Winter Trip 2017 Begins – December 13 & 14

Wednesday – December 13, 2017

Early morning light on the tree at the corner

We were not sure that today would actually be our leaving day, but in checking the weather, we see a high wind warning for tomorrow. That means we either leave today, or we will have to wait until Friday. So, we begin the final preparations of getting the house for us to be gone and finishing packing. Almost everything is checked off the master list, which has been on the fridge for weeks.

It is almost 4:00 by time we are ready to leave, rather a late start, but we are on our way.

Leaving Monticello, heading south
Our route is not far from the  Monument Valley region, so a few of the formations can be seen.
A formation like a giant prehistoric creature

We are aiming for a place called Elephant Feet near Tuba City, Arizona, which appears to be a roadside stop where we can spend the night. As we approach Tuba City, we see a formation that looks like it could be the right place, but there is no sign, no other campers, and nothing to indicate that it is the right place. We go on, thinking that there may be something beyond, but there is not.

So we continue driving, keeping a watchful eye for a truck stop at Tuba City, and finding none we  keep going, reaching highway 89, where we turn south. It is dark by time we reach Cameron where there is a truck stop with a convenience store. We park in the back parking lot along with a few semi’s and a couple other RV travelers. We are grateful for finding a safe place to spend the night and the use of the convenience store. Although not very scenic, we do have a peaceful night.

Thursday December 14, 2017

We take our time getting ready to go this morning. I browse the gift shop which features Native American crafts, beautiful fabrics and pottery. When we arrive at Flagstaff, we pick up supplies before heading south on state highway 89 toward Prescott. Arriving there, it is too early in the day to look for the campground we saw indicated on the map. We have time to make it closer to our destination – the LaPaz Valley just south of Quartzsite.

Leaving Prescott, we wind our way over a mountain range, the Juniper Mountains, which looks relatively small on the map. Maps are great, but sometimes features are deceiving. Curve after curve after curve; slow, but very scenic.

The winding road over the mountain south of Prescott, Arizona

After I thought we were out of it, there was another section of narrow twisting roads near Yarnell and a state park dedicated to the 30 firefighters who lost their lives there in a forest fire just a few years ago.

Winding down the mountain toward the valley floor

We thought we would have access to BLM land just a ways beyond – a place to spend the night. However, when we got there, the road seemed to lead to a ranch. This was not what I was seeing on the map, so we decide to keep going on to Quartzsite.

Arizona landscape as we continue on

We drive into the sunset and arrive at Quartzsite while there is still twilight.

Sunset as we approach Quartzsite

The BLM land is only a few miles further on, south on highway 95. Luckily, we are familiar with the Roadrunner camping area just off the LaPaz Valley Road and are able to find a spot alongside a small wash with a good size mesquite tree to provide a homey spot where we can be faced the right direction to handle the wind. It is dark by time we are set up; we only plan to be here a couple of days, but it is a nice spot and no one close by.

We are glad to be here. Hard to believe we only left home yesterday afternoon.

Canyonlands Picnic – November 2017

Thanksgiving November 23, 2017

No wind for a change and forecast for 64 degrees in nearby Canyonlands National Park, so we are going there today for a Thanksgiving outing and picnic. I send Happy Thanksgiving Day text to my kids, pack food for the outing, and then we are on our way.

Castle Rock at the junction of Hwy 191 and Hwy 21 into Canyonland National Park

We are going to Canyonlands via the secondary highway rather than over Abajo Mountain, as Clifford wants to check out a firing range that is not far off Hwy 191. We find the right place and are the only people here. It is nice spot and we could even come here for a picnic sometime.

Firing range area off Hwy 21. Could be a nice place for a picnic

Then on we go, checking out a couple of the BLM campgrounds on the way. We are surprised to find them overflowing. Not a single spot available for us to have our picnic. This is unexpected, as there was almost no one in these campgrounds when we camped here in September on our scouting trip.

Views along Hwy 21
Rock formations along Hwy 21 into Canyonland National Park

On the to the Visitor’s Center, expecting to find it packed, also, but there is almost no one there and we have our pick of the picnic tables, choosing one with the most sunshine.

Our abundant Thanksgiving picnic

After our abundant picnic,  I go “rock climbing,” finding my way up a huge boulder outcrop… or more precisely, an upcrop. I take photos from the top – too bad the sky is so trashed with jet trails. 

Rock climbing at the Needles Visitors Center
Views of red rock mesas from the top of the rock climb

Then we go on the scenic drive, stopping briefly at the Wooden Shoe Arch View Point.

Wooden Shoe Arch View Point
Looking the other direction at the Wooden Arch View Point

At Pothole Point, we go on the hike – really just a half-mile walk across the slick rock with great views of the badland rock formations.

Badland formations seen from Pothole Point trail
Badland formations seen from Pothole Point trail
Clifford looks west toward the rugged Needles District

When we reach the end of the scenic drive, we park, and ravens are eagerly waiting to invade the car through the open windows!

Raven ready to take advantage of tourists

We hike part of the trail here and I take a few more photos of the formations before we head back to Monticello.

It is getting too late to drive over the mountain, so we don’t make a loop trip as planned, as driving over the mountain in the dark wouldn’t be that much fun.

It was a very fun outing and we look forward to going again in the spring.

Journey South – Wallace to Monticello – October 2017

Sunday October 15, 2017  – It is a beautiful autumn day in Wallace, Idaho, and a bittersweet walkabout taking photos of the gorgeous colors, knowing that we will soon be leaving this behind.

Autumn colors in Wallace, Idaho

Tuesday – Clifford and I pick up the Uhaul truck, a 26-footer, in Couer d Alene this morning.  The day is devoted to loading the truck, first CI boxes and furniture, and then apartment and basement stuff.  We are lucky that the forecast rain has held off for most of the day.  By late afternoon, the loading continues in the rain.

Rain in the afternoon

Wednesday – Packed to the hilt, the Uhaul truck left Wallace first thing this morning.  We hired Mike, someone we trust, to drive it to Monticello, Utah, and take care of unloading, while Clifford and I follow behind in the Suburban towing Terry (our camper) at a much slower pace.

Whatever remains in the apartment is packed in Terry or the Suburban and we are on our way by late afternoon.  We stop at the Wallace Coffee House to say good-bye to Katie and the boys, and then we are on our way to Alberton.

Saying good-bye to Katie and the boys

It is a beautiful drive with the western larch turning golden.  However, due to the lateness of the day and the rain, taking photos through the tinted windows of a moving vehicle is not very successful.

Rainy drive over Lookout Pass

Arriving in Alberton, we set up in the parking lot across from the bar.  I am happy to see Ang and Oden, as they are in Alberton for play practice.  We visit awhile and after they leave, Clifford and I eat a simple dinner before heading to bed.

Thursday – It is a pretty autumn morning here in this mountain valley. After Merri texts me that she is up, I walk to her house to visit and have tea with her before she heads to her job. She gives me a ride as far as Ang’s road.  Ang picks me up and we go up to her place where she shows me the progress she has made on the greenhouse.

Looking good in the cabin
The last little chicken, queen of the greenhouse, eats out of Ang’s hand,

 Back in Alberton, Ang, Clifford and I head over the River’s Edge for lunch together.  I will miss being close enough to regularly visit my daughters.

Petty Creek drive

Going to Missoula Walmart for tires for Terry is a waste of time, since once there, they inform us that they are too busy to do it.  Back on I-90, we head southeast toward Butte, watching the autumn scenery,

Autumn colors in southwest Montana
Snow in the mountains of southwest Montana

stopping at the rest area near the junction with Highway 1 for the night. After dinner, we both read until bedtime.

Friday – It is windy and chilly this morning.  Clifford takes a shower and we discover that some of our clothes are wet from rain leakage.  Bah humbug.

View from the rest stop at the junction to Highway 1

We have stayed in touch with Mike and his son, who are on their way back to Wallace after unloading and dropping off the Uhaul truck in Monticello.  Our paths will cross today in Dillon, Montana, where we plan to stop for lunch.  It is fun to meet up with them and chat about our journeys.

Leaving Dillon, we run into rain and then quite the sleet storm as we head up Monida Pass.

Rain south of Dillon
The approaching sleet storm

On the Idaho side of the pass, the sleet eases with only occasional rain showers.

Entering southern Idaho

The wind, however, is much more troublesome. We are relieved to reach Idaho Falls where we pull off at Walmart for new tires for Terry.  We spend the night in the parking lot, as do other RV travelers. It is likely that the wind has encouraged many to pull in early this evening.

 Saturday – Clifford takes a shower while I visit Walmart, and soon we are on our way.  On I-15, on the outskirts of Idaho Falls, an overturned camper blocks one lane of traffic.  This is both sad and disturbing, and I can’t help but wonder if a gust of wind caused this accident.  At Pocotello we exit looking for Denny’s for brunch, but end up driving in circles until we give up on the idea.  A box of cheez-its becomes our brunch instead.  In retrospect, cheese and apple slices may have been a better idea had we known we wouldn’t be able to stop for a meal.

Nearing the Utah border
Southern Idaho scenery

A favorite rest area just north of the Utah border
Utah, here we are

The drive continues until we reach Perry, Utah, just south of Brigham City.  We find the Walmart there, glad the day’s drive is done.  A colorful sunset brightens the last moments of the day.

The view from Walmart parking lot

After dinner, we both stay up reading until midnight.

Sunday – Today we leave Perry and drive through the Salt Lake City complex, no mishaps, stopping at Cracker Barrel in Springville for a late lunch, happy that that leg of the journey is behind us.  Once we turn onto Highway 6, we are amazed by the continuous parade of traffic, including many RV’s, heading north toward Salt Lake City.  Hundreds of people are returning home after a weekend of camping in the National Parks to the south.

Northern Utah scenery

What a relief to reach Price and get off that busy highway, finding a spot to set up in the back parking lot of Walmart. Another colorful sunset brings the day to an end.

Another sunset from a Walmart parking lot

We fix a simple dinner and read until late.  I finish “Coyote Waiting,” …just in time, as tomorrow we will arrive in Monticello.

 Monday – There is not nearly so much traffic this morning, which makes driving a little less stressful.

Southern Utah scenery

Once we reach Moab, we stop for a few groceries at City Market as we know that they carry a line of organic food.

Autumn colors in Moab

And finally the last leg of the journey, the 50 scenic miles from Moab to Monticello, arriving in mid-afternoon.

Autumn colors are we near Monticello 

Robert, the realtor comes by with the keys and we enter our new abode and a new chapter of our lives.

Our new abode and lots of boxes

 

 

Utah Trip – Day 1 – September 2017

Friday September 1 – We finish packing the Suburban this morning for our rather impromptu trip to Utah. This is a business trip related to Clifford’s non-profit, Carnicom Institute. Since it is not meant to be a camping trip as such, we are not taking the camper; in fact, we are not even taking a tent. I have packed camping pads, sleeping bags, and pillows, a couple coolers, some canned and dried food, the picnic bag, and a bag of cooking gear – pans, spatula, and so on, and one suitcase of clothing. Hopefully it is enough.

It is a bit hazy from forest fire smoke as we leave Wallace, Idaho, about noon, but increasingly smokey as we head east. Smoke from the Lolo Peak fire in Montana nearly obliterates the mountains the closer we get to Missoula, but even beyond that, heavy smoke continues to dominate the landscape.

A bit hazy as we leave Wallace, Idaho, around noon
St. Regis River near St. Regis, Montana. Hazy mountains in the background
Mountain valleys are hazy as we head east
The smoke is heavier as we reach Alberton, Montana
The mountains near Missoula, Montana – smoke from the Lolo Peak fire
The Clarkfork River beyond Missoula; we have hopes of leaving smoke behind
But no such luck, as mountain valleys are deeply entrenched with smoke
Smoke continues to dominate the landscape as we head more southerly into the hill and butte country of southwest Montana
Southwest Montana
Southwest Montana
Approaching Divide, Montana

We arrive at the Divide Bridge Campground north of Dillon, Montana, in the early evening, happy to find that it has not been closed due to the fires. Although the sites by the river are taken, we consider ourselves to be very fortunate to get a nice spot on the Friday evening of Labor Day weekend. We unpack food and cooking utensils, making vege quesadillas for dinner. Then I make the back of the Suburban into a comfy bed, the coolers and such are loaded onto the front seats, and we are set for the night.

Campsite at Divide Bridge Campground
Bighole River, so much lower than when we were here in May, and all the snow is gone from the mountains and hills
Evening light reflecting off the river before sundown

We watch the sun go down, forest fire smoke coloring the sky.

Forest fire sky

We made 250 miles today, a good start on our journey.

The Journey’s End – Return to Idaho – May 22, 2017

Monday May 22nd – It is early, but I am awake when Ang and Oden stop at the lot by the Alberton Town Park where we had parked for the night.

Raindrops on shrubs in the park

Oden is just finishing up his Drivers’ Ed class for today. It is great fun to see them; I make French press coffee and we chat for a few minutes until Ang has to leave for a meeting in connection with organizing the Alberton Railroad Days coming up in July.

Ang and Oden
Ang and Oden

We arrive in Wallace in mid-afternoon and have a little time to visit with Katie and Jeremy before beginning the huge unloading process, bringing in only the perishable food and most needed items to begin with. Later we have dinner with Katie, Jeremy, and family. So nice to see them all again.

The house and family in Wallace: Becka, Katie, Justice; Finley in front
Wallace Walkabout: Jeremy and Jude with newest family member – Scarlet

Wallace: power, internet, and hot showers! Family and friends.

Jude and friend JD
Justice and Finley
Finley, JD, and Jude at the pizza joint

Flowers and the beautiful Coeur d Alene River.

Our poppy is really putting out the blossoms this year
Volunteer pansies in our flower/vege bed
Phlox after a rain shower

 

 

 

 

Coeur d Alene on the west end of Wallace

And for the first time in months, I play my good cello… and what a pleasure that is! Traveling is quite the adventure, but there are some great things to enjoy while we are here in Wallace.

Spring Journey – Divide to Alberton – May 2017 (20-21)

Sunrise on our last day at Divide Bridge Campground

Saturday May 20th – I feel better than I did yesterday, but still kind of low energy. However, I go off for a walk to gather mountain sage to hang on our clothesline with the intention of making sage bundles for smudging.

Really cool big rocks here, along with the mountain sage

Then we get the back of the Suburban cleaned out and repacked in preparation for our leaving tomorrow.

After dinner and cleanup, I do some editing while Clifford studies.

Sunday May 21st – It is so pretty here this morning, I am sorry that we are leaving. This has been a great place and we wouldn’t mind staying longer if we could, but we have obligations in Idaho.

Our destination today is Alberton, about 30 miles west of Missoula, 80 miles from home.

Nice to see blue sky and great puffy clouds
On the road again- southwestern Montana
Snow-covered hills in May – more moisture for the earth
Bearmouth Rest Area stop before Missoula

We stop in Missoula on our way through for a Barnes & Nobles fix and supplies at Costco. Then on to Alberton and set up in the lot adjacent to the park.

We have a picnic dinner in the park on the back deck of the historic train museum with my daughter Merri and her little grandson, my great grand-son, Jack, who is a very intense, almost-two-year-old.

Jack

This is a lovely spot with a huge expanse of lawn and trees in bloom.

Trees in bloom in the Alberton town park

Last moment of light

After our picnic, we walk up to Merri’s place to visit awhile, then back to Terry (our camper) for the night.

Spring Journey – Suburban Issues Continue – May 2017 (18&19)

 

Thursday May 18th – I decide on a campfire this morning while Clifford runs to Divide to get hold of my cousin Bill in Dillon. Bill had helped us with the Suburban, tightening loose battery cables and such, hoping that would solve the problem of it not starting. But no such luck, so now onto the next plan, which is to go to Dillon again and have the alternator checked. So, I put out the campfire and we head off to Dillon, the snow still pretty on the hillsides.

Heading to Dillon
Snow on the hillsides as we travel to Dillon

In Dillon, the alternator checks out as being fine, but a coolant sensor is purchased and Bill installs it for us. Then he makes us another yummy dinner. Nice to have someone else cook and fun visiting with my cousin and his wife Sally.

Back at camp, after walking down to the road to take photos, I make another campfire and hang outside until it is too dark to write in my journal.

Bighole River with snowy hills in the background
The turnoff to the campground

After I go in,  I finish a blog and do some editing, staying up later than intended. Always so many good things to do in a day.

Friday May 19th – It is partly cloudy today with puffy little cumulus clouds floating across a blue sky and up to 74 degrees. Although snow remains on the hillsides, it is hard to believe all the snow in the valley bottom just a couple of days ago.

Cumulus clouds against a blue sky

I’m feeling a little under-the-weather, so not a very productive day, but I take a few photos and we go out to Divide to make calls and check email and such.

More photos of the Bighole River and snowy backdrop
More photos of the Bighole River and snowy backdrop
The trees have started putting out their leaves during our time here

 I take a nap in the afternoon, get a few shots of the pretty evening light and go to bed early, leaving Clifford to do his own dinner and cleanup.

Capturing the evening light
Capturing the evening light on the rocky outcropping above the campground
Capturing the evening light
The sun has set

We are going to stay a couple more days, so no need to start packing up this evening or tomorrow. Sweet.

Spring Journey – Snow at Divide Bridge – May 2017 (17)

Wednesday May 17th – During the night, the rain turned to snow and we are blessed with with a couple inches of the fresh white stuff. I go out to take photos right away, quite enchanted with the beautiful stillness.

New fallen snow at Divide Bridge Campground in mid-May

Home Sweet Home at Divide Bridge Campground in mid-May

After tea, journal, and  breakfast, I go out again.

The Bighole River as seen from our campsite
Snow at Divide Bridge Campground
While the snow still clings to the branches, the effect makes one think of delicate lace.
The Bighole River is rising a bit more
Snow emphasizes the textures of the trees

My laptop is dead and journal is current, so I read some photography and Aarp magazines that I haven’t yet gotten to on this journey. The snow turns to sleet, and I go for another walkabout, enjoying the crisp freshness of the day while snow remains on the trees.

More of the lacy look…….
Looking toward the mountain
Looking toward the river
Sage that I was going to harvest is covered in snow
Aspen, or maybe they are alders, still hold snow, but soon it will be gone

The new neighbor is there celebrating his birthday and has a campfire going, in spite of the light drizzle that continues into the evening. Since the host is there, I go join them at the campfire, rather than try making one of my own. It is nice to have someone to chat with for a bit while Clifford continues with his research and studies.

A snowman built by the maintenance man – too snowy to mow the grass, he said

After dinner, with no solar power to charge any of our devices, Clifford and I both go to bed somewhat earlier than usual – kind of nice, for a change.

Spring Journey – Hiking with Cousin Bill – May 2017 (16)

 

Tuesday May 16th – Although there are winter storm warnings for western Montana, it looks like a good day for hiking. We meet Bill and Sally and their big German Shepherds at the village of Glen before following them out to rugged BLM land that reminds me of the buttes of lower Sun River valley where I lived as my kids were growing up.

My cousin Bill, whom I hadn’t seen for 50 years (we are all grown up now,) and his wife, Sally
Heading out to BLM land to go hiking with Bill and Sally

The road gets a bit rough and when we stop, we discover that our 5-gallon water jug has tipped and broken, spilling five gallons of water in the back of the Suburban. Not a good thing, but we park on a slope and let as much run out as possible.

Here’s where the road ends
Ready to head up

 Then Clifford and I follow Bill and Sally up a draw and around to the backside of a large mesa, eventually climbing all the way to the top.

We follow Bill up the draw
We will be hiking around to the backside of the mesa before beginning the climb to the summit

A massive and impressive rock wall comes into view
We pause at the base of the rock wall
Bill, Clifford, and Sally at the base of the rock wall
Here’s where the real climb starts, staircase courtesy of Mother Nature

It is a bit strenuous, particularly on my knees, but the views are quite spectacular.

Scenic view from the top of the mesa
The dots just left of center at the end of the road are our vehicles
Clouds over the mountains become denser

We can see the clouds on the mountain across the valley becoming dense and dark, the harbinger of the storm to come. We make good time going back down, not wanting to get caught in the rain on the rocky slopes and draws. Between ticks and rattlesnakes, we have to be on the alert the whole time, but it is a good hike.

The rocks on the mesa are quite interesting — so  rough and lichen-covered
Pink paintbrush on the slope
We were at the top of this mesa and this is only the base of the backside – there is still the Mother Nature staircase to descend, which will take us back to the draw and down to the vehicles
Bill reaches the rock wall and begins the descent down the rock staircase

Back at the vehicles, we follow Bill and Sally to their place in Dillon, where they show us their pretty flower-filled yard, rock collections, and car restoration projects, followed by a very tasty meal of steak, rice, and the best corn-on-the-cob I’ve ever had.

Back at camp, as we nap, tired out from the hike, it begins to rain, and the rain becomes heavier as the evening progresses. Looks like the winter storm that was forecast is moving in.

Spring Journey – Divide Bridge Campground – May 2017 (14-15)

 

Sunday May 14th Skiff of snow this morning here at Divide Bridge Campground. By time I go for a walk, only the snow on the hills remains.

Snow on the hills around Divide Bridge Campground
Snow on the hills near Divide Bridge Campground
Snow on the hills near Divide Bridge Campground
The Bighole River running high at Divide Bridge Campground

After breakfast there is a knock on the door and some grizzled fellow is there. I ask him if I can help him and it turns out he is my cousin Bill, whom I have not seen in at least 50 years! I have been in recent contact with him through FB and he lives in nearby Dillon, Montana. I told him where we were camping for the night, but it just didn’t dawn on me that he might actually show up on my doorstep! What a fun surprise! He will come again tomorrow with his wife, Sally.

Lots of book editing and photo editing today for me, while Clifford spends the day working on electrochemistry.

Today is Mother’s Day and it is quite wonderful to hear from all of my kids, either calls or texts… well worth the drive to Divide to get cell service.

Monday May 15th – Today is a day of variable weather from sunny with little puffy cumulus clouds, to overcast and rain flurries, and back to sunny.

Sunlight on the river

My cousin Bill arrives with his wife, Sally, and their two very large German shepherds. We sit out at the picnic table to chat for a bit, warm enough when the sun comes through, not quite cool enough to bother with a campfire, and make plans to meet tomorrow for a hike.

In the afternoon Clifford and I go out to Divide to send emails and make phone calls. Back at camp, I explore the other side of the campground, listen to music, and do more editing, journaling, and blog writing, while Clifford continues with electrochemical work.

The passing of a brief rain storm leaves a gorgeous rainbow in its wake, a very nice way to close out the afternoon.

Rainbow at the end of the day