Our 2020 Fall trip began on Tuesday, Sept 8, 2020.  Most destinations are unknown at the start of the trip, but we know we will be in Kenton, OK 9/12-9/16 at Black Mesa State Park.  From there, who knows.  To travel along this journey with us, you can follow our daily footsteps.  Just visit this link (NO password needed):

https://us0-share.inreach.garmin.com/H495J

This blog is presented with the most current entry at the top of the chain

9/25/2020 - Grand Canyon North Rim (National Forest Road 420)

I woke up this morning around 1 am with something tickling my ear.  At first, I thought it was my hair, but I began to hear something scratching inside my ear!!  It was driving me crazy so I woke up Tom to flush out my ear.   I suspect it was a little insect – there were lots of gnats outside that night and one could have gotten in my hair.  I always bring ear drops and a bulb flusher since Tom’s ear stops up a lot.  I forgot it this time!  He flushed it with purified drinking water about 10 times and either he flushed it out or the little bugger drowned.  I hope it was flushed out and not stuck on my ear wax.  Praying I don’t get an earache.  I put cotton balls in my ears for the rest of the night.  We are staying put today.  When we first got up there were 2 mule deer coming down the hill and walked between our truck and trailer before running into the forest.  I did another ‘load’ of laundry in my Scrubba – love it for camping.  We have been gone 16 days now and the only article of clothing dirty is one of Tom’s tee shirts.  We are still planning to stay until Sunday.

 9/24/2020 – Grand Canyon North Rim (National Forest Road 420)

 We drove back up Highway 67 to Jacob Lake a little spot that had a signal to see if we can find a place to park for 3 nights when we leave here Saturday or Sunday.  But, unfortunately, all the campgrounds we called in the Torrey Utah area (eastern Utah) are booked through October.  And the only other option from here is to go to western Utah are expected to have temps in the high 90’s.  And, we still can’t stay in NM for more than 1 night without quarantine.  So, change of plans again.  We will leave here on Sunday to Holbrook, AZ for 2 nights and will probably head on home.  On the drive, we saw so many aspen groves in full color.   

9/23/2020 – Grand Canyon North Rim (National Forest Road 420)

We drove up NF RD 610/611 to the East Rim overlook and walked along the trail at the rim, but again, nothing to see there.  We decided to drive back to the Lodge at the Rim to get a signal and check emails, texts, etc.   Unfortunately, there was construction on the road going to the Lodge – 1-way traffic and hundreds of cars, literally!  The parking lots were full and cars were parking along the side of the very narrow 1-lane road!  What a cluster!  We turned around and came out with a pledge to not go back!  Everything we have heard is there is nothing and no crowd at the North Rim.  Is it the COVID causing the hoards of people? 

9/22/2020 – Grand Canyon North Rim (National Forest Road 420)

 As we began to leave for a drive, we saw a mule deer in the bog.  Evidently the deer came for water.  We at first
thought he/she was stuck in the bog.   But soon he/she wasfree and went on his way.  We drove to the North Rim this morning anticipating an amazing site, but it was very hazy.  The view from overlook at the Lodge overlook was not very good.  We knew when we came up here that the Cape Royal Road was under construction.  It is closed M-F from 7am to 7 pm.   This road is where the better North Rim overlooks of the canyon are.  Also, the Visitor Center and campground are closed due to a major water main break!  We left the park and drove back up Highway 67 toward Jacob Lake to take photos of the aspen.  So beautiful.  In 2003, there was a major forest fire here and the aspen and Ponderosa pine were all destroyed.  Aspen trees come up from the root and spread from the original root which creates the aspen groves.  This allowed the aspen to become predominant. We went back to the Lodge area for photography but there was only one little area where you could see the canyon and there was someone there.  Plus, the moon was too bright.








9/21/2020 – Homolovi State Park, AZ – Grand Canyon North Rim, AZ (259 miles)

After we passed Flagstaff, we began to see mountains and ran through a few rain showers.  The Vermillion Cliffs are on US Highway 89, and we wanted to stop at the viewing area there, but the parking lot was full - we only got cell phone window shots.  Since we planned on dispersed camping, we stopped at Jacob Lake station and picked up a map with National Forest roads on which you can camp free.   We drove around on a couple of very, very bumpy and narrow roads.  The ranger at the Entrance Station pointed us to a better maintained road.  We did drive up it, but found it not to our liking.  So, we turned around back to the highway and drove back toward Jacob Lake a few miles.  We turned on Forest Road 420 and just off the road, we found a great spot near the highway.  That made me much more comfortable.   It is back in the trees and secluded.  On the way to the North Rim we saw aspen in full color:  orange, yellow and green, some almost red!  We a nice surprise!

9/20/2020 – Homolovi State Park, AZ

Today we took it easy.  We did drive into the park for a little while, again in search of the donkeys.  We are beginning to think they were relocated because there were a lot of cows which we haven’t seen here before. We stopped and took a short hike around a couple of mesas and came back to camp.  I did a little laundry using my Scrubba travel laundry bag (I call is my washing machine – LOL).  We had late breakfast and then began to get caught up on our photo editing and posting.  Tomorrow we are headed to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We will be remote this time, no electric, water, etc.  It may be 4-5 days before I update this blog.  We are really looking forward to this next stop.

9/19/2020 – Homolovi State Park, AZ

We needed a few provisions, so after our morning coffee, we drove into Winslow to Walmart.  Note that this is the
first time I have been in a Walmart since COVID began in March!  But we got there when the doors opened and there were very few people there.  And, I used the self-checking.  After putting away our groceries we drove into the park area to see if we could spot the wild donkeys.  We had no luck.  We drove to the 2 ancient Puebloan ruins and walked around a little.  There are many pottery shards and 2 archaeological sites where they have uncovered walls.  It is illegal to take anything from the park.  ‘Take only photographs and leave only footprints’ is on the posted sign.  We also drove to the Little Painted Desert County Park which is an overlook into a canyon.  We went back for sunset and got some pretty good pics.  A little bit is trivia:  Homolovi means ‘place of little hills’ in the Hopi language.  This place is sacred to the Hopi who are ancestors of ancient Puebloans.  This state park has over 300 ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites, but these are the only 2 are open visitors.  Note that the man in the sunset photo is not my Tom he just happened to be on top of the rocks.








9/18/2020 – Grants, NM – Homolovi State Park, AZ (186 miles)

Short day today so we took our time.  Most of the drive was pure desert, but lots of cattle ranches.  It looks so dry I don’t see how the cattle could possibly get enough feed, but they are all fat, so I guess they do.  We have a very nice site at Homolovi.  We have been here before so we kind of knew what to look for.  Tom took some star trails and I just hung around.

9/17/2020 – Black Mesa State Park, OK – Grants, NM (400 miles)

We had a very good driving day.  Low temps and little wind.  The drive took us through large ranches growing pumpkins and corn.  We got to the KOA in Grants around 4:00.  We will leave here tomorrow and go to Homolovi State Park, AZ for 3 days.  No photos today. 

9/16/2020 - Black Mesa State Park, OK

We drove up the road this morning to find the one little spot about 15 minutes away so we could check in with a friend of ours who had surgery today.  Our kids are all working, so we could only text them.  We did a little research as to where we may go tomorrow.  Right now, it looks like we will skip NM for now due to Covid-19.  Maybe we will still drop down there before we head home.  Instead, we will go into AZ and will try to end up at Grand Canyon North Rim.  When we get a signal tomorrow, we will stop and figure out where we will sleep for the next 3 nights.  Tom is outside photographing the stars and I am catching up on this blog and will relook at my photos to date.   We drove 1600 miles to get the Milky Way behind the ‘Wedding Party’ and to get photos of this dark sky area. 

9/15/2020 – Black Mesa State Park, OK

We drove down to Boise City this morning to gas up, get ice and check for emails or texts messages.  I also needed to check for bills that needed to get paid.    I really, really love our trips and this one is no exception.  However, I do not like to go ‘dark’ where we can’t talk with our kids and friends.  We spent time working on photos and again, the skies were too hazy for photos.  Oh well, maybe tomorrow. 

9/14/2020 – Black Mesa State Park, OK

This morning before cooking brunch, we drove back up to the ‘Wedding Party’ to see how the morning sun lit it up.  We hoped the rock would have a glow, but it was just okay.  I took pics anyway.  The haze has set in again – we assume coming from the western forest fires.  It rolls in every afternoon when it begins to get windy.  So, no photography tonight. 

9/13/2020 – Black Mesa State Park, OK

We always wake up early, and this trip is no exception.  So, at 5:30 am, we are making coffee and eating our morning Little Debbie oatmeal cookie.  We took a drive to Black Mesa, thinking we would find photo ops, but it is simply a black mesa with a hiking trail to the top – 4 rough miles one way.  So, no way for us.  We just rested most of the afternoon.  When the stars began to come out, we drove up to a formation of rocks just a few miles away called the ‘Wedding Party’ or ‘Three Sisters’.  Don’t know why 2 names.  Anyway, it is on private property, but there are no posted signs or gate, so we figured we were safe.  We got some really good shots of the Milky Way behind the formation.  








9/12/2020 – Foss Lake State Park, OK – Black Mesa State Park, OK (265 miles)

This morning, we took our time getting on the road.  We left around 9:00, filled up with gas, and hit the road.  Just after we entered Texas, we began seeing miles of oil and gas wells, many of them not pumping.  Guess this is due to the low prices.  We saw our first buffalo feedlot at Wheeler, Texas.  The feedlots are the holding pens for cows (and buffalo apparently) that are awaiting transportation to their fate. They don’t smell too sweet with the hundreds of animals in one small area.  We got to Black Mesa around 3:00.  This area of OK is the furthest western area of the Panhandle and is known as ‘no man’s land’ due to its isolation.  The town of Kenton is 9 miles away, however, there is NOTHING there.  Black Mesa is the highest point in OK and sits at the confluence of OK, CO and NM.  The next closest town is Boise City, 39 miles east.  And there is absolutely NO CELL SIGNAL.  ATT has the market in OK and Verizon is not accessing their towers.  On top of that, our watches keep changing time based on where we are in this small area.  The campground and town of Kenton apparently are in Mountain Time; whereas just past the campground, the time zone is Central.  We have no idea most of the time what time it is.  LOL.  On a good note, we were able to see the vibrant stars and Milky Way from our backyard.  This area is one of the few dark sky areas in the US. 

9/11/2020 – Old Post Road Campground, AR – Foss Lake State Park, OK (365 miles)

I can’t believe it has been 19 years since that horrific day when terrorists hit the US.  Our prayers are with all who were impacted that day and continue to suffer.  We left around 7:00 am and had a good drive through western AR and eastern OK, although we did run into a few rain showers in OK.  We made only 3 stops.  The Rest Areas are open and have a mask mandate, although, you know how it is, some people just will not try to protect themselves and others.  And, they are amazingly clean.  On most of our stops, there have been very few people.  We have had little people contact, which is good.  Tom fills up at the pump, wears his mask and uses hand sanitizer when done.  We don’t use the rest rooms in the gas stations – we have our own just behind us!  A guy in a pickup truck at the grocery store (just needed couple of things) asked us where we were going.  Tom said Black Mesa State Park and the guy said why are you going there???  There is nothing there in the OK panhandle.  Tom explained about the dark night skies and he didn’t seem very impressed.  There is a little town about 36 miles from Black Mesa and we have been much more remote.  After resting for a while, Tom decided to set up for night shots – I will wait until tomorrow.  It looked a little hazy late this pm, probably from the wildfires in the West, but the sunset was very nice.  Can’t wait to see what this Black Mesa is all about!  It could be a hidden jewel.

9/10/2020 – Old Post Road Campground 

We took a break from driving today.  We had our first cup of Oliver coffee inside, then moved outside, since it is a little cooler and overcast today.  Not quite so humid as yesterday.  It was Eggbeaters, toast and some the Hormel precooked bacon for breakfast.  YUM!   We discovered an ‘ant parade’ this morning – thousands of the little buggers, so we drove to the hardware store for Terro.  Hopefully they will go back to their anthill.  We are just going to lounge around the Oliver for the rest of the day.  Tomorrow, we will head to Foss Lake State Park in OK and hopefully find a place to park.

9/9/2020 Montgomery Bell State Park, TN – Old Post Road COE, Russellville, TN (388 miles) Site #36 

The drive through Arkansas was good – lot of rice, soybean, and cotton fields.  We got to Old Post Road  Campground around 3:30. Very hot – 91 degrees/feels 100 degrees.   We sat around for a while outside, but the heat drove us inside.  The A/C ran all night, plus we had 2 USB powered fans running. 

9/8/2020 Walkertown, NC – Montgomery Bell State Park, TN (482 miles) Site #91

Boy, are we loaded down!  My plan is to have enough food and other supplies on board for 2 weeks to, hopefully, keep us out of the grocery stores except for minor items.  As I said, we are going to play this trip by ear and be very cautious about where we go and where we stay.  We had wanted to make New Mexico the target, but at the time we left they had imposed a 2-week quarantine for out-of-state visitors, AND all campgrounds are open only for in-state residents.  So that was that.  They may lift the quarantine on 9/18, but we can’t count on that.  After 9 long hours, and 485 miles, we reached our first stop.







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