Needles Overlook and Windwhistle Rock: It’s A Wonderful Life

Prince’s Plume and wind.
May 20: After a night in Blanding (because we had a cell signal for the first time in several days) we drove to the Needles Overlook on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land between Monticello and Moab, a place we had never been. On the drive out, our well-trained bush camp eyes saw what looked a likely spot near the overlook. At the overlook we reminisced about our White Rim bicycle tour, and a wonderful hike with Jack and Mary Lange in Needles District of Canyonlands, and a two day stay in the Maze District of Canyonlands; we could see them all from the overlook. Then we drove a few hundred metres down back down the road, plunged onto a bush track with our amazingly off-road-capable View and found another cliff-top bush camp for the night. The weather put on a show for us, varying light for the junipers and spring flowers, yet giving passable long distance views over our canyon country.

We keep coming back here. It remains among the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, place in the world, or at least the world as we have seen it, and that’s a fair bit.

We sat up, as usual so we could have a reasonable chance of driving off quickly during the night, if need arise; though the drop-off to the cliff was pretty close, Turtle has a good turning radius.

Darkness arrived with the fading of the rainbow; the wind is up and the lightning announced the odd thunderstorm somewhere to the South. We could get more weather during the night; if it clears we’ll have stars since the moon is still a sliver. Another billion-dollar view bought with the price of a little adventure. It’s a wonderful life.

May 21: Drove to Wind Whistle Rock and struggled along a double sandy track to find a bush camp with beautiful view of La Salle Mountains and red sandstone capped with white Navajo sandstone and vast expanses of grass, sagebrush and Utah juniper. We were expecting (courtesy our weather radio) high winds and perhaps rain in the afternoon, so we hunkered down, only to find reasonable, if breezy weather. We hiked around Wind Whistle Rock instead, of the planned mountain bike. Our walk gave us a close up reminder of what is so special about this part of America; you can be within a mile of a road, and never see or hear another human all day. We threaded slickrock, and drainages to avoid damaging cryptobiotic soil, saw several delicate spring flowers and a new (to us) blooming cactus.

We went in and out of sun and cloud shade, napped on a rock ledge and came back to Turtle for a warm shower. Then we took a walk, had a-little-something under a juniper, and came back to Turtle for another short nap.

Dinner was pasta with garlic, olive oil, onions, yellow and zucchini squash, and the second half of a bottle of Chilean Cab/Sav/Merlot (better after some mellowing). Evening is coming slowly under high thin clouds and the breeze is dying, unlike last night when Turtle shook until after midnight, unsettling when parked on the edge of a cliff. Tonight there is no cliff, and no wind and the temperature should be cool.

Had someone suggested to me when I was 25, that life could be so good past 60, I would have thought they were crazy. No more. It’s a wonderful life.

Sego Lilly

A Visit to Monument Valley, Arizona in our Motorhome

Bob and Claire's motorhome Turtle's campsite at Monument Valley, AZ

Three photo panorama from our campsite.



May 18. Monument Valley is a tribal park, and more reasonable with a $5 per person entry and $5 to dry camp in a spectacular spot. Late today we hiked the one trail open to unguided hikes, 3.5 miles around one of the Mitten buttes and arrived back at Turtle just before sunset. Took much of a 512 card of photos, and will probably do it again tomorrow when we bike the 18 mile loop tomorrow. With this park, it at least is fully within the control of the Dine; at least we are allowed to bike the same loop the guided tourists take.

We got a fantastic place to park Turtle (check the photo) though I had to make him/her act like a 4 wheel drive to get there and out, the sunset view was worth it. Had one of us been prone to sleepwalking, it would have been about a dozen steps to the edge.

May 19 Bicycling Monument Valley. We had a great mountain bike ride on a good dirt road today through some wonderful scenery. We left at sunrise and managed to do the loop at an easy pace, with lots of photo stops, and finish just as the loads of tourists began the loop, so we had no dust and we could hear the birds and smell the vegetation.

Los Burros Campground and Mountain Bike Ride

Our first night out of Tucson we parked in a dirt lot next to the Apache Gold Casino and had a quiet, if somewhat warm night with a good NPR signal. We cooked a pork roast in our combo microwave/convection oven, along with a big, yam and a glass of Chilean red. Life on the road is tough.

Our second night we drove about eight miles back in the woods from McNary to the Los Burros campground on the Coconino National Forest. We read about it in Matt Nelson’s column in the Desert Leaf. We wanted to try some of the great mountain biking he described.

Around dark we heard the loudest commotion not far back in the ponderosas; it morphed into a chorus of howls the likes I have never heard. I would swear they were wolves, but I’m not sure the relocated Mexican Wolves are this far west. Maybe they are migrating this way because of all the New Mexicans shooting them. A few minutes later we heard the usual yips and yaps and sing song of a pack of coyotes. Nice go-to-bed sounds.

We love looking at the stars through our 16 x 24 inch (approximate) skylight above our little nest/bed. I was wondering at some very unusual low lying black as ink clouds, silhouetted against the starfield, when a huge shooting start burned out from behind the biggest cloud, fading out the stars for a couple of seconds. It was then I finally realized the black clouds were not clouds, but big ponderosa pines leaning in over our Turtle. We are so unused to tall trees in the desert that I had been fooled. I love it!

The trails were indeed wonderful, snaking through aspens and ponderosa in the cool 8,000ft. sunny mountain air. We hadn’t ridden trails for yonks and the first few miles were challenging until we got our looseness back, and then it was a hoot. However, the blue sky turned black, thunder rumbled and lightning flashed, and we had to turn tail back to Turtle before we were ready to be done. Still a fine day, particularly the cool air after experiencing 100 degrees or more several days before leaving Tucson. We now know why so many Tucsonans come here for the summer; it’s an easy day drive and 30 degrees cooler.

We are sitting in the parking lot at the Hon Dah Casino, getting wifi from the casio RV park. This works!

Of Life and Risk and Fun Too


May 11. We rode seventy-one miles and around 7,000 feet of climbing today on our single bikes. We were doing a Greater Arizona Bicycling Association annual event. We are finally getting some fitness, not bad considering how little we rode this winter. Claire decided to adopt a young guy who was attempting his first ascent of the mountain, and she paced him all the way up. (she equals me in climbing this year)
I sometimes rode ahead of them, but it was the not-getting-dropped-by-a-(43 year old) woman, that kept him going. He was full of appreciation for her for getting him to do something he thought he couldn’t do. Jack has a six year old, and a two and a half year old, and a job, and his wife works too, so the fact that he gets any riding in at all is amazing to us. Go Jack! You were great! If we do the ride next year, he’ll drop both of us easily.
Descending Mount Lemmon was fun as usual. I intended to take it easy today. A week ago I maintained 48 miles an hour for a mile or so through several curves, leaned way the heck over, using most of my lane. After the thrill wore off I realized just how much it would hurt to crash at that speed. Talk die. The fastest crash I ever had was probably 20 miles an hour, and I hurt for a very long time, and that was 20 years ago. The boy is still inside me, egging me on. I tell Claire (she hates it when I ride no hands for miles down the mountain) she shouldn’t complain about my testosterone levels remaining high; testosterone has some positive uses too!
However, today Claire was feeling frisky and I just had to pass her on the fastest part of curvy downhill. She was going 42, (go Claire!), and I, using the magic of superior gravity (I outweigh her by 40 pounds) passed her in the middle of a curve doing 47. Since I only had half a lane I had to put a lot of pressure on the front wheel to keep it from drifting over the center-line. I later noticed that I had a wobbling front wheel; I had broken a spoke with the pressure. It would take two or three spokes to cause a wheel to totally collapse, but the thought certainly gave me pause.
I’ll moderate my speed. Next time. Honest. Really. I will. I promise.
That brings up a curiosity I have increasing puzzled about as I go through life. Why are young people (sometimes) fearless, when they have so many years to lose if they die doing something risky, and older people (usually) so timid, when they have relatively few years left? I am not sure it applies to me fully, but I do think about consequences more than I did when I was climbing outrageous ice climbs in the Alps 30 years ago. I do take risks most people considerably younger are unwilling to attempt, but I am somewhat more cautious now. Perhaps it is because I have someone else to think about, Claire (no timid one she), and I appreciate each day more as I grow older. The dilemma is this: if I become more cautious, I take less from life, that most limited of resources, but if I continue to take risks, I might suffer consequences that would limit my ability to enjoy what is left of life.
Such is life, from first consciousness to final thought; choice. Perhaps it is choice that most fully defines our humanity.
The choices never end. Until we do.
Take a risk today, even if it is just a brave thought. You’ll feel more alive for it.
(The photo is one I took for a Sweat article of Claire’s. The young woman is Sam. She was so cute! And a good climber. The highway below is part of the Mount Lemmon highway we rode Friday; the view is from near Windy Point on the road.)
All the best,
Bob