Mount St Helens and Mount Rainier, WA

And then there was one…

Everyone left for home and I drove 190 miles to Randle, Washington.  Randle served as my base for exploring Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and Mt. Rainier National Park. I stayed at a small park, Shady Firs, recommended by Deb and Mick.  There was no AT&T cell signal at the park so I was forced to disconnect from my phone. Due to hurricane Irma bearing down on most of my family, this was a bad time to lose communication.  I drove 40 miles (round trip) each day to check on the weather and my family.  Everyone was fine and they didn’t even loose power.  That’s the worst thing…losing power in hot, humid Florida. Honestly, I’m beginning to wonder why anyone chooses to live in that state.

Summer is over and the campgrounds are returning to “normal”.  There are only a few campers at Shady Firs this week.  It’s quiet and I love it!  And, I was finally out of the smoke zone and the weather was good.

Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument

This year is the 35th anniversary of the establishment of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, 110,000 acres in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  The monument has become a world-renowned laboratory for the study of volcanic processes and ecosystem development following large-scale disturbance.

Mount St. Helens is most notorious for its major 1980 eruption, the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways, and 185 miles of highway were destroyed. A massive debris avalanche triggered by an earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale caused an eruption that reduced the elevation of the mountain’s summit from 9,677 feet to 8,363 feet , leaving a total of 3,900,000 cubic yards of material that was transported 17 miles south into the Columbia River by the mudflows.

For more than nine hours, a vigorous plume of ash erupted, eventually reaching 12 to 16 miles above sea level. The plume moved eastward at an average speed of 60 miles per hour with ash reaching Idaho by noon. Ashes from the eruption were found collecting on top of cars and roofs the next morning, as far as the city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. Learn more here.

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A photographer was lucky enough to not be in the path of the eruption and captured photos as it was happening. 
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The force of the eruption leveled the forest into a river of trees, still present today.

Looking up at the volcano you can see the entire top side missing.  It erupted out of the side and  top of the mountain.  Therefore, part of the forest was untouched.  The force of the eruption leveled an entire forest of trees and completely changed the configuration of Spirit Lake.  It was hard to image the force of the eruption, even with the evidence right in front of me.

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View from the top of a hike. Mount St Helen’s eruption out the top and side of the mountain
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Look closely and you will see the white dotted line where the mountain was before the eruption

I took a short hike to a small lake and photographed some of the beauty.

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Fall is beginning
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Damage from the beavers
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Don’t know what this is…it was a beautiful color
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Ditto on this

I’ve come to realize that many of the places I’m visiting are there because of earthquakes and volcanoes.  The reality is that we are living on a humungous ball of magna, ready to explode at any time!  Learning about Yellowstone and  Mount St Helens drove that point home big time!

Mount Rainier National  Park

“Of all the fire mountains which like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.”  John Muir

Mount Rainier had not been on my radar screen until Ralph mentioned it to me.  I did know it was in Washington but not exactly where.  Checking it out on the map, I found it was on my way to the Olympic Peninsula, which was my destination.  I’m really happy I visited the park.  It was spectacular!

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Awesome when you fist spot Mt. Rainier

I waited for a clear, warm day to drive the 40 miles to the park.  It turned out to be a perfect clear, 76 degree day and there were very few visitors in the park, which made  it even nicer.  I was surprised by the beauty of this park.

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The hike to the falls
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Myrtle Falls
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Reflection Lake with a reflection of Mount Rainier

At 14,410 feet, Rainer is the tallest volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range and he most glaciated peak in the continental United States.   Glaciers, massive rivers of ice up to 750 feet deep, flow down the rocky slopes. Yet, on the summit, steam escapes from deep within the mountain’s core, reminding you that it is still an active volcano.  The park is a step back in time because the roads, buildings, and other structures are nearly one hundred year old. You can hike up the mountain and actually walk on the glacier.  I was there too late in the day to take that hike.  Maybe next time…

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I’m discovering that nature is my religion.  When I see the beauty and connectedness of all things in nature I literally become overwhelmed and teary.  The more I learn, the more I realize how every thing, from the lichen to the volcano, are interdependent for survival.  Often, I cannot believe the beauty I’m seeing with my own eyes.  I try to capture it with my camera. The images never are as good as my eyes.  I stare for a while, trying to record the site in my brain.  I am overcome with gratitude; for being able to travel like I am, for those that came before me and realized they must save these unique areas of our country from the hands of greedy corporations, and for the awesome beauty that unfolds around every curve in the road.

After four days in Randle, it was time to move on to the Puget Sound to visit Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle and my friends Susan Kelly and Anne and Jay Jackson.

Glacier National Park, The Crown of the Continent

 Over the five years that I have been researching and reading RV blogs,many say that Glacier National Park is their favorite.  Thusly, I made Glacier my goal when I started on this journey.  And here I was…in Columbia Falls for two weeks, just outside the park.  I couldn’t believe it.  I made it all the way from the bottom of Arizona (Bisbee) to the top of Montana!  Even I’m impressed!  🙂

My friends, Mary Ann and Gerard, were still traveling with me. Ralph rode up on his new motorcycle, and our friends, Chris and Bill, along with their dog, Hank, joined us for the second week.  We did a little site seeing, played 31 and Mexican Train every night, and had a lot of laughs.  Chris and Bill, Ralph and I took a ride around Kootenai Lake before the smoke got so bad that we couldn’t ride.

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Ralph, me, Chris and Bill
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Hank, the prison dog, is a well-behaved Border Collie trained by prison inmates. We all loved Hank!
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The new Victory. Very comfortable!

Unbeknownst to us, August in Montana is fire month.  This year was particularly bad due to 70+ days of no rain. Fires were burning all around us.  When Mary, Gerard and I arrived, the wind was blowing the smoke away from us. We were able to explore the park for three days before the wind changed direction and filled the area with choking smoke.  I’ve never experienced this before.  By the end of the day, my chest hurt, my eyes burned and I had a sore throat.  I was disappointed that I didn’t see the park as it was in photos I’ve seen in the past.

We visited McDonald Lake, St Mary and Many Glacier.  We were up and down the Going to the Sun Road many times.  The last time was at 10 pm and I’ll tell you that was a little scary.  Ralph did a great job driving.

Glacier is a beautiful environment carved out during the last Glacier Age. The name is actually Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and represents a vision of a world in which peoples set aside their differences to work collectively in the interest of all life, for all time. Waterton is the Canadian part of the park.  The park has old-growth forests, wind-swept prairies, ancient glaciers and deep lakes. 

The Going to the Sun road is 50 miles long and bisects the park east to west. It is a spectacular road that traverses the park’s two largest lakes, hugs the cliffs below the Continental Divide and peaks at Logan Pass.

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What is left of a glacier
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Beautiful lake view
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The turquoise water indicates glacier runoff.  Gerard matches! 
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That is an islet in the middle of the lake
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One of the many falls
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All the rocks are so colorful!

The glaciers are quickly disappearing, so if you want to see them, don’t wait too long to go to the park. 

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Going, going, gone!

I was disappointed by the smoke and even though Glacier NP is beautiful, my favorite is still Yellowstone.

Another bucket list item checked off! 

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Gerard sitting an a glacier
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Here’s the same glacier, ha!

Where to from here?  Somewhere where there is clear air!

 

Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks

Our first stop on the way to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, was in Evanston, Wyoming.  Evanston is just off  Interstate 80, and was about half way to Alpine, Wyoming. Alpine would be our home for the time we explored Jackson and the Tetons.  It was a beautiful drive from Provo and we arrived early in the afternoon so we had time to check out the Evanston historic district and river walk.  We were pleasantly surprised by the great work the small town had done to preserve their old buildings and provide a recreation area (the river walk) for its citizens.

We had a conversation with a couple in their early 90s we met on the street, and learned even more about the town.  We stopped at a local brewery, the Suds Brothers and sampled their Bizzy Bee beer and the Red Monkey Butt Amber.  I love how creative the local breweries are with the beer names.  

While in Evanston, I also crowned the first Road King!  I must admit, there was alcohol involved.  Gerard was a good sport. He sort of looks like an old Italian lady, don’t you think?  🙂

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Road King Gerard Capra
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The Road Queens in a really good mood!

The next morning we were on the road to Alpine, Wyoming which is about 40 miles south of Jackson and the Grand Tetons. It was a steep climb over the mountains and it really pushed that Ford V-10 engine of mine.  We slowed to a crawl at 20 mph and I wondered if it would make it to the top.  We did. In hindsight, Reine should have driven the car instead of towing it behind the RV.  My bad; I hadn’t checked the elevation on the drive. Oh well…another lesson learned!  The route took us from Wyoming back through Utah, back into Wyoming, then into Idaho and finally back to Wyoming!  It was hysterical watching Reine try to get photos of the welcome signs as we went flying down the road.  When we saw the Welcome of Idaho sign, we both exclaimed, “Welcome to Idaho?  WTF?” I was wondering if I had taken a wrong turn somewhere. We had not.

 Alpine, Wyoming

We used Alpine as our home base for visiting the Tetons.  We stayed at Grey’s River Cove campground near the confluence of the Snake and Grey’s River.  It was a 45 minute drive to Jackson and just a bit longer to the Teton’s. Reine had to return home part way through our stay and then there were three!

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Sunset at our campground

 There is a lot to see and do in Jackson and we squeezed in as much as we could.  We visited the National Elk Refuge, created in 1912 to protect habitat and provide sanctuary for one of the largest elk herds on earth. It is home to 7,500 elk each winter.  The elk herd survives the hard winters of Jackson through a supplementary feeding program.  The elk shed their antlers and the Boy Scouts collect the antlers to sell with 75% of the proceeds returned to the refuge to help feed the elk.  The largest single herd of bison, (1000+) under federal management, also winter in the refuge.

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National Elk Refuge- No elk in the summer. This is their winter home.

 

 

The next day we went rafting on the Snake river one.  The scenery was absolutely beautiful!

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Rafting on the Snake River

Heading north from Jackson, it’s only a few miles to the Grand Tetons. We took the Jenny Lake ferry and then hiked to Inspiration Point. It was uphill for a mile and just about kicked our collective asses!  The view was worth it and the weather was the perfect.  Hiking down we broke out into song;  “The hills are alive…with the sound of music.”  It looked just like the Swiss/Italian Alps!  Such beauty!  At times, I could not believe my own eyes!

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Reine at Inspiration Point
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Hiking above Jenny Lake
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Mary and Gerard on the hike
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The Grand Tetons

 After dropping Reine at the Jackson airport, Mary and I visited the National Museum of Wildlife Art.  The museum preserves and exhibits wildlife art.  The 51,000 square foot building was inspired by the ruins of Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.  The building overlooks the National Elk Refuge and contains truly stunning art of the Jackson and Yellowstone area.  Our favorite exhibit was the photographs of endangered species by National Geographic photographer,  Joel Satore.  Joel is on a 25-year endeavor to document every captive animal species in the world using studio lighting and black and white backgrounds. Thus far, he has photographed 6,500 different species, which leaves approximately 6,000 to go.  Joel chronicles his project in his book, The Photo Ark. Here are a few of his photos.  Learn more here.

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I didn’t realize that it was only going to get more amazing in Yellowstone.

West Yellowstone, Montana

We drove through Grand Teton NP and Yellowstone NP on Hwy 191 to arrive at West Yellowstone and our base camp for visiting Yellowstone National Park.  What a beautiful drive! We camped at Yellowstone Holiday RV park on Hebgen Lake.  It was a very nice campground with views of the lake.  Unfortunately, the smoke in the air got progressively worse during our stay.  The last time I visited Yellowstone I was 19 years old and the only thing I remembered was Old Faithful.  Was I in for a surprise!   

Ever heard of Earthquake Lake?  Yeah…me either.  On the way to our campground we saw signs for Earthquake Lake on Hwy 287.  One afternoon we drove the 17 miles to the visitor center and were astounded that we had never heard of Earthquake Lake and the event from which it was formed.  The lake was created after a 7.5 earthquake struck on August 17, 1959, causing an 80-milliom ton landslide, which dammed up the Madison River. The landslide traveled down the south flank of Sheep Mountain, at 100 miles per hour and killed 28 people who were camping along the shores of Hebgen Lake and downstream along the Madison River.  The visitor center is built on the top of part of the landslide.  There are first hand accounts displayed in the visitor center. Downright chilling as we were camped on the edge of Hebgen Lake.  Learn more about this event and its aftermath here.

The rest of our time was spent exploring Yellowstone National Park.  Gerard did the research and we were able to cover three of the four sections of the park.  We missed the northeast section of the park including the Lamar Valley.  We did visit Madison Junction to Old Faithful including the Midway Geyser Basin, the Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Geyser Basic, the Canyon Area (Grand Canyon of Yellowstone), Firehole Lake Drive and Haden Valley, Fishing Bridge Lake Village on Yellowstone Lake, the West Thumb Geyser Basic and, of course, Old Faithful. 

Yellowstone NP is the most unique park I’ve visited.  Yellowstone is a giant volcano caldera with hot springs, mudpots, fumaroles (steam vents) and travertine terraces. It’s crazy to realize that we were standing 3 to 5 miles above the hot magna that is our earth and could erupt at any minute!  Yellowstone is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, which is a major area in the basic in of the Pacific Ocean where a large number of earthquakes and volcanos eruptions occur.  Learn more here.

Another lesson learned…don’t visit Yellowstone in the summer.  It was very crowded which made it difficult to relax and really soak in the natural marvels.  We tried going to the park early, late and in between.  Between the traffic accidents and the animals in the road, there were many delays.  We didn’t let this spoil our visit, but I learned my lesson.  I definitely will return to Yellowstone, probably in the spring.  Here are just a few of the photos I took at Yellowstone.

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At this point I had no idea what wonders awaited me!
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Steam spouts
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Microorganisms determine the color of the water
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White Dome
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Steam spouts everywhere!
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Bison on side of road
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Bison watching me, watching them.
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One very cold morning in order to get the proper lighting for photos: Gerard and Mary Ann Capra, Lynn Simpkin and yours truly
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Yellowstone Grand Canyon
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Grand Prismatic
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Yellowstone wonders
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A geyser, not Old Faithful

 

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Mary Ann and the Road Queen…I love traveling with friends.

 

Next stop Glacier National Park!

Richfield, Provo and Park City, Utah

 Richfield, Utah

I had a month between visitors and needed to be close the Salt Lake City airport so I picked Richfield to stay for a couple of weeks before heading up to Provo and flying back to Sacramento for 10 days.

Looking for campsites in the summer is a real pain!  I’ve read how full-time RVers hate the weekends and summer because it is difficult to find open campsites and indeed this was the case in Utah.  The only place I could find was the KOA in Richfield.  It was much more expensive, (as KOAs always are), than I usually pay, ($47/night at the weekly rate), but I didn’t have much choice.  It turned out to be a  nice campsite,  large level site, big concreate patio with log fencing, and a pool.  Richfield isn’t much of a town, but it did have a Walmart. Yes I get excited when these small towns have a Walmart!  From Richfield I was able to visit Capital Reef National Park and Fremont Indian State Park.  I also had time to check some things off my “To Do” list.  It was bloody hot; hovering near 100 the entire time, so the pool came in very handy.

I met several of the workcampers working at the campground through RVillage, a social networking site for RVers.  It was nice to have friends, however temporary, to hang out with by the pool and talk to when I felt the need for socializing.  We all saw the Richfield fireworks on July 4th.  All we have to do was take a chair and walk outside the side gate of the campground to watch the fireworks.  They were quite good for such a small town.

Capital Reef National Park is in Utah’s south-central desert. It surrounds a long wrinkle in the earth known as the Waterpocket Fold, with layers of golden sandstone, canyons and striking rock formations. Among the park’s sights are the Chimney Rock pillar, the Hickman Bridge arch, and Capitol Reef, known for its white sandstone domes. In the north are the towering monoliths of Cathedral Valley.

The Fremont Indians inhabited the area around 1,000 AD.  In the 1880’s Mormons settled the area now called Fruita.  They planted orchards that are still producing today.  I’m still eating the peach jam I bought in Fruita from the trees planted by the Mormons.  They also sell delicious pies made from the fruit of those trees.

I took the scenic drive through the Capital Gorge canyon. I used my Go-Pro wannabe, SJ4000 action cam for the first time.  I’m learning to shoot video to add to my blog.  Here’s my first try.

Capital Reef does not have the crowds that other national parks do in the summer.  It was about an hour and a half drive from Richfield through scenic mountains.  It is well worth a visit.

Fremont Indian State Park is right outside Richfield and is definitely worth a visit.  It has the archaeological remains of the Fremont culture. The site was discovered during construction of Interstate 70, and thousands of artifacts have been excavated from the ancient village and put on permanent display at the museum.  The Fremont Indians were agriculturalists who lived from about 400 to 1300 in north and central Utah and adjacent parts of Colorado, Idaho and Nevada. The Fremont are thought to have come from hunter-gatherers who previously lived in this location and were influenced by the Ancient Pueblo Peoples who introduced corn and pottery, making year-round settlements possible.

 Provo, Uath

I chose Provo because I needed to be close to an airport to fly to Sacramento for 10 days to attend Jane’s Lobster Feed and take care of a couple health appointments.  Provo is 40 miles from the Salt Lake City airport and home to Brigham Young University.  It also had an Elks Lodge where I could stay and store my RV while in Sacramento.

The Provo Elk’s Lodge is a fairly new (five years) lodge with a large parking area.  It has room for five electric/water sites and three dry camping sites.  There was only a couple RVs parked at any one time. When in Provo, I’d certainly stay there again. 

Before leaving for Sacramento, I took the short trip (8 miles) to Provo Canyon for a hike to Bridal Veil Falls and then continued to the Sundance Resort. 

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Provo Canyon Trail
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Bridal Veil Falls with some crazy people!

 

The Sundance Resort is nothing like I imagined.  It is very rustic and low key. According to Wiki, “Sundance Mountain Resort is a ski resort located 13 miles northeast of Provo, Utah. It spans over 5,000 acres on the slopes of Mount Timpanogos in Utah’s Wasatch Range. Alpine skiing began on the site in 1944. Actor Robert Redford acquired the area in 1968, and established a year-round resort which would later spawn the independent Sundance Film Festival and the non-profit Sundance Institute. Sundance is committed to the balance of art, nature and community.”  I checked into tickets for the film festival.  You need to buy your tickets the minute they are released a year in advance in order to get a ticket.  Maybe someday…  I walked around and had lunch before heading back to the RV.

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Sundance Resort Building

Sacramento, CA

The purpose of my trip to Sacramento was to attend Jane’s Bridge School fundraiser lobster feed at her home in St. Helena.  This is always a fun event and gave me a chance to see a few people I hadn’t seen in a long time.  It was also my birthday.  It was unusually hot in St Helena the day of the event and the dinner was outdoors.  We did our best to stay cool by drinking a lot of cold beer!  Everyone had a wonderful time and the food was fantastic.  After a few days at Jane’s house, I went to Sacramento and stayed with Ralph (and of course, Freddy the Freeloader).  I do miss my guys!  I went to the eye appointment, the dentist  and got my hair done.  A very productive week indeed!

Note: Click on photo to see caption.

I returned to Provo with a bookie in tow (my book club friend, Reine).  Mary Ann and Gerard Capra joined us in their RV and we all headed to the Grand Tetons.  Reine traveled with us for 10 days and then flew back to Sacramento from Jackson Hole, Wy.  Having girlfriends join me for segments of my travels has been a wonderful time for me.  It’s been great to spend extended one-on-one time with these wonderful women.  I am blessed in so many ways!

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Another road queen Tierra N’ Up The Road!

Park City, Utah

We drove up to Park City to check it out and to meet a friend, Sue Robinson.  Sue has lived in Park City for 15+ years.  Park City is known for it’s wonderful skiing in the winter and recreational activities in the summer.  It is an  upscale town with restaurants, galleries and small shops.  We met Sue for dinner and spent most of the time talking telecom and walking down memory lane.  We had a great time and all commented, “We will be back, Park City!”

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The drive to Park City
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The drive to Park City
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Once a telecom girl…always a telecom girl! Me, Sue Robinson, Mary Ann Capra, Reine Thibeault

Next stop the Tetons and Yellowstone.

 

 

 

Panguitch, Utah

“There’s nothing to prove anymore, all that’s left to do is enjoy”     

                                                                                                                  Unknown

 

I have been on the road for five months now and the time has flown by.  Most of that time  has been with family (Yuma), at an RV rally (Tucson), camping with new friends (Casa Grande), and having a few road queens (Sandy and Jane) travel with me. Up until now, I haven’t actually spent that much time by myself.  It’s been interesting being totally alone.  I find myself being lazy or maybe I’m just tired from all the activity since leaving Sacramento!  I certainly was not this active at home.  I’m trying to make the transition from a “perpetual vacation” to regular life, just in a home on wheels.  In my regular life I wasn’t going and doing all the time. When in the RV, I feel like I’m wasting time when I’m not going somewhere or doing somewhere. I’ve read that it takes six to nine months to fully adjust to this lifestyle.

During my travels I’m  getting a good dose of small town America.  As you can imagine, I’ve had some interesting conversations with people that are not my peeps.  I’ve been taking an observer position and trying to understand the Trump supporter mind set.  It’s almost exclusively men that bring it up.  My response is, “I have a personal policy of not discussing politics or religion”, yet they  still  feel it necessary to continue defending Trump.  Short of getting up to leave, I cannot get them to shut up.  (What’s new, right?) I guess I’m still a city girl and I definitely live in the right state.  There’s no doubt that I will return to California when I am finished with this adventure. I miss California very much!

Panguitch, Utah

I stayed in Panguitch for two weeks.  In 2006, Panguitch was listed as a historic district in the National Register of Historic Places. The history of Panguitch is interesting.  Panguitch is a Native America word meaning big fish.  Mormons settled the area in March, 1864.  The first winter was exceptionally cold and hard.  Crops had failed and people were hungry.  Seven men braved the elements to get flour in Parowan, another Mormon settlement about 40 miles away, over what is now Highway 20.  The snow was so deep they had to abandon their oxen and wagon.  They were able to reach Parowan by placing a quilt on the snow, walking to the end of the quilt,  placing another down, and retrieving the first.  This became known as the Panguitch Quilt Walk and is still celebrated today. 

I was able to attend the weekend celebration that included many activities, a quilt show and a dinner theatre telling the story of the quilt walk.  I was touched by the celebration of the townspeople’s ancestors.  There were descendants of the original settlers in the play.  What a wonderful tradition!

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Ralph and I stayed in Panguitch when we took the RV and motorcycle on the Grand Circle  four years ago.    I stayed at the same campground, the Hitch N Post in beautiful downtown Panguitch.  I’ve started to rate these small towns by whether there is a Walmart or not.  You know a town is really small if they do not have a Walmart.  I don’t like shopping at Walmart due to their employment policies.  However, I do understand that

in some areas Walmart is the best employer and the best shopping.  As with everything in life, it’s a tradeoff. 

I chose Panguitch because it is a good basecamp for visiting Bryce Canyon NP, Red Canyon, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Kodachrome State Park, Cedar Breaks NM and Willis Creek Canyon.   Zion NP is within driving distance too.  I have been to Zion before so I chose not to visit on this trip.

The weather has been extremely hot and summer camping season is in full swing so it’s getting harder to find campgrounds. State parks are fully booked.  I’ve read how full-timers hate summer because it is much more difficult to find last minute campsite availability.  Part of the appeal of this lifestyle is that you can navigate by serendipity.  If you have to plan and reserve campsites months in advance…well… that’s the exact opposite of serendipity!    I haven’t been able to boondock without hookups because I need to have electricity for air conditioning.  So, that means RV parks that are more expensive than national forest campgrounds and dispersed camping in the wild.

Panguitch is located near the intersection of Hwy 89 and Hwy 12.  Scenic Byway 12 is 124 miles  long and travels through some of the most diverse, remote and ruggedly beautiful landscapes in the country. It is home to two national parks, three state parks, a national recreation area, a national monument and a national forest.  I saw rolling slickrock, colorful buttes and mesas, snaking canyons and rock walls varnished with mineral stains.  I traveled the scenic byway from Panguitch to the summit at Powell Point Overlook and The Blues. 

The Blues

The Blues is a badland of gray-green shales deposited some 80 million years ago when the area was covered by an inland ocean. The Blues is one of the best and most continuous records of late Cretaceous life on the planet and has yielded an abundance of dinosaur fossils, including a dozen new species. 

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The Blues
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The Blues and the top of the Grand Staircase Escalante

My first hike was Red Canyon. I cannot seem to get enough of those red rocks! Red Canyon is made of Claron limestone on the Paunsaugunt Plateau.  It is a variety of weirdly sculpted forms described as turrets, hoodoos, pinnacles or spires.  They extend nearly four miles on top of the plateau edge.  There are great trails to hike, bike and ATV.  Here’s a few photos of Red Canyon and the Arches Trail.

This is Dixie National Forest territory and the Sevier River runs through the area. The landscape is varied and beautiful!  Of course, Bryce Canyon National Park is the crowning jewel of the Panguitch area. 

Bryce Canyon

Ralph and I visited Bryce Canyon before and I wanted to return and hike into the canyon. Bryce Canyon is not actually a canyon, but is a series of amphitheaters etched into the pink Claron limestone of the Paunsaugunt Plateau (same as the Red  Canyon). I picked the coolest day of the week, left very early and hiked to the bottom of the canyon.  I loved walking among the giant rocks, pinnacles and hoodoos and soaking in the environment.  It was approximately 3.5 miles; pretty much downhill and, of course, uphill most of the hike. It was a bit challenging, but totally worth it!

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The Amphitheatre
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Bryce Canyon
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The Trail Down
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Hoodoo that voodoo like you do?
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Red Power!
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Through the Rabbit Hole
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The Welcoming Committee
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The Dangerous Wildlife
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At the Bottom
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And Back Up We Go!
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Up, Up, Up!
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I Made It!!!

Grand Staircase – Escalante

Scenic Byway 12 boarders the top of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Grand Staircase is the flagship unit of the National Landscape Conservation System, one of our nation’s newest conservation initiatives, managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  It is 1.9 million acres set aside in 1996 to preserve the wide-open spaces and intact ecosystems. The Grand Staircase is a series of massive geological steps that descend toward the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  The five cliff formations – pink, gray, white, vermillion and chocolate- each different chapters of geologic history spanning 100 million years.  This region of silence, space and scenery defies description! I found a great blog post that explains the Grand Staircase better than I ever could.  This is one of the photos from the blog.

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Grand Staircase – Photo Credit Dr. Jack Share
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My Grand Staircase Photo

Kodachrome Basin State Park

There is a Utah state park in the area too. Kodachrome Basin State Park that is definitely worth visiting. The Paul  Simon song, Kodachrome, ran through my mind a hundred times over a few days.  I could not get that song out of my head!  Yes, the park was named after the revolutionary Kodak film that was celebrated for its color accuracy. The park has a series of upright cylindrical chimneys called sandpipes.  More than 160 sandpipes ranging in height from six to 170 feet have been identified in the park.  I took the 3 mile Panorama Trail through the most spectacular scenery. On my hike I ran into a couple that I met on the trail in Bryce.  Small hiking world!  People are very friendly on the trails and I acquire a lot of good information from people I have a ten minute relationship!

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Kodachrome Basin State Park
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Matter of Perspective – That’s a tent nestled in the rocks
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A Closer Look at Kodachrome
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View From Top of Trail
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View On The Trail
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The Trail Up! Yes, that rock is in my way!
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Another View from the Top
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Doggy With Hiking Booties – What a great idea!

The couple I met in Bryce told me not to miss the Willis Creek hike. They said It was worth the long drive down a dirt road to the trailhead. It certainly was!  The creek has carved its way through the rocks, creating a slot canyon.  At certain times of the year you must wade through the creek.  This time of year the creek is barely flowing and you can use the rocks in the creek to cross from one side to the other to make your way through the slot canyon.  I love slot canyons but don’t hike them very often because access is either way off the beaten path, or a hard hike to get to them.  This one was accessible and  an awesome hike.  

Willis Creek Trail

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Sometimes Wet
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Sometimes Dry
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Always Narrow!
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Interesting What the Water Does to the Rock
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Erosion From the Water

Cedar Breaks

I took the 60 mile drive to Cedar Breaks National Monument. This great natural rock amphitheater of extraordinary forms wrapped in brilliant colors is a must see.  The Cedar Breaks amphitheater is a result of many of the same forces that created other great Southwestern landscapes, including the Grand Canyon, Zion Canyon, and the Bryce amphitheater. Cedar Breaks is like a mini Bryce Canyon.

Shaped like a huge coliseum, the amphitheater is over 2,000 feet deep and over three miles in diameter. Millions of years of deposition, uplift, and erosion carved this huge bowl in the steep west-facing side of the 10,000-foot-high Markagunt Plateau. Stone spires stand like statues in a gallery alongside columns, arches, and canyons. These intricate formations are the result of erosion by rain, ice, and wind. Saturating the rock is a color scheme as striking as any on the Colorado Plateau. Varying combinations of iron and manganese give the rock its different reds, yellows, and purples.

According to the park brochure, “Among the region’s original residents are the Southern Paiutes, who called Cedar Breaks u-map-wich, “the place where the rocks are sliding down all the time.” Later settlers named it Cedar Breaks, misidentifying the area’s juniper trees as cedars. Breaks, another word for badlands, is a geologic term describing heavily eroded, inhospitable terrain. President Franklin D. Roosevelt established Cedar Breaks National Monument in 1933, calling nationwide attention to its spectacular amphitheater.” 

The day I visited Cedar Breaks it was 58 degrees (high) with 50 mph winds and the elevation was over 10,000 ft.  I decided not to hike.  Too cold for me! 

Cedar Breaks
Cedar Breaks

Southern Utah is a unique place and if you haven’t been to this area, you should put it on your list!

My next home will be 70 miles north of Panguitch in the small town of Richfield, Utah.  I’ll stay there until July 10.  And this town is big enough to have a Home Depot and a Walmart.  Yipee!

Flagstaff, Page, AZ and Kanab, Utah

Back to Flagstaff

As much as I love the Sedona area, it was getting very warm there and I was finished with the Elks Lodge camping.  I decided to head to Flagstaff and the Bonito National Campground.  The elevation in Flagstaff is 7000 feet and the temperature is cooler than Sedona.  The Bonito campground offers only dry camping and is located at the entrance of Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. The campground is 12 miles north of Flagstaff and is nestled in the pine trees with nice separation between the sites.  Since the weather is cooler there was no need for electricity for air conditioning. 

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Bonito Campground Site

My new friend, Malia Lane, drove up from Sedona for the day and we toured the Sunset Crater Volcano and the Wuatki Ruins. Malia has been full-time RVing for 16 years as a solo.  I’ve read her blog for a few years and actually she is the one that inspired me to travel solo.  We are the same age, drive similar sized rigs and tow a vehicle.  She answered many of my questions and I decided, “If she can do it, so can I!”  Malia is a wonderful writer and you can read her blog, Malia’s Miles here.   I met Malia for the first time in Sedona and we really connected. We are both independent, new age women who came of age in the 1960s.   We also have the same touring style: slow and stop a lot to investigate things. I loved the time we spent together and I know we will meet up sometime in the future. Malia is staying in Sedona for the summer to complete a book she is writing.

Sunset Crater Volcano and the Wuatki Pueblo

According to Wiki Sunset Crater Volcano Sunset Crater is a cinder cone and is the youngest in a string of volcanoes (the San Francisco volcanic field) that is related to the nearby San Francisco Peaks.

The date of the eruptions that formed the 1,120 foot-high cone  was initially derived from tree-ring dates, suggesting the eruption began between the growing seasons of A.D. 1064–1065. However, more recent geologic and archaeological evidence places the eruption around A.D. 1085. The largest vent of the eruption, Sunset Crater itself, was the source of the Bonito and Kana-a lava flows that extended about 1.6 mi NW and 6 mi NE, respectively. The Sunset Crater eruption produced a blanket of ash covering an area of more than 810 sq miles and forced the temporary abandonment of settlements of the local Sinagua people. The volcano has partially revegetated, with pines and wildflowers. Since the last eruption of the volcano is a recent occurrence, it is considered dormant by volcanologists.

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Sunset Crater Lava Field
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Sunset Crater Lava Field
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Malia at Sunset Crater
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Sunset Crater Lava Field

The remains of masonry pueblos are still in the area.  In the 1100s Puebloan peoples came together to build a vast farming community.  By 1180, thousands of people were farming the Wupatki area.  By 1250, the people had moved on and the pueblos were abandoned. In 1930, President Hoover established Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.  Wupaki ruins are well preserved and include two round ball courts and a blow hole where cold air flows out of the earth.  It was fascinating and we could feel the energy of those that came before us. Well worth the visit.

While in Flagstaff I was able to take care of some errands, shopping and visiting with a friend I knew from Rancho Murieta. I finally bit the bullet and bought a new iPad.  I still had an iPad 2 with 16 gig of memory and 3G cellular.  That’s practically an antique!  I purchased the newest iPad with 128 gig and WIFI.  It’s blazing fast compared to my old iPad. Now I have plenty of room for all my travel apps, TV shows and movies for when I dry camp and cannot use my Dish satellite. So far I’m very happy with my purchase.

I met my friend, Sandy, at the Continental Country Club for lunch.  Sandy and I lived in Rancho Murieta at the same time.  Sandy reminded me they left Rancho Murieta 15 years ago!  I couldn’t believe it had been that long.  It was great to catch up and compare retirement.  Sandy and her husband Bob have two homes in Arizona; one in Cottonwood and one in Flagstaff.  They are only 80 miles from each other, but a world apart in climate and temperature due to the difference in elevation.

I stayed in Flagstaff for one week and then I headed to Page, Arizona where Jane, one of my BFFs, joined me for ten days to celebrate her 60th birthday.

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The San Francisco Peaks in my mirror as I head north from Flagstaff

Page, Arizona and Lake Powell

I drove the 130 miles from Flagstaff to Page and settled at the Wahweep Campground on Lake Powell before picking Jane up at the airport. We were celebrating her 60th birthday. 

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The Road Queens

 

The Wahweep Campground is a great campground located on the shores of Lake Powell.  The sites are $44.00 per night and well worth it.  The view from our campground was beautiful. There is also a hotel, restaurant and marina nearby.

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View of Lake Powell from campsite

While at Lake Powell, we visited the Glen Canyon Dam, Horseshoe Bend, Marble Canyon, Lee’s Ferry and took a boat tour of three canyons. We also hung out with a couple locals one night and had a memorable time.

You can thank the Glen Canyon Dam for the making of Lake Powell.  According to Wiki, Glen Canyon Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam on the Colorado River in northern Arizona. The 710-foot high dam was built from 1956 to 1966 and forms Lake Powell, one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the U.S. The dam is named for Glen Canyon, a series of deep sandstone gorges now flooded by the reservoir. Lake Powell is named for John Wesley Powell, who in 1869 led the first expedition to traverse the Colorado’s Grand Canyon by boat. Learn more about it here.  Lake Powell is 450 deep in some areas.  The Glen Canyon Recreation Area is very popular, especially with boaters.

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Glen Canyon Dam

We took a lake boat tour and explored three canyons; Glen, Navajo and Antelope canyons. The boat we took had an entirely female crew and the first female Navajo boat captain in the US.  This entire area is in the Navajo Nation. Learn more about the Navajo Nation here. 

One of the crew invited us to have sushi with her the next evening.  Believe it or not, the sushi was fantastic at the Blue Buddha and Joe, the bartender, made the best Cosmo I’ve ever tasted.  After dinner we went bar hopping in Page. I haven’t been kicked out of a bar in many years. One of us had a little too much to drink (and no, I’m not going to say who), and our little group of four was asked to leave the bar.  We were definitely the minority in Navajo country and had a great time mixing with the locals. We laughed about it for several days afterwards.

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Early in the evening at the Blue Buddha

I was also able to check off a bucket list item by visiting Horseshoe Bend.  This is an area where the Colorado River curves around an island in horseshoe fashion.  I’m sure you’ve probably seen photos of it.  If not, here you go.

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Horseshoe Bend – Colorado River.  Those little dots on the left are rafters.

 We did some site seeing by driving to Lee’s Ferry and Marble Canyon. Lee’s Ferry is named for its notorious settler, John D. Lee, who established a ferry at the site in the name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The ferry shut down in the 1920s when the steel span of the Navajo Bridge replaced it providing a breathtaking view of the canyon below. Lee’s Ferry is the put-in point for those rafting down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.  It is the only place for 100 miles where you can access the Colorado River.  We dipped our toes in the river and it was very cold.  I was told it was 46 degrees.  I thought there was a town there, but alas, there was not. 

Nearby is Marble Canyon with a resort and restaurant where we had a delicious lunch.  Marble Canyon, so named for its colorful rocks and cliff walls, is just below Glen Canyon Dam. Along with Lee’s Ferry, Marble Canyon marks the beginning of the Grand Canyon at its most eastern point.

After spending a week in our great camping site at Wahweep, it was time to head to Kanab, Utah so we could visit the north rim of the Grand Canyon.

 Kanab, Utah

The scenic drive north on Hwy 89 was a short 75 miles.  We stayed at the Kanab RV Corral for three days. It was an 80 mile drive through forest to the north rim of the Grand Canyon for Jane’s 60th birthday.  We took the short, but strenuous, hike along the ridge overlooking the canyon. On the hike we met a man who had bicycled from Oklahoma!  I can’t even imagine. We reserved the best seat at the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge and had a delicious dinner overlooking the canyon. We reminisced about Jane’s 50th birthday in Venice, Italy when we spent a week there and had a costume ball the day of her birthday. Where will be celebrate her 70th???

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North Rim Grand Canyon
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Grand Canyon
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Grand Canyon
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Grand Canyon Lodge on right.
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Grand Canyon

We had  such a great time.  I love having my friends visit. The next day I drove Jane back to Page to fly home.  When I returned to the rig, I prepared to leave the next day for Panguitch, Utah just outside Bryce Canyon.

Ajijic, Morelia, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico April 22 – May 6

How did I end up in Mexico?  That’s a good question!

First of all, I did not drive my motorhome to Mexico (yet).  I flew from Phoenix to Guadalajara.

The idea for the trip was hatched the night of the election.   I was at the Placer County Democratic election gathering and the night started out well.  But as you well know, it didn’t turn out well for us Hillary supporters. After the election,  one of my bookies (book club friend),  Jean decided to go to Mexico.  When she mentioned it to me I said, “I’m in!”  Turns out the trip was to San Miguel de Allende.

I have been toying with the idea of moving to Mexico for a couple of years (even before the election).  I have been researching different places, reading blogs and Facebook groups and trying to learn as much as I could about the realities of living in Mexico as an ex pat.  I was particularly interested in Ajijic, on Lake Chapala and  San Miguel de Allende.  Another bookie, Lynn and her friend Jean joined in and before we knew it,  seven of us were going for a week in San Miguel.  Lynn, Jean, Jean (yes two Jeans!)  and I decided to take another week and visit Lake Chapala and Morelia.  A work associate and friend, Michael has lived in Morelia for 13 years .  I have enjoyed reading his Facebook posts and his wonderful photography and he made Morelia look like a place I wanted to visit.

The plan came together.  Ajijic for three days, Morelia for four days, and San Miguel for one week.

 

Mexico trip map
Our trip route

Ajijic (ah-he-heek)

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The two towns on Lake Chapala with large ex pat populations are Ajijic and Chapala. There are 20,000 English-speaking ex pats living in the area. Learn more about Ajijic here. We chose Ajijic to visit and I found a small, boutique hotel on the lake.  La Nueva Posada, owned by a Canadian was a lovely hotel with an excellent restaurant.  A large breakfast was included and the price was $65 USD per night. We were very happy with our home base while visiting Ajijic.  The hotel also has long-term rentals that include housekeeping every day and breakfast.  You can also order food from the restaurant for delivery. We met a woman at the ATM who is one of those long-term renters.  She invited us over to see her one bedroom apartment ($800 USD/month) and another woman let us see her two-bedroom apartment ($950 USD/month). They were quite nice.

Lake Chapala is the largest fresh water lake in Mexico and the elevation is around 6,000 feet, making the weather nice all year long.  The “rainy” season generally runs from May-Oct and the mountains surrounding Lake Chapala become green. 

 

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Beautiful Lake Chapala

 

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The view from our hotel room in Ajijic

We could walk everywhere and we did our bit to simulate the economy in this lovely small town.  I like the city centers because they give you the feel of being in Mexico.  There are numerous modern housing developments surrounding the city center.  These gated communities could be anywhere in the US (where is weather is nice all year round).  These developments are full of Canadians and Americans.  Not where I would want to live. Two reasons people move to places like Ajijic; the great weather and it’s inexpensive!  About one-half the price of goods and services in the US.  You can live very well on just a decent social security income.  Many do!

Here are some of the sites around Ajijic.

 

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Masks to honor Ajijic citizens
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Everything is colorful in Mexico!

Even though we only spent three days in Ajijic, we got a good feel for the area.  We met several women in our age group that were visiting, or lived in Ajijic. We felt making friends would be easy, if indeed, we did live in Ajijic.

While in Ajijic, we went horseback riding along the lake and on the streets in town. Let’s just say it wasn’t the fantasy of riding a beautiful horse along the shoreline with our long blond hair dancing in the breeze.  But, it was pretty cool.   And I was reminded of why I gave up my horses 20 years ago.  My butt hurt, my knees hurt, and I was grateful to get off!

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We took the opportunity to investigate real estate in the area.  Prices are very reasonable compared to California.  However, it is probably a better idea to rent for a year or two before investing in real estate in Mexico.

Morelia

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Before we knew it, it was time to leave for Morelia. We hired a car and driver to take us to Morelia, a beautiful colonial city in Southern Mexico in the state of Michoacán.  A friend moved here 13 years ago and was our tour guide and translator for the four days.  Morelia reminded me so much of Madrid.  Dah!  The Spanish colonized (a nice word for stole, pillaged and enslaved the natives) the area.  The upside of the colonialization is the beautiful buildings and churches left behind.  My friend, Michael Dunham is retired now and is a very talented photographer and is connected to the music scene in Morelia.  You can view his photos on his website.  Michael recommended a friend’s B&B, Casa Xola and we were able to get three rooms.  Arliegh, our host, was a delightful Canadian woman and we loved her beautiful house.  Arleigh and Michael took two of us to neighboring villages to see their artesian wares.  Jeannie and I were under the weather and couldn’t go.  They had a fantastic time and did their best to stimulate the Michoacán economy.

We visited the local merchado.  So colorful!

Michael took us to many  great restaurants and again, unbelievably low prices.

There are ten universities in Morelia and thus, the city is teaming with young people.  Morelia is home to the largest music school in Mexico.   As we walked along the cobblestone streets of Morelia, music was pouring out into the streets from the many bars and restaurants. Of course we did some shopping and stocked up on Retin A, which you can buy over the counter in Mexico. I was able to get three more tiaras for crowning future road queens too! I bought a local designed and made purse for $40. 

 

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Many old buildings-just beautiful!
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The four amigos!
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The Pope did visit Morelia.
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Dianne Bretz- Even Mary Kay is sold here!
 

We needed much more time to take in all the sites and museums in Morelia.  I predict this won’t be my last time in Morelia.  Hear that Michael?  🙂

 

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Dinner and Jazz in Morelia

San Miguel de Allende

We decided to take the first class bus from Morelia to San Miguel de Allende.  The bus system in Mexico is excellent!  We even got half price senior rates.  A 4-hour bus ride in an air-conditioned bus with WIFI and movies was $139 pesos.  That’s $7.30 USD!  We keep picking our jaws up off the ground when we realize how inexpensive things are here.

San Miguel de Allende also has a large ex pat community of around 12,000. San Miguel is a small, mountain town at about 7,000 feet.  Learn more about San Miguel here.

We rented a three bedroom house up in the hills above the city center. Here is a link to the VRBO listing with photos of the house.  It was a fairly easy (considering the cobblestones) walk down to the center, however, the walk back up the hill to get home was another story, mostly due to the heat in the afternoon.  We liked getting the exercise, but I the highest heat of the day, it was not good. 

 

 

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Iconic Parroquia San Miguel de Allende

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View from our rooftop terrace
More beautiful site in San Miguel

 

One of the many street celebrations.  Mexicans have a celebration every other day!

When we first arrived, we hired a driver to take us to a grocery store for supplies for the week.  It’s quite a guessing game reading the labels and figuring out what we were buying. Of course, some things are obvious.  Others, like laundry detergent, etc. was not so easy.  Thank goodness for Google Translate!  I used that several times to communicate with non-English speaking people. We did accomplish our goal and had plenty to eat and drink at the house.  We ate one meal a day at a restaurant; from the street vendors to very nice restuarants.  We found San Miguel more expensive than Ajijic and Morelia.  It was also more crowded and less friendly than Ajijic.  Of course, we did our best to stimulate the local economy, yet again!

We visited the Toy Museum and marveled at all the hand made toys! Yes!  All handmade. 

 

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Handmade popup book

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While dining at Hank’s Cajun Restaurant we ran into Pauline and Michael who had stayed at Casa Xola in Morelia. Pauline moved to Miami from Great Brittan in the early 70s.  Michael lives in Marbella, Spain.  We enjoyed their company in Morelia and even more so in San Miguel.  They invited us to join them on their hotel roof-top terrace, (very common in Mexico) for wine and cheese after dinner.  We had a great time getting to know them better and I know I’ll see Pauline again on my next visit to Florida. 

 

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Pauline and Michael

 

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Carol, Jean and me!

It was a wonderful trip and I’m so glad I was able to check out the places I’ve been reading about for so long.  Will I be moving to Mexico anytime in the near future?  Probably not.  Will I visit again, maybe every for an extended stay?  I will probably go back to Ajijic again.

 

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Me after two weeks in Mexico

 

Here are a few things I learned on this trip

  • The charm of cobblestone streets and sidewalks wears off quickly when you walk everywhere.
  • Mexico could sure use an EPA. The air is polluted, dusty and smoky in some areas.
  • I like regulations that provide for safe walking and driving.
  • In spite of having an offensive, incompetent,  con man for a President that has insulted an entire country because of a few “bad hombres”, the people in Mexico were welcoming, extremely nice, and helpful. 

I returned to the Sedona area of another couple of weeks before heading north.  I just cannot seem to get enough of Sedona.

Until next time…