Trip #6 Dates:
January 8-19, 2018Route:
CO, OK, NM, AZ, UT & back
My husband, 3 dogs and I took advantage of a slow time at work and a Rocky Mountain La Nina weather pattern to create a fantastic hiking, exploring, and sight-filled T@B road trip out of a pinnacle destination and activity: Visiting and Volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
in Kanab, Utah. This is the story of our journey.
Our 2,052 mile route with map below took us through 5 states in 11 nights. We relied heavily on smartphone GPS (no cell service needed) and Alltrails, Freecampsites, ParkAdvisor apps / websites.
Below are daily highlights, destinations, and Instagram photo collages I kept. I hope you enjoy!
Day 1 Highlights:
Black Mesa Nature Preserve hike, completely empty. Black Mesa State Park Campground, completely empty. Smiling dogs. And 3 Corners of CO/OK/NM monument of course!
Day 1 Campsite:
Black Mesa State Park, OK. We had it all to ourselves. Very clean, nice nature trails, plumbed restroom, shower, water & elec for $22 I think. I figure you might wonder about the dog sleeping situation, so here's how it goes: Boston terrier on the front bench seat, black & white dog on a dog bed I custom made to exactly fit the floor between the bench and bed (nice and toasty, but doesn't intrude toward the Alde vents), and the black dog on the bed with the 2 humans. It works(-ish) and they're all perfectly content with their sleeping spots.
Day 2 Highlights:
Black Mesa State Park deer and short hike, seeing my first Roadrunner, The Palisades at Cimarron Canyon State Park, NM, and a long natural hot springs soak and steam room at Ojo Caliente. This was our 2nd time at Ojo Caliente, which has 11 different pools featuring different medicinal benefits, including a warm mud bath, plus a fantastic natural steam room. Highly recommended. Day 2 Campsite:
Ojo Caliente, NM RV Campground. Secured behind locked gate, water & elec, plumbed restroom is co-ed with private stalls and showers. Short walk to Hot Springs; entry fee is extra. Our T@B is winterized and we tried to carry about 7-8 gallons of water after this point where our route would take us through NM and AZ Navajo Nation where little public resources were available, and replenishing as possible. Day 3 Highlights:
Seeing Shiprock! Wild Horses! Not Dying!
We planned to spend a night at Canyon de Chelly National Monument, AZ. With a long drive ahead from Ojo Caliente, and knowing a cold front and moisture was moving in, we set out early
thinking the storm might amount to very little and it's worth a shot. About 50 miles out from Canyon de Chelly, snow started as the road began twisting up the mountain higher. An ominous sign read, "No Winter Maintenance." But the roads were warm and snow wasn't sticking. Until it started sticking. On 14% grade. With hairpin turns. And no guardrail. A white knuckle drive, about 10 mph for miles and miles up up up. We figured at the worst we'd pull over and camp roadside if we had to, Navajo Nation private property or not. But we made it up and over Buffalo Pass and then down, down down. As the passenger, I held the wireless trailer brake controller ready to manual override at any moment. Down, down, down.
Part II of Day 3 starts in Lukachukai, AZ as we abandoned thoughts of overnighting at Canyon de Chelly. New plan for the night: Head back north to Monument Valley, and while we're at it swing by Mexican Hat. We saw beautiful wild horses, hiked up an arroyo on BLM land somewhere near Mexican Hat - dogs thrilled to be out of the car - and made it to Monument Valley. I never thought this trip would take us to Monument Valley! It was beautiful! And nearly empty.Day 3 Campsite:
Goulding's Campground in Oljato-Monument Valley, UT. There were just a couple other campers who never left their rigs, and 2 VW buses parked up top, headed to a rally at Lake Havasu. They charge per site, plus $8 additional per person, but accept Good Sam. For 2 of us with water & elec, plus nice hot free showers it was $38. A 2 hour torrential downpour started in the evening literally 30 seconds after setting up the Pahaque XL "in case it rains". The best part was sunrise from inside our T@B looking out to the monuments. Really spectacular. In the summer with a full campground and trees leafed out, I imagine the view would be mostly lost in a little T@B. In the pic you can see we taped saran wrap across our AC vent cover to prevent draft on the Alde thermostat. The hack works in a pinch and we did it every night. A real AC vent cover is on our to-do list. Day 4 Highlights:
Morning walk to a hidden arch right from the campground. Stopped at Glen Canyon and did a very cool hike at Toadstool Hoodoos west of Page, AZ. But the best part was knowing we'd be spending the night in Kanab, UT, home of Best Friends Animal Society, and the primary destination of this entire trip! Day 4 Campsite
: Hitch N Post RV, Kanab, UT. We wanted to be in Kanab because volunteer orientation and shifts started early the next day. Hitch N Post had just 2 spots available, mostly full of fulltimers. It was fine for the night, and easy to walk to town, but a lot of street noise and the restroom was underwhelming. It was somewhere in the mid-$30 with water, elec and plumbed restroom.
In addition to a campsite pic, here's a pic of the ONION RINGS AND BEER we had at Iron Horse Restaurant & Saloon that night! First meal out and first beer of the trip! Day 5 Highlights: Best Friends Animal Society
! My husband booked us 3 nights on site in the Sanctuary Cottages (pets allowed) as a gift because I've been an active supporter of Best Friends' amazing 34-year crusade to Save Them All. While Best Friends has facilities across the country and 2,000 network partners, the Sanctuary in Kanab, UT is a 3,700 acre haven to over 1,600 animals at any given time, including dogs, cats, horses, goats, pigs, parrots, rabbits and more. All are adoptable, although Best Friends recognizes some will live their entire lives at the Sanctuary. They're committed to each and every animal they take in and I can tell you first hand the animals receive the best care possible from staff and volunteers dedicated to them.
We hiked Water Canyon Trail to Ancestral Puebloan ruins on Best Friends property in morning frost. Afterward my husband checked in and got settled at our Cottage overlooking Horse Haven while I went to orientation, had lunch with a Founder, and volunteered at Dulcie's in DogTown. I gave training walks to a handful of adoptable dogs (Alice pictured below) and did some cleaning in the animal area. An amazing day!Day 5 Campsite
: We stayed in Best Friends Cottage #3 and parked Tuesd@y safely a few steps away. Cottages are completely pet friendly. You can have up to 3 dogs at the Cottages, and up to 2 dogs in the Cabins. Cottages are walking distance to the Welcome Center, Horse Haven and Piggy Paradise, but Cabins aren't. If you don't bring your own pets, you can have a "sleepover" with an approved sanctuary animal if you stay at the Cabins or Cottages. A sleepover or outing gives animals a nice break from their own quarters, helps acclimate them to living in their future forever home one day, and gives caregivers valuable insight for future adopters. And yes sanctuary animals and your own are allowed on the beds and couches! Day 6 Highlights
: My volunteer shift at Horse Haven! Mucking pastures and loving on rescue horses, what could be better?! Then a delicious $5 vegetarian buffet lunch at Angel Village followed by a great treat - a "Backstage Pass" tour in which we were thanked as donors by getting to see operations not on the regular tours, including behind the scenes at Admissions, the Clinic including surgery, therapeutic medicine and lab, as well as animal Special Needs houses. It was absolutely incredible. I'm astonished with the quality of care Best Friends offers, and humbled by the genuine kindness and heartfelt gratitude shown by our Tour Ambassador, Teresa. Day 6 Campsite
: Again at the Cottage, with this view:Day 7 Highlights
: Volunteering at DogTown "Old Friends," home to special needs dogs Kit & Caboodle (birth defects in the same litter, likely the result of Distemper in the mother) and Senior dogs Rosebud and Ludo (pictured). Ludo is a beast! The biggest dog I've ever walked - a very sweet pitbull who ended up going on a sleepover in Cottage 2 that evening. In the afternoon, volunteering at Horse Haven where I met Speedy the Burro and the Retirement Pigs was a highlight as well. Throughout each of the volunteer shifts over multiple days, I continued to be humbled with the animals' trust in me, a stranger.Day 7 Campsite
: Cottage one last night! We've gotten comfy. Day 8 Highlights
: Wild turkeys as we left Best Friends. Then on to Navajo National Monument! This place is amazing! Ancestral Puebloan ledge dwellings and picturesque red sandstone canyon walls are the attraction. We didn't know what to expect and we were thoroughly impressed. There was even a visitors center with a mini museum, and it was open! On a Monday afternoon in winter! This site is very close as the crow flies to Hovenweep and Canyon of the Ancients National Monuments in Colorado, which is another destination I highly recommend if you're stringing a trip together (skip Mesa Verde and have these sites almost to yourself)Day 8 Campsite
: Navajo National Monument Sunrise Campground, AZ. FREE! It was great! Paved loop and sites, picnic table, and plumbed restrooms with a utility sink! First come, first served. The sites aren't really level but what do you want for free. We were the only campers until sunset when a couple other rigs rolled in. There's also a "Canyon View" primitive campground, but the gate was closed for winter. Day 9 Highlights
: Drove more through the Navajo Nation eastward to Angel Peak Scenic Area. Arrived to an empty campground and with enough daylight to exercise (ugh) and poke around the badlands. Along the way, Four Corners was only 5 miles off route so we swung by just because. It was virtually empty. We did not abide by the "Limit 3 Photos" sign.Day 9 Campsite
: Angel Peak Scenic Area Campground, NM. FREE. There were only about 5 or 6 campsites and first come first served. Picnic tables, grills, vault toilet. Pull through, and with leveling blocks didn't unhitch. Spectacular starry night. Cold. It was 15° at sunrise but toasty warm inside.Day 10 Highlights:
Missing at least a foot of snow by a day or 2 on a pass in Carson National Forest. Earthship Biotecture. Rio Grande Gorge. Taos. Day 10 Campsite
: Monte Bello RV Campground, Taos, NM. It was fine for a night but nothing special. I think we paid $35-ish. Water, elec, plumbed restroom, shower, but just 1 ladies & 1 mens room. Small convenience shop and $1 laundry. Largely empty, suffering from a lack of skiers in this dry winter. Located a bit too far from anything. It was really cold that night. Flipflops froze after showering. I forgot to take a picture of the campsite so here's a pic of our indoor/outdoor thermometer at sunrise. Yes it was 4°. Indoor temp read low because sensor was near the vented window. Day 11 Highlights:
Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, NM. We hiked Chiflo Trail, which went from the canyon rim all the way down to the river. Snow in shady spots was fun for the dogs. Nobody was there. Then back to Colorado where we detoured through La Veta and eventually ended up at Lathrop State Park. I hiked Hogback Trail with 2 of the dogs while other humans and dogs took a nap. Beautiful views of Spanish Peaks. Day 11 Campsite
: Pinion Campground Loop B, the only campground open at Lathrop State Park, CO. Paved pull through (didn't unhitch), Elec, water, vault toilet in the winter. $20 + $7 park entry fee. Empty! Gorgeous sunset. Amazing starry night, and "warm" enough (40's) to sit out and watch meteors! I saw at least half a dozen. Only a couple sites in this loop have mountain views. We made sure to get the right spot. Day 12
: This was our last day and the highlight was sunrise (pictured), coffee, oatmeal, and dog snuggles in bed! Thank you to my husband who took care of letting the dogs out and their breakfast and meds, so I could enjoy our last morning looking out across the beautiful Rocky Mountains. It was the perfect end to an amazing trip!
As T@B newbies in August 2017, and RV never-evers, we hope other newbies are encouraged by our story. Go do it! We bought Tuesd@y after thinking on it and devouring info on this forum for nearly 2 years. We're so thankful we finally sprung for our T@B, because she made this trip possible, enjoyable, warm, and easy. Knowing what we know now, our only regret is not buying her sooner!
Happy trails to you all and thanks again for all you've shared here to help us get on the road.