are quite a few dirt roads and 4×4 trails that head off into the hills, and we explored a lot of them.

Some we could have driven in the truck, and some we could have mountain biked, but most would have been impossible for either our truck or bikes.

Saguaro cactus in afternoon sun in Arizona-min

Late afternoon glow on the saguaro cacti high above the lake.

Puppy at Roosevelt Lake Arizona-min

After a little off-road riding it’s nice to stretch the ol’ legs on a hike!

Cactus and red rocks at Roosevelt Lake Arizona-min

Cactus and red rocks. What a combo!

It was satisfying to go down roads we couldn’t have accessed without the RZR. That is why we bought it, after all!

In a few places we came to trailheads. Some were sections of the cross-state Arizona Trail. It was neat to be able to hop out of the RZR and go do a couple miles of hiking without seeing a soul around.

Even though it was late January to early February, some of the higher elevation hillsides were covered with desert poppies. We also saw a few lupine blooming here and there! I don’t quite understand why the desert poppies would bloom at high elevations in January and at lower elevations in March, but Nature has its mysteries.

Poppies in the Arizona Sonoran Desert-min

We were very surprised to find some higher elevation hillsides covered with desert poppies.

Spring poppies and lupine in Arizona Sonoran Desert-min

There were lupine too!

Desert poppies in Arizona-min

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Some trails just petered out after a while, but one day we traveled deep into Tonto National Forest on a series of trails that seemed to go on forever. We passed a homestead and crossed quite a few cattle boundaries, opening cattle gates to let ourselves through and closing them behind us as instructed by signs on the gates.

In a few spots we saw cows and calves. We weren’t too excited about them, but Buddy perked right up and watched them closely.

At one point we looked up on a berm and there was a wild horse staring at us. Buddy dashed up the berm to touch noses with it and then he bolted back down again.

Wild horse and puppy in Arizona Sonoran Desert-min

“Hey little fella, come back here!”
Buddy ran back down the hill after saying hello to the wild horse.

These horses were definitely the wild kind we’ve seen along the Salt River before, but they were very tame and seemed as curious about us as we were about them.

Wild horse that is tame on the Salt River in Arizona-min

These horses were extremely curious about us.

Talking to wild horses of the Salt River-min

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Petting a wild horse in Arizona-min

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They had the familiar fuzzy faces that the wild horses of this area have, and they had no shoes on their feet.

Wild horse furry face in Arizona-min

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Their unusual calmness in our presence made us wonder if someone had been feeding them or working with them in some way. Their manes and tails weren’t covered with burrs the way many wild horses are, and they seemed to be well fed, no doubt due to the lush green grasses covering all the hillsides!

Wild horse with cactus in the Arizona desert-min

Classic — A wild horse standing between a saguaro cactus and an old cactus skeleton.

How cool to head into the National Forest and come across these special horses!

Wild horse and cactus in Arizona national forest-min

His friend struck a pose too…

We had a blast every time we went out for a ride. It seems that this RZR thing is going to be a lot of fun!

Polaris RZR in the Arizona Sonoran Desert-min

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Polaris RZR on the trail in Arizona desert-min

Room to roam.

Polaris RZR at an overlook in Arizona-min

What a view!

The funny thing, though, is that sometimes the most dramatic and beautiful things in life are those things that come to you on their own rather than you hunting them down in a RZR!

One day we went to the nearby town of Globe to do laundry and other errands. We decided not to pack our cameras because, well, what is there to take photos of on errand day at the laundromat? Besides, it was pouring pitchforks and we knew we were in for an all-day rain.

On our way back we noticed the sun peaking out of the clouds once in a while. Then suddenly we saw the most enormous rainbow crossing the entire hilly desert landscape alongside the truck.

OMG! Why didn’t we have our cameras?

Roosevelt Lake rainbow in Arizona-min

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It was a 30 mile drive to get back to the campground, and the rainbow followed us the entire way, its little pot of gold moving across the desert right below it just as fast as we were driving. At times there was a double rainbow!

Double rainbow Roosevelt Lake Arizona-min

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We couldn’t believe we were seeing this stunning spectacle with no way to photograph it, but we resigned ourselves to just enjoying the rainbow out the window and imagining the photos we would have taken in this spot and in that spot.

The shock, though, was that the rainbow was visible and with us for the entire 30 mile drive until we pulled into the campground.

Unfortunately, by the time we got back to our campsite, the rainbow was gone. We began unloading the truck, excited but dejected that we had missed this incredible rainbow photo-op.

Suddenly, as we made yet another trip out to the truck to bring in more stuff, we looked up and saw the rainblow forming in the distance. We both dove for our cameras and began snapping like mad. The rainbow’s colors intensified until we were both exclaiming that we had never seen a rainbow so bright!

The colors were so vivid that they reflected across the water even though the surface of the lake was slightly ruffled by a soft breeze.

Reflecting rainbow Roosevelt Lake Arizona-min

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Rainbow on an Arizona lake-min

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Rainbow at Roosevelt Lake Arizona-min

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We ran along the shoreline trying to find the best vantage point, and the rainbow just kept on glowing. We were astonished and elated.

That night the rain came down in buckets on our trailer. We woke the next morning to black clouds and more rain. No problem. Mark baked banana bread and life was good and toasty warm.

Late that afternoon the skies cleared and the sun came out for a little while. And then we had a repeat of the day before as a rainbow formed in the distance.

Storm clouds and rainbow at Roosevelt Lake Arizona-min

A rainbow peeks out from beneath the storm clouds in the distance.

The sun played hide-and-seek with the clouds, and the land brightened and darkened as the clouds frothed overhead.

Rainbow and clouds at Roosevelt Lake Arizona-min

The sun lit the foreground for a moment.

Light and shadow and rainbow and storm clouds in Arizona-min

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A dark shadow formed in the sky but the rainbow was still visible underneath. How wonderful!

Rainbow behind cloud shadow on Roosevelt Lake-min

A distinct shadow appeared in the sky above the rainbow.

What a thrill this was, and what a great surprise.

The days of rain eventually stopped, and although that was the end of the rainbows, the churning skies gave us some fabulous clouds that produced brilliant sunsets over the next few days.

Sunset in the Arizona Sonoran Desert-min

A glorious Arizona sunset.

Then one morning the sky was perfectly clear as the sun crested the horizon, and with that the celestial show was over for a while.

Lakeside sunrise in the Arizona desert

A new day begins.

We never know what to expect when we get up each day. Sometimes we go looking for adventure — and the RZR is proving to be a great way to get there — but sometimes the adventure finds us!

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Canyon Country Highlights – Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend & More!

January 2019 – Our wintertime National Parks Snowstorm Tour to Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon was incredible. What a thrill to see snow at both of those gorgeous National Parks. But the drive to get there and back was also spectacular, as it took us past many wonders of Utah’s and Arizona’s “Canyon Country.”

Canyon Country Arizona and Utah Glen Canyon Lake Powell Horseshoe Bend-min

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Just outside of Bryce Canyon is one of our favorite places, Red Canyon. We love the hiking trails there. What fun it was to see its two tunnels through the red rocks decorated in snow!

Snow at Red Canyon Utah tunnel-min

Red Canyon has two charming tunnels in the red rocks – and in winter they have snow!

The area around Bryce Canyon was beautiful in its winter finery, and we got a huge kick out of driving the scenic roads and seeing familiar red rock formations peeking out from beneath a layer of snow.

Red rocks and a stream in Utah during winter-min

A glimpse of the edge of Red Canyon across a wintry landscape.

Snow on red rocks approaching Bryce Canyon Utah-min

Bryce-like rock formations peered out from the mountains a few miles from the actual Canyon.

Snow at Red Canyon Utah-min

Red rock country makes for wonderful scenic drive in summer, but how beautiful to see it with snow!

The valleys near Bryce Canyon stood silent in their winter slumber save for a few homesteads here and there.

Winter outside Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah-min

The quiet life.

As we descended out of the high 8,000′ plateau where Bryce Canyon is situated, we said goodbye to the snow one last time.

Puppy poses in snow in Flagstaff Arizona-min

Buddy loved the snow, but it was time to leave it behind.

The wonderfully scenic US-89 passes through spectacular red rock landscapes as it approaches and then leaves Kanab, Utah, and we reminisced as we passed the turn-off for the incomparable Wire Pass Slot Canyon hike and the charming Toadstools Hike, both barely noted with small brown signs on the highway.

And then we were suddenly immersed in the beauty of Glen Canyon. This exquisite canyon was carved by the relentless flow of the Colorado River which has sculpted the surrounding colorful sandstone into a myriad of shapes.

Afternoon shadows Glen Canyon Utah-min

Late afternoon at Glen Canyon.

The Colorado River was dammed here to form Lake Powell, and the vivid blue of the lake set against the towering stone cliffs was jaw-dropping in the morning sun.

Glen Canyon and the Colorado River in Arizona-min

Lake Powell is the centerpiece of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Glen Canyon in Page Arizona-min

Lake Powell (Glen Canyon).

Glen Canyon Page Arizona morning light-min

Lake Powell (Glen Canyon).

We had seen brochure pictures of Lake Powell like this, but to see it in person was a feast for the eyes. What a fantastic contrast — or complement — to the snow at Bryce Canyon and the mysterious light show at Grand Canyon that we had just witnessed days earlier.

Glen Canyon Page Arizona morning light-min

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Glen Canyon Arizona morning color-min

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We drove down to the beach to get a little closer to the water.

Driving on Glen Canyon beach in Arizona-min

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The stone monoliths towered on the other side of the small cove. What an exotic landscape!

Photography at Glen Canyon Arizona-min

This is a fabulous spot for photography!

There is a marina, hotel and restaurant complex on the shore at Lake Powell, and we could see the marina docks in the distance. The air became a little hazy as the day wore on, but the deep crimson red rocks were just stunning!

Red rock mesas at Glen Canyon Arizona-min

The distant red rocks were a deep crimson!

A group of houseboats anchored in the bay looked very inviting. We told each other we’ll have to do an overnight in one someday. A concessionaire for the National Park Service rents them out!!

Houseboats at Glen Canyon Arizona-min

Houseboats anchored in the bay. What a fun excursion that would be!

RV camping on the beach at Glen Canyon Arizona-min

Other worldly!

Lone Rock Glen Canyon Arizona-min

This guy loved the beach!

The eye-popping Horseshoe Bend Overlook is a little bit south of Lake Powell, and although we’ve visited before (blog post here), we couldn’t drive through the area without stopping in to take another look.

We were shocked when we arrived to see that massive construction is underway in the parking lot and on the hill between the parking lot and the overlook to make it easier to support the enormous crowds of tourists that flock here every hour of every day.

What used to be a small parking lot will soon be at least four times bigger. A slew of vault toilets have been installed, and it looks like a road is going in to take tourists right to the rim.

Horseshoe Bend Overlook Page Arizona-min

Horseshoe Bend

Right now visitors still walk straight up over the berm on a dirt path to the overlook. The new road will go around the berm on the south side. It’s not clear whether walkers or motorized vehicles or both will use the road, perhaps only tour buses. We were also quite astonished to see a railing protecting part of the rim now as well. Now, anyone who is unnerved by standing on the edge of a several thousand foot drop can stand by the railing with confidence.

Horseshoe Bend Arizona Colorado RIver-min

The rocks near the edge of the overlook have fantastic markings.

Most of the rim is still wide open and easily explored, however, and plenty of crazy people were doing their selfie stunts just inches from a lethal fall (a girl fell off and died over Christmas this year). But it was the beautiful lines and patterns in the rocks at our feet that really caught our attention.

This is a special little gem of a spot.

Horseshoe Bend Arizona fisheye lens-min

A fish-eye view catches the wake of a boat cruising by on the river below!

Whereas Horseshoe Bend is busy busy busy and a true jaw-dropper to boot, a nearby scenic overlook at Glen Canyon Dam is fully developed for people to explore but had no visitors but us when we stopped by one morning.

The Colorado River is visible four thousand feet below — just as it is at Horseshoe Bend a few miles away — and the rust colored canyon walls are incredibly sheer.

Glen Canyon Dam Overlook Page Arizona-min

The Glen Canyon Dam Scenic Overlook was beautiful and dramatic — and we were the only ones there!

We just loved the lines in the rocks and the infinite variety of patterns they create.

Lines in the rocks Glen Canyon Dam-min

Such wonderful lines in the rocks!

It is a kid’s paradise for running around on the rocks.

Scenic Overlook Glen Canyon Dam Page Arizona-min

These rocks are very cool to climb on.

Glen Canyon Dam Scenic Overlook with puppy-min

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Windblown puppy Glen Canyon Dam Scenic Overlook-min

Mark won a photo contest with this unique photo of a strong gust of wind blowing on Buddy!

Glen Canyon Dam is a short distance away tucked between massive cliffs!

Glen Canyon Dam Overlook in Page Arizona-min

To get a sense of scale, notice Mark in the upper right corner taking a photo of the dam!

Scenic Overlook Glen Canyon Dam in Page Arizona-min

Top dog.

Meanwhile, storms brewed above the mesas and mountains on the horizon.

Storm on the horizon Glen Canyon Lake Powell Arizona-min

Storm clouds gathered.

This whole part of Canyon Country between Bryce Canyon, Utah, and Page, Arizona, is exquisite, and is truly a delight for photography. We were up with the chickens one morning to see if we could capture something special down at Lake Powell. And sure enough, the sun gave us a show to remember!

Magenta sky and water before dawn Glen Canyon Arizona-min

When we first arrived at the shore at dawn, the sky and water took on shades of purple and magenta.

The sunrise was brilliant, but even as the sun made its appearance on one horizon, storm clouds were forming on the other. We loved the contrast of light and dark.

Sunrise at Glen Canyon Arizona-min

The day awakens.

As the sun cast its last glow across the land before giving in to the coming storm, it lit the horizon’s classic southwestern horizon of mesas and rock pinnacles.

Stormy skies at dawn at Glen Canyon Arizona-min

While the sun rose on one side the storm clouds grew darker on the other.

Mesas and rock formations Glen Canyon Arizona at dawn-min

Morning light.

What a beautiful way to end our quick trip through Canyon Country to see the Best of the West under snow!

Before long we were back in our trailer in Phoenix getting ready to head out with our new RZR and try our new triple-towing adventures. But this week-long interlude at some of America’s most beautiful places in mid-winter is a trip we will remember forever.

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