Current Location: In our new home in Colorado Springs, CO
Welcome to The Free Five blog. This is our web-home to document our travels across North America. We are a family of 5 that transitioned from an active duty military lifestyle to a year long full-time homeschool (road school!) adventure in our RV. We are also on Facebook under the same name. The end of July 2018 means we were on the road for 12 months and full-time living in our RV for 18 months. Wa-hoo!
While we have stopped full time travel, we have many places we still haven’t posted about- amazing places in Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Kentucky. Once we get settled into the house (painting and more painting!) we will start catching up on our blog posts.
Now that we have been in a house for 6 months, I started thinking about the good old days in the RV, or were they?
Things we miss…
Everyday variety. We miss the variety of new places we got to go and see full time. Different sunrises and sunsets, neighbors, trails, vistas, city life, and wildlife.
The RV master bed. Andy & I have the best bed in the RV–more comfortable than our regular mattress, so returning back to the house after our last trip made us a little sad (and achy!)
Easy housekeeping. We miss how fast it was to clean the whole rig–1hour tops! Oh the good ole days…
The freedom. it was great to just be able to drive somewhere else when you want to. Now we are tied to school calendars.
Family togetherness. We got to spend time together as a family every day while living in the RV–hiking, tv watching, puzzles, games, meals, exploring.
Things we don’t miss…
Fighting over comfy seating. I don’t miss the fact that everytime someone (or a cat) got off a chair in the RV, someone else was bound to steal it! Sometimes the cats wouldn’t even move–they would expect you to share your chair.
Tiny Spaces. This applies to refrigerators as well as rooms. It’s nice to be able to find a quiet place to read a book or take a nap and to have more than one jug of milk in the fridge.
Frequent grocery shopping. Colorado Springs still has milk delivery, and that has saved Andy about 25 grocery store trips so far. We used to have to shop about twice a week to keep stocked in milk and bread.
Limited sense of community and time with friends. It’s nice being in one place where you get to know folks, make friends and have neighbors who will still be there in a few weeks. We met a lot of great people on the road, but it is nice to have roots too. We understand snowbirds much more now–they maximize travel and community.
Five people sharing one small bathroom. I don’t think I need to elaborate on that.
So despite these negatives, we still plan to fulltime when it is our time again to travel. And maybe there will only be two or three of us sharing the bathroom 🙂
Hello everybody! Our best-laid plans to update all the missing posts while “bored” after going stationary fell through. For those that know us, I know that is so surprising, ;0. Actually, we have been busy getting our house in order. It was bought in an “as is” condition. Not too much difficult work–just tons of little things that had to be fixed to prevent insanity –poorly painted walls, sloppy caulking, fixing doors that didn’t close as they should, removing paint that shouldn’t be where it was (on the floor), getting grass to grow, etc. At first, we were out of breath everytime we went up the stairs–we live at 7200ft, a lot higher than we spent most of our travels–but we slowly adjusted. In the end, the work is worth the beautiful views of Pikes Peak and the front range.
Sunset over the Front Range
A frosty Pikes Peak at sunrise
Turns out it’s a good thing we have our natural views at home – because we’ve been so busy since we moved in July we’ve only taken the RV out once. Fortunately, that was to the Tiger Run RV Resort, 5 minutes from Breckenridge CO. Over Thanksgiving week we skied or rode snowboards 4 days in a row until we all were too exhausted to contemplate another day. We recommend this place–it has a nice lodge with a pool, 2 hot tubs, game room, lounge, several pet areas, and laundry. This also happened to the coldest place we have stayed in the RV–temps near 0 deg F in the morning! Tiger Run also has nice chalets for rent, if you don’t want to bring your rig. The trip got a little more interesting than we planned when our refrigerator died (it was warmer in the fridge than in our RV), and we improvised by storing our food in our exterior storage bays, taking advantage of the frigid air outside slightly warmed by the heat from the interior. Luckily, we had emptied a lot of the stuff in those bays when we moved into the house.
First trip Skiing!
Mist from the snowmaking machines
Many people ask us why we settled here in Colorado, especially when they discovered that we are retired military who have NEVER been stationed in Colorado, and I mentioned our top factors in an earlier post. To get to a decision point, Suzy put together a detailed spreadsheet with all our desires and prioritized them (using numerical scores for each factor, weighting factors for the highest priorities versus nice-to-haves, and generated a final score). Colorado Springs was our winner. It’s nice though when your “research” pans out–we did really get what we were looking for: sunshine, four seasons, good schools, and accessibility to family. We have had lots of snow this year, but every snow storm is always followed with days of sunshine. The high-altitude and sunshine cause the snow to evaporate quickly, and give a mini spring thaw. Since moving here, it’s been clear that we needed to be here in Colorado to help with Andy’s family. If we had been far away or traveling we would have tried to come back to help.
In addition to Andy’s house honey-do list (with inputs from Suzy, of course), Andy still works part-time from home. For the first few months, he was also helping his stepmom get her house ready to sell and, fortunately, she was able to sell her house in October. A big part of his time now is spent with his sister. Since we moved here, his sister has been diagnosed with FTD, a form of dementia. She can no longer drive, so Andy takes her to doctor appointments and grocery shopping, etc. We are now researching new housing arrangements for her. We are blessed that we can be here to help his sister and to lift some of the burden of her care from Andy’s brother and stepmom.
The kids have adjusted to school. They also enjoy a lot more privacy than the RV as each has their own room. The boys still miss traveling (like mom and dad), but our eldest loves being in high school. She has gone to her first homecoming dance, joined the Cross Country team, and made lots of new friends. She is now planning to sign up for drivers training! Our youngest walks to school every day with Dad, our (new) dog Pepper, and, since the new year, his friend who lives a few doors away. Our middle child attends a hybrid online school. He attends school twice a week in person for “live lessons”, but most of the curriculum is online. Students can attend the live lessons virtually too (very handy when the snow only hits the northern edge of the school district where we live!). This has a been a good transition for him, we have been able to fine tune his medication for ADHD, and he plans to attend traditional high school next year with his sister. Our other babies have also adjusted from road-life: the 3 kitties LOVE being here. When its warm and not snowy, they spend the day hunting in the backyard and open space behind. Our littlest kitty has eaten so many mice & voles she has overtaken the next cat in weight! The new ‘puppy’ Pepper
Abominable snow girl!
Because walking in snow drifts is more fun than walking on shoveled sidewalks
(65lbs at 9months old) is ever the optimist and tries to get the kitties to play with her. She is a Goldendoodle and is as sweet as can be. She makes up for the cats’ lack of interest in snow and will drag you through snow drifts if you let her.
Suzy has kept busy helping with the kids schooling (as home “learning coach”), singing in the church choir, learning how to preserve pears (we have an Anjou pear tree), helping Andy with the house projects (a little bit), and doing all the things that lucky retired persons get to do–watercoloring, drawing, reading, drinking tea and binge-watching her favorite tv shows (sometimes two of those activities at the same time!). She has started to realize that she needs to do something else, and was planning to volunteer after the New Year. But during winter break she saw a nuclear engineering position being advertised. She interviewed for the job last week, and we will see how that goes.
We have tried to check out some of the neat places near here. So far we’ve visited the USAFA Chapel, the Garden of the Gods and the Florrisant Fossil Beds National Monument. There are a lot of nice hiking paths and trails, and we just don’t think to take pictures–they are just the “trail nearby”!
Petrified redwood trees at Florissant Fossil Beds NM
Hiking at Florissant Fossil Beds
Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs CO
The Three Graces formation at Garden of the Gods
Amazing original art at the USAFA Chapel’s Synagogue
Suzy will try and set aside some time each week to post our awesome pictures from last spring & summer. To tide you over, we have some nice pictures from our around our new home town.
We are in the process of buying a house in Colorado Springs, CO. Colorado has consistently felt like home each time we’ve come through, and Colorado Springs offers good schools and lots of sunshine, is close to Andy’s family, and the housing market is still within our budget. Also important, there are direct flights into Denver for easy access to Suzy’s family. We have loved our almost-year on the road–but 2/3 of the kids miss a regular school experience, and Mom and Dad miss having someone else teach them! CS schools start in Mid-August, so we used our Denver visit last month to check out the Colorado Springs area and narrow our househunting focus to specific neighborhoods.
That being said, we still have lots of blogs & pictures to post, from many amazing places: Chiricahua, Grand Canyon, Bandelier, Carlsbad, Meteor Crater, Petrified Forest, Grand Teton (we saw bears), Yellowstone (we saw more bears! Bison!) … plus the places we will see before school starts. We will hopefully have a chance to catch up on our blogs once we slow down.
But (you ask)… is The Free Five’s RV grand adventure really over? Not exactly! We have so much of the US that we haven’t seen–the Pacific Northwest, New England, Mid-Atlantic, Texas, Alaska, and so on. Suzy is already strategizing for summer breaks, winter breaks, spring breaks, 3 day weekends… you get the idea. The travel bug isn’t dead…it just needs a little rest and recuperation. And the teenagers definitely need a little more personal space and more frequent showers. When the older two have graduated from high school in 5 years…I hope we hit the road again!
So, this week we leave Cody, WY, to attend the Bieber family reunion in Northwest Iowa this weekend. On Sunday, we head on to Suzy’s parents’ house in Northern Ohio to spend a few weeks visiting. Our last likely National Park for this chapter of RV full-time adventuring is Mammoth Cave–we may swoop down to Mammoth Cave, KY, so the kids can compare Carlsbad to Mammoth, and make their own determination which is better or bigger!
If you are coming to visit Colorado Springs this fall…we will have a guest room ready for you! Cheers!
Mojave National Preserve was an unexpectedly beautiful place. We did not expect the variety of color, flora, and fauna. Our stay had us here during the slow season–and it was so slow that the visitor center was only open a few days a week (and no days during our stay). We stayed at Hole-in-the-Wall Campground–which was nestled up next to an old volcano remnant covered in a variety of cacti and desert shrubs. The campground was difficult to enter (it had a really deep rut across the road into it) but once inside it had plenty of large level campsites. The vault toilets were clean. We had noted some free camping along Essex road in as a backup plan. Note that there is another campground, Mid Hills Campground, but the dirt road from Hole-in-the-Wall (a 2WD dirt road according to the map) was way too rough for a large RV to navigate and the washboard was painful in our minivan. Likewise, Wild Horse Canyon road, marked as an unpaved 2WD road on the park map, had a sign up saying 4WD was recommended. However, the drive was worth it–we caught the sunset at Mid-Hills and it was spectacular.
We went to bed each night listening to coyotes yipping. It was so peaceful only nature to lull us to sleep.
There were several hikes that started and ended right in or near the campground. The highlight for the kids was the Rings Loop Trail. This trail took us around some of the rocks and into a bizarre holey rock formation (old lava or ash flows) that we had to climb out of using rings anchored into the rocks. The holey rocks beaconed to be climbed, but the holes’ potentially dangerous inhabitants–snakes and scorpions–encouraged restraint!
We really only explored the one area of Mojave, and there is so much more we haven’t seen. Despite its name, Mojave National Preserve is an intersection of three North American deserts–the Great Basin, Mojave, and Sonoran, and has the ecosystems that are unique to each. Prior to our travels, I had no idea of these deserts and how different they each were. Mojave National Preserve shares features of Joshua Tree National Park–but is more remote and difficult to explore without 4WD.
Death Valley – what a name! Sounds like a scary place and, for a traveler on horse or foot during the summer a century or more ago, it would be scary – and deadly.
Death Valley in the winter is completely different – stark and beautiful in ways few other places are. Its beauty surprised us and we really enjoyed our stay in the valley of death.
We stayed at the National Park campground right next to the Furnace Creek visitor center. There were many sites large enough to accommodate us, even though it was December and we had no reservations. This campground was dry camping only, but the campground was much nicer (and cheaper) than the RV park nearby–really a parking lot with electricity hookups. Since the weather was excellent, we didn’t need electricity for heat or AC, and used the campground restrooms to reduce the burden on our water supply and waste tanks. The campground also was near enough to the Furnace Creek Village and one of the many Borax mining works that first brought awareness to Death Valley. Of course, the night skies were stunning. Suzy broke out the telescope to make sure we didn’t miss out on this International Dark Sky Park.
We stopped at Zabriskie Point on the way in–a picturesque sculpture of layered domes of different colored sandstone. We could see that there were trails that led through these and we vowed to make sure we had a chance to check them out– and we did!
The Golden Canyon trail took us into and onto these formations. That was a hot, exhausting, and spectacular hike.
We took a short drive out to Badwater Basin salt flats. What was striking was the fact that sea level was more than 200 feet above us–the nearby rock (mountain) wall had a sign (high up) indicating where sea level was. We got there we could hear singing–a traveling Taiwanese Christian student group was singing a quarter mile away out on the salt flats. Right near the road at the edge of the salt flats was a natural spring bubbling and supporting life in this desolate place.
Another hike was out to unique canyons clearly carved by vast amounts of rushing water–the kids (and Andy) climbed up into strange rock channels found at the upper end of the Mosaic Canyon Trail.
We’d hoped to see some of the more mountainous parts of Death Valley (as high as 11,000 ft above sea level, but that was just too far for a day trip, and not practical for us to drive the RV through. Despite spending a week here, we missed so much in this huge park, including the famous “Racetrack” (where rocks, moved by the wind, carve tracks into the salt flats) and Scotty’s Castle (under construction). So, we will just have to come back again to see more of this amazing place.
Following our visit to Zion National Park, we continued down I-15 and opted to boondock in a wildlife area near Overton, Nevada. While the campsite itself was unremarkable, it was near to a place we wanted to visit, Valley of Fire State Park. This was our “holiday” park as we visited on Thanksgiving Day and a month later, on Christmas Day–we liked it that much! It has a nice campground, but we needed internet connectivity so we opted to stay near Overton.
One of the best things about our Grand Tour is discovering fantastic places that we didn’t know about, and Valley of Fire is one of those. It is also a great place for kids, with tons of boulders and cool rock formations to discover, explore and climb.
The rocks here are so spectacularly unusual that they’ve been used in several movies, including the alien planet at the end of Star Trek Generations, where Captain Kirk dies. On satellite imagery, you can see the bright red rock formations that give Valley of Fire its name.
Our plan to travel to all of Utah’s national parks this fall came to a halt when the kids decided they were “done with deserts with rocks”. We had the older two read about Bryce, Zion, and Capitol Reef, and they decided that Zion would be kinda different, so that would be “ok” to see.
Overall, our experience at Zion NP was mixed–we struggled with traffic and crowds and didn’t get to see and do all that we wanted to. But in our frustration, we decided to leave the main area and go to a less visited district at Zion. This was the best decision we made. and we had a great hike there.
We camped near St George, UT at Sand Hollow State Park, about 45-90 minutes from the main entrance of Zion. There was major construction on the only road into the main entrance of the park, resulting in long waits, as miles of road is limited to one lane. Also, we were there a few days before Thanksgiving, so lots of families crowded the park (we didn’t think to check that, of course). Even with two different day trips (Monday & Tuesday of Thanksgiving week), we never got to see the most famous park drive & sights. When that part of the park (with limited parking) is full, they close the road and we never go there early enough. During peak times of the year, Zion eliminates car travel entirely and makes everyone use shuttle buses. Unfortunately, the shuttles weren’t running those days, so we were out of luck. Needless to say, that was frustrating.
Even with the mobs and closures, we still found the visit enjoyable and it’s easy to see why this is such a popular park.
James fun-ing at the visitor center
A beautiful stroll up the lower portion of Zion Canyon
James geared up and ready to go
Walking in lower Zion Canyon
Lower Zion Canyon
Lower Zion Canyon
Lower Zion Canyon
East Temple Wall, above Clear Creek Canyon
After our second failed attempt to get to the main, upper portion of Zion Canyon, we decided to go visit the least-visited part of the park – the north-central portion between the Kolob entrance and Zion Canyon itself. We really enjoyed this section – although it did not have the grand vistas of Zion Canyon, it still contained amazing geography, great hiking, and few crowds.
Our visits to Zion and Arches reminded us of the problems and challenges of overcrowding in the most popular parks. Parks like Zion and Arches are not any bigger, but they grow in popularity every year. The National Park Service is exploring new ways to manage the crowds, including a reservation system. Given the alternatives, we think Americans should support the changes to allow a better experience for all. And maybe it will encourage others to discover some of the reasons the less visited parks were made part of our National Park Service.
After Colorado National Monument we returned to Utah. The Canyon Country in Southeast Utah is a favorite place for us, and has so much to offer. Andy spent a lot of time in the area thanks to family trips over the years. Suzy starting coming too (and Slickhorn Canyon on the San Juan river is where Andy proposed!) and now we are back again.
“Canyon country” is a big area that covers part of a geological region known as the Colorado Plateau. For this visit, we spent most of our six days in two specific areas: Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park – Island in the Sky district. They are adjacent, so it was convenient! We also took a day trip to Arches NP which is also nearby.
As we mentioned in our previous blog post, Canyonlands NP is actually three separate districts divided by the Green and Colorado rivers – there’s no way to get directly from one to another without crossing a river or driving a LONG way around. In a sense, they are three separate parks and that makes visiting them all in one trip quite difficult.
The best time to visit canyon country is in the spring or fall because that’s when the weather is best – Summers are too hot and winters are usually too cold. In late September we visited Needles District. We originally planned to continue to Dead Horse Point State Park to meet Andy’s Dad and Step-Mother but, unfortunately, Andy’s Dad got sick and passed away. We rushed back to Colorado to spend time with him and family and stayed well over a month. We are really thankful this lifestyle gives us the flexibility to spend time when and where we are needed. Had we still be in Florida working our old jobs with the kids in school, we simply would not have been able to dedicate that much time.
Dead Horse Point State Park
Dead Horse Point is a Utah State Park nestled on the mesa top next to Canyonlands. a beautiful park in its own right with spectacular views of canyon country along the Colorado River. It was also a great “base” for us–it had decent cell signal (due to proximity to Moab and elevation), mountain biking and hiking trails, and a nice visitor center only a 1/4 mile from the campground.
Our campsite – Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah
Our campsite – Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah
The campground itself had electricity at each big site, which is what we primarily need. Water and a dump station were available, along with nice flush toilets. On “school days” we were able to combine homeschooling with morning or afternoon excursions on foot or bike on the state park trails. We watched several fantastic sunsets viewed from the park’s namesake “Dead Horse Point”.
We were reminded that winter was coming when, one night, the temperature dropped and it was super windy across the mesa–40+mph winds with gusts over 50 mph. The next morning we saw one or two tent-neighbors had packed up and left in the night, including one that abandoned their wind-destroyed tent.
This place is all about the views – Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah
Looking east to the La Sal mountains. The light colored “lakes” are actually part of a potash production facility – Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah
The family at sunset – Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah
Boys having fun in the evening – Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah
View to the Southeast – Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah
Another view to the east in the evening light – Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah
Looking Southeast – the road below is part of the White Rim Trail – Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah
Early light just before Sunrise. Looking south down the Colorado, Canyonlands Needles and Maze Districts are in the distance – Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah
Morning light – the mesa in the distance is part of Island in the Sky district – Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah
Another image east to the La Sal Mountains, capped with fresh snow – Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah
Island in the Sky District
This district is mainly a high plateau defined/carved by the Colorado and Green Rivers. This area can be seen in the distance from the Needles District – it was interesting to look back at where we had been two months earlier. We found the canyon view at Green River and Grand View Point Overlook to be similar vistas to the Dead Horse Point overlooks.
Our first hike was to Upheaval Dome, which has two overlooks into a strange round rocky crater. Upheaval Dome is either a collapsed salt formation or an ancient impact crater. The current scientific consensus favors the latter explanation. Regardless of the origin, it is an amazing display of geology, something that would look normal on an alien world. The hike was quite nice except the wind was variable and made some of the more exposed parts of the hike a bit more interesting than we expected. There is also a much longer trail called the Syncline Loop which circumnavigates the Upheaval Dome formation, but it lacks views inside the impact crater and was described as difficult to follow. At over 7 miles it would have been a bit challenging for James, and we are view snobs!
We also hiked to Mesa Arch trail, a short, easy trail to one of the park’s most famous views. It was definitely worth a visit.
Below the mesa from is an amazing 4WD road and trail call the White Rim Road (or trail). It’s a 100-mile loop that goes around the park edges. Someday… It’s times like these we wish we had a 4X4 vehicle. We did decide to take a 2WD dirt road from the mesa top down the canyon side to a place called Mineral Bottom on the Green River. The road is a steep descent and series of switchbacks literally carved into the canyon wall. That part was pretty scary for Suzy, and a bit tricky for Andy to navigate the minivan down and up, but worth it to get up close to the river. It reminded us that we hope a rafting trip is in our near future!
Looking east to the White Rim Trail and Dead Horse Point – Island in the Sky, Canyonlands NP
Upheaval Dome – Island in the Sky, Canyonlands NP
James hking the trail to Upheaval Dome – Island in the Sky, Canyonlands NP
James stopping to smell the Junipers
Great views – Island in the Sky, Canyonlands NP
More views – Island in the Sky, Canyonlands NP
Aiden taking a quick break – Island in the Sky, Canyonlands NP
The kids at Mesa Arch – Island in the Sky, Canyonlands NP
The view through Mesa Arch – Island in the Sky, Canyonlands NP
The Green River at Mineral Bottom – Island in the Sky, Canyonlands NP
Mineral Bottom – Island in the Sky, Canyonlands NP
James doing one of his favorite things – Island in the Sky, Canyonlands NP
The “road” to Mineral Bottom – Island in the Sky, Canyonlands NP
Arches, the most well known of the Canyon Country parks, is still a must-see, even if you don’t like “crowded” places. It’s wasn’t completely mobbed, thanks to a late-season visit.
We only had one day here, which was plenty for us since we’ve been to the park before. The first hike was to Delicate Arch, probably the most-photographed location in Utah. We got an early start for us (which isn’t actually early–we have a teenager), and managed to beat most of the crowds there. There were only about a dozen people at the end of the trail and, surprisingly, no one yet under the arch. We got a few pictures but it was an overcast day and the light wasn’t great.
Next, we checked out a neat network of trails at Devils Garden, including Landscape Arch, Tunnel Arch, and Pine Tree Arch. We didn’t have the time or energy to complete the 7-mile loop, and bad weather was starting to roll in, but we did get the highlights.
We finished the day with a short walk around Balanced Rock. We all had tired, sore feet by the end of the day.
Overall we had a great time in the area and we accomplished a lot of hiking as well as school and work. The kids, however, were starting to tire of Canyon Country, so we decided it was time to see something new. Originally we’d planned to see Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks, but decided to save them for a later date. But one place we couldn’t pass up is Zion, which was our next stop.
After a great visit to the four corners area, in late September we traveled North for one of our favorite places – the Needles District in Canyonlands National Park. The weather was mild–60s & 70s during the day and 40s & 50s at night – just about perfect. We even got a little bit of rain – just enough to give beautiful sunsets and force us to have a slow day. We hiked nearly every day – It helped that we had no cell service here, so the kids were more interested in getting outside.
After a great visit to the four corners area, in late September we traveled North for one of our favorite places – the Needles District in Canyonlands National Park. The weather was mild–60s & 70s during the day and 40s & 50s at night – just about perfect. We even got a little bit of rain – just enough to give beautiful sunsets and force us to have a slow day. We hiked nearly every day – it helped that we had no cell service here, so the kids were more interested in getting outside.
The Needles district is completely off-grid – at least 40 miles to a phone line or power pole. Facilities in the district are powered by diesel generators, though the park service is beginning the transition to solar. Cell service and internet were almost nonexistent. We occasionally could get cell signal when micro-geography and wave propagation combined to tenuously link us to the cell towers near Monticello or Moab.
The campground in Needles district is small and difficult to get into during the high season. Only a few sites can fit our RV and those are usually booked way in advance. So we camped just outside the park entrance at a small private and primitive campground called Needles Outpost. It’s a convenient and affordable spot, given how close it is. We had massive rock formations right outside the RV door that the kids loved to climb.
Our Campsite in Needles Outpost
Gathering clouds from our campsite
Morning light from our campsite
Needles District has a fantastic trail system with some of the most amazing geographies in the country. Many of the trails are quite long, however, or more easily accessed with a 4X4 (which we don’t have…yet).
Cave Spring Trail is one of the shorter hikes, but it’s a fun one that includes deep cave-like overhangs with spring water along with slickrock, ladder climbs, and excellent views. As a near-year round water source, this location has a lot of history going back to ancient times.
The view from the caprock – Cave Spring Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
Green in the desert indicates water – Cave Spring Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
Pictographs – Cave Spring Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
Pictographs – Cave Spring Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
Shelter and the spring – Cave Spring Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
Getting up on top of the rock formation – Cave Spring Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
James at the top – Cave Spring Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
The view from the trail high point – Cave Spring Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
Slick Rock Foot Trail is another one of the shorter trails at 2.2 miles. Unfortunately, Katherine badly twisted her ankle about 1/2 mile into the hike. While Andy helped her limp back to the car, Suzy and the other two kids completed the loop. The trail loops around the slickrock above the confluence of Big and Little Spring Canyons and offers some great views.
Keep your eyes open–uneven terrain!
The boys love hidey holes
The big canyon
Pot Hole Point is one of the most scenic locations in the entire park. The trail isn’t much, but the location is excellent for evening light and sunsets as it affords a 360-degree view. It’s also a McNabb tradition so we came here twice this visit. Our the second time was after a day of rainstorms, bringing the “pothole” micro-biomes to life.
James watching the sunset – Pothole Point, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
Pothole reflections – Pothole Point, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
Potholes have unique microbiomes that come to life when filled with water – – Pothole Point, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
Sunset glow – Pothole Point, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
Kids goofing as usual – Pothole Point, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
Sunset glow – Pothole Point, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
Some fun rock formations – Pothole Point, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
Sunset reflection – Pothole Point, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
Chesler Park Trail was our “big” hike of the trip. It’s a moderately difficult 5.5-mile total out-and-back. This was several days after Katie sprained her ankle, but she did just fine. This is one of the best moderate distance hikes in the park and is a great starting spur to longer hikes or backpacking. Much of it is on slickrock, but there are a few steep ascents and descents. We were actually able to get AT&T cell signal from a few spots on the trail as we had an intermittent line of sight to the towers by Moab, 35 miles away, up the Colorado River.
James will climb any tree – Chesler Park Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
On the trails, the needles in the distance – Chesler Park Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
James loves rocks and views – Chesler Park Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
Some green in the desert – Chesler Park Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
Lunch break! We actually needed some shade – Chesler Park Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
That view – Chesler Park Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
Getting closer to the Needles – Chesler Park Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
A “Joint” trail – Chesler Park Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
A descent near Elephant canyon – Chesler Park Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
James and the Needles
James is a great hiker – Chesler Park Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
Part of the Needles – Chesler Park Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
Turnaround point. We are in the actual Needles – Chesler Park Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
View from the Needles to the Northeast – Chesler Park Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands NP
Ok Folks, we are finally catching up on blog posts – sorry for the delay. We had to rush back to Denver for a family emergency and are just now getting back on track with pictures and writing.
After leaving Denver we decided to pick up where we left off – in Utah’s canyon country. However, it’s a really long one day drive, so we opted to stop in Fruita, Colorado, which is just outside of Grand Junction. We ended up staying for a week to get caught up on a few things but also see the local sights. Of those, Colorado National Monument was definitely the highlight.
The Monument was amazing and a place we had never been here before. It was like a small slice of canyon country with all our favorite thing – steep canyon walls, interesting and varied trails, great viewpoints and overlooks and a variety of different environments. We even liked Fruita, surprisingly nice little gem on the Colorado River. Most people drive right by on I-70 and just know it as an exit.
Fruita is also only a few hours from Moab, Utah and a days drive from Denver (note: A day’s drive for us – we drive slower for safety and fuel economy because we’re hauling over forty thousand pounds.). In case we haven’t said this before, part of our Grand Tour is finding a place to eventually settle down – or at least a place to serve as a home-base. Fruita / Grand Junction is now on our list of possibles.
Here are some select pictures from our Monument visit!
Looking East to the Colorado River Valley – Colorado Natl Monument
Overlook – Colorado Natl Monument
Katie and James – Colorado Natl Monument
Another Overlook – Colorado Natl Monument
Incredible Views – Colorado Natl Monument
Suzy at an overlook – Colorado Natl Monument
Mesa top – Colorado Natl Monument
Katie admiring the view – Colorado Natl Monument
Aiden having fun on the rock – Colorado Natl Monument
James and Aiden – Colorado Natl Monument
Life finds a way – Colorado Natl Monument
Aiden on the rocks – Colorado Natl Monument
Aiden loves doing the Lion King pose at every opportunity – Colorado Natl Monument
Cliffside in the afternoon light – Colorado Natl Monument
Valley in the afternoon light – Colorado Natl Monument
On the valley trail – Colorado Natl Monument
Hiking along the trail – Colorado Natl Monument
Evening glow near the end of the hike – Colorado Natl Monument