Pinnacles National Park, Where Is It?

Another national park I had never been to; however, I also had no idea where the park is located! Pinnacles National Park is a small 26,000 acres of land with caves and rock formations east of Monterey, in central California. It is nestled between the U.S. 101 Highway and Interstate 5, thus many of us were unaware of this national park as we drove those major highways!

Pinnacles National Park actually has two entrances because you cannot drive through the park from one side to another. We started on the east side where the campground is located so we could stay in a tent cabin. During the day we hiked the Moses Spring Trail through the Bear Gulch Cave to Bear Gulch Reservoir. The squirrels at the reservoir, where we hoped to enjoy our lunch, were obnoxious. It was obvious others fed or left food around for these critters who then expected the same from the next hikers to the area.

Bear Gulch Cave Trail
Bear Gulch Reservoir
Tent cabin which has a double bed, 2 twin beds, 2 Adirondack chairs & a bench.

There are more trails to hike on the east side of the park. This park has an interesting geology which explains the mountainous areas, the pinnacles, between both sides of the park. They are more beautiful to see on the west side. If camping on the east side at the park’s campground, you do need to drive to the west entrance about 1.5 hours away (or you could hike about 3 miles from one side of the park to the other). There are less trails on the west side; however, there is an interesting Balconies Cave trail to hike through. Sometimes the bat caves are closed mid-May to mid-July for the Townsend’s big-eared bats to raise their young.

Interesting rock formations
Balconies Cave Trail; Notice boulders overhead!
Walk under the boulder.
Rock climbing is allowed at specific locations in the park.

These caves are talus caves. They are openings formed between boulders piled up on a mountain slope. Prepare: have a flashlight per person, another layer of clothing as the temperature does drop when deep in the cave, be aware there are some very narrow spaces to squeeze through. The trails are not long, but a light is absolutely needed and we discovered some people were unable to fit through the narrow spaces. We also discovered hiking poles can get in the way, so we did not use them the next day where we would hike through another cave trail.

A recommendation we received which we thought very good on the western side of this park: hike the Cliff Trail to the Balconies Cave Trail, a clockwise direction. We agree. This was an enjoyable way to approach the trails. Another thought: it gets cold at night! It was 25 degrees Fahrenheit in October, so plan accordingly if you are staying in the tent cabins. This park is open year-round. Yes, California condors are here! Look high on the mountains in early morning or just before dusk and don’t confuse them with turkey vultures also here. I did add a new bird to my list: yellow-billed magpie.

Finally, if you travel from one side of the park to another you’ll pass by the town of King City. Food recommendation … tamales, breakfast burrito, pupusas, empanadas, and bread pudding were all delicious at Castro’s Bakery and Deli. I can understand why this place is so busy … loved every meal eaten here.

Saw the bird about half mile before the east park entrance.

Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is Quiet!

A fall, weekday, school day, midday afternoon is the best time to visit Sabino Canyon Recreation Area! You’ll feel like the park is all yours, and it will be! Times, such as this, I imagine taking a first-time hiker to the park. The person can see saguaro cacti of all sizes, even young ones emerging from below mesquite trees. They can hear bird songs and/or calls with no interrupting noises. Other wildlife may wander past, water may flow over the dam, and we could choose from a variety of 30 miles of hiking trails.

Saguaro cactus on a sunny day in Tucson

Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. As my imagined hiker looks beyond the park, he/she would see the Santa Rita Mountains to the south and the Rincon Mountains to the east. They would hear a cactus wren, a rock wren and curve-billed thrasher and see black-throated sparrows. Often a Gila woodpecker can be calling and flying overhead as would common ravens. Wildflowers may be at their peak or slowly dying off as cool air begins to descend here and on our nearby Sonoran desert. But saguaro cacti stand tall with their gangly-looking “arms”. Some birds make nests in these cacti and Native American people have multiple uses for this plant. The saguaro cacti really do have shallow roots as seen in the photo below:

Shallow roots of a saguaro cactus
Black-throated sparrow

Respect …

Respect for wildlife is important to me. I want the birds, the wildflowers, the insects and animals to find safety in this protected area. Sabino Canyon Recreation Area provides for that with “no pets or camping being allowed”. For photographers, artists, joggers, hikers or cyclists there are times and places we can use the area with respect. Despite a sign at the entrance of where I enter the area, people still do not seem to understand, dogs are not allowed. Thus, park officials erected another sign to make the point clear!

The rules seem clear.
Signage seems clear.

It seems obvious to me why dogs are not allowed. How would this funnel web wolf spider survive if a dog ran through its web? And trampled wildflowers are not what we want to see from dogs running through an area or people hiking off-trail.

Funnel web made by a wolf spider

Respect … our Sabino Canyon Recreation Area has been here many years and finally closed to vehicles since 1978. A shuttle is available within the park. Hard to imagine private vehicles ever being here, especially now with about a million park visitors per year! All the more reason for me to enjoy my quiet time …. now!

Shuttle is available.
Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is here for us to respectfully enjoy!

Heading Home Took a Few Days … So What!

If I headed home directly, I would be at our front door in 2 days. But how could I pass up time at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon? No, stay one night. And the South Rim of the Grand Canyon? No, stay two nights. Then I’ll join my partner and friends in Sedona for a few days!?! No reason why not; do it!

On my way to the north rim, six California condors were at Navajo Bridge. I am always amazed how people will walk on the bridge and not see these birds till some of us point them out to these people. Then it is almost a mini science lesson, or what we often call a teachable moment.

California condors at Navajo Bridge, AZ

I camped at Demotte Campground north of the national park because everyone seemed to be at the Grand Canyon this fall! I drove to Point Imperial, took a short hike, then drove to the north rim to hike the Bright Angel Point Trail before having dinner at the lodge. That night was the coldest night of my entire trip. Frost on front windshield in the morning is the reason I always carry an ice scraper. As I left the campground it was 37 degrees at 8:00am. 

I drove north and stopped at two Arizona Trail trailheads. The AZ Trail is a 800 mile hiking trail from Mexico to Utah. I know someone who will be hiking it next spring and I offered to provide support as he crossed some trailheads. Here was an opportunity for me to be aware of these two trailheads. My next stop was at the Navajo Bridge again to view condors. There were 4 condors on this day.

And now to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon…

Finally I drove to Desert View Campground on the eastern side of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. I checked in, made dinner and hit the sack. 

The next day I had breakfast, viewed oil paintings at Kolb Studio, drove to the visitor center and hiked 3.3 miles on the rim trail to Yaki Point. I attended the Hawk Watch International basic information presentation with 10 people. I was the only one to join the presenter at the area where the Hawk Watch International seasonal workers were watching for hawks and recording their results.

The young woman who gave the info to the park visitors is from Argentina and lives in Mexico. The other 2 guys are from USA. They will be at Yaki Point for a month and this is done every year. Check for all hawk watch results everywhere, not just at Yaki Point at the Grand Canyon. They record sightings, compare the data with other years to see what birds are migrating through the area west of Yaki Point.

Can I get a photo of any of these birds? I added a 1.4 teleconverter to my 200-500mm lens and it was really a challenge to get a good photo. There were American kestrels, peregrine falcons, red-tailed hawk, and California condors. Thankfully the workers would identify the birds for me as some birds only looked like white or black dots in the air! The condors flew closer to where I was standing on the rim so I tried to capture a photo or two of them! Here is a photo of a condor:

California Condor at Yaki Point, Grand Canyon National Park

As my trip drew to a close, I asked myself: did I accomplish my goals? Yes, I did. One, visit a national park new to me: Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. Two, visit my friends in Idaho. Three, visit Bears Ears National Monument. I visited many other places and loved being outdoors, camping, with a new something happening each day; no routine! 

There is a big world for me to see and the USA has many spectacular places to visit too! I hope you get out to visit some of the places also … go for it! Do not put off your goal(s) whether it is to travel or do something else! Go for it!

Photography Time at Monument Valley!

Once again I joined a photography tour while visiting the Navajo Tribal Park at Monument Valley, Arizona. The advantage of such a tour is the ability to walk and spend time with a guide looking for the best places to capture an impressive photograph. The guide knows the area, especially off the beaten tourist path, and where the best light falls on specific rock formations. While we may only stop at six locations, we have three hours to capture the angle of the sun where we wish, before it sets, and can talk about our camera settings. I loved this tour, learned much from the guide, and met 3 other very nice people also on the tour. 

Here are some photos:

Nature Rules My Utah Day!

Nature at work. Rain, thunder, lightning and hail … good morning, another day on the road begins! I was in no rush to start my day in that weather, so I read my book, ate breakfast and organized things in the van since I was leaving Devils Canyon and eventually off to Monument Valley. I checked weather reports, sunshine was south of me, so off I went.

One can enter Bears Ears National Monument from many different entrances. Beautiful cottonwood trees were turning colors as I drove a paved, then gravel road into the South Cottonwood area. I decided not to make my coffee and tea here since I was unsure of the deer hunting season. A posted sign alerted me to the fact that deer hunters have a permitted limit, but no dates were posted.

Butler Wash Interpretive Trail was the perfect place to make my coffee and tea, then to hike the trail. The short hike was on slick rock, reminding me of fun days mountain biking on it in Moab years ago with my partner. The trail led to an overlook where across the canyon one can see ruins. I was surprised to see people at one area of the ruins! I discover in conversation with a local, on the trail too, that the individuals took an old trail. 

Butler Wash Ruins, people on old trail.
Fun walking on slickrock!

This new trail allows visitors to see the ruins at a distance. I also discussed my thought of driving the 20 mile dirt Butler Wash road. After hearing details of the road, I decided a jeep would be better especially after the recent rain and the fact that many people do not travel it. No problem. Another stop, Mule Canyon was a very short walk to its ruin. An opportunity again to see the double-walled structures. 

Mule Canyon
Bears Ears, the buttes, in the distance!

The other day after driving the Valley of the Gods 17 mile dirt road, a left turn took me on the Moki Dugway. It is gravel, steep, very winding road. It is the only way off Cedar Mesa if you are traveling south through Bears Ears. If you were not here and driving south, you would have been driving the main highway through Bluff. 

On this day though, I had time to drive the 5 mile unpaved road to Muley’s Point. It would have been best at sunset, but 2- 3pm was what it would be as I still had miles to go to Monument Valley. The first 4 miles of dirt road was okay with some washboard. The last mile was rough with rocks and unevenness; slow and steady, I arrived at the point!

Oh my gosh! I loved it and was with only one man at the point. I walked a huge circle around him so as not to disturb his wilderness experience. One looks out to the horizon seeing Monument Valley way off in the distance. Look down to see the land at the bottom of the Moki Dugway road. I walked the slick rock. Sat on the slick rock. Meditated while here. And left before anyone else arrived. A couple of other vehicles were headed toward me when I was at least a half mile away from the point. Perfect timing!

Looking down from Muley’s Point
Only one other person here!

While driving down the Moki Dugway, now my second time, I had a greater appreciation for what I was seeing. Off in the distance I could see Muley’s Point, where I had just come from. Wow, glad I took the time to drive the 5 miles.

See the point? Looking back on where I was!

Monument Valley campground was full. The woman at the desk remembered me. She thought I was here just a month ago, yet it was more like 3 – 4 months ago. She told me she is full-blooded Navajo. The man, also full-blooded Navajo, who guides the horse tours told me numerous stories. My campground neighbors are 3 guys on motorcycles touring Utah for 9 days. One is from Texas, the other two from Colorado. On the other side of me is a young couple from Switzerland with 2 young girls about 2 and 4 years old. I helped them pitch their huge Walmart tent and fly. Even with the wind we had it up amazingly fast!

If you are in Utah and love the outdoors, southeast Utah is different from Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce, Zion … all beautiful too, so do visit them sometime. Skip Salt Lake City unless you want to start your family history/genealogy. At the temple, they are helpful with that. Also know, Southeast Utah does not have numerous places to eat and stay; plan your visit and enjoy. 

If I had a 4 wheel drive vehicle, such as a Jeep, I would have been driving more remote areas. But if you do, let others know where you are. No services are available, such as cell service. Bring plenty of water and food. Know what you are capable of handling in the wilderness. Notify your contact person of where you will be. Also notify the person when you are out of the remote area so they do not worry and search for you. Nature dictates how your day will be; stay present; know how to live and love it!

Lots of Utah Land to See!

So much land to see, so little time! As the Blanding, Utah visitor center woman said, “there’s at least a million acres just with Bears Ears National Monument”. I was here to visit and see as much as I could, so she directed me to the Five Kivas Ruins within the town of Blanding. I am sure most out-of-towners do not know about this place, only 1.5 miles off the main road.

Five Kivas Ruins

Next stop: Fort Bluff. Amazing history of Mormon pioneers who were told by their religious leader to settle southeast Utah. As they were traveling from Escalante to what is now Bluff, scouts went north and south and returned thinking there was no good way. With great determination, they made their way, straight across … eastward. “I can do the hard thing”, was their mantra. Once you see the landscape in this part of Utah you would be more amazed at what they accomplished. I now also know more of the story regarding the Hole in the Crevice. They did what seemed impossible! They chipped away rock to widen a crevice, build a rocky one wagon lane road, and moved all supplies and 260 people through a spot thought impossible. They could do the hard things! They set up in Bluff, built cabins in a circle with no windows or doors facing outward and stayed. The historic site is worth visiting; it is free; has a very informative film; a delicious choice of cookies at the bakery.

Fort Bluff

Next stop: Onto a dirt road to visit the Valley of the Gods! Wow, some spots on the road I was unsure how my van would handle the rocky, steep uphills and downhills. I drove all 17 miles of this road in about 2 hours. Beautiful landscape and not sure the camera captures it all. You can camp out here since it is BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. I saw 5 different camper set-ups along the 17 miles. The dark sky at night must simply be amazing! If I didn’t have other places to visit, I could have spent more time here.

I stopped at Bears Ears Education Center to understand their mission. Enjoyed talking with the man there who is quite passionate in the protection of the national monument. He answered my questions about the northern section which seems to be more remote. Here is the history about Bears Ears National Monument. It was established by President Obama in December 2016 to protect about 1.3 million acres of land surrounding the Bears Ears, a pair of buttes. This monument was reduced to 200,000 acres by the next US president, then restored in October 2021 by the next US president. The monument is co-managed by the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service along with 5 local Native American tribes with ancestral ties to the land: Hopi, Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray reservation, and Pueblo of Zuni. President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act of 1906 providing presidents the power “to create national monuments”. The act was to protect sites of historical or indigenous importance from looters taking and then selling items on illicit markets. The process to protect this area started in 2009 … We have 423 national park sites in the USA: national monuments such as Bears Ears, along with national preserves, historic sites and memorials, and these do not include any of the 63 national parks.

Hovenweep National Monument: What is 25 paved miles after 17 dirt miles? A breeze… This national monument was not on my radar. I was in the area and I still had daylight, so off I went! Fascinating that these ancestral pueblos were set up in an area where there seemed to be no water. The thought is they damned an intermittent stream to get their water. I walked the 1.5 mile hike to see each of the double-walled structures they built along the canyon’s edge. There was only a steep downhill into the canyon and then back out of the canyon, otherwise an easy hike. 

Hovenweep National Monument

Finally back at my campsite for a late dinner and enough time to plan the next day. There are some areas I would love to visit, yet they are remote. To visit those areas, I think the smarter thing would be to have at least one other person with me, along with all water, etc supplies … and to be clear to a contact/emergency person elsewhere where we happen to be driving in. Remote here truly means remote and safety first is important. So … off to visit other areas tomorrow not so remote.

Southeast Utah’s Vast Area; Worth A Visit!

Southeast Utah has many national monuments. North and west of here are the five major national parks most people visit: Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion. I am here to visit the national monuments. 

Utah weather has been mild, my campground is quiet at night; wonderful sleeping! After breakfast, I drove to Bears Ears and Natural Bridges, both National Monuments. I contemplated driving a 6 mile dirt road to between the bears ears, but decided not. My van is not a 4-wheel drive vehicle, so I wanted to choose which dirt roads I’ll drive and that just seemed an extra.

You drive through Bears Ears National Monument with possible stops at various viewpoints, ruins, or washes. Eventually you arrive at Natural Bridges National Monument. It has a 9 mile, one-way, paved, scenic loop drive with overlooks/hikes to each of the natural bridges. This national monument is managed by the US Park Service whereas Bears Ears is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, and I believe five American Indian tribes. All the natural bridges have Hopi names.

Three popular natural bridges, but there really are many more, at Natural Bridges National Monument:

Sipapu Bridge: means “place of emergence”.

Sipapu Natural Bridge

Kachina Bridge: named for symbols used on kachina dolls.

Kachina Natural Bridge

Owachomo Bridge: means “ rock mound” because it has a feature atop the bridge’s east side. I hiked the furthest on the trail near this bridge. I hiked down into Armstrong Canyon and there were some pools of water. Pleasant surprise … while talking with a woman at the Owachomo Bridge, I discover she is camped next to me at Devil’s Canyon campground! Small world!

Owachomo Natural Bridge

There is plenty of early human history and natural history to become aware of while you visit this area. One major reminder for me was the difference between natural bridges and arches. Natural bridges are formed by moving water eroding the rock. Arches form from other erosional forces, frost and seeping moisture, which also will enlarge natural bridges in time.

If you are in the area, visit national parks and national monuments! Lots of beautiful landscape to see in southeast Utah!

Welcome to Utah!

Utah … where I’ll be camping at various southeast locations in the state this coming week. NOTE: If you can avoid Interstate 15 between Salt Lake City and Spanish Fork, do it! The traffic was unbelievable the evening I arrived in Salt Lake City and crazy busy the next morning when leaving the Lehi area. 

I wanted to complete my daily eBird checklist so I headed to an area near the Provo Airport, except the road was closed due to construction. So much townhome and road construction. This area of Utah is growing very fast and seemingly with little concern about water. The Great Salt Lake is currently having issues, as are Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

Get away from the cities …

I drove US 6 East; it is a beautiful drive with colorful deciduous tree leaves off in the distance. The railroad carrying coal cars parallels the road much of the way and windmills are within mountain passes. There are oncoming cars so I appreciated the passing lane sections so I could leapfrog various slow campers. Finally at a rest area I saw 2 common ravens and they were entered for my daily bird checklist! 

The mountainous colorful area I enjoyed was till Helper, Utah. Then the landscape changed dramatically! On the east side, flat, brown, sagebrush lands with no vegetation on the rolling land. If you take the right-hand turn off US 6 East, as I did, it sends everyone toward Arches and Canyonlands National Parks where the landscape changes to red rock. I was listening to an audiobook, Downriver, by Heather Hansman as she spoke about her 700 mile rafting trip on the Green River. Soon I found myself driving over the Green River, then the Colorado River, and thinking about water issues in the southwest.

I stopped at a Nature Conservancy property: Scott and Norma Matheson Wetlands Preserve in northwest Moab. The preserve road was closed. It looks like a nice area bordering the Colorado River. I drove further down the road to check out campsites along the river. Within the canyon walls the air temperature increased at least 4 degrees from 86 to 90 degrees. The Kings Canyon campground was full. The Moab Rim Trail looked like a challenge for the OHV’s.

Scott & Norma Matheson Wetland Preserve
Corona Arch

My stop in Moab was to buy groceries, ice and gas. No other large towns in the area this week, so I am prepared to enjoy my time in the national forests and at the national monuments. Just over an hour’s drive further south, I arrive at my campsite, cook dinner, walk the campground, view the rising moon and look forward to visiting Bears Ears National Monument.

The moon is bright and full. We are enjoying our 4th successive supermoon of 2023!


Fun Time in Idaho With Friends!

You may not know this: Idaho is a state you cannot drive from its northern area directly south through the state to its southern border. Really. No road goes through the central area of the state. Central Idaho has 4 different national forest areas with 2 American Indian reservations bordering them. This was always fascinating to me to know and especially since it necessitates driving through Montana to meet my Idaho friends. I met my friends at a restaurant in Island Park: The Last Chance Bar and Grill at Trouthunter. Good food and plenty of fishermen in the area along with tourists stopping in for a meal. I’d recommend the place and the bison burger on the menu!

I am very fortunate to have good friends in Idaho to visit. They own beautiful property in a rural area outside of Ashton. Seeing a beautiful sunset after a day with sunny weather was wonderful. I had been experiencing rain prior to my visit here. At night, the dark sky has sparkling stars and the nearby waterfall flow lulls me to sleep. In the morning, we sometimes saw a bald eagle or two and a number of common mergansers.

A Yellowstone National Park hike…

One day we took a long ride down a gravel road eventually into Yellowstone National Park. There we hiked a 1.3 mile path out and back along a couple of rivers to view Cave Falls and Bechler Falls. We walked among lodgepole pines, saw plenty of mushrooms and the last of some wildflowers. It was a nice hike and saw only 5 other people on the trail. It is definitely an area of the Yellowstone National Park few people visit, so I felt it was very special. We were fortunate to not see any grizzly or black bears. We did carry bear spray with us besides talking often enough to scare probably all wildlife away. And that was okay; we were safe.

I enjoyed my time with my friends relaxing and observing a number of birds right on their property. As a matter of fact, I got a good view of a sharp-tailed grouse after 2 unsuccessful views. That makes #436 in my eBird life list! That bird was not even on my radar, so extra special!

My friend’s home is a short drive from Yellowstone National Park and Teton National Park. Here are some photos from this area:

Sunset … beautiful!
Cave Falls is the widest falls in the area; see next photo!
Good overview to see the width of the falls.
Bechler Falls
View of Wyoming’s Teton Mountains from Idaho.
Bald eagle …it may be “Fred”. Other birds seen too!

The next time I am in this area, or passing through, I should add Craters of the Moon National Monument to my itinerary. It would also be fun to stop by Pocatello where years ago a group of us met to start our 100 mile Middle Fork of the Salmon River rafting trip! That trip brings back memories … so good to have such memories… and now I created more with my friends on this trip. I am so appreciative of their hospitality and time to relax in a beautiful area of the world! USA has many wonderful places to visit. Don’t forget to step beyond your backyard and see what is out there! You may be pleasantly surprised!

Relaxing in Montana … Yes, No and Yes!

Montana is a beautiful state! As I drove from Medora, North Dakota to Big Timber, Montana, I was looking forward to a couple of relaxing days. The rain while at Theodore Roosevelt National Park was tiresome as was driving through it to Montana. The upcoming days in Big Timber looked promising, sunshine for at least my last half day! I’ll look forward to it!

Relaxing … yes…

I stopped at Spotted Eagle Recreation Area in Custer, Montana to complete my daily eBird checklist. No eagle, but did see an osprey and two Western grebes displaying some mating behavior. I wished I had a better photo, but it was a gray day and I never really observed their behavior till I was looking at my photos! The 2 birds were in the middle of hundreds of ruddy ducks, American coots and northern shovelers. This was wonderful! (My goal someday is a California photography workshop with an expert aware of grebe behavior. My photo was simply luck, whereas I know the expert has seen the grebes “dancing”.)

Grebes interacting with each other.

Relaxed? no…

I take driving breaks every couple of hours. Stretch my legs, use restrooms if at a rest area with facilities, eat a snack and/or simply rest my eyeballs. After one of my stops, I started the van and an “oil change required” note scrolled across where my odometer and speedometer are located. I thought, really!?! Wanting no incident of running out of oil in the middle of Montana, or Idaho, my next destination, I thought it best to take care of it at a city … preferring a RAM dealership. I called one 2 hours away and said I will be there for their “first come first serve” process.

Montana’s speed limit is 80 miles per hour. In the pouring rain I was hesitant to drive that speed unless it was a straightaway. Thankfully there were plenty of straight shots and I made it to the dealership in 1 hour and 50 minutes. I understood they were down an employee; therefore, the guy meeting me in the lot said there would be no oil changes, they were booked. Fortunately I had called so I went right in to the guy at the desk and said, “I’m the one who called and said I would be here in 2 hours”. He explained it would be a couple of hours and I thought fine. Two and a half hours later I was on the road again… feeling better knowing oil was in the van. So that was the not-so-relaxing moment. 

Relaxing again … yeah!

I arrived at my campground and truly did relax, ate dinner, took a walk and enjoyed my site near a creek with a turkey vulture nest overhead. The next morning I had no rush to be anywhere so breakfast was relaxing too. 

I drove to Big Timber, Montana, about 10 miles from my campsite. I like to visit the local area so I drove another 10 miles up that road. Along the way I stopped to photograph sandhill cranes! My daily eBird list on this day included the cranes along with red-winged blackbirds, rock pigeons, ring-billed gulls, mallards and a red-tailed hawk. Seems like everyone is migrating and stopping at agricultural lands to feed. 

Sandhill cranes
Sandhill cranes

Further down the road I saw a gravel road and decided to drive it. I know National Forest access would be somewhere. The road was in good shape considering all the recent rain. I drove 10 miles and still had not reached the access to the Crazy Mountains. Darn! I did see wild turkeys on the road and when I stopped there was absolutely no wind! It was amazing! Everywhere else I was holding onto my door to jump out and take photos. One time I could not even open my van door to jump out because the wind was blasting right at it and me!

One of 6 wild turkeys crossing the road!

Back at the campsite, dinner, shower, checking photos and writing. I met my campground neighbors. People next to me are from Montana and just out for the weekend. The other guy is from Spokane, Washington and visiting every national park before the snow comes. I love hearing travel plans. We all agreed we are very fortunate to have the opportunity to see what we wish. I know I absolutely love seeing the world … all of it … I cannot wait to return to international travel in 2024 too! My goal is to see the world, and I will do it as long as I can!

Crazy Mountains in Montana … 4 more miles to national forest access … not today!