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!

Summer Tour 2019 Colorado

A Family Get Together near Colorado Springs

We have a daughter-in-law in Albuquerque, Mandy, and a granddaughter, Haley, near Denver. We hoped to have a get-together near Colorado Springs but it turned out more difficult than expected. Mandy had a new tent she and Haley wanted to try out. I called a number of campgrounds and learned they were all old with tiny spaces and geared to RV camping, not tent camping. We extended our search and ended up at a National Forest Campground near Woodland Park, South Meadows. There were benefits to our choice: the campground had HUGE campsites and gorgeous walking paths behind the campground, and great proximity to Colorado Springs and local attractions.

Mom and Daughter Camping

It was easy to decide our first full day should be spent at Garden of the Gods Park, a registered National Natural Landmark in Colorado Springs. It features dramatic views, 300′ towering sandstone rock formations against a backdrop of snow-capped Pikes Peak and brilliant blue skies. The world-class Visitor & Nature Center and museum is the most visited attraction in the region.

We hopped on the 1909 Trolley for a narrated tour and fantastic views of park attractions.

Rock Formation 2

Rock Formations at Garden of the Gods Park

We spent another day in Manitou Springs, starting at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, a drive around town, and lunch at the historic Cliff House at Pikes Peak, providing an atmosphere of Victorian romance and opulence dating back nearly 150 years. From its storied start as a stagecoach stop to its turn-of-the-century prominence as the area’s premier mineral resort, it remains the crown jewel of Manitou Springs.

Manitou Cliff Dwellings
Manitou Cliff Dwellings
Lovers Lane Street Sign
Celebrating our 13th anniversary, we found ourselves on Lovers Lane
Cliff House Hotel
Cliff House Hotel

Blue Mesa

When we started full-time RVing in 2013, I came across this location in our Coast Resorts membership info and made a mental note I’d like to see the area sometime. Sometime came!

The drive from our camp near Colorado Springs was spectacular: through the heart of the Rockies on Highway 50, Pike and San Isabel National Forests and then over Monarch Pass, 11,321 feet! The pass is widely considered one of the most scenic in Colorado, offering a panoramic view of the southern end of the Sawatch Range from the summit.

The Sawatch Range is a high and extensive mountain range in central Colorado which includes eight of the twenty highest peaks in the Rocky Mountains, including Mount Elbert, at 14,440 feet elevation, the highest peak in the Rockies.

The road is excellent and I would recommend it to anyone with the opportunity to do it.

Blue Mesa Recreational Ranch
Blue Mesa Recreational Ranch

The Blue Mesa Reservoir runs 29 miles from Gunnison to Montrose, CO. The state’s largest reservoir, the Blue Mesa is part of the Curecanti National Recreation Area. This is where the waters of the Gunnison River gather before carving through the steep walls of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

The Curecanti NRA Visitor Center was just a couple of miles from our site at Blue Mesa Recreational Ranch, which was also where we launched our boat to fish. Kokanee’s here too, but smaller than Flaming Gorge. Delicious nonetheless.

At the Visitor Center we learned about the Morrow Point Boat Tour that runs between the Blue Mesa and Morrow Point Dams and into the famous Black Canyon of the Gunnison, giving us the opportunity to learn about geology, wildlife, early inhabitants, the narrow-gauge railroad, dams and reservoirs. It runs daily in the  summer.

It’s a gorgeous hike to the boat from the parking area – 232 stairs, then onto the old narrow gauge railroad bed for about a half mile. The hour and a half trip is on a large pontoon boat with a captain and interpretative ranger.  Most places the cliffs are at least a thousand feet high.

It’s very hard to imagine the railway that existed there in such a narrow canyon. “When the first Denver and Rio Grande train passed through the upper reaches of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in August 1882, the passengers gazed with wonder at the steep walls above them, the cascading waterfalls and the towering granite point of Curecanti Needle. As the little train found its way out of the canyon and the passengers set their thoughts toward the open vistas ahead, few could imagine the human and monetary cost of constructing this “Scenic Line of the World” through some of the most rugged country in the West.”

Tour Boat at Morrow Point
Tour Boat at Morrow Point
Waterfall on Boat Tour
Waterfall on Boat Tour
Curecanti Needle
Curecanti Needle

Our boat tour was in the morning, so later in the day we drove on to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Now we would see the river from the top of the cliffs.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison Sign

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

The walls of the canyon are 2,000 feet deep, rock walls are only 40 feet apart and plunge directly into the river. Choose your footwear accordingly!

View from Black Canyon of the Gunnison N.P.

Fishing at Delores and a Visit to Mesa Verde

The Views RV Park  in Delores, Colorado, called to us because of its proximity to McPhee Reservoir (second largest in CO after Blue Mesa), Mesa Verde National Park (a World Heritage Site) and the Canyon of the Ancients.

The Views turned out to be our favorite RV park of the summer. Our huge spot, #10, overlooked a gorgeous valley and the park is located directly across the highway to the entrance to McPhee Reservoir.

View from Site 10 at The Views RV Park

McPhee Reservoir

It’s the largest lake in the San Juan National Forest, with a beautiful topography of piñon, juniper, and sagebrush trees. Things to do at the McPhee Recreation Area include boating, fishing, camping, hiking and biking.

McPhee Reservoir, Delores CO

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park was created in 1906 to preserve the archeological heritage of the Ancestral Pueblo people, both atop the mesas and in the cliff dwellings below. The park includes over 4,500 archeological sites; only 600 are cliff dwellings. We visited the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center, the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum and drove the Mesa Top Loop Road.

Mesa Verde NP Entrance Sign

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

In 1978, Mesa Verde National Park was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its exceptional archaeological relevance – including its spectacular cliff dwellings tucked into the sandstone alcoves of its steep-walled canyons.

Canyon of the Ancients

Our morning at Canyon of the Ancients was an eye-opener. This National Monument encompasses more than 170,000 acres of high desert and protects a rich landscape of cultural and natural resources. Thousands of archaeological sites have been recorded in the monument, and thousands more await documentation and study.

Lowry Pueblo is the only developed recreation site within the monument. It has stabilized standing walls, 40 rooms, eight kivas and a Great Kiva.

Humans have been part of this landscape for more than 12,000 years. Changes in cultural life over time ranged from hunting and gathering to farming. In the beginning (about 750 A.D.), farmers, Ancestral Puebloans, built year-round villages, clustered pit houses. Over time, these ancestors build larger masonry homes with connecting walls above ground. In time, factors such as population growth, soil exhaustion and changing weather compromised the area’s natural resources. By about A.D. 1300, these ancestors migrated to New Mexico’s Rio Grande Valley or farther west to where the Acoma, Laguna, Zuni and Hopi people live today.

Canyons of the Ancients N.M. Sign

During our summer travels, we go out of our way to see and enjoy our national resources: parks, monuments, forests, wildlife refuges and BLM land. This year, though, we are grateful to find ourselves more committed than ever to the preservation and defense of these treasured places.

“We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Last stop: Prescott, AZ

We’re biding our time in Prescott while it cools down on the “West Coast of AZ.” We need to be back in Lake Havasu City mid-September, which is still a little too hot for our liking, so we decided to spend our last two weeks in Arizona, but at a higher altitude.

So here’s an admission, a possible reality of full-time RV living and traveling: Enough of a good thing is sometimes enough. We’ve had a fantastic summer season, but we’re both looking forward to getting back to what has become “home” and a regular routine. This stop brings us within an easy day’s ride of that goal.

I chose Willow Lake RV Park because of it’s location – the heart of the Granite Dells of Prescott. As we drove in, I was thinking it was a good decision, and sure enough, there are numerous trails right from the camp that lead to the Willow Lake Loop Trail (about six miles in length).

Willow Lake, Prescott AZ

One day I was walking and some pink and purple flowers caught my attention off the path. There were plenty of yellow flowers in bloom, but nothing like this. Investigating, I saw they were artificial flowers indicating a grave. As I continued on, contemplating my find, a metal reflection caught my eye and I left the path again to investigate. Aha! It was an informal pet cemetery. What a lovely idea in such a peaceful place. Later, I looked on-line to see if I could learn more about it, but no luck. A hidden treasure.

Pet Cemetery at Willow Lake

I did learn though that Prescott’s Mile-High Trail System contains approximately 100 miles of trails including Rails-to-Trails projects along the former Santa Fe Railroad, the Prescott Circle Trail System, the Greenways Trails System and the Dells trails around Watson and Willow Lakes. In our many trips to Prescott over the years, I had no idea of the recreational opportunities.

Mainly, in the past, our opportunities have been limited to shopping since Prescott has my favorites when it comes to groceries: Costco, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts (none of which are present at or near Lake Havasu City).

Another fabulous summer into our memories. Havasu Springs, 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.

 

Summer Tour 2019 Nevada and Utah

An unplanned trip morphs into a highlight

Sadly, we had to leave Bridgeport earlier than planned because we had a broken valve on our water tank. We could have had a mechanic travel out from Carson City at enormous expense (and he might have had to return with parts so you could pay that expense more than once), so we decided to move to Carson City for a couple of days.

In talking with our mobile mechanic, who turned out to be a fisherman, we asked for his suggestion for our onward travel to Salt Lake City. We thought we’d just go over Hwy. 80, but now we had a couple of extra days and it would be nice to find a unique place to spend them. He didn’t hesitate to recommend the town of Ely and Lake Comins – which was near Hwy. 50, the Loneliest Road in America. Last year on the way to Oregon, we spent a short time on that area of Hwy. 50. It was gorgeous, and we promised ourselves we’d be back. Little did we know…

6th Year of RVing brings our first campground complaint

We stayed at the Ely KOA and while I have no complaints whatsoever with the facility, I’ve never had a worse experience anywhere at check-in. Always, when I make reservations, I call them rather than booking online to tell them our arrangement (two vehicles and a boat/trailer). I ask if they have an overflow area for parking if all our vehicles won’t fit in our space.

A clerk, Jennifer, said here were no notes in the file, she knew the person who had made the reservation, and she would not omit making such a note on the reservation! It went downhill from there and I won’t go into the details. Suffice to say if you find yourself at Ely KOA and Jennifer checks you in, watch yourself!!!

I sent an email to Judy, the Ely KOA Manager, asking her to review the videotape made at my check-in for training purposes. No reply.

Nonetheless, we enjoyed the town of Ely, particularly the Renaissance Village, we prized our very windy day fishing at Comins Lake and most of all, we loved the day we spent at Great Basin National Park (60 miles from Ely).

The park derives its name from the Great Basin, the largest area of contiguous watersheds that normally retain water and allow no outflow to other external bodies of water in North America. It spans nearly all of Nevada, much of Oregon and Utah, and portions of California, Idaho, and Wyoming.

The park is notable for its groves of ancient bristlecone pines, the Lehman Caves, Wheeler Peak, and the Wheeler Peak Glacier. A day there is not enough!

Elev 10000 on Road to Wheeler Peak
Ever climbing to Wheeler Peak
Wheeler Peak in Great Basin N.P.
Wheeler Peak

Warning if you visit Ely

What all visitors need to know about visiting Ely though is to watch out for speed traps. They are literally everywhere, city police, tribal police, highway patrol – all enforcing a 35 mph speed limit. We were stopped but not ticketed, but we were shocked at the number of “official” vehicles we saw in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere!!

North to Salt Lake City

While we don’t always stay at KOA (by a long shot), we always stay at the KOA in Salt Lake City because it’s the only game in town! Seriously. It’s a huge facility, close to Temple Square and lots of sightseeing and best of all, is situated on the Jordan River Trail, so you can walk out the back gate at KOA and walk about 20 miles in either direction along the Jordan River. I walk out there every day I’m there (but not 20 miles, ha ha).

On Day 2, Irene, D.A.’s sister, took us on a tour of Temple Square. I was especially interested to see the Family History Center. Irene is a genealogist, so she was the perfect tour director for the library and surrounding area.

Chad & Irene
Chad & Irene & German Pancake for Breakfast!

A couple of years ago, I read the book Refuge: An Unnatural History of Time and Place by Terry Tempest Williams. It was a poet and naturalist’s personal story of losing her mother to cancer at the same time in 1983 the Great Salt Lake began to rise to record heights causing untold destruction to public facilities along the lake like Antelope Island and Bear River Migratory Bird National Wildlife Refuge.

Because of our love affair with the National Wildlife Refuges, I wanted to visit the one at Bear River. We were joined by Irene and her son, Chad, for the field trip, followed by a picnic at a big park in Brigham City. The facility at Bear River was completely lost in the flood and the one rebuilt is very impressive. It is surrounded by marshlands and walks, and they also have a 12-mile auto tour through the heart of the refuge. Unlimited birdwatching!

Birding Brochure from Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Next stop, Flaming Gorge NRA, Wyoming!