So we finished up our bittersweet stopover in California. I say bittersweet because we LOVE spending time with our kids and grandkids, but unfortunately HATE the state of California. We were both lifelong residents of that state and when I was growing up 50+ years ago it was a magnificent state. But time & evolution (plus a heavy influx of pigs & thugs over the years) have managed to destroy California. Driving through areas like Bakersfield, Salinas, San Jose, even Sonoma County it was disappointing to see the amount of garbage piled high along the roadways, the amount of graffiti scrawled all over everything, even the terrible conditions of the highways. Sad to say goodbye to the kids, but GLAD to be eastbound. We were headed for Utah and decided to do the Hwy. 80 to Reno and catch Hwy. 50 out of there. Since we had to swing north for Hwy. 80, we made a very short stop off to see the Gladiator (that’s Max, our grandson in Santa Rosa), just long enough to allow Jeanne to finish planning our family XMAS extravaganza that will occur in Nashville. Everyone is going to fly in for a few days of celebration and checking out that area in Tennessee.
Our departure was “exciting” to say the least. Now, I freely admit I can NEVER be accused of being a handyman type, I basically have no mechanical skills; yes, I am hopeless in that realm. Just after leaving Santa Rosa, every warning light, every siren, every bell & whistle went off on my dash. Check engine warning, brake air, exhaust temp warning, something called “trans comm failure”, and many others. These things are all computerized and it all got triggered. My gauges went dead off and on. I lost no power or ability to steer and brake, and those bells, whistles, and warnings would stay on for a few seconds, then go back to normal function. I have had this happen to me twice before, scattered over the past 2 years, but only for a few seconds and then gone. I was in a Cummins shop within the past 6 months and had them check it out while installing some computer update, but they told me it was not part of the system they were responsible for and I should take it to a Freightliner shop. Since I have a couple of Freightliner recalls for minor issues already, I guess “Freightliner, here I come”, well, as soon as we’re done playing around and as long as we have no earth shattering problems. But for that first hour on the road, the on again off again bells and whistles drove us nuts. Amazingly, once we hit Hwy. 80 the dash stopped acting up.
Sparks Marina RV Resort was our first stop, a park we had stayed at before. We only stayed a couple days here, enough to hit Trader Joe’s and stock up for Utah. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, southern Utah is a beautiful area with all the national parks, but it is not very convenient. Large grocery stores are rare, so one must stock up on food and water before entering that state. Then it was onward across the state of Nevada on Hwy. 50, the section between Reno and Ely of which we had not been on before. Reno designated that stretch as the loneliest highway and we could see why. It was rare to pass anyone. The highway also wound up into the stratosphere on a few sections of very slow-going twisty-turny road. But we survived and made it to the megalopolis of Ely, NV, where we took another 2-day rest at the Prospector Casino. We did a short bicycle tour of the town on our non-travel day and relaxed in their hot tub, then hit the road east.
A lot of folks frequently ask us things like “what’s your favorite area(s)”, “how do you find boondock sites”, “how do you find places to stay”, etc. Favorite areas is a work in progress, the jury is still out on that one. There are many resources out there to help one wander the countryside. Our main guide for RV parks, both gov’t and privately run, is rvparkreviews.com . And I always suggest if you use these types of resources, please take the time to submit your own review – it runs on all of our input and is only effective if multiple people render their opinions. For boondocking, again, there are numerous resources out there for your choosing. We rely on several blogs done by folks like us who have hit the road as full-time RVers, I think we have a widget on this blog that lists the blogs we follow, I’m too lazy and technologically challenged to check. We are also members of the Escapee RV Club which enables us access to daysenddirectory.com , an 800-some page guide of free or low cost ($15 or less per night) campsites. And what is relative to where in the world we are now, we met Marianne Edwards at our stay in Jojoba Hills, CA. She is a visiting Canadian who happens to have put together a guide book entitled “RV Boondocking in Southern Utah – A Frugal Shunpiker’s Guide”. She can be found at frugal-rv-travel.com . Currently we are using this guide and it has some very nice boondock sites including where we are parked at this very moment. Additionally, since we are in the area for a specific purpose (having fun 4-wheeling in the outback, AKA: trying to destroy a perfectly good Jeep), Jeanne found a book published by FunTreks, Inc. entitled “Guide to Moab, UT Backroads & 4-Wheel-Drive Trails” (funtreks.com). That guide lists 80 trails in the area with good descriptive directions to help you get lost (insert sarcasm here).
Back to business. We made another 2-day stop at the Green River State Park in Green River, UT. Pretty much a hole in the wall town, a lot of abandoned business fronts, but it was centrally located for what we wanted to see, as described in Maryanne Edwards’ guide previously mentioned. First stop was the Sego Pictographs, Sego ghost town remnants, and their Boothill Cemetery, all just outside the tiny dustbowl town of Thompson. I was again dismayed at the graffiti that was included with the ancient pictographs. I know, I know, the pictographs were examples of early graffiti themselves, but hey, there is no need to mix civilizations now, is there? The ghost town had little left of it and the cemetery was definitely a “Boothill” style.
The other stop was for some dinosaur tracks at the Copper Ridge Sauropod Track Site just off Hwy. 191, on the way to Moab. The tracks were a bit different than looking at actual fossil bones, but still interesting.
We found the boondock areas described in Maryanne’s guide out by Goblin Valley State Park and moved over there for some free stay and adventure time. Our “new backyard” was a large, slick rock area just off Temple Mountain Rd., about 5 minutes from the state park. We barely got camp set up and Jeanne got hit with “The Itch”. She found a trail in her Fun Treks guide called the “Swasey Cabin Trail”, so off into the wilderness we went! It was about an 18 mile trail categorized by the guide as moderate, on an easy/moderate/difficult rating scale. After successfully surviving that death-defying feat, I can say the author of the guide, Charles A. Wells, is accurate in his ratings assessments. There were some pretty good obstacles that Jeanne conquered like a pro, especially the point 16.5 miles into the trail that Wells describes as a steep, rocky climb (toughest spot on the trail). It was! The Swasey Cabin itself was a relic of ages past, settled in at the bottom of some of the scenic mountain cliffs of the area. Just past the cabin we took a short walk up to what is called the Ice Box. That was a small, almost vertical slot canyon-looking crack in the mountain with a large tree growing in the middle of it and nearby, what looked like old mining equipment similar to a sluice. The other sight to see on this trail was the Eagle Canyon Arch. It was about 12.5 miles into the trail. The 18 miles took us three and a half hours to complete and it took Jeanne about 21 hours and counting to come off her adrenaline high. Harry, you would have been proud!
Goblin Valley State Park was next on our list. It consists of 3 small valley areas of hoodoos of varying sizes and shapes. There are no designated trails throughout and you can actually climb on the rocks (at your own risk of course). They allow dogs on leash and the thing that stood out to us was how clean they keep the area. There are no garbage cans amongst the hoodoos, only cans at the observation point. Other than the “goblin” valleys, there are a couple of hike/bike trails around the exterior of those valleys and a campground. The park also has a disc golf course, some “holes” near a stray hoodoo or two (not in the valleys), which a ranger said was for tournament play only, not general use.
With all the hiking/biking/ATV/Jeep trails in the area, we chose to hike two trails that, when linked together, form an 8-mile loop, the Little Wild Horse Canyon Trail and the Bell Canyon Trail. We packed up our stuff, grabbed Woodrow Wilson (Woody, our K9) and headed out bright and early for our hike. The weather was perfect for hiking, a bit brisk in the morning but clear blue skies and not overly hot in the afternoon hours for this time of year. We pretty much were all by ourselves for the entire hike and we got to enjoy the several slot canyons without any human log jams. The slot canyons were spectacular and we lucked out with only a few small “puddles” to wade through, nothing deeper than shin-deep. 5-hours and no major injuries later we were back at the Jeep. It was a good workout for us, but Woody was really running out of gas at the end, the short-legged pooch that he is.
We had to cut our boondock stop short here, the water pump for the rig was starting to self-destruct with screws holding the parts together shearing off. What a pain in the butt. So we packed up a day or two early and headed into Moab hoping to find an RV parts store. We found a farm & feed store that had a small RV parts department (go figger), but they were out of the Shur-flo pumps (of course, just my luck!). But the staff said they would order it for me and get it in 2-3 days, so all is not lost. So, stay tuned for our shenanigans in Moab, same Jeep time, same Jeep station…