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Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Tent Rocks National Monument and Monument Valley

Please note: I don't know a cookie from a brownie. All I know is that they both are usually very tasty! If this site violates some EU law, decide whether to visit on your own. I can't figure it out... Yet.

Leaving Hot Springs, Arkansas, we had planned to just keep driving straight across the country on    I-40 to Albuquerque, where we planned on stopping just north of there in Bernalillo, New Mexico, for a couple of days. However, as I was casually flipping through some of the Facebook RV groups, I saw there were several wildfires in Oklahoma, some of which were actually close enough to I-40 to have it shut down in the western part of the state. Figuring that any detour out there would take us way out of the way, we changed up our plans and headed further south, dipping into eastern Texas on the way to Amarillo rather than Oklahoma. The halfway point in the drive ended up being only about 30 miles from Al's sister Susie, so it seemed like a great idea to stop and visit for the night. We had an impromptu, fun evening together at The Rib Crib, catching up and seeing our two nephews.

From there, we had another two days of driving and finally reached Bernalillo without incident. We stopped overnight in Amarillo, staying at the Oasis RV Park. We've stopped in several different campgrounds in Amarillo over the years, and we like this one for its easy access off the highway and easy parking for big rigs.

Once we got to Bernalillo, we stopped for three nights, just to have some down time off of driving, restock the pantry for the upcoming couple of weeks away from any large shopping areas, and to visit Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. It's been on my radar for a while, but we've never actually made it there when we've been in the area. We stayed at the KOA North Albuquerque, which was very nice and convenient for the shopping we needed to do. Right next door, literally a few steps away, was the Kaktus Brewing Company. I was told by the girl checking me in that the pizza was quite good. Not being one who ever turns down a good pizza, we decided to take a break from cooking and give it a try. It was quite the funky little place, but the pizza was quite good, and folks around us having the local beer said it was very good as well. So give it a try if you're in the area.

Our first full day here, it was extraordinarily windy, which we came to discover would be a recurring theme throughout this spring trip. We used it as a "day off" from our touristy activities. We have found that during the periods where we are in travel mode, usually as we move from the east to the west and vice versa, that we really need to schedule in down days. It's tempting to not bother, as we are usually in an area we haven't been before and want to take in as much as we can, but it does become exhausting.  So we just "hang out," catch up on chores like laundry and shopping, and relax.

The next morning, we set off for our visit to Tent Rocks. It was about a 40-minute drive each way. I had checked the website for information and was glad I did so, for I saw that dogs are not permitted at this site. Most National Monument sites they are, so this surprised me a bit, but no problem. They are always happy and comfortable in the rig, so they went for their walk in the campground and settled in for a nap while we went out.

The drive there, once you leave I-25, actually goes through tribal lands, Cochiti Pueblo. After winding through the town area, past the reservoir, you make it to the BLM land that the monument sits on. The end of the road is where the trail starts. This was the description from the website of the hiking:
The national monument includes a national recreational trail. It is for foot travel only and contains two segments that provide opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, geologic observation and plant identification. Both segments of the trail begin at the designated monument parking area.

The Cave Loop Trail is 1.2 miles long, rated as easy. The more difficult Canyon Trail is a 1.5-mile, one-way trek into a narrow canyon with a steep (630-ft) climb to the mesa top for excellent views of the Sangre de Cristo, Jemez, Sandia mountains and the Rio Grande Valley. Both trails are maintained; however, during inclement weather, the canyon may flash flood and lightning may strike the ridges.

I was definitely planning on at least the Cave Loop Trail, ut wasn't sure about the other one. But we started out with a "let's see how it goes" attitude.

This is the beginning of the trail, with the massive formation ahead of us. You can see the cone-shaped formations that give this monument its name.


This starts the slot canyon section. The trail is very sandy.


The trail was pretty narrow as we were weaving throughout the conical rocks.

It's so interesting how the trees seem to hang on by a thread.

As we emerged from the narrow slot feature, the trail started winding it's way upward.



Different views as we kept going up. It was a perfect day for the hike.

This was about halfway up.


We kept on going and finally made it to the top of the overlook. I was very pleased with myself...I didn't even feel as if I were ready to drop! Losing some weight and getting more exercise is definitely making a difference in our stamina.


Different views of the rocks as we made our way down. Even on trails where it's not a loop, just an in-and-out trail, you get a different perspective of the view y coming from the opposite direction.



And back down at the base again. It was an absolutely gorgeous hike and a beautiful day. I highly recommend doing this if you are in the Albuquerque area. 


The next day, we continued our journey westward, heading to Monument Valley, on the Arizona/Utah border. And that will be the subject of the next entry! Thanks for reading :-).














Friday, May 11, 2018

2018 Spring Journey West

Long time, no see!

Before I get to our travels west this spring, we had a great winter in Florida, with several highlights this year. We arrived right on Christmas after finishing our sting at Amazon, our seventh season doing PEAK at Campbellsville, Kentucky. What follows is a succinct description of our winter.

-Christmas and New Year's Eve was spent with our family and friends, Ken and Jodi Himes
-RVer's picnic was at Tarpon Springs this year, at Fred Howard Park. It was really nice, although quite cool that day. It's great fun to see everyone that's hanging out in the area.
-We went on a four-night Royal Caribbean cruise with my sister and her family
-We had our annual 10-day family reunion at Walt Disney World.
-We worked at the Florida State Fair for Scootaround for two weeks in February, as well as the classic car show at Daytona Speedway in March.
-We had a great kayak down the Rainbow River with John and Carol Herr and Pat and Diana Brown. We always enjoy kayaking with them! John and Carol are doing a summer-long trip to Alaska and Canada and I can't wait to hear about it.
-We did a big cleaning on the rig, doing a purge of anything we haven't used in quite a while. Al also installed two solar panels on the roof and did some "tiling" work in the kitchen. Love my new "stone" backsplashes :-)
-We spent the day in Clermont, visiting with Tom and Ellen Whitesell and Dan and Jonell Anderson. Tom and Ellen are working in Skagway, Alaska, this year, and we're looking forward to hearing about their adventures.
-Our financial adviser extraordinaire and good friend Mark Poitras and his family came for a visit. The obligatory visit to the Homosassa Wildlife Park was done and enjoyed by all.
-All doctor and veterinarian visits were done and clean bills of health were obtained for another year!

There were many other things we did, but that's pretty much the highlights. The winter went so very fast, and before we knew it, April 2 arrived and it was time to head out on the road again!

Our first stop was in Concord, North Carolina, at Charlotte Motor Speedway. We were working the Auto Fair with Scootaround for that first week. The downside to this was that we needed to be there on April 2. Easter was April 1. So we drove all 540 miles in one day. I really don't like traveling that way. We did take a different route from what we did last year though, which was I-95 from Jacksonville to South Carolina. This year, we stayed on Highway 301 all the way from Gainesville, Florida, to Columbia, South Carolina. The drive was great. Good roads, light traffic, no stress.

The Auto Fair is interesting. It's neat to see the classic cars. For the most part, though, we don't stray too far from the area that our booth is in. It was pretty busy the first two days, and then the third day, it poured rain all day. The next day it was very cold! It was not fun to work that morning. I had all my cold weather clothes on and brought my electric heater to keep my feet warm in the booth. That was the last day anyway, and by the end of the day we had everything packed up on the trucks and we were ready to head out on the road, unencumbered by any jobs for the next month and cash in our pockets!

Our first "destination" stop was Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It's different from most of the national parks we've visited so far, in that it's not nature-related. Hot Springs is preserving the history of the "healing waters" of the natural springs found in the area. It became built up as a recreational area where people came to 'take the waters" in bathhouses.


Bathhouse Row, as you see it today, consists of eight bathhouses that were constructed between the years 1892 and 1923. This area, together with the Grand Promenade that runs behind them, was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1987. 

We took a tour of the Fordyce Bathhouse, which has been extensively restored and now serves as the national park's visitor center. The next day, we went to the Buckstaff Bathhouse and immersed ourselves into the experience by having a full-service bath. It was nice. I don't think I would do it again, but it was interesting, and "when in Rome..." 

There's also a lot of gangster history in Hot Springs -- yes, the gangsters came to Hot Springs to relax in the bathhouses -- so we visited the Gangster Museum of America. You just never know what you're going to find as you travel :-). 

Baseball also has a history here. Spring training used to occur in the area as the hilly terrain made for good conditioning. They also liked the players to soak in the baths after carousing all night. The thinking was that the spring waters would help flush the alcohol out of their systems :-). 

So it was a pleasant three days that we spent in Hot Springs, topped off with a few quality moments spent in the campground's bathhouse around 11:00 p.m. due to tornado warnings. Better safe than sorry, so we bugged out to a more secure spot than our RV for a while. Luckily, the bad storms were not anywhere too close.

That's probably enough words for now so I will end it here and hopefully, no promises, continue on in a day or two with our next stop, Bernalillo, New Mexico.





Sunday, November 26, 2017

Summer in Wyoming

We really had intended to keep moving to different areas to work each summer; we really did! And that was our modus operandi for our first four years on the road. We worked, respectively, each summer in Michigan, Colorado, Maine, and Wyoming. However, the past four seasons, we have returned to Moran Wyoming, and we will be returning for a fifth season again in 2018. We truly believe that we have hit the trifecta of workamping jobs available. When you find terrific people to work for in a fabulous location that also has a respectable wage and perks package, you tend to hang on to it :-).

We arrived on schedule, May 12, and received a warm welcome from Brad and Joanne, the owners and our employers here at Luton's Teton Cabins.

We settled on our site for the summer. This is actually a picture from the summer before. It isn't that green in mid-May! One of our new coworkers, Melissa, was already here, and Dan and Jonell arrived a couple of days after us. A new couple, Erin and Shawn, arrived shortly thereafter, and returnees Ken and Jodi arrived last. Spring cleaning of the cabins started in earnest, and we were pretty well-booked right from the get-go for the season. 


It was still early enough for snow, and we saw these herds of elk and bison on one of our first drives through the park.


It was a banner year for snowfall on the Teton Range, and the snow lingered in the mountains quite far into the summer. We also had a great season for moose sightings. We saw more moose this year than any other year.

We had a late-June snowfall, and on our drive up to Togwotee Pass to see how much snow fell up there, we had this handsome grizzly dash across the road in front of us. 





An early season trip to Yellowstone showed a lot of snow in the higher elevations, a buffalo jam on the road in the Firehole Canyon, and really nice flow in the waterfalls.


The Heron Pond Swan Lake is a favorite hike of ours.



We visited the Cutthroat trout fish hatchery for the first time, and learned that the guys can actually go fishing on the property and catch one fish a day if they want! The trumpeter swans had the fishing lake staked out.



We did the hike to Phelps Lake, another favorite. Fortunately, just as we arrived there, we heard thunder rumbling in the distance. We picked up the pace considerably and made it back to the car just as all hell broke loose! I felt bad for all the hikers we had met going up to the lake as we were dashing back. You really need to pay attention to the weather in the mountains.


On the way there, we stopped at one of our favorite moose-viewing sites and spotted mama and baby. 


Every summer, we need to take a ride over to Idaho Falls to the Quest Diagnostics lab for Al's semiannual bloodwork. Quest Labs is our network facility and the only place we can get the bloodwork done "in network," so it's over to Idaho we go. We made a day of it and visited Mesa Falls while over there.


The high snowfall this past winter caused very high rivers, which did cause a lot of localized flooding and road damage, but the wetness also created an awesome wildflower season. These pictures are from a forest road near the cabins that we like to drive. 



String Lake is way up on my list of favorites, both hiking and kayaking.


We were supposed to go kayaking one day with Ken and Jodi, but the weather was rainy and cold, so we settled on an alternate plan. We drove east from Moran, a direction we really haven't explored yet. We found Brooks Falls after a short hike from a National Forest campground.




Continuing on to the town of Dubois (pronounced "Doo-boys"), we visited the Bighorn Sheep Visitor Museum. While there, we saw a brochure for a wildlife drive north of town and followed the road to the end. There's a trailhead there, and we took the short hike to the waterfalls. There are much longer ones and one that goes to a lake that we're going to investigate next summer. We just weren't prepared for a longer hike today. On the way back through Dubois, we stopped at the Cowboy Cafe for a piece of pie and coffee, and it was totally worth the stop! We will be headed back there next summer for sure.

A highlight of the summer was the 2017 Solar Eclipse on August 21. The ranch was a mere 10 miles or so from the line of totality. I think we were something like 99.7% of totality. It was close enough! The actual line was through the Jackson Hole Airport. We had been booked at 100% occupancy for almost three years leading up to this event. It's not something that I would have gone out of my way to see, but I am so glad we were here for it. We had a large group of photographers, scientists, and researchers staying here, who brought all kinds of equipment for viewing and photographing the eclipse. This is the one group from The Great Outdoors L.A. 

They had everything set up in the yard in front of the cabins for a few days, and they welcomed anyone to come over and check things out.




We organized a potluck dinner for everyone staying with us the night before the eclipse, and I do believe everyone came and had a great time. The dinner itself was well received by all, and we were told what a great thing it was and how nice it was to get to know everyone staying there. After all, they were all here for a common cause with common interests!

The night before, after the dinner, the Great Outdoors L.A. folks put on a slide show and lecture about a different eclipse they had gone to where they were on a ship in the Baltic Sea. It was very interesting and informative, telling us what was going to happen and the different things we should be watching for during the eclipse.

Ken and Jodi were ready with their special glasses.


At different phases of the eclipse, they would take pictures of the partial eclipse through this cutout. It was pretty cool.
I got one picture through one of the telescopes with my phone :-). If you're really interested in pictures, the group sent this link, where all their pictures are. They are really good!


We did another hike to Inspiration Point with Dan and Jonell...

and we had some visitors this summer: Richard and Bonnie Waltman...

and Pat and Diana Brown all came at the end of August and we did a few things, including the hike to Emma Matilda Lake. John and Carol Herr, who were working for GTA, joined us as well. It's really awesome that we get to see folks all around the United States.


Al and Dan got a lot of fishing in this year. We brought our SeaEagle Runabout with us this year, and they got it set up for float fishing on the Buffalo Fork River. 

In September, we had the great fortune to see Grizzly 399 and her twin cubs just a couple of miles from the ranch. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me :-(, but Jonell came up and got some really nice shots. 

These are both Jonell's pictures.

Carol also got a beautiful picture of the three of them at a different time. 399 is like our rock star around here. She is 20 years old and has had several broods of cubs. She almost always hangs around areas of the park where she is visible, making it easy for people to see the cubs. There is a downside to that, though; last year, her cub Snowy was hit and killed by a car in early June. 


As September wound down, we started the fall cleaning of the cabins to prepare for their October closing. We were still very busy, as it seems more and more people are discovering that September is a great month to visit the area....shh, don't tell anyone! We were also preparing for our October 1 departure. Saying goodbye to everyone is hard, but Dan, Jonell, Erin, and Shawn are returning next summer, and we will see Ken and Jodi in Florida this winter. Time to move on to new adventures....a bucket list item: the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta!