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.

A Week Among the Rocks

We left Red Rock country and headed south and west to the central highlands of Arizona. We settled in at a private RV park, Point of Rocks RV, nestled in the granite Dells of Prescott AZ.

Site 63

We arrived to overcast skies, some intermittent rain and colder temperatures. Watson Lake was a short hike from camp and we wasted little time before going exploring, the weather be damned.

The lake was created in 1916 when Granite Creek was dammed as part a Chino Valley irrigation project.

Scrambling among the granite boulders surrounding the lake offers endless possibilities for exploration.

The Dells owe their distinctive look to long term weathering of natural cracks in the granite. These granite boulders are estimated to be 1.4 billion years old.

Nearby is the Pea Vine/Iron Lion trail. This 11 mile trail system runs along the bed of the former Santa Fe & Prescott RR.

The Iron Lion Trail emerges from the granite boulders into an expansive view of the Prescott Valley.

The Pea Vine Trail also has great views along the shore of Watson Lake.

Also close to camp is the Constellation Trail system that meanders through the granite Dells. The trails are owned and maintained by the City of Prescott.

White dots mark the trail

We spent a wonderful morning wandering through these magnificent granite boulders.

Thumb Butte is a distinctive feature in the Prescott National Forest on the westside of Prescott.

The steep two mile loop trail takes you to the “Thumb”. Whenever we’ve hiked the trail the final ascent to the top of the Butte has been closed because of Peregrine falcon nesting season. Regardless, the views are great.

That’s the Chino Valley in the distance

It’s been a fun week but time to move on.

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.


White Tank Mountain Regional Park, AZ

The foothills that surround Phoenix are home to a number Maracopia County parks. White Tank Mountain is one we’ve not explored before. It’s located in the west valley of Phoenix in Surprise nestled in the foothills of the White Tank Mountains.

Site 28

As we drove through massive development throughout the west valley we wondered about our park choice. We came for the extensive mountain biking and hiking trails and we were not disappointed.

The Ironwood Trail
The Maricopa Trail
Hiking the Black Canyon Loop during the golden hour
Hiking up the Mule Deer Trail
A view from the Mule Deer Trail

The west valley had long been an agricultural area, where cotton and flowers were cultivated. This part of Phoenix is experiencing explosive growth with fields being replaced by new housing and massive warehouses.

A field of rose bushes and a warehouse six miles from the park entrance
A few of the graders and earth movers that are scraping the fields for development

As an antidote to the developing sprawl of the west valley we traveled 70 miles north of Phoenix to visit the experimental town of Arcosanti.

The architect Paolo Soleri proposed a concept based on the integration of architecture and ecology in the 1970’s. He named the concept arcology. He wanted to demonstrate that urban conditions could improve while minimizing the destructive impact of development.

The buildings are constructed of concrete made from materials found on site. The concrete panels were cast in a bed of silt acquired from the surrounding area and give the concrete a unique color and texture.

The Cafe

Beautiful architectural details can be found around every corner.

The community’s main source of income comes from the sale of bells, both ceramic and cast bronze.

One of the many ceramic bells on display
And bronze bells can be found throughout

White Tank Mountain Park provides a buffer to all the development. For the time being it is a natural oasis that provides a welcome respite. The picnic areas, hiking and biking trails are magnets for the people of Phoenix. We stuck close to camp to maximize our time on the trails during our stay.

On the Waterfall Trail

The waterfall that the trail is named after is seasonal. We didn’t expect to see water so we were surprised to see a pool of water at the base of the falls.

The white granite rocks where water pools during the rainy season is how the mountains got their name, White Tank.

The trail also features numerous petroglyphs created by the Hohokam people who populated the mountains 1000 years ago.

The trails are rocky but still very doable with a mountain bike.

The Ford Canyon Trail
There’s even a competitive track to challenge your riding skills
The Technical Segment of the Competitive Track is recommended for Experts only

Most of the trails in the park are multipurpose, available to hikers, bikers and equestrians. Our preference is biking but some of the trails are beyond our skill level.

Too rocky and steep for a bike

We decided to hike into the mountains to check out three canyons: the Mesquite, Ford and Willow. The eight mile hike took us into the backcountry. We took our time.

We were treated to some great canyon views.

The west valley from the Willow Trail

Spring in Arizona is not far away. Wildflowers are beginning to make their presence known.

California Poppy
Trailing Four O’Clock

On our last day in the park we drove to the Musical Instrument Museum(MIM). This is one of our favorite museums. If you find yourself in the Phoenix area don’t pass this museum by. There are permanent exhibits and every country of the world has a display featuring its native instruments and music. In addition they have rotating special exhibits, Treasures: Legendary Musical Instruments is currently on display.

Our favorite treasure was Eric Dolphy’s 1949 Selmer Balanced Action

The permanent exhibits also feature some very unusual instruments.

Trumpet Call Harmonica

The museum also has a wonderful 350 seat concert hall with amazing acoustics. We stuck around to hear Leo Kottke and Dave King. This unusual pairing was remarkable and a pleasant way to end our time at White Tank Mountain Park.

Anza-Borrego Desert Park, CA

We left Desert Hot Springs and went south along the west side of the Salton Sea to Borrego Springs. A mile and a half outside of town is the entrance to the Palm Canyon Campground in Anza-Borrego Desert Park. The park is located on the western side of the Colorado Desert and is California’s largest state park, about the size of Rhode Island.

Site 5

Biking is limited but there is plenty of hiking to be had. We started by heading down Coyote Canyon to hike the Desert Garden. Be assured that there is no garden to tour along this trail.

We did get some nice views of Coyote Canyon

The Ranger at the Park Visitor Center suggested we try Little Surprise Canyon, a short ride from the Park.

The hike gave us a good view of the trail to Hell Hole Canyon

Whenever we travel we encourage friends and family to meet up with us. It is rare that anyone ever takes us up on the offer. This trip Shelly’s cousin Marlene and her husband Lee met up with us for a weekend of desert fun.

Lee and Marlene with their tricked out Sprinter Van, designed and built by Lee

On their first day in camp we hiked the Outlook Trail.

From the top of the trail you get a fine view of the campground and surrounding desert

The Palm Canyon hike is very popular. You hike one and a half miles up the canyon to a palm oasis. In years past you were allowed into the Palm oasis but since it burned three years ago that is not allowed. The trail has been rerouted to a view point above the oasis.

Courtesy of Marlene, a rare photo of us in the same frame
The palms are coming back strong
It’s always amazing to see running water in the desert
After the fire all that was left of these palms were burnt trunks

The canyon is home to a herd of Peninsular Big Horn Sheep. Everyone hiking the canyon hopes to get a glimpse of them. As we hiked into the canyon we saw three sheep silhouetted high on a ridge. They were too far away to get a decent photo. Descending the trail we chose an alternate trail but soon lost our way. After scrambling over boulders we found ourselves in a small meadow face to face with this guy.

Other family members

Marlene and Lee left for home after two days of camping with us. Before they left we checked out Galleta Meadows Estate. The Estate consists of privately owned plots of land with metal sculptures scattered throughout the properties. The sculptures were created but Ricardo Breceda. The work was commissioned by Dennis Avery, the owner of Galleta Meadows.

Tamarisk Campground is a small primitive camp just over Yaqui pass. We didn’t camp there but drove over one morning to hike the cactus loop trail.

The rocky trail offers numerous opportunities to checkout a variety of desert flora
Fish Hook Cactus
Englemann’s Hedge Hog Cactus
Teddy Bear or Jumping Cholla
Heading down the Cactus Loop

Our drive home took us back through Yaqui Pass. As we neared the summit we stopped to hike the William Kenyon Overlook Trail for an expansive view of the San Filipe Wash.

On our last day in the park we connected with Paul and Susanne who were staying in a park near us. We arranged to meet at the entrance to Blair Valley for some hiking.

Ready to hike the Pictograph Trail
The trail meanders through the boulders to Smugglers Outlook
Image courtesy of Susanne
The pictographs

We finished the hike and decided to try one more short hike before parting ways.

Pat and Susanne along the Morteros Trail
Shelly and Paul

The trail gets its name from the numerous morteros along the trail. Mortero is Spanish for mortar . These “bedrock holes” were created by the Kumeyaay people who lived here a thousand years ago. Think of the morteros as stone food processors.

The smaller depressions are called cupules
At the end of the trail we found one more pictograph

We’ve had a wonderful time here in Southern California but it’s time to move on. Arizona and the Sonoran Desert beckons. But one more look at Palm Canyon as you descend along the Alternative Trail.

Desert Hot Springs, CA/Sky Valley RV

Here we are staying in another private RV park. What gives? In Tucson staying in a private RV park gave us easy access to Tucson and great mountain biking. Here at Sky Valley it’s access to the mineral hot springs as well as its proximity to Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs. We scheduled our stay to coincide with the Palm Springs Film Festival which was sadly canceled due to the current Omicron surge.

Site 212 in the Paradise Loop
Our backyard at night

The mountain biking here involves riding along dirt roads through the Colorado desert. It’s not a very scenic ride.

We booked two weeks to enjoy the park’s hot springs.

We get to the springs when they open and often have them to ourselves.

Our proximity to Palm Springs gave us the opportunity to hike the Indian Canyons located in the ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.

Palm Canyon
Plentiful water alows these California Palms to thrive
Our lunch spot
The Palm Canyon trail leads you to the dry ridge overlooking the canyon
We went hiking with Paul and Susanne whom we met in Tucson

No trip to Desert Hot Springs is complete without a visit to the Sam Cobb Date Farm whose motto is “We Grow Good Dates” and they do it without pesticides. The date blooms are pollenated by hand and placed in mesh bags to keep insects and animals at bay while the fruit matures.

If you can’t make it to the farm you can always order online

The nearby Whitewater Preserve offers excellent hiking opportunities. We chose the 4 mile Canyon View Loop.

Paul and Susanne joined us
The trail offers great views of the wash below as well as the surrounding mountains
As we ended our hike we had a wildlife sighting
Big Horn Sheep

Palm Springs has a very nice art museum, vaccinations are required as well as masking while inside. Robert Longo’s large charcoal drawings were featured.

Pat and Susanne checking out Longo’s drawing of the Capital Building
80” Great Rhombicosidodecahedron by Anthony Jones

The museum also has an eclectic mix of outdoor installations.

Palm Springs Babies by David Cerny
History of Suspended Time (A monument for the impossible) by Gonzalo Lebrija

East of Desert Hot Springs is one of our favorite National Parks- Joshua Tree. In spite of their name they are not actually trees they are succulents. Mormon immigrants named them as they were heading west.

Succulent Hugger

Joshua Tree NP is very large, spreading across the Colorado and Mojave deserts. In addition to Joshua Trees there are wonderful piles of Granite boulders to explore.

We spent a day hiking the Black Canyon section of Joshua Tree with our friends Paul and Susanne. We headed out to the Panorama Loop.

As an added bonus Shelly was able to spend time with his high school friends Jim and Suzy.

The Desert continues to call

Tucson/ Desert Trails-Final Edition

Flying the Friendly Skies

We left Arizona for a short visit with our son’s family during the Christmas season. The flight to and from Chicago was remarkably stress free.

Why we fly

As much as we enjoyed our Chicago visit it was great to get back to the desert.

A challenging section of the trail
After a couple of nights of rain there were puddles on the trails, a new experience for us
We missed those evening skies

While we’ve seen roadside memorials in our travels I don’t think we’ve seen as many or as well kept one’s as those along the roads of Tucson.

On Signal Mountain
At the intersection of Ajo Way and Camino Verde

We discovered an outdoor Mercado in the Menlo Park neighborhood of Tucson with an outstanding Japanese/ramen restaurant that operates out of a shipping container with outside seating. The food is excellent.

We returned to a favorite local brewery, Moto Sonora, it has a nice beer garden to go along with their great beer. On previous visits we admired a lovely BMW R75/5 on display in the bar area. It was only after our second visit that was a we realized the the motorcycle was on loan from former House of Representatives member Gabby Giffords.

We also made it to a great bread bakery, Barrio Bread. They are producing some of the best sourdough bread we’ve eaten.

Our stay at Desert Trails has been fun and we would definitely come back whenever we return to this area of Arizona. After seven weeks in one spot it’s time to get going. We have a two day stop scheduled at Buckskin Mountain SP on the west coast of Arizona along the Colorado River.

The campground
We had a nice spot near the river

The campground offers opportunities for hiking and boating. We don’t have a boat but we do hike.

Our front yard

We’ll be moving on to Southern California for a one month stay. Arizona has been great but California here we come.