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Moving on to Arizona


October 6th, 2021

After our hike in Gallup up the Hogback, we made our way westward into Arizona, the 8th state since we left Canada a month ago.  We made our way to Chinle, AZ – the home of Canyon de Chelly (pronounced d’shay).  This is a national monument and entry is free.  Management of the park is shared between the parks board and the Navajo nation.  There are two rim roads to drive and explore views and paths along the rim of the canyon but if you want to be down on the canyon floor you required a guide and you must go in their vehicle.  This is what we had booked while in Albuquerque for Thursday, the 7th.

We arrived at the monument, saw a couple of wild camping spots near the entrance that didn’t pan out (one was flooded and one looked like private property) and drove on to the park’s campground.  The cost is $14 a night with bathrooms (no showers), a picnic table and a fire ring but no power or water on site.  There is a dump station and potable water access at it.  We got the trailer parked, had breakfast and unhooked so we could spend the afternoon driving the southern rim road.

Well this place is a hidden gem!  Spectacular views at all the lookouts (only one was closed) and we were pleased as punch to be here and have great weather to boot.

At several of the lookouts you can see ruins that date back as far as 700 AD and many of them are cliff dwellings high up the rock faces of the canyon walls.  The walls begin at about 10m / 30’ tall and rise as high as 300 m / 1000’.  There are people that still live and farm in the canyon but most do so only in summer.  There is one woman, Jenny, who lives there year round; she has solar power, a satellite dish for television and one for internet.  She has corn fields, fruit orchards and some farm animals.

AT most overlooks, there were Navajo vendors but they were not annoying.  It was not crowded and we did a few short walks at a couple of them to get different views.

We returned to our campsite, had dinner and had a very quiet night.  We were up in time for our 9 am pick the next day and Eleanor took us into the canyon for even more amazing views.  Fran took so many pictures it’s going to take hours to go through them!

We stopped at several of the ruins we’d seen from the rim and a few pictograph and petroglyph sites.

Our final stop was the White House ruins (the one road that was not open on the rim) and here we saw the large ruins.

She drove us into Canyon del Muerto as well and saw more homes and properties owned by relatives of our guide.  The land gets passed down from one generation to another.

We were back at our campsite by about 12:15 – check out is noon but Fran had asked the lady near the toll booth yesterday if it was a problem if we left a bit late and we were given the okay.  We had some lunch, showered and changed before dumping out tanks and refilling the fresh one.

We began our drive towards the Grand Canyon where we hope to spend a couple of days wild camping on national forest land.  Fran had tried to get us a campsite in one of the two campgrounds in the park, but for the days, we wanted there were no spots – that’s over 400 sites, all full!

We stopped about halfway and found a gas station that allowed us to overnight in the dirt lot beside the station and we got a bonus here:  free WiFi that worked pretty well.

On the way we Doug saw in our atlas there were dinosaur prints on Navajo land.  We made a short stop there and saw this petrified turtle shell:

And then several footprints:

A little further down the road we came across two rock formations called “the elephant’s feet”:

Friday morning we awoke to greying skies and a threat of rain by midday.  We wanted to get to our campsite before it began to rain BUT we also wanted to see the overlooks into the Grand Canyon enroute and top off with gas as the price near and in the park is outrageous.

Sidebar:  The time change to Pacific Time did not occur coming into Arizona.  While most of the state does not practice daylight savings time, the Navajo Nation does.  This is because the nation is spread throughout three states:  New Mexico and Utah (which are on mountain time) and this northeast corner of AZ.  So in order to have the entire nation in one time zone, the Navajo in Arizona, do practice daylight savings. 

We stopped in Tuba City for gas at $3.04 a gallon (it’s 4.39 in the park!) and after entering the park, several miles later, free of course with Fran’s lifetime pass and stopped at several looks out including Desert View with its watchtower,

Moran with panoramic views

Our GPS stupidly decided going through the Grand Canyon village was the way to our campsite and after a closed road, got us all turned around until our on our phone figured out the route.  We are camped in the Kaibob National Forest at no cost and we got a great spot.  The site is rather large and it’s got a circular drive in it.  Upon arrival there was a spot taken by someone (their vehicle was not currently there but some camping equipment was) and we got parked on the other side with a fire pit and lots of room to ourselves.

While we were eating our brekkie, they returned and packed so we have the whole area to ourselves.  We guess they went touring and broke camp before the rain.  We both went for walks and it began to rain off and on all afternoon starting around 3.  IT was rather cool – maybe 15C / 59F but not unbearable.  The weather should clear overnight for our day trip into the park itself.  We have 5G TMobile coverage here and it’s quite except for the odd helicopter heading to the nearby Grand Canyon airport.

It got quite cold that night – we were glad Fran used the oven and stovetop for dinner – made the evening more comfortable.  Dropped to near freezing overnight! However, we awoke Saturday to clear skies and made our way to the park early (before 8) to beat the crowds.  We entered the parked at the gate quite quickly and easily but finding parking down at the west end proved impossible so instead we drove back to the Visitor’s Centre area, parked and walked in both directions along the rim enjoying the views.

By 11 it was starting to get more crowded and we left the park – the line up to get in was now about ¾ of a mile long in two lanes!  Glad we went early.  We enjoyed some down time back at the trailer after our brekkie and Doug made a fire in the late afternoon which was very enjoyable in the cool sunshine.  We had another quiet night before heading south for a night in Williams at a cheap hotel.

The Gateway Hotel is right on Route 66 and everything you need is within a few blocks: Safeway for groceries, the post office for mailing a few postcards and Dairy Queen for a treat!

Monday we awoke to clear skies but lots of wind.  We checked out about 10:30 and made our way west on the I40 towards Kingman; there was a BLM wild camp between there and Bullhead City that we had picked out.  This is on the old Kingman highway and there were a number of spots and only one other truck was in sight.  We didn’t want to go too far in as the turning around options diminished the further up the road you went.

Fran went for a walk up the old highway and saw a mine:

And heard what could have been dynamite blasting and then later gun shots – there were ATV’s around so they must have been doing some target practice out on the fields.

We got parked, did our daily to do’s and the sky was covered in clouds before dinner time.   It did rain but for only about 90 seconds; just enough to disturb the dust on the truck and make it look dirty!  🙂

Tuesday morning, we awoke to clear skies and thought we had a short day with a couple of chores.  We drove into the Lake Mead National Recreation Area (for free with our parks pass) and used their dump and potable water station (another nice perk of that card) before heading into Bullhead City to get laundry done, a bit of shopping and fill up on cheap gas before going into Nevada where it’s way more expensive.

Around 2pm we finally left Bullhead and made our way about halfway to Las Vegas south of Searchlight for today.  There was a iOverlander spot for BLM land where we got parked for the night.  It was a little windy but not as bad as where we were yesterday.  We had another quiet night under the stars.

We arrived in Vegas at our hotel  around 8:30 am – we had a reservation for two nights for a two bedroom suite as they didn’t have availability for all five nights that we are here with the kids.  But we made arrangements with them to leave our trailer in their lot for the extra three nights.  Doug went inside to get the parking passes and it turned out our room was ready so we took a load of things up before unhooking the trailer.  We didn’t have to meet Josh at the airport until after 11:30 so we went to Costco for Fran to order new eyeglasses, went to look for an air compressor for the truck and then took another load up to the suite before going to the airport.