SW TRIP

WalMart Camping

Over the past two extended road trips in the U.S., I’ve done a fair bit of camping in WalMart parking lots.  I’m almost reluctant to post this, as I’m sure it is one of those situations where increased popularity of this practice may cause WalMart to change their policy.  As it stands now, WalMarts allow and even encourage people to park trailers, cars or trucks in the parking lots of their 24 hour Superstores for overnighting.  Here are some do’s and don’ts for this economical way of traveling.  On a road trip, crashing at a WalMart can save you $50 to $100 a night in campground or motel fees.

If you visit a 24 hour WalMart any night, especially the ones close to major highways, you will see an array of camper trailers, cars and trucks.  They are usually parked in one of the back corners of the parking lot so as not to interfere with regular customers.  There are security cameras throughout the front of the stores to discourage any vandalism problems, and some stores even have security cars doing regular sweeps.  The washrooms inside are always clean and accessible.  WalMart is an excellent and cheap source of breakfast, whether you’re looking for McDonald’s, or buying apples and yogurt.  Sometimes it can be a little noisy, especially if you’re unlucky enough to hit a night when they’re cleaning the parking lot, but on the other hand I’ve stayed at many campgrounds located beside highways that are just as noisy.

Most WalMarts have two entrances and it is worth noting that one of them is usually locked after midnight.  So if you anticipate having to use the washroom in the middle of the night, locate yourself on the side of the parking lot with the unlocked door to avoid a very long walk.   Sometimes there are benches or even lawn furniture set up (in the summer) in front of the store, usually under lights, so you can sit and watch the customers, read a book or just socialize.  This is handy if you don’t have a trailer.

Here are some “don’ts” that you should remember:

1.  You  can’t pitch tents or set up chairs.  The most recent group I traveled with misunderstood what I meant by “WalMart Camping”, so when I returned from the washroom, I found the scene shown below.  In spite of the fact that WalMart allows camping, it is probably a good idea to still maintain a low profile.

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2.  You can’t unhook your trailer and leave it for any period of time.  This is meant for overnight stops on a road trip only, not a home base.

3.  On one occasion we did have a security person ask us to leave, saying that this WalMart was an exception to the rule.  He actually directed us to another WalMart nearby which he said wouldn’t mind.  However even in this case we managed to convince him to let us stay as it was very late at night.  (This was in Boulder, which perhaps explains things.)

4.  Of course it pays to be considerate and not do anything that will jeopardize this good will from WalMart.  All it would take is a few people to be inconsiderate or do something stupid like dump their waste water in the parking lot in order for this policy to become unpopular with the stores.

Here is a good site that comments on this policy.  http://www.freecampgrounds.com/othercamps.html

 

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Lake Powel Video

And finally, here is the day of kayaking and swimming in Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell, Arizona.

In my defense, it is really hard to hold a video camera still while sitting in a kayak, trying to stay at the right angle and in choppy water.  Plus, it was so sunny that it was almost impossible to see the display screen.  My apologies for the shaky camerawork, but it was unavoidable.  It is what it is.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFhIjORqZGE&feature=youtu.be

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Moab Biking

And here is the elusive Moab Biking video, complete with soundtrack.

It was a hot day in August, just north of Arches National Park.  The first part of the video is on the desert trail.  The second part is the excellent and paved bike path that connects the various trails to the town of Moab.

This was the first video I worked on, so the picture quality is a bit rough.  The original is much better.  While watching it, I keep wanting to yell at the riders to look up and around more.  But you can see why that was hard to do.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9ikP1v4jqU&feature=youtu.be

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Album Cover Shot

Now they just need to record and release their music.

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Grand Canyon Video

Video posting blues. … This blog does not support the posting of original videos unless you upgrade to the premium version.  I can’t get the group web site to show the video.  FB seems to have banned me from posting videos because the Moab Bike video contained some music which violated copyright.

So it seems that YouTube is the only way to do it.  Don’t really know what I’m doing, though.

Here is a link to our new YouTube channel and the edited version of Tanner’s lighthearted vlog of the Grand Canyon portion of the summer trip.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SLDIhTEJSVU

Hope you enjoy it.  I’ll probably do the same thing with the bike video within a few days, after I reformat it.  And the Lake Powell video is next on the list.

 

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Double Arch

A good group shot of the boys at Double Arch

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And a great panoramic shot from Hugo.

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Arches National Park, Moab Utah

After leaving Colorado and the Rockies, our destination was Moab.  This small town is one of my favorite locations because there are just so many things to do there.  There are two of the most scenic National Parks for hiking; there’s a network of challenging bike trails; there’s arches for photography; there’s even river rafting if you want that.  And the town is a quiet, artsy place with lots of interesting stores and restaurants.  Several of the boys chose it as their favorite place when asked at the end of the trip.

When we first arrived, we had to take a walk in the desert, so we went to Arches National Park.  It was a stark contrast with the mountains.

 

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We also visited Double Arch, where the boys decided to explore every nook and cranny, high and low.   Here are a couple of shots from Hugo’s perspective.

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Rocky Mountain National Park

Of course our visit to Rocky Mt. National Park wasn’t all about moose.  We spent two days in the park hiking and driving up to some high altitude vistas, followed by a couple of days in the Ouray and Silverton areas.

Here are two shots from Tanner’s camera, the first being a rare image which includes me.

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The second picture above was from their hike up the mountain at Animas Forks.  The hike got cut short when a lightning storm moved in.  Good call, as I was watching with a little apprehension from the bottom.

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IMG_8781wNice view, though.

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Still working on the videos.  It may not be possible to post them here.  It might be necessary to link them from here to the group web site.

 

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Moose Sighting

The very first hike we went on was in Rocky Mountain National Park, just north-west of Boulder.  It was our first exposure to high altitude, so it wasn’t a very demanding hike, only about a mile in to some alpine lakes.

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While at one of the lakes, the boys decided to hike around the lake and scale a nearby rise.  (This would become a regular pass-time and recurring theme on the later hikes.)  I was quite content where I was.  What followed was one of the precious moments that come out of nowhere.  A female moose and her calf came wandering out of the woods, not fifty feet away from me to get a drink from the lake.  It was a bit of a tense moment as moose can charge people, especially when protecting young.  And this moose was a formidable size.  There were a few other hikers with me.  It snorted at us and made a few threatening motions, but mostly just went about it’s business for a couple of minutes before heading back into the forest, calf in tow.

The boys missed the close up, but saw the whole thing from the other side of the lake.

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In my life, I’ve seen maybe four moose, all in Algonquin or Killarney Parks.  They’ve always been at a great distance, or running away from us.  There’s no telephoto in these pictures.  They weren’t more than ten steps away from us.

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Goblin State Park, Utah

Safe at home, after a month of adventure and exploration, it is time to look back and bring out the photographs that showcase our trip.  Some will be more artistic landscapes, like this first batch, and some will have pictures of people doing things.  There will even be some videos, when I figure out how to best edit them.

The first collection of pictures I’d like to put forth are from a thirty minute period around sunset, at Goblin State Park.  It started with a rainbow, after a series of storms moved through the area, and all of us rushing out to try to capture it.  But it was soon evident that the storms were not finished with us yet, as one cell after another moved through, with constant threat of rain and the wind whistling up a significant sandstorm.  Several of us had to use bandannas to cover our mouths and afterwards there was sand in everything.  The sky was ever changing as the sun was setting, and in the end the rainbow was the least of the wonders displayed for us.  I’m just sorry I didn’t have the presence of mind in the rush to switch the camera over to RAW format, as I think that would have given me a little more leeway with the pictures.  And yet, I can’t complain.

These pictures from that evening look heavily Photoshopped, and yet they are not.  The vibrance and contrast have been pushed a little bit to bring out the striking colours we witnessed with our eyes.  Some shots look more like paintings than photos.  That’s how it looked to us.

Goblin State Park is one of the unknown jewels of the South-West.  Not only does it have the strange rock formations with have been named “goblins”, but the whole area is a wild landscape that is at the mercy of often extreme weather funneled in by surrounding mountains.  The surrounding mesas and slot canyons make it a place that could easily occupy any explorer or photographer for weeks.

Click on images for larger pictures. 

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