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

Autumn on the Horizon – September 2021

Life in the Bitterroot Valley

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.

Camping in Nancy’s Big Back Yard

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.

Looking through Mom’s albums
My Siblings: Left to right: Rollie, Eddie Nancy, Lillian, Diana

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.

Cattails along the road showing autumn colors
Walking to the side channel of the Bitterroot River
Reflections on the 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.

Music at the Lumberjack: Bebose, Ang, and Carol
Clifford plays his dulcimer at the Lumberjack

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.

Writing in the journals

In mid-September there are a few smoky days, but not nearly as bad as what Montana was experiencing earlier in the summer.

Full moon on a smoky night

When the weather cools, misty mornings provide photo opportunities.

Misty morning in the Bitterroot Valley
Mist at dawn
Mist at sunrise

One Sunday, Nancy and I go visit Ang and grandson Oden.

Ang and Oden
Ang, Oden, and Carol

It is delightful to have dinner cooked over a campfire with the ambiance of the mountains and trees all around us.

Dinner cooked over a campfire
Carol and Nancy surrounded by mountains and trees

Nancy and I also admire oil paintings that Ang has completed in recent months.

Original oil paintings

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.

Warmed by the wood stove

Soon it is time for me to head back down the mountain.

Autumn coming to 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.

Bass Creek to Carlton Creek – August 2021

Bass Creek

Two weeks of camping at the Charles Waters Campground, tucked into the foot of the Bitterroot Range, south of Missoula, Montana, is a delight to me. We are surrounded by mountains and trees, and Bass Creek is nearby. My idea of a great camping place, for sure, and Clifford likes it here, also.

Surrounded by trees
Bass Creek nearby

Walks at sunrise are a favorite activity for me, especially on the morning when mist hangs low in the nearby drainage. I also find delight in taking my journal and a cup of delicious organic French Press coffee out to the edge of the meadow to sit with the beauty and the silence before other campers begin their noisy day.

Morning walks
Mist in the mountain drainage
Coffee and journal in the morning

One of our first days here, my daughter Ang, quite the handyman, comes with supplies and tools to fix the damage to the underside of the RV caused by the tire blow-out when we were still back in Idaho on our way here. The steel belts of a blown tire cut deeply into the underside of an RV, as anyone who has experienced such an unfortunate event knows. We are glad for her skill and promptness in repairing this for us! Another day, Ang and another daughter, Merri, come for a picnic lunch. It is great to see them after such a long time, since covid prevented travel to Montana in 2020.

Ang repairing our RV
Daughters Ang and Merri come for a picnic

My sister Nancy comes several times and we hike Bass Creek Trail, a great hiking trail that somewhat parallels the creek tumbling down the drainage.

There are subtle signs of autumn as August and our two-week camping limit come to a close.

Sunrise walk showing signs of autumn

Fortunately, Nancy has a big back yard, once a horse pasture, but now a great big lawn area surrounded by trees, where we will be setting up for awhile. I will miss the creek, but Nancy’s place will be pleasant for us.

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

Last Days at Monticello – August 2021

View of Abajo Mountain at Monticello

It is August now and western United States is hot and dry with many wildfires, but it has not been too bad here in Monticello, Utah. Even though Monticello and nearby Abajo Mountain have thus far escaped the ravages of wildfires, there are a couple of days when smoke lies heavily in the valley, obscuring Abajo from view.

Forest Fire Sunrise
Abajo Mountain is obscured

Clifford and I discuss whether we should stay in Monticello longer or begin the trip to Montana and hope it cools off by time we get there.

The sale of the house is underway, but there are many things yet  to take care of such as moving the last items out of the house and getting Cougar (our RV) ready to be our full-time home, including a major readjustment of living space functionality.

Original Living Space
Redesigned Living Space

Downsizing from this place, once a small church, to a 24-foot RV has been a real challenge. We have given away hundreds to thousands of dollars worth of stuff – furniture, lab equipment, clothing, dishes, books, and so on. There is no turning back at this point, so it looks like we will aim for the small break in the temperature that we see shaping up in Montana in about a week.

My source of greatest peace during these last days is the time I spend in the backyard either on the deck watching the birds, sipping coffee and journaling, or sitting under the pine and spruce trees at the back, grateful for shade and their ambiance.

Coffee on the Deck
Or Under the Spruce Tree

As I journal, I think about the difference between being motivated and being inspired. Being motivated comes from need – the need to eat, the need to have clean clothes, and so on, while being inspired comes from some deeper richer place. I seem to be doing most things based on motivation (need) rather than inner source (inspiration). In sitting quietly with the question of how to move from motivation to inspiration, I find the answer is that feeling satisfaction is the only gauge I need at this time. If the activity is satisfying, do it if I want to (cook, wash dishes, play the fiddle); if not satisfying, let it go for the time being. That makes sense given the current circumstances.

Some days I walk early while it is still cool, one day going as far as the cemetery, a peaceful place where I’ve never been before. Maybe I’ll come here again before we leave.

Cemetery – a Peaceful Place
Wildflower on the Roadside
View of Abajo on the Cemetery Walk

We make the final trip to Clifford’s storage unit in the nearby town of Blanding and stop at Recapture Reservoir on our way back to Monticello – one last chance for me to take photos there.

Recapture Reservoir near Blanding, Utah

On August 10, we do the final walkabout of the house and yard with our checklist, repack the Suburban, and get Cougar ready for travel. I say good-bye to the backyard, the trees, and all that is being left behind.

Saying Good-bye to All That Is Being Left Behind

Tomorrow begins a new stage of the life journey.

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

Good-bye Quartzsite – Hello Powell Springs – April 2021

Powell Springs

As April approaches, the handwriting is on the wall, so to speak, that it will soon be too warm here at La Posa South, south of Quartzsite, Arizona, where Clifford and I have been boondocking since November. We make plans to head north.

Sometimes I am sad to leave a campsite where we have been set up for awhile, but not this time. Although I will miss the comradre that Rollie, Tata, and I share, between the dust and noise from the ATV’s going by and the almost constant wind,  I feel no particular attachment to this spot.

Tata, Rollie, Carol, & Cifford

The morning of April 1, we say our good-byes and get an early (for us) start. The landscape is barren  as we head toward our destination for the night, but more saguaros as we reach I-17 north of Phoenix.

Barren Arizona Landscape
Saguaros North of Phoenix

We arrive at Badger Springs Trail parking lot in the Agua Fria National Monument by late afternoon and get set up a little off to the side of the main lot. There is still highway noise, but other than the trash left by slobs, it is an okay spot for an overnight setup.

Cougar at Badger Springs
Badger Springs Area

In the morning I go for a short walk to take a photo at sunrise.

Sunrise at Badger Springs

After a quick breakfast we head on north, still on I-17, until we reach the exit for highway 169 that takes us toward Powell Springs Campground, our next destination. We have never been here, but it sounds good from what we read about it. The road up the mountain to the campground is very steep, really a bit too much for Suburban to tow Cougar. When we get to the campground, it is small and very crowded. There is hardly room to turn around to get out. Heading back down the road, we find a dispersed site that is available and very appealing with a large space for parking surrounded with a variety of trees and shrubs.

Cougar Setup at Powell Springs

We are soon set up, inside and out, happy to have found such a nice spot.

Setup Inside