LIVIN’ ON STILTS
Arizona and New Mexico are amazing! But first, let me catch you up. The end of 2017 was…interesting, but mostly happy. After a few more glorious days in Morro Bay, Matt dropped me off in Visalia so that I could spend some time with my bff, Christie’s, family before they drove me down to LA. I arrived in Burbank at my In-Laws on December 16th. We made fast work of seeing our friends and filling our bellies with Mexican food and margaritas that same night. We got to see a lot of people we’ve been missing and the reunion with Cruiser brought me to tears.
On the Saturday before Christmas, December 23rd, I spent the day baking bread and cookies with my mom. I had never made bread before, and was feeling particularly inspired by The Great British Baking Show. We did brioche buns and two loaves of cinnamon bread. Both turned out delicious! That night, Matt and I went to his cousin, Todd’s, house with some of Matt’s family from his Dad’s side. Todd and his beautiful wife, Shawna, cooked a lovely meal, and I just adored spending time with their daughter, Elsa. Matt’s Aunt Wendy and Uncle Darryl gave us a really cute VW Bus tin container with a puzzle inside that now happily houses our tea. Unfortunately, that night I had a terrible stomach ache, and by 6am I was vomiting violently in the camper bathroom. Thank goodness I’m small enough to maneuver in there. The worst of it lasted about six hours, and I can confidently say the few pounds I lost from it were not worth it. However, silver lining and all, at least I got that out of it.
I was bed ridden all of Christmas Eve, and most of Christmas day. On Sunday, I received the terrible news that my dad’s little dog passed away. So, on Christmas, my wonderful Father-In-Law, drove me to my parent’s house so that I could spend some time with them. Poor Matt caught the same stomach flu by Sunday night, so he was in bed most of the day nursing the sickness. I’m so glad I got to spend time with my family that day, even if I was completely useless. We missed out on going to Kim’s, one of my bridesmaids and long time friend’s house, that night, though. Matt’s poor cousin, Alex, seemed to have caught the flu from us and we’re so sorry that he did. I really enjoyed spending time with him on the couch.
We got a lot of work done to the camper on our short trip home. I removed the failing wallpaper, painted and put up a backsplash around the stove. Matt and his dad installed a new fantastic sink that has just changed my life in such a great way, it’s hard to even describe. They also added a second solar panel, reinforced the camper frame that holds the tie downs to our truck, and a bunch of other odds and ends that needed upgrading/fixing.
We packed up and left Saturday, December 30th, and headed to Glamis. I’d never been and was really looking forward to celebrating New Year’s Eve with friends. On Sunday, our friends took us out into the dunes. We were having a great time until we got a call letting us know Fred got out of the camper and was no where to be found. A well-meaning friend (I’ll keep his name out of this) let him out, not realizing he’d get spooked. If it weren’t for that same friend, I fear Fred could have been lost forever. He never gave up and definitely got a great work out in that day. I’ll sum up the harrowing near escape and then rescue in a few sentences. After running through the sand dunes, swimming across the 7mph current aqueduct, wedging himself in another friend’s engine compartment, Fred was successfully rescued about five miles from camp. Meanwhile, two girlfriends and I were searching through the open desert in an active missile/bomb site, hoping to cut Fred off if he got past the aqueduct. I’ve honestly never been more devastated. It was like finding a needle in the haystack. How is it possible that our sand colored super fast dog running through the desert was brought back to me? I can’t express enough gratitude for the friends and strangers that helped us find him. I thank everything in me that we have friends willing to go so far to help us. That right there is the true meaning of family, and I hope they know how much I love and appreciate all of them.
Needless to say, I was emotionally exhausted after we found him. I basically hid in the camper for hours until my friends convinced me to come out for the countdown. I’m really glad I did. 2017 holds my happiest memories, but I’m happy to see it go so that we can move along to our next chapter. We stayed in Glamis until Tuesday morning, then headed to Flagstaff, AZ.
Flagstaff has so much free land to camp on. We found a great spot off a fire road but didn’t have enough service to stay. We ended up near a Naval Observatory on a different fire road for the night. Waking up to the gorgeous high desert forest made me giddy with excitement. It was so good to be home, but I’m so happy we can continue on our adventure. We’re trying to get through Arizona quickly, so we only had one night in Flagstafff. On Wednesday, we finally got a good workout in and got to wash the Glamis sand off of us. On our drive to the next spot, we took a detour hoping to check out a meteor crater. We only had a few minutes, and unfortunately only got to see the outside of the crater. The entrance fee was $18/person. If we had even a few hours to spend there and hike around I wouldn’t have cared about the fee, but it wasn’t worth it for just a quick look around.
That same night, we found a free spot at a gift shop steps away from the south entrance of the Petrified Forest. There aren’t any campgrounds in the park, just a super old historic hotel. Best of all, the park is dog friendly. On Thursday, we spent the day driving through the park, stopping at every hike and view point. It took us about six to seven hours to do it all. The few trails are pretty much paved the entire way and around a mile to a mile and half at the most. We exhausted Fred, but Matt and I felt pretty great after so long of low activity. I have so many pictures from here, I’ll have to post most of them at the end of this.
We’ve seen so many beautiful places in our 6 or so months of travel. The Petrified Forest is right up there with Crater Lake for me in terms of wonder and beauty. It was the perfect day that I’ll be sure never to forget. I highly recommend checking it out if you’ve never been. I’ve dreamed of coming here since I was a little girl, completely in love with my rock collection and geology books. The colors of he desert had me mesmerized. Yet another spectacular location has me humbled to my core. Mother Nature has bestowed upon us another Devine moment and my appreciation for the world grows with every stop we make.
After another night at the free gift shop, we drove through Albuquerque, New Mexico, and ended up in the historic town of Barnalillo. We spent one night at the Coronado Campground, neighbor to the Coronado State Monument and the Rio Grande. Electric & water sites were only $25/night. We needed it as it got down to freezing temps at night. Our tanks have yet to freeze, and we really don’t want to see that happen. Frozen poop sounds like something we’d all like to avoid.
On Saturday, we packed up early to head to Rio Grande SP. Blown away by the views, I couldn’t wait to get my boots on. We stayed at Pilar Campground, where electric & water sites were only $15/night! Can’t beat that price, especially with how cold it got at night. After landing, I ate lunch faster than I’ve ever eaten in my life, and went off on a small hike that followed along the Rio Grande, linking four other campgrounds. Matt stayed behind to fish the Rio Grande with his new super sweet fly rod, courtesy of his friend, Jay.
After a quick chat at the Visitor Center, we decided on two hikes Sunday. The first is called The Slide. It’s a short and easy hike up an old road that was closed after a massive rock slide. Pretty quickly into the trail, we saw thousands of year old Petroglyphs carved into the rocks. We also had the pleasure of scoping out a couple of groups of longhorn sheep sunning themselves up on the cliffs. The area is so rich with history. One can really sense the historic value thick in the air. I could almost feel myself transported back thousands of years ago, walking the same trails as the Native inhabitants.
The next hike we did that day is called the Las Vista Verde trail. Another short, and even easier trail with Petroglyphs and incredible views of the Rio Grande Gorge. It was cold up there, but thankfully the sun shined on us all day, keeping us warm on our hikes.
I hope everyone had a perfectly merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year’s Eve. I’m sorry to those friend’s we weren’t able to see in our two weeks back. Come find us out on the road 🙂
Love you all!
Ariel + Matt
Spent some time at home. Saw friends and family as well as got a lot done on the camper. Spent NYE in Glamis. Almost lost Fred. I freaked out. Found Fred. Thanks friends. Blazed our way through AZ. Spent the best day in Petrified Forest NP. Drove to NM. Spent the weekend at the Rio Grande Gorge SP.
Fred thinks he’s a Beagle. He howls and barks when left alone long enough in the camper. Didn’t think it was too big of a deal until we almost lost him. Make sure anyone with access to the camper knows Fred is a runner. Also, he’s super conditioned from being on the road – meaning he’s fast a fuck and will outrun anyone chasing him. Apparently he’s a damn good swimmer too. Lesson learned. Oh Fred.