2015  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

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   HUNKERING DOWN AT THE HILL AFB 
FAM-CAMP IN LAYTON, UT

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16

 
"Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." 
~ Confucius
 
 

Might have been simpler back in his lifetime than it is now!

Since Jim and I been full-time RVing it seems like our life has gotten more complicated in some ways than it was when we had a house and more structure time-wise. We pride ourselves on our flexibility but at times the travel decision-making process becomes almost overwhelming.

When we saw that rain and cold temperatures were forecast for most of this week on both sides of the Tetons in Idaho and Wyoming -- and down through all of Utah -- we decided to forget about continued camping in remote national park or forest service campgrounds without hookups, WiFi, or TV and to find someplace where we could weather the storms more comfortably.


Leaving through Logan Canyon on Monday AM


Large ranch south of Logan, UT

We chose Hill AFB, where we stayed for several days in 2010. The RV park on base has concrete pads, full hookups, internet access, and TV, all nice amenities to have when it's cold and rainy. Jim was able to reserve a site for three nights (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday) on short notice.

We lucked out, because the RV park was 95% full all week.

Because of all the rain -- by Utah standards, not Eastern USA standards -- this entry is short on photos but long on information about the last three days. It covers everything from the scenic drive south from Logan Canyon, the RV park on base, our activities while here, "The Grape Incident" with Casey, and epic flooded canyons in southern Utah (including 21 deaths) to our morphing travel plans.

SCENIC DRIVE FROM LOGAN CANYON TO HILL AFB

It was a relatively short drive of 66 miles from Guinavah Campground to Hill Air Force Base in north metro Salt Lake City on Monday morning.

We took US 89 through Logan to I-15 south and got off at exit 334 in Layton. We drove east a couple miles on UT 193 to the main base gate on N. Hillfield Rd. and made our way to the RV park. Traffic was light in Logan Canyon the first five miles, moderate through the city of Logan at 9 AM, and rather heavy on I-15 to Layton.

The roads were smooth, hilly, and very scenic until we got to Brigham City and the freeway. We passed lots of bright orange and red leaves through Box Elder County; box elders are a type of maple tree and they are at or near their peak in that area:

 

 

"Box Elder" has special meaning to us because that's our South Dakota PMB address while we're full-timing.

The weather was overcast during the drive. The predicted rain began at 11 AM at Hill AFB, just as we were done getting set up in the campground. It has continued raining for three days and temperatures have been quite a bit below normal (highs only in the 40s and 50s F.).  

Utah doesn't get much rainfall, so any measurable amount is newsworthy. We've collected about three inches of rain in our gauge in three days. That's near-epic for metro Salt Lake City in such a short period of time. It's been even worse in the canyon country south of here.

Our campground is at about 4,300 feet elevation. When the clouds lifted briefly this evening we could see fresh snow at and above approximately 7,500 feet elevation on the nearby Wasatch Mountains:

We are really happy to have electricity, water, sewer, internet, and nearby services so we can stay comfortably warm, dry, and occupied while inside the camper.

It was a good decision to drive down here instead of continuing to stay in the Tetons this week.

HILL AFB FAM-CAMP

When we stayed here the last time check-in was a rigid 1 PM. They still try to adhere to that.

However, this time we were allowed to park in our site when we arrived at 10:15 AM because the previous occupant left before we got here and we were proactive about why we needed to get set up sooner rather than later -- we had a problem with the sewer release handle and Jim needed to figure out the problem before it began raining. 

Our reservation was for three nights and Jim was able to get that problem solved before we left.

We are in a nice paved site next to the one we had in 2010. That's good because the sites in the two older rows are smaller and gravel + dirt/grass, which isn't as clean when it rains so much, especially with two rather large dogs in the family.

Wide concrete pads in our row are separated by about eight feet of gravel where RVs face each other. The business side of our camper is closer to the back of the camper on our other side:


The sun came out for a little while after it rained the first morning.

Our site is large enough for both the truck and car, and like every military FamCamp we've visited, there isn't an extra charge for a second vehicle. We have 50 amps power, water, sewer, and good Verizon phone, MiFi, and TV connections. There is free WiFi in the activity building but not at our site so we've been using our personal MiFi the most.

The cost is $20/night for military retirees. Thee daily rate is lower if you stay two weeks or longer.

Our bay windows face the Wasatch Mountains to the east. The view is nice when clouds don't totally obscure the peak. I don't have a good picture of the mountain view -- it rained too much! -- but you can see some of the mountains behind the Cameo in the next picture: 

Before we even got set up we began talking with our friendly doorside neighbors, Bob and Gay.

They warned us about the goat's head stickers, which we remembered from reading our notes when we were here five years ago. They are murder on the dogs' paws (and our bare feet) and we've had to be very careful when walking Cody and Casey around the campground, adjacent track, bike path, and the rest of the base. The stickers blow everywhere so nowhere is safe.

Bob was in the Air Force for 36 years and retired from Hill. He and Gay sold their house within view of this campground eight years ago and have been full-time RVing ever since. Two years ago they bought a new Redwood 5th-wheel coach, which they're pleased with.  

Bob and Gay have been here all summer. Gay is having shoulder and knee surgery next week, then they plan to winter in Tucson, AZ. We enjoyed having them for neighbors for three days.

[In case I forget to mention it later, Bob and Gay were also our neighbors at Yuma Proving Ground for two or three months during the winter. In September we didn't know we'd end up there for the winter, and neither did Bob and Gay. They and their doggies are great neighbors and we hope to see them again sometime, somewhere. That's one nice thing about military retirees -- we're more likely to see some of them again somewhere at another military base than ever seeing non-military folks again.]

OUR ACTIVITIES THIS WEEK

After we got set up Monday morning Jim immediately began work to figure out the sewer problem. The rod and handle broke off completely for the black water tank, so it couldn't be emptied until fixed (crisis!!), and the gray water rod has been half-broken for a while.

Jim determined that the rods screw in, so he simply bought replacement rods and handles for each tank. He found a nearby place where he could buy the parts (Sierra RV, I-15 exit 335 just north of the base). The new rods are shorter than the original ones and less likely to break off. They were easy to install. We're both real glad that was an easier fix than it might have been.

I noticed Sierra RV when we drove by it on our way to the base. They sell high-end Monaco Class A motorhomes. I suggested Jim find a nice used Monaco for us while he was there. <grin>

Another job Jim wanted to do while we were here was to change the transmission fluid in the Honda Odyssey. It's a complicated process if done correctly -- drain the old fluid, add new fluid, drive the car a little while . . . and repeat four times.

He had several choices: 1) pay someone to do it and hope they do it right; 2) do the job himself at the auto hobby shop on base, which would be complicated because of the repetitious procedure; or 3) do the job surreptitiously at our site (not supposed to do vehicle repair work in the campground).

Jim wasn't concerned about saving money by doing the job himself so much as making sure it was done properly. That's why he does as much maintenance himself as possible on all of our vehicles.

He got quotes from two Honda dealers and a couple other service centers. After he found out that since the transmission is rebuilt and not the original (i.e., fewer miles on it) he needed to repeat the whole drain-fill-drive process only twice, not four times, he decided to buy the more expensive fluid from Honda and do the job himself -- surreptitiously, at our site.

He didn't spill a drop, and he disposed of the old fluid properly. Jim saves us a bunch of $$$ and he does the jobs right.


Looking out our back window at another RV and clouds hanging over the Wasatch Mtns.

What else did we do while it was raining for three days . . .

Regardless of the weather we always get out several times a day to walk/run the dogs and get our own exercise. Jim went to the library and air museum on base again but didn't walk through the outdoor aircraft exhibits this time because of rain. We did some shopping at the commissary and stores off-base. We socialized with Bob, Gay, and other neighbors.

We were also on the internet a lot, did hours and hours of research re: camping, trail, and cycling options in southern Utah and northern Arizona, and watched more TV than usual.

THE GRAPE INCIDENT

About 9 PM one evening I was washing some red seedless grapes and dropped one. Casey-pup  pounced on it before I could see where it went, and swallowed it quickly. She's done that a couple times before, and Cody has occasionally snared one runaway grape at a time, too.

I didn't think anything of it because neither one has ever had a problem with them before. One little grape shouldn't affect a 50- or 70-pound dog that much, should it?

Although many fruits and veggies are fine for dogs we do know that grapes and raisins are not. We don't deliberately give grapes to either dog. They affect only about 1% of the dogs that ingest them, especially in quantity. That's a small percentage but if your dog is one of the ones affected, grapes can cause renal failure and death. By the time you notice symptoms, it's usually too late to save them.   


"I didn't mean to cause so much trouble!"

Jim was watching TV when Casey ate the grape. I didn't realize he was Googling problems that grapes/raisins can cause dogs. About 10 PM he asked me to read a web page about the seriousness of the problem. He was clearly concerned and upset, almost in tears. Even though he knew she'd snatched one or two grapes previously and didn't have a problem, he was concerned about a cumulative effect.

One of the remedies is to induce vomiting with up to 3 tsp. of hydrogen peroxide. We have some, so Jim gave it to her but she didn't throw up. The article said it was important to take the dog to a vet ASAP, even if it vomits, in case some of the toxins are already released into the blood stream.

Online Jim found the Animal Emergency Center located only six miles from the campground. He called them for advice and they explained what we and they could do for her.


Jim and Casey Girl on a hike

Since Casey didn't vomit for us we decided to take her in to the emergency clinic. We got there about 11 PM and were out in just 20 minutes because they weren't busy.

The female vet, Dr. Curry, was able to induce vomiting.  Since the grape came out virtually whole she didn't recommend giving IV fluids, which are helpful in some cases. We just needed to watch for signs of depression or not peeing and take Casey back to a vet if either of those symptoms occurred. 

I stayed on the couch that night so I could hear Casey if she was in distress. She was quiet all night and slept peacefully. I did not. <frown> Casey was bouncing around as normal in the morning and fine thereafter.

[I've been more careful with grapes since then.]

TRAGEDY IN SOUTHERN UTAH'S CANYONS

Utah may not get much average annual rainfall but when a storm stalls over any of its numerous canyons, disaster can happen quickly and without warning.

And it did on Monday this week in Zion National Park and a town named Hildale about 15 miles south of the park on the UT-AZ border.

Seven experienced canyon hikers in their 40s and 50s who were visiting from California and Nevada drowned when Keyhole Canyon, a slot canyon at Zion, suddenly flooded. Another thirteen women and children from Hildale died when their vehicles were swept downstream in a flash flood on Short Creek in a canyon near their home. (There are graphic videos on the internet of the rapidly-rising creek and several vehicles floating downstream.)


The Narrows, an uber-popular slot canyon in Zion National Park  (4-11-16)

Heavy rain continued to fall in the area on Tuesday and Wednesday, hampering recovery efforts. It took several days to find all the bodies in both tragic incidents. Later a 21st victim of the same storm was found in another area of southern Utah; his car also washed away in a flash flood.

This was an unprecedented natural disaster in Utah's 150-year history. The tragedy made national news headlines. There was near non-stop coverage on TV and radio this week for those of us living in or visiting Utah.

It concerned Jim and me even more because we are headed down that way tomorrow . . .

OUR MORPHING TRAVEL PLANS

This year we've had more problems deciding where to go, when, and for how long than ever before. Our plans for this fall and winter have been in continual flux for months.

Before we began full-time RVing we knew there might be problems like medical continuity but we never dreamed that travel decisions would become more difficult for us. Right now they are really stressing us out.

Jim remarked that a lot of people would like to have our problems! He's right, of course, but sometimes we "don't see the forest for the trees."


Canyon in the mountains between Logan and Brigham City on US 89/91

It's trickier than you'd think to make all these travel decisions because there are just so many options and variables. We also have our preferences re: weather, services, sites, internet and TV connections, cost, etc. Every place we choose has at least one negative -- if we can even get a reservation or find a suitable campsite there when we want it.

Another "problem" currently is not having an epic destination in mind for this winter or next summer, like when we went to Alaska or the Canadian Maritimes. Those long trips gave us more substance to plan around. Right now we're more focused on finding somewhere pleasant to kill time until it cools off sufficiently in the Phoenix area.

Choosing where and when to travel was much easier when we had foot races scheduled. After we stopped running ultramarathons, we still had the house and some structure re: going back to it in the spring and fall.

But since we began full-time RVing 16 months ago, we've had total freedom of choice -- no structure, and more difficulty making travel decisions. It's interesting but frustrating sometimes.


US 89/91 north of Brigham City

I won't go into detail about all the possible destinations we've considered this fall on our way to Arizona for the winter. We aren't even sure we'll stay at the RV park north of Phoenix where we have a reservation  from October 1 to December 31, and possibly longer than that.

We've never been in that area before and we haven't seen the campground itself. What if we don't like it? What if there aren't decent roads and trails where we can ride our bikes and hike? Then what?

Even if we do go there we need to kill some time along the way. It's still in the upper-90s F. in the Phoenix area, much too hot for our liking. How much will it cool down by October 1? Should we wait longer? If we do, where will we go?


Spoiler alert:  We found what we were looking for at Red Canyon, UT!  (10-1-15)

We'd like to visit Zion and Bryce National Parks and some other scenic areas in southern Utah and northern Arizona on our way south. But with all this rain and flooding, are the roads, trails, and campgrounds open in those areas? We don't want to get washed away! We've had to do some additional online research and make some phone calls in that regard.

We wanted to just "wing it" this fall so we don't have reservations anywhere. That hasn't worked out every place we've considered. For example, we're too late to find a campsite at or near Zion this week or next. Every campground we called is full. It's almost as bad at and near Bryce Canyon.

These are very popular national parks and the NPS is heavily promoting its upcoming centennial celebration -- go visit your national parks!!!!

We want to, but so does every other Tom, Dick, and Harry.


Thunder Mountain Trail, Red Canyon, UT   (10-1-15)

Our current plan is to try the National Forest Service campground tomorrow at Red Canyon, about twelve miles west of Bryce. It's first-come, first-served and has only a few sites large enough for the Cameo.

If we can't get in there or another nearby campground we'll continue farther south to the north rim of the Grand Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs, Paria Canyon, Paige, or somewhere else in northern Arizona.

Where did all these people come from who are filling up the campgrounds in mid-September???  (Europe and Asia mostly, it appears.)

Next entryHill AFB to Red Canyon

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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