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Cross-Country Journal -- May 2005

   

Sunday, May 1 -- We left Las Cruces and drove to Wilcox, Az.  We wanted to go to Chiricahua NM.  It is called the Wonderland of Rocks.  Once again we gained an hour since Arizona is not on DST.  We went to a campground but it's more like a mobile home park.  Not very scenic.  Basically a parking lot.  We watched some TV and did the laundry.  We are having steak and shrimp.  Unfortunately there is not a picnic table to put the grill on.

Monday, May 2 --  We drove to Chiricahua NM.  We purchased our National Park Pass to use for the year.  We stopped at the visitor center and asked about hikes.  This park is called the Wonderland of Rocks.  Many balanced rocks and pinnacles formed due to a volcanic eruption 27 million years ago.  There were two choices of hikes.  The first through Echo Canyon which the ranger said was her favorite.  It would be a little more than 3 miles.  At about the half way point we could decide whether to add on the 5 mile loop to the named rock formations.  She assured me there would be many balanced rocks on the shorter hike and we could give them our own names.  We had a  brief discussion about snakes.  She told me they were out but would not come chasing us down the path.  Just look out for them.  After many scares caused by very loud grasshoppers I finally decided the hike was not going to be just loaded with snakes.  We quickly filled up the camera with rock pictures.  Around every corner there seemed to be another unusual formation.  We kept to the 3 mile loop since after the half way point we had eaten most of our food and drank our water.  We drove back to Wilcox.  We tried to go to Fort Bowie NHS but we found the road was unpaved and it required a mile and a half hike to get to the ruins.  Since we had the top down on the PT we decided to save it for another time.  We got back and found the air had not gone on for the pets.  Luckily it had been a cooler day and they were fine.

Tuesday, May 3 -- We drove to Tucson and found a spot in Catalina SP with electric.  There were several to chose from.  The ranger said they are less busy now that it is May.  Guess the snowbirds have returned north.  I decided to get the vacuum out and get rid of the fur and the layer of kitty litter that gets tracked around. We decided to do a few errands in since this might be our last city for a while.  We went to Trader Joe's and bought 6 cases of Charles Shaw wine ($3 chuck)!  A first we thought they didn't have any but we found where they stack the cases.  We went to a hiking store and bought hiking socks for Tom, a pedometer (now I will know how many miles we have done on the trail) and a water back pack.  We stopped at Wal Mart and bought a new camping grill.   Tom cooked out after it cooled down.  We watched the race and Idol.

Wednesday, May 4 -- We went to a late morning hike to try out our new equipment.  We have hiked this canyon loop before.  There were many cactus blooms.  This is an amazing site to see all  the cactus in bloom.  I made a strawberry pie.  We went to visit with Bill and Kay.  We enjoy seeing their beautiful backyard filled with cactus, birds and the mountain view.  We stopped to price out tires for the motor home.  Tom was thinking Michelin but at $400+ per tire we are going with a different brand.  We will have four tires put on Friday.  Roadrunners visited our campsite.

Thursday, May 5 -- We drove to Sabino Canyon.  They do not allow cars in the canyon.  Instead you can hike or take a tram up the road made by the CCC.  We took the tram to the last stop and then hiked up to the beginning of the Telephone Line trail.   We were behind two other hikers.  When they asked us if we wanted to pass by we told them we would let them scare anything off the trail.  A while up the trail we saw them stop and then back up.  Then we heard a very loud rattle.  A rattlesnake was on the trail.  After they threw a few rocks at the snake, it reluctantly went off the trail and we all hurried by.  It was a very amazing canyon and hike.  A 4+mile on my new pedometer.  We had to watch the trail after that but stopped and looked at the canyon walls and the cactus blooms.  We met with Bill and Kay and took them to see the "new" motor home.   

Friday, May 6 -- We went over to Big O tire and got four tires and an oil change.  Louie stayed in the bathroom and Pep was out on her leash with me.  We got on the road and went up route 87 out of Mesa and saw some mountains.  This big black cloud appeared and with the high elevation we started to see snow!!!!   We went to Flagstaff and experienced some hail!  DirecTV came in at the campground and I closed the blinds, opened up some Charles Shaw and we settled into a cold night.  Good thing we brought the flannel sheets.

Saturday, May 7 -- We were happy that the outside temperature did not go below 48 degrees.  We got out the winter jackets and drove to Walnut Canyon NM.  A cliff dwellers ruins.  We walker the Island Trail which has 230+ steps to take you down to the level of the cliff ruins.  It is hard to imagine farming on the top of the canyon and then living in these cliff dwellings quite a ways straight down.   We went back to our Trek and set off for Glen Canyon NRA.   We chose to drive route 98 after Tuba City to Page.  This goes through the Navaho Nation and includes some of the best scenery we have ever seen.  We stopped at the Glen Canyon Dam Visitor center.  I got my passport stamped.  We went to Wahweap Marina and got a spot for two nights.  This campground seemed like it was brand new.  Huge concrete pads, picnic table, grill and a view of Lake Powell.  The best.  The only bad thing were the thorns all over that got stuck in Pepper's paw.  We reserved our spot for the trip to Rainbow Bridge.

Sunday, May 8 -- We got on the boat to begin a 50 mile trip to Rainbow Bridge.  No words can describe the scenery.  We wished we could rent a boat and explore on our own.  We had to hike about a mile to the bridge.  One of the wonders of the world.  A sacred spot to the Navaho Indians.  We enjoyed the stories of our captain.  He took us on a side trip to an arch which as he approached it wasn't sure the boat would fit under.  There was room to spare and when you look up you were under a rock dome with a circle hole to the blue sky. 

Monday, May 9 -- We took our time to get ready to leave.  I did some vacuuming as we had broken a lamp.  Tom was checking on why the generator might not be working.  We drove a different route over to the south entrance to Zion.  More spectacular country.  We were able to get an electric spot in the Watchman campground in the park.  The views in the campground were enough of Zion for today.  The Virgin River is running along the campground.  It is moving very swiftly which makes us think we will not be walking in the Narrows.  We have a hike in mind for tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 10 -- The Virgin River is running very swift and is very cold so there is no trip down the Narrows.   We rode the shuttle to the last stop and walked the River Walk to the Narrows.  Unlike the little stream you could walk across, the river filled the banks and was running very fast.  We will have to return another time for this hike.  We hiked the Kayenta Trail to the Emerald Pools and waterfalls.  It actually started to snow on the end of the hike!   We stopped at the Lodge hoping to repeat sitting on rockers and eating ice cream.  It was a little cold for the rockers.  We returned to the campground, took Pepper for a walk over the bridge to the grocery store.  It is a nice setup.  We watched the weather channel and decided to stay one more day in Zion to hopefully have warmer weather and to hike the Angel Landing Trail.

Wednesday, May 11 -- We woke up to glorious sunshine.  We got the shuttle to the Grotto and started up Angel's Landing Trail.  We had a lot of company.  We reached a series of switchbacks called Walther's Wiggles.  No sweat.  Tom talked to a ranger who had never hiked to the top of the trail.  The first challenge had a series of chains over sandstone, slick rock elevations.  I was worried about going down.  We came to the top and then saw the last half mile.  First a very scary part with drop offs on both sides of the skinny trail.  I decided to think about it.  The rest was a steep, chained trail.  We had lunch and watched a couple we had hiked next to proceed.  A few people told us how they had looked at the scary part and couldn't do it.  I decided I couldn't either.  I was terrified going down the slick rock chained section.  Going down you can't help but see the edge.  We were horrified to see a family with two very small children go down the trail.  They had made it to the top but we couldn't believe the parents had taken them.  I was very glad to see the paved trail.   I guess I have not totally conquered my fear of heights. 

Thursday, May 12 -- We drove to Cannonville.  I drove the PT separately through the Mt Carmel tunnel and out of the park.  I was a little worried when the low fuel light came on right after we left the campground.  We drove to Cannonville and got a site at the KOA there.  We went back to Bryce.  it was cold.  We were sad to find the trail at Sunset Point totally washed away.  We had hiked that trail with the kids and again when we returned.  We went over to Sunrise point and hiked a little ways into the canyon.  The snow on the canyon was nice to see.  We went over to Fairyland Point.  We hiked a ways there.  We were happy to have the night temperatures stay above freezing.

Friday, May 13 -- We set out to discover the Grand Staircase NM.  We went to the visitor center in Cannonville.  I got a stamp in my passport.  We found out we could drive the dirt road to Grosvenor Arch.  This was 13 miles and we almost stopped when we came to some water in a low area.  After watching another car go through we did too.  This is when we need a Jeep not the PT, but the PT is so much more fun and we love having the top down and having no obstructions to the views.  The arch was very nice.  We saw several Jack rabbits.  Very big ears!  We drove back to Kodachrome Basin SP.  This had a self pay station.  We needed five dollars.  We had a twenty and two ones.  We started the search for coins.  We used three pay envelopes to get the bills, quarters, dimes, nickels  and even pennies through the skinny pay slot.  They obviously are not looking for payment in coins.  This park is very nice and offered many rock formations.  We took a few small hikes and then called it quits.  We relaxed and Tom grilled out. 

Saturday, May 14 --We decided to stay at this KOA.  We wanted to drive up to Escalante and Boulder and enjoy the views.  We were going this way with the motor home but thought we might have to focus on the driving and not views since there would be elevation changes.  We got a few looks from people as we left the campground with winter coats but the top down on the car.  This is quite a road.  It is designated an all American road since the scenery is like no where else.  I drove up to the summit of Boulder Mountain.  That way Tom could enjoy the scenery and not have to worry about all the crazy squiggles the road was making.  One part of the road, called the Hogsback had drop offs on both sides.  Like Angel's Landing but a road.  We found lots of snow on the mountain.   We stopped on the way down at many view points.  I bought a bowl from a Navaho Indian.  We drove another backway road  (dirt and gravel ) to the Devil's Garden.  More crazy rock formations.   We saw a motor cycle couple at a pull off.  One of the cycles had a trailer with a dog case attached to it and in it a dog.  We asked how the dog liked it and they said when they asked the dog if it wanted to go it was always ready to go.  We wondered if Pepper would do that!

Sunday, May 16 -- We drove from Cannonville to Capitol Reef NP.  We knew there were several twisty, elevation gaining and losing roads and then climbing Boulder Mountain.  The Trek did great and of course the driver was the best.  We were amazed at the reef scenery.  We decided to stay at the National Park campground.  No hookups, but $10.   We found a spot and then unhooked the PT.  We drove over to the trailhead for a natural bridge.  We walked and loved walking near and around the bridge.  Truly an amazing sight.  We took the scenic drive, walked for a while in a wash, saw a trailhead for an arch, then drove a very narrow gorge.  We might have to return to walk some of the trails another time.  We called Mario and had him tape the final episode of Survivor and then had a very quiet evening.

Monday, May 17 -- We left the Reef area and started to drive towards Glens Canyon and Natural Bridges NM.  We were not able to start up the coffee maker so we had some diet Coke for caffeine and started off.  We stopped at Hanksville for breakfast and coffee!  I had to go into a store made into a mountain to see what it was like.  We filled the Trek with gas.  We drove by the Henry Mountains, looked at desert, rock formations and then got into the red rock as we approached the Glen Canyon area.  Too much natural beauty.  We decided to drive past Natural Bridges and go find a campground in Blanding with hookups.  We wanted to be able to watch 24.  This stretch of road from Hanksville had no services to speak of, no cell signal, nothing!   We found a campground and found a grocery store.  They have no idea what a super Wal-Mart or Publix is like around here.  This is one of the last frontiers as far as civilization as we know it. 

Tuesday, May 18 -- We got up and drove 35 miles back to Natural Bridges NM.  We decided to walk the trail down to the first bridge.  The nine mile loop road takes you to over looks but we have discovered there is nothing like a hike.   There are three natural bridges here and of course after seeing the first one we were hooked.  We hiked down to the second one.  It was a very nice trail.  We ate our lunch looking up at the bridge.  And then the third.  They were all great and since I love rocks I was in heaven climbing down rock trails to see huge rock bridges surrounded by rocks.  It doesn't get much better. 

Wednesday, May 19 -- We drove to Moab.  We decided to go to our campsite a day early and hopefully get in.  They said our spot was open but there was a camper still in it.  They came back and left.  We moved in and set up camp.

Thursday, May 20 -- We drove to the Needles section of Canyonlands.  We forgot to get gas in Moab on the way out and had to drive to Monticello and then back to Canyonlands.  This is a down in the valley section of the park.  It was very hot.  We drove a dirt road to the Jeep road.  it was kind of like a hike with air conditioning. 

Friday, May 21 -- We kept a look out for the Mini Cooper to arrive with Jaimie and Mario.  They had a tent space in front of our campsite.  We were finding that it had turned to extreme summer heat in Moab and our air didn't seem to be able to keep up.  No shade at our site either.   We drove to Canyonlands.  We took  two hikes.  One to Grandview Point and the other up Whale Rock.   We drove over to Arches to catch some late light.

Saturday, May 22 -- We tried to wake up early to get early morning light.  Seems the best time to take pictures is in early morning or late sun.  It is better for hiking since it got brutally hot after about 10am.   We went to the Window sections and then to the Devil's Garden where there is a hike to many arches.  Eventually we made it to the last arch, Double O and then took the primitive trail back.  Tom and I had done this in July, 2002 and we wanted to have Mario and Jaimie experience this.  It was unfortunately just as hot or hotter.  We ran out of water or the little left was very hot.  We went straight to the parking lot.  I stuck my head under the water faucet.  We drove to an air conditioned Mexican restaurant and were done for the day.  We came home to the motor home luke warm and just waited for the sun to go down.  Jaimie and I took a ride in the Mini along the Colorado River and it was about 10 degrees cooler there!

Sunday, May 23 --We had gotten reservations for the Fiery Furnace , ranger lead hike.   You can only hike in this area with a permit or on the ranger hike.  The ranger told us you can easily get lost in all the turns and twists.  After a short distance we believed.  It was a wonderful hike and will be one of my favorites. We drove a scenic loop road where we stopped at a winery.  The loop road went through the La Sal Mountains.  Quite a contrast to be in pristine mountain meadows after hiking earlier in the desert.  Late afternoon we hiked the short, uphill hike to Delicate Arch.  Tom made Thai food after the hike.

Monday, May 24 -- We watched Jaimie and Mario drive away and realized we had one more day in Moab. We decide to drive to Goblin Valley State Park.  We had to go west on interstate 70.  We hadn't been on a major road since Tucson.   It was a nice drive.  We enjoyed the air conditioning.  The mushroom shaped rocks we every where in this valley.   We had the lunch we had packed and decided to hike around a little.  It was very hot and the ground was baked.  We watched the last episode of 24.   It is good to wrap up all these shows we have been watching.  I am looking forward to the summer break from TV.

Tuesday, May 25 -- We got on the road.  We were taking back roads over to Montrose and then go on 50 until a Coast to Coast park near Blue Mesa.   We were surprised by a small rock slide blocking one of the lanes of the road!  There was a person warning us of it ahead.  We have seen many falling rock signs but this was our first blockage.  We enjoyed the scenery near coming into the Montrose area.  Cooler temperatures too!  We experienced the worst road condition.  They had torn up the road down to dirt.  It was like off road in the Trek.  We made it to Blue Mesa and checked in for three days. 

Wednesday, May 26 -- We did a scouting drive to the top of the last major pass we would meet in our drive to Colorado Springs.  It was the highest one.  Very good road but lots of elevation gain.   We drove to Crested Butte.  The perfect mountain ski town.  We had lunch.  A great burrito.   We drove back to the campsite and tried to read outside.  We had no shade.  It was hot so Tom rigged up the beach umbrello but it was very windy.  It was almost too cold in the shade and too hot in the sun.

Thursday, May 27 -- We drove over to the Visitor center for the Curecanti NRA.  The boat ride on the Gunnison didn't start operating until Memorial Day weekend.  The waters of the reservoir was very rough since the wind kicks up every day.  We decided we didn't want to rent a boat.  We would just relax.  Again it was very windy.

Friday, May 28 -- We drove over the Monarch Pass.   We decided to drive separately and the Trek did great.  We connected back up and then drove along the Arkansas River.  It was moving very fast and we saw lots of scary rapids and many rafters.   We thought about where to stop and decided to call the campground in Monument and see if we could arrive two days earlier.  We made it to Colorado Springs and now will visit for about a week. It was great to see Mario and Jaimie again.

Saturday, May 29 -- Pepper had been having some problems.  She threw up before we went to bed last night.  We need to borrow Jaimie's little steam cleaner for sure.  I got most of the stain out.  Jaimie and I went for a hike in Cottonwood Canyon SP.  We took Pepper.  She hadn't had too much exercise in these weeks of travel and she enjoyed it.  She meet many dogs on the trail and did well.  She got into the creek three times to cool off.  A very happy dog.  We went over to Jaimie's house and had dinner and got into a poker game with some of their neighbors.

Sunday, May 30 --

Monday, May 31 --