Arches, Tent Rocks, Cliff Dwellings and Fun with Friends

As we drove away from the Grand Tetons, we were excited to be heading toward Colorado Springs.  Until we weren’t.  Weren’t heading toward Colorado Springs, that is.  All roads in would have taken us through icy,  snowy conditions (no thanks!) or over winding, steep roads–a little too much adventure for our tastes.  So we drove south into Utah and were treated to some wonderful scenery along the way.

We saw beautiful fall colors in the mist as we headed south staying just ahead of the weather.

We camped in Devil’s Canyon near Monticello, UT and really enjoyed the quiet in this lovely little state campground.

“I am waiting for Vizzini!” – Inigo

After four months we could finally unload Vizzini and take him out for a ride!

Devil’s Canyon near Monticello, UT. The campground here is lovely, inexpensive, and perfect for big rigs.

Our stay here was short as Roger had to get to Albuquerque, NM for work and we had to find a place to stay near the ABQ airport.  The Balloon Fiesta was going on and it seemed every place between ABQ and Santa Fe was packed!  Being ever so flexible, we decided if we couldn’t beat ‘em we would join ‘em.  I made a few calls to friends and with their help, we discovered the Escapees Boomers still had some spaces available. We ended up in a site just steps from the rig belonging to our dear friends, Mark and Judith.

“…I took them with me, in case we ever bumped into each other.   I guess we just did.” – Fezzik

That week Roger worked while I played—I am so spoiled!

The field next to Fezzik was filled with balloons every morning! On the far left you can just see the back of our rig.


This balloon came so close to us while landing that when Roger stepped out to find out what the noise was, the pilot yelled to him, “Look out for our rope!”
Balloons glowing in the evening.
The goathead stickers were vicious and plentiful so the pups had to wear shoes. Pepper hates wearing shoes so much that she never puts all four paws on the ground at the same time.
Cally was much more dignified and stoic about the whole shoe issue.







I met up with my friends on Rod Baca’s Farmers Insurance Balloon crew from last year and offered to crew for them again; but our schedules just didn’t mesh so I ended up volunteering for Michael Loy’s High Kitty.

This balloon is HUGE! I was too busy crewing to get any live pictures so the promotional card will have to suffice.

After the Balloon Fiesta, Roger and I stayed near Albuquerque while Mark and Judith headed for the Phoenix area for doctor appointments.  We went out  to Tent Rocks and hiked through a slot canyon and out to the viewpoints, it was a great day!

Very cool slot canyon on the trail out to the tent rock formations.
Weird. Weird and wonderful.






Did I mention these are weird?


I saw a guy with a fancy camera taking this shot so I waited until he left and I got artsy too.

The last thing Roger did before we left ABQ was install a new toilet.  And not just any toilet, a C-Head composting toilet!  And my brilliant Westley–I mean Roger–plumbed the urine collector into the black tank!  I know, I am way too excited about this subject but dumping and rinsing the poo tank, worrying about what brand of TP will break down quickly enough, wasting perfectly good (and limited) drinking water by flushing it, the stinky “burping” of the standard RV toilet, the potential of a “poo pyramid” and toilet overflow are now all things of the past.  OK, we still have to dump the black tank but #1) it’s all liquid so it’s easy-pee-sy (all puns intended) and #2) (sorry, all out of poo puns) we don’t have to dump nearly as often; a full black tank is never the reason we have to go find a dump station.  I can tell that you are just fascinated by this topic so you can read more about our new throne (Prince Humperdinck) on the Dread Pirate Roberts’ Favorite Booty page.

The rest of the autumn was spent with Mark and Judith in Colorado and Utah.  While Roger was away at work, the three of us did chores, visited parks and monuments and played Dominion.  Lots of Dominion. 

Seriously, a decadent amount of Dominion!




First stop: Mesa Verde National Park!

One of many cliff dwellings here that were inhabited between about 1190 AD to 1280 AD.

If you haven’t been to Mesa Verde to see the cliff dwellings of the ancestral Puebloans, put it on your list.  It provided us several days of enthralling exploration.


Very scary 32 foot ladder climb to get to the cliff dwelling. The ancient Puebloans did it with foot/hand holds! Maybe they didnt really move further west, maybe they just all eventually fell off. Hmmm.

We took a tour of one of the dwellings.  We had to climb a 32 foot ladder on the side of the cliff to get to it.  Um, what was I thinking?  I’m a bit afraid of heights.



Our tour group admiring the inside of the dwelling. Hey, tall guy, please step away from the edge! Notice I am safely tucked in back taking pics?

Once the panicky feeling was over and we were in the dwelling, it was incredible!!

Ready? Climb!




Another day we hiked around Mesa Verde.  This hike was supposed to be 4 miles and I think it turned out to be 6, but it felt like 60 miles and mostly uphill on the edge of the cliff! Yes, I bring some wine whine on my hikes.

More climbing.






When we werent climbing, we were squeezing through tight spaces…
…or climbing around inside rock openings.





This is what is left of an ancient kiva. Kivas were dug into the ground and used for ceremonies. Their use continues today by modern Puebloans.



In addition to some great hiking, there were lots of ruins to explore.





Inside the Visitor Center are miniature dioramas with woven baskets so small they would fit on the end of your pinkie finger! The talent and creativity that went into making these miniatures is amazing. I loved these things!

The detail on these tiny dioramas are incredible! Here a wild turkey perched on a low wall scratches its head.

Next stop:  Moab, UT to see Canyonlands and Arches National Parks.

This was our second visit to the Willow Springs Rd area in Moab where we boondocked for a couple of weeks.  Close to Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, tons of off-roading adventures, and easy driving distance to town.  Perfect!

Rock Formations “Monitor” and “Merrimack” named after the two ironclad warships who battled during the Civil War in the Battle of Hampton Roads.
I just love Arches National Park! You can drive to some of the arches, hike to others and every single one is just jaw-dropping!


So many arches!
We hiked up to the base of this arch and noticed a jet contrail that bisected its window.







Judith looking adorable near Landscape Arch. OK Mark, you look adorable too.
By far our favorite arch was “Delicate Arch.” It was a beautiful hike to get there and it was breathtaking to see.




Taking a break near an arch in Canyonlands NP.
We found several wonderful hikes in Canyonlands National Park, each with astounding views.
We only visited one area of Canyonlands, “Island in the Sky.” We also visited nearby Dead Horse Point State Park. I don’t remember in which park this was taken, but it’s one of my favorites so I’m including it.
I always wondered if slick rock is really slick. It isn’t. See?  I’m not slipping.  Horses in steel shoes would slip, however so the cowboys gave it this name.


Another type of rock prevalent in the area is this highly layered, flaky rock. I don’t know the geologic term but I call it “biscuit rock.”

In November we said goodbye to Mark and Judith and stayed a few days in Southern California to spend Thanksgiving with my son, his girlfriend, and his boys.


Dinner was perfect and we had so much fun cooking together and visiting.  Devon even joined us for a game of Dominion. Yes, we are sowing the seeds of addiction for the next generation!

Did Trevor really do all those dishes?



I didn’t even have to do the dishes, what a treat that was!



On the I-10 freeway heading back to AZ, this happened!  A couple of the sensor batteries had died on our TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) and shame on us, we hadn’t yet replaced them.  Fortunately, a kind man pulled up alongside us and let us know we had a problem.  The explosive blowout meant we spent a very scary evening changing a trailer tire in the dark—unluckily it was on the driver’s side so poor Roger had to be brave while cars and semi trucks zoomed by on the freeway.  Since selling everything and hitting the road there have only been two times that I cried and wondered what the hell we were doing living this way…this was one of them.  But 7 brand new steel belted Goodyear G614’s, 12 new TPMS sensor batteries later and I am once again feeling happy and safe and loving life.