Sunday, May 31, 2009

Muley Point

We have spent a delightful two days at the south end of Cedar Mesa at Muley Point.
We have had the pleasure of being with Jim and Gayle.

An overlook of the goosenecks of the San Juan River from Muley Point







Koko on Muley Point








Koko on Muley Point








Overlook from Muley Point








Overlook from Muley Point








Looking up to Muley Point






Moki Dugway







Valley of the Gods

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Still on Cedar Mesa, near Natural Bridges

It rained until after 6. 110% cloud coverage. We could have been on the Oregon Coast. Before dark, there was a tiny opening of blue in the south. We prayed.

In the afternoon, we went to a nearby pull-off where we had cell coverage on the way west. Nothing. We continued to drive east toward Blanding. Nothing. Not even in Blanding. We guessed an equipment problem. We found an on-ramp at the Super 8. Filled up Pelli and got eggs and bread.

Sunday, May 24
Dawn came with fewer clouds. Yea! By mid-morning, 40% cover. By 2pm all happy smiley cumulus clouds.

We hiked under Owachomo Bridge, which is only a half-mile down. All the other bridges are over a mile and twice or three time more elevation loss. We both huffed and puffed our way back up, but it was worth it.

From far below we noted that some Yahoo had driven a C in the ditch on the Elk Road, a rental. Great views from up there, but no place to go when it is raining and the road surface is goo. At least they did not slide down the mountain.

The weather was still good at 3., so we went back to Muley Point to celebrate sunset. The closer we got the more clouds we saw in the southern sky. By the time we parked, got the chairs out and the drinks fixed, a storm erupted in Monument Valley, 30 miles away, was tracking for us. We hid in the Jeep until it past and surfed the net. Yeah, here in nowhere, we had a decent signal.

The storm passed and we got out and hooked up with some folks who were camping there. Immediate friends. I hope they are not too sore that we did not return Monday as we said we would. See Monday.

Dorothy woke up wanting to wash clothes and take a real long bath. So we hiked Mule Canyon and then drove east to Blanding to Blue Mountain RV.

We have washed clothes, ourselves and KoKo. We dumped the tanks and filled up with fresh water. We are good for more days in the outback. Last year we went for 23 days with hookups. But Wyoming and Idaho have plenty of places to dump and take on water. Not so in Utah.

We elected to shower again before we left. We let the water run and run. It will be awhile until we have that luxury again.

The skies were mostly clear until around 9, then they started clouding up. We could see thunderheads building east and west of us. We did some marketing, made some phone calls, checked email, gassed up and headed back west.

We went about 15 miles and drove right into one of the thunderstorms hanging around the Abajo mountains. It lasted for an hour, just long enough to muddy up the road to the campground.

One of the theories about why the Anasazi left this area is due to long term drought. We think we saw some of them returning today due to the recent rainfall.

At home, 20% chance of rain means it’s not worth thinking about. In Utah, 20% means it will rain 20% of the day.

We got away early to hike Mule Canyon on the north side of UT95 to some ruins called House on Fire. See photo’s. It was an easy one mile hike along the mostly dry stream bed.

The thunderheads built all morning and we found rain about a mile from the CG. It messed up the road for Jim and Gayle to come in. I am glad crossing the ‘sippy hole” did not scare them off.

I wanted to hike Road Canyon to a ruin called House with Fallen Roof. I was able to entice everyone else into my adventure. The guidebook said this was not a difficult hike and was only an hour long. I can only speculate about the condition of the trail before the recent rains. I can say that after the rains, much of the trail was washed away. The going down was rather difficult for Dorothy and me, while it was a walk in the park for Jim and Gayle. We made it from the rougher side approach canyon into the wider Road Canyon and were soon rewarded with House with Fallen Roof perched on a ledge about 100 feet above the canyon floor. This was the best preserved ruin we have encountered. See pictures.

Jim and Gayle went around the corner to the next set of ruins. Dorothy and I parked and huffed and puffed and rested. The next ruins were from a different time period as the construction was mud and sticks, rather than stone.

Surprisingly, the hike up and out was not as ghastly as the going down. When we made it back to the Jeep we had been out for a little over four hours.

After dinner we enjoyed showing pictures of our travels.

It did not rain on us today! That breaks nine days of at least a short thunderstorm. We saw rain to our east, but we were spared.

Lay Day – Since the road was spared rain for a day, it had dried out, we all went in the Jeep up the Elk Mountain Road crossing between The Bear’s Ears at 8,600 feet. There are spectacular views of western and southern vistas from the top.

We went a few miles further on the road hoping for a view of Canyonlands or Dark Canyon, after what seemed to me to be too long without a view, I turned around and we headed back to the CG for lunch and nap.

There was a thunderstorm north of us, but maybe we will be spared again. The contrails from the jets overhead are much shorter today, indicating lower humidity.

We drove 30 miles south and perched KoKo on the edge of Muley Point. Jim and Gayle are close by. The view is incredible. No rain for over 48 hours - on us anywho. Wish you were here.

Monticello Lake on the side of the Abajo Mountains.
Not bad for free parking.









Combs Wash, another free parking spot





Combs Ridge above our campsite









Mule Canyon on Cedar Mesa





Our camp site on Cedar Mesa near Natural Bridges, also free, free, free.









Fallen Roof ruin in Road Canyon on Cedar Mesa





House on Fire ruin

More and better pictures may be found at Life's Little Adventures

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Summer in Utah

Monday, May 18
We drove US491 from Cortez, CO to Monticello, UT. We visited the Forest Service and BLM field offices and the very complete town Welcome Center, gaining valuable information at each place. We decided to stay at Dalton Springs CG, which is on the shoulder of the Abajo mountains at 8,400 feet. Counting us and the park host, there are three campers here. The d├ęcor is aspens and oaks.

We have TV and a little Verizon, but no AT&T.

We took a short sunset drive a little farther up the road to an overlook of all of Canyonlands. We could see Dead Horse Point some 40 miles distant. Dorothy got a bit giddy over the vista’s and we clinked glasses.

On our sunset drive yesterday, we noted free camping on a small lake just north of the CG. Even though we had paid for two days, we moved to Monticello Lake after breakfast. We backed the rear end of KoKo up to the water. We have a completely open sky and can watch the big puffy clouds drift by. We are at 8,625 feet here. The only thing missing is a view to the north toward Dead Horse Point We will have to go a mile down the road to an overlook to observe sunset.

After breakfast, we drove part of the way into Canyonlands to find Lavender Canyon. We may have found it, who knows, no signage. Whatever we found was not all that spectacular, but we did enjoy seeing the rock formations again. Another day, we will try to get away earlier for better light.

We took a pull-out to make a picture. I was in front of the car fiddling with the camera. I heard a buzzing sound like a bee makes. When I put the camera down, I auto-focused on the source of the sound. It was a small diamond back about six feet from us. I pointed it out to Dorothy who said she was just about to walk in that direction. I had never heard a rattle before. It was not loud and sounded more like a buzz. Maybe because it was a small snake? It was a reminder to wear boots when hiking for some protection.

On this side of the mountain, we have no TV, Verizon or AT&T.

We had the mountain lake to ourselves for the evening. Deer came down at sunset and after sunrise to browse close to the water.

In spite of it being a faultless campsite, we both had wanderlust, so we went down the mountain to Monticello, got a jug of milk, filled up the water tank and headed south. We stopped at several places seeking another idyllic place to park, but found nothing that suited us. We pulled into the parking area for Comb Wash Ruins for lunch. It was warm, 83, at near 5,000 feet. I turned on the computer just for fun and in the middle of nowhere got a strong signal.





<=== Our home in Comb Wash

We drove a few miles down the road and decided to make Comb Wash our home for the night. Yes, it’s warm, but Comb Ridge is out our back window and it looks picturesque to us. We looked all over this area two years ago for the north side of Comb Wash road. We never found an un-gated road. Maybe tomorrow?

After it cools off a bit we will take Pelli down the wash and look for a cliff dwelling and supposedly outstanding geologic formation.

No cell signal on this side of the ridge.

Pork chops and corn on the cob for dinner.

4PM – We tried for the cliff dwelling, but it was on the other side of a dry wash and the sand looked too deep for Pelli. I was not in the mood to risk walking four miles back to KoKo and then locating a wrecker.

So we crossed US95 and there was the north side of Comb Wash road - that eluded us two years back. This time the gate was open. [I learned last night that some BLM roads are gated, but not locked] This is also the road to Arch Canyon. So we proceeded to the trailhead, parked and started to hike part of the canyon. In less than a ¼ mile, Dorothy was defeated by a cattle guard. The spacing between the grates was too wide for her feet. I went to the mouth of the canyon and it looked like it would be a scenic hike. The sand flies made me abort and we went home for a late drink and dinner.

The downside of parking here was the short windstorm that came just after sunset. We had the windows open and while the breeze felt good, the inside of KoKo was coated in light film of fine red dirt. Whatever we might be, no one can call us concrete campers. And we wear whatever badge goes with that with pride.

We headed a few miles west to higher elevation, 6,800, near Natural Bridges Monument. The CG in the monument was OK, but offered no amenities. Moreover, the sites could not accommodate both vehicles. So we exited the monument and went to the nearby BLM ‘Overflow’ facility. This is located on a mesa near Natural Bridges. We have it all to ourselves. Not bad views either. Sunlight would sure help. But that may not happen until next week. So we are just going to stay here until the weather improves. There are a half dozen places I want to hike/photograph around here, so we will just have to wait on the weather. No cell coverage here, we have to go 9 miles east to get a signal.

Anywho, we have a 360 view here, as opposed to no view in the monument CG. The only trouble with the Cedar Mesa area is water. There is none. The closest dump is 35 miles away in Blanding. The monument has water, but a sign limits you five gallons. Long term stays here require driving back and forth to towns. FYI, Indian ruins abound here, but when the water left, so did the Indians.

The rain came. We had a drizzle from midnight to almost dawn. No problem, except we are down a dirt road which will become impassable if we get enough rain. We have had a lot of cloud cover since Tuesday. This morning it was 100%. Mid-morning we went to Natural Bridges and drove the loop road. Even in lower light it’s an interesting canyon. Some of the rock formations look like soft serve ice cream. We identified one trail that we can take to the bottom of the canyon so we can get under the rock bridge.

After seeing White Canyon I realized that we blew through here in 1994. No small wonder I did not recall being here, as that day we drove from Monticello to Kodachrome, eight hours of driving and twisting our heads to see it all.

By mid-day, the cloud cover was about 60%, so there is enough sun to illuminate some of the red rocks. However, the weather forecast is for more rain for the next five days. The front is tracking from the Gulf like a hurricane would, not a Pacific system. I see another part of the system is producing intense rains in central Florida.

It was getting rather bright outside before we took a 20 minute nap. Our eyes opened to a much darker sky. What the heck, it might clear again. So we went south on UT 261. It is an unremarkable piece of road for the first 30 miles, then woo-hoo, the best view in the state. But first, on the unremarkable section of the road are several dirt roads that led into the several canyons on Cedar Mesa. All but one of the canyons are beyond our capabilities. If the rain will ever stop we are going to try Road Canyon, reached by the ineptly named Cigarette Springs Road.

Now back to the view. I have heard about and seen pictures of the view from Muley Point and I have been burning to see it myself. It’s the best! The overlook is at an elevation of 6,400 four miles out a not too bad dirt road. Stretched out 1,100 feet below for over 50 miles are the Goosenecks, Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley. KoKo could make it down the road and there is plenty of room to over-night.

We hung out on Muley Point getting our email and hoping the rain would clear a bit for pictures. The rain intensified, so before the road turned to mush we high-tailed it back to 261 and went down the Moki Dugway. I had heard this was a dangerous white-knuckle road, but I had no problems with it – up or down. I think it had been resurfaced in the last few weeks.

We went into Mexican Hat for gas and wound up having a frozen pizza for an early dinner.

The rain quit until we got back to KoKo, but started up again when we opened the Jeep doors. We had the place to ourselves last night, but now there is a fiver, two C’s, a pop-up and four tenters.

When it rains I have more time to Blog.

It rains!

But Sunday, was MUCH better

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Route to Utah

Prelude to Departure
This section is about things we did to KoKo. Probably of no interest to non-Rvers.

We did more things to KoKo during this interlude at home than ever before. We put the first holes in the walls. Not just in one place either – a magazine rack in the rear lounge, a spice rack behind the sink, a hat rack in the cab over and a wire shelf above the toilet.

But, that’s not all we did.

I replaced the converter with one that is supposed to charge the batteries more rapidly and be kinder to the batteries when we are hooked to shore power. I can not tell a difference.

I replaced the “surge protector”, twice. The first replacement was defective out of the box. The device is under the sink and almost impossible to reach It took me over two hours to remove and replace it each time.

I finished installing an inverter under the dinette table.

I added a 120v outlet under the dinette table for the computer and another outlet behind the TV for the DVD.

I put on a third vent cover. Now all the vents are protected. However, it cuts down on air circulation.

And we probably did some more stuff that is no longer in my memory banks. I am weary of improvements.

The Route to Utah
This section covers our week on the road to Utah.

The last few weeks have seemed to me to be an interminable wait until we could leave. We should have left no later than April 20, so we could get to Moab before the heat. I got confused about the date last Fall and never recovered from my bewilderment.

We decided to take US82, which we can access not far from home, and ride it all the way to Lubbock, Texas. A lot of it is four-lane with a smooth road surface and best of all, less traffic and few trucks. There are places where the speed limit is 70, but mostly it’s 55-60. That’s fine with us, as we drive 57-60 even on the interstate. It beats I40 in our never humble opinion.

We made it Wyoming last year with less than 100 miles of interstate driving, we will beat that record getting to Utah.

The odometer reads 24,960 after 19 months.

Sunday, May 10, 2009
It has rained the past eight days. The sun has been out every day for the past eight days. Saturday before we leave a new front appears, stretching from New Mexico to Alabama. This means we will get to drive in the rain. And so it goes.

The fields are muddy and the rivers are swollen. Farm implement dealers abound. Turtles are migrating across the highway - most will not make it.

The rain came to us at lunch and continued until dinner. We stopped at 3PM at the Greenville, Mississippi Wal*Mart. It is off the road and there is not much traffic, so sleeping should be no problem.

I originally planned to stay at the Mississippi Welcome Center, but I mislaid my itinerary and Wal*Mart was the best guess of my careful plans.

Doe’s Eat Place is closed on Sunday, so we will have to try their tamales another time.

It was raining when we got up and it rained all morning, sometimes intensely. It stopped raining after lunch, but remained cloudy. The forecast for Tuesday is clearing.

When we went to sleep gas was $2.04. It was $2.15 when we woke up. It was $1.79 only a week back.

We went from Wal*Mart to the Welcome Center just a few miles down the road to see what it was all about and have breakfast with a different view. The WC would be fine for over-nighting. There was no one there at 7AM, tho we did see a state truck leaving as we came in. Security?

We were supposed to stay in one of the city parks, that are prevalent in small northern Texas towns. We looked for it, but could not find it. I went back to the Internet source to verify it. If Dorothy had not noted Illinois on the page, I might have never figured it out. Paris City Park must be in Paris, IL, but is mis-filed under Paris, Texas.

We wound up at another Wal*Mart in Bonham, Texas. This one is very quiet. At 6, the parking lot is almost empty. We are the only RV.

We woke up at 5 and got away a little before 7. US82 improved as we got farther west, mostly four-lane. Near Whitesboro, Texas there are several quarter and show horse farms.

Tonight we are in Littlefield, Texas at the Waylon Jennings CG. Not
bad, being that it is free and has W&E plus a dump. We are officially "out west" having past the 100th parallel and seen tumbling weed this afternoon.

The temperature was over 90. Glad we had a/c.

We got to Bernalillo, NM for lunch with Bernie and Martha of Santa Fe, who are taking delivery of Blue-Con in June. We hope to rendezvous with them later on in the year in Utah.

After saying goodbyes, we found a half-ass car wash and removed most of the road grim from two days of driving in the rain. KoKo had never been so grimy.

We went up US550 and made a right on NM4 to Vista Linda CG. We got the same spot we had in 2007 when KoKo was a week old.

Of course, we had cocktails beside the babbling Jemez River overlooked by the red cliffs. We were sound asleep by 9 – dead tired after four long driving days.

See photo

Another four hour push up US550 to Navaho Dam SP. I tried to find the BLM property Simon Canyon, but I could not find any signage for it. We did find BLM land, but it was covered by natural gas production equipment. The hills are filled with equipment, a well on each quarter section, and the roads are busy with work trucks, many with BP and Conoco logos.

We opted for the Cottonwood unit of Navaho Dam SP. It’s on the San Juan River. It is much quieter and more scenic than the larger unit on the lake.

We are a short day from SE Utah. That will make six days to get there. Every day has been over 5 hours, which is in our red zone. It’s time to SLOW down.

We were excited about paddling the San Juan River. We could put in three miles upstream and coast to the CG - an easy shuttle. We scouted the river to see if there were any places we would have trouble with. It turned out that most of the riffles were shallow, just right to get us grounded and sideways resulting in either our getting out or being rolled over. So we passed on paddling the attractive, but 46 degree river.

This was hummingbird day. We put out the feeder and within an hour we had customers. By mid-afternoon, we counted five at one time. Just before dark there were seven feeding. We have the feeder hanging a foot from the back window. They are great entertainment.

They are Black Chin hummingbirds - light brown with mottled green backs. The males have a black ring around the neck and iridescent purple feathers under the chin that flash when they raise their heads. I was close to the feeder and one came right up to my face and went in a U from ear-to-ear – twice. Checked me out good.

Not as good as Kate's, but I am not patient.

We are calling the lizard Dorothy discovered in the parking lot our Nat Geo lizard. You have seen the pictures they have of exotic colored lizards, well this one is ours, even if he is in a parking lot.

We “found” Simon Canyon yesterday. It was a mile down the road from the CG. There was a sign at the trailhead ‘Simon Ruins - .8 mile’. Sounded interesting for some exercise. We hiked up the streambed this morning. Just as we got to head of the canyon, two men appeared, father and son. We chatted. In a moment, a woman, the wife and mother, came up the trailhead. We continued to chat. They told us the ruins were up on a ledge. So we all scrambled up the side of the canyon, no trail, then walked down the ledge. Finally we came to the ruins and the trail.

The Navajo built this sometime in the 1700’s, perhaps as a watchtower to spot the raiding Ute’s. Who knows? Had we not met the folks on the trail, we would have never known where the heck the ruins were. The hike back above the canyon was remarkable, easy walking and scenic.

We exchanged cards with our new friends and hope to see them again.

We are in Cortez, CO at a private CG. We will wash clothes and grocery shop before making the last short jump to Utah. I have yet to decide where we will land. Perhaps a FS CG south of Canyonlands?

Gas is $2.44