There is no free in liberty.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Wandering Ship Rock 6/19/2009

With sunrise we gladly left Navajo Lake. The first half of the day was nearly a bust, though. The local we met at Goose Necks sent us on a wild goose chase. Perhaps it was appropriate after flooding him with light. Maybe we just couldn't find the hoodoos; we will never know. We did, however, find the largest dandelions I have ever seen and we got couple of good "off the road in the middle of no where" pics. We also managed a picture of an elusive prairie dog and cowboy. The prairie dog is in the center pic below the cowboy. You'll have to zoom. Sorry, it was the best I could do.

The hunt for the Hoodoos took 5 hours of our time. We never found them unless the half acre we spotted in the distance was the goal. We finally gave up and headed for four corners.

We found Four corners without trouble (there were no hoodoos there) and we got the required photos after paying the entry fee. Four Corners is on Indian land and the Indians were working hard to sell their trinkets. I have mixed feelings on this. This is their land and if they want to charge an entry fee...fine. If they want to set up a booth and sell trinkets...fine. I am all for free enterprise. The problem is that I can't shake the feeling that I would some how be taking advantage of them if I were to purchase their jewelry for my daughter. Where does this come from? The Indians wanted to provide a service and I had an interest in the product. The Indians would be better off if I were to purchase from them. My son would have liked a knife. Why, then, would I feel I was taking advantage of them? In the end it was a feeling that led to poor result. I regret not having made a purchase. If I had, the Indians and I would have both been better off. I hope to recognize this feeling of.....what? and avoid it in the future. It is unhealthy.

Shortly after taking the photo of each of us in a different state Elise took a hard tumble on some uneven pavement so I carried her toward the car, but before we left I found a place to enjoy the distant views. This one in an unusual turn did not include Ship Rock which for the past few days seemed to be following us from sight to sight.

We loaded up and headed for our next home for the night. It was already picked out. It was near Blanding Utah and at 8200 feet above sea level it would be cool. That is not to say we have been hot. We have been fortunate with the weather. Desert temps in the mid 80's in this time of year at these altitudes is to be enjoyed and has been.

We have found that skipping from mountain to mountain for camping helps with sleep. During the day we visit the desert valleys below. The contrast of desert and alpine climates is something I enjoy. I like waking in the cool autumn like air of morning and then sight seeing in the desert during the day. This draws the two climates in stark relief against one another and makes each more intense. I wonder how this will hold in Cali?

Dinner time, but not in the planned Blanding. Once there the altitude wasn't quite high enough. We drove a little farther to the next town Monticello, Utah. A road from the town drove nearly straight up the mountain to Buckboard Campground.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bye Bye Goose 6/18/2009

Of course sunrise confirmed that we were no where near the holes in the ground and the lot we were on was level. Still I had to pull the wheel chocks up from the night before. Kat made sure they were all in place, the van was in park, and the parking brake set the night before. Our campsite was no more than an unmarked gravel parking lot. Not a complaint.

Kat and I strolled along the rim and enjoyed the morning views before the kids got moving. It was nice...quiet. During this walk I stopped by the tenting neighbor I had hosed with my headlights the night before and apologized. Later, shortly before pulling out, he invited himself over to give us some pointers on interesting sights in the area. One that he claimed to like in particular was Bisti Da Na Zin. According to him there was a little known area of hoodoos that he found enchanting in the Bisti wilderness area. This was to effect us later.

We considered the hoodoos as it was suggested by a local, but decided to kick it to the next day. We first chose to retrace our steps and see monument valley during the day. In terms of photos the daytime views, of course, beat the absence of stars the buttes created the night before. The nighttime experience, though, was particularly memorable and perhaps more moving for me.

Mesa Verde was on the list for today as well and we headed there next. Along the way we got a couple of pics of Mexican Hat rock after yet again retracing our steps across monument valley.

At this point we were on virgin road. In the distance we could see Ship Rock and it seemed to follow us for too long. At one point we stopped for a potty and photographed Twin Rock from the window of the van.

We were tired by the time we made Mesa Verde which was unfortunate. They required us to leave the camper at the bottom of the hill. I was OK with that as it allows the word nimble to reenter my vocabulary. Along the way up to the Indian area we saw the campground and drove through. We still needed a place to stay later that night and as I mentioned we were tired. Unfortunately we found it unappealing after a promising start at the supply store. We decided in favor of a still unfound and unknown campground.

With that decided we drove the rest of the way to the Cliff Dwellings. The drive there is stunning. Altitude has a way of doing that, I guess. The views were to the left then to the right. Kat and I had to pass the camera back and forth to as we drove.

After quite a long drive we made it to the actual dwellings. On the upside the dwellings can be viewed from cliff sides and the views require little or no walking to reach. Unlike the previous dwellings, though, we could not crawl among the ruins. This was disappointing, but apparently easily remedied with a little payola to the park. We don't play dat. Actually, closer viewing requires a guided tour which we opted out of.

With that we picnicked, made our way out of the park and eventually found a campground around dusk on Navajo Lake. It was WAY over crowded and overrun with locals if that is a complaint. Some blocked the campground roads with their boats, their sites being filled with their fifth wheel. We have often seen dualies towing a fifth wheel camper with a boat hooked to the rear of the towed camper. This I guess is the result. Too little space for too much stuff. Others were kind enough to rent a second site so as to have a place to put their boat. We got the last site available and only with the help of an older couple who took the time and had experience to read the reservation tag closely. The dates indicated that the current night was not reserved but the ticket did reserve the site for the following two nights. We had a home for the night and that was all we needed. Good.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Leaving The Grand Canyon 6/17/2009

We had periods of heavy rain during the night.  While settling into Ten-X the day before I worked on water proofing the lower edges of the camper. The bottom edges of the plywood walls still needed to be sealed so as not to absorb water dripping off the edges. I had brought my epoxy resin with me having skipped out on the task while building the camper. It meant bringing two one gallon jugs with me when storage is scarce. Oh well, the price of being slack.

We putzed around the campsite a couple of hours longer than normal due to the constant mist and drizzle. We assumed that canyon views would be hampered and debated whether we should simply drive on and skip the rest of the canyon. As it turned out indecision was a good thing as we caught a couple peeks of sun here and there and decided that perhaps canyon viewing would be interesting in this weather.

We left our site and headed for the canyon. The weather seemed to be clearing and by the time we parked it was sunny. Good. We chose to go on a hike along the canyon rim where the private traffic is turned around and only public buses can continue. In the winter the buses are discontinued and private traffic can run the full length of the canyon. From the rim distant storms were visible which I thought looked nice contrasted against the canyon. Closer we saw the mules and people hiking the trail to the bottom. They served well as indications of scale in the photos.

While hiking the buses periodically passed and when Kat said it was time we hitched a ride on one of them. They are free. The running commentary from the driver was nice. It was kind of like a guided tour without the expense. We rode to Hermits Rest at the far end, as rain began to fall along with spots of sunlight in the distance. We were under a cloud.

Hermits rest was built around a hundred years ago as a resting area for weary horse drawn sightseers. So it remains today; a resting place for less weary bus riders. I got a coffee and the children ate muffins while a fearless squirrel scavenged crumbs at our feet. Of course Ian gave chase and his sister tried to pet the fat critter. I had mixed feelings with this. On one hand the park service frowned on this behavior to the point of possible jail time, but on the other had it was awful cute and I didn't want the kids to miss out on the experience. Such a thing crates strong long term memories. After eating the snacks we headed back for the car by way of the bus and a short walk all the while hoping that the weather wouldn't soak us. We made it back dry and headed for the eastern exit.

From here we headed for Utah. We drove through what we realized later was the painted desert and toward Monument Valley. The painted desert may as well have been the moon. The light was fading and photos were difficult. Night fell before we made monument valley and by the time we got there the stars shown brightly. We pulled over to enjoy them at a closed Indian road side stand. I believe the Indians have more than sold all the beads back to the white man and likely turned a profit. Maybe not.

As we drove through Monument Valley we were aware of the buttes only by the ominous absence of stars they created. Did I mention it was dark? It was no moon dark. It was no city light anywhere dark.

It was in this darkness that we pulled into Goose Necks State Park near Mexican Hat Utah. Driving blindly into a gravel parking lot of a campground that has as its' only reason for existence big holes in the ground is spooky. While backing up and watching my mirrors I noticed my headlights had fallen on a couple of tents and had likely been there for some time. I shut down the van then and there. No need to be obnoxious in a place I couldn't even see.

We set up the camper for the night as the children tucked themselves in. Before tucking myself in I stopped to experience the darkness. We had done some minor hill climbing to get where we were so the horizon reached roughly equally in all directions. As my eyes adjusted what I saw was interesting. I could just make out the darker shade of darkness that was the land meeting the lighter shade of dark that was the sky. There was a small area of sky after the land gave way to sky where there were no stars. In this area the stars never made it down to the horizon. There was a gap of emptiness between the horizon and where the stars began and it circled the entire 360 degrees of view. I guess the stars were not strong enough to shine through so much of the atmosphere in that area of the sky so close to the ground. Interesting and not experienced.

With that I was off to bed.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Trip Stats

Some boring trip stats.

We drove 12,147.9 miles,

Bought 780.043 gals. of fuel,

got 15.573 miles/gal,

and spent aprox $2100 on all that push.

I don't count food expenses. We would have eaten whether at home or not.

Lodging totaled around $900. We did not keep records of this expense. I assumed an $18 night average over 50 days. This includes a number of free nights. We stayed at a Wal-mart twice and on a couple of occasions we could not figure out how to pay the campground and opted to wait for the morning collection from the host or ranger. They did not always show up.

$3000 total.

The MPGs would have been higher if not for the corn gas that is forced on the consumer in much of the nation. How burning more of a less efficient fuel (corn gas) is better for the environment is beyond me. More fuel has to be burned to get the same work! Bureaucratic Gov. subsidized idiocy. Did I just write idiot four times? I think so.

Oregon is the recipient of a separate complaint. My fuel expenses would have been lower if I was allowed to pump my own gas. I don't need such nannyism. Also it makes mileage checks more inaccurate, but I was able to get around it by asking for 10 or 15 gallons at a time rather than a dollar amount. I did my final fill up once I left the state.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Grand Canyon Arrival 6/16/2009

I recall, as a kid, seeing a scene in an episode of The Flintstones. In it the Flintstones and the Rubbles went on a trip to see the Grand Canyon. Upon arrival the two families can be seen standing at the edge of a small creek and Fred comments with a shrug "Well they say it will be a big thing one day."

We left Dead Horse state ranch and headed for Flagstaff by way of Sedona. Sedona is both attractive and likely expensive. It had a high dollar feel to it that kept me from even opening the door on the van. Drive through, enjoy, and move on is an effective approach when encountering such towns.

We made it through Sedona in little time and began the climb into a more alpine environment. Of course there was a vista point over looking the canyon we had just whipped our poor van out of. We stopped as they also offered bathrooms.

Once out of the van I slowly became aware of a clicking sound just like the sound of a small rock caught in tire tread ticking against the road. In fact I thought that was what I was hearing until it dawned on me it would take at least 100 tires to account for the clicking I could hear. I scanned the trees but saw nothing. It had to be small. It turned out to be a small secada bug. We took in the views and the turned our attention to the Indian trinket booths. On the way out Elise and Kat stopped at a booth and bought a bit of Indian jewelry.

The clip below taken somewhere between Flagstaff and The Grand Canyon sums up our day time travels with our children. There were not enough naps and far too much shoe play. The trip totaled over 12000 miles of this.

A few miles later we were in Ten X campground in Kaibob National Forest. Kat has been great when it comes to finding campgrounds as this one was just outside the gate to the Grand canyon. Only 5 miles; only ten bucks. Camping inside the canyon was booked and we were worried overflow would fill Ten X. As it turns out we had a choice of sites. A little after nightfall the remaining sites had filled. We were fortunate to be early. Our site (54) was awesome. It was both large and private with a bathroom not far away. A hard combination to achieve. There was no electricity, but that was OK.

As it turned out we were early enough to set up camp and have time before the sun set to see the canyon. It was surprisingly moving. Although, I have been to the Grand Canyon before, I was moved. Perhaps it was in part having the kids with me, as Trey's reaction was of surprise and awe. I believe a lot of that had to do with the way the park is set up. The canyon creeps up on you. There is no indication of the canyon until one enters the edge of a view point. Nice.

The kids had Kat in a state of fear. They were running, jumping and hanging on the safety bars at the cliff's edge. It was like they had been in a car all day or something. Heh. With night coming on we headed back to the camp so the kids could play in safety. On the way we noticed a commotion near the road. Elk! I got Elise so as to have her in the photo, her nick name being Moosey. It also meant that Kat got behind the wheel of the van to keep it from blocking traffic! Banner day. After we got back to the site I had the kids gather a few small sticks and built our first camp fire. The deserts we have been in have been too dry for campfires.

Off to bed.