Southwest Trip 2001
We head out from Ed and Suzanne's and stop by Baxman's truck scale for the official weigh-in. My Vanagon weighs 4760. Ed's weighs 4780! Twenty pounds heavier! Must be his awning!
We are Officially on the road at 7:41 am. After several hours of driving we stop at Granzella's Restaurant in Williams and, later in the day, stop by a creek to wash my dog just before we hit I-80. Then we stop for gas in Truckee.
After that, there is major traffic and then single lane through a forest fire area in the Sierras. Then through Reno, Nevada and on to Hwy 50 to Austin, Nevada. We make it to Spencer Hot Springs in only 11 hours of driving. We find the top spring site vacant. There is only one other Vanagon at a lower hot spring.
Pack up and on South to Warm Springs at the highway intersection. We swing into Tonopah to have our tires balanced. Then East again to Crystal Springs. A swim and cool off there and then east again to camp behind the rock pile on the way to Caliente.
Birds for Suzanne. A walk in the evening.
Into Caliente where Ed wants to have his tires checked again. No go. Bought groceries and then on to Panaca where they could check his tires. Didn't help. On into Utah and then Cedar City. Enjoy some milkshakes and then head up the hill towards Cedar Breaks. At altitude Ed's engine started cutting out. Stop and go for a while with a couple of stops to cool off. Ed thinks it is altitude related. Once over the top things got better. On to Escalante and then to Boulder, the scenery just getting better and better.
Start down the Burr Trail and find Deer Creek Camp to be mostly full and way covered with brush from what I remember from past times. We press on. Another couple of miles and we take a side road and circle up. Bugs!!
We play a game of Petanque and slap bugs. Evening campfire.
A beautiful drive down the Burr Trail, through the canyon and a side walk into a small narrow canyon.
Onward. Ed chooses a side trip through Wolverine Canyon to the Petrified Forest. 28 mile loop. Nice drive and good petrified stuff. We are surprised to find that we come back out on to the Burr Trail eleven miles back up the Burr from where we started!!
A stop for lunch before we start going down the switch-back "dugway".
Impressive as always.
On down the Burr Trail to the Bullfrog ferry dock. We just miss the 3 o'clock ferry. We decide to wait for the 5 o'clock ferry, park in line on the ramp, and take a swim in the Lake. Finally the ferry arrives and it is time to drive aboard. I am first in line.
As I go aboard the rear of my Vanagon drops and hits hard on the ramp. Evidently the ferry had moved back away from the ramp a bit. I do get onto the ferry and discover coolant leaking from the rear. Oh. Oh. Everything stops as the lady comes over with haz-matt cloth to catch the coolant leaking out onto the deck..
Once across the lake to Hall's Landing I am told to proceed to the top of the ramp and meet with a repairman. I do and we follow him to the maintenance building. Scott is his name. Originally from Healdsburg, Ca.! He understands VW's and gets to work. Removes the muffler and cat and then gets the heat shield straightened out and re-attached like it originally was. It now clears the crank pulley. My radiator hose got pushed into the power steering pulley and got a cut in it. They have a radiator hose that matches some of the twists and bends of my hose and he cuts it to match and installs it. We reload coolant without apparent trouble and we are good to go. We decide to camp in the marina campground since it is now past 7:00 pm.
We decide we will wave the $15.00 per vehicle camp fee and let the ferry boat folks pay for our unexpected stay. No bugs and a reasonable temperature through the night. Showers were available but no hot water!
We load up with water and ice and I fill out an accident report and Ed and I turn it in to the administration office. On the road again. Off to Blanding and the Edge of the Cedars Museum. Then groceries, car wash, gas and go. On to Bluff and a look around and milkshakes. Then down to Sand Point? for a possible swim in the river. Too much current and steep bank. Back onto the highway for Muley Point with Ed and Suzanne leading the way. Soon we reach the dugway and enjoy the amazing drive up the switchbacks.
Then out to Muley Point. We set up camp but finally decided to move to a more scenic spot a bit back and over on a side hill. Hazy sky, clouds in the distance and later, some lightning. Bugs but breeze and through the night rather strong winds. Suzanne cooked up excellent beans and ham.
Beautiful morning wake-up. Sun shining on the monuments. Light breeze, some bugs. Humming birds and swooping White-Throated Swifts.
9:00 am and starting to think about John's Canyon.
We take our time leaving Muley Point. Sit around reading books, take showers, Ed goes for a hike over to the next point and then gives us a holler via hand held radio. We grab our binoculars and finally spot him.
We finally do a lazy pack-up and hit the road; deciding to go into Mexican Hat for ice. Back down the Moki Dugway and a few photo ops. Into Mexican Hat for ice, beer and milkshakes. Then off to John's Canyon. Soon we are driving below Muley Point through the narrow gaps; Suzanne no longer smiling!!
Spectacular, as always. After about an hour and a half of first and second gear we finally arrived. There is some water flowing across the ford but not much. We have to arrange rocks to get across. While doing so the bugs attack! Biting flies! We decide to pass the turn-off to the cottonwood tree camp and press on to the swimming hole. As we arrive there is a steep downhill turn in soft sand . I go down it not thinking and quickly grabbed the mic to tell Ed to stop and not come down. I'm not sure I will be able to get turned around and back up out. Anyway, we shut down and go to the swimming hole; wading hole, more like it. The water is surprisingly cool. I'm still thinking about possibly being stuck; I sort of want to give it a try getting out of here.
Ed moves his bus back up the road and I get turned around in the rocks and sand. Then make a run at the up-hill sandy curve. Nope! I back up and get a longer run at it and this time, after almost bogging down halfway up and around the turn I just keep the power on, the dirt flying, and make it!
Lolli and the dog hop back in and we head back towards the cotton woods. We come across a previous camp site on a small bluff overlooking the stream bed. We decide to camp there because it is more in the open with a breeze to help keep back the bugs.
Camp established, the clouds form up and soon we are treated to lightening and wonderful thunderclaps reverberating back and forth between the canyon walls.
We sit in our lawn chairs with our wine glasses and watch and count the seconds between flash and bang! The rain and wind finally reach a point to where we are driven into my bus for dinner! Things calm down after dinner and we move back out to a campfire evening! Perfect! Ed and I got in a game of desert Petanque too! I beat him again!
Up to a lazy get-off and on to Mesa Verde. Back to Bluff and then east. Mostly a driving day. When we get close to Mesa Verde we start looking for a possible camping spot. Down by Mancos, close to the turn-off to Mesa Verde we start doing red dot roads via DeLorme. Not easy, mostly fenced in ranches and roads to farm houses. One grassy field is a possibility but the spot can be seen by a couple of farm houses off in the distance. We decide to head for the BLM land on the other side of Mancos. We end up in a bull-shit campground paying $14.00 for the privilege. I get rather pissy about it because I hate "organized" campgrounds but, we get the fire going, the wine out and have a fine dinner anyway. We are awakened in the morning by the hollering of some cowboy herding horses or, as I think, the scout master waking boys at 6:00 in the morning (there are a group of them staying in yurts at the group camp area.
Up to Mesa Verde. Visit the museum, see the movie and wonderful dioramas. Do a few of the hikes to the overlooks.
Off for Durango and then Chaco Canyon. Up over the pass and down into Durango. The group wanted to "do lunch" and we end up at a Mexican restaurant called The Patio. Reasonably good. Then off to the grocery store to stock up and to the liquor store to stock up.
Some confusion in our departure had Ed and Suzanne going west on 160 and us going south. We lose contact via CB and it takes about a half hour to get straightened out and back onto the same page!
Onward to Aztec into strong winds and blowing dirt. Gas up and on into light rain. We finally find the turn-off to Chaco but none of the maps really agree. Some saying highway 40, others saying 550. Anyway, after quite a bit of washboard road we arrive hoping that there are still some campsites available; if not we will have to drive another 20 miles.
But, there are plenty of empty campsites and we settle in. What a day! Out with the wine and Lolli makes up siska-bobs with rice and green salad. Campfire under cloudy skies; the new moon coming on.
Up to light sprinkles and overcast skies. By 8:30 the sun comes out. Ed and Suzanne take Lolli in their Vanagon to go see the ruins while the dog and I stay in camp. I am catching up on this travelogue.
They all have an excellent visit to Chaco and when they return we have lunch, pack up and hit the trail. The trail south out of Chaco. Lots of washboard with a high crowned cattle guards every now and then.
Finally we reach the blacktop and head for Crown Point for ice and gas. Rain and strong gusty winds. We leave the flat rolling sagebrush and start climbing back into the mountains. Beautiful red rock, forest, water in lakes and streams. And, finally, the road to Canyon de Chelley. The sun comes back out and we leave the wind behind.
We take the first turnout to Mummy Ruin and Ed and Suzanne get their first look into the Canyon. Impressive as always.
We buy some bracelets from the native women there. We then find our spot for the night, up a red dirt road amongst the juniper.
Perfect. A game of Petanque, a fine dinner by Suzanne and a campfire with me reading too long a story out of Ed Abbey's book about his love life. Everyone finally off to bed leaving me to watch the embers die and toast Abbey with a spot of Jack Daniels.
Up to clear skies, no wind. Perfect. There is talk about doing the horse back ride up the canyon today. May be too hot. We will see. Right now it is a perfect morning. No biting bugs. A few flies. I take a walk through the Juniper to see if I can look down into the canyon. I get close, out onto some slickrock, but hear something walking. I take my flip-flops off and sneak up barefoot to finally discover a white-faced cow! Back in camp.. Ed is doing the dishes, Lolli is writing postcards in bed, Suzanne is sitting in their bus reading.
Back up and down to Chinle. We check out the visitor center and I help an Indian couple fix a flat on their pick-up. The elder man is her uncle and he has come to attend a Veteran's benefit meeting at the campground. She says her uncle's great grandfather was the last Navaho chief.
Next, over to the horse riding place at the mouth of the canyon. We talk to Percy and schedule a ride for three in the afternoon. Then drive up South Rim to see White House Ruin and Spider Campground. On the way I look to see if we can still get to our favorite spot overlooking First Ruin. I spot the turn off and it looks like the access has been blocked with rocks. We drive on to look at Spider Camp; pretty pitiful. On the way back to the mouth of the canyon I now see that it still is possible to go camp in our original spot; the rut goes around the rocks.
Back to the horses. We finally get saddled up after one of their guys goes into town to get permits. We head into the canyon at 3:30 pm for a two hour round trip ride to First Ruin. It's hot but not brutal. Percy stops every now and then to point out some feature and give a bit of a history talk. Turns out he is Ute. He says that the ruins were built by women; the men brought wood and traveled. Many petrographs along the way.
Finally we reach the floor of the canyon across from First Ruin and park the horses in the shade. Percy sits on a stump while we walk across the canyon for a closer look.
Finally we mount up and head back.
The horses mostly walk but every now and then break into a trot which is hard to take. I'm quite beat by the time we finally get back to the corral. $110.00 for the four of us.
Off to our secret spot to camp across from First Ruin. We pull out onto the slick rock and park by the Junipers. Even more trash around than last time but still the view and the slick rock and the ruin down across the canyon is spectacular.
Phone calls are made via cell phone describing the beauty. Ed and I play Petanque on the slick rock. Total luck in which way the ball will go and how far.
Off to the Hopi cultural center for lunch. Then, Old Oribe, where Lolli gets her pika bread from an older native woman. Also apricots from a young Indian man.
On to the Vermilion Cliffs. Camp up a dirt road with a view of the Vermilion Cliffs. Nook Mon chicken dinner. I made up sage bundles.
We drive out to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. $20.00 each vehicle to enter. We arrive at the lodge but decide almost immediately to give Sublime Point a try. We see it on our maps. 17 miles of dirt. Off we go.
About half way into our drive we come to a really rough spot.
We stop and fill holes with rocks and plan our route up it. After about forty five minutes of road work we are ready.
And make it! We reach a nice little meadow and think about giving it up and making camp or maybe turn around and forget the whole thing but finally decide to press on. It reaches a point where Ed and Suzanne drive ahead to check the road and then CB us to come ahead. We sort of leap-frog along like this for a while. We meet some folks coming out in a Bronco and they say the road on out is not too bad. We press on. Finally we get glimpses of the canyon.
First, Dragon Canyon and then, finally, Sublime Point. It is all worth it.
What a grand, almost 360 degree, view. We are the only ones there! We park in the shade of Junipers and spread out with our lawn chairs and books waiting for the sun to drop and make the canyon coloring even more spectacular. A ranger arrives in his truck. Soon he makes it known that we can not camp here or anywhere in the National Park without a "back county" permit. Major bummer! We are whipped from the difficulty of the drive in; now we have to drive back out, not only the 17 miles of bad road, in the dark, but an additional 47 to get out of the Park!! We ponder the situation and finally pack up and leave. After traveling about three miles back up the road we come to a turn-off. If we take it we could come to the forest service roads which are out of the park and would be legal to camp by. We take the turn, go about three miles and, since it is almost dark, decide to call it good enough, take a wee road to what turns out to be an old abandoned cabin; circle the Vanagons and call it a night! Whew!
We talk about driving back to Sublime Point for the morning light. We talk about continuing on and trying to find the forest service roads that will get us out of the park and back to the highway but finally decide to return to the original road to Sublime Point and take it back out to the highway; rough spots and all. Ed has hit his oil pan a couple of times but no leaks and we finally are back to the highway.
Off to Zion. We get to the Zion turn-off and go up the road. We finally reach the Park entrance. $20.00 per vehicle. We offer to wait while Ed and Suzanne go do the Park but they decide against it and so, back down the road and then off to Utah. Hot! Back up to 103 degrees. We load up with ice, beer and wine at the Last Chance beer store before entering Utah and head up to highway 14 that goes to Cedar City. Soon we are back up in the cool and trees. We enter Dixie Forest and look for "our spot" . We find a dirt side road and take it. Not the best but after some searching we find a level place big enough for both busses and set up camp. Showers and munchies and wine and then start the dinner of mashed potatoes and barbecued chicken.
Perfect. This will be our last evening together. Ed and Suzanne have to hit the road for home in the morning. We still have five days of vacation left.
We travel with Ed and Suzanne as far as the turnoff to the Leman Cave, in Nevada and say our farewells. They head for the cave and we press onward to visit our friends in a wee gold mining ghost town in Nevada. After a wonderful three day visit including a novel Fourth of July parade we head for home.
Total trip: 3,678 miles.
Averaged 21.5 mpg.
My Subaru engine never missed a beat.
Until.... Click here
Or Click here for Spring Break 2002