This post and my next post, Catching Up – Part 2, will move fairly rapidly from mid-May, when we left Grand Canyon, to the beginning of September, stopping our journey at our last stop before we entered Yellowstone National Park just after Labor Day (I’ll cover Yellowstone in short order). Since we have a lot of ground to cover descriptions will be somewhat briefer than my usual posts. So, let’s get to it!
Lone Rock Campground
From Grand Canyon we drove north, through Page, Arizona and just across the border into Utah to Lake Powell’s Lone Rock Campground in the federally-designated Glen Canyon Recreation Area. Lone Rock Campground was terrific for a few reasons: first, it is a beautiful lake-side setting that allows camping directly on the sandy beach or a bit further back on a bluff overlooking the lake and its Lone Rock island. Since we weigh around 31k pounds we opted for camping on the bluff with other larger rigs like ours, although there were some brave folks that took rigs similar to ours down on the sand. (On our first day there we also saw a couple of much smaller RVs get stuck down there, so we were satisfied with our location and its excellent view.) Second, since the camping is all dispersed (there are no designated sites, nor are there any hookups), the camping fee was fairly low ($7 per night for senior pass holders) which allowed us to begin to balance out the high cost of staying in Grand Canyon.
During our one week stay we were able to re-provision in Page, tour the awesome Glen Canyon Dam inside and out (our guide Paul was excellent), and visit famous Horseshoe Bend. We also enjoyed the serenity of exploring the beach and just relaxing around our coach. One downside to Lone Rock Campground is that it can be windy at times–with blowing sand and dust–and we got to experience that scenario one day when 50 mph winds were forecast to hit us for about a 12 hour period. As the wind began to blow that morning Kathy used blue painters tape to cover all of the external lock key slots on our coach (including all of our many basement doors), car, and bike rack–we’d heard horror stories about blowing sand getting into and negatively affecting lock cylinders, despite the little covers built into many of the key slots–pulled in our slides, and steeled ourselves to ride out the storm. The worst of it came after dark, as we hunkered down inside for several hours, listening to a loud roaring sound and feeling our coach rock back and forth when harder gusts hit us. The wind finally slowed around 10 pm and the next day, as we went outside, I thought we might see sandblasted paint on our vehicles. Fortunately, that was not the case. There was a good coating of sand on everything and we were grateful that none of it got into our many external locks.
Mesa Verde National Park
From Lone Rock we headed east, passing through Four Corners (where Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico meet) to visit Mesa Verde National Park and Durango, Colorado. We stayed at Echo Basin Ranch in Mancos, CO, which we enjoyed except for their very muddy interior roads (there had been some snow and rain; they really need a lot of gravel brought in). We were in the Park several days, taking ranger-led tours of the Cliff Palace and Balcony House cliff dwellings and driving around to most of the other sites. Cliff Palace had a lot of narrow and steep stairs to negotiate in order to access the site (not a problem at all for us). Balcony House had the (in)famous ladders to climb and a short, narrow rock passage that everyone had to crawl through. The ladders were steep and reached relatively high and even though the Park Service posts warnings about the possible difficulty of climbing them, a couple of people on our tour turned around and quit the tour upon seeing the first ladder.
We also enjoyed a terrific hike on the Petroglyph Point loop trail on Chapin Mesa, which led us out to a large, high (all of it was well over my head, which made us wonder what the artists stood on when inscribing their creations) petroglyph panel. We had a third ranger-led tour scheduled, for the Long House dwellings, but we were literally snowed out, as a snowstorm dumped eight inches on us overnight and the next morning and closed the park for a day. It was so much snow that I had to climb up on our roof and slowly and laboriously “shovel” it off with my gloved hands, carefully working around all of our solar panels, plumbing vents, and other roof-mounted gear. Nonetheless, we tremendously enjoyed touring and experiencing the fascinating cliff dwellings. We learned how these dwellings housed vibrant communities that lived in ancient buildings with multiple stories, up to an amazing four stories tall in some places.
We had a fun day in Durango, where we toured the wonderful (and free!) railroad museum that’s operated by the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, wandered around the historic downtown and the great shops and art galleries, savored some goodies at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, toured the Durango Fish Hatchery and Wildlife Museum (a particularly nice and helpful volunteer was running the museum that day and he gave us some great information about our remaining Colorado stops), and enjoyed excellent beers at Steamworks Brewing Company.
Ouray and Telluride
Although we generally don’t like to decide very far in advance where we’ll stop, preferring to let whimsy and God prompt us about where to stay next, we’ve found that it’s necessary to make reservations pretty far in advance for places like Grand Canyon and for holiday weekends. So, we’d made reservations at Ouray RV Park and Cabins for the Memorial Day period, and that’s where we headed next.
The drive up mountainous Highway 145 on May 24th, and over snow-covered Lizard Pass, was beautiful and uneventful for us, but later that day we found that just after we passed over one portion of the highway a huge boulder fell from above and literally wiped out the highway. Learning how close we’d come to be impacted by this event was a shock, but we were grateful that we made it through right before this event and that no one was hurt.
We enjoyed our stay in beautiful Ouray, often referred to as the “Switzerland of America.” Like many Colorado mountain towns on the west slope, the main street is paved and the side streets are all dirt/gravel. We toured the historic downtown, viewed the natural hot springs (although we chose not to pay to go in them), took walks along the Uncompahgre River adjoining our campsite, and enjoyed dining with some fellow full-time RVers (great to meet you, John and Candy).
One sunny day we drove the precipitous Million Dollar Highway from Ouray to Silverton, up and over Red Mountain Pass. We’d been warned not to drive our motorhome on this very twisty, no-guardrails highway and after driving it in our car we were glad we’d driven the coach up Highway 145 instead. While we were there, Silverton was very busy hosting hundreds of bicycle riders at the end of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic race up from Durango and all of the restaurants and pubs were packed. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our visit to the historic and picturesque town.
We also took a day trip to the beautiful ski town of Telluride, where we toured the shops in the touristy downtown, had some good beer and food at Smugglers Union brewpub and took the free gondola up to Mountain Village high above Telluride. Once up there the sun quickly disappeared, the temperature dropped (although it was pretty chilly before) and snow began falling pretty heavily. Oh well, late May in the Colorado Rockies. Nonetheless, we had a great time in the entire area and look forward to returning for a more in-depth exploration.
Palisade and Colorado National Monument
Our next stop was Palisade, a wine and peach growing town just outside of Grand Junction and near the northwest corner of Colorado. We stayed at a new RV park, Palisade Basecamp, that overlooked the Colorado River and had great views of surrounding rock formations. While there we hiked up to the summit of nearby Mt. Garfield, did some wine tasting (thanks to the owner of beautiful Colterris Winery for talking with us about the growing business of growing fine wines in the area), and toured the wonderful Colorado National Monument. In the Monument we hiked the Devil’s Kitchen, Canyon Rim, and Window Rock trails, and we really enjoyed the fantastic rock formations, in particular the monoliths.
I must admit that the hike up to Mt. Garfield was more challenging than we’d expected. Click on the bottom-right image in the gallery above and look immediately to the left of the large boulder in the lower right of the picture. You’ll see a very steep (it was steeper than it looks in the picture) climb up a path that was at most two feet wide, with a precipitous drop-off on both sides, comprised of loose dirt and small rocks that often felt like walking on marbles. Let’s just say that my old fear of heights really kicked in and my imagination was working overtime (not good), Kathy was also very uneasy, and I was very grateful when we made it up and back down safely. By the way, the photo was taken at about half of the way up; after crossing a pretty meadow (good lunch spot) the rest of the way up was off-camber loosely-packed trail on the edge of a cliff followed by a hand-over-hand scramble up to the summit at the end. Repeat in reverse to get back down. I made it, but I didn’t enjoy myself.
As we attempted to leave Palisade, intending to head further east and north, our main slide-out malfunctioned and wouldn’t stay in. I won’t go into many of the details, but praise God for Paul Maddox, a special representative of HWH Corporation, the manufacturer of our slide system. I called him from the road and he talked me through a quick fix so we could temporarily keep the slide in. And, we agreed to change our plans and hightail it to his location in Paulden, AZ so he could fix the problem. There’s more background on this story, pertaining to how a prior repair by a tech in Oregon was done poorly, but suffice it to say that a long drive through Utah into Arizona (and one free night in a Flagstaff casino parking lot, with a good buffet dinner there) got us to Paul’s place where he quickly replaced two critical valves and graciously allowed us to stay overnight hooked up to his power. The slide has worked perfectly ever since.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite wasn’t in our plans this year, but in retrospect we’re grateful our plans were changed (see the prior paragraph) and we decided to head west from northern Arizona and work our way north through California rather than backtrack through Utah. We stayed at the Escapees park, Park of the Sierras, in Coarsegold, CA, for 9 days. Although Yosemite was beautiful–with every waterfall and the Merced River spectacularly full due to extensive winter snows and a wet spring–it was also very crowded and quite warm, and after a few visits in the Park we tired of the crowds and the 1.5 hour drive each way to and from Yosemite Valley. A few highlights were driving up to Glacier Point (wonderful and amazing views of the valley below), hiking up to Sentinel Dome, and hiking through the majestic giant sequoia trees in the Mariposa Grove. We had a spacious and relaxing site in Park of the Sierras, with great views as we sat outside, and the folks there were very friendly, but the heat was rising, the mosquitoes were biting, and we decided it was time to move on to a cooler climate.
Redwoods National and State Parks
We wanted cooler weather and natural beauty, so what better place to go in mid-June than to see the giant redwood trees in and near the jointly-operated national and state parks on the coast in northern California? Our first stop in that area was Ancient Redwoods RV Park along the famous, narrow, and winding Avenue of the Giants drive (a portion of it which I had to carefully drive, almost going down the center at times, in our motorhome). After a wonderful stay exploring that area, taking many walks and hikes through multiple magnificent groves of huge redwood trees, we then moved up to Klamath River RV Park just a mile or so from the ocean so we could experience the national and state parks themselves and the surrounding communities.
One highlight of our stay near Klamath was driving a mile or so and then walking a short way down to a beautiful and largely deserted beach at the junction of the Klamath River and Pacific Ocean. We went there several times. At that spot a large number of seals always laid on a large sandbar created by the river while others swam in the adjacent ocean waves. We watched them fish for hours in the surf, seeming to body surf the sizable waves almost for the joy of doing it. Often, seals would stop, raise their heads, and stare at us for several moments as we stood just beyond the water’s edge, before diving under the next wave. It was a wonderful and invigorating experience.
One downside of our stay in Klamath was our Thetford Aria toilet’s flush mechanism broke. We’d just installed the toilet in November–to help cut down on water use, wanting a manually operated toilet instead of the electric version that was original to our coach–so the break was very unexpected. Let’s just say I had to repeatedly get very close and personal with the toilet in order to flush it, by reaching behind with a screwdriver to overcome a strong spring and force the sliding flush blade open. As you can imagine, we could barely wait the several days it took to get repair parts sent to us in Grants Pass, Oregon. And, because of a poor design, the repair was far more difficult than it should be. I’ll cover that in my next post.
Next: The second and final part of this Catch Up series.