It’s a relief to leave 2021 behind. For many people it was a year of changes, including health challenges and life style adjustments. This was often related to covid-19, but for us it was selling the CI lab/homebase in Monticello, Utah, and becoming full-time nomads, living in our 24-foot Cougar RV. Thanks to a friend, also a full-timer, we found Black Rock Road in northern Arizona in the late autumn of 2021. We began settling into into a lifestyle and routines, while not totally foreign, were different in that there was no longer a homebase.
Now it is January 2022. Clifford and I are busy with our projects and we especially enjoy sunny and calm days when we can work outside. Whenever possible, I sit outside with my morning coffee and my “stack:” books and journals that get my day started in an uplifted way. I make the daily intention of well-being, beauty, and harmony. Observing sunrises and sunsets, I find beauty and harmony, as well as on my frequent walks in the desert.
On my walkabouts, my favorite place to walk is in the wash with its ruggedness, as I make my way through boulders, gravel, sand, and vegetation.
Pine Mountain to the north of us is highlighted by morning and evening colors, but can stand alone as the impressive feature that it is, particularly with a fresh coat of snow. I never tire of gazing at it through our north-facing window.
I also begin employing Segment Intending, which means for each activity of the day, I make an intention of positive results, of seeing what I want to see. This helps with my walkabouts, finding beauty in the landscape that I might otherwise overlook.
Music continues to be a fun activity. Clifford and I play UK folk songs together almost daily, and he is expanding his singing repertoire with a selection of pop songs, bluegrass, country, celtic, and more.
I still edit for a couple of authors and I spend time editing and sharing photos most days, as well as writing blogs of our journeys. Domestic chores and errands are a part of our days, including trips through the scenic Virgin River Gorge on our way to Littlefield to pick up our mail.
We are grateful for quiet and privacy we enjoy here, as well as the scenic aspects of this spot of Arizona desert. It is a good place to spend the winter.
Clifford and I are dispersed camping in northwest Arizona at the invitation of a friend. Many days are sunny and warm enough for us spend time outside. It is always fun to sit out when Clifford is playing and singing. Inside or out, I enjoy a good cup of French Press coffee as I go through my “stack,” as I call my journals and inspirational reading material. I have gained insights that would have been helpful to have learned fifty years ago, but better late than never, as the saying goes. Valuable insights have led me on a path of greater happiness in just being where I am and appreciating being alive to enjoy the beauty that surrounds me.
Even though I was dismayed to see no trees when we first arrived here, I have grown very fond of the creosote “forest” and the play of light on the mountains and mesas. With so much openness, I am always observing the sky, watching the variety of clouds and colors that come and go. Sunrise, sunset, and stormy days are most interesting.
Some days the cloud progression is quite enchanting:
Sunsets frequently put on a show:
I walk most days unless it is too windy. The wash is my favorite place to walk because of its ruggedness, boulders to gravel to sand, but some days I hike up the sides of the mesas that are not too far away.
When I hike up the mesa, photos taken from that vantage point reveal the vastness of the land. We are not hemmed in with buildings, utility poles, streets. It is a good place to be. I guess it helps that Clifford and I are introverts by nature and we appreciate the quiet and privacy we have here.
Photos on my walks are shared with family and friends as well as posts to Facebook photo groups, which I find uplifting and worthwhile. There are many people who are seeing what is beautiful in the world and I am happy to contribute to this positive awareness.
We and our neighbor pick up trash that has been strewn about by people coming into the parking lot off the exit and trash left by some campers. Hopefully our actions will prompt others to be more mindful of the importance of caring for our environment.
Clifford: Behind the scenes, Clifford’s non-profit is becoming more active with plans to get the website updated and active again. Sewing is a handy skill that he employs as often as need be. Sometimes we hike together and occasionally he goes on longer exploratory hikes by himself. Always, his ham radio is a commitment he takes seriously. And music, music, music – a new life direction that had been put on hold during the years of active research.
Mid December brings much colder temperatures and late December is a time of celebration with the winter solstice, our anniversary, and Christmas.
The last day of the year, a rainbow appears over Cougar.
In mid-November Clifford and I make another trip from our camp on Black Rock Road through the Virgin River Gorge on our way to Littlefield to pick up our mail. Again, I am amazed at the geology of this 10-mile stretch through the gorge. There were some very dramatic earth changes that took place here eons ago.
Less dramatic are photos taken on the walks to the nearby mesas and in the wash, although I am quite thrilled to find a flower blooming in the wash on one of my walks. When we camped in the desert at Quartsite, flowers bloomed all during the winter months. Apparently that is not the case here and seeing a flower is a big deal.
Clifford starts a different blog site for me (since my wordpress site doesn’t seem to work anymore), so I am able to do blogs again. I am months behind but happy to be at it again. Editing for a couple of authors continues.
Besides ham radio every day, Clifford spends a significant amount of time increasing this dulcimer playing skills, and he has been singing and recording some of the songs he has worked on. A new addition to the music scene is the tongue drum.
Even though he does not have the equipment or space here in Cougar to pursue an interest in researching aspects of covid that might tie in with his earlier CI work, his inquiring mind is always active. Never a dull moment in his busy brain.
We are still cat-sitting Ravyn and she makes herself at home.
Although there have been some very chilly nights, the daytime temperatures have allowed us to spend time outdoors and for that, we are grateful.
Since there are no trees to obscure the views, watching the sky, the clouds, and the rising and setting of the sun is what I do. The variety is quite mesmerizing.
The east mesa creates a vibrant slash of color across the horizon at the setting of the sun while ambient clouds subtly reflect the dusky rose color.
Clifford and I appreciate the views, as well as the peace and quiet from our campsite on Black Rock Road.
In early November, we decide to go to Mesquite, Nevada, just for an outing. The drive though the Virgin River Gorge is quite stunning on this beautiful blue-sky day.
Building an interstate highway through the gorge was an engineering feat. It is the kind of highway where one should mosey, but no, most people travel at breathing-taking speeds, totally missing the breath-taking views.
November 7th is a special day of gratitude as I sit out with a perfect cup of coffee after a short hike with Clifford. Today marks one year from the stroke. I am well, I can hike, I can read and write. I can talk to my kids — I feel very fortunate and very blessed.
Most days I go walking. I could probably walk for miles and not get lost here. As it is, I try to vary my route a bit every day to see what I can see. One day, I find the wash, which obviously is subject to flash floods when there is enough rain. The vegetation here is more varied; boulders, gravel, and sand form an interesting rugged pathway across the desert basin. It is my favorite place to walk.
Clifford and I go for short walks together now and then, but often I walk alone.
At the end of October, after several days of travel with good camping spots every night, Clifford and I arrive at Black Rock Road in the very northwest corner of Arizona, about six miles south of St. George, Utah. It was only by chance that our friend David called to see if we were still in Montana (guess he saw my photo of the snow at Beaver, Utah, posted just a couple of days ago on FB). As it turns out, the campground we were headed to is closed, so he invites us to camp next to him on Black Rock Road.
There are acres and acres of creosote, alive and green, but not a single tree. In all directions we have desert views of mountains and mesas, no buildings, no power lines, which is a real plus, but no trees.
After we get set up, I walk to David’s RV, about 300 feet further along the road and meet Ravyn, David’s sleek black cat. He has to leave tomorrow and has asked if I will feed her while he is gone. Ravyn and I immediately become friends.
A routine is soon established: I walk to David’s RV in the mornings to feed Ravyn while Clifford is on the ham radio. Then I sit out with tea and write in my journal.
After breakfast, we proceed with our projects, appreciating this quiet and private place close to nature. I try imagining that the creosote is a vast forest and I am a giant towering over my trees. It’s an image I enjoy; the only thing lacking is shade.
Although we can’t see it from here, I-10 is not far away, so cell service is decent. This means we can work on projects that require the internet. Clifford always has a list of projects. Having the space to put out antennas for his ham radios is at the top of his list.
We also enjoy being able to play music via zoom with our folk song group from the UK.
Ravyn comes to our place during the day and finds the fiddle case to be a perfect napping spot.
There is an open-ness to being here, but I also have a less definite sense of purpose. Maybe that’s okay after all the moving since leaving Montana, and purpose will define itself more clearly over time. I am grateful for the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, “Breathing in, I am happy to be alive; breathing out, I smile at my world.” I am grateful for the desert with its quiet privacy, the views, hot yerba matte, colorful pens, and pretty journals. This is a good place us, at least for the time being.
After the trip to Wallace with my sister Nancy, the next few days are spent reorganizing Suburban and Cougar in preparation for leaving Montana. Clifford and I want to be on our way before the weather turns colder than it has been. The autumn colors are at their best in the nearby woods. Nancy and I walk to the side channel of the Bitterroot River one more time.
Thursday, October 21, Clifford and I finish packing and leave Florence a little after noon. The autumn colors along the Clark Fork River are quite striking as we head east from Missoula toward Butte.
Although we usually stop at the rest area south of Butte on I-15 or at Divide Bridge Campground, this time we push on through to the rest area at Dubois, Idaho, arriving at sunset, 284 miles, a very long day for us.
The next day is windier, so not as easy driving, and we stop at the Devil’s Creek RV park in southern Idaho around 3:00. We set up on the far end of the reservoir rather than in one of the RV sites. I have time to post photos to the RV Bunch on FB, play fiddle, and make dinner before heading to bed. A good productive day despite the hours on the road.
Drizzle and rain in the night and the misty morning provide some photo opportunities for me.
We take time to repair the rear view camera and leave Devil’s Creek about 2:00 in the afternoon.
Construction as we approach Salt Lake City slows us down, but we arrive at the Perry, Utah, Walmart about 4:00 and are happy to get a spot along the median with grass and a tree.
The next morning is Sunday, October 24. We always plan our drive through SLC on Sunday so there isn’t as much traffic. We are up early enough to do a bit more shopping and leave by 10:00, but we are disappointed that the rear view camera is still not working despite our working on it. Driving through SLC is taxing enough, but doing it without a camera makes it even worse. As we drive through Salt Lake City, we feel the wind starting to pick up.
By time we get to Beaver, 200 miles to the south on I-15, we pull off and find a place to park in a trashy dirt lot behind the Flying J. It is very windy now and we are both glad to be off the highway and parked for the night.
Monday is much too windy for travel and despite putting down the stabilizers, which we don’t usually do for an overnight stop, we are rocking and rolling in the wind all day. We bundle up against the wind and walk to nearby Denny’s for a meal. We keep busy the rest of the day with our various projects.
Our friend David calls to see if we are still in Montana. He informs us that the campground in the Virgin River Gorge where we had planned to go, which also happens to be where we met him several years ago, is closed. That is disappointing to us, but David encourages us to go to Black Rock Road and camp there near where he is set up.
When I open the door the next morning, I am surprised and delighted to see a landscape covered with snow. Trash has disappeared under white fluffiness.
As the sky clears, snow on the nearby mountains is quite scenic.
We are not traveling today, waiting for the roads over mountain passes to clear. Cell service is good here, so both Clifford and I work on our projects, mostly editing for me, and for Clifford, whatever he has going on.
By Wednesday, the 27th, the snow is mostly gone and the highways are clear, so we leave Beaver and head south through St. George, and cross the border into Arizona.
With David’s directions, we find our way to the spot he has suggested for us on Black Rock Road. There are desert views in every direction and gently rising hills in this valley basin, sloping down to a wash and upward to nearby mesas, but not a single tree. The acres and acres of creosote are green and alive, but without trees, it feels kind of exposed and barren to me.
I appreciate the views, and how peaceful and private it is here, but coming from the mountains, trees, and rivers of Montana, Black Rock will take some getting used to for this Mountain Girl.
Despite the chilly nights, I spend a couple more days visiting my daughter Ang. The western larch turning gold and a dusting of snow is a reminder that winter is just around the corner.
In mid-October, my sister Nancy and I make a trip to Wallace to visit Katie. The drive to Wallace is quite beautiful with the cottonwoods along the Clark Fork River and the western larch on the mountainsides all dressed in their autumn colors.
Upon our arrival in Wallace, my daughter Katie shows us the apartment that she has renovated for her family above the historic Metals Bar, which she now owns.
We have a tasty lunch at the Blackboard Cafe and stroll around Wallace admiring the autumn colors and the historic buildings, many of which were built out of brick after the infamous forest fires of 1910 destroyed part of the town.
Then Nancy and I go for a hike on the Pulaski Trail. That trail was one of my favorite places when Clifford and I lived in Wallace. Nancy and I hike a half mile to the waterfall that I used to call Fairyland Falls.
After the hike, we say good-bye to Katie and head back to Florence.
A stop at Elmer’s Fountain, a natural artesian well just a few miles from Wallace finishes off a full day-trip and we arrive back in Florence just before dark.
The morning after my daughters and I arrive in Great Falls, Katie gives Becka a ride to Centerville, a small town out in the prairie about 20 miles from Great Falls where Becka went to high school. Becka has timed picking up her truck and visiting family to coincide with her class reunion. While she is at her reunion and Katie is on her way back to family and job in Wallace, Ang and my grandson, Oden, and I entertain ourselves by walking to nearby Gibson park to see the ducks and geese before we find a nice restaurant and treat ourselves to a good lunch. Later, back at the B&B, Matt joins us for a homemade dinner.
Sunday morning is centered around getting new tires on Becka’s truck, and then we go out to Giant Springs State Park, well known as one of the largest fresh water springs in the country and famous for the Roe River, once listed as the shortest river in the world. It is a beautiful park and we enjoy wandering about, glad that the weather is pleasant enough to do so, despite being a bit on the chilly breezy side.
Leaving Giant Springs, Becka, Ang, and I stop again at Sun River to see Matt and his kids. It is too late to go fishing, but we walk through the woods to the Sun River and hang out awhile, enjoying the time together.
Since it is a long drive back to Alberton, Becka, Ang, and I stop in Lincoln for dinner on the way, a nice break from driving/riding. It is very late and quite chilly by time we arrive back at Ang’s place.
The next day, Becka heads back to Wallace where she will have a warm and comfortable bed, but I spend another night in Terry and find out later that the temperature dropped to 15 degrees that night. Brrrr!
Clifford and I have enjoyed the past couple of months camped in western Montana and we will soon be making preparations for the journey to Arizona for the winter. But first, I have a couple more get togethers with family on my horizon.
The first visit is with my lovely daughter-in-law Tammy and two of her and my son Tye’s kids, Luke and Mariah. They have traveled from their home in Belgrade, Montana (near Bozeman) to see us. After breakfast together at a cafe near their motel, we go to Bass Creek, a short drive from where Clifford and I are parked at my sister Nancy’s place. A pleasant hike up the Bass Creek Trail is followed by a picnic.
It is quite interesting talking to these grandkids whom I have not seen for several years. They are smart and interesting and we have a good visit while enjoying the yummy food that Tammy brought. The next day, they make the return trip to Belgrade. It was great seeing them and I appreciate the time and effort they made to come.
A couple days later, after getting new tires on my Forester, I take the Graves Creek route over the mountain to visit Ang. It is the first time I’ve driven in a year, so it feels like quite an accomplishment!
That evening, daughters Becka, who is visiting from Hawaii, and Katie, who lives in Wallace, Idaho, arrive. Steaks are cooked on the grill over a campfire. It is great fun to see three of my four daughters all gathered around the campfire.
In the morning, the girls all come for coffee in Terry (the old RV where I stay when visiting Ang) before we head over the Swan Range and Roger’s Pass to Great Falls, as Becka needs to retrieve her “truck,” which was left there when she moved to Hawaii.
On the way, an interesting sight-seeing stop near Lincoln is a place called Sculpture in the Wild. Large somewhat odd sculptures made out of natural wood products, logs, willows, bound newspapers and so on are found scattered through the forest along a walking trail. This 26-acre sculpture garden is a vision of Rick Dunkerly, a knifemaker/ logger from Lincoln, Montana and Irish silversmith Kevin O’Dwyer. This sculpture garden features sculptors from many countries and reflects the nature of the Montana landscape and economy near Lincoln.
After admiring the sculptures and reading the kiosks along the trail, we head on to Sun River to see my son Matt and his two kids, Orion and Aurora. These grandkids are so grownup now!
Becka has rented an air B&B for us in Great Falls, a cute little house in the old residential section of Great Falls. After we settle in a bit, we all go to dinner in Black Eagle, a part of Great Falls that considers itself separate from Great Falls proper. At dinner, as I look at this gathering, I realize that they are all blood-related to me except for Matt’s ex who is still very much part of the family.
After two great weeks camping at Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana, Clifford and I move to my sister Nancy’s back yard, once a horse pasture, now a great lawn surrounded by trees. Not only is it a pleasant place to stay, we have electricity not dependent upon solar panels, a rarity for us.
Sitting in the morning sunshine with our hot coffee, Nancy and I begin looking through the photos albums that were once Mom’s. These albums go back many years, including photos from our childhood. It is fun and interesting to see these photos before passing the albums onto our sister Lillian.
The morning light is delightful as I walkabout for photos, and sometimes Nancy and I walk through the woods down to a side channel of the Bitterroot River.
For my daughter’s Ang’s birthday, we have a small family get-together at the Lumberjack for lunch and then we play music on the deck. It is really quite a fun afternoon for all of us.
Our days are filled with projects. Clifford is reviewing some of his research papers, while I work on edits for a couple of authors, do Qigong, especially appreciating the benefits of the Healthy Heart Routine, and write in my journals.
In mid-September there are a few smoky days, but not nearly as bad as what Montana was experiencing earlier in the summer.
When the weather cools, misty mornings provide photo opportunities.
One Sunday, Nancy and I go visit Ang and grandson Oden.
It is delightful to have dinner cooked over a campfire with the ambiance of the mountains and trees all around us.
Nancy and I also admire oil paintings that Ang has completed in recent months.
Near the end of September, I spend several days with Ang, staying in Terry, the old RV that Clifford and I bought after we got caught in a blizzard in our pop-up a couple of years ago. While I am here, Ang and I enjoy the warmth of the wood stove as we work steadily on the edits for her epic fantasy series, The Novels of Shannon.
Soon it is time for me to head back down the mountain.
October is just around the corner and other family get-togethers are in the works before Clifford and I head to Arizona for the winter.