West Trip 2009
The Third Trip West 2009
August 30th - September 23rd
With the car and little trailer loaded down with camping gear, bicycles, and provisions, we left Wytheville around 11:15 after early church and Sunday School. After eight hours and 442 miles, we arrived at Lake Barkley State Park in Kentucky and hour or so south of Pudacah. Sunday was a good time to travel, traffic wise, through Knoxville and Nashville. Thank goodness for moving over into the next time zone, we were able to set up camp and eat before dark.
The campground was situated in a heavily wooded area on a ridge above the lake. There were only five or six other campers and there were about seventy-five campsites. There was no sign of an attendant, campground host or self-registration box like we find in most campgrounds. We figured someone would be coming around to collect, but no one ever did and we did not have a place to leave the $14 fee.
The next morning, we were up, had breakfast, and gone before 8 am. We drove west across the Land Between the Lakes (TVA recreational area) and then north to Pudacah. As we drove up US 68, we kept seeing tree damage through a large area. We were guessing it was a tornado or part of a hurricane. I even suggested an ice storm as a guess. We finally stopped at a convenience store and asked the clerk. The damage came from a fierce ice storm back in January. She said she had been without power for over a month.
From there we got on US 60 and crossed the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers into Missouri. In a few hours, we stopped in Van Buren which is in the Ozarks and surrounded by the Mark Twain National Forest. We ate lunch down by the Current River near the NPS visitor center for the National Ozark Scenic Rivers area. We discovered that there was a site call Big Spring, which was one of the largest springs in the world. It's flow was something in the area of 235 million gallons of water per day. It contains minerals that cause the water to have a beautiful aquamarine color. The tributary from the spring flows into the Current River.
Afterward, we drove all afternoon and made it to Springfield, which was to be our first trail destination (the Frisco-Highline). I had ridden about sixteen miles of it last year, from Walnut Grove to Springfield. On this trip I wanted to complete it from Walnut Grove to Bolivar (rhymes with Oliver). Our plan originally was to ride the 19 files and then camp at Lake Stockdon State Park, but before reaching Springfield we realized there was dot gong to be enough time. Our revised plan was to go to the state park to camp first and ride the t rail the next day. On the way to the park we calculated that we were going to have to drive and extra 50 miles to go to the park and come back down to the starting point at Walnut Grove.
In the town of Ash Grove, we saw a sign showing that the trail town was 8 miles to the east. We stopped at a gas station to ask if there was any camping in the area. A customer informed us that the town had a park in which they let bikers camp free. The TransAmerica Trail goes through this area. The park had restrooms and a shower. We went to the park to find that the restroom/shower building was a part of the swimming pool, which was closed for the season and the facilities were locked, I returned to the gas station to check further and ran into one of the town council members and he said why don't you just stay in the community center building that is normally rented out to groups for events. The building was actually an old house built in 1889 and had been renovated for use as a community building. He said we could stay there for no charge. It had restrooms and a full kitchen. He said he would have the town police officer come by and unlock it for us and we could just lock up when we left. “What a country”.
Tuesday morning I was in Walnut Grove and on the trail before 8 am. Rhonda dropped me off and drove to Bolivar. The trail was in good shape overall. There was some washing from a storm and a few low limbs needed trimming. I made the 19 miles in around two hours Rhonda met me on her bike about 4 miles south of town and we rode back to the car more or less together. From Bolivar it was on to the Prairie Spirit Trail in Kansas. It is a 51 mile trail from Iona to Ottawa. In route, we stopped and had a picnic lunch on the grounds of the National Park site of Fort Scott in the town of Fort Scott. It was established before the Civil War, but was primarily a supply outpost for the war and the relatively new frontier. Very interesting town, also.
Mid-afternoon we arrived in Iona, found the trailhead, and I rode the 10 miles between Colony and Iona. This section was completed in June 2008 and was in excellent shape, an almost perfect trail surface, maybe not quite as scenic and varied as many other trails. I wanted to ride some more the next day, so we went Garnett to check out two campgrounds, but neither was suitable. One was just for RV's and the other was a city park set up for camping but they did not have showers and the restrooms were about 200 yards from the campsites. All the state parks were too far away. We found a reasonably priced motel near the trail.
Before daylight we were awakened by the sound of thunder and by 5 am the rain was coming down fiercely with lot of lightning. Boy, we were glad that there had not been any camping available. Unfortunately, the weather forecast said that the system was slow moving and might be around for a day or two, thus not allowing for some more miles on the very fine Prairie Spirit trail.
We left town with the rain coming down in torrents, headed for I-70 via some county roads, state roads, and U.S. highways. We decided to hit the interstate at Hays, Kansas, more than two-thirds across the state. In route, we came to Lacrosse where the Rock Post and Barb Wire Museum is located. It was, believe it or not, very interesting. Never knew there were so many styles of barb wire. I even bought two samples. Also along the way, we saw miles and miles of rail cars siting on tracks north of the highway between McPhearson and Lyons. I thought it was odd and made a short side trip to see if it looked like they had been scrapped. At first, that appeared to the be case. The rails were not shiny and there were weeds growing up between the ties and along the right-of-way. We stopped at the next town and I asked someone about the rail cars. They said the cars were waiting for the grain harvest and the track were abandoned east of there so it was a good place to store the rail cars until they were needed.
By the time it was time to find a campground, we were a little short of the Colorado line and stopped at a private facility outside of Goodland, KS. It was not one of the better places we've camped. They just didn't spend much time on maintenance. It was less than a quarter mile from a truck stop, so the noise of big trucks was our background noise. We were up and out at the crack of dawn, eager to get to one of the state parks north of Denver. With the upcoming Labor Day weekend and having no reservations, we were hoping to get one of the walk-in spaces. After a little difficulty in finding the St Vrain State Park, we were able to secure a spot for two nights. All the spaces were reserved for Saturday and Sunday nights.
As soon as we were set up, we headed for Rocky Mountain National Park and stopped in Estes Park for a picnic lunch. We spent the entire afternoon sightseeing and taking in a few short hikes. It really in impressive and beautiful The main road in the park climbs up to around 12,000 feet. We turned around at a point where the park road was a little over 11,000 feet because we could see the high part of the highway and it was also alpine terrain with the same surroundings. We returned to the east entrance by a slightly different route and saw a small herd of elk near a small lake and then went by the park campground on the way.
The next day, Friday, we went through Bolder to an old gold mining rail trail beginning at the small town of Ward. The far end was hard to find and the trail was rough in places with some good climbs for a rail trail. The trail was a 14 mile trail. On the return, we stopped in Boulder at the library to check email, then when on a tour at Celestial Seasons and saw how teas were processed and packaged. We also visited the Leaning Tree Art Museum (great western art). It was an unexpected treasure to see the gorgeous western scenes by various artists. Before returning to camp, we stopped at a grocery store for fresh meat and a veggie. Back at the park, rode my bike on the trails around the park before it got too dark.
On Saturday morning we drove to the Winsor/Greely area and I rode the 19 mile Poudre River Trail. Rhonda drove around to the Greely end and met me on the trail as usual. She met me in a large parking lot of an arena where a dog show was in progress Afterwords, we drove to our next destination outside Laramie, WY. We found the trail about 30 miles southwest of town in the Medicine Bow National Forest. We camped along side Owen Lake after finding the regular campground full. We had been a little concerned about the availability of camping because of the Labor Day weekend, but the forest around the southeast side of the lake had an area near the trail designated for dispersed camping. Dispersed camping is the term used for camping anywhere in the national forest outside of designated and developed campground. There are some general rules for camping in this manner. There were toilets close by, but no showers. We pulled off the side of the dirt road and went into the pines a short distance and pitched our tent. There were hundreds of 4-wheeler families camping all around. The National Forest had many miles of ATV trails and they were well used.
Sunday morning I was on the trail by eight and met Rhonda a little after ten. The trail was 21 miles and I had done 2 of it out of where we camped the day before. Around lunch time, we stopped in the town of Saratoga, We waded in the hot springs and had a great lunch at a western barbecue cafe by the name of Tommy's Smokehouse Barbecue in the quaint little town. We spent the remainder of the day driving across the southern part of Wyoming on I-80 (boring but wonderful open plains). We stayed in Evanston just short of the Utah border. Before leaving town, we watched their Labor Day/Rodeo Parade.
Our next stop was the Union Pacific Trail from Park City back to Echo at I-80. I rode the first four miles to Coalville along the Echo Reservoir where Rhonda picked me up and we drove to Park City. I then rode the remaining 18 miles back to Coalville on a very good trail. We then drove on to Salt Lake City to see the Mormon Temple and Temple Square. The downtown was easy to drive around in because of the holiday. We parked near the square and made a quick tour of the site. The landscaping all around the square was beautiful.
The destination for the night was Antelope Island State Park on the Great Salt Lake. We had to drive north for a ways, then west to the lake. The park was reached by a causeway. We secured a campsite for the evening, set up, and went down to the beach area. It was one of those JTSID (just to say I did) events. There was a very long walk from the parking and restroom/shower area to the water. I changed into a swim suit and had to walk a good little ways out into the water even before it was over knee deep. I laid back in the water and floated with ease. The salt content was much higher than the ocean. After supper we returned to the coin-operated showers to bathe.
The campsites were in a cluster of about 25 sites with a toilet in the center. It was in a very open prairie-like area. There were bison grazing about 100 yards away. The sites had a picnic shelter and table, a grill and a gravel tent spot. As we sat and ate supper, we watched several jack rabbits in the vegetation near our site. As dark came on there was a stiff breeze. The sky was clear and there was a full moon.
The next morning we were up just before sunrise. We had a very long day ahead of us. We had to drive back down to Salt Lake City on I-15 and then had west on I-80 across the rest of Utah and into Nevada. We stopped briefly at the Bonneville Salt Flats (got a small sample). Immediately after crossing the border at West Wendover, we turned south on US93 and headed across the center of Nevada, first to Ely where we turned and took US6 to Tonopah. At Benton, CA we took a short cut across I-20 to US395 and stopped at Lee Vinning where highway I-20 goes into Yosemite. We had driven almost 600 miles for the day.
The evenings camp was at a nice RV park with about 10 sites set aside for tents called Mono Vista RV Resort. The very large Mono Lake was visible to the east. They had grassy sites with an excellent restroom/coin-operated shower facility. The next morning was cool and we were out of camp early in order to get into the park to secure a campsite for that night. Big national parks like Yosemite usually have their campsites fill up quickly. The east entrance is at Tioga Pass with an elevation of almost 10,000 ft.
We arrived in the Toulumne Meadows campground, selected a site and went to sight-see some of the rest of the park and in Yosemite Valley, but not before removing all food items from the car and securing them in one of the metal bear boxes provided at each site. The rangers were very definitive about the proper storage of food and toiletries. We stopped on the way and took a mile hike to one of the three giant sequoia tree groves at the park and then drove into the valley. On the way we passed smoldering ashes from a recent forest fire. Just the day before this major road had been closed due to smoke. We stopped at an overlook and took pictures of the iconic Half Dome and El Capitan. We ate lunch along the Merced River and checked out Yosemite Village, Yosemite Falls (dry), and Bridal Veil Falls On the return trip we make other photo stops.
When we returned to the campground, we were ready to take a walk, so we headed up the trail that connected with the John Muir Trail along the Tuolumne River. Upon returning to camp, we prepared for supper and later attended an excellent ranger-led campfire presentation on ravens.
The next morning we hiked to the beautiful Elizabeth Lake. As we passed one of the last campsites out of the campground, we watched a good-sized bear wrestling with a very large cooler. I turned back to report it to a ranger. When I returned, Rhonda advised the the camper had returned and scared off the bear, but not before the bear was able to make off with something in a plastic bag. The carelessness was bad for campers in general and for the bear who should not be used to raiding campsites for food. The ranger check-in station had a sign warning that there was a $1000 fine for not properly storing your food and having a bear get it. The camper had broken camp and was gone also.
We continued on our hike and when we arrived at the lake, we were happy that we were the only ones around and the solitude was wonderful. We passed a number of folks headed to the lake on our return to the camp, including an older couple on horseback. We decided not to stay another night, but to head down to another trail and then to Mammoth Lakes and the Devil's Post Pile National Monument. The trail I hiked was the Mono Pass trail. It had been established by silver prospectors in the mid to late 1800's.
West of Mammoth Lakes (ski area) we visited the Devil's Post Pile and then set up camp in Red Meadows Forest Service Campground (Inyo Nat'l Forest). It was nestled in a canyon of the Serrias and the water to the showers there was piped from a natural hot spring. This was the campground that I, along with four others camp at in 1989 on our two hundred and twelve mile trek of the John Muir Trail.
Friday, we headed across Death Valley to camp somewhere north of Las Vegas. We found that driving across Death Valley was kind of a scarey thing, in that if there was car trouble, someone would have to come a long way to your aid. The highest temperature the car thermometer recorded was 114 degrees. I was surprised at the two mountain ranges we had to cross in the park. Also, the part that was 190 feet below sea level was on the east edge of the park at Furnace Creek.
We reached Pahrump, Nevada mid-afternoon and found a Wal-Mart to do an oil changed, buy groceries and replace tires. While they were changing the tires the attendant broke a lug stud and we had to wait longer than we had expected while it was replaced. We ate supper at a fast food oriential restaurant while waiting and found a RV park outside of town with help from a customer waiting in the automotive department there at Wal-Mart.
We arrived at the park and setup in the dark. The park was mainly for RV units, but the owner let us set the tent in a grass area. During the night the sprinkler system came on and we found that the tent was getting watered. The angle of the sprinkler was sending the water under the fly and occasionally in a window. I got up and moved a large rock in front of the sprinkler head to divert it from our tent area. We were awakened in the early morning hours by dogs barking and roosters crowing all around the neighborhood.
We were up at sunrise and were headed east and around Las Vegas to Hoover Dam. After visiting the dam, we returned to I-15 and rode parallel to the Vegas Strip, as we headed north to the Zion Park area. There was a rail trail that ran from Boulder City and Henderson. The temperature was 95 degrees and I just couldn't get motivated to ride it., even though I wanted to add it to my collection of trails.
We stopped a few miles short of Zion Park at a RV resort. It was extremely nice and much more expensive than we were used to pay for camping. They had a pool and hot tub, laundry, entertainment room, Wifi, large shower rooms, and very nice sites (too lose together though) with electricity and water all next to the Virgin River. We left the trailer with our camping equipment and headed up to the park for a quick preview. At the gate we decided to buy an annual pass for $80 to save money. The ranger gave us credit for the two $20 receipts we had (Rocky Mtn and Yosemite Nat Park). We knew that the entrance fees for Zion, Bryce, the Grand Canyon, and any other park we visited would total more than the annual pass fee. Next year I will be eligible for a lifetime pass for a fee of $10.
At the visitor's center, we boarded a shuttle bus which took us all the way to the end of the line. As it went up through the park along the Virgin River, it made stops along the way where you could get off to hike trails, use the facilities, or eat at the lodge. After all most three hours, we returned to the campground and set up the tent, had supper and went for a swim, then sat in the hot tub.
The next morning we were out early and arrived at the park right after it opened. Rhonda and I got off the bus at Emerald Pools Trail. Rhonda hiked with me to the first of the three pools, but decided to return to the lodge area on the Grotto trail. We met back at the bus stop later. We then went to the River trail and walked the mile to its end. At the end, I continued up the river to see a slot canyon up at the Narrows. This required crossing back and forth as I walked up the river for a couple of miles. At one place the river was almost waist deep. I stopped along the way and and lunch from by daypack. I had seen pictures of people walking a slot canyon and really wanted to experience it. It was great. When I returned to the river trail, I removed my river walking shoes and put on my dry boots from the daypack and took the shuttle bus back down to the park's museum and checked out the history of the area and the park. The exhibits explained the geological and archeological history and more recent last 150 years history. The Mormons were some of the first to farm in the canyon. I had wanted to hike another short trail, but after the hike up the canyon, I felt more exhausted than I expected.
After leaving the museum, I reunited with Rhonda in the Visitor Center lot and we returned to the campground to relax, go for a swim, and do laundry. We had some new neighbors next to us and at about 10:30 pm I had to remind them that the quiet time had begun at 10pm. They were just talking among themselves, but the camp sites were so close that normal conversation could easily be heard. They complied by going to bed themselves.
On Monday morning, we returned to the park early to I could ride the paved bike trail up to the junction in the park and back. When I returned, we headed to Bryce Canyon to the northeast. We arrived at Red Canyon in Dixie National Park at lunchtime so we stopped and picnicked from the car again. After eating, we headed for Reds Inn outside the park and caught the shuttle bus into the park. We stopped at a number of sights along the canyon rim. At the first stop (Sunset Canyon) I took a 2 mile loop trail hike down into the canyon around the Hoodoos (the tall rock and clay features of the canyon). At another stop, Rhonda and I hiked along the rim back to the Sunset Point stop. It was named by a local person who once was quoted as saying “It's a hell of a place to loose a cow.”
From there we took the shuttle back to the car and headed toward Capitol Reef National Park. We passed through thousands of acres of granite canyons on both sides of the highway. One point of the highway was called the Devil's Backbone. It was barely wide enough for the two lanes of the highway. After several hours, we stopped in another section of Dixie National Forest and camped at a very small campground at an altitude of around 9000 ft. There were only about 10 campsites. There were two Rvs already there and a European couple came in before dark and pitched a tent across Oak creek.
It rained during the night, but the morning was a clear and cold 38 degrees. We made a warm breakfast and headed to the park. After stopping for gas and taking some pictures as we approached, we headed for the visitor center to check out the hiking trails and find out where to find the petragliphs we had heard about. While photographing the drawings on the rocks, we talked with a nice young Dutch couple. The canyon we were in was drained by the Fremont River and had been settled by a few Mormons. The community settlement was called Fruita. It really wasn't a very large valley to farm and sustain a livelihood.
There was heavy rain predicted in the afternoon, but I wanted to get in a hike to a feature in the park called Hickman Bridge. It is an eroded rock feature much like one of the Arches. The trail was about a two mile round trip and there was some ascent involved. Rhonda walked part of the way and decided to wait in the car. It was a great hike and I got some good pictures of the capitol dome shaped rock that gives the park its name. After checking out some more of the old farm area, we returned the way we came from and headed for the north rim of the Grand Canyon.
We stopped in a little town called Escalante and went to a cafe called the Golden Loop, named after the location of the number of popular national parks in that part of Utah, Colorado, and Arizona. I had a great hamburger and a ton of curly fries. Rhonda had a taco salad. It took a while to get the order and eat, but it is always interesting to eat in a local place. There was a Swiss couple in the cafe that was bike touring across the west. The town also had a Wells Fargo bank, so we replenished our cash supply. When we got back to the Bryce canyon and Red Canyon area, Rhonda dropped me off at a bike trail that I thought was eight miles long, but it turned out to be only five.
We headed back down Hwy 89 until it was time to find a place to camp. We found a nice Forest Service Campground south of Kanab at Jacob Lake, Arizona, where highway 68 went south to the Grand Canyon. There were no showers at the campground but the host told us about a private campground a half-mile down the road that let outsiders use their coin operated showers.
The next morning we were out early to see the Grand Canyon. We drove down the Kiabab Plateau and through the North Rim Gate to our first stop, Bright Angel Point. We walked out on the point then walked around the old lodge and headed for the Kiabab Trail. This is the trail that goes down
14 miles into the canyon. It is recommended that no one try to walk down and back in one day. I walked down for a couple of miles to get some of the experience of the famous trail. The mules that take people down and back were in the coral, but there was plenty of evidence that they are regular users.
After leaving the park, we headed for Flagstaff. We skirted the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument and crossed the Navajo Bridge over the Colorado River near Page, AZ. We drove through a desolate area before reaching the Colorado River and then through the Painted Desert. We stopped near the river and Rhonda bought some turquoise Indian jewelry from locals that had set up off the parking area,
North of Flagstaff, we stopped at a volcanic area called Sunset Crater. There was lots of evidence of lava flow and pumice all around. There was a campground there but heavy rain showers were predicted for the evening and we wanted to stay in Flagstaff, so we could get an early start on sightseeing in Flagstaff and to ride the Route 66 trail. After we checked in to an inexpensive motel, we went down the street to a Asian buffet. There was at least six tables of food and we had not eaten out in a number of days
The next morning after a quick walk around downtown and a ride down Route 66 trail, we drove out a short distance to Walnut Canyon to the Indian Ruins. The Sinaqua Indians were cliff dwellers and lived in the area around 1125 to 1250 AD. They were probably ancestors of the Pueblo Indians. We walked down into the canyon and got a close up view of the dwellings carved into the cliffs. It was amazing to see how they made use of everything around them, but most impressive how they collected, stored and got by on minimal water. Their name was “without water” in Spanish. They farmed and hunted up on the plateau, but lived in the cliffs of the canyon.
Up the road a ways we stopped at the large meteor crater that was supposed to have hit there 50,000 years ago. The crater was 4,000 feet across, two and a half miles around, and as deep as the Washington Monument is high. It is one of 150 confirmed meteor craters around the world.
Twenty-five miles down the road was the exit for Winslow, Arizona. We decided to go into town because it was a significant stop along the old historic Route 66. It was also made famous by the lyrics in the song “Take It Easy” performed by the Eagles (one of my favorite music groups) and a number of others. The line is “standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona...........”. Well, they have a corner right in the middle of town dedicated to that line in the song. They have a large mural on the side of a building with the girl in the flat bed Ford, a bronze statute of the guy standing on the corner with a sign with those words. It was also interesting that there was a real flat bed Ford parked on the street for sale.
While we were there, a guy came up on a motorcycle and asked if we would take his picture with his motorcycle there on the corner. After I took his picture, he took our picture with the motorcycle. He had been to a wedding with his wife and family in Colorado. He had hauled his bike to the destination so he could ride it back. I can't remember where he was returning to; California – I think.
Across the street and on the other corner, was a souvenir store primarily dedicated to items related to Route 66. There was old photographs, signs, poster, pins, patches and other souvenirs.
When it came time to stop for the day, we began to look for a campground and finally decided that we might have to stay in a motel in Gallup. As we were driving down Route 66, we spotted a RV resort. It was a neat facility with the non-paved spots well spaced apart with water, electricity, and Wifi. We found that the big negative was that the park was at the end of a small airport and the planes were going out and coming in directly over our tent. The good part was that the flights stopped after 11 pm. We also had a peanut butter colored cat for a visitor at the site. At one point he went inside the tent and curled up under one of the cots. After dark he laid down on the rug outside the door. The next morning he showed up as we were fixing breakfast. There were signs that he had been walking on the car.
After packing up, we drove through Albuquerque and drove up the Turquoise Highway to Sante Fe. Someone suggested we take the highway rather than go up the interstate because of the uniqueness of a few of the small towns. Madrid was the only one of interest. It was an old mining town that had been revived from a ghost town as an artisan area. We had a so-so lunch in one of the shops that had a lunch counter in the back. Some of the movie “wild Hogs” was filmed there.
We arrived in Sante Fe and found the bike trail pretty quickly, but had trouble finding where it began down town. We finally gave up and went back out to where we had crossed it earlier. I parked in a shopping center and rode the trail to the south until the pavement ended and the trail turned rough (more like a single track back country ride). I returned to where I got on and rode toward down town. On the return trip, the clouds got darker and it was raining steady by the time I reached the car. We decided to stay stay in a motel for our fourth time so we could be downtown early to visit the farmer's market and some historical sites and the Plaza.
We studied our maps and found the farmer's market easily. As it is often, we had to look around to find a place to park due to the trailer. It was a beautiful morning and we really enjoyed seeing all the fresh fruit, vegetables, baked goods, and other items, all while enjoying the aroma of roasting chilli peppers. We bought some white sage, squash, cheese, and a large carrot. Most of the produce had been raised in an area north of Sante Fe. There was also a separate fine craft area nearby.
We moved the car closer to the center of the downtown area and spent some time walking around the unique area. One place we visited was the Loretto Chapel where a spiral staircase was built by a traveling carpenter in 1878 after the sisters prayed to have something built to get up twenty-two feet to the balcony. On the last day of the prayers, a carpenter showed up and built the spiral staircase. Its design was way before its time (totally unsupported, except for the spiral core) and the carpenter is unknown. The story has been featured on Unsolved Mysteries and in magazines and newspapers. The chapel was sold by the sisters and is now totally a commercial tourist venue. There was also the San Miquel Church which is the oldest church structure in the US.
When we left downtown, we headed for the terminus of the Sante Fe bike trail down near Lamy. We went back up and found a middle point and I rode back toward Sante Fe and then turned around and rode back to Lamy. The trail was 11.5 miles of rough trail. It was a modified rail trail because it ran along beside the rails on the right-of-way. The one thing that made it rough was that there were a number of washes (ditches where the water drained when it rained) and the trail went down and through them. The actual rail line went over the wash on a trestle.
Our next destination was the Mineral Wells Trail in Texas, with a stop at the Oasis State Park near Clovis, NM. We decided to take back roads all the way there. We found that extreme western Texas was very desolate in some areas. One area had an abundance of oil wells and one area had over a hundred wind turbines. We followed US Hwy 180 most of the way.
When we arrived, we found the park to be like an oasis in the large flat farm land all around. It had trees and a small well-fed lake. There were only two campers and the campground host in the campground. There were a number of day users around the lake. The sites were very neat and well spaced and the bathhouse was in good condition. We found the biggest drawback was the patrons coming and going after dark. It was hard getting a good night's sleep. This was probably due to the fact that they allowed night fishing at the lake. I advised the staff person the next morning that allowing such a thing was poor management of the park. I told him that the camping area in most state parks have limited access overnight. I also wrote the park manager and sent an email to state headquarters.
We reached the Lake Mineral Wells State Park late afternoon and it was in the upper 80's as we set up camp. There were only a few other campers. We chose a site not far from the restrooms. The plug on the ice chest somehow had loosened and allowed at least a gallon of melted ice to leak into the trunk. We removed all the contents of the trunk and the two trunk liner pads to let them dry out.
The next morning we drove into town and found the beginning of the trail at the old depot downtown. At the edge of town, there was a pay box where the state park folks wanted $5 for riding the trail. The trail was 20 miles long and in great shape. Rhonda drove to the terminus at Weatherford and rode about 5 miles back toward me. After returning to the car, we headed into the Dallas/Fort Worth area to find some Texas barbecue. We stopped in Mesquite TX and asked at a shopping center where we could find good barbecue. The clerk at Staples gave us directions to a place down 10 blocks south. The establishment was rough looking and very small. All the seating was taken so we ordered and ate outside. Despite appearances, the “cue” was very good.
We stopped at the Arkansas visitor center at Texarkana to get a map and see of they had information on the next trail I had on my list. They had a pamphlet on the trail (The Delta Heritage), but I found out only four miles of the proposed 76 miles was built, so I crossed it off my list for now. We found Lake Catherine State Park near Hot Springs on the map and headed that way to camp. It was a nice simple campground on the shore of the lake. Just before midnight a fierce thunderstorm erupted. The wind blew hard, the thunder clapped loudly, but the lightning never got close enough for us to consider evacuation from the tent. We stayed dry and as the storm moved away, we fell back to sleep.
The next day we packed up the tent and fly and headed into Hot Springs to see what was called America's first resort. There were a number of fancy resort hotels, some still in grand condition, but a number not so much. There were still many places in the resorts to relax in water piped in form the natural hot springs. There was a large racetrack in the town and it is likely an important source of the town's tourist revenue.
We stopped at the Memphis visitor center to find the location of the Rendezvous Restaurant to have some Memphis barbecue, but found that it did not open until 4:30 pm. So we settled on Neely's, and enjoyed their sampler of beef and pork ribs, sliced beef, turkey, and pulled pork, along with barbecued beans and slaw. We even had some leftovers for a take-out box.
We drove past Nashville before stopping at a motel in Lebanon and made it home around 3:30 on Thursday afternoon. Boy, was it a great trip. Driving to the west three years in a row is an arduous task, but worth it and camping absolutely is the way to do it. There are several places I would like to return to, but it may have to be by plane and rental car. The places I would like to see again include Seattle and Rainier, Boulder, Flagstaff, the Utah canyon area and Yellowstone. We haven't seen Glacier National Park yet, either.