Fruita, Colorado: Who knew?

Fruita, Colorado: Who knew?

We came to Fruita for the mountain biking, and it is fantastic, but the area also has great hiking and birding potential, along with great scenery. Which is good, since Doug has to wait until we come back next year to try the biking.

Fruita is just over the Utah/Colorado border, only an hour and a half from Moab, so we had an easy drive to our last RV site. This time, we were in a state park, which means bigger sites with lots of space between neighbours, and all the same amenities as a commercial RV park, except wifi.

Each morning, in the campground, we were greeted by a meadowlark’s song.

The afternoon we arrived, we joined our friends, Kath and Jeff Ward for an afternoon birding hike along the Colorado River. We saw a Bullock’s Oriole, a Black-headed Grosbeak, and a few Yellow-Rumped Warblers and House Finches along with the omnipresent American Robin, all in one tree.

The next day, Wendy had a morning of mountain biking with Kath and Jeff at the Kokopelli trails, while Doug hiked some of the same trails. The warm-up loop overlooks the Colorado River and is sprinkled with signs giving information about various aspects of mountain biking, like climbing hills, or going around curves. It was not without its challenges, however, and we took the opportunity to “do over” some of the trickier bits. We continued up Mary’s Trail and rode to another overlook. In just a morning, we got the feel for the rest of the trails, and are looking forward to returning.

Fruita is just at the base of the Colorado National Monument, a high cliff-faced plateau. Rim Rock Drive cuts into the cliffs and zig-zags its way up the 1500 foot cliff and is a tribute to the determination and ingenuity of American road-building. The winding road is full of pull outs to take in the views,


and it means that it is easy to hike along the top of the escarpment.


Another day, we hiked lower down in the Monument, up a canyon and along a creek, to a waterfall.


Again we saw lots of birds, (including our first loggerhead shrike), frogs mating in the pool, and the most amazing lizard (with a rather dull name): the Collared Lizard. This lizard is rather small, about 20 cm long, but they can grow to twice this size.


We’re home in Cranbrook now, and planning our next trips.

Hikes, Bikes and Jeeps

Hikes, Bikes and Jeeps

More hiking, some biking for Wendy and jeeping for Doug! The quintessential Moab experience. We were in Moab for another week and now that it is time to leave, we feel there is still much to do around here.

One day we hiked in Dead Horse Point State Park, which is across a canyon from Canyonlands: Island in the Sky. The state park has a paved road to the end of the point, with picnic sites and a viewing platform, but to see all the views from the rim, one needs to hike the rim trails. We met a few people hiking, but mostly had the trail to ourselves. The west rim trail looks down on the White Rim Road in Canyonlands National Park, a four-wheel drive road (or biking route for some) that we drove later in the week.

Hiking the rim trail at Dead Horse Point State Park.


Looking over to Canyonlands National Park and the White Rim Road

The Fisher Towers trail was another recommended hike and one we didn’t get to the last time we were here. It’s out Highway 128, and like many of the spots around Moab, has a scenic the drive through a canyon to reach the trailhead. We started early enough to walk up in the shade. The trail was narrow in spots. The walls were so high beside us that we couldn’t look up too long because we were straining our necks. There was one steep bit with a metal ladder. The views were spectacular all the way to the top.

The trail to Fisher Towers


The view from the top of the Fisher Towers trail

Back in 2014, when Wendy was recovering from her hip replacement, we came to Moab. Her first slickrock experience was difficult for her; she lagged behind Doug and needed to walk long portions. Now that she knew she was in better shape, she wanted to go back and ride it again. This time, she was by herself and needed to follow cairns and faded white dashes painted on the rock. (So no action shots from the photographer). She found the route much easier; she rode past her old rest stops, stayed on her bike through more of the rough spots and completed it in half the time of the previous trip.


The slickrock on Wendy’s route around Courthouse Rock (Monitor and Merrimac Trail)

We also checked out the slick rock bike trails in the Sand Flats area just above Moab. We’re looking forward to riding here the next time we’re back (and Doug can ride).


Some awesome female riders show us how its done at the Slickrock trail above Moab.

As it worked out, we had a free afternoon so we decided to hike to Delicate Arch. Delicate Arch may be considered the quintessential hike in Arches National Park; it’s on most of the Utah license plates and people seem to make a pilgrimage to it. It’s not an easy hike; there is a wide expanse of upward sloping slick rock, cairn marked ledges and in the afternoon there’s virtually no shade. It has an international draw as well; we heard at least five languages spoken on the trail. And then there’s the photo line-up to have your chance under the arch. We didn’t have the patience for that, but many did. Perhaps the hike was an epic for some or inspired others to continuing hiking. For us, it was an enjoyable half-day hike to a beautiful arch that we shared with a couple of hundred others.


Delicate Arch

On our last full day in Moab, we rented a jeep and took it up Long Canyon to the plateau at the level of Canyonlands National Park. We made it easily under the fallen boulder (the F-350 might have had trouble). The tricky bit at “Pucker Pass” (yes, that name is on the map) required us to move a few large rocks to make a route. Notice how the wheels of the jeep are articulating at different angles.

The fun bits of the drive up Long Canyon

We continued over to Canyonlands National Park, down the Shafer Switchbacks and to the White Rim Road. We followed the White Rim Road past Musselman Arch, Airport Towers Campsite and a fun rocky bit before turning around. We drove back via the Potash Road, passing “Thelma and Louise” point (from the closing scenes of the movie of the same name). We took the roof off the jeep as soon as it was warm enough so we had great views of the cliffs above us throughout the day.


A view of a gooseneck of the Colorado River from the White Rim. Deadhorse Point State Park in upper left.

We’re on our way to Fruita, Colorado next for some mountain biking and hiking and another visit with Kath and Jeff. We don’t have wifi in our campground, so we may not post for awhile.

Hiking in Arches National Park

Hiking in Arches National Park

Red rock, blue sky, and warm weather greeted us when we arrived in Moab, so we took advantage and hiked two days in Arches National Park. On the first day, we set off for Devil’s Garden. We looked over-prepared with our hiking boots and hydration packs on the wide, smooth section of the trail to Landscape Arch, but we were thankful for the good traction when we scrambled up ledges and walked along the slick rock fins on the “Primitive” trail to Double-O Arch. We were also glad that we could refer to our photos of the guidebook. It explained how to get to a better vantage point by scrambling through the lower O. Most people turned around at Landscape Arch, but many continued to Double-O.

Landscape Arch

We had a bit more solitude on the “Primitive” trail that looped back to the parking lot. It kept us entertained as we descended slick-rock ramps and ledges to the sandy canyon floor. After a short, hot climb out of the canyon we were back on the crowded main trail.


The next day, we headed for the “Fiery Furnace.” We obtained our trail passes after watching an informational video and promising we would be good, which means not stepping on the cryptobiotic soil and not leaving any trace of our presence, except footprints. As it turned out, footprints were all we had to follow, since there are no trails in the “Furnace,” no cairns or markers of any kind. It’s a sort of labrinyth of rock ribs. This is a photo of us with the “Fiery Furnace” behind us. (Taken a few days after the hike.)


When we got to the trailhead, we were happy to see that there was only one vehicle in the parking lot. From its logo we could tell that a guided group was ahead of us. One of the fresh boot prints in the sand was a distinctive print of a “Keen” hiking boot. We kept a keen eye out for that print especially when we were making a decision about which way to go, if there was sand.

As you know, there are no bootprints on slickrock, only “worn looking” spots. The route finding was tricky, and we did lots of backtracking.

It was cause for celebration when we found the route through the final tricky bit. It was this narrow slot, with a hidden start.



Hiking in Sedona

Hiking in Sedona

Sedona is the day-hiking capital of the world; or so we’ve been told, and we believe it. Although we only had a chance to sample three, there are so many more that almost beg for us to come back and try.

We joined Kath and Jeff and their friend, Larry on a short jaunt right from our campsite, to the Huckaby trail. We took lots of flower photos as we walked along the mostly flat trail that skirted Oak Canyon.

The amazing plant below looks like a giant asparagus stalk and grows 3 to 4 meters high. It’s called a “Century” plant and it flowers after 25 years and then dies.


Doug hiked around Castle Butte while the rest of us biked. He travelled on a narrow rocky portion of trail that was closed to bicycles, to make a full circumnavigation of the butte.


We were on our own for our hike to Brins Mesa. We planned for an “out and back” trip after reading about it in two guidebooks. Once we were underway with a sense of the landscape and with the aid of the “Sedona Singletracks” map, we turned our hike into a loop, linking three trails and crossing three passes. The scenery was spectacular throughout the four-hour trip. Our sense of accomplishment was not diminished despite the thundershower that caught us in the last fifteen minutes of the hike.


Birding in Sedona

Birding in Sedona

The birding at our RV park in Sedona, situated on the banks of Oak Creek, has been fantastic.  Most of the time, Wendy was birding while she walked the dog. Tali is so relaxed on a walk these days that she is happy to lie down while Wendy watches birds. Doug caught the “birding bug” and ventured out with his camera and had good success, as you will see on the rest of the blog.

On our arrival day, a Summer Tanager allowed us good viewing. We caught glimpses of him all week. Finally, on a rainy Sunday morning, Doug was ready with his camera when he  appeared again. (See photo above).

Some of the birds were familiar to us, such as Mr. and Mrs. Western Tanager, caught on camera below.

There were a couple of favourite trees for birds, just on the edge of a field, and beside the driveway to the RV park, that were usually full of a variety of birds. Below is a photo of a house finch (there were plenty) and one of the flock of Cedar Waxwings, both species that are visitors to our house in Cranbrook.


There was a very vocal flock of Western Kingbirds, who seemed to act like they owned the tree. Their summer range covers most of the western U.S., and we have seen them on previous trips south.


A new bird to us was the Phainopepla, which according to Sibley, is rare in this area. They are usually found farther south than Sedona. We saw the Phainopepla most days, because he was very conspicuous perched on the tree top.


Other southern birds included the Gila Woodpecker, which reminded us of a smallish flicker, and the Magnificent Hummingbird. The morning after Kath and I saw this hummingbird (in poorer light), I was walking with Doug and pointed to the bush we had seen it on, and there he was again!

The cutest bird we saw was a Bridled Titmouse. He wasn’t at our RV Park however, he was flitting in the trees at Montezuma’s Castle, a National Monument that preserves an ancient cliff dwelling and is about thirty miles south of Sedona.