Archives for category: camping

This part of my trip is just too good to skip over so I’m dedicating this post just to the beauty and wonderment of Flaming Gorge, Utah located in Ashley National Forest. I was so excited that I took this 14 photo sequence of my journey into the park and going back out. These photos have not been published in this blog before. I hope these images sends to you what I felt as I drove into this wonderland… awe, respect, quiet, wonderment, excitement, joy and about a million other emotions. Enjoy the journey.

#7 of 14 in sequence

#8

#9

#10

#11

#12

#13

and, last but not least, #14:

#14

You can visit other photos taken that day of Sheep Creek, the cabin I stayed in and other great views in my earlier post named “From Wyoming into the arms of Utah” published 5/17/11.

Happy Memories!

We’ve had the hammer down these last few days trying to finish up our trip to  Atlanta as Ava has music to learn before leaving for Austria, people to see at  home  and I’ve got 6 weeks of accumulated mail to dig through and grass to cut.  I’ll be  glad to be back home but I’m already planning my next trip.

As for this one, last night was scary. We were outside of Memphis by about 70  miles when we noticed quite a “light show” going on. The more east we went,  the  worse the lightning got; I’d never seen cloud to cloud lightning before and  this was  scary stuff. Strangest part of it was the lightening skipped across the  sky like a stone across water… barely hitting briefly down before showing up a  little farther down an imaginary horizontal line. THAT’s what convince me we needed to take action.

Ava, feeling the same way, whipped out her IPhone and went on Weather.com  while I tuned into a  local radio station to see how bad the weather was ahead.  After all, we were still in Arkansas and they’re known for tornadoes and hail.

That horrible ehhhhh ehhhhh alert was coming out of the radio at the same time  Ava found hail and storm warnings on her phone. That was it. The radio told us  to find shelter immediately! I’d remembered there was a Motel 6 in Brinkley,  Arkansas just west of Memphis from my 2009 trip. Ava pulled it up on Google  map and we got there without difficulty. We checked in and went to bed  unscathed. That was a close one.

This morning we drove to Knoxville to visit family and tomorrow we head for  Roanoke to visit a friend and then we head for ATL. Whew! 10,000 in 6 weeks.  I’m ready to go again.

I’m hoping to upgrade to a more unpredictable weather friendly structure to replace the pop-up by summers end and explore western half of Colorado.

In the meantime, Happy Trails to you until we meet again.

Ready for action - 5/13/2011

Ann (part owner of the Thai restaurant where we ate last night, Thai Cafe) had  invited Ava and me to her private 3 year anniversary celebration at Thai Cafe  today from 9:30 to 11:3o. After we broke camp, we drove into town where I  dropped Ava off and went to look for a parking space large enough for Silver (my  truck) with a pop-up attached. Good luck!

This is Old Santa Fe Trail (also Route 66 in some parts)

First of all let me say this about that. There is very little parking in Old Santa Fe,  the streets are very narrow and parking scarce.  It’s like New Orleans that way.  Finding street parking is because the “parking  Gods” are with you or there’s bad  weather! I understand they’re building parking  decks but that doesn’t  accommodate tourists in RV’s or with any kind of  truck/camper setup.

I proceeded to drive around and around. The good news is that Ava and I had  walked most of the area of Old Town that I was in the night before looking for  just the right place to eat (she won’t eat Mexican and I won’t eat Indian so we  settled on Thai). Fortuitously, I ended up at the Visitors Center where I found an  area marked “RV parking only”. Silver plus the pop-up certainly qualified as an  “RV” so I parked there while I went into the Visitors Center to tell them what I  was doing and why.

The woman at the Visitors Center put so many red markings of unsatisfactory  places of where to go on  the Old Town  map that I was totally confused by the  time I was leaving that I  pulled the “I’m a  writer” card. I told her I was going to  write about the parking  issue in my next  blog. She told me I could keep my car  where it was for a couple  of hours. So there it is; but there’s more!

I also told the woman at the Visitors Center that I was glad to have experienced  “dog friendly” merchants in Old Town the night before. She indicated the “dog  friendly” part didn’t extend to any other facilities. Great. Now I realize that I  won’t be able to take experience the two places I came to see: Georgia O’Keefe  Museum or San Miguel  because Ava was busy and I had nowhere to leave  Montana. Oh well. I’ll just have to come back when everyone else is at home (like the middle of the night) and when it’s not 100 degrees (like October) so I can leave Montana in the car and do it all.

San Miguel from the outside :={

They were repairing San Miguel with adobe bricks to match the ones used in  1610.

adobe bricks

Another church I’ll come back to see is Loretto Chapel.

Loretto Chapel

There are at least a million little shops in the old area of Santa Fe selling  traditional southwestern items for exorbitant prices.

Lots of shops selling everything southwestern

and…

rugs, baskets, turquoise jewelry, silver bracelets, etc.

None of the goods for sale were anything I could possibly afford. A young man  who was selling his art in one of the squares encouraged me to come look closer  at his paintings. I said, “Thank you but I can’t afford any of it.” His retort was,  “I haven’t told you any prices.” To which I replied, “When you’re on Social  Security and Congress only voted themselves a raise and not you, and you’re  2000 miles from home, you can’t afford it no matter how much it is.” True dat!

Because Ava needs to get to Atlanta, we decided to skip Albuquerque. Mostly, it  was me because I was going to have to come back to Santa Fe when the weather  gets cooler (a lot cooler) to see what I missed. I’ll enjoy Albuquerque then. And,  as for Ava, she’ll come back on her own as she’s in love with Santa Fe.

San Miguel from the outside :={

So much for the Santa Fe part and now for the I-40 afternoon!

The first part of my trip was cold, snowy and windy until I got right outside of  Las Vegas. Then, it was just windy for about two weeks until right before I left.  Then it got baking hot with only some wind. When I was in Utah and Colorado,  the weather was kinda’ hot during the day but nice and crisp at night.

That’s all gone now that we’ve left the mountainous regions and headed south  for Santa Fe. There? It was HOT! Thank goodness there was enough of a cool  breeze last night to keep the temperature in the pop-up fairly nice. I think that’s  over. I think the Vegas weather pattern is following me 2000 miles to home.  Mom said it was 91 degrees in Atlanta today.

We made it to Amarillo, Texas to camp for the night and it’s HOT! We’re going to do the Trucker Dew routine tomorrow to get as close Memphis as possible without killing each other. Trucker Dew, you ask? Well, you must be a newby. Last year when I was driving back from Vegas, I got hyped up on Mountain Dew and only ate Slim Jims with a side of cheese and drove for 36 hours to get home. I stopped only at truck stops to nap for a few hours before hitting the Dew again. That’s what I call pedal to the metal, trucker style.

Object of the game is to get to Maryville, Tennessee by early Friday afternoon to see my sister and her family and get into cooler weather!

Happy Trails!

Silver does Durango

Leaving Mesa Verde was difficult as we’d had such a wonderful time there and  it’s the longest I’ve camped anywhere so far this year because of inclement  weather, namely strong winds and snow following me all the way to Vegas! We  took Hwy. 160 east toward Durango, Colorado which was only about 50 miles  from Mesa Verde.

Ava and me in Durango Diner

It was there that we discovered the Durango Diner on Main Avenue. Now  THAT’s the way to serve breakfast. I had the best bacon strips I’ve ever had…  ever. The pancake was twelve inches in diameter and the egg cooked just right.  The waitress was wonderful and the whole experience very pleasant and  reasonably priced. Ava and I both fell in love with this little Colorado town.

With bellies full, we headed east for Santa Fe. The countryside was amazingly  gorgeous Colorado style. This is a sample of the views we saw along the way.

on the way to Santa Fe via Hwy 160, 64 and 84

And this one.

mountains, lakes, rolling pastures, cows and horses... oh my!

We didn’t get through setting up camp until after everything was closed in Santa  Fe so we went scouting. We found the two things on the top of my list: Georgia  O’Keefe Museum and the San Miguel church. The bonus was finding a gallery  with has some original photos of Frida Kahlo. What a bonus!

After walking around Old Santa Fe for what seemed a very long time looking for  somewhere to eat that we both wanted, Ava whipped out her IPhone and found  this amazingly authentic Thai restaurant called THAI CAFE at 329 W. San  Francisco St., Santa Fe (www.thaicafesantafenm.com  505-982- 3886). As Ava had traveled to Thailand, she could authenticate the food as  being excellent and traditional. Please visit our new friends Ae and Ann at Thai  Cafe next time you’re in Santa Fe!

Ava, me and Ann (owner of Thai Cafe in Santa Fe, NM)

Not only did Ava and I leave Thai Cafe satisfied with the service, the food and  the atmosphere, we both felt like we’d just made two new friends with Ann and  Ae. A big “Thank you” to them for making our evening so special.

Tomorrow, we go back to Old Town Santa Fe and to Albuquerque to explore it as  well. I was hoping to hit the road hard tomorrow but I have a feeling we’re  going to fall in love with Albuquerque as well.

Happy Trails!

It definitely takes two whole days to see Mesa Verde National Park the right way  especially for the two of us. Ava took three of the more difficult Ranger  guided tours of the Ancestral Puebloan ruins where you hike down the  canyon, across the base of the canyon and up ladders into the ruins. While I, on  the other hand, took the easier tours via Silver (my truck) because  most National Parks are not pet friendly which means Montana would have to  stay in the car or the camper while I hiked. I would only hike short trails if I  could find good shade before it got too hot in the afternoon.  Needless to say,  Montana and I spent a great deal of time in the only areas she was allowed:  campgrounds and parking lots.

While Ava visited was Cliff Palace, Montana and I drove around Cliff Palace Loop and Mesa Top Loop to scout out the other ruins for Ava.

Mesa Verde Cliff Palace Sign - a multi-complex village.

 

Mesa Verde Cliff Palace had several different sections on each side of this main village.

Today, we explored the Chapin Mesa Museum, Cliff Palace Loop (includes the  two Ranger guided tours Ava took today: Cliff  Palace [above] and Balcony House) and  Mesa Top Loop.

The most impressive part of Mesa Top Loop for me was Sun Point View and Sun Temple built around 1250 AD.

Sun Temple sign explaining ruins

Sun Temple community had several "out" structures on each side of this main "village".

 

Sun Temple

window looking into Sun Temple

Navajo Canyon on Mesa Loop

There were so many of these communities in this one area that it was amazing. One right after another. These Ancestral Puebloans (formerly called Anasazi) were the direct ancestors of the cliff dwellers in Canyon de Shelly and Monument Valley south of the Four Corners in Arizona. The last one we looked at was Spruce House.

Spruce House

I have always been interested in the history of indigenous people of the  Americas. A Shaman told Ava and I we had lived as Anasazi in a past life. Who  knows. Maybe that’s why I’ve always been drawn to it. I’ve also been drawn to  European history and South American history and Russian history and so on.

It’s all good. Learning how our ancestors lived helps us be grounded. Go check  out an indigenous people near you.

Happy Trails!

First, let me say that my Federal Taxes paid over the last 46 years has finally  paid off in the form of the $10.00 price tag for a Senior Lifetime National Park  Pass. Although there aren’t that many of them in the east, I’ve used it like crazy  out here. It’s good for everyone in the car. So, when Ava and I were at Zion and  she needed the Shuttle and I didn’t, I asked for a special pass for her for the days  we anticipated staying. As it’s $25.00 every time you go through the National  Parks I’ve been in, I calculated that I’ve already saved a couple hundred bucks  and we ain’t through yet!

The other good news in Mesa Verde is the  campground where we’re staying  three nights. Check out A&A Mesa Verde RV Park-Campground (AAA  approved http://www.mesaverdecamping.com 800-972-6620) which is  strategically located to the Mesa Verde National Park entrance. They have a  pool, putt-putt, washers, dryers, peaceful pastoral atmosphere and no time limit  on showers!

At the Visitors Center, Ava chose to explore anasazi ruins at Wetherill Mesa today. This is the  view from the Parks Kiosk there. Not bad even with the trees destroyed by the  2000 fire. Interesting detail is that the indigenous trees are Pinyon Pine and  Juniper. The Juniper wood just doesn’t biodegrade like one would expect after  such a devastating fire. Interesting.

Snow capped mountains at Wetherill Mesa

This morning we awoke as refreshed as any two people sleeping in a pop-up  camper who didn’t go to sleep until after 1:00 AM could possibly be and drove to  Mesa Verde National Park. We drove up to the Visiter Center and Ava signed up  for the Ranger guided hike up into “Long House” cliff dwelling while Montana  hung out in the car and I took the tram to see several protected dwellings and  overlooks. It was serendipitous when Ava happened to catch the same tram I  was on when she was through with her journey.

So many geologic changes in one view going up to Visitor Center.

These trams make it so easy to see everything you want to without getting worn  out and dehydrated. The wind will dry you out just as fast as the heat.

Tram

What I didn’t know until today is that shuttles and trams are FREE to all paying  visitors to the National Parks. We didn’t stay at Zion long enough for me to find  our but it seems like it shoulda’ woulda’ coulda’ been made more clear. So, here it is folks!

I hiked the easier non-cliff dwelling sites at Wetherill Mesa called Badger  House Community (includes Basket, Pueblo and Row Houses with Kivas) and  rode the tram to see the Cliff Dwelling Overlooks for Long House and Kodak  House. All of these have a Kiva which is a circular in-ground structure used for  ceremonial purposes. There is a larger Kiva at the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds in Macon,  Georgia at the  mounds there right off I-75 which as been reconstructed. You  can actually go inside the Georgia one. It gives you a real sense of the moment-in-time.

Kiva - an in-ground ceremonial structure

The Badger House Community structures were non-cliff dwelling and all very  similar except for the Pueblo Village Row of Rooms.

Pueblo Village - row of rooms

These are rooms - very small rooms approximately 5'x5'!

How the Kiva looks when in use. One in Macon has been reconstructed.

The Kodak Overlook was of Cliff Dwelling inhabitants.

Kodak House Cliff Dwelling - can you tell my vertigo was getting to me?

The other Cliff Dwelling overlook was Long House.

Long House Cliff Dwelling

Tomorrow, we’re exploring Chapin Mesa. Ava will hike Cliff Palace and Balcony House while I take the tram.

Happy Trails!

After getting well rested and fed at the Jacob Lake Inn, Ava and I were ready to  hit the road toward the Four Corners area to hike Mesa Verde and check out  Canyon of the Ancients.

#6 Cabin at Jacob Lake Inn

Oh, if you love hearing the wind blowing through the Georgia pines, you’re going to go  CRAZY when you hear the wind blowing through the Ponderosa Pines. It sounds like the  ocean. They’re so majestic.

Ponderosa Pines at Jacob Lake Inn

It will always be the back roads for me as much as possible. We took Hwy. 89 from Jacob Lake toward the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We were only into  the trip about an hour when we came around a bend to see a dramatic  topographic change. Ponderosa Pines and WHAM wide open spaces.

Ava capturing the moment - left to right of next shots gives panoramic scope

next shot

 

3 of 4

 

4 of 4

It was such an absolutely breath-taking event going from dense forest to wide  open spaces. This is right before you get to the Colorado River so this is a part of  the pre-Grand Canyon!

The color of the rock formations changes as you travel toward Hwy. 160 past  Cliff Dwellers (the town).

Cliff Dwellers, Arizona (the town) on Hwy. 89 before Hwy. 160

We climbed up Hwy. 160 east toward the Four Corners area crossing flat, sand  blowing highway through the Reservation. We passed pastures of Mustangs    and not much else the whole time we were on Hwy. 160 except for the  occasional awesome rock formations left over from millions of years of erosion.

Off in the distance -- rock formations

 

Big rock

We decided this should be called "Castle Rock"

Finally - the turn-off sign

After driving 6 hours, we finally saw the turn-off sign for the Four Corners  meaning we were only 10 miles or so from our campground near Mesa Verde.  Yay! We made it!

Tomorrow, Mesa Verde adventure. Ava will hike the Cliff Dwellers in Mesa Verde.

Happy Trails!

 

 

 

 

 

After leaving Ava at the North Rim around 8:00 AM Friday 6/10/11, Montana  (Crazy Lil’ White Dawg) and I drove up to the overlook to take some pictures.  We chatted for about 15 minutes with a really nice man named Tom  from Indiana after Montana tried to chase down a chipmunk over the over look.  Time to leave!

Where Montana jolted at overlook!

We drove back to the Rip-off  Campgrounds to write my blog, pack up and head  for the South Rim  but something was really bothering Montana after we’d left  Ava.

Montana is a very happy, puppy-like dog but, after leaving Ava, she wouldn’t eat  or drink or play. At the pop-up, she kept going to Ava’s bed which she’s never  done before.

Also, something “whispered” to me to take my time doing what I needed  to do  and to not rush my process to leave so I didn’t. Woman’s intuition? Whatever it  is, I’ve learned to “listen” to “it”.

As I finished taking down the pop-up around noon-thirty, I noticed that a nut  was missing off a relatively important bolt. I asked a man walking by me  (assuming he worked  at the campground) if he had access to any bolts that  might fit the screw. He  reached in his pocket and pulled out a nut saying he’d  found it yesterday in the  gravel drive. IT FIT! It was MY bolt. Wow. How cool was that?

All morning, I prayed Ava would be encircled by Guardian Angels to protect and  guide her on her journey and that we would have no problems in finding each  other at her journey’s end.

I left the campgrounds for the South Rim and was 30 minutes down the road  when my phone rang. A man explained I didn’t know him but that he’d met  Ava  on the trail and that she was having problems with her knee; she was having to  turn back. She’d now have to climb back up with a bad knee.

As always, I called Mom for prayer reinforcements.

It took me until about 2:30 to get back to the North Rim trailhead where cell  service doesn’t exist. Thinking I’d hear more, I drove a mile or so up to the  overlook armed with the knowledge from the caller that she probably wouldn’t  be at the trailhead until 3:00 or 4:00. So, I figured I’d stay within cell service,  pop-up the camper and get water, food and meds until 3’ish.

As I drove to the overlook, I noticed a hiker dude walking in my direction who  stuck out his thumb. I slammed on my brakes. He might have seen Ava. He tells  me that he’s  done this  rim-to-rim hike for nine years and has never had anyone  pick him up  to take  him that last mile until I did. Good feeling.

I found a shady spot at the overlook area to pull over. I put Montana on her “chain gang” (connect her to a tree with a 20-foot cable) so I could open the pop-up. Right  as I started the manual crank, the cable broke. I looked at it in full  “stunned” silence before kicking into trying to figure out how to keep the now  dangling cable from getting caught in tire hubs. Glad I had some pigtail  bands. I rigged the cable up and prayed for more Guardian Angels. Crazies.

At 3:00, I drove to the trailhead and started asking every hiker coming up the trail if they’d seen my daughter. As there were many foreigners, I got looks of “huh?” but very nice ones, I might add. No one had seen her.

Finally a Forest Ranger pulled up and parked. Good sign. I asked him if he’d  heard anything about my daughter; he answered he was there to pick up Sandy,  a nurse volunteer who’d been recruited to assess Ava’s condition and escorted  her back up.  They should be arriving fairly soon.

Montana and I posted ourselves at the rock stairs at the trailhead so Ava could  see us as she hiked the last few feet. Suddenly, Montana started twitching her  nose in recognition of a familiar smell. I asked her, “Is it Ava?” and she started  wagging her tail like crazy. Montana knew Ava was on her way and so did I.

Sandy appeared at the trailhead alone (heart dropped) and immediately headed  over to talk with the Ranger. It took me 1 second to cross 20 feet to their side.  Sandy assured me Ava was okay and about 100 yards down the trail. She  dropped her gear, called over her shoulder as she trotted back down the trail that  Ava would need to know I was waiting for her. Apparently, Ava worried the  whole time coming back that I was already at the South Rim.

Not only had Ava suffered a knee injury but she’d started having heat exhaustion  as well. She’d finished about 1-1/2 gallons of water and had eaten but knew the  signs as she’s suffered from it since she was a young teen. Ava hadn’t “heard”  the Guardian Angels had already been working hard all  morning  long for  struggling to keep her wits about her during the climb back.

The next person I see was Tom from Indiana, the man I’d met earlier in the  morning at the overlook. He had carried Ava’s backpack up the trail! I don’t  think he realized until that moment he was helping my daughter! You help a  stranger and you just don’t  know how paying it forward will come back to you  and yours. Guardian  Angels.

Donna and Gary Brown came up and hugged me telling me their part in Ava’s  journey back up the canyon. They stayed by her side all the way back. Gary told  me they’d already saved a woman from drowning at the beginning of their  trip. What lovely Guardian Angels they are.

It was during those terrible, pregnant minutes waiting for Ava’s arrival to the top  that I told the Ranger about the cable breaking on my pop-up. After all, he had  to live around the area and know of a shade-tree mechanic who could hook up a  cable. He directed me to go try the Chevron station next to Jacob Lake Inn (www.jacoblake.com 928-643-7232).

After the hugs and tears, Ava and I headed straight for the Chevron. We agreed  we should check out the Inn for a place for the night. Ava went to do that while I  talked with someone at the Chevron where I’d filled-up earlier that day.

I’d already met Daniel at the Chevron. He’d offered to fill up my truck twice  before as a service. Gratis. I sure momentarily confused by the gesture but  pleased to see an old tradition.

I was delighted when I saw Daniel and his co-w0rker, Steven, ready and  willing to help in any way they needed to do just because they’re that kinda’  peeps. Guardian Angels.

Although they’re young and didn’t know what to do in this circumstance, they  were delighted to follow my direction in the repair. It was during this arduous  but simple task that I explained how I was “mechanical” by nature and had  watched my brothers work on their cars as a little kid. But, I continued, it was  during my  divorce from Ava’s dad that I refurbished a 1963 Falcon Futura  convertible my mom said  looked like it needed a crusher instead of an overhaul.  I did body work with a sledge-hammer and a 2″x2″.

Daniel and Steven worked tirelessly and in strange contorted positions fixing the  cable. All three of us were greased up, filthy but happy when the pop-up worked.  Guardian Angles.

Ava had taken Montana to our cabin while all this was going on so she could  shower and rest. Feeling somewhat better, we decided to eat at the lunch  counter at the inn, where we met Brooke. She wanted to know all about Ava’s  adventure and treated us like royalty.

It was over our meal (try the “Grand Bull”) that we looked at pictures from her  hike and glowed in the company of “family”. We love this little place in the  crossroads of Americana. We just don’t like the campgrounds a quarter of a mile  away!

Funny thing is, Gary and Donna had checked that same facility out and  rejected  it. I meant to ask them where they ended up staying as all other camp  facilities  close-by were “dry” (meaning there are no utilities) and the ones  within the  park have been booked a year out.

Really. Who knows what they want to do a year from now or where they want to  do it?

Funny thing about Jacob Lake. There is no lake. Apparently, the man who  owned what I understand to be more of a pond-sized lake wanted to make it  bigger for fishing. When he dug out the hole, he hit limestone and the whole  “lake” flushed like a toilet! The water left is a puddle.

A BIG “THANK YOU” TO OUR GUARDIAN ANGELS!

Happy Trails!

So, my daughter, Ava, is with me camping and decided that she would hike down from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, stay at Phantom Ranch tonight and hike back up to the South Rim tomorrow.

Ava pondering walk & hiking sticks

 

Ava at North Rim Kaibab Trailhead sign ready to go!

 

A quick look back for luck as she goes on her own great adventure.

Montana and I walked with great pride at our girl’s fortitude and spirit of adventure as we sauntered back over to the North Rim overlook to take some morning pictures.

Along the path to North Rim overlook

 

at overlook

I was enjoying talking to Tom from Indiana not paying attention at all to Montana’s interest in a chipmunk (so Tom said) when she bolted toward the cliff! As you all will recall, I have serious vertigo and was doing really well to be standing 12 feet from the edge so, when Montana bolted, I was a hair away from turning loose of the leash and saying my last “goodbye” to my crazy lil’ white dawg.

Where Montana jolted at overlook!

Now, I’ve got to finish packing up and heading out to the South Rim for the  night. Will post later to let you all know about my adventures.

Happy Trails!

 

It was cool hiking some small trails yesterday but today was the BOMB! I just  LOVE driving through the park. As a rock hound, I’m in total hog heaven. The  rock formations are remarkable combinations from billions of years ago with that  many years of rain, wind, sand and Lord only knows what else attacking the  surface to expose what we see today. There are layers and layers of frozen-in-time  waves of red mud thrown in several different directions all frozen in a moment in  time.

Zion from West entrance before climb

Zion's form of barrier to keep you from going over ... what... that 10,000 foot cliff?

The red is the same red of Georgia clay used for making old bricks for 200 years  ago. Add to that red, splashes of very white, chalky looking rock and lots of dark  green pion pine needles and reddish-brown bark, light green cacti with yellow  or sometimes bright pink blooms. Sprinkled across this landscape are tiny  lavender bell-shaped wild flowers along the side of the road or bright red flowers  creeping out of the rock formations. We drove about 15 MPH and took over two  hours driving about 40 miles. Normally, I’d do that in 30 minutes! Tells it all,  don’t it!

Great caves carved out of the rock from billions of years of nature's tantrums

Cactus flowers along side of road

After driving up the mountain you reach the part where you go through the mile long tunnel. It’s so cool but the jerk kid in front of us threw out a cherry bomb in the tunnel and scared the crap outta’ us. Needless to say, when we exited said tunnel, I reported it complete with truck description and license tag number to the Forest Ranger holding the oncoming traffic as only one lane is open at a time. Saw the truck pulled over with a Ranger looking for the culprits. Like that!

mile long tunnel

Now we’re on our way back out of the park exiting to the east so that we can end up at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, hopefully, before too late so we can get a place to stay.

Can you find Ava?

This is where we stopped because we saw a waterfall, such as it is. The only one during the whole trip.

Waterfall desert style

This next picture was so amazing because of the rock formations but if you look closely at the very top of the white mountain, there are rocks stacked on top of each other.

Can you see the rocks stacked on top of the white mountain?

Here’s a better picture of the stacked rocks on top of that white mountain with my zoom.

Now can you see them?

So, after all this excitement, we realized that we needed to hustle up to get a place  to stay. As Ava wanted to hike down into the Canyon and stay at Phantom  Ranch tomorrow and hike back out the South Rim the following day, we needed  a place near the North Rim. We were hoping against hope that there would be  room in the park. No such luck. They book a year out.

We found a place 43 miles from the North Rim. It is officially called Kaibab  Campgrounds at Jacob Lake (or a similar name) which we now call Rip Off  Campground. We’re so mad for so many reasons but first the cool part.

We set up camp around 5:30 PM and drove immediately to the North Rim so Ava  could find out specific details about her hike for the next day. We were confident  that the only challenge after returning to camp was to not be excited in  anticipation of her adventure… that apple don’t fall far from the tree. I walked a  different path (vertigo, ya’ know) while she headed toward the Lodge and  inquired as to availability for dinner. They had just had a cancellation so we could get a table on the RIM eating fine food, drinking fine wine while watching the sunset go down over the North Rim. Ava looked at me and said seriously, “Ya’ know this is the only place you can see the sunset over the Grand Canyon.” I believed her. And it was.

Now back to the rip off campground. First of all they charge me with my little pop-up $37.00 plus tax which is the same as they do for huge 40 foot RV’s! No discounts. This has been a thorn in my side for the last three trips but now that these places are going up every year, it’s really ticking me off. The worst part? They have the NERVE to charge me $2.25 (in quarters only) to take a FIVE minute shower in a 2’x2′ shower stall! My little pop-up uses almost no electricity  and we certainly don’t have toilets or running water like the RV’s.

When I get home, I’m writing every congressman and woman about the  problems with the cost of camping. How can it cost as much as a Motel 6 for crying out loud! There, at least I get a warm bed and a shower for about the same price! There’s some gouging going on and I’m either upgrading my pop-up to include toilet, shower and big screen TV or selling it and going back to Motel 6 like I had to do in 2009.

What’s wrong with this state of the union when camping use to be affordable? I worked 45 years to live this dream of camping my way across this country. It’s been my dream, darn-it.

Up early to take Ava back to the North Rim to hike while I tear down camp and drive to some new unknown campground at the South Rim Friday! The challenge is that neither of our cell phone service providers have great service here but I don’t doubt that she’ll find me!

Happy trails.