Little Big Horn Battlefield & 7th Ranch RV Park

Traveling north out of Wyoming our first stop was Garryowen on the Crow Nation reservation close by the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument. We stayed at 7th Ranch RV Park, nice campground on a hillside with incredible sunsets and sunrises. There are trails that lead to the hilltop where there is an American flag and you can see for miles around. From here the southern end of the Battlefield is easily seen and the point of Custer’s Last Stand is visible off in the distance.

The monument and national cemetery are well worth the visit. From the Battlefield Monument you can look down the hillside at the markers and picture how the fight took place. Reading the inscriptions of the participants describing the activities yields insights to the flow and end of the battle. Standing there you can visualize the frantic efforts of Custer and his men as they made their initial raid toward the Indian encampment discovering they were outnumbered and beginning to retreat up the hill. It is instructive to take the time to read through the Indian monument inscriptions. This is a great trip through history.

The night skies here are incredible. Star filled and planet rich, I stayed up late a couple of nights to take in comet Neowise. It was a sight; however, not quite as clear as I had expected from some of the images seen on the internet. Garryowen is about half way between Sheridan, Wyoming and Billings, Montana and it is fair to say remote. The nearest town of any size, Hardin, was 15 miles north on I90. In this part of the state you can certainly easy to see how Montana came to be called “Big Sky Country”.

Our next Montana stop is north around Great Falls and we are looking forward to seeing the Missouri River and surrounding country. Enjoy the images linked below.

Sjh

Little Big Horn National Monument and 7th Ranch

 

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Sundance Wyoming and the Black Hills

Mountain View RV Park in Sundance, Wyoming is a gem. Clean, well run with a nice pool and fully remodeled bathrooms and showers. Easy access to Devil’s Tower and the Black Hills via the west side roads. A bit of a drive from Rapid City it is nice to be away from the hustle and bustle of that side of the Hills.

Downtown Sundance has Museums, bars and restaurants. Peg and I ate at the Longhorn an couple of and enjoyed excellent food and service. Taking US 14 out of Sundance to Wy 24 puts you at Devils Tower in short order. I was a little surprised at how busy it was there, lots of families with kids having a great time. Taking US 14 south put us in Spearfish Canyon on a very busy Saturday. The big deal there was a tornado had gone straight down the canyon and the devastation to the trees was incredible. A lot of the trails were still closed due to storm damage. Scout found a small backhoe on a trail and thought he should own it. No keys were in it so we were saved having to tow one more thing.

Custer State Park is wonderful as usual. The day we drove through all the buffalo and donkeys were off somewhere out of site. It was strange compared to our previous visits where the animals crowded the roads and mules begged for food. We could gotten off the main road and searched them out I am sure. However; we really wanted to drive the Needles Highway for the first time in 30 some years so we kept on going. The Needles highway is well worth the drive and we found the tunnels to still be as narrow as we remembered. I took a few pictures and we had a good day.

Covid has not impacted this part of the US as much as some other places; however, places like Walmart and the campground require face masks to enter and  compliance is getting better. Frankly, I think most people are trying to do the right thing and are becoming much more accepting than just two weeks ago. At the campground you see most everyone practicing social distancing and face masks are required to enter the office. People of my age are in compliance almost 90% of the time now. The folks with young families are the ones that haven’t come to a conclusion about how to conduct themselves. This is understandable given all the misinformation out about children but you do see more and more face mask compliance among this age group. I imagine that where schools get up and running with uniform rules and common education that all the kids and parents will adopt a common stance on face masks and other rules.

Sundance is a fond memory and we wish everyone there good health.

Sjh

Sundance and the Black Hills

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Boots RV Campground Medora, North Dakota and Theodore Roosevelt National Park

North Dakota continues to surprise. The trip down from Garrison was a pleasant drive on very good roads. Oil has a way of generating money and it is obvious in this part of ND that oil has contributed a lot to the local economies. Without comment on the source, it is nice to see vibrant small towns with wide new streets and roads, farms with big new barns and homes and people working. Medora is a vacation tourist town with all the usual attractions.

Boots campground is about three miles out of town back in the hills. Probably better know for its cabins, the campground qualifies for ok. Water, electricity, sewer and good wifi are about the total amenities here. The National Park entrance is right downtown and is open. The loop road is partly closed due to landslides and damage; however, the rest of the park is a great visit when splendid views. Buffalo are present around a lot of the road as are the Prairie Dog towns that lie on both sides. The buffalo are very accustomed to cars and trucks, ignoring their close proximity for the most part. There were some absolutely beautiful wild horses. The images of them are not all that good but the horses were much more concerned about us than the buffalo keeping a good distance. The landscape is interesting and greener than the South Dakota Badlands. Scout and I walked the trail to the top of the Buck Hill trail where he posed on the rocks.

Saturday we drove the 70 miles to the North Unit of the NP. This is a 14 mile one way drive along the Little Missouri River through the badlands. Pretty country and remarkable as to how the land goes from being rolling grassland to a mud and clay canyon with the river running through it. Lots of buffalo here in herds that were quite a ways from the road. We did see one huge male just along the ridge and there were the every present reminders that they were here earlier. Peg, Scout and I took the overlook trail at Oxbow overlook where Scout made friends with a young man. It was a great view and lots of fun. Of note are the images of River Bend Overlook and the “Cannon Ball” formations.

Being on the road is an adventure that is filled with challenges both good and bad. The Carefree awning on Gracie has failed again. We were at Turtle River State Park when the awning refused to close all the way. After a lot of help from the campground host, park personnel and a call to Carefree, we loaded up and drove to a Carefree dealer in East Grand Forks, MN. We were fortunate that they took us in right away and unfortunate in that they and Carefree could not fix the awning leaving us traveling with our awning secured so that no further damage can occur but unusable. For those of you not familiar with the RV world, repairs are not readily available this time of year. All the RV dealers out West are booked out full through the rest of the summer.

Peg and I have been out here for the best part of 6 years now and are very aware of this from past repair needs. This is one of the reasons we went to Iowa to get the awning repaired in the first place. In Apache Junction the closest Winnebago Service Center is LaMesa in Mesa. LaMesa did the recall work on Gracie over the winter and that experience is instructive of the other repair scenario you run into. Because we did not buy Gracie from them we were scheduled almost two months out (this was ok in for us in December and January). Once in their hands it took them two days after the appointment date to look at Gracie after which they called me stating they had to order parts and the work would be done in a couple of weeks. At the end of that time, LaMesa called and said they had a problem with the repair and was calling in one of their experts to complete the work. For two recall items LaMesa had Gracie for over 6 weeks for 4 hours of  billable work. This is a lousy business model but a lot of RV companies operate this way. Regardless they were the first people I called when the awning failed up in Heber. They were two weeks out for taking a look at it and we really wanted to get out of the desert in Arizona. Peg and I talked it over and decided we would just take it back to where we bought it LichtsInn in Iowa. LichtsInn is a wonderful dealer and we have always had excellent experience with them. They fixed the awning and a punch list of warranty items in one day and we were on the way West. The awning worked fine for the first few days before failing again. In our current situation, Carefree is going to replace the entire awning under warranty. Winnebago is supporting this fix. The challenge is finding a Winnebago service center that will perform the work this summer. The upshot of this is I have spent a lot of time on the phone trying to get this set up.

We will be heading toward Devil’s Tower Wyoming tomorrow then up into Montana before heading to Rapid City, SD and Dakota RV (Winnebago Service Center) for a July 31 awning replacement. I consider us lucky to get in then. In the meantime, we are enjoying ourselves and the sites. Peg and I enjoy seeing new places and finding new experiences. Hope you all enjoy the images.

Sjh

Theodore Roosevelt National Park South

Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit

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EAST TOTTEN TRAIL CAMPGROUND (ND)

Sakakawea Lake is huge. Garrison dam is impressive and the East Totten Trail Campground is a welcome change of pace. This is a Core of Engineers campground only recently re-opened due to the Covid-19 disease. Our site was a back in right up to the lake shore with power only, a picnic table and fire ring. As a note, we experienced our first really severe thunderstorm and wind event overnight of our last day there. I think that it is fair to say that being in a 26ft. C class on the shore of a lake in 60 mph wind gusts with lightening and heavy rain is not comfortable. Of course, having a very concerned 100 pound Scout decide he was safer sleeping in your bed than his doesn’t raise the comfort level at all.

Garrison is the nearest town and is filled with arts and crafts stores and museums. Nearby is the Audubon Wildlife sanctuary on Lake Audubon. The visitors center was closed but we were able to drive the tour route along the lake and found it very pleasant. The dam was completed in 1954 with President Eisenhower coming to dedicate the project in 1956. At the time this was the largest packed earth dam in the world. The lake backs up from western North Dakota all the way into eastern Montana on the Missouri River.

Enjoy the images.

Sjh

 

East Totten Trail Campground

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Dark Clouds

(I wrote this in April of this year and did not publish it for some reason. As I reviewed the piece I thought it still might have some relevance and so submit it for your reading. Comments are always welcome. Sjh)

 

This time of year Peg and I are usually out on the road looking forward to the places we will visit and getting comfortable with being on the move. This year we find ourselves tending to Scout and sorting out the new reality created by Covid-19. We both watch a lot of TV; however, circumstances have increased the time in front of the TV. Which has lead me to search out programs that are, well maybe not mainstream (according to Peg). For example, for the second time in my life I have binge watched Breaking Bad. Of course, on the other side of the coin is my strange affinity for Travels by Narrowboat. And thank God there are all those WWII documentaries, Clint Eastwood films and other stuff like Ken Burns movies.

Ken Burns has a unique style of presenting American history. His Civil War series is of note, as well as, just about everything else he has done. Browsing through Amazon Prime I came upon his series on the dust bowl of the 1930’s. This is a story of hope, despair, tragedy, greed, defeat and victory. Everything you would want in a fine drama. The story begins in the early 1900’s. The Federal Government and railroads encouraged the settlement of the Oklahoma Panhandle and the lands surrounding it in Kansas, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado, offering cheap or free land. Millions of acres covered with Buffalo grass, fertile, easy to plow under were converted to farms and ranches. From the early 1900’s to the late 1920’s farmers came, fertile soil and the opportunity to create a prosperous life for their families kept them coming. It worked that way when the wheat market soared during WWI and on into the 20’s as more and more land was plowed under. There was enough profit in wheat that there existed “City farmers” who bought land and hired folks to plow it. They would visit on the weekends.

The market crash of 1929 was a distant event and those in Oklahoma were little impacted at first. The troubles got real in 1930 with a bumper crop and the onset of drought. The drought came and lasted for 10 years. The bumper crop rotted in piles along side the roads leading to the grain elevators because no one had any money to buy it. The drought dried out the land causing bumper crops to be a distant dream. The misery was a constant fact of life for over 10 years. The details these events are well recorded by Mr. Burns and I encourage you to watch the series.

Frankly, reflecting on terrible times in the past may not seem relevant to the tough times we face today; however, consider this. Hard times, natural catastrophes, wars and pandemics impact all of us and change us. What we thought was foundational, the fixed framework of our lives is suddenly thrown up in the air. Human nature is a constant when facing the unknown. How people acted in the 1930’s is much like what we see us doing today. It is instructive to take a look at how the people of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico behaved in the Dust Bowl years. There are parallels to be seen between then and now.

An image from this time just sticks in my mind. It is an image of a wall cloud bearing down on a town, a very dark black cloud. In fact a wall of dirt about to bury this small town in dust that was measured in feet not inches. Imagine standing in front of your house staring at a dark cloud, something you have never seen before, coming at you. Nothing you can do to stop it, not knowing what it means. Not knowing what is going to happen. Not knowing whether to run or hide. Not sure that what you are looking at is even real. This is where a lot of us are today with Covid-19. Staring at a dark cloud about to over run us, not knowing what it means. Not even certain we are looking at something real. Confusion, fear, dread, rumors and disinformation abound leaving us in limbo staring at the dark cloud waiting for the storm to pass. Hoping for the best.

For the farmers in the Oklahoma Panhandle, it was the end of life as they had known it, there were no crops, the banks repossessed the farm equipment, then the farms. The horses and cows were sold off, starved to death, or simply slaughtered. The dust storms kept coming for years. The storms brought unimaginable destruction and death. For us Covid-19 is a dark cloud. Some of us are already buried in death and disease, something unimaginable just a couple of months ago. Some of us are still staring at the wall cloud trying to decide how to react waiting for our turn. Some not even sure this virus thing is real. Life as we know it changed in February 2020 as it did in 1930.

The people of Oklahoma were hardy, resilient, optimistic people, as we are today. “Next year will be better,” “we will get through this,” hope trumped the facts they could see in front of them. “Next year the rain will come.” Still the dust came. Covid-19 is out there. Some of us have been touched by it and many watch the growing tally of cases and deaths with trepidation. We hear statements like “summer will make it go away,” “It’s just the flu,” “Hydroxychloroquine is a cure, try it. What harm can it cause?” “We must open up the economy.” “Everything will be alright once we get back to work.” Much like the folks of the early 30’s we are looking to “next year”. We know that “next year” in Oklahoma was worse than last year. We don’t know what our future will be; however, there are clues and it may be a dark future.

The scientists and medical experts are telling us that Covid-19 will be back in the fall. Perhaps stronger and more deadly than today. They warn that hundreds of thousands of us will die from this disease unless we take steps to protect ourselves. It looks likely that Covid-19 will be with us for another 12 months or so until there is a vaccine or we reach herd immunity. We have to learn to adapt and we have to adopt change to survive. The dark dust clouds over Oklahoma were conquered. We are Americans, inventive, innovative, resourceful and strong with technical resources almost beyond imagination. Doctors and scientists with incredible skills are working on treatments and vaccines that will eventually conquer Covid-19. They will help us conquer our dark cloud. It is up to us to do our part to ensure we make it to a better place. We must put our best foot forward. Wear face masks, practice social distancing and look to the scientists for the path to follow to better days.

We need to accept the fact that we are facing a highly infectious, easily transmitted and deadly disease. We should practice new behaviors like using face masks, not shaking hands. We should support the people and businesses that are adapting and avoid those that are not. Hope for miracle cures, short cuts, or simply ignoring reality will not get us to a better place. Like the Dust Bowl people, we will make it through to better times, too. Many of us will be working in a new way or a new place. Many of us will remain in a state somewhere between today and tomorrow. Sadly, many will perish, something we should be prepared for. The majority of us will find ourselves in a new reality.

Like those folks in Oklahoma, we face dark clouds and dark times which may get much darker before the skies clear. We are facing a tough enemy in Covid-19; however, it is a temporary condition, just like the dust storms. Our response to this pandemic should be a collective one aimed doing the most good for the most people. I don’t think this virus much cares if you are a Republican, Democrat, catholic, protestant, jew, muslim, black, white, male or female, it is coming for you. If we stick together, if we adapt and accept change, if we show our stuff as Americans we will be victorious over Covid-19. Let us be strong and unified in fighting this disease.

Join us in a different type of journey this summer. A journey that will be determined by the situation day to day and governed by following the best advice from doctors and scientists.

Stay healthy.

Sjh

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Turtle River State Park North Dakota

Turtle River State Park is a hardwood forest with the Turtle river running through it. Lots of trails through the woods and a great campground. Just 14 miles west of Grand Forks and a couple miles from Grand Forks Air Force base makes this a good location with shopping and restaurants to do distant. A CCC 1930’s creation it reminds me of a Spitler Woods State Park where I grew up only much larger.

Scout and I took to the trails in the morning before the humidity and temperature were too high although both caught up to us before we got back to camp. We got to see the river, lots of chipmunks and one deer as well as the forest itself. Great trails and a wonderful nature walk.

The area around us is suffering from a lot of flooding. Earlier this week as much as 10″ of rain fell in a short time causing the Red River to flood all over the place. Continued rain today and tomorrow adds to the problem. We are in a good place today and hoping that the roads out of here are open Monday as we continue to mosey on West. No hurry please.

Note the last two images of Scout crashed out in exhaustion include a baby chipmunk cuddling up to his stomach. You have to zoom to see the little creature. Scout was so out of it he didn’t even notice. I was worried about him in the heat and humidity, we stopped at the visitors center and got a couple of bottles if cold water and rested for close to an hour. Scout got soaked in cold water and drank quite a bit. He still looked sad. He did enjoy the A/C at home.

Happy 4th of July!

Enjoy.

Sjh

 

Turtle River State Park

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Bemidji

Downtown Bemidji is an interesting place. Paul Bunyon and his blue ox, Babe take a prominent spot in the city park on the waterfront. We found there is a lot of artwork scattered across the town similar to what Racine does for the summer. Pretty pricey stuff but unique. We shopped a couple of the souvenir stores purchasing couple of pairs of Minnetonka moccasins (made in china of course). This is a nice downtown with a mix of the old and the new with mostly crafty type shops and restaurants. All the big name stores are on the Northeast side of town along US 2.

There are a lot of things to do in the area like kayaking the Mississippi, fishing and biking. We followed the Mississippi south on the Great River Road and every bridge crossing had multiple suv’s parked on the road side. People were out in canoes, kayaks, and tubes floating the river. The Paul Bunyon State Trail starts in Bemidji and runs 111 miles south to Brainerd. This looks like a fine rails to trails multiuse trail for biking and hiking. Of course the area is dotted with lakes that have fishing resorts and summer camps. There is BLM protesting at the Paul Bunyon and Babe visitor center for those who wish to exercise their right to free speech. A nice friendly group of folks demanding change.

Today we are doing some laundry, cleaning and planning for the trip ahead. Tomorrow we follow US 2 west for a couple of hundred miles to Turtle River State Park North Dakota for four days that will encompass Peg’s birthday and the 4th of July. Reservations have been confirmed through the last week in July. This part of the trip is in some fairly remote country that we are looking forward to seeing. Covid is a growing concern for us now as it is to all Americans. We certainly hope not to get quarantined as we cross state borders up in this part of the country.

As we get across Montana at the end of July the plan is to cross into Idaho. Right now Idaho is a Covid hot spot and we are monitoring the situation closely. The alternative route would be down into Wyoming where Covid seems to be under control right now. RV life is always flexible and adaptable so we shall plug along as safely as we can.

Be safe.

Sjh

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Scout Meets Lake Superior at Split Rock and Gooseberry Falls State Parks

Monday morning we packed up and drove to Split Rock State Park to see the lighthouse and neighboring Gooseberry Falls. From Bemidji it was a 3 and a half hour drive down US2 in cloudy misty weather which didn’t bode well for our visit to Lake Superior. However the skies cleared as we arrived and it turned out to be a wonderful 60 degree morning. Unfortunately the lighthouse was closed. So closed you can’t even get close to it for a picture. We did get some images from a distance. The one set of Peg and I from the overlook was taken by a nice lady from southern Illinois who was with a motorcycle tour.

The beach, picnic areas, and trails were open and in heavy use. Lots of families out with the kids enjoying siting on the beach watching the lake. As I remembered Lake Superior as very cold it did not disappoint yesterday. Brisk breeze blowing in off the lake with 1 to 2 foot waves that made for some chilly walking. Scout loved it. He rediscovered waves chasing them and biting at them before laying down in the water in complete bliss. A great time.

We moved on to Gooseberry Falls. This is a very popular spot with lots of people from all over the country stopping to walk the falls and enjoy the beauty of nature. The falls are actually three sets of falls starting just before the highway bridge and extending to Lake Superior. There are walking trails (with lots of stairs, lots of stair steps) that surround both sides of the falls and allow easy access to the water. Scout found the water fun and watching the people seemed to entertain him. This is a fun place with very nice facilities.

We ended our trip with a stop in downtown Duluth at the Duluth Trader store. Peg got her birthday present, a very nice jacket, and I picked up a couple of pairs of pants. There is a great deal of construction in downtown which made getting around challenging. We did drive on some of Bob Dylan Way and got a good whiff of weed from the car in front of us (lol it was some strong stuff).

Enjoy!

Sjh

Scout Lake Superior Split Rock Gooseberry Falls

 

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Itasca State Park

We have  migrated to Bemidji, MN. Kinda a spur of the moment decision with the idea to escape the heat and keep retreating from Covid. Covid is making for an ever changing environment depending on where you are located. There are dine in restaurants open here that are abiding by the 6ft distancing and face masks. The employees of all the businesses I have been in are wearing face masks and so are something like 60% of the customers. The attitude toward face masks here is a marked improvement from Iowa. In Iowa there were folks who looked at face mask wearers like they were some form of alien enemy, here it just seems to be accepted. This is a fluid and rapidly changing situation across the country with Covid and it could be that the whole of public opinion is changing toward masks. I hope so and we shall see.

Itasca State Park is a nice place with Lake Itasca forming the tributary that is the headwaters of the Mississippi River. It is really good to see Scout getting stronger every day and beginning to return to his old self. Scout and I took the first opportunity to wade into the river and it was deep enough for him to swim. He was so happy. At the headwaters he made lots of new friends in and out of the water. We waded up and down the river until he called it a day.

These are some images of the park and river. A big shout out to Peg for taking many of these images. AAANNND, Jeez I almost forgot!! Peg backed Gracie in and parked her in our campsite! An excellent job that I couldn’t have done better.

Enjoy.

Sjh

Itasca State Park and Mississippi Headwaters

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2020 Heber Overgaard Breakout

On the spur of the moment or in reality an attempt to escape the 110 degree heat, Peg and I decided to head north. In the day of Covid 19 it took several calls to find a campground accepting reservations; however, the good folks at Heber RV Resort had one spot left that was available until June 1. We snapped it up, got Gracie (the Winnebago View – yes we have named all our mobile vehicles, not sure why, kinda like naming your private parts I guess) out of storage, invited Payton on the spur of the moment and took off Thursday morning. We left 100 degree heat for the 80’s and it was well worth it.

Heber RV Resort is a nice place. It is well taken care of with outstanding bathrooms/showers, really good Wifi, big dog park and well manicured grounds. The location off 277 was perfect for exploring the area. We were 58 miles from Petrified Forest NP, 30 miles from the Mongollon Rim Road (NF300) and a couple of miles from Tall Pines county park.

Tall Pines is a nice park with pavilions, outhouses, picnic areas, trails and an outdoor racquetball court. Yes the graffiti covered walls are images from inside the outdoor court. Pretty obvious outdoor racquetball has seen better days. This is where Payton, Scout and I set out from on the “Meadow Trail” for a nice walkabout in the pine forest. It was determined that this trail would be good for biking and determined we would do so Saturday. Leaving the park, I decided to turn right onto the NF 50 and head into the forest.

This was the first real test of the Ranger (Lil Red). NF50 is a gravel, dirt road of unmaintained state. Ruts, holes, rocks and roots presented challenges and slow going. Lil Red preformed flawlessly in 4 wheel high. It was fun and we saw some of the otherwise hidden gems of the forest. We came upon a group of horsemen who had rounded up a herd of cattle at a water hole. There was a big ranch we drove by that had unbelievable water resources, big houses and barns with lots of animals. It was a good day.

Saturday morning Payton and I headed back to tall pines and hit the trail on our bikes. We did some 3 miles in the forest and another 3 miles on the Heber bike trail. It was a nice ride and a good work out at 6700 feet altitude. Afterwords, we rounded up Peg and Scout for a ride on the Mongollon Rim Road (NF300). The Mongollon Rim is the escarpment that crosses about 300 miles of northern Arizona boarder from New Mexico to Utah. It is named after the Mexican mayor from 1710 to 1730. The rim has cliffs as high as 1500 feet and is quite a site. The rim road is an interesting poorly maintained gravel road where there were thousands of people camping, hiking and site seeing last Saturday. The views were worth the trip.

Sunday was Petrified Forest National park day. The park was sparsely attended but at least had open bathrooms. We walked the main trail with Scout, which was the longest continuous walk since his surgery. He did well although when he found a bench he climbed right under it out of the sun. There were some scattered showers and clouds that seemed to me to reduce some of the color that I remembered from earlier visits.

Coming back today, we left temperatures in the 70’s driving down 6000 feet to find ourselves at 105. Ouch. Scouts freedom date is June 15 when the surgeon will release him, so we are not long now to be on the road. As we firm up our plans I will post our itinerary. The images linked are a compilation of images from last week. These images are of Queen Creek Canyon and Salt River Canyon off US 60, Tall Pines park in Heber, the Mongollon Rim Road, Petrified Forest and Painted Desert NP.

Enjoy.

Sjh

Heber Breakout

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