Welcome back to another #TalleyYourMiles adventure that Clinton and I were able to log in 2019! Most of our miles were logged during our extended adventures where we usually spent the night camping or exploring multiple areas in a day, but almost equally our miles were logged during day trips to various public lands.
Sometimes when you live in remote areas you don’t always have the variety of options to choose from for healthcare or other such services, which requires you to drive out of town. Sometimes you plan your day when traveling for such services to include a hike or two. Clinton and I always try to find opportunities to #GetOutdoors and a visit to Flagstaff, which is two hours away, is a perfect excuse for hiking. Coconino National Forest hosts beautiful views and amazing hiking trails, one of them Fatman’s Loop Trail. Heading south out of Page on US 89, the trail head is right off the highway with plenty of parking. Another cool touch is the parking lot survey they are conducting as a visitor use study. If you have the time and signal don’t hesitate or feel like they will put you on a “list”. This is a great way for the Forest Service to see how many people visit the trail during which time of year. I answered a few questions about the # of vehicles in the parking lot and the time/date and was done.
We did this hike early in the year so there was snow on the trail. We made sure to pack water and some food just in case we wanted to divert off the other trails that connect to Fatmans Loop, but in the end we ended up just doing the loop trail. While walking the trail take time to see the view. The beautiful eastern suburbs and scenic overlook of Flagstaff combine along this easy walk multiple times. Mt. Elden, which this trail provides access to the Lookout Trail and the summit, is evident along this trail as well with the many rock formations that detail its volcanic origins. Ponderosa pine and white fir are only two of the plant species to name in the many that are part of this diver community of plants. With even a small amount of snow the trees create a nice atmosphere during this lovely walk.
When visiting Flagstaff there is so much that you can do, so we of course recommend taking your time! There are three wonderful National Parks around the area, as well as many opportunities to visit Coconino National Forest. When visiting, even if it’s only for a doctor’s visit, take some extra time to see the outdoor beauty that Flagstaff has to offer!
Only a few hours from Page is an area in the Colorado Plateau region where the boundaries of four states meet and are marked ironically with the title Four Corners Monument. Clinton and I have visited this area two times to date – once in 2011 when we were working in Bullfrog, and in 2019 working here in Page. What a journey it has been! The Four Corners is mainly a tourist destination to mark the southwestern corner of Colorado, the southeastern corner of Utah, northeastern corner of Arizona, and the northwestern corner of New Mexico. Most of the region belongs to Native American nations such as Navajo Nation, but also including Hopi, Ute, and Zuni. Depending on the time of year, it is either $5 or $10 per person to enter Four Corners and be aware that the road is basically a dirt road, including the parking lot. They do a good job of keeping it maintained but there aren’t any markings on the dirt so be aware of vehicles around you. The actual “four corners” is a circle with a X in the middle marking each state. Four platforms (one in each state!) allow someone to take a picture from above to get each state and the person in the shot. Be aware: There will probably be a line but it may not be too bad. We’ve gone in the off season and during the busy season and each time we rarely waited longer than 5 minutes. Maybe we were lucky, but we also don’t deal with people who cut the line. Mostly we like the amazing fry bread you can purchase from the vendors who are only a few yards away from the “four corners” (they make it with honey, sugar, or cinnamon – YUM!) and the jewelry vendors. Usually I buy something handmade and enjoy some fry bread before hitting the road again. Take the diversion if you are in the area. It’s a nice place to visit and have a snack!
Driving further into Navajo Nation you’ll eventually stumble upon Monument Valley – though you should probably just add it to your bucket list now! From Page it is about three hours away by car and is an amazing drive. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to time it for sunrise, sunset, or middle of the day. We’ve driven it through different times of the year and day and it is breathtaking each time. First you start to see the monuments in the distance. As you get closer and closer the definition starts to show and you see the individual monuments for all their glory. Visiting the monument will put you back $20 for a vehicle with four people ($6 each additional passenger) but I think it’s worth the money. The first time we visited we don’t remember having the ability to drive the loop through the monuments, but the last time we actually went through the loop and got closer to the monuments than we did before! There is a visitor center with a restaurant and gift shop, plus a lovely viewpoint to see the monuments. The loop is a bit rough, at least for us in our Honda Accord, so be aware of what is going on and the time of year. I’m not sure what type of situation you’d be in if it was during monsoon season. Each time we visited it was no big deal and we always had a good time at the visitor center. It didn’t seem to change much between 2011 and 2018 but nonetheless it was a spectacular view. If you don’t want to actually visit the visitor center you can take 163 from Page to Mexican Hat and drive right by the monuments and still get an amazing view. There are tons of visitors regardless of your decision so be patient and watch for those who might not understand American rules of the road. Share the road as well! Hitchhiking is common as is randomly pulling over to take a picture of the view…even if there isn’t a pull off. Don’t tailgate and follow the speed limit. During dusk, be aware that people might be walking in the road and they might not have anything on to indicate it. We’ve never had a problem but we focus as a team when we drive through the area near and at night because of the normal “tourist” pattern we’ve discovered through our travels this past year. 🙂
In 2019 Clinton and I set a goal of 219 miles hiked in a year, under the “campaign” slogan of #TalleyYourMiles. To encourage you to #GetOutdoors I’ll highlight a few of our favorite hikes and hope you’ll go out yourself and find your own connection to these amazing public lands!One of our favorite spots is a unique, easy hike in Utah called the Toadstool Hoodoos. It is over 1.5 miles out and back to a beautiful opening with many hoodoos dotting the landscape. We’ve only begun to explore the area though as there are infinite possibilities when viewing the landscape and exploring. The hike starts right off US 89 between Big Water and Kanab Utah. A parking lot right at the trail head along with a wayside gives you plenty of information and a safe place to start hiking, even with a group or dogs. Make sure to keep the doggies on the leash! We brought both of our dogs and they loved it. There are usually plenty of people hiking the trail so if you want to be alone schedule your time for winter – we’ve even encountered people in the middle of the night. Not that this is a bad thing! But this hike is pretty easy, and when combined with the beauty and uniqueness everyone is able to view this incredible landscape. If you planned to come out and take professional looking pictures be aware that people will be in the way, and will not understand flashlight rules in the dark. 🙂
Hoodoos, also called a pedestal rock, is not necessarily in the same family as a balanced rock. A balanced rock is a naturally occurring geological formation resting on other rocks, bedrock, or glacial till. Because no single definition exists the term balanced rock has been applied to many formations of rock features, one being the pedestal rock. The pedestal rock is a single continuous rock form with a small base leading up to a larger crown, looking much like a mushroom. How did the rock get this way you ask? Wind, moisture, and the combination of chemical weathering (don’t think for a second that chemicals in the air don’t affect our lovely rock structures!) easily help erode these sand structures.
The hike itself only takes about an hour and the elevation is minimal. Starting at the trailhead, you head straight back through walls of white sandstone before the area opens into a large flat plane…except for the amazing hoodoos that seem to be hidden everywhere! A large impressive set meets you after about a mile, but keep walking back and around to see the many different views from different angles. Each glance will bring you a whole new perspective! The area is immense and if you walk back further you’ll get away from the possible crowds and have a few hoodoos all to yourself!
When traveling through the west make sure to take your time when traveling from point to point. You don’t want to drive by a quick hike that will leave you with amazing, lasting memories! This hike may have only added a few miles to our #TalleyYourMiles adventures, but it is one of our favorites. Keep here to read more amazing hikes and places to visit while driving across the country!