Arizona: Grand Canyon, Sedona + Canyon de Chelly

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon was amazing and definitely a highlight of our trip. The national park in and of itself was spectacular, but a few magical things happened to us that made it even more special. First of all, we met some great folks at the campground on the north rim. Secondly, we met another fabulous couple who offered us a job working at their North Rim Country Store. We were pretty much on a high before we even entered the canyon! The next day we drove into the park and simply fell in love. While we did drive around the rim and hike down into the canyon (which was amazing!), we honestly could have just sat and looked at the rocks and the depth of the canyon all day. The colors of the rocks changed significantly with the ever changing direction of the sun. Stunning! Lastly, despite not having made a reservation months in advance, we were able to secure a camp site for the night. Lucky us! The beautiful sunset was over the top, we slept like kings and we savored viewing the changing rocks in the beautiful morning light.


GC shoesIMG_4274GC 1Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

We experienced the Vermilion Cliffs on a hot, sunny October day. The sky was bright blue, the rocks stunning layers of red and orange. Lees Ferry is where the Grand Canyon starts and the Colorado River plays in the curve of the rocks. We took a dip in the river and had a picnic on the bank.

IMG_4139 IMG_4144 IMG_4150 IMG_4161 IMG_4166

Sedona / Oak Creek Canyon

We spent a few days exploring Sedona and the Oak Creek Canyon. Surrounded by red rocks as far as the eye can see, the area is simply gorgeous. The night we camped in the canyon it rained (it was the only rain we had for three weeks) and the sound of raindrops on Moby’s roof lulled us to sleep. In the morning we drove into Flagstaff and ate like royalty at MartAnne’s Burrito Palace. What a treat!

20141008_142357 IMG_4286 IMG_4287IMG_4290IMG_4294Flagstaff

Winslow, Arizona 

You know, just standing on a corner…


Petrified National Forest

Fossil logs and a native grassland ecosystem made for a very unusual landscape. We ended up camping in a parking lot right outside the national forest with about five other rigs. Two of the “RVs” looked like they’d already been there for a looong time and I don’t think they were in a hurry to go anywhere soon. Besides being free (always a bonus!), the sunset was amazing and we got to drive through the park again in the morning en route to Canyon de Chelly.

20141010_173037 20141010_173416

20141010_174939Canyon de Chelly

Located in northeast Arizona within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation, this national park is unique in that Navajo families are actually living and working in the canyon. While the geography is impressive I can’t imagine how challenging it must be to farm at the base of the massive canyon. Driving through the reservation was eye-opening and depressing because signs of poverty were evident at every turn. The photography exhibit in the visitor’s center chronicling the history of the Nation was a beautiful tribute to the Navajo people.

20141011_153142 20141011_14594520141011_14573820141011_160517

We had such an incredible time experiencing 13 national parks / monuments over the course of three weeks. If you could visit any national park, where would you go?




National Parks: Phase I {Summary}

Harry, Moby and I left Portland, Oregon on Saturday, September 27, 2014 and arrived at my parent’s house in Holland, Michigan on Saturday, October 18. Here’s a summary of our three-week National Park road trip:

# of days on the road: 22
# of nights on the road: 21
# of miles driven: 4,500
$ spent on gas: $650
Cheapest gas: $2.56 {Gallup, New Mexico}

# of nights we camped in Moby: 14
# of Big Foot sightings: 0
# of days we slept in hotel rooms: 6
# of days we slept in a friend’s condo: 1 {downtown Chicago… thanks, Maureen and Ann!}
# of showers: 9 (Kerry) 7 (Harry)

# of national parks / monuments: 11
{Crater Lake, Cedar Breaks, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Pipe Springs, Vermilion Cliffs, Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, Canyon de Chelly, Indiana Dunes}

# of states: 11 {Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan}

Number of speeding tickets: 0
Favorite camp site: Hart Mountain, Oregon
Worst camp site: KOA Oklahoma City
Number of reservations: 0
Epic sunsets: Grand Canyon + Hart Mountain, Oregon
Number of river swims: 1 {Colorado River, Lee’s Ferry / Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona)
Best b-b-q: Cuba, Missouri
Friendliest RV-ers: Mark and Karla from Spokane, Washington
Scariest stop: gas station in Tucumcari, New Mexico

# of job offers: 1 {North Rim Country Store, Grand Canyon} I fell in love with this store as soon as we stepped inside. The shop felt warm and homey, the displays were really creative and the location was downright magical (hello, Grand Canyon!) Betsy and Tyler, the owners, were incredibly down to earth and happy to answer all our questions. After we chatted for a while they said that we could come work for them in the spring. Imagine living on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for a few months helping out tourists and travelers all day long! Although the timing won’t work for us this year it sure felt nice to make a connection and have a back-up plan. The best part of this story (yes, it keeps getting better!) is that my cousin Maureen actually knows Betsy and Tyler! Imagine how excited we were when we discovered this! What a small, small world.

In a nutshell, Harry and I had the best time driving cross country together. We had incredible weather for three weeks straight and we loved living out of our van. Our pace was slow and we really enjoyed experiencing life one day at a time. We were grateful for our time together exploring a section of the amazing southwest.


Southern Utah *Zion National Park*

Friday, October 3 — We were on a total high when we left Bryce Canyon. Windows rolled down, we were on top of the world when Harry saw signs for homemade jerky. We pulled into the Mt Carmel Junction gas station / curio shop / jerky depot. We pulled away sans really expensive jerky but with a valuable tip on how to find free camping on public land “just down the road”.

A Road Called Ponderosa 

Following directions I’d written on a paper napkin given to us by a certified “local”, we drove west on route 9, turned right at the bend in the road and continued up the really pretty but very windy mountain road. According to my napkin, the turn-off for Ponderosa should have appeared within twenty minutes. Excited to camp off the beaten path we kept driving. When the sun started to set we decided that the directions we received weren’t very accurate and that we might not ever find Ponderosa Road. Feeling discouraged we turned around and went back down the mountain.

Ponderosa Resort Campground

We arrived at the Ponderosa Resort Campground in the dark and discovered that it was crowded and expensive. It didn’t help that it was a Friday night so the weekend crowd was there in full force. We hunkered down for a quick sleep and hit the road first thing in the morning.

Zion National Park

We accessed Zion at the east end of the park which meant we had to descend into the canyon on a narrow, windy, curvy road. If that wasn’t stressful enough we also had to drive through the mile long Zion – Mt. Carmel tunnel. Talk about intense! The tunnel was narrow and dark and a mile never felt so long. Harry was definitely white-knuckled behind the wheel but he did a great job getting us to the bottom on the canyon.

Ideally one would never visit a national park on a beautiful, sunny weekend, and we knew better… yet here we were on a Saturday, surrounded by a bunch of people when all we craved was solitude. At least it was October and not August. We took the required park shuttle into the heart of the canyon and did a few short hikes. Our favorite experience was eating lunch away from the crowds on the bank of the North Fork of the Virgin River, just the two of us.



Zion is an incredibly beautiful and interesting place to visit. If you haven’t already been here I highly recommend this national park!