Arizona and the Rubber Trampers

1/15/19 – Quartzsite, AZ

It’s raining and cold in the desert, seminars have been cancelled and I’m hunkered down and staying warm in my cozy tin tent home.  Everyone else is also and you can bet are catching up on the internet, making it very slow.

Last entry I just got us into AZ after being chased by tornadoes in TX and snow in NM.  Most of the time in AZ has been dry, sunny and cooler than usual, I understand.  So no complaints about a rainy day to rest and be a little slower paced.

12/29/18 – After the first AZ night in a Walmart, I drove west on I-10 and stopped at the Saguaro National Park.  It was a beautiful sunny day and felt great being back into my mode of travel to see the country instead of running from weather events.  The Park’s visitor center was closed and no rangers of course because of the shutdown, but the park’s scenic drive, trails and day use was open, no fees being collected.  Lots of people were here, not only are we paying millions for this temper tantrum shutdown, the government isn’t collecting income from the parks and other national sites.

The forest of Saguaros is just amazing and beautiful.  Along with the long views of the Sonoran Desert where the sun shines more than 300 days a year!

 

The big one at the top is looking straight up at it, the “arm” next to right is the top, the big one is overhead!  BIG!

And other desert plants.   Cactus and other desert plants are designed for this extreme but predictable climate, global climate change is a challenge for them and desert wildlife, as well as for humans.

After a few hours communing with the cacti, we continued on, got onto I-8 to Gila Bend and a little beyond and off the highway to Painted Rocks Petroglyphs site.  It’s in BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land and an old landyke friend Puck is “vandwelling” there for the winter.  Enjoyed a couple of days visiting, sharing meals and catching up on the last 20 something years of our lives, in addition to the beautiful landscape and petroglyphs.  The first time I hiked to the patroglyphs Xena was with me, got there and they don’t allow dogs.  Shucks!!  Next time, without Xena, my ph. had died so didn’t get pictures.  Double shucks!!  Promised myself I’d get some on the way out the next day, but totally slipped my mind.  😦 .  Here are some of the dramatic scenery in and around the BLM land.  Seems everywhere is surrounded by mountains, very dark, rock desert mountains.  Can you see my Aliner in the second picture on the right?

The petroglyphs are recordings from prehistoric and historic civilizations, ancient villages along the Gila River. (plus a few contributed by more modern folks, aka grafitti, disrespect.)   Archeologists have dated them from at least 1400 years ago. It is a sacred place for the local native peoples including the O’Odham, Piipaash, Yavapai and others.

Here is at least a picture of the entrance and a couple I got off the brochure.  But you know what petroplyphs look like.

12/31/19 – We left the petroglyphs and drove first up to Phoenix area, had hoped to have a visit with a friend who has winter place in Apache Junction community but she had left ahead of me for the WRTR. Turns out she hadn’t, it had turned cold (low of 21 while I was at Painted Rocks) and she stayed with the warmth.  Got back on I-10 and drove on into Quartzsite.  This is the center of the RVing snowbirds of the west, Q itself is full of very crowded RV parks, full of big rigs, and lots of temporary tent vendors, especially focused on RV stuff.  I heard there’s a full time population of a couple of hundred and a winter population of 1/2 million.  The town totally depends on these 3-4 months for their survival.  Surrounding the town is BLM land, thousands of acres of land that no one else wants.  It’s scrubby desert for miles and miles and miles.  Again, everywhere you go it seems you are surrounded by mountains.  And the sky, Oh, the sky!  So big, wide open, stars seem so much closer, larger, the milky way is so very visible.

All the RVing, vandwelling, boondocking groups from giant rigs with folks who are always hooked up to people living in their cars, Priuses even.  There are a couple roads running out of Quartzsite (Q) into the BLM land and vast space for boondocking, without any amenities.  And here we are, the Women’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous!

It’s very hard to fully describe this experience.  It’s a combination of teaching/mentoring women new to this lifestyle, and making and renewing connection with others who share the desire to meander around the country in a small home on wheels.  The RTR has the same goal, with obvious difference.  I want to refer you to an article in Wired magazine, https://www.wired.com/story/youtube-boomers-vanlife-bob-wells/.  I hope that works as a link.  It’s about the guy who started it and describes the RTR and it’s goals and philosophy well.  Some of these folks are living this lifestyle by choice, some out of necessity.  The WRTR grew out of a Women’s meeting at the RTR, recognizing the need for women only space, especially because some women find themselves living in their car out of necessity because of divorce and no/little income, loss of home, and some are hiding from abusers.  Bob and Suanne, the woman who got the WRTR going, have started a non profit to assist those here out of necessity who need assistance, just to survive.

So, what am I doing here?  You probably know I’ve been following some bloggers and websites and FB groups for RVers or camperers for quite a while now.  So naturally I ran into CheapRVliving and RTR and was fascinated.  The more I’ve been traveling in my little camper, the more I’ve leaned toward boondocking, primarily because of expense.  If you go out in your camper for a weekend or a week, campground fees are doable, but if you’re out for months or years, paying $25 a night isn’t.  Plus campgrounds are crowded, l like to be in nature, often in isolated places or with folks who enjoy the same instead of sitting in their big rigs, watching TV while the dishwasher does it’s thing.  Of course when I’m at the big National Parks, which I also want to see, there are crowds and I often use the crowded campgrounds, but I’ve learned to find more remote National Forest campsites nearby.  And that’s what I want to learn how to do more, find safe remote free or cheap campsites in or near the places I want to see.  And I want to learn how to manage without the electricity and water hookups, the bathrooms and showers.  As some of you know, I got solar before I left on this journey.  That’s what this is about, both the skills and meeting others who like the same, establishing friendships and sometimes having travel companions.  I have found a few women this time interested in loosely caravaning together to Alaska this year.  Nice!

So, I got to WRTR New Years Eve.  There was planned a fire circle but it was too cold.  Disappointing, but was great getting there early (it started Jan 4), volunteering and becoming part of and getting to know a smaller group of women before the estimated 1000 showed up.  There were lots of “newbies” and lots of experienced boondockers.  This was only the second WRTR, last year was only about 200.  The first couple of days of opening I worked at the entrance, directing women how to sign up, where neighborhoods were, general information.  There were so many women who broke down in tears when they came in, crying with joy that they were there, “home”, with relief they’d made that long drive, with trepidation what were they doing!  I was taken by surprise, didn’t expect that, so many looking for meaning in their lives, I’d say.  It was very moving.  A thousand or so women wasn’t crowded at all, it was very spread out and if you really wanted solitude you could go out even further.  Endless land.  There were neighborhoods:  Arts, music, rainbow, noisy, quiet, chem free/no smoking, etc.  Sound familiar?  We had scheduled learning sessions:  Hygiene, safety, how to find boondocking, using GPS, solar, etc. and anyone could sign up to share an interest or skill:  How to organize a small space, keeping warm, keeping connected to internet, etc., etc., etc.  So much good stuff. The central areas where these happened did get a little crowded during the activities, it was a lot of walking (much needed), and lots of day parking for those who needed/wanted to drive in.  Just like a town – downtown/neighborhoods/remote country.  The neighborhoods had regular fire circles, meal-time networking, you could visit any group, or even move from day to day.   “Find your tribe” is often repeated.

I don’t have pictures except of scenery of the surrounding mountains and cacti, some rigs and of course the most gorgeous sunrises and sets you’ve ever seen!  There was an agreement we wouldn’t take pictures of participants without permission because of the reasons given above, and mostly I just forgot, so much going on.  If you hover over some of the pictures there are captions.  Realized I could do that.

1/8/19 – After the WRTR, it was on to the RTR.  I questioned whether I really wanted to go, estimated attendance was 8-10,000!!!  I don’t like crowds – at all!!  WRTR had was enough.  As the time got closer we all talked, just about everyone felt the same.  One of us went in early and saved a spot, outside the actual RTR area, but close enough to walk in.  We all eventually said we would go, may only last a day, see how it is.  Our site is perfect.  It’s all desert that divided into areas by washes so end up being long fingers.  We have 3 fingers connected off the road so we can be together by crossing a wash.  We have a great fire circle, every night, really good conversations, continue to share meals some.  The seminars have been good and the crowds not bad.  There is only one rd leading into the main camp, one lane, so it’s been a bit of a challenge walking to the center.  Some of the washes are too steep/deep/rocky to walk across.  But we’ve made it, only one twisted ankle in our group, one broken leg I heard elsewhere.  8,000 people, you gotta expect, haven’t heard of any other accidents or incidents, no rescues.  Pretty amazing.  Seminars have included some of the same, some in more depth, as WRTR, like solar and all the possibilities of internet connectivity, which of course goes right over my non-techie head.  Also had solar cookers and they bought a bunch of panels, brought here to be installed.  Lots of folks with skills here to help people with all kinds of vehicle/camper issues.  Everything is free!!  A very large free stuff area, large triple bulletin board with free services as well as other stuff.  There was a great talk called the Healing Power of Minimalism, done by a Buddhist. So many things that even tho they aren’t new to me (or you) things I need to constantly repeat, be reminded of.  How much is enough? Really liked it.

One of the things important to this group is taking care of this land we all love to roam around.  You may be hearing of folks destroying public lands especially during the shutdown with no rangers or others overseeing them.  This group, and others like it, have been going out en mass and cleaning up the public lands.  Many were out in caravans (groups) cleaning up before they came to the RTR.  It is often discussed how important Leave No Trace is, we should always leave our camping area better than we found it.  As we hear of homeless people living on public land and leaving a mess, I really appreciate this attitude among what many would call “homeless”, what these folks call “houseless”, their “home” is on wheels, mostly by choice.  So less you go away thinking that’s what we’re doing out here, just want you to know it’s quite the opposite.  One of the things RTR teaches is how to take care of your own waste, ALL of your waste.  First of all – to make less, much less, minimalism.  And we know exactly how much we make and where it goes.  Otherwise when we throw it in a dumpster, have it picked up at the curbside, flush it down the toilet, it’s no longer our problem.  I guess this is one of the things I’m learning more about – how much I have, how much I need, how much I waste, how much is enough.

Enough here.  I was planning to go into town today to do laundry, shower, visit some of the other groups in the area, including RVing Women, Boomers, Solos, and shop.  But it has rained all day.  There is a “Big Tent” that starts Sat. of all RV stuff.  It sounds like a state fair, again not exactly my style, but I need a few things and maybe just want to experience it, so thought I’d stick around for it before I move on.

A few more photos, the only restrictions for picture taking at RTR was the presenter said whether it was OK (it was with all), and courtesy to ask permission of people.

1/16/19 – I wasn’t able to load all these pictures during the rain, when everyone was in their rigs using internet, so finished late this morning after folks were thru with their morning fix I guess.  As you can see the rains finally cleared out and for the millionth time there was a magnificent sunset.  Always the sunsets.

Until next time,

Lynn and Xena, in the AZ desert

 

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Continuing to AZ

1/8/19 –  I have a few minutes before our closing meeting this morning so lets see if I can get us here.

12/23 – I got the TX State Park pass, free entry ($6) to all state parks, 2nd night camping 1/2 price (regular $20).  Works out to be $30 for what would have been $46.  Covers the rest of 2018 and then the entire year of 2019.  I’ll be in TX a good bit this trip and probably will be back next year perhaps Nov., Dec. so it seemed to be worth it.  Cost $70 and going up.  So my 2nd night at Sea Rim was 1/2 and then I went down to Galveston Island SP and stayed 2 nights.  By the way, Sea Rim is adjacent to TX Point and McFadden National Wildlife Reserves, so is a very large area of public lands.  There were also many mosquitos!!!  I don’t know the history but am wondering if govt got it after some oil devastation, since it’s right in the midst of oil works.  But no oil rigs were visible from either of the parks I went to.  Galveston is another beautiful undeveloped beach.  Camping was even closer to the beach.  It was full, tho there had been a cancelation and it happened to be in the end site which was short so no big rigs could get in, door opening away from others, so very private with great view!  How lucky was that!?!?

Getting here was down narrow islands between the intracoastal at Galveston Bay and the Gulf, sorta like driving the outer banks, or the FL Keys, except that part of the road was closed, being repaired.  So had to go inland a little on another road and then back down, then there is a ferry (free) over to Galveston.  Of course the main part of Galveston is very developed touristy, but the road Is right on the seawall and beaches all along, so makes for an interesting drive.  And then you get to the State Park and all the way across the island is undeveloped until you get down to Jamaica Beach.  I spent Christmas Eve here, for a treat and since from here I’ll be heading inland and to the desert, I went into town and got a wonderful seafood dinner at Nick’s, recommended by the camp staff.  It included 2 types of stuffed shrimp I’ve never had, stuffing similar to crab, one with crawfish in it!  Also the hushpuppy type balls had seafood in them.  I love seafood, love seafood platters where I get a little of everything, this was the best I’ve ever had, and included lots of great roasted veggies as well as coleslaw.  I’ve been eating my way along the Gulf Coast since Fairhope with seafood, this one topped it all, and was enough for 3 meals.  A good thing, it was expensive!  But oh so worth it.  I don’t take pictures of my food, should have made an exception this time.

 

 

After another couple of days enjoying the beach, sun, birds, sunrises and sunsets, full moon rises and sets at the perfect time of year to view both at the same time, full moonlight on the beach and Gulf, hearing the surf as I drift off at night.  Perfect place, perfect thing to do over the holidays.  Oh yeah, had a fabulous shower!!!!  HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

 

12/25 – Drove to Austin, to Bastrop State Park.  Met up with Maiki,a friend I met last winter in FL at the Campazon campout.  We’ve kept in touch, she also planned to go to WRTR/RTR and we planned to try to travel together some.  Got some hiking in, lots of fire damage.  It’s another CCC park, has a great “Shade Shelter”, wonderful huge fireplaces inside and out.  Went in to see some of Austin on the 26th, but it was raining pretty bad so wasn’t able to see much.  That night there were bad thunderstorms with tornado warnings/watches.  Some in the campground were leaving for motel, but I sorta figured if there is a tornado, who knows where it would be, here or there, it’s hello Dorothy wherever it hits.  But since these Aframes are a little iffy in high winds, I scrambled around in the dark and packed it up and put in down and drove to the protected side of the bathhouse and tried to sleep in the car.  Thunderstorms, no tornados, tho there were elsewhere.  Very little sleep.  All’s well.  Thank you to those who were more aware of weather conditions and gave me a heads up even before folks here knew the severity of the warnings, and checked in on me.  Love you.

When I left the coast I knew I needed to kinda rush across the rest of TX, having daudled and enjoyed the trip, and not quite getting that TX is so big!!  Plus the bad weather, cold and snow, was chasing us.  Since I’d packed up the night before, it was easy to pull out really early the next day.  So it was time for Interstate 10 and Walmart camping.   Luckily the lack of sleep didn’t bother me on the first long haul day, but I sure slept well that night.  Interesting tho that we met other WRTR travelers, at one WM there were 4 that I knew of, including one other Aframe I’d had contact with earlier.  There were many campers in the parking lot, a whole campground full.   So that made it fun.  Yep it snowed, we ran to NM, it snowed more, we ran to AZ.  I honestly can’t remember if it was 2 or 3 nights in WMs.

Snow covered mountains in NM, clouds clearing out, dry desert hills.  When we got to AZ it was clearing, got sunny, was cold tho.  That last picture, blow it up to see we made it to AZ.

Now got to go to that closing.  More later on the WRTR

From sunny Arizona,

Lynn and Xena

 

From Pascagoula to AZ

1/7/19 –   Finally a little time to write, maybe.  I’m now at the Women’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (WRTR), on BLM land near Quartzsite, AZ.  I want to share the trip getting here first, then we’ll talk about the WRTR.  So back up a bit and have patience.

12/18 –  left my friends Mary and Alda in Pascagoula, MS after a delightful visit with them, catching up and getting reaquainted.  On the way out I stopped in Biloxi to have breakfast with a woman I’d met on the WRTR group.  Delicious breakfast and great to meet up with another Rubbertramper.  Then I was on my way.  I’d decided to go along the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain instead of through New Orleans since I’ve been there several times, and I prefer to avoid cities and take the back roads.    Stopped at Fountainbleau State Park with beach on the lake, near Mandeville, LA.   You could see the New Orleans skyline and the bridge, and a wonderful sunset including the clouds bring on the next system from the Gulf.   Lots of huge live oaks with Spanish moss.  It’s an historical site, an old cotton plantation and mill, with ruins of the mill and evidence of slave quarters.  The State Park was developed by the CCC and there’s a very interesting old bathhouse build for beach goers, large tiled room with lots of changing rooms and toilet stalls.  Kinda reminded me of the bathhouse at the old park pool where I grew up.  Lots of hurricane damage still, and damage from wild hogs.  The ranger said it was particularly bad in the fall because the acorns have dropped, and we know how much pigs like acorns!!  I was only there one night but it was a short drive and I got there in plenty of time to do a little walking around and see everything.  It was also very wet, like everywhere else I’ve been, and calling for rain the next day, so I was glad to be moving on.

12/19 – Got packed and out just before the rain.   Drove to Lafayette, which Alda told me was the heart of Cajun/Acadian culture in LA.  Camped at Acadiana City Park, definitely tell this is the swamps, sweet little campground, next to a bayou, low part in the flood zone.  Swamp.  After setting up, briefly went into town to the  Acadian Cultural Center, a National Park Historical Site.  It was too late to spend a lot of time there so basically just got information for tomorrow.

12/20 – Went back to the Cultural Center.  Lots of very informative displays and really interesting, far too much to take in at one visit.  Next to it is Vermillionville, a recreated Cajun village.  Included is a restaurant with excellent Cajun food so I got lunch there – Crawfish etouffee.  Delish!!!  Went back and spent more time at the Cultural Center.  Will come back here tomorrow.

12/21 – Today’s plan got a little discombobulated.  I have a small chip in the windshield and had been trying to get a repair since insurance pays for it – kinda hard to arrange when you’re on the road.  Got someone to meet me in the parking lot of the Vermillian village.  So I packed it all up and went in, met him, got the repair and then toured the village til mid afternoon.  An absolutely beautiful sunny day for a stroll in an historical village.  Really interesting, homes and other buildings either moved here from other locations or recreated here.  Lots of historical and cultural info of all cultures who’ve lived in these bayous, Native Americans, Cajuns and settlers.  Artisans were in some of the buildings or outside –  weaving, cloth and baskets, cooking, making soap, woodworking, etc.  One woman was finger weaving, she was a native American and really knew her history.  Loved talking to her.  I have so many interesting pictures at this site, but I’ve promised not to post as many.  One last one tho, in the little farmyard was a donkey, Zoe sister.  I love those donkeys.

Once again had lunch at the restaurant – wonderful seafood gumbo, enough for 2 meals.  Then I hit the road again, going a pretty short distance, crossing over into TX Gulf Coast.  Went to Sea Rim State Park at the easternmost point of TX, had to drive through Port Arthur where there are huge ugly oil refineries, but once I got on the coast it was really nice.  Nothing but dunes between campsite and Gulf, wide open, no trees, another beautiful day, no rain, and on the beach!!!  Nothing here but the undeveloped beach, I love public lands where the beaches are saved from development.  Long walks on the beach, very few people here.  Dunes are lower and wider than NC, more gradual incline, long wide beach at low tide.  The sand is darker, in my opinion not as pretty but beautifully undeveloped, not a beach house to be seen.  Beautiful simultaneous Full Moon rising & sunset, and sunrise & moonset.  HAPPY SOLSTICE!!

I’m gonna stop now because there’s a meeting here.  Will continue when I have next chance.

Hope all of you are having a great New Year.  Adventure on, Happy Trails.

From Xena and Lynn

 

Back on the Road

Dec. 16, 2018 –  We left NC for our next BIG adventure on Dec. 8, just ahead of the snow storm.  But we didn’t avoid it totally.  Went to Easley, SC to visit a woman on the Women’s RTR (will explain that later) group who graciously invited us to stay.  Thank you Diana, for wonderful dinner, nice visit with friends, and warmth.

The temps fell and the rain turned to sleet/snow/freezing rain.  In the morning several inches of the frozen mix was on the ground and temps were going to stay below freezing well past time I needed to leave.  So we left and made our way back onto I-85, a little hairy at times on the unplowed streets and roads before getting to a well plowed I-85.  So far the whole trip (all of a week!) has been dominated by weather.

We made it safely to our destination at FDR State Park, Pine Mountain, GA.  This is a great camping spot, I was here last year on my way to FL in Jan and posted some pictures then.  Here are a couple this time of my rig (without snow/sleet) and my view of the sunrise through the forest taken the day I left, the only day the sun made an appearance and one of 2 days it didn’t rain.

This is near Columbus, GA, where I was born, and still have family here so I had great visits and sharing food with my brother and sister-in-law, my niece and a nephew and his wife.

The third photo is the sunset that same day from the pier at Fairhope AL.  It’s always fun to get the sunrise in one spot and the sunset in another.  Fairhope is on the east side of the Mobile Bay, which opens into the Gulf of Mexico.

It really rained, and rained, and rained some more while in Fairhope.  And it was cold!  So much for coming south for the winter.  We were camped at a Boondockers Welcome site at Big Daddy’s Grill, a local seafood joint on the Fish River.  Very nice spot in spite of the rain, but very wet, I mean it’s barely above sea level here.   The pictures below show right outside our door and the sign & reflection in the water on the lawn.  Plus another at sunset (of course) of our view looking over the river.

And some more shots walking and cruising along the river, including a picture of GPS showing the river as we drove along it.  I just loved being able to see the curves and shapes of it.  Unfortunately most of it is private property, I didn’t find a single public access, tho someone told me there was one, just not well posted so you can find it.  A lot of the homes are pretty rich riverfront property, but a lot is still fisherfolk down to earth homes.  A great place for fresh seafood.

A few shots of the Bay at Fairhope, kind of quaint touristy seaport town but not too busy on a rainy wintry day.

Much of the land around Fairhope is such stereo-typical Rural South just couldn’t pass up some pictures.  Cotton fields & modern bales of cotton, pecan groves, the long gated drive to the massa’s house.

From Fairhope, going South, there’s an estuary and this little surprise showed up.  A Pitcher Plant Bog.  What a nice surprise along the way – this is why I don’t take the Interstates whenever possible.

We kept driving south on the east side of Mobile Bay to Gulf Shores, then took the road across the bottom of Mobile Bay.  A fascinating narrow spit of land, of wide sand bars, like the outer banks, with a road that goes all the way across with the exception of a  ferry ride across to Dauphin Island on the west side, and then some big bridges across the Intracoastal Waterway.  I loved this drive, white sand beaches, undeveloped for the most part, Bay on one side, Gulf on the other.  There are ruins of old forts on both sides of the mouth at the ferry landings at Fort Morgan on the east and Fort Gaines at Dauphin Island on the west, for protection of the Bay and it’s port.  There is much history I didn’t have the time to explore so I’ll have to do some research.  There are also lots of oil rigs.  Now it looks like the cannons are protecting the oil rigs.

The end of the day’s drive brought us to Pascagoula, MS, to the home of friends Mary and Alda for a few days.  A wonderful landing place before heading into the “real” west.

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See you on the other side of the Mississippi.

Til then,

Lynn & Xena

 

 

The Home Stretch

Aug. 26 – I’m writing this after getting home and it feels weird.  But I do want to come Full Circle with this adventure.

Aug. 9 – Newfane, VT.  I stayed a couple of nights at Townsend State Park and spent the whole day of the 9th with my old friend Linda who used to live in NC.  She lives in an apartment attached to one of the beautiful old homes with no room for guests, tho I did find out after seeing it that I could have parked camper in the large driveway.  The State Park was great tho, another old CCC built state park, and I took Linda out to see it and my camper.  She was curious, as so many people are, about the ALiner.  They’re just not that many of them out there and so uniquely shaped – a curiosity, I’ve given many tours of it.  More pressure to keep it neat and clean.  🙂  It was a wonderful visit, catching up and discovering the adorable little typical VT village where she has lived for the last 10 yrs or so.  Much remembering and telling of new life stories, as always happens with old friends.

Aug 10 – From VT, I drove down the Hwy to Huntington, MA where we set up camp for several days on the beautiful land of friends Judith and Carol, surrounded by fully flowering perennial gardens!  They have several acres out in the country, it was perfect,  plus I got lots of those hard to do while camping things done: laundry, internet, shower. Then went into East Hampton to visit another friend, Jean.  More great time catching up and reminiscing with old friends.

I have several friends in Western MA and when I contacted them about visiting in Aug, some were planning to go to an OLOC/mini Michfest campout.  OLOC – Old Lesbians Organizing for Change! – one of my favorite acronyms.  mini Michfest celebrating the Michigan Women’s Music Festival, which happened that week for many many years.  I wanted to go?!   It was great fun, such a change from being primarily in the company of strangers or new-found friends with nothing in common but traveling and adventuring, to being surrounded by women who were friends and others with so much present and past life experience in common. And in a great place in the east with abundant familiar green and a lake for swimming, canoeing, kayaking, etc.  Sharing meals, nightly fire circles, singing women’s music and music from the 60s, listening to daily Carolyn Gage sermons!  And a delicious last night dinner out.  A very delightful easing back into my life off the road.

I didn’t remember to take many pictures so I’m stealing some from Emily Greene.

Aug. 17 – From Western MA, a long drive to Maine, first to meet up with landmate Doreen who had been traveling in her camper up from Full Circle Farm, and Amy, another FCF sister who lives in ME til she builds and moves to the farm.  After we settled in for another night camped on the land of a couple of women who have a beautiful farm, we went to a local brewery/fire-roasted pizza joint and a visit to LL Bean outlet where I blew some $$ and got those new waterproof hiking boots I’d said I wanted.  50% off!!!  Keen!

Aug. 18 – Next day the 3 of us were off to Acadia NP.  This adventure started with me deciding to join another Women Aliner Campers campout at Acadia, then asking Doreen and Amy if they’d like to join me.  It was really good, we enjoyed spending some time with the WACS, and the 3 of us had a great time with each other and especially hiking some not so challenging trails as well as some challenging ones with beautiful views for reward. They are much younger than I and they very graciously helped me on the challenging one over some rough spots, taking Xena’s leash when I needed both hands to climb rocks, lending me a hand up, and in general slowing their pace.  I’m sure they would have finished these hikes much quicker without the old lady slowing them down.  At one point I was ready to kill Doreen for “accidentally” leading us into the “Cadillac Cliffs” (there was a choice!) on the trail to the Gorham Mtn summit, but in the end I felt grateful for the challenge and that this old body had done it!!  All the times I hike alone, I would have never attempted it.  Pats on the back!!  But I won’t be doing it again!  BTW – those new hiking shoes were great.  3 days hiking, clung to those rocks like suction cups, 1 blister.

Views from the top.

I didn’t take too many pictures hiking, I was too busy clambering over boulders, but thankfully Doreen did, so I’m stealing some from her here.

After I left, Doreen and Amy “accidentally” took another hike, one they had deemed too difficult the day before.  You know – ropes and ladders type!  That last picture is on that hike.  The Bee Hive.  Nope, not me!

There is so much diverse beauty at Acadia – the mountains, the ocean, the harbors, rocky beaches, the quaint towns.  A drive around the scenic loop and up to Cadillac Mountain, more views from that top.

 

Aug 21 – Xena and I left Acadia and drove south, the final leg home.  Staying away from the cities as usual, drove through ME, NH, MA, Conn, to Newburgh, NY for a Walmart stay.  Met a wounded vet and his wife from Roxboro, NC, on their way to a family funeral.  Small world.

Aug. 22 – another long driving day on I-81 through Penn, Maryland, WV and to Shenandoah NP in VA.  Camped at one of the campgrounds on the Skyline Drive, how delightful that was for my last night on the road.  My eyes rested on the beautiful Smokey Mountains again at last.  Not as dramatic as those western mountains, but just a magnificent and beautiful in their own way.  Heard cicadas for the first time this summer.  Very warm and welcoming signs of home.  A soft landing.  It’s good to be back in familiar territory.

But I still didn’t want to stop, want to keep rolling.

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Drove out to one of the overlooks to catch the sun set on our last day on this magical journey.

Aug 23 –  Set out early and took a long slow drive on the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah, stopping at many overlooks, stopping to walk a mile or so of the AT whenever it crossed, something I’ve done for years when I’m in the mountains.  Once we were back on the highway, horse headed for the barn!  Arrived home at 6pm.  Circle complete.

Thanks for rolling with us on our journeys.  I appreciate all who read this, I especially like comments, whether here or on personal emails or texts, and “likes”.  Helps when we start missing our homefolk, even tho I may not see them for weeks, and then not be able to respond.    I also like to hear about your life and travels.

And yes, we will keep rolling.  You’ll have to stay tuned for the next adventure.

“I’m quite ready for another adventure!”  Bilbo Baggins

Til then, Happy Camping,

Lynn and Xena

 

Roaring East

July 29, 2018 we left Mt. Rainier with sadness and much appreciation and awe for a fabulous, life-expanding adventure in the mountains of the Northwest and set the Highlander’s nose to take us east.  We traveled a northern route and will end up in Maine before turning south for home in NC.  I know, long way home, right!  This came about because many months ago I decided to join some Women Aliners for a campout at Acadia in mid Aug and you know those reservations – in some places, like Acadia in Aug, you gotta make them practically a year in advance, so I needed to decide long time ago.  I was also loosely following someone else’s itinerary as a guide for the west journey since I knew next to nothing about the area.  In retrospect, I would have stayed west in Aug. and spent more time in just about every place I went (not the Badlands!!!), although I must say it seemed the wildfires were following me.  I saw yesterday where the west side of Glacier was burning, the side where I camped, and the Road to the Sun was closed.  Makes those fires even sadder after you’ve been there.  :(.  So anyway, that’s why we’re heading to Maine.  And since I was going to be in the NE I planned to visit some friends in VT and Western MA.  In order to coordinate with their plans, I needed to be in VT by Aug 8th, and since pulling a camper and needing to find places to camp takes a lot longer than driving/motel model . . . well, you get the picture.  And I had to take care of some service on the tow vehicle and the camper, things impossible to do while in National Parks and Forests.  Luckily nothing desperate while I was there.

So, with a last look back with sadness, off we went, Highlander, Aliner, Xena and me, rolling back to the east coast.

I did try to include some interesting sights and took the more northern route that would avoid the big cities and get off interstates a good part of the time.  First night ended up at Coeur d’Alene, ID, which I’d honestly never heard of.  Needed a city where there would be a Toyota dealer for oil change since I wanted them to check everything really well and I trust the dealers more than an unknown mechanic.  And since I’d driven 8,000 miles since the last oil change, towing, and over lots of mountains and rough rutted dirt roads.  So next day that’s where we went.  Yep, needed brakes too!  It took most of the day, luckily they even took me without an appointment.  I had hoped I could arrange the camper fix so I could drop it off and bring the car in without it but that didn’t work and there was no place in the Toyota lot, so had to drop it in a nearby Walmart parking lot and leave it.  They were very nice to let Xena stay in the waiting room with me, in spite of her state of shedding.  I brush her every day so the car and camper aren’t full of fur, leaving a small dog sized furball at every campsite.  All the sales people and other customers loved her and she was well behaved.

Some pics of the drive, gradual leveling of the mountains then flat plains, big sky, wide open exposed forever views.  Unfortunately, I was never able to find a parking spot in the very crowded busy lake area of Coeur d’Alene so didn’t get any pictures.

I was determined to get farther down the road that afternoon, so we drove to Butte, MT, back into some hills and mountains, but still barren, big sky country.   So close to many National Forest, and passing by  because of the need for speed.  Drove pretty late so we did a Walmart camp that night.  If you’re an RVer you probably know that most Walmarts allow travelers to overnight in the parking lot and lest you think it would be lonely and scary, here’s a photo of the parking lot that night.  And a pretty view of the city lights, residential area on the opposite hillside.

Folks usually use this option when they’re trying to make time, drive late and just park it, sleep, and leave early the next morning.  RVers are very friendly, put out their chairs to relax and watch the view of the city lights, walk around, chat, walk the dogs.  Just like a campground.  Not bad really, convenient, feels safe, in all I think I did 4 Walmart nights.  You can drive by just about any Walmart around dusk or after and most likely will see RVs and vans and even 16 wheelers along the outer edges of the parking lot, there for the night.

Aug. 1 – Next day, camper fix.  While in Mt. Rainier a few days before the camper wasn’t working off the battery.  The only thing I needed it for was to ignite the propane to run the fridge since I didn’t have elec. hookups.  Only a few months old, tested fully charged,  checked all the battery connections, fuses, breakers, even crawled this old body under the camper to see if any loose or broken wires were visible.  Even had another Aliner owner who was camped nearby check it out, and he couldn’t find anything either.   I was able to leave it plugged into the car while I was at camp and it ran off the car battery just fine, then I would run around and do my exploring and charge the car’s battery back up.  It was cool enough to just leave fridge off overnight since I didn’t want to run the car battery down.  When I took it in, it was indeed a simple fuse, an in-line fuse at the battery, which actually had tested fine even with a different kind of tester that the other Aliner had.  Pooh!!  Half the day wasted on a tiny little fuse!!!  I now have 2 extras and it’ll be the first thing I check if it happens again.

Onward!  Long driving afternoon through the rest of Montana but stopped at a few interesting places.  Especially Pompey’s Pillar National Historic Monument.  Again, never heard of it but signs were right along Interstate 90 and I needed a break.  Well worth it, spent a couple hours there and got a good hike along the Yellowstone River and the rock that included about 12 stories worth of steps to the top!!!  Great views all around.  This is all Lewis and Clark territory and this “pillar” was a natural landmark and observation point for more than 11,000 years by humans.  It’s at a natural crossing on the Yellowstone River and hundreds of historical markings, petroglyphs and inscriptions have transformed this geologic formation into a living journal of the American West.  The inscriptions include the signature of William Clark (Lewis and Clark) and date they were there.  This inscription is the only visible evidence of the expedition that remains along the Corps of Discovery’s trail.  The visitor’s center is full of interesting historical displays and information.

Back on the road, passed really close to where I’d stopped at Big Horn Canyon and Little Big Horn Battlefield 2 months ago.  About this time I got off I-90 and onto I-94 and followed the Yellowstone River.  Stopped at Makoshika State Park at Glendive near the eastern state line thinking I’d camp there.  But I drove through to check it out, it’s all in the Badlands area, all exposed, no trees/shade, really hot 90s full sunny days.  It was mid afternoon and I saw no reason to stop anywhere much before dark just so I could bake when I could keep driving in the AC, so went on across the state line into North Dakota.  Stopped for another look at Theodore Roosevelt National Park for a little farewell.  That was my first National Park stop after getting out into this section of the country so full of amazing National Parks.  Full Circle.  It was as beautiful as the first time.  Even tho this is officially Badlands too, these are more colorful, prettier, and have some trees, especially in the campground.  Remembered it was a long drive through the park to get to the campground and knew I wouldn’t get a spot with no reservation anyway, so kept going.  Made it to Dickinson just about dusk where it was another Walmart night.

Aug. 2 – Rolling on across North Dakota.  After TRNP, not much to talk about, ya know what I mean!!  I did see amber waves of grain and the World’s Largest Holstein!

Made it all the way across to Minnesota and had another Walmart night in Dilworth.  That was probably the worst of my travel days.  But the next morning I got off I-94 and onto Hwy 10, then some smaller roads to Scenic Hwy 2 and landed at Chippewa National Forest where lots of lakes are, at Cass Lake campground.  Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.  I stayed 2 nights, so great to be in a National Forest, in a campground again, with a shower.  In the middle of Indian Reservation, surrounded by lakes. Went to a fish supper benefit for the youth, fish from the lake.  Yummy.   Set up the whole camp – rug, screen tent, cooktop outside, settled right in.  Next day actually cooked for the first time in what felt like a really long time.  Ahh, better.

I loved my stay here, beautiful and relaxing after the mad dash across the plains and badlands.  I wanted to stay, but that calendar keeps moving.  Rolled out on the 5th, stayed on US 2, a scenic highway.  Got a little bit of Lake Superior, into and through Wisconsin and into Michigan.  Landed another fabulous spot for the night at Hiawatha National Forest on Little Bay de Noc, a peninsula on Lake Michigan.  Wonderful walks around the bay with great sunset.  Wow!!  Neither of these stops were planned, just watched the maps for National Forests.  I love our National Forests!!  Would hate to lose them, but I’m afraid we need to work hard to keep them public lands.

Again, I wanted to stay but I just couldn’t, didn’t even unhook the camper.  You can see in the photos that weather was rolling in too, and that’s pretty much been the story ever since.  Next day was driving around Lake Michigan, crossing the Mackinac Bridge (or as I like to spell it MAC n NAK for my friends and faithful blog followers, MAC and NAK!).  Then it was around Lake Huron to Port Huron.  Just fabulous views of the lakes all along, as seen through the rain.  We did a Walmart at Port Huron just a couple of miles from the border crossing into Ontario, Canada.  Another crowded Walmart as many people do this to get across early.

Across the border and then we’re going around Lake Ontario!  All the Lakes!!  I went all the way to the bridge crossing at the St. Lawrence River and 1000 Islands.  Even tho a little longer than crossing at Buffalo, I’m really glad I did.  Once again, I have never heard of the 1000 Islands, except the salad dressing.  🙂  Camped at Keewaydin State Park.  There’s an old castle on one of the Islands, unfinished by the builder because his wife, who he was building it for, died and he abandoned it.  It’s been taken over and kept up as a state park.  There are a lot of “little castles” copies everywhere.  The whole island area is a big resort/tourist area, motorboats, jet skis, loud and rowdy tour boats, but not as crowded and noisy as other parks with water attractions I’ve been in and the campground was nice.  Obviously didn’t have much time to explore, did love the marina.  Until traveling earlier this year, I didn’t realize there were marinas at state parks where a boater can “camp”, hooked up or boondocking, just like the land campers.  Cool.

Aug 8 – Got a little walk with Xena and a shower before leaving pretty early to head for VT.  Went down I-81 and back onto I-90, the Hwy I started on in Washington.  I mentioned earlier there have been storms, well ran into a whopper of a storm on this day.  Visibility of Zero!  And it lasted a long time.  Probably added an hour or more to my drive time.  Up I-87, then across to Bennington!  Whew!  Made it.  Mission Accomplished!  Got a campsite at Townsend State Park, right next to Green Mountains, and real close to my friend Linda who lives in the tiny VT village (60 taxpayers) of Newfane.

The rest of this trip is about visiting friends.  When I have a chance to post next I’ll share some of it.  But I will be in campgrounds and don’t know what kind of connectivity I’ll have so may be after I get home.

Keep on rolling, safe travels on your end of summer vacations.

Lynn and Xena

 

 

 

The Crowning Glory

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What more is there to say.  Mt. Rainier!!  Elevation 14,410′.  I started seeing her miles and miles away, just a glimpse here and there from afar, then closer, larger.  Every time I’d gasp!  What an amazing sight!!  I could see her from every turn in the road, a different view, just eye popping beautiful and awe inspiring.  Here’s a topo model from one of the visitors centers, just to put her in perspective.

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Entered at the Nisqually entrance on the southwest side.   It’s the “historic district”, where first James Longmire, a settler and explorer, discovered hot springs and built the first hotel and spa in 1885 before it was a NP.  That same year Fay Fuller became the first woman to climb Mr. Ranier.  There is a “Trail of Shadows”, an interpretive trail around the area where the original hot springs/hotel/spa was.  The historic district also consists of the 1st buildings as a National Park, which it became in 1899, and includes an old Inn, store, museum, Ranger station and an old gas station.  Early visitors came by horse and buggy, cars were allowed in 1915, which began the major growth of the park.  Lots of other history throughout the park including early ranger cabins, primarily used for rangers to watch for fires and poachers.

 

Camped a few days at Cougar Rock on the southwest side, on the Nisqually River.  Nabbed the last site again, thanks to a cancellation. Pretty awesome to have a great view of the mountain form the campsite.  Drove up to Paradise, climbing higher and higher, every turn another eye-popping view.  And what a view from the top at 5400′, looked like you could reach out and touch it.  I know I can’t just post a million pictures of different views tho I could look at them forever.  Many other things to see also – glacier rivers and waterfalls of course. Other mountains, not as glamorous but beautiful in their own right.  Another great visitors’ center.  Many trails lead from here of varying length and difficulty, but they’re all steep.   You can climb to the summit, over glacier ice, snow and loose rocks.  It’s an overnight hike.  Has anyone done it?  Pretty impressive.  Wildflowers were abloom in all the meadows to add to the beauty.

 

 

Continued to drive the route to the east from there, many great water falls and rivers.  Reflection Lakes with Mr. Rainier behind, but no reflection, guess it’s the wrong time of day.  Then drove on one ledge of Stevens Canyon, crossed over and  ledge on the other side.  Very narrow, winding, climbing, on a ledge with no railings!!!  Exciting to say the least.  Amazing views all the way.

The next day I moved up to the White River Campground near the NE entrance and Sunrise, another center of activity, visitor center, Lodge, and amazing views.  It’s even higher – 6400′, the campground is 4232′ and there’s a trail up to Sunrise.  A measly 3 mile hike, straight up!!!  The drive is 10 miles, still quite steep with switchbacks to get that elevation gain.    The view from here is even more amazing, it looks even more like you could reach out and touch it.  And of course you can hike up to the summit from here too, along with many other hikes.  There’s a trail called Wonderland that goes all around the base of the mountain.  A total of 93 miles!!!  Met some women on their 10th day, 2 more to go.  And met some doing the summit too.  Oh to be young again!!!

 

If you can zoom in and read the last one, When Fire and Ice Collided, it’s very interesting about how those rocks formed so weirdly.  The rocks right there look just like the picture.

I know, another one of those signs to read!  About how the Sunrise Road was planned and built.  Another amazing engineering feat.

I mentioned earlier the Old Ranger cabins.  Here’s some pictures of one that was in the campground area and information about them.  It was open for viewing the inside with it’s furnishings of the day but too dark to photograph.

Went to a couple very good ranger programs at the fire circle.  One was a ranger who sang and played guitar, making up new words to well known songs to fit the Rainier experience.  Another was a young John Muir impersonator, reading from his books, with an excellent accent.  Sun setting on Mr. Rainier, view from the campground.

This is the end of my western National Parks journey – what a grand finale’!!

Officially rolling east now,

Lynn and Xena