Thursday, March 23, 2017

Moab Area: Ken's Lake Campground, Faux Falls, Arches NP - Delicate Arch

Life is always better with monkeys!
Our nephew, Joe was on spring break from college and asked if we could meet for some camping. He lives in Salt Lake City. We wanted to meet somewhere half-way. I've been wanting to see Faux Falls since seeing it on a PBS fundraising special a year ago. Faux Falls is in Spanish Valley just south of Moab, Utah. There is a nice BLM campground called Ken's Lake Campground just below Faux Falls. That is where we met our nephew, his fiance Jen and his mom Merrily, last weekend. We arrived on Thursday at about 6:45 pm.

There are 31 sites. As we drove up, the camp host was collecting the money out of the entrance box. He told us that there were four spots left. Wow! Popular place. It filled up completely a couple hours after we arrived. I guess this is prime time for Moab.

Ken's Lake Campground Entry Board

Ken's Lake Campground Trail Map

We had a nice campfire and then went to bed.

After breakfast at our campsite, we headed out for the nearby hike to Faux Falls. Faux Falls was created where there was no falls before 1981. A tunnel was drilled from Mill Creek over nearby Brimley Ridge. A pipe delivers water where if flows out of the ground and then flows down a red rock area to Ken's Lake for storage. It is a pretty amazing sight to see this beautiful falls and creek out in the middle of these red rock area. It's impressive.

Faux Falls

Faux Falls

The source pipes of Faux Falls

Faux Falls

Faux Falls with Ken's Lake Campground in the background

Video of Faux Falls

We continued hiking over Brimley Ridge and the short drop to see Mill Creek. Some folks on ATVs told us about a cave if we followed Mill Creek a short way north to where the creek crosses the dirt road. The cave was not deep but it was fun to walk inside. The walls of the canyon were very impressive.

Jen near the top of the ridge
Checking out the cave
You get to cross a small creek/river to get to and from the cave
We returned to our campsite (#9) and had lunch. Later in the afternoon, Joe, his fiance and I took the short hike to a steep bouldery hill just north of our campsite. It was more of a climb than a hike. The view from the top was spectacular.

Jen at the top of the hill

Video at the top of nearby boulders

A 360 degree photosphere view from a nearby boulder hill

Back at our campsite, Karen and Merrily had created a great veggie delight dish and we cooked it on our portable propane fire pit. Delish!!!!

Enjoying our campsite
One problem with Ken's Campground was all the dust. Cars were driving in, constantly, desperate for a campsite and were kicking up a lot of dust. On top of that, our neighbors were five teenage guys with two ATVs. They were constantly driving in and out of the campground and raising lots of dust, as young guys tend to do. Oh well, they say that Americans don't tend to get enough dirt exposure these days. We did this weekend for sure!

We had another nice wood fire and went to bed a bit late watching the stars.

Ken's Lake
The next morning after breakfast at camp we headed north to Arches National Park. I had picked out the Delicate Arch Trail as a good one for all of us. We arrived at the Delicate Arch parking area just before noon. The place was packed with cars, but we got lucky and found a spot. We headed for the bathrooms only to find a fairly long line. Someone had left a cell phone in a bathroom and I volunteered to get the phone to a ranger.

The hike to Delicate Arch is beautiful. You cross a lot of slick rock on the way up. It's pretty much all uphill. It was hot and was a tiring hike. It's about a mile and a half to the Arch but it felt a lot longer. Along the way, Merrily unknowingly dropped her phone. When she discovered it was not in her pocket she decided to head back down and look for it. Karen and I went down a ways to help search and then realized that someone must have picked it up, so we continue on to the Arch while Merrily headed back to look for it.

The Arch was pretty amazing. None of us had seen it before except on Utah license plates. It's definitely worth a trip to Arches.

Funny sign in the bathroom at Arches National Park 
Hiking along the slick rock

Greg, Merrily and Karen taking a short break on the trail up to the Delicate Arch

We made it! 
Joe, Jen, Karen and Greg. People stood in a long line for a picture under the arch.
This was a much better vantage point.
Delicate Arch

Leaving delicate Arch Video

360 Photosphere of Delicate Arch

On the trail back down, we found Merrily. She was asking folks if they had seen her phone. When we got back to the trail head, someone had put up a note about the phone I found. I called them and left a message that their phone would be at the Arches Visitors Center in about an hour.

Headed back from Delicate Arch

Slick Rock on the Delicate Arch Trail

As we drove to the visitors center, Karen called Merrily's phone to see if maybe someone had found it too. The ranger at the Visitors Center answered. What a relief! Some very nice person turned in her phone with the rangers.

Merrily's phone and her only view of Delicate Arch this trip.
Karen and Merrily went to Arches when they were kiddos.

We stopped in Moab at El Charro Loco Mexican Restaurant. It's a small hole-in-the-wall type restaurant with amazing food. We all loved our meals and highly recommend it if you're in the area.

Fantastic Mexican food at El Charro Loco in Moab, Utah
This is Karen's veggie taco salad. 

That afternoon, Karen, Merrily and I took a walk around the lake. It's a fishing lake and very pleasant.

Walking around Ken's Lake

Walking the plank on the way back

That night we didn't make a wood fire as Karen was showing asthma symptoms from the previous two nights of wood fires. We lit up the propane fire pit and enjoyed smores.

Gluten-free smores
After another great night's sleep, we all headed out for home. On the way back home, Karen and I stopped for pizza at our favorite place in Pagosa Springs (Rosie's Pizzeria) and then got our 10,000 steps in with a hike around downtown Pagosa Springs. We started the hike near The Springs hotel and headed towards Pagosa Springs High School. This is a favorite walk that we like to do anytime we are staying in Pagosa or just passing through.

Walking around Pagosa Springs, Colorado

This was a great spring season trip. We will be back!!!!

Sign we saw in Pagosa Springs

Sunday, March 12, 2017

NM To San Diego: Part 5 (San Diego, Quechan Casino in Yuma, Faywood,NM and back home)

After our wonderful visit to the Anza-Borrego State Park area, we headed to Claremont to visit with family and help with some furniture moving. After our family visit we headed to San Diego.

Karen's parents and her Dad with one of his two instruments. His other is a bass fiddle
We initially planned to stay at Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve Campground, but it turned out that our homemade camper van was not good enough for this exclusive county campground.

After we made a reservation for a campsite at Santee, we received an email receipt that stated that our RV had to have an Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) sticker on it. This sticker indicates that it was manufactured by an RV company and was an official industry made RV.

We don't have an RVIA sticker because I (Greg) made the camper myself.  I guess having an RVIA sticker is a way to discriminate against scofflaws like us!!!! It's apparently a very snooty place. I've never heard of a public campground that was so restrictive.

Anyway, we found a better spot nearby.  Through we discovered Lake Jennings Park Campground. This is a fantastic campground on a water district reservoir. It was beautiful and quiet with great views.

The view of Lake Jennings from our site #90.

There is a story that this campground may close because it doesn't get enough business. That would be a horrible shame as it is a really fantastic campground in a great location with 30 minute access to San Diego tourist sites.

We picked out a beautiful site (#90) on top of a hill in the campground with great views of both the lake and the town of  Lake City below. We loved this campground!  We took a hike around the campground. We couldn't go all the way around the lake as part of the trail is closed Monday - Thursday to protect wildlife, we suspect.

This is a fishing lake and you can even fish from your boat at night at certain times. There is a stocked kids fishing area where kids were catching big fish!

There are private shower rooms as well and nice bathrooms throughout the campground.

There were many hosts in the campground, maybe too many? The hosts that we met were super nice. We had a great short stay here.

The next morning we packed up, had a great breakfast at a nearby Denny's and then headed to Balboa Park in San Diego. The drive was relatively easy even during the morning commute. We parked near a carousel and headed out to explore the park.

The buildings are beautiful. We really enjoyed a reflection pond and the adjacent Botanical Building. We had planned to tour a couple of the many park museums, but it was a beautiful day and we wanted to be outdoors. We will have to go back and tour the museums at some point.

We wanted to go into the Japanese Friendship Garden, but it was $10 each for what looks like a relatively small garden, so we skipped it. (A friend just told us that there is a day pass that includes all the museums and the Japanese Garden. That would be the way to go next time.)

After our tour of Balboa Park we walked quite a ways north to a taco restaurant I had read about. The restaurant was too "fishy" for Karen, so we went down the street to a Chipotle Mexican Restaurant and had a nice lunch.

We hiked back to our van and headed for Cabrillo National Monument where there are great views of San Diego Bay and Coronado Island.

After our Cabrillo point view, we headed out of San Diego, trying to beat the rush hour traffic. The drive over the mountains was pleasant.

We stopped for a break at the Holtville Hot Springs and LTVA area. We didn't soak. We just wanted to check them out for a future visit.  An LTVA is a Long Term Visitor Area. These are popular with Canadian snowbirds. You can stay in a fully contained RV all winter for $180 bucks or 14 days for $40. It's a good deal and this one includes free soaks at the hot springs. The soak pools looked nice. We will definitely return to try them in the future.

We then passed the dunes area on Interstate 8 and made it to Yuma. There was a big sign for In-and-Out Burger and we just could not resist. I brought my gluten free bread in and ordered a protein burger that is wrapped in lettuce and put that on my bread. It worked well and I had no damage to my overly sensitive intestines!!!!  After dinner, it was dark and we headed to the Quechan Casino, where they allow dry camping in their southern most dirt lot.

Quechan is a nice Casino. They have a weekend breakfast buffet that looked nice. If you stay in the hotel there is a nice pool with a lazy river. We did gamble a bit and came out slight winners. We are not big gamblers, but it's fun for a short time and with just a little bit of money to burn. Karen is fairly lucky and usually comes out far ahead. I usually lose, so it all works out for the best.

Many RVers, in their large Class A rigs, or smaller rigs, like to stay at Quechan and enjoy the facilities and then during the day head to Algodones, Mexico. Algodones is just down the road and then a walk across the border for cheap dental work, good food and low cost prescription drugs. We know a lot of boondockers that do this multiple times a year. Quechan owns a big parking lot next to the boarder and they charge a low fee to park for the day while you are in Algodones.

We had a quiet night at Quechan, got up in the morning, made our oatmeal and packed up to head back to New Mexico. We had a woman run up to our van and she seemed disappointed when she discovered it was us (strangers) and not her friend who has a similar van. We had a nice chat. It is always fun to hear more about others journeys. She was a solo van full-timer. It's amazing how many solo women are out there, typically divorced and living on a small amount of money.

We drove a long day through Arizona and ended up back at Faywood Hot Springs again and soaked our tired bones before getting a great night's sleep.  During a hike around the property we ran into the Geeks On Tour.  Jim and Chris Guld travel in a Class A and teach technology classes to RVers at RV oriented festivals and events. We love to meet blogging RVers on our travels. We call it "Boondocker Bingo" when we meet them.

The next day we headed home to freezing Los Alamos.

This was another really fun trip. Until next time - happy adventures!

Beautiful Lake Jennings Campground provided by the Helix Water District.

You can go about halfway around the lake on Monday-Thursday.

Driving to Balboa Park.

Orchids in the Botanical Building.
A plaza at Balboa Park.

One of the many beautiful buildings at Balboa Park.

A beautiful fountain at Balboa Park.

The Reflection Pond and fantastic Botanical Building at Balboa Park.

Orchids at Balboa Park.

Orchids at Balboa Park.

The Old Globe Theater at Balboa Park. We would love to see a play here. 

Beautiful Buildings at Balboa Park.

The over priced Japanese Gardens at Balboa Park.

The view of San Diego Bay from Cabrillo National Monument.

The view of Coronado Island from Cabrillo National Monument.

Pond and Palms at Holtville Hot Springs.
Holtville Hot Springs soak pools and shower gizmo.

Dry Camping at the Quechan Casino south dirt lot.

The Thing!!!!!   Never did see it. Just a zillion signs for it. One day I will force Karen to see it.

Back at Faywood Hot Springs, checking out the night sky chair up on a nearby hilltop.
The dark sky at Faywood makes for amazing stargazing. 

We ran into Geeks on Tour at Faywood Hot Springs. BINGO!!!

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