All posts by cerchie1

Northern Olympic Peninsula

We have been traveling on the road for the last four of Pam’s birthdays. Last year we were with Dave and Kathy in the middle of Rainy Lake, north of Minnesota. This year we headed for the most northwest spot in the US, Cape Flattery on the Makah Indian Reservation, located on the very tip of the Olympic peninsula. We stopped at the Makah Cultural Center. No pictures were allowed inside so I only got a shot of their door.

It told of their history along the coast. One of their villages was buried by a mudslide hundreds of years ago, and the recently excavated items show an interesting snapshot in time of their life back then.

We drove out to the Cape and hiked out to the point. The trail out to the point was interesting with much of it on cedar boardwalks.

Some of the cedar path was not actually made of boards.

Getting there was fun along the path, but Cape Flattery point was just gorgeous.

The water was crystal clear, and the colors were spectacular.

The island off the Cape had a lighthouse station and both Pam and I wondered how you get that posting.

The small rock outcroppings were alive with life. We spotted sea lions sunning themselves on one of the nearby rocks.

There was a black oyster catcher on another local rock outcropping, another lifer for us.

We left the Cape and camped at Hobuck Beach Resort, an open field campground next to the beach on the reservation. We had an evening beach walk and delicious steaks for a nice birthday dinner.

The next day, we headed just a little south and camped at Ozette Lake campground. The lake and sky were beautiful shades of blue. No forest fires or smoke here. A couple floating on paddle boards in the water said the lake was warm for the first few inches, but all bets were off below that thin layer. So we kept to the forest and hiked instead.

The hike out to the coast was about 3 miles through the forest. Similar to Cape Flattery, the trail was a series of raised cedar walkways that made the trip out and back cruise by quickly due to the interesting walkway.

The walkway snaked through the forest all the way to the coast.

When we arrived at the coast, the morning fog was just lifting. We pulled up a log, of which there were many to choose from, had lunch and hiked along the beach for a while before heading back to camp.

The next day was Friday and we had been having such good luck with camp spots we decided to tempt fate and go to Sol Duc Hot Springs in Olympic National Park to find a campsite. They were all taken, but we did refill our water tank there. We headed further east and took a turn along a very narrow road to the Log Cabin Resort on Crescent Lake, still within Olympic National Park. We didn’t need a cabin, but they did have a camping spot that we snatched for the evening. Crescent Lake was also beautiful. Being a resort as well, we decided to try their restaurant for a nice evening out. The dining room had a dozen tables, but only ours and two others were occupied for dinner. The food was very good and it took quite some time to finish the bottle of wine as we watched the sunset.

The next day we left the Olympic Peninsula, taking the ferry from Port Townsend to Whidbey Island.

As we left Port Townsend a weather front full of rain was right on our heels.

The weather front and rain caught us as we made port in Coupeville and proceeded to pour on us as we crossed Whidbey Island, and back onto the mainland. Our time on the Olympic Peninsula came to an end as we headed for the North Cascades in the rain.

Hoh Rain Forest

We began our exploration of the Olympic Peninsula heading north into the Olympic National Forest, and to Quinault, WA. The drive was through very lush vegetation that broke into a clearing with a beautiful lake. We saw a sign for the world’s largest spruce tree and had to stop. The spruce tree was 191 feet tall, 59 feet in circumference and over 1000 years old. Standing at the base, I was barely visible.

Along the drive to Quinault we passed a huge hydrangea bush with bright blue flowers in bloom.

We made our way to the Olympic National Park lodge at Kalaloch, WA and had a tasty lunch while overlooking a foggy coastline.

Continuing north we passed a sign for the largest cedar tree and it too was equally impressive.

Finally, we arrived at the Hoh Rain Forest campground in the Olympic National Park. It was a first-come, first-served campground and luckily there was a nice spot for us to stop for a couple of days.

We did a couple of short hikes after arriving to see the beauty of the rain forest. It gets over 180 inches of rain per year, but luckily it was sunny weather for our time there. The trees were draped with moss.

There were unique trees everywhere.

Some of the conifers there were just huge, rising a few 100 feet into the sky.

Even the older ones that have fallen years before shape the trails, because they are too tall to climb over. They also act as a source of growth for new trees to sprout, known as a nurse log.

Compared to the desert, the place looks prehistoric. Instead of bears I expected to see a T-Rex appear around the next turn in the trail.

It was green, lush and beautiful everywhere.

The next day we took off on a longer hike along the Hoh River, which is a glacier melt river fed from Mt. Olympus. The 18-mile trail leads into the backcountry and to Mt. Olympus. We only hiked 4 miles of the trail.

It was a nice hike and we stopped for lunch along the river, using a tree root for our lunchtime bench.

There was also a small stream flowing under a bridge along the trail.

When the signs in the bathrooms say, “Do not wash your boots in the sink”, you know it’s usually raining there. Therefore, we were extremely lucky to have two days with nothing but sunshine. The Roamer, however, was parked under the tree canopy at our campsite so the solar panels did not see much sunlight for a couple of days. To recharge our batteries, I had to start the truck to kick in the engine’s generator so that Pam could have her morning coffee on her birthday before we continued north. Priorities!

Southern Washington

While in Idaho, we called a fellow camper we had dinner with while on the road in southern Arizona. Ward lives in Olympia, WA and said, “if you are ever in the area”. He gave us some great things to see and places to camp. Unfortunately, he was out enjoying the outdoors as we passed Olympia, so we never did get together this trip.

One place he recommended was Steptoe Butte State Park in southeastern Washington. The park is a lone butte rising a few thousand feet above the local farm country. As can be seem by our navigation system, the road spirals up the butte to the park located at the top.

The road was not much wider than our vehicle, but luckily there was no traffic. As you spiraled around you were treated to an incredible view to the horizon in all directions.

The wheat and potato fields below and the puffy-white clouds above provided some gorgeous colors as you looked out over a good chunk of southeastern Washington.

The potato fields were either just sprayed to get them ready for harvest, or the nighttime weather was getting near freezing to cause the gold to green hues on the top of the plants.

We headed eastward and stopped at Palouse Falls State Park. The 200-foot waterfall, and the local rock formations were stunning.

The Palouse River flows into a mysterious-looking gorge downstream of the falls.

Being Friday and with no camping reservations, we didn’t want to get too far west and into higher population areas where campgrounds would be booked full. We stopped for the night at Lewis and Clark Trail State Park near Dayton, WA and took their last open spot – complete with a teepee.

The next day we continued west through Yakima, WA and were greeted with the largest hops fields either of us had ever seem. There were acres and acres of hops that went on for miles. It really made me thirsty for a good, cold beer.

As we neared Rainier National Park on a Saturday night, all of the local campgrounds were full. We headed into the forest along a road that was closed a little further ahead due to fire.

We found a great spot off the forest road near Rimrock Lake to disperse camp for the night that was out of sight and sound of all other campers in the area. This was much preferred to some of the full campgrounds we passed, where folks we so close to next campers that you might as well have camped in a parking lot.

The next morning, we drove into Rainier National Park and purchased our National Parks Pass for the fifth year in a row. We got a cute green tree frog on this year’s card. We visit so many parks in the west that our Parks Pass pays for itself many times over during the year.

We came into the park through the south entrance, which was not busy at all. Ward had told us that the flowers were in full bloom at the mountain’s base, so we headed toward Paradise. Soon into the park, the mountain, which reaches up to 14,411 feet, becomes visible and it is something to see.

We stopped at Reflection Lake to do some hiking; and reflecting. The melting glaciers on Mt. Rainer provide most of the drinking water for Seattle. I guess its good for them they are melting then, right? Had to pick up some Rainier Beer to get my share of the glacial water. Raaaai-neeeeir Beeeer; I can still see the motorcycle climbing up through the forest – best commercial ever – lol.

It was the first sunny day in the park for a few days; and being a weekend the parking lot in Paradise was overflowing. You can’t really squeeze the Roamer into a crowded parking lot, so we found another place to stop and hike along a stream.

While it wasn’t the place noted for flowers they were out and beautiful along our hike.

We exited on the west side of the park and there was about a five-mile line of cars coming from Seattle, waiting to get through the gate. I was glad we got there early, and on our out way opposite that traffic. The nice thing with the Parks Pass is you don’t feel like you need to stay for the entire day.

We drove to the coast and camped for the night at Ocean City State Park. The beach there was huge. We found out you could spend the day with your vehicle on the beach, but you had to leave by 11pm, so no overnight camping allowed.

It was peaceful on the beach and we ran into another couple who camped at many of the places we had visited over the years. Their favorite restaurant was even Hell’s Backbone Kitchen in Boulder, UT.

We talked for some time, got some good tips on spots to aim for in the future and watched some riders go by along the beach.

We were finally in a new unexplored area for us – the Olympic Peninsula.

Nevada to Idaho

Great Basin National Park is in east-central Nevada, or more correctly, in the middle of nowhere. We stumbled onto this Park a couple of years ago and it is truly a find. The Park is located in the small South Snake mountain range that rises out of the local sage covered plains that make up the western Utah and eastern Nevada landscape. Wheeler Peak is the highest point of this range, rising to 13,063 feet. There are several campgrounds within the park, but the one we prefer is the Upper Wheeler campground at 10,000 feet. Even when the rest of the surrounding area is blistering hot, it’s nice and cool up there.

Still worried I had lost my cooking touch, I attempted another meal but with one major change. The Volcano grill is a collapsible, double-walled steel grill that weighs in around 30 pounds. Given this weight and the continuous jostling in our storage box when we travel, the original cloth carrying bag slowly disintegrated. We got a new bag last year, and more importantly, at the same time also a cooking heat-resistant cover for the grill (Pam got it, but let’s not dwell on the who – lol). I gave it a try and the steaks and potatoes came out perfect. Grilling problem solved. The heat that was dissipating too rapidly without the cover was now retained longer to create a much better grill.

The campground was a combination of forest and meadows. The meadows had a lot of wildlife that we enjoyed in the evenings around the campfire, including deer and turkeys.

I tried to get a shot of the Uinta Squirrels that race around the place, but I’m not that quick yet with the camera.

We did a couple of hikes in Great Basin NP, where one leads to a huge bristlecone pine area. These trees, living two miles up in elevation, are some of the oldest trees in the world. A few of them in the rock-soil “forest” were well over 3,000 years old.

Individual trees have areas that are both alive and dead. However, even a few of the dead ones took over 1,000 years to realize they were no longer growing. When scientists first found the grove, they attempted dating core samples on what they suspected to be the eldest tree. The samples did not make sense to them so they cut it down to count the rings, only to find that it was over 5,000 years old. It’s now in the visitor center to remind us of stupid things we do in search of the unknown.

At the higher elevation, the air was clear and blue. As we descended back to the basin floor, we entered a smoky landscape from the forest fires that have been burning in northern California and southern Oregon. Nevada has these 10-mile wide valleys of sage and grasses between north-south running mountain ranges that ripple the state from east to west. Even in the smoke it’s still beautiful.

We headed north out of Great Basin NP and passed under a wildlife bridge that are becoming much more common throughout our travels. Game can cross the road over traffic, greatly reducing accidents on these lone stretches of highway. Some animals, like big horn sheep, will not use an underpass. State Fish and Game agencies are working closely with the highway departments to identify critical areas and how best to address game crossings. I like that.

We camped in the Ruby Mountain range in northern Nevada at Angel Lake Campground. While we climbed back up to roughly 8,400 feet to get there, it was still a little smoky, but beautiful.

We heard a strange sound from the campsite next to us and looked over to find this grouse calling from its picnic table perch into the local brush. There was also a large group from the University of Arizona geology department camped there on a field trip, exploring the local rock formations.

We crossed into Idaho and stopped in Twin Falls for lunch at a nice Irish pub, Dunken’s Draught House. I never really appreciated a good Reuben sandwich. However, our eldest son sent me a side of pastrami and rye bread from a good New York City deli for my birthday last year. Therefore, I’ve decided to try one on this trip where I can. The Reuben and the local beer there were very good. More testing is required – in both areas.

We camped the night along the Snake River at Banbury Hot Springs. We enjoyed a nice soak in the water, and meeting the 90-year old lady who put our swimming endurance to shame.

The stretch of the Snake River to the northwest of Twin Falls, ID is interesting to see because spring water gushes out of the river rock walls into the river below. There are many of these along this stretch. One is in the picture below just to the left of center. They are not just a trickle, but a small stream of water appearing magically out of the rock wall.

We like to stay off the Interstates because back roads are so much more interesting. We took the back way to Boise, ID through some cattle country. The Roamer much prefers these roads.

After jumping around Boise, we headed north up the Payette River gorge, stopping for lunch along the river.

We camped that night at Big Sage campground along the banks of Lake Cascade in central Idaho. The campground was named for the awesome smelling sage that lined the campground. Personally, I think more than just cooked poultry should come in sage scent.

We scored a campsite right next to the water and watched an eagle and osprey aerial fight over local fishing rights. There was a large forest fire over the next mountain range to the west, which created a spectacular sunset.

We use the inciweb.nwcg.gov website to locate and try to adjust our route around the many forest fires during our travels. We drive by many firefighting camps during the summer as the northwest seems to ignite from June to August, before their seasonal rain arrives in late August – early September. Hopefully one day forest management will be allowed to be implemented in the forest by forest rangers rather than dictated by lawsuits and city folk. One can always dream.

We continued north up through Idaho along the Salmon River. Over the mountain range to the west is the Snake River gorge that defines the boundary between northern Oregon and Idaho, Hells Canyon National Rec Area. We didn’t explore that area this time, so we’ll have to come back this way.

We camped the night along the Snake River near Lewiston, Idaho, on the Idaho – Washington border. Hells Gate State Park is situated on the northern border of the Rec area.

We stopped at a hardware store along the way to pick up some new elastic cord. After four years of traveling, and much relaxation in our zero-gravity chairs, the elastic chord holding the lower seat canvas to the frame was a mass of frayed repair knots. I could only find white, but they look and function much better now.

Now that we have entered the state of Washington, we turn west and head for the Pacific Ocean.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Pam and I departed the roasting Phoenix valley in mid-July for our fifth summer trek this year, adding another chapter in the P&D Earthroamer Adventures logbook. We had a late start this year due to our youngest son getting married, but it was worth the wait.

After four years of road trips we’ve found that campground reservations are only required for Friday and Saturday nights during the summer. Any other day and there will usually be one spot, except for the more popular National Parks, where you really need a reservation if you really want to stay.

We decided to head north, get to higher elevations and out of the heat. I made one campsite reservation this year the week before we left home. I found one open spot at Cedar Breaks National Monument for the Friday after we planned to depart and took it (there are some first-come spots, but we didn’t know how early we would arrive). I figured we would roll the dice for the rest of the summer and see what happens.

The monsoons had arrived in Arizona, and the forest on our way to Flagstaff was a vibrant green. This was great to see since we didn’t have a very good snow year this past winter. The forest was extremely dry and closed to camping prior to the monsoons. We stopped at Bonito Campground in Sunset Crater National Monument for our first night in the Roamer. I fired up our volcano grill, cooked our first meal and we had a nice campfire in the cool 7,000-foot air near Flagstaff.

We continued north on Hwy 89 and then onto 89A heading towards the Vermillion Cliffs. We crossed the Colorado River near Lee’s Ferry where all the Grand Canyon river trips load up and depart. We saw a couple of boats heading out as we watched from a few hundred feet above the river. While the river water is cold, the folks on the boats must roast in the triple digit heat on the river this time of year.

We turned south at Jacob’s Lake and headed towards the Grand Canyon. The north rim of the canyon is about 1000 feet higher in elevation relative to the south rim, and therefore cooler. As we entered the park we passed a heard of bison grazing on one of the many beautiful meadows that line the road to the north rim.

There were some good-looking bison and a lot of calves among the herd. They are not native to the area and seem to know exactly where the Park boundaries are that keep them safe from hunters. They are displacing the native deer and elk populations but thinning or moving the herds is very political.

The Grand Canyon is always a sight to behold. The scale is just mind-boggling, and the canyon stretches as far as you can see to both the east and west.

The patio of the north rim lodge was nearly empty but is always standing room only near sunset and into the night.

We didn’t camp within the park this time. We have a favorite dispersed camping spot just north of the park in the national forest along FS611. The road, and the camping spots, run right along the ridge.

From the east facing ridge you see the Vermillion Cliffs on your left and the entrance of the Colorado River into the Grand Canyon on the right. It’s also at about 8,000 feet so a cool air temperature compliments this majestic view.

I broke out the Volcano grill and made dinner but was disappointed with the results. I use a Weber charcoal grill at home and the uncovered Volcano grill did not yield the grilling perfection I wanted. The dinner was good, just not great. I needed a remedy, or this trip was going to be mediocre with just good dinners. The view made up for the shortfall in cooking.

We jumped into Utah and headed to a BLM campground we discovered last year near the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Ponderosa Grove campground. It was a nice stop and we watched the evening rains fall all around us but missing our campground.

The following day we climbed up to Cedar Breaks National Monument, which sits at about 10,700 feet. The white, red and orange colors of the rock formations are just spectacular.

We did a couple hikes around the lip of the monument. On one side there was a small group of bristlecone pine trees, some of the oldest trees in the world. They have so much character in how and where they grow, and their needle boughs are so thick and soft.

The hike around to the other side of the monument gives a better view down into the gorgeous rock canyons. A few years back we cross-country skied from Brianhead to here in the winter, where all the rocks were snow capped for an entirely different look.

We even spotted a new bird (lifer) along the hike, a Cassin’s Finch. Our new camera allows us to catch a good shot and identify the bird later at the campsite with the help of an adult beverage, or two.

The night we were there was the night of the lunar eclipse on the other side of the world. However, even though not eclipsed, the moon rose golden colored and beautiful.

Our next stop – Great Basin National Park.

Whitewater Draw

With the Christmas season over and our holiday company returned home, it was time for a Roamer trip. I signed us up for an Arizona Antelope Foundation (AAF) volunteer project near Ajo in southern AZ. It was in a remote area, which made the trip even more enticing.

Pronghorn, or the American antelope, are the fastest land animal in North America, but will not jump a fence like a deer. They will slide underneath, if possible. Otherwise, their range is bounded by the barbed-wire fencing through the west. Therefore, nearly all of the AAF projects are to replace miles of existing barbed-wire fencing with a smooth lower wire to increase the pronghorn range.

This particular project was a collaboration between AAF, AZ Game and Fish and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) to fence in and protect a water tank (pond – when water is present) from wild burros and errant cows. They foul the water because they relieve themselves wherever they stand, which tends to be in the water on hot days. The wildlife in the area that depend on these tanks will not use them if fouled. The fence we erected had a lower smooth wire for the pronghorn to slide underneath and a smooth upper wire for mule deer to leap over. The middle two wires were barbed.

The AAF folks were great to work with and now we are AAF members looking forward to the next project, which will probably be lower wire replacement on an existing fence line.

From Ajo we headed east across Arizona to just south of Elfrida, AZ and the Whitewater Draw. The significance of this area is that is the wintering grounds for many Sand Hill Cranes. Thousands of cranes were there this year.

The other reason to go there was to test out our newest acquisition. After traveling for a few years now we finally broke down and bought a nice camera, the Nikon Coolpix P900. Still a point and shoot, but much better than our phone cameras.

The Sand Hill Crane is a four-foot bird that spends the night at the draw, and feeds in the nearby farm fields all day.

They leave in huge flock with a great noise just before dawn and return in the afternoon just before sunset.

It’s a remote area, but there are a few camp spots there. We luckily got the last one upon our arrival.

The moon was nearly full while we were there. Our new camera does a great job capturing the moon. The zoom is so great that the toughest part is holding it still enough during the finger push to capture the shot.

Pam is the birder of our family. She would point them out and I tried to get a picture. This was a male Vermilion Flycatcher. Slowly we’re learning how to capture the entire bird, not most of it, with a crisp focus.

These two are a male and female Pyrrhuloxia.

This is a Northern Shrike with its striking pattern.

In the water, there was a Northern Shoveler. This was one of the few photos I could get with it not foraging for food in the water with its but in the air.

I was able to catch this Northern Pintail during the end of a nice morning bath.

This American Wigeon couple was enjoying a meal along the shore banks.

This Killdeer was taking a moment to reflect – lol.

And of course, to keep all these birds in line, there were a few birds of prey, like this hawk.

This juvenile Cooper’s hawk had a future meal in the brush in his sights.

As the sun set, the Great Horned Owl began his nightly hunt.

Stay tuned as we learn how to use this camera. Hopefully our blog photos will improve.

The night before we headed home, we shared dinner with Ward, a fellow traveler there to see the birds. He suggested we stop at the Amerind Foundation Museum near Dragoon, AZ. The museum is hidden in the beautiful Dragoon foothills, and was once a horse ranch before becoming a museum. It’s definitely worth the stop if you are in the area.

We took the back way home from southern AZ. North Cascabel Road runs from Benson to Mammoth along the San Pedro River on the eastern side of the Mt. Lemmon.

It was a pretty drive with a lot of huge, impressive saguaros to see along the way.

There was even an amazing field of cholla cactus that I’m glad we didn’t have to walk through.

The road meets up with Hwy 77 into Superior and from there we took US60 home. The dirt road sections in Cochise and Pinal Counties were well maintained and enjoyable to drive on through the towns and ranches along the way. However, the short section of road crossing into Pima County was horrible and obviously not maintained. The nine-mile extreme washboard road section was the only negative aspect of the drive home. I wonder if the Roamer comes with a road grader option?

Hawaii

While the blog posts have been about our adventures on the road in the Roamer, the desire to travel after retirement was fueled by our great family vacations even when we were both working and the kids were in school. Even now we still get together as a family for an adventure once a year.

We had company coming in for the Christmas holiday so the four of us took off for the big Island of Hawaii earlier in December. The boys had never been there, and Pam and I had not been there since our honeymoon nearly 33 years ago.
If you go to the big Island you have to see Volcano National Park, so we found a VRBO in Volcano, HI to rent for the week. The place was just outside of the park and about 4,000 feet in altitude. It does snow on the Island since Mauna Kea reaches up to 13,800 feet at its peak.

It didn’t snow on us, but it was cold at night and the wood burning stove was a necessity.

Volcano National Park is a pretty cool place if you like beautiful volcanic landscapes. This is one of the huge calderas located in the park. The floor of the caldera, where we hiked across, was once lava that took sixteen years to cool enough to cross.

Thurston Lave tube is a volcanic cave where the outer lava cooled and the inner lava flowed away, leaving the 10 foot diameter tube that you can hike through.

Outside the tube and around the caldera is lush vegetation.

One of the calderas is still active and at night you can watch the lava explode inside the center. Because the ground near the lip is very unstable, you have to enjoy this from some distance. One Ranger told us of a time in the past when you could go out the edge and luckily a group of visitors were pulled back just before a 20 acre chunk of earth fell into the molten caldera.

The lava finds its way from the active calderas to the ocean, reshaping the island and creating new landscape.

There are two types of lava, A’a and Pahoehoe. A’a is the rock mound type of lava. It moves as a wall of rocks, creeping along it set path. Pahoehoe is the more liquid flowing rock that looks very much like the top of brownies when it stops and cools. Lava was not flowing into the ocean when we were there, but there is a constant battle between lava and the ocean as the island tries to grow.

We didn’t expect to find petroglyphs in the lava, but we came across these in the park left by some ancient Hawaiians.

Hilo was the closest city to where we were staying. We toured the city one day and its beautiful parks.

And of course there was a waterfall too.

We drove up Mauna Kea as far as our rental car agreement allowed, about 9,000 of the 13,800 climb – lol. The last few miles require four wheel drive to get up and great brakes to descend safely. The panoramic view out over the island was nice from up there.

We also visited Waipi’o Valley on the northeast side of the island. You can see the Maui on the horizon from this point. We hiked the 25% grade road down to the beach and back up. Tough hike but the beach was nice and we had lunch there for an enjoyable afternoon.

On the southern side of the Island, we hiked out to the Papakolea Green Sand Beach. There was some serious erosion where folks have been driving out to the beach. You needed a vehicle with some ground clearance which our rental car did not have. The Roamer would not have fit these roads.

The two mile hike made swimming at the green sand beach that much more refreshing. We caught a return ride in the back of a local’s pickup truck.

At the southern most point of the US, and Hawaii, is a 20-foot cliff to the deep blue ocean. There was also a tidal blow hole that Tom and Taylor swam into, mostly carried by the wave currents. One lady there looked down, saw them in the hole and asked, “Where is your Mom?”. Pam answered, “I’m right here – and they’re fine”.

We also visited Lava Tree State Monument. This is where lava had flowed through a forest, wrapped around the trees, cooled and then the tree burnt leaving a hollow vertical column of lava.

One day we drove to the southeastern side of the island, rented bikes for the three mile ride to the end of the road and hike across a lava field to an active lava flow.

After about a mile into the hike the ground was getting noticeably hotter. When we looked down in the cracks in the rocks it became obvious why it was warmer.

Pam turned around at this point, but the boys and I continued until we got right next to the above ground flowing lava coming down the hill and making its way to the ocean.

On the western side of the island is the Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park. This place was the royal grounds for the ancient Hawaiian families and also the place of refuge. Nearly all crimes had a death penalty, but if you made it to the place of refuge before you were caught then you were spared. You lived with the priest there until he said you were absolved, and could then rejoin the outside world.

Further up the west coast of the island we stopped at a beach Kaloko-Honokohua National Historical Park. We shared the beach there with some sea turtles basking in the afternoon sun.

This was another great trip with the boys.

Flagstaff

Even after our Roamer service was completed in Colorado the rig just didn’t have the same performance as before. So we took it back to the Ford dealer in the valley after we arrived home. I had a good chat with the mechanic, changed out a couple parts, got a data logger attached to capture any engine events and we took off north to see if it was finally fixed.

Our first stop was Orme to discuss our next rebuild project.

One of the larger ranch homes was vacant and in need of a serious upgrade. As one of the few three bedroom, two bathroom houses, it really needs to be brought back to life and should be a good project. It needs nearly everything: windows, doors, cabinets, counters, and new bathrooms… so it will keep us busy. We took dimensions and discussed what would be needed to make this place a beautiful home again.

Because the issues with the truck were related to high altitude and cold conditions we continued to climb up to Flagstaff and headed to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. If you are not familiar with the area, Flagstaff was once a huge volcano field, where some of the more eye-catching buildings in town are made from volcanic rock. Sunset Crater, northeast of Flagstaff, has many of the cinder cones from past volcanoes and beautiful lava fields to hike through.

The cinder cones and lava fields line up with the San Francisco Peaks. It too was once a huge volcano that blew ages ago. Humphreys Peak, the tallest, tops at 12,633 feet. You can see from the mountain shape how big the original volcano must have been before it erupted, possibly rivaling Denali in height.

Just north of Sunset Crater is Wupatki National Monument. Wupatki is a collection of ancient Pueblo communities that existed on the land just north of Flagstaff. It is located at the southern border of the Navajo Nation that encompasses the north-east quarter of the state of Arizona, and some of Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.

The excavated remains of the ancient communities include the buildings, gathering places and even game courts.

The stone construction is very impressive, where some of these dwellings are built on rock ledges overlooking canyons.

We’ve camped at the campground in Sunset Crater before, but it was closed this time of year. We have also dispersed camped just south of here near Walnut Canyon, but we wanted a new place. There is dispersed camping on the west side of Hyw 89 across from Sunset Crater, but this is typically a crowded area due to its popularity. We ended up finding a new place near Wupatki on Forest Service (or maybe Babbitt ranch) land in the cinder fields off the park road before you reach Hwy 89. It was a great place to watch the full moon rise and light up the evening skies. We’ll definitely use this new place again.

The next morning we continued our exploration of the Wupatki ruins. The colors of the ruins and the morning sky were just stunning.

The sky always seems a little bluer when you’re above 7,000 feet. Then again it could be my mind playing tricks due to the lack of oxygen – lol.

Our sticker collection has now covered the entire inside of the lid and is two or three layers deep in some areas. …but more are needed. It will be done when we run out of new places to visit.

The Roamer passed the checkout test and is ready for extended travels again. We also just received a letter from Ford that extended the warranty of the items replaced. We will get a refund for the most recent work since it was already changed out on our truck. Nice.

The Front Range

We left our Roamer at the EarthRoamer factory in Dacono, CO to get its yearly camper tune-up and some paint touch-up for the areas that were starting to show some oxidation along the top corners of the camper. We are always trying new routes in and out of Arizona on our trips. Because we had a rental truck that could move right along, we took I-40 into New Mexico and then shot up Hwy 491 from Gallup. Rather than go through Shiprock, we turned onto Indian Service Rd 5 to cut over to Farmington. The scenery along this road was unique.

Just outside Farmington there were acres and acres of pumpkins ripening for the Halloween season. We then crossed into Colorado and gained some altitude. We stopped for the night in Pagosa Springs, hitting up our favorite brewery there for a nice dinner and some beers – Riff Raff Brewing Co. The drive along Hwy 160 was beautiful with fall colors out in force.

Looking out over Wolf Creek Pass was gorgeous. You just had to watch out for the many ground squirrels that inhabit the rest stop there.

There was a miscommunication on the scope of the paint job, and since it was going to take a week or so more to fix, we had some time to explore the Colorado Front Range. We drove south to Colorado Springs to visit a childhood friend of Pam’s, Lisa, and her husband, Gary, who live there. We did several hikes around the area, including the Garden of the Gods, which is an interesting rock outcropping.

We saw about a dozen sheep in the rocks, where this guy was doing a nice pose for the camera.

We also drove up to the top of Pike’s Peak, elevation 14,115 feet. While it was a nice fall day down in Colorado Springs, it was near or below freezing with a stiff breeze at the top of the mountain. The view was fantastic and we even saw the cog train that drives up and down the mountain if you don’t want to drive yourself.

We also visited a friend who owns a couple of great book stores in Colorado Springs before we headed back north. We spent the remainder of the time in Loveland, CO with Jim and Alison. Typical for the area it was beautiful fall weather, and then the next day the temp dropped 30 degrees and it snowed. The next day it warmed back up and the snow was gone – for now.

We kept busy doing hikes and visiting breweries during the week while Jim and Alison worked. We met up with another high school classmate of Pam’s at the Breckenridge Brewery in the southern Denver area. They have some tasty beers.

One of the nicer hikes we did was along Devil’s Backbone, just outside Loveland. It was a beautiful day and we ran across a small Prairie rattlesnake on the trail. He was trying to catch the last of the fall sun and got a little upset when I moved him off the trail and back into the brush. He probably slithered back into the sun after we left – lol.

Another great hike in the Loveland area is through the Benson Sculpture Park. It a public park in town that holds a “Sculpture in the Park” event every August, where the proceeds from the event help to purchase another permanent sculpture. It has been ongoing since 1984 and there are now over 130 sculptures in the park. We may have to make it back to Loveland in August one of these years to see the event.

We finally got the Roamer back and headed south towards home. Typically we jump over the front range and take Hwy 285 back to Arizona. However, the Ford dealer said we should break the new turbo-charger in slowly so we headed down the front range to Walsenburg and made our way to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The dunes are about 600 feet high and we got there in the late afternoon when the shadows on the dunes are the best.

The local elevation is about 8,000 feet so it was brisk in the evening this time of year, perfect for a campfire. We grabbed a spot at the campground there and had a great evening looking at the stars. The sunset was beautiful and we had a neighborhood full of deer in the morning.

We dropped south from there into New Mexico and made our way to one of our favorite camp spots, El Morro National Monument. It was our second time there this year and luckily we were able to grab one of the last spots for the night. It was interesting to see how much the sunset location shifted on the horizon with the passage of the summer.

El Morro’s elevation is just over 7,000 feet, so it too was a nice evening for a campfire before heading home to end this trip.

On the way home the next day we stopped in our cabin for lunch and to catch up with our neighbor. The Forest Service was conducting a prescribed burn for the area to clean out the low grass and brush in the ponderosa forest around our place. They have been more proactive in keeping the fire danger down since the huge fire more than a decade ago that took out over 500,000 acres of forest in the area. However, the year of the fire, the forest was so dry it was a matter of when, not if, it was going to occur.

We arrived home safe and sound with the Roamer to complete our fourth summer trip. While it may be remembered for the maintenance issues we spent more time visiting friends and family for longer periods of time and seeing new places, which is never a bad thing.

Colorado

This summer’s trip has been one full of maintenance issues. Most folks we talked with also had mechanical problems this year. Maybe like wine there are good and bad years, and 2017 is a bad truck year – lol.
As we made our way south towards Colorado, our turbo-charger blew. With the much more limited power we limped down the front range and found a large parking lot to let the rush hour folks drive home at maximum speed. After waiting an hour we left the parking lot, but the truck became a white smoke generating machine when we started down the road again. Now with no power and creating a cloud behind us, we pulled over into another parking lot and called for a tow truck.

The towing process was a good learning experience for us, having never towed the Roamer before. The tow truck that showed up later that night was too small to tow the Roamer so we sent him away and spent the night in Freddy’s Steakburger parking lot in Loveland, CO. It won’t make our top camp spots list.

The next morning we discussed our situation with the Denver Ford service center, EarthRoamer, AAA and a tow company that had a medium duty tow vehicle. A lowboy trailer is recommended for EarthRoamers for long distances, and due to its height to safely make it under overpasses. However, you can disconnect the driveshaft and use a regular medium duty tow truck if just towing for shorter distances, less than 100 miles.

This was good news for us because we’ve been camped in places when both of us have looked at each other and wondered how a lowboy would ever get back to anywhere near where we were if the truck broke down. Now we know towing it is not as restrictive, but hopefully it’s not something we’ll need often.

We were on our way to the EarthRoamer factory for our rig’s yearly service. The blown turbo-charger meant we had two days to kill while it was being fixed at the Ford service center before it would get its yearly camper tune-up. Without the roamer we were just normal travelers so we booked a couple of nights at the The Niwot Inn. It’s a cute B&B in Niwot, a transitioning farm community along the rail line between Longmont and Boulder.

We met up for dinner with my cousin’s son Matt, who works in the Denver area. We ordered the meat platter at Avery Brewery. We saw the smoker when we walked in so we had to try it. The food was really good and beers were even better while we caught up with Matt and updated news of our relatives back east.

After we got a new turbo-charger and exhaust filter, which sucked up the oil once the turbo-charger blew and produced the smoke show, we took it to the EarthRoamer factory for the yearly tune-up and some new paint to fix the oxidation on the top corners after 4 years on the road. This work was going to take a couple of weeks to complete so we took our rental (F-150 4×4 truck) and headed west to Fruita, CO.

We stopped on the way in Vail, CO for lunch. Neither of us had been there before. It was a lot smaller than I envisioned, more like a ski resort than a ski town. The food and scenery were good, but we jumped in the truck and continued onto Fruita.

Fruita is where our EarthRoaming friends Lou and Nancy recently bought a place. It’s a nice small town just outside Grand Junction, CO, where most folks know each other and the place is surrounded by great off-road and mountain biking trails.

It’s a town that likes the arts, where sculptures line the main street. This is a sculpture of Mike, the famous Fruita rooster that lived for days after his head was removed. I guess if he had a brain he would have known he was dead.

They also have a couple of breweries in town. Here was our selection from the Copper Club. All were good beers. Pam and Nancy even helped to harvest some hops that this brewery uses at a local friend’s farm.

While Moab-like mountain biking is the main draw for the area, we checked out some great hiking areas. This was just outside of town, overlooking the Fruita valley. It was before the western fire’s smoke blew in and turned the normal blue sky to a yellow haze at the end of our stay. The smoke wasn’t heavy in Fruita, but it was noticeable.

We also hiked Rabbit Valley, a beautiful canyon area along the Colorado–Utah border off Interstate 70.

There were hieroglyphs on the canyon walls from the folks that lived there many years ago. The canyon ends at the Colorado River and water flows through the canyon most of the year.

The Colorado National Monument is on the outskirts of Frutia so we had to visit. The canyons there were much grander in scale compared to Rabbit Valley and gorgeous.

We did a couple of hikes within the monument, but could have done many more.

With time to kill waiting for the Roamer, we decided to drive home and catch-up on things there since we had been gone since June. Being in western Colorado we shot down Hwy 128 to Moab, which is a breath-taking drive if you have never gone on that road before. We then jumped onto Hwy 191 and headed south into the Navajo Nation.

We stopped in the Comb Ridge Bistro for a great lunch in Bluff, Utah. The small restaurant had great food and some interesting art for sale.

We hit a monstrous wind / dust storm going through Chinle, AZ on the reservation. We were glad we had a rental and not sand-blasting the Roamer with a new paint job.

We stopped at our cabin on the Rim to enjoy the cool air one more night before dropping back down into the 100- degree valley. Once the peanut feeder in our side yard was replenished it did not take long for the jays and squirrels to find the food.

While the west coast and northwest had a horrible forest fire year, the northern Arizona forests looked a lush green with full ponds of water from the winter snows and summer rains.

We got back into the valley and our planned stay was extended due to delays with the Roamer. While at home we caught the Diamondbacks game when they clinched the wildcard slot, a really good game.

Sadly we also attended the funeral service for Brian, who lost his fight with cancer. Pam’s brother and sister flew in for the service of their childhood friend so we had a chance to catch-up with both. Having the rental pick-up turned out to be handy. We sold our F-150 truck years ago, but having one again was rather nice.

Next trip is back to Colorado to pick up the Roamer.