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Old 03-02-2018, 09:48 PM   #1
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Full-timing Winter 2017-2018: Southern Utah & New Mexico

I stayed late into Fall working the convenience store counter outside Bryce Canyon. We headed out to visit Moab and Arches for the first time but a couple hours out we realized we had no trailer brakes - a good thing before heading downhill on Interstate 70. We played it safe and made an appointment at the Salt Lake City Airstream dealer. It took them seven hours and $800 to troubleshoot and replace our entire trailer brakes - the brakes were rusted through. The labor took a lot longer than they thought but the dealership took off a few hours off; I wasn't sure I was getting a decent deal but we were anxious to get on the road and the mechanic worked very hard to make things right. The brakes worked right off their lot.

Having working trailer brakes was comforting soon after leaving the Walmart in Springville, Utah. Late November left Horsethief Campground outside Dead Horse Point State Park largely empty and we easily found a dry camping spot. The temperatures were hovering around 20 degrees F at night, so we went through a seven-gallon propane tank in five days.

We visited Dead Horse Point on an overcast day but it was still spectacular. We hiked around the rim and took in the Colorado River and its bends. We could imagine wild mustang herds once populating the area in the 1800s but would never understand why anyone would fence off unwanted horses to die of thirst 2,000 feet above rushing water.

Moab is a great small town full of shops, eateries, a very well-stocked grocery store in City Market, and an awesome gear shop - Gearheads; you can fill your water cans inside with free drinking water at four spigots and the store itself is like a mini-REI. We also filled up our propane at Farm & City Feed and RV Supply in town.

I really didn't want to spend the $75 or $80 to get into Arches for just one day but found out from a couple friends about a back door into the park. I bought a topo map of the area and found a dirt road 4.5 miles south of Highway 70 and off 191. The dirt road had a few sections of washboard but nothing a bit of airing down couldn't handle, and 17 miles later we were inside the park. I think the next time we visit Moab/Arches we will be boondocking in Salt Valley - it's remote, has a few spots, and hopefully not too many campers know about it.
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Old 03-02-2018, 09:54 PM   #2
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Dead Horse Point State Park...
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Old 03-02-2018, 10:01 PM   #3
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Dead Horse Point State Park and Arches' backdoor...
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Old 03-02-2018, 10:31 PM   #4
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The cold temperatures at Dead Horse Point forced us to move southward and think about where we would boondock for the winter. We had to step away from our winter camp hosting gig the past three winters due to having made commitments to help our adult sons in the area. We researched the area around St. George and the Arizona Strip, and finally decided to stay two miles off Interstate 14 on Black Rock Road, a mining dirt road a few miles south of the Utah/Arizona border and nine miles from a Walmart. The site was largely unvisited except for the mining trucks that would pass by a few times day and night.

We've been spoiled by trading camp hosting for full hookups over winter. The southern Utah winter is relatively mild but the overnight lows through December and early January still made us use our furnace intermittently and appreciate our Pendleton wool blanket and two flannel sleeping bags. We were parked close enough to supplies and fuel but having to replenish them often without a power hookup made us realize just how good a camp hosting gig is through winter.

We helped a friend boondocking with us with post-cancer treatment - a tough winter for him to be sure. When he decided to head to Quartzite, we chose to stay at Quail Creek State Park campground for 10 days. Even though it was still dry camping, it felt more comfortable with flushing toilets during the day and a bit of company with fellow campers and our camp host friends from years past. After spending some time cleaning and removing the Arizona silt from our trailer, we scouted out a BLM road in the Dixie Forest outside Leeds, Utah just north of Hurricane. We found an isolated spot just beyond a "Trailers Not Recommended Past This Point" signpost that was meant for a turn around - a perfect spot for 16 days to finish up January.
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Old 03-02-2018, 10:48 PM   #5
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Our spot was still just a 10-drive away from the Hurricane Walmart and a very good rate for propane ($2.19/gal) could be had at B & L Propane at the edge of Hurricane with La Verkin. There's nothing like having a secluded spot to slow down the days and the nights were moonlit and clear away from the towns. We were able to perform some maintenance and more cleaning in solitude, have campfires with friends and family, and take a drive out to Coral Pink Sands State Park and Best Friends, both just outside Kanab, Utah.
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Old 03-02-2018, 10:53 PM   #6
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Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary...
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Old 03-03-2018, 05:43 AM   #7
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And another adventure, under your belts.

You’ve become experts at scouting out beautiful, remote spots.

Gorgeous pictures, as usual.

Travel safe,

Maggie
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Old 03-03-2018, 08:58 AM   #8
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Excellent read, thanks for sharing!
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Old 03-03-2018, 10:42 AM   #9
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Wonderful read and photos. Much appreciated. Thank you.
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Old 03-03-2018, 11:15 AM   #10
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Full-timing Winter 2017-2018: Southern Utah & New Mexico

Jeff,

Very nice to hear from you. Fantastic photos and posts - you set the bar pretty high in terms of AS adventures. I admire your skill in finding such extraordinary places that are off the beaten path.

Regards - Ron
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Old 03-03-2018, 02:51 PM   #11
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Onto New Mexico...

A search of temperatures showed a visit back to Moab or Escalante was going to be colder than we'd like to spend on propane, so after the first week of February we decided to leave our very comfortable boondocking spot and re-visit New Mexico but this time travel south of Santa Fe. We had seen a photo of another Airstream friend with his feet up overlooking Elephant Butte Reservoir State Park. It took us a couple days to get there, starting from an overnight stay in comfortable Kanab and another one in the Farmington, NM Walmart. After recovering from hitting a cow in late 2016, we've tried hard to adopt a 3:00/300 rule: quit towing by 3 PM and/or 300 miles for the day. I guess it crept up on me but in the last year I became that old man driver: hugging the right lane on multi-lane highways and moseying down the road at 55-60 mph. I say that mostly in jest because I realize most towers use that speed for safety but a part of me doesn't want to go faster. My night vision is shot and sometimes a cow by the side becomes a large sagebrush. With that in mind, I called ahead to see if the Walmarts along a more southerly route in Arizona would accept overnight stays and when they said no, we decided to stay along the Utah/Arizona border and stayed that first night in Farmington. We took a scenic route to Truth or Consequences, or T or C as the locals claim it, and ended up staying at the local Walmart for the night. The T or C Walmart is on the smaller side but is the coolest one we've seen - it has covered parking with solar panels on the roof which power the store!

Elephant Butte Reservoir State Park (EB) was only a few miles away and we found a nice dry camping spot with an improved shelter over its picnic table for $10/night. I'd like to say it was an adjustment for us as soon as we started driving down New Mexico; after two years of primarily living in southern Utah, the absence of red rocks was clearly evident: grays and browns made up the buttes and mesas. The demographics also changed dramatically but that is part of the opportunity for more exploration. New Mexico has a very benevolent attitude towards its visitors when it comes to state park camping fees. Full hookups are $18, power only sites are $14, dry camping with a shelter is $10, and unimproved camping spots are only $8/night. EB's power sites were all taken except for two spots for a night or two, and they were all side-by-side. We chose the improved site along Ridge Road because it was separated from the other sites by enough distance to render our Honda 2000 generator almost to totally non-detectable; we gotta have our Downton Abbey/Doc Martin/Poirot/Star Wars/Planet Earth at night.

Now about T or C: it's a sleepy town and perhaps a forgettable town if one simply drives through it but that would be a mistake. There is plenty of hiking to be found along with other sites but we found T or C to be the perfect spot for just settling in through February and early March to just...relax. We're not hot tub time travelers but were advised to try Riverbend Hot Springs Spa & Resort. It's the off-season so reserving a private tub was easy and we chose an hour on both sides of dusk so we could see across the adjacent Rio Grande River. We were told each of the tubs' water was heated naturally and temperatures were listed on Riverbend's website. The $30 we spent on the hour (actually 50 minutes and brought our own towels - $1 for a towel rental) were some of the best bills we've spent during our time on the road. Riverbend shoots laser stars across the river once darkness descends and with a whisper only atmosphere, the hot springs easily melt away one's stress. We saw a tiny, cramped RV campground across the street and were told it was connected to Riverbend and tubbin' was part of the deal; folks just walked across the little backstreet in their bathrobes and took a dip, probably a couple times a day. At first I though "what's the big deal?" but after our session, I could see why folks come around the country to tub in T or C. We were also told that the local hot springs have no sulfur odor and that proved to be correct.

We love small towns and figure the best way to get to know one is to walk it. T or C has two main streets for shops and eateries: Main Avenue and N Broadway Street. EB is an adjoining small town and has a couple decent places to eat (Casa Taco is one) but we liked walking up and down the two streets in T or C. There are many eateries to choose from and a lot of them are hole in the wall joints with their own character. We've had really good meals at the Grapevine Bistro and Passion Pie but our favorite is 33 Latitude - an Asian Fusion restaurant.

The town is not your typical high-grade tourist destination spot but rather old-time storekeepers making a living good enough to stay here. Xochi's was a small, locally owned bookstore that was crammed with shelves and shelves of publications from the 19th and early 20th century, mostly on southwestern history and culture. The southwest culture is often represented by bright colors in many of the town's buildings. I took a lot of these photos on an overcast day and used photo editing filters to brighten them up; in person, a lot of the color is muted due to the age of the town.
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Old 03-03-2018, 02:56 PM   #12
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Downtown T or C...
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Old 03-03-2018, 03:02 PM   #13
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Riverbend Hot Springs Spa and downtown T or C...
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Old 03-03-2018, 03:07 PM   #14
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Downtown T or C...
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