Petrified Forest

Aujourd’hui on a dévié un peu de la Route 66.

Nous sommes allés dans le Painted Desert (le Désert Peint) et la Petrified Forest (la Forêt Périfiée) qui font tous les deux partie d’un Parc National d’Arizona. Sur un territoire d’une cinquantaine de kilomètres de longueur, les panoramas et les vues les plus incroyables se succèdent.

Tout d’abord des reliefs colorés, de l’argile blanche ou rouge. C’est le désert et on a du mal à penser qu’il y plus de 200 millions d’années à cet endroits vivaient des dinosaures et qu’il y avait une forêt avec d’immenses arbres ! C’est pourtant ce que nous prouve cette forêt pétrifiés. Des arbres immenses devenus pierre ! Et des pierres de toutes les couleurs !

Tout ça par une journée assez nuageuse ce qui donnait à ce paysage lunaire un éclat particulier dû à la couleur sombre de certains nuages.

On nous a conseillé de ne pas dormir dans l’enceinte du Parc Nationale car il y avait des risques d’averses et d’inondation … l’argile ne boit pas l’eau …

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Ohio: Cuyahoga Valley National Park

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Texas to New Orleans to Home…

Am fleshing out the planning for the final segment of the trip — from the Big Bend back to New York, and once again have questions and options to consider. And this is probably something we will need to decide BEFORE we leave…

The current trip plan has us doing the following:

DAY 40: Big Bend to Palmetto state park, TX

DAY 41: Palmetto state park, TX to New Orleans, LA

DAY 42: New Orleans Visit Day

DAY 43: New Orleans, LA to Lurleen state park, AL

DAY 44: Lurleen state park, AL to Smoky Mountains National Park TN

DAY 45: Pick up day

DAY 46: Smoky Mountains National Park TN to Shenandoah National Park VA

DAY 47: Shenandoah National Park VA to HOME

That would give us no time to spend in the Cajun area of Layfayette which seems to really have a lot of fun and interesting things to do (almost more so than New Orleans itself)… Think it could be really good to break and spend the evening there and possibly do the swamp boat ride with that guy  in exchange for the pickup day we currently had in the Smoky mountains (i mean they are beautiful… but we will have seen so much incredible nature already… i think the Cajun bit is more interesting at that point in the journey…)

So if we decide to make the switch we have:

DAY 40: Big Bend to Palmetto state park, TX

DAY 41: Palmetto state park, TX to Layfayette, LA

DAY 42: Layfayette, LA to New Orleans, LA

DAY 43: New Orleans Visit Day

DAY 44: New Orleans, LA to Lurleen state park, AL

DAY 45: Lurleen state park, AL to Smoky Mountains National Park TN

DAY 46: Smoky Mountains National Park TN to Shenandoah National Park VA

DAY 47: Shenandoah National Park VA to HOME

The only “down” side to that is it leaves us with the last 4 days as straight “DRIVE” days with not much else…

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have Comment (1)

The Zion Narrows permit scramble…

Picture 28

Was up really early this morning, and had alarms and reminders flashing and beeping since yesterday, because today is the day the reservations for permits on the Narrows opens up! There are only 12 campsites and only 6 are reservable in advance… And we have to have the permit for a specific day because of our complicated trip plan!

I had tried the site last night after midnight, but it was not yet showing the August reservations calendar (perhaps it posts after midnight Utah-time… which is 2 time zones behind New York… and I just couldn’t stay up that late… was too tired!).

When I went on the site this morning around 6a.m., there were already days/sites that were full! Luckily there was still a 4-person site open on our required day, and I didn’t hesitate to reserve! SUCCESS! We have a permit for site 3!

Now we have to get a shuttle reservation to the trailhead. And get to the park from Las Vegas in time for the early a.m. departure (which may be earlier than planned because of road construction that has caused disruption to the shuttle schedule).

… And we have to hope the weather and river conditions cooperate … we are only allowed to hike the river if it is flowing at below 120 cubic feet per second and if there are no flash flood warnings in effect. So there is a fairly strong likelihood that even with our permit we may not be able to do the trip. We need to be prepared for that eventuality as well… and we need to be SMART about considering the weather forecasts with due caution (and not the usual unbridled can-do enthusiasm)… as we have “graduated” to “grown-up” expeditions and the Rangers will not make decisions for us here! We need to make our own go/no go decision based on conditions on the day of the trip.

Here is the link to a video (it may take a few moments to download) the Rangers put together about safe Canyoneering in Zion. It is worth watching for the section on Flash Flooding…

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California, Las Vegas and the Zion Narrows choices…

Picture 9

As we are refining the plan, we should probably think about whether or not we want to include the Zion Narrows hike

It was not originally in our plan, but while researching the route, and looking for stopping points between Las Vegas and Moab, we discovered it… and it seems like it could be really AMAZING…

In early drafts of the plan, we had it as an optional stop along the route… but if we want to do the hike and overnight along the river, we will need to get a backcountry permit soon (there are only 11 campsites along the route)

Estimated time for the hike itself is 12.5 hours walking (based on the estimates of the National Park Service, which says it takes into account allowances for rest stops and slower hikers), and about 60% of the time is walking through the river. So it is definitely a two-day activity.

Timing-wise, the shuttle that takes us to the departure point (Chamberlain’s Ranch), leaves twice a day — at 630am and 930am.

The estimated drive time to the park from Las Vegas is about 3 hours (so calculate based on 4 hours for this segment of the drive). We would have to leave Las Vegas by at least 430 or 5am to make it in time for the 930am shuttle.

Assuming we have a campsite close to 6 hours in, we will have at least 6 hours to walk the next day… there is no way we will want to do the 7 hour drive to Moab the same day! So we will have to overnight somewhere near Zion NP, with the plan of leaving for Moab the following morning…

Then, instead of doing the rapelling the first day in Moab, we should plan to go directly into the white rim that first day… and leave the rapelling for the last day…

Here is how our schedule looks now:

DAY 22 – Leave LA — DRIVE 12 hours along Pacific Coast Highway — ARR San Francisco Hotel

DAY 23 – San Francisco Visit Day – morning free , optional visit to Fishermans’ Wharf in the afternoon, 4pm – cruise to Alcatraz – tour Alcatraz 730 pm arrive back at Fisherman’s Wharf (night in hotel)

DAY 24 – Free Day – (can use as San Francisco Visit Day 2 or to go part way to Death Valley or direct to Death Valley)

DAY 25 – DRIVE to Death Valley (8.5 – 10.5 hours from San Francisco) — ARR Death Valley Wildrose Campground

DAY 26 – Death Valley Day 1

DAY 27 – Death Valley Day 2

DAY 28 – DEP Death Valley — DRIVE 2.5 – 3.5 hours — ARR Las Vegas Hotel

DAY 29 – Las Vegas Visit Day

DAY 30 – DEP Las Vegas — DRIVE 8.5 – 11 hours — ARR Moab hotel (with possible short visit to Zion NP to stretch legs)

DAY 31 – Canyoneering in Moab (hotel)

DAY 32 – Canyonlands – White Rim trail day 1 (backcountry camp)

DAY 33 –  Canyonlands – White Rim trail day 2 (backcountry camp)

DAY 34 – Canyonlands – White Rim trail day 3 (backcountry camp)

DAY 35 – DEP Moab

and here is how we could do it if we want to include the Narrows:

DAY 22 – Leave LA — DRIVE 12 hours along Pacific Coast Highway — ARR San Francisco Hotel

DAY 23 – San Francisco Visit Day – morning free , optional visit to Fishermans’ Wharf in the afternoon, 4pm – cruise to Alcatraz – tour Alcatraz 730 pm arrive back at Fisherman’s Wharf (night in hotel)

DAY 24 – DRIVE to Death Valley (8.5 – 10.5 hours from San Francisco) — ARR Death Valley Wildrose Campground

DAY 25 – Death Valley Day 1

DAY 26 – Death Valley Day 2

DAY 27 – DEP Death Valley — DRIVE 2.5 – 3.5 hours — ARR Las Vegas Hotel
(leave DV early in the morning, arriving by noon in Las Vegas… see the city… do our shooting range… sleep)

DAY 28 – DEP Las Vegas 4:30am — DRIVE 2.5 – 4 hours — ARR Zion NP for 9:30am shuttle to Chamberlain (departure point for the Narrows Hike) — HIKE 6.5 hours — CAMP along river

DAY 29 – HIKE 6.5 hours to exit — shuttle back to parking — hotel or campsite TBD (somewhere in or near Zion NP)

DAY 30 – DEP Zion NP — DRIVE 5.5 – 7.5 hours — ARR Moab hotel (or Canyonlands White Rim first campsite?)
(if we leave early enough, we can potentially make it in time to go directly to the White Rim first campsite — the one we had last time)

DAY 31 – Canyonlands – White Rim trail day 1 or 2 (backcountry camp)

DAY 32 – Canyonlands – White Rim trail day 2 or 3 (backcountry camp)

DAY 33 –  Canyonlands – White Rim trail day 3 or 4 (END at hotel)

DAY 34 – Canyoneering in Moab (hotel)

DAY 35 – DEP Moab

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have No Comments

Grand Canyon dilemma…

We have talked a lot about the whole Grand Canyon thing — whether or not we really want to spend much time there, given the mass tourism aspects of the south rim, and the fact that we could not get the overnight mule trek into the canyon. Currently we have a reservation for the “Abyss Overlook” mule trip, which, according to the guy at the booking agency is designed as a compromise trip for folks who were kind of afraid of riding the mules down into the canyon, but still wanted to go on a mule ride. Essentially the 3 hour trip is just an easy ride along a trail through the forest that takes you to an overlook point where you can see the whole canyon, you get off the mules and take a picture, then get back on and ride back to the lodge. Here is the description from their brochure:

<< If you feel like an adventure but an Overnight Mule ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon is too much, take a ride from the Grand Canyon Village to the spectacular Abyss overlook.  You will pass through a Ponderosa Forest and a Piñon and Juniper woodland filled with abundant wildlife on your way to a magnificent cliff at the edge of the canyon.  While at the Abyss, riders will dismount their mules and stretch their legs while viewing the Grand Canyon for the first time on the ride.  Here they can take photos atop the 3,000 foot vertical drop and marvel at the beauty of the Grand Canyon’s many colorful pinnacles, buttes and mesas.  Your total ride time includes 2 1/2 hours in the saddle and roughly 30 minutes at the Abyss overlook. >>

At the time I booked it, I took it because the overnight trek into the canyon was full. But the more I think about it now, I am not sure it is really worth doing — particularly because it locks us into a schedule. We can cancel the mule ride (and receive a full refund) up to 3 days before, so we can decide whether or not we want to do it at some point in the future…

However, the Grand Canyon schedule dilemma remains, because we have discussed the idea of reserving a room for the night we will be near there. We had decided to book a room at the Cameron Trading Post, which is on the east side of the canyon nearest the Desert View Watchtower, and on the way up from Flagstaff. I still think this is a great place to stay, but if we do not HAVE to be there on a certain day/time for the mule ride (which I am currently leaning toward cancelling), do we want to be locked in to the date?

If we don’t make a reservation, we can potentially spend an extra day on the road between Amarillo and here… and there seems like lots of cool stuff to do in New Mexico…

On the other hand, we probably should try to stick to the planned itinerary days as much as possible so we don’t build up a delay… so maybe we really SHOULD book the room to give ourselves the obligation to keep to the plan…

Also, if we go without a reservation to the Grand Canyon area we are liable to end up having to take a very expensive accommodation at the last minute…

Any thoughts on this?

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Bears and “bear safety”…

Working on the last part of the return itinerary today, the part that will take us through the Great Smoky Mountains and then the Shenandoah Valley national parks, and it is clear we will be in black bear country there.

All the park websites have information about what to do if you see a bear. And what not to do! (See black bears in the Great Smoky Mountain National Parksafety in bear country – procedures to follow).

Talking with Cactus Killer about it today we agreed that we would really rather NOT see one!!!!

Still it will be a good idea to go over the “bear safety” protocols before we head into that region, because some of the things they say to do are definitely counter-intuitive. (Like don’t run away, or the bear will chase you. You need to stay facing the bear and very slowly back away!)

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have No Comments

The Mojave…and the ghost towns…

So moving forward with planning the Route 66 segment from Arizona to California, i think we definitely want to stopover in the Mojave National Preserve and spend a night roadside camping then spend some time on the desert trails. If we don’t linger too long at the Grand Canyon, as i suggested earlier, we should have time to do this. And we will probably be glad for the emptiness of the Mojave in contrast the the crowd at Grand Canyon.

Picture 6

The locations we are likely to choose for camping can be found on the map above (if you click on the map it opens up much bigger). Considering we will be coming from I-40 (at the bottom of the map), am thinking one of these locations might be good:

Granite Pass: 6.1 miles north of I-40 on Kelbaker Road, just north of Granite Pass, then west on one of several access roads. Campsites are located just north of the granite spires. High clearance vehicle recommended; no RVs.

Kelso Dunes Mine: 4 miles west of Kelbaker Road on the unpaved Kelso Dunes Road. One campsite is located south of the road, 1/4 mile past the marked trailhead. Several others are available 3/4 mile beyond, near a clump of trees. Except at these sites, roadside camping is prohibited along Kelso Dunes Road (including at the trailhead).

Black Canyon Road
About 4 miles south of Hole-in-the-Wall Information Center on the east side of Black Canyon Road, above the wash and near a hill with excellent views of the Providence Mountains. Another site is located about 4 miles futher south, also on the east side of Black Canyon Road, near rock piles.

Rainy Day Mine Site
15.2 miles southeast of Baker on Kelbaker Road, then 0.3 miles northeast on the unsigned and very sandy road to the Rainy Day Mine. Four-wheel drive recommended; no RVs.

THEN, while we are there we can do a JEEP TRAIL :-)

There are actually a number of cool 4×4 trails out there. Here is a list of some of them provided by the park service. The Lava Tube sounds fun… (and also “Caruthers Canyon” for possible camp site?)

Actually might also be really fun to try to get up early and catch sunrise at Kelso Dunes…

About 42 miles southeast of Baker (7 miles south of Kelso Depot), then 3 miles west on a graded dirt road, Kelso Dunes were created over the course of 25,000 years by winds carrying sand grains from the dried Soda Lake and Mojave River Sink. Nearly 700 feet high and covering a 45-square-mile area, they are among the tallest and most extensive dune fields in the United States.

The Kelso Dunes produce a “booming” or “singing” sound when sand with the right moisture content slides down the steep slopes. Try it for yourself—run down a dune slope (but don’t trample vegetation!) to initiate the sound.

Kelso Dunes Trailhead: 3 miles west of Kelbaker Road on the well-graded, but unpaved Kelso Dunes Road.
Hikers at sunrise and sunset are treated to both cooler temperatures and the rose-colored glow of the dunes. The roughly 3-mile round-trip hike might take several hours as you slog through the sand, then slide down the slopes. Moving sands sometimes create a “booming” sound—run downhill and get the sand moving to hear the sound.

we will likely to be able to do these activities ONLY if we don’t spend the extra day at Grand Canyon…

THE FOLLOWING DAY, we continue to Barstow. In Barstow area I think it would actually be fun to stay at the Calico Ghost town itself. It is definitely a hokey attraction, but will likely be the last one we do, as after LA the Route 66 segment of the trip is over and the return has more “adventure”-oriented activities. It seems like the town is a state park. Here is the official parks page . And here is the page for the Calico Ghost Town attraction. We have the option of actually reserving a “mini bunkhouse” here, and maybe we should consider that “luxury” now that we are headed back to “civilization.” (afterall we don’t want to show up in LA looking like savages!)

Through researching Route 66 sites, i think there might actually be a better “Old West Ghost Town” experience at OATMAN, AZ, which is before the Mojave (it is the last town on the Arizona side)… There they have wild burros in the streets, and an actual gold mine you can visit, and daily “gunfights” in the street (at 1:30 and 3:30pm). Might be more fun than Calico town? I can’t really tell, but it seems like it might be a tad less crowded… and comparing the two towns’ websites, i feel like Oatman is “less” disney-ified (though that doesn’t necessarily make it the better experience)…

In any case, we will pass through Oatman on the road, even if we don’t spend extra time there, and if we don’t like it, we can always still do Calico town on the way out (or just camp at Calico town)… Or if we have totally had our fill of  wild west recreations by then, we can just pass by Calico…

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Mules and so on…

1930_grandcanyonsouthrimdining

Who knew mule reservations would be so hard to come by? It is January and we are planning for late July and we are too late!!!! I can’t believe it!

We wanted to do the overnight mule trek into the Grand Canyon and when i called for reservations it was completely booked for the entire month of July!!!! Still cannot believe we were too late…

Anyway, I took a reservation for a short half-day trip to “the abyss overlook” which was the only alternative (and i guess i was glad to get even that)!  I really hope it is at least interesting… (we don’t get to go down into the Canyon, just along the rim) … but i guess it is still better than a bus tour!

This will likely change our schedule a bit, and instead of spending two days at the Canyon, i think we should leave in the afternoon when we return from the mule trek. I say this because in researching opportunities around the Grand Canyon, I got the impression it is overrun with mass tourism! There are hotels on the Canyon rim! And huge parking lots! And busloads and trainloads of tourists who just fly-in to see the Canyon! And as we cannot really get into the Canyon on our own, i don’t know what else we would do there…

If it wasn’t one of the “wonders of the world” i think i would say just skip it (as we will be having plenty of up-close Canyon experiences elsewhere along the trail)… but we really can’t just drive past the Grand Canyon without at least having a look!

So, a short mule trek, a quick peek at the Canyon and then an early start to our next location where we can spend that extra day on the trail in the Mojave national preserve (here we have the right to do “roadside camping” in the backcountry along a jeep trail)!

Lesson Learned: we are not as early as we think we are! (and apparently more people like riding mules than you’d imagine!)

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The Santa Fe option…

So am continuing with the trip plans, and refining the itinerary a bit more, and realize we will definitely need to make a choice about which alignment we take in New Mexico, and that choice will effect more than just the parts of route 66 we will see. It will effect the itinerary for the following days all the way through to Arizona…

MQ_NM_Route66_map

While we may not have to make that choice now (or even necessarily BEFORE departure… ), it would be a good idea to think about the options and how each would impact our experience.

The basic choice is whether we  go: Tucumcari > Santa Rosa > Santa Fe > Albuquerque

OR more directly: Tucumcari > Santa Rosa >  Albuquerque…

While at first glance we might want to say “take the shortest route,” on a trip like ours the whole point is the journey… rather than how quickly we can get to our destination… so the question is really more about which alignment would present the most interesting experience in the time we have…

Those who have done the drive recommend the Santa Fe loop “if we have the time”… particularly to see the Pecos National Historical site (which seems like it might be interesting)… and personally, the big attraction of the Santa Fe loop for me is a part of the drive on a dirt road thru La Bajada (explanation below is from Legends of America: Rte 66 site) :

…the Mother Road continued on a particularly nasty stretch down La Bajada Hill toward Albuquerque. One of the most challenging sections of Route 66, the 500 foot drop along narrow switch backs struck terror in the hearts of many early travelers, so much so that locals were often hired to drive vehicles down the steep slope.

You KNOW i want to drive that segment!!!!!  (there might also be the possibility of coming BACK via this segment on our way down from Utah after Moab if we skip Santa Fe loop on the way). Check out what these folks who did the trip in 2003 have to say about this section of the Route… And here is a good explanation of La Bajada possiblities… and HERE IS A JEEP TRAIL (and they rate it as an EASY trail, so i think it should be no problem for us!!!!!). The Jeep Trail actually takes us onto the Cochiti indian reservation, and ends at a ruin… Here is more about the Cochitis… and someone’s photo essay from a trip up La Bajada…

Once we are in Alburquerque, i think it would be great to visit/camp at the Chaco Culture National Historical park!!!!

This Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, hosting the densest and most exceptional concentration of pueblos in the American Southwest. It is located in a relatively inaccessible canyon cut by the Chaco Wash, and contains the most sweeping collection of ancient ruins north of Mexico. There is a primitive campground inside the park. Tucked amongst the fallen boulders and cliffs of Gallo Wash, the campground offers camping in a rugged environment, surrounded by petroglyphs, a cliff dwelling, inscriptions, and a high desert landscape. There is no shade. The campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

As there are no reservations for campsites there we will need alternative plans in case it is full… the park itself has put together this list of alternative camping options in the area… BTW, the Chaco park has put together a “Before you Visit” introduction online, too…

Anyway, here are some thoughts on planning options…

OPTION1: spend day 10 getting to Santa Fe area, with a stop over at the Pecos national site, and camp somewhere in the Santa Fe National Forest… (which will put us in a perfect location to then do the La Bajada jeep trail the next morning!!!!). here is a good resource on the local campgrounds there. day 11 do the jeep trail, then drive to Chaco national park… (with an option of camping at one of the ranches nearby if the park campground is full)…

Picture 33

Day10 : DRIVE Amarillo / Tucumcari / Santa Rosa / Santa Fe = 350 miles, 8 hours, with a stopover for hike/visit at Pecos National Historical park.
CAMP at one of the Santa Fe National Forest campgrounds (no reservations)

Day 11: DRIVE Santa Fe / La Bajada / Chaco Culture National Historical park = 250 miles, 7 hours, with the La Bajada Jeep trail (4 hours)
CAMP at  Chaco Culture National Historical park Gallo campground OR one of the alternates.

Day 12: HIKE/VISIT Chaco Culture National Historical park
DRIVE: Chaco Culture National Historical park / Gallup = 100 miles, 2 hours
CAMP at campground or motel TBD (possible performance at Gallup Multi-cultural Center)

DAY 13: DRIVE Gallup / Holbrook / Winslow = 150 miles, 3 hours
HIKE/VISIT Painted Desert & Petrified Forest National park
CAMP either Wilderness Backpack camping in Petrified Forest OR primitive campground on Rock Art Canyon ranch

OPTION2: go direct to Albuquerque on day 10, overnight locally there, and then go to Chaco on day 11…

Picture 34

Day10 : DRIVE Amarillo / Tucumcari / Santa Rosa / Albuquerque = 350 miles, 7 hours.
CAMP at campground/motel TBD

Day 11: DRIVE Albuquerque / Chaco Culture National Historical park = 160 miles, 3.5 hours.
HIKE/VISIT Chaco Culture National Historical park
CAMP at Chaco Culture National Historical park Gallo campground OR one of the alternates.

Day 12: DRIVE: Chaco Culture National Historical park / Gallup = 100 miles, 2 hours
CAMP at campground or motel TBD (possible performance at Gallup Multi-cultural Center)

DAY 13: DRIVE Gallup / Holbrook / Winslow = 150 miles, 3 hours
HIKE/VISIT Painted Desert & Petrified Forest National park
CAMP either Wilderness Backpack camping in Petrified Forest OR primitive campground on Rock Art Canyon ranch

OPTION 3: cut out the Chaco Culture park visit…

Picture 35

Day10 : DRIVE Amarillo / Tucumcari / Santa Rosa / Albuquerque = 350 miles, 7 hours.
CAMP at campground/motel TBD

Day 11: FREE DAY

Day 12: DRIVE Albuquerque / Gallup / Holbrook / Winslow = 300 miles, 6 hours
HIKE/VISIT Painted Desert & Petrified Forest National park
CAMP either Wilderness Backpack camping in Petrified Forest OR primitive campground on Rock Art Canyon ranch

Day 13: FREE DAY

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