Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Moab to Zion

I know I posted on Friday about our Moab experience but this has been a short week while waiting for Erin & Brad to arrive. Funny thing we touched base in four states; Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona and then back to Utah.

Our first stop was Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. This World Heritage Site administers the preservation of archeological sites and the relics of the Puebloen people. As the season is slowly coming to a close there was only one of the three Ranger guided tours available for us. Cliff Palace, one of the three cliff dwellings of the Puebloen people, was described in detail by the Ranger and helped us get a good understanding of the area and their lifestyle. We climbed down through the crevices in the canyon to arrive at Cliff Palace the largest of the cliff dwellings. These people inhabited the Mesa area for over 700 years and late in the 1200's moved on. We viewed original masonry as well as a Kiva (ceremonial room). These rooms were used to pray for rain, luck in hunting or a good crop as well as meeting places to simply weave and communicate. There was a scenic drive that allowed us to see many of these cliff dwellings on both sides of the canyon.

As well as Cliff Palace, we viewed Spruce Tree House. This was a little easier to access but gave a good example of the recessed village under the canyon overhang.

The drive through the desert can be boring at times but I was excited that we were nearing Four Corners; Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Well don't blink or you will miss it! The best thing I managed was a picture of the sign entering New Mexico. Don was honked at by a Navajo lady driving her pickup truck so we didn't take any time to look for evidence of the landmark where these four states touch each other.

After our day of exploring we travelled on to a place called Bluff where we boondocked. We camped at our first BLM (Bureau Land Management). They are primitive sites that offer no utilities but a box to deposit your $10. Again, the season is coming to a close so there were only 4 occupants in a 25 site park. So quiet we could hear ourselves breathing.

No distractions and good reading time!

Early rise and we find ourselves travelling again. This time it's Monument Valley. This area is owned by the Navajo Nation. As we approached and Merrick Butte became visible Don stated that he was sure he had seen this site before. "It's a picture!" I picked up our trusty guide book and sure enough the cover of our Frommer's was the actual picture we were looking at with our eyes. Time for a photo moment! The Valley drive is a 17 mile (28 km) unpaved dirt road where RVs over 25+ feet are not recommended. So, we viewed the Valley from the Visitor Centre and got our feel for the area by reading pamphlets.

It was a long drive to Page, Arizona but the entrance to Glen Canyon was well worth it. We stopped for supplies and did something we do not do often.....take a tour! This time it was Glen Canyon Dam. The Dam was constructed between 1956 and 1966. Much of the Colorado River's original canyon (Glen Canyon) disappeared from view and Lake Powell was formed. Today Lake Powell is home for hundreds of houseboats and motorized watercrafts. We were lucky to be visiting off season.

The drive was easy going and we decided to have a beach day. From approximately 6 km. away Don spotted some RVs parked on Lone Beach.

Our beach afternoon turned into another boondocking night. This place was truly off the "grid". We met several Canadians making their way down to their winter destinations and taking a few weeks to enjoy the peace and quiet of this location. We have met so many people that have opted to change their lifestyle and we find it very surprising the little cost that it takes to make these changes. It would have been easy to stay on Lone Beach and enjoy many "Happy Hours" with our new found friends but we had to make a move closer to Zion where we would meet up with Erin and Brad.

Still time to take an easy hike up Toadstool Trail before our destination of Glendale in Utah. Again we found a quiet little park with all utilities and close proximity to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. Lots of exploring to follow in the next few days. The only thing we have to watch are the temperatures which dip close to freezing at night but daytime is great at 15 or 16.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Three months into our travels and it was time to take a vacation within a vacation. Exploring can be difficult work. We knew Moab was definitely the destination to take a break. The RV Resort we chose was perfect in location and amenities. Moab is well known for it's biking and so Alicia & Chris chose to join us for a few days. Chris, the biker enthusiast, had some memorable rides in the few days. He biked some well known trails as well as arranged a shuttle to an elevation of almost 11,000 ft. with a group to return quite hungry a few hours later. Alicia, had a different agenda. She ran everyday and relaxed in the pool/hot tub while catching up on some reading. This week was so different from our West Coast Trail adventure.

Besides from the mountain biking Moab is famous due to its proximity to National Parks. The first we chose to explore was Arches National Park. The Park has more than 2,400 arches (an arch is defined as a hole in a rock with an opening of at least 3 feet) so we saw a very small percentage. The 18 mile (29 km.) scenic drive allowed us to admire the view but also explore the more popular sites on foot. My first impression of these pillars of stone were of statues that were reaching out to tell a story.

It was amazing to view Balanced Rock, a 3,600 ton boulder that sits precariously on top of a pillar and looks as though it could topple any moment. Of course, it's a great place to goof around with the camera lens.

As I said we did see the more popular tourist spots and the most famous Delicate Arch which is Utah's unofficial state symbol. This was a 3 mile (5 km) hike which we chose to do pre sunset. Upon reaching the viewpoint we joined approximately a hundred people who were there to capture the views as well. It was a comical setting while everyone waited with cameras mounted on very expensive tripods to catch that perfect shot! We also took the opportunity on our drive back down to stopover and enjoy the starry night while identifying as many constellations as possible (while sipping some wine and enjoying some cheese).

Canyonlands National Park: The Island in the Sky District was a 32 mile (50 km.) drive for us from Moab.

This high altitude mesa (or table) between the Colorado and Green Rivers allowed us to view these scenic vistas from above. We stopped at five viewpoints: Grand View Point Overlook, Buck Canyon Overlook, Upheaval Dome, Green River Overlook and Mesa Arch and did short hikes.

Grand View was great for Don & Chris to demonstrate their "adventurous behaviour" but really it was not as dangerous as it looked. From our viewpoints it was amazing to see how nature carves out the beauty in the earth's surface.

These two National Parks were a photographer's dream and even amateurs like ourselves.

But every vacation must come to an end. On Saturday Alicia & Chris headed back to Denver for their flight home. Hopefully they were rested and ready to re-enter the fast paced City life. However, we had one more chore before we moved on.

On Sunday we woke very early to drive the Moho to the start area of our Half Marathon Race in our p.j.(s) From our home at the staging area we were able to prepare (eat, dress and utilize our private port-a-potty - every runner's dream) for the Race. The course was amazing, 13 miles (21 km) through red rock canyon along the Colorado River on a closed road. Sorry no pics! It was a great psychological achievement for me being my first race in almost 18 months and 10 months since my back surgery. Definitely a great boost for the New York Marathon in two weeks. By the way, Don "achieved his full potential" coming first in his age group. It did help that he turned 55 two weeks prior to the Race.

Next we are off to Colorado and the Four Corners (Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah). More wandering in the desert while we wait for Erin & Brad to join us for a few days.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Drive from Death Valley to Moab

We are on our way again.  Good-bye to Death Valley.  It's hard to believe but we are heading to Moab, Utah for a 10 day reservation. Yes, I did say 10 days. It does seem like we have covered a lot of kms. (approaching 10000) in such a short time.

Alicia & Chris plan to join us for Thanksgiving. Canadian Thanksgiving that is!!!

One last look back at Death Valley was Zabriskie Point and Don says his good-byes. I was so mistaken by my initial impressions of the desert. It truly is a magical place.

The drive was just a little too long so we decided to take a detour into Las Vegas, Nevada. Great opportunity for Moho to get a service check and shampoo (lots of dust in the desert).

We found a great little RV park about 10 miles out of the City but still the ability to use public transit and go visit "The Strip". None of the glitz has changed since our visit to Vegas a number of years ago. There are a few new hotels. We promised ourselves we will return another time and stay at Bellagio and take in a show. However, the ringing of the slot machines was enough after a few hours but none of these were our quarters.

We did take time for a few pics especially this one outside New York, New York as we'll be flying to the "Big Apple" in just a few weeks. 

Time to head back to our quiet little moho and get ready for the road.

Interstate driving is no different from one state to the next except in Nevada where there are casinos signs everywhere. In the middle of nowhere you will find a gas station and a casino. Don is pretty excited that he is getting great gas mileage and the cost is so much less to fill than in Canada.

Well we have now reached Utah. The red rock mountains were the give away clues. 

Looking foward to great hiking and biking in Moab. 

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Death Valley National Park

So....we left the ocean, travelled inland to the forests of enormous trees and the steep mountains with the twisty, curvy, steep roads and next the desert. Temperatures were hot to cold through the other parts of California but then came the desert. It is a unique place. My first impression is that it is a big gravel field or a construction site that ran out of money; however, Don has quite different feelings and he thoroughly enjoyed spending his birthday in seclusion. No cell phones, no internet, few people in this National Park - Furnace Creek Campground. 

But there were some beautiful canyons to explore; Mosaic Canyon and Golden Canyon to name but two and again the sand dunes that were fun to climb but more fun to run down.

The texture of the stone and colours were breathtaking. So in retrospect the desert isn't a gravel pile. 

A trip to Death Valley would not be complete without visiting Badwater. Elevation here is -282 feet below sea level. 

Our poor bodies are now totally confused with being below sea level one day and being 9945 ft. above just a few days before. 

By the way the Tioga Road which impressed us so much  was closed due to snow and ice only two days after our crossing.

Of course I have to mention that Badwater is also the start of "THE ultramarathon" - 135 miles from Badwater at -282 ft. below sea level to Whitney Portal 8360 ft. above. We saw the race course AND no this is not on either of our "bucket lists". It was enough to walk the salt flats.

Don is pictured here at Zabriskie Point as we say good-bye to Death Valley.

Next is Nevada but we will return to California. We have some side trips to Nevada and Utah before the cold temperatures come to these states.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Yosemite National Park

Time to return to the mountains. Yosemite National Park is located high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It was the first National Park established in the United States. The main attraction of the Park is Yosemite Valley. We drove the 18 miles from our campsite to park Moho and bike through this impressive Valley. Surrounded by the spectacular granite mountains we found some escape from the multitude of tourists and took the opportunity to do some short hikes. Before heading back to our campsite we were informed that there were shower facilities for residents of the Park. Like most things in California there is a hefty price tag, and this shower was $5. each. No thanks, Moho has a great shower!!!!

We knew it was remote when for two days there was no cell or internet coverage. This place is perfect for relaxation but the temperatures dipped to near freezing at night. But it too must be shared with the the wildlife in the area. While out for a walk not far from our campsite we accidently frightened a momma bear and her cub. The momma sauntered in one direction while the cub climbed a tree. A resident camper informed us there were three bears that visit the camp sites regularly.

Yosemite was truly breathtaking but for us the drive over Tioga Pass was equally impressive. Within a few weeks this 40 mile road will be closed for the winter. We hiked Lembert Dome for a good view of the meadows. The Moho performed admirably climbing to its highest point on our trip as we went over Tioga Pass at 9945 ft.

Napa Valley

The Napa Valley welcomed us with some overbearing heat temperatures of 42C or 108F as well as the pretentious wineries that boasted of their best Cab Savs and Pinot Noirs. We have visited wineries in Australia, New Zealand, British Columbia and our own Niagara and was very surprised to find many here in the Valley required reservations as well as $20./per person tasting fee. Being the economical, unemployed travellers we did our homework, read the reviews and purchased some of the better ones at local stores. 

However, how could one travel the Napa Valley and not visit at least one? So we did. August Briggs, our recommendation to anyone who travels here, turned out to be a hidden treasure. Tom, our host, treated us with enthusiasm. Maybe it was a quiet Monday afternoon or maybe it was the couple that were partaking along with us. It turned out they were Canadians living in the Bahamas and sent to California on a scouting trip to select wines for a resort owned by Tiger Woods and opening next Spring. What luck for us!  Tom treated us to approximately a dozen samples, as well as seldom offered barrel tastings. We spent a good hour learning all about August Briggs as well as the other 660 wineries in the Napa Valley. Thank goodness we biked from our trailer site.

The Valley was also the perfect opportunity to run our 34 km. training run. We left early in the morning to stay ahead of the heat and ran past many vineyards where workers were commencing their day of picking the last of the season's grapes. Hoping for a flat run I was surprised to find rolling hills but the scenery of the Valley kept me distracted.


Calistoga, our base, was a quaint little town and we took the opportunity to bike and tour it's downtown main street. This store sign caught our interest for obvious reasons.

Time to move on and enter the remote Yosemite National Park.....

Redwood National Forest - California

The Redwood National Forest is located along the coast of northern California. The State and National parks protect 45% of the remaining old growth Coastal Redwoods. These trees are the tallest in the world. After leaving the coast it was a little claustrophobic to enter Jedediah Smith State Park where we camped for two nights amidst the giant trees. We hiked through Simpson-Reed Grove and took the opportunity to run the Hiouchi Trail (favourites of John & Christina - Guelph friends). 

We continued on our way through Avenue of The Giants.  It was like driving in a living tunnel. Sunlight would stream down wherever there was a small opening.

From the Forest we travelled on to the Napa Valley......