The Poor Man’s Galapagos and Puerto Lopez

Puerto Lopez is a small, fairly quiet fishing town.  The only touristy part of town is along the malecon which is a very nice area to walk around or chill at one of the beach side bars. Many tourists from all over the world and Ecuadorians themselves come here to go Isla la Plata, known as the poor man’s Galapagos, and Los Frailes which many times has been voted the best beach in Ecuador.

We stayed at Hostal Yemaya which costs $30/night for two people.  It’s in a great location one block from the beach. Miguel runs the hostal and is very informative. Miguel set us up with Aventura tours for our day trip to Isla la Plata.  It only costs $35 each (hence why it’s the poor man’s Galapagos) and includes hiking, lunch and snorkeling.

One of the guys from the tour company met us at our hotel at a chill time of 9:30 am.  Before getting on the boat, we walked down the beach with the rest of the people in our group to check out the fisherman’s catch of the day.  We watched the men carry coolers full of fish from the boats to trucks parked right at the shore while the frigate birds desperately try to sneak a fish from the coolers.

Fisherman’s catch

We were the last boat to leave the dock but our tour guide assured us that we would be the first boat to arrive on the island.  He was right, it didn’t take long for our awesome boat to leave the others in the dust, or mist rather.  On the way to the island we saw the biggest pod of dolphins I’ve ever seen.  There had to be hundreds of them.  We also saw jumping stingrays too.

Within an hour we made it to our destination. As we approached, hundreds of frigate birds were circling high above the rocky cliffs of the island.  They look like pterodactyls gliding through the air.  We stopped at a fisherman’s boat because he was feeding fish to a bunch of sea turtles.  Again I’ve never seen so many sea turtles in one spot.  As you can see, we are already very impressed with Isla la Plata and thinking we already got our money’s worth.

Sea Turtles!!

Our tour guide took us on a short 3 km hike where we saw the famous blue footed boobies.  There were many babies hiding in the scrub brush waiting on mom and dad to bring them food.  We had to be careful not to scare them.  They can’t fly and their wings are so fragile that if you get too close they can freak out and break their wings getting them stuck in the brush.  It seems like that is easy to understand but I was shocked by how so many stupid people in our group still wanted to stop right in front of the baby and take its picture.  In fact this is why one of the trails was closed off.  The Albatross used to frequent the island but quit coming because of too many dumbass people taking selfies with them.  The trail is closed because a family of Albatross is back and the islanders want to keep it that way!

After an underwelming but included lunch of tuna sandwiches on hot dog buns, we went snorkeling at a nearby reef.  We saw angelfish, parrot fish, needle fish, puffer fish and many other beautiful species of which I don’t know.  I was so impressed with all the animals we got to see.  If the po man’s Galapagos was this awesome I imagine the real Galapagos Islands would blow your mind.

The next day we went to check out the many times voted best beach in Ecuador, Los Frailes. From town we took a mototaxi to the bus terminal and then a bus to the Los Frailes for 50 cents each.  It’s free to get in but because it’s part of the national park, you need your passport number to get in.  Since I don’t usually take my passport to the beach and I don’t have it memorized (which I probably should) I just pretended to look at something on my phone while I made up a number.

Hiking at Los Frailes

Once you make it through the gate you have two choices: pay a mototaxi to take you straight to the beach or hike the trails where you will come across two other beaches and a mirador or viewpoint of Los Frailes.  The choice was obvious for Tim (I was feeling lazy and wanted to go straight to the beach) and so we took to the trails.  I’m so glad I listened to him because it was absolutely amazing.

It was realllllly hot but there was a constant cool sea breeze which made it bearable.  We stopped at the first beach and went for a swim.  At the second beach the rip currents were too strong to swim so we stood on the rocks and ate Doritos. In a little less than two hours we made it to Los Frailes.  I can see why it’s voted the beast beach with its surrounding mountains, wide, white sand, and trash free (rare in developing countries). The water had a clean blue tint to it and was easy for swimming.  At 4 pm the beach closes down and a van is waiting to take people back to Puerto Lopez for $2.50 per person.

Puerto Lopez is a must if you visit Ecuador.  It has so much to offer and beautiful sights to see.

Giant grilled skrimp
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Vilcabamba: The Valley of Longevity

Vilcabamba is situated in a valley surrounded by lush green mountains. Many of the locals in the area live to be 100 years old and up, hence the name.  It’s not surprising that there has been an influx of wellness and yoga-mongers to the area.  When you step off the bus at the terminal, the town feels Ecuadorian enough.  But the European hippie vibe grows stronger the further you venture towards the main square.  Vegan friendly and spiritual cleansing ads a-plenty with English as the predominant spoken language.

We stayed at Hostal Margaritas for $30 a night. The hostal was cleaned daily, had (real) hot showers and included breakfast. What attracted us to the area was the hiking. There are many trails within a short drive as well as the Podocarpus National Park.

View from our room

We hiked the Mandango trail, named after the sheer cliff rock formation that stands out amongst all the greenery.  We were able to walk to the trail head, situated down a dirt road behind the bus station, from our hotel.  Make sure you bring a stick with you as there was a section along the dirt road that had a bunch of aggressive dogs. Tim picked up a rock and pretended to throw it at them which made them back off.  The entire trail is not for the faint of heart as there are steep drop offs on either side of a narrow ridge trail.  We were unable to make it to the top because of Tim’s vertigo with heights, but we were able to get to an awesome viewpoint that provided spectacular views of the valley.

Another great place to do some hiking is from Hostal Izhcayluma, located a couple of kilometers south of town. We initially wanted to stay at this hostal but they were fully booked.  We took a cab to the hostal from the bus station for $1.50. The receptionist gave us a map of a trail and pointed us in the right direction. It was free.  There are many trails to choose from and they are well marked so you don’t need a guide.

It was a little out of the way for us to come here but I think it was worth it.  Vilcabamba provided some great hiking and was our last trip in the mountains. We are now heading to the coast, the Pacific is calling my name!

Cotton candy on a Saturday night

 

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Bienviendos a la Selva (Tena, EC)

Tena is a small city that skirts the Amazon region in Ecuador. For $6 per person, it took three hours by bus to get to Tena from Baños. When we arrived at the terminal we walked through town to Hostel Austria which was moderately priced at $23 and did not include AC.  It was however very clean and convienently located.

Initially, we were underwhelmed with Tena. We are walking around town at 3:00 pm and nothing was open. The one thing we wanted to do was go on a hike in the jungle, but every tour shop we found was closed. We were so disappointed we decided we were going to leave the next day. Trying to find something to do shouldn’t be this hard. That night Tim went out to get something to eat (my stomach was still not 100%) and he found a tour company that was open! Long story short we ended up getting what we wanted – a trip into the Amazon jungle.

The tour cost $55 each and lasted from 9 am to 4:30 pm. No one else signed up so Tim and I got a private tour! The trip started outside of Misahualli where our guide peacefully paddled us in a handmade canoe through a small canal to our hiking spot. We saw a couple of spider monkeys and beautiful birds.

We donned our boots and hit the trail. Our guide, Javier, showed us different plants including the plant of which they make Panama hats. He made us headbands out of it. He also used a flower bud to make me fake nails which helped me channel my inner tiger. We found a termite nest, Javier picked at it to make them come out of their nest and then put my hand on it so they crawled on me. If you rub your hands together and smash them they release a menthol scent that can be used as a natural bug repellant.

We returned to Misahualli for lunch and had a traditional fish dinner wrapped in banana leaves and yuca, which is like a potato. After lunch we walked to the river and saw a troop of monkeys. It was entertaining to watch them easily swing from the tree branches, curiously gazing down at us.

Monkey eating a banana

We then caught a bus to a go on a waterfall hike. Our guide allowed a couple other travelers to follow us to the waterfall so they wouldn’t get lost. It was a hot, slippery hike but we were well rewarded in the end with a glorious swim in the waterfall.

After the trip Javier took us out for celebratory drinks where we met Abby. Abby is a local that told us about a white water rafting festival going on that weekend called Jondachi Fest, named after the Jondachi River. She said that there was a registration party that night and invited us to come, at least for the free pizza. Needless to say we showed up and registered for the overnight rafting trip for Saturday. Abby said they were looking for volunteers to help out with the race on Friday so Tim and I volunteered.

We got up early the next day which started with free breakfast. We rode with Abby to the race finish line where we carried boxes of empanadas down a steep, slippery trail (did I mention that all the trails in Tena are slippery??) It was physically very hard for me and also mentally challenging as I had to keep smelling the delicious empanadas without getting to eat any. After the race we hiked back up the steep trail and got a free lunch. (Volunteering is awesome!)

The next day was the overnight kayaking/rafting trip. The class of the rapids ranged from 3 to 4+. The trip was only $55 a person and included our own private tent, lunch, dinner and breakfast the next day.  We camped at Playa Selva resort. It is in a remote location that you either hike to or arrive by the river. The scenery was absolutely beautiful the entire trip. We learned that the purpose of Jondachi Fest is fighting the government from damming the river. It would be sad if they dammed it because it is quite beautiful and provides so much life to the forest.

All in all our trip to Tena was a success thanks to Jondachi Fest. We saw a side of the Amazon we never would have seen before and are so thankful for how everything played out with running into Abby and having the opportunity to volunteer.

The taxis drove down to the take out
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Baños (de Agua Santa) An Andean Mountain Town

After the capital city it was time to head to the great outdoors in the little town of Baños in the Andes Mountains. We caught the local trolley bus from Old town to the bus station for $0.25 each rather than a taxi for $15 and would recommend it. From the there we caught the bus to Baños which took around 3 hours after all of the stopping to pick up and drop off random people. After the underhanded compliments in the Lonely Planet: Ecuador I wasn’t sure what to expect out of the town. They said the mountain scenery was spectacular but that the town was basically a concrete block tourist trap. I personally found it quite charming if a little touristy, but with the tourism comes easy cheap tours, accommodations, and a healthy variety of food to choose from.

We stayed at Hostal:Nomada and I would highly recommend it. It ended up costing $24 a night after taxes and included a flat screen tv, private bath, access to a kitchen, and free tea, coffee, and water. The hosts were friendly but only spoke spanish. We met people from all over Europe but I’m not sure that we ran into another American there(It’s interesting listening to French, Italian, and German people all speaking Spanish). I will also say that there seemed to be an abundance of Italians having a good time on both Tuesday and Saturday night and that the walls seem paper thin making it rather annoying to sleep(We’re old folks these days, at least I am).

First up on the tourist hit list was Casa del Arbol, a place where a number of award winning pictures have been taken, one of which Victoria saw on a Facebook group and had been dying to see ever since. It’s about 40 minutes outside of Baños and there are numerous ways to get there: bike, hike, bus, tour, or taxi. The first two are only for masocists, it’s about 15 miles…all up hill. You can catch a taxi there and back for around $20 or catch the local bus for a $1 each way. That was an easy decsion, we took the bus. If you really want to hike or bike I would suggest what we did, take the bus up and then hike or bike back. After the 40 minute ride up through the stunning mountain scenery you arrive at Casa del Arbol and after a short walk and wait your turn to get your once in a lifetime pictures. It was only $1 to get in and in addition to the swings they had the tree house(of course) , some ziplines, and a few other photo oppourtunites. We saw some people with bikes when we got up there and thought it would be a good idea to rent them. Unfortunately they only rent them in Baños and you have to bring them up with you. We settled with walking down which took about two and a half hours and was a great way to get away from everyone, we only saw a couple other people the entire way other than the few cars and buses headed to Casa del Arbol. After walking for a ways on the road you can hit a trail at Bellavista that runs straight into town. It was a great hike with stunning views of the town and valley. We both felt pretty tired afterwards and I couldn’t imagine if we had tried to hike or bike up it.

The next day it was time for some whitewater rafting which we hadn’t done since our maiden journey out to Washington. The Pastaza river is divided into two sections, the upper and the lower, and the guides decided the day of where you are going based on rainfall the night before. The upper has rapids up to 4+ when the conditions are right(they were:) and the lower has class 3 rapids. The company provided everything including lunch and wetsuits. Unfortunately the wetsuits are only overalls and it was raining and of course being up in the mountains the water is quite cold and with class 4 rapids, you get soaked(plus…..we’re southerners). We ended up wearing our rain coats and we’re warm enough while our boat mates looked a bit chill. It was a short(1 hour) but exhilarating ride and for $30 was an absolute steal. It also included all the pictures and videos from the saftey kayaker which was a nice change from the States where they gouge you for them. Be sure to check with your hotel/hostel, some people got deals where it was only $25. Another tip for those not familiar with rafting, try to get in the smallest boat, with the fewest people, and ride in the front for the best ride 😉 Also be sure to check out the rest of the videos and pictures from the rafting at the bottom of the article.

The next day even though we were sore we decided to rent bikes and ride the Ruta de la Cascadas(The waterfall route) which is basically just the road to Puyos, a town in the Amazon basin. It’s mostly downhill and then you can catch the local bus or truck back. Most people stop in Rio Verde but it is possible to ride all the way to Puyos. The route is aptly named, it seems like everytime you look up there is another huge amazing waterfall. The is also plenty of opptunites to hike, zipline, bridge jump, or ride cable cars across the gorge on the way. We passed on everything but a bit of hiking at Palion del Diablo (Devil’s Cauldron) and some hiking and swimming below a waterfall at Machay. That was about 15 miles and took most of the day with a nice lunch break towards the end. I got some delicious heart clogging fried pork called Fritada that I’d highly recommend trying and Victoria had some refreshing fresh lime and strawberry juice. I’d recommend doing it on a weekday as there was a lot of traffic on Saturday.

We had grand plans of going to one of the local hotsprings afterwards but again were too tired and just wanted to relax. Unfortunately the next day Victoria woke up with some stomach issues(It couldn’t have been the food as we both ate the same things and I felt fine) so we sat around and watched TV. The next day she felt better but was still weak from not being able to eat anything, so we stayed another night. Then finally she was feeling better so we hoped a bus to the Amazonian town of Tena.

 

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Living and working in Tucson, AZ

Hello everyone! It’s that time again. Tim and I are going to go on another road trip adventure, this time to Baja California! Before all that, I would like to tell you about my last assignment in Tucson, Az.

I worked at Tucson Medical Center, but everyone around here calls it TMC for short. I worked night shift in the ICU. They call it the Neuro ICU, however I personally consider it to be more of a medical ICU. There is also a CVICU (Cardiovascular). The night shift staff has a great team work mentality and are very traveler friendly. I can go into more details if anyone has questions please post them in the comment section.

We parked our home at Far Horizons RV resort. As the name implies, it is an age restricted park (55+), but they allow travel nurses to stay. I can’t tell you how friendly and welcoming the people are at this park. Tim and I are obviously not 55 but we never felt out of place. We made friends with many of our neighbors and even learned how to play a new game, Pickleball! The park is spotless, with at least 5 staff constantly pruning or raking. There is a very nice clubhouse with a pool and hottub. As a traveling nurse, this is a prime spot to stay because of it’s location near different hospitals, including TMC.

Tucson is a great place to visit although it can get very hot in the summer, with daily tempatures exceeding 95 degrees F. Tim and I were here from October to December. This was a great time to be here because the park wasn’t very crowded and the tempatures were perfect 70 degrees F during the day 50 degrees F at night. The snowbirds start to flock here in December and fill up the RV parks till March. There are lots of hiking opportunities. Sabino Canyon National Forest is just around the corner but can get really crowded on the weekends. There are a variey of other forests/parks that are less than an hour drive including Saguaro National Park and Mount Lemon. Since the University of Arizona is here in Tucson, the downtown scene has a fun party vibe going on at night especially during the football season home games.

All in all, my experience in Tucson was pretty awesome. I will remember the friends I made here and the friendliness of the general public. I could see myself returning here for another assignment in the future.

https://www.tmcaz.com/ – Tucson Medical Center

http://www.tucsonvillage.com/ – Far Horizons RV park website

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Zion National Park, Utah

So we conclude the last leg of this itinerary at Zion National Park. We went to the visitor center in Kanab to inquire about boondocking options and were pointed in the right direction. There is no name for the road, however if you are heading north from Kanab, it is right before Carmel Junction right after coming down the steep grade. GPS coordinates are 37.208999, -112.687259. AT&T works great here but not so much for Verizon. We are parked right next to a narrow section of the Virgin River, which is nice for being able to wash off after hiking in the red, Utah dirt. For groceries, I recommend going to Honey’s Marketplace. The prices were more reasonable than the other major store and they have fresh, smoked, finger lickin’ ribs. For those of you who know me know how much I love BBQ.

We attempted the lottery for a permit to go to the “Wave”, aka Coyote Butte north. This is a very famous 2 mile hike through a protected stretch of sandstone that looks like a wave. Only 20 permits are given a day. Ten of which you can get through the daily, walk in lottery in Kanab. We weren’t lucky enough to win the lottery, but we did get to do some pretty cool things during our visit here.

In Zion, we entered through the east entrance. As far as scenic drives go, it is up there with the best of them. However it takes about an hour to get to the park from our boondocking site due to the tunnels. The first tunnel is big enough to fit large vehicles but the second tunnel is only wide enough to fit one large vehicle at a time. This makes for a longer drive to get to the park since you may have to wait for traffic to clear through the tunnel. You don’t have to pay the $15 toll unless you have an RV or large bus.

Like all the other National Parks we’ve been to, Zion is crowded. Like the Grand Canyon, you have to take a shuttle to get to most of the hikes. Parking is a problem. Unless you get there super early or are lucky, you will most likely have to leave the park through the west entrance and find a place to park in Springfield. Then you will have to walk back, through the west entrance, to get to the visitor center to get to the shuttles.

We hiked the Emerald pools loop one day and the Narrows another. The Emerald pools loop was nice, my favorite part was the Upper pool. We saw a large tarantula perching itself in the shade atop a large boulder. We also saw some great panoramic views. The original name for Zion, Mukuntuweap National Monument, means “straight up land” in the local Indian dialect. Lets just say you may have a kink in your neck from constantly looking up at the towering mesas. The Narrows trail is a famous slot canyon in the park. Like other slot canyons, it can be dangerous is there is a chance for a flash flood. After all, this is how the slot canyons were formed, water slowly slicing its way through the sandstone rock. After a few thousand years, voila you have a slot canyon. We tromped through the virgin river for about 2.5 miles until we, well, basically got bored and kinda cold so we just turned around. It isn’t all that great. I personally prefer keeping my feet dry when hiking. One thing they do not mention is that you should have hiking poles. Sine you are walking through the river, in some areas you can’t see your foot placement. If you have a walking pole or stick it is easier and you will be less likely to fall.

The city of Kanab has some really great trails too. We hiked the K-Hill Trail and parts of the Cottonwood and Bunting trails. The K-Hill trail was the best. It is easy and only 3 miles in and out. The other two were not marked well so we couldn’t complete them. We also hiked Lick Wash, a slot canyon about 20-30 min outside of Glendale. We wanted to experience a slot canyon without being around hundreds of people like in the Narrows. It was totally worth the drive. Just a hint to get there through the town of Glendale you turn onto “300” road.

We had a great trip, it was the best road trip yet. This east coast girl got a taste of the west, and, well- it was awesome. I will never forget the stars at night in the western sky, the unique rock formations of the Painted Desert, or the ease of boondocking with the right set-up. I am going to have Tim create our itinerary for y’all to see where we went, step by step, on the map. Thanks for reading.

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Bryce Canyon National Park + Kodachrome and Escalante State Parks

It was a pretty long  (and desolate, but beautiful) drive from Moab. I actually set a new record, there is a sign on I-70 that there are no services for 110 miles. My previous record was coming through eastern Wyoming ten years ago with my buddy Justin Mercer where there was a 70 mile stretch on I-80 without services. Luckily it was the usual divided highway that everyone knows as an interstate, there were places in Wyoming and Kansas on that previous trip where the interstate went to a two lane highway(I haven’t see that on this trip at all)! It was quite a mountainous drive on I-70 and I hope to come back and do some boondocking in that area. It seems like you might really be able to get away from other people 😉

Anyways since it was late we missed going to the BLM visitors center in Cannonville. Luckily we had picked out an area in the Days End Directory. You just continue south past the BLM visitors center on main street for ~2.5 miles and then turn onto a good gravel road called Yellow Creek. However when we got there you could see where a number of pullouts had been but they were not usable anymore. A little further down the road we were able to find a spot but I’m still not 100% sure that it wasn’t private land. We were in for a great sunset though(check out the pictures).

The next day we went to the BLM visitors center because you need a free permit to camp in that particular area. When we got there the ranger(BLM people are called rangers too, right?) informed us that it may rain and that the road can get real sloppy if it does and we could be stuck till it dries back out. That didn’t sound good so we went in search of another spot, this time scouting without the trailer since we’d already dropped it. We ended up choosing a spot off of FR117 a few miles outside of Bryce Canyon, there were a number of good spots for any size rig along here. If we were to do it again I would have went a bit further up and taken the second left, there was a sweet spot about 0.25 mile up that road, also suitable for any size rig. As a plus this area was not in that red clay and would be just fine to drive on if we got rain(We didn’t).

Once we got situated we decided to go ahead on to Bryce Canyon National Park. For whatever reason Victoria wasn’t expecting it to be as spectacular as the previous National Parks. However it ended up being her favorite. The views from the rim are simply spectacular and the hiking is very easy. The trails down into the canyon are moderately difficult but you feel like you’re on another planet hiking among the Hoodoos. Victoria said she felt like a goldfish in a fish tank, lol. An interesting fact about Bryce Canyon is that it’s not actually a canyon, it’s a series of giant natural amphitheaters along the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Either way, it sure is unique.

The next day we went to Kodachrome Basin State Park. They have 10 or 15 miles of fairly easy hiking with both spectacular views and geology (as usual for around here). Lucky for Marilyn since it was a state park she was allowed on the trails so she could get some exercise after sitting around all day after we were at the National Park. There are 67 large “Sand Pipes” plus a short slot canyon. The slot canyon made a fantastic place to eat lunch. It was roasting outside but in the canyon not only was it shaded but it was also damp and cool. An interesting fact about Kodachrome Basin State Park is that after it was named the state changed it to  Chimney Rock State Park because they were worried about Kodak suing them. However a few years later they were able to change it back after Kodak gave them permission to use the name of their famous film. The name was fitting because the colors here were just amazing, the red and white of the rock, the green of the plants, and the blue of the sky all combined into a shocking display of color.

The last park we visited was Escalante State Park. It was about an hour drive from where we were camped but Victoria had been dying to see a petrified forest since we set out from Jacksonville. The hike was fairly short and easy but there was plenty of petrified wood to see. Make sure you do the second loop, it’s steeper but it also has the majority of the petrified wood. The variety of colors contained in the petrified wood is amazing. It was quite hot out while we were hiking and it was great to be able to jump into the lake afterwards. They had an interesting display in the visitors center filled with letters and pieces of petrified rock that they had taken and then sent back because it brought them bad luck. It apparently did it’s job and kept Victoria, a rockhound, from trying to take any home, lol.

Utah is an amazing state with an amazing variety of scenic landscapes. No where else has such a concentration of National Parks, 5 all within an hour or two of each other. On top of that most of the land around the National Parks is also public land providing an amazing array of places to hike and camp. We’ll be back here for sure!

 

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Arches and Canyonlands, Utah

On your way south to Moab on highway 191 you can find LOTS of boondocking spots on Willow Springs Road (left turn if heading south). At the beginning the sites are more rocky but if you go down only ¼ a mile the sites are more level. This road is popular for ATV’s and campers in general so don’t expect to be all desolate in the desert here. Also, the gentle hum of cars on the highway can be heard, but the scenery offsets that I believe. In some sites you can have a 360 degree view of the surrounding canyons and sandstone rock formations that change colors throughout the day. Among the usual warm colors of the rocks you can also see tints of green and blue in the layers. It is absoultely beautiful. We are able to get Verizon and AT&T voice/data service here. There is so much to do but on the first day we had to do our bimonthly laundry trip, pick up mail, and work on this lovely blog of course. The visitor center in Moab has decent free wifi.

We visited Arches National Park on our first day of exploring. After passing the visitor center, it feels as if you are entering the ruins of an ancient civilization. Vertical walls of red sandstone jut up like pieces of demolished buildings. Like all the other popular national parks (Yellowstone, Grand Canyon) there are lots of people, all sizes, ages and ethnicity. Even on the longer, more strenuous hikes we couldn’t escape the crowds. The first hike we did takes you to the base of the Delicate Arch, you have probably seen a picture of this arch as it is an iconic symbol of Utah, and National Parks in general. It was a hot and steep 3 mile hike. I was surprised to see so many people, young and old, that roughed the trail instead of settling on one of the easier and shorter viewpoint hikes. To get to the base of arch you have to walk around a caving sandstone hole. It is at a slant so I imagine it can be dangerous after a good rain. I will never forget the moment of standing under that arch. We also hiked to Devil’s Garden where there are a lot of other arches. Another famous one is the Landscape arch. It is a long, slender stretch of an arch at 306 feet. People are no longer allowed to stand under this arch as it is slowly starting to erode, go see it while you can!

It took about 45 min to drive from our camping spot to get to Canyonlands National Park. We hiked Murphy’s Trail. A portion of the trail was very strenuous as it descends 1400 feet within one mile. There is a drop off on one side of the trail as you descend the vertical cliff. The entire trail in and out is 10.8 miles. After descending the cliff, you walk through semi-desert terrain which eventually gives you a great view of white rimmed canyons.

On Saturday we took Marilyn on a short hike since she was cooped up in the RV the past two days. It’s called the Negro Bill Trail and it takes you along a stream to a large natural bridge. When we reached the natural bridge, we got to watch some rock climbers repelling down the wall. Tim and I took advantage of the water and went swimming in a deep part of the stream. I laid on one of the large boulders and let the cool water wash down my hair and body.

Our last day here we went kayaking in our inflatable kayak on a calm section of the Colorado River. We put in at mile marker ten on the way to Potash dock off road 278 and took out at Potash dock. This equaled a 11.5 mile trip. We attempted to arrange for a shuttle but it was damn near impossible. One company I talked to (Porcupine) wanted $100 for a 15 mile shuttle (sans gear by the way – he said they don’t shuttle gear…wtf??) So we said eff it, just going to ride the bikes back to the truck like usual. After kayaking we attempted to ride the bikes but then Tim’s pedal fell off. We didn’t have tools so I asked a group of people from South Dakota if they could give us a ride back to our truck and they kindly obliged. What a great world we live in.

Before we left, we showered and dump and loaded at Slickrock Campground ($5 per shower and $5 to dump and load). The showers ran out of hot water pretty quick…so I would go somewhere else next time. Also, the dump station is at a lean, those of you who understand this process will get that this is not a good thing.

Our week trip here was AWESOME! There is so much to do here – hiking, kayaking, white water rafting, mountain climbing, mountain biking, canyoneering, and ATV trails. I can’t wait to see more of this Painted Desert. Next stop, home of the hoo-de-hoooooossss, Bryce Canyon. 🙂

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Dinosaur National Monument

With the help of freecampsites.net, we found a spot to boondock off Harper’s Corner Road (GPS coord.40.282358, -108.983808) near Dinosaur, CO. The dirt road is very rough but we managed to get our 35 ft fifth wheel back there. If you come here, you will want to pull off at the first left turn or camp in the flat area next to it as the road gets worse the further down you go. Amongst the sage brush, there is an amazing view of sandstone formations and vast high land desert. We have AT&T and Verizon data/voice service here too which is always a plus. For a free, HOT, shower, drive to the park with dinosaur statues across the street from the Colorado visitor center in Dinosaur.

On day one we hiked to Ruble’s point, a 9.5 mile hike to an awesome view of Split Mountain Canyon. It is really easy until the last mile where the ground is more rocky and steep. Within the first mile of the hike we saw prairie dogs and horny toads.

On the second day we drove to the Quarry visitor center to see some real dinosaur fossils. It is really cool how they built a warehouse type building to protect the sandstone wall that still has dinosaur bones in them, to show people what the excavation process looks like. You can touch most of the bones, they are real! The first skeleton was found in 1909 and they have found numerous types of dinosaurs in the area. We hiked two trails that linked together, the sound of silence and desert voices. Even though these trails were only a mile from the visitor center, there were no people on the trail except us. It is one of my favorite trails I’ve done, probably because of the extreme change in scenery (been in the mountains for a long time now). I learned that the semi-arid desert in which we were hiking is quieter than a recording studio, less than 20 decibels, hence the name “the sound of silence”. It was really neat to be in an area so quiet that you could hear the wind coming before you felt it. We saw a prairie dog, a fox, horny toads (some were little babies) and many, many rabbits.

Due to inclement weather we decided to leave the next day, even though we had already obtained our free permit to kayak the Green River through the park (only two given out per day). We dumped and loaded the RV for free at the CO visitor center in Frutia (awesome, thanks sanidumps.com for the tip!) Within the past month we have only stayed at a campground one night. The solar panels gives us electricity and we need to fill our water tanks once a week. We go ahead and dump our grey and black water tanks when we fill the fresh water tanks even though we could probably go longer without dumping. To dump and load (as I have coined the process) from our experience out west costs any where between $0 to 10. So at the most we spend $40 a month on utilities while boondocking. Nice huh? Next stop is one I have been looking forward to since we started this trip, Arches National Park.

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Wind River Range, Wyoming

After we left the Tetons I really wanted to go check out the Wind River Range. I had planned a backpacking trip to the Cirque of Towers(Google some pictures!) years before and it didn’t end up happening. So this was my chance to get a look. We stopped at Rim Station for a night on the way to dump, shower, and refill our water and propane (The only night we’ve paid for in over a month now!). It was a nice park right on the border of the national forest. From there we drove into Pinedale to stock up on groceries again.

From there it was back to the boondocks 🙂 We stayed at a spot about half way up Skyline Dr(740) and the road lives up to it’s name with some pretty spectacular views. Our spot was at the Nordic Ski area, during the summer there are 5 to 7 spots there all very well spread out and several of them would fit almost anything. I found the spot indirectly through FreeCampsites.net. The road was mentioned as having nicer spots than down by the lake. We confirmed this with the ranger whose station is actually on the way up(convenient or what?). Even better it’s a paved road all the way up to the nordic ski area (and beyond to Trails End), then it’s a good dirt road. Unfortunately there was construction along Skyline Dr but the delay wasn’t more then 10 minutes and you couldn’t hear it from the spot.

After getting situated we decided to ride our bikes up to Trails End. It was a long uphill ride but the views were spectacular. It took us about two hours to ride up and about 15 minutes down. I forgot to start my GPS but I’m pretty sure we hit 35-40 mph, it was amazing. The next day we went back up to Trails End to do some hiking. Again the views were stunning, much like the Tetons but with a lot fewer people. The forest can be difficult to access so it’s mostly backpackers in the area and even then the trail-heads are usually down long gravel roads. Luckily not the case on Skyline Dr.

However the next day we drove about an hour from 191 to 352 and finally to 650 to get to another trailhead where you can hike some of the CDT(Continental Divide Trail). 650 is a 10 mile gravel road that runs along the Green River all the way to green river lakes. There are boondocking spots all along both 650 and 600 also, with many on the river. From there you can hike the CDT to views of Flat Top a stunning mountain with a…… flat top. The view across the lake and on to Flat Top is on the cover of the map for this ranger district if that tells you anything. Speaking of maps, whatever you do, do not buy the official map for this ranger district. It was next to useless Benchmark Wyoming book had much(much!) more detail. None of the trails in the wilderness area were on the map?? Also be aware that the maps at the trailhead list the trail numbers but on the trail they have names?? Anyways we were able to find our way despite all of that.

I will definitely be coming back to the Wind River Range, I still haven’t done the hike to the Cirque de Towers. It was too cold to go without getting a new sleeping bag for Victoria (I ended up buying a used Western Mountaineering bag in Moab for $150!). If you like to hike or backpack this has to be one of the premier areas in the country. Plus since it’s a National Forest we can take our dog with us. Yes she can hike 10-15 miles a day in the mountains no problem.

Up next Dinosaur National Monument.

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