Bogue Chitto State Park Gorge Run Trail

Happy New Year!  What a crazy Christmas break it was.  I was sick for the week of Christmas.  Redd came home, but only for 3 days over Christmas, then back to Ohio.   I went back to school for our faculty retreat and then we had two weather days due to low water pressure in town because of the extensive cold weather and frozen pipes.

Redd arrived home on Wednesday night.  We decided to take advantage of the two weather days and get some traveling in.  We couldn’t go too far away since I had to be back to school on Monday.  We decided to just do a hike in LA and go and visit my husband’s sisters on Saturday.  Two road trips in two days…okay!

Bogue Chitto State Park is in Franklinton, LA.  This is about 3 hours away from Lafayette.  We left very early in the morning.  We brought coffee from home and I had packed us a lunch.  I figured we’d get breakfast somewhere before we went into the park.  I was not counting on Franklinton being so small townish w/out any type of restaurants.  Well, there was a coffee shop, but it was PACKED.  Like, I think the entire population of the town was having coffee.  I had a Cliff bar and some trail mix in my truck console.  We ate that before we headed out on the trail.

This trail is rated as easy to moderate by Alltrails.com.  In comparison to other trails in LA I’ve hiked, I’d say this was on the easier side as it was not a rock foot bed, but rather leaf litter and dirt.  The weather had been dry, which was fortunate.  There is one water crossing.

When we got out of the truck, the temperature was 29 degrees.  It was only expected to warm up to 50 or so.  It was partly cloudy and when the sun did come out, there was no warmth to it.  I guess due to the fact that it was cold and it was a work/school day, we saw only 1 other couple on the entire 6.2 mile trail.  We did see a man putting a boat in the lake by the 1/2 way point rest area, but he was fishing, not hiking.

collage early am 1 5 18

We had brought along Baylor but not Chico.  I knew that it was too cold and the length was too long for his little fat self.  Even Baylor was tuckered out by mile #4.

Since we were so hungry, we stopped at the children’s splash pad/play area to have a snack of apples and peanutbutter.  Of course, Baylor was begging and always wanting a bite.

Baylor begging collage

There was one water crossing, which in warm weather would not have been a problem to take off my shoes and cross over.  But it was 30 degrees.  There were a few downed trees I could have crossed over.  Let’s face it, my balance sucks.  I am supposed to be doing yoga to increase my balance, but I shun yoga and focus on crossfit instead.  You’d think that would help, but it hasn’t yet.

My sweet husband went and found me some large enough tree branches that I could use like trekking poles to cross that tree and I finally made it across.  Of course, Baylor is having a ball the whole time I was trying to go across, playing in the water.  I was a bit worried about him being cold and wet, but it did not seem to affect him at all.

Baylor on the trail

At the 3.5 mile point, there is a rest area with a picnic table, a bathroom, and water.  We sat down and had our lunch in the sun.  I had brought some extra food for Baylor in addition to the food I had fed him for breakfast.  He expended so much energy running back and forth.  When we passed by the Bogue Chitto river, he went down the bank and was swimming around, dunking his head completely under.

The last two miles were pretty uneventful, but rather hilly.  Baylor was noticeably slowing down, as was I.

paula and redd on the trail

end of the trail collage

The whole trail took us about 3.5 hours to complete and that was with the stalling I did at the water crossing and the lunch break.  For peach and quiet, this is the trail.  I’m sure it’s much busier in the spring and summer as the state park rents kayaks and canoes plus there is a splash pad for kids and a sandy beach access to the river.  I’d like to go back and camp.  I would recommend this state park and hiking trail.

We’re going to attempt to visit the majority of the Louisiana state parks this year, but not every state park has hiking.  Many of them focus on water activities.  We don’t have a boat…so, I don’t know.  I’d love to hike all of the trails in the parks that have one.  We’re also going to try to hike the trails in the National Forest in LA.  I read about a challenge called #52hikechallenge.  You hike once a week for the whole year.  I know for a fact I won’t make 52 weeks as I live in Louisiana and that’s just not going to happen in the summer.  But in good weather, I will try to get out and hike.

 

 

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Chicot State Park

We finally had some cool weather in SW Louisiana.  I thought it would be a great time to try and get some hiking in before the rain settles in.  Rhys had to work on Sunday, but was disappointed when I said I was going hiking alone with the dog.  He asked me to wait until he got off work at 1:30 and pick him up, which I did.  Chicot State Park was about a 2 hour drive from downtown Lafayette.  It’s always such a lovely drive in the rolling hills of mid-Louisiana.

We arrived at the trailhead around 3:00.  I really didn’t want to hike after dark, so we decided we would hike 1.5 miles and then turn around.  I set my “Map My Walk” ap to really see how far we went.  The ap told me at the end we hiked almost 4 miles!

So here we are.  It’s November.  There has been a freeze the night before.  I have on running tights and a long sleeved shirt.  It didn’t matter.  Apparently Lake Chicot must be famous for their weather hardy mosquitos.  Wow.  We couldn’t stop, not even to take a water break.  If you stopped, they swarmed you.  They were even biting me through my clothes AND I had on bug spray.  Poor Baylor, they bit him incessantly.  It didn’t seem to bother him except around his ears.

The trail was much hillier than I expected it to be.  The trail circles around the lake.  All total, it’s a 14 mile trek.  Now that I know it’s a bit more difficult than a walk around the lake, I know it’ll be better to hike it in early spring when there’s a bit more day light.

The trail was pretty well traveled.  There were plenty of people hiking, some with dogs, some without.  A few people were riding mountain bikes.  I felt sorry for them, that seemed like way too much work for me.

We ended up back at the trailhead around 5:15, just as it was getting dark.  I sat down to drink some water and take off my darn hiking boots to let my right foot get back to normal.  I was so worried about the dog getting bitten by mosquitos, I hurried up and get him in the car.  In my haste, I left his e-collar transmitter on the bench.  Dangit, that thing alone cost me 80.00 to replace.

I will go back and start at a different trail head next time.  This is a great site.  If I ever begin backpacking, this would be an easy beginner hike to a campsite.

November hiking chicot state park 2017

Gobble Gobble Grand Canyon-Until Next Time

We left the Grand Canyon on Black Friday.  Now, I’m not much on Black Friday shopping.  I think it’s ludicrous to get up in the middle of the night to stand in line to buy something for someone who probably doesn’t need it or doesn’t want it.  We have so much stuff as it is.  Every year it gets worse and worse with people getting trampled or killed.  And now the stores open on Thanksgiving.  There is nothing I need or want that I need to shop on Thanksgiving or Black Friday.  As I type this, I did feel really bad about the people who had to work in the Grand Canyon because it’s open and it’s a popular tourist location.  We did not contribute to any type of consumerism except to take a pay shower.  So, I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad.

Anyway, we get up early, pack up the truck and head out.  Instead of folding up all the bedding and making everything all nice and neat, all we did was fold the blankets and sleeping bags in half towards the front of the truck.  We kept the middle seats folded down and we put our camp table as a divider between our stuff in the back and the place where the dogs were.  They seems so much more comfortable in the cozy bedding rather than trying to balance on the seats.  The whole way up, Baylor stood with his head hanging down, refusing to sleep or rest.  Like a child who is over-tired but refuses to nap.  They napped pretty much the whole time we were driving home.

I had already forgotten how long it takes to get from the GCNP to the town of Cameron.  We had planned to have breakfast at the Cameron Trading Post and buy some souvenirs.  I had a very specific thing in mind that I wanted and I knew I may or may not find it there.  I had been dying to eat a Navajo fry bread taco.  We had looked at the menu online the night before and it was on the menu.  I was thinking it was going to be a small little thing, but I was wrong.  A fry bread is very similar to an unsweetened beignet or a sopapillia.  They top it with pinto beans w/ground meat, lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream and since it was breakfast, an egg.  Redd had a Green Chili breakfast burrito.  Hello, this was amazing.  So much food and I could not stop eating it was so good.  The coffee was pretty tasty as well.  We spent a little bit too long in the gift shop.  I ended up with a slim silver band with geodes along the band and we bought a dream catcher to hang on our rear view mirror.  Yes, I know, you’re supposed to hang it over your bed, but I want to “dream” about my next camping trip and every time I see the dreamcatcher in my car, I begin to dream and plan again.

Our next stop was to be The World’s Largest Meteor Crater.

Day 5 GC Tgiving coming home part 1

We drove all the way out there only to discover that it was 18.00 per person and they don’t honor the Annual Pass.  I know it’s not a National Park, but I was hopeful there was some reciprocity.  We decided not to go in and instead take a small detour and see the “Standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona” instead.  Winslow is a sad little town.  I don’t think there is any businesses except the train yard.  Why would Glenn Frey write about this little town?  I might have to research this tidbit of trivia.

We leave Winslow and decided we were going to stop and visit the Petrified Forest.  It IS a National Park so we didn’t have to pay the 20.00 entry fee.  We had plans to camp in the New Mexico Badlands, but after doing some hiking and site-seeing in the Petrified forest, we were running out of daylight.  I pulled up some free campsites on UC Public CG and I found a place to camp for free in the Cibola National Forest.  The elevation of this campsite was almost 7700′.  It was way up the mountain.  The Petrified Forest was pretty cool, but I guess I had it in my mind that there were trees of rock still standing, looking like a tree.  It was pretty hot too.  I was wishing I had shorts on.  Baylor was miserable.  Chico, once again, enjoyed himself.

We drive to the Cibola National Forest and made our way to the campsite in Quaking Aspen Trail.  There are some hiking trails nearby, but we passed the trailhead and headed into the dispersed camping area.  This area was really nice, but very rocky. I was thankful we were not tent camping as there were no clear spots without rocks.  I tripped multiple times and had to use caution after dark to make sure I didn’t fall.  We were able to pick up enough downed limbs to create a great fire.  I guess because we so high in elevation, it got really cold really quick.  The wind was blowing too.  Redd tried to make a windbreak, and it worked for a while, but it was really cold.  We ended up getting in the truck and falling asleep by 7pm again.  Unlike Kaibab, Cibola had no cell tower so we had pretty much zero service.  Around 10:00pm, my dad texted Redd and it miraculously came though.  He texted him the football scores of both our teams!  It was a birthday miracle.  Redd texted him right back but it swirled until 2am when it finally went through.

Day 5 GC Tgiving Petrified forest

Because we had gone to sleep so early, we were wide awake at 4am.  Mostly because I was cold.  This was actually the first night I was cold even though the temps had been in the 20s every night.  Tonight it was 18 at 4:00am.  The dogs had been laying on the blankets and had swirled them up around them leaving my left side exposed and Redd’s right side exposed.  Attempting to get blankets back required a large amount of effort to move Baylor.  By the time we got blankets back, we were wide awake.  We decided to go ahead and get up and go.  When we all got out the truck to pack it back up, the dogs’ water bowl was frozen.

I guess we were 3 hours west of Albuquerque.  We stopped for coffee and then headed out.  We decided to make the big push and drive all the way home.  We stopped outside of Dallas to eat dinner and get a coffee.  Dallas was a driving nightmare, as expected.  We did not stop at Bucee’s since we were broke.  One last stop in Shreveport for gas.  The last 3 hours was the hardest.  We passed the time singing along with classic Country music and talking shit about people we don’t really like that post stupid stuff on Facebook.  We pulled into our driveway at midnight.  I was so glad to get out of the truck.  I felt seasick!  We left all the stuff in the truck except for our pillows.  Came in, took a shower, and fell into the bed.  Good night!

This trip was an amazing experience.  I am so fortunate to experience on the natural wonders of the world.  I am thrilled to have shared this trip with Redd.  I don’t think it would have the same with anyone else.

It’s almost Christmas.  No plans for travel …. yet.  Stay tuned.  🙂

 

Gobble Gobble Grand Canyon-Thanksgiving Day

Of course, Thanksgiving day began well before the crack of dawn.  See, when it’s cold and dark and you go to bed before 7pm, you get up at 4am.  And try not to be cold LOL.  As we were laying in the car, Baylor began a deep throated growl.  Like he wanted to kill something growl.  I wasn’t too worried it was bad people, but I thought it might be a cougar or something.  I couldn’t see anything, but it was dark.  I didn’t let him out and he settled down.  We stayed inside the truck for a while, waiting for dawn.  At the first crack of light, I opened up the truck and both dogs took off like a shot!  Baylor was barking and carrying on and Chico was right behind him.  Of course, Chico had no idea what the heck was going on.  He just wanted to bark and run.  The mule deer had wandered very close to our camp.  That had to be what Baylor was growling at earlier.  Redd was afraid they wouldn’t come back, so I hurried up and got my shoes on to take off after them.  I knew Chico would come back.  That dude ain’t about to miss any breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  I figured Baylor would tire pretty quickly of chasing the deer as he would never catch up with them.  He didn’t chase them far, perhaps a quarter mile.  I called for him and he came back.  That’s what’s so great about voice command obedience training.  He comes back when I call him.

I really wanted to lounge around today.  Since the dogs were not going to the kennel, we had planned to hike the South Rim Trail.  I wanted to start by our campsite, and hike but Redd wanted to go out past Hermit’s Rest, since we had not seen any of that side from the road.  The road was closed and the buses are off limits to dogs (unless they are service animals).  So we figured we’d hike a while and then head back.  But first, let’s get some coffee.  Chico was so cold.  So shivery, even with his fleece coat on.  I had bought this stadium down blanket at Costco a few weeks before.  I broke it out and wrapped him and me up in it.  Baylor needs nothing to keep warm.  Redd snapped this photo of me in the chair with the dogs.  It really is my most favorite picture I have ever had taken of me in my whole life.  I like it better than my wedding photos and the photos of me in the hospital when the kids were born.  No stress, no worries, nothing to give me anxiety with this situation.  Just relaxation and coffee.  Plus, I look kinda cute and I look skinny, so yay!

I also have a photo of our campsite in this grid.  For a first timer dispersed camping, I don’t think we could have gotten luckier.  It was a nice campsite.  I used Freecampsites.net to find this one, but I also have an ap on my phone called UC Public CG that I think I paid 1.99 for.  Both of these were instrumental in helping me find free or super low-cost campsites for this trip.  If I make it to Yellowstone next summer, I’m free/cheap camping the whole way up and down.

Day 4 GC Tgiving tgiving day morning

After breakfast we loaded up the dogs and headed to Bright Angel trail head to try to find parking.  I really did not think Thanksgiving time would be a popular time for tourism in the Grand Canyon.  I was wrong.  We were lucky in finding a parking spot.  We walked past the bus stop for Hermit’s Rest and got on the South Rim trail.  I was a bit worried about Baylor.  He’s pretty annoyed with other dogs.  So when another dog would come into view, I would pull off the trail and let the other dog have the space.  This worked pretty well.  I need to figure out a way to work on this with him.  We are limiting our experiences because he’s grouchy around other dogs!  The weather had warmed up dramatically in the few hours since dawn.  It was probably over 70 by mid-day, maybe hotter.  Chico was in his element.  I thought due to his A. age, B. obesity, and C. his small size, he would have a hard time hiking.  I had planned our day around Chico and his needs.  Chico didn’t need any accommodations….but Baylor did.  You’d swear that we don’t walk/run/exercise in the hot months.  He was panting and just miserable.  I felt so bad for him.  We had plenty of water and I tried to stay in the shade for him.  It may have been just nerves or excitement that was contributing to his panting.  There were plenty of people on the trail too and he gets pretty worked up when there are people around.  He wants to get all the love, you know?  We ended up walking back to the parking lot on the road to give him a break from the narrow path and the people.

While we were hiking back on the road, we stopped to take a water break.  As we were sitting on the side of the road, a herd of mule deer walked across the road.  It was so unexpected and we were so fortunate to turn back and see them.  Baylor never saw them and neither did Chico LOL.  Redd broke people’s hearts who were struggling to go uphill on bikes.  It really did just get steeper the way they were heading but I felt it was cruel to tell them.  LOL.  I thought one lady was going to cry when he told her “It just gets steeper”.

Day 4 GC Tgiving rim trail part 2

The big picture of us sitting down, the deer were right over my shoulder.  You can actually see one in the background by my sunglasses.

While we were hiking and having a grand ole time, my parents, my kids, my sister and her family were all back home eating a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  My mom recreated a photo from many years ago when all the kids were small.  I love this photo of the kids.  They sent it to me during the day.

day 4 GC Tgiving day rim trail

We headed back to our campsite to cook up our own Thanksgiving feast, not of a turkey, but of pork.  Redd bbq’ed some pork chops and I made a pasta dish in the little oven he had when he was driving 18 wheelers ( plugs into cigarette lighter).  We finished off a green salad, but we had no dessert.  Boo.  By the time we finished eating and cleaning (Redd’s most LEAST FAVORITE THING OF CAMPING) it was getting close to sunset.  We wanted to make sure to catch at least one sunset before we left.

Redd had packed a bottle of wine and two solo cups.  It was a little chilly, but not too bad.  There was a boy with a guitar that was playing and singing while the sun set.  It was a pretty magical moment and it was lovely to watch the color on the rocks change as the sun set.  Of course, photos cannot begin to capture.

Day 4 GC Tgiving sunset

Before this, we had gone to the bath house in Mather Campground and paid $2.00 for an 8 minute shower.  You don’t think you’ll have enough time to wash your hair and bathe in 8 minutes, but it’s more than enough time.  There were three girls in one shower next to me.  I guess they were broke and had to share?

We went back to the campsite and by now, many more people had come.  Pretty much each site had someone on it.  I guess people were coming in for the long weekend.  Someone did run a genny all night, but they were far enough away that I couldn’t hear it once inside the truck.  We had an amazing fire that night.  My man can build him some blazes.  We had a few more drinks, sorta packed up things as best we could and went to bed.  This was our last night in the Grand Canyon.

I have plenty to be thankful for on just a regular day.  God has blessed me with good health, wonderful children, a husband that I don’t deserve, my parents and my sister lives close by and I get to be a part of her life and the lives of her children.  We have good jobs, plenty of material wealth and I have my dogs.  Spending Thanksgiving in the Grand Canyon was not something I would have thought I would do, especially not planning this type of trip in less than a week.  But it was great.  I could not be more thankful for this experience.  I hope this is one of many adventures I have left.

Gobble Gobble Grand Canyon-Day 3 (AZ Early Morning)

This was the day I had been waiting for.  Today we were going to hike down into the Caynon.  I had the backpacks ready, the dogs had a reservation at the GC kennel (because dogs are not allowed into the Canyon, only on the Rim trail) and we were up early.

I had planned to make bag omelettes for breakfast.  Since this was basically a trial and error trip in preparation for upcoming car camping trips, I didn’t know what to bring.  Should I bring my large pasta pot or would a small saucepan work as well for boiling water for coffee and cooking?  I was trying to boil two bags at the same time in a saucepan.  It was not working.  I ended up having to cook the eggs so long, I almost ran out of propane in the bottle.  Next time, bring the pasta pot.

While cooking breakfast, Redd decides he’s going to move the car.  Remember the unfavorable engine sound I heard the night before when I set off the alarm to answer nature’s call?  Yeah, that was the battery dying.  OMG, we are in the middle of NOWHERE and now I have a dead battery.  What if it’s not the battery?  What if it’s the alternator?  What if we need to get a tow out of there?  OMG, how much will that cost?  What if we can’t get a signal to call and we have to hike down to Flagstaff?  OMG, OMG, OMG!  These were thoughts going through my head.  I’m attempting to appear calm and I calmly Google auto repair in GCNP.  I figure since they have staff that live in the park and such a large number of visitors, perhaps they have a garage.  Surprise!  They do have a 24 hour mobile auto guy.  We call him up, tell him where we are and oh yeah, he can come out.  It’ll take him 45 minutes to an hour to get there and it’ll be $140.00 just to jump start our battery.  Two lessons were learned this day.  Lesson A.  Have jumper cables in your car.  Lesson B.  Have a portable jumpstart battery with you when you camp.

While we wait on the guy, we finish breakfast and Redd walks over to the observation tower to climb up.  I didn’t feel like expending so much energy when I knew we were going to hike the canyon.  At this point, I’m still optimistic we can hike 3 miles in (6 miles round trip).

day 3 GC Tgiving 2017 morning

There was plenty of evidence around our campsite we had nocturnal visitors.  There was a large herd of mule deer in the area and we saw them plenty of times while we stayed there.

Once the repair guy gets there, he jump starts our car and tells us we need a new battery.  The of a whole day lost to driving down to Flagstaff and back was so disappointing.  Thank God for Redd who knew how disappointed I was without having to say a word.  He said “Let’s bring the dogs to the kennel and go hike.  We’ll worry about this later.”  As we dropped off the dogs in the kennel (which can I say kudos to GCNP for having a dog kennel on site for those who travel with their dogs) we happened up the Grand Canyon garage, which maintains the vehicles for the park workers.  We stopped in there on a whim to see if they could fix our car if at all possible.  Since it was the day before Thanksgiving, there wasn’t a soul in there.  The mechanic was such a nice guy.  We dropped off the car and told him we’d be back to pick it up before they closed at 5.  We had to get the dogs out the kennel before 5 as well.  By this time it was around 10:00am, maybe 10:30.  I knew there was no way were hiking 6 miles round trip in 5 hours or less.  We decided we’d stop at the mile and a half rest point.

We were super fortunate to witness a herd of Big Horned Sheep just hanging out on a ledge.  Though these are native to the area, it’s apparently rare to see them so close to a very popular hiking trail.  At one point when we were hiking back up, two of the males were butting horns!

Most people say down-hill hiking is easier.  For me, it’s harder.  I struggle with balance and add the pack, I find it difficult to stay steady.  I was amazed and appalled at how unprepared some people were to hike Bright Angel.  They are hiking down with dress sandals, moccasins, no water, letting their very small children RUN down the trail.  Do you not see these sheer drop offs that never end until the bottom?  Do you not realize this is NOT Disney, but a literally dangerous place?  Whatever.  Their kids get hurt, they’ll want to blame the National Parks.

Day 3 GC Tgiving bright angel hike

Before we  reached the Mile and a Half Rest house, there was a mule training coming up the trail.  We pulled over to let them pass.  Of course, some dummies stood on the outside of the mules.  Just one kick by a mad mule and you’re a gonner.

We took a short break at 1 1/2 Rest house, ate and drank and I took off my boots.  Gawd, my right foot KILLS me on the downhill.  I guess these very expensive Timberlands I bought aren’t going to work for me.  I might go to an athletic-shoe type of hiking boot.  Not sure yet.  I may wait and see if I’m going to Yellowstone before I spend the money.

It took us 1.5 hours to get down.  We started back up.  In some areas the switchbacks are very steep.  We had some very nice conversations with some ladies who had overnight camped at Indian Gardens, which is 5 miles from the Colorado River.  We had to stop and take breathers, but all in all, uphill is was easy.  Probably would be much harder with 25lbs of gear rather than the 12 or so I carried.  We made it up in 1.5 hours.

We ate a late lunch at the grocery store in the Village.  I had a bowl of chili with some tater tots, and honest to God, that meal was in the top 10 meals of my life.  Funny how facing your fears can cause you to be so hungry!

We picked up our car, picked up the dogs and headed back to the campsite for another night.  We did a little bit of exploring around the site.  We saw the large herd of mule deer.  They had no fears of us.  A few sites over someone had rented a “Juicy” type of camper van.  It had a sleeping loft pop up tent.  Really, they were our only neighbors that were close by.  I’d say on this day there were maybe 4 different groups camping.

I think on this day Redd became a hiking lover.  He has spoken of hiking to the river several times now.  He wants to camp at Indian Gardens one night, camp at the river the second night, Indian Gardens (or similar) on the third night.  I’m all in.  I told him if we’re doing this, we need to do it sooner rather than later.  I’m not getting any younger and this hike won’t get any easier.  🙂

 

 

 

Gobble Gobble Grand Canyon-Day 2 (NM/AZ)

Day 2 began bright and early in New Mexico.  We were up before 5am and out the door.  Two hours to Albuquerque and coffee!  We arrived at a Starbucks around 7am.  Luckily we could leave the dogs in the car again because it’s freezing.  Sunrise brought us the view of the saddest landscape.  Everything is brown.  No grass, no trees, no color, even the houses are brown.

A while later (I forget how long it took, time seems to slow and speed at the same time while traveling), we pulled into the Arizona State Line rest area.  The dogs were able to stretch their legs in a little brown patch of dirt.  We had decided we were going to stop in Winslow, AZ at a Walmart to get food/water supplies for camping.  I wish I had known that Grand Canyon Village had such a great grocery store.  I could have saved myself some time.

So, supplies bought, car gassed up, we’re ready to get into GCNP.  We drive into the East Gate and buy a National Park Annual Pass.  We head to our campsite, which is in Kaibab National Forest.  Did you know that you can camp FOR FREE in National Forests?  I did not know this until about 6 months ago.  Some of the free campsite don’t have any amenities.  Some have a vault toilet, and/or a fire ring, and/or a picnic table.  It depends.  Kaibab had a fire ring and a vault toilet.  We stayed near the observation tower and the trail head to the AZ Trail.  It was level and there was a ton of downed limbs for firewood.  So much in fact, we were able to leave a nice pile near the fire pit for the next person.

We set up the camp and before the sun set, we headed out for our first “official” view of the Canyon.

day 2 GC Tgiving 2017

After our first view, we took a quick swing into the GC Village to see what they had in the store.  We bought some liquor, which I was shocked you could buy in the store that wasn’t a specified liquor store.  On the way back to the campsite, there were all sorts of people parked halfway in the road and running into the woods.  I was like, what they heck are they doing?  I followed them with my eyes realized they were running towards a bull elk to take a photo.  In the middle of rut season.  What a bunch of idiots.  Seriously, cars parked all haphazardly in the road.  I really wished the elk would have swung his giant antlers and skewered some stupid tourists, but, no luck.

For dinner our first night, we used up the rest of the leftover steak from the night before on some salad greens and drank some beer around the fire.  Since I’m not much of a cold weather person, it was very difficult for me to stay outside in the cold, even with the fire.  We let it burn down, then doused it and climbed into the Yukon for our first night of car camping.  Crazy thing, we had better 4G and bars than I do inside my apartment.  Apparently they had just installed a new cell tower not far from where we were camping.   It was pleasant to be able to lay in bed and surf facebook while camping in the Grand Canyon LOL.

The Yukon was a little cramped with us and the two dogs.  We did not have time to remove the middle seat before we left.  If we had, we would have been much more comfortable and would have had more leg room.  Poor Bay had to curl up in a ball to sleep at our feet and that is not how he likes to sleep.

During the night I had to get out several times to answer nature’s call.  One time I just opened the door and set off the car alarm.  No Bueno.  When Redd restarted the car to shut off the alarm, the engine sounded very sluggish.  I commented how I didn’t like the sound of that, but what you gonna do?  I went back to sleep.

The stars are so bright when away from the lights of the city.  The moon was not full, only a quarter full.  I can’t even imagine how bright it must be at full.  You feel so small when confronted with the magnitude of the night skies.  It’s also very dark in the national forests.  It’s a bit disconcerting to realize how alone you actually are.  I guess you can’t dwell on that, otherwise, you’ll only camp at KOAs in Orlando.

Gotta get some rest.  Tomorrow we’re hiking 3 miles into the Canyon.  Dogs have a 7:30am appointment with the GC Kennels.

Gobble Gobble Grand Canyon, here come the Bellmans-Part 1 LA/TX

As recently as 2 months ago, we purchased a 2011 GMC Yukon with 60k miles on it.  Not because we *needed* something like this right now, but there will be a time in the near future we’ll need something able to tow an RV.  In the meantime, I wanted something big enough so we could “car camp”.  I had no idea that #vanlife was such a popular lifestyle choice.  When Redd was gone through most of September, I dreamed, planned, and schemed a way to take more road trips.  We were in the process of buying the Yukon when word came over the phone that Rhys’ Civic would be total lossed from the accident he had been in.  The plan was to give Rhys my Honda Fit and I buy the Yukon.  Bingo, everything worked out.  It’s like God was telling me to take a road trip.

Redd goes back to work at the end of October.  We already had the flights and AirBnB booked for our trip to Boston (Part 1 and Part 2).  There was no way I ever expected him to be able to meet us there let alone be home the week of Thanksgiving.  An actual week I’m off from school.  With no other work to do!  When he tells me the week of the 13th of November he will be off through December 3rd, I immediately started planning a road trip.  I am so fortunate that Redd is an adventurous type of guy.  I know that camping is not his favorite thing in the world, but he knows I really enjoy it.  And since I’ve schemed this whole #vanlife thing, he can’t complain too much about having to sleep in a tent.

I had been preparing for weeks for my inaugural camping trip.  My plan for Thanksgiving was to go up to Kisatchie National Forest in Alexandria, LA and just camp for a couple of days there.  I’m preparing for a month long road trip in July to Yellowstone.  I’d like to get all the kinks ironed out as much as possible before.  So I had sleeping bags, permarest self-inflating pads, an eggshell mattress to cushion the hard edges of the Yukon, food, drinks, a propane stove, propane, a pot, utensils, cups, dishware, really everything.  I also had it all grouped together in the garage for a quick pack up once we returned from Boston.

The day after we returned from Boston, Redd and I left for the Grand Canyon at 6:00am.  We had all our stuff in the back of the Yukon (I had removed the 3rd row) and oh yeah, we brought our dogs too.  The whole point of camping is you can bring your dogs with you.  Dogs enhance the camping experience, right?  Well, we’d soon find out.

Our initial plan was to drive to Amarillo, TX and spend the night.  That would be 10 hours of driving giving us another 8-10 hours the next day to arrive at the Grand Canyon.  But then I began obsessing about daylight.  There’s not very much of it in the winter.  Sunset in the Grand Canyon on our dates was 5:15.  I really didn’t want to pull into a National Forest after dark and try to setup camp.  So we decided to stop and eat dinner in Amarillo, TX, then drive another two hours west to Tucumcari, NM and sleep in a low-rent motel for the night.  Every time I drive across Texas, whether it’s to San Antonio or Dallas or wherever, I FORGET how freaking big Texas actually is.  Yes, Google maps says it’ll take 10 hours of driving, but that doesn’t include stopping for gas, the required stop at Buccee’s to buy any and all things Rtic, bathroom break, dogs stretching their legs, traffic through Dallas (God save us from ourselves!), etc.  We arrived at The Big Texan around 6:00pm.

Ok, I know people lose their minds over dogs left in a hot car during the summer.  I get that.  The poor things can’t sweat and it’s really hot inside of a car.  I’m always worried about people “Calling the Authorities” and being all up in my business.  Because of this, I never bring the dogs with me anywhere unless I’m taking them inside with me.  In Amarillio, the temperature was 50 and it was dark.  I felt okay leaving the dogs in the car while we went in to eat dinner.  For those who don’t know about The Big Texan (and OMG, where in the world have you been living, under a rock?), this a pretty famous steakhouse that has one of those challenges.  If you can eat the 72oz steak (roast) in an hour, you go on the Wall of Fame and probably get a free tee-shirt or something.

 

20171120_175828 Obviously, we did not attempt this challenge.  Who the heck can eat 72oz of steak?  I guess somebody can as there are plenty of people on the Wall of Fame.  This was a Monday night we stopped and ate there and the place was packed.  We had a 15 minute wait.  Even though it’s really kitschy, I do love this place.

As we were leaving, we drove around the giant bull statue they have out front of the restaurant.  My little dog Chico is a rat terrier that HATES cows.  When we lived in the country, he was constantly running after them, giving chase and causing a ruckus if the cows were near our yard.  He was barking and growling at the statue of the bull which stands like 30′ tall.  I found it pretty hilarious he couldn’t tell the difference between a real cow and a over-exaggeratedly large bull.

We leave Amarillo and head due West.  We pass by several feed lots.  The one in Walderado was horribly stinky.  Poor cows.  We couldn’t see how many of them there were, but we could see the stink in the glow of the street lights.  Literally, you could see the methane gas glowing in the light.  Stink ass cows weren’t the only thing glowing in the dark.  West Texas has wind turbines.  Those giant windmills that create electricity?  They are creepy enough in the daylight, but at night they have one red, glowing eye that blinks.  Picture thousands of these things spread out as far as you can see with the blink, blink, blink of the red glowing eye.  Super creepy.  I was glad to leave them behind.

We drove into Tucumcari around 8pm, which was really 9pm since the time changes to Mountain Time at the New Mexico border.  Time to get some sleep.  Tomorrow we see the Grand Canyon!

day 1 GC Tgiving 2017