Saturday, November 19th is a sunny day, so I take care of some CI business while my laptop is charged, even though I would much rather be outside. By the time this is done, even though the high today is only 53 degrees, it is warm enough to play cello on the sunny side of Terry.

 

Cello on the sunny side

With the steep mesas east and west of us, there are not many hours of direct sunlight, so as soon as the sun goes behind the mesa, I extend my outdoor time with a cheery campfire. When it is too dark to write in the journal, I head inside to fix dinner and later do some editing for the Montana author. Goodness, the days go by so quickly…..

Sunday, November 20th is a walk-about day, looking for wood and just enjoying being outdoors, even though it is overcast and not a great day for photos.  It is warm enough to play cello outdoors, which is always a good thing. I start writing a blog with photos of our trip. Last year I did a daily post with photos, but not sure that will happen this year, as I am so far behind. Clifford is experimenting with ham radio antennas and studying for the next test to upgrade his license. Some of what he learns can be applied to work in the lab.

Monday, November 21st is a town day to buy supplies and do laundry. At the Visitors’ Center, using the free wifi,  I am able to post the first blog of the Winter Journey 2016-2017 on my website with links to FB for those who want to follow along. After we finish up there, we walk in the pouring rain to the museum in the next block. The deluge of rain continues as we leave Moab, and heading up the canyon to the campground, we see numerous waterfall with water dropping hundred of feet from the cliff tops to the river canyon below. I want to take photos, but there are no safe places to pull over until we get closer to camp.

Numerous waterfalls appear and then are gone

By then, the rain has let up, and as unexpectedly as they appeared, the waterfalls disappear. It was quite a sight to see, while it lasted. Back at camp, I put away clothes, remake the bed, and clean the fridge. Clifford continues with his studies.

Tuesday, November 22nd is travel day. Since I am up before Clifford, I have time for tea and saying good-bye to the river. This has been a good stay for us; I’m sorry that we have to leave, but we are lucky to have had such mild weather this time of year and we need to move on further south.  After Clifford is up, we begin packing up. As we are leaving, we take photos of an interesting rock formation/geological event:  it appears the big boulder at the campsite probably fell at least 1,500 feet from the top of the cliff, perhaps eons ago.

 

Interesting formation on the cliff, at least 1,500 feet above the campground

 

The big boulder at the edge of the campground

 

Leaving Big Bend Campground

I had called regarding camping at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado and that is our destination for tonight, but once we arrive there, we find that we were given misinformation on the phone and there are no campgrounds open. The only rest area in the vicinity clearly states no overnight stays, so we go on back to Cortez (Colorado) and spend the night in a spacious Walmart parking lot. This town is not a place I’d like to live, but we are grateful for a place to stay overnight.

 

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Winter Journey – Big Bend – November 2016

Tuesday, November 15th, this morning I find a little yellow butterfly dead on the ground, but in perfect condition. Very special, as butterflies were Mom’s ‘thing’ and it is totally unexpected to find one here at this time of year.

A perfect butterfly

After breakfast, I make a thermos of tea and then walk down to the day use area where there is a gravel and sand beach. I sit there on a rock with the river right at my feet, drinking tea and writing in my journal.

Along the Colorado River

After a walkabout to gather abandoned firewood, I sit at a picnic table at a nearby campsite where I can see the river and write postcards to family.

View of the east mesa through the trees

Back at our campsite, I play my cello, sitting  in the sun, while Clifford sits on the shady side to study until after the sun goes behind the mesa.

Sitting in the sun, playing the cello

 

Sitting in the shade, Clifford studies

This was really quite a lovely outdoor day.

Wednesday, November 16th, I am up in time to get photos at sunrise.

Photos at before sunrise

I make a cup and tea and start reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which I am sure I read eons ago, but I want to read it again now. After breakfast we head to Moab for errands and to use the wifi at the Visitors’ Center. We take a break from catching up with emails and other internet business to go to the Moab Brewery for lunch, then return to the Visitors’ Center to finish up our business. On the way back to the campground, we stop at a spring outside of town – water coming right out of the side of the cliff – to fill up our gallon jugs. Back at camp, I take photos of the river just before sunset.

Colorado River near sunset

One minute later

I edit until the laptop battery goes dead and then finish reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull: seek your own highest level of perfection and don’t be limited by the flock mentality. Good advice for all of us.

Thursday, November 17th, we are up at 4:00 a.m. to secure anything that might be blown away and close the visor over the window at the end of the camper. Shortly after we go back to bed, the rain starts, light at first and then a real downpour. It is still raining when I get up; I go for a walk, taking photos in the rain. The rain has stopped by time Clifford gets up, but it is cloudy, windy, and chilly all day. Good day for inside activities: I reorganize some storage areas, write in my journal, and even play the cello inside. We are grateful for Terry’s sturdiness, as we stay comfortable and warm in our “tiny house.”

Friday, November 18th is another beautiful sunny day.

Sunny day along the Colorado River

Today we go to the Red Cliff Museum, about seven miles further out on Highway 128 from where we are camped.

Driving out Highway 128 to Red Cliff Museum

This museum features the movies that have been made in this area because of its scenic value. Starting in the early 1950’s and up to the present, about 60 movies have been made here, everything from old westerns to Thelma and Louise.

View of the the Colorado River and mesa from Red Cliff Ranch

Back at camp my laptop has been recharged via the solar panels and the hotspot is also working, so I check email and bank balances. I am glad that I was able to spend most of the day outdoors, and it is also nice to have the laptop and hotspot charged for evening activities.

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Winter Journey – Colorado River Canyon – November 2016

Colorado River

Sunday November 13th is catch-up day: After taking photos of the Colorado River, I write in my journal, check email and bank balances (hotspot internet is very marginal, but better than nothing), and do some editing for the Montana author. We figure out where the propane smell is coming from – the regulator will have to be replaced. The campground is nearly empty today, so I walk about salvaging leftover firewood.

Walkabout looking for firewood

Beautiful blue sky day

Once the sun goes behind the mesa to the west, the temperature drops considerably, even though it is still light out.

The sun goes behind the mesa to the west

I take a few more photos of the river before making a campfire to extend the daylight time outdoors.

Colorado River downstream in the late afternoon

 

Colorado River upstream in the late afternoon

When it is too dark to read or write by the light of the campfire, I come in and make applesauce with some of the apples that I had gathered back in Idaho, amazed that they have lasted so long.

Monday November 14th is a town day for us and we head to Moab right after breakfast for groceries, laundromat, and several other short errands. Back at camp, I put groceries and clean clothes away, thinking about how Mom and I, after a trip to the laundromat when I was a kid, would fold heaps of clean clothes while my younger siblings would scamper off with piles of folded clothes to be put away. I call my sister Lillian to share the memory, but no answer, so just leave a message. Lots of memories, lots of feelings to work through.

The mesa to the east takes on a rich color as the sun sets

 

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Winter Journey – Horsethief to Big Bend – November 2016

Friday November 11th, after a long layover in Salt Lake City in the wee hours of the morning, it is with great relief that I board an uncrowded bus that takes me to Moab, where Clifford is waiting. We get propane and a few groceries, before going to the Moab Brewery for a good lunch. Then on out to Horsethief campground just outside Canyonlands NP where Clifford camped while I was gone.

Clifford’s campsite at Horsethief Campground

It is a big campground with roomy sites and views of the mesas; it would be nice to stay here for awhile, but the 14-day limit has been reached. I unpack my bags as Clifford and I catch up the news. I am exhausted, feeling caught between two worlds.

Sunset at Horsethief Campground

Saturday November 12th Since I am up before Clifford, I go for a walk on the trail near our campsite, getting photos of the sunrise. I like it here; too bad we have to move.

Sunrise at Horsethief Campground

As soon as Clifford is up, we pack up and head toward Moab and east on Highway 128. We are fortunate to find an available site at the Big Bend Campground along the Colorado River, about six miles out from Moab.

Colorado River upstream from our campsite at Big Bend Campground

Getting set up. Notice Clifford putting up his ham radio antenna.

Colorado River downstream from near our campsite

After we get set up, we realize that we left the sensor for the weather station at the Horsethief campground, so we have to drive all the way back out there to get it.

Autumn colors along the road back to Horsethief Campground

An interesting formation along the road to Horsethief Campground

Canyonland vista

Returning to our new campsite, we take naps, only I can’t sleep, the words of Dave van Ronk’s song “Motherless Children” going through my head. I get up and write a short blog about the void in my life created by Mom’s passing. Dinner is late; I am too tired to do dishes tonight, so leave them for Clifford and go to bed.

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Dead Horse State Park, Utah

Thursday October 27th our friends leave and we move to a different site, but are still in Dead Horse State Park. Finally this morning I am able to talk to Mom and we have a good conversation. I tell her I am working on getting a bus ticket so I can come see her and she tells me about her ride to the hospital in an ambulance.  We say our I love you’s and our good-bye’s, hoping that it is not the last time. In the afternoon, one of my daughters calls: at the meeting with Mom’s doctor today, the game-plan was changed from a plan for rehab to comfort care only. I know it is time for me to go and I finally talk to a human being at the bus depot in Missoula to get the information I need. Tomorrow morning Clifford will take me to the nearest bus depot that we know of – Green River, about 60 miles away. I pack a couple of bags with enough clothes for a week, laptop, journal, camera, and snacks for the 22 hour bus trip. In the afternoon, Clifford and I drive out to the Dead Horse Point, which is a very scenic view of the canyon and Colorado River below. I try not to think about the bus trip and what lies ahead, but just stay in the present moment and enjoy the grandeur of the landscape.

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Dead Horse Point

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Utah as sen from the bus heading north

Friday October 28th to Thursday November 10th: My mom knows I am coming, but sadly, she passes on before I get to the hospital. Her body had been failing since her 90th birthday, but her mind was sharp and her faith strong to the end. She was surrounded by her family whom she loved and who loved her; she was ready to go and left peacefully. But her going creates a void in my life – a huge indescribable void. I wonder how it is for all who were close to her. Are they tempted to explore the void to see if there are treasures there to be discovered; are they tip-toeing around the void, afraid if they fall in they will be swallowed up never to return; or will they turn their back, walk away, pretending the void doesn’t exist?

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Photo taken with Mom’s little camera that I had helped her pick out; suits my mood.

I stay at Mom’s house, walking from room to room looking at her stuff, feeling her presence. I help my siblings in regard to planning the funeral, writing the obituary, and am one of several people who speak at the funeral service. I am very grateful to all the family members who contribute their time and effort to make the funeral a special event.

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The flower arrangement on the casket made by one of Mom’s nieces

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My brother Rollie plays at the Sunnyside Cemetery

In the days that I am here, I begin the process of organizing and preparing for an estate sale. Coming across her Christmas tree and ornaments that she had collected or made, I decorate the tree, recalling how beautifully Mom always decorated our Christmas trees when we were kids..

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The Christmas Tree

As my siblings and all of our families come to the house in regard to disposing of Mom’s stuff, a spirit of generosity and helpfulness prevails. There is no fighting over this or that, rather everyone is thoughtful and considerate. Most of my kids are around, at least part of the time, even those who have come from afar. It is a special time of closeness with both my siblings and my kids.

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Sunrise from Mom’s front steps – she would have loved seeing it

I stay for a week after the funeral, having done as much as I can to make things easier for my siblings, knowing that the greatest part of the burden is still on them to prepare the house for sale, while missing the regular interaction that they had with our mom. I am torn in that I would like to stay and help them, but Clifford is in southern Utah waiting for my return. We are fortunate that the weather has been moderate for this time of year, but it is time for Clifford and me to head further south for the winter, so with heavy heart, I say good-bye to everyone and board the bus, heading south once again.

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Winter Journey – Arches NP – October 2016

October 26th is a day with our friends, starting with breakfast at a cute funky place in Moab.  Of course I took photos of them, but they have asked photos to not be posted.  

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Breakfast in Moab

Then we head up to Arches National Park. We make numerous stops for photos, the most interesting being the Sand Dune Arch and the longest hike being the hike to Landscape Arch. Our first stop is Balanced Rock; from the Balanced Rock Trail, one can see formations in the distance, including Turret Arch

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First stop is Balanced Rock

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Turret Arch seen from the Balanced Rock trail

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A local resident of the area surveys his domain

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Another view of Balanced Rock

Next stop is the Fiery Furnace Formation named for the warm glow of the rocks in the late afternoons. We are here too early in the day to witness the “fire.”

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Fiery Furnace Formation

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Fiery Furnace close-up

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View across the basin seen from the Fiery Furnace Overlook

The Sand Dune Arch is most interesting to me, being hidden inside this formation. For this arch, the overhead sun brings the most color to the formations within the slot canyon.

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Approaching the Sand Dune Arch

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A tree growing in the slot canyon leading to the arch

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The Sand Dune Arch rich with color at mid-day

Our last stop of the day in Arches National Park is a hike to Landscape Arch.

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Formations on the trail to Landscape Arch

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Formations of the trail to Landscape Arch

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Arrival at Landscape Arch

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Landscape Arch moments before sunset

After the hike back to the trailhead, we all go Moab to browse in a bookstore, followed by dinner at a nice restaurant. We check our phones while we are in town, as there is cell reception here, but not at the campground.

Texts from my siblings indicate that Mom is stable and their talk with her doctor includes looking into rehab for the next 20 days.  I have called the hospital several times, but each time Mom has been asleep or otherwise occupied, so I have not been able to talk to her. Although the indication is that there is not an immediate need to go to Missoula, I continue to look into getting a bus ticket.

As soon as we arrive back at our campsite, I head to bed.  Its been a long day for me.

 

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Winter Journey – Dead Horse State Park – October 2016

canyonland-to-deadhorse-024Sunday October 23rd, I read “Dances With Wolves” with my morning tea instead of writing in my journal – not sure that is legal! After breakfast we go to Moab to run errands and have a picnic sitting on big rocks under the trees at Lion’s Park.

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Roadside view driving to Moab

On the way back to our campground, we check out the BLM campgrounds along the way: Lone Mesa is a bit too far off the highway on a washboard road; Horsethief is a future possibility. Too late to play cello by time we get back to camp and I’m feeling like I might be coming down with whatever Clifford had, so have a cup of tea and early to bed.

Monday October 24th, I finish reading “Dances With Wolves.” I don’t feel great today, but we go for a picnic at Upheaval Dome anyway. We find a picnic table with a nice view, but the wind has come up and probably not the best thing for me to be outdoors today. I am not up for the hike uphill to see the dome itself, so will have to save that for another trip.

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Drive to Upheaval Dome

Back at camp, I rest, while Clifford plays with his ham radio. After dinner, Clifford does the dishes so I can go to bed. Heavy rain in the night.

Tuesday October 25th, we just have vege juice for breakfast, as we need to pack up and head on down the road to nearby Dead Horse State Park, where we are meeting friends from Colorado.

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Crossing the mesa from Canyonlands NP to Dead Horse State Park

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View of the canyon from Dead Horse State Park

One of my sisters calls; Mom is in the hospital again, and it could be more serious this time. I start looking into bus fares in case I need to head back to Montana; automated systems are not helpful – please give me a human being!

Clifford and I go for a hike with our friends along the West Rim Trail out to the Rim Overlook. Because of the rain last night, the depressions in the rocks are filled with rain water, which provides interesting photo opportunities.

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Rock puddles and a mesa on the West Rim Trail

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At Rim Overlook with the canyons in shadow

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Rock puddles and junipers at Rim Overlook

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Even though the canyon is in shadow, the views are spectacular.

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Spectacular Views

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Our friend finds a vantage point for canyon gazing

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Shadows in the canyon

As we walk back to the campground, the last light of the setting sun bring warmth of color to the westward-facing mesas and our immediate surroundings. 

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Last rays bring warm color to the mesa

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Immediate surroundings brightened by the last light of the sun

Though I am surrounded by the scenic beauty of the area and the company of our friends, I am preoccupied with trying to figure out bus schedules and decisions about when (not if) to head to Montana. The word from my siblings is that Mom is stable and plans are being made for rehab to see if she will be able to return home or not. Maybe I don’t need to rush the bus decision yet, but I am uneasy as the day ends. 

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At the day’s end

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Winter Journey – Mesa Arch – October 2016

Thursday, October 20th, I get up early and head out in the pre-dawn to Mesa Arch, as I want to get there in time for sunrise photos. By time I get to the parking lot, the sky is already becoming light and the parking lot is nearly full. Guess I should have come earlier! I hike to the arch and am dismayed to see the arch opening lined with photographers, shoulder to shoulder, with their fancy cameras and huge lenses on hefty tripods. There is literally no place for me to stand to get a shot of the arch that will soon reflect the glow of the rising sun. Finally some guy kneels down behind his tripod and I can shoot over his shoulder, but I still get the camera of the photographer next to us in my photo. After the sunrise glow on the underside of the arch comes and goes, several photographers move off. An interesting thing happens: after a short period of no glow, the rocks below the arch begin to reflect the sunlight up to the underside of the arch and the lovely famous glow returns.

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Mesa Arch at sunrise

Now I am able to move around a bit and get several shots of the arch and the Washer Woman formation in the background.

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Mesa Arch with Washer Woman formation in the background

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Close-up of Washer Woman Formation

Although I am reluctant to leave, eventually I start the hike back to camp. My cell phone chirps at me; I am surprised and pleased to see that there is enough cell reception here that I am able to see that I have a phone message. I climb up a rock incline away from the trail to listen to the message and then send texts with a cell pic of the arch to my brother and my daughters. After I return the phone call, I call my mom. We have a nice visit until I lose the connection as I’m returning to the parking lot. I decide to explore another trail heading uphill away from the parking lot, hoping for a better cell connection so I can call her back. I discover that this trail leads around to the arch, coming in from a higher vantage point. Not many people are there now, so I go on down to the arch once again. Amazingly, for a few minutes, I am the only person there!

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Mesa Arch – I am the only person there!

The early morning glow is fading, but to be there in the silence and the beauty of the landscape is priceless. Back at camp, Clifford is feeling worse and spends most of the day in bed. I walk down to the Green River Overlook in the afternoon, and once again, I am the only person witnessing the silence and the beauty of the landscape at this particular point on the planet.

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The Green River at sunset

Friday October 21st, Clifford spends the day in bed, while I drive to the visitor’s center for water; mail a postcard of Mesa Arch to Mom so she can see where I was when I called her yesterday. Stop at the Shafter Trail Overview again and Mesa Arch, which is not nearly as dramatic as it is at sunrise.

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Shafer Trail Overlook

Back at camp, I download photos and begin editing them. Walk down to the Green River Overlook in time for the sunset. 

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Sunset at the Green River Overlook

Make soup for dinner, as that is something that Clifford can eat.

Saturday October 22nd, I make a campfire this morning and write in my journal. Clifford is feeling a bit better and up much of the day. We work on projects and tidy up Terry. In the afternoon, I sit outside to play the cello, and later walk down to the Green River Overlook.

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Near sunset at the Green River Overlook

We have nachos for dinner and I begin reading “Dances With Wolves.” I saw the movie many years ago, but the book is better.

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Winter Journey – Canyonland NP – October 2016

Monday, October 17th, the mild morning temperature turns cooler as the wind shifts from SW to NW.

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The wind shifts, cooler with rain clouds

Leaving Price, the wind does not hamper us, but once we reach I-70, it is problematic.

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Leaving Price, Utah

After getting gas at Green River, Utah, we decide to take a frontage road that parallels the highway, since we are having a hard time maintaining interstate speed. Turns out this road is not maintained and it is a very rough ride until we rejoin I-70. At one point we have to stop because the hitch support post slips and hits the ground.

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Stop for damage report

Near the junction with Hwy 191, which will take us south to Moab, we pull into rest stop located on the top of a barren windswept mesa.

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Barren and windswept landscape

In spite of the wind, we have a picnic, partially protected by one of the shelters, before we get set up for the night. Quite a switch from last night’s lovely spot.

Tuesday, October 18th, we leave the rest area shortly after 8:00 a.m., as we were advised to be at the Willow Flat Campground in Canyonland National Park by 9:00 a.m.

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Heading to Canyonland National Park

It is a small and popular campground that is filled daily by 10:00 a.m. We arrive shortly after 9:00 and are pleased that the first site, a pull-through with a view, is available. The temperature is mild enough that Clifford sits in the sun to study and I am able to play cello outside after we get set up.

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Perfect site for us

In the afternoon I walk down to the Green River Overlook, a view of the Green River as it cuts its deep meandering channel across the desert.

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Green River Overlook

and later Clifford and I walk down in time for photos at sunset.

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Green River at sunset

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Last rays of the setting sun

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Sunset at the Green River Overlook

We are very pleased to be here.

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Wednesday, October 19th, I make a small campfire this morning, as I especially appreciate the quiet time outdoors before the busy-ness of the day.  Today we make a sight-seeing trip to the Shafer Trail Overlook,

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Schafer Trail Overlook

the Grand View Point Overlook,

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Grand View Point Overlook

the Orange Cliff view point,

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Orange Cliff view point

and then stop for a picnic at the same place we had a picnic last time we were here, over three years ago.

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Canyonland picnic area

In the evening, I walk down to the Green River Overview.

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Mesa to the east of Willow Flat Campground near sundown

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In the neighborhood

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Sunset light at Green River Overlook

Clifford has a sore throat this evening, which is not good. We use remedies that we have with us and hope that he feels better tomorrow.

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It is still windy this morning, Friday, October 14th, as we leave the rest stop near Anaconda (Montana) and much worse as we head south at Butte. Driving is exhausting and the gas mileage is poor. When we pull into Dillon for gas, we decide to check out the KOA there. Even though it is the most we have ever paid to camp anywhere, in addition to getting out of the wind, we have electricity, free wifi, showers, and laundry facilities. Not only that, it is located right alongside the Beaverhead River and we are surrounded with lawns and trees. I am happy we are spending the night here.

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Camped by the Beaverhead River

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Surrounded by lawns and trees

Saturday morning, October 15th, while clothes wash and dry, we have showers and breakfast and get packed up. Of course, morning photos of the river are taken.

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Morning photos of the Beaverhead River

Monida Pass between Montana and Idaho is barren and gradual – much easier on Blazer than the passes east of Butte, which was our route last year.

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Entering southern Idaho

Much of the route across southern Idaho is flat and kind of boring, until we near the border between Idaho and Utah.

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Southern Idaho landscape

We stop at the last rest stop in Idaho, a sweet spot with lots of trees, walking paths, picnic tables and benches tucked in here and there, and foot bridges over dry stream beds.

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Walking paths at a rest stop in southern Idaho

Walking the paths, I discover a huge untended old apple tree; apples that have fallen blanket the ground beneath the tree. I fill my coat pockets with slightly bruised apples, which soon become applesauce.

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Old apple tree

Sunday, October 16th, after a good solid rain in the night, the foot bridges now arch over small streams. I gather more apples. We leave the rest stop and soon are driving in heavy rain in Utah.

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Rugged mountains of northern Utah

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Driving in the rain

We take I-84 to the east near Ogden, bypassing Salt Lake City. It is a slow, but interesting drive through the canyon country.

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Canyon Country

When we reach Price Canyon, we discover that the BLM campground where we had planned to spend the night is off-limits to us. So, on to Price and drive around a bit looking for an inconspicuous place to park a 19-foot camper. On the edge of town, a vacant baseball field parking lot is the perfect spot.

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Home for the night in Price, Utah

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