Thursday, February 23, 2017

Blog Finale - Recapping our 2016-2017 RV Trip

Another fabulous trip has ended. Here's a quick recap of where we went with a summary of costs and distances at the end.
Schwabacher pond
We started in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Less visited (but still very busy) than its neighbour to the north, Yellowstone National Park, the Tetons offer a beautiful landscape with stunning hikes and drives.
Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho was our next stop. It's a very small park offering a scenic drive and a couple of short hikes.
Climbers on Morning Glory Spire
Also in Idaho, we visited City of Rocks National Reserve. Several climbers made the views so much more interesting and added size perspective to these towering spires.
Finally, we reached the Oregon Coast, this year's "destination". We spent about two weeks travelling southward, staying mostly in state parks. This shot near Cape Meares represents the area around Tillamook (famous for its fabulous cheese and ice cream).
The surf at Cape Kiwanda was spectacular. We spent hours watching the waves smash against the rocks and each other.
The Devil's Churn at Cape Perpetua (I just love that name) was a raging torrent of water rushing up and down this narrow channel. The water was foam by the time it reached the cave at the end of the channel. The power of these waves is unbelievable.
Near Florence, the Heceta Lighthouse sits high above the ocean at the northern end of a lovely, sheltered cove.
A wall of marine life - Sea Stars, Green Anemonies and who knows what else. We viewed these on the rocks along the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor on the way to Brookings at the south end of our coastal drive.
Heading back inland from the Oregon Coast, we stop at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument; yes we like volcanoes and lava flows. Pictured here is the Obsidian Flow, highlighted by snow.
Brad is learning a technique called flint knapping at Glass Buttes in Oregon. People come to collect many different kinds of obsidian here, including the rare fire obsidian. Brad collects mahogany obsidian which is a mixture of brown and black.
We spent over three weeks in the Moab area (Moab Part 1, Moab Part 2 and Moab Part 3), hiking in Arches National Park, at Fishers Towers and other spectacular spots along the Colorado River as it traverses southern Utah. Delicate Arch, pictured here with me standing beneath it, is one of the most photographed spots in Utah.
Cliff Palace
Since we're in the southeast corner of Utah, we are really close to Mesa Verde National Park in the southwest corner of Colorado. This is our first visit to this park which protects ancient native cliff dwellings.
Another spot that's been on our bucket list for a few years is Canyon de Chelly (pron. SHAY) National Monument. These canyons are still inhabited by natives who farm the land and keep livestock.
Brad and Marilyn at Ooh Ahh Point
Since the weather is fairly warm, we stop at the Grand Canyon National Park for a few days. While we've driven through it before, we've never hiked here, so a stop on our way to Lake Havasu City for Thanksgiving is warranted.
The Boat Parade in the canal
We spent the American Thanksgiving in Lake Havasu City at the Porters' Party Place with friends. Brad helped with some chores, we cooked, ate, and drank; a lot of fun as usual with this group.
We met new friends, Jody and her miniature schnauzer BooBoo, at Valley of Fire State Park, just outside of Las Vegas between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We again camped on Lake Mead at Stewarts Point, a favourite free campsite. We also visited the Shelby Museum in Vegas, a real treat for Brad being a Mustang nut!
Christmas was spent back in Lake Havasu City at the Porters with another group of friends. We love spending time with these folks. After New Years, Brad and I headed south to Yuma to stock up on grapefruit honey, date syrup and a few other commodities we have only found here. After Yuma, we met with the Escapees group in Quartzsite during the annual rock & gem shows and the RV show.
Next off to Tucson to see Tom and Dianne's new house and to explore this really pretty area. We visited the nearby San Xavier del Bac Mission, the Titan Missile Museum, drove up Mount Lemmon, and hiked in Sabino Canyon.
As the trip nears its end, we continue east to get closer to home making our journey back to Canada as short as possible. We revisit Chiricahua National Monument and hike around these interesting rock pinnacles.
Our last scenic stop is at White Sands National Monument near Alamagordo in New Mexico. We only spend one night, then drive over the Sacramento Mountains (the town of Cloudcroft is at 8,640 feet, and the ascent from Alamagordo is over 4,000 feet within 16 miles - a good haul with the trailer) to spend a night in Carlsbad, New Mexico to visit with friends before the four-day drive home to southern Ontario. We have a great window of weather for the drive home, which is uneventful but tiring (1,800 miles in 4 days; about 30 hours). It was another fantastic trip, but it's wonderful to be home with family and friends again.

Trip dates: September 6, 2016 to February 20, 2017
Total distance driven: 12,600 miles (20,278 km) over 168 days (5.5 months)
Total amount spent on diesel (truck fuel) $ 2,665 USD of which $953 USD was spent driving to Wyoming and then home from New Mexico (fuel was still fairly cheap again this year)
Total amount spent on propane (heating and cooking) $ 268 USD which isn't bad considering it was another cool, wet season
Total amount spent on camping: $ 683 - $ 373 of that on the Oregon Coast where there is no free camping
Total trip-related expenses: $ 6,373 (includes above fuel costs but excludes groceries since we would buy food at home)
Average daily trip-related cost: $ 38 per day for the two of us ($ 19/day each)
States Visited: Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico
Number of different camping spots: 24 (Lake Havasu City twice and excluding overnights at Walmarts and Cracker Barrels)

Comparison of Daily Average Cost over all years RVing

NOTE: This is the last year that I will blog about our entire trip. I have no idea yet what destinations our next trip will include, but we are returning to a lot of places that we really love, but doing different hikes. I'm sure in the photos, things look very much the same. So I will only blog about a place if it's new or we capture something really interesting or exciting. I started this blog originally as a way to keep friends and family at home informed of where we went and what we did. I think they get it now.

Over the spring and summer, I will be adding a new tab to the blog site with some resources I use to plan our trips, and updating the "Favourite Photos" tab with this year's favourite pics. Let me just say, thanks for reading. I hope you find the information and photos helpful and interesting. Adios.

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

White Sands is one of our favourite places to visit. I don't know why, there aren't many trails here to hike. But, you can walk out onto the cool, white sand and go for miles. Kids sled down the dunes. I guess what we love about it is the spectacular photography and the location in the Tularosa Basin nestled between the Sacramento Mountains to the east and the San Andreas Mountains to the west, near the city of Alamagordo.

The sand dunes are fed by the winds blowing from the southwest across Lake Lucero which is a deposit of gypsum and selenite crystals. The dunes are a beautiful, white colour, but very alkaline and salty making conditions tough for animal and plant life.
Here the sand has engulfed a skunkbush sumac tree and solidified around it, forming these gypsum pedestals. The trees may continue to bloom yellow and white flowers, and red and orange berries in the spring.
A young yucca, with its elongated shadow and the sand ripples make a gorgeous shot.
The Soaptree Yuccas grow so tall. This one dwarfs me.
The gypsum sand re-crystalizing as selenite.

The next few days, and the last days, of this trip are supposed to be spent in Carlsbad, New Mexico visiting Carlsbad Caverns (again) and Sitting Bulls Falls (for the first time), but suddenly a really good four-day window opens up and we decide that, after spending the night in Carlsbad to visit with friends Grace and Greg (whom we first met in St. George in December 2015 and again accidentally met at Lake Mead in December 2016), we will drive straight home.

The 1,800-mile (2,900-km) drive home is gloriously uneventful, and we arrive home, safe and sound, to great weather and our greatly missed family. Another trip completed. I will post one more blog, outlining trip numbers - distances, costs, etc.

Chiricahua National Monument, AZ

Wanting to continue our trek east to get closer to home, we return to Chiricahua (pron. Cheer-ee-CAH-wah) National Monument in southeast Arizona. We were first here as RV rookies only a few months into our new RV travelling lifestyle, and experienced our most difficult boondocking "night from hell". We are now much wiser and more experienced understanding better our and the trailer's capabilities.

It turns out there are a few campsites for big rigs like ours in the national forest adjacent to the park. There is even a very large camping area up Pinery Canyon Road about 7 miles from the highway where a large gathering is currently occurring - the Valentine's Rainbow Reunion - a group of about 50 pretty well-behaved hippies. Anyway, we manage to squeeze into this gorgeous little spot, under the ponderosa pines with a creek flowing right behind the trailer. I love falling asleep to that babbling brook sound. And Grady absolutely loves his walks here. Sometimes he just finds a sunny spot under the trees, rolls over onto his back and suns his belly for 10 minutes.
We drive further up Pinery Canyon Road in the Coronado National Forest. Near the peak, there is still some ice and slush on the road even though we have hit a heat wave here and the temps are over 60F during the day. This icy falls reminds us that it's still winter, and at this elevation (over 7,000 feet) we could be experiencing snow.
photo given a "surreal" effect to enhance the features - see Brad in the back?
There are only a few hikes in the park, and we can't remember which one we did during our previous visit. So we just select the one that isn't too long, or too short. Lo and behold, it's partly the same trail we did before! This is at the Grottoes on the Echo Canyon trail, the most popular trail in the park. Last time though, this is as far as we ventured before turning back since we were constrained by time. This year we have several days to explore, so we continue and do the entire loop, about 4 miles.
Marilyn on the Echo Canyon Trail. Some of these rock pinnacles are hundreds of feet high.
Brad on the Echo Canyon Trail. These are pretty cool rock formations; basalt from ancient volcanic activity.

Tucson, Arizona

That's us below the yellow arrow.
Some of our full-time RV friends are buying houses in the southwest, becoming "part-timers" like Brad and me. Tom and Dianne are another such couple who have purchased a home in Tucson, so we just HAVE to go for a visit. And what a great time to explore the area while we're here. What was meant to be a visit for a few days becomes a two-week stay. Another reason why I love not having to reserve an RV site! Here's our (free) campsite at "Snyder Hill".
One night, Tom, Dianne and a few other friends who are staying in the area come over for a campfire.
San Xavier del Bac Mission
We tour the nearby San Xavier (pron. HA-vee-air) del Bac Mission with our friend Jody whom we met at Valley of Fire SP before Christmas. The mission was founded in 1692 by Father Kino, but the current church was completed in 1797 under the direction of the Franciscans.
The rear courtyard behind the mission, a peaceful desert garden. Restoration efforts are evident, although much painting inside the sanctuary is still required.
Titan Missile Museum
During the Cold War, 54 Titan Missiles were built and housed underground in three different states. This location just south of Tucson was one such site. Today, only this one remains (with the nuclear warhead removed of course), and only as a museum. What was most interesting was the comment that the missiles were meant to keep peace, thinking that the Soviets wouldn't launch their nuclear missiles knowing that the Americans had the ability to counterattack, thus maintaining an equilibrium in power.
Sabino Canyon
It's time to get back to doing some hiking, so we visit Sabino Canyon just on the edge of Tuscon with friends Barbara and Wayne. Here's the four of us on the trail at the end of the shuttle ride.
Barbara and I at the dam (shuttle stop #8).
Mount Lemmon
On another trip with Barbara and Wayne, this time up to the summit of Mount Lemmon. On the way up, we stop to shoot this pretty waterfalls in the canyon.
A cool rock arch on the road up the mountain.
Near the top, Brad and I in snow overlooking a valley. We are at the ski lift parking lot. Mount Lemmon is the southernmost ski resort in the US, although only one run is open today with a mere handful of skiers. Talk about spring skiing conditions!
Here you can see the road below Brad, twisting along the canyon up (or down) Mount Lemmon.
Barbara, Wayne and I posing on the rocks overlooking Tucson about 6,000 feet below us.
Brown Mountain Trail
Brad and I hike the Brown Mountain Trail only a few miles from our campsite. Here is a saguaro cactus, those icons of the Sonoran Desert landscape, gone crazy.
A barrel cactus starting to bloom. Next year, we will be in the southwest in the spring to see the cactus and wildflowers blooming. Hopefully it will be as fruitful a year as this year promises to be and last year was thanks to such wet winters.