New Mexico to Utah

Saturday, June 21

After leaving the TA in Moriarty, NM, I get back on I40. Immediately I see some tall hills rising above the flat terrain and I wonder if the road is going to go around or through them. Very soon I have my answer.

NM-to-UT1

After a long if not very steep climb, Bertha coasts down through the range which is very scenic. Later I looked on Google maps to try to find the name of it, it’s in green like it’s protected in some way, but the name isn’t listed. It’s just east of Albuquerque.

While there is a bit more traffic around Albuquerque, it isn’t bad. After coasting out of the hills I continue to coast all the way to the river valley that the city was built around. It’s been a lot of downhill, which has been nice but that means there must be an equal amount of uphill ahead. Most of the buildings are hidden from view behind those sound dampening walls that get put up around busy highways in residential areas, but I gotta say, Albuquerque has some fun bridges. They’re colored in what I always think of as traditional southwestern colors, that sort of salmon pink and turquoise blue.

NM-to-UT2

After a considerable climb out of the valley, I gaze down upon, finally, what I always think of when I think of desert. West of town there are several broad valleys of yellow sand and few plants. The temperature starts to climb and I keep an eye on both the temperature outside and the temperature of Bertha’s engine, which fluctuates depending on the terrain but doesn’t get close to dangerous levels.

This half of New Mexico is definitely more rugged. Soon the wide valleys become narrower, the bluffs and mesas more pronounced. I stand by my earlier assessment, that this state does have a lot of diversity even though it’s universally dry. The yellow sandstone gives way to orange cliffs which tower off to the north. A sign looms up ahead, “Continental Divide, 1 mile”. I get my camera ready, and there the sign sits, on a rather unassuming hill. The elevation here is 7,275 feet, I’ve done quite a bit of climbing since Texas.

Gallup is the last sizable town before entering Arizona, and I stop there to gas up. The way most RVers take from here is to continue on I40 to Flagstaff and then head north on 89 to get into Utah. But my GPS says getting on 264 and cutting through the Hopi reservation is quicker and less miles. I won’t be able to make it all the way through today, but through the Overnight RV Parking website I discover that the Hopi Cultural Center allows overnight stays for free, and they have a restaurant with native food to boot. I call ahead to confirm, and then steer off the beaten path and onto the two lane road.

NM-to-UT3

The websites say photography is discouraged inside the reservation, so I have no photos of this part of the drive except for my meal at the cultural center.

The drive is interesting, if a bit nerve wracking at times. Shortly after getting on 264 it climbs up into a National Forest which is managed by the tribes called Defiance Plateau. It is in fact a forest, the first one I’ve seen in quite a while. I’m not sure what kind of pine trees these are, but they’re tall and majestic, a sense that is only enhanced by the continued dryness of the area, how do they get so big with so little rain?

There is construction on the road here, the shoulder is non-existent and my lane drops off into deep sand. Every single crack and pot hole has been filled in with tar, but that still doesn’t make a very smooth driving surface and I keep under the speed limit to minimize shaking of the RV. After coasting down off the plateau the road continues to be rough in areas throughout the reservation. I don’t see a single other RV the whole time I’m in here and maybe that’s the reason why. I wouldn’t recommend driving a big rig through here unless you really had things battened down and were willing to put up with the slower speeds to avoid damage.

NM-to-UT4

The rest of the drive is mostly flat but punctuated by sharp drops into canyons followed by steep climbs back out of them. Luckily the descents are marked well so there is time to put Bertha into second gear. The ascents on the other hand aren’t marked, so I found it prudent to keep an eye on the road far ahead to get a running start. The climb up just before the cultural center was the steepest of them, I almost pulled over to rest the engine – it was the hottest it got the whole trip.

My Hopi tostada at the cultural center was tasty, I don’t think it was particularly authentic but the fry bread base was amazing. That night in Cas I puzzle what the music I’m hearing off in the distance is all about, and then it hits me. It’s June 21st, the summer solstice. It could easily be a celebration of some kind.

Sunday

A couple more hours of driving and I’m out of the reservation and into Tuba City which is surrounded by spectacular red cliffs which I can now safely photograph. Another quick gas stop and 264 meets up with 89 and I find the RV traffic again and some interesting geological features.

NM-to-UT5

There are badlands here, the generic non pronoun use of the word. The features are the same as where I worked last summer, but the ones here are smaller and more spread out. There’s still a good bit of color to them though, reds, light and dark grays, and deep yellows. A bit farther north, the badlands end and are replaced by more regular sand dunes on the left, and a towering wall of red cliffs lines the right, it’s very scenic. There are signs to turn off for the Grand Canyon, but that’s not the direction I’m headed. I keep right and soon climb over a low spot in those cliffs and then start dropping down into Page, and eventually, Glen Canyon.

Glen Canyon is home to Lake Powell, a spot I could have worked at last summer. A bridge crosses the water, and between tourists and wire grating I spy the blue water down below. It’s not a great photo opportunity, but a bit farther on I pull over to get a picture. The contrast between the water and the cliffs is amazing. Seeing any sizable body of water out here is amazing in fact, and my eyes drink in the sight.

NM-to-UT6

Finally, I’m in Utah. After Glen Canyon Recreation Area ends, the Grand Staircase – Escalante national something-or-other (monument maybe?) begins. I pull over at a historic marker, the old Paria movie site, and have lunch in a valley surrounded by cliffs and mesas such a deep red the almost look purple.

I could make it all the way to Zion today, but I’m not due in until tomorrow, so I stop less than an hour away in Kanab, UT for the night so I can get a shower and look more presentable when I arrive. The Hitch-N-Post RV park has exactly one RV spot left when I arrive, talk about timing. And what’s more, it’s right next to another Casita!

Naturally, we get to talking. Sharon is retired and traveling alone on her maiden voyage in her little 13′ Patriot, it looks so shiny and new compared to Cas, haha. She’s having a great time and scouting out volunteer opportunities for next year. Also in the park is Steven, a solo full-timer who came out here to work at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. It sits on over 3,000 acres, houses 1,700 animals, and is the largest no-kill shelter in the country. Their adoption rate is phenomenal, something like 96%, it’s been on TV before.

Monday

This is is, the day of truth. Like all of the seasonal jobs I’ve held I’ve never laid eyes on the place before arriving. North of Kanab lies an impressive wall of buttes which I’ll have to climb to get to Zion Mountain Ranch. Zion National Park has two main entrances, one to the south which sits at a lower elevation, and the east entrance, the one I’ll be at, sits on top of the pleateau.

The drive from Kanab is gorgeous and I spot several places I’ll want to drive back to once I’m not towing Cas to take pictures. The stream bed the road parallels for the first part of the drive is not completely dry, and in places pools of green water sit right below red cliff faces. A lot of the rock here has unique swirling patterns in it that I’ve never seen before. There are also deciduous trees along the drive, sheltered from the harsh sun by the rock walls on either side.

Higher up is another strand of tall pines like I saw back on the Hopi reservation. There’s a turn off for a State Park called Coral Pink Sand Dunes, definitely going to have to check that out. Then the road dips for a while into another canyon, this one predominated by more yellow rock. Finally it climbs again onto a plateau with desert brush with stunted trees, and the trees open up into a large grassy field with..wait, is that really? Yes, a buffalo herd lounging near the road. A corral with horses sit next to the parking lot, and a chicken guards the door to the building with the sign overhead: “Zion Mountain Ranch”.

But, it turns out to not be the place where I’m working. Zion Mountain Ranch encompasses something like 12,000 acres, and while it’s all part of one complex, the Trading Post is two more miles down the road.

NM-to-UT7

I’m rather glad I’m working at the Trading Post instead. As the road approaches the park entrance, majestic bluffs rise up to frame a narrow valley in which it and the campground lies. The view from the campground brings a big smile to my face, it’s even got some shade, something I wasn’t expecting in a region as arid as this. Towards the park, taller peaks reach up into the sky. This will be home for the next three months, and I’m very excited.

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Becky

Forget about what the world tells you your life should be like. At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and go full-time RVing before retirement. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.

28 Comments

  1. Jo on August 2, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Becky,

    I’ve read all of your adventures and enjoyed them so much. I have an RV and plan to do the same thing you’re doing when I retire. And I may get started before then if I can figure out a way to clear up a few odds and ends. Thanks for sharing the journey.

    By the way, I live in the SC lowcountry and I know what you mean about the heat and humidity. Looking forward to experiencing the beauty of the West.



    • Becky on August 4, 2014 at 10:04 am

      Around these parts Jo the locals complain about the humidity when it gets to 40%, haha.

      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed IO and thank you for reading. You’re going to love the west when you get out here, best of luck getting on the road early!



  2. Amber on July 3, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    As usual, I love the pics and following your adventure.
    Amber recently posted..Slunky hose supports and X-chock wheel lock stabilizers…My Profile



    • Becky on July 6, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      Glad you’re enjoying it Amber, thanks for reading!



  3. mike on July 2, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    Love reading this entry and I agree that New Mexico and Utah have amazing scenery. I have lived out west all my life (I grew up in Wyoming) and one of my favorite places I have lived is in Albuquerque. Not to hot..not to cold…close to some great snow skiing and home to the international balloon fiesta. It is in October and if you can you should try someday to go and see it. Enjoy Utah and try some mountain biking while u are there. One of the best places in the world to Mountain Bike.



    • Becky on July 6, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      I’ll keep that in mind Mike! And yes I’ve heard about that balloon festival from other RVers who’ve given it a thumbs up. I’m usually working in Octobers but some year I’ll have to arrange to go see it.



  4. Steve on June 28, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    I pulled my maps out and followed you on your journey. I enjoyed reading and looking at the maps at the same time. Enjoy your summer job.
    Steve recently posted..Nothing ChangesMy Profile



    • Becky on June 29, 2014 at 7:48 pm

      Glad you’re enjoying it Steve! Thanks.



  5. JimS on June 28, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    Welcome to the West!!

    I just returned from that area myself a couple weeks ago. Lots to see and do. When you go to Zion Park, make sure you visit the Narrows; on the east side, where the walls along the river narrow and tower above you. My favorite part.

    Like others, Bryce is a must see. But also, I recommend continuing on east along hwy 12 thru Escalante and beyond. I think it’s an official scenic route. Be sure to stop at the Kiva Koffeehouse ( http://kivakoffeehouse.com/ ). A cool little place in the middle of nowhere.

    I love history, so in case you haven’t already read up on it, the area is part of the Colorado Plateau. Very interesting geological history.

    Good luck and best wishes on your gig.



    • Becky on June 29, 2014 at 7:48 pm

      Thanks Jim! I’m going to hike the Narrows tomorrow with coworkers as it turns out, so that should go over well. I’m definitely hitting Bryce, and will be getting to as much else as I can manage.



  6. Curious by Nature on June 26, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    You write very well, the sense of excitement and wonder comes through!



    • Becky on June 27, 2014 at 10:18 pm

      Thanks Curious, I do try.



  7. Furry Gnome on June 26, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    Hope you have a wonderful summer out there!



    • Becky on June 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm

      Thanks!



  8. LenSatic on June 26, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    “My Hopi tostada at the cultural center was tasty, I don’t think it was particularly authentic…”

    LOL! Living here in the SW, I’ve found that Indians don’t make very good Mexican food. πŸ˜‰

    Enjoy your time up there, it’s beautiful! Try to get down to the North Rim for at least a quick peek. We prefer the North Rim to the south…fewer people. Plus there is a lot of boondocking areas available there.

    Have fun!

    Pat



    • Becky on June 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm

      I’ve heard about boondocking at the north rim Pat, definitely want to try it! The concessionaire that does the north rim is the same company that does the Badlands actually, I tried applying with them but they were full up for the season. Maybe another year.

      I’m also thinking about spending the $80 for the inaugural park pass or whatever it’s called, the one that gets you into all the national parks/monuments for a year. Just need to see how many places I plan to hit in the next year if it’ll be worth it.



  9. Fireman Steve on June 26, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Thank you so much for posting your travels. We love to follow you on all your adventures.
    Be safe and happy trails……



    • Becky on June 27, 2014 at 10:13 pm

      Lot’s of happy trails to be had here Steve, Zion is a great hiking park!



  10. Linda on June 26, 2014 at 11:08 am

    As usual, enjoyed your story of travel and lovely pictures. I felt like I was along for the ride! Best of luck in your summer posting and I look forward to hearing more of your adventures. Until I can get my house sold and on the road full time as well, I will let you be my RVing adventure.



    • Becky on June 27, 2014 at 10:12 pm

      Hehe, I use to live vicariously through other blogs too Linda, still do for the places I haven’t been yet. πŸ˜‰ Here’s hoping your house sells quickly!



  11. Jodee Gravel on June 26, 2014 at 10:17 am

    As soon as I’m near a reservation I’m looking for frybread. The first step is to admit…..well, you know :-). So glad you had great weather for the trip and I sure enjoyed riding along. Looks like home is going to be a wonderful place for the next three months – and shade a real bonus!! Enjoy.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..How Big Is Your Bucket?My Profile



    • Becky on June 27, 2014 at 10:11 pm

      It’s so tasty! Probably not great for you, but tasty. πŸ™‚

      So far so good here! Zion is amazing…



  12. Troy on June 26, 2014 at 9:06 am

    I agree with Phyllis, great post. Thanks for the ride along in the passenger seat and for sharing half your tostada. The pictures came out nice. Looked like a beautiful day.

    How’s the book coming along? Ha! Kidding. πŸ˜‰ My 12 year old daughter is attempting to write not just a book but a whole adventure series and I have to remind her to keep it simple for now and get the first one out.

    Zion Zion Zion!! I’m not excited to read your future updates. No not me. πŸ˜‰



    • Becky on June 27, 2014 at 10:07 pm

      Even just updating this blog becomes more challenging when I’m holding a 40 hour/week job, I want to keep working on it bit by bit but I also want time to drive and see things so we’ll see how that goes. πŸ˜‰

      And yes, Zion is gorgeous! More to come.



  13. Phyllis on June 25, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    What a great post. I felt like I was on the road with you.

    Phyllis in Oklahoma



    • Becky on June 27, 2014 at 9:59 pm

      I’ll take that as a high compliment. πŸ™‚ Glad you liked it Phyllis!



  14. EmilyO on June 25, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    Was able to visualize every step of your journey. Lived in Gallup for ten or so years and did a lot of exploring then and since then. Four corners area is beautiful. Spent 4 nites at Coral Pink Sand Dunes and luckily I was the only one there at the time. Loved the evening and night time serenades I got each night. Enjoy.



    • Becky on June 25, 2014 at 11:25 pm

      Oooo, yes I’ll definitely have to go visit Coral Pink Sand Dunes then, it’s so close to here! I can see where living in this area would be very appealing. So much to do in such a small-ish area.



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