First Night

Yesterday was an epic drive day, the longest planned for the trip. We covered 423 miles from the Rim to Arches. We made a few stops along the way to break up the drive. Our first stop was at Petrified Forest National Park. We did 2 hikes there. The Blue Mesa hike is definitely one not to miss. The guide said it was a strenuous 1 mile hike – come on. When has strenuous and 1 mile ever gone together. Maybe if you were going straight up El Cap, but if you end up at the same place (the parking lot) at least half the hike is down hill. Besides the small incline at the start and finish, the hike was very pretty. Here’s a shot along the hike. The chunks along the wash areas are sections of petrified wood.

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We then stopped at Painted Desert National Park for some more beautiful scenery. Took a couple of pictures and then stopped into the visitor center. I have one of the National Parks passport books (typical retirement folk now) so I intend to fill it with stamps from the National Parks along the way. Two stamps already for the day – leaving Lou in the dust on the stamp count.

Our 3rd stop was Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site in Ganado, AZ. Pam and I have stopped there several times on previous trips to take a break and “window shop” in the trading post. Had lunch there under a shady tree at a picnic bench and instantly made a friend with the local dog (possibly because I fed him). One of the hosts said I could take him since we hit it off so well. The dog is still there, with the pack of prairie dogs that rule the local area, but I did leave with another stamp in my book.

We got to Arches just before sunset and set up camp. I had booked it online and used google satellite to help choose the best spot. That method worked pretty good. Here is our spot. The picnic table and chairs are below the road; can’t see our neighbors so it feels almost like dispersed camping.

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On our Way

Pam and I packed, had lunch with our boys and headed out of the 109 degree valley heat up to the Rim around lunchtime today. The monsoon thunderheads were forming to the east and may bring some rain, and a drop in temperature, to the valley tomorrow. However, today when we got to Payson (around 5,000 ft) it was raining. A nice change since it has been 112 days with no rain in the valley. We got to our place (around 7,600 ft) and the temperature was in the 80s. The rain had just ended, but the air was still moist and it held down the dust on the dirt roads. I opened the Roamer up to let the heat out since it has been heat-soaking outside in the valley for the last few weeks.

Before the trip gets too much further I thought I would create a baseline list of top campsites with the Roamer and see if future ones can bump these off the list.

Number 1 is Fire Point located within Grand Canyon National Park. You need a back-country permit to use it, but you will find yourself and maybe one other couple there if you can get there (Roamers can go anywhere with a chainsaw in hand). Fire Point is like having your own personal Grand Canyon because the entire point is yours for the night. We were there with Nancy and Lou, and had a great dinner and some wine to go with the panoramic view of the canyon.

Number 2 is a spot we pulled off of Hwy 300 (dirt road), about half way between its junctions with Hwy 260 to the east and Hwy 89 to the west. It was just Pam and I. The view off the Rim was beautiful. The dinner of lamb chops slow cooked on our baby Weber was great, and we got to use the heater because it was a little nippy in the morning.

Number 3 was along Rock House Road near the Vermillion Cliffs. It was a long-standing joke during our many adventures through that area that we would see the condors as we passed the Cliffs. Over the years we have driven by at least a dozen times and never saw anything, but this time we saw the condors. Lou and Nancy were there with us again since it was part of a great tour we did together from Mormon Lake and up through the Grande Staircase of southern Utah back in May. We just parked in the condor view lot for the night and watched them soar above the cliffs that evening and the next morning.

Number 4 would be Mulie Point. It was one of the sites for the Roamer Owners Rally last year just after we bought the vehicle. Getting to the Point via the Valley of the Gods and up Mokie Dugway is why you have a vehicle like this. However the best thing about that campsite was a B-1B fly by in the morning at an altitude below the rim and close enough to see the colors of the pilots suits. Those of us lucky enough to be on the edge at that time (with our morning coffee mugs in hand – jaws dropped) just watched in wonder. By the time anyone thought to pull out a camera the aircraft was halfway to Flagstaff.

Number 5 would be Burr Trail Road near Boulder, UT. The site was just a pull-off, but I got to put our shade canopy out for the first time (very cool since we learn more about the vehicle daily). We did a great hike up a nearby hill that was covered with what looked like molten metal volcano fallout. This one also rated high because Lou and Nancy introduced us to Hell’s Backbone Grill. Go there. I’d camp in the parking lot to eat there again.

Given our proposed trip and the places we will see, I wonder if any of these current campsites will be on the final top 5 when we get back to the valley. I hope not. It will mean we will have to find even better sites in AZ and UT to bump the new ones to come. Can’t wait.

Trip Prep

Retired today. I’ll stop there although many can guess how I feel. Pam and I opened a bottle Cervantes Mountain Cuvee to celebrate. Man that is good stuff. Packing is in progress and our departure is set for sometime tomorrow. We are only going as far as our place on the Rim tomorrow but it will be the last time in the valley and the scorching heat for some time.

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I was thinking today about what criteria would make for the ultimate camping site? What rating scale should be used? Ideas are welcome to help set the rating scale to be used for our upcoming trip. The obvious ones are beauty, access (tougher to get to must rate higher) and people (where camping with good friends can tip the scale on many normal looking sites). There is always the intangible element like a good Porter or IPA beer taps on every tree surrounding the site that could easily propel any site to the top as well.

Ideas welcome.

Departure In Sight

This is my first post on the blog that will track our travels in search of the ultimate campsite in our Earthroamer. I retire tomorrow after 30 years of work to start a new adventure of searching for the ultimate campsite with my wife Pam. She retired earlier this year so we both now have the freedom to hit the back roads, forests and wide open spaces that make up North America. I can hardly wait.

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Our objective is to travel the US and Canada during this first trip not using any freeways. Should be very easy out west, but may be a little tricky when we get back to the east coast. We will see.