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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The next morning we leave for Monticello.
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….
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.
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.
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.
Daily activities include music and editing and visits with Tony while we are camped in this peaceful location.
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.
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.