Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Ramblin' Day 17: Accidents Happen


In our case, it was a Lexus and our RV. Actual damage photos coming.

If you're wondering what happened on day 14, 15, and 16 . . . . 

Wayne stayed in Albuquerque, I spent time with family in Larkspur, and we reconnected in Amarillo Texas last night. That was my most boring, uneventful drive.

Amarillo Texas, Travel Assistance stopover. Foggy, this morning.

Our drive today was equally uneventful—right up until when Wayne, driving our RV, got sideswiped this eve by a woman driving a Lexus, 

Everyone was able to walk and drive away but there's major body damage to our RV. Tomorrow we'll figure out how that plays out from an insurance perspective.

More on that tomorrow. We plan to head to the Ozarks for a day of hiking tomorrow. Our next stop is only 130 miles down the road. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Ramblin' Day 13: Albuquerque to Larkspur Colorado


Rio Grande River at Embudo Station between Santa Fe and Tao New Mexico

The drive was 400-some odd-miles from Kirkpatrick Airforce in Albuquerque base to Larkspur, Colorado, home of my brother Mark, and sister-in-law, Patty. It's hard to believe it's already been a year and a half since we saw each other; the last time was heading cross-country from Florida back to Portland, in May 2018.

Wayne remained behind with the RV to do some repair and enjoy having the place to himself.

Krysteen Waszak happily posed with her awesome plein air painting. To see more of her work,
visit or via IG @
Krysteen's studios are in Albuequrque and in Taos.

I took the more scenic route, through Santa Fe and Taos. 

Fishermen plying the waters of the Rio Grande in New Mexico.

Golden cottonwoods arched over the Rio Grande River, paralleling the highway. 

Sange Cristo Mountains, Colorado.

Entering Colorado, the sagebrush somewhat gave way to agricultural plains and small pioneer towns, the Rockies soaring up from the valleys. I'll enjoy a few a days kicking back with family before heading of Monday morning for a long drive to meet Wayne in Amarillo Texas.

Prarie dogs just outside our camp spot in Red Rock NM,  near Gallup New Mexico.

This is a little bit of cheat. I didn't download the image of this prarie dog couple until we were leaving Red Rocks New Mexico. Better late than never, and they were too cute not to post, especially since I didn't get a snap of the white-bottle-brush-like tails of the kaibob squirels hopping around outside our Jacob Lake campsite.

I'm hoping the next time I see Mark and Patty, it will be aboard our boat in Florida or the Caribbean.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Ramblin' Day 12: Off-Road Misadventure, Courtesy of Google Maps

This road should've been my cue, even though Google maps told me this route
led to Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico

99.99% of the time, Google maps serves me flawlessly well. Then there's that other .01%. Today was one of those days. 

Remember seeing that sign up in the school counselor's office: If you don't know where you're going, you'll probably wind up someplace else?

My Prius, high-sided in the sand from the front en route to Kirtland AFB Albuquerque NM.
This wasn't my first visit to Albuquerque, New Mexico. but my other visits were long ago, limited in scope, and brief. I've never been to Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque. I did what I usually do when I have no idea where I'm going: I plug the address into my GPS application, usually Google maps.
My Prius' front tire, in spin position near Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.

The dirt road in the middle of nowhere should've clued me in, but instead, I let blind obedience lead me to follow my Google map directions instead of listening to my common sense. After about two miles of gravel road which became a sand road, my GPS cheerfully chirped "you've arrived at your destination"—in the middle of the sandy road in front of—nothing.

My Prius, it back-end also high-sided in the sand and rear tire in spin position
en route to Kirtland AFB Albuquerque NM.

I turned around, retracing my steps, or rather, tire treads [where the sand still showed them]. As I got within sight of the paved road [about 1/4 mile off], I puzzled over which fork in the road to take. Just then, Wayne called me from the air force base. I stopped the car, answered my phone, and told him I was lost. When I restarted my car, I realized the other fork in the road was the correct one to take, and promptly high-sided my car. That's not hard to do in a Prius; my one complaint about it is its ridiculously low clearance.

I tried to back up. My tires spun. I tried to go forward. My tires spun. I got out and looked at my car: definitely high-sided. I looked for something to dig it out or provide traction under the tires and saw: sand, sand, and more sand.

Kurt, driving away in my rescue vehicle after he made sure I was good to go. Albuquerque, NM.
I looked up and by some miracle, saw a dirt biker. I gave the land equivalent of the swimmer's distress arm signal. He rode up to see what was going on. Daniel, the dirt-biker, tried a bit of this and a bit of that to no avail.

"Do you know anyone who could tow me?" I asked. He told me he had a truck and could probably do it. About 10 minutes later, he returned on his dirt bike, followed by the Parks and Recreation truck. "His truck is better suited," he told me. 

"Where were you going?" Kurt, the truck driver, asked. Kirtland Air Force Base, I told them. They scratched their heads, brightened, and said, "Oh yeah, up that road [pointing the paved road] there used to be a gate to it, but it closed, maybe about three years ago."

Within less than 5 minutes, I was on my way.

"Don't use Google maps," Kurt and Daniel sagely advised as I pulled away. "And don't slow down on the sand." I didn't.

Thanks, Daniel and Kurt, for being my heroes for the day, and refusing any reward, and insisting it was a pleasure to help.

As far as Google maps: follow it unless your common sense tells you not to; then follow your common sense instead. But I used Waze to get to Kirtland AFB.

Tomorrow I detour off from Wayne and our RV to see family in Colorado until Monday morning and may well hold off blogging until after I rejoin Wayne on Monday eve in Amarillo Texas. If you're keeping count, day 11 was Grand Canyon area (we camped at Jacob's Creek) to Red Rock Arizona. I mostly just drove that day, but may post the photos of Navaho Bridge once they decide to stop playing the hide part of hide-and-seek on my laptop.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Ramblin' Day 9: Bryce Canyon

Try as they might, the fall foliage couldn't compete with the colors of Bryce Canyon

My best friend, Anna, and I toured Bryce Canyon about 15 years ago, tagged onto one of her husband's cycling trips. 
One of Bryce's many arches; this from a scenic overlook.

This was Wayne's first trip to Bryce Canyon, but I was more than happy to return and share it with him.
Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon, here, there and everywhere.

The great part about visiting Bryce, is after a day, amazing as it is, it's enough.
This hoodoo looked to me like it was holding court over the ones below it.

There's a 15-mile scenic drive that takes you through the entire park ridge.
This section reminds me of an ancient village in the Middle East (a place I've seen only in photos).

There are oodles of overlooks. With just a few steps, you get your fill of panoramic views.
If you love the color orange, Bryce is your mecca.

We didn't arrive until a little after noon, but the afternoon light was terrific.
With the addition of pinks, this is a true kodacolor spot.

Thus far this trip, we've felt phenomenally lucky with the weather. Clear skies, warm afternoons. We stalled going to Bryce earlier because it was 23 degrees when we got up. Temps climbed into the 70s in the afternoon.
Wayne enters the Queen's Garden trail at Bryce Canyon.

We still wanted more than an aerial view. We opted for a loop hike.
Archway passage on Bryce Canyon's Queen's Garden trail.

Our hike started at Sunrise, descended down into the Queen's Garden, down further to the Navaho trail, then up Wall Street, back to the Rim trail, returning to Sunrise.
It's amazing where trees can grow. Wall Street trail, Bryce Canyon.

The trail combination we chose was only three miles, but at near 9,000 elevation, wearing masks made breathing in the thin air that much harder. We wore our masks the majority of the time as it was crowded, and most other hikers were not wearing masks. 
I love being dwarfed by nature. That little black dot is another hiker.

We were glad we did the loop last—it spanked us! By the time we finished, we were definitely done for the day. We were glad we did it though. 

Ramblin' Day 10: Grand Canyon, North Rim

Grand Canyon, North Rim View from Bright Angel

Topping Wayne's only other visit to the Grand Canyon would be a tall order: landing via Black Hawk helicopter on the top of a large hoodoo. All the guys—of course, guys!—aboard disembarked to pee off the side. That was a long time back when planes and helicopters were allowed to land in the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon, North Rim entrance.
Nearly 9,000-foot elevation and a nice mix of aspen and conifers.

My only trip to the Grand Canyon was far less exciting; over 35 years ago when I miraculously got a day off trade show duty in Vegas. I signed up for a tour that picked me up at the hotel, provided transport to the airport and back, flew in via Cessna to the Grand Canyon. We flew through a squall, and the bumpy ride prompted a fellow passenger—poor little tyke—to race out and barf as soon as we landed. We then got shuttled to several viewpoints, with lunch somewhere between them, then returned.

Grand Canyon, North Rim, another v
iew from Bright Angel

Before we arrived at Grand Canyon, we took off from Bryce, headed down scenic byway 12, then across scenic highway 89A through Red Canyon. If we pass this way again, we'd skip Bryce and check out the less-well-known areas, but also spectacular spots like Red Canyon. Even still, just passing through was a thrill, particularly when we drove through the two red stone arches that encompass Hiway 89A's lanes. Despite their location miles away from Bryce and Zion, those were the names used for the motels along the way, rather than the local state parks they were right next door to.
Grand Canyon, North Rim, viewpoint below the lodge.

As we approached the town of Kainab, on Utah's Arizona border, we noticed the formerly clear blue skies hazed up. Our best guess was smoke from a fire drifted in, but we didn't smell any smokiness. My biggest excitement in Kainab was a near-miss. A woman driving on my right decided to cut across three lanes into a bank driveway on the opposite side of the street. By turning and braking, I narrowly avoided a sideswipe!

Harsh winters, dry summers, and brutal winds sculpted the trees
on the Grand Canyon's North Rim.

Wayne once again found us a campsite for free on BLM land, this time about a 45-minute drive from Grand Canyon's North Rim entrance. The whole area is still recovering from a burn. We could've stayed a stone's throw from where we camped in an RV park, packed to the gills for $50. Power, water, and pump out aren't that important to us. We keep a low power profile and Wayne took care of water and pump out for $5 in Kainab. Anything in the park itself was booked.
 The lodge at the Grand Canyon, North Rim was built in the 1920s, then burned,
and was rebuilt in the 1930s. Made with local materials, it blended in well with its surroundings.

Wayne picked the North Rim to visit because it gets only 10% of the visitors compared to the South Rim, and was only a slight detour on our trip. Between $35 entrance fee at both Bryce and the Grand Canyon, plus the $5 day-use fee for Grand-staircase Escalante, we recovered the cost of out $80 annual America the Beautiful pass. Capitol Reef didn't post anyone at their entry fee point and Grand Basin was free.

Bison herd, Grand Canyon North Rim.

Bryce Canyon's crowds were significantly larger than Grand Canyon's North Rim. Given Bryce's narrow trails and the lack of mask wearers, I enjoyed Grand Canyon more, despite the haze making the views far less than stellar the day we visited. However, if you've never been to either park and can tolerate the crowds, I'd choose Bryce over Grand Canyon as a scenic drive or for more moderate hikes.

Lovely as Grand Canyon North Rim is in the fall, we fantasized about visiting in the snow, staying in a Western Rim view cabin—way outside our budget at $299/night. Still, that's the point of a fantasy, right? We're betting that time of year, we'd practically have the trails to ourselves.
Bison, posing, Grand Canyon North Rim. He seemed unperturbed by my ogling them.

As a final sweet goodbye, we saw a herd, then later a lone bison grazing in easy view off the road. Another excellent day in the Southwest.

Tomorrow we'll arrive in New Mexico, a little outside Albuquerque.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Ramblin' Day 8: Scenic Byway 12 Utah


Peregrine falcon, perched atop a ranch entry gate. Torrey UT.

Our plan: roll out of bed and hike the Hickman Trail in Capitol Reef Park, then head off to find another place on BLM land to camp nearby Bryce Canyon National Park. After all, they say the early bird gets the worm—though I'd guess the early peregrine gets the mouse.
Fall foliage, Torrey Utah.

I got up before Wayne so I backtracked a little bit to where we entered Torrey because I saw some great scenic spots that begged for morning light.

Torrey log cabin schoolhouse and church, built 1898, Torrey Utah.

Even though gusty winds rocked us all night long, Wayne slept through it and I did not, but I'm still generally an earlier riser than him, and this morning was no exception.

Sunrise over the hills behind Torrey Utah.

The morning light in Torrey exceeded my expectations and then some! 

Pioneer home, Torrey Utah.

In less than 1/2 hour, I snapped all the Torrey-town photos I planned to take and returned to find Wayne staring at his screen, without his morning wake-up juice yet. I'd already make my morning chai, drank it, washed, dried, and put away all the dishes from it.

Natural Bridge, Hickman Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. I love the tree and its shadow.

I made Wayne his coffee.  "Would you mind if I took a leisurely morning while you do your hike?" he asked. No problem, I told him.

Natural Bridge on the Hickman Bridge Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. View on the way up.

The park literature lists the hike as moderate, an 800-foot elevation gain, a little less than two miles, round-trip.

Natural Bridge on the Hickman Bridge Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.
View on the way back.

Wayne heard Hickman Trail was popular, with limited parking, which is part of why we planned to get there early. I nabbed one of the last spaces in the parking lot.

Cacti & wood off Hickman Trail, Capitol Reef National Park.

While the drive into both Grand Wash and Capitol Reef Gorge Trails were jaw-droppingly stunning, and I loved the narrow canyon walls on both trails, the Hickman Bridge trail captivated me more with its variety. 

Petroglyph wall near Hickman Bridge trail, Capitol Reef Park, Utah.

Heading back to a caffeinated husband, ready to hit the road toward Bryce Canyon, I found myself unable to resist checking out the massive orange rock face with petroglyphs on the way back. I found the rock face more intriguing than the petroglyphs, but you're welcome to visit Capitol Reef to let me know whether or not you agree!

Aspen grove, off scenic byway 12, between Torrey and Boulder Utah.

Wayne and I planned to caravan up scenic byway 12 to the Bryce Canyon area. However once Wayne looked up the elevation changes through its mountain passes, he took the flatter, more direct highway 70 to the Bryce Canyon area. He encouraged me to take the longer, more scenic route in my Prius. I did.

We eliminated Zion for our list of parks to visit this trip. Our new BLM campground neighbor flagged me down as I was about to leave, and told me he just left Zion. He said Moab, the town 
adjacent to Zion, was a zoo and made that much worse because the roads were torn up for construction.
Multicolored aspen grove, off scenic byway 12, between Torrey and Boulder Utah.

There were lots of scenic lookouts, but most were not photo-worthy. All the winds stirred up so much dust, distant panoramas were hazed out.

However, the steep, twisty climb up Great Basin Park didn't give me an opportunity to take as many aspen photos as I wanted, but scenic byway 12 gave me another shot at it. The wind gusted here, too, "quaking" the aspen (though they seemed more to titter than to quake on this fine fall day).

Rocks and waves of multicolored aspen groves, off scenic byway 12, between Torrey and Boulder Utah.

Why do some aspen leaves turn red, I wondered as I saw copes of them. The analogy Alaska Science Forum gives is that it's genetic—the equivalent of these more fiery specimens being redheads, rather than blonds.

Approaching Grand-staircase Escalante Park off scenic byway 12, between Torrey and Boulder Utah.

Scenic Highway 12 also passed through Grand-staircase Escalante National Park. 

Add caption Calf Creek Recreation Area, Grand-staircase Escalante Park off scenic byway 12,
between Torrey and Boulder Utah.

While my photos don't do Calf Creek justice, it was my favorite part of the drive along Highway 12. Wayne's route was flatter and more agricultural. He arrived over an hour before I did, as he didn't make any scenic stops, though he said the highway he took was also pretty.

Fremont River, Grand-staircase Escalante Park off scenic byway 12, Utah.

Tomorrow, we hike in Bryce Canyon National Park. 

Tonight, from another free BLM campsite, we enjoyed a starry night sky, with the Milky Way again easily visible. But it is chilly; as I write this it's 31 degrees, headed for a low of 25 overnight. 

Vicarious travelers are welcome! I'll continue to post as frequently as I can, mostly photo-heavy posts, like those I've done so far for this trip.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Ramblin' Day 7: Capitol Reef National Park Utah


VIew from our rear-view mirror because I didn't want to stop Wayne
every few seconds to photograph yet one more gobsmackingly stunning sight
 in Capitol Reef National State Park in Utah.

Even though we've many miles to go before reaching Florida from Portland Oregon, the area we want to spend the most time on the trip exploring rather than just driving is the Southwestern US.

Grand Wash trail, Capitol Reef Park, Utah. Note those tiny dots on the trail to give you some perspective.

Today's stop was Capitol Reef National Park. Compared to Zion, it's relatively small. But Capitol Reef is chock-a-block with jaw-dropping scenery than never seems more than a stone's throw away. I remember Zion as more wide-open on the trails I hiked there. 

Tall canyon walls on Grand Wash trail, Capitol Reef Park.

Our first trail was Grand Wash. There were lots of signs warning visitors away from using the trail if there were storms. Wayne and I tried to imagine what it would be like to see Grand Wash live up to its name from some high vantage point while a torrent of water added its sculptural imprint.

Wayne said these narrow canyons reminded him of Western movie chase scenes; he half expected bandits going after a Wells Fargo wagon to race past.

Fall colors, Grand Wash trail. Capitol Reef Park, UT.

Once again, the fall colors in the Southwest give places like New England a run for the money. While New England foliage grabs your attention with fire-engine red, the rock colors in the Southwest glow when accented with bright yellow fall leaves.

The gray rocks sparked uranium mining in Capitol Reef Park. Little uranium was mined, but a lot of damage was done that still remains in the park.

If there's a visually boring inch in Capitol Reef National Park, I'm not sure where it is, though we did only get in two trails as we didn't start until the afternoon.

Muscular-looking monoliths on the road into Capitol Reef Gorge.

Capitol Reef Gorge was our second trail.

Part of the "Pioneer Registry"—historic, sanctioned graffiti—on the Capitol Gorge trail. 

There are both petroglyphs and rock etchings referred to as the Pioneer Registry. The oldest date for the latter I saw was 1888. Signed warned there was a $300 fine for anyone caught adding graffiti, with cameras posted. I found it amusing the trail highlights included Indian and pioneer graffiti, but that modern graffiti is a no-no. I thought the signs should say "no more graffiti."

Some red fall foliage on the "tank" spur off the Capitol Gorge trail, Capitol Reef Park.
I took the spur trail to the "Tanks," natural water holes. However, these uber-tiny reservoirs were bone dry.

EPH Hanks tower caught our eye leaving Capitol Gorge trail road.

The drive into and out of both Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge trail are worth the admission to the park, even if you never get out of your car and hike a trail.

The Castle rock formation, Capitol Reef Park, Utah. Not hard to guess how it got its name.

We bought an America the Beautiful annual national park pass at the park's visitor center as our expired from our last cross-country trip. We paid $80 for the pass, but when we drove into the park area where normally the park fee would get collected, the area was unmanned. Nor was there any kind of a dropbox for payment. 

Chimney rocks. Capitol Reef Park, Utah.

I guess we could've held off on the park pass, but we plan to visit more national parks on this trip. Besides, I am pleased to help pay to maintain these national treasures,

One thing I am not able to photograph and share in this post: the stars. We saw the Milky Way, something we've not seen since our sailing days. The one exception is the summer of 2019, when we took a camping trip up to Mt. Hood, mostly to once again see the stars far enough away from light pollution.

Tell me, when is the last time you saw the Milky Way clearly? Where were you?

You can learn more about why dark skies are important and how to find them here.

View from Panorama Point, Capitol Reef Park, Utah.

We only drove 42 miles round-trip from our BLM campsite outside the park, and hiked about 6 miles. But for only five hours, we felt like we were fully immersed in the true-to-life Southwestern version of Fantasia.

Tomorrow morning we'll grab a cup of home-brew coffee (for Wayne) and chai tea (for me) and head out to Capitol Reef's Hickman Bridge trail. Then we'll hit the road again, convoy style, and make for another BLM area outside Bryce Canyon National Park.