Petrified Forest National Park

As I had mentioned to Janet when I first contacted her, I wanted to visit Petrified Forest National Park while I was in Chambers since it’s so close by. I was happy when Janet accepted my invitation to come with me. She works so hard and deserved a day off. This was my 6th national park since coming out on the road in November. (Note: Two videos after the photo gallery)

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All of those scattered dark pieces are petrified wood

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I climbed up above the petrified log bridge to take this.

Luna Gaia – Chambers, AZ

My friend Bobbi told me about an effort underway in Chambers, AZ, by a woman named Janet Douglas to establish a place for nomads to come and stay for a time, to contribute, to work, to create, and build community. The place is called Luna Gaia. Janet also started the “Nomads Helping Nomads Network”, a group that does what it says. You can find this group on Facebook. Please check it out. Janet is working hard to make Luna Gaia a reality but she could use help. I visited and volunteered my time mainly to help ready an RV that Janet was putting up for sale. There are several different types of help she could use. If you could contribute in some way, please consider doing so. Just contact Janet through “Nomads Helping Nomads Network” on Facebook (Be sure to include “Network” – There’s another group). I believe with all *my* heart that Janet has a good heart and is pursuing a good work here. She has lots of wonderful ideas. Again, please consider helping. Thank you.

Dogtown Lake – Williams, AZ

Andy, whom I had met in Pahrump at the HOWA event, was one of my “consultants” the day the dust devil came to visit on Long Jim Loop. He graciously invited me to join him and his two campmates, Jerry & John, so they could help with my trailer door which was still not completely fixed. (I was able to leave one of the hinge screws loose so I could maneuver & lock the door from the outside but that was not ideal, of course. Also, the inside “RV lock” on the door wouldn’t work at all. I was able to use the extra inside security latch so I felt comfortable on the nights since the incident). Anyway, I went down to the Dogtown Lake area where the guys were camped and they jumped on the task (Well, after I made a scheduled trip to Flagstaff). The three of them put their heads–and elbow grease–together and fixed the problem. I appreciated that because you never know how much a shop will charge. (My pay to the guys: strawberry shortcake!) Thanks, guys!

BTW, Dogtown Lake is a nice area to camp and Williams, although small, has pretty much everything you need. It is a busy little place, though. It’s a big “Route 66” destination, so there are lots of touristy places and events. One example was a big car show while I was there of which I got to see a bit. Railroad attractions/history is a big thing there, too. I didn’t explore but I think it would be fun to do next time I’m there.

Grand Canyon South Rim, Part 2

Despite the fact the Canyon isn’t my favorite kind of landscape, it was still a photographer’s dream. Paring down images for this post was extremely difficult, but I did my best. Several “rim shots” make up the beginning of the photo gallery.

I walked a good portion of the Rim Trail but another highlight of the visit was a short hike below the rim on the South Kaibab (“KIE-bab”) trail. It was quite challenging for me not just physically but also because I’m acrophobic. My plan was to get to a place called Cedar Ridge but at one point short of that goal, I had pretty much decided to turn around because of intimidating, sheer drops on both sides of this particular trail section. With the encouragement of a few fellow hikers, however, I made it down. [I met a number of nice and interesting people, including a young German man who was cycling across the U.S., some young people from my hometown of St. Louis, MO, a few young ladies one of whom offered to take some pix of me, and a small crowd with whom I exchanged “encouragements” to finish out the journey up]. The climb out was an “adventure”, too. I should have waited at least another day to attempt this as I had not felt well the day before and knew I had been dehydrated. I started drinking Gatorade that day before to counter it and continued taking in Gatorade, along with water, the morning of the hike and during it. Unfortunately, that was not sufficient. At one point on the way back up, when I was standing in a (rare) shady spot resting, I started feeling dizzy and nauseated. I sat down for at least 20 minutes, eating snacks and drinking. It was a relief when I started feeling better and could continue up. “Up” is the key word. The hike to Cedar Ridge is only 3 miles roundtrip but that includes an elevation change of 1,120 feet. And, of course, it was quite hot. I was thankful when I finally made it to the top. [It was very sobering to hear the news later that, on the same day as my hike, a woman in her early forties had hiked down the other below-the-rim trail, Bright Angel, all the way to the Colorado River (15+ mi roundtrip). On her return, three miles from the rim, she passed away. Of course, she had hiked considerably further than I did, but this shows how seriously dangerous Canyon hikes can be.] It ended up that I felt good enough afterwards to ride the shuttle to another overlook and walk around for a bit (and visited with a nice French couple from Switzerland). I rested the next day and then left the area the following day.

On the recommendation of two friends, for my South Rim visit, I had boondocked on “Long Jim Loop”. It’s adjacent to the little town of Tusayan, but there are not many amenities for nomads except expensive gas. I suggest arriving already supplied from Williams or Flagstaff. Long Jim Loop’s many spots are mostly close to the road but are mostly flat and nice with shade trees. The road is fairly busy but quiet at night. Despite the amenities lacking in the area, you just cannot beat the proximity to the Canyon’s south entrance. I highly recommend this location.

Grand Canyon South Rim, Part 1

First, a video of a really nice view along the way and then…one of those iconic places that we’ve heard about all our lives, the mighty Grand Canyon. Even if “rocks” aren’t your thing, this place is still just breathtaking. I’m definitely more of a trees/flowers/anything green/water features/mountains kind of person but you just can’t help but be completely overwhelmed by this place. It doesn’t seem real. Lots of “Wows” could be heard by those walking up and taking their first look from the rim–including from me.

Only a couple hours into my first visit, we also got a special treat — condors gathered on rock outcroppings close to the rim. These birds certainly aren’t popular because of their good looks. Actually they’re pretty scary-looking. When I initially walked up, I stood next to a family for a while as we all watched them. I lost count of how many times we heard passersby’s say, “Look at those turkey vultures”. I talked to the family about it and we were both pretty sure they were condors. A quick Google search confirmed it. Furthermore, they were tagged which was also a pretty good indication they were condors and not common vultures. I intended to ask a ranger if the public could look up their wing tag codes to get more information but ended up finding it online myself. There are several items listed about each condor, the most interesting to me being their age. I found elsewhere they can live as long as 80 years but average about 60 years. The ones we saw were youngsters.

A bizarre thing happened in camp the next day. I was sitting inside my trailer when there was a loud commotion and a big cloud of dust and sand blew in through my open trailer door. I quickly jumped up and went outside but could see nothing unusual. It then dawned on me that I had just been hit by a dust devil! One of my awning poles was bent 90 degrees but the main damage was to my trailer door. It had been propped open and the devil had bent the 3-inch wide bottom hinge so considerably that when I tried to shut the door there was a 24-inch gap! I was astonished the dust devil was strong enough to do that kind of damage. This was a big problem–I couldn’t secure my trailer nor could I tow it. I had to figure out how to deal with this myself. I texted a couple friends and we concluded at the same time I would have to figure out how to remove the hinge. Thankfully, I had the right tool to do so but then I had to somehow bend it flat again. To my surprise, when I stood on it, it did not give at all. (Again – Wow – The strength of that dust devil!). I had the idea of securing it to the part of my trailer tongue that holds my gas can and pounding on it with my 3lb hammer. That did the trick. I reattached the hinge but the door still wasn’t perfect. More on that later.

(Stay tuned for Canyon, Part 2)

On the road between Flagstaff and the Canyon

Flagstaff, AZ

I headed to higher ground in Flagstaff. The first area where I went to camp northeast of town (Hwy 89) was closed due to a recent fire so I had to drive 30 minutes northwest of town on Hwy 180. The area is called “Fort Valley”. The forest road in was very rough but I found a nice spot. I’m still learning to maneuver the trailer in tight spots so it took me a while to get situated, but it was good practice. I had planned to stay only a day or two but the weather was so nice, I decided to stay longer – 13 days, it turned out. The first couple days there, I had a pretty good headache, due to – I assumed – the altitude change (Lake Havasu: ~700ft -> Flagstaff: ~7000ft). After I got over that, however, my stay was nice. I enjoyed the seventy degree temperatures and seeing trees and grass again after several months in the desert.

One day I heard someone calling my by name from outside. To my pleasant surprise, it was Bobbi Stice. We had recently communicated and she spotted my rig while driving through the area. Walt & Jan were with her, too. We enjoyed a short visit–longer with Bobbi as Walt & Jan left earlier. It was nice to cross paths with friends and to get the opportunity to get to know Bobbi better.

I also was able to work on my solar issues with the help of my “solar mentor/guru” Joe on the other side of the country. It was good that I had to deal with a few issues by myself because it forced me to learn things that I needed to know how to do. Joe is a great teacher and is very patient with me!

Fort Valley has a trail by the same name and I hiked it one day until it intersected the Arizona Trail. Very nice trail but also open to mountain and trail bikes. Had no problems, though. I always yielded to them even though the rules say it is the other way around. Every time–to my surprise–the riders thanked me. Nice. (Video from part of the hike at the bottom of the photo gallery).

I celebrated my birthday while in Flagstaff and treated myself to a filet at Texas Roadhouse. The whole meal was delicious. I rarely eat out so it was a nice treat.

Overall, a nice stay in Flagstaff. Next time, however, I would like to try to camp in the area off of 89 where the Humphreys Peak trail is accessed. This is the highest point in Arizona. I would like to hike all or part of this trail someday. I was going to try a portion of it on this visit, but, as I mentioned before, that area was closed.

From the hike

Hualapai Mountain Park Campground

After my poor campsite decision of the previous night, I used my app to find another nearby boondocking site and headed toward it. Yet another lesson learned – apps don’t always provide all needed information! As I neared the location, I soon found there was *no way* I could get my rig up the narrow, knife-edge mountain road I could see in the distance that was my route. Fortunately, just before this, I came to a short driveway (with a gate and a “loud” No Trespassing sign) in which I managed to turn around with no damage and no irate owner approaching with a shotgun. (Actually, I was a bit proud of myself since I am still learning how to maneuver my trailer in tight, awkward spots). Since this was my third strike with regard to campsites, I opted for a campground I had passed only a short distance back – Hualapai (pronounced WALL-uh-pie) Mountain Park Campground. When I checked in, they recommended a site in which I stayed the first night but later moved to a better site further away from the nearby, busy two-lane road. Overall, this turned out to be a good place that I recommend. Beautiful scenery and variety of sites from which to choose. Older but working flush-toilet bathrooms, large garbage cans, and available water. That’s about it, though. No showers or laundry. Unfortunately, I can’t remember how the signal was. To me, it was still worth it, however, because the facilities were well-kept, the people working there were nice and helpful and, my favorite part, adjacent hiking trails.

Boondocking above Kingman

I used my apps to find a place to stay at a higher (cooler) elevation. There were two I had in mind. The first one was OK (AZ state trust land for which I already had a permit) but the road going in was very, very rough, so I would have had to park close to the road in a big open spot. Not really that bad and later I wished I had stayed there. It was still fairly early so I went to the second place which was BLM. Right as I pulled off the highway, there were quite a few older rigs gathered that appeared to be there permanently which always raises a flag for me. I drove on past those (on another very rough road) and found a spot well away from those other rigs but I could see them in the distance. I had already decided I wasn’t going to unhitch or put anything outside. I kept an eye out when a vehicle went by or (rarely) if I heard voices. It began to dawn on me that I hadn’t yet seen another female. It was getting later so I decided to go ahead and stay the night which probably was not the best choice. At one point, I had a long, long look from a very, very large, shirtless, male human from that group of campers in the distance. I locked up and kept my “convincers” very handy. It’s a shame because there was a nice view from there and I did get treated to a particularly beautiful sunset (photo doesn’t do it justice). I think I’m lucky nothing happened, however, and I left first thing in the morning. I should have listened to the “little voice” and driven the several miles back to that previous spot (I had seen one woman camped there).

I will say, “Don’t do what I did. If you’re by yourself especially, and you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable, leave!” I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that but didn’t take heed on this occasion. Not wise.

Lake Havasu City Furnace

After receiving a recommendation from another shop for a transmission mechanic, I decided to go to (hot) Lake Havasu City to have the work done on my Honda that had not happened in Clovis. When I arrived, I decided to drop my trailer at the Craggy Wash (which had few campers) and go on in to the mechanic to see if parts needed to be ordered (I had previously called them). It turned out they were able to do the work that same day. They gave me a ride to the gym where I had already planned to go and then I walked to the nearby library until the work was completed. The gentlemen who did the work were very nice and even stayed late to get it done. I was not as impressed with the boss, who I think overcharged me. He was the typical condescending-toward-women type. Anyway, the work got done (transmission cooler installation & malfunctioning sensor cleaning). After more errands, I eventually returned to my rig which was unbearably hot. In fact, it was still 90 degrees inside at 10:30pm. Although I was waiting on some Amazon packages to arrive, it was not a difficult decision to leave the next morning for nearby higher ground and cooler temps.
These particular photos are from the road. Too hot in Lk Havasu for photography.

Dust Devil – They pack a punch. More on this later.
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