Death Valley National Park, Day 1: Artists Drive, Badwater Road and the Devils Golf Course

I forgot to change my clocks to Pacific time. With that in mind I looked at my alarm clock…it said 5:30am. It is not unusual for me to be up at that time due to work…however on Pacific time that is 4:30AM!!!

Well I was awake and had slept decently although suffering through some very strange dreams. Of course I didn’t realize just how early I had crawled out of bed until I was about to step out of the door and head to the Park for the sunrise…way too early.


We left anyway and stopped at the information kiosk for a map and visitor’s guide. Dante’s View sounded like a great place from which to watch the sunrise…and I’m sure it would have been if it hadn’t been closed. I made it half way up before the road was closed due to construction. “Insert sad face here!!” I watched the sunrise anyway and got a couple of nice pictures of the multi-colored peaks in the dawn light, complete with the moon. I can only imagine how amazing it would have been to see the Super Blue Blood Moon here at the end of January.


With the sun rising above the mountains and creating some great picture opportunities I headed towards Zabriskie Point. A brief detour took me through a one-way canyon called Twenty Mule Team Canyon…a windy and stunning moon-scape that took some ingenuity to build a road through. Of course something that amazing is always ruined by at least one person…for me it was the idiot driving the wrong way on a one-way, one-lane road. And of course, with me having the large truck, I was the one to have to maneuver around him because I had the capabilities…I made sure to let him know I was not impressed.

Zabriskie Point was a short walk up a steep paved path to a stunning view over the badlands. The early morning sun created some amazing texture and contrast for pictures between the peaks, ridges and valleys.


I had previously decided to take a loop route south from Furnace Creek and turned onto Badwater Road, a 72 mile route that ended at Shoshone.


The first point of interest was Artists Drive, a 9 mile loop that carves up above the valley floor. It has a 25ft vehicle restriction…and they mean it. Artists Palette is the well-known highlight of the loop but I found the entire drive to be well worth the time, and I marveled at the route and construction of the road more than the scenery. Tight turns, steep dips and rises, and walls that risk your paint job mean that this road isn’t recommended for anything wider than a pick-up or van, and vehicles longer than 25ft are prohibited…and I can see why.



I wasn’t back on Badwater Road for long before I turned off again to the Devil’s Golf Course, a rough “field” of salt spires. Salt was initially deposited by thousands of years of floods and the spires were then shaped over the millennia by the erosion of wind and water. Care should be taken when walking in this area as the footing is treacherous and lacerations and broken bones are a real possibility.



I paused briefly at Badwater, the lowest point in the western hemisphere at 282ft below sea level, before continuing south to Mormon Point and Ashford Mill. The Mill was owned by three brothers who used the mill to crush ore from a mine 5 miles to the east before sending it on to a smelter in another location. It was run by the brothers and lessors for a short time before finally closing.

Badwater; about a half mile out in the valley:


Can you see the tiny Sea Level sign on the cliff above my truck?


The highway then took my up and over Jubilee Pass which gave me a great view back over Death Valley from 1200ft. It then climbed another 2000ft to Salsberry Pass before dropping me back down and into the rinky-dink town of Shoshone where I had to sell a kidney on the black market for 15 gallons of diesel…I cringed at the $4.79/gallon cost. Cost of fuel…one of the many reasons I wanted to avoid California for my drive to Oregon.

Back at camp I took the dogs for a quick walk before settling in for a quiet afternoon and working on some pictures.


Kingman to Death Valley National Park

After a final appointment with my orthopedic doctor I headed back to Golden Valley to finishing packing up. It was bitter-sweet as I would miss the folks I had been renting from for the past three months, but I was ready to get on the road. A brief stop with one of the few friends I had made in Kingman to air up my tires and fix my steps had me leaving Kingman later than I planned and I didn’t get on the road until 1:30pm.


The now-familiar Hwy 93 stretched out to the northern horizon, banked by the Black and Cerbat Mountains to the west and east respectively. I by-passed Las Vegas as much as I could but stopped to pick up a couple of packages from an Amazon locker in Enterprise. It was getting later than I’d planned and I filled up with fuel before heading west on Hwy 160 towards Pahrump. With the remaining daylight available to me I was not going to make it to my planned destination outside Death Valley National Park.

I braved my first over-night in a Walmart parking lot, grabbed a quick burger at Sonic and watched some NCIS on my tablet in a cramped RV (no putting the slide out). I didn’t sleep particularly well (the semi that parked next to me that kept turning his engine on and off didn’t help). As soon as it was daylight and the dogs had had their chance to relieve themselves I hit the road again.

The Pads, a remote off-highway RV parking area, came recommended on and it did not disappoint. It is understood that this place was originally supposed to be an RV park and the concrete pads (hence the name) had been poured but no other services were ever installed. I pulled in around 9am and was set-up by 10.


I had installed two new solar panels less than a week ago and my Amazon locker pick-up was the wiring to hook them into my current system. With this in mind, and already having lost some of the day and thus not inclined to head into Death Valley National Park, I spent the rest of the morning deciding on the best way to re-wire my solar system. What I had initially envisioned was not going to work as I had inadvertently left the connectors in such a manner that the wires could not be pulled out to their full length. I had a quick think and went with a plan that was backwards to what I had originally thought. It worked and by noon I had 600 watts of solar panels set-up in a 3×2 series/parallel system. It was time for a beer.


The rest of the afternoon was spent taking the dogs for a long walk up the hill behind the camper and having another couple of beers as I watched the traffic and people go by. As sunset approach I hiked back up the hill to take some pictures of the sunset, which wasn’t nearly as pretty as I had been hoping.


After watching half of a movie I took the dogs out one final time and got stuck staring at the heavens. Even in the wilds of Wyoming I’m not sure I’ve seen so many stars so visible and bright. I was awe-struck and I think I laid on the ground for a good 30 minutes just staring up at the millions of tiny lights.


Kingman, AZ – All Work and Very Little Play


After looking at the historical winter temperatures for southern Utah I made an educated decision to head further south for the winter…something I would later come to regret.

I had been to Kingman, AZ some years earlier and thought it would be a small enough town to enjoy but not so large as to be overwhelming to a small-town girl.

I initially found a decent boondocking location fifteen miles east of town which gave me the chance to get a feel for the area and start looking for work. Within a week I had found a piece of property to rent and from there, with power and good cell service, I was able to search for and secure a decent job for the winter.


Almost immediately I realized my chosen rental site was not going to work…the dreaded puncture vine was everywhere and my dogs were suffering, not to mention the amount of stickers I was pulling out of my shoes daily.

I was contacted by a wonderful couple (via my Craigslist ad) who had a fenced area and full hook-ups available and after three weeks I moved my RV to the new spot, in a much nicer area of Golden Valley, the day before I started my new job.


For the next two weeks I also had a friend in town and we explored the area together. These are the highlights of the Kingman area:

Route 66

The famous highway goes straight through Kingman, AZ coming in from Peach Springs and Seligman to the east and heading out to Oatman in the west. The old downtown of Kingman, Beale Street, has been run down for a long time but new investment and new businesses in the area are beginning to revitalize and renew the beautiful old town. Places of note include the Black Bridge Brewery, Floyd’s Wood-Fired Pizza Company, Diana’s Cellar Door Wine Bar, the Arizona Route 66 Powerhouse Museum and the Mohave Museum of History and Art.



Oatman is a town in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona, west of Kingman. Located at an elevation of just over 2700 ft on Route 66 it began as a small mining camp soon after two prospectors struck a $10 million gold find in 1915, though the vicinity had already been settled for a number of years.


Oatman’s most famous attractions are its wild burros, which freely roam the town streets. Many can be hand-fed hay cubes otherwise known as “burro chow,” readily available in almost every store in town although this is highly frowned upon and not recommended. Burros all have “Do Not Feed Me” stickers on their foreheads. Though normally gentle, the burros are in fact wild and signs posted throughout Oatman advise visitors to exercise caution and I saw a couple of people threatened with kicks and several received bites.


The burros are descended from pack animals turned loose by early prospectors, and are protected by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Weekends in Oatman can see anything from classic car rallies to mock “Wild West” shootouts right down the middle of old Route 66

Keepers of the Wild

Thirty miles east of Kingman is a non-profit sanctuary for dozens of wild indigenous and  exotic animals that were rescued, surrendered or re-homed with the facility by other animal welfare agencies. Housed within large enclosures you will find wolves, lions, leopards, monkeys and many more animals who have found a secure and safe home for the rest of their lives. The animals are healthy and happy, and while the entry fee may seem a little steep it all goes towards continuing rescue, rehabilitation and education. This is not a zoo and do not expect it to be as such.


We did not take the guided tour but I suspect it would have been worth it; the tour provides the history and stories of each of the animals in the sanctuary.

They are currently hoping to expand their operation and continue the process of providing a safe and secure home for rescued exotic and indigenous animals.


For more information, or to donate to their wonderful cause, please check out their website: Keepers of the Wild

Hualapai Mountain Park


An afternoon drive up into the Hualapai Mountains is worth some time. From scrub desert you climb swiftly into pine trees and beneath moderate peaks. It is the gem of the Kingman area. We were lucky enough to see a large herd of elk, including a couple of large bulls, in the yard areas of some of the homes. The area is reminiscent of any alpine settlement and it reminded me of my home back in Wyoming, although slightly warmer and a lot drier. There are a handful of good hiking trails as well as a nice lodge where decent food and cold beer can be acquired.


Other Kingman recommendations:

Food: Kingman Chophouse (amazing steaks), Bangkok Thai Cuisine (pretty good Asian food for a desert town), Five Guys Burgers (is there any where else for burgers?), El Rancho Restaurant in Golden Valley (very good authentic Mexican food).


Things to Do or See: Any of the copious abandoned mines in the area especially one just north of Chloride, Secret Pass hike or four wheel drive trail, Fort Beale (free permit required), drive to Lake Mohave on the Colorado River.


Unfortunately I came to really dislike the area and its barren and dead-looking landscape. Some parts of the desert, like southern Utah, are beautiful…this area of northern Arizona is not. I was not doing the things I wanted to be able to do in a warmer winter, like backpacking trips, due to the lack of time, money and places where I could go to do such things. With much contemplation and discussion with family I made the decision to leave Arizona early and head up to the Pacific North-West where trees and water were abundant (the things I missed the most).


Hiking ‘The Subway’ at Zion National Park

With a few unproductive days behind me, a city that felt overwhelming and no job prospects on the horizon, as well as some research into winter weather for the area, I decided to make the Subway hike my last day in St George.

The Subway is another hike that requires a permit that you can either apply for online via lottery or hope you’re lucky and try to get a permit the day before from one of the ranger stations/visitor centers.

I was up fairly early and took the dogs out, packed a sandwich and filled my Nalgene bottles. The trail head was fairly close to camp so it only took 20 minutes to drive to. I let the dogs out briefly before the trail head as they would be chilling in the bed of my truck while I hiked (with shade and water of course) and I wanted to make sure they weren’t crossing their legs for long towards the latter part of the morning. The brochure suggests allowing 5-9 hours for the hike…I was hoping I could get 6.5 miles done in the lesser amount of time.

I filled the dogs’ water bowl, donned my pack, used the facilities and headed down the trail at 8:45 am. A nice flat first 1/2 mile was misleading as the trail quickly descended 600ft, steeply, into the Left Fork Canyon. I was wondering if I would be regretting not bringing hiking poles on my way out (I don’t usually use them when day hiking).


The trail reached the creek fairly quickly and I took note of the surrounding area and the sign where I would need to make sure to head up later in the day (apparently people have missed it before, enough to make it a note in one of the guides I read).


Initially the trail was moderate, sandy (ugh) and slightly rocky and I covered some good ground. There were a lot of “social trails” that were often misleading and I’m sure I ended up on some of them because I couldn’t find the official trail. Thankfully, being beside a creek, most of the trail was easy to figure out. There were many, many creek crossings, constantly back and forth from bank to bank, around rocky outcroppings or steep cliffs. The guide says you WILL get wet but I suspect this is mostly in reference to spring run-off as I found it easy to boulder hop and cross with dry feet at every time.


I passed a few small groups of people, mostly in pairs, as I hiked. With such a small window of time I knew I had to cover ground fast if I wanted to make it to the end and see the Subway and waterfalls.

Sometimes the trail followed sand, sometimes it was rocky and other times it involved some serious bouldering and clambering. It often involved some intuitive trail finding and keeping a sharp eye out for cairns. Remembering what the place you crossed looked like would also prove to be helpful on the return trip.


I kept an eye on my watch, definitely aware of how much time I was leaving the dogs and put a cut-off time limit to turn around at 11am. By 10:30 I was flagging in energy and really hadn’t seen much sign of waterfalls or subways…I was pretty concerned that I wouldn’t make it. I paused for a sandwich to boost my energy and re-read the guide I had downloaded to my phone. The instructions made it sound like I didn’t have too much further to hike so I determined that I might be okay.


The trail got rockier and more climbing was involved but I finally reached the first of two 15ft waterfalls the guide mentioned. Finally I was getting close. Not far around the bend I found the second waterfall below a sheer, under-cut cliff that echoed loudly. The easiest way to get above the waterfalls is by climbing them around the sides. There were definitely some slippery spots but you can avoid them easily.


Walls of sandstone towered overhead and I finally got my first view of the Subway, a semi-subterranean water channel that has under-cut the sandstone cliffs above it…and this is the only area my feet got a little wet (could have been avoided). Inviting-looking pools dotted the floor of the tunnel although the water was cold and not actually that appealing. It was a stunning piece of natural architecture and I can see why it is so popular…I have never seen anything like it.


As always I took some pictures, appreciated the beauty for a while, and then headed back out. Sadly, being on a time constraint, I had less time than I would have liked to appreciate the canyon. But there was little more that I could do anyway other than stand and stare at the walls and the pools and the thin strip of blue sky above. If I had been brave, or had a wetsuit, I might have headed in further to see the waterfall but it required a lot more wading than I was prepared to do.


I enjoyed my 15 minutes in the Subway but with my dogs’ needs in the back of my mind I started my hike back, avoided getting wet on the way out, and headed down the trail. I ran into the people I had passed, almost all of whom asked me how much further it was…10 minutes turned into an hour by the time it was 12:15, but of course I had hiked fast (somewhat to my detriment when I fell and got some cactus spines in my hand and cut my arm on a sharp branch).


At one point I got slightly disoriented when I didn’t recognize part of the trail. I was watching for the black outcropping that marked the point where the trail climbed back up. I ended up passing a black cliff, and I knew I wasn’t supposed to go beneath it so I back-tracked a ways before being sure I hadn’t missed the upward trail. I continued on and was soon seeing familiar things again, confirming that the black outcropping was not actually the one I was looking for. This is where looking back and recognizing creek crossings was a huge help.


Finally I found the well-signed turn-off to the upward climb…I wouldn’t have missed it even with one eye closed. The climb back up was a little brutal and I was chugging water. What started off as a cool hike in the shade of the canyon cliffs in the morning turned into a harsh climb in the midday sun going back up…I can’t imagine doing this in the heat of summer.

Back at the top, finally, I ran into a park ranger checking vehicles and permits. I handed him mine and he asked how long it had taken me to do the hike and if I made it to the end. I told him how long it had taken me…4 hrs and 45 minutes; 8:45-1:30 (including a stop for lunch and 15 minutes at the Subway). He was impressed and surprised by how fast I had done the hike as it is pretty unusual to do it so quickly. I pointed to the dogs and explained how small of a window I had to do the hike in but that it had been worth it.

Tired, hot and slightly dehydrated I grabbed a cold soda and headed down the road, back to camp. I was grateful to be able to relax for a while with a cold beer and let the dogs play outside before getting things packed away for the morning departure.


If you are interested in hiking The Subway here is much of the information you need:

While I managed the hike in such a short period of time I wouldn’t recommend it. Allow 6-7 hours to do the trail at a more relaxed pace and enjoy it. Not a trail recommended for anyone not able-bodied and fit as there is a LOT of rock-clambering and trail negotiation, not to mention all the creek crossings that require some pretty good balance and some jumping. However, it is definitely worth doing if you can.

St George, UT and Red Cliffs Canyon

It is rarely good to try and find a free boondocking site on a Friday, or a weekend generally.

Of course that didn’t stop me and the first place I looked, listed on, was completely full…and not a particularly fun road to drive with all the washboards. Camp sites were right on the road and not that appealing so I moved on.

BLM land was listed on the eastern side of La Verkin and Hurricane, south of the road as you head into Zion. It looked promising. I took the first road and quickly found a nice large, flat spot to park and unhook. For some reason there was also a tiny house parked just before me which seemed to be a rental as the cars parked outside were never the same. I can’t find any information on this though to confirm.


With camp set up I headed into town to locate the Ford dealership. While they were booked out two weeks ahead for newer vehicles, having a 7.3l diesel has its benefits and a simple repair was all that was needed…and they could get me in Monday.

With the truck issue taken care of I went to explore Camping World (an RV “super-store” much like Walmart) as I had heard many things about it but never been in one. It was interesting to wander round and I saw a couple of things of interest, but nothing I needed (still looking for a retractable clothes line). I also visited the mall…just because…but it was nothing special and my favorite stores weren’t even open yet.

I took a back road around St George and discovered the cheapest place to buy diesel in the area. I kept it in mind for Monday. With little to occupy me in the city I headed back to camp, stopped briefly at Walmart and a gas station for some cold brews and sodas.

The weekend was fairly relaxed and we didn’t do much except a couple of short drives around the area and fill out some job applications.

Monday I headed back into St George where my truck was finally fixed (not inexpensively either), and I felt even more broke. These fixes have seriously been eating into my savings and I was starting to get a little concerned about my financial situation. While taking my truck to Ford wasn’t the cheapest alternative it was also a positive as they also replaced a sensor that had been on recall, and thus was done free of charge. With my two other sensors replaced (coolant temperature sensor and exhaust back-pressure sensor for the turbo) I headed back to camp…I immediately noticed an improvement in the power of the truck due to the replaced exhaust sensor which was great.


A friend posted some southern Utah hiking recommendations and I read through them…three were in my area…and Tuesday morning I headed out to do the Red Cliffs hike with the dogs…a short mile-long hike to a red cliffs canyon (no surprise there!).



It was perfect weather and it was nice to hike with the dogs again and while I kept Kye on leash for a change I let Cody have some freedom. We had to turn around at a narrow gap as the dogs couldn’t climb the rock and it was too far to carry them, not to mention dangerous. It was an area there would have been a waterfall if there had been any water flowing. I climbed up where the dogs couldn’t go…where ropes had been anchored to the wall for safety…and took a few pictures. It would have been amazing to go further but with my best friends with me I could go no further…they were already looking a little forlorn that they couldn’t follow me up the water-fall cliff.




Someone had left a plastic water bottle full of water to the side of the canyon which I went to pick up. Upon closer inspection I noticed it had two tadpoles in it…someone had scooped them up in the bottle, sealed it and left them to die there. I dumped the bottle in the pools where there were other tadpoles and stuffed the bottle in my pack…some people are disgusting human beings.


Back at the truck I dumped the trash in the trash can and headed back to camp for the afternoon. I highly recommend this hike; it is not particularly challenging but I assume it could be tougher once you get further into the canyon.


During the evening, waiting until it was late in the day, I headed up to Zion’s Kolob Canyons Visitor Center to see if I could get a permit for the Subway hike. I didn’t think it was likely but it never hurts to ask. I arrived 5 minutes before they closed and they were able to issue me a permit…another moment to be thankful for being a solo hiker/traveler. I took a quick drive through the park, past the canyons and the massive walls burning red in the dying sunlight. It was pretty impressive.


Gear Review: Enlightened Equipment Convert


Specs: 10F Reg width/Reg length 850FP down quilt wiwith the optional DownTek water-repellent down at no extra cost

Enlightened Equipment is a small cottage manufacturer located in Winona, Minnesota that specializes in quilts, underquilts and other down accessories for sleeping.

After researching for weeks for a new sleeping bag that was lighter than my 7lb Cabela’s mummy bag from years ago I tried a synthetic bag from Thermarest. It was a nice bag, warm and comfortable but still too heavy at over 3lbs, and I wanted something lighter. I would have to invest in a down bag that I hoped would last me a long time.

The more I read the more I narrowed down choices. Western Mountaineering bags were at the top of my list, but were just too expensive at the time for what I wanted, and the Kelty Cosmic 20 down bag at the lower end of the spectrum just didn’t have constant good reviews. That’s when I started reading more and more about people using quilts. I was intrigued.


Reading forums, hiker blogs and reviews from all over the internet three or four companies kept cropping up with high recommendations: ZPacks, Katabatic, Jacks ‘R’ Better and Englightened Equipment.

Knowing that I wanted a lower-rated sleeping bag/quilt due to the fact that I am a cold sleeper at the beginning of the night, and the areas I generally camp and backpack in, I wanted a quilt that could be used as a sleeping bag in colder temperatures (quilts don’t do great below freezing, according to reports I have read). Both ZPacks and EE offered a zip-up quilt option; ZPacks as an addition to any of their quilts, and Enlightened Equipment as a separate model called the Convert.


Several things swayed my choice when it came to choosing between the two companies. What it finally came down to was options: Enlightened Equipment gave me the options to fully customize my quilt the way I wanted it, from down fill-power (800 to 950), inside and outside colors, length and width (which ZPacks also does) and the type of down used. I loved that I could choose the colors of my quilt, and there are over a dozen colors (for the exterior) to choose from. I also preferred EE’s baffle construction and orientation since horizontal baffles across the sleeper could allow the down to slide to the sides during the night, especially if you move around a lot.

After ordering, and knowing that all quilts are made to order, I waited. Within a day or two I felt like I’d made a mistake in the sizing and emailed Enlightened Equipment. They adjusted my order and sent me a new receipt with the updated information. A few weeks later I was looking at the website I noticed they had updated their color choices…they had PURPLE. I immediately emailed the company and asked if they could possibly change my order. And they did.

Less than two weeks later my quilt arrived in a cotton storage bag and large box, nicely packaged. I couldn’t believe how light it felt, although at 27oz not quite the lightest on the market but the 850FP down stands up to humidity better than 950FP and I don’t always plan on camping in the dry air of the western US. And I absolutely LOVED the colors…they were true to the colors on the website and I liked that my sleeping bag was unique to me and my personality.


The material is thin and definitely translucent enough to see the down inside, but it felt like good quality and the construction and stitching were faultless. The zipper works smoothly although I have found that it does catch the light shell material very easily if you are not careful; I always run my fingers along the inside of the zipper as I am closing it up which seems to avoid the issue…keeping the zipper and material taught helps too.

My first outing with the Convert was on my Tongue River Canyon hike. It was only an overnight, and quite warm during the day. During the first use I kept it zipped up in the hoodless sleeping bag mode. I stayed plenty warm and toasty during the night, with heavy winds and some rain.

The second trip was to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Again I kept it in sleeping bag mode and was plenty warm the first night. The second night, having camped right next to a creek, everything got damp, including the Convert. Having my face next to cold, wet fabric chilled me to the point of having to put my down coat on underneath the quilt. I don’t believe this to be a fault with the bag that I got cold, but one of my own making.

The third and fourth trips (Little Horn Canyon and Walker Prairie) I finally used the Convert in quilt mode due to the warm temperatures. I found this set-up to be very versatile and I slept well in both places, staying plenty warm without the need to zip up the bag or even pull it around me. Of course a 10F bag is overkill when the overnight lows are in the 50s.

Taking the Convert on the Solitude Trail for a week was the longest test and it performed superbly. I mostly used it as a quilt with the top snap closed and adjusted as necessary as I slept. I was cold only one night, when it dropped below freezing, and I realized that I probably should have stuck with the original width I had ordered (slim vs regular)…there was just too much space in the bag for me to warm successfully in sub-freezing temperatures. Part of me being cold was that it was also a damp night. Even with too much space, an added layer made all the difference. Most of the reason I was getting cold was the ingress of too much air at the shoulder area and only a thin layer of fleece shirt to block it.

I like the vertical baffles on EE’s bags; they keep the down where you want it and I don’t find that it moves much after I’ve given the bag a good shake after it comes out of its stuff sack and allow it to loft.

The elastic draw string at the neck of the bag is sufficient for what it does but it is probably my least-liked element of the bag. It is very narrow, non-stretchy cord and I don’t like the tightening location. I’d like to see the cord replaced with a flat, elastic version that doesn’t feel quite so much like a garroting wire when tightened. It is especially difficult if you want to reach a hand out of the sleeping bag to scratch your ear, put on chapstick, grab your flashlight…or pick your nose!!! An elastic cord would alleviate some of this and make the bag more versatile, and placing the tightening location by the zipper with two toggles instead of one would also be an improvement. Of course, these are just my opinions on one aspect of the Convert that didn’t work for me. A neck baffle (as found as an option on Loco Libre Gear’s quilts would really be a plus).

Overall, the Convert (and other EE quilts) are great quality and provide a warm, light sleeping bag/quilt at an affordable price. Their customer service was impeccable and I really appreciated their efforts to make sure I got the bag I wanted, despite all the changes. I don’t think you can go wrong with Enlightened Equipment.





Moab to St. George, Utah

Leaving Moab

On my way home from riding I noticed my engine temperature gauge wasn’t registering. I was a little concerned but after having one of the guys check it out with his computer I determined it wasn’t the thermostat and was most likely just a sensor. It was still something I would have to spend more money on to fix.

This morning saw the jack I had previous paid to have fixed at Stalkups RV in Casper quit retracting again. I halted the motor, lifted the manual legs and left both jacks as they were. I was PISSED OFF to put it mildly.

With everything loaded I headed out of the campsite, pausing to say goodbye to a couple of the people in the Class A campsite and hit the road. My temperature gauge still wasn’t working and with the non-working jack an issue again I was feeling pretty stressed and emotional.

I called Stalkups RV and spoke to Dan in the service department who said they would stand by their work but would need me to take it into a repair shop. If the repair shop determined that Stalkups was at fault they would need to call them and inform them before Stalkups RV would cover the bill, but that they WOULD stand behind their work if they were found to be at fault.

I paused in Green River to chat with a mechanic and he informed me of a Ford dealership in Richfield, 120 miles away, who would be better able to diagnose the issue regarding my temperature gauge. I had to cross 3 mountain passes on my way there and I was certainly nervous…I don’t like not knowing what is going on with my engine, especially when hauling a heavy load. Using the AllStays app I was also able to locate an RV repair shop which happened to be right next to the Ford dealership.

I stopped in at Jorgensen’s RV and they were able to get me in immediately (unusual but appreciated). The repair technician pulled apart my jack and determined that Stalkups had indeed used the wrong part (a roll pin vs a shear pin) for the jack. A call was made by one of Jorgensen’s office staff to Stalkups RV informing them of the fault but was apparently rudely informed that they would not cover the work, despite what they had told me earlier.

The repair technician made another discovery in that the repair that should have been done initially was NOT in fact a shear pin issue but a gearing issue. I had paid Stalkups RV a decent chunk of change to fix the jack, which they had not in fact done (I had not been shown the broken part either), and was now having to fork out a lot more money to have it done right.

With my jack finally fixed, and feeling a lot more broke, I wasn’t in the mood to go much further and once again used AllStays to locate a place to camp nearby. South of my location was Mystic Hot Springs, a small RV/tent camping park attached to some hot springs. The reviews called the place funky and the website showed old cabins and buses to stay in. I don’t usually do RV parks but the $30 price per night included full hook-ups and passes to the hot springs. I was in need of a break and since Ford hadn’t charged me for diagnoses of my gauge issue (two sensors needed replaced) I put that money towards two nights at Mystic Hot Springs in Monroe. The place certainly was quirky, and certainly not for those interested in a fancy RV park, but it was my kind of place and I quickly found a suitable pull-through site and set-up, opposite some buses that people either live in or stay in. It definitely recommend it.


It was nice to have electricity for a change and to use my TV and free-standing lamps as well as start charging some of my AC electronics without having to cart them to the truck.

A large group of tent and truck campers was growing slowly behind me and on my way back from a short walk around the hot springs I asked one of the older guys if it was a bachelor party (no women). I was informed it was a group of para-gliders and hang-gliders in town for a week-long meet-up/event. I was invited to come say hi, which I did.

I spent a couple of hours with the group, meeting a few and getting first names and where people were from…Idaho, Utah, Alaska and more. I enjoyed a roaring fire they got going before excusing myself to go enjoy the hot springs I had, in essence, paid for.

The hot springs themselves were very rustic-looking and included two pools, one large warm pool and a smaller hot pool. Above the pools, after climbing some rough rock steps, there are bathtubs with spring water flowing into and out of them constantly. When checking in the owners inform you about the hot springs rules: no alcohol, no nudity and no pets permitted in or around the hot springs (although all but the nudity are permitted in the RV park).

Two others were in the pools when I arrived but it was dark and didn’t say hi, nor did they acknowledge me. I disrobed and climbed into the larger of the two pools which had a small waterfall pouring into it. I floated for a while and enjoyed the warmth, remaining near the waterfall where it was slightly warmer. The two ladies left soon after and I was alone. It was relaxing and much needed after a rough day.

With the rain starting to fall lightly I moved to the hotter pool and enjoyed the heat for a while before it became too much. Being a little too hot now getting out into the cool night air wasn’t too bad and I wrapped myself in my towel, grabbed my clothes and headed back to the camper. I was glad I had remembered a flashlight as none of the pathways were lit.

I re-dressed quickly and headed back out to the bonfire where things were getting a little raucous. It was fun and interesting to listen to the guys talking about paragliding although I didn’t understand some of it. Paragliding has been on my bucket list for a while and meeting these guys reminded me of that and not to forget about it…they were definitely enthusiastic.

Warmed by the hot springs and then the fire I was getting drowsy, bid the group farewell and went to bed. I’m not sure how long they were up for as I was quickly asleep.

I had two nights booked at Mystic Hot Springs so I enjoyed the day in between doing very little. I made a quick trip into Richfield to get some groceries and fill up with fuel but I spent most of the day enjoying having an electrical hook-up, listened to Pandora,  watched a DVD and wrote. The evening progressed much the same as the night before; hanging around the camp fire, drinking a beer or three, talking with the paragliders, enjoying the hot springs and then the fire again before hitting the hay at 10pm.

I was up before the sun and it was another chilly morning. My heater had done a good job of keeping the inside of the camper perfect (it got a little hot in the middle of the night so I had to turn it down). I let the dogs run one last time and packed up camp before saying good bye to the guys I could see.

I was on the road by 9 am and heading for St George. I chose to stay off the interstate and instead took the scenic route to the east. It was generally a pleasant drive and we stopped on the way up the pass going west to make a sandwich. Coming down the other side was beautiful but a lot less fun and I allowed the pressure of traffic behind me into making a mistake…I tried pulling off too fast, on too steep of a grade with too much momentum and almost lost my brakes. Thankfully I was pulling off against the mountain and the only thing I would have hit was a pole, but it was still not a good moment. I let my brakes cool for a while before heading down…and I waited for a large gap in the traffic before pulling out. Anyone behind me from here on out was just going to have to be patient as I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.

The view at the top of the pass before making an error in judgement:


A brief pause in Cedar City at the bottom of the pass gave my truck and me a break before continuing south. I used one of several apps to find a good and free boondocking location but the first place I looked was full. A little frustrated I did another search and found a place above La Verkin on BLM land, above the Virgin River and the dam (although not visible from my location as I didn’t want to drag the camper too far on rough dirt roads).


Moab – Day 7: Arches National Park, Delicate Arch and The Windows; Horseback Riding in the Canyon

Arches National Park, Take 2

Another early start to the day saw me arriving at the Arches’ visitor center at 6:45am and directed into the parking lot to wait until the park opened at 7. This gave me time to dump some trash and recycling, unfortunately the bathrooms were closed at the visitor center so I was going to have to wait.


With the barriers moved a line of cars streamed out of the parking lot. I was fifth out of the gate and those of us in front soon left the rest behind (while still obeying the speed limit). Two of the front cars soon pulled off the road into turn-outs or turned towards ‘The Windows’ section, presumably for the sunrise. I continued on to Delicate Arch where I was the third on the trail for the morning. I quickly passed a slightly older couple and a younger Asian couple (the young lady had twisted an ankle) about half way through the hike.


I pushed myself hard and followed the cairns to the top, rounding the corner of a narrow rock-ledge trail to behold Delicate Arch in the early morning sun. I was the first one there and enjoyed a few moments of having the park’s most famous arch all to myself. The others I had passed soon arrived and the older couple were kind enough to take a picture of me under the arch.


More and more people began to arrive and I decided it was time to head back down the trail. A few people asked how close they were to the arch as I hiked down, and some asked me what time I started since I was already almost back to the parking lot by 8:30am…when most people were just starting up the trail.


From Delicate Arch I made the short drive to see Double Arch, Turret Arch and the North and South Windows arches, all of which are massive and awe-inspiring. With the parking lots getting busier and busier I finally headed out of the park at 10:30 and headed back to the camper for a few hours before heading back out for some riding.




Horseback Riding: Moab Horses/ Hauer Ranch

I had booked a 4pm ride with Moab Horses at Hauer Ranch and left camp at 2:30pm, not quite sure how long it would take me to get to the riding facility. I had chosen this particular place due to the location (near the Fisher People and Castle Valley) and also because they were one of the smaller operations in the area, and I like to support those kinds of places. I also tend to find they offer a more personal approach to guests.



I took the dogs with me and stopped to let them play in the Colorado River before heading to the ranch. I arrived way too early and sat chatting with the wrangler, James, and the owner, whose name I didn’t get. James was still saddling horses while I signed yet another waiver and paid. I had forgotten my water bottle AND my sun block so I chugged some water from a hose and borrowed some sunscreen from the ranch’s supply (those bottles left behind by many guests ahead of me). I chatted with James, the farrier and the owners while they saddled up or brought horses in for shoeing. We talked about the ranch I used to own and the kind of work I used to do with horses and cattle.


Four other guests arrived and we were soon ready to go. A quick safety talk was followed by us being assigned our horses. I was given a black and white paint by the name of Cash. The others were on Hondo (a spotted appaloosa), Sassy (a dark dun), Gem (a halflinger) and a red and white paint whose name I also didn’t catch. James’ directions were mostly decent but balance and foot placement in the stirrups was not addressed, and that later became painfully obvious with the nervous novice rider on Sassy.


With everyone mounted in the round-pen we headed out into the desert. The initial half hour was flat but with stunning views of the red cliffs and Colorado River, and we also saw a bald eagle…a rare sight for so early in the season. I got to talking to the older couple (both pyschotherapists) behind me who were in the Moab area for a week on vacation. They both seemed to be enjoying their horses.



With the easy part behind us we followed Onion Creek east towards Fisher Towers, crossing and re-crossing the creek. Onion Creek is so named for the wild onions that grow in copious amounts along its banks. Still following Onion Creek we rode beneath the highway. The young lady on Sassy was struggling to control her mount who really had a mind of her own, took her through bushes and off the trail. James did a pretty good job of helping her out and instructing her in what to do.


I was very much enjoying my horse, Cash, who was fun, spirited and very light on the mouth. He listened well but would have been a handful in less-experienced hands. I also discovered that he was a gaited horse after trotting through a couple of wash crossings.


We finally left the creek bed and climbed up and up, following trails and other washes until we had the best views yet of Fisher Towers, a group of over 100 towers and each of which is named. James was good about talking about the history of the area, including the filming of many of John Wayne’s movies and City Slickers 2, as well as Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory” video.


After 2 1/2 hours we turned back across the road and found ourselves back at the ranch, where we were greeted very enthusiastically by the ranch dogs. We all dismounted and handed our horses back over to the ranch. I was a little sad to say goodbye to Cash…he is exactly the kind of horse I would buy if and when I get back into horse ownership.

I headed back into Moab to get gas and then headed for home. I let the dogs out to run and fed them before heading over to the Class A camp to enjoy a couple of drinks with new friends on my last night in Moab.

Moab Horses at Hauer Ranch were courteous and professional and the scenic ride was gorgeous. For $80 for a two hour ride they are right where I think they should be (after having worked in the industry for many years). Moab Horses are located located 21ish miles north of Moab along Highway 128 (the River Road). The ranch can be reached by calling (435) 259-8015 or you can find their website at

Moab – Day 6: Arches National Park, Fiery Furnace Hike

Access to the Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park is restricted due to the dangerous nature of the area; the ease of getting lost and the lack of water. Those who wish to access the Fiery Furnace require a permit and are required to watch a short safety video and it is recommended you go with someone familiar with the area, or you can join a guided hike into the area. I chose the latter. Fees are associated with both options.

I met the guide at the Fiery Furnace parking area at 9pm. The ranger’s name was Travis and the group quickly learned that it was his last guided trip into the Furnace and also in Arches National Park…he was moving on to other things.


The reason I chose a guided trip for the Furnace was for all the great information that the rangers can provide as you visit certain areas.


We hiked down hill a short way and Travis explained the geographical history of the area; the formation having had two parents to create it, one being the salt valley that resided below us, and the second being the powerful force of water (and a little wind). As we hiked down into the sandy washes we were confronted with some rocky, boulder-strewn trails. It was a minor test for what was to come but a good indicator about who might have problems and it was the last chance people had to turn back. Despite the quirky knee of one group member (not me) and the “experienced years” of another gentleman no one chose to turn back and we continued on.


With the sandy washes behind us we entered into the towering spires, narrow slots and rocky footing of the Furnace. Sometimes it is good to be small and many of the climbs, canyons, and sliding between two almost-touching rock walls were much easier due to my size. Climbing the boulder field below Jackass Pass in the Wind River Range made this look pretty tame.



Travis led us into a handful of dead ends to show us a few of the formations that had been carved and formed over the years including a small land bridge (although all land bridges in Arches NP are called arches, no matter how they were formed) and Skull Arch which looks like the eye sockets in a skull.


There were many tight spots and a lot of rock scrambling, climbing, leaping, tip-toeing, leaning and sliding on your butt in many places but that was what made the hike even more fun. I tended to follow right behind the ranger as I was the youngest person in the group, other than a family with two small girls.


I did get talking with a very nice couple from Kansas City who had only started hiking within the past 4-5 years. They lived part time in their travel trailer in Tucson, AZ and were pretty determined to get out and do things while they still could…and they did great. In fact everyone did amazing, including the older gentleman who looked to be in his late 70s. I was very impressed.



The tour took about 3 hours and we were back at the parking area at noon. I enjoyed it very much and highly recommend it. Tours do need to be booked in advance and they usually fill up 2-3 days ahead of time; I booked mine Thursday for Monday which was the next available guided tour.

Moab – Day 5: Canyoneering at Ephedra’s Grotto

Apologies for the delay in getting the blog updated. I have been dealing with a broken right hand from an accident at my current job and I am right-handed. I am at the tail end of healing and should be getting more posts out in the near future.

(As with the zip line tour I booked a half day canyoneering excursion on Friday directly with the tour company. There are a handful of places in Moab that can book multiple adventures (biking, hiking, horseback riding, canyoneering etc) all from the same place, like the Moab Activity Center in the middle of town).

My tour was booked for 8 am and so I was up at 6:30 in order to let the dogs out, eat some fruit and organize my pack. I headed out at 7:15 am, dropped my keys with one of the RVers up the road so she could let the dogs out mid-morning, and headed into town again.

Once at the office for Moab Cliffs and Canyons, the tour company, I again signed my life away with the standard waiver…the one that I almost never read because they all say the same thing (I do read some of them). I met John, our tour guide, a handsome young guy (yes, of course I noticed how attractive he was) who directed me to the packs of gear we needed to take. I transferred the harness and helmet to my pack and topped up my water as we weren’t scheduled to be back until 1pm. The shuttle driver, John and I jumped in the van and headed to the Moab Activities Center to pick up three other ladies who would be joining the tour.

Bev, Sabrina, Sandy and I quickly got acquainted as the shuttle driver, also called John, and our guide chatted together during the short 20 minute drive to the trail head. Our guide also asked if any of us had rappelled before…the others said no, I could actually confirm I had for a change although it was many years ago.

From the trail head we hiked about a mile to the first rappel, walking through recently-flooded washes. One thing that was quickly pointed out to us was the black, crusty-looking soil in many places. It is actually a very sensitive and easily damaged crypto-biotic soil that provides an unusual eco-system which helps the desert thrive by keeping water in the soil and building a nutrient-rich environment. It is also the slowest growing thing in the desert, taking 100 years to grow an inch…in other words DON’T step on it!


Another group of two, plus their guide, passed us before we reached the first rappel and it was as good a place as any for a pee break. (It should be noted that any solid waste MUST be packed out in this area…it cannot be buried).


The first obstacle in our path was minor and involved a slight jump/large step across a shallow gully. It seemed fairly easy and I made the crossing with ease…the other ladies made it look a little tougher, but John was spotting at the bottom in order to help those who needed it.

From the gully crossing we hiked a little further along one of the many sandstone fins to a sheer drop into Ephedra’s Grotto. We were quickly warned not to get too close to the edge as it was curved and easily mis-judged…but I sooo wanted to look down and probably got closer to the edge than I possibly should have (10 feet was plenty safe).


As John set up the ropes and carabiners for our first descent the other ladies and I talked and took pictures, we also put on our harnesses and helmets. The other group ahead of us were in the process of descending.

With ropes and safety equipment set up in the anchors John checked our harnesses, borrowed my rappelling equipment from my harness and showed us how to hook up, detach and control our speed. The reminder was good to have, and seeing that I had actually rappelled before the ladies were quick to offer me up as sacrifice and go down first. I would have volunteered.

John tossed a safety line to me which I hooked up before getting close to the edge then proceeded to join him at the anchor. He hooked up my rope and the safety line and I was good to go. The scariest part of rappelling is backing over the initial edge, right up until the harness feels secure.

While I hadn’t rappelled a very long time ago it all seemed very familiar and the correct form and actions came back quickly. My only mistake was in trying to fight gravity and guide/walk myself away from the natural direction I was supposed to go. I reached the first level after about 100 ft and got my feet wet in a foot of water…thank you rains from yesterday!!! I was regretting not wearing my hiking pants and wool hiking socks, but you live and learn. I crossed the pool and backed down over the next cliff into the dark abyss for another 40 feet. I managed to avoid the water at the bottom, unhooked the safety rope and sent it back up then unhooked my rappelling carabiner and stepped into the canyon to watch the others.


Sandy was the next to come down and I watched from the bottom. It was fun to watch others rappel and I yelled encouragement and tried to help improve her passage down with a little guidance regarding legs being out in front and not underneath (a hard habit to break as you want to reach for footing). She arrived at the bottom and I helped her unhook. Bev and Sandy made it down slowly but safely, both of them with the same trouble in keeping their feet in front of them and bracing against the rock. John was the last to come down, for obvious reasons, and it takes the guide a while as they have to reconfigure ropes to make sure they get both ropes down and don’t leave anything behind. Somehow John managed to keep his feet dry…it was either magic or some kind of aerial acrobatic rappelling we weren’t privy to!


A short hike out of the slot canyon took us 100 yards to the second and final rappel. This one was located at Morning Glory Bridge at the end of Negro Bill Canyon. Sandy went first on this one as I asked her to video me coming down (the bane of being a lone traveler and adventurer). I went second.



The initial drop-off you have to back over was a lot more pronounced on this rappel than the first and thus a little more nerve-wracking. I don’t find it scary but there is still a slight adrenaline rush as you lean over the edge, backwards. The first 20 feet or so is flat, vertical rock and thus a little easier to step down than the convoluted walls of the descent into Ephedra’s Grotto. However, after 20 ft the wall disappears inwards and I was left hanging in mid air as I dropped down, keeping a good and mostly even speed (although a little stilted with the safety rope) and avoiding spinning for the most part (speed makes the difference on how much you spin when descending without a wall). I looked down at Sandy and waved at the camera, and at the same time noticed the audience I had in the form of several hikers who had made the trek to see Morning Glory Bridge (land bridges and arches are formed by different acts of nature, hence the difference despite often looking the same).


I made it almost to the bottom but John hadn’t quite been keeping up with me on the safety rope and I stopped two feet from having my feet on the ground. Slack was quickly given and I unhooked the safety rope, untangled the lines (happens when you spin), sent the safety rope back up and unhooked the rappelling rope. Bev and Sabrina followed, both coming slowly and turning into that dreaded spin that comes with canyon winds and a slower descent.

Yay, video of my descent from Morning Glory Bridge:


At the bottom of Morning Glory Bridge was a pool and a very unique spring looking as though it was flowing from the very cracks of the rock…it was very cool and very unusual.



John got his ropes in order and descended quickly. He packed the ropes up and said we could remove our harnesses and helmets which we did with haste and then packed them away. We then had a mile and half hike to a different trail-head where the van was waiting for us. Sandy, John and I had a good conversation about Moab’s best eateries, the history of Negro Bill Canyon, and what he does in the off-season (guides mountaineering trips in Washington). The canyon itself was gorgeous and had the run-off from multiple natural springs flowing through it (we had to get our feet wet again at one crossing, even John) which seemed to make it a natural hike for those with dogs and we saw plenty on the trail.



Back at the van we made the short drive back to the office, dropping off the other three ladies at the MAC on the way. I tipped John and grabbed a bite to eat at a local quesadilla food bus he recommended before heading home for the afternoon.

Moab Cliffs and Canyons was another very professional tour company for canyoneering and rock climbing trips. (The family of four from the zip lining had done a rock climbing trip with them the day before and also raved about them). John was exceedingly safety-conscious/oriented but was also friendly, fun and courteous. He really made the trip a lot of fun and the small group was nice.

Moab Cliffs and Canyons is located at 253 N. Main Street, Moab, Utah or you can call them at (435) 259-3317. You can also visit them online at They offer multiple options from the easy half-day trip to Ephedra’s Grotto, which involved minimal water, to three-quarter and full day trip, to multi-day, multi-canyon over-night excursions. Rock-climbing and hiking trips are also available and if they are anything like my canyoneering experience they can be recommended.