Destination: Burr Trail Road, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Labor Day weekend was fast approaching and we were unable to find an available campground in Northern Arizona.  We tossed around ideas for about a week and then Sam saw an article about the Burr Trail Road.   The Burr Trail starts off in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and then crosses in Capitol Reef National Park and finally ends at Glen Canyon Recreation Area.  One of the highlights are some wicked steep switchbacks to get down to the Canyon Floor.   Wow, this would be a long drive, but after a call to the Rangers at the Monument, we found out the area is not busy and we would not have trouble disperse camping.   We took off on a Saturday morning with our fur babies in the back seat.

The first day we drove for about 8 hours.  We stopped along the way to let the girls stretch their legs.  This was a long time for them to ride in the car.  Even though Bella is blind she did pretty well.  She rolls with the punches and before long she will be able to figure out how high the truck is and how far she needs to jump to get to the ground.  For now we have a system for picking her up.   This is fine as long as you enjoy a furry shirt – roller tape is must with Bella.  She is the furriest dog I have ever known.  When she walks around the house I am reminded of Pig Pen from the Peanuts cartoons.  You can see puffs of hair coming off of her.  Missy cried for part of the trip – just the unknown I imagine.  The world at times can still be a very scary place for her.

We made it to Escalante National Monument Visitor Center and I went in to get a map and talk to the Rangers.  Always good to make contact and see what the road conditions are like.  I asked about the infamous switchbacks and they said they should be fine, they had not had any recent rain.  They gave us some tips of possible camp sites.  These would not be the nice organized campgrounds in State Parks.  This would be pullouts off the road more than likely.  It was getting dark as we started on the Burr Trail Road and we decided to camp for the night and get a fresh start in the morning.

The girls were happy to be out of the back seat, but this is the high desert and it was still warm at 6:00 PM.  They hung out in the camper till the sun set and then they wanted to explore.  We took several walks and could see very well by moonlight.  We had a great evening and went to bed with the windows open, trying to catch the coolness of the evening.

The next morning we realized that we did not bring enough bottled water.   Between us and the dogs we went through it really quickly.  We had some water in the tank, but we did not top off before we left Phoenix.  The first opportunity to get more water would be Bullfrog down near Lake Powell.   We filled the empty bottles and packed up and headed out for the drive.

The only word to describe the Burr Canyon is WOW!  The color of the canyon walls are so red that they don’t appear to be real.  It looks like a Disney set that someone had built in the middle of the desert.  It was truly one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen.  We could not believe that we did not see more people on the road.  We took our time and enjoyed the views.  We came to the switchbacks and as Sam maneuvered the first curve, I may have started to cry, I am really not sure.  I may be blocking it out.  We were very high up on gravel road, no guard rail on the side of cliff.  What could go wrong?



We made it safely down to the bottom and had about a 30 mile drive on a washboard road.  We knew this was not good for the camper – the vibration moves things and can cause damage.  We took it slow and Sam did his best to keep the vibrations to a minimum.  We did stop for lunch and sat under a tree and had a picnic.

We made it to Bullfrog near Lake Powell and stocked up on water.  It was very hot and not the type of weather that Bella could be out in.  So we decided to head for home.   The girls did not complain about that decision.

Moki Dugway – 3 Miles of Switchbacks

We decided to take a shortcut on SR 261 to get closer to Arizona.  As we turned the corner there were warning signs that said no “overweight or oversize vehicles”.  I asked Sam if we are oversized and he said “no, this is a pickup”.  As we drove further on the road, a driver in a car coming toward us starting waving her arms at us and shaking her head.  I told Sam “I think that woman is telling us not to go this way”, he replied that she was saying hi.  I knew we were committed.  22 miles down the road we came around a corner and saw the most horrifying sight.  1200 feet straight down – narrow dirt road, very steep switchbacks and again no guardrail.  Coming up the road was a truck, so Sam had to pull to the edge to let them pass.  They stopped to chat – why wouldn’t you want to talk to the crazy people taking a giant top heavy truck camper down a dangerous road.  This was confirmed when the lady in the truck told Sam that he is crazy.  The speed limit on the road is 5 MPH.  Sam very carefully maneuvered the switchbacks.  At one point I asked him if we are going to be ok, I was not joking, I thought it a real possibility that we could go over the edge.  He was as cool as a cucumber until we got the bottom – when he let out his breath and said how scary that was.   He said if we had gone over the edge at least we would have all gone together.   We never have to go on this road again.  Once was enough.

As we got near Flagstaff and the cooler temps we stopped to have a quick dinner.  We deployed the camp chairs and watched the sunset on the side of Hwy 89 eating the leftovers from the weekend.  We were all exhausted, within two days we drove around 20 hours and maneuvered 2 switchbacks that I believe took several years off our lives.  Getting the dogs in and out of the truck ended up being really difficult, and finding a safe spot to get off the highway was also problematic.  The fantasy that we had of taking our fur babies with us on a marathon trip was hit with the reality that this is very new to them and us.  We need to start small – limit the time in the truck to 3 hours for the girls and camp long enough that they can really get used to this new way of life.

The 2 days was a mix of incredible views and some lessons learned.

  • Take a case of water and fill the water tanks.
  • Desert camping is hot and dusty.
  • 20 hours in the truck are not much fun for the 4-legged and 2-legged members of the family.

It is OK that this adventure did not turn out like we thought.   The Burr Trail Road should be on everyone’s bucket list. This is an area that we want to explore more – without the switchbacks of course.    We got more experience camping with the girls, and level set the expectations of what we all can deal with.  The girls got to see Utah for the first time.  Well, Bella saw it in her own way – smelling.

Destination: Victor, Idaho


Destination:  Victor, Idaho  August 2017

We have wonderful  friends, Laurie and Allan that live part-time in the Teton Valley in Victor, Idaho.   They have a beautiful home and property that has an incredible views of the Grand Tetons.  This year what started out as an idea to rent a RV and drive up to visit them morphed into purchasing a truck camper. We had always talked about waiting until we retire to purchase a weekend toy, but after Sam’s triple by-pass this past winter, we asked each other what are we waiting for?  We planned to stop and see the sites on the way up.  Nine days, Eight nights would test our desire to live in a studio apartment on the back of a truck.  We spent months deciding on our route and where we would stop each night.

BIA unofficial detour IR 5058Just a few hours into our trip we came to a road block – the highway was closed and we were told that it could be a lengthy closure.   We found an alternate route to get back to the highway and keep us moving toward Utah.

You know you’re in Utah when you see Church Rock viewed from US 191 in Southern Utah.

By the first night it became clear that we had overestimated how far we would get that night.  We used a handy app on our phone that provided campgrounds that were in the vicinity of our location.  Important to mention that when you don’t have cell service – the app will not work.  Good thing we actually had paper maps.   We stayed at Devil’s Campground South of Monticello, Utah managed by the Forest Service.  Camp Host Mike was fantastic and gave us advice on the most secluded campsites.  The campground was very convenient just off US 191.

Foxy at Devils Canyon CG

We experienced a rainstorm in the middle of the night at the Devil’s Campground.  I loved the sound of the rain on the top of the camper and I slept like a baby.  We learned a valuable lesson to not leave our camp chairs out during the night.  We had grand plans to drink our morning coffee sitting in our camp chairs and watch the sunrise but were met with puddles of water in the seats.

One of the highlights of the trip was the petroglyphs in Nine-Mile Canyon.  Don’t let the name fool you – it is actually an all day drive if you stop to enjoy the scenery.  We only saw a handful of people on this day.  It is a very nice paved road – no problem for our truck camper.  You can choose to turn around and return on the paved road or take a dirt road that leads up to Vernon, Utah.  We of course took the dirt road.  It is rare that Sam will turn around – we always move forward as a rule.



9 Mile Petrogyph

Several times in our wanderings around the Southwest we have come across places that feel majestic and have that feeling of holy.    God’s Country comes to mind – you breath a little easier, and a sense of peace comes to you.  These places convey how big and powerful the world is and where we fit in the puzzle.  This spot in Nine Mile Canyon had that feeling, and it seemed others felt that way too.  From the petroglyphs that covered the walls to the cross we found.  Not sure if someone was buried here or possibly ashes were spread.  Regardless, we knew this would be a place that we talk about for years.


Antelope Hanging Out Near the Road- Nine Mile Canyon

Second night we camped at Steinaker State Park near Vernal, Utah.  Before we drove out to the park we ended up eating dinner in town, because we were not sure how far out of town the lake was and not sure if we were going to get a spot.  We learned our lesson to just cook at the camp ground.  The restaurant was expensive and it didn’t hold a candle to Sam’s cooking.  First time with a “full” hook-up, and I have to admit that it was pretty nice, because we were able to take showers and I could blow dry my hair.   The campsites were close together, but the campers were all respectful of each other and kept noise to a minimum.

Camp site at Steinaker State Park.   We really learned to appreciate the campgrounds at the State Parks.


Finally made it to Idaho.  We set up camp in Laurie’s vegetable garden.  They had water hookup and we really enjoyed the cool weather.  They have a beautiful home and private guest room, but we were enjoying our camper so much we stayed the night in the garden.  The camper was a bit cold in the morning so we turned on the heater – and set off the alarm in the camper.  We had not had an opportunity to test the heater in Arizona (no need to, when it is 115 degrees).


View of the Tetons from Laurie’s vegetable garden.  Sam and I were sitting in our camper drinking coffee and saw the sun peeking over the mountains.  We both looked at eachother and I ran for the camera so Sam could catch this shot.  The smoke from fires in Wyoming and Montana resulted in this incredible sunrise.

Next stop  was Buffalo Campground in Island Park, Idaho.  This campground is just 25 miles from Yellowstone National Park.  This is a favorite campground of Laurie and Allan, and we could see why.  We stayed two nights in this campground and had an incredible time.

Buffalo River Just a Few Steps from the Campsites

Sam made getting into the hammock looks so easy.  I had a bit of trouble getting in and out of it, but we don’t speak of it.

Quake Lake – Notice the Slide Area on the Side of the Mountain.
Allan, Laurie and Sam
Picnic near Quake Lake.

We visited the Madison River Canyon where an earthquake struck in 1959.  The earthquake caused a massive slide that cut off the river and Quake Lake was formed within days. Many people who were camping and recreating on the lake and downstream along the river  were caught in the disaster and died.  One side of the lake lifted up and the other side went into the lake, which you can still see cabins that were once on the lake now sitting in the middle of a field.  The visitor center is well worth the stop.  I read a great book after coming home- The 1959 Yellowstone Earthquake by Larry Morris.  Incredible stories of what occured, stories of the very ordinary people caught in this horrible disaster and how they helped each other.  Very much worth the read.  I asked my parents if they remembered this event, but neither remembered it.  I have to remind myself this was before “social media”.  My mother would have been 17 or 18 and getting ready to marry my dad.

We made it through the traffic in Salt Lake City – (I kept my head down and crocheted the whole time).  Last night in the Camper and we stopped at Yuba Lake State Park for the night.  Another State Park – great spot with beautiful trees and cool grass to walk in our barefeet.  Sam grilled a great meal – salmon and asparagus.   One constant at every campground was the sound of children playing and laughing.  We can never get tired of hearing it.  While we were staying in the Buffalo Campground I met a little boy whose name coincidentally enough was Sam; and he told me in the usual banter of a 3 year old that he dreamed the night before that he was running and running.  At that point he started to run back to his own camp with pure joy on his face.   We may not be able to run like a 3 year old anymore but we can remember and enjoy the memory.

The trip sealed the deal – we are hooked.  Next step is setting up the jeep to be pulled behind the truck.  Then the real fun begins.

Destination: Kehl’s Campground on the Mogollon Rim, Northern Arizona.

This was to be our maiden voyage with our Arctic Fox 990 Truck Camper.  We loaded our two dogs into the back seat of our Ford one ton truck and headed out.  Stocking a truck camper for the first time is like filling a studio apartment.  We had talked about it for weeks, talked about what we would need, strategized and generally exhausted the topic.  Regardless, we made 3 stops on the way out of town – Walgreens for a first aid kit, Walmart for blankets and of course Starbucks.   We would only be gone overnight but were stocked with enough food and wine to last a week.

Kehl’s Campground is off Forest Road 300 off SR 87

Forest Road 300 was slightly muddy with a recent monsoon, but wide enough for our truck camper



Kehl’s Campground is a beautiful place on the Mogollon Rim.  The cool pines are a welcome escape from the Phoenix heat.  The campground is named for the spring near by.  The campground had picnic tables and a fire ring, but no hook-ups.  We were on our own, as much as you can be in a truck camper with a bathroom, refrigerator, stove, microwave, queen size bed and a dinette.  OK, admittedly we were not roughing it.
Kehl’s Campground
The girls seemed to love the trip, new smells and cooler weather.  It’s a dog’s life!
Rare Sighting of Sam Sitting Down
Sam was enjoying a rare event of relaxation for him.  The day was overcast but never rained while we were at the campground.



Magic Pan
We never go anywhere without our  “magic pan”.  We use a 9×9 cake pan and cook various types of veggies right on the grill.  We have cooked asparagus, potatoes, broccolini, butternut squash and all come out tasting incredible – thus the name “magic pan”
First Dinner
First dinner in the truck camper was seared tuna and grilled broccolini and mushrooms. As usual Sam spoiled us with his grilling skills.  Sam is challenged to cook for just two people, he usually cooks for a party of 8.  Makes for good leftovers.
June Bug
We had large visitors after the sun went down.  As we were walking the girls around the campground after dark before we got them in the camper for the night and Sam was buzzed by something loud and large.  When we got back to the light of the camper we saw many of these and he knew what had buzzed him.  Beautiful June beatles, but disconcerting when they fly into you in the dark.
First Camping Experience
This was Bella and Missy’s first overnight in the camper.  Both are self proclaimed indoor princesses, but they really seemed to enjoy the cooler weather and the smells of the outdoors – so different from the concrete sidewalks of their Goodyear neighborhood.  They were exhausted!
The view from the Mogollon Rim as we were driving out the next morning.  We enjoyed Kehl’s Campground – quiet and a great place to get away for a few days.  This will be a go to when the Phoenix heat hits 115 degrees.