Leaving Moab

Departed Portal in Moab, UT at 9:10am

It was a fairly scenic drive across Interstate 70 headed west to I15, but slow due to mountain grades in several places. We passed through a portion of canyon that looked like a smaller piece of Canyonlands with pretty rock formations, dynamited away to make room for the Interstate. Unfortunately, all the rest areas and scenic turnouts were in the morning, so that when we were ready to have lunch, we were hard pressed to find a place with even a big parking area. Finally, On I15, Dan exited where there were several truck stops, and we parked behind a restaurant that we were both sure we had eaten at sometime in the past while driving the Monaco, but we only used the parking lot to make a quick sandwich so we could get on down the road. When we arrived in Leeds, UT, to spend the night, we discovered Leeds to be nothing more than a small neighborhood with great views of the surrounding red rock formations and mountains. Our overnight reservations were made more than a week before due to the lack of big rig accommodations in that particular area, and although less than a mile from the interstate, with many turns, we found the park easy to find. When we pulled into the Leeds RV Park and Motel entrance, I was a little apprehensive as I looked around at all the trailers and very SHORT motorhomes in what was obviously a very tiny park with lots of trees. After checking in, we were guided to our site on what luckily, was a very wide, gravel road. Site 39 best we could tell, is the best place in the park for an oversized rig. We good, 50 amp service and tall trees for afternoon shade. The trees did render our satellite useless, but that was not problematic due to good cable service to the site. The site was certainly shorter than us, but it seemed to be no problem having the car overhang into the wide street behind us, and many of the units around us looked pretty permanent. This park was another example of mostly being a trailer park with permanent residents with a few pull through sites for overnighters, but the grass was lush green, beautifully manicured, and the whole park had a very neat and tidy look about it. I cleaned the bugs off of Kit’s face, and celebrated the really nice, mild temperature with a walk about what there was of Leeds, which did not take very long. Undoubtedly nothing more than a suburb of St. George, there were only a couple of businesses in the whole town, and one good sized, attractively maintained Mormon Church, but sidewalks lined Main Street, which was virtually all just one big residential area. As the closest “town” to Zion national Park, some of the traffic through town brought business to the two RV parks and one tiny motel that was a part of our RV park.



for an overnight stay. Site #39 Quiet, easy access from I15, pretty

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Hiking in Canyonlands NP

For the first time in weeks, I had to set the alarm clock, because on Friday, October 8, we were going to drive all the way south of Moab to the Canyonlands southern entrance, over 80 miles away. More than a sightseeing trip, our goal was to hike one of the dozens of hikes through the Needles rock formations, and we promptly departed at 8am, breakfast and lunch packed. We ate the breakfast sandwiches as we traveled south of Moab, and reached the national park’s Welcome Center about 9:30. Luckily, Dan was compelled to take only a few pictures along the way, and when we finally reached our trailhead, it was about 10am, and still nice and cool.

It looked as though the day was going to be perfect and blissfully cool. The Needles area of the park is historically a hot place to hike, but it was still 47 degrees when we started up the primitive steps that transported us from the parking lot into an amazing rock maze. In the beginning, we lost our way once, as I missed the rock cairns that were the only clues as to where the trail went over the rocks. Finding the cairns became a treasure hunt as we climbed up, over, around and through the huge rock hills. The trail not only gave us beautiful views, but we traveled through narrow, one way slot canyons, across sandy “green areas”, and climbed big, rocky hills. It was tiring hiking, and after the first 3 miles we knew we had to make a decision to either take an additional 5 mile loop or return to the car. Six miles seemed too short, but 11 miles seemed more than we wanted to undertake. There were many, well marked trail intersections where Dan consulted his maps, so we knew when we had reached the magic 3 mile point.

After Dan studied the maps a little longer, he concluded that there was a smaller loop shown on the map which would make our total hike only 8 and 1/2 miles instead of the 11 we intended, but it was not a trail mentioned by either of the park rangers we had consulted. Since it was not yet lunchtime, I agreed on the shorter loop hike, and we started across the sandy mesa, not having a clue what to expect. The first mile of the loop took across more of the sandy desert with the rock formations surrounding us, but soon we were led by cairns down towards a canyon where we had to do some rock scrambling to stay with the trail. We lunched in an incredible place, sitting on the rock ledge over the “trail” which was really just a scramble through a tight canyon. It was a cool, shady, magical place and it was hard to get our old bones going after lunch for the last 3 miles of adventure. There were lots of sit on your butt and slide to the rocks below, and more of the long, improbable steps down, but it was thrilling as we followed the cairns wherever they led us. After a particularly interesting trek of descending along the side of the canyon, we found ourselves walking in a big wash area which we followed off and on all the back to the intersection of the trail we been on earlier. But having completed the “loop”, there were still 1.5 miles left to get back to the parking lot, and we were getting tired. It was just after 3pm when we descended the long series of steps down into the parking area, and in spite of the fact that we were sweaty and hot, the car stated the temperature to be only in the 60′s. As we made our way out of the park, the temperature dipped into the 50′s, so we have no idea what it was while we were hiking, but we were thankful it was a “cool” day in the desert, or we would have been miserable, indeed. Totally different from mountain hiking, we rather enjoyed the rock hiking, where instead of a “trail” there could be long periods of walking along smooth rock formations with no foot path, following the “crumbs” left by others to find our way. We were thrilled with our first trip to the Needles, in spite of its remoteness and distance from Moab. Without picture stops, we found that the trip back to the RV park in north Moab was really just over and hour and a half, perfectly doable, especially since there are no places to park a motorcoach any closer.

We spent Saturday, October 9, doing absolutely nothing except a little bit of getting ready to leave. I could not even motivate myself to go to the swimming pool as the air temperature was quite cool, never reaching 70 degrees.

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Scenic Hwy 128

With the same ugly forecast, we had decided to take another day off on Thursday, but once again the skies cleared during the morning. By noon, Dan was bored with sitting around, so after lunch we headed out for a scenic drive north on Hwy 128, only moments from our RV park entrance. The drive took us through a particularly scenic portion of the Colorado River canyon and in under 20 miles, we turned off the paved highway at a rock formation called Fisher Towers. A short drive up the gravel road, which was pretty smooth with a few exceptions, took us to the base of the magnificent red rock formations, a primitive campground, and a trailhead. Not prepared for a hike, we thought we would save the 4.6 RT hike for another trip, but Dan did go up to take several pictures while I wondered around the area. When we left, a few drops of rain began to fall, which turned into a tiny, brief shower by the time we started down the paved highway headed back home. The weather pattern that had been plaguing us since we arrived finally appeared to be moving on, and the result was to be cooler, clearer days, and blissfully crisp nights. After a short trip into town to get fuel and yet more groceries, we were set for our big adventure the next day.

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Canyonlands NP

We assumed from the weather forecast that Wednesday, October 6, would be a washout, but in spite of early morning rain, the morning turned off clear. With no thunderclouds building, we decided to take a brief look at the Island in the Sky portion of Canyonlands. Even with the park turnoff only about 12 miles north of us, it still took over 45 minutes to get into the national park due to the distance from the main highway. After going to the main scenic overlooks and fighting the high winds around the “edge”, we were ready to depart by 1pm. Since we had brought no lunch, and we needed a grocery stop, we decided to head into town (less than 2 miles away) for lunch at the Moab Brewery and a stop at a couple of stores. There were no impending storms when we went into the restaurant, but when we emerged the wind was blowing about 50mph and the sky was black. We hurried about our errands, but by the time we came out of City Market, it was pouring and the wind was still howling. I feared for the coach awning, bicycles, and windows I had left open, and when we entered the park the first thing we saw was a huge tree, broken off at the main branch, and the second thing we saw was plant debris all over the roads. I just knew we were going to find a mangled awning and at the very least a pile of tangled up bicycles in front of the motorcoach, but we got lucky. The hard, straight-line wind had come from the passenger side of the coach and the only thing it had done was rip the sunshade from its anchor at that corner, leaving it flapping in the wind. There was some concern about damage on the roofs of several neighboring motor coaches, because there were people and in one case a repair person walking on the roofs of two untis later in the day, but as far as we know (my fingers are crossed), we don’t have damage up high. I don’t know what velocity of wind we had, but to take out the main branch of a mature tree, it had to be pretty serious. Once that storm passed the rest of the evening was beautiful, and blissfully cool.

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Hiking in Arches NP

On Tuesday, October 5, 2010, I got up ready for hiking and we decided to do the longest hike at Arches that could be accessed from a paved road, knowing if we did it all, it would be over 7 miles. After our adventurous summer that didn’t seem very long, and certainly the altitude wouldn’t be a problem here. We visited numerous arches, some pretty wonderful and some ho hum, but what I had forgotten from our last visit was the rock scrambling necessary including narrow passes over huge rock ledges, but in spite of the numerous fellow hikers we got through all that, and even went past Double O arch to get to Dark Angel, which other than a nice walk out there is pretty much a waste of time. There must have been hundreds of people spread out on the hiking trails and we found out before we ever started on the primitive loop that there was a water feature that either had to be waded across or rock scrambled around. We had lunch after our walk out to see Dark Angel in an cool, shaded area near the beginning of the primitive loop trail that would intersect the main trail after about 2 miles. After the initial part of the primitive but well marked trail, we began the rock scrambling, having to slide down a few smooth rocks to stay with the trail. Clouds had begun to form and were looking increasingly ominous, and I was hoping to get through the slick rock and water feature parts of the trail before it began to rain on us. There were several good sized pools, but as we made our way through the sometimes narrow wash, we knew it when we came to “the” big pool of water, and as we were told, there was no way around it as the wash was surrounded by steep slick rock. Neither of us wanted to pull off our shoes and socks and wade through the murky water with several pieces of driftwood tossed into it. It was too murky to see the bottom and we had no idea how deep the water was, but it was ugly and long. While I watched nervously, Dan scrambled up the tallest slickrock, and after the first ten feet, it was easier to gain footholds. When he was about 20 feet above me, the rock leveled out a bit and walking was possible and he made his way to the other end of the water feature and working his way down to the trail beyond the pond. Encouraged, but wary, I began to crawl on my hands and feet up the toughest part of the slick rock, finally making it to the minor indentations that served as footholds, and with Dan’s guidance I made my way around the water below, just as the first few raindrops began to fall. Phew! We had made it through what we knew was the toughest part of the trail, especially if all the slick rock was wet. Not long after the huge puddle, we were forced to get out the ponchos which we wore for a while, but the rain never really got serious, and we were able to get out of the hot raingear fairly quickly. It seemed we were always going up as we followed the trail up one little rise after another. We could not believe how many people we met coming in on the trail, in spite of the time of day and impending rain. There were literally dozens, and there were many more that we passed during our last mile of trail. We decided most of the walkers were foreign, because so many we spoke to replied in heavily accented English, or did not respond to us at all. We had made the trip from the upper portion of the primitive trail to the car in 1 and ½ hours, which was pretty good time, considering the difficulty of some of the trail. There was a lot to see going in, but on the way out, with no arches or photo ops and spurred by the possibility of getting wet, we were really hurrying. It is a great trail, our favorite at the National Park as there are about 7 arches to view in 7.2 miles.

That evening, I lounged in the pool before a leisurely shower, and shortly after I returned home, the rain began and it rained on and off all night long. If this area only receives 9 inches of annual rainfall, it sure seems odd that it has rained so much since we have been here, but we have literally seen the grasses turn green in these few days, and several times, the La Sol Mountains have had a nice dusting of snow when the clouds finally moved off of them.

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Driving around Arches NP

Monday, October 4, we awakened to bright sunshine and very few clouds. Unprepared for doing anything because of expected bad weather, it took me a while to warm up to getting out, but by 10am we were on our way up to Arches in our hiking clothes, lunch in the cooler. We had decided to drive and do only short walks to the various sites of interest, and at the end of the day we had only done walks we skipped on our first visit to the park. We started with the walk down through Park Avenue, but only did about 2/3 of the walk through the canyon before turning back. The formations in Park Avenue are uplifts that do resemble skyscrapers and the walk through them is really a unique experience. After Park Avenue we drove out and hiked around the Windows, taking the primitive loop back to the parking lot that takes off at the South Window access. By doing the more primitive, but well established trail, we left many of the crowds of people behind, and got some unique views of the park. Following the Windows, we walked to the Delicate Arch upper viewpoint, a pretty good short climb that led up on a rock ridge facing the arch.

By then it was past lunchtime, so we found ourselves a picnic table with an awesome view, including dark blue storm clouds building over the mountains and enjoyed our lunch. With the clouds rapidly moving in our direction, after lunch we chose only to venture up to the Fiery Furnace viewpoint before heading out of the park for the day. That also left me some late afternoon pool time before a leisurely shower in the really nice bathhouse, just ahead of a nasty line of storms.

By then, we were noticing a pattern, it seemed the mornings would be fine, and the storms would come in the afternoon, like monsoons, only with a vengeance.

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Leaving Colorado

Departed Durango KOA at 9:05.

There couldn’t be a better time to go through Durango during daylight hours, because on Sunday morning, the traffic was incredibly light as we pulled onto the highway and rapidly made our way out of town. We left Highway 160 long before Cortez, taking the familiar State highway 184, which we had traveled many times while in Dolores. It shaved off a lot of miles and the aggravation of going through Cortez, and put us right onto US Highway 491 which dumped us into 191 which we followed north to Moab. The shortcut really shaved off time, and the trip through the rural farmland was pretty. We traveled through plowed up bean farms alternated with lush, dark green alfalfa fields, some just ripe for cutting. Monticello, UT, was an incredibly neat, well cared for town where the wide, well maintained through highway was lined with old fashioned, black, lantern type street lights. Monticello may be just a tourist town existing because of its proximity to the Canyonland’s south entrance, but it is still an impressive little town in the middle of nowhere. As we neared the south side of Moab, there were plenty of “earth on show” so we had to stop for just a few photo ops, but still arrived at Portal RV Resort by 12:30, just ahead of check in time. portal is the only of Moab’s numerous RV parks that is far enough from the busy highway to be quiet. I did not know this when I booked the reservation, but as we traveled the long freshly blacktopped driveway to the office, I knew this was going to be a good thing. The office was closed for lunch, but our name was among many on individual maps with directions to our site, which seemed pretty straightforward. Our site #45 was an end site and we felt intimately familiar with it from looking at the on line site map, but had no idea that the pet yard’s front gate could not be easily be entered without going across our site. That seemed an odd design for the privacy of those occupying site 45, but we did not realize until later that there was a side gate to be accessed through a poorly maintained gravel drive on the driver’s side of our coach. Most people knew the side gate was there, and we only had one woman walk on our concrete pad, right beside our coach to take her dog in and out of the park.

On the good side, the pool, luxurious bathhouse, and spa, is all just across the street behind site 45, AND the pool is heated. Our concrete pad is huge and there is plenty of room between the sites, but the areas around and adjoining the sites are weedy messes, and there is no maintained grass except in the dog park, which is really pretty and well landscaped. The weeds and unkempt area only seems to exist on our row, as the rest of the park appears to be well maintained and landscaped, almost like this is a new row of sites that just hasn’t been sold or finished. The water pressure is wonderful, no worries there, and as expected the electrical pedestal is modern with good power. Aside from the park, the view out all our windows is wonderful, either the nearby red rock formations or the distant mountains, which as I sit here several days later, are freshly covered with snow.

When we arrived it was hot, really, really hot, and the sun was beating on our windshield. Dan went off to Arches to get his new “old age” pass and literature on the parks while I vacuumed up the KOA gravel and got things set up for staying a while. As soon as the sun moved behind a bank of clouds, I rushed out to clean up the front of the coach ahead of Dan putting the sunscreens in place, which according to Dan, wouldn’t be needed this week. He informed me the weather forecast had changed and they were predicting rain the first five days of our time here. For once, I was the optimist, retorting that 50% chance meant we might still get some decent weather, which as it turned out, was mostly the case. That first evening, and for the next 3, we did have nasty weather, but only in the late afternoon or evening each day. The clouds would build into really ugly monsters, and it would blow dust like crazy just before the raindrops started.

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Flashing red light

When I woke up on Sunday, October 3, still disoriented because we weren’t in Creede, the first thing I noticed was a flashing red light at the front of the coach that was different. Flashing red does not usually indicate good things, so upon closer examination, I discovered the leveling system was unhappy, possibly related to the air pressure issues. I was nervous as a cat until Dan got up and I asked him about the light. He and I had come to the same conclusion (he had seen the light during the night), and we hoped we were both right. Our proposed and hopeful explanation: when he had hit the battery disconnect switch to keep the drain off the batteries, it probably had affected the leveling system. Once we were ready, he started the engine, and once again, we had the odd hissing noise, but when he moved forward to hook up the car, the air pressure seemed to build, and he assured me by the time we got the car hooked up that things were okay. Our escort arrived (it is such a narrow road out, the park escorts big rigs), and we wound our way through the tight, narrow, and very long exit road. Once again, Dan assured me all the readings were okay, but he seemed to spend a lot of time looking at the glass dash.

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Just shopping

Saturday, October 2, 2010, we had a relaxed day, the first in a while. I fixed a large, late breakfast and we left to run errands shortly after noon. Most importantly, I wanted to go all the way up to Honeyville to purchase a big supply of their raw, overpriced honey, which I was particularly fond of. Because it was Saturday, lots of people were visiting Honeyville, but we managed to find what we wanted and ended up with at least a half gallon of the raw honey to take back to Texas, ostensibly to share. There was also a Wal-Mart stop, gasoline stop, a City Market run, and finally, an important stop at Serious Texas BBQ. I had done some research and found that City Market also had a store in Moab, so that I did not have to buy the Durango store out. There would be opportunities for more food purchases in Utah. But we got a little overwhelmed by the smell of BBQ smoke when we entered Serious Texas BBQ, and the nostalgia created a buying frenzy there. We came away with a full rack of ribs (a really big one!), a pound of sliced brisket, and at least a half pound of the Elgin,TX, sausage. A combination of a late breakfast, no lunch, and the smell of BBQ in the car caused us to attack the ribs the moment we got home, but we held off on everything else until later in the evening.

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Leaving Creede


Departed Creede at 11:15am

Friday, October 1, 2010, came all too quickly, but with our fountains and lights disconnected, friends gone, and weather just waiting to attack us, it was time to leave. Dan cranked up Kit for a 10:30 departure, and he growled to life, but complained about the cold. Right after the slides were in and the coach was trying to achieve ride height, we could hear something weird at the back of the coach; not the engine, more like air compressor clanking and air hissing.

After Dan walked around the coach a few times, I asked him what was going on. With a stressed look, he replied, “air leak or something, the front is not coming to ride height. ”

Well, even I know that you can’t travel below ride height without doing serious damage, so I wondered what we would do up here in nowhere land. Dan decided to pull carefully off the slab with me watching, hoping that Kit would “wake” up and trigger something to make air go to the front. At first moving out did not seem to help; the coach was sadly tilted down in the front, but the funny noise had stopped. When Dan crawled under the back of the coach to take a look, miraculously, the front began to rise up, soon achieving the proper height, which is really scary: we did not know the cause or the fix! Bob and Joy were the only ones there to see us off, so they kept me company as Dan drove the coach all around the empty campground for a good 10 minutes, checking to make sure the air system would hold pressure. By then, at 11am, the only campers left in the park were workers, so there was lots of room to maneuver around, and all too soon he came back to tell the Collins goodbye and pull me into the coach. My last words were “I don’t want to go!” as he closed the door with me inside. We did get really lucky, because with all the distraction of the rough start, Dan had poured himself a mug of coffee and left it on the kitchen counter, where it stayed until he mentioned it to me many miles down the road. It was balanced halfway off the cutting board and had not even sloshed out. Amazing! And oh so lucky.

When we were finally safely underway with air pressure behaving, we made a pact to regularly do things over the winter to keep Kit in moving condition such as starting him up, raising him to ride height, pulling in the slides, and driving him somewhere, anywhere, during the middle of the winter. The trip over Wolf Creek Pass was a slow one, but the trees were beautiful, there were a few waterfalls, and the valley going over to Pagosa was amazing with the fall colors and lush green of the valley. Since we had such a late start, we had to improvise a bit to find a place to pull off for lunch between Pagosa and Durango, but Dan found us a wide spot before we starved to death. After lunch, we could see the storm clouds building but they held off until we could get to the KOA and get parked in SPACE # 42, which was plenty long and level enough for Kit. Immediately, we started draining the hot water heater and spent what seemed hours in the process, stirring up an unbelievable amount of mineral deposits and then trying to get them out via the faucets. It does not seem to help our problem, but we go through the exercise diligently, anyway. The rain never amounted to more than lightening “over there” and a few well spaced drops, and I was able to spend some of the evening cleaning the bugs off of Kit while the clouds blocked the sun. I was still in a funk about leaving, but was finally warming to the idea of traveling again.

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