Bisti/Di-Na-Zin Wilderness Area

From Mesa Verde National Park we traveled south into New Mexico spending our first night in Farmington (fika @ Studio Bake Shoppe). From Farmington we journeyed due south on NM371 through the Navajo Nation to access the Bisti Badlands. As wilderness areas by defintion allow no motorized traffic the only access from the parking area is by foot. There are no trails or markers of any sort. So bring your compass and utilize your gps. Line of sight navigation is impossible as once you enter into the outcroppings you are in a maze of strange sandstone, shale, coal, mudstone and silt formations. There are a plethora of hoodoos and just strange looking features that evolve based on the ongoing wind and water erosion that takes place with these soft materials.

The closest lodging is in Farmington which is apx. 40 miles north. There is no developed camping within the vicinty of the access area. However, exploring here is an easy day trip from Farmington. We boondocked in the wilderness area.

Our next segment will be at the Chaco NHP to visit more ancesteral sites assuming the road is passable in the aftermath of the major storm the occurred overnight.

Be seeing you!

Hells Canyon + Snake River

After leaving the McCall area we traveled west to follow the Snake River north to Hells Canyon. The Hells Canyon Wilderness has been on our must see list for quite some time. Three dams were constructed on the river by Idaho Power Company (IPC) in the early 1960s, which generate significant power to Idaho. The dams and power plants are so remote that IPC provides company housing nearby each of the facilities.

The good news is that below the last dam (Hells Canyon Dam) the canyon and river remain a protected wilderness – there is no road – no electricity – no water. In order to access the canyon in the wilderness area you have three options – walk, go down river (raft, kayak or jet boat) – access at HC Dam – or fly in utilizing the grass airstrip on the banks of the river by the former Kirkwood Ranch.

Today, Hells canyon is completely uninhabited. A number of families attempted to make a living ranching and mining within the canyon but only a couple of ranches managed to survive for any length of time. The last ranch was abandoned in the early 1960s. There is ample evidence from pictographs that native americans were in the canyon long ago.

Hells Canyon at is deepest point is the deepest gorge in North America (7900 feet). We wanted to experience the canyon from river level, from above, and go as far downriver as possible. Fortunately, we were able to catch a jetboat tour that took us downriver 27 miles to the site of the former Kirkwood Ranch (sheep) before returning to the dam access point. Our river journey provided us with the ability to see the very remote and pristine canyon – we could not possibly have hiked anywhere near that far downstream. The added benefit was the fun of running the numerous rapids on the river between the dam and our turnaround point. We did hike along the river for several miles which gave us the on the ground vantage point. Finally, we drove the Hat Point Road to gain a spectacular view of the canyon and river from an elevation of 6900 feet above sea level.

The Hells Canyon Wilderness is a beautiful, awe-inspiring area, but come prepared as there is very minimal infrastucture anywhere near the area and almost no connectivity.

P.S. Summer temperatures average daily high 100+F!

Hiking To Stud Creek Trail, Snake River, Hells Canyon

Imnaha, Oregon Pop. 159 – Starting Point for Hat Point Road Drive

Wild and Scenic Snake River Viewed From Hat Point (Elev. 6982)

McCall, Idaho and Payette National Forest

When we last posted we thought we were heading to Eastern Oregon but…….98-100F temperatures in the Alvord Desert caused us to reconsider. Ultimately, we opted to head north to McCall, Idaho where the daily high temperatures were in the 80F range.

McCall is a summer resort town sitting on the eastern shore of beautiful Payette Lake and nestled at the southern base of the mountainous Payette NF.

The drive north from Boise on the Payette River Scenic Byway is splendid as the road winds north hugging the rapid filled Payette River.

We camped at Ponderosa State Park for the first couple of nights before heading up into the Payette NF ahead of the Labor Day weekend crowd. The night sky from our mountain top campsite in the Payette was absolutely stunning. We were transfixed by the enormity and brillance of the Milky Way, the consellations and the numerous satellites and rockets criss crossing the sky.

Additionally, our stay here was most pleasant since we were able to bike into town from our camping location at Ponderosa SP and drink cappuccino and tea and then cycle back to our campsite.

The highlight of our stay in the McCall area was our kayaking trip on the North Fork of the Payette River. We were treated to great beauty, solitude and the magic of observing deer and birds of prey along the banks of the river.

We honestly never thought we would spend three full weeks in Idaho but it is beautiful and the weather was perfect. Nonetheless, time to move on…..current plan is to head to Hells Canyon on the border of Idaho and Oregon and then explore the northeastern corner of Oregon.

Be seeing you!

Firewood Express!

Biking Peninsula Trail, Payette Lake

Kayaking, North Fork of Payette River, McCall, Idaho

Bruin Mountain

Camping with a View, Outlook Creek Rd, Diamond Ridge, Payette NF

End of the World or Sunset in Western Idaho

Sawtooth National Forest

After departing City of Rocks we traveled north to Twin Falls for fika at Twin Beans (see fikawithfiona on Instagram). From Shoshone we followed the Sawtooth Scenic Byway into the Sawtooth NF.

The Sawtooth is an absolute gem! We were absolutely enchanted with everything about this 2.1 million acre forest and wilderness area. The mountain peaks range from 4000 to over 12,000 feet elevation with a plethora of peaks above 10,000 feet. The Sawtooth reminds us very much of two of our favorite national parks – Glacier NP and Grand Teton NP – but without the crowds!

The Sawtooth is a hikers paradise with a seemingly endless number and variety of hiking trails. Many of the trails lead to secluded waterfalls and alpine lakes while providing spectacular views of the glaciated peaks.

The Sawtooth also provides ample camping opportunities through the forest. We were able to camp along the Wood River near Murdock Creek and on the Cape Horn Creek in complete solitude. Added bonus: outrageous night sky. Our necks became stiff from staring up into a star and planet laden sky. We saw shooting stars, the Milky Way and numerous satellites and rocket bodies pass overhead while listening to the rush of the nearby water.

While in Ketchum we met two former Nutmeggers – one from Southington and the other from Cheshire. Our best hiking and camping spots were recommended by them.

We also met a delightful young couple from Ashland, Oregon. Ashland is on our itinerary because it is the home of Noble Coffee Roasting Company. We think their Ethiopian Buku beans are the best we have had and have been looking forward to visiting after years of purchasing on-line. The couple provided us with a number of recommendations for both Ashland and Bend, Oregon.

Experiencing all the beauty that our country has to offer and meeting so many genuine and friendly people continues to bolster our optimism for the future.

P.S. If you are a fly fisher you must come here to fish in the Wood River.

Boulder Mountains, Sawtooth NF,

Murdock Creek Trail, Sawtooth NF

Trail Creek Road, Sun Valley, Idaho

McDonald Peak (Elev. 10068) foreground, El Capitan (Elev. 8500) background

Petit Lake

Mickey’s Spire (Elev. 10,679) and Thompson Peak (Elev. 10,682)

Redfish Lake

Williams Peak (Elev. 10,633)

Disbursed Camping at Big Horn Creek, Challis NF

Idaho City, Idaho

Cooling off at Petit Lake

Carson City to Salt Lake City

After arriving in Carson City and finding it very much to our liking (good espresso, tea, yoga, restaurants and friendly folk) we extended our stay to five days. We took day trips for hiking and sightseeing after our morning yoga and fika: very delightful!

Our extended stay in Carson City did necessitate a speedy trip across Nevada to return the Beast for storage and make our flight from Salt Lake City to Hartford. We covered 650 miles over our last two days on the road. Most of the drive was on Route 50 which runs all the way from Carson City to the Utah border. 

The scenery along Route 50 is spectacular. Driving west to east you traverse numerous mountain ranges and valleys between the ranges. These are big mountains – 9000 to almost 11,000 foot peaks and valleys ranging from five to 20 miles across. The peaks are snow capped and the valleys vary between salt flats, sand dunes and prairie. 

This is mining country with a handful of extremely large cattle and sheep ranches. The mining towns of Eureka and Ely are pretty run down despite the fact that there are still very large mining operations in the towns of Eureka and Ely. There are two major pits, one producing gold and the other copper. Even traditional pit mines are highly mechanized today and do not require significant labor to operate the mines. Both of these mines are owned and operated by foreign based companies which is very common today in this industry. 

Make sure you are well prepared if you choose to cross Nevada on Route 50,  known as the loneliest road in America for good reason. There are only two gas stations between Fallon and Eureka, a distance of 180 miles (and they are not 24 hour stations!) Bring your own food and water as well.

We are planning our next trip as we make this final post of On The Road with Maria + Stephen. We will be departing for the Pacific Northwest in August. Thanks for following along.

Safe travels!

P.S. If you find yourself for any reason (we won’t hazard a guess) with the need to be in Bakersfield, California do yourself a huge favor and stay at the Padre Hotel. Classic western hotel with a great bar, cool lobby and friendly staff. Added bonus, and a big one at that is that Rig City Coffee Roasters is 252 feet from the lobby entrance to the hotel.

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Final Preparation for Our Return to CT

 

Route 50 – America’s Loneliest Road

 

Garnet Hill – Ely, NV

 

Eureka – Mining + Basque Shepards + Good Grub

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Reno – Baseball

 

Virginia City – Coffee, Saloons + Prayer

 

Genoa – Hiking + Thirst

 

Lake Tahoe

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Carson City – Yoga, Coffee + Calamari!

 

 

 

 

Carrizo Plain National Monument

We spent three delightful days boondocking and hiking in the Carrizo Plain NM. CPNM is managed by the BLM and covers apx. 250,000 acres in San Luis Obispo County. The plain is an internal drainage basin which doesn’t sound all that appealing but it carries significant water into the 50 mile long plain which at this time of the year translates into a verdant landscape covered with colorful wildflowers. The plain runs north – south and is bounded by the Caliente Mountains on the west and the Temblor Mountains on the east. The Temblor Mountains derive its name from the spanish word terremoto which means earthquake. Uncoincidentally, the San Andres Fault runs parallel to the base of this range down the length of the plain.

The water all drains into Soda Lake.  Since this is an internal drainage with no outlet the water evaporates during the spring and summer as temperatures reach into the 100F range. What is left after the water evaporates is a salt-covered dry lake bed as you can see in the photo below.

We also spent some time walking on the Wallace Trail where you can see evidence – in the form of offset creeks and channels – of how the earth has shifted along the San Andreas Fault – which is pretty cool – as long as the earth does not shift while you are there! 

We had the good fortune to find a camping spot on the Caliente Ridge at 3700 feet which gave us a spectacular view of the plain and Soda Lake. 

We should be at Death Valley NP later this week after a stop at Red Rock Canyon.

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Carrizo Plain and Soda Lake

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Sunset from Caliente Mountain

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Joshua Tree National Park

After extending our stay in both San Diego and San Clemente, we are back on the road. Our first stop was at JTNP where the wildflower “super bloom” is at its peak.

JTNP is one of a limited number of National Parks that allows access to back country high clearance 4WD trails. Many of these trails exist due to the significant number of mines (300) that at various times operated in the area which is now JTNP. We took advantage of the opportunity by spending an afternoon traveling through Pinkham Canyon and were treated to spectacular scenery and solitude.

There are a number of great hiking trails within the park. Because this is the busy season at the park we chose several hikes that we thought would be less crowded including Mastodon Peak and 49 Palms Oasis.

An interesting aspect of the park is that portions of both the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert are within its boundaries. While the park is named after the Joshua Tree there are no Joshua Trees in the Colorado Desert area of the park; they are only found in the Mojave Desert area of the park.

JTNP is extremely beautiful at this time of the year and the temperatures are reasonable for hiking. But as this is a true desert environment we would recommend you that you visit between late fall and early spring before high temperatures go into the triple digits!

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49 Palms Oasis – 49 Palms Canyon, JTNP
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BLM Joshua Tree North Dispersed Camping

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Pinkham Canyon 4WD Trail
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Rattle Snake at Mastodon Peak
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Ocotillo Cactus

 

Anza Borrego Desert

We have been enjoying the “Super Bloom” ( desert wildflowers benefiting from a wet winter) in the Colorado Desert located within the Anza Borrego State Park, California. The weather and scenery here is so idyllic that we keeping extending our stay here – moving every couple of days to a new spot in the desert to camp. 

Great hiking and exploring – temperatures averaging 75F during the day and bottoming out at 50F overnight. We have met a number of Connecticut transplants of late – fortunately all Red Sox fans.

Nothing profound from our end at the moment. Extended periods of time without connectivity is good for the soul. We are feeling very content all in all. Over and out!

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Boondocking in Arroyo Saleda – Borrego Badlands
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Seventeen Palms Oasis – Borrego Badlands
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Santa Rosa Mountains
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Yaqui Wash – Anza Borrego State Park

 

Kofa NWR – Castle Dome Mountains

After a two day pit stop in Yuma (warning – no legit coffee!) we drove north for our final Arizona segment. We camped in the Kofa NWR in the shadow of Castle Dome Peak and then journeyed overland via McPherson Pass. As we came across the pass and began our descent into the King Valley we were treated to a panoramic view of the Kofa Mountain Range. The Kofa Mountains are named after the King of Arizona gold mine (K of A) which operated in the King Valley during the very late 1800’s. 

A storm moved through during the night bringing cold temperature, high winds and rain. However, we consider that a small price to pay for the solitude and beauty that we experienced while in the refuge, and of course the exhilaration of a 4WD overland adventure.

California, here we come!

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Ferocactus
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Castle Dome Peak
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Castle Dome Mine Road

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Buenos Aires NWR to Tohono O’odham Nation to Ajo

After a taking three days off from the road in Bisbee we have started our journey west to California along the Mexican border. Our first day of travel took as far as the Buenos Aires NWR which lies just west of Arivaca, AZ (pop. 700).

The BANWR was created in 1985 with the purchase of 117,464 acres of land. As with all of the 585 national wildlife refuges in the U.S. the land was purchased under the authority of the Endangered Species Act. In this particular case the endangered specie was the Masked Bobwhite Quail. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service which manages this refuge also reintroduced grasses that had vanished from the area and Pronghorn Antelope. 

While the BANWR was created to protect an endangered specie this is public land and open for camping, hunting, horesback riding and hiking. We took advantage of the camping opportunity and were treated to a beautiful  sunset and dark sky. We saw no other humans during our stay here. From a wildlife perspective we did not see any quail but did see our first javelinas of the trip.

From BANWR we traveled through the Tohono O’odham Nation Reservation. The T.O. Nation is a 2.8 million acre reservation with a current population of apx. 14,000. Tohono O’odham means “desert people”. In this case the desert is the Sonoran desert of southwestern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. 

The T.O. Nation extends into Mexico. The residents of T.O. consider the reservation to be one nation irrespective of the U.S. – Mexico border and believe they should be able to travel freely within the nation. The U.S. Border Patrol disagrees and this has resulted in an ongoing conflict between the two parties. Additionally, the Border Patrol wants unfettered access to the border within the reservation which the T.O. Nation is not willing to provide. 

Politics aside, we were fortunate to travel through the reservation at a time when the Sonoran Desert is in full bloom. Purple, yellow and orange flowers lined the highway against a backdrop of cacti and mountains making for breathtaking scenery.

We stopped briefly in Ajo just west of the T.O. Nation before proceeding to Yuma. Ajo was another town which came into existence as a result of a large copper mining operation which is now defunct. The art work pictured below is part of an arts project in Ajo.

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Baboquivari Peak – Tohono O’odham Nahtion
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Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge
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Sunset Sonora, Mexico
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Entering Wilderness Area

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Tohono O’odham Nation Opposes Border Wall

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