5,000 miles …. 60 nights … 11 National Parks/Monuments, countless State Parks and amazing places … an old Toyota 4 Runner 6 cylinder and a new Lance 1685 travel trailer. What a combination! What an amazing new lifestyle!
Since even the summary has so many photos, I’ve split the Wandering West intro into Part I & Part II. But a photo tells a thousand words, and there are many more photos to come.
I had planned to post highlights along the way, but “Utah Unplugged” aka “Somebody Forgot to Tell Utah About Wifi” intervened. But that’s OK because now I have months of adventures to share! This is just a quick summary, I’ll write a photo essay or article on each of the major highlights, starting with Towing With a 4 Runner “Our Little Engine That Could” – pros and cons.
More to come on our favorite hikes, little known gems of parks we like to think we discovered, rendezvousing with old friends and camping together for a month, making new friends, serendipity, our thoughts on our Clam Screen Enclosure, things we will (and won’t) do again, our Lance 1685 … too much to even remember, so I’ll just share a few photos summarizing the trip. 🙂
Our adventure begins in south Florida, under the Spanish Moss draped trees in the Myakka State Park...
Then heads west to our first National Park … one that few people even know exists, New Orleans Jazz Historical Park. Set aside to preserve musical traditions in NOLA (as the locals call it), the park features concerts and park ranger history tours.
New Orleans’ entertainment comes in many different genres. We enjoyed the entire spectrum and especially the good humor of some of the entertainers.
We stopped at the Lance dealer and had our weight distribution hitch bar attachments checked, turned out they had a better match, manufacturered especially for Lance trailers … i.e. no more working loose every trip. We also stopped at the Toyota dealer for some preventative maintenance on the 4 Runner. And hiked our first national monument, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. What a spectacular little known spot. David swore he was never hiking in a slot canyon (he’s afraid the rocks will drop on his head, a phobia he battled the entire trip) … but ….
Chaco Canyon National Historic Park was next on our list. We debated and debated whether to try and pull the trailer to the campground, across 16 miles of dirt, washboarded, rutted roads. But after speaking with the Rangers there, we convinced ourselves to try it …
There were a few truck campers, fewer van campers and our lone travel trailer, the rest of the campers were in tents. It did get a bit chilly at night, so we were happy for our snug little abode, and thankful it didn’t Shake Rattle and Roll itself apart on the trip in…
Chaco Canyon to Monument Valley – Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park was not included in our original plan, but others convinced us it was worth a stop. We learned alot, especially about Navaho history from our tour guide. T
Both of us had allergic reactions, we presume to juniper pollen which made for swollen itchy watery eyes and congested breathing, but it wasn’t the last place we coped with allergies. Why when we’ve never had allergies in our lives, did it happen this year? Weird!
And on to Kanab UT where we got two surprises … the first surprise haunted us the entire rest of the trip – you can’t buy wine in grocery stores in Utah (even the beer there is only 3:2) and the “state liquor stores” are rarely open and available … even if the sign on the door says they’re open, doesn’t mean they’re really open. Hmmmm… I would have provisioned a bit differently had I known.
Second surprise was the best … we applied six months earlier and didn’t get permits to hike The Wave online. We stopped at the Kanab Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Ranger Station and found we could show up and try our luck again .. us and 135 of our closest friends crammed into a tiny room waiting for the Ranger to spin the Bingo ball and come up with 10 names of lucky folks. WE WON! We won the lottery! More photos and information on how to get lucky enough to hike The Wave in “Hiking The Wave”, click here.
Was the hike worth getting sandblasted (the wind was ferocious to say the least … we had sand in cracks that we didn’t know existed for weeks!)? Decide for yourself!
So many things we left undone in Kanab & Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. We could easily return and stay for a month between Kanab and the northern entrance at Escalante. Driving the entire length of Cottonwood Canyon Road, shown below is just one of many …. Peek-A-Boo & Spooky Slot Canyons we didn’t even find out about until the day we left. 🙁
Oh, and did I mention we ran out of time and missed Buckskin Gulch and Wire Pass, both reputably spectacular hikes… Grand Staircase-Escalante … we will return. If you plan a trip to this area, and love to hike, be sure to allow more than a combined week, it’s just not long enough. And be sure to check in at all three of the ranger stations – one at the turnoff by Tropic to go to Kodachrome State Park, one in Kanab and the other in Escalante.
So why, you ask, did you rush through this part of the trip? You have nothing but time and no schedule except to be back in Illinois by Memorial Day (this is still early April)…. Because we had made plans to camp with our dear friends and buddy boat in the Western Caribbean for a month and we wouldn’t miss this for the world!
So we left Kanab and drove to St George, UT where we rendezvoused with our friends, Doug & Rayene. And that’s Part II … where we learn how to start fires with sticks, make strange and interesting photos by firelight and other mildly interesting adventures. Stay tuned!
Anything else we missed in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (note that in Part II we enjoyed more of the monument from the northern access points)? Please leave a comment and share. I’m compiling my list to return … Cheers! Jan