We are home! A day or two early — not as if we were planning, though. In retrospect, two weeks is a long time away from home and we may have worn ourselves out a bit over-touristing the first week. We saw so much. It was super awesome, but I think we needed a few days of vacation from our vancation.
Also, the weather. The cold can be a bit overwhelming after so many days. On the morning after night nine, we woke up to ice on the insides of the van — on every exposed metal and glass surface. We had an early night, alone at Joe Skeen Campground, in the El Malpais National Conservation Area (see also: El Malpais National Monument).
It was an amazingly beautiful night; cold, but calm and very quiet. The stars absolutely killed it. We had just driven from our Christmas weekend rental house in Tesuque Village through Albuquerque, where we spent a couple of hours in old town, visited with an old friend and made some final touristy purchases (ie: southwest patterned socks, locally roasted coffee and chocolate doused in chili powder). We finally ate tacos and replaced our beloved bluetooth speaker that took a nose dive.
Back to Joe Skeen Campground. The morning was clear and beautiful, however, we knew that by Thursday night another storm would be rolling in. We left for El Morro National Monument with the plan to decide our direction of travel after our visit.
[Side note: El Morro National Monument is very cool. The staff at the center were awesome, and the monument itself was beautiful and the trails well maintained and cared for. This monument is also totally free. If you are ever in this area, please check it out! And offer support via donation if you can.]
After an amazing hike and a weather analysis, we determined that we’d miss out on local climbing, hit Petrified Forest National Park for sunset, and then power through to the Arizona/California border that night. We picked up burritos and coffee to go in Flagstaff, turned up the tunes and sped off into the cold, foggy night to our final roadside camp just east of the Mojave National Preserve. A short morning drive and we arrived at Sawtooth Canyon Campground for two days of climbing at one of our favorite crags, and one final night of vanlife in our favorite campsite.
We couldn’t have asked for better weather. The rock was cool, the sun was warm and the wind almost non-existent. Our skin was soft and lacking callus, as we’d been shut out from climbing for over a week, and had barely touched rock for the whole month prior to our trip. We climbed until our fingers couldn’t take it anymore, made one last meal in the Creaky Sausage Boat, and then headed for home, beating the rain by only a couple of hours.
This, was a great way to end the road trip portion of the Great Winter Vancation.
More to follow!!!