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Why We Travel

We’ve always enjoyed travelling together. Whether to Sante Fe in the winter, Savannah in the spring, time living in Germany, racing in Oklahoma or New England or Scotland … travel has been something we’ve shared and been invigorated by.

But these adventures started at a distinct point in time … Paul and I decided to take a road trip in November of 2013. We have done other shorter adventures in the past, but this would be three weeks of traveling. We made up a loose plan to head down to New Orleans, make our way to Big Bend National Park in Texas and then wind our way back to PA. We filled our Honda Fit with all our gear, tents, running shoes, bikes etc.. and headed South. The trip went well and stirred up a desire in both of us to travel more. You can see the pictures from that trip.

Paul’s parents have been travelling around Europe for several years in a camper van, an idea which became more appealing to him as time went by. He turned 50 shortly after we arrived home and announced that he wanted to buy a Sprinter van and customize it for traveling. I thought he might be joking but he actually bought  a van via e-bay and that was that. I am glad he measured our driveway first because the van barely fits in it. The winter and spring of 2014, and later the early winter of 2014/2015 saw a huge amount of work to outfit the van with solar power, cabinets, bedding and more. You can follow that continuing story over on the build thread at Sprinter-Forum.

There is nothing better than exploring a new place to make you feel alive and present. It could be running the canyon trails in Texas, cycling in Colorado, wading across the Escalante River, camping under the stars, eating local flavors, swimming with the fishes, hiking the Wonderland trail. These are the memories I want to remain with me. I feel grateful for the possibility.

To Wisconsin and Back September 2023

Visiting my mom is a journey in itself. I set out in the late afternoon from our home in Galisteo with Billy Goat. I wasn’t feeling well (pretty f*cking bad actually) but I needed to see my mom and how she was doing after a nasty fall. I drove until it was dark past Las Vegas , NM and Springer and slept at a rest area on 56. Poor Billy Goat had to deal with my cough and restlessness. As soon as the sun rose we headed through Kansas and parked for the evening at Brown State fishing lake. It was a lovely sunset but I had a hard time enjoying it. The lake was empty except for one other person. Quiet and free. The next evening I was at my mom’s and spent and enjoyable week with her. Thankfully I felt much better.
My sister Carrie decided to drive back with me. It was so nice to have her along and made the journey way more interesting with her playlists and podcasts. We left from Madison and stayed our first night in Lake Annita SP. in Iowa. It was a stormy evening but we were cozy in the van. Not many people in the park either. We took a little morning stroll along a path that goes around the whole lake. Back on Hwy 80 for awhile an then we headed to Little Jerusalem Bad Lands SP. There we went on a nice long hike to shake out our legs.Surorisingly beautiful hidden gem. We camped nearby at Historic Lake Scott SP with a view of the lake. Quiet and peaceful. In the mornng we did a trail run around the park which ended up being longer(and harder) than we expected. Whew! We got back to Glaisteo and home in time for dinner.

To Seattle and Back

I went the easy way to Seattle, by van. Paul on the otherhand rode his bike. He headed out three weeks prior and although I did help him out Day # 1: Camping at Abiqui Lake, the rest of the time he was solo.

On my drive I stayed overnight at Angel Peak Campground in N.M. Very pretty canyon and free! Just a bit off the road. The next day was a crazy long drive for me and Billy Goat. We landed at Balanced Rock County Park in Idaho. The water, singing birds and a nice trail were amazing and helped us relax and sleep well. Another free place.

Driving West early the next morning, I enjoyed the Idaho countryside. Stunning. I took a short hike in the Yakama Valley with Billy midday. Very hot. We met Paul on Vantage Hwy. where we picked him up for the night and camped at Sand Hollow Rec. Site. Nice cool Columbia River to swim in.

Next morning we meet up with the Matza Family, (Max, Kim, Zoe, Mike and Linda). We have a nice brunch and catch up a bit. Then I drive to Seattle and Paul finishes his last day on the bike. We stay at Bridget and Andrew’s home. Lovely walks in the Ravenna each day. Hike in Discovery Park, ride 1/2 around the lake with Bridget, Hannah and Sophie make us a tasty dinner. Paul and I spend a few days/nights on Orcas Island. We stop at Cap Sante viewpoint before the ferry. Camping at Moran S.P. in the northend campground. Billy and I walk around the lake in the morning. Doe Bay for a private soak, wow! Love this place.

Hike to the beach at Obstruction Pass. There are places to camp but all walk in. On our last day we hike up Mt. Constitution to the tower and back down. Drinks at Julia’s home on the water. Dinner at King Fish. A very late ferry back and drive to Seattle.

Carrie and George arrived. We walk and have lunch nearby. Paul makes dinner and early to bed. In the morning Carrie and George start on their bike ride across the country. Andrew and Bridget send them off at Anacortes. Paul and Hannah ride bikes, Billy and I run around Green Lake. I help Bridget with plants. Dinner at Magneson Brewery with Hannah and Sophie. Chilly out by the water.

Next day we have breakfast with Sophie and Hannah and eat on the lawn by their home. Then we head out to meet up with George and Carrie on the drive over to Winthrop. They needed some help and we were glad to be there. We drove to Brenda and Dennis’s house to stay for the night. Take out pizza and early bed.

I ride my bike the next day with George and Carrie. Warm weather but manageable. We end up in Omak at City RV Park. No one warned us about sprinklers!!! Carrie and George got woken up before sunrise. Carrie takes a ride day off and I go with George. We stop for some treats at the Tomasket Food Co-op. We meet up for camping at a private RV(rugged) spot in Wauconda. Turned out to be pretty nice. Next morning George and Carrie head out. We meet in Republic which is a cute town and it has a Food Co-op too!(more eggsalad for George) I ride the rest of the day over Sherman Pass. Camping at Canyon Creek FS campground. We soak our legs in the cool water.

Next morning we sadly leave Carrie and George and start our way back home. We have dinner in Butte Montana at Casagranda’s Steak House which was good but a bit pricey. Free camping at Homestake NF dispersed camping.

Today we drive to Yellow Stone and do the slow crawl through the park. Nice moments and views. Grand Teton is next and I loved this park. Stopped for lunch and a walk on the beach. Getting tired I found a camp ground off our road (US 191). Big Sandy West campground(Free) with mountain views but a lot of bugs. Quiet and a really pretty sunset.

We made a stop in Colorado at Freemont Pass and hiked around a lake. We actually had some snow to get through and it started snowing on us. Fun! For our last night out we camp in the San Luis Valley, Villa Grove (by the water tank) Stary skies, nice hike, quiet and views! All free! In the morning we make our way home. What a journey!

Race in Texas

Paul and I left on a Thursday , March 9th, to travel toTexas where I would meet up with my friend Gene Dykes. To make the journey a bit more comfotable we chose to do it in two days. We headed south on 285 to 40 E through Clovis then took 84 south to Lake Colorado City SP. Paul picked a spot by the water but it was a bit strange to see the lights of the power plant across the lake. Warm showers were a plus but otherwise we probably won’t be returning. Next morning we headed south through Eldorado Texas where Paul got his first speeding ticket. (school zone) He was distracted by a good podcast. J and J Reunion race was just outside of Rocksprings TX. Long bumpy dirt road to get to Camp Eagle. Bad news is that the camp does not allow dogs! What?? No one bothered to tell us so this put a damper on the weekend. Gene arrived on Friday and we discussed plans and went to bed early. Nice day for a race and although I could have probably done the 50 miles(Gene finished) I decided to DNF and go 30 miles. I wasn’t particulary fond of the course , rocks, roots and then it was way to hot for me mid day. Gene fell more than once and I kinda wanted to get into the river and hang with my dog. (Paul too)
After good byes we left on Sunday to head home this time taking the lower route. (90) So beautiful and makes me want to go back to Big Bend again. We headed to Balmorhea for a swim with the fishes . Lucky us going this way so soon after our last trip. Back on 285 heading north to home, we spent the night in the undeveloped area of Brantley Lake SP closer to the dam. It was pleasant and cheaper with nice views, and clean pit toilets. Headed out in the morning for home.

Long Holiday Travel Loop

We decided to leave our home in New Mexico on December 14th, 2022. Our daughter Rachel and husband Ozzy invited us for Christmas and we decided to make the journey in our van. This way we could bring our dog, Billy Goat and make some stops along the way there and back. Our normal routine is to clean up and pack up and head out in the late evening. We stay overnight in the van at the rest area outside of Las Vegas, NM. We can get an early morning start from there.

Making our way North we drove through familiar territory stopping for breakfast at a roadside rest stop on 412 after Springer. Lunch? Can’t remember but it was a local park. We camped for the night at Mushroom Rock S.P. in Kansas. There was room for our van to park level but not much more. Super quiet and the mushroom rocks were brilliant. Nice find!

The next day we realized we had an issue with the van (terrible front wheel alignment) so we headed to Omaha, Nebraska where we thought a Mercedes dealer could help. While Paul went in search of options, Billy Goat and I ran around Wehrspann Lake in the Chalco Hills Recreation Area. Thankfully the van was fixed and we could continue on. We stayed overnight ar the Cedar Rapids rest area. Clean Bathrooms but a bit noisy.

The next day, Paul’s birthday, we drove towards Madison, WI. We had a nice breakfast at a rest area and then arrived mid day to Anne and Pat’s. Paul wanted to deliver some gin to friends he met in Prague…then we went to dinner with Anne, Pat, Carrie and George. We cuddled up and watched Love Actually and drank more wine and ate chocolate. Billy and Maeve are the best dog cousins now. So cute.

I always wish we could hang in Madison longer but we really needed to head out to mom’s. We bought some food to make a nice dinner or two. Mom looked good and we enjoyed spending three relaxing nights at her place. We decided to depart Wednesday morning early beacause of bad weather arriving.

The drive started out well and we made in to Ohio without any issues. For dinner we stopped at the Biker Brew House microbrewery inside a Harley-Davidson dealership. It was a bit strange yet we enjoyed the Quizo that everyone was doing and the baked goods from the table next to us. Oh, and the beer was very tasty. We camped for the night a little ways further at a Park and Ride in West Middlesex, P.A.

The worst travel day was on I-80 in PA heading to Lansdale. We hit a snow storm and of course traffic accidents and visability made it slow going. It added at least 3 hours…

Lansdale and Philadelphia, celebrating with friends and family for a few weeks. Hikes in parks, soaking at the Russian-Turkish Bath house in Southhampton, running in the Wissahickon, food, cheer, music and making memories.

After a really nice farewell dinner at Nancy Bea Miller and Paul Down’s home, we slept outside in our van for an early departure. Heading south now, we stopped at the Barton’s (Hannah’s maternal grandparents) home to chat and share a late lunch. We found a place to rest overnight in Elizabeth Furnace N.F. (Virginia). We could hear the rushing water through the night as the river was nearby. In the morning Billy Goat and I ran up a trail and back. There was so much moisture in the air I had to take some layers off.

Our plan was to drive a long distance on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but we ended up with road closures due to fallen trees, etc.. It turned out okay and we made it to Stone Mountain S.P. in North Carolina for the night. The campground was very quiet with only one other camper. The Big Sandy Creek was right outside the windows for a pleasant sound. Paul had some stomach issues and spent a good part of the night in the warm, clean bathhouse. Paul and I decided to do a hike in the morning and we are so glad that we did. The over 4 mile trail was spectacular with a large waterfall, a huge stone mountain, and then a climb for an expansive view of this part of the Appalachian chain.

We arrived in Asheville a bit late in the afternoon bit still got to see some of the beautifully preserved historic downtown buildings. The Grove Arcade with its shops and glass ceilings, the Woolworth Walk that still has the old soda fountain and now houses many artists. Then we headed to the River Arts district to grab a beer from The Wedge and enjoy a delicious dinner at All Souls Pizza.

Driving a bit out of Asheville we boondocked by the Pigeon River in the Pisgah N.F. Big parking space that we found on ioverlander. Up and out early, we waited to have breakfast at the Dandridge Dock in TN. There was a pull off that was better than the dock area. We did a long driving day and then grabbed take out from Betty B’s in Forest City, AR. Really good, authentic barbeque place. Boondocking again we parked in the Shefield-Nelson Dagmar WMA in Arkansas even though it felt a bit dark and creepy. The full moon rising didn’t help much.

The morning brought the sounds of gunshots. I put on my florescent vest and headed out for a quick explore run with Billy Goat. Cool marshy woods with a river, lake and miles of trees. Less scary in the day light and kinda cool looking. Would be a good movie setting.

We had another long drive day and ended up in Brownwood, Texas. We parked the van and splurged on a nice dinner at The Turtle restaurant. We made reservations earlier for Brownwood Lake SP so we could pull right in and go to sleep. In the morning I had a long run (18 miles) planned so I got up early and started out on park trails. There were some great rocky ridge trails but I preferred the 3 mile loop that I repeated a few times. Surprisingly it turned out okay and I felt pretty good. Paul made me a big breakfast after a shower and we made our way out towards west Texas.

Since we had no real options for where to sleep I went on ioverlander and found a rest area in Pecos county highly reviewed. Normally we try and avoid them but it turned out to be really nice. We could park the van towards a field and the noise from trucks overnight was minimal. Plus it was super clean, beautifully maintained, had a nature walk and a small museum.

For a real treat we stopped at Balmorhea, SP to swim with the fishes in the spring fed 1.75 acre pool. The water is always at 72-76 degrees so even though the air temperature was cold, we could swim for quite awhile.

Arriving in New Mexico we made a reservation for 1:30 pm at Carlsbad Caverns N.P. Not very many people there on a Monday and the caverns were super quiet. You feel as though you stepped into another world or alien planet.

We spent a little money to camp at Brantley Lake, S.P. for our last evening on the trip. The New Mexico wind picked up but it felt soothing. The morning brought a gorgeous sunrise that we watched through the van windows.

A very sunny, windy ride home the next day and a quick stop in Roswell for an alien encounter ends it all. After about 5,000 miles we arrived back home in Galisteo.

A Wedding in California

Friends of ours from Philadelphia, Linda and Mike, invited us to their daughter Zoe’s wedding. Why not? We can drive the van out to California for the weekend. We left on a Wednesday from home and landed in Flagstaff for the night. We decided to sleep near Lower Lake Mary in the National Forest. It was starting to get dark and the forest had a bunch of campers in it already. We went a bit further and found the perfect spot. Quiet, woods on one side and marshy water on the other. In the morning it was cool and misty but we set out for a 6 mile run to explore. Great trails to run on, although one trail that we went on was a dead end. If you can get a map, do it.

Instead of staying on Interstate Hwy 40, we took a long detour on historic Route 66 through Oatman. You can imagine the cars and travelers going around these windy bends and feeling nostalgic.

View to the north from Sitgreaves Pass

We believe the old route went this way because there were already established mining roads. Pretty crazy drive though with the added free roaming burros to boot. The town felt a bit rough around the edges but you get a feel of what it might have been.

Paul found a pay campsite, Bonita Falls, near San Bernardino and we pulled in there for the night. It was an okay campsite with showers, plug-in etc. We did enjoy hiking up to the waterfall after arriving. Not very far and it was pretty impressive even with all the graffiti rocks. There were too many dogs barking at night to sleep well.

bonita falls
falls pool with julie & mr goat

In the morning we did a 9 mile hike/run up Middle Fork Road to the Stone House Crossing Campground area. It was lovely and difficult at the same time. We got back and showered and headed to the Leta Hotel in Goleta. We parked in the back lot and after walking Billy Goat, dressd for the evening. Merriment with old neighbors and friends.

Wedding Day: We went for a run from the hotel down to Goleta Beach Park on a nice trail. Sadly I fell and hurt my shoulder pretty good. (not paying attention) Back at hotel we showered and dressed for an amazing wedding day for Dan and Zoe. We dropped Billy Goat off at a dog sitter and got on a shuttle to an event space. Lovely all around!

Beach day for people and dogs! We went to Campus Point beach to relax and enjoy the water with Mike, Linda, Zoe, Dan and family. Billy Goat loved this! Running around after Mello and other dogs. We were planning to drive inland for the night but got a late start and decided to sleep right directly on the Pacific Coast Hwy 1 just past Rincon Point. It was a bit strange to be parked next to big RVs but the sound of the ocean was worth it for a night. Mornings are particularly noisy with car traffic and for the high cost we probably wil not do that again.

William T. Goat at the Pacific Ocean

Heading back to New Mexico we made one stop at the Lavic Volcanic Field to take a break, eat lunch and roast in the black earth. We actually picked up our dog a few times as we were worried about his feet. There are suppossed to be pretty cool cave here but we just hiked up the mound and down. Might be nicer on a cooler day.

BLM land for the night near the Wabayuma Peak Wilderness. Just off hwy 40 and pretty easy to get to, although you have to drive in about a mile or two to get the best spot. Fantastic!

Zion Crossing Trip

My friend Gene Dykes asked if I would like to join him and some other folks on a run crossing of Zion National Park. We made plans to cross in 2020 but it was cancelled because of covid. Thankfully this year we were able to have the go ahead.

Paul and I left our home on Tuesday, May 3rd 2022. We offered our home for the week to fire evacuees that lost their home in the Mora area of NM. We stopped in ABQ to fill the van with food supplies and headed to Flagstaff. There we parked and walked around then met up with friends Shari and Paul for dinner at Swaddee Thai. Our friends offered their driveway for the night and we slept well. Billy Goat and I took a morning walk on the forest road before saying our goodbyes.

I love breakfast trucks so when Paul stopped for gas I jumped out to order a breakfast burrito at one in between the Circle K and Cinders Liquors on 89 N leaving Flagstaff.(Definitely recommend) We then drove on a bit and stopped at a favorite spot on Loop Road 545 to make coffee and eat. Continuing on 89 N is a lovely drive. We stopped on the Historic Navajo Bridge for a leg stretch and watched rafters below in the Colorado River.

We drove along the Vermillion Cliffs and stopped for lunch in the National Forest just past the North Rim Road to the Grand Canyon. It is hard to tire of this drive even though we have done it before. Our meet up place was La Verkin, UT at an airbnb. We parked in the driveway and Christine and Brent were already there. After the rest of the gang arrived, (Gene, Candy and Nicole) we had a meeting about the next day plans and headed to bed early.

Zion Crossing: Up before dawn and walk Billy Goat, breakfast, then head to Lee Pass where we start our journey. The sun is already rising so we don’t need a torch for long. Its cool, almost chilly but if we keep running at a slow pace I find it mostly comfortable. La Verkin creek trail winds along Timber creek then hits La Verkin Creek. This was my favorite part of the day, criss crossing the creek with the huge canyon walls on both sides. The sand slows us down and some have wet feet. We meet back up with Paul around mile 14 , Hop Valley, for our only aide station. The rest of the run was stops and starts, ooohs and aaaaahs. Very hard descent back into Zion to get to the Visitors area where Paul was waiting with pizza. 37+ miles and I am totally spent.

Bryce Canyon and Capital Reef: I have never been to Bryce Canyon before and was wowed immediately. After walking Billy on the ridge we hiked/ran a bit of the canyon. Gene had some other plans for the day so we made it quick.

Back on the road we turned right a little after Boulder, UT onto back roads of Capitol Reef. When I say back roads, I mean 4wd roads. Gene showed us some amazing spots though so it was worth the crazy, bumpy ride. After driving through Singing Canyon(Long Canyon) and eating some lunch, we headed to Strike Valley Overlook. We let Billy Goat do the short out and back with us, even though the sign said no dogs. He was so happy to be with the group for a bit. Afterwards we drove a long way back through the park to an airbnb in Teasdale where we parked in the driveway and slept to mooing cows.

Strike Valley (from “Strike Valley Overlook”)

Goblin Valley SP and Wild Horse Canyon: Breakfast, pack up and drive back through the heart of Capitol Reef and on to Goblin Valley State Park. Here we just let loose and explored the place. You can have dogs hike with you which made Billy Goat happy. He was jumping up on rocks and cliff formations.

Next we went to run in some slot canyons. We chose the Wild Horse loop which was about 9 miles. It was getting a bit hot but the shade and wind helped keep us mostly cool. There was some technical scrambling and we had to lift Billy a few times. Toward the end we took off running and searching for shade.

The wind picked up and dust covered everything. Glad to be back in the van and heading to Moab. Here the airbnb had a sweet pool so Paul and I cleaned up and went for a swim. Afterwards the whole gang met for dinner at Arches Thai. John and Jen came too and spent the night in the airbnb. Paul and I went to BLM land just North of Moab to snooze.

Canyonlands Needles Area: In the morning we could see clearly that we parked close to the Bar M trails where Gene and I did the Arches Ultra race in 2019. After a Billy’s walk we headed into Moab and had coffee and breakfast at Nuclear Bean Coffee in the Moab food truck park.

Yummy and a very tasty sauce for the breakfast burrito. We drive back to the gang and then meet up at Elephant Hill trail head for our day run/hike. It was already windy but we ran into the park and it was one of the best days on the trip. The running was easy and the caves, slot canyons and views were spectacular. It took us about 5 hours to do our lollipop loop and after saying goodbyes we started for home.

We only made it to Monticello before the winds and dust-filled sky made us find refuge in the National Forest. We went towards Lloyd’s Lake and continued on the forest road (5255)to park behind some trees for the night.

Making our way back home: In the morning it was much calmer. It was a pretty drive with a breakfast stop in Cortez at a little park on Denny Lake. We made our way through Durango, Pagosa Springs and stopped again for lunch at Heron Lake SP. The lake was pretty sad and the water level very low. No boats could use the ramp. We enjoyed lunch, paid the $5 and left.

We make a few more stops before arriving home safely. Whew!

Baja/Southern Arizona/New Mexico

When the start of a journey is as crazy as ours, I was wondering if we should postpone. We woke up at our home in Galisteo and it was 6F (-14.4C). The van did not want to start! I had an early morning appointment so by the time I got back, Paul had most things ready to go. We headed to Hwy 40 through ABQ and then hit a traffic jam and accident. No worries, we have time. But then…..our route gets diverted because of snow and we go all the way to Flagstaff before heading south. The snow is bad and goes down to a single lane for awhile. We make it to Fountain Hills and my cousin Kelly and Mark’s home. They waited to have a late dinner with us (so sweet) and we sleep parked in their driveway.

The next morning Billy and I hike/run up Sunrise Peak. Wow! So glad to finally do a trail here.

When we get back, Paul says there are more van issues and we head out after breakfast to an RV parts place and get a new water pump. Yes! It works. We head back on the road and try to find BLM land. We get stuck in some sand in California and Paul digs us out. We decide to find a better camp spot. Butterfly Dunes BLM Land has a flat camping area with pit toilets. Lots of ATV peeps there but its safe and quiets down.

Billy and I wake early while the stars are out. The dunes look shimmery and cool in the dawn light. When Paul gets up we head to the border crossing where there are no issues getting into Mexico. Head down Hwy 5 to San Felipe and stop at public beach. Billy gets his first taste of ocean water.

first beach in Baja at San Felipe

Going further we stop at La Poma, but directions took us the wrong way and again we are stuck in the sand. Luckily there are many nice folks who help us out. We park on the beach next to a palapas. We decide to have dinner there also and it was really good, fresh fish tacos and platters. The beach is excellent for shell seekers although too cold to swim.

Our next destination is Bahia de Los Angeles and Playa La Gringa. The views and access to water are perfect for free camping. (except no banos). Very windy but I do a short run with Billy on coastal trails. They remind me of the coast in Spain. We spend a good couple days exploring the beach, hiking and looking at star fish.

Paul bought a SUP board which was great to use in the bay. Billy got his first scary ride on the board but he was super brave. Paul makes pizza on the beach and we have a least one roaming coyote who likes the smell

Sunset at Playa la Gringa

Paul needs some brief internet connectivity so we head to Camp Archelon closer to the town of Bahia de Los Angeles. We camp really close to the other guests. I am not in love with this location but they do have some nice amenities like a photo show, small restaurant, wi-fi, showers (mostly cold) and banos. If you rent a hut it could be different.

Heading back north we arrive at Campo Tourista Puertocitas and I jump in the warmer water of the bay. There are natural hot springs in the rocks here. We enjoy a good soak before dinner. The town has a strange feeling. We saw an artist working on a mural and many sculptures scattered about. We heard that the economy and a hurricane caused the decline and many properties were destroyed.

We do a morning soak also and there are quite a few people there. I still would recommend if soaking is your thing. $34 dollars or 600 pesos a night. Pricey for Baja but gated, safe, nice people, and quiet in the night.

Paul and Billy in/by the beach hot springs

Again on our way North we stay one night at Betel Residence 2 which is a defunct and destroyed RV park that Rueben manages. At one point there was a shwanky club house and a swim up pool bar. Now the sand has reigned king and everything is falling apart. We were surprised that the toilets flushed in the camping area. We went on a beach adventure here to find hot springs we read about. It was a lot of fun but the springs were only tepid. Super quiet as hardly anyone was there.

The border crossing on the way back was a bit longer but not too bad. Extended drive day so we got to Picacho Peak SP late where we stayed in the over flow area. A sunset to die for! We showered in the am and shopped in Tucson before heading out to Kentucky Ranch where the race starts the next day. Super windy and colder than I would like.

Gene Dykes meets me in the morning and we head out on a 50 mile adventure. The Old Pueblo Trail Race is the oldest in Arizona and it is way harder than we both expected.

Landscape near the race, looking towards Mt. Wrightson (9456′)

We try and run together but in the end we are separated. I wait at the mid point and when Gene shows up he is bloodied but ready to head back out even after I try and talk him out of it. I again go faster and try to beat sunset which I don’t. I did manage to be the last female and Gene the overall last finisher so hooray! Paul and I sleep at race site again.

Next day we pack and head not too far over to BLM land – Las Cienegas. There are many camp sites but most are filled. We pull into one and go for a walk. You can actually go through the cow gate at the end and reach more dispersed camping. That also looked nice and a bit more private. We visit Empire Ranch and view some of their artifacts, history and trails. Paul fills the van up with water there too.

History at La Cienegas

I am in the mood for a dip in water. We hoped to camp at Patagonia Lake SP. but dogs are only allowed in day area. We have lunch and use the SUP board there. Billy goes for a ride and scares some of the birds hiding in the marshy inlets on the side of the lake. So many birds!!

In Patagonia Paul talks with RAAM legends Susan and Lon Notorangelo, still leading PAC Tours (this one seemed to mostly off-road in the surrounding part of southern AZ). Cute town and the only one “on” the Arizona Trail (the actual trail crosses a road a couple of miles out of town). A local tell us about Harshaw an old ghost town. We end up camping there for the night next to a cemetery and one old adobe home.

It was fine in the evening but a mining company, South 32, is working on the Hermosa Project right now and they started driving by early. Controversial in the area because of water rights, traffic, pollution etc.

Next we stopped in Tombstone, really a tourist place but tacky and could be fun with a bunch of friends. We didn’t stay for a gun fight show.

Bisbee has been on my radar for awhile now. An artsy old mining town that was revamped in the 60’s and is still going through changes. We loved the stairs, art, shops and interesting people.

Paul looked up an Ardour user and we had a delicious Vietnamese dinner at Thuy with Jordan, his wife Nila and two sons Sequoia and Tanha. We park our van outside their home for the night. Steam Punk design and some really cool trailers in the back yard that they created and were shown at the Eclipse Festival. Lots of dogs and two puppies for Billy Goat to play with. Good conversations and budding new friendships.

Wake up a bit late a do a short morning walk. You can see the border wall in the distance. Boo. More morning conversation and a yummy breakfast. We say our goodbyes and head to Chiricahua National Monument. Paul and I do a short 3.8 mile hike on the Echo Canyon loop. Spectacular rock formations and that glowed as the sun was going down through the canyon.

No more available camping so we go just outside the park and down a forest road (very washboarded) about 5 miles and camp next to a dry river bed. Many dispersed campers.

Not wanting to drive (bounce) out the 5 miles, Billy and I do a morning run and meet up with Paul at the end. Now to journey home, but not without a soak. Riverbend in TOC is completely full so we go back to Faywood Hot Springs near City of Rocks SP. Paul enjoys the drive on a long dirt road called Whitewater, that cuts out going up to Silver City.

60mph on this dirt road. Whee!

Arriving in early afternoon, Paul soaks most of the day while I soak, nap, hike a bit with Billy. Very funky place, clothing optional, peacocks, stone ring and star chair and places for tents, RVs, vans, and cabin rentals. The whole place could use a bit of polish but we appreciate its tenacity.

Heading home was uneventful. A quick stop in ABQ for late lunch at Poki Poki Cevicheria an interesting Asian fusion place. Paul shops at Whole Foods, one accident on I25 north with a delay, and then the quiet roads heading to our home in Galisteo. Ahhhh….

Colorado- 550

Paul and I have always wanted to drive the length of 55O in Colorado. Our daughter Rachel invited us up to Palisade, CO. for her 30th birthday so we figured, why not? We started in the late afternoon and only made it as far as some BLM land in NM. Nice thing is that there are plenty of places to pull off and sleep when you get tired, and it is usually pretty scenery.

a BLM pull-off for the night (a little sandy, but we didn’t get stuck)

We planned a hike on the Ice Lake trail outside of Silverton. It had just reopened because of a forest fire the previous year. Most of the fire happened down low on the trail so only a small portion of the trail was affected. The trail was a challenging climb but very doable when slow and steady.

When we reached the top it was much cooler and we were treated to some spectacular views and aqua blue lakes.

Going down was much quicker and we even ran some segments.

After our hike we headed north through Ouray and then looked for a place to stop for the night. We thought maybe Ridgeway SP but it looked uninviting as the water was so low. Paul spotted a sign and we drove into Billy Creek State Wildlife area. They have designated spots for camping but we were thrilled to find a beautiful, free place in quiet, open land. The wind kicked up for a bit but then settled down in time for sleep.

Horses at Billy Creek in the morning

The next morning we finished the drive to Palisade. Maps took us through the Escalante State wildlife area which was lovely and marshy looking. We met up with the kids at the Palisade Farmers Market on Sunday around 10 am. Very impressive for such low population but Grand Junction is only 10 minutes away. The wine festival was underway at 11 am. so we ate breakfast and headed to Liat and Brandon’s place to park. We all rode bicycles to the Wine Fest and sipped, danced, and bought some stuff till 4pm.

Paul and I checked into the James. M Robb S.P and showered, rested etc.. then we met up with the kids for dinner in Palisade. Everyone a bit sleepy, we called it an early night.

Rachel wanted to go on a hike for her birthday so we headed up to the Grand Mesa. Liat knew a sweet out and back that showed the beautiful Fall colors of the aspen trees, next to running water and the valley below.

the birthday girl at Land’s End

We drove out to Land’s End afterwards and then Ozzy did some impressive driving down a windy gravel road for 18 miles.

Paul cooked a yummy dinner for everyone. We had wine, cake, songs, and a full moon to boot.

The next day we traveled back the same way we came although turning at Durango.. We did one stop for a crazy hike at Mill Creek and I don’t recommend the outback part. Stay on the road! Although I did see a porcupine face to face, which was cool.

the site of the infamous Mill Creek bushwacking incident

After that whole experience, we needed a soak so Paul drove all the way to Pagosa Springs and we sat in the free Nathan’s Hippy Dip hot springs. The warm/hot water felt so good and you can cold plunge in the river. Driving on with the night creeping in, we pulled over on 285 and the Continental Divide to eat dinner. Then Paul sailed us all the way home by the light of the moon.

Quick Trip to Wisconsin

Paul and I have been making many trips to Wisconsin and back and find it hard to change our route much. We normally spend one or two overnights in the van. This trip was for my father’s memorial in August. We started out on the evening of Aug. 16 and slept in the rest area outside of Las Vegas, NM. Quiet enough and gets us on the road early. On this trip we decided to check out Manhattan, Kansas. We pulled into Tuttle Creek S.P but it didn’t look like a good lake to swim on that side. The Big Blue River that flows into the Kansas River was damed to create a large recreation area. It was starting to get dark so we moved on until we found a sweet spot. Brown’s State fishing lake is in the Northeastern corner of Kansas. Free camping and porta potties plus a quiet except for frogs, birds and crickets chirping. We did a little walk around in the morning when we awoke.

parked in/on the lake

After spending a really nice time in Wisconsin, swimming in lakes, eating corn on the cob, and singing sweet songs, we headed back home.

Somewhere on 151 outside of Dubuque, Iowa, Paul and I hit a crazy storm. We listened to the radio which scared us with alert sirens. We pulled over by a corn field and waited until it mostly passed. I think there where gusts of winds around 80 mph. I was pretty freaked out. We got a late start traveling so we ended up in a rest area on I80 outside Omaha in Kansas for the night. (way too warm)

Highway Sunset

We decided to drive through Denver the next day on 285 and camp for the night in some cool mountain air. We stopped at a National Forest Park on the Kenosha Pass. Paul did some daring off road driving but we ended up in a legit spot for the night. Super pretty and chilly night air.

The way back on 285 is pleasant. We stopped for coffee and walked around Salida, a cute, artsy mountain town that is worth a visit.

The rest of the way we have traveled before but it was nice to change it up a bit.


My good friend in Philadelphia, Gene Dykes, asked me if I would like to join him and his daughter Hilary on a running trip in Yosemite. I have never paid money for a organized running trip before but I also have never been to Yosemite and wanted to experience the park the best way possible. The trip exceeded my expectations.

Paul and I left New Mexico and headed to Flagstaff on July 4th. We had planned to park in the National Forest overnight but found all forest access closed due to fires. We found a quiet spot on Lake Mary Rd. near a trail head where rain softly lulled us to sleep.

Up early in the morning, we drove to the next town Williams. Williams is a gateway to the Grand Canyon and is a cool historic looking town. There is a train that runs from the town to the Grand Canyon. Many hotel, motels, and places to stay. Route 66 shops, restaurants and places dating back to early 1900’s.

We drove west on I-40 and did one bypass on Historic Route 66 going through Peach Springs, Valentine etc. Sounds nicer than the actual places but a good diversion and quiet road. Next up on I-40 was the Mojave Desert where temperatures reached 108 degrees, according to the van thermometer. In Bakersfield, CA. we took 65 which had less traffic but was probably slower. There was oil drilling at first but then the farms began to line the roadside.

We booked a night stay at Millerton Lake S.P. near Fresno. The place was still a little busy after the 4th of July weekend and pretty hot until the sun went down. I took an evening dip in the lake and had a proper swim in the morning before heading to Yosemite.

Aspire Running Adventures is the group that organized my trip. I met up with everyone at a cool place called Flying Spur which you had to go through the park to get to. It is an old property that John Muir once had a cabin on. The owners were gracious to have us all park there. After a meet and greet and a yummy salmon dinner, we talked about our itinerary. There were a few people who wanted to get up before dawn and run to El Capitan to watch the sun rise. Of course Gene was game so Hilary and I said yes too. That meant getting up at 2 am!!!

Day 1 of running: Big Oak Flat to Porcupine Creek

So I did not sleep much. I said good-bye to Paul who would have his own adventure, and got into a van taking us to the trailhead. Trent, Nick (our photographer ) and Frederic (a very fast runner)started running ahead of us. It was completely dark and mostly wooded. We had our lights to guide the way and had a goal of reaching the top of El Capitan by sunrise. It was all up, up, up and Gene was starting to fall behind. Hilary and I decided to keep going and we made it there to see the sun cresting in the distance. Gene arrived not to long after and we all had a good break up top. The rest of the day we enjoyed a slower pace taking in views at Eagle Peak, dipping in Yosemite creek, and heading out to North Dome. The day was long, beautiful, exhausting, stimulating, all at the same time. How alive do you feel in the wilderness and in nature? I feel truly alive.

After getting back to our new camp at Tioga Lake, we set up our tents, swam, ate dinner and went to bed early. I slept well because I basically passed right out.

Day 2: Lakes Basin

Not so early of a start today. A smaller group opted to do the whole run. Frederic and Brittany lead the way but those speedies soon dropped us. Gene, Hilary, Shaun, Kara and I went a bit slower. I loved the water and views of this loop. Shaun and I tried to out run the swarms of mosquitos in the woods. We took a break and let the others catch up. I decided to go off on my own in order to get to the lakes earlier. After a hard switch back climb in intense heat, I had a memorable swim by myself(and the dragonflies) with mountain tops, clouds and nobody around. Magnificent! I ate my lunch and was finishing up when the group came by. Yeah! We all enjoyed the rest of the lakes and a pretty easy downhill to finish off the day.

Day 3: Cloudsrest

I did not sleep well at all. My nose was stuffy, Brittany makes loud mattress noises, and Gene snores. Not much I could do and we had another early start in the dark. I managed to get moving and stayed with Hilary, Brittany, Frederic, and Nick for the beginning of the day. Nick took a lot of gorgeous photos as we went off trail to climb Tresidder Peak and watch the sun rise on Cathedral Peak.

Photo by Nick Danielson insta @nickmdanielson www.nickdanielson.com

It was actually fun scrambling to get to the highest view points. Hilary and I climbed down together and met back up with Gene on a pretty meadow area of the trail. There were a variety of trails on this particular day. We headed into the woods and then near the bottom it opened up with lots of water ways by Sunrise Creek and scratchy shrubs. My legs got cut up a bit on those. We met up with Brittany and Shaun and ran to a trail intersection where we would head up to Cloud’s Rest. We rested, filled up our water bottles and had a bite to eat. Brittany lead the way and Shaun and I followed behind. Gene and Hilary came after us. It was a hard climb and at some points when looking up, you thought “I am going up there???” But again, it was beautiful with gorgeous views of Half Dome and the surrounding area. When you actually reached the summit it was full of people who came from another direction (easier I presume). This was probably my favorite view spot of the trip. Getting close to the edge was tempting but very scary. Lunch at the top and then mostly a down hill with Shaun running along side me. Tenaya Lake beckoned at the finish and I jumped in to clean off all the dirt, dust, and sweat of the day.

On arriving to base camp, I was surprised to see Paul parked there. He had an ordeal and decided to camp at Tioga Lake. It was much cooler there and we even had a short hail storm, rain and a huge double rainbow over the lake. After a dinner of ? I gave up my tent to Trent and slept soundly in the van that night.

Day 4: Vogelsang Pass to the Valley

I wasn’t surprised when everyone wanted to get an early start today. The whole group unanimously agreed that it was going to be a hot, long day and we should get out there asap. In the dark we headed out on the Pacific Crest trail toward the Vogelsang Pass. It intersected with the John Muir trail for about .7 of a mile then turned onto Rafferty Creek Trail. Hilary, Gene, Jess and I made our way up to Vogelsang Lake. It was a beautiful morning with marmots and critters enjoying the daybreak. I went ahead and spent some time trailing Jess. We saw Nick, Brittany and Frederic at the top of Vogelsang Peak. This was pretty much the end of climbing for the day. We headed down into wooded areas and stayed close to the Lewis Creek where the pleasing sound of gurgling water filled your ears. We had plenty of places to fill up our bottles. Jess and I met up with Jeff and Theresa who wanted to stop for lunch at Merced Lake. I continued on by myself while searching for a good spot to take a dip. The water is pretty fast and the current can be dangerous. Nick ran by and we spotted a good place. I stopped and Frederic and Nick carried on. It was nice to submerge in the cool water, eat my lunch and be still for a bit. Brittany found me and we decided to carry on together. It was a good thing because we needed support getting through a fire burned area that was super hot and had no shade. Once through that we went on a hunt for water and ended up taking a break near the top of Nevada Fall. Cooled off we headed down the steep, slippery and harsh stone steps all the way to the bottom of the Mist Trail. We stopped and took a few more photos by Vernal Falls. We ran into so many tourists at this point it was strange and sort of out of place in this wild kingdom. But nevertheless, Brittany and I flew by so many people heading down toward our goal of finishing the day. One mistake was passing our last turn and we ended up doing a bit more running, jumping into the river and finally heading toward the crew at Upper Pines Camp Ground. Tacos, beer and margaritas were on the menu for dinner (Too bad I was doing dry July). As a group we decided to go back to our base camp at Tioga where it is much cooler for the night. The ride took a long time though and by the end I felt car sick. Thankfully I just had to climb into our camper van and nod off.

Initially the next morning, Paul and I signed up to do volunteer work in the park. It was cancelled because of the heat. After breakfast and saying goodbyes to everyone, we headed east. We decided to stop in Bishop for some chille cheese bread at the famous Erick Schat’s bakery.

Bustling town with lots of tourists. We did a quick grocery store stop and continued on. We drove 6 North to Ely then onto 50 where we pulled over on BLM land in Utah. Quiet night with a small sliver of a moon in the sky. There was some smoke from fires in the air which got worse as we traveled on the next day.

We stopped at the welcome center in Grand Junction which was pleasant. Paul and I were amazed at the long line of cars at the Chic-a-fill drive thru, Crazy!!! We had to take an alternative route on 92 through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP. It was a windy road with no hardly any barriers and a big drop off. We stopped and checked out the views more than once. Wow! Fabulous.

After driving through Gunnison we went south on 114 to connect with 285 S. We took another byway to go through the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge. I went to the Mt. Blanca fudge company for a chocolate shake while Paul filled up with gas. Quirky owners but friendly enough to me. I also got a vanilla orange coke for extra caffeine. The drive down 285 was pretty and also uneventful as far as traffic. We made it back by dinner time and Evan even had some leftovers for us. Our home felt cozy and welcoming.