Why Aren’t We Traveling?

Covid lockdown is past us. We are a travel blog so why are we at home?

Couple reasons. I don’t like to share my private life on the blog, but I do feel an explanation is necessary so you understand why we aren’t back out there. My HOA claims it is illegal for me to live in the casita and required me to bring in a travel trailer. So I purchased an older “vintage” 17 footer and it now occupies the space under the kool cover, east side, in front of the casita. The numerous windows in the trailer give me a beautiful view of the mountains and I can enjoy our glorious sunsets without even going outside if I don’t want to. I now also have a nice large covered area to enjoy when it isn’t too hot; the kool cover provides shade but it also tends to hold in the heat. I still have room to park the vehicles in the shade, and The Chiweenie Brothers have shade to lounge around in, too. The downside is the casita is now storage and the lovely patio I built out the back sits unused.

As some of you know, my youngest son has been having some major health problems that have been going on for a few years, but now his gastroentologist thinks he may have had a heart attack. We are waiting for him to be able to see a cardiologist, and I don’t want to be any farther away than we are now. By being home I at least know how long it takes me to get back to him, where all the fuel stops are, and where we can stop for the night along the way if need be.

I have two or three closer to home mini trips in mind, but a phone signal and monsoon or lack thereof dictate whether we will take those or not. One is already off the table due to wildfires burning. UPDATE … Since beginning to write the draft of this post we had, at one point, 23 wildfires burning. I believe at this writing it is down to 20, but things change fast and just this morning State Trust Land in Arizona, along with five of our six National Forests have been closed to camping. The fire danger is just too bad to take the risk. I applaud our state for doing this. Five national forests closed due to wildfires across Arizona | 12news.com PLEASE DO NOT COME TO ARIZONA TO CAMP THIS SUMMER. THE CHOICE, COOLER, HIGHER ELEVATION AREAS ARE CLOSED. OTHERS THAT ARE NOT UP IN THE HIGHER AREAS ARE DESERT … no one in their right mind camps on the desert floor this time of year.

We will stay close to home, and in the meantime I continue to work on our new outdoor living space, known as an Arizona Room, underneath the Kool Cover alongside my permanently parked travel trailer. I have moved outdoor furniture here and set up an outdoor kitchen. This change has not been all that bad for the most part.

I do love this new space but mourn the loss of my time intensive and fairly expensive patio behind the casita. I also cannot see the White River of quartz hauled boxful by boxful from an old dump of mining quartz about five miles away that was put in along the fence line and the red yucca, Texas sage, and cacti I planted in that backyard space. I do get to see it when I head to the laundry shed—oh goody. I may move the patio pavers at some point, but that’s a LOT of work and energy is low to repeat that job, but it’s a thought. No hurry with any of that.

Prayers and good thoughts for my son would be greatly appreciated and some good thoughts that we may get away for a few short trips this summer would be nice, but if that doesn’t happen, there’s plenty to keep me busy around here. It is what it is, and will be what it will be; We will adjust our course as needed. The main thing is that my son get healthy and he doesn’t end up with even more health issues to deal with. This good man deserves a break!!

The Chiweenie Brothers relax under the cooler during our most recent excessive heat warning, anything above 110. I know they would enjoy some time away from home, too.

Leaving Cuba NM

Told by the camp hosts, a sweet couple from Georgia, that we can stay as long as we like, reluctantly we have to say goodbye. The solar is acting up again and I need to keep the laptop charged.

After spending a night lower down the mountain in a boondocking site about a couple miles from Rio De Las Vacas we head on down the mountain and hit the library before heading back onto Hwy 550 and head toward Albuquerque.

At Rio Rancho I spy Whataburger.  My favorite burger of all time.  I cannot resist and we stop. DSC_0113Whataburger.Bernalillo NM

Driving through Albuquerque on I-40 is a bit unsettling; I haven’t driven on freeway going through a big city for quite a while and I white-knuckle it all the way through.

Our goal is El Malpais National Monument.  Driving through Grants I spot a laundromat and pull in.  Hefting the laundry bag up a little higher on my hip I trudge into the building grateful it is cooler inside and get the washing machines going.  While my clothes do the hokey pokey I go back out in the very warm sunshine and walk The Chiweenie Brothers until I think it’s time to to remove the clothes from the machine.

Turns out to be good timing. I remove the clean clothes and put them in the dryer.  Not going to air dry this time around as I plan on staying at the Joe Skeen Campground tonight.  It’s a free campground I am told, but if it’s privately owned wouldn’t feel comfortable hanging the wash outside.

As I close the door on the dryer I attempt to put my coins in. It won’t take them and I glance at the LED and it looks funny.  Staring at it a few seconds I realize it says free.  Really?  Can’t be.  But it is.  Free today! How nice! The load begins to tumble, and it’s back out to get The Chiweenie Brothers out of the van as we wait for the load to finish.

Once the clothes are dried we catch Hwy 53 toward El Malpais looking for the campground.  I don’t find it so we continue on.  Finding the road into Malpais I discover we must walk to see any of the caves.  It’s too hot for that, so back out on the highway we go and begin looking for a place to stay.  BLM land abounds here behind fences.  Gates allow entry with signs asking to keep them closed.

Driving down the volcanic rock road in search of a spot to park for the night the road begins to look a bit sketchy.  I turn around and find a spot behind a big  juniper tree.  This will do, we aren’t even going to set up camp it’s just a place to park for some shut eye. There’s a few cow pats around.  That explains keeping the gates closed!

Moring comes early. It’s get dressed, walk The Chiweenie Brothers a bit, then jump in the driver’s seat.  We head back to El Malpais National Monument and take a nice long walk.

Thanks for stopping by!  Hugs, Shawnai

The SnoPark, Timber Lodge, and Zig Zag Falls

Friday, July 20, 2018. It’s a warm, sunny beginning to the day even at 6:00 a.m.  As I pull out of the rest area north of Madras, Oregon I think of the cooler weather up ahead. At least I am hoping it will be cooler.

We are headed west, still on Hwy 26, and drive through the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. Other than the casino at the very eastern end there isn’t much out here but a few houses here and there, brush and some timber. The wind is blowing sideways, and it’s pretty strong.  I white knuckle through and we gain the SnoPark with no mishaps.

The plan is to stay at the SnoPark in the Mt Hood National Forest for a few days.  Upon arrival I note there are a few travel trailers and a motorhome or two. The very large parking area is divided in half by a strip of brush and trees, and the vault toilet is located here, too. I find a spot on the west side. There is only one other vehicle parked here and he’s at the very tippy top, next to the road. It’s a peaceful quiet night.

July 21st, Saturday.  I feed the boys and we take a walk.  I discover, on the other side of the access road to the SnoPark, a small dispersed campsite on a dirt road.  We finish our walk then we move to the new camp.  Big mistake.

As the morning gives way to afternoon we are bombarded with dirt bikes. Waves of dirt bikes in groups of five or six roar past our camp and envelope us in dust.  Once the herd is past it is quiet for the rest of the day, but they again gear up and roar past in the evening.

We take a wander across the road to the parking lot and discover the SnoPark has filled to capacity with a sea of moms and dads, grandpas and grandmas and their motor homes and travel trailers, some tents.  All manner of recreational vehicles and trailers here for a motor cross event!  Oh boy, that explains the dirt bikes. We hear a few oohs and awwwes, directed toward The Chiweenie Brothers. I know they are smiling!

It does quiet down for a good night’s rest, but next morning I hear revelie.  The motoring herd will once again make an appearance.  Enough of this, we’re outta here. It takes a mere ten minutes to pack up and we are on the road. I love being so mobile!

We drive to Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood.  I LOVE Mt. Hood.   There is just something very special about this mountain, but I have no idea what.  Maybe the lush green that surrounds it?  Maybe the way it juts up into sky with a commanding air?  I don’t know.

You can read more about historic Timberline Lodge HERE .

I make a quick, illegal stop along the highway on the way back down the mountain to get a couple of shots of these small waterfalls alongside the road.

As we tip over the top and begin the decent down Hwy 26 toward civilization again, I begin looking for the road into Zig Zag Falls that I had found on the map last night.

An easy hike and a beautiful water fall.

Love this old bridge, part of the old highway that once went through here at one time.

As we are taking in the bridge and surrounding area I discover a small empty campsite right at the perimeter of the parking lot. It’s banked on both sides with green bushes and sits right along Zig Zag Creek. We spend the night here before continuing on down the highway.

 

 

From Richland WA to Beautiful Hwy 244 in the Blue Mountains of Oregon

June 30th. From our camp at Scooteney Reservoir we head out, late morning, our goal the dog park in Richland WA where the boys get a good romp. Oh my, the traffic!

Next morning we head out, cross over into Oregon, doing the Wally thing yet again in Hermiston and then Pendleton. I find the headstone of an uncle, Guy O. (for Olinger I am thinking) Ritcheson in the old cemetery on the way out of town.

From Pendleton I point Freedom’s nose south along Hwy 395, stopping long enough in Pilot Rock to fuel up and purchase a block of ice. Onward we travel to a little town called Ukiah where I take Hwy 244 into the Blue Mountains of the Umatilla National Forest finding a wonderful little boondock, a hunter’s camp, not too far in.

 

We spend five days here, trying and succeeding in staying away from the holiday traffic and noise, but instead of down time it was a very busy time: Cleaning and waxing the green beast, doing a mini makeover inside, updating the list of things I want to remove when we get back to Cali, updating what I want to ADD to our van home when we get back, setting up the shower and reveling in the warm spray. I also go through the box on the hitch tray. I do some reading, and take mini walks with the boys. We are right by the highway in a small federal piece of land next to privately owned land with our only neighbors the cows next door.
It may seem like we are on a perpetual vacation, but there’s always some chore or another that needs to be done, and this simpler life—well, most everyday chores that are done around a sticks and bricks takes 2-3 times as long to do living this way. 🙂 
On July 8th we head for La Grande OR, and I notice along the way many places to camp. Not necessarily boondocks, although there are those, but many actual campgrounds. I would definitely come this way again. It’s a beautiful relaxing drive with very minimal traffic.

Some of the beautiful old buildings along 395 and 244

Just a few miles from La Grande, off I-84, I stop and the Arched Bridge, a beautiful piece of bridge design, and fix lunch.

DSC_0035Arch Bridge off I-84 near La Grande OR

 

 

The Idaho side of the Grand Tetons

As we drive away from Palisades Reservoir we take Hwy 31 to Victor where I pick up my forwarded mail then we head north to the town of Driggs and begin looking for a spot to stay.

About Victor ID

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The Grand Tetons are even more amazing from the Idaho side.

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The Grand Tetons from the Idaho side
The Grand Tetons as seen from Swan Valley in Idaho

We end up in a boondock in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Our camp in this national forest ends up being a one-night stand as there are many mud puddles from recent rain and although they are drying up many remain with standing water.  Those remaining must be teeming with mosquitoes because we practically get eaten alive.  The air is so thick with the buzzing blood suckers that I can vacuum them up with my little portable vacuum cleaner.  The poor Chiweenie Brothers spend a too warm night under a light blanket, but still suffered many bites.

On the way out of our camp I spot these butterflies enjoy some refreshment at one of the dryer areas

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From Driggs, ID we take Hwy 33 toward Rexburg where we will hit a Walmart to get supplies and gas up the green beast.  It is a beautiful drive through  potato farming country in the Swan Valley, the seed potato capital of the world.

No overnight at the Wally in Rexburg, so we head on toward Ashton where I plan to do laundry.  The laundromat is easy to find, but it’s been a long day, and I just don’t have the energy to tackle that chore.

I take Hwy 47, finding a dispersed camp site again within the Caribou Targhee  National Forest–also loaded with mosquitoes–and we spend a too-warm, restless night with the windows rolled up. Tomorrow we visit Mesa Falls.

Thanks for stopping by! Hugs, Shawna

Palisades Reservoir, Irwin ID

On May 30, 2018 we begin the hunt for a new back yard. We pass the little town of Freedom, Wy and I can’t resist taking a photo. 

DSC_0048 (3)It’s not far before we find a beautiful campsite along the Palisades Reservoir outside of Irwin, Idaho.  We motor down the dirt road and take a left at the vault toilets, an offshoot of the main dirt road going down to the water, and I get nauseous as road gets a distinct  steep slope to one side. It didn’t look so bad when I walked it upon arrival.  Too afraid to back out I go on.  We made it — what’s to worry about.  Getting back out that’s what! 

I find a wonderful spot under some trees    DSC_0062 (1)

the Chiweenie Brothers and I take a walk down to the water.  It’s calm, with a few pelicans paddling around. Love this spot!

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Better yet, we find “our” road turns back onto the main dirt road, and we won’t have to worry about going back out the way we came in. Whew!!

Recent rains farther north have the creek flowing into the reservoir at a pretty good clip, but although we do get a bit of rain and a couple of thunderstorms, it doesn’t amount to much.

We have a beautiful view of mountains to the east, and this huge area has several spots with lots of shade given by a type of tree I can’t identify. A few groves of aspen also dot sections here and there, their leaves fluttering with the slightest breeze.

The wildflowers are in bloom

On Thursday night an uninvited guest in the form a tan colored little mouse with a white bib pays us a visit in the middle of the night, and the hunt is on. The Chiweenie Brothers spend the next two nights on the hunt. Every time something rattled even the tiniest bit they shot off the bed in search of Stewart Little. They were not successful. On Friday night I took several drawers out of various storage units to let them have a better chance, but still nothing.

On Saturday I spent the day tearing the van apart hoping that the little bugger would find his way out while I was tearing into things.  I assume he did as Saturday night not a peep was heard from the boys. Sleeping all night can sometimes be a wonderful luxury!

We spend five days in this lovely spot, but on Monday, June 4th, it’s time to move on.  We are low on water and foodstuff; like M&Ms and the Kosher Dill potato chips I have become addicted to.  :), and, like all good things (and not-so-good things, too), our time here must end. 

We haven’t been down to the lake’s shore since Saturday because the weekend was pretty busy here with local traffic, so this morning the Chiweenie Brothers get a walk down to the water before our departure. They enjoy wading into the water, something that they never used to do, but since camping by water a lot this past month, they’ve found they like it.

I, however,  am shocked by what I see.  The lake has come up quite a bit in two days,

and–horrors!–our way out is covered by a deep puddle of water.  Dang!  We’re going to have to get out of here by way of the steep slope and the driver’s side will be on the downhill side.  There’s nothing to do but suck it up and go for it.  Camp has already been broken and our gear loaded up so I get the boys inside and climb in the driver’s seat. Oh Dear God, get me through this.

 I am sweating bullets as we creep along feeling my body lean to the left as we cross that sloping area. Once past the worst part and we gain the remaining ground to the main dirt road I heave a sigh of relief, but . . . I need to use the facilities.  I think it’s the first time ever that I’ve been happy to use a vault toilet.  

Thanks for stopping by 2Dogs!  May YOUR travels be smooth sailing.

 

HWY 150 MIRROR LAKE SCENIC BYWAY

From Heber City we head north (is there another direction?? 🙂 to find and travel Hwy 150, the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway. We pass some beautiful country along the way.

The Jordanelle Reservoir and the river that feeds it.

Our 4-day visit along Hwy 150 from Kamas, UT to Evanston, WY is unbelievably breathtaking. High in the Uintah Mountains this Scenic Byway winds through three national forests.

We don’t travel far our first day as I was told by the clerk at the Forest Service office in Kamas that although the road is “officially”closed, the road is clear of snow, however, there are still patches of ice here and there, and if we choose to go on, they are not responsible. She suggests finding a camp within the next 13-14 miles and waiting until Monday to travel on.  This sounds good to me!

We find a dispersed campsite right off the highway, just 10 miles or so out of Kamas. Sounds awful, but this time of year traffic is sparse. This time of year in these high mountains, I don’t want to be way out back in the solitude of the forest with three days of storm predicted: 60%, 30%, and 30% respectively. Probably will amount to nothing, but why take the chance?

Yellow Pine dispersed campground has 8-10 campsites with a fire ring, some sites with shade, some in full sun.  The site I covet has already been taken, but we find a decent spot and settle in.

This Friday, May18, 2018 the weatherman is pretty much spot on. We arrive in partial sunshine, and I get the dogs staked outside while I make camp.

DSC_0008 (2) I roll out the mat that is used as our outdoor staging area, put all the extra water jugs on it along with the lounger then hop back in the van and have a bite to eat.

Belly happy I remember that I need to get the solar panel off the top of the hitch tray box and get it out where it will catch a few rays today. I had the vehicle-battery-to-house-battery plugged in while we were driving (thank you C. It’s awesome!!) and the house battery is fully charged by the time we arrive, but now it’s mother nature who will do the work of keeping it charged . . . as soon as the sun comes out again. Thunder is rolling. Time for all of us to nap, me thinks, and I bring the Chiweenie Brothers inside and they curl up straight away and close their eyes.

We awake to a brightening sky and honking Canada geese. The boys and I take a walkabout, and I snap a shot of the mountains across the way.

I can visualize what this looks like in the fall with the gold of the aspen shining bright against the green of the pines.  It’s hard to do Utah justice anywhere within her scenic places.

The wildflowers are beginning to bloom, and an attempt is made to get good shots against the pull of the wild wiener dogs  against their leashes and a camera that takes the same shots whether in landscape mode or close-up … yes, there are still problems, but thankfully it still works! Focus is iffy at times.

We have no cell or internet signal, so I read the rest of the afternoon. The evening is filled with a movie and a TV program selected from what I have downloaded to watch offline for just such occasions.

Goodnight! Hugs, Shawna

CURRENT READ:  Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons.  An excellent book!

 

Balancing Rocks and a Big Bird

Once past the Navajo Bridge and the official part of the Vermillion Cliffs, we find the Balancing Rocks.

The one on the far left looks like a hippopotamus to me.  🙂

This was a fun and interesting little break in our day’s drive, but there’s more to come and we head onward.

We drive on with the intention of making it to Stateline Campground for a couple night’s stay, but it’s been a very long day. About 150 miles, but lots of in and out of the van grabbing photos and fighting the wind to get back into the van. I need to stop and The Chiweenie Brothers need another walk.
Up ahead I see what looks like a promising stopping point only to find out it is House Rock Wilderness Area and it’s 25 miles of rough dirt road to get back to this remote area where buffalo roam and CONDORS were introduced in 1998. Tempting, but 25 miles of rough dirt road is just not appealing this late in the day. I just don’t have it in me. Wait …

I look at the photo of a condor on the wall of the information kiosk. It can’t be. I pull out my bird identification book. White stripe on the wings. Bald yellowish head with a sturdy beak. Oh my gosh! I think it was a condor I saw gliding above the Colorado River back at Navajo Bridge!!!! This is beyond exciting and wish I had gotten a photo of that bird dang it! I am so tempted to take this 25 mile drive, but with high winds and possible rain I don’t feel that my chances of spotting a condor are very good, and 25 miles of dirt road … I pull back out onto Highway 89A.

And where do we end up? A gravel area alongside Highway 89A. We are the only ones here, and we park for the night. It ends up being really nice and quiet as once night settled in traffic became nil.
Thanks for stopping by 2Dogs.

 

We Leave Q

The Quartzsite, AZ Post Office is famous. Famous for the worst customer service and loss of mail in the state. Heck, probably the entire United States.  No one ever seems to have a good experience there, not even the locals.

Why I am including this?  Because my forwarded mail took over TWO WEEKS to get to Quartzsite.  Stuck in Phoenix I am told.  Oh, they’re down a sorting machine someone else tells me.  What really happened is they SENT IT BACK TO SOUTH DAKOTA!!  I have tax documents in that envelope and am chomping at the bit. It is being sent to Q again.  The weather has turned hot (although it was brief, it was extremely uncomfortable), and I am ready to roll north, but we must wait.

On March 12th  I am prepared to say goodbye to Q.  The mail should only take two days as it was sent 2-day priority. It’s been three.  I have done all the mundane, weekly chores of emptying the porta potty, replenishing our ice, filling our water jugs, and buying a few days’ worth of groceries.  This round calls for checking tire pressure on Freedom and checking her oil.  We’re good to go, and I head to the P.O.  And no mail for me.  *SIGH*. 

We head back out to Hi Jolly, our boondocking camp just north of town.  I don’t set up any kind of camp, just park where, thankfully, no one  has snagged our shady spot, and debate getting into my witch costume and calling in the flying monkeys ….

Instead I connect to the internet and check the tracking of my mail. It shows  THE MAIL HAS ARRIVED!! — but it came in or wasn’t processed until AFTER the post office’s time slot, between noon and 1:00 p.m., for handing over the general delivery stuff. *SIGH*.  I’m practicing patience, I really am, because I reconsider the costume and calling in the  flying monkeys and I don’t make it happen. 

Tuesday the 13th I am up early wiping down the van trying to remove a bit of the dust, and am blessed with a gorgeous sunrise. It’s breathtaking. I never tire of them.

We head to the dog park and the boys get in an hour or so of off-leash fun. It was a nice opportunity to say another goodbye to friends here. Lo and behold the mail is actually at the post office, and we head east to Bouse. 

Intending to stay only a day or two, cooler weather drops in and the veggie truck will appear in town on Thursday.  I make the executive decision to stay until then.  The co-pilots agree as that means Bouse Dog Park time for them.  It’s one of their favorite parks because they usually have it all to themselves.  

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I find a wonderful spot a few miles out of town under a huge ironwood tree providing lots of shade. On Thursday we head to town for a visit to the truck that brings wonderful fresh vegetables to this little town every week on Thursday and Friday.  Prices are very reasonable. I purchase a huge bunch of tender first-crop asparagus, 2 pounds of organic strawberries, a pint of huge yummy looking blackberries, and two avocadoes for $6. Dang, I wish I had bought more.  Those berries were gone in a flash.

My intention was to leave after our fruit and vegetable purchase, but the night before the wind kicked up; strong, insistent wind. It  continues to blow for three days, and looks like it will blow for at least two, maybe three more days. I don’t like driving in the wind so we’re staying put through the weekend.

Thursday evening, the wind continuing to howl, I notice buzzards trying to find a port in the storm.  The best shots of them trying to land in the wind didn’t come out at all, and these aren’t much better, but ….

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At one point in our stay I am delighted with this lovely, soft sunset.  I never tire of the gorgeous morning and evening displays and will miss them as we travel north; or perhaps they will be just a beautiful!

Our hot spell broken with the arrival of the wind the boys try to stay warm.  Fries in his bed with his blanket and Charlie choosing the dashboard with the sunshine pouring through itDSC_0086

 

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Thanks for stopping by 2Dogs! Hugs, Shawna

CURRENT READ: The Practice House by Laura McNeal

“The life you’ve had doesn’t have to be the only life you have” — Anna Quindlen

 

 

 

Marana Dog Park, Saguaro National Park

November 6, 2017. With mail in hand we grab a block of ice and head out taking 87 south and catching I-10 east to find the dog park in Marana, AZ. I love my GPS!  This girl would be lost, literally, without it. I’m a right and left kinda girl; this go north, south, east or west kind of stuff confuses the heck outta me.  With the GPS I have to deal with none of that, although I only use it for city/main road driving. I do not rely on it for any of this  boondock stuff where you could end up, well, in the boondocks but not in the spot you were expecting.  

I easily find the park and the boys have some fun.  A lot of fun!!!

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Once the boys have worn themselves completely out we head out towards the west side of Saguaro National Park.  

We find a boondock* site in The Ironwood Forest to spend the night and then we are off on Hwy 86 toward Ajo. I was not looking forward to this drive as it looked on the map to be pretty desolate, but we were surprised.  

Thanks for joining us!  Hugs, Shawna

*For those who may be unfamiliar with the term “boondock”  (also called, in more genteel terms, dispersed camping) it’s a camp made on BLM public lands or other places that have zero amenities. No water, no toilets, no tables, no nothing. Maybe a rock fire ring, but that would be a luxury site.  🙂