While I love the adventure of traveling, I also enjoy having a habitual and familiar territory. Many years ago my wife and I were learning who the other was existentially, and I remember saying that my perfect environment was in the big trees, with mountains, waterfalls, and ocean views. That statement could be the tag line below the label Pacific Northwest. At that time, I had never been.
This entry is about the territory I can stomp on, right outside my door, without hopping in a car. I don’t have a waterfall, but I have all the rest in spades with a disc golf course as a cherry on top. Nearly every day I put on my boots and walk several miles through the trees, even in the rain. The images below were gathered over the last two weeks on my stomping ground.
The final month of our travels was completely off-grid. Every time we go off-grid I learn a little more about generating and storing power. The early spring sun was lower in the sky than any other time we have gone a full week or more off the grid. Add in some cloudy days, and a lot of fog at Doran, and we ran the generator more than I would have liked. To be fair though, the amount I would like is zero.
The generator time averaged less than a half-hour a day, but that is a lot more than no hours a day. We have purchased a second 200-watt panel to add to our portable panel capabilities. I think that this will be enough to meet our daily needs. If not I will be raising my front top panels six inches so the air conditioner cannot cast a shadow on a panel. I tiny shadow has a ridiculous impact on solar panels.
Bodega Bay is a beautiful area to visit, but it wasn’t as relaxing as Pismo. Our stay there was windier, foggier, and yet more crowded than Pismo. After two weeks at Pismo, I would find myself laying on my back in the sun after my walk feeling very zen. Doran beach didn’t have that same effect but was beautiful with a gorgeous stretch of beach. We could see the ocean through our front windows and left everything open so we could enjoy that view from the bedroom.
At the start of April we returned to Chimacum for three months of repairs, upgrades, yearly visits to doctors and vets, and to let our own batteries recharge. Constantly moving is exciting, but it is good to take time to rest as well. Plus I just love it here. Wonderful trail hiking right out my front door, with a disc golf course in the other direction. Amazing restaurants, lovely beaches, and mountains everywhere you look. A truly divine part of the world.
While I loved the mountains outside of San Diego, our luck with the weather was not so good. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it was absolute shite. We were stuck inside with snow for several days and when it finally thawed we looked ahead to see a potential foot of snow coming to smite us.
Kendra whipped out her astrolabe to plot a new course. She doesn’t actually have an astrolabe, but she has an uncanny ability to navigate us through troubled waters. We spent a night at a Home Depot in San Diego, a night at a golf course, and a night at a state park in Oceano with full hooks before our planned three weeks of beach time — off the grid.
It had been some time since we dealt with generating all our own power, and last time was from thousands of feet closer to the sun. The days I have worked we needed a little generator — about fifteen minutes a day on average — but on the weekend we generate more than we use. We plan to tweak this, but we will make our first two weeks without needing additional propane. Fairly pleased with our capabilities.
So here we sit in paradise. Every day is sunny, with pleasant temperatures, a breeze, and fresh sea air. The nights are filled with the sound of the surf and tree frogs. There are a lot of places you can stay with full hookups in Pismo, but they are expensive and inferior in every metric that matters. This is definitely a place where peace could find you.
With two weeks in a single location, we had to do something awesome on the free weekend. Saturday we hopped into Scout, our slightly beat-up Honda CRV, and set out on a quest to see a waterfall. The drive was top-shelf. If you get the chance to drive highway 1 south of San Francisco — Big Sur —, hop all over that. We watched a huge wall of fog roll in as we wound our way up the cliffs along the coast. We decided to turn back just before the fog struck land.
We traveled a short distance in the fog and stopped at Ragged Point for breakfast. Splendid breakfast, decaf coffee Kendra was talking about the next day, amazing views, and surreal to sit in the dining area watching the dense fog roll past.
We pulled off at an Elephant Seal sanctuary and spent a half-hour watching giant seals nap. That probably isn’t something everyone would enjoy, but we did.
We stopped again to take a nap of our own on the warm sand of a sun-kissed beach with the sound of surf breaking on the shore. Those seals had a marvelous idea. Finally, we picked up a seafood feast for two on our way home. Our lives may not always be easy, but some days they are transcendent.
One of the best benefits of a house on wheels is dodging shitty weather. I don’t care where you live, part of the time it has bad weather. Where I grew up has about sixty nice days of weather spread across spring and fall and the rest of the year is absolutely miserable.
If you want to avoid winter, most of the best places you can drive to are deserts. Deserts have a lot of beauty. Great vistas, starry skies, and top-shelf sunsets. However, the plants in the desert are all psychopaths.
If you get a cute little piece of green vegetation in the edge of your shoe it feels like a very tiny, but very real, dagger stabbing you in the foot. Don’t get me started on jumping cholla (pronounced choyah), and remember how excited I was about tumbleweeds? I put up an entire blog post almost completely dedicated to tumbleweeds and their life cycle. Saw them in all the John Wayne westerns and I think I literally went “OOO! A TUMBLEWEED” the first time I saw one.
Then I learned they drop tiny little caltrops. You could fit several of them on a penny, but they always have a point up and are nearly as hard as steel. If you walk through them they will pierce the hardest rubber sole and then you sound like you are walking on cleats when you hit the pavement. I don’t know how many I pulled out of shoes and dog paws, but I am certain it was at least a three-digit number. I still say something when I see tumbleweeds, but it isn’t excited and it isn’t polite.
It was mostly warm, but I grew weary of the desert before we left. Glad to be among trees in the mountains again today. Shanti nearly wept for joy when she walked into the soft none desert grass.
We had a lot of good times. Some amazing hikes, and so much good soaking in hot springs. I am sure I will be glad to return next year, but for now, it is very nice to be among plants that aren’t doing their best to murder me.
When we first started our journey, we bumbled a lot. We found ourselves with brand new levelers that didn’t function and spent many weeks with the useless weight and expense hanging under the rig. Finally, we landed at La Mesa RV in Tucson where they fixed them. We were so impressed we return every year for maintenance and repairs. They are truly exemplary. Great quality work and they never overcharge.
As always, I look for walking after my workday that doesn’t involve driving. Kendra purposely plans so that in most places I can do this. Staying at a massive resort I first saw a park south of me and tried walking there, but it was basically a rutted mess as the community nearby drained into it and didn’t repair it. On my second day, I noticed a gate across the street from me and asked the security officer at the resort what it was. “Just goes out into the desert,” he said.
The next day I ventured through the gate and found this sign just passed the entrance. I am sure you seeing it thought to yourself, “Obviously, you take the Rockart path”. In hindsight that is what I should have done, but in my defense, it had rained a lot before we came and I could tell to the left was lower and likely muddier so I went with the Cowpath. It was a boring walk that came in at just over three miles round trip and I would likely have spent my three weeks here repeating it if Kendra hadn’t complained it was too close to the highway.
The very next night I ventured on the Rockart path. I didn’t really expect much and was focused on working out. As I entered the area I crossed paths with a biker who told me there was a new installation. I said the least amount I could, in my typical pro-solitude way, to get on with my walk. Turned out the rock art was much better than I had thought it might be and that lady on the bike was the primary artist. Thankfully, I bumped into her again and took the time to chat.
There is a huge network of paths with a large collection of art scattered around. I walked about forty total miles of the paths and found a lot of rock art. Other than one sign at the start there is nothing marking where they can be found, so it is a little treasure hunt and I doubt I found them all. If you aren’t watching you could walk right past them without noticing.
There is so much wonder in the world. This was a solid reminder that I should pay attention to the journey and not get lost in my own thoughts.
So if you are staying at Voyager RV Resort in south Tucson, try the gate that leads out into the desert. I think you will enjoy it. Below are some photos not of rock art but also found beyond that gate.
Sprinkle in sunrise and sunset from the park itself and call it done.
It is the final day of 2021, so Happy New Year everyone. It has been an interesting and adventurous year for us. We went to so many hot springs I lost count, and still would have liked more. Yes, I am a hot water slut. I hiked three significant peaks; Mount Townsend, Superstition, and Sauk. We were trapped on the wrong side of a mudslide and took a treacherous backroad through the mountains of Colorado at dusk to get home, thank you Steve. We vacationed with friends who do even more adventuring than us even though their house doesn’t have wheels. We visited so many national parks and monuments and took many amazing photos. We managed to not get sick, or if we did we got that lucky 25% chance of neither of us having symptoms. I managed to get back to Ohio to visit my parents, whom I miss a ton while on the road. We all learned whom of our friends and family are truly crazy. The cult of ignorance is proudly flying its flag through the pandemic.
All things considered, I’m going to call it a pretty good year. Yes, I know the pandemic is still upon us and the world is still taking a regular crap on people. But, compared to 2020, it was a good year. Hopefully, we are on an upward trend now.
This is our first stay at Catalina since it nearly burned to the ground two years ago. It has changed a lot. Before it was a sea of grass sprinkled with trees and cactus, and now the grass is mostly gone. Some sort of vining plant must have had a mega bloom post-fire and its dead vines now dangle from the trees. It is still a gorgeous park with amazing hiking, but riddled with burn scars and has very different vegetation covering than before. Also more coyotes, far more coyotes. Didn’t see a single roadrunner— hmm. The unusual rainy weather made it a different kind of stay than last time, but I loved it. I like rain.
Telephone Line Trail
With all the rain we planned to hike to seven falls. We chartered a shuttle ride and geared up for an eight-and-a-half-mile hike. When we arrived we were refunded the shuttle as the driver came down with Covid. Instead, we hiked up the canyon, saw a sign for telephone line trail, did some math, and thought we would get in a total of seven to eight miles. Our math was off as we were past the seven-mile point when a sign told us we had two-point-two more miles to go. It was a great hike, but more hills and distance than we expected. It kind of kicked our ass.
I wanted to take a moment to admire Roger and his loved ones for inspiring me to read every bench placard I pass. Read and judge harshly for the most part, but read I do. The picture of Rogers bench below is not mine and I honestly do not know where it is, but it is memorable. I shall always read every bench in the hopes of finding more of interest. The second bench sign is the most interesting one I found this year.
Sitting in Kanab post-vacation we were contemplating what we should do with our final weekend in the area. “You want to go to the grand canyon?”, Kendra asked. I had never been so, hell yeah.
I love that our lifestyle affords amazing experiences all the time.
The Grand Canyon
We came in on the last day much of the North rim would be open and found it to be fairly devoid of other humans. There were some around, but I imagine far less than the chaos of the main season. I thought the north rim was the perfect rustic experience. Many travelers I follow have harsh opinions of it, but the old heavy log cabins and rough trails were amazing.
We had boondocked near Sedona a few years back, but this time we nestled right into Sedona proper. The views were to die for, and being able to walk out for a coffee or dinner is something I have always loved. If I designed a city it would have parking lots on the outside, because nothing but emergency vehicles and public transportation would be allowed inside city limits.
The red rocks of this area really speak to my wife. I saw her smile more times in our two weeks here than any other two weeks I can remember. I was able to hit a great hiking path, without hopping in the car, after each workday. On the weekend we did an amazing hike to Subway cave, and we celebrated my birthday. I would definitely recommend Sedona as a spot to visit.
By the time we pulled out of Sedona the days were getting colder and we were running the heat each night. We headed south to Pheonix for warmer weather and settled into the Lost Dutchman campground. Behind us are breathtaking views of the Superstition Mountains and in front a decent view of Pheonix.
Again I had amazing hiking right out my front door. Kendra purposely plans our locations to allow that. An hour, or so, of exercise after the workday does my mental health wonders. I hate driving to get to and from an exercise walk, so I very much appreciate that this has become part of her planning.
When we arrived I stared in wonder at the mountains and told myself I was climbing them. We did the research, prepared, and yesterday headed out early to accomplish just that. It was less than six miles round trip, so I felt pretty set as we headed out. I really need to stop underestimating the difficulty of hikes. Seriously, this is the second time in the last year I’ve vastly underprepared.
Half of the hike was spent on slopes steep enough that you had to grab handholds on the rock. Two sections were just a vertical climb. It was technically and physically the most challenging hike I have taken, probably ever. A good pair of climbing gloves, an ace bandage, and more snacks are going to become standard gear in my pack. I’d rather carry a little extra unneeded gear than find myself with sore hands and an empty belly at the end of the day.
The experience was outstanding. Certainly, a top-five peaks experience, and I highly recommend it.
Welcome to the blog post formerly known as When a Nomad Vacations. I think my wife described it best in a Facebook post. She said, “So we did this crazy thing… we met up with 2 dear friends from Ohio and for two weeks we decided to cram as many stops as we could throughout the stunning Colorado Plateau of S Utah and N Arizona.”
I took four vacation days and four weekend days and went out most evenings after work, so this particular entry feels overwhelming. We literally have hundreds of photos, of some of the most amazing sites on the planet. I am making efforts to keep it brief, but it will be challenging. Organizing in chronological order.
Escalante Petrified Forest
For the first part of the adventure, we stayed at a state park just outside of Escalante Utah. It had a lovely hike attached, and on any normal week, I would have been out every day after work enjoying it. We arrived a day before our friends, so I managed to hike it that one day.
The day our friends arrived we still got out early for a short hike. Everything we did was beautiful, and this hike was one of our first where we could really take in the red rocks and amazing formations. Also amazing engineering.
Okay, we actually got in two short hikes before they arrived. It was so much beauty in so little time that not everything made it into long-term memory.
Three hikes, but that is all I promise. This one was fascinating because some of the original settlers spent years digging a channel through the mountains to bring water to a nearby town. The extra water in an area that is typically very dry made for some interesting differences.
Now we are getting into the real gems. Our friends arrived, we managed to find parking at the lodge, and we hiked down into the canyon on the very last day it was open. The next day it snowed and they don’t let people hike down into the canyon with snow on the ground.
It was breathtakingly beautiful, but I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. I seriously have over a hundred photos from that day, but here is a small selection of my favorites.
After the Bryce Canyon hike, we drove around to a few viewing areas. This was my favorite of those.
I have fond memories of watching John Wayne movies with my parents. The Duke was probably my father’s favorite actor. Monument Valley was John Wayne’s favorite place and is depicted in many movies and on the cover of a lot of western novels. We did one of the tours that allowed us to get further into the valley than you can go on your own. Was one of my favorite of the days. It resides on the Navajo Nation Reservation, which is bigger than West Virginia, and rich with history in addition to beauty.
Probably everyone knows about the famous “Wave” thanks to a Microsoft image and a frenzy of “Influencers” going. It is so crowded now that you lottery into it. Lesser known, but with the same beauty is White Pocket. We took another guided tour and were so glad we did as our guide knew this area well and took us into the amazing beauty we would have missed on our own.
This is the one really overrun tour we took. There are other slot canyons you can take tours of and I recommend going beyond this famous one. It is bumper-to-bumper tour groups going through in a rushed fashion preventing many of the photos I wanted from being taken as there were a bunch of people standing in the shot I wanted. Still beautiful, but too crowded for my taste.
My first time into Utah we passed through Zion and took one short hike. I have wanted to return ever since. The parking was crowded, but there is so much to see, the trails were still very enjoyable. We did three of the hikes, and I am looking forward to returning here to do more. I’d like to get waders and get deep into some of the canyons.
Again I have over a hundred pictures taken, but I lack the equipment and skill to capture the majesty of Zion. It is a special place to spend a day hiking.
Boondocking on the other Side
Our adventures wrapped up in Page Arizona, which has bad internet. I don’t mean my three cell carriers didn’t do well, I mean the entire town and every wifi in it was terrible. I think all the internet came in via satellite. We left two days early and parked on BLM land where we had excellent internet and step view.
As nomads, we strive to go from place we want to be, to place we want to be. That likely goes without saying. Some of the time those places are just too far apart to make it in a single weekend, so we are forced to stay in between for my work week.
Sometimes these in between places are absolutely amazing and we enjoy them greatly. This wasn’t one of those times.
Kendra has a double black belt in trip planning, but no one is perfect. We had a wonderful experience staying at an Olive farm in California a couple years ago, so when she sad we were staying at an Elderberry farm for a week I felt pretty positive about it. Unfortunately the Elderberry farm turned out to be someone’s front yard that they opened up for boondocking so they could meet their proselytizing quota without putting much effort into it.
It was a neighborhood of people who wanted to pretend they were ranchers and turned their few acres of land into a facsimile of ranches. So, lots of fly’s from farm animals kept in too little space, a strong smell of shit, and a very awkward place to crash. We did stay one night, but then spent the remainder of the week in Delta, Utah. Also not a grand place, but a definite upgrade.
Devils Den Trail
During the week we went out one evening and found a lovely hike. We saw a storm blowing in and turned back just short of the peak. That was sad, but the right decision as we got home to a torrential downpour with heavy winds and a couple open windows on Torta. Luckily the rain had less than a minute to get inside before we charged in soaking wet to close them.
Out My Front Door
When I finish my work day, the first thing I like to do is go out and walk for a few miles. It is my way of relaxing and letting go of the work stress. Chimacum spoiled me with three parks and a monument all in easy walking distance. Delta provided a farm field I did laps around. However, the lack of interesting views gave me an insight.
Many times I have seen tumbleweeds blowing in the desert, but never before had I realized what plant became tumbleweeds. They were growing thick around the field and I did three laps before I finally realized what I was seeing. So below you will find the lifecycle of the common tumbleweed…. I think. My speculation is that they grow near water sources and when that dries up the plant dries up, breaks off in the wind and blows dropping seeds hoping to find another scarce water source. Purely my own speculation.
On our last weekend at home base, we have accomplished our entire wish list, and are excited for the adventures ahead. We love the area, but our home has wheels for a reason.
Last year, when I had my surgery, I began exercising with a one-hundred yard walk on which I needed to stop and rest. I set Mount Townsend as a goal for myself this year. A little over eight miles round trip with over three-thousand feet of elevation gain. It was a challenging and delightful hike.
I arrived at first light, was first one heading up, and had about fifteen minutes of the peak all to myself before the masses began arriving. It is blissfully far from civilization. You begin along a small stream that you can hear but not see, then work your way up through the trees with only an occasional plane in the distance to remind you people exist. Next year I might go up and spend the night, so I can see the sunrise from the top.
Lower Big Quilcene
As part of my training to be ready for the big hike, Kendra and I did seven miles in the same national forest. The Lower Big Quilcene is a lovely hike, easy to get to, and mostly flat.
The Rest of the Story
We really packed our time here with tasks, goals, and fun. We did a lot with Tortuga. We cleaned all the fans, as in took them apart and deep cleaned them. Changed out the kitchen faucet for one that is superior in every way. Painted the rims a lovely matching shade. The one picture below doesn’t do it justice, but as we get into more photogenic situations that will really pop I think. We also did a handful of small repairs like our refrigerator door, and front door. Toss in a full clothing shuffle from our storage unit so we are ready for the winter ahead as well.
Kendra squeezed in as many Zumba classes as she could. I learned to row and got out on the water as much as I could. Among all this we also celebrated our sixteen wedding anniversary at a lovely restaurant named Molly Ward.
The State of the Pets
Shanti really loves it here as she has a doggy daycare that she loves, and the park has a dog park so she gets a ton of socialization and ball. Plus she lays outside under the rig on her bed a lot to people watch. Cali isn’t as big a fan. She does spend a lot of time outside. but it is a combination of a little boring and a little scary for her. We have begun giving her walks, which she took to with fervor. She will come meow at us to take her walking. A lot.
Cali and Shanti Conversations #5
Cali: Walker, Cali Walker Shanti: Oh for the love of Woof, would you give it a break. Going for a walk is not that big a deal. Cali: Chuck Norris wishes he was me. Shanti: And you shouldn’t ding dong ditch. Cali: What? Shanti: It is rude to come to the door, meow like you want in, then take off as soon as someone comes. Cali: I don’t understand this word … rude? What does this mean? Shanti: Remember when you were sleeping on the footstool and I stepped on you getting up? That was rude. Cali: You are a clumsy dog, and I am a marvel of nature. I am not “rude”. Shanti: More like a freak of nature. Cali: One must train the servants, they are not very bright. Shanti: I don’t think pissing them off is the route to go. Cali: Yours is what is called a “Moo” point. It is like the opinion of a cow and matters not. Shanti: I’m not the one likely to get sprayed with water, so knock yourself out.