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  1. #1

    Default Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Montana & N California - May/June 2016

    I am in the middle of an extended road trip with an emphasis on visiting National Park sites in Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Montana and northern California. We left Tucson on Thursday, May 12 with the intention to travel directly north to the Canadian border, then work our way west and south. Part way through the trip our son requested that we come to their place in central California, sooner than planned, to help them out due to a non-emergency medical problem. They needed help with getting kids to and from school for a few days. Luckily on this trip we were flexible enough that re-routing was not a problem. We had only 1 reservation and that was at the beginning of the trip. While off the road for a few days, and access to WiFi, I will begin posting daily reports, then stop until we return home.

    For those who have followed our previous trips you know our focus is visiting national park sites, hiking, bird watching, letterboxing, Quest Scouts, and being flexible along the way. I'll explain more about some of the activities in future posts. I have a public Instagram account which I posted to frequently throughout the trip - those posts can be found under SrJrRanger on Instagram.

    Comments, questions, and corrections are always welcomed. Feel free to comment within the thread or via PM. I hope the information shared in this report will help someone along their route.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 06-26-2016 at 07:12 PM.

  2. #2

    Default If at first you don't succeed, try again... Day 1

    Thursday, May 12, 2016

    Start:Tucson, AZ
    Finish: Hillside Campground @ Lynx Lake Prescott, AZ

    First day on the road, heading north to cooler temperatures. The forecast was for the ice to break on the Santa Cruz River either today or tomorrow. Borrowed from the Alaskan tradition of predicting when the ice will break free on the Nenana River, Tucson has adopted this tradition for when the temperature reaches 100* for the first time each year. Locally known as Ice Break on the Santa Cruz River. A good time to leave!

    Our first stop of the trip was to drive up to Crown King in the Bradshaw Mountains, this time off of I-17. The purpose of the visit was to get a picture of the store, a historic post office. As I have mentioned on previous posts my husband has created a website of historic (greater than 50 years old) post office buildings in Arizona. Last October we were on our way back from a family campout in Cottonwood, AZ when we decided to take the Senator Highway from Prescott, SE to Crown King. We both remembered driving this same route 30 years ago in a VW van and experiencing no road difficulties. Either our memory is flawed or the road has degraded. It was a road trip nightmare! The road kept getting worse and worse, with more and more sharp rocks. We ended up with a flat tire, which was a good thing. Just as we finished changing the tire a couple of guys came from where we were headed and told us the road got worse before you would arrive at Crown King. They helped to tighten out lug nuts and pointed us to a road that took us out quickly and became graded dirt quickly. Best advice - EVER!

    So, with some research when we arrived back in Tucson we discovered two facts - the Senator Highway was no longer considered 2-WD, even with high clearance, and there was a better way to get to Crown King - much better! This was our first chance to return and it was a wonderful drive on a well-graded 2 WD dirt road, 26 miles off of I-17 near Black Canyon City. On the way you pass through Bumble Bee and Cleator. Cleator has a small store and active bar. Once leaving Cleator you climb from 2,500 ft to over 5,700 ft up gentle switchbacks. In a few places the road is one-lane, but never along steep cliffs, in fact well-maintained guard rails line the edges all along the route. Most of the drive is through open high-desert with great vistas. Just when you arrive in Crown King the environment changes to pine forest and a creek bed with water flowing. In a short distance you arrive at the center of town - OK, about 3-4 businesses; a general store & post office, a couple of restaurants and a couple of lodging options. There was much more activity than we expected. Inside the general store is an active post office and some great t-shirts plus wonderful fudge, made on the premises. We bought some fudge and consumed it before we left town for our afternoon snack.

    Crown King General Store

    Fudge counter

    Saloon & Hotel

    The drive out was easy, knowing what to expect. At about mile 10 we were able to bear left and take a direct route over to Mayer and AZ 69 to Prescott. The reservable campground was booked for Friday night near Lynx Lake, but we were able to get 2 nights at the non-reservable Hilltop Campground, also at Lynx Lake. Both campgrounds are well designed with spacious sites, full price is $18.

    We settled in by 5 PM and enjoyed some great bird watching and even had 2 large Black-tailed Jackrabbits come through. The temperature was in the low 80s to upper 70s, even after the sun set.


    White-breasted Nuthatch

    Wildlife Sightings

    Western Bluebird
    Plain Titmouse
    Tree Swallow
    White-breasted Nuthatch
    Cassin's Finch
    Spotted Towhee
    American Goldfinch
    Acorn Woodpecker - heard

    Black-tailed Jackrabbit

  3. #3

    Default Prescott, AZ - Day 2

    Friday, May 13, 2016

    Start & Finish: Prescott, AZ

    Quiet morning in camp before we went a short distance down the road to Lynx Lake Cafe for a very tasty breakfast. From Spring through Fall the cafe is open Thursday - Monday for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They specialize in German cuisine, with everything on the menu fresh-made. When we finished breakfast they offered for us to share an apple strudel or bread pudding - we declined. On the weekend you can rent boats at the store.

    Lynx Lake Cafe

    Lynx Lake

    We spent the morning hunting several letterboxes with less than great results. Along the way we found a small mound of rock with petroglyphs, right in the middle of an upscale development.

    Enchanted Canyon area

    Pot shards

    Prescott has grown dramatically over the 30 plus years I have been visiting, but historic Whiskey Row has remained the same. As we drove through downtown Prescott we had a glimpse of Whiskey Row.

    It was in the upper 80s, too warm to do the hiking we had planned. We drove out along Senator Highway, 7 miles of paved road, from downtown Prescott to Groom Creek Schoolhouse, a USFS Day Use area. There is a $5 per vehicle fee, or no fee for eligible pass holder to explore the area around the historic schoolhouse and nature trail.

    Groom Creek Schoolhouse - 1902

    We returned to camp mid-afternoon and enjoyed some peace and quiet before fellow campers arrived and became active. This campground was full, as well as the reservable one nearby. We enjoyed more bird watching, especially the Black-chinned hummingbirds which were frequent visitors to our feeder.

    Bluebird box within our campsite - pair building a nest

    Wildlife Sightings
    Spotted Towhee
    White-breasted Nuthatch
    Black-chinned Hummingbird
    Tree Swallow
    Western Bluebird
    House Finch
    Great-tailed Grackle
    Double-created Cormorant
    Acorn Woodpecker
    Common Raven
    Black-throated Gray Warbler

    Black-tailed Jackrabbit

  4. #4

    Default Hot to Cool - Central AZ to Flagstaff, Day 3

    Saturday, May 14, 2016

    Start: Prescott, AZ
    Finish: Bonito Campground (USFS), N of Flagstaff

    Breakfast in camp, then north on AZ 89A, heading over Mingus Mountain into Jerome. Along the way we did see Pronghorn grazing, just after passing the Yavapai County Fairgrounds. We were surprised at how full was the fairgrounds RV Park.

    Note: this stretch of highway, 89A at Mingus Mountain, was recently in the news. A local man had driven over the side and was found 3 days later when tourists stopped to take pictures, they saw his car over the side. He was rescued and expected to recover.

    The drive over Mingus Mountain on AZ 89A is always enjoyable. Jerome was not too busy as we drove through at 10:30 AM, even saw a few parking spaces available. On our way out of town we stopped at the old cemetery. It is just beyond the high school, down North Dr, with plenty of parking. The views back into Jerome and across the Verde Valley towards Flagstaff were great. Clouds were moving in which prevented a good picture to the north. The rusty iron fences around the grave sites, plus tall ground cover made for a good foreground.

    Jerome, AZ

    Today was our first day to visit National Park Service (NPS) sites, a major focus of this trip. Our first stop was in Clarkdale at Tuzigoot National Monument. The high temperature was forecast to be 99* and by 11:30 it was very warm. We enjoyed the displays inside the cooler Visitor Center. The display of pots is impressive.

    Tuzigoot Visitor Center


    We drove through Cottonwood and across AZ 260 to Camp Verde and Montezuma Castle National Monument. Again, it was too hot to explore the ruins (both of which I have visited numerous times over the years). We enjoyed a picnic lunch under the cottonwoods, along Wet Beaver Creek.

    Montezuma Castle NM cottonwoods

    Today's Temperature

    Heading north on I-17 we drove through Flagstaff and went directly to Bonito Campground, right across from the Sunset Crater National Monument Visitor Center, to make sure we got a campsite on a Saturday evening. We arrived by 2 PM and had plenty of sites from which to select. This seems to be our go-to campground as we start or finish a trip. Besides its location near Flagstaff the sites and environment are very nice, large sites on cinders. This campground does not take reservations and seldom fills, according the campground hosts.

    Once we set up our chairs we headed up US 89 to the turnoff for Wupatki National Monument and the 33 mile scenic drive back to Sunset Crater NM and back to the campground. It was cooler once we arrived in Flagstaff, mid-70s, but some dark clouds were moving into the area. As we headed back south, stopping at Wupatki Visitor Center, the rain and wind started.

    Wupatki Ruin - notice the solid rock with the ruin built on top and alongside

    Once back at camp we were driven inside by rain showers several times throughout the evening. While on our evening walk around the campground another shower started before we were back to the van. Besides having hummingbirds at our feeder we enjoyed watching the beautiful Abert's Squirrels scampering around the campground.

    Wildlife Sightings
    Tree Swallow
    Black-chinned Hummingbird
    White-breasted Nuthatch
    Western Bluebird
    Common Raven
    American Goldfinch
    Red-tailed Hawk
    Turkey Vulture
    Broad-tailed Hummingbird

    Abert's Squirrel

  5. #5

    Default Dwarf Planet to Grand Canyon NP - Day 4

    Sunday, May 15, 2016

    Start: Flagstaff, AZ
    Finish: Mather Campground (NPS), Grand Canyon NP, AZ

    Woke up to wind in the pines, it was predicted to have high winds throughout today. We went into Flagstaff for a quick breakfast before going out to Walnut Canyon NM. The main trail, Island Trail, was closed for repairs until 5/31. I had forgotten that you could see a number of ruins from the back porch, some that are not accessible from the Island Trail.

    Walnut Canyon - ruins

    Before leaving the area we drove out the dirt road near the entrance to an Arizona Trail access parking lot. We walked out along the trail for a short distance. This is a nice section of trail, with beautiful Ponderosa Pines.

    Ponderosa Pine

    While in Flagstaff we looked for some letterboxes, signed up for a volkswalk along the rim of the Grand Canyon and visited Lowell Observatory, Home of Pluto. We did not take the tour, but stopped by for the new series of smashed pennies. While there I was pleased to see they were taking the downgrading of Pluto to a Dwarf planet.

    Dwarf planet discount

    Dwarf planet naming

    In the lobby was a display of a 525 Pound meteorite from the late 1800s which landed near Meteorite Crater. The plaque on the wall gave the display history, spending a good deal of time at Verkamp's Store on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon until the family closed the store in 2008. Between the Verkamp family and descendant's of the original discoverer it was determined to be displayed at Lowell Observatory. Great to see it in a scientific setting.

    Verkamp's Meteorite & plaque

    After some discussion we decided to headed over to Williams on I-40 then north on AZ 64. After lunch in Williams we headed to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. A few weeks ago, once we had decided our departure date, I was able to book at campsite at Mather Campground. At that time there were not a lot of sites available. When we arrived - Campground Full sign was posted. We enjoyed dinner at the Yavapai Pub - good pub food and fresh, local AZ beer. It is a small space, does not feel like you are in a very crowded national park.

    Wildlife Sightings
    Abert's Squirrel
    Horned Lizard
    Mule Deer
    American Elk

    Common Raven
    Western Bluebird

  6. #6

    Default Grand Canyon NP to Lee's Ferry - Day 5

    Monday, May 16, 2016

    Start : Grand Canyon NP, South Rim
    Finish: Lee's Ferry Campground (NPS), Glen Canyon NRA, AZ

    After being rudely awakened by a very loud Raven perched over our van we got up and went over to Maswik Lodge cafeteria for breakfast. We used to have breakfast at the Yavapai cafeteria, closer to the campground, but they have changed their menu to be full meals, no a la carte and very expensive. Maswik has lots of a la carte and made to order breakfast items, reasonably priced.

    We then walked over to the rim, a nice short walk from Maswik, and hiked east for 1-1/2 miles before turning around. Lots of people watching and foreign languages to be heard.

    Along the way we walked by Verkamp's Visitor Center, this is the building where the meteorite mentioned in yesterday's post was stored for many years.

    Just before we were crossing the railroad tracks a train approached, not the tourist train from Williams. It was labeled Grand Canyon Railway and had a couple of water tank cars and the rest appeared to be open coal/ore cars. Anyone know the purpose of this train?

    Grand Canyon Railway?

    After showers, at the laundry/shower building near the campground, we drove east towards Cameron. While inside the Tusayan Museum a young child told the ranger there was a snake inside. They went over and identified it as a harmless Bull snake. The ranger awarded this child with a Junior Ranger badge for her alertness and responsible reporting skills.
    We stopped at Lipan Point, just west of Desert View, and were amazed at the spectacular views into the canyon; three different sections of the Colorado River. It was also much less crowded than Desert View. As we had left the Village area rain showers had followed us along the rim. Those clouds added to the views.

    Grand Canyon NP -Lipan Point
    View to the West

    View looking north

    We ended the day at Lee's Ferry within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. After Cameron AZ 89 continues north towards Page, just before the climb up to Page AZ 89A splits off tomthe west to cross the Colorado River at Marble Canyon. There is a visitor center there and the old highway bridge which you can still walk across and look into the canyon. Lee's Ferry just a couple of miles from this area is the take-off point for most of the Colorado River raft trips.

    Wildlife Sightings

    Common Raven
    Brewer's Blackbird
    Western Bluebird
    Western Kingbird
    Great-tailed Grackle
    Violet-green Swallows

    Rock Squirrel
    Spiny Lizard
    Mule Deer

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    A couple of the engines for the GCRR evidently run on French fry oil -- no longer running steam engines, I gather. Perhaps the "oil" is French fry oil for the engines? :-)


  8. #8

    Default Grand Canyon North Rim - Day 6

    Tuesday, May 17, 2017

    Start & Finish: Lee's Ferry Campground, Glen Canyon NRA

    Breakfast in camp, then explored Historic Lee's Ferry along the Colorado River. There were several rafting companies getting ready to take off down the Colorado River.

    Lee's Ferry

    Lee's Fort


    We then drove up the Kaibab Plateau on AZ 89A to Jacobs Lake where we stopped at the Inn for our cookie fix! We can't bypass the bakery counter! Before topping out on the plateau and along the Vermillion Cliffs I saw a California Condor, not far off the side of the road - always a treat!

    Kaibab Plateau - meadow along AZ 64

    We continued south on AZ 64 to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the road had just opened two days ago. Access to the North Rim is only available from May 15 to October 15. It was very busy today, it took 20 minutes to pass through the entrance station.

    Mule Deer


    North Rim view

    Back at camp a Spiny Lizard was sunning itself within our campsite when we returned.

    Wildlife Sightings
    Spiny Lizard
    Cottontail Rabbit
    Ground Squirrel
    Mule Deer

    California Condor
    Violet-green Swallow
    Common Raven
    Turkey Vulture
    Steller's Jay
    Red-tailed Hawk
    Canyon Wren
    Ash-throated Flycatcher
    Great-tailed Grackle
    Western Kingbird

  9. #9

    Default US 89 to Page, Kanab & Pipe Spring NM - Day 7

    Wednesday, May 18, 2016

    Start: Lee's Ferry, AZ
    Finish: Paiute Tribal Campground, Pipe Springs, AZ

    Light rain off and on most of the night made for a pretty morning with clouds decorating the cliffs.

    First stop was in Page for smashed pennies, supplies, gas and passport stamps at the headquarters office for the Glen Canyon NRA. We walked out to Hanging Gardens, this short trail is just before the bridge over the Colorado River and the dam.

    Hanging Gardens

    Stopped at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center at Glen Canyon Dam to turn in completed Junior Ranger booklet for Glen Canyon NRA and Rainbow Bridge NM. In May 2013 we took the boat trip out to Rainbow Bridge. Access to park rangers and visitor services is limited within Glen Canyon NRA so I had downloaded the Junior Ranger booklet, which has both units, at home and worked on it before I arrived and while camping at Lee's Ferry. About half of the park sites have their Junior Ranger booklets online.

    After a week on the road we crossed into Utah, temporarily.

    While in Kanab we stopped at the 2 BLM sites for passport stamps for Grand Staircase-Escalante NM and Old Spanish Trail NHT. We drove back into Arizona and ended the day at Pipe Springs NM. I picked up their Junior Ranger booklet, then ended the day at the Paiute Tribal Campground just up the road. To say it is a work in progress is kind. After registering at the convenience store on the highway we drove up to the campground. For $20 you get a gravel pull-through with full-hookups and porta potties; no picnic table or grill or any other amenities. There is a building on site which appears to have restrooms and showers, but is not open and there is no staff on site. It was quiet throughout the night.

    Paiute Tribal Campground

    View of Pipe Springs NM from campground

    Penstemon - Pipe Spring NM Headquarters

    Wildlife Sightings
    Great-tailed Grackle
    Brewer's Blackbird
    Common Raven
    Violet-green Swallow
    White-crowned Sparrow
    House Sparrow
    Mourning Dove
    Say's Phoebe

    Cottontail Rabbit
    Side-blotched Lizard
    Desert Spiny Lizard

  10. #10

    Default Pipe Springs NM then zooming through Zion NP - Day 8

    Thursday, May 19, 2016

    Start: Pipe Springs, AZ
    Finish: Red Canyon Campground (USFS), Near Bryce Canyon, UT

    Very quiet night in the campground. Woke up to clear skies, first time in several days. Went back to Pipe Springs NM to complete the Junior Ranger by taking the Winsor Castle tour and exploring the grounds. While I was doing that my husband spotted a number of birds.

    Winsor Castle

    Longhorn cattle

    Once I received my Junior Ranger badge we continued west on AZ 389 back into Utah - it only took us a week to travel through Arizona!

    We had planned to do a couple of things in Zion NP, but when we arrived at noon on a Thursday it was too crazy for us! We literally got the passport stamps and ran! There was no parking at the visitor center so I let my husband out and drove around the parking lot until he returned. People were squaring off over open spaces and following people to their cars. We'll go back in late Fall or early Spring. With little effort we can get there in 1-1/2 days from Tucson.

    Zion NP

    We drove through the tunnel and headed back to US 89, then north to Red Canyon, the entrance to Bryce Canyon NP. We got a campsite at the USFS campground in red Canyon, our preferred camping spot. This campground even has showers! We went back into Panguitch for gas and a couple of letterboxes.

    Red Canyon

    Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel - campsite buddy

    Wildlife Sightings:

    Mourning Dove
    Say's Phoebe
    Yellow Warbler
    Black Phoebe
    Bewick's Wren
    White-crowned Sparrow
    Brewer's Blackbird
    Gambel's Quail
    Turkey Vulture
    Common Raven
    White-throated Swift
    Western Kingbird
    Red-tailed Hawk
    Black-billed Magpie
    American Robin

    Mule Deer
    Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel
    Collared Lizard
    Desert Spiny Lizard

    Note: Back on the road today, June 8. I'll resume posting when we return to Tucson in a few weeks.

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