070810 Campground Panorama
So we found our campsite by a tiny little sign on the side of the road, in the dark. We were tired after a day of the desert sun, made camp quickly and passed out. Unaware of our surroundings in the night, we awoke to this sight. A mere 10 feet away from the tent and we could have walked off the top to the valley below.

We made our way to Santa Fe, on a gravel backroad that sometimes acted like it was going to consume my Nissan in the +foot-high depths. We drove thru the Valles Caldera National Preserve and into the back door of the famous Los Alamos. In Santa Fe, we found a local restaurant to taste the local flair and plan our attack. Chris and I both had to be back at work Monday. It was Thursday afternoon. We said “screw it” and decided to drive the entire 24-hour ride back home without stopping. It hurt us to be in Tennessee, driving by all these great caves, without stopping!


Mesa Verde
Spent the night camping at Mesa Verde National Park and then started the day on a self-guided tour of the Far View Tower.

Then we paid for a guided tour of Balcony House (below). It was a very exposed hike to get there and I was surprised at all the fat, out-of-shape people that were on it. I was thinking the whole time that it would suck to be a ranger doing the tours, as you’d be fearful all the time of someone slipping and falling to their death.
Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde
Here is the Cliff Palace, another paid tour. This place was so beautiful . . . I wound’t mind living there myself!

So we had to leave since we could only get a campsite for one night. So we packed up in the evening and mushed on towards a campsite I found in my Don Wright’s Guide to Free Campgrounds, western edition, for the night. We had to travel about 60 miles south to a $5 BLM campsite, no running water, of course.


Grand Gulch
En route from Capitol Reef, Utah, to Mesa Verde, Colorado. Made a few stops along the way, like this view looking down at the Grand Gulch from atop the mountain. Next stop: the Navajo Rez to show Chris the impressive Monument Valley.

Monument Valley
The last time I was in Monument Valley was in 2002 (click here to see my old Visual Journal post). And man, the place has really changed!! They built an air-conditioned monstrosity and a huge paved lot where the old campground used to be!!! I was saddened to see this vulgar display of “progress.” But I guess if the Navajo Nation wanted to develop their tourism, it’s their right. But my heart was truly broken to see it like this.

They even improved the dirt road so cars could drive down in the valley!! No more 4-wheel drive needed.
Monument Valley


Capitol Reef
So our pal Kelton Russenberger took us to Capitol Reef National Park for some hiking and camping on his day off from Bryce Canyon National Park. This was one of the many beautiful view while driving into the park on the gravel road towards Cedar Mesa.

Capitol Reef
Hitting a trail.

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef
So this hidden treasure that many overlook for the sexier nearby parks (like Zion, Bryce, etc.) is pretty neat. Being a geology and geography nerd, I was simply astonished to be in a waterpocket fold, which is a geologic monocline (a wrinkle on the earth), that extends almost 100 miles in the park!


Valley of Fire
Celebrating the Fourth of July proper — by hitting the trails in Valley of Fire before it got too hot. It was nice not to see anyone else there on our hikes.

Valley of Fire

Valley of Fire
An of course we saw many petroglyphs.

Valley of Fire
Love these rolling hills, all of different colors!!

And then we hit the road again, heading to Bryce Canyon to visit our caving friend, Kelton Russenberger, who’s working there for the summer as a ranger.
Bryce Canyon


Sequoia National Forest
So we left San Fansicso, after a couple of days of city life for the pavement on the road. We spent the day doing laundry and taking our time in all the little towns we got into. Made it as far as Porterville, Calif., before deciding to camp in Sequoia National Forest. This was our view for the evening.


We arrived in Yosemite National Park today. Looking up at El Capitan from the Valley floor made me sad we were not able to rappel and climb her.

Yosemite Vernal Falls
Took a paved trail to see Vernal Falls.
The trail was a shit show. This really fat man, who looked to be in his late 20s, was with his fat wife and two fat small children. They were hiking up the same trail as us. They had one empty water bottle for the four of them on the hot June afternoon. They all looked like they were going to stroke out at any moment. He approached us and said “You two look like you know what you’re doing in the outdoors.”

“Can I drink this water?” as he pointed to the river we were hiking by. Chris said “Sure, if you want to get diarrhea.”

He scrunched up his face and turned on his heal quickly towards his waiting family.


Lunar Crater
A panorama of Nevada’s Lunar Crater while driving from Utah to California on the last leg of going cross county.

Lunar Crater
Chris stands in a salt flat in Nevada.

Lunar Crater
This is what the desert does to a dead cow . . . body leather.

Lunar Crater
My car looks so tiny from atop a small hill!
She’s been doing great this trip, her send across the country.


Colorado River Campsite
We checked for an open campsite for the night at Arches . . . they didn’t have one. So we found this outside the park along the Colorado River. Yeah, there were a lot of mosquitos.

But we were camped right next to some awesome petroglyphs!
Colorado Petroglyphs

Arches National Park, Day II
Arches National Park
Chris and I spent the entire day hiking the rest of the trails in the park to see all the obscure arches in Arches National Park. Above is me standing in an unnamed arch we found while hiking to Sand Dune Arch.

Arches National Park
Some pretty rippled sand.

Arches National Park
A portait of the two of us at Broken Arch.

Arches National Park
Me being a goober while hiking to Double O Arch.