Glen Canyon Dam, Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, UTAH

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Panorama view from Sunset Point, Bryce Canyon

 

June 7-8 Glen Canyon Dam, Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park

Leaving Page, Arizona on Sunday, we stopped for a quick view of the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell located in southern Arizona and northern Utah. Our 3-1/2 drive brought us through Red Canyon named for its vermillion-colored rock formations. We took a few minutes to walk along the narrow path taking in the colorful scenery and of course taking pictures.

Bryce Canyon National Park is probably my favorite park so far. The colors and formations are just breath-taking. The pictures don’t really do it justice but you can see the “Hoodoos” in some of the pictures. One of the books on Utah we bought (Frommer’s) says it best: “If you could visit just one national park in your lifetime, go to Bryce Canyon. Here you’ll find magic, inspiration, and spectacular beauty among thousands of intricately shaped hoodoos.”

We stayed in the park campground for two nights. This gave us a chance to hike both days and see the entire park. The first day was across the Rim Trail and Sunset Point to Inspiration Point to Bryce Point. For anyone that is into meditation, I think this is the place to be. You just need to get away from the crowds to meditate.

Monday we decided to do Queens Garden and Navaho Loop hike. This hike was down into the valley where you can look up at the formations. Although a great hike, it is also the most popular. At times we weren’t sure we were still in the U.S.A. because we couldn’t understand ¾ of the tourists or figure out what language they were speaking. The end of the hike was the Navaho Loop. I never saw so many switchbacks in a hike before. The end of the day we finished up driving the 18-mile road to see the rest of the park.

I could spend another few days here just hiking some more of the trails. A wonderful park to visit.

Glen Canyon Dam

Natural Bridge at 8627 elevation

Queens Garden hike into canyon

Bryce Point
Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon
Camel formation at Red Canyon
John in front (as always) hiking Red Canyon
Red Canyon

Another view of Glen Canyon Dam

Mesa Verde National Park and Page, AZ

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Panorama of the Mesa Verde valley

 

June 4-5 Mesa Verde National Park and Preserve

June 6 Page, AZ Page Lake Powell Campground

We lucked out weather-wise at Mesa Verde. We arrived on Thursday at the park and drove around to see some of the sites. This is the largest archeological preserve in the US and is fascinating to go through. We made reservations for Friday to do the Balcony House tour. It poured rain Thursday nite and into Friday morning. Our tour was at 10 am and luckily the rain stopped in time for us to go on the tour and as soon as it was over it started raining again. Balcony House has 40 rooms and is considered a medium size cliff dwelling. On this tour you climb a 32-foot ladder, crawl through an 18-inch wide and 12-foot long tunnel and climb up a 60-foot open cliff face with stone steps and two 10-foot ladders to exit. We were glad we picked this tour as it was just great and totally different from just walking around. The rest of the day was spent looking at some of the other dwellings through raindrops.

Saturday we left the park with thunderstorms and pouring rain. It did clear up on our way through to Page, Arizona. We drove through Monument Valley in Utah which was spectacular. Because of the clouds and rain my pictures didn’t come out great but the views were incredible. Our campground in Page is right off the highway and not really our kind of place. But it is a stopover and we were able to get Internet, take showers and wash clothes so it was a much-needed stop.

Animal Sightings: Lizard, Lots of deer at campground, coyote, wild horses

After this we head to Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef and Arches.

Page, AZ view from campground
View from car in Utah
Mexican Hat Rock, Utah
Square Tower House, Mesa Verde
Spruce Tree House at Mesa Verde
Balcony House Kiva
Balcony House crawl space
Tunnel to go through at Balcony House
Balcony house view of ladder to climb up
View from Campsite
There were about 5 wild horses standing around here

 

Monument, CO and Great Sand Dunes

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Ackerman Overlook (Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs)

 

June 1 – Monument Colorado at the Primaveras
June 2-3 Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and Great Sand Dunes National Park

Monday on our way out of Rocky Mountain National Park we made one last stop at Sheep Lake to see the elk and bighorn sheep. The sheep came to the water shortly after we arrived. They look a little mangy this time of year but it was great to see them along with a bluebird who also made an appearance.

Our next stop was in Monument, Colorado to visit friends Paula and Nick. The roads were very long and winding and at one point we went over a railroad track and everything including truc, and camper went airborne. Needless to say it was a little stressful ride but we arrived safe and sound. A thunderstorm greeted us during our arrival, but their storms pass quickly so we were able to go for a quick hike in the afternoon. We hiked to the Monument Rock which the town was named for. Later we were treated to a nice homecooked meal (camper cooking isn’t always the best). The evening ended with an intense game of bocci with the girls against the guys. I won’t tell you it was a close match (it wasn’t) or that the girls won (they didn’t) but we will need to come back again for a rematch.
Tuesday we headed out to Great Sand Dunes National Park. Along the way we stopped at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Florissant. There was a volcano tens of thousands of year ago with a wall of ash and mud traveling 150 miles an hour. This trapped the flora and fauna of the area under layers of ash and silt and created the fossil bed. The displays showed some incredible fossils and huge redwood tree stumps that had petrified. The Big Stump actually has a sawblade that broke off as they were trying to cut it in half and ship to Chicago. They were not successful in cutting this massive tree. A very interesting walk around a place that we hadn’t heard of before.

Our plan was to camp at the Great Sand Dunes National Park figuring that on a Tuesday there would be no problem getting a site. Unfortunately, they were completely full when we arrived. So another 15 miles back to the San Luis State Park gave us our site for the next 2 nights. The view of the sand dunes and mountains from our campsite was spectacular. We did look at the national park campsites on Wednesday but they sites were small and it was difficult to find a place. So we ended up going back to the state park.

The Sand Dunes are unlike anything we have seen in the past. To climb up the dunes you first need to go over Medano Creek with surging water running. We took off our shoes to walk across and we thought we were in the ocean as the water was so cold. Walking up the sand dunes at over 8,000 foot elevation proved to be a challenge for our east-coast lungs. We were determined to get to the top. When we looked at the top it appeared to be an easy hike however, each time we hit the top of a dune there were more to go down and up to reach the top. I got to the point that I would take 50 steps and stop to catch my breath. Towards the top it got to about 25 steps before I had to stop but we finally made it. At first we walked barefoot up, but the sand got so hot we needed to put our shoes back on. Going down was much easier.

A short nature walk after lunch ended our dunes day adventure. Our evening ended with a spectacular sunset (first one of our trip).

Animal sightings: Jackrabbit, llamas, mule deer, turkeys, pronghorn antelopes, prairie dogs, and lots of grasshoppers at Florissant.

Sunset at the dunes
Mickey Moose and John showing off our campsite view
Mountains and dunes
The little specs in the middle are people
Cheryl resting during the long hike up the dunes
John left me the water bottle so I could have something to strive for.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Two prairie dogs watching us closely

The Big Stump at Florissant Fossil Bed National Monument
John and Nick enjoying winning the game
Paula and Nick playing bocci
Monument Rock that the town was named after
Bluebird posing for us
Bighorn Sheep at Sheep Lake, RMNP
Panorama picture of the Sand Dunes

Rocky Mountain National Park – Colorado

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We spent two beautiful days at Rocky Mountain State Park. The campsite was just okay but the view from the site was just spectacular. We did a few small hikes as our lungs only could take so much. We were at about 8,000 feet and went up to about 12,000 feet on the Trail Ridge Road. This was the furthest we had been as in the past the road was shut down due to the impassable roads. The roads were cleared and as we went up it was something to see the snow on the sides of the road. To go all the way through the park is about 3 hours one way so we opted only to go as far as Alpine Center. The weather was great with some clouds and temps in the 70s. The lows were only in the 50s. A small hike we did around Bear Lake had a lot of snow and I had had my fill of trudging through snow this winter so we didn’t go around the whole lake.

Our entertainment at the campsite was spent watching a family put up a tent. It probably took about 1-1/2 to get this 5-person tent up and they finally gave up on putting the rain fly on the tent. Luckily it didn’t rain. The surprising part was they fit 7 people in this tent made for 5 people. And as you tenters know, a 5-person tent is good for about 3 people max. It did provide some great entertainment however.

As with most parks, Internet and cell service is pretty much non-existent so posting will be very sporadic as we continue on to Colorado and Utah.

Animal sightings: Mule deer, lots and lots of elk, bighorn sheep, blue jays, bluebirds, osprey (carrying a fish), chipmunks and squirrels, and no bugs.

First view of the Rocky Mountains from the highway
First view of the Rocky Mountains from the highway
View of campsite at RMNP
View of campsite at RMNP
Elk coming to campground at night
Elk coming to campground at night
John showing snow height at Alpine Center
John showing snow height at Alpine Center
View of the mountains from about 12,000 feet
View of the mountains from about 12,000 feet
Big Horn Sheep
Big Horn Sheep
Moon over the campground
Moon over the campground
Mule deer having supper
Mule deer having supper
Partial hike around Bear Lake (too much snow to continue)
Partial hike around Bear Lake (too much snow to continue)

Missouri to Kansas to Colorado

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May 27 – Arrow Rock State Park, Missouri

May 28 – Milford State Park, Milford, KS

May 29 – Limon, CO KOA

The past few days has brought us through Missouri and Kansas. We have had thunder showers mostly at night with good driving during the day. Arrow Rock State Park was a small park but there were some trails to walk around. Not much animal life although we did see  a turtle with a bright yellow head (no camera, of course). We walked to Big Soldier Lake which we wouldn’t even consider it to be a small pond although there were some people fishing there.

There are a ton of state parks in Kansas and we stayed at Milford State Park on Thursday evening. There was a fishing tournament and our campsite was close to the marina. We were able to watch all the boats coming in to weigh their fish. The tournament continued on Friday with the shooting of the gun at 7 am and the singing of the national anthem for the start of the day. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain and we felt bad for all the people going out on their boats. It must be worth it as the grand prize was $30,000 and the 5th place was $15,000. All they fisherman had to do was put their boat right by our campsite as we watched the fish jumping all evening long.

Friday we planned on staying in Goodland, KS but the site we stopped at was so bad John said he would drive another 2 hours to Limon, CO. This is the first night we have stayed at a public campground. Not our favorite place right off the interstate, but we had a shower in a highly rated bathroom  and even had great Internet access.

After Missouri our GPS would not work. After calling Garmin, they told me we had only service up to Missouri and I needed an additional memory card and had to download the maps for the rest of the country. Of course we forgot the cord for the GPS so after buying a new cord and a card, we were able to download what we needed. If we want Canada, we would need to pay more for that. I did okay for two days doing the navigating from maps but certainly prefer the backup of having the GPS as well. We are set to go now.

Saturday will bring us into Rocky Mountain National Park for a few days.

Animal Sightings: turtle (bright yellow head), male and female cardinal, heron, fish (splashing in water), nasty flies that like to bite, cows, horses, hawks, 60-70 bison, rabbits.

Big Soldier Lake, Missouri
Big Soldier Lake, Missouri
Wildlife in Limon
Wildlife in Limon
Limon, CO campsite with highway in background.
Limon, CO campsite with highway in background.
Clouds on our way to Colorado
Clouds on our way to Colorado
Boats lining up to get their fish weighed
Boats lining up to get their fish weighed
Heron at Milford Lake
Heron at Milford Lake
Milford Lake campsite taken from Marina
Milford Lake campsite taken from Marina
Mickey on the Rocks at Milford State Park
Mickey on the Rocks at Milford State Park
View of Kansas from truck
View of Kansas from truck
Arrow Rock Campsite
Arrow Rock Campsite
Going over St. Louis bridge.
Going over St. Louis bridge.

Kentucky and Illinois

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Sunday brought us to Mammoth Cave National Park. It was quite busy when we arrived since it was the holiday weekend but we got a campsite with no problem at the national park. This is the first place John was able to get his National Parks SENIOR pass. Only cost $10 for a lifetime and you get into all the national parks as well as a discount for campgrounds. He was pretty exited to get discounts of $25 just on his first day of having the pass. There is something to be said for turning 62.

As with each campsite we have been to, we find out where the hiking trails are and whether we are up to the task of the trails. We didn’t walk too much on Sunday as John was still recouping from his sore back and 24 hours after my bee sting, my leg decided to swell up so much it was painful to walk. But by Monday we were good to go.

Monday was a rainy day but we signed up to do the cave tour so weather wasn’t a factor. The tour was fascinating. It was 2 hours underground and the first part was walking down about 300 stairs and the last part was walking up 100 stairs. I couldn’t get any pictures in the cave as they wouldn’t allow flash photography and I couldn’t get anything without the flash.

Since it was still raining after our tour, we decided to head into Bowling Green to the Corvette Museum. I decided I wanted the 1963 Corvette and not the later models. They showed the area along with some of the Corvettes that were involved in the sinkhole in February, 2014. There were 8 that fell into this sinkhole. Some will be restored. There was special parking outside for Corvette parking only but we didn’t think our truck and camper would qualify.

After dinner we took a walk around the park and at the visitor center we looked up and there were 5 deer within 5-10 feet of us. They didn’t seem to mind that we were there.

Tuesday we went on another small hike to the river and came across a ferry. It holds up to 3 cars and you could throw a stone across the river to reach the other side. The man we talked with at the ferry was interesting and told us it was cheaper to have this ferry manned 364 days a year (except Christmas) than to put in a bridge. Hard to believe.  They transported 720 cars back and forth just on Memorial Day.

Animal sightings: deer, turkeys, squirrels, bluebird.

May 26, Nashville, IL Washington County State Reservation Area

This campground was probably the best we have been at yet. Of course, by looking at our capsite pictures, I am sure they all look the same. We arrived in the afternoon took our usual afternoon walk and then another in the evening. The evening walk brought us to the lake where we saw geese and a beautiful heron posing for us at the water’s edge. Of course each time we see some picture-worthy photos, I haven’t brought my camera. So you’ll just have to take our word for it. (Kind of like the fisherman story of his catch.) After this walk, I said I will continue to bring my camera everywhere we go.

With all the technology gadgets we have with us, it has become a challenge to get onto the Internet at the places we stay and upload pictures to the blog. And on this trip, our GPS has decided it can’t find Missouri, Colorado or a number of states going west. Maybe there just isn’t much past Illinois?

Animal sightings: More squirrels than you can imagine (Jim you would love it here.), heron, egret, hawk, goose, deer, red-wing blackbird, woodpecker.

Our favorite campsite so far at Washington County, Nashville, Illinois
Our favorite campsite so far at Washington County, Nashville, Illinois
Campsite at Mammoth Cave
Campsite at Mammoth Cave
Bluebird spotted while waiting for our Cave tour
Bluebird spotted while waiting for our Cave tour

25-4CorvetteParkingIMG_4051

Maine plate at Corvette Museum
Maine plate at Corvette Museum
Corvette Museum
Corvette Museum
Echo River Trail, Mammoth Cave
Echo River Trail, Mammoth Cave
Green River Ferry
Green River Ferry

Maryland & West Virginia

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John’s birthday on Wednesday was spent at Rocky Gap State Park in Flintstone, Maryland. It was a beautiful park with a 300 acre lake (Lake Habeeb). There was a 5-mile hike around the lake which was my kind of hike (easy).

Our plans were to get to Mammoth Caves National Park in Kentucky by Memorial weekend. T Each park we went starting on Tuesday they told us how they were totally booked for the Memorial Holiday weekend. So after calling and checking the parks in Kentucky and along the way we decided on Thursday we better find a place for a few days and stay.

Thursday to Sunday was spent at Kanawha State Forest in Charleston, West Virginia. With no internet or cell service, it was a quiet place to stay. We think we had the nicest site in the whole park. There were only 46 sites total. This was where we decided to stay for three nights due to many of the parks being filled up. The hiking was nice although all the hikes were in the forest and no views. To fill our time we decided to go out and find some shops in Charleston. Before we were even out of the campground the GPS told us to take a left and “Go off road”. Not quite what we were expecting. We decided not to listen and continued on our own way. We found the roads very narrow and winding and with the beast of the truck it was a little daunting. Most drivers barely slowed down around these winding roads. So our big shopping adventure landed us at Rite Aid and we went back to the campsite after that.

A few little mishaps during these three days but we are moving on to Mammoth Caves on Sunday. (Mishaps included John throwing his back out and hoping he will be able to hike when we get further into our trip; and me getting two tick bites and two bee stings.)

All in all the parks we have been in so far have been great but we have had enough of the forest and trees and ready to see some other types of landscape.

P.S. John’s interpretation of the above was, “I’m stuck in this camper for 3 days, my back is killing me and I want to go see something other than trees!”

Animal sightings: 1 turtle, 1 pileated woodpecker, cardinal, butterfly, ticks, and bees (no mosquitoes or black flies)

This beautiful butterfly kept us entertained for quite a while.
This beautiful butterfly kept us entertained for quite a while.

 

Mickey (in disguise) joining in on our Happy Hour
Mickey (in disguise) joining in on our Happy Hour
Happy Hour in West Virginia
Happy Hour in West Virginia

6WVIMG_4038

Turtle posing for us
Turtle posing for us
Limestone and shale created this gorge at Lake Habeeb
Limestone and shale created this gorge at Lake Habeeb
View from our hike around Lake Habeeb
View from our hike around Lake Habeeb
Mickey enjoying some fresh air at Rocky Gap
Mickey enjoying some fresh air at Rocky Gap
Rocky Gap campsite.
Rocky Gap campsite.

Mass and Pennsylvania

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After months of planning, we started our journey on Monday, May 18th. Our first stop was at October Mountain State Forest, in Lee, Massachusetts. This is the largest state forest in Mass. with about 18,000 acres. While we left our dog Shelby and cat Patches home under the care of George, thanks to Pat we were able to bring Mickey Moose with us. You will see Mickey’s adventures throughout our journey.

We arrived around 3 pm and got in a little hike in the park. While it was not a strenuous hike by any means we certainly had plenty of company with all the black flies and mosquitoes. We thought we left the black flies back in Maine, but apparently not.

With only one other camper in our area it was a quiet site to stay at.

Animal/Bird Sighting: 4 Cows, 1 Cardinal, 1 Rabbit, Squirrels, and many, many black flies and mosquitoes.

Tuesday we left Lee and headed off to Locust Lake State Park in Barnesville, PA. This is a nice wooded campground but minus many of the bugs we had on Monday. The ride over was rainy but when we arrived the sun came and the weather has been just beautiful. For the first time, John was able to get a “senior discount” on camping. Although he doesn’t turn 62 until Wednesday, the check-in person gave him the discount anyway. Here are a few pictures of the last two days. John says I am really stretching it with the “excitement” of these pictures but I anticipate having some better ones as we travel west.

We head off on Wednesday toward Maryland. Our goal is to hit Mammoth Caves in Kentucky by Friday or Saturday. We don’t have reservations and are hoping we will be able to get a site.

Campsite at October Mountain State Forest, Massachusetts
Campsite at October Mountain State Forest, Massachusetts

 

Meet Mickey Moose who is strapped into his seatbelt for the long ride.
Meet Mickey Moose who is strapped into his seatbelt for the long ride.

 

barnesville, pa

Locust Lake Dam
Locust Lake Dam
Locust Lake Dam
Locust Lake Dam
Campsite at Locust Lake State Park, Pennsylvania
Campsite at Locust Lake State Park, Pennsylvania
 Mickey relaxing after his tiring day of riding.
Mickey relaxing after his tiring day of riding.

 

The Shake Down Trip

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May 1, 2015

Now that we are both retired, it is time to begin our next adventure. The camper is being packed, groceries are being bought, and the direction of the trip is being discussed. We leave on May 18th with excitement (and a little trepidation.) The trepidation is on my part as I watch the tornadoes and storms hitting in places we are planning to go through.

Our shake down trip was at Blackwoods Campground in Acadia National Park on May 1. The weekend temps were a little cool but the snow was gone (okay mostly gone as we saw a couple patches of snow) and the sun was shining brightly. The camper checked out all okay with a minor refrigerator problem that John has since fixed so we should be good to go.

The Daileys and Barkers celebrated with us for toasting to our upcoming trip.

View the slideshow below and come along for the ride as we travel state by state. We will post pictures and commentary as we go along and hope you enjoy reading about our adventures. Click on the arrow or each individual picture.

 

This map shows the beginning of our trip.
This map shows the beginning of our trip.
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