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A New Blog

For the next 18 months we will be in South America serving as Humanitarian Missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is an adventure that we are very excited to start. We hope to meet a lot of new people and see a lot of beautiful places. We also hope to help the people of South America.

We will arrive in Buenos Aires on Dec 12, 2021 and we be working throughout the countries of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uraguay.

Click the link below to access the new blog and see some of the pictures from our adventure.

Last Van Camping Trip (For a while)

We had a short camping trip to southern Utah for fall break. None of our kids were able to come, but the Pauls, Muirs, Stewarts and Scott Thayn family attended. It was a little cold for this trip. We saw a few patches of snow on the ground, but as long as the sun was out during the day, it was warm. However, as soon as the sun went down in the evening, it got cold fast.

Eva and I left home first and were able to get a camping spot on Hancock Road, just north of Kanab. It was a little close to the road, but it was large enough for all the camping trailers. The rest of the group arrived throughout the evening, so we didn’t do much that evening. 

Thursday morning we hiked the Peek-a-Boo slot canyon. Because it was fall break for the schools, everywhere was pretty crowded with a lot of families. The drive to the trailhead was full of deep sand, but we all made it fine. The hike was short, but fun.

After lunch we went to “Belly of the Dragon”. This is a drainage cave under the highway, but was carved from solid rock. It was fun to climb through and the kids all liked it.

Friday we left early to drive to Wire Pass. The trailhead was about 60 miles away near the Arizona border. We were amazed at the improvements at the trailhead. I had been there about 15 years ago and the parking area held about 10-15 cars. Now the parking lot was large and could probably hold over 100 cars. There were 30-40 cars there now and a lot of people in the canyon. We passed dozens of people in the canyon and at times it was too crowded.

Wire Pass is a short, but narrow slot canyon that leads into Buckskin Gulch, the world’s longest slot canyon at 17 miles long. We went into Wire Pass and after a short walk, we came to the only obstacle in the canyon. When we were there 15 years ago, it was a 3-4 foot drop off a large boulder. However, now the drop off was 8-10 feet and undercut below the boulder.

With our large group, we were able to get everyone down easily. After passing through the first section of narrows, we saw that there was now a by-pass trail to avoid the obstacle.

We hiked through Wire Pass to the intersection of Buckskin. After eating lunch we went down Buckskin until we hit knee deep water. We then turned around and hiked up Buckskin a ways. Wire Pass had deep canyon walls and is only 3-6 ft wide. Buckskin has deep canyon walls, but is wider than Wire pass. Both have really pretty sections.

After exploring for a while we retraced our path through Wire Pass back to the trailhead. We hiked about 6.2 miles through the canyons.

On Saturday, we went to Pink Coral Sand Dune State Park, about 10 miles from our campsite. The dunes are a light pink color and made of very fine sand. However, it was a windy and cold day. When you were on the dunes the sand was blowing everywhere. The kids had a wooden sled and they were able to ride it down the steep slopes of the dunes. It was too windy for me and Eva so after lunch we left for home. We were able to get home around 7 pm. 

This will be our last van trip for a while. We will be putting the van in storage for 18 months while we go to Argentina.

Family Fun in St. George

We decided to have a fun weekend in St. George with the family before we leave to South America. Eva was able to rent a house with a swimming pool and 5 bedrooms in the Santa Clara area.

We had a great time. The grandkids all loved the pool and hot tub. We pretty much spent the entire weekend in the pool. Rosie was swimming like a fish. She would jump off the highest deck into the deep part of the pool. She was also able to dive and get the dive toys off the bottom. Pretty good for a 4 year old. Chandler also really liked the pool and as he became more comfortable he was able to spend time in the deep end of the pool. Rosie and Chandler probably spent 6-8 hours a day in the pool. 

Everett was a little more cautious when getting into the pool, but he was able to play in the shallow end and in the hot tub. Two-month old Arlo also loved the pool. We would let the hot tub cool a little and he loved being held in the water. He was able to float on his back, with me only holding his head out of the water. I don’t think he even cried once while in the pool.

On Sunday we went to Pioneer Park in St. George and took family pictures against the red rocks. They turned out pretty good, even though we just used an iPhone and a tripod.

It was a great weekend and we were glad to have the entire family together. It has been a while since we were all together for more than just a couple of hours. We love all of them very much.

Homes of the Ancients

Homes of the Ancients

Oct 4, 2021

This morning Bruce and Cindi left to start their trip back to California. They plan on taking a few days to make it back to home.

Eva, Karen and I went to the Coronado Historic Site. This site has the ruins of the Kuanua Pueblo and was only 5-6 miles from Frenchie and Karen’s house. 

In 1540 Francisco Vasquez de Coronado entered the Rio Grande valley while searching for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold. The village of Kuanua had about 1200 people when Coronado arrived and due to conflicts with the spanish, the village was abandoned.

In the 1930-40s, the site was excavated and hundreds of adobe rooms and many kivas were uncovered. The large kiva that was uncovered contained painted murals on all walls of the kiva. This is the only location in the world where painted murals in a kiva have been discovered. The murals were saved from the mud adobe walls of the kiva and some are displayed at the historic site.

After the site was fully excavated, they realized that exposure to the elements would severely damage the adobe walls, so the historic ruins were buried and reproductions were built in the same footprint of the originals.

We had a great tour guide walk us through the site. She was very knowledgeable of the history of the site and the culture of the people who lived there. It was very much worth the visit.

After returning to the house we spent the rest of the day visiting with Frenchie and Karen, while Frenchie told us many stories. Later they were very kind to make dinner for us and we ended the night with fresh apple pie and ice cream. They really spoiled us.

Oct 5, 2021

When we got out of the van in the morning we could again see many balloons in the sky as they drifted north towards the house. Eva and I packed up the van and said goodbye to Frenchie and Karen. They were very kind and hospitable to let us camp in the backyard for 4 nights. We didn’t expect all the food and deserts that they provided, but it we appreciated it very much. They were also very kind to drive us to the balloon fiesta and other locations. We also left with a full apple pie and raspberries.

Our plan was to take two night to get home. We drove north from Rio Rancho, through the Jemez canyon towards Bandelier National Monument. Along the way we stopped at Soda Dam, which is a very interesting rock formation that looks like some day may dam the river, unless it is kept open.

Bandelier National Monument is in a deep canyon just south of Los Alamos. Frijolies canyon contains the ruin of a large village that was inhabited by the Pueblo people from 1200 to 1500 AD. They estimate that the are at least 3000 sites in the canyon.

Eva and I hiked about 2-1/2 miles as we did the Pueblo loop and the hike to the Alcove House. There were many ruins and several kivas in the valley floor alongside the river. But the interesting sites were the homes that were carved into the cliff walls. We were able to enter several of them.

After visiting the cliff homes, we hiked another 1/2 miles to the bottom of Alcove House. From there we had to climb four long ladders to ascend 140 feet above the canyon. Alcove house is a large alcove high above the valley. On one side of the alcove is a restored kiva. It was nice to sit in the cool alcove and look at the views down the valley.

Eva was able to make her way down the ladders and we hiked back to the van. After eating lunch we took a back road from the mountains to the town of Cuba. From there it was another 75 miles to our camping spot.

We got the last campsite at the Angel Peak campground. This is a free BLM campground that is on the edge of a cliff overlooking the New Mexico Badlands. The night was windy, so we spent most of the time in the van.

Oct 6, 2021

It rained all night long, so we checked the forecast and it looked like overcast skies and rain showers for most of the day. We decided to drive the rest of the way home and arrived at the house around 5:30 pm.

When we got home, Chandler and Everett quickly ate all of Frenchie’s raspberries.

Balloon Chasing and a Night Time Glow

Oct 3, 2021

We had a nice quiet night in Frenchie’s yard and in the morning all the girls went to walk the dog down by the Rio Grande river. They had a very nice 4.5 mile walk and were able to see the many balloons that were part of the Mass Ascension of the Balloon Fiesta. 

Frenchie, Bruce and myself were watching the balloons over the valley where we saw a low flying balloon not far from the house. We decided that we would balloon chasers and we quickly loaded up in Frenchie’s truck. It was a little difficult to predict where the balloons would land as we drove through the open sage brush land to the west of Frenchie’s house.

We finally found the landing spot of the Grape Escape. This was a family owned balloon that was piloted by Jim, who has been flying the Grape Escape in Albuquerque since 1974. Jim’s ground crew was his kids, grandkids and maybe a great-grandchild. They were very helpful as they answered our questions and allow us to help pack up the balloon and basket into their trailer. They even invited watch the launch the next morning.

After leaving the Grape Escape, we saw another descending balloon not far away. We found that watching balloons from even 1/2 mile away was a little deceiving. You think they are going down and chase in that direction, but when you crest a hill, the balloon is still 1/2 mile away and traveling a different direction. Also, since we were in the “rural” part of Rio Rancho, the roads were not always predictable in direction or length.

This second balloon that we chased was a Rainbow Rider balloon. This is a commercial balloon that takes up to 12 passengers for a flight. We found out that during the Fiesta the ride is $400/person, but other times it is around $200/person. We arrived at this balloon after the balloon had just settled on the ground. These guys had a little bit of a rough landing. The basket was dragged and fell on it’s side, and the passengers described it as a slow motion tip-over and they all sounded like it was the best part of the flight.

With the commercial flight, the passengers were all quickly loaded in vans at taken back to the launch site, and two ground crew members were left to load this huge balloon and basket. They had the job of collapsing the balloon, rolling it up and loading it into the bag.

We then helped them flip the basket up and get it loaded on the trailer. Since they were professionals, they had many tricks to get everything loaded with just the two of them, but we could tell they were very grateful for our help.

Later that day we drove back to the main balloon field to watch the evening activities. They started with skydivers that carried an American Flag to the ground. After that the balloons started setting up. The main event for the night was the “Twilight Balloon Glow”.

We were able to watch the balloon get laid out on the field and the basket attached. The next step was to use a large fan to fill the balloon with air. Once the balloon was filled with cold air, it was still laying on the ground. At that point the fired up the propane burners. It only took a minute or two for the air to heat up and the balloon to rise off the ground. When they start the process the basket is laid on it side. This positions the burner so it can heat the air in the balloon. As the balloon rises off the ground, the basket is stood up by the rising balloon.

The balloon glow is a beautiful site. As darkness falls, the balloon pilots light up their balloons with the burners. The balloons never leave the ground, but the entire balloon glows in the darkness. It was quite a sight to see with hundreds of balloons on the field. We were able to walk through the glowing balloons. It felt like walking through a thick forest as the balloon glowed high above our heads.

The evening ended with more skydivers and a very nice fireworks show. We watched the fireworks as we walked back to the car and it was a very quick ride back to the house where we ended the evening with pizza and apple pie.

Coyotes, Covid and Balloons – A lot of Balloons

Oct 1, 2021

The night was full of packs of coyotes howling all around us. It was fun to listen to them. Early in the morning it started to rain and kept raining most of the day.

In the morning we came down off the mountain and drove into Alamosa to find a Covid test. Yesterday we got a call from Zac, telling us Alanna has Covid. She was not feeling well that morning and they purchased a home Covid test. Zac was negative, but Alanna’s test was positive. We were all at Everett’s birthday party on Monday and she thought that either she got the virus at our house, or she had the virus when she was at our house. Fortunately our entire family had been vaccinated, but decided it would be a good idea to get tested. So far everyone has come back negative (except Alanna, but she is feeling fine).

Eva and I went to Alamosa, CO hoping to find an at home test to take. Walgreen’s had them in stock, but the pharmacist recommended that we go to the clinic across the street and take the rapid tests. It only took us about an hour to get scheduled, fill out the paperwork, have a sample taken and get the results. We were both negative so we felt comfortable continuing on our trip.

After eating lunch in Alamosa we drove south into New Mexico. We stopped in Taos to visit the Taos Pueblo, an large display of ancient dwellings, but when we arrived at the location, it was closed due to Covid. It was funny that an outdoor historic site was closed, but we had to turn around in the parking lot of a casino that was wide open.

The rest of the afternoon was driving through Santa Fe to Albuquerque. We arrived at Frenchie and Karen’s house around 6:30 pm and set up the van in their large back yard.

They are our host for the balloon fiesta that starts early tomorrow morning. Later in the evening Bruce and Cindi arrived from San Diego. They have a nice full-size camper that they parked next to the shed. The day ended with one of Frenchie’s home-made apple pies. It was great.

Oct 2, 2021

This morning was an early start. We were up at 4:45 am and left the house by 5:30 am. It was about a 15 mile drive to the balloon launch field, but it took about an hour to get through the traffic and parked. We then had to walk 3/4 mile to the launch field.

We arrived just as the mass ascension started. In this event the balloons line up on the field and take off in waves. They estimate over 500 balloon participated. It was amazing to see so many balloons. They didn’t all take off at once, but they were in rows of 20-25 and each row took off together. And there were many, many rows of balloons. Just when we thought they were done, another row of balloons would take off and revel more rows, as far as we could see on the field.

Along with the hundreds of balloons, there were thousands of people. The balloons were packed in so tight that they pressed against each other, and the people were pack just as tight. It was an amazing sight. We had never seen anything like it before.

After the main ascension we sat in our chairs and just watched the balloons. There were a few stragglers taking off, but there were hundreds of balloons in the air. The weather was great, with clear blue skies and no wind.

We were back at Frenchie’s house about 10:30 am and we all took a nap. We were not use to being up so early when we are on vacation. 

Later in the evening a group of 20 balloons sailed past the house and landed not far from the house. At night, we set up our chairs in a field across the street from the house and watched the Balloon Glowdeo and fireworks. It was quite far away, but it was still fun to watch. We ended the evening with more apple pie and ice cream.

Hot Springs and Sand Dunes

Sept 30, 2021

We were a little slow getting up in the morning, but we left camp around 9 am and drove east to Pagosa Springs. This was another pretty town in the Colorado mountains. The San Juan River flows through the old part of town and there were several hot springs along the banks of the river. We found a very nice pool and soak in the hot water for a while. The weather was pretty good, but overcast, so the water felt good. We stayed for about an hour.

After dressing we did a short walk along the river walk past all the free hot springs, and we could see the hot spring resorts across the river.

As we were leaving Pagosa Springs the rain started and kept rain for most of the afternoon. The highway east took us over Wolf Creek Pass at 10,800 feet. It was another very pretty drive with the changing colors of the leaves. 

After descending from the pass, the valley became very flat was was full of farms. We drove across the valley to the edge of the next mountain range. Just at the edge of the mountains was the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The park has the highest dunes in the US. We got there around 4 pm, but also just as the clouds and wind moved in. We drove to the dune area and walked about halfway to the big dunes. But the wind was blowing cold and hard, so we took a few pictures and then went back to the van.

We found a camping stop about 18 miles south of the park in some BLM ground. It was still windy and cold so we stayed in the van the rest of the evening.

The Narrow Train up the Mountain

Sept 28, 2021

We left home on Tuesday morning with the goal to camp to near Durango, CO. We had tickets for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Train trip at 8:00 am on Wednesday morning. We would have left on Monday, but we wanted to attend Everett’s 4th birthday party that night.

We left home just after 10 am and just drove with only a short stop before Moab to each lunch. Our only other stop was in Cortez for gas. The area between Cortez and Durango is very beautiful with many mountain ranches on both sides of the highway. We found a camping spot in the National Forest about 12 miles from Durango and settled down for the night. It was a little cold and windy and it rained quite a bit through out the night.

Sept 29, 2021

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad was built in 1881 and has been in continuous operation for 140 years. It was built to ship cargo and passengers 45 miles up Cascade canyon to Silverton and ship silver and gold ore back from the San Juan Mountains. In more modern times it is the canyon views that have kept the train in operation.

We arrived at the rail station in Durango at 7:15 am, and had to pay $10 to park for the day. We thought we had purchased seats on one of enclosed cars, but found out our car was an open car. In the summer it would have been great, but it was a bit cold this morning. We were able to change to an inside car for the morning trip to Silverton, but the inside cars were sold out on the way back, so we will have the outside car later in the afternoon. The trip would take 3-1/2 hours up to Silverton, a two hour layover in Silverton, then 3-1/2 hours back to Durango.

The train ride very slow and rough. This think the age of the cars and tracks made a very rough ride. Also, the narrow gauge tracks amplified every bump and rock-n-roll back and forth. Due to all of this, we probably never got faster than 15-20 mph. 

It took about an hour to get out of Durango and through the valley to the start of Cascade Canyon. The tracks followed the Animas River all the way from Durango to Silverton. Once we went up the canyon the views were awesome. The colored leaves of fall were at the maximum. 

At points the train track was carved into the cliff side with a straight drop off to the river, several hundred feet below. It was an awesome ride and very beautiful. We were glad we got the inside seats as several people came inside to get warm and commented on how cold it was outside.

We arrived in Silverton at 11:30 am and quickly got in line to eat lunch at a burger place. We beat the crowds and had a burger. 

We spent the rest of our time in Silverton walking through streets and shops. Before leaving we had a funnel cake for desert.

The trip down the canyon was a little warmer, but it did rain a bit. With our coats and hats on, the ride was not too bad. The outside cars have seats facing to to the outside, so watching the scenery is much easier. About halfway down the train slows down so everyone can get a good view of the river, and a lady sitting behind us dropped her husbands phone off the train, so that was the excitement for the trip. She was crying and he didn’t look too happy. About a mile from where she dropped it, the rail came close to the road, so they could have driven up and recovered the phone, but I don’t know if they did.

We arrived back in Durango at 5:15 pm. It was fun as we rode into town, there were many people and kids that came out of their houses and waved to the train. I think everyone in town in proud of the train.

We found a camping spot about 10 miles out of town on BLM ground. It was a very quiet night, with a little bit of rain through out the night. 

Yellowstone and Grand Teton

Sept 22, 2021

The night wasn’t too cold and we were on our way by 8:15 am. We headed south into Idaho towards Yellowstone. About 10 miles from West Yellowstone we stopped at Howard Springs. This was a flowing spring just off the highway. We filled out water tanks and then drove into Yellowstone.

We only planned on staying for the day, so we headed for Old Faithful. Since we were later in the morning, the park was crowded with a lot of traffic. We arrived just after the geyser erupted, so we first went hiking in the Upper Geyser basin. After the hike we stopped in the historic Yellowstone Lodge for a few pictures.

Next we went to the van for lunch and finally we went back to the Old Faithful Geyser eruption at 1:16 pm. The eruption was about 10 minutes late, but it was a good one.

We left the Old Faithful area around 3 pm and drove through the park to exit on the south entrance road. We found a nice campsite at the Sheffield Campground just outside of Grand Teton National Park. It was a pretty nice campground and we sat outside enjoying the sun before it went down.

Sept 23, 2021

We drove into Grand Teton National Park in the morning and stopped at the Jenny’s Lake Visitor Center. This is the 3rd time we have been at the park in the last 12 months, and is the first time we were able to see the mountains. Last year the first time we went to the park it was raining and cloudy for the three days we were in the area. And then when we went last September there was so much smoke from the western US wildfires that you could not see the mountains at all.

Today it was beautiful weather with clear skies, so we were able to enjoy the views of the Teton mountains. The only problem was everyone else was at the park. It was very crowded and difficult to park. We did find a parking spot and were able to do a short hike.

Later in the day we drove south through Jackson Hole and into Idaho. We arrived at Lava Hot Springs around 5 pm and took some time to soak in the hot springs. We had planned to camp at our normal spot just 1 mile away from the hot springs, by this free camping area has been improved, so there were only 7 camping sites that were all full. All of the other camping areas were fenced off. This really restricted the availability of camping sites in the area. We ended up driving about 25 miles south to the Malad Summit area. There is a Forest Service campsite there and several dispersed camping spots. We found a spot just off the road. It was not great, but it was okay for the night.

Sept 24, 2021

This was our last day. We left camp around 9 am and drove home to Utah, only stopping in Layton to visit Rosie.

This was a fun trip, but it definitely felt like winter was close for a few days in Montana.

Ranch Life in Early Montana

Sept 20, 2021

It was cold and wet last night, but with our electric blanket we stayed warm in bed. We drove down the mountain and continued west to Deer Lodge. We spent about 2-3 hours at the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site. This is a small working cattle ranch operated by the National Park Service.

This is the site of a cattle ranch started in the 1870s. At one time the ranch was over 1 million acres, but is now just 1600 acres. The visitor’s center is at the original ranch homestead with the main ranch house and many buildings filled with equipment and displays of ranch life in the late 1800s. There were several rangers presenting information about ranch life for the cowboys. It was very interesting and worth the stop.

From Deer Lodge we re-connected with I-90 and drove south through Butte. We had planned to camp close to Virginia City, but changed our plans and decided to camp on the Jefferson River south of Whitehall. We camped close to Renova Hot Springs. The past 2 days had been windy, rainy and overcast, so we decide to visit the hot springs in the morning.

Sept 21, 2021

The morning was cold and windy so we skipped the hot springs and drove south through the valley. We stopped at the grocery store in Sheridan for a few things. From Sheridan we continue up into the mountains to visit the old mining town of Virginia City.

Unfortunately since it was late in the year, most places were closed, but we were able to walk up and down Main Street and some of the historic buildings were open to look into. The main street had many historic buildings from the late 1800s, but some of them were reproductions.

One very interesting building was a dry goods store. It closed for business in the 1945, and the interior was still as it was in 1945 with all the products still on the shelves.

We continued over the mountains into the Madison River valley and continued south.

A few miles south of Ennis we camped in the mountains at a Forest Service campsite. We were the only ones in the campground when we arrived, but later in the evening another guy arrived and set up camp. He was a former backcountry Forest Ranger and worked in this area. He is retired now, but came up to camp and hike in the mountains.

Later in the evening, Eva and I went for a walk in the campground area. We saw this sign near the entrance of the campground.

And then saw this on the entry road into the campground. 

It wasn’t there when we arrived, so the grizzly had visited the campground since we had set up camp. It was only 25-30 yards from our van.

After we saw the bear scat, Eva didn’t feel like walking, so we went back to the van for the evening.