Day 1. Sat, 9/21/19. Jenner CA to Verdi NV – 241 miles
A few days before our Tiny adventure I got the flu. At first I was sleepy and then I lost my appetite (<- something wrong…). Two days we were to depart, my fever broke. Luck was on our side, kind of anyway. We picked up our modified Tiny two days before the start of an 18 day trip with a dead battery. A trip to the dealer later, we were able to pack a day before the grand adventure. Not ideal…
Despite a 5 am wake up call, we weren’t able to leave Jenner until 8 hours later. Another 5 hours of driving, we arrived at our first overnight stop – Verdi NV at 8:30 pm bone weary. Checking in at the store, we drove to our designated space – 56. Lo and behold, an interloper RV was parked in our spot!
Back to the store, find the manager, explain the situation, manager gets the security guard, they talk to interloper… All of this takes time but eventually, the bad guys left and we slid into our designated spot. We both fell into bed at 9 pm too tired to brush our teeth. We were in survival mode.
Day 2. Sun, 9/22/19. Verdi NV to Jordanelle State Park UT – 560 miles
There is a sameness here in the hard scrabble brush and low hills of 80E. The parched earth shimmers in the sun. So water-like and not. Living by the ocean, the waves move and we admire its beauty. With the desert, the wind creates the movement.
Dry persistent gales bounce off Tiny buffeting us as we drive the lonely highway punctuated by prisons, dead coyotes and mining operations. In this empty landscape there are moments of beauty – pretty native grasses and flowers in deep purple and yellow were a welcome, rare treat.
After a harrowing drive, we entered the salt flats and drove the windy roads to Jordanelle UT thankful to be there.
Day 3. Mon, 9/23/19. Jordanelle State Park UT – Dinosaur National Monument – 153 miles
In the morning, a lake and magpies greeted us. But we were not long to linger – dinosaurs were waiting for us! The wall of bones also known as “bone jam” in the Carnegie Quarry was a gem. Literally 1000s of fossilized bones identified and classified but left as is. It is a random assortment – a Stegosaurus scale here and a Camarasaurus skull there and in between an Apatosaurus femur. It was all very captivating.
Day 4. Tue, 9/24/19. Dinosaur National Monument
After sleeping in, we went to the Vernal Natural History Museum where we saw a Dolichryrhinos – a giant saber-toothed herbivore! It captured my imagination and scared me at the same time. There were several dinoramas that I couldn’t even look at for fear they would turn around and eat me. Of course, I knew that wouldn’t be feasible. #1 - the ones I’m scared of are herbivores. And #2 - they are extinct.
At the museum there were artifacts from the Ancestral Puebloans (formerly known as Anasazi) including an eagle’s head amulet and several clay figures which reminded me of Cycladic idols.
Later we went to see petroglyphs which the Fremont people carved. I sat in Swelter Shelter a small cave which has been inhabited by humans for 8000 years. Seeing the vista from that vantage point, I could see the advantages of its location. The carved art was haunting and spiritual at the same time. These figures spoke. And despite the distracting modern graffiti carved next to these 1000 year old pictographs, the Fremont images continued to speak loudly.
Nearby, a large lizard bridged the rock edge between light, the hot sun and dark, the cool shadow. Motionless and yet very present, the lizard stood as a sentinel.
Day 5. Wed, 9/25/19. Dinosaur National Monument to Dead Horse Point State Park – 197 miles
Covering so many miles and going from one place to another means unpacking and packing boxes full of kitchen supplies, clothing, toiletries and camera equipment. Not having a shakedown trip after a modified Tiny meant there was quite a bit of “Why did we bring this?”. While second guessing and the constant packing and unpacking is like a “Ground Hog’s Day” movie where the outcome is the same – we get to be in a fabulously new environment seeing and experiencing things we would not have if we were gazing out into the ocean at our Jenner home.
Driving into Colorado, “Look! Deer! No! Antelope!” Three Pronged Antelope stood beside the road and Francesca obliged them with a family portrait.
Stopping at the Canyon Pintado Trail, we admired the petroglyphs. Crawling up on the rocks to get a closer view, there was an insightful tableaux to Kokopelli’s left. I recognized, one figure – a deer. Then another, a hunter. There was a large leaf-like bridge and a spirit like apparition. Then I looked at the picture as a whole and a wave of emotion washed over me – I understood what they were trying to say. It all made sense to me.
Dead Horse Point is a vast park with large flat rocks and deep valleys. After Francesca’s photo shoot, I went to the parking lot and saw a desert fox. White and beige, the small fox trotted by purposefully. It’s face and body perfectly coiffed and ready for the evening.
Day 6. Thu, 9/26/19. Dead Horse Point to Moab Utah – 33 miles
Francesca woke up in the middle of the night in our Moenkopi yurt with a view of the big dipper. We got up a few hours later and enjoyed beautiful sandstone vistas carved in pink and beige. As the morning continued, the wind picked up.
This place has no water, no streams, no river, no lakes – nothing. Lore has it that cowboys prodded wild horses to the point, then closed off the opening with brush. Picking the best horses out of the herd to later domesticate, the remaining ones were left in the corral to succumb to the punishing heat. Horrifically cruel, this is the legacy of place. Laughter now abounds as cheerful tourists enjoy the vistas. And I am one of them. We are helping create a new legacy.
Later in the day, we went to Canyonlands National Park. A smaller “mini me” of the Grand Canyon. It’s a small canyon with all the geographic wonder of its brethren. In the Utah heat, I admire it’s solemn beauty.
Day 7. Fr, 9/27/19. Moab Utah
5 am wake up, 6:15 am pick up, we were on the road with Dan our guide. We drove on paved roads, went four-wheeling and generally went where we wanted because we could. We caught early morning at Marlboro Point, watched dust devils kick up spirals of dirt and grit at Mesa Arch and admired the Barrier style pictographs at Barlett Rock Art. The pictographs were dark red and black anthropomorphic figures with veritical lines. Standing directly under the paintings it was clear a lot of the ground had eroded over time.
A few hours at our RV park “home”, we were off on Danventure part 2. We went to Arches National Park which is absolutely beautiful. Sweeping arches and pinnacles arising out of red rock. It is striking. The sky was cloudy and a colorful sunset was obscured by darkening clouds which later turned to showers. While it wasn’t a photographer’s evening. It was still our evening in a place of red magic.
Day 8. Sat, 9/28/19. Moab Utah to Goblin State Park to Capitol Reef National Park – 148 miles
Dr Seuss meets free-thinking potter in Clay-land. There are flushings of mushroom inspired clay outcroppings as far as I can see. In the backdrop are operatic monuments that look like Babylonian inspired clay fortresses. The geology here is varied with the very round and globular to angular sheered posts. Francesca’s drive to the park was a very windy one. Without the wind, there would not be the sculpture of place. One does not exist without the other.
In the evening we went to a lecture on the Fremont people at the outdoor amphitheater. Bats wove in an out snacking on the insects drawn to the lights… It was a great event.
Day 9. Sun, 9/29/19. Capitol Reef National Park to Dead Horse Point State Park – 148 miles
We woke in the middle of the night to a light rain. Cozy in Tiny, we hugged the down blanket until it was time to get up. Later that morning, a mule doe came by with her two fawns. They regarded me and then went on their way. Awhile later, there were three bucks all laying near a fence no more than a few feet apart. Apparently it was bachelor day for the bucks.
The day was another fantastic day of vistas and hikes. I picked apples at the Fruita orchards and Francesca drove us safely back to Dead Horse Point State Park.
The wind came in the afternoon and stayed with us in the evening. Still howling through landscape as we made our way to bed.
Day 10. Mon, 9/30/19. Dead Horse Point State Park to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks
Woke up multiple times during the night to howling winds and gusts to our yurt. Visions of impalement featured heavily in my thoughts and am surprised I managed to sleep at all. We later learned the winds were 45 mph. Tired and travel curious, we went through the Canyonlands enjoying the vistas then the Arches. The Devil’s Garden was a favorite. I saw Elephants on Parade, Queen Nefertiti, a sleeping dragon and numerous titans, muses and arches. One of my favorite activities was a walk to the Ute petroglyphs – etched in stone were big horned sheep, horses with riders and an older etching of a hunter/shaman.
In the evening was Danventure 3. We met up with Dan to do a photo trip that was aborted the last time we were here. Francesca was able to do some night photography. Yay! A clear night sky allowed the stars and milky way to shine brightly. Driving back to the Wingate yurt, we saw a kangaroo mouse skitter across the road. Shortly after, a windless night gave us a chance to get some much needed rest.
Day 11. Tue, 10/1/19. Dead Horse Point State Park to Monument Valley Navajo Nation – 236 miles
On the way out to Monument Valley, Francesca took a detour to Newspaper Rock at Bears Ears – well worth it! A large panel of petroglyphs awaited us. Etched on a large boulder were images of everything from hunters to hands to deer to a spoked wheel and waves. A real marvel accomplished by generations of rock artists.
Miles before entering Monument Valley the landscape changed to red dirt spotted with bright green brush and of course, the majestic rock monuments which towered sentinel-like. The roadside was strewn with trash – beer bottles, cans and cardboard. People are a strange species…
After Francesca’s long drive, we met with Leslie our Navajo guide who showed us the arches, monuments and petroglyphs of Monument Valley. Also, we saw hogans (traditional mud dwellings) along with juniper trees thousands of years old.
During sunset, watching the monuments turn orange, there was silence in the canyon save for ravens chasing one another - flapping their wings in the very still early evening.
At night, Leslie took us along the cliff side where we hiked with headlamps on, wary of each step, lest we fall, as we searched for the milky way and its trail of bright stars.