California Dreamin’

Sometimes when I think of California I’m reminded of this part from the movie “Pumping Iron”.  It’s a documentary about bodybuidlers from back when Arnold was in his prime. One of the bodybuilders – Franco Columbu – grew up in Italy, and lived in Los Angeles  (as did many of the top bodybuilders). He explained that in Italy, people use the expression “Go to California”, a bit like people say “go to hell”, but less insulting. They considered California to be a dreamy/magic place that no one actually goes to. So he explained that when he goes back to Italy to visit, and people as him where he lives, and he tells them California, they’re not sure if he’s serious or if he’s just fucking with them.

California Dreamin'

Map of Travels

California Dreamin’

This map shows September and October (but not the trip to Toronto).  I drove down to LA from southwest Utah in one day, because it was so damn hot everywhere around here except right on the coast.

California Dreamin'
High tide in Isla Vista (West of Santa Barbara, where UCSB is)

Since then, I’ve floated around the area, spending most of my time in Santa Barbara and Encinitas. I spent a lot of time at the beach in both towns. After a few weeks in hot and dry parts of Utah, my first few swims in the ocean felt incredibly refreshing.

California Dreamin'
The beach in Santa Barbara

The van is so awesome to have at the beach. I can drive there in the morning, make coffee and stroll around on the beach drinking it, then go have breakfast, then come back to the beach for a while, then back for lunch and doing stuff on the computer, and so on.

California Dreamin'
Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. Spent a lot of days here.

 

Personal Photography Projects

So, taking pictures of the van can get pretty repetitive. Particularly when I’m editing them. Stuff like the interior van pictures can really get to feeling like I’m doing the same thing over and over again. I notice this particularly when I’m editing. I have started editing less/quicker, which helps quite a lot with that.

I’d like to challenge myself to get more creative with what/how I shoot the van pictures, but that would usually require more setting a tripod and everything for shots that include me. And I just don’t get too excited about doing that often.

California Dreamin'
A morning in Isla Vista

When I switched camera systems, I more lenses that I can use to shoot in ways I couldn’t before with my small set. Most of them are really cheap and old lenses, but they still work very well in most situations.

Once I got the new camera and old lenses, I wanted to practice shooting with them, so I went out on the beach in Santa Barbara that allows dogs.  More recently I’ve been shooting surfers. I want to start approaching these kind of things more as projects, which means sorting and culling the pictures into a complimentary group, shooting regularly until I feel I have some good stuff, and then having an end of that project. (which, of course doesn’t mean I would totally stop shooting that kind of thing). I think this will be good practice for me to get better at photography. And it’s fun.

I’ll be doing more of these kind of projects. I’d like if some of them here and there are things I can either make money from, share with the people (or owners of what) I’m shooting, or share in some other way besides just here and on Instagram.

 

 

Doggies at the beach

To test out how well I could manually focus with the brand new camera and the lenses as old as my dad,  I shot some dogs running around on the beach. It worked fairly well, but it’s pretty tricky and I deleted a LOT of pictures. These dogs running around in pretty close proximity are probably as fast as anything I’d ever shoot.

There’s a bunch more in the “Happy as a Dog at the Beach” post

 

Surfers

And the next thing I’ve been shooting is surfers. I’ll probably make a post of the surfer pics. I have a lot more shooting to do first though.




 

 

Mexico Planning

I’m planning to head into Mexico this winter. It’s mainly to get down to warmer weather, but also because I think it will be more fun and challenging than staying in California or Arizona.

I don’t know how long I’ll stay down there. If it goes really well, I’ll stay down until late spring.

Things to Learn more about first

I have a lot to sort out before crossing the border, including to  learn:

  • More Spanish. (I’m currently at about a 2-year old vocabulary level, so, almost nothing)
  • A bit about the geography to have a better idea of where I want to go
  • How to not die in Mexico (or get robbed and left naked in the desert). Learn if or how much I should be concerned about this kind of possibility
  • Learn about the laws and rules related to camping (and whether they are actually enforced)
  • Legal stuff like the visa, how best to deal with Police and Federales/military checkpoints

 

California Dreamin
Hendry’s Beach in Santa Barbara

 

Photography Projects in Mexico?

I also want to go into this leg of my travels with some ideas/plans in mind for specific photography projects. The kind of things I’ve been thinking about so far are:

  • Mexican beach happenings
  • The Life of Dropout Surfers
  • Little Mexican towns
  • Families in Mexico (if possible, with whatever interesting stories of theirs I can understand.)
  • Indigenous culture in southern Mexico (if I make it down that far)
  • The Life of Dogs in Mexico (to compare and contrast with the U.S.)
  • ?????? I don’t know ?????

I could also try some things for practice, like taking portraits for people or families for free (or in exchange for one or two of their home-cooked meals).

 

 

Happy as a dog at the beach

Happy as a dog at the beach

I’ve decided to start doing some personal photography projects, so you may see posts like this every now and then here. I’ll still do the regular travel posts as well 🙂

So far, my favorite town along the California coast has been Santa Barbara. When I came back to Southern California to get out of the heat wave in Utah, I went back to Santa Barbara. Well, actually, I thought I’d give Los Angeles another try, and I lasted about 16 hours there before heading out.

Santa Barbara has a couple nice  beaches. One of them is called Hendry’s Beach.  I’d just gotten a new camera and some new (but actually really old) lenses. I wanted to test them out – particularly to test focusing manually with the new camera and lesnes. I found good subject matter for this on the beach and decided to make a little personal photo project out of it.

On part of Hendry’s Beach, dogs are allowed off-leash. It’s essentially a dog park and beach combined. The dogs love it here. They run around, splash and play in the water, socialize, and play lots and lots of fetch.

I shot a whole bunch of photos of the dogs out there, over about 7 different days. My daily routine looked something like this:

  • 7am – wake up. Drive over to the beach (about 1 mile from the area I’d sleep in)
  • 8am – have breakfast
  • 9am – make coffee (Lattes made with real Espresso!)
  • 10am – meander out to the beach. Take pictures of some of the dogs there. Alternate the photo shooting with sitting around on the beach, a times practicing Spanish words that I’m learning and have written in a notebook that I bring along.
  • 11am – back to hang out in the van
  • Rest of the day – repeat cycles of walking around on the beach, taking dog pictures, sitting down on the beach and practicing Spanish, going back to the van to eat, sort the pictures, etc.

 

The pictures:

Happy as a dog at the beach

Happy as a dog at the beach

Happy as a dog at the beach

Happy as a dog at the beach

Happy as a dog at the beach

Happy as a dog at the beach

Yes, that is a WOLF. I initially thought it was a coyote, but it’s a puppy wolf.

It’s a pet, or… is sort of. A guy brought it to the beach most days and one day I talked to him about the wolf. It’s just a puppy and has another 100lbs to grow. The guy said that he’s taking it to a sanctuary in Hawaii and is waiting for the quarantine period to end before flying it out. I asked how he came to have the dog, and he said he breeds them. I don’t understand why he’d breed a dog and then take it to a sanctuary, but I didn’t want to keep asking a lot more questions.

The wolf was nice to all the other dogs, and was very submissive. When some people tried to pet it, it was shy and backed away. It had no interest in fetching. It just ran around the beach, went in the water, and socialized with dogs.

 

Stumbling Into Greatness (August Travels Part 2 – Utah)

I spent the second half of August meandering around central Utah, and found myself luckily stumbling into greatness on and near the San Rafael Swell.

Map of Travels

Stumbling Into Greatness

Stumbling Into Greatness

I was traveling west along I-70, just minding my own business, intending to go over to a National Forest further down the road. I saw an area to the north of the interstate that looked interesting. There was a nice plain of grass, and off in the distance, some striking canyon walls lit up in glorious warm oranges and reds.

A great thing about Utah is that almost all of the state is federal land. And you can go almost everywhere. When you see a place that looks good, you can go explore it without having to wonder if you’re allowed to.

Stumbling Into Greatness

I took the next exit and pointed Ranger towards that cool-looking area. I thought I’d go in a few miles and camp for a few days. But, “ahead” just kept looking better and better, so I kept going.

First spot – on the Bluff

Eventually I got up on a bluff, and saw a fun-looking seldom-used side road. There seemed to be a good chance of it going over to the edge of the hill, and having the kind of nice views I like, so I headed down it.

After a few miles, I came to the first established campsite. It was indeed at the edge, with a nice view, but it was occupied. Very occupied. There was an old trailer – beat up, but kept up – and still obviously in use. The resident had, probably over years, build a bunch of very nice rock benches around a fire pit. And there was something going on with cowboy boots, but I can’t remember exactly what. I couldn’t tell if anyone was home. It looked like the kind of camper that is left here year-round.  I headed on down the road to look for my own spot.

A couple miles later, with not a single established spot on the way, I got to the end of the road, and at the last possible place, there was one.  It was out at the narrow tip of the bluff. I parked by one edge and had a good view, but when I wanted a different view, I’d walk the 50 yards over to the opposite edge.

Stumbling Into Greatness

Stumbling Into Greatness

This campsite contained an uncommon improvement – a clock. Someone had built a 15 foot diameter sun dial. And it was accurate. It was off by an hour. Who knows when it was last adjusted for whatever the daylight savings status was at the time. But it needed it now,  so I moved the labeled rocks around by one spot each, and had myself a nice clock

It seems good practice to make a big sun dial, but ironic to build one so far from any place a person needs to know the exact time.

Stumbling Into Greatness

Off a bit in another direction was a curious arrangement of rocks. It made me wonder if there is a body buried underneath. Not like a murder victim that a person needed to get rid of,  but an intentional, planned burial. It probably wasn’t, but who knows. It’d be a pretty good place to be buried. No pictures of that one.

Stumbling Into Greatness

I didn’t see a single sign of another person for the three days I camped here.  No people, no cars. Well – the one thing I could see was some kind of tower that I could spot with binoculars, maybe 50 miles away. There was a road on the other side of the river, but never any traffic. Days later, I tried riding my bike down that road and found out why – it’s really sandy.

I had no internet up here, and I was pretty productive. I think I did a lot of photo editing.

 

Stumbling Into Greatness

 

 

 

 

I drove back out to the road and went on an exploratory bike ride continuing further in the direction I was heading to get out here. It crossed the river a few miles later, and traveled through a wonderful canyon (not the one that contains the river). I passed many places to camp along the road in the canyon. So, I headed down there with the van.

 

In the canyon:

Heading off:

There are a bunch of nice campsites. I stayed in a couple and made my way through the canyon over 4 days.

The river. Indians lived in this area, either over a long period of time, or at a couple different times long apart. They made a LONG panel of rock art on a wall a few miles from this river. If I recall correctly, some of the art is from about two thousand years ago, and some of it is from about one thousand years ago.

The van looks like a tiny little speck out near the center of this picture

I finally actually tried turning my passenger seat around. I’d decided long ago that it wouldn’t work because the bolt pattern is not square. But one day out here I decided to turn it around anyway and see.

It works. Sort of. I have two of the four bolts in. It’s not totally secure. I had to remove the armrest in order to close the door – and that was a good deal of work. Those arm rests are NOT meant to be removed. Many of the bolts were welded in place after assembly. So I had to take out a lot. Even without the armrest, the seatback is in the way of operating the window crank, and rolling the window up or down requires opening the door first.

But, hey, see how cool I look?

I went on a couple bike ride through this canyon – it’s 8 miles like this – all beautiful sandstone walls and glorious green plants. The indian rock-art panel is a third of the way through. How about that – a museum stop on a bike ride out in the middle of nowhere! I didn’t take a picture of the rock art. There are some decent ones here.

This canyon is a perfect place for a bike ride. The road is smooth. The views are spectacular. I had one of the best rides of my life here.

 

 

 

While I was down in here, I recognized a van as it rambled by. It was someone I follow on Instagram. So, while on a bike ride, I saw where they were parked and stopped for a chat. I asked about nearby place – the “little grand canyon” and they confirmed it’s a good place to camp.

I was about out of food and water, so I headed into the nearby small town about 20 miles away, and then went up to the canyon edge.

 

Little Grand Canyon

And – it was another home run. I’m on a roll!

Stumbling Into Greatness

I like this better than the, uh, big Grand Canyon. You can camp right on the edge. And you can see the river. And there aren’t a bunch of loud people.

Stumbling Into Greatness

 

Stumbling Into Greatness

There’s good hiking along the edge of the canyon. It appeared pretty easy to walk down to the river, but I didn’t do so.

Stumbling Into Greatness

 

Stumbling Into Greatness

There was a strong Verizon signal up here. I even watched that one big boxing match. Live!

Stumbling Into Greatness

 

 

 

Here’s some of the Utah disappearing rain. It evaporates before it touches the ground. Seems to happen a LOT out here.

 

 

 

These camp plates are nice. I got them from Kelly Kettle. I like them because they function well as either plates or bowls. So, when I got them, I gave away my plates and bowls and just kept these. The plates are a little bit thin compared to other stainless steel plates/bowls I’ve used. They aren’t flimsy, but they aren’t the most sturdy either. That keeps them light for hiking and stuff I guess.

If you want to buy something from Kelly Kettle  you can get 15% off of anything they sell by using this coupon code I got for you: wild15. Awwww yeah.

They sent me one of their water filters – and I tested it out in Colorado. It works well, and was super handy up where there are lots of streams.

The timing of getting this filter from Sagan was nice. While in Utah, I was planning a trip deep into Escalante, including a 2+ day hike down into a river canyon that has some awesome natural bridges. I was talking to a guy at the info station in town, and I asked him how much water would be in the river. I was asking this to help me decide what type of footwear to bring. He responded “oh yeah, there will be some water in the river, so bring along your water filter and use it there”

I nodded as if that’s why I was asking, and made a mental note that I should probably get one. Then a couple weeks later, someone from Sagan emailed me asking if I wanted one of theirs. Niiice.

I like this thing. It’s small and easy to carry. The tube makes it comfortable to use – a lot more comfortable than some of the other survival water filters where you have to get your face right down by the water. It doesn’t take much  sucking to draw water through the filter and straw, so it’s really easy to use.

It filters out all kinds of nasty stuff – including arsenic, which some of the natural water sources in Utah contain (and if you drink from them without filtering it out, you’ll be in big trouble). As far as I can tell, this filter will make basically any source of water safe to drink.  It’ll be good knowing I have it in the van so that in a some case of dire emergency where I run entirely out of water, I’d have this to make it safe to drink whatever water I can find.  Plus I’ll take it along on some hikes along water sources instead of carrying a ton of water.

 

Ok – back to Utah

It was hot. It had been hot down in the canyon.  And it was still hot up on the canyon edge. So I searched for higher ground nearby, and found some 50 miles to the west.

Off I went.

And… it was another great place!

This was on the way up – going through the trees – it was getting nice and cool.

On my way up. Going through the trees. Getting nice and cool

And – starting to get up above the trees:

I messed up while moving files around and deleted most of the pictures I took up in this place, so you’ll just have to believe me that it is really nice up there.

I was up above 11,000 feet, and it was cool and crisp. Really hot weather can be draining in the van. Other than relocating, there’s no escaping it. The cool air up here felt super refreshing. Ohhhhhh man it felt good.

And, I had company. Sheep. And a sheep dog!

This dog had a vicious sounding bark from a distance, but then when he came up to me, he was more like “HAAAAYYYYY! What’s up buddy!?”

Sheep can sound odd in the distance. A big pack of them produce a lot of bleating, and it’s in a tone that can sound like people talking loudly.

They were fun to watch. It’s immediately obvious that they are very social animals. They talk to eachother a lot, The little kids call out to another and then run over to them. Groups of of family or friends hang out together. They share some similar body language with us humans.

I hung out up here with the sheep and the wind for 3 or 4 days. Then, I had a couple packages waiting for me to the south. I’d had them mailed to Springdale, the little down at the entrance to Zion, thinking I’d be down there around this time.

SOOOOO HOT

I drove straight down to Springdale in one day. And I got the packages. I’d made a huge mistake with one of the shipping addresses, sending a package to SpringVILLE Utah instead of SpringDALE. I had actually been up pretty close to Springville without knowing the package was there, and drove 200 miles south to Springville. The post office had it transferred along for me (which is something I think some/most post offices wouldn’t be willing to do), and it was there for me in Springdale the next morning.

And, it was HOT down there. SO HOT.  I searched around for higher altitude. There are some decent hills north of St George, so I was thinking about going there. But, there was a good deal of smoke rolling into the area. I checked and saw that there was a fire up north – actually also near where I had been. And a lot of smoke was making it down this way.

I didn’t want to sit down in the heat. And I didn’t want to go up higher and still have a bunch of smoke.

The next option was to carry on in my general direction – southwest. For this to work, I’d need to go all the way to the coast, because it’d be even hotter everywhere between Zion and L.A.

So, I pointed ranger southwest. And that was the end of August.

 

A question

If I made it so people could order prints of any picture on this website, do you think anybody would buy one? I’ve been doing a side project out here in California that I’d like to sell prints to people of. So I’m considering ways to do this, and one of them would be to do it through a different part of this website, but I could use the print-selling capability for the whole site. This blog doesn’t get a lot of traffic (and it’s hard to tell how much is real people vs. bots), so I’m doubting I’d sell any or many. (Other than maybe for the specific type of projects I’m doing, which would be totally different and separate from blog posts like this)

 

 

 

 

 

 

August Adventures – Part 1 – Colorado

Colorado

For the first three weeks of August, I moved southwest through Colorado from Denver. I’d done a ton the previous month Utah – lots and lots of hiking, exploring, landscape photography, and waking up at night to shoot stars. Then the family trip I went on in July that included a TON of driving also kind of wore me out. All this adventuring and traveling can wear a guy out :-D. I was ready to take it easy. So I didn’t do a lot of photography or hiking in Colorado.

 

Map of travels:

 

Frisco:

One of my friends got arrested many years ago in Frisco. He said the jail had a window with a nice mountain view.

Leadville Library

whoaaaa baby. Fancy.

Camping near Independence Pass (On the way from Leadville to Aspen)

This was the first place I stopped to camp in Colorado outside of cities. It was so rich and fertile – with plants, water, and animals all over. Lots of trees, grass, flowers, strawberries,  deer, marmots, birds,  and streams in every canyon. Once the snow melts away up here, this land provides an incredible surge of life.

It was also pretty cold up here! I’d put on more clothes or take off clothes every hour or two.

I found a beautiful place to camp. Just spectacular.

This place filled me back up – with energy, wonder, creativity, and new ideas.

 

Spot near Ouray

Ouray is a cool town. It is touristy, but it’s good. There are really steep rocky mountains shooting up on three sides of the city. I guess there’s some hot spring pool on one end of town that I didn’t check out. The downtown strip is nice. There’s a bookstore there with a very good selection of  books on outdoors subjects.

There’s also a road just outside Ouray with places to camp within walking distance of town. I found myself one and set up there for a week. It was great being able to stroll into town when I felt like it. That gets me the best of both worlds – I can stay put camping somewhere and not have to move the van, I can go for hikes from there, but I can also go into town to get food, get rid of trash, and go to the library if I want to use my computer on a very cloudy day.

I’d been looking for some books on foraging edible wild food. They can be hard to find in bookstores, but a store in Ouray has many, so I bought a couple. Now I need to forage $60 worth of food just to break even on the 3 books I’ve bought.

There were a lot of plants with berries out where I was camping. Here’s the first plant I identified: Serviceberries. They’re tasty.

 

At age 35, I’ve started drinking Coffee

There was really no need to. I’d been perfectly happy without it all my life. I always like how it smells but don’t like any of the bitterness that a lot of coffee has.

Sometimes in coffee shops I’d get tired of drinking tea, because the tea they have is often crappy, or they don’t know how to make it right, and coffee smells so damn good. So I started trying lattes. And man, they can be nice. Of course, if you know me, you know that if I’ve started drinking coffee, I’m certainly going to start making it myself.

 

So, here is one of my earliest attempts at making a latte. I’ve started out using an Aeropress, some old (Expired!) Starbucks coffee that I ground at the at a tiny grocery store in Ouray,  and frothing milk by shaking it in a jar.

Over the next few months I’ll be trying out some different equipment, and seeing if I can make real and good espresso myself in my van in the middle of nowhere. I’ll let you know how it goes. I know a lot of you will need to have your precious coffee while traveling 😃. (as I write this, on 9/8/17, I’ve gotten a nice grinder, a manual espresso maker, and a stovetop milk steamer. I’m halfway through my first bag of coffee using these, and I can make a latte significantly better than Starbucks. I still have a lot of testing and learning to do.)

If you know of really good coffee roasters in the southwest corner of the U.S. (CA, AZ, UT, NV), please tell me about them.

 

Another Campsite:

I hung out in Durango for about a week. It’s a nice town. Then I camped a bit to the west off of highway 161, but didn’t find a great spot:

Patreon Account:

When I was visiting and talking with my family in July, some of them urged me to start up a Patreon account and see how interested people were. For those not familiar, Patreon is a platform where folks who enjoy the creative output of people can give them a few bucks per month or per podcast or whatever, and sometimes the creator gives those supporters access to extra material.

So, I’m trying it out. You can see my Patreon profile here. I’ve enjoyed sharing my travels and photography here and on Instagram, and I will continue doing so just the same.  On Patreon, I will be sharing more:

A map of all the places I’ve camped:

  • It shows every place I’ve camped, outside of cities. These are nearly all completely free places to dispersed camp. They are spots where you’ll have spectacular views and likely have your own space, away from other campers.
  • I update this each month with the new places I’ve camped. I’ll be exploring more parts of the western U.S and filling in more areas with awesome places to camp.
  • For each campsite, I share these details:
    • A subjective rating of how good it is (x/5)
    • A picture of the campsite or area
    • The type of land this site is on (BLM, National Forest, etc.)
    • Notes and details describing the site and the area
    • Whether it has a Verizon cellular signal
    • The altitude
    • Road conditions on the way to the campsite
    • If I’ve made a blog post containing pictures or details of this site or area, a link to it.
  • There are currently over 50 campsites documented on the map (as of August 2017). Most of them are in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. Here’s what it looks like:

How-to articles for living and traveling in a vehicle or camper:

  • These are thorough and detailed articles showing you how to start traveling, and how to live very well on the road.
  • Most posts are over 3,000 words and have many pictures.
  • Here is a link to a free post, so you can see what they are like:
  • I expect to publish one new How-To Post each month
  • These are the posts I’ve published so far:
  • List of future How-To posts:
    • Using My Maps and Google Maps to save locations
    • Logistics of Full Time Travel – Getting Mail and Packages
    • Logistics of Full Time Travel – Residency
    • Exercising anywhere, without a gym
    • How to live well and have fun while spending little money
    • Vehicle Type choice for living and/or traveling in
    • How to deal with the police
    • Cooking and eating healthy and tasty food in a van
    • How to drive – for better fuel mileage and longer life
    • Finding WIFI in cities
    • Making Money while Traveling
    • Avoiding Trouble in Cities
    • Key Lessons for van interior building
    • How To Be Well-Prepared when Going Camping
    • How Not to Die While Camping
    • (and I’m open to requests and suggestions)

 

I’ve posted about it a couple times on Instagram and have a few patrons so far. If you’d like access to these extras, or if you’d just like to throw a couple bucks my way per month because you like what I share, here’s where to do it.

Moving on – into Utah:

I never got excited about the eclipse to make sure I was in the right part of the country for it. The moon blocks the sun for a bit and it gets sort of dark. Ok. That seems a lot less spectacular to me than a nice sunset or seeing a lot of stars. The eve of the eclipse, I did look at the coverage map compared to the direction I’d be traveling, anyways, and decided to move on earlier than I would have in order to get a bit more north where there would be a little more coverage. So I went up to Moab the day of. I think there was about 85% coverage there, which, it turns out, is quite underwhelming.

 

 

Zion Canyon: My Favorite Place in the World

Zion Canyon My favorite place in the world

Earlier this summer, I spent some time in Zion National Park, and part of it, Zion Canyon,  became my favorite place in the world.

I’d seen pictures and heard about it and I went in with high expectations. Upon arrival, I drove through the park from east to west. The main part of the park – which has Zion Canyon – is in the southwest corner. The drive was magic. Just freaking incredible. It was one spectacular view after another, without the slightest break other than while driving through the two tunnels in the park.

I spent the next week exploring Zion Canyon – hiking, bicycling, taking pictures, and walking in the river.  It’s like an eden. The open part of the canyon is about 10 miles long and up to maybe a mile wide. At the north end it closes in with the river running between two steep sandstone walls. The canyon is rich with trees and various types of plants, and they are spaced out perfectly to allow walking everywhere you want.

I took many pictures here. I hope they do justice in giving you an idea how beautiful this place is.

 

SEEN FROM UP HIGH

When I imagine an ideal landscape, what I see is essentially the Zion canyon. It’s one of the small number of places I’ve been dreaming about seeing. So – rather than hurry through a corner of Utah, I came over here.

Today I hiked up to angel’s landing. I find it a bit funny how the Mormon folks gave Zion all these super religious names. But once I’ve seen it, I really can’t fault them.

I’ve heard how busy Zion gets in the summer. I expected hordes of people marching terribly slowly up the hike. But it wasn’t so bad.

 

 

 

Once at the top of Angel’s Landing,  I walked further, down to the very edge of the cliff overlooking the canyon. I found this ledge. No one else came down for the 4 hours I spent on it.  I watched as the sun moved through the sky and it’s light changed the color and appearance of the sandstone walls. I watched clouds floating through the area that darkened or illuminated parts of the canyon floor. I read a book. I took a nap. I took these pictures. And I felt wonderful.

I’ve been traveling the U.S. for a year now. This view amazed me more than any other. It was the first place where I cried from joy.

 

 

 

IN THE CANYON

Zion is the kind of place where if you come and spend a day walking around the canyon and taking in the views, the sounds, and feel the river flowing by your legs – you will leave this canyon feeling like you’re winning at life. It helps you realize the insignificance of whatever problems you’re having in your life.

 

 

 

 

Zion Canyon: ten miles of natural magnificence.

It’s my favorite place on Earth

Just a few hours here, and my life feels perfect.

18

“How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains! To behold this alone is worth the pains of any excursion” – John Muir.

I don’t know if he was talking about any specific mountains, but it definitely could’ve been these in Zion canyon.

The canyon is fairly narrow, with high walls, so the whole thing is only illuminated at once for a few hours each day. Outside of those hours, the sunlight is always changing. And when it shines straight on the sides of these sandstone mountains, they look glorious

 

 

This swarm of people in the picture below are in the Virgin river at the north end of the canyon. During the busier times of year, the river is like this every day – with about a thousand pairs of feet carefully walking along the slick and hard rocks under the water. You have to walk carefully on these rocks and the crowd kind of look like zombies because of it.

Don’t let this dissuade you from going to Zion. Most of the park has WAY fewer people. Only the few most popular spots are like this. But the whole canyon is just about as nice as the most popular spots.

And even in this river, with all these people, it’s still entirely worth going. There have been some other scenic places – Horseshoe Bend is one example – where there are tons of  people, and where they can get distracting and annoying to the point where I don’t enjoy the view more than anywhere else. But I never felt that way about Zion. It’s so damn good that it doesn’t even matter that some parts are crowded

 

DRIVING THROUGH

Driving (and riding my bike) through the park totally blew me away. I drove through at the perfect time of day. As I drove, the evening sun danced back and forth behind high cliff walls. Many other areas have beautiful spots that are spaced out. The entire road through Zion is incredible. The only sections of road that aren’t amazing are while you’re inside the two tunnels in the park.

 

 

 

 

 

….END

July Travels – Side Trip to the East

Side Trip to the East Tennessee North Carolina

Last we left off, I was just getting into Colorado a the end of June. I went to Grand Junction and was trying to get my bearings on where I should go in Colorado. I got some maps, and a book, and was about to start looking and planning.  I called my dad for input. He’s been around a lot of parts of Colorado. He gave me some input on where to go and then said “you should just come out to Denver and come along with me to Tennessee. I’m leaving in a week.” So, how about a little side trip to the east?

Why Go? 

I’ve been to a lot of parts of the U.S., but I haven’t spent much time in the southeast. I’ve seen how cheap houses can be in the there – like $80k for a decent-looking house that’s too big for me – and I’d been wanting to see if I thought I might like to live there some day.

As I was building my van, I assumed I’d venture out through the southeast. But I’ve gotten to enjoy moving slowly, and the idea of driving my van all the way out there hasn’t seemed too exciting. But now I had a free ride. My dad was going out there to spend time in the northeast part of Tennessee to check if he’d like to move there. My brother and his girlfriend were already out just a few hours from there, near the middle of North Carolina, looking for a house to buy. My Brother in law and nephew would be coming out as well. My Aunt might be coming out. Plus, on the way back, my BIL would be stopping for a few days at my Mom and Step Dad’s house. I’d also of course, see my sister who lives in Denver. So… just for driving to Denver, I could tag along out to the east, and I could see ALL of my immediate family in one trip. This was a no brainer. So I left the van at my Dad’s house in Denver and tagged along.

Map of travels

 

What Northeast Tennessee Seems Like

  • Lots of serious Christians (I learned that it’s a thing in the southwest to put a Jesus sign in your yard. They are like the signs people put for politicians, but they say “Jesus” or “Thank you Jesus”.  In my 35 years of life, I don’t recall ever seeing a sign like that. These kinds of little oddities fascinate me)
  • Decent place. Most people take pretty good care of their homes and stuff
  • Lots of young Christian single mothers
  • Lots of people without a lot of money
  • Really nice place to go for bike rides
  • Quite a lot of nice waterfalls

 

What Northwest N.C. Seems Like

  • Patchwork of some areas with very serious Christians, and some areas with young/hipster/earthy people (like Asheville), and of course, lots of normal seeming places.
  • Homes and stuff area little bit nicer than northeast TN
  • Very humid down at low elevation in the middle of the state.
  • Also seems like a nice place to bicycle and also has nice waterfalls
  • People told me there are some areas northwest of Asheville that have small home communities, very outdoorsy people, maybe some communes or something, and generally a lot of people that would probably like me.

 

 

Family Stories

Ice Cream!

My nephew really seems to like ice cream. One day, in Asheville, we stopped at a little store and his dad bought him some ice cream. Then as we were walking, we passed an ice cream store and saw a picture of the ice cream they serve – which looked like a large serving. My nephew got disappointed that he’d gotten the small ice cream when there was this bigger better ice cream nearby. He was really pissed off about it for a moment. His Dad and I got a good laugh out of the worst thing happening in this kid’s entire day being that the ice cream he did have wasn’t quite as large as is served somewhere else. After this, we had a sort of “what is your worst first-world problem today?” game with the nephew each day.

We also started a practice of buying ice cream on each day that the temperature outside went over 90 degrees. We had ice cream every day for the rest of the trip.

Nephew and brother in law. The nephew had summer homework books to do. I taught him how to count in sevens to help with his math (and to count in other numbers, forwards and backwards). It took a lot of practice and I’m pretty sure he hated me at the end of it   😀

I’m not an animal!

After my Dad and I initially arrived at the place he rented in Tennessee, I was heading out to the grocery store. My Dad asked what I was going to get. I said “ahhhhh, some vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, some fruit, a chicken, …” he interrupted me saying “I’m not an animal! I don’t want all this vegetable crap. I want some real food! Hamburger, chips, buns, eggs, and bacon.”. I got a big kick out of this because my Dad has a nice garden and really enjoys eating the vegetables from it.

I’m writing this about three weeks after the fact and now I’ve forgotten the other funny family stories.

 

We went on a couple hikes. It rained like CRAZY on one of them. I mean full on serious  rain forrest torrential downpour kind of rain. Some other hiker fell and broke a rib and had to be rescued from the trail.

My nephew is quite good at finding and even sometimes recognizing plants. He found some edible plants when we went to the botanical garden, and a lot of mushrooms on one hike. His dad teaches him this stuff.

Big views like this are hard to come by up in the Appalachians. There are so many trees that you can rarely see far away.

 

While visiting my Mom and Stepdad, we went fishing one day. As you can clearly see, we are serious champion-level fishermen.

We did all catch at least one fish each, and they were all about this size. I took this picture below in a way to make the fish appear as big as possible, but I think you can still tell it’s not so big. We let them all back in the pond.

 

Back In Denver

After we got back to Denver, I spent a week or two hanging around the city. I’d taken so many pictures in Utah that it was a lot of work to sort through all of them and edit the better ones.  You still haven’t seen all of them. I’m going to take it a bit easier on the pictures for the next month or so. I did so much in Utah that I need a bit of a break from it. I basically just bummed around town, hung out with some women, ate ice cream, and helped my dad fix his tiller. We also had a pizza party. Yeah buddy!

One night, my dad and I watched some UFC fights, and then right after they ended, we heard a weird noise outside. It was his trash can falling over. It was a raccoon! My dad has a sort of ongoing war with raccoons. They come eat his trash often, and a raccoon family tried to move into his attic, which can really mess the place up.

My dad yelled out”Get the .22!” as if I knew where he stores it. His .22 rifle is an antique. I remember shooting it some 20 years ago and it was less powerful than a BB gun. I shot at pop cans and the .22 bullet would bounce off the can rather than going through. I don’t think he fixed it in any in-depth way, so I’m confused about how it works well enough to kill animals now… It does though. He used it to take out the raccoon that moved into his attic. He also has chickens, and raccoons love eating chickens.

So he went and got the gun while I stood outside and looked at the raccoon. It looked back at me for a while and then with no care in the world it started checking out the trash.

Dad came out with the gun, took aim, and BANG! The raccoon growled at us. My dad pumped the gun and said “shit! I need bullets”. He went inside to get some.  I heard the raccoon’s little claws on the concrete as he scurried off into the night.  The gun doesn’t reload properly so it took a while to reload it and by then the raccoon seemed long gone. We searched for a blood trail or the raccoon and didn’t find a thing. We initially thought he hit it, but now we weren’t so sure. I think that little guy will be back again.

 

What’s in store for August?

Colorado Mountains! Here we go!

 

 

 

SO MANY STARS!

So many stars

I spent June meandering through the southwest corner of Utah. What a beautiful place. And wow, at night I could see SO MANY STARS! Before this, I’d never done any serious astrophotography. The second half of June was very dark at night because the moon was in it’s smallest phase, and it was only up during the day.

So many stars

I had fun shooting the stars. I got started after I was away from the lights at Zion and Cedar City. One night, I opened my back doors to look up at the stars while laying in bed, as I do from time to time, and I was blown away. I’d never seen the stars so well until I came out here to the remote parts of Utah. I think every person alive deserves to see the night sky in all its glory  least a few times in their life.

 

BRYCE CANYON

So many stars

 

So many stars

So many stars
That’s a planet above the moon. I wonder which one.

 

The Routine

It’s a strange routine shooting the stars. During the day or evening, I’d find a foreground that would work. Then I’d do normal stuff and go to sleep. If I wanted to get the milky way while it was vertical, I’d set an alarm on my phone to wake me up around 2am. Then I’d actually be up and go out to shoot around 2:30. I’d shoot for a while, and then go back to bed.

 

So many stars

 

 

So many stars

 

 

HOODOOS IN ESCALANTE

So many stars

 

CAMPING IN ESCALANTE

So many stars

 

CAMPING IN A BLM OHV AREA
So many stars

It feels good to be out at night

During the summer when it’s perfect out at night, it’s fun to be out there walking around, shooting, and admiring the universe. Being out at night in places like this picture sure helps me feel wonder and tranquility.

Even without any moonlight, once your eyes adjust, the stars provide enough light to walk around in places without many obstacles. It’s a shame that most people now are so disconnected from the night. And by night I don’t mean the late hours, I mean the chance to admire all the stars and planets, to hear absolutely no sounds other than whatever breeze there is, and to rid themselves of being afraid of the dark.

The desert is silent at night, but in some areas with lots of trees and birds and other loud animals, they the loudest time of the entire day is a few hours before sunrise. They get crazy loud. When I was backpacking in Wisconsin I woke up around 4am one night and it sounded like a freakin’ animal party out there.

So many stars

 

 

CAMPING IN DIXIE NATIONAL FOREST, WEST OF PANGUITCH

 

So many stars

 

Stars night sky utah escalante astrophotography

So May Stars. WOW!

When you have a good dark view of the sky, the number of stars you can see is bewildering. You can see thousands. The milky way streaks across the entire sky – one huge thick line of more stars and who knows what.

It also is almost immediately obvious that one’s eyesight prevents seeing many more stars. If you get out a pair of binoculars, it reveals maybe 50 times more stars than you can see with your eyes. Then you might wonder how many more you’d see with a telescope. It’s wild.

A few weeks after those wonder-causing nights in Utah, I spent a week in Denver. When I went outside late at night and looked up, I could see maybe 30 stars. That’s it. Compared to the thousands I could see when it was dark, 30 or so stars is basically nothing.

 

Stars night sky utah escalante astrophotography

IN ARIZONA, CAMPING BY THE COLORADO RIVER

Stars night sky utah escalante astrophotography
I took this in Arizona before doing some research on astrophotography. The other ones are a lot better technically. This one has a lot of noise (and much of the noise looks like stars)

June 2017 Adventures

June

I spent June exploring the wonderful state of Utah. It’s full of inviting deserts, lush high altitude hills, wide and deep canyons, river washes, cozy slot canyons, arches, hoodoos, and so on. SO MUCH STUFF!

I shot a TON of pictures in June, and this post will be full of them.  I’m also experimenting with dumping in some of the captions I’ve written over the last month for my Instagram posts.

 

MAP OF TRAVELS

I started out June down in the southwest corner of the state, in Zion, and ended in Grand Junction, just across the Colorado border.

CEDAR CITY

Wow! So many fucking kids. What’s in the water here!?

TOWARDS BRYCE CANYON

I camped for a few days in Dixie National forest between Cedar City and Bryce Canyon. It looks like there are many good places to camp around here.

 

This nest was only about 15 feet from my van, so I got to watch the parent(s) come and go.

I shot these pictures in Dixie National Forest, east of Cedar City. It’s not that far from Bryce Canyon National Park – which looks incredibly different.

From where I camped for only one day, I saw 5 or 10 deer out of my van windows. There’s a meadow nearby that I walked over to in the evening, and there were a few different groups of deer there – about 40 in total.

I had wonderful songs from birds. And I had wonderful sunlight shining in through these aspen trees.

I met a Peruvian guy up here while looking for a campsite. He lived in an old style wooden trailer – basically a covered wagon. The wagon appears to sit there full time (he had no vehicle). He works up there, herding sheep. He’s been in the U.S. for 10 years, but doesn’t know much english, because he’s spent those ten years alone in places like this. I saw a video once about these sheep herders on Youtube, and it was really interesting. The herders are basically all guys from Southern America. They stay up in the National Forests full time, in these old style trailers, or sometimes in cabins. The sheep owners bring them food and water, and move them and the trailers to other locations.  I would’ve taken a picture of him and his wagon, but he didn’t want me to. .

I love this kind of forest

Aspen trees all over the place. Some old dead trees that have been on the ground a long time

Lush grass

Free of thick plants or bushes, so you can walk everywhere

Birds singing their songs, flying around, and keeping their eggs warm

Deer meandering through and looking relaxed

Sunlight filtering in through the Aspen leaves

The air clean and a little bit sweet smelling

A breeze blowing through and making nice white noise as it filters through the leaves

Nowhere else to go. Nowhere else to be. No worries. No crowds of people, or traffic, or noise, or work deadlines, or chores to do.

The world simplified down to this area and it’s beautiful balances of plants, animals, sunlight, and weather. 

Thoughts while driving on a road like this and looking for a campsite:

The day is full of possibilities…

Will I find a wonderful place to camp?

Will the roads be good for riding my bike?

Will there be nice sunsets?

Will I see deer, pronghorn antelope, elk, BEARS?

Will be it windy, rainy, cold, hot, cloudy?

Will there be birds singing songs for me? (well, not for me, but I’ll still get to enjoy them)

Will there be a cell phone signal to keep me connected to the parts of the world I wish to be?

How long will I feel like staying before I have the urge to move on?

 

DRONE SMASHED TO PIECES!

While I as on my way to the campsite above, I stopped to fly my drone. And while flying, it turned over past 90 degrees sideways and dropped like a sack of rocks. It fell from about 80 feet in the air and crashed into the ground really hard. As soon as I saw it tip over like that, I figured that was it – no more drone for me.

The plants weren’t all that crazy thick where this happened, but it still took me a while to find the drone. As expected, it was smashed really bad. The camera and gimbal broke off entirely and I didn’t find them. One of the arms was bend really bad. The body was all smashed up and cracked open. I’m sure a bunch of the electronic connections inside were broken. I gathered up all the pieces that I could find and threw them in the trash in the next city.

So – what went wrong? I didn’t crash it into a tree or anything, it just turned over and fell from the sky. I had made some adjustments to the controls sensitivity recently, but I thought they seemed conservative, even within the ranges available. The drone had been drifting more than usual during this flight – downwards, and I probably should’ve stopped flying it to recalibrate it. I’d been flying it for about ten minutes, and when I pushed the control knobs to have the drone turn and fly quickly, it tipped.

There are many different things that could’ve gone wrong, but I don’t know which did. It could’ve been that my controls adjustments were actually too much. It could’ve been that it got too far out of calibration. One of the arms was bent from crashes that occurred while the previous owner had it and it’s propeller blade often hit the arm while flying. That propeller could’ve broken. A motor could’ve failed. There could’ve been a short in one of the many wire and connections. Who knows. But… no more drone.

Daaaaang. I really would like to get another – a Mavic Pro, which are small enough to carry on hikes. Flying the drone and editing the videos was a lot of fun. But…. I don’t like the idea of spending ~$1,300 on something that can suddenly fall out of the sky and smash to pieces. There is crash replacement insurance available at a reasonable cost. I just still don’t feel like spending the money on it right now.

For a couple weeks after, it sucked  when I saw a place that would be awesome to use a drone. But, you know, this kind of “sucks” is entirely imagined in my own head… It’s someone thinking “oh man, damn it, it would be so cool to drive a Ferrari right now, this sucks!”

 

Another Campsite:

 

I dipped my toes, or, maybe my whole leg, into astrophotography. I have a bunch of other shots I’ll share soon in a separate blog post.

        

ROVA sent me a copy of their second issue. For those interested in living and/or traveling in a Van, RV, or camper, you may like this magazine. There were good articles in this one.

    

BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK

I spent 4 or so days in Bryce Canyon. I don’t like it anywhere near as much as Zion.

In Utah, there are many striking landscapes. Many of them are from water carving out rocks and dirt into beautiful landscapes and shapes.  Zion has hard sandstone rock, and Bryce has a softer, more dirt-like material. So in Zion you have these flattish edges of hard rocks that I find beautiful. In Bryce, it looks more like dirt that has eroded, and I think it’s ugly.

I grew up in the midwest, where plants can grow everywhere. If a yard or some land has bare dirt that then erodes, it is a sign that the land is not cared for, or that it’s owner is incompetent, and his precious topsoil is washing away.

 

 

GRAND STAIRCARE ESCALANTE NATIONAL MONUMENT 

Excalante National Monument is huge. I mean HUGE. Zion National Park is 230 square miles. Escalante is 2,900 square miles. Plus, it’s surrounded on all sides by federal land for hundreds of miles. And basically no one lives permanently in Escalante N.M. This is the most remote part of Utah, and maybe of the entire lower 48 states.

There are some awesome places in Escalante, particularly along a road called Hole in the Rock Road. There are arches, slot canyons, big interesting rocks, and a wonderful hike down a canyon through what’s called Coyote Gulch.

Mormons

Hole in the Rock Road  follows a trail taken by Mormons on their way to found a new city on the east side of the Colorado River. 200 people set out with 83 wagons and 1,000 head of livestock. Crossing the river turned out to be very difficult. The river has cut a ~1,000 foot canyon through the rock. They  found a place where the canyon wall was cracked and spent months blasting it open and making a very rough and very steep path down to the river. They went on and formed a town called Bluff, where now about 300 people live.

Plans

I really wanted to go to Coyote Gulch, which contains the Jacob Hamblin Arch. Coyote Gulch is basically at the end of Hole In the Rock road, 40 or 50 miles south of the highway. There was a big forest fire nearby, making a lot of smoke, and I was concerned that the smoke appeared to be going down that way – basically straight south along the road. At the visitor’s center in Escalante, I asked about it. The guy said that the smoke clears out about a third of the way down the road.

Slot Canyons – Tunnel and Zebra

After setting off town the road, the first place I stopped was where a trail leads to two slot canyons. These were fun.

        

While I was exploring and photographing these slot canyons, it got really, really smokey. It was clear that the guy at the visitors center was either wrong or has very perceptions of smoky vs clear. I could also see all the smoke floating straight south, in the same direction as the road, and too all the areas I wanted to go camp and hike and photograph. I don’t like the smoke, and it basically ruins any landscape pictures of things more than 20 feet away. So I decided to head back up to the highway and go northeast and get out of the smoke. I expect that I’ll come through Utah again and that I’ll make it all the way to the bottom of this road.

DRIVE THROUGH THE REST OF UTAH

It was getting really hot in Utah, and I decided to get over to the rockies sooner rather than later. So I drove a couple hundred miles from Escalante to Colorado in 2 or 3 days.

I drove through Capital Reef N.P., and it looks good. I was considering going down to Moab and Arches, but decided that I might as well go up into the mountains and leave those places for some later and cooler time.

Various Driving Pictures

 

This is the Escalante Canyon, seen from along hwy 12. Wow! Some day I want to come back and hike along and inside this canyon. Also, hwy 12 south of Boulder is an INCREDIBLE road.

Hike near the Escalante River

I hiked up along some creek that meets the Escalante right by hwy 12. There are two neat things there: various native rock art, and a big arch.

I believe some of this is recent/fake (probably the ones on the outsides)?))

A hundred handprints. These were up along a rock wall and were visible from quite far away if you knew they were there.

And here’s the arch:

Hey where are you camped? … Nowhere..

  

My Favorite Campsite

My Favorite Campsite

A common question I get is: “where is your favorite place you’ve camped?”. I’ve never had much of an answer because I’ve liked most of the places I camp so much that it’s not worth wondering which is my favorite. But now, I found a place I like so much that I can call it my favorite campsite. 

I was planning to go this general direction, but wasn’t sure exactly where I wanted to go or where to camp. My brother solved that by finding this spot on Instagram. A guy with an account named @fiftyfivesquarefeet posted a drone video from when he camped there.

Navajo Nation

I drove up from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. So I drove about 100 miles through the Navajo Nation (A huge Indian Reservation that covers the northeast corner of Arizona). It was an interesting drive. A good deal of the land there looked odd and inhospitable. There were a lot of hills of odd colored dirt/sand/rock with absolutely no plants. There are a lot of very small homes in the reservation. Some people would call them shacks or shantys. There are also clearly no type of building code enforcement. If I had a house, that’d be about the size I want. So I’m not entirely sure whether these shacks are because that’s all they can afford, or if they have housing preferences similar to mine.

The Navajo Nation is a mysterious place for me. I don’t fully understand their rules related to camping there. It seems that you need to pay for a permit (maybe $15), and pay a nightly fee (Maybe $5). If I understand that right, I probably won’t camp at all on the reservation unless it’s to camp out at a specific place that I want to photograph. It’s not my style to pay money to sleep in my own van in the middle of nowhere when I can do it for free all over the place.

 

Getting there

The campsite is on the west side of the Colorado river. In this area, the river is the border between U.S. and the Navajo Nation. The reservation is on the east side of the river. The campsite was on the west side, on some BLM land.

Crossing the river was cool. There are two bridges right next to each other. The newer one was built because the older bridge wasn’t designed to support the heavy loads that are common now.  So now the older bridge is for pedestrian traffic. There’s a little visitor’s center on the U.S. side that you can part at and walk out on the bridge.

My Favorite Campsite

Boaters on the river

There are a lot of boaters floating down the Colorado, especially here. They get on the river at the old site of Lee’s Ferry. It’s the only place in hundreds of miles where it’s easy to get down to the river.  Nearly all of the river passes through a canyon like in the picture above. The river cut this canyon out over millions of years. Lee’s Ferry was situated at the one place where there’s an easy and gradual hill down to the river instead of near vertical cliff walls.

People get on the river at Lee’s Ferry and float down for various lengths of trips. Some of them will go all the way to Lake Mead (the reservoir at the Hoover Dam). Getting permission is difficult. There are two options: go privately, or pay an outfitter. To go privately, you’re supposed to get a permit. The permits use to be given out using a waiting list. But, the waiting list got to be 20 years long. So they changed to a lottery. I think about 5% of the entrants get a permit. The other option is to pay an outfitter. This is really expensive – $300 per day on the cheap end. I learned this from a group of older guys that came to the campsite one day to have lunch. They set up a table and got out a cooler and a bunch of supply boxes. I went over to talk to them. They gave me a beer and lunch. They’re from Flagstaff and have done a ton of outdoors stuff around here over the years. I asked them about how to score myself a spot on a boat for free or really cheap, and it seemed an unlikely thing to accomplish unless I wanted to work on the trip cooking, cleaning, and carrying people’s poop.

Down below the campsite, there is a stretch of rapids (going over the rocks that got washed into the river from the offshoot canyons on each side), and then a large beach.  Some of the boaters stop here for a break or to camp overnight.

Driving into the site

My Favorite Campsite
On the highway

 

My Favorite Campsite

A highway passes along closer to the hills that are visible in the background.  This road is gated (with a BLM sign that says to close the gate after you go through), and is about 2 miles from the highway to the end near the river.

My Favorite Campsite

 

The Campsite

The end of the dirt road is situated at the edges of both the river canyon and a big branch of the canyon shooting off at about 90 degrees. So – you get a lot of big views.

It was really windy the first couple of days there.

I stayed for about two weeks. Quite a lot of people came and went during that time. No one stayed more than two nights. Quite a few people drove the two miles to the end of the road, got out for only a few minutes, and drove off.

Every couple days, someone would come in and hold up an antenna connected to some kind of box. They were scanning for transmitters that have been placed in California Condors. There are only about 400 of these condors alive now. They’re dying off because they end up eating meat tainted with lead bullets/shot. The condors are huge – they have up to a 10 foot wingspan.  They also have the ugliest head/face of nearly any animal in existence. A condor will travel up to 200 miles per day scanning for food. They eat mostly large animals like deer, sheep, elk, or cattle.

I saw one flying around and got out my binoculars to watch it closely. They are the most elegant and efficient birds you’ll ever see. The one I saw flew 10 miles without flapping it’s wings once.

My Favorite Campsite

My Favorite Campsite

 

My Favorite Campsite
I walked along the edge of the cliff above the river many days

 

My Favorite Campsite

 

My Favorite Campsite
A group of people with overlanding rigs showed up one day. They’d been at the Overland Expo in Flagstaff the previous weekend. As they approached, I figured they were big time overlanders who’d been to far away places. Nope, they were some dudes from California and Texas who go on weekend trips sometimes. Gear nerds, basically. Or, I guess, just normal people with normal jobs who don’t have much time for this.

 

My Favorite Campsite - Stars - Astrophotography - Milky Way - Astro

 

My Favorite Campsite

My Favorite Campsite

My Favorite Campsite

 

A RAINBOW!

My Favorite Campsite
Can you see it?

RAINBOW

A HIKE

I wanted to go down to the river. There’s a very nice looking beach down below the campsite. It’s about 500 feet down, with nearly vertical walls. But there are these other little canyons at 90 degree angles to the river – and the campsite is next to a big one. I’m sure these have a real name – what are they called?  I’d walked along it a bit, looking down to see if it appeared walkable.  Most of it looked good, but there was a section I was worried about. It looked like there were pretty big drop offs. But it’s hard to tell from a distance. Sometimes, once you’re there, you can find ways to walk or scramble down and up slopes that look impassable from a distance. (I easily made it about a third of the way down the cliff right next to the river, which you’ll get a look at in the drone video).

The day I tried to hike down, I walked most of the way back toward the road, to a place where I could walk down the edge into the offshoot canyon. But I didn’t make it very far after that. I hit the big drop offs. It would take someone with climbing gear to get down and up that with certainty.

So I waked back up the canyon a bit, and up the other side, and generally wherever it looked fun to go. I like this kind of no-trail hiking.

Hiking in Badger Canyon Arizona
It’s further down than it looks. Maybe 200 feet. When it rains really hard, a torrent of water comes crashing through here, so thick with sediment that it looks like mud more than water, and so fast that it will pull up all the plants and move rocks as big as cars.

 

Hiking in Badger Canyon Arizona

SARDINES - Hiking - Snack
Snack break. mmmmmm, sardines.
Hiking in Badger Canyon Arizona
This is pretty much at the top/start of the offshoot canyon.

MORE OF THE AREA

 

VANLIFE

 

VANLIFE

 

My Favorite campsite - drone view

 

DRONE VIDEO

I shot a lot of drone footage while I was there. The area is nearly perfect for it. The main challenge was that it was too windy much of the time. The other was waiting for clouds that make it look more interesting.

After a couple days of shooting, I realized the video was often shaky. I guessed that this was related to a weird noise and shaking that the gimbal made right after starting the drone. It would turn on, and the camera would move around, and then it would start shaking and making a pretty loud noise. I did some research online and found that this is fairly common, and the likely culprit was a set screw on an arm that holds the gimbal being too loose. It could be tightened with a 1.5mm hex key. I have a ton of hex keys. I had a 2mm. I had a 1mm. But no 1.5.

I’d just went into Page the day before to get food and water. A hundred mile round trip. Ugh. Normally, I’d wait until I was in town the next time to get something like this. But this was such a great place for drone shooting. So I drove to Page again, found a set of hex keys at Wal-Mart, and tightened the screw. And, it fixed the problem. YES!!

 

 

LEE’S FERRY

I’d told the old guys that I had lunch with about how I tried to hike down to the river. I’d seen a trail shown on Google maps on another offshoot a couple miles upstream, and asked them about it. It’s called Cathedral wash, and yep, you can walk right down. Problem is, there’s not a beach where that wash meets the river. But there is a nice beach another couple miles upstream at Lee’s Ferry. So instead of doing the hike to the river that I’d been imagining I just drove down to the beach 😀

Lee's Ferry
Driving there

 

Lee's Ferry
These take many thousands of years to happen. A big rock falls from the hill above (the wall is now ~100 feet behind where I took the picture), rain and whatever erodes the ground away, except for the part holding the rock up – turning it into a pedestal. Eventually the rock will fall off. There were many of these right next to a certain hill/cliff. I don’t understand why they happen here and not in most other places.

 

Lee's Ferry - Beach
A beach near Lee’s Ferry

 

Ok. That’s it. Do you have a favorite campsite? Tell me about it. 

 

April 2017 Travels

April 2017 Travels

I spent most of my April in Arizona. A few incoming packages took longer than expected, and kept me near Phoenix longer than I wanted. I camped up north of Phoenix along Highway 87, and also near Sedona. Then I headed over into Nevada to meet some friends in Vegas.

Here’s everywhere I went in April (starting in Phoenix)

April 2017 Travels

SPOT WEST OF 87

(33.94633,-111.45529)

There’s a nice little group of spots to camp just a couple miles off hwy 87. I’ve camped here three different times. This last time, I went down to a spot that’s a bit off of the road and behind a hill. I’d never seen until midway through my second time camping there when I noticed that a few people went back there. It’s a little hairy getting there (the road is slanted sideways), and it’s really hard trying to find a flat spot down there.  But it’s nice though.

April 2017 Travels
You can see the van down there near the middle of the picture

April 2017 Travels

April 2017 Travels - Camping north of Phoenix April 2017 Travels - Camping north of Phoenix

April 2017 Travels - Camping north of Phoenix

April 2017 Travels - Camping north of Phoenix

PHOENIX AGAIN:

I drove back into the city to pick up a package, and stayed for a few days. I watched the last few hours of the Paris-Roubaix bicycle race online. That’s always a fun race to watch.

SEDONA

During two of my three vehicle living test trips, I spent time in Sedona. It was one of the places where I decided I wanted my current lifestyle. I’d been looking forward to going back. I tried to go camp in the exact same place I did the first time there, but it was occupied. I ended up camping in three different spots

1 – Southwest of Sedona: (34.68848, -111.86182). 

This is one of the spots that a guy at the visitors center recommended. It was ok, but not very good as far as campsites near Sedona go.

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

 

2 – West of Sedona – Forest Service Road 525c. (34.879, -111.94486)

This was close to the where I’d camped on the test trips.

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

It’s close to the Robber’s Roost – a cave overlooking the way into Sedona. Robbers and bandits, used to hide out here when they had some heat. From the cave, they could see people approaching from far away. Also, while in the cave, you can hear people from below very well.

Robber's Roost

Robber's Roost

 

3 – “Base Camp” – Forest Service Road 525 (34.82324, -111.90566)

I went into town in the afternoon, and didn’t leave until it was starting to get dark. I didn’t want to sleep in Sedona, so I came out to this spot – just about the first place you can camp on 525 when coming off the highway. Many people stop here and then find another more secluded spot somewhere along 525 or 525c and move to it.

I stayed here one night. Some balloons landed nearby.

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

 

4 – Forest Service Road 525 (34.8682, -111.90365)

Near the north end of where you can camp on 525 is closer to the hiking and biking action. A lot of the spots on 525 can hold many rigs and end up being communal spots. There were 3-5 other groups present while I was there.

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona
My campsite is in this picture, over towards the right

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

 

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

The weather was absolutely perfect in Sedona and I was enjoying being there. After about a week, I was getting itchy to move on though. I had plans to meet some friends in Vegas at the end of April, so I found a place to camp on the way there.

LAKE MOHAVE – Telephone Cove

(35.23068, -114.59371)

Telephone Cove has free camping. And others, I believe. It’s a pretty nice stretch of beach. The pictures below don’t show it, but it was a bit crowded here because there was some kind of boys’ camp going on at the other end of the beach.

April 2017 Travels - Camping at Telephone Cove - Lake Mohave

 

April 2017 Travels - Camping at Telephone Cove - Lake Mohave

 

April 2017 Travels - Camping at Telephone Cove - Lake Mohave

 

April 2017 Travels - Camping at Telephone Cove - Lake Mohave

 

April 2017 Travels - Camping at Telephone Cove - Lake Mohave

Then I got itchy feet and drove to Vegas early.

LAS VEGAS

Parking lot behind the LINQ – (36.11835, -115.16655)

Street with parking near the Link/Ferris Wheel/Westin/Cromwell (36.11631,-115.16643)

I went out to Vegas 9 days before my friends would getting there. I’m not entirely sure why I went so early other than that I felt like moving on from where I was previously. I spent the first weekend at the strip and it was fun. I’m very used to going places and doing things by myself, but I’ve only been to the strip when it was with friends. This time, on my own, it wasn’t quite the same.

Camping on the Las Vegas Strip
This was a good place to park the van. It’s a big parking lot for the LINQ casino/hotel. It’s temporarily free until after they do some kind of construction project. There is a ton of security patrolling the lot and it’s well lit. You have to not make it obvious that you’re sleeping in a vehicle though or security will tell you not to.

After 3 or 4 days at the strip, I went and hung out around other parts of the city. Vegas isn’t all that nice. The UNLV Library is really really nice though. I go to a lot of city/county libraries, and sometimes there are too many bums there. Really stinky ones. At this library on UNLV campus, it was only students. Everyone’s clean. Everyone’s nice. The wifi is good. And it’s beautiful – I mean, just look at this place:

April 2017 Travels - UNLV Library

I think I’ll start hanging out around campuses more when I’m in cities.

My friends arrived the next weekend. While waiting for them in the airport cellphone lot, I did the following:

  • Ate dinner
  • Moved water from my big reserve jug to my smaller jugs that I normally use
  • Repaired my sandals (Sewed part of the velcro back on one)

Once my friends arrived, I drove them to their hotel on strip, and we hung out at the strip that night. The next day we went to their pool, walked around the strip, went to the pool again, and then went to Fremont Street to gamble a bit and walk around. I think we had more fun at Fremont street than on the strip. It’s smaller and sort of simpler. You don’t have to spend 10-15 minutes walking to go from one place to another like you often do on the strip. We also walked past what’s probably considered the normal end of the Fremont street area (on the east end) and continued. There are some fun weird/hipster type places there.

Downtown Las Vegas - Fremont Street - Zoltar Machine
On Fremont Street. (Downtown Vegas)

 

Downtown Las Vegas - Fremont Street - Zoltar Machine
My friend is a champion of making stupid faces

 

Downtown Las Vegas - Fremont Street - Gold Digger

The last day they were there we went over to a thrift store (a Buffalo Exchange north of the strip – it is a good one), and then back to some casino where we had lunch. Then they headed back home, and I was ready to get out of that city.

Wow. When I put all the places I went in one month into one post, it sure looks like a lot.

PLANS FOR MAY

  • Go meet my brother and his girlfriend in Sedona
  • Go to Grand Canyon
  • Go through Northern Arizona and into Southern Utah

Exploring Arizona 4 – New Friends

New Friends

I went back to camp at the same area as two trips ago – the place where it rained for two days while I was there. This time, I had 6 days of absolutely perfect weather there. Also, I met some new friends.

I had been wanting to find a place near Phoenix to camp – somewhere still down in the desert but not all messed up with trash, noise and shooting. I asked on the CheapRVLiving.com forums and members there recommended a place just southwest of Phoenix. I was excited to go there.

My mom visited Phoenix for over a week, and I stayed in the city then. After she left the city and I was ready to go camping, it was hot in Phoenix, so I decided to go up in elevation rather than the hot desert spot.

Campsite:

New Friends

 

Mom’s Advice:

My mom said I should post more pictures of myself here. I’ve been taking a lot of pictures, but never of myself. When I looked at my Instagram Feed after she asked, I noticed I hadn’t posted a picture of myself for many months. I suppose some pictures of me would make it more personal and more interesting. So, I took a few of myself on this trip. More coming in the future. My grandma once told me I could be a male model. She’s probably the most biased person in the world, and that was like 15 years ago.. Anyways,… here’s a start:

New Friends

New Friends

New Friends

The Weather

I don’t see how it could get any better:

  • ~75 degree highs
  • ~55 degree lows
  • Slight breeze
  • Sunny nearly all day every day

Bike Rides

I went for two bike rides along the Forest Service Road I was camped by. The road goes about 8 miles into the forest, eventually hitting a wilderness boundary and hiking trailhead. I rode out and back both times  and it was fucking amazing. I recorded some more footage with the GoPro. It really doesn’t do the views justice.

Someone recently asked if I record any different views while riding so I tried turning the camera around. It works pretty well, and now you get to look at my crotch a bunch 😛

 

New Friends from Instagram

I met a couple name Dan and Cindy and they camped with me for two days. Dan had sent me some messages on Instagram. Him and Cindy live in Tuscon and had a trip planned to go to Havasapai falls at the Grand Canyon. I was pretty much on their way, so they stopped to hang out a while.

You can find out a bit about them at:

I’m just going to post a picture of my journal entry from the day after we parted. My handwriting has really went downhill since I stopped working. I used to write a lot by hand at work, and since I quit, I’ve done very little. If I start posting journal tidbits like this regularly, that will give me a good reason to improve.

New Friends - Journal - Handwriting
The blurred part is nothing bad. It’s just something about them that I’m not sure whether they want shared publicly.

New Friends

 

New Friends

 

New Friends - Journal - Handwriting

 

New Friends

 

New Friends

Exploring Arizona 3 – Road to Four Peaks

Road to Four Peaks

For my third trip out of Phoenix, I went up Hwy 87 again, and explored some back roads that go up over a pass right by Four Peaks.

On my second trip, where I got rained on a ton, I had a challenging time finding campsites down in the desert, due to, as I call it, the “Party Zone” surrounding the city. So I did more research before embarking on this third trip. I used My Maps on Google, which works well for this. My Maps allows you to add many markings and notes to a version of Google maps. You can add a pins and other shapes with names and notes, you can highlight a certain route of road, and you can draw shapes you want to highlight areas. You can switch quickly between views – including the normal map, ‘satellite’ view, and ‘terrain’ where you can see topography.  You can access and update your map on a computer or your phone. The only bad thing is that you can’t access or update the maps offline (I need to check that for sure though). 

Google My Maps

Google My Maps

 

Google My Maps

 

Road to Four Peaks

I found a lot of areas that I highlighted and want to go explore in person.  One of those areas have some Forest Service roads going all the way up over a pass right next to Four Peaks. The roads traverses 30 or so miles from Hwy 87 over to Hwy 188 near Roosevelt Lake.  It looked like it has many good camping spots along the route. I did already know that there’s an OHV area there. And that this close to the city, many of the campsites would be occupied by shooters or littered with their mess. I expected that I may have to go pretty far up the road to find nice campsites, but I was sure that I’d find some before the pass.

I drove about halfway to the pass before I found a camping spot I liked, and settled in for a handful of days. The path up to Four Peaks is a great drive. It’s one of those cool Arizona drives where you can go from 2,000 foot elevation desert up to 6,000 foot or so where you have pine trees. It’s also popular for people driving around in SUVs, trucks, side-by-sides, and dirt bikes.

Road to Four Peaks

One odd thing happened up there: on Saturday evening, I heard a police car siren. I looked around and spotted a Sherrif’s SUV coming down the road quickly. He was obviously in a hurry. Two more Sherrifs followed within 10 or 15 minutes. I wondered whether they were responding to an incident along this road, or if they were using the road to get from Hwy 87 to Hwy 188. 

Road to Four Peaks
My home for this trip

 

Road to Four Peaks
My van is down there in the middle

 

Hiking

Road to Four Peaks

 

Road to Four Peaks

 

Biking

“I’m glad these people have to go to work on Mondays”

I drove up and found my campsite on a Saturday.  There was quite a lot going on out there. Just people driving around and shooting (not at the same time).  Sunday morning as I awoke there were two guys on ATVs at the road who appeared to be thinking about coming up the little offshoot where I was camped. They did, parked, looked around the area with binoculars a lot, and then walked off with their guns, binoculars, and tripods (for the binoculars). An hour or so later, a group of about 25 people traveling in a 10+ side-by-sides took a pit stop in my camping area. They hung out, talked, and drank beer for an hour before moving on. I heard gunshots all day long in sporadic bursts.

Monday morning I had peace and quiet for hours at a time. I wrote in my journal:

Sometimes I’m happy that other people work every week. Out where I’m camping, over the weekend I’ve heard a steady stream of noises from OHVs and guns. Now, Monday morning, it’s just me and the singing birds

Road to Four Peaks

 

Road to Four Peaks
When I start putting stuff down instead of putting it away, I have a mess like this really quickly

 

Road to Four Peaks
But it only takes about 5 minutes to get it this clean again

Tea Time

Road to Four Peaks

 

Road to Four Peaks

Two more trips near Phoenix, and then where?

I’ll be around Phoenix for a few more weeks – until the end of March. After that, I’ll meander north. I expect to spend 6 or more weeks in central and northern Arizona.  I’ve been to some wonderful places in this area that I want to go back to, but I’m sure there are a lot of other places I should go. So, if you know the area, tell me! 

Where should I go? 

Road to Four Peaks

Here are some places I’m expecting to go or thinking about going:  (The ones with question marks are places I haven’t been and am not sure about)

  • Apache trail / Lake Roosevelt again. Maybe see the cliff dwellings there
  • Montezuma’s Castle ???
  • The Meteor crater east of Flagstaff ???
  • Camp along the way to Payson. Maybe same spot as I went before
  • Camp up along the Mogollon rim just north of Payson. 
  • Sedona area
  • Grand Canyon.. (south rim??) 
  • Horseshoe bend??
  • Three Monuments??
  • Stuff in the Navajo Reservation? What/where??? (need to research visiting/camping there)
  • Hang out in/near Flagstaff

What else???