The Road is Where We Like to Be

While it’s not much fun packing up to leave each season, being on the road is our favorite place!

It goes without saying that we seek natural places wherever we go.

We left Lake Havasu City last Tuesday for St. George. After driving all day, the last thing I would have expected D.A. to say was, “Let’s go to Zion tomorrow.” If I had really thought about it I would have gone right online for any news about visiting Zion NP, but no, it did not occur.

Zion National Park

Zion is one of the most-visited national parks in the U.S., was Utah’s first national park and is definitely the most popular of the five national parks in Utah.

The next morning, nearing the park, we saw a sign that said, “Visitor Parking Full – Take Shuttle.” Oh-oh!

They waived us right through the main gate, like we knew what we were doing, but alas, the parking lot was full. Thinking we’d just drive up the road until we found someone to talk to, we only went a short distance when we saw a sign for the museum. We stopped and were happy to see a Ranger standing outside answering questions. She told us the main “Scenic Drive” was closed to all traffic except the shuttles. However, there were a couple of other drives we could take.

She also told us 16,000 people visit the park each weekday, 17,000 to 20,000 on the weekends. At 2PM each day, you can go to the Visitor Center to buy any remaining shuttle tickets for the day. The alternative is to buy in advance. 50% of the daily amount of tickets go on sale online each day at 3PM. They are sold out in 3 to 5 minutes!

We first took the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway to the east entrance. It was a gorgeous drive (and quite crowded) but very much worth the effort and we found a nice spot for a picnic lunch.

Canyon Overlook in Zion N.P.
View from Canyon Overlook on Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway

View from Tunnel on Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway

As we drove through the Park and happened to pass several shuttle busses, we couldn’t help but notice they were nearly empty – one or two passengers max. Ha ha and Oh Well!

Later, we went back the way we came to the park originally to the town of Virgin and took Kolob Terrace Road to the Lava Point Overlook (almost 8,000 feet elevation) and no traffic to speak of. It too was a gorgeous ride and even more geologically diverse, ending in tall pines and snow.

Ranch on Kolob Terrace Road, Zion N.P.
Ranch on Kolob Terrace Road
Kolob Terrace Road, Zion N.P.
Geologic diversity on Kolob Terrace Road
View from Lava Point Overlook, Zion N.P.
The view from Lava Point Overlook

On the way back to Virgin, we talked about how the day did not turn out at all as expected, yet it was one of our best days on the road ever!

“You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.” -Paul Coelho

The next morning we continued to Salt Lake City. We dropped our boat at Fred’s Marine in Layton for a floor replacement and headed to our reserved “camp” at Circle L Mobile Home and RV Community. It’s a tiny park with lots of grass and huge trees, only a few RV spots and, seemingly, a lot of long-term residents. A little different experience than what we usually have in an “RV Resort” but pleasant enough, at least until we passed two police cars as we were leaving to go touring the next morning. Makes one wonder but at least they didn’t tell us to leave the area immediately or get back to the safety of our RV…

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Visitor Center Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
Visitor Center – rear view that faces marsh and boardwalk

Our destination was the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge near Brigham City. This was our third visit and we couldn’t wait to get back on the 12-mile auto tour. I am re-reading (for the third time also) Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams, a poet and naturalist. The memoir takes place in 1983 as Terry was losing her Mother to cancer while, at the same time, she was losing the place she most loved in her home state of Utah – the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge – to flooding. Just as the first and second times I read it, I often think, “I cannot bear to read this,” because it brings up such strong emotion, but then I realize I cannot bear not to read it equally because I love this book so dearly.

I gave D.A. a lightweight scope and tripod for Christmas. I thought we would use it for the Christmas Bird Count at the “Bill Will,” but we ended up doing our share by boat so the scope and tripod didn’t seem accompany us. Now we were going to do some serious (for us) birding and we came to the refuge with the scope, tripod and my eBird app loaded for Utah.

The Refuge and other wetlands associated with the Great Salt Lake provide critical habitat for migrating birds from both the Pacific and Central Flyway of North America. This area contains abundant food for birds, including very important brine shrimp and other macroinvertebrates as well as necessary plants like sago pondweed.  Birds come to the Refuge by the millions to eat and rest during migration, and many other species stay to breed, nest and raise their young across the Refuge wetlands. Several of the Refuge’s priority species are American Avocet, White-faced Ibis, American Pelican, Snowy Plover, Black-necked Stilt, Cinnamon Teal, Tundra Swan.

We were fortunate enough to see all but the Snowy Plover and Tundra Swan. We saw 29 “Taxa” (unit species) and counted 1,509 individuals but I’m happy to admit I stopped counting individual Franklin’s or Ring-billed Gull, Violet-green Swallow, Brewer’s Blackbird when the count went over 200 each!

Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve

The gate at GSL Shorelands Preserve
Entrance to GSL Shorelands Preserve

Today, we discovered a new destination near us in Layton: the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve, the first Nature Conservancy preserve in Utah.

This Preserve spans 4,400 acres of wetlands and uplands habitat along the eastern edge of the Great Salt Lake. As the largest saline lake in the Western Hemisphere, the Great Salt Lake is crucial to both people and nature. The lake is a rich feeding ground for migratory shorebirds and waterfowl, supporting between four and six million migratory birds as they journey from as far north as the Arctic to southern points in Central and South America.

Some of the largest gatherings of wildlife ever recorded on the Great Salt Lake have been observed from the preserve’s visitor center, making it a birdwatcher’s paradise as well as the perfect place for visitors to appreciate the importance of the Great Salt Lake.

Visitor Center at GSL Shorelands Preserve
Visitor Center
Observation Tower at GSL Shorelands Preserve
Observation Tower

Here we saw a total of 12 Taxa and 70 individuals but the highlight came at the top of the observation tower. D.A. thought he heard a Sora, but the eBird app said they were not common in the area. We waited and listened and waited some more and sure enough, we SAW the Sora. Sora’s are mysterious marsh birds. Here’s the description from Cornell Lab:

“A descending whinny emanates from the depths of cattails and rushes, but the source of this sound rarely shows itself. This secretive brown-and-gray marsh bird is a Sora, but drab it is not. When it finally pokes its head out of the reeds its bright yellow bill might have you thinking about Halloween candy corns. The Sora walks slowly through shallow wetlands a bit like a chicken that has had too much coffee, nervously flicking its tail and exposing the white feathers below.”

D.A. has great photos (unfortunately not quite fast enough to get the Sora) that he will share on Facebook.

See what I mean? The road is the place we like to be!

Hualapais … Camping … Nomadland … Kudos

Hualapai Mountain Park

Hualapai Mountain Park – We finally got around to visiting after so many winters in the Havasu area. This is a Mohave County Park high above Kingman with 11 miles of trails and elevations ranging from 6,200 to 8,400. Absolutely gorgeous – Ponderosa and Pinon pines and huge granite rock formations – though we certainly felt the elevation since we have spent the last six months at 400! We normally acclimatize at a couple thousand feet per day – not six.

The name ‘Hualapai’ is derived from the word for “People of the Tall Pines” for the Native American tribe that once called these mountains home until they were relocated by the military in the 1870s.

Originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930’s, it today offers 20 cabins, 70 campsites, picnic areas, a playground and 35 RV camping sites are just across the street from the main entrance.

Hualapai Mountain Park is home to elk, mule deer, fox, raccoon, squirrels, chipmunks and skunks. There are also a variety of songbirds and birds of prey including hawks, owls and an occasional Golden Eagle.

Now that we’ve finally visited, this will be a great place to escape the heat that often happens in October when we return from our travels.

New campershell for our Silverado

Camping – we bought a camper shell!

And some would say, why do you want to go camping when that’s all you do? But it’s not really like that.

Our RV is our home and we travel from one gorgeous campground with full hookups to the next. In eight years, we have spent exactly one week and one day without hookups. That was plenty; we don’t need to ever do it again.

There are places we love to go and would love to spend a few days, but there is no way we are driving our home down a 30-mile washboard!

A camper shell gives us the flexibility to visit and stay at some of our favorite places just like “back in the day!” (And then we’ll be happy to return to our rolling home.)

Can’t wait!

Nomadland

At dinner the other night, our friend asked if we had seen Nomadland and what we, as full-time RVers, thought. We hadn’t seen it, but it was not that I didn’t want to. The only movie we’ve seen in a theater this year was “News of the World,” which we very much enjoyed. Between Covid restrictions and always trying to contain our wi-fi usage (a problem we can talk about another time), we seldom stream.

Since we are currently using Havasu Falls’ wi-fi instead of our own hotspot through Verizon, I took the opportunity to see it.

In a word or two: “Heartbreaking yet inspirational.”

We are not naïve to this… We winter in AZ, about 50 miles from Quartzsite. I have visited a couple of those “boondocking” communities to see friends. One I visited travels with a group of Escapees (a club). Some have homes in cold regions and travel winters and some are full-timers, but these folks have assets and are traveling in a way they love. One day my friend was talking about going dancing every night and I said, “I didn’t know you were a dancer,” and he said, “Neither did I!” His statement made me so happy for him. Our lives expand exponentially when given the opportunity. We don’t always know what an “opportunity” looks like.

There but for the grace of God

The flipside to that seems to be Fern’s situation and you really saw how difficult it all looked: a 5-gallon bucket for a toilet (and how the heck do they dispose of the contents anyway) is probably the most obvious, having to travel from one grueling job to another, never being able to get to a point where a needed vehicle repair wasn’t a disaster. But who wouldn’t be inspired by the sweet connections she made with people and the incredible natural sights she/we saw while traveling the country?

Fern was very brave. Imagine how desperate you would have to be to leave your former life with only what you could carry in your van. She became an – the only suitable word I can find – “immigrant” in her own country. I related completely to her return where she noted she no longer wanted or needed those items she had carefully placed in storage.

Remember, Fern had options. People offered her other living arrangements and she turned them down. Who are we to judge what is right or wrong for another person? Fern had her happy and sad moments – don’t we all?

The point to me is – a recurring theme of our times – we cannot judge another’s life, values or decisions. We can help, assist, aid, but we cannot judge until we – as they say – “walk a mile in my moccasins.” There are people who would never want that experience. There are people who would give anything to “go on the road,” whatever that means to them.

Nomadland gave us the opportunity to see that in such an up-close-and-personal way. I am touched and grateful.

Kudos to my Sidekick

Don (D.A.) Allen is that Sidekick. We are starting our 15th year together, 8 of which have been full-time RVing. I could not have made a better choice. I once stated I loved him because he was happy to eat leftovers and could fix anything, but it’s grown a lot from there. I simply could not have picked a better partner for this stage in my life. I am touched and I am grateful.

Jude & D.A. at Hualapai Mountain Park

See ‘ya down the road…

 

Some Birds Fly South, Some Birds Fly North

It’s time for our semi-annual migration. North.

Looking at the harbor tonight, do you see something missing? Our boat! It’s on the trailer in the parking lot waiting while we do all the things we do on our final day anywhere. Involves lots of rinse, wipe, rub, brush, scrub, sweep, clear-out, dust, clear-up, a lick and a promise, clean, dab, declutter. Endless declutter. Daily trips to donate and storage. Rinse again.

Full-time RVers do not have the luxury of finding a tiny stash space for their recent acquisitions. They’re all taken. If you bring something in, you have to take something out. But it doesn’t always happen at the same time. Mainly it’s bring it in for six months, then purge for three days. It’s shocking how you can detach from your stuff rather than fight with where to keep it one more minute!

This is gonna be fun. Stay tuned…

Summer Travels Around Wyoming

Revisiting a few sites and finding  new ones

Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge

One of our first excursions had to be a return to Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge. As we pulled into the parking lot at the boat launch, we saw a moose in the marsh, then a trumpeter swan – even before we could get out of the truck and focus our cameras. This place holds a special place in our hearts and we were jazzed to return. Seedskadee is a 27,000 acre refuge that protects a variety of habitats for over 350 species of wildlife.

Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge

Sheep Creek Geologic Loop

New friends at Buckboard told us about the Sheep Creek Geologic Loop. It is a 13-mile loop off Highway 44 on the way to the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Center Visitor Center. It follows the visually dramatic Uinta Fault. Mind-blowing rock formations can be seen along the fault: towering monoliths along with rock that has been fractured, jumbled, discombobulated. Give yourself plenty of time because if you are sightseers like us, at the end you will turn right around and drive it the other way!

Sheep Creek Geological Loop

Sheep Creek Geological Loop 2

Grand Teton and Yellowstone

In July we had a great family visit when Mia, Haley and Mandy arrived. None had been to the Grand Teton or Yellowstone National Parks before, so we planned a whirlwind trip. For me, the only way to see these parks is escorted by D.A. because he lived in the area for more than 30 years, and was a trail crew foreman at Grand Teton. He definitely knows where to go and what to see. We stayed at one of those darling cabins at the Cowboy Village and had great meals at Snake River Brewing and Mangy Moose Steakhouse. The parks were as crowded and smoky as we expected, but why would anyone miss the opportunity to see these outstanding areas of natural beauty? Not this troop!

Family at Lake in Grand Teton NP
The Troop: Jude, Mandy, Haley, Mia, D.A.
Mt. Moran, Grand Teton NP
Mt. Moran, Grand Teton NP

Artist Point, Yellowstone NP

Fishing at Flaming Gorge

Did somebody say, “How’s the fishing?” I thought so. We fished for kokanee primarily and a variety of trout. Kokanee salmon are landlocked sockeye salmon (live their entire lives in fresh water). I think we ate our combined weight in kokanee. Of all the fish we catch and eat, kokanee is our favorite.

D.A.'s Kokanee

Flaming Gorge

The pic at the top of this post is a view from the Flaming Gorge NRA Visitor Center taken last year. This year, we saw the view from the water. We trailered the boat to Lucerne, just north of Manila, UT and traveled through the gorge. Awesome! And it goes right to the top of the list for future visitors. Debbie & Bruce and Lynette & Ben summer in Centennial and came for a visit – and this was a great excursion with them.

Green River Through the Gorge
Green River Through the Gorge
Bighorn Sheep at Flaming Gorge
Bighorn Sheep at Flaming Gorge
Boat Ride Through the Gorge
Lynette, Ben, Bruce, D.A., Jude

The next day, the “Girls” traveled south through Manila and up the mountain to the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area Visitor Center.

Jude Lynette Debbie at Flaming Gorge Visitor Center
Jude, Lynette, Debbie

Green River Lake

On one of our early trips to Wyoming, we camped a few nights at Green River Lake. This was long before our RVing days. We were living in Tucson – at the end of the spigot – and I was curious to see where Arizona’s water came from. We traveled north on US 191 through the magical Apache National Forest, and visited Canyon De Chelly National Monument. Crossing into Utah, in Canyonlands National Park, we saw the confluence of the Colorado River and the Green River, Moab, and Arches National Park. We continued on 191 north into Wyoming, the Flaming Gorge area, then far north into the Bridger Teton National Forest near Cora. After 30 miles of unpaved road, we arrived at Green River Lake – the origin of the Green River. It was an astonishingly beautiful journey and the destination left me in breathless wonder. To this day, and after criss-crossing the country several times, that trip remains my favorite.

This year, however, conditions were quite different with all the fires raging on the West Coast and Colorado. As in other places we visited, there was a lot of smoke, though nothing could really ruin the grandeur of the sight or the joy I felt in returning.

On the road to Green River Lake WY Jude & Don at Green River Lake Green River Lake, WY

(Stepping on soapbox.) The point of all this is that in this Covid summer, people flocked to and overran our national parks. Yet there are county and state parks, national forests, monuments and wildlife refuges, equally dramatic, equally  awe-inspiring, where you won’t have the crowds and can still truly enjoy the glory of nature. (Stepping off soapbox.)

Farson

Farson Mercantile ice cream was calling to us on our way home. I think you can see why…

A double and a baby cone from Farson's
“A double and a baby cone, please…”

Fossil Butte National Monument

Another fascinating journey took us to the Fossil Butte National Monument near Kemmerer. The unusual number, variety, and detail of freshwater fish fossils provide a window into life at Fossil Lake 52 million years ago! You have to wonder why the conditions were so perfect there, and the answer is equally surprising: An essential ingredient for preservation, calcium carbonate, precipitated out of the water and fell, like gentle rain, to the bottom of the lake – for thousands of years. It formed a protective blanket that covered whatever sank to the bottom – dead fish, fallen leaves. Not being a science geek by any stretch of the imagination, I had to ask about this precipitation process. In chemistry, it means to separate a substance in solid form from a solution. Aha! Got it.

Fossil Butte National Monument Visitor Center
Fossil Butte National Monument Visitor Center
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument

Intermittent Spring

We returned to Jackson again Labor Day weekend, but this time stayed at Mountain Inn Condos about an hour and a half away in Afton. Excellent choice. We were visiting Intermittent (or Periodic or Rhythmic) Spring – also known as the spring that breathes. Located within the Bridger Teton National Forest, a few minutes outside Afton. You drive about a 4-mile unpaved road, then walk a 3/4 mile slight uphill path that turns more strenuous as you reach the source of the spring.

This is a cold water geyser (the largest and one of only three in the world) that comes forth from the mountain. This time of year, it lasts about 18 minutes, then stops for about 18 minutes! I thought I would find a good YouTube showing the walk and the water running, but no luck, so we’ve accepted the challenge to go back and make one next year. Life is good in Wyoming (in spite of the fact that snow and gusting winds to 60 mph are expected tonight at Flaming Gorge)!

sign at intermittent spring, afton, wy Intermittent Spring, Afton WY

 

We awoke – only two days later – to this:

Truck covered in snow Snowed Boat

 

Very good clue that it may be time to pack up the Mothership for the trip south.

But not without one final sunset –

Antelope at Sunset Wyoming
Photo by Mariann Major – Last Wyoming Sunset for 2020 Season

Thank you, Wyoming! We managed a Covid-free summer!! And Buckboard Marina feels even more like home (thanks especially to the very special friends we found there). We’ll be back in May!

Time for a Trade-In?

From a business standpoint, our boat left a lot to be desired. It had limited seating and clients were cramped. It made sense for us to look at other options for fishability, client comfort and overall performance.

 

Research revealed that our needs would be nicely met by the Tracker Targa V-19 Combo. It seats six comfortably. It is wide and extremely stable. The 200 horsepower, 4-stroke Mercury motor is the industry’s best.

 

After narrowing our available choices online, we traveled to Fred’s Marine in Layton, UT, for the purchase. What a beauty! We couldn’t wait to get it in the water at Flaming Gorge. Turns out, it’s as functional as beautiful! We purchased the boat in June and have been so pleased with our first-hand experience for fishability, comfort and performance. Boats have come a long way in 20 years!

 

Looking forward to giving our clients at HavasuNetEm.com the best experience possible. Our new boat is certainly a factor in achieving that goal.

Escape from Arizona

Escape from Arizona

With the advent of Covid in Arizona, it was an easy decision to end our fish guiding season early and spend the whole summer at Flaming Gorge. We spent a month there last summer and – at 25 miles from the nearest services of any kind – it seemed quite a safe and prudent option.

We planned to spend our first month at a new-to-us resort in Bullhead City, but it was so darn hot, we only spent about a week before moving north. Sunrise Adventures Ridgeview Resort turned out to be a great stopover and we know we’ll enjoy it in future during times of cooler weather. It is part of our Colorado River Adventure membership.

On to Utah…

We usually stay at KOA in Salt Lake City. But this year checked out Mountain Shadows located almost next door to Camping World. We were having work done there on our coach. The Draper location is excellent – all the stores we hoped to visit were close by and we discovered Scheels! We got haircuts (which was a very big deal since all the shops had been closed for months)!! Best of all, we had a couple of visits with D.A.’s sister and nephew.

Ferris Wheel in Scheels, Draper, UT
Now this is how I like to shop!

…and Wyoming

Soon it was time to continue north, but little did we know the adventure that awaited us. Coming north on Highway 80 out of Salt Lake City, the RV engine overheated. We pulled over, discovered no water in the radiator.  This was concerning because D.A. always checks fluid levels. From where we were parked on the side of the highway, we could see a small pond a little ways back, so off we set over very tough terrain with two empty water gallon jugs. Down where the Gadwalls were swimming, we filled our bottles with Wyoming snow melt water. You may ask why we had empty water bottles, rather than full water bottles, but I would change the subject.

Pond along Hwy 80 Utah
What do you mean we don’t have water?

Satisfied to have that be our entire adventure, we only traveled another couple of miles before the light came on again. We were close to the Wyoming Port of Entry, so we limped in, called our tow service and they sent a mobile mechanic.

Though we had a wait for his arrival, the mechanic quickly found a coolant leak and set about fixing it. Soon we were back on the road.

Going east on Highway 80, the first town is Evanston at Exit 6. As we approached Exit 10, the engine line came on AGAIN! We called the tow service and they said they would send a driver to tow us to their shop in Ogden, UT. No, we were less than a hundred miles from our destination, and Ogden was 105 miles in the opposite direction. We asked them to refer us to an RV service shop in Evanston and they gave us a number. We called and learned, “We don’t work on RVs.” We asked for another referral and the same thing happened. Fortunately though at the end of that call, he mentioned there was a Pilot Flying J Truck Care service back at Exit 6. Back in limping mode, we returned to Evanston.

The service at Pilot Flying J couldn’t have been better BUT they couldn’t fix our problem. They spent lots of time, determined we were losing pressure and came up with a laundry list of what might be wrong, but didn’t have the diagnostic equipment to identify the problem with certainty. They suggested we continue east to Rock Springs to the Cummins dealer (only ten miles past our exit in Green River) or return to Salt Lake City. It was an easy choice. Gratefully, Pilot Flying J did not charge us one dime for the hours their crew spent trying to find our problem.  By then it was getting late, so they offered a parking place in their lot for the night.

We arranged a tow that night so we would be in Rock Springs first thing the next morning.

RV under tow
Mothership Under Tow (almost)

This will seem unbelievable. The tow truck arrived, took great care getting our rig hoisted – and then discovered their truck had a hydraulic leak. We would be spending the night in the Evanston parking lot.

We were instructed to call our tow service at 6AM the next morning. The truck arrived about noon, after many more calls.

 

RV under tow
Mothership Under Tow (Really)

Nonetheless, we made it to Cummins late in the afternoon. They were going to diagnose the problem first thing the next morning, so we went to a motel for the night. And that’s when we discovered the restaurant called Old Chicago – which in one meal moved right up our list to number one.

The problem was an R&R EGR Cooler and R&R Crank Case Filter. We were back on the road to our summer home by early afternoon.

Headed south on WY 530

There’s something so sweet returning to a place you’ve visited before. It was good to reconnect with other summer residents. It was good to walk around the beautiful grounds. But the best surprise was the new management! Everything was spruced up and the store/registration area had a complete  transformation. “Cabins” to rent for our guests! They even have a food truck!

Buckboard Marina at Flaming Gorge WY

“Summer, we’re home!”

Antelope at Flaming Gorge

One Great Season and a Deck Remodel

Of course all that studying paid off and D.A. passed his Coast Guard test!

Soon he found  himself as the ONLY operating fishing guide on Lake Havasu.  There are only three – most likely due to the difficulty and commitment acquiring the Coast Guard Captain license, but apparently the other two guides were not operating.  That meant he received bookings as soon as he put a notification that he was available for guiding.  As a result, the bookings and trips  never let up the whole season… that is until Covid-19. Instead of finishing the season mid-April, he stopped by concerns of transmission/infection of the virus mid-March.

We talked about buying a newer, bigger boat for next season so he could accommodate more clients per trip, but it didn’t seem prudent in light of the economy. A solution would be to move the back seat on the passenger side forward a few inches, which would provide the person in that seat better ability to turn around and watch the back-facing rod on that side.

One morning, D.A. said, “Let’s take the deck off and move that seat forward.” Sure, why not? And so it began!

Removing the old carpet from the deck
First step was to remove the old carpet

Once removed, it exposed the 3/4″ marine plywood that was displaying the constant onslaught of countless days of rain and weather.  It was only logical to replace the plywood.  Using it as a template, we placed the flooring, making the adjustments  to the seat placements.

The new and reconfigured decking
New flooring with better seat placement

With the floor in place, we treated the plywood with sealer and covered the surface with 2 coatings of a non-skid paint.  Painting the seat bases and adding a black metal trim on the floor’s edges really made the floor pop! The icing on the cake was the addition of a center mat that would protect the floor from drops and scuffs.

New deck installed and ready to go
Done!

At the end, we were experiencing 105 degree weather daily at Lake Havasu. Salt Lake City here we come!

Home Sweet Home… Almost!

We needed to be back in the area in mid-September for a number of reasons. Due to restrictions in our Colorado River Adventures (CRA) membership, we can only stay six months at our favorite resort, Havasu Springs. We booked a month’s stay at CRA’s Lake Havasu location.

This “resort” is a place to park your RV with full hookups and, really, little else. It’s quite a large park, with parking facilities on both sides of London Bridge Road, though the east side is currently closed. It will get crowded this time next month and they will offer winter activities, but right now it’s a ghost town. No matter to us. It was a great location for all we need to do in the next month.

A new venture

Last summer, D.A. decided to start business as a fishing guide from our “home” at Havasu Springs. “Havasu Net Em” was born. D.A. has been fishing his whole life, and was once a  professional fisherman. He even traveled the world for Orvis for a while, catching fish for their videos. D.A. loves to fish and he also loves to share his knowledge. A match made in heaven.

While preparing for the AZ Game & Fish Guide Test, he learned the Coast Guard has jurisdiction for Lake Havasu too. This meant he would have to take and pass the Coast Guard Captain’s Test! This news changed our plans dramatically. A lot of studying has been taking place since. The test is on October 9th.

At the beginning of September, Joey, the Wildlife Refuge Specialist at Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge, started weekly nature tours at the “Bill Will.” He hoped this activity would eventually be taken over by our Friends Group. Then it turned out he was going to be away on the 26th, so he asked me to conduct the tour.

Great opportunity! I asked one other Board member, Sue, to join me since she, too, is interested in leading tours, and then I asked D.A. to join us for his “birding” skills.

I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but D.A. is also an excellent photographer. He knows the birds and waterfowl on our end of the lake, and could add much to our tour.

Are you kidding? Is it really going to rain in September in Arizona??

On the day of our tour, it rained and no one showed up for the tour!! We hatched a new plan within a few minutes, because the sun came out and our boat was already moored practically next door at Havasu Springs… “Let’s go fishin’!”

We were on the water only a few minutes when we had our first “Striper.” It was nice size but we let it go… later we regretted that decision. We caught a couple of smaller Stripers, and then found ourselves in Smallmouthland. Look at this beauty –

Smallmouth Bass

We kept this one and another a little smaller.

The clouds in the mountains above Bill Williams River were growing dark and we could hear thunder, so we started back. I took this picture to show the relationship of the communities on this end of the lake.

Havasu Springs, Bill Williams River NWR, Hillcrest Bay

On the right is the Havasu Springs Resort. On the left, going up the hill, is the Hillcrest Bay Community. In the middle is the Bill Williams River NWR. The bridge on Highway 95 and the actual river are to the left of Hillcrest.

Summer Tour 2019 Colorado

We visited Colorado (Colorado Springs, Denver and points east) six years ago – our first summer full-time RVing. But now we have a Granddaughter, Haley, going to grad school in Denver, so we planned a trip back to Colorado for a end-of-summer reunion with she and her Mom, Mandy, who lives in Albuquerque.

Mandy had a new tent to try out, so I searched Colorado Springs for a camping spot where we could have our RV and a tent site. Turns out the parks in Colorado Springs are mostly old with tiny spaces – and they didn’t allow tent camping! I expanded our search and we ended up at South Meadows (a Pike National Forest campground) about five miles from Woodland Park. The space we were assigned was HUGE, the camphosts awesome, and the proximity to area attractions couldn’t have been better. It was an excellent choice.

Mom and Daughter Camping

Garden of the Gods and Manitou Springs

Our first day, Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center was a unanimous choice. This is the number one attraction in Colorado Springs  (30,000+ Google Reviews) and its free!

A little fascinating history from the website: “By the 1870’s, the railroads had forged their way west. In 1871, General William Jackson Palmer founded Colorado Springs while extending the lines of his Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. In 1879, General Palmer repeatedly urged his friend, Charles Elliott Perkins, the head of the Burlington Railroad, to establish a home in the Garden of the Gods and to build his railroad from Chicago to Colorado Springs. Although the Burlington never reached Colorado Springs directly, Perkins did purchase two-hundred and forty acres in the Garden of the Gods for a summer home in 1879. He later added to the property but never built on it, preferring to leave his wonderland in its natural state for the enjoyment of the public. Perkins died in 1907 before he made arrangements for the land to become a public park, although it had been open to the public for years. In 1909, Perkins’ children, knowing their father’s feeling for the Garden of the Gods, conveyed his four-hundred eighty acres to the City of Colorado Springs. It would be known forever as the Garden of the Gods ‘where it shall remain free to the public, where no intoxicating liquors shall be manufactured, sold, or dispensed, where no building or structure shall be erected except those necessary to properly care for, protect, and maintain the area as a public park.'”

It was very hot and quite humid on the day of our visit, so we hopped the 1909 Trolley for a narrated tour. Good choice! The trolley seats 14 guests and provides fantastic views around the entire park.

Rock Formation 2

Rock Formations at Garden of the Gods Park

Another day we visited the town of Manitou Springs. Our first stop was the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, a group of relocated Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings and museums. The Anasazi Museum was established and the cliff dwellings were built starting in 1904, and were opened to the public in 1907.

Manitou Cliff Dwellings
Manitou Cliff Dwellings

Later we drove through the scenic town and learned about the healing mineral waters that have been attracting visitors for centuries. The water contains lithium, magnesium and potassium. American Natives considered the land around the water sacred and the natural carbonation in the water the “breath of the Great Spirit, Manitou.” It is said many tribes from different areas put down their weapons in hopes of gaining health and wellness.

Lovers Lane Street Sign
Celebrating our 13th anniversary, we found ourselves on Lovers Lane

We celebrated our 13th anniversary with lunch at the Cliff House known as the historic hotel nestled at the foot of Pike’s Peak that provides an atmosphere of Victorian romance and opulence dating back nearly 150 years. We sat on the veranda and enjoyed a great meal.

Cliff House Hotel

Later we walked around town and sampled the waters which are provided in public fountains.

Mandy at the Mineral Water Fountain in Manitou

Blue Mesa and Curecanti National Recreation Area

The drive from Colorado Springs to Gunnison (about 150 miles) through the center of the Rockies (on our favorite Highway 50) was fantastic! In doing some advance checking, I saw lots of concern if that stretch of road was suitable for large or towing vehicles. Let me assure you, the road is great. Monarch Pass (11,312 feet) was gorgeous, but so was every other mile.

The Curecanti National Recreation Area is a series of three reservoirs along the once wild Gunnison River. Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest body of water in Colorado, boasting 96 miles of shoreline.  On our first visit to Colorado, I read about the area and the Blue Mesa Recreational Ranch and hoped someday to visit. Fortunately, someday arrived!

Blue Mesa Recreational Ranch
Blue Mesa Recreational Ranch

One day at the Curecanti Visitor Center, we learned about the Morrow Point Boat Tours, a 1-1/2 hour boat tour on the Morrow Point Reservoir. Traveling into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, it provides an opportunity to learn about geology, wildlife, early inhabitants, the narrow-gauge railroad, dams and reservoirs. Sure – sign us up!

Tours begin at the Pine Creek boat dock, accessed from the Pine Creek Trail on U.S. Highway 50 (35 miles east of Montrose and 25 miles west of Gunnison). From the parking area, you walk down 232 stairs, then enjoy an easy 3/4 mile scenic walk along the old narrow-gauge rail bed before reaching the boat dock. The tours are led by Park Rangers.

Tour Boat at Morrow Point
Tour Boat at Morrow Point
Waterfall on Boat Tour
Waterfall on Boat Tour

The most striking feature of the lower reservoirs is the 700 foot granite spirelike  Curecanti Needle, which was used for many years as an advertising symbol for the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railway. The narrow-gauge railway famously ran along the northern bank of the river and passed near the Needle.

Curecanti Needle
Curecanti Needle

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

It was early afternoon when we returned to the truck after the tour, so we decided to venture on into the National Park. Having viewed it from the water, we were anxious to see the dramatic views from the top.

“…no other North American canyon combines the depth, narrowness, sheerness, and somber countenance of the Black Canyon.” – Geologist Wallace R. Hansen

The size and scale of the imposing canyon is enormous – the walls on average are 2,000 feet deep. Rock walls are only 40 feet apart and plunge directly into the river at “The Narrows.” We checked out the movie at the Visitor Center and visited many overlooks.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison Sign

View from Black Canyon of the Gunnison N.P.

Delores and McPhee Reservoir

We chose The Views RV Park in Delores because of it’s proximity to McPhee Reservoir – another great fishing spot. The Views was probably our favorite camp of the season. We had a huge spot with a wonderful view. The owners were a darling young couple who kept the park immaculate.

View from Site 10 at The Views RV Park

McPhee Reservoir is the second largest lake in the state of Colorado and we caught Kokanee there on numerous fishing trips.

McPhee Reservoir, Delores CO

Mesa Verde National Park

The Views was conveniently located to other awesome attractions. The drive to Mesa Verde National Park was only about 30 minutes. Mesa Verde is known for its well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, notably the huge Cliff Palace. The Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum has exhibits on the ancient Native American culture. Mesa Top Loop Road winds past archaeological sites and overlooks, including Sun Point Overlook with panoramic canyon views.

Mesa Verde NP Entrance Sign

Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde NP
Cliff Palace Cliff Dwellings
Spruce Tree House at Mesa Verde NP
Spruce Tree House Cliff Dwellings

Canyon of the Ancients National Monument

One of the biggest surprises of our summer was this monument. It was less than a mile from our camp and we hadn’t heard of it before. The monument encompasses more than 170,000 acres of high desert in this part of Colorado, and is part of the BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System. We stumbled into a tour in the Visitor Center and it was helpful to have a little context in this huge monument.

Thousands of archaeological sites have been recorded in the monument, and thousands more await documentation and study.

Lowry Pueblo National Historic Landmark is the only developed recreation site with the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Lowry Pueblo has stabilized standing walls, 40 rooms, eight kivas and a Great Kiva.

Canyons of the Ancients N.M. Sign

In the meantime, it’s early September. Temps are cooling… must be time to head for Arizona!

Summer Tour 2019 Wyoming and Nebraska

On top of the world in a sea of sage…

It was early July when we arrived at Buckboard Marina on Flaming Gorge, Wyoming. This is a full-hookup campground in Ashley National Forest. There is a large NFS campground (Buckboard Crossing) nearby, mostly without hookups, and many areas where you can camp on your own. It’s gorgeous with huge skies and expansive views of the Gorge and Uintas.

Buckboard Marine at Flaming Gorge WY

And wrapped in a blanket of stars…

I hope to add a short video of D.A.’s “star track,” but as I write this, the camera is in the shop for repair.  Flaming Gorge is filled with cool places that have zero light pollution and low humidity, making for prime star gazing conditions.

We fished a lot and caught Kokanee Salmon (and a few Lake Trout) that we thoroughly enjoyed eating. Arriving at the fish-cleaning station after a morning fishing was always exciting where we would learn how the other fisherpersons had done. They mostly caught more and larger fish than ours, but they were using downriggers and we were using leadcore. The fish we were seeking were going deeper the whole time we were there, so it was hard for us to reach them. Nonetheless, we were very happy with the ones we caught.

Kokanee Salmon at Flaming Gorge

Buckboard Marina is about halfway between the town of Manila, Utah, and Green River, Wyoming (about 20 miles either direction). No facilities except a small store, but from now on when I think of “getting away from it all,” I will be thinking about our time at Buckboard.

We stayed a month and had several excursions to local attractions.

One day we took a ride out of Rock Springs (about 20 miles from Green River) to visit the “Firehole” area. The pinnacles and mesas are the remains of prehistoric volcanic activity. It is breathtakingly beautiful.

Firehole at Flaming Gorge

On two Saturday mornings, we found ourselves at Farson Mercantile, reputed to have the best ice cream in Wyoming. Who knows if it’s best, it certainly IS the most generous servings I’ve ever seen! The first visit, I ordered a single, which was bigger than what you would expect from a double. The second visit, I ordered a Baby Scoop, which was about perfect. Actually, this is a great stop for ice cream and interesting shopping – no matter it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere (which I think could be said for most attractions in that part of Wyoming). And P.S., we no longer eat ice cream for breakfast!

Farson is about 40 miles north of Green River on Highway 191, which happens to be one of our favorite highways. If you ever get the chance to take Highway 191 from southern AZ to Canada, DO IT!!

On the road to Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge we found the sign that heads this post. It gets my vote for innovation. It makes you laugh and it makes you think. Here’s another one:

Sage Grouse Crossing Sign

Seedskadee NWR runs along the Green River about 40 miles north of the town of Green River and is an oasis for wildlife. Thousands of waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, and songbirds migrate through the Refuge each year and some, like trumpeter swans and bald eagles, nest here. We saw Sandhill Cranes the day we visited.

Seedskadee NWR Sign

One of our last and favorite excursions was to the Red Canyon Visitor Center in Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. A long-time summer resident at Buckboard Marina told us it was a “must see” in the area and we couldn’t agree more. The site offers paths and commanding views of the 700′ wide and 1,400′ deep Red Canyon that frames the Flaming Gorge Reservoir. The red canyons we were used to in other places were more orange than red. These were more purple than red.  Green river, purple mountains – stunning!

View at Flaming Gorge Visitor Center

“We name it Flaming Gorge”

“John Wesley Powell may not have been the first to navigate the Green River corridor but he was the first scientific explorer to journey down and document his findings along the Green and Colorado rivers. In May of 1869, he left Green River, Wyoming and entered the Uinta Mountains. The Green River, he said, ‘enters the range by a flaring brilliant red gorge. We name it Flaming Gorge.'” (From a sign  on the road to the Red Canyon Visitor Center.)

 Attractions in Casper

We were visiting friends in Casper and I was anxious to see a few attractions I missed the last time we visited.

First on my list was the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center which commemorates Native American history, early explorers, and the travel corridor of the Oregon, Mormon, California, and Pony Express trails. There are many hands-on, interactive exhibits, and at the end I saw the 18-minute multi-media program. This was the perfect way to visit in my estimation because the program at the end brought to life all the exhibits.

National Historic Trails Interpretive Center Casper WY

 

Another day I hiked all around the Garden Creek Waterfall at Rotary Park on Casper Mountain. There are over five miles of trails at an elevation of about 8500 feet. The park is gorgeous and the views spectacular.

Later, I stopped at the Tate Geological Museum at Casper College and met Dee, an 11,600 year-old Columbian mammoth. I was also introduced to a large number of prehistoric amphibians, and many dinosaur-types I had never heard of.

Can you imagine? All these attractions were free!

Home of Kool-Aid

We spent a few days in Hastings, Nebraska, to attend a wedding. Now, we were there for the romantic event, but guess what? Hastings, NE, is the official birthplace of Kool-Aid, and it also happened to be the “22nd Annual Kool-Aid Days!” We went to the Saturday morning parade. This year the theme was “Jamaican Me Smile!” Floats and and participants were decorated in brilliant colors with prominent palm trees, flamingos – you get the idea. Great fun, so I won’t even mention the heat and humidity…

A visit with the good sheriff from Absaroka County

When we checked friends’ availability in Centennial, WY (on the edge of the Snowy Range), they were going to be in town on the day specified, but they were involved in a fundraiser for the local library. I said, “Good, sign us up.” And that is how we came to meet Craig Johnson, the author of the Longmire series. It was a lovely event and Craig Johnson is a great entertainer. He told us how the book (and then the TV series) came to be and what his life has been like since.

Craig loves public libraries and does his best to support them. He’s actually spoken at all the libraries in Wyoming (four times in Centennial), and his honorarium is always a six-pack of Rainier beer! What a hero!!

What a state! It’s just possible we may be spending future summers here.