April 17 – April 29
After a lot of remote living, we decided a city was in order. We stayed in an amazing campground full of saguaro cacti in Mesa. Seeing city lights in the distance felt very comforting. If I had to choose between a walk down a dark city alley or a walk in a wide open valley at night, I’d take the alley anyday. I definitely enjoyed our stint in the wild, but the change was welcomed.
Being able to switch so frequently between rural and urban has been a fun experiment. As soon as you are sick of the quiet or the traffic, you can switch! Phoenix was exactly what we needed, but after a few days the season flipped from crisp desert weather to OVEN. We also saw a giant rattlesnake on a dog walk, so we packed up and headed to Sedona. The secret is definitely out – Sedona is beautiful and full of visitors. One side of the town feels like the southwest with orange soil, open spaces and rock formations and the other side was a pine forest. After so much time in the desert, we went for the pine forest. We stayed in a tree-filled campground 20 minutes from town. On some of the more popular desert-side of town hikes, tour groups ride in hot pink jeeps down the wide trails. This is kind of obnoxious and really freaked the dogs out, so we hiked closer to where were staying. The hikes were beautiful and basically empty, but also vertical. The town is a little kitschy, but we found a great sushi place, washed the truck, watched Cool Hand Luke and really enjoyed our peaceful campground.
After a taste of warmer weather in Phoenix and Sedona, we decided we wanted to fit in a few more weeks of crisp weather, so we headed north.
April 9 – April 17
We drove west from Taos, through northwest New Mexico and southeast Utah. The drive through this part of the country is really wild. You drive forever and it is incredibly flat and windy. Then, all of a sudden there is an epic canyon or rock formation. You’ll have miles and miles of tan and then its a deep orangey-red. We bounced through, just staying at each place one night or so. There is a lot of land available for free camping through the Bureau of Land Management. Free is amazing, but can also be a smidge creepy. We’ve developed a helpful measurement when assessing if a camping spot is safe or not. We simply ask “How murder-y does this feel?”. So far, so good.
After a week or so of dry camping, we moved to an RV park on Lake Powell for a few days. To our surprise, it was an international tourist hot spot. Truly, I think 30 countries must have been represented. The Grand Canyon is close-by, so it kind of serves as a stop over. It was still pretty cold, so more sweaters by the lake than swimming in the lake. It worked for us for us to get caught up on some work and laundry and what not. We also really wanted to visit Antelope Canyon, a privately-owned slot canyon. You climb down a steep set of steps to the narrow floor. The light and the shadows in this canyon were CRAZY. I assumed the photos we saw before going in person had been edited a bit for dramatic effect. Nope, it looks like that.
March 30 – April 9
We love Santa Fe! Mainly, because we had the best tour guides. Our friend Todd’s parents live there and they really set us up for success. We soaked up city life for a full week. We saw an acoustic set Todd’s dad, Fred, played within hours of arriving in town. Todd’s mom, Debbie, highly recommended the Farmers Market, so the following morning we went and it did not disapoint. There was live music, flamenco dancers, a fellow roasting peppers on a big rotating drum. Santa Fe has lots of hikes right around town, so after we ate plenty of breakfast pastries from the farmers market, we headed for a trail.
The following day, Easter Sunday, was the last day of the ski season. The ski mountain was only 45 minutes from where we were staying. We left downtown Santa Fe in full spring-mode…flowers everywhere, 65 degrees. We couldn’t believe after the short drive up the mountain, we were on a ski lift. We joined Debbie and Fred mid-mountain at Totemoff’s for a beer. We’d never been around for a final day of ski season, but it was a ski show…costumes, karaoke. Hilarious.
After several recommendations to go to Taos, we decided to take the suggestion. On our way from Santa Fe we stopped at Sanctuary de Chimayo. People travel to the church for its supposed healing powers and there was a huge pilgrimage there just a few days before on Good Friday. Its a modest structure, but still really beautiful. Pictures weren’t allowed inside, but we sat there for a bit in the quiet. Its certainly a moving place. I’m glad we stopped.
We found a small campground alongside a river outside of Taos. What we lacked in cell service was made up with our bedroom window view and unbelievably starry nights. Taos is small and since we were staying 20 minutes away in a canyon, we didn’t do too much exploring of the town itself. We did drive up the mountain to the ski resort to do some hiking. Their ski season had wrapped, but it still looked like a full-on winter wonderland. There were some dedicated skiers who were hiking up with their skis and skiing down – crazy people. We weren’t really expecting a hike in the snow and were only outfitted with normal hiking boots. We gave it a go and it was insanely challenging, but the pups were all over it. They loved it. It was perfect way to enjoy the last bit of “winter” before moving into the drier desert.
These little buddies were hanging out near our campground
March 26 – March 30
White Sands is rather remote. We stayed in nearby Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, half an hour away from the park. Going to White Sands was really the only thing on the agenda during our stay, so we went twice! A mid-day and sunset stroll. White Sands just pops out of nowhere thanks to an ancient sea, very old lake, and the elements breaking down gypsum into beautiful sand dunes. We loved our time walking the dunes with the pups during the day, but our sunset trip was the highlight. The shadows and light were completely breathtaking. Surprisingly, there weren’t that many people there. We wandered the dunes, practiced some tricks and took a seat for a top-notch sunset.
After leaving White Sands, we drove to a lake near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. T or C is a tiny town with hot springs and a Flintstone’s themed bowling alley. So, I guess what else do you need? We rung in my birthday and our anniversary with those action-packed activities. We stayed in Elephant Butte State Park on a hill overlooking the mountains and lake. Still a smidge too cold to swim, but it worked well as a backdrop for our short stay.
Tupelo prefers digging over posing.
Catching her breath.
March 10 – March 26
We began our travels heading west in mid-March. After celebrating the nuptials of Chris’ brother, Cory, and our new sister-in-law, Lindsay, in Wimberley, Texas we had the good fortune of some fun evenings in front of friends’ and families’ houses in Austin. Then, the training wheels came off and we were on our way west to Big Bend National Park. We stayed in a campground in Study Butte complete with an old timey graveyard. The Starlight Cafe in Terlingua was a short drive away and it was the perfect place for post-hike happy hours.
Big Bend is wildly beautiful and after lots of flat driving, it was a welcomed surprise. We did some morning hikes on the Lost Mine and Window Trails. Strolled through Santa Elena Canyon and completed a long hike with a vertical scramble (one of my new hiking terms) to the top of Emory Peak. We were warned about the mountain lions and bears, but thankfully did not cross paths with any. The warnings did not stop me from practicing my bear scaring skills when we heard a rustling in the bushes.
We have been living on the road, bouncing from place to place for two months now. High time to get this documentation started. We zig-zagged through the southwest and have found ourselves in central California, about to explore Yosemite National Park.