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1st - 30th June 2017 - Baja - California - Nevada - Utah - Ida

Thursday 1st June

Los Barriles – La Paz 98 Km

We said good-bye to Baja Sunrise RV Park, and Jorge and Sergio, until our return in November. It was hard to drive away from the beach and the beautiful Bahia las Palmas. At the same time, we were looking forward to being back on the road again, seeing new places, meeting new people and catching up with some old friends on the way. The first leg of the journey was just 98 Km through the mountains to La Paz. The road was quiet, except for the occasional wandering goat herd, and we made good time. Our first stop was Walmart to stock up with supplies before going to our campsite for the night at Maranatha RV Park.

Friday 2nd June

La Paz – Loreto 350 Km

Heading west away from the coast we crossed an area of rolling hills and then flat desert before the terrain changed to irrigated farmland as we approached the large agricultural town of Ciudad Constitucion. Mex 1 continues through the centre of the town past numerous four- way stop signs towards the next town, Ciudad Insergentes, here we turned east. Leaving the irrigated farm country behind us, we began a gradual climb into the Sierra Giganta.

Our first view of the sea loomed into sight as we started our descent to the coast.

From the coast road, we had views over Loreto Bay National Marine Park and the off-shore islands.

Continuing towards Loreto we passed the beautifully laid out Nopolo Resort Hotel and golf course.

After parking at our stop for the night at Rivera del Mar RV Park -18 dollars per night

We walked into the town centre and strolled around the main plaza in the evening sunshine. In the plaza is the Posada las Flores hotel, a Spanish colonial style building with pink walls. An unusual feature is the glass bottom roof-top pool built over the hotels court yard.

Dinner was at Orlandos Restaurant. While there four people turned up in a very nicely restored old Ford Model T.

Saturday 3rd June

Loreto – Santispac Beach 536 Km

We departed the RV Park at 0930 and continued north to one of our favourite beaches on the Bahia Concepcion. A few kilometers outside town we came to a military stop. The young soldiers were very courteous, while one looked through the RV another spoke to us and completed a questionnaire, taking details of names ages, where from, where to etc, he spoke excellent English.

The route to Santispac Beach runs through a wide valley with the Sierra Giganta running along to our left. Mex 1 runs parallel to the large Bahia Concepcion for over 30 Km.

Two cows just taking a stroll along the main highway, no rush.

Pelicans having a fish feeding frenzy.

Many of the beautiful beaches along this shallow bay can be seen from the highway.

The cost to stay on Playa Santispac is 150 pesos (8 US dollars) per night. There are no services here but the price includes a palapa to provide shade.

Sal, one of the boatmen came over to talk to us with his little chihuahua, Chiquitito. Sandy and Chiquitito got on very well.

Sunday 4th June

Playa Santispac – San Ignacio 807 Km

Spent the morning in the sea and on the beach before setting off to our next destination.

At lunch-time we got back on Mex 1 to continue our journey north. We noticed that the RV had now clocked up 30,000 miles. The first town we came to was Mulege, a mission town alongside the lushly palm fringed Rio Santa Rosalita.

Mex 1 continues north to the coastal mining town of Santa Rosalia. The road is potholed and rough most of the way through town. There are several old rusting buildings, some have been renovated, reminders of the towns history as a mining centre since the 19th Century.

We left the Sea of Cortez behind us and entered the Sierra San Francisco. Travelling west we climbed into the mountains the road had steep grades and curves, one section is the steepest grade on Mex 1. We noticed some of the metal edge barriers were missing or bent, didn’t bear thinking about the reason why they were missing! We came to the volcanic mountain and lava flows of the Las Tres Virgines (The Three Virgins). A volcanic mountain with three explosion cones, hence the name.

The narrow road runs in a straight line through the desert to the oasis town of San Ignacio. We stayed at our usual place, Rice and Beans RV Park, hotel and restaurant just outside the town at San Lino.

Monday 5th June

San Ignacio - Guerrero Negro 144 Km

Just outside San Ignacio we came to a military checkpoint. As always, a very polite young soldier came on board to inspect the RV, asking us in the little English he spoke all about our trip.

The road continued across mostly cardon cactus desert, then the datilillo plant, a member of the yucca family, dominated the landscape.

After reaching the town of Vizcaino we headed west through the Vizcaino Desert. The landscape changed as we neared the west coast becoming flat grass and scrub land growing on stabilised sand dunes that had blown inland from the coast.

Guerrero Negro is a company town and has a large salt works. We booked in at Malarrimo RV Park and Restaurant for dinner and our overnight stop. The cost for full hook here is 240 pesos (12 dollars). Very economical for electric, sewer outlet and water supply. The water standpipe had a tap and another shut off valve further down the pipe. After we had connected and filled our fresh water tank I closed off both taps. Unfortunately, as we found out, the shut off valve also stopped the water supply to the restaurant kitchen – Oops!

Tuesday 6th June

Guerrero Negro – San Quintin 1187 Km

A cloudy morning as we set off to continue our journey north and a long drive day ahead. Just outside of the town we passed the military base with its huge flag and crossed the border into the northern section of Baja California - changing from mountain to pacific time in the process.

A little way along we came to a military check point. As two soldiers carried out their inspection of the RV, one of them noticed our small tub of baking soda used for bread making. As they are mainly looking for guns and drugs any white powder was suspicious. He dipped a finger into the tub of white powder, tasted it and looked quizzically at us. We explained, as best we could, that we had certainly been cooking but the white powder was used only for bread making. After showing him our latest loaf of bread, it was all smiles and we were on our way.

The landscape across the centre of the country is desert plains and scenic cactus desert - almost looks like cactus forests in some places - and a dry salt lake. Although the countryside is interesting and quite unique in parts, the roads are not, they are potholed, very narrow and have no shoulder for long stretches.

Stopped for lunch at Catavina, in this area an assortment of cactus grows amongst large boulders fields. Just before entering town we saw a solder with gun at the ready sitting on top of one of the large boulders.

The rare cirio tree grows here and it is probably the only places in the world that they can be seen.

There are huge cardon cactus here, also chollas, barrel cactus, and agaves.

A few kilometers out of Catavina the road improved as we headed back towards the west coast. We passed several Ranchos before starting the climb into the mountains towards the town of El Rosario. Descending into the valley we came to El Rosario and took a sharp right in the town to start the climb to the top of the El Rosario Mesa. There was another military stop and inspection. They wanted to bring a sniffer dog on board. Sandy was not at all happy and started to growl and he decided against it. We soon got our first view of the sea and the sand dunes.

Pulled in at El Pabellon RV Park for the night. This is a quiet un-spoilt spot sheltered from the wind behind sand dunes on miles of beach next to the Pacific Ocean.

Sandy was delighted to have the beach and the ocean outside the door again.

It had been a long day, seven hours on the road but we had gained an hour by changing to Pacific time.

Wednesday 7th June

San Quintin – Guadalupe Valley 225 Km

A dull morning again with lots of low cloud mixed with a little sea mist.

Turning onto the highway we went through San Quintin and a series of busy agricultural towns. The large Los Pinos company is based here specializing in fruit and vegetable production, particularly tomatoes and cucumber. Lining the road are rows of tents covering the growing or processing areas. There is also a population of migrant workers supporting the agricultural industry.

We left the desert cactus country behind for green irrigated farm land and, as we got further north the vineyards of the Santo Tomas and Guadalupe Valley’s

Santa Tomas Winery

Sordo Mudo RV Park in the Guadalupe Valley, our overnight stop, with L A Cetto winery in the background.

Across from the RV Park, built into the hillside, is Hotel Ensuentro. From the restaurant bar terrace there is a marvelous view across the valley.

Thursday 8th June

Guadalupe Valley – Chula Vista 129 Km

Hotel Ensuentro in the early morning light from the RV Park. Loft style rooms built into the mountain side.

After an early start, we made good time to the border in Tecate. We were hoping the early start would avoid long queues and we were right, just a short wait until we reached the border check. The process through Homeland Security and US Customs went smoothly. After collecting a completed I-94 form each from Homeland Security, giving us leave to stay in the US for six months, we were on our way. Just another 38 miles to Chula Vista our destination.

It was a pleasant run through the southern Californian hills. As we neared Otay Lakes we came across a large area of blackened hillside which reached right to the edge of the Pio Pico RV Park where we stayed on our journey into Mexico in March. I found out later that it was an extensive brush fire that happened at the end of May and the RV Park was evacuated.

We arrived at the RV Park in Chula Vista and parked in our spot near the swimming pool. From Baja Sunrise RV Park in Los Barriles to San Diego KOA RV Park we had clocked up 1017 miles or 1636 Km.

Monday 12th June

Took the RV to Camping World in San Marcos, about 40 miles north, to have the awning replaced.

Tuesday 13th June

From San Diego we got on the I-15 which took us all the way, 331 miles to Vegas. The I-15 heads north through the suburbs of San Diego. The built-up area thins out into smaller valley towns as we approached Riverside where the I-10 crosses on the way to Los Angeles.

From Riverside there is a large suburban area spreading west all the way into LA. We continued on through San Bernardino where the mountains came into view in the back ground. We left the built up areas behind and started to climb into the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains.

The terrain changed as we entered the valley of the Mojave Desert.

Soda Lake.

Joshua Trees, a type of Yucca, only found in this area.

I could tell we had crossed the Nevada border when I saw Whiskey Pete’s rising out of the desert – looking like Casinoland meets Disneyland.

Booked in at Las Vegas RV Resort which is about six miles from the Las Vegas Strip. Very well run and maintained park and at a very reasonable 32.77 dollars per night with our Good Sam discount.

Found a local bar for dinner.

Wednesday 14th June

The RV Park has a very nice pool and we were grateful for it, the temperatures reached 36C today. In the pool was a guy from Sutton Coldfield! He now lives in San Francisco and comes to Vegas for one week a month.

Went for a ride along Las Vegas Strip where all the hotels and casinos are located. It is an adult theme park with so much to do and see.

The Bellagio. This hotel brought back happy memories of when our friends Sarah and Jerome got married there back on Christmas Eve 2002. We had a great few days celebrating in Vegas and then moving on to New York for the New Year celebrations.

John, this taxi looks a long way from home!.

About a mile from our campsite is a dog park called Dog Fanciers Park. A good facility which Sandy appreciated but it was too hot for much running around.

Our plan this evening was to leave Sandy in the RV and go visit The Strip. However, the air-con in the RV isn't coping well with the high temperatures. While we were out earlier the air-con tripped the fuse and stopped working. We couldn’t risk that happening if the dog was in the RV because the evening temperature was still high.

We went on line in search of a dog friendly restaurant and came up with the Crown and Anchor pub on Tropicana Avenue about five miles away. The food was good, authentic steak and kidney pies with proper gravy and puff pastry, sausage and mash with English sausage, the taste of home. We chatted to a young couple from Vermont, they were sitting out on the patio with us.

Night time in Vegas.

Thursday 15th June

There is certainly nowhere like Vegas, it is surreal, interesting and lots of fun. However, today we are back on the I-15 travelling north towards Utah.

Las Vegas is built in a desert basin and is surrounded by hills and mountains. As we travelled through this vast basin we passed the turn off to the Hoover Dam as we headed into the Moapa Indian Reservation.

We cut across the far northwest corner of Arizona and through the Virgin River Canyon before crossing the border into Utah.

Stayed in the small town of Leeds at the Zion West RV Park. This is a neat small town and the RV Park has good shade.

We have a nice view down the valley over grassy fields.

We are now in red cliffs country and this afternoon we went to the nearby Red Cliff Recreational Area.

Called into town for a look around.

In the early evening we sat overlooking the fields and chatting with Attila, one of our RV neighbours. He told us a fascinating story of how he got out of communist Romania in the 1960’s and came to the US.

Friday 16th June

Zion National Park has a narrow slot canyon carved out of the red sandstone by the Virgin River. The park is very busy and during the summer a shuttle bus operates along the canyon, no cars are allowed and, disappointingly, no dogs are allowed on board the shuttle bus. The weather is still very hot with temperatures reaching over 100 F and therefore, there is no way we were leaving Sandy in the RV. It was too hot to do much hiking; therefore, we packed a picnic and went for a scenic ride around the Park. There was one trail along the Virgin River where we could take Sandy and she had a nice cool dip in the water.

Saturday 17th June

After picking up supplies at Leeds Market, we set off for Bryce Canyon, further north along I-15. We travelled across a wide plateau of grassland populated by ranches and farms. Stopping at a rest area we noticed a plume of smoke billowing into the air above one of the distant mountains which looked like a forest fire. Turning on to Utah 20 we soon started to climb. The landscape became alpine with pine trees and switch back corners eventually descending to wide fertile valleys. Turning onto the Utah 89 we continued until the turn for Utah 12 and into Red Canyon.

We stayed At Bryce Canyon Pines Campground (38 dollars with Good Sam discount). As we walked across to the office we noticed that the plume of smoke in the distance had got bigger.

Our campsite was large and set amongst Ponderosa Pines which gave us some welcome shade. We were now at 7,777 feet here and thankfully the weather was cooler than Zion.

Sunday 18th June

Today we went into Bryce Canyon National Park, although Bryce is described as being more of a series of amphitheatres rather than a canyon. The biggest, and the reason why the park was established, is Bryce Amphitheatre. A vast basin, referred to as a 'cave without a roof' full of pink and cream odd shaped pinnacles of limestone rock, known as hoodoos, in fact the largest collection of hoodoos in the world.

The Rim Trail that skirts part of the amphitheatre has four view points into the the basin and beyond the rim across the plateau.

Horseback riders coming up out of the amphitheatre.

Some of the formations look like something an ancient civilisation might have left behind.

Park Ranger talk about the geology of the park and how the hoodoos were formed. The hoodoos are eroded out of cliff walls by frost, snow and rain.

Monday 19th June

We moved sites today because the pitch we are in is booked. Our neighbours at the new site are Keith and Marjorie. They are Mormons and come from just south of Salt Lake City. Bryce has particularly good night skies because of the low light pollution and they have come to do some star gazing over the next three nights because there is no moon.

Mormon settlers arrived here in the 1870's. They farmed and established towns. Ebenezer Bryce arrived in 1875. He built roads in the area and people called the amphitheatre where the road ended 'Bryce Canyon'.

Took a drive around the other side of the amphitheatre today.

Farmstead just off the road going back to the the RV Park from Bryce Canyon.

Tuesday 20th June

Woke up this morning to see a light covering of ash outside the RV. The plume of smoke from the forest fire is getting bigger.

Utah Scenic Byway 12 runs past the campsite. It spans 124 miles and passes by two national parks, three state parks, a national monument and a national forest.

First stop Kodachrome Basin.

Named in the 1940's by the National Geographic Society Expedition in honour of the then revoluntionary Kodak film, famous for its colour accuracy.

Another place with unusual rocks formations. upright cylindrical chimneys called sand pipes. An interesting small state park with good short hikes through some impressive scenery.

Back on the 12 we pass through plenty of quaint little towns.

The monument has three regions: the Grand Staircase is a series of massive geological steps that descend toward the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Kaiparowits Plateau is a large isolated area of mesas and canyons, the Canyons of the Escalante are a maze of narrow slot canyons through the sandstone that feed the Escalante River and eventually the Colorado.

Head of the Rocks Overlook with views across the Escalante Canyons. 168 million years ago the cream and red sandstone formations were sand dunes. Boulder Mountains are in the background.

Stopped off at Calf Creek to eat our picnic lunch. A nice oasis in the desert landscape.

The next stretch of the byway is The Hogsback. Here the road runs along a thin ridge of slickrock with steep drops both side. Great vistas.

The road gradually winds up the side of Boulder Mountain and climbs to an altitude of over 9,000 feet. Surrounding the byway is a forest landscape with aspen, pine, spruce and fir trees.

Panoramic views across to the Henry Mountay Mountains

Vast landscapes stretch out to the far mountains. A region so remote it was the last to be surveyed and mapped in the US.

A glimpse of the Navajo sandstone cliffs of Capital Reef National Park. To be explored further another day.

Wednesday 21st June

Stayed around the camp today after our long road trip yesterday.

Sandy watching out for critters.

Out for dinner tonight, to the Bryce Pines Restaurant about 200 yards down the road from the RV Park. It was a good meal. I had trout caught from a nearby lake and Tony had chicken, the bill came to about 90 dollars. They have great homemade fruit pies which we took home to eat.

Walking back from the restaurant we saw dramatic views of the smoke plume with the sunset behind. At least we hoped it was the sunset and not flames we could see. We heard that the fire started in a small place called Brian Head on the edge of the Dixie Forest to the west of Bryce. Apparently, the fire was started by someone using a torch to kill weeds.

Thursday 22nd June

Our camp site was booked out from today, they have a party of 100 coming for a family reunion. We said goodbye to our neighbours, Kevin and Marge as they got on the road to go back home.

At lunchtime we moved 11 miles east on Utah 12 to the small town of Tropic. Our campsite was the Bryce Pioneer Village, a mixture of cabins and RV places, 37 dollars per night.

The smoke cloud is very evident over the campsite.

Friday 23rd June

Partial blue skies this morning.

Back to Bryce Canyon NP to take the 17 mile scenic drive. As we neared the park and turned a bend we saw a large smoke cloud hovering over the area. The Ranger at the park entrance said the cloud might clear as we move along the drive, we thought it was worth a try but we were out of luck

Stunted trees, evidence of a previous fire.

Rainbow Point and Yovimpa Point at the end of the drive are at an elevation of 9115 feet and are two of the longest views in North America but not today. We should have seen the entire park stretching out in front of us. This is also one of the places to view the rock layers that form the Grand Staircase.

Sandy having a good run in the hills above our camp after a hard day site seeing.

Beautiful views from our campsite across to the white rock cliffs of the Grand Staircase.

Saturday 24th June

Back on the Utah 12 today up to Boulder where we turned off east onto the Burr Trail.

Originally a cattle trail this 68 mile, part paved, part gravel road winds through deep slickrock canyon and rolling desert forest, accessing the eastern section of the Grand Staircase-Escalente National Monument. and eventually Capitol Reef National Park.

This is truly a magnificent drive through breathtaking scenery. We didn't see another soul and when we stopped the car and went walking the silence of the place was absolute. The spectacular Long Canyon with it's high red rock walls, made us feel like we were in an old western movie. The views from the top of the Burr Trail switchbacks were quite something.

Capital Reef National Park is known for the Waterpocket Fold, a 100 mile long fold in the Earth's crust that rises as high as 2,000 feet.

As we enter the National Park, the paved road becomes dirt road.

Entering Burr Trail switchbacks with 12% grades

Burr Trail switchbacks passing through Waterpocket Fold.

The Burr Trail continues to the right and we head left onto Notom Road with the Waterpocket to our left.

Capitol Reef Visitor Centre

Picnic lunch by the Fremont River.

In the 19th century settlers set up a village they called Fruita. Some of the old homestead buildings are still here, as are the fruit trees. Visitors are free to pick and eat the fruit they find in the orchards. A small fee is charged for takeaway, or I should say 'takeout'.

Took a drive south for a few miles to see some more of the awe-inspiring Waterpocket Fold.