Of Parks and Monuments

We left Kanab, Utah and made our way north to Torrey, Utah to visit Capital Reef National Park. The park’s defining geological characteristic is a wrinkle in the Earth’s crust known as the Waterpocket Fold.

We set up camp on a sunny ridge overlooking a valley
That evening the temperature dropped, the wind howled and snow arrived

Capital Reef features some short hikes and an 8 mile scenic drive that seemed like a nice option on a cold and windy day.

A view from the Goosenecks Overlook
One of the Fremont River’s Gooseneck’s
A view from Panorama Point

The scenic drive let’s visitors easily access many of the parks natural wonders.

The paved scenic drive ends with a dirt road that takes you back into Capital Gorge.

From 600 to 1300 C. E., indigenous people of the Fremont culture occupied Capitol Reef. Evidence of their presence can be seen in the petroglyphs they left behind.

The next day the temperatures rose a bit and the wind calmed so we headed out for to hike the Cohab Canyon Trail.

A steep climb is rewarded with some great views

The trail winds along the top of a mesa to a view of the valley below.

The valley view

We continued north to Vernal Utah which is a few miles from the entrance of Dinosaur National Monument. This park has been on our to do list for the past three years and we were finally able to work it into a trip.

The park includes one of the richest dinosaur fossil records on Earth. The Quarry Visitors Center is built around a wall of exposed dinosaur fossils.

In addition to fossils, the monument also offers some great hiking. We chose the three mile Sound of Silence trail. As advertised this trail offers one of the quietest hikes in the monument.

The hike begins following a sandy wash
The trail snakes through the colorful Chinle Formation
Eventually the trail leads you to the top of a mesa
You have great views of Split Mountain from the top

Dry Creek Canyon is located near Vernal and is home to the McConkie Ranch Petroglyphs. The trail stretches for about 3/4 of a mile along the cliffs above the ranch.

On a cold windy day we drove up to the Flaming Gorge Recreation Area to checkout the views. We weren’t disappointed.

That’s the Green River
The river is popular with rafters

From Vernal we headed East into Colorado and Grand Junction, home to the Colorado National Monument. The monument features the 23 mile Rim Rock Drive that takes you to the top of the Colorado Plateau for stunning views of canyons and rock formations.

Artist Point
Mummy Rock
Independence Monument
Balanced Rock

It’s been a great trip but it’s time to head East and home. Of course we’ll stop in Chicago for a visit with the grandkids before we end our travels. Thanks to those of you who’ve been following along and made the occasional comment (we enjoy hearing from you). This is our last post until we head out on the highway in the fall.

A Week in Kanab, Utah

We avidly read campground reviews and are always looking for new places to stay. Just as Covid struck we started hearing about a new park in Utah. We put it on the list for our next trip out west. Dark Sky RV is a relatively new park. It is a real gem and we would highly recommend it.

The park is just three miles outside of Kanab and close to the Grand Staircase-Escalate National Monument. After a long day of driving we picked a nearby hike to check out the Toadstool formations in the Monument.

The 1.6 mile round trip hike starts in a dry wash
The Toadstools greet you at the end of the hike

A short distance on the other side of town are some man made sand caves. The sand was being mined for glass production but have been abandoned for some time.

To access the caves you must first climb up to a sandstone ledge
On the inside looking out
A close up
Some of the graffiti that can be found in the caves

Besides hiking, the Monument offers a number of scenic drives. We chose the Paria Town Site Road.

The road offers expansive views of the Paria Box
Find Shelly
The road ends at the Paria River

The Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument has a number of unique geological features. They are often in remote and difficult to reach areas of the Monument. We hired a guide for the day to take us back along deep sandy roads to visit “The White Pocket “ formation. We spent over 3 hours exploring this 1 square mile area.

Approaching “The White Pocket “
The black stones are Moqui Marbles (sandstone coated by a layer of iron oxide)

Our guide Mike from Dreamland Safaris did a great job explaining the geology and history of the indigenous people in the area. We visited the remains of an ancient Pueblo and an unusual panel of petroglyphs.

Pottery shards and napped stone littered the site

We also had time to visit the Maze Petroglyphs and it’s unusual two headed snake attempting to enter a maze.

We remember Bryce as a beautiful canyon all dressed up in shades of cream, orange and accessorized with deep green pines. Our location in Kanab put us in position for a day trip to hike one of the jaw dropping trails.

We chose to hike part of the “Fairy Land” trail to the “Tower Bridge” rock formation. This trail is less populated then many of the other trails.

A Bristlecone Pine along the trail
The Chinese Wall
It’s a 1.7 mile hike down to the Tower Bridge formation

The road to Bryce Canyon takes you by the Forest Service park Red Canyon. We’ve passed it a few times but have never stopped. That changed this trip. A short hike got us to “Salt and Pepper “, two of the park’s hoodoos.

Our day at Bryce Canyon and Red Canyon necessitated a day of rest before heading out to hike the southwest’s longest and deepest slot canyon, Buckskin Gulch. We approached it by way of Wire Pass another slot canyon.

A walk down a sandy wash takes you to the entrance of Wire Pass
The way into Buckskin Gulch
Water in the canyon required careful navigation

After another day in the beauty that is Southern Utah we headed back to Dark Sky RV.

Tucson Redux

Site C19

We secured a week at a favorite Pima County Park, Gilbert Ray Campground. It is located in the Tucson Mountain Park which has wonderful mountain biking trails (the same mountain biking trails that we accessed from Desert Trails RV in Nov and Dec). The park exists thanks to the work of C. B. Brown who was able to prevent mining interests from developing the Tucson Mountains. In 1929 Pima County established Tucson Mountain Park on 29,988 acres of the Sonoran Desert. It was the largest country park in the United States at that time.

New bike, old friend
It’s all about the trails

Part of the joy of travel is discovering unique local restaurants. There are lots of Mexican restaurants in the Tucson area but La Indita offers an interesting twist. The family restaurant draws on its Tohono O’odham roots to influence the menu. One of the specialties is the Indian Taco. Think of a taco with the tortilla replaced with Indian fry bread.

We also found an excellent bread bakery that specializes in sourdough breads; Barrio Bread. If you find yourself in Tucson don’t pass up a visit.

Some of the Tucson Mountain Park trails require biking skill levels beyond what we are capable of. That’s not really a problem because those are the trails we hike. One of these is the 5 mile Brown Mountain Loop.

The trail offers great views of the park

While it’s only early March, spring has begun and this means wild flowers.

Woolly Desert Marigold
Globe Mallow
Fairy Dusters
Parry’s Breadtongue
California Poppy

After seven days in Tucson Mountain Park it was time to move on. We hooked up the Tincan and headed northeast to Catalina State Park. The park is very popular and we were only able to secure a few days in their overflow campground. Basically a dirt parking lot with spots very close together. You also have access to a very nice modern bath and shower facility.

Site 3 in Overflow

The upside is that the other campers are friendly and considerate of other peoples space and we had a spot in a favorite state park where we can continue to hike and bike.

Bridle Path
Biking the Nature Trail

Camping at Catalina SP also puts us within biking distance of the Steam Pump Farmers Market where we stocked up on coffee and greens.

On our last day in the park we decided to hike the Canyon Trail and check out some of the fire damage from the October 2020 fire that burned 47 acres of the park.

Burn damage lines the trail
Water in the Canada del Oro Wash
Photo courtesy of Julie and Scout

Tucson is our turn around point. From here we start heading north.

Lost Dutchman SP, Apache Junction AZ

The park gets its name from the legendary Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. Jacob Waltz, a German immigrant, is purported to have found a rich gold mine in the late 1800’s. On his deathbed he gave a cryptic description of its location in the Superstition Mountains near Apache Junction. Prospectors are still searching for it in the hope of “striking it rich”.

Site 106 at the base of the Superstition Mts
The Superstitions at dusk

The park is a popular weekend destination for hikers. To avoid the crowds on the trail we did a scenic drive to the Salt River Canyon with a stop in Globe.

The Salt River

The Salt River divides the San Carlos Apache and Salt River Apache reservations. The Apache leader Geronimo once called this area home.

In 1875 silver was discovered on the San Carlos Reservation. The mining camp then relocated to what is now Globe Arizona which was incorporated in 1876. In 1880 copper mining took off and Globe grew along with it.

Besh-Ba-Gowan is an ancient 200 room pueblo of the Salado people who resided there between AD 1250 and 1450. It is located in a city park in Globe.

The site was excavated and reconstructed in the late 1930’s and was funded by the government Works Projects Administration.

The excavations uncovered a wealth of prehistoric artifacts. We particularly enjoyed seeing the Gila Polychrome pottery.

The mountain biking is limited so we spent more time hiking the trails leading up to the mountains.

Limited riding but some fabulous scenery
On the Prospector View Trail
And you do get views

The Siphon Draw Trail is a magnet for hikers. This strenuous hike takes you up into the Superstitions with an option to go beyond the Draw to the top of the Flatiron.

The trail is rocky and steep
The Flatiron
A view from the mouth of the draw
In the Draw

We were able to work in another concert at the Musical Instrument Museum. The Kenny Barron Trio with Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums provided an hour and half of inspired playing.

On our last day in camp we decided to make our way into town for a meal and a visit to the Phoenix Art Museum.

We primarily came to see an exhibit of post war Japanese photography
Mass (Colder Darker Matter) by Cornelia Parker
Wall Drawing #1146 c
A sphere lit from the top
by Sol LeWitt
The Firefly Room by Yayoi Kusama

“Become one with eternity. Obliterate your personality. Our earth is only one polka dot among the million stars in the cosmos.”-Yayoi Kusama

We stopped in to eat at Glai Baan which specializes in Thai street food. We highly recommend this restaurant, some of the best Thai food we’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. We then wandered down 24th street to sample the offerings at Wren House Brewing. This brewery is highly rated for good reason.

Our week went by quickly as it always seems to when your enjoying yourself. There is more to explore in the area so we will be back.

Usery Mountain Regional Park, Phoenix AZ

We left the west valley of Phoenix and traveled 52 miles across the valley to Usery Mt. on the valley’s east side. The trip, mostly on expressway took 1 1/2 hours. The valley is included in Maricopa County which is home to over 4.7 million residents. That’s 65% of Arizona’s population. No wonder it took so long to cross the valley.

Site 15 from the “backyard”

The desert on this side of the valley is greener with a greater abundance of flora. Why? This side of the valley is in the rain shadow of the Goldfield Mountains and gets more precipitation as a result.

Our “backyard” at dusk

We’ve camped here before but came back for the hiking and biking. While the trails aren’t as challenging as those in White Tank they are fun to ride.

Those are the Superstition Mountains in the distance
Large Chain Fruit Cholla cacti line the Chainfruit Trail

The Pass Mountain Trail is considered a Black Diamond trail and that’s well above our mountain biking skills. We left our bikes at camp and hiked the trail. The hike offers some great views of the surrounding mountains and desert.

The trail off the mountain takes you through an area thick with saguaro cactus.

A very unusual saguaro

On our last day in the park the temperature dropped and it rained most of the day. A good time to go to the laundromat.

The rain let up and we walked out into the desert. The birds were happily singing and the desert smelled incredible.

While it was cloudy and rainy on our last day we did get to experience a lot of sunny days with amazing sunrises and sunsets.

Sunrise
Sunset

Tucson/ Desert Trails Edition 1

When we travel in the Tincan we gravitate toward National, State or County parks. These parks offer great amenities as well as amazing scenery. The downside is you can only stay for a maximum of two weeks. Currently there are a lot more people on the road looking to camp making these parks harder to get into. This year we decided to try a private park for an extended stay.

Site W9 next to the TV Lounge on a rare cloudy day

We woke up to this on our first morning in the park.

The park’s location puts us close to Tucson galleries, restaurants and breweries. Every place we want to go is about a 25 minute drive. The real attraction however is the extensive system of mountain bike trails accessible from the park.

The beginning of another great Arizona sunset

The Saguaro National Park-West is a short drive from Desert Trails RV. The Park offers the Bajada Scenic Loop drive and numerous hiking trails as well as thousands of Saguaro. It takes 70 years before the Saguaro sprout branches or arms. They reach their full height of 40 to 50 feet after about 150 years.

The Signal Hill Trail is a short hike to a number of petroglyphs made by the Hohokam people between 450 and 1450 CE.

We always enjoy wandering and biking through the Sonoran Desert. There’s no telling what you might see.

Crime scene?
A rare crested Fishhook Barrel Cactus; the first we’ve seen
A rare crested Saguaro Cactus; the second one we’ve seen

Sunsets in the Sonoran Desert are a special event. We worry about boring people with endless photos of sunsets but sometimes we can’t help ourselves.

Sunset from Gates Pass