Photo story of our fall travel adventure to Utah, Nevada, and Arizona.
Oct 12 – Nov 21, 2020, seeking sunshine and warm weather, we made a 6 week trip with our new Aliner Ranger 12. We ordered the Aliner mid May and picked it up July 24. We got our order in just in time. Due to the pandemic, by summer RV’s were hard to come by and many RV products were out of stock and back ordered. We then made a number of modifications. Scott made extensive electrical changes and I did some decorating and covered the vinyl foam cushions with cotton fabric. I also stocked the kitchen with an Al pot/pan set, Al griddle, dish set, knives, kitchen utensils, and silver ware.
We made 4 trips locally in Wisconsin to try out the Aliner and experience camping with a real roof and kitchen with sink and nicely working stove, a dining room, overhead lights for nighttime and a bed that could be used as a couch.
Heading for sunshine and warmer weather, we spent our first night at the primitive Pawnee campground west of Lincoln, NE. We spent second night at the Brush, CO city park. The third night we reached the Rabbit Valley BLM camping area called Jouflas west of Grand Junction, CO, which had a pit toilet.
On our way to the San Rafael Swell we made a short diversion through Cisco, Utah, essentially a ghost town off of I70. Cisco was on the railroad and once had a depot. We stopped to take a few photos of the town’s artistic display.
San Rafael Swell, Utah
Our next destination was to spend 2-3 nights at Temple Mtn., San Rafael Swell in Utah. It’s a BLM camping area with a few pit toilets. 25 years ago we were the only ones camping alongside the road. Times have changed: now there were hundreds of RV and tent campers over 15 miles. Crowding was partly due to the pandemic. We set up the Aliner, then found a better site and moved to it for the first night. We did a drive up Temple Mountain Road the next morning, and found every nook and cranny occupied by campers, mostly RV’s or trailers. We returned to our campsite to find the whole area overrun with males tearing around on noisy ATV’s and motorcycles. We decided against spending another night, folded up the Aliner, and left for our friend’s property in Grand Staircase.
Grand Staircase, Utah a visit with our friend Bill
That evening, we joined our friend Bill at his place in Grand Staircase. We spent 7 wonderful days there, cottonwoods turning fall colors, the weather sunny and warmer than normal. We did a number of day hikes and a few maintenance chores. I had been working for 3 years attempting to kill the exotic, invasive tamarisk. Getting close, we may finish next year.
One of our day hikes has always been one of Bill’s favorites. Called the Cream Cellar Road, it was a wagon road built by the Mormon settlers and connected the towns of Escalante and Boulder. I’ve never been able to resist taking a few snapshots of the lonely Ponderosa sentinel/skeleton that we pass by. Apparently I’m not the only person fascinated by this old survivor.
Zion National Park, Utah
After leaving Bill’s, our next stop was Zion National Park. Gone are the days when you could drive in at 9:00am and pick out a nice campsite. The formerly “first come first served” South campground went to 14 day advance registration in 2018 and you could only reserve 3 days at a time. It was quite difficult to make a reservation, I had an atomic clock app on my iPad, and at the stroke of 9:00 MT, I started quickly going through my top choices. I was successful in getting a decent site for 6 days, one for one night, and another 2 for a total 9 day stay. We didn’t do a lot of hiking in Zion due to the pandemic and crowds.
Boondocking at Poverty Flats
From Zion our next destination was Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. Because the campground was first come, we decided to “boondock” at a site close to the park so we could arrive early the next morning. It was a very large, very flat mesa where RVs could park for free. The mesa went by two names, “Poverty Flats” and “Snowbird Mesa”. There were probably several hundred RV’s, spread out over a large area. Many ran generators all night.
Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
We arrived early the next day at Valley of Fire and quickly found a vacant site. Valley of Fire is really just a collection of poor quality rock, full of holes, ledges, cavities, ridges, etc. We spent one night and the next day moved to an even better site as we knew it would be vacated the next morning. As Scott brought along his oboe to practice on the trip, I felt I was entitled to bring my piano. Occasionally we sighted a big horn sheep about the campground. We went on a hike in the narrow stretch of canyon behind our campsite. On the way back we again spotted a/the big horn sheep and were successful in getting some photos.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona
After Valley of Fire it was a longish drive to Organ Pipe Cactus Nat. Monument in southern Arizona, on the border with Mexico. We arrived just after dark, parked our Aliner, and moved it the next morning to a site that would have some early and late afternoon shade. Shade was an asset as days were sunny and daytime temperatures ranged between 70-90 degrees. Daily visitors to our campsite were cactus wrens and Gambel’s quail.
We did some short hikes at Organ Pipe, and just generally enjoyed the warm, sunny weather. Bonnie got some work done with her solar-powered laptop, and Scott tried to make some oboe reeds.
Until the last few nights on the way home, we never had an electrical hookup at the campgrounds we visited, but our 100 watt solar panel more than took care of our power needs.
Organ Pipe Cacti, how the park got it’s name.
One Sunday and the following two Wednesdays, Scott operated the radio, the antenna supported by a 38 foot pole. Wind was light the second Wednesday, so he was able to leave the pole up overnight and operate the first session at 6 AM, and leave it up the next night after the 8 PM session. (Putting up or taking down wires in the dark among cacti is hazardous!)
On our walks to the visitor center, we would parallel the highway for stretches and watch and hear caravans of large vehicles moving sand and gravel for concrete to build the wall. An opportunity to observe our precious tax payer dollars being flushed down the toilet.
Our daily entertainment was setting up in the early evening to watch the sunset colors and waiting for the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars to appear.
When we left Organ Pipe the daytime highs were around 90 and the lows in the low 70’s. It was mild at our first stop in Las Cruces, NM, quite a bit cooler the next two in Oklahoma and Missouri. The Oklahoma site was at a commercial “campground”, formerly a Lawton city park. While we called to make sure it was open in late November, we should have asked more questions. The place was basically abandoned, without even pit toilets. We got the fee collector to turn on a water spigot for us, so at least we had enough water. The one thing it did have was electricity! The state park west of St. Louis was much more pleasant, with both indoor plumbing and electricity. We did use an electric heater the last two mornings to take the chill off.
The final day of our drive home treated us to many hours of steady rain, gloom, much colder weather. Welcome home!