El Morro and The Petrified Forest

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We had a very important reason to make this trip to Southern California, and it wasn’t just to visit another National Park. No. In this case, the reason was of vital importance. It was an essential trip. It was imperative that we make this journey at this particular juncture. The event we needed to attend in Los Angeles was significant, necessary, substantial, momentous, and… Oh, never mind, you can look up your own synonyms for “important.” Let’s just say that this was a could-not-miss event.

What was this event, you might ask?

Danny Elfman at the Hollywood Bowl performing a playlist that included more than just the a couple of Oingo Boingo songs. And some other stuff. But OINGO BOINGO songs! And we had a box at the Hollywood Bowl in which to enjoy the evening! This called for a road trip with Al and Doug!

We loaded up the trailer at our house in Santa Fe and headed through the Malpais to El Morro National Monument. We arrived a bit later than we had intended (so what else is new?) but fear not because the ranger saw us parking the trailer and allowed us to be the last trio to hit the trail. El Morro is located along an ancient east–west trail and not only does it include the remains of a large prehistoric pueblo, but the pool of water at the base of the sandstone monolith became a landmark where, over the centuries, explorers and travelers left inscriptions in the sandstone.

From El Morro, we headed to the southern end of Petrified Forest National Park and stayed the night at the free “RV Park” at Crystal Forest Museum and Gifts, where we were treated to a beautiful sunrise after a quiet evening in the desert.

The National Park opens its gates at 8 a.m., and we were some of the first to drive in to start the trek north through the National Park. We stopped for several dog-friendly walks, which included getting a photo of Doug at the same spot where Albert Einstein took his famous photo. We stopped for a couple of photos at the only site in the U.S. National Park system that includes a section of old Route 66, and we also made sure to stop at The Painted Desert Inn, a site with a fascinating history, including its time as a Harvey House. Passport stamp, fridge magnet and t-shirts acquired, we got back on I-40 and headed west toward our intended boondocking spot in the Mojave National Preserve.

Unfortunately, the weather once again intervened.

The National Weather Service was warning of extremely strong winds in the desert and we did not feel safe pulling a trailer through high winds with even higher gusts. Donna furiously worked all of our internet camping resources as we continued to drive west, but when we were unable to find an RV park or campground outside of the forecasted wind zone that had space for us, we decided to try a Cracker Barrel parking lot in the Inland Empire. Arriving well after dark, we pulled into the designated RV spots and, after carefully scrutizing the area and the current inhabitants, we decided to call yet another audible and move on. This time to a Hilton Garden Inn, one whose parking lot looked big enough on the satellite maps to accommodate our truck and trailer.

The next morning, we were on our way to Malibu.

During our SoCal Sojourn, we took Doug on some hikes in Corral Canyon, took Carl and Doug on a hike in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Doug and Carl got to play at David’s parents’ house, we had a fantastic throwback lunch at Carney’s on the Sunset Strip, spent time with family and, of course, had a fun night with Meghan at the Hollywood Bowl seeing Danny Elfman. Donna also had the honor of taking a tour at the Getty Center with one of our two favorite docents, Meghan, while David and Doug took a hike in Griffith Park.

When our time in Southern California came to an end, we took I-10 into Arizona and stopped over for our last night in Al Denty at Houston Mesa Campground near Payson, Arizona. With the camping season well behind us for the year, we found plenty of available sites, including a big pull-through that we chose. It was another quiet night under the stars, despite the mixed emotions of this being our last night in this particular Airstream trailer.

The next day we were up early for work, got done what we needed to, and finished the final leg to Santa Fe, tucking Al into his covered spot at the storage yard one last time.

Total Miles: 1,850

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