OUR ARIZONA TRIP SUMMERY

OUR ARIZONA TRIP SUMMERY

 February 2017

 

Arizona is such a stunning state.  There is such a vast variety of desert landscape.  From the enticing desert with all its shapely cactus and marvelous sunsets, to the forested mountains covered in a white blanket of snow, to the tremendous canyon formations of all shapes, sizes and colors.  Arizona was the beginning of our journey and I hope it didn’t set the bar to high!

Arizona State Line at Hoover Dam

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We embarked on our adventure in Tucson, Arizona.  After spending almost two weeks with my mom, sister, and nephew we hit the road.  We spent a total of 34 days and traveled about 2,469 miles in Arizona.  Most of it was exceptional.  The places that really stood out though were Sedona and Antelope Canyon.  The only “negative”, if you even want to call it that, was that tourist trap that we turned right back around and left, The Meteor Crater.

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Tuscon area

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Adjusting to life on the road has been smooth.  We were lucky enough to have a chance to slowly ease into it.  We have been living in the van since October 2016 and just bouncing between family to use the shower and anything else we needed.  Finding places to park in the city or camp in the open haven’t been a problem yet.  We found peace of mind that we can survive in cold weather. We spent more than a few night under 20 degrees and were nice and cozy in our little home. The biggest thing about living in such a small space is to stay organized and clean.  James was worried about me on these two factors.  I can be a bit of a slob sometimes.  There just isn’t room for that in the van though.  Everything has its place and needs to be put away to keep it comfortable in the van.  We also tried to figure out a rough budget.  Being the first month on the road we wanted to see how we stacked up to our estimated spending.  Weeeeeeelllll, we went over budget by a few hundred dollars.  I’ll give you one guess where all the extra money was spent- BEER!  We enjoyed lots of great breweries in Arizona.  We will be more mindful of that part of the budget in this area from now on.  Everything else was pretty much on point.

Phoenix

Phenix Area

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Arizona was definitely a great place to start our wandering.  It will leave a lasting impression on us both.  James was blown away at how beautiful a desert can actually be.  I feel so naïve growing up in Arizona and not realizing how beautiful it was.  I think that makes me appreciate this journey through Arizona even more.  I’m truly grateful to have had this experience in Arizona. I’m proud to say that I’m from Arizona.

Sedona

Sodona Area

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Flagstaff

Flagstaff area

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Navajo Area

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Utah State line at Monument Valley

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HORSESHOE BEND

HORSESHOE BEND

 Page, AZ February 2017

Horseshoe Bend is a part of the Colorado river that bends around the land in the shape of a horseshoe.  It is quite fascinating to see how the river takes shape in this way, but equally as fascinating is how high up the canyon walls are that you view the river from.  Amazingly there are no rails or barricades to keep people back from the edge of this 1000ft vertical cliff. For those who have never been in this area, everything is made of sandstone. It literally falls apart when you step on it, there is no structure to anything it’s all sand that has been compressed over millions of years. No rock at all. It’s one reason there are so many dramatic water erosion sites around there.

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It is a very short walk uphill then back down to get to the view point.  This is a very popular spot to visit and take pictures.  Driving towards the parking area we could see all the people hiking up the trail, like ants marching into their hill.  As we park we see the many source of these ants- tour buses!  There were tons of ants, the Asian selfie stick toting type, coming to see this attraction.

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We spent most of the day here but decided to go closer to sunset to try to capture so great colors with the water. After visiting Antelope Canyon, I feel like a professional cell phone photographer!  Which translates into having about a million and one pictures of the same thing in different shades and lighting.

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During the sunset, there was 1 Asian tourist that thought it would be a great picture opportunity to show how big his balls were and went out on this extremely undercut ledge for a picture. I really did think he was going to die. This ledge was only a couple feet thick and extended out about 6ft and this dude went all the way out to the edge and hung his feet out over the edge and posed for a few minutes. That guy was the highlight but it was the theme it seemed, everyone wanted to get a picture of themselves as close to the edge as possible. Even parents telling their kids to get out close to the edge. It seemed no one had any concept of just how dangerous it was, it would have been fine if it was solid rock but this was just compacted sand that could give away under pressure.

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After snapping our million and one pictures we had had enough of all the people and walked way out of the way to a far spot for some piece and quite while we watched the sun set.  With all the noisy tourist, kids running around and photographers fighting for the best spot it really is not a peaceful place for how beautiful it is. But we were able to escape them for the most part by walking to a far point of the bend. We waiting out there until dark and everyone else had left. The walk back to the van in the moonlight was awesome.

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PAINTED BY THE SUN

PAINTED BY THE SUN

ANTELOPE CANYON

 

Page, AZ February 2017

 

We spent more time in Page than we have at any other stop since we’ve been on the road.  This is a small town with a lot of tourist passing through.  There is the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Antelope Canyon.

We spent so much time here out of convince (so we thought).  We needed to get some things done that required internet.  Things like planning our Utah adventure, write and post blogs, and upload/edit some videos.  The free internet in this town made you remember dial up days.  We tried three different places and settled for the public library.  The library its self was very nice.  It had great little nooks for work stations that had views of the canyons and decent Wi-Fi.

One of the places we tried to use internet was The Dam Bar.  While we were skeptical, because it didn’t have great reviews, we enjoyed it there… mostly for the cheap beer.  I think we were there three different times.  Spending many hours at a time there.   We even decided to spend Super Bowl there (what a crazy game).  During half time they had a raffle and we won a Bud Light neon sign!  Can you believe it?  Perfect, we can just mount it above the bed, no problem.  We ended up selling it that night to a guy at the bar who wanted it, for much less than I’d like to admit.  But, we didn’t have to haul it around with us until it sold on eBay and he got the sign he had his eye on for a great deal.  The staff here was great.  They worked hard and were genuine.   We made sure to stop by and tell them bye before we headed out. If your ever around they have good food, cheap drinks just don’t depend on using their Wi-Fi, its crap.

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The day came for our Antelope Canyon tour.  We checked the weather and planned it on a sunny day so that we could get lots of colors on our tour.  This is one of the activities that we both agreed we needed to do, even though it was going to cost us more money than we usually pay for stuff.  So, we found a tour company that tours the lower canyon.  It is a little cheaper because it doesn’t get crazy sun beams like the upper canyon around 33 bucks each.  To our delight, we found out on our tour that during this time of year you get a lot of fiery colors but not much sunbeam.

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Meredith, our tour guide, with Dixie Lower Antelope Canyon Tours was excellent.  We managed to get into a tour that was 40 minutes sooner than the one we scheduled.  We scored big time.  There were only four other people on that tour, and our original time was almost full with 20 people.  Meredith gave us a great lesson in Native American culture, from the different clans and customs to the history of Antelope Canyon.  She also had great tips for photographs in the canyon, as I’m sure all the guides do. Since there were only 6 of us and we made it clear we were in no rush she really took her time and only moved on when we all were ready to keep moving, unlike another small group that passed us because their guide was rushing them through.  The group that we toured with were from Austria and they had a great sense of humor.  The tour really exceeded our expectations.

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The climb down into the canyon was something else.  Each flight of stairs got more and more vertical.  Meredith suggest climbing down backwards like a ladder if you were scared.  I was scared but I wasn’t going to give in to my stupid fear.  The beauty of this canyon is almost indescribable.  Luckily, we took about a billion photos to share!  You really can’t help but take a picture every turn.  I imagine if there were waves on the sun, this is what it would look like.  So many bright and vivid variations of orange, red, pink, and purple.

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Meredith had a fun trick of pushing sand off the edge of the rock and taking a picture of it.  It made it look like a sand waterfall.  She also pointed out several different formations in the canyon like the bear, elephant, eagle, the Chief, the woman in the wind and Jabba the Hutt.  I could only make out two of them, the eagle and the elephant.

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I’m so glad that we decided to spend the money on this adventure.  I know we don’t have a summer time tour to compare the sunbeams to, but I can’t imagine being more impressed.  The way the sun changes the color of the Navajo sandstone is remarkable.  It is like a magical paintbrush was dipped into the sun and brushed on the canyon walls.  I felt nothing but positive thoughts, feelings, and memories from Antelope Canyon.  Time to turn the Page on Arizona and head to Utah.

ROCK HARD WOOD


ROCK HARD WOOD

 Petrified Forest National Park, AZ February 2017

We were on our way to The Petrified Forest, a bunch of “scared” wood. My sister made that joke and I couldn’t help but use it.  On our way, we had plans to stop at The Meteor Crater.  What a joke!  We haven’t seen that big of a tourist trap in a long time.  $18 each to view a hole in the ground from behind glass inside a building.  Well, we turned right around and left, no thanks!  We also passed thru Winslow, AZ.  This town made me feel sad inside.  Very run down and depressing.  We zoomed through there and continued on to the Petrified Forest.

We arrived at the visitor center on the north end a little late in the day.  After getting advice on where we could park overnight for free the ranger gave us some info on the annual pass that was good for all National Parks and Monuments.  We have always been reluctant to buy this because most National Parks are not dog friendly.  She informed us that the on fee will cover both us in any of the parks or monuments.  We always assumed we would have to buy two.  So, after a little more debating we decided it would be worth it for us to purchase the pass.  The park closes at 5:00 so we bought the pass and did a quick drive thru the park (45 minutes from one end to the other) and decided to sleep at the truck stop not too far from the park.

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To our surprise this park allows dogs AND has multiple off trail areas that you can explore.  We both much rather take the path less traveled, so of course we decided to start the day with one of these areas.  The name “The Onyx Bridge” caught my eye.  With no more information than the name, I decided we would go here first.  What an amazing experience.  We almost wished we did it last because after having the freedom to make our own trail and explore wherever we want, it almost numbed us to the rest of the park.  Of course, it is all amazing to see but this topped it all.  We went straight for the grand finale.

If you want to do these undeveloped trails you are supposed to get a map and info at the visitor center, oops, we failed to do so.  We did stop at the Inn where it appeared the hike started.  The ranger inside was full of great information and didn’t miss the opportunity to give us grief for not preparing ourselves at the visitor center.  Its ok, because I liked him better.  He reminded me of my Uncle Wayne.  After getting a general map and a little visual through the window of the Inn, we loaded up with water, snacks, and Xander and headed out.

This hike is 4 miles round trip.  It starts with a fast decent down into the canyon, which means a difficult ending at the end of the day.  Our instructions were something like; when you hit, the wash follow that until you see the tree then head left and scramble up the fallen rocks to the bridge!  Um, yeah, ok.  Once we hit the valley floor you started seeing these amazing pieces of petrified wood.  Some of it in big logs still and some of it in tiny pieces that you would easily mistake for pebble if you didn’t know better.

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While there wasn’t, any water running in the wash it was still plenty wet.  Our shoes felt 10lbs heavier after walking across the wash, once we finally reached it.  We decided to cut straight across instead of following the wash.  Xander was in his element, being able to run free and explore.  As we were walking we noticed a whole tree up near the top of one of the cliffs.  James looked at the map and determined that we could hike up the cliff then north to the Onyx Bridge.  I am not good at navigating like that.  I’m grateful he is, because it was amazing up there.  It was tree after tree.  Some of them were so huge.  It is hard to imagine that these trees are hundreds of millions of years old.  When you look at them you see a tree but you touch it and it is hard as a rock, actually it is rock now.  Some of the wood has formed crystals inside of them.  You can see the crystal sparkling at you in the sun.

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The area beyond the Onyx Bridge was called the Black Forest.  It is named the black forest because it is the only area in the park with all black petrified wood.  Most of the petrified wood has a lot of red color with varying other colors.  We spent a lot of time exploring here.  You really could lose track of time here.  You spy a really great tree to go look at and when you get there you see ten more.

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As we make our way back I see a large area that looks shiny in the dirt.  My first thought is that it is trash, glass ect.  We walk over to inspect and find that it is a bunch of crystals.  Large sheets of it.  Just a side note, we didn’t see any trash at all anywhere on our hike.  It was refreshing to see that people respected the area and didn’t trash it.

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On the second day we walked a couple of the developed trails that had signs posted all over to “stay on trail”.  We walked out to Agate House which was beautiful.  It was a reconstructed building that was built out of petrified wood. We both had, sadly, lost our enthusiasm after yesterday.  We spent a few minutes at the south visitor center watching a movie learning the process of how petrified wood is formed.  After that we decided to move on to our next adventure.  Antelope Canyon, here we come!

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TWO GUNS, A DESERTED GHOST TOWN & THE APACHE DEATH CAVE

TWO GUNS, A DESERTED GHOST TOWN

& THE APACHE DEATH CAVE

 Two Guns, AZ January 2017

 

This was a very cool, random find. We spent most of the day here and had plenty to explore.  Unlike most ghost towns, this one was completely deserted.  There was no tourist type set up here.  No gimmicks, no entrance fee, and only a couple of other random people.  One of which, had a huge husky that got loose then lost.    We were eating lunch outside of the van and had Xander out, when I see this beast running our way.  My first thought was, “Is that a wolf!?!?”  Ridiculous, I know!  Anyways the poor thing was panicking because it couldn’t find its owner. This huge dog was sprinting directly at us and we rushed to get Xander inside and James almost shot him as he continued to charge us. He came right up to us smelled us and turned around and left our camp.  We flagged down the owner and finally the pup made it back safely. I didn’t see the car that it came from because it was very far away.

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So back to the ghost town.  There is a very interesting story behind this town, I suggest you check it out here.  http://www.placesthatwere.com/2015/07/apache-death-cave-and-curse-of-two-guns.html In short, there was a peculiar man who called himself Two Guns and claimed to be Apache.  He developed the area to attract travelers on Route 66.  He even put up a zoo.  He also came across a cave where an Apache raiding party of 42 were killed by the Navajo. It was named “The Apache Death Cave”.  He turned that into a tourist attraction as well.  Story goes that it cursed him because he got mauled twice by a mountain lions from his own zoo and even a Gila monster that got a hold of his arm.  The town was rebuilt a few times.  There was definitely a deserted feeling to it.  All the structures were built with giant pieces of rock and mud.  Part of the zoo is still standing.  I can see why his mountain lion attacked him.  The enclosures were terribly small.

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James, being braver than I, even ventured upstairs in one of the buildings.  He said it was still very solid up there.  I took his word for it.  There was an outhouse that was still standing.  Just a small room with four holes in a wooden bench.  I’d hate to be the guy who has to clean that thing out!

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We found the Apache Death Cave.  There was a horizontal “ladder” made from wood that led you down into the opening of the cave.  It was a very eerie feeling.  Maybe it was just because we knew the history.  Not far after you enter the cave there was a little room that was built up with small flat rocks.  Who knows when or who did that.  As we ventured farther into the cave you could see where it had fallen in before.  Some spots you could even see daylight (a little scary).  We also saw a tiny little bat taking a nap on one of the rocks.  It was kind of cute.  The cave went on for what seemed like miles, but I’m sure was only a half mile or so and of course it was cold.  Something about that cold stale air adds to the eeriness of the cave.  At the last part of the cave it got so narrow that you had to suck it in and squeeze by sideways.  We finally got as far as we could fit and turned back.

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THE BELOW IS A VIDEO. YOU NEED TO CLICK ON IT TO WATCH

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THE BELOW IS A VIDEO. YOU NEED TO CLICK ON IT TO WATCH

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Just a few hundred yards past the old stone buildings was a newer deserted area.  It must have been one of the new attempts to ignite the town.  These buildings were covered in graffiti.  Some poetic, some funny, and some very artistic.  I love finding buildings like this.  We snapped a few pictures and wondered around the buildings when we found a can of spray paint that still had paint in it!  So of course, we had to leave our mark.  It is safe to say that graffiti artist is not in our future.

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We drove down a dirt road a little ways and decided to post up there for the night.  It was peacefully and quiet.  Finding old places like this with history makes you really respect the way life was so long ago.

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NATURAL BRIDGES NATIONAL MONUMENT

NATURAL BRIDGES

NATIONAL MONUMENT

 

Somewhere in Utah

February 2017

 

Natural Bridges was our first stop in Utah.  This monument is kind of in the middle of nowhere.  Its in the southeast part of the state, west of Blanding, Utah.  Driving up from Page, AZ we passed through a few smalls towns that looked like they were almost abandoned.  The landscape changed from giant red rock formations to more mountainous snowy canyons.  We also found one of the craziest roads we have ever driven on.  It looked as if the road just disappeared into the canyon wall, but no it went up up up.  The curves on this road were no joke.  It had a 5mph speed limit and just snaked right up the canyon. We later found out it was called the Utah Dug-way. It literally switchbacks up a very tall and vertical mountain. You cannot see the road around the next bend or anywhere for that matter. We expected washouts and horrible road conditions since it was dirt, but you could tell they maintain the road very well and often.

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When we stopped in the visitor center at Natural Bridges and found out that camping was free this time of year, score!  It was also null of people.  The ranger gave us a little info about the three bridges and said she didn’t suggest doing the hike to Sipapu bridge because it might be a little icy.  Of course, we did that hike. Natural Bridges are caused from stream/river erosion whereas Arches are made from other types of erosion, there are not many Natural Bridges and this park had some of the biggest in the country.

We ended up doing the hike from Sipapu to Kachina bridge.  It was about a 5.5-mile loop.  Even though dogs aren’t allowed (stupid national monuments) we decided that due to the lack of people we would go ahead and take Xander on the hike with us, so we thought.  We get about a quarter mile in and come across a ladder made from tree branches to get down into the canyon.  Sarah was very scared of these sketchy natural ladders, it was very funny to watch her climb down these. We ended up coming across many more of these.  After finding the ladder I ran Xander back to the van where he had to wait for us.

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Here is a video of Sarah going down the ladder and some of the trail….. lol

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The hike took you down into the canyon pretty fast, unfortunately it come up just as quick.  The first bridge was amazing.  Of course, as with most of these natural wonders, pictures do not do it justice.  We reach the first bridge in the beginning of the hike. This thing was huge and towered way over us. We paused for a few and took in the amazement of its size before moving on down the trail. After that it seemed like forever before we reached the second one.  We walked along a stream for most of the hike.  We came across an area that used to have more water/mud in it.  People put their muddy hand prints on the rock wall.  It was a funny thing to stumble upon.

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At one point in the hike we reached an area of the canyon floor that doesn’t get much sunlight.  There was decent amount of snow.  I built a tiny snowman and James made a snow angel.  After that we saw an old cliff dwelling.  James wanted to take a detour from the hike and go up on the cliff face to check it out but I said no because we had Xander waiting in the van.  I later regretted that because, when we stopped at the overlook on the road you could see that there were about four more dwellings that we couldn’t see from the canyon floor.

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We played Marco Polo for a short while on the hike when I took the high road and James took the low road.  Shortly after we met back up we found Kachina Bridge.  I was humongous!  It was almost too big to get in a picture.  We headed up out of the canyon after that.  Once we got out of the canyon we decided to walk the road back to the van, instead of the trail.  We were tired and just wanted an easy walk.  I’m glad we did because James’ knee was really hurting him when we finally stopped.

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Xander was not happy about having to stay behind in the van.  I don’t blame him though.  We stayed at the campsite for two nights and had a fire on the second night.  I miss camp fires.  There is something so peaceful about watching a fire burn.  I’m really glad we decided to give this monument a try.  It was a beautiful and peaceful place.

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