Saturday, January 24, 2015

American Southwest 2006

This is another vintage trip report. I drove a loop through three states to see the sights, camp and visit friends & family. This was during the period while I was living in Austin, TX and driving a 1999 Toyota Avalon. I camped using the tent I'd purchased years previously for bicycle touring. 

I was unable to find my original report, so will wing it from memory and try to keep it brief. The photos were created with an Olympus C5060 Wide Zoom digital camera, which worked well. I did apply my current Photoshop skills, though, to reprocess many of the images for this report.

Remember to click a photo to open the viewport to larger versions of all the photos.

The panorama images have links to open a large version.

Travel was in the clockwise direction, starting in Austin.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Austin to Guadalupe Mountain National Park

It was late in the season to start my trip, and I paid for that with warmer than comfortable temperatures in many places. I drove into Guadalupe Mountain National Park from the north, via Pecos, on the advice of an acquaintance. My advice to you is to enter from the south if this is your first time to visit. That way you can admire the sheer, dramatic views of El Capitan and Guadalupe Peaks thrusting suddenly out of the Texas plains.

I pitched my tent in Pine Springs Campground. It was hot & humid with very little shade. It cooled off only slightly toward evening and walked up the Tejas trail. I quickly realized my shoes were not rugged enough for the rocky trail. I took a few photos and returned to my tent.

My humble tent. If you've read my other reports you know I like to include photos of my campsites.

Hunter Peak, a fossil reef from the Permian era, seen from the Tejas Trail.

The next morning I took US 180 toward El Paso, but I bypassed the city using Loop 375 over Franklin Mountain and then joined the Interstate to make my way to Phoenix. There I visited my good friends for several days. These were the same wonderful folks who you read about in my previous vintage report who were then living in Portland. If I remember right, the timing of my trip was set to take advantage of their being off work for the Memorial Day holiday. I had a wonderful visit with my friends, but will spare you the details.

May 30th

Phoenix to the Grand Canyon

From Phoenix I intended to visit the Grand Canyon for the first time since I was small. On the way north I stopped at Montezuma Castle National Monument - an Indian cliff dwelling that has nothing to do with Montezuma.

Cliff Dwelling

In Flagstaff I visited the Lowell Observatory. I recommend their tour for any science or tech geek, featuring cool old telescopes and observatories from the early days of planetary exploration.

Built in the era when astronomers still put their eyeballs up to the lens.

I headed north, then west, from Flagstaff toward the Grand Canyon. Just before Grand Canyon Village I pulled into the NFS campground called Ten-X. I was surprised that there were very few folks in this lovely wooded campground.

My campsite

After I set up my tent, I drove into the national park and was suitably amazed at the sight of the canyon. I walked around and took a few evening photographs. I was glad I'd set up my tent before entering the park, as it was dark before I returned. In fact I stopped in the village for fast food before returning to the campground - very convenient.

View from Buggeln Point Larger View

Look carefully and you can see a tiny bit of the Colorado River (middle right).

Panorama of Cedar Ridge of Yaki Point (I think) Larger View

Late evening from Hopi Point

May 31st

Grand Canyon to Navajo National Monument

I returned to the canyon in the morning and drove out highway 64 through the east park entrance, stopping for a few canyon views along the way. I also stopped at the Little Colorado Gorge overlook which is outside the national park.

Little Colorado Gorge; a composite of two photos.

I then took 89 and 160 to Tuba City. I stopped there for a late lunch and was delighted that northern Arizona and New Mexico share the red and green chile cuisine. Yummy! From there I continued NE up 160, taking the spur to Navajo National Monument.

I skipped the paved campground loop by the visitor center which was populated with many of those large rental RVs and found a tent site in the undeveloped Canyon View Campground.

My campsite close to the canyon edge.

I returned to the visitor center where I took the Sandal Trail to the canyon overlook. From there one can view the amazing Betatakin/Talastima cliff dwelling. The ruins are not open except by ranger led strenuous hiking tours. My little camera was barely able to reach across the canyon. If you visit, take your binoculars!

An entire ancient village within the dome of the cliffside.

It was a lovely evening back at the campground where I met a nice couple in their giant slide-in camper. They were headed to Canyon de Chelly the next day, which put the idea into my head.

Canyon view from next to my campsite.

June 1st

Navajo National Monument to Albuquerque

Leaving the park, I drove into Kayenta, then north on 163 to visit Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. I'd never visited there before, but was familiar with the iconic landscape photos that everyone has seen in John Ford westerns, if no where else. The self-drive tour is the featured attraction. I asked if my sedan would be OK on the unpaved roads and they assured me that I would be fine. I made it though, but not without a few moments experiencing "interesting" stretches of road.

View from the visitor center overlook showing the road to be travelled. Larger View

There are truly awesome vistas in the park that have to be seen in person. Photos just don't convey the sense of space and place.

The Three Sisters behind Camel Butte

The Mittens

I didn't camp there, but headed in the southerly direction intending to go to Canyon de Chelly. (FYI, the campground is closed for construction, as of this writing, according to their website which may not be exactly up to date.)

What started out to be a warm day got even warmer. By the time I got to Chinli I decided it was too hot to camp in my tent, so stopped at the Holiday Inn at the entrance to the park. However, their air conditioning was broken, so I decided to skip the location for now and headed to Albuquerque. I haven't made it back since, but hope to remedy that soon.

On the way east via Window Rock and the freeway, I stopped at the famous Hubbell Trading Post, which is now a National Historic Site.

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site

The main room inside the trading post.

June 2nd - 4th


I visited family in Albuquerque for a few days. We took a day trip up into the Jemez mountains, but I didn't manage to get any good photos of that pleasant drive to share with you. It was a great visit.

June 5th

Journey's End

I completed my southwestern tour by returning to Austin from Albuquerque. I didn't take any photos during this leg of my journey, but I felt this report would be incomplete without one more photo. So, I included the following view of eastern New Mexico from along the same route about two years earlier.

Eastern New Mexico, between Santa Rosa and Ft. Summner, if memory serves.

Thank you for joining me by reading along.


  1. My thanks to Betty and Ski for your comments.

  2. I came across your blog today and love it. I will be using it as a resource as I plan my summer trips. Your photos are great. I love the north NM and Colorado area. I will be traveling in that area in June.

    1. Thanks, Thomas, for the nice comment. If you have any questions when you start your planning, you can email me using the address found in the "Receive Email Notifications" tab at the top. I can't guarantee I'll know the answer, but I'll try.


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