Monday, May 31, 2010

Manti-La Sal National Forest


After a couple of very windy days, the last two have been beautiful, if not a bit cooler than we like. Only got into the 60’s and low 70’s but no wind and sunshine the past two days. We spent the windy days indoors working on trip planning, cleaning, a little shopping, and taking a bag of junk to the thrift store in Monticello. The campground here at Devil’s Canyon has been maybe a third full this weekend, so it has been extremely quiet, just how we like our holiday weekends.

Saturday and Sunday we took a couple drives into the Manti-La Sal National Forest and the nearby Abajo mountains. We were looking for some hiking trails, but had a little trouble finding them. We did check out the three other nearby forest service campgrounds, and there was hardly anyone in them, either. There is still no water at any of the campgrounds, and the others are at higher elevation and shady, so either the cool temps or lack of water may have kept people away.

This is a picture of Dry Wash reservoir, a pretty little lake. The Nizhoni campground is nearby but unfortunately not on the water. We saw a fifth wheel camped on a hill overlooking the lake. What a beautiful, private spot they had. With the lakes and snow still on the mountains this area reminded us of a mini Glacier National Park.


In our trail search yesterday, we climbed to 9,000 ft and found the sign. The problem was the road leading to the trail was dirt, narrow, and rocky. After driving a mile or so down it, we began to think the road was actually the trail we were looking for. Finally found a wide spot where we were barely able to turn around. Luckily we met no other vehicles. Yes, we need a Jeep! In fact, we are thinking of renting one for a day in Moab to see how we like it.

We did find an ATV road and hiked to lovely views of Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point along the way. It sure is hard to breathe and hike at that elevation!

It was too hazy for good pics, as usual.

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Jim got ambitious this weekend and changed the oil in the car. While he was under it, he found a dent in the transmission pan and some other scrapes. Probably came from the couple times we bottomed out on the road to the Wave. Yes, that high clearance vehicle is calling us.

He also decided to check the air filters. The main one is very difficult to get to, and entails removing a big plastic housing to access it. He only broke one of the rubber grommets and scraped a finger. After getting it out, he was able to see that the large fiberglass insulation panel up against the passenger compartment had been chewed away, and a fist sized chunk was wedged against the air filter. When we spent a couple weeks at Organ Pipe Cactus NM in January, we were warned about packrats getting into engine compartments and eating wiring. We  kept our hoods propped open as told, but I’m not sure why that would keep them out. Probably just made it easier for them to get in! We really have no idea when this happened, since we spent a couple more months in the Tucson and Phoenix area desert. We’re just thankful it was only the insulation and not the wiring that they chewed on.

Speaking of critters, other than some birds, this is the extent of our wildlife sightings here.


We aren’t sure what these are but their holes are all over the campground.


Today we’re off to Moab. There is a Chevy dealer there, so we will try to get the replacement parts for the car.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Devil’s Canyon Campground, Blanding, UT

On Tuesday we moved 10 miles north of Blanding to this pleasant National Forest campground. There is hardly anyone else here, but they have quite a few reservations for the Memorial Day weekend. We met another full time RVer, Jeff, (also a budding photographer, check out his photos) at Lone Rock Beach, and again at Monument Valley. He was kind enough to e-mail us with the scoop on Canyonlands, and he had stayed at Devil’s Canyon, so we knew their water was not functioning and filled up our tank and several jugs before we left the RV park in Blanding. That’s probably one reason there is hardly anyone here. This is a great campground, though, all paved, level pads, no hookups and $10/night. Also over 7000 ft elevation so it’s much cooler here.
We thought we might head to Moab today where our mail is awaiting, and try to get a BLM spot before the weekend, but they are predicting mid 90’s and wind there the next two days, so we are just going to hang out here through the holiday.
Yesterday we took a drive to Canyonlands National Park, the Needles district.
It was about 60 miles from here to the visitors center, but it sure was worth the drive. We now know why you have to be there by 8 in the morning to get a campsite. What a great campground. There are only 26 sites, section A having wonderful views from all the well separated sites, while B has sites nestled in huge boulders. Really nice!
We drove the 10 mile scenic drive and hiked a couple trails. There are many more miles of rough Jeep roads if you have one. When we get that big Foretravel we dream about maybe we can tow a Jeep! Here are some pictures from our hikes. It was a bit overcast and hazy, so the pictures just don’t do it justice. This is from the Slickrock Trail, a 2.5 mile loop hiking over, what else, slickrock. Luckily it was well marked with cairns so we could find our way. At the high point we had a spectacular 360 degree view.
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This is a  beautiful park, and there was hardly anyone there. In fact, the few people we ran into were actually Americans. Guess the European tourists don’t have time to venture that far from the highway as it is 49 miles to the nearest town of Monticello.
We also hiked the short .6 mile Cave Springs Trail. which goes to an old cowboy camp, and then up 2 ladders to more views.P1000995P1000996P1000997  
One more interesting site we stopped at on the road to the park was Newspaper Rock, a giant rock wall of petroglyphs that was actually pretty amazing.
It was another good day in southern Utah.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Blanding, UT


We drove 35 miles to Blanding yesterday morning with a 30 mph tailwind. Last year we spent a night at KamPark RV Park ($20/night with full hookups) behind the Shell station, so we decided to park it here again for a couple days and watch the dust blow, which is why the haze in the above photo. What a day! The air was brown, winds gusted to 45mph, and we stayed in the rig and rocked all day. But at least we have power so we could keep the windows closed.

This morning the wind was much less, but it was in the upper 30’s, and we actually had about an hour of snow flurries! Too bad you can’t really see the snow in the picture, but it was really coming down hard.


I did many loads of laundry this morning while Jim vacuumed all the dust out of the rig, so we are all clean until the next windstorm.

This afternoon it warmed into the 60’s and the sun came out so we drove about 14 miles west  to the Butler Wash ruins. There is a half mile trail to a viewpoint of the Anasazi ruins there.  Always amazes us how they lived in places like that.

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It was a beautiful area, and we continued walking along the slickrock to another nice view.


No wind and sunshine sure improved our attitudes today. Tomorrow we’re heading 10 miles north to a Forest Service campground to use as a base to visit Canyonlands National Park. We don’t want to fight the crowds trying to get a site in the National Park campground.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bluff, Utah


We are still at Sand Island near Bluff. The prime riverfront site opened up this morning so we moved across the road. Nice view of the river and we get to watch the rafters and kayakers go by.


Bluff is a very small town only 37 miles from Monument Valley. We should have come directly here and taken a day trip when it was less windy, but after our experience we don’t really care about going back. We did take a nice drive to Muley Point, a lovely spot we camped at last year. From Sand Island it was a 32 mile drive, part of it on the Moki Dugway, which is not paved and very twisty and steep. No large RVs are allowed so in order to get there with the rig, it would have been an 83 mile drive. We settled for a day trip, a hike out to the point, and lunch with a view. The 4 mile dirt road leading to Muley Point seemed in better shape than last year and there was no one camped there. We were wishing we had been.

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There is a large wall of petroglyphs here at Sand Island, and if you know how much Jim likes rock art, you know we had a fun time checking them out and trying to figure out what they mean. Here are just a few of the ones we saw.

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And our favorite. I think this happened before they put up the fence to protect them.


Debbie left early this morning on her way to visit friends and family in Iowa and Minnesota for the summer. We are staying here over the weekend before we head to Canyonlands since we are under a wind advisory for the next 2 days, with gusts predicted to 55-60mph. Should be an exciting time. The boys don’t seem to be too worried as long as we have sunshine.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Monument Valley, Utah


As you can see, it was very hazy yesterday when we arrived at Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. We decided to stay in their “primitive campground”, a very rutted dirt parking lot for $10/night (on top of the $5/person entrance fee). Had it been clear, the views would have been great. Unfortunately the haze was due to strong winds blowing dust all over the valley and all over us!

There was a 3 mile trail leading from the campground to the Mittens, the two rock formations on the left that sort of look like mittens.


We finally ventured out of the rig last night and walked a couple miles of the trail. It wasn’t quite as windy since we descended into the valley at the start of the trail, but we ate a bunch of dirt when we got back to the top.

Many of you may recognize Monument Valley from director John Ford’s western films that were shot here, the first being Stagecoach with John Wayne in 1938.

Here are a few other photos. This was the best we could do given the dust.

A couple visitors to the campground.


More rocks. These are actually buttes.

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The only way to see all of Monument Valley is on a tour given by the Navajos, or you can drive the 17 mile dirt road in your own vehicle. Our car was punished enough the other day going to the Wave, so we decided against the drive. The tours start at $68/person, and this is what they take them in. It would be a long ride with all the blowing dirt. Perhaps next time on a better day.


We got out of Dodge quickly this morning, since the wind had not let up. Wanted to spend the night at Goosenecks State Park, only 25 miles from Monument Valley, but it was another dirt parking lot with just as much wind, and it was threatening to rain, so we moved on to Sand Island BLM campground on the San Juan River near Bluff, UT. We are more protected here, and it is a pretty little campground with lots of trees, no hookups or dump but they do have water for $10/night.  And we’re right across from the river.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Wave/Coyote Buttes, Utah

It’s not easy to get to the Wave, but it’s definitely worth the effort. After winning the lottery Friday, we were called to the BLM desk to pay our $7/person, and given a car permit, a permit I had to attach to my backpack, and a packet of instructions, including GPS coordinates and color photographs of landmarks to help us find our way.

The first challenging part was the drive to the Wire Pass trailhead, the starting point of the hike. We drove 25 miles west on 89 towards Kanab, then turned south onto House Rock Road, “a graded dirt road passable by 2WD passenger cars”. It looks like it’s been awhile since the road was graded, and there were lots of holes and rocks, so it took us over 30 minutes to travel the 8.5 miles to the trailhead. We made it with the car intact, and signed in at the trail log.

We walked down a rocky wash for the first half mile, then there was a sign to turn right on a sandy trail. That was the only sign, as the Coyote Buttes area is part of the Paria Canyon-Vemillion Cliffs Wilderness, which means the BLM is not allowed put up any signs or markers. Other hikers have erected cairns, or small piles of rock to mark the route, but the BLM woman said they are supposed to knock them down when they go out to patrol the area, so we shouldn’t depend on them.

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The next section is a very steep, sandy climb to the top of a ridge. It was hard to walk on but easy to follow, since there were plenty of footprints in the sand. We were followed and stopped by a ranger who checked our permit. A short time later we saw her interrogating a Japanese couple who obviously did not have a permit, and appeared to be getting a citation.

This is where the fun began, as most of the rest of the hike is over slickrock, so there are no footprints to follow. We stopped many times to look at the pictures and landmarks to help find our way, and to take pictures. It was much easier hiking on the rocks, but we were walking on some pretty steep inclines at times. Even though it is called slickrock, it is anything but slick. The soles of your shoes stick well and there is no danger of sliding down the rock.

Some photos we took along the way.

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We then had to descend into one more wash, climb up another sand dune (ugh!), and 3 miles and an hour and 45 minutes later, we arrived at the Wave, really just a large sandstone ravine. But it is incredible what water, sand, and wind has carved out over millions of years.

It is truly an amazing place. We could not believe the swirls and colors in the rock. We spent about an hour and a half eating lunch, exploring, climbing up on the huge rock formations surrounding the Wave, and taking lots of pictures. Of course, 18 of the 20 permit holders were there at the same time. And 14 were foreign tourists!

Here are a few photos. If you want to see all that we took , click here.

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The hike back out was easier, since we were going downhill on most of the sandy areas. We got a little confused at one point and took a wrong turn, but we figured it out pretty quickly, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.


We were tired and it was another long, slow 8.5 mile drive out on the dirt road, but if you get a chance, do The Wave!