Montana to Black Rock – October 2021

Autumn colors in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana

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.

Autumn in Montana
Side channel of the Bitterroot River
River Reflections

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.

Autumn colors along the Clark Fork River
Autumn Color along the Clark Fork River

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.

Southwest Montana landscape
Dubois, Idaho, rest area

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.

Devil’s Creek Reservoir, Idaho.

Drizzle and rain in the night and the misty morning provide some photo opportunities for me.

Misty morning at Devil’s Creek Reservoir

We take time to repair the rear view camera and leave Devil’s Creek about 2:00 in the afternoon.

Still a grey day at Devil’s Creek

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.

Heading southwst on I-15
Utah landscape

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.

Working on projects on a windy day in Beaver, Utah

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.

Surprised by snow at Beaver, Utah
Trash has disappeared
A grey sky morning

As the sky clears, snow on the nearby mountains is quite scenic.

By afternoon, blue sky has returned

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.

Southern Utah landscape

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.

Cougar at Black Rock

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.

Late afternoon sunlight on creosote with mesas on the horizon, peaceful and private

On the Road to Montana – Hip Camp to Butte Rest Area – August 2021

Smoke Shrouds the Landscape

On Sunday morning, August 15, Clifford and I prepare to leave our Hip Camp as soon as possible to get through Salt Lake City in a timely manner. The further north we go, the smokier and hotter it is.

Smokey Northern Utah Landscape
Wildfire Smoke Dulls the Utah Landscape
Devil’s Creek Reservoir in Southern Idaho Obscured by Smoke

South of Pocotello, Idaho, we experience one of the worst things for travelers – a blow out on the RV. Yikes! Fortunately Clifford is able to maintain control and we get safely stopped alongside I-15. In the 95+ degree weather with absolutely no shade, Clifford begins the ordeal of changing the tire, having to unhitch and jack up the RV, and the whole tire-changing routine is done with semis whizzing by at breath-taking speeds.

Blowout on Cougar on I-15
Beyond Repair!

As he is finishing, a fellow stops to help and even though the tire has been changed, this man is able to take care of the problem we’ve been having with the RV brakes. A piece of serendipity.

Southern Idaho

We arrive at the Idaho Falls, Idaho, Walmart in early evening with the intention of getting new tires. This Walmart does not have the tires we need and we spend the night in the crowded lower parking lot along with other Rvers.

Setting Sun,  Idaho Falls, Idaho

First thing Monday morning we find the Big O Tires and they fit us into their busy schedule. With new tires, we continue the northward journey. It has been a long hot day and we are looking forward to arriving our destination – the Divide Bridge BLM Campground south of Butte, Montana.

We have stayed at this campground along the Big Hole River several times. At the turn off to the campground, we are disappointed to see that it is closed, as it is being used as a fire-fighting staging area. Why was this not posted at the exit??? We have no choice but to continue on up highway 43 until we find a spot big enough to do a U-turn with Cougar and then make our way back to I-15.

Back to I-15, Southern Montana

Hooray for rest areas, especially those that are large with clean facilities. We pull into the one south of Butte and park at the far end as the sun sets red. The smoke is so dense we can scarcely see the surrounding countryside. This will be our spot for tonight and we are grateful for safe accommodations.

Hooray for Rest Areas
Ominous Red Sunset

On the Road Again – Monticello to Hip Camp – August 2021

Provo River

Although it’s only been three months since Clifford and I returned to Monticello from last winter’s Arizona home, it feels longer since so much has happened. We’ve sold the lab/home base and gotten rid of almost everything we own. Even though I was not enthusiastic about moving to Monticello, it is still hard to leave all that was good and stable about being here.

Leaving Monticello

As we leave this time, it is different than ever before, as there is no home base to come home to. Cougar (our 24’ RV) towed by the old Suburban is IT. It is our full-time home now. We finish last-minute items on the final to-do list and are on the road in the early afternoon of Thursday, August 12th. It is a hot (99 degrees in Moab as we go through), hazy (wild fires abound in western US), and dreary drive to Price, Utah.

The La Sal Mountains above Moab are scarcely discernible due to wildfire smoke.
Church Rock with smoke haze.
Wilson Arch

We arrive at the Price Walmart parking lot in the early evening, glad to be off the highway. Going into Walmart is a welcome breath of cool air, but sensory overload. We have not been to Walmart in over 2 ½ years; the well-stocked store is bright with color and sound. Even though I don’t feel great after the hot drive, it is interesting to browse as though I have never been in a Walmart store before.

Sunrise at Walmart

The next morning, we pick up a few more supplies and then head north to Provo where Clifford has reserved a spot at a “Hip Camp.” A hip camp is about what it sounds like, a place between cool and funky, a place where someone can make a few bucks by letting travelers camp in their backyard. This place is, no doubt, the epitome of just that. Our bearded camp host, an old hippie, says we can park anywhere and points out a grassy spot under a big tree next to a mud puddle where ducks are happily splashing about.

Parking in the shade at Provo Hip Camp
Ducks and chickens visit Clifford

Even better, there is a back gate that opens onto the bike trail along the Provo River. A foot bridge gives us access to the Provo City Riverside Park. We spend the next day in the park in a shelter alongside the Provo River, picnicking and playing music. We are grateful for the cool shade of the trees and the ambiance of the river.

Grateful for the cool ambiance of the Provo River
Picnic and music in the Provo Riverside Park

This Hip Camp has been a very pleasant stop for us.

Hip Camp at Provo, Utah

 

 

Abajo to Santa Fe – June 2021

Trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico

In mid-June as the temperatures reach the upper 90’s, we make several trips up Abajo Mountain for picnics and music, a respite from the heat.

Picnic and Music on Abajo Mountain
Music Man on the Mountain

I am delighted to spend time on the mountain, finding the wild iris still in bloom despite the warm temperatures.  Yarrow, balsamroot, and other wildflowers are flourishing.

Yarrow Flourishing
Balsamroot
Wildflowers on Abajo

In the evenings, when the valley below cools off, we return home and continue with the work of packing and clearing.

The trip to Santa Fe that we have been considering in order to pick up a violin that has been donated to me by a former music colleague has been put off due to her circumstances and the heat the Southwest is suffering from. However, toward the end of June, I find out that I can still retrieve the violin and there is a break in the weather. So, we make plans on rather short notice and a quick trip to Santa Fe is underway.

Ute Mountain in southwest Colorado

As we travel, I am quite intrigued by the clouds, some of questionable origin, but over the mesas of New Mexico there are some that look like clouds used to look.

New Mexico Landscape
Intriguing, but…

We have a good drive to Santa Fe, but the motel we chose because of its affordable price, is very sketchy. However, it will have to do. The next day, I pick up the violin and seeing that it is not playable as is, the Violin Shop does a much appreciated rush job of new strings, bridge, and bow. Mission accomplished,  I have the violin, now to be known as “The Fiddle.” This instrument will be much more suitable for all the fiddle music that Clifford and I have been playing with our zoom group for the last year.

The Fiddle

I would have enjoyed having more time to visit friends while in Santa Fe, but Clifford is anxious to get back to Monticello. As it is, we have time for dinner with a couple of long-time friends, and I look forward to a more relaxed trip in the future.

New Mexico Landscape

The return to Monticello to resume the moving process brings June to a close.

Prickly Pear at a Forest Road Rest Stop

Moving Forward – June 2021

Dramatic June Clouds In Southeast Utah

June starts with an outing up Abajo Mountain for a picnic and music, a welcome respite from all the sorting, packing, and cleaning that we have been doing since we returned to Monticello home base in early May. With this impromptu decision, I make a picnic lunch, we pack up our instruments and off we go. We are pleased to find that the spot where we camped last summer is available.  I am happy to walk about the familiar favorite trails and to find a few flowers blooming.

Wild Iris on Abajo
Wildflowers on the Mountain

I begin my days sitting on the deck in the first sunlight or under the trees on the warmer days, reading or journaling. Clifford begins his day with his ham radio connections, and then we both proceed to whatever areas are next to attend to. Every day more items go to the FREE table – dishes, clothes, extra bedding, furniture, books, lamps, and on and on.

Sitting Under the Trees
Side-yard Spruce

For a few days in early June, dramatic cumulus clouds make an appearance and there does appear to be rain to the east, but nothing right here.

Rain to the East

When I am not sorting, packing, and cleaning, I edit for a couple of authors, and most days Clifford and I play fiddle tunes from the UK zoom group that we have joined. Clifford is also singing and recording songs and when I have the energy, I play cello in the evenings.

A Map from “Novels of Shannon”

Although there are not many flowers blooming in our yard, I am always open to the possibilities.

Simple, but Lovely
Milkweed Blossom

As we pack, the scientific instruments that Clifford is keeping are moved to a small storage unit in a nearby town, while the stuff I’m keeping is consolidated, imagining it fitting into a small storage unit.

Items to Keep

Along with all the sorting and packing going on in the house, I am also cleaning and repacking Cougar, our RV, as it will be our full-time home once we leave Monticello. This itself is a daunting task.

 

Big Changes – May 2021

A Time of Change

The change that is afoot for Clifford and me is that due to a change in funding for Carnicom Institute, we will be selling the home-base/lab in Monticello, Utah. This is a big decision and we begin packing, sorting, discarding, and cleaning soon after returning from the winter journey. We put out a couple of tables with a FREE sign and begin giving things away – almost everything we own.

The Clearing Out Begins

Clifford will be saving only the most important scientific lab instruments and books, and these will be put into storage. I will be likewise save only the most important items in my life – journals, photo albums, artwork, and so on. The sorting and processing seems both overwhelming and endless.

In mid-May, a trip to Salt Lake City to see a cardiologist is postpone when the Suburban won’t start the morning that we are to leave. The cardiologist appointment and the motel reservation are rescheduled and the sorting/packing/cleaning continues.

Handmade Candle – Gift from a Cello Student – Letting It Glow – Letting Go

My source of peace during this stressful time is the early morning hour spent on the deck in the backyard where I read or write in my journal, sipping tea, enjoying the backyard trees and blossoms before the busy-ness of the day.

Beauty in the Shadows
Delightful Daisy Blossoms
Bringer of Joy
Baby Spruce Cones

In the process of packing books and journals, I run across a couple that are added to the daily reading stack. It must be that the timing is right for them now.

Daily Reading on the Deck

We make the rescheduled trip to Salt Lake City, a long drive for us, with a stop at Soldier’s Summit for a picnic at a very sketchy picnic table alongside the store. It is a welcome stop from the long drive.

Utah Landscape
Picnic at Soldier’s Summit
View from Soldier’s Summit

When we arrive at our motel, we find the hotel under construction, but the room is serviceable and convenient with a kitchenette.

Going to the hospital for the cardiologist appointment, a long wait wearing masks in a crowded overly warm waiting room has my blood pressure up and my heart in a-fib by time I see Dr. Day. A procedure is recommended and scheduled, and then we are on our way. Driving back to Monticello the next day, we take time to explore the Price Canyon Recreation Area. The road is much too steep for us to consider camping there, but it was a good diversion to check it out.

View from Price Canyon BLM Recreation Area
View from Price Canyon BLM Recreation Area

Returning to Home-Base

Arizona Landscape on the Journey North

Our time camped south of Ash Fork, Arizona, goes by quickly. The last days there are not very comfortable for me due to the wind and the stress of being on the move again and my heart feels a bit uneasy, but I am happy to be alive! We have enjoyed this peaceful location situated among the junipers, but it is soon time for us to take the next leg of the journey back to home-base in Utah.

Our first destination is a forest road north of Flagstaff. We are up early and ready to go, planning on getting out ahead of the wind, but by time we are on I-40 heading east, the wind, the semis, and the uneven terrain make for very difficult driving conditions. Had we known how much the wind was going to pick up, we would probably have stayed at camp longer, but after a stressful drive, we are relieved to arrive at the forest road north of Flagstaff where we spend a comfortable night.

Forest Road North of Flagstaff, Arizona

The next morning we leave for Monticello.

Elephant Feet Alongside US Highway 160, Arizona
Northern Arizona Landscape
Northern Arizona Landscape
Northern Arizona Landscape

With the wind and traffic, it is a long drive, but by mid-afternoon we are back in Monticello.

There are big changes ahead in the next weeks, but for a few days I just enjoy having the space of the home-base, especially my writing table at the east-facing sliding glass doors….

Tea at the Writing Table

and time in the enclosed backyard.

View from the Deck

On to Ash Fork – April 2021

Camping South of Ash Fork, Arizona

Right when our two-week time limit at Powell Springs is up, Clifford is sick and the wind is blowing up a big storm, so consequently we end up staying longer. The ranger who stops to check on us is very nice about it.

Where to go next has been the question, and even with our exploratory drives and studying the maps, we have not come up with a good next destination until we hear from Tony, who invites us to join him on a forest road south of Ash Fork, Arizona. He left Powell Springs a couple days ago. Before he left we tried to figure out where we might both go, but things didn’t seem to be working out, wind and weather being an issue. However, his suggestion works for us, and we head north on highway 89 to the forest road turnoff. It is a nerve-wracking drive on highway 89 with way too much fast traffic for this highway. It is a relief to arrive at the forest road and find Tony, and we soon get ourselves set up nearby in a stand of pinon pine and juniper.

Setting up in a Stand of Pinon Pine

We are grateful for our spot here, despite the trash left by others. I pick up around our campsite, but disposing of trash is problematic, so I have to let much of the rest of it go.

Sunset from Forest Road 4

I go walking most days, just because it is part of the regimen established for stabilizing the heart. I’m always on the lookout for flowers on my walkabouts, happy to find a few here and there.

Happy to Find Flowers
Flowers on FR4

The Daily Walkabout

Daily activities include music and editing and visits with Tony while we are camped in this peaceful location.

Clifford Playing Dulcimers
Carol Editing and Studying Energy Medicine

We drive to Prescott Valley, about 30 miles to the south  from where we are now camped, and more work is done on the Suburban . Several days and many $$$ later, we have important repairs done that, while expensive, are very important for the safety factor involved in towing an RV.

Peaceful days on FR4

After we spend two weeks here, we make plans to begin the journey back to Monticello homebase.  It has been a good and peaceful spot on the route northward and we look forward to perhaps coming this way another time.

Good-bye to Forest Road 4

Hiking With Clifford – April 2021

Hiking With Clifford

When I am not out sauntering about the forest near our campsite at Powell Springs, I have a favorite spot under the alligator juniper near our front door. It is a great place to read, write, and enjoy a morning cup of coffee or afternoon tea. There are days when I play the cello outside. Along with these activities, domestic chores, editing and blog-writing fill my days.

Sauntering in the Forest
Forest Treasures

Clifford works with his ham radio and he also has a favorite outdoor spot where he spends as much time as possible playing the dulcimer and singing, the secret side of his life after 20+ years as the scientist devoting hour upon hour to his research.

Favorite Music Spot

Over the two weeks that we camp near Powell Springs Campground, along with the usual camp activities, Clifford and I go hiking a couple times, not with any particular destination in mind, except for one hike looking for and finding Powell Spring.

 

Hiking near Powell Springs Campsite

We also go for a couple drives to explore the general region to have ideas of future camping spots. On one of these outings, the Suburban starts making a rather unpleasant sound, but we make it back to camp and then to Big O in Prescott Valley. The immediate problem is taken care of, but other issues will have to be taken care of as soon as possible.  But in the meantime, we will enjoy our last days camped at Powell Springs, grateful for having found this beautiful camping area.

Exploring

Powell Spring Days – April 2021

Powell Springs Days

Camping in one of the dispersed sites near the Powell Springs Campground in northern Arizona is a big switch from wintering at Quartzsite in southwest Arizona. Although this area is considered desert, the road from highway 169 up to Powell Springs is a transition from desert to a pocket of pines and other forest vegetation. It is so refreshing to be among tall trees and lush green shrubs.

Sunrise – First Morning at Powell Springs

On our first full day here, Clifford and I hike all the way around a large mound to the east of our campsite, getting a feel for the lay of the land.

Getting a Feel for the Lay of the Land

Most mornings I climb the nearest rock mound at sunrise. As I become familiar with the area, I go further away from camp, accompanied by my little thermos of tea.

Rock Mound at Sunrise
Hiking with the Green Thermos

One morning I encounter our neighbor and his dog as they are returning from their early morning hike. Camping as we do, we seldom get to know other people, but I invite Tony to come over when he hears music, as Clifford plays his dulcimer outside almost every day. Tony and Kimber do come over, and we strike up a friendship, including learning of the beautiful leather work that Tony does. I even commission him to make a sheath specifically for the knife that my son Tye made for me.

Knife sheath Made by Tony

Of all the places that we have camped in our years of travel, this is one of my most favorite.

Drawn to the Rock Mounds
Forest Saunterings
Sunset at Powell Springs