May 20 – Stewart Cassiar Highway, BC

After leaving Telkwa we headed for Highway 37, the Stewart Cassiar Highway.  We had more dramatic landscape for quite a while on the 16 before we turned onto Highway 37.  After a few hours the landscape started to unfold into a winter-spring melt, leaving thick snow on the mountain tops like a Dairy Queen soft swirl.  I felt like we were sliding along a tongue into great gaping jaws; the mountains erupt from around sea level, jutting straight up into jagged peaks that conversely cascade to the lush green valley floor.  The weather actually started to warm into the 60’s.  Soon, we spotted moose-poop-spore and the road signs were now showing symbols of moose and bear but not deer.  I suspect there are still deer but they certainly weren’t kidding on the bear. We spotted our first one off the side of the road in a small meadow munching on something and giving us an annoying look. We saw the next one a ways down the road, running across the highway into an oncoming vehicle – it made it to the other side safely.  We slowed down and saw it tucked amongst the trees.  The last one we saw just off the side of the road and we managed to get a shot.

Still no moose though! 

The roads were in good condition and there wasn’t much traffic.  Our plan was to head towards Stewart on Highway 37a that turned out to be insanely spectacular.  We passed multiple avalanche warnings with other signs that warned of planned explosions, an unnatural betrayal of the natural order.  Thankfully the threat of avalanches was over, but it was obvious where it could be problematic.  There were still signs of early spring snow on the sides of the highway, but otherwise the countryside was dry save for the numerous waterfalls cascading down the cliffs.  The roads were actually in good condition considering the brutal weather conditions they endure; we ran into a few frost heaves but nothing that slowed us down much.  

Then we turned a corner and were met with a glacier that spilled into a partially frozen lake.  We paused to contemplate the glacial blue melt against the slate and snow, the only sound being the wind, the only movement being the ice flows across the lake.  We didn’t realize that this was Bear Glacier. We were simply impressed with stumbling upon this stately feature along the road.  

As with the glacier, you can always expect the unexpected; due to the unusually cold spring the Kinaskan and Meziadin Provincial Parks closed and cancelled my reservations due to snow (though we couldn’t find any in the forecast) and wouldn’t open again until the 20th, then the RV Park in Stewart cancelled as well and closed permanently. Seriously, snow…..again!!!!  I scrambled for other accommodations and no one was answering their phones in either Stewart or Hyder.  I found a recreation site near Clements Lake and decided to take our chances and boondock there.  

When we arrived the road into the recreation area was covered in a couple of feet of slushy snow, something that BigB simply could not navigate so we wound up boondocking near the entrance amongst the pines, they had cleared out that area but for some reason not the road into the recreation area.  

Thankfully we are self-contained and set up house for the evening, along with another RV similar to our size.  Not long after we settled in we felt something rocking the RV; well the bear spray was in one of the bays so I handed Bob the pepper spray in case it was a curious bear.  He didn’t see anything but the neighbor in the RV parked behind us said a “Fisher Cat” had been walking all over our cargo rack!  We never saw it but found out it is like a large mongoose.  

Then we had a run of folks trying to find a place to camp or boondock and they saw us, looked at the road to Clements Lake and turned around.  One almost got stuck trying to drive through the snow and we were wondering if we needed to help bail them out.  The problem is none of the Provincial Parks in the area are open.  We were warned about the remoteness, but didn’t bank on everything in the area cancelling on us. 

About midnight I was awakened by a misdirected squirrel who had landed on our roof, chirping and confused.  It eventually quieted down. 

Like the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, despite the weather challenges we had, you certainly can’t beat the scenery.  

The next morning the sun broke through and we drove back to Bear Glacier for coffee and breakfast.  Like the Canyonlands Needles Outlook in Utah, there was no one around and we drank coffee in blissful solitude, watching the morning sun break over the ridge to illuminate the blue sky and surrounding cliffs. The gulls glided across the icefields that fed into the lake, celebrating the glorious morning.  The water falls tumbled down the precipices, feeding the lake below, converging its tears into a glacial translucence welcomed by the riverock, a pristine race easily witnessed through a magnificent wilderness lens. 

After this meditation, we spotted beaver further up the road and of course more bears.  

Breakfast Bear Glacier

Alas, still no moose….

Be warned that we had no cell service and even after driving back to Highway 37 we thought we would have encountered a cell tower but, hence no luck.  

We swung by the Kinaskan Provincial Park that was supposed to be closed but we found it open.  We stopped for tea and pondered whether to stay in one of the lovely spots but we really needed to get in touch with our realtor as our house is in the process of being sold.  

We arrived at Iskut thinking there would be a cell tower, still no luck.  We arrived at the Red Goat lodge and RV park and managed to get some wi-fi and hookups.  None of the major carriers can be bothered with cell service on the Stewart Cassiar Highway.  In a way it’s fitting, it forces you to embrace the remoteness we used to experience camping years ago.  If you want to be off-the-grid where the wild things are – this is your ticket!  

We set up camp across from the partially frozen Eddontenajon Lake.  The weather was nice and since there were so many sites available (until we pack of RVs showed up) we decided to be naughty and hijacked one of the camping spots that overlooked the lake to build a fire (they were 15 amp which is why we didn’t choose it in the first place); we essentially spread across two camping spots.  

We ended the day with our version of “Fire and Ice.”

Sheer bliss!!

After a cold night (down to 28 degrees) we headed out to Watson Lake in the Yukon Territory – this would take us through the remainder of the Stewart Cassiar Highway.  We drove for several non-descript miles until Dease Lake.  The traffic is scarce and there isn’t much along this stretch of highway; you really are in the wild.  No cell, no gas stations or towns for miles; not the best place to break down.  

We passed our first “caution – caribou” signs and then suddenly we saw a moose in a marsh along with swans, loons, geese, duck and other birds whose origin I wasn’t sure of.  

Our first moose!

We started to meander once again through spectacular mountain ranges with never-ending frozen lakes.  

Then, as you can expect the unexpected with wildlife, a caribou appeared on the side of the road – I only had a second to catch a poor quality iPhone image before it disappeared further into the forest.  

Poor image but still – we saw a caribou!

We continued our trek through this remote wilderness, barely seeing any other cars, disconnected from society wondering if this road ever got much busier; you drive through it and there are some campgrounds and the occasional towns where the population can’t be more than fifty people.

After nearly 180 miles and around four hours of driving we passed approximately 15 cars and 4 motorcycles.  

If you want to disappear into the wild, then the Stewart Cassiar Highway is a must-do.  

Stewart Cassiar Highway – where the wild things are!

May 18 – Fraser Valley, BC, Canada

We headed back to Vancouver via the ferry and were greeted with a hump whale sighting on the way over!  Nice to get a freebie along the way.  Once we hit the mainland we made our way up to the Cayoosh Campground in Lillooet.  The GPS took us on the Transcanada Highway 1 instead of 99.  While it was cloudy and rainy, we were greeted with towering peaks that jutted straight up six-thousand feet, they loomed behind breaks in the clouds, making their presence somewhat foreboding vs. the usually breathtaking reaction we have to such dramatic landscapes.  We wound through the Fraser Valley where the churning, muddy river cut through gorges that felt more like fjords; thousands of feet of sheer drops into the river below. 

We eventually  came through the rolling hills to Lillooet through a town called Lytton that had been completely gutted by wildfires.  It was looked like a scene from a holocaust; apparently sixty-five structures were consumed within one hour. With much dismay, we saw a fair amount of forest fire damage on our way through. This is one of the reasons we decided to come in the spring, as the fire seasons start earlier and earlier – as we experienced in Oregon over the last few years.  We are thankful we did New Mexico when we did – now the places we visited are being ravaged. 

We settled into a nice barbecue and campfire as we had sunny weather.  

We walked into town and had breakfast.  It’s a sleepy town but this is why we don’t mind going a bit off track; we get to experience parts of the country that may not be deemed as popular.  Somehow people subsist in these remote areas; you certainly can’t beat the scenery. 

Next we headed to the 100 Mile House.  There are various towns with the names such as 100 Mile House, 150 Mile House. These designations hark back to the Cariboo Gold Rush (we see the spelling “Cariboo” instead of “Caribou” for the most part).

Besides the leaping deer sign warnings we saw our moose first sign, and also our first frost heave sign (little pyramids warning you of their presence).  Then we saw the deer and moose combo sign.  I kept my eyes peeled for moose but only saw deer. 

We settled in for the night at the Big Country RV Park.  They hadn’t been busy in a while and said things were now really starting to pick up.  We parked next to some friendly Canadians amongst the aspens (lots of aspens and rolling hills in this region).  The showers there we great and really hot – yes!  The weather remained clear and we went on a lovely hike in the morning around the rolling pastures.  

That afternoon we arrived at the Sintich RV park after surviving a heck of a squall; rain and wind that lashed us to the point we almost pulled over.  The park was soaked with huge puddles that we hoped we wouldn’t have to park in.  They were covid-obsessed here; the first time masks have been required outside the Navajo nation.  The bathrooms and showers were closed; it was a bit much after having experienced better service in Canada so far.  The Wi-Fi was decent once we activated the Winegard booster, otherwise another RV park could have been a bit nicer; it was mostly long-term inhabitants surrounded by permanent mobile homes.  

We were told this weather is unusual as it’s usually dry, but they have been having a cold spring – oh joy!  But it beats wildfires.  

We stocked up on supplies in Prince George as we were warned things would start getting more sparse and expensive.  We even got haircuts!  We are now looking a bit more civilized.  

I had purchased a beautiful card in Victoria that I scanned and enlarged and is now on our well.  It fits the decor beautifully, is Native American, but is also tragic as it’s about women that have gone missing.  In a sense besides being enamored with the art, the deeper meaning behind it makes it that more profound.  

After a beautiful and uneventful drive up Highway 16 we stopped at the Fort Telkwa RV park that sits along the river. We were greeted by snow capped mountains on our way in – we are assuming this is our first taste of the landscapes we will be experiencing along the Stewart Cassiar Highway that we will be hitting today!  

The views from Fort Telkwa RV Park

May 13 – Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada

After ten days back on the mainland we are embarking on the first leg of our five month trip through Canada to Alaska!  

But first we feverishly finished up the prep on our home of twenty-two years and put it on the market on May 10; it sold in two days well over the asking price!  The rise in interest rates certainly hasn’t entirely dampened buyer’s appetites. 

BigB is now our home for the next five months until we move to France.

We stopped over in Seattle on our way to Canada to have dinner with my brother and sister-in-law whom we had just spent two weeks in Hawaii – and who just happen to live in Redmond – feast or famine!  

The next day we arrived in Vancouver B.C. – I didn’t realize that I had to fill out the government required ArriveCAN COVID-19 verification info for presentation at the border; I had been more concerned with what we could bring across the border,  I hadn’t checked the requirements for COVID-19 until the last minute! Thankfully the Canadians are not only lovely people, but extremely organized and I was able to complete the requirement online a few hours before arrival.  

After overnighting in Vancouver we headed for the Tsawwassen Ferry for our trip to Victoria.  I had booked the ferry tickets a week before-hand as you can’t expect to just show up and get on.  The boys were super excited, especially Bob Jr (our new minion!) as this was his first trip.  The trip over was a lovely sojourn through the surrounding islands. It was 1.5 hours but it went quickly.  

After getting settled in at the Fort Victoria RV Park, we spent the following day drifting around Victoria which is a lovely city; there is definitely an English tea culture here, that, and the English sweets that were in proliferation, really excited Bob.  

We stopped by Chinatown and Fan Tan Alley, enchanting remnants of the Chinese culture that helped build the city, then made our way through downtown to the Empress Hotel and waterfront.

 We discovered these darling water taxis, and though we would have loved to have taken a harbor tour it didn’t fit into our schedule.  Victoria is one of those historic and infinitely walkable cities.  As the day was cold we were glad to drop into the occasional cozy coffee shop for a pick-me-up.  

The real treat was the Butchart Gardens that we had planned for the next day as the weather was expected to be good – and it certainly lived up to the hype!  We spent four delirious hours touring a riot of tulips, rhododendrons, azaleas, cherry blossoms and the rare and amazing blue poppy. 

The rare blue poppy – found here and in Tibet.

There was also a species of tulip I had never seen – it looked more like a peony.

Peony or Tulip?

All of this blooming magnificence on unapologetic display; it was sheer luck that we had planned our trip to this utopia when the Canadian spring was in full swing.

By far, my favorite was the not-of-this-earth “Sunken Garden.”  It had been an old quarry that slowly morphed from an oasis of imagination.  It was difficult for me to catch my breath.  We left with our love of gardening ignited, pining for the day we would be settled in France and sinking our fingers and minds into the rich soil of the Dordogne Valley.  

The Sunken Garden of Fantastical Dreams
Garbage Couture

April 9 Oregon Coast

We headed back to Santa Rosa to mooch-dock and visit our friend Peter; the weather was glorious and dry and we shared some fabulous dinners together.  

Bob had purchased a couple of bicycles from him to be packed and shipped back to Portland and it turned out the boxes were bigger than anticipated – along with the costs, so we shipped one back and have managed to wedge the other one into the RV.  Fortunately it’s just for a few nights.  

Managing the physics

We made a pit stop on our way to the Oregon Coast at the Founder’s Grove in the Redwood National Forest. What a great tea time we had – it was so rejuvenating revisiting this place and tree bathing amongst these magnificent giants once again. #spoiled.

We finally arrived at the Turtle Rock RV Resort in Gold Beach and its stunning coastline – it was a long day of driving and being buffeted by the wind so instead of fixing dinner we dove into the local Mexican restaurant for a margarita and some nice chow.  Heck, it was Friday night! 

I enjoyed the chorus of frogs that lulled me to sleep.  The weather was clear but really windy in the morning and we struggled a bit with our beach walk (literally getting a sand facial) and decided to pack up for less windy climes. 

Our next destination was Heceta Beach RV Resort outside of Florence, Oregon.  This area has special meaning to me as generations of my family and friends have met up at nearby Mercer Lake over the 4th of July; many have passed on and it is time to bid a final farewell to this unspoiled paradise.  The resort had held out for so long but recently sold to a developer – it will not be the same.

Such is the sad passing of things.  

We stopped and strolled through our regular haunts in old-town Florence and picked up a few tokens – thankful for the beautiful weather; a fitting farewell.  

Reflecting back on the last seven weeks I cannot choose a favorite place because they are all so magnificent in their own distinct way. While we had a challenges with the weather, and the added stresses inherent to being in an RV during freezing weather, I have to confess that the beauty of snowfall made up for it. And we had all the gear to manage any conditions mother nature threw at us.

I’ve pulled together some impromptu highlights that made this trip even more memorable:

❤️Dim Sum in Chinatown, San Francisco

❤️Sunset Happy Hour at White Sands National Park 

❤️Elevenses at Mirror Lake in the shadow of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park 

❤️Barbecuing amongst the orange blossoms outside Bakersfield 

❤️Snow in the Grand Canyon 

❤️Impromptu balcony lunch at the Creekside Cafe in Sedona with a fabulous view of the surrounding buttes while they played “Stairway to Heaven” in the background – a perfect storm of pleasure 

❤️Meeting up with National Geographic photographer Nevada Wier in Santa Fe at the Obscura Gallery – I hope to join her on a photo tour someday

❤️Getting a tour of a traditional Navajo hogan at Canyon de Chelly 

❤️Enjoying a peaceful sunrise breakfast at the Needles Overlook in Canyonlands Rim Recreation area 

❤️The zen of Windwhistle Campground

❤️Watching the sunrise over Monument Valley after the snowfall 

❤️Tea time at the Founders Grove, Redwoods National Park 

❤️❤️The hospitality of the Navajo Nation….

I couldn’t have asked for a better overall experience and feel so blessed to have made the decision to embark on this adventure.

We arrive back in Portland after seven weeks on the road:  We are packing our house up for international shipping for our eventual relocation to France – and then we will sell in May.  

Our trip to Hawaii that was disrupted by the pandemic was rescheduled for April, so we will enjoy a couple of weeks being spoiled by tropical trade winds and hanging with my brother and sister-in-law on the North Shore of Oahu.  We will be visiting the Arizona Memorial in honor of my father’s memory who served on the Enterprise when Pearl Harbor was bombed and am hoping to catch up with the Pacific Navy Fleet Bandmaster to connect the past with the present.  It should prove to be an interesting blog considering his history during WWII.  

Next stop Honolulu!

April 5 Yosemite National Park

It didn’t really register to me that it was spring until we got to Bakersfield and saw various bulbs and even roses blooming.  Add the orange blossoms and I felt like we discovered a slice of paradise after being plagued by snow, hail and high deserts devoid of blossoms.  

We accidentally took the long route to get to Yosemite though it turned out to be quite beautiful with farmlands with blooming flowers and green fields.  As we gained elevation there was the welcome site of pine trees, mostly Ponderosa pines. When you are from the Pacific Northwest, making the transition back to the “green belt” is a welcoming event.  I was in need of some serious tree bathing.  

The rock here is like a seafoam colored granite with some sparkly bits that was quite beautiful.  The roads were hairpin with little or no gaurdrails, though the views made up for it.   The alpine lupines were blooming and there were occasional fields of wildflowers sprayed across the meadows. 

After a while, we lost signal thinking it would pick up again as we approached the park.  Civilization was starting to emerge so it was quite surprising when we got to the Lake Yosemite RV Park, while quite popular, was devoid of any signal.  We were fortunately blessed with lovely weather and a spot on the river, though the park was quite crowded and somewhat noisy and you had to pay for wifi.

We had several deer sightings and almost ran into Bambi on our way out of the RV Park.  All around Yosemite the deer tend to wander onto the roads.

Upon entering Yosemite we had expected more of a “slow reveal” of the wonders of the park.  Instead we came face-to-face with El Capitan – trying to reconcile what we were looking at…then the realization came.  The sheer scale of it emerging from the valley floor is incomparable to anything else we have witnessed.  Then came Horsetail Falls and all of its thundering glory.  The surrounding cliffs are like a supporting cast save for Half Dome that demands its own audience.  

As we were pretty early, and even then the park was getting busy, we snagged a parking spot at one of the campground trailheads.  Thankfully BigB is only 24 feet, anything bigger would have had a hard time.  Some of the roads into the trail heads has serious pot holes, not something you would expect in a major park such as this.  We trekked a couple of miles to Mirror Lake and were blessed with a gorgeous view down the valley with the monoliths reflecting in the water.  We stopped for a snack and to contemplate the scenery.  

Mirror Lake

The day was getting warmer than we had anticipated and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, it was hard to imagine it had snowed about a week before and the weather can be touch and go in April.  We wandered around the now packed visitor center, wondering what it must be like in the height of summer.  We are so fortunate to be doing this now as the National Parks are starting to require reservations and shuttle service to manage the increasing crowds.  

We left the park via “Tunnel View,” even though the parking was limited we managed to squeeze BigB into a couple of spaces – we were only going to be there for a little while. 

The name does not even begin to describe the sheer scale of what you are witnessing – this particular view is the one made famous by Ansel Adams; his renditions are magical though you need to see it in person – there are no substitutes for the real thing (sorry Ansel but I’m sure you understand).  You don’t embrace this view, it embraces you as if to say “thank you for preserving me – this is how I give back to those who will protect me for generations to come.”

The immensity of this gesture subdues you into a heavenly state of awe.  

Tunnel View

April 2 Joshua Tree National Park

We were thankfully reserved at Indian Cove Campground outside of Twentynine Palms, Ca several months ago – it is in high demand and we almost didn’t get a spot. We bypassed Phoenix on the way, but stopped briefly to view the Saguaro cactus indigenous to the area.  They were nothing really new to me but more novel to Bob and Grogu.  It’s fascinating that these forests stop just as abruptly as the start; why was this part of the desert conducive to their existence vs say Joshua Tree?

The same proved true for the Joshua trees – they suddenly appear and then drop off save for a few rebellious stragglers.  

The California desert proved to be more desolate than the New Mexico high desert; we went miles with no signs of life – not even structures.  Grogu wondered if we were on Tattooine or in the middle of a David Lynch movie.  The landscape is very monochrome and doesn’t appear to support much fauna; I doubt many humans have set foot in most of it.  

When we approached Twentynine Palms we saw more buildings though there was an abundance of abandoned structures, more so than anywhere else we had been.  It’s as though much of this region was settled in fits and starts.  

The main attraction in this area is Joshua Tree National Park and Indian Cove Campground. 

Much like the Alabama Hills, these massive clusters of boulders appear out of nowhere.  Indian Cove has about a hundred campsites tucked amongst them; I felt like I was in an episode of the Flintstones.  The weather was in the 80’s and we settled in and went for a hike along the nature trail.  It was a great space to stretch our legs after such a long drive.  

The fire pit beckoned as our happy hour blended into the evening, set against the massive boulders housing curious lizards and iguanas.  

This was the first fire we’ve had where we weren’t plagued by high winds or dipping temperatures.  We sat and watched the stars come out. This is a Dark Sky region but there was too much haze which muted the intensity of the night sky.  The rising moon hung low in a lovely crescent making for a perfect ending to the day.  We wish we could have stayed longer but we have to get back to Portland in the next week.  

We departed eventually arriving at the Orange Grove RV Park late in the afternoon of the 3rd, surrounded by an unexpected paradise of orange blossoms that wafted through the RV at a balmy 80 degrees – bliss!  As the evening cooled the scent became more intense – we will have nature’s aromatherapy to lull us to sleep.  

Next stop – Yosemite!

April 1 Sedona, AZ

We drove down 89A from Holbrook; I had been to Sedona a few times over thirty years ago when I lived in Scottsdale, but never came down through Flagstaff route. We had beautiful weather as we meandered through the stunning red rocks that make you feel as though you down in the Grand Canyon, but lush with blue-green junipers, pine, brush and unspoiled alpine air.  The red rocks enhance the springtime flora; the lantana and cactus were blooming giving the land a deep sense of renewal.  It was so nice to be warm, but not hot.

We arrived at the Rancho Sedona RV Park that sits on Oak Creek with views of the surrounding buttes.  The park was emaculate with large sycamore trees that gave our surroundings an ethereal feel.  A heron flew by adding to my increasing sense of euphoria; they were nesting in a nearby tree.

The best RV park ever!

We were walking distance to the galleries and also to trailheads that sent us a bit off the beaten track.  It was quiet as we were pushed out just enough from the main hub with the creek displacing any road noise.

Sedona certainly is not the laid back town I remember, but like so much “progress,” they too are being hammered with tourists; the traffic was thick and I was glad we didn’t have to park anywhere to visit the galleries. 

We lucked out at the Creekside Restaurant with a seat outside and a lovely view of the surrounding buttes.

Lucky lunch spot – we couldn’t have scored a better seat!

The town has kept it’s beauty and you actually sense they fight for it – there aren’t really any big box stores here with most of the popular lines being curated by the local mom and pop shops – I love that.  The gas stations and grocery stores etc. are on the main drag out of town so as not do disrupt the center. 

Tlaquepaque Arts and Shopping Village was especially lovely with the rustic southwestern-style shops built around the giant sycamores and skirting Oak Creek.  The weather was in the 70’s – it was simply bucolic.  Despite the surge of humanity it felt well-kept and restrained.  

We saw the new age proprietors around town but they weren’t as pronounced as the galleries and boutiques.  I suppose I can understand the new age thing as the ether of this place has a very meditative quality to it; but simply embracing it is enough for me – I don’t need a psychic reading to appreciate my surroundings and life is a mystery to explore anyway.  

We had the added pleasure of catching up with the several Leisure Travel Van owners that had congregated creating our own vortex!  We bonded, drank wine, swapped stories, experiences and suggestions.  It was great to meet fellow nomads who just maybe will also visit us in France😍.

We curated art from some of the galleries, glad to find pieces within our budget as some of the art was well out of our range – it will be fun to unpack these gems in France and find them a permanent home.  

Wish we could have afforded this – I couldn’t stop drooling

Goodbye Sedona, you masterpiece on so many different levels. We are up early to Indian Cove Campground in Joshua Tree National Park – 350 some odd miles!   

Mar 30 Petrified Forest and Painted Desert

This is actually a two for one since the petrified wood is scattered all over the Painted Desert. The area is a vast and diverse geological pocket located in dinosaur territory – hence the large scale models of dino’s at the tourist stops along Route 66.  

It’s mind boggling to think this forest dates back 217 million years; dinosaurs roamed these woods and became part of the archeological landscape in the same manner as the trees.  Now desert, you see broken and shattered fragments all over the park in what was once a dense forest teaming with gargantuan wildlife.  

Even more intriguing is the beauty of the buttes and hills where the tree fragments are now on display.  Mother Nature, I guess, decided that she needed a more dramatic backdrop as part of her “preservation diorama.” 

We parked up by the TeePee mountains and discovered a trail that wasn’t marked on the map – and what a lucky find that was!   It was unspoiled with only a few other adventurous souls on their way back to the parking lot. 

The sun was at our back while the storm boiled in front of us with the wind kicking up – all of this making the hike more intense.  As we walked along the top of these hills, varying landscapes revealed themselves at every turn. 

We meandered through layers of oranges and blues that looked like they had been deposited by machines in some quarry, with eruptions of occasional hoodoos balanced by smooth clamshell-like formations.

The storms looming on the horizon added to the drama; we were really hoping we wouldn’t get drenched on our hike since hail had been part of the earlier downpours.

We left unscathed by the weather and stopped by the ancient ruins of long-abandoned villages and explored the many petroglyphs dotted throughout the park. 

Newspaper Rock

When we reached Blue Mesa the wind kicked up and we started getting pelted by hail.  It was so intense I had real difficulty getting the passenger door to close and the inside of BigB was getting drenched.  Though we didn’t really get to hike the Blue Mesa, which is lovingly paved by the National Park Service, we certainly got a dose of it on our earlier hike.  I felt bad for the people that were on the trail getting blasted with high winds and hail – it stung the bare skin.  

The squall eventually dissipated as we left to explore the rest of the park and BigB got a good wash and dry in the process!  Days of bug scum melted off the windshield.  

We ended the day picking up a piece of polished petrified wood to use as a bookend. This is a reminder of where we fit in the grand scheme of things; touching the smooth surface of an artifact that is over two hundred million years old. It’s hard to wrap your mind around it as we go through our daily lives. 

Mar 27-28 Roswell and Route 66

On a side note, we left Wilson-the-volleyball at the Carlsbad KOA recreation center; he needs to move around and he’s difficult to carry around on hikes – I’m sure he’ll be happier there playing with the kids.

We headed out to boondock at the Tumbleweed diner in Magdalena through our Harvest Host membership (pretty much out in the middle of nowhere). 

But first we decided to make a stop in Roswell to check out what all the hype was about.  We decided to tour the International UFO and Research Center.  Despite the kitsch most of us associate with Roswell, this center was well put together with extensive research on the Roswell incident and the ensuing cover up.  It’s fascinating that this incident needed to be covered up – I mean really – it wasn’t War of the Worlds and if aliens landed and were just checking us out why all the fear?   

The research and witnesses lent a lot of credibility to what happened and as far as we know it’s probably happened elsewhere.  Otherwise it was a fun adventure along with an entertaining mock up – a lot of effort went into all of this! 

We also decided to stop for a Sunday brunch at the Cowboy Cafe – if you are ever in town check it out – they also have dishes with my local favorite – you got it…..green chili!  My choice with the “Alien Omelette.”

We proceeded to our final destination through more high plains still wanting to know what people did out in this rather desolate land.  When we got to Magdalena and the Tumbleweeds Diner it certainly turned out to be a bright spot with it’s fantastic murals (note the spaceship that is ditched in the desert!). It’s about twenty miles from the Very Large Array (those big satellite dishes made famous by Hollywood) but unfortunately the visit center was closed so we decided to skip it.  

We overnighted in the diner parking area which is pretty much just an extension of the surrounding desert, it was super peaceful and we were streaming the Oscars but even that connection gave up after a while and all you could hear was the breeze.  In the morning we headed for Albuquerque and the Enchanted Trails RV park on Route 66.  It was close to the I-40 but it didn’t affect our sleep – you will find that is the case with most of Route 66 which is basically the I-40 anymore.  

We headed out early to get to the Petrified Forest with a stop in Gallup along the way.  I wanted to check out the Perry Null Trading Post as it has authentic art and I know the Navajo work and help run the place. I found a lovely turquoise pendant to add to my collection; the piece is inlaid with beautiful silver work and stamped with the artist’s initials and authenticity.  I wound up paying half price – I probably didn’t notice the sale sign.  Collecting authentic pieces gets the funds back to the Navajo.  I’ve gone into these other “trading posts” and have found southwest-themed merchandise made in India and China – no thank you!!

After two weeks touring New Mexico and all of its wonders we bid farewell.  We have seen so much of this enchanting state and it certainly delivered.  My only complaint would be the vast empty plains and the accompanying wind that was unrelenting, but the other endearing qualities along with the people certainly made up for it.   

Thank you Santa Fe, White Sands National Park, Carlsbad Caverns, Shiprock,  Bisti Badlands, and the Tumbleweed Diner for all the great memories.  

Mar 26 Carlsbad Caverns

We left White Sands and travelled through the Lincoln National Forest up to an elevation of 8500 feet (which explained the terrible mileage on BigB), then came to the endless plains that reminded us of “High Plains Drifter.”  I can’t imagine who put up all that fencing that goes on forever.  And as Bob commented, “that needs to be maintained.” 

We stopped by a quirky ranch known as Runyon Ranch, we bought some lemon lime roasted pistachios and marveled at the pet zoo; it turned out to be a cross between and ranch and circus – there were billy goats, donkies, sheep, a zebra, water buffalo and a camel. We could only speculate how they came in possession of the exotic beasts.  

What was equally entertaining was the cacophony of animal sounds that ensued during feeding time – it was a bit of a cross-cultural experience.  It’s a place you must stop by if you’re in the hood.  

We reached the Carlsbad KOA to settle in for the night.  We had reserved our time at the caverns that is now required by the National Parks.  It was already in the high 70’s pushing to the mid to high 80’s so the cavern was actually welcoming at a comfortable and humid 55 degrees (my sinuses were appreciative as they had been protesting against the high desert dryness).  

To say that the cavern is massive is an understatement – pictures barely convey the scale of this cavernous masterpiece.  The lighting is subdued and does not overcompensate thus enhancing the scale and mood.  The cavern is 750 feet below the surface and you take the winding path down, and down… and down as the wonderment reveals itself. 

There is something about caves, regardless of the size, that give you comfort and you can envision setting up shop here; possibly a primordial need for safety from man-eating dinosaurs.  

As a tourist you are only getting a nibble of the expanse that goes on for miles.  The path is well-paved though somewhat dim and thankfully there are railings to guide the way.  

It’s akin to a massive geode but without the bling factor.  The stalactites and stalagmites are truly massive.  There are ante rooms that look like they could be doll houses with it’s own cast of alien characters.  

I continually swirled around in awe – you need to look behind as much as forward.  If you decide to climb back out of the caverns be prepared for a workout; we opted for the elevator instead.  My thighs certainly got a workout on the downhill trek.  

Bless the souls who preserve these masterpieces to maintain our sense of wonder and awe.