Arizona, Home Away From Home

Walnut Canyon National Monument

The visit to Walnut Canyon National Monument which is located southeast of Flagstaff started of course with a stop at the Visitor’s Center where we got pertinent information about the two trails, the Island Trail and the short Rim Trail. The ranger was very clear when he said the Island Trail had 273 steps down, 190 around and then back up and you know it, we took the Island Trail first. As we started down we saw the familiar sign “Going Down is Optional, Coming Up is Mandatory”.

The canyon rim is 6,690’ and the canyon’s floor is 350’ lower. The loop trail is approximately 1 ½ miles and descends 185 feet. As with the Bright Angel Trail, going down was a breeze and oh, so interesting. We were able to look right into canyon dwellings constructed by the Sinagu and located under overhanging cliffs. We could walk into some but were cautioned not touch anything or to sit down.

The Sinaguas appeared in northeast of what is now Flagstaff more than 1400 years ago. It is thought that they located there due to increased rainfall, trade and a population increase in the Southwest. The cliff dwellings were only occupied a little more than 100 years though and no one knows why the people left. It is speculated that they depleted the land of the nutrients and unable to provide for themselves they sought newer land. They also may have assimilated into the Hopi culture.

The walk down to the Island was so amazing, steps and then a small platform, steps, platform, etc. (Those platforms were really nice on the way back up as were the rare spots of shade!) Going down we stopped often to view the ruins, take pictures and just gaze at the various rooms.

As we were looking at one of the dwellings I happen to turn around and there on the other side of the canyon was a shady forest of spectacular, tall Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine trees. Sometimes we just need to turn around and look.

We made it back up to the top despite the altitude which we still are adjusting to. We rested periodically and then walked on.

After a brief rest and some water we walked the Rim Trail, a short trail that gives a nice view of the canyon. At the end of the trail was a viewpoint with benches. We sat there for a few minutes enjoying the beautiful vista before us, listening to the tweeting birds and just enjoying the sunshine on our faces. Sometimes you just need to sit, rest, listen and enjoy the moment instead of hurrying off to the next planned adventure.

Arizona, Home Away From Home

A Day of Enforced Rest

Jerry hasn’t felt well for the last two days and hopefully it’s because of the high altitude. We have been at high altitudes on this trip but it was a gradual climb. This time we went from 550 to over 7000 and it’s really been difficult for him. I got up early letting him sleep in and immediately got on the Internet trying to find somewhere to stay in the Flagstaff, Sedona, Cottonwood area. I had to wait until 8:00 to start calling for some and 9:00 or 10:00 for others. After he got up we discussed it and just decided to head for Flagstaff and see what worked out. I have never left a campground totally unaware of where I was going plus I was aware that availability at this time of year in Arizona could be scarce. As soon as we started pulling out I got on the iPad and was looking down when I suddenly realized that a lot of cars had pulled over. I just got a glimpse of mabe 20 Elk dang it! I had been looking for them the entire time we were at the Canyon and had seen 4 but 3 were at night and I could hardly see them and the other one just showed us his backside and that was in the shadows. Oh well – I did see one – I think!

I called Kit Carson RV Park in Flagstaff and they had availability. Although I had my doubts since the ratings were vague I went on and paid for three nights. Frankly we are rarely at the campground during the day so hopefully this will be fine. One review said he felt safe and secure and that’s the most important thing – that and FHU and Wi-Fi!

We arrived just before noon and check in was very quick since she already had my information and we had paid. We had our choice of sites, one near the highway or others back in the park. We chose 113 near the highway as we weren’t too worried about road noise. Since they had a pretty big snow here a couple of weeks ago there was a lot of mud! Getting our coach into 113 took three attempts as there were close trees and the electrical panel was on one of those trees. In order to open our slides we had to maneuver a bit. When we finally got positioned before I even put down the jacks Jerry got out the leveler and bless pat, we were already level. That hardly ever happens. I put down the jacks and did not get an excess slope signal. That rarely happens too.

We had some lunch and although Jerry still was not feeling well we decided to go on to the Visitor’s Center. It is located in a train station and was so neat. We talked briefly with the gentleman there and he quickly gave us enough to do to fill up a day and a half. Jerry still was not feeling well so we decided just to go to the grocery store and then back to the coach for an afternoon of rest. We went to the local Walmart and it was unlike any we’ve ever seen. They had covered outside parking and then the store was totally arranged differently than most of them are. We got the groceries and headed back to the campground. When we arrived we drove around the park a bit. I think we must be the only transient or travelers here and the trailers are not new! Enough said.

Guess we have had our enforced day of rest. The drive this morning was less than two hours and half of it on I40E so it was fairly easy (according to Jerry). We spent the afternoon catching up on some chores, blog updating and I made a big meatloaf that I divided into one for dinner tomorrow night and one in the freezer. Hopefully we’ll be ready to go tomorrow!

Arizona, Home Away From Home

More of the Grand Canyon South Rim

Our view from Bright Angel Trail

What a way to start a morning – with a 3 mile hike. We hiked the Bright Angel Trail, going down into the canyon 590 feet. Going down was a breeze. Coming back up was breathless literally! We went through the second tunnel before deciding that was far enough. As the magnet, sticker and possibly a shirt said in the General Store “Going down is optional. Coming up is mandatory.” We stopped only to take pictures of the very lovely view as we were going down. Fortunately we got a couple of pictures of the two of us, very unusual. Although there was a bit of ice initially that soon ended and the path was easy but all downhill meaning of course that the hike back to the trailhead was all uphill. We only stopped going down for pictures but going up – well, I lost track of how many times we stopped to gasp for breath! When we live at an altitude of 43 feet 7000+ tends to cause one to be short of breath. Neither Jerry nor I slept well last night, both a bit restless which we attributed to the high altitude. We’ve been in a high altitude before on this trip but our last stop was Needles, California which is 495 feet so a bit of a change in a day. Back to the hike – as we were going back up we had to take a number of breaks. I lost count after 5! When we had talked to the ranger earlier he had told us to be sure to look for the pictographs after the first tunnel. We looked on the way down but never saw them but we did see them on the way back. Amazing! I asked what kind of paint was used and was told it was probably from berries or things of that nature. Since they are sheltered from the rain that have remained for nearly 1100 years! The ranger also told us that we were part of only 7% who hiked down in the canyon. Can’t imagine not seeing all of that beauty from within the canyon.

The Grand Canyon, Arizona and parts of Utah are in a severe drought now. The canyon has only had one big snow this year and usually they are covered with snow with temps much lower than we have seen. It has made travel for us nice in that we have not had a day of rain, snow or any bad weather. Because of that however we have not taken a day of rest the entire trip!

After the Bright Angel Trail we came back to the RV for lunch. Instead of the usual sandwich we had our leftovers from Wednesday night’s dinner. Pretty tasty for a change. Actually we are quickly cleaning out our freezer – must be time to head home. We took our last bag of wings out for dinner tonight. Either go home or start really cooking. Um…

After lunch we went back to the Visitor’s Center where we got our Passport book stamped. We then watched a wonderful movie about the Grand Canyon, “a vista that stretches out to the edge of the imagination”. Interesting facts about the canyon: The Colorado River is the prime shaper that chisels and carves out the canyon. The canyon increases each year by the width of a sheet of paper. It is definitely a world of stone and light.

After the video we went back to Mather Point and again looked at the beautiful view, a world of stone and light, a world where the clouds cast part in shadow and suddenly bursts of light come through. The colors are indescribable and from Mather’s Point the reality of the depth of the canyon is daunting.

Mather’s Point

We wandered down the Rim Trail for about an hour stopping occasionally to take pictures of the view or to take pictures of strangers while those same strangers then took ours. When we got to the first shuttle stop we decided to take it back to the Visitor’s Center where our car was parked. By that time we were both getting a bit tired.

We returned to the coach for a little while before hastily heading back to Hopi Point for the sunset. There were many more people that tonight than last night I guess because it’s the week-end. There were fewer clouds in the sky but the sunset was still glorious. As we returned to the car we looked to the other side of the canyon and the sky was just as splendid if not more so. More examples of God’s beautiful creation. Oh my, what must heaven be?

No words

Operated by a concessionaire Trailer Village at Grand Canyon Village is a little pricey and naturally does not honor our America the Beautiful pass but we think the convenience is worth it. The other parks I looked at were in Williams which was an hour away. Being able to hike, then go back to the campground for lunch or just for a little rest before our next venture was worth the extra money we spent. We did have full hookup and the only negative was our Verizon was spotty at best. There were trees all around so I’m sure there would be good shade in the summer. As is often the case when we are traveling in “tourist mode” we don’t spend much time in the campground until we collapse at night, have a little dinner and hopefully get a good night’s sleep. We’ve been fortunate so far in that every campground we have stayed in has been extremely quiet at night lending itself to good rest. Guess that’s another advantage of traveling in January.

We returned to the coach two tired folks but getting things ready to leave in the morning for … Um, not sure exactly where we’ll be staying. Will we be brave enough to try some BLM land? Will we stay in Flagstaff? Sedona? Will there be availability in a state park in Cottonwood? We don’t know but that’s one of the nice things about RVing. We’re pretty flexible!

Arizona, Home Away From Home

A Sunset Finally!

Love it when someone we don’t know comes by us blowing the horn and waving. Who was that? No clue. We pulled out of Needles KOA at 9:02 and literally bounced down Park Road. If there is a worse road anywhere around I surely don’t want to be on it. Suddenly a car passed us on a double yellow line blowing the horn and waving. Initially it didn’t dawn on us that something might be wrong. I guess it should have as it has happened before when the tow dolly and car caught on fire. Oh yes, apparently the severe bouncing on that horrible road caused the main center strap holding the bikes on to break and I guess we were about to lose a bike. Just before we got on the Interstate Jerry realized what was wrong so he pulled over and using every tool and strap we had he hopefully secured the bikes to the rack.

The rest of the trip to Trailer Village RV at the Grand Canyon was uneventful thankfully. We stopped at a Love’s in Williams, got gas and had lunch. Before we left Kinston I had cooked some chicken, shredded it and then froze it so last night I was able to fix some good ‘ole home chicken salad and that’s what we had for lunch.
After a quick check in at the Grand Canyon using our America the Beautiful pass (for the park, not the campground) we headed to the campground. Check in was quick and easy and we had a full hookup pull through site. Yea!

As soon as we got settled we headed out to the Visitor’s Center. Our first stop though was the General Store where they had everything from groceries to clothes to of course, magnets. We wandered around there for a good while just taking in everything.

The parking lot at the Visitor’s Center was full but we were able to snag a place. I can’t imagine what it will look by spring when the busy season begins. We talked with a ranger who gave us some ideas for hikes tomorrow but suggested we walk out to Mather Point where we could see all of the canyon. Wow, what a stunning view. The wind was blowing and it was pretty chilly and not having planned for that we didn’t even have coats so we didn’t linger. Perhaps a repeat visit tomorrow if we have time.

The ranger also suggested either a sunrise or a sunset at Hopi Point for the evening. Jerry didn’t think we had time to get there since we didn’t know exactly where we were going plus there is right much road construction with detours going on.

We made it though. Fortunately both of us had left our heavy coats in the car so we were able to get out and view an unbelievable sunset – finally! There were a lot of people there but very little talking. The wind was rustling though the trees as the sun in all of its splendor begin to light up the sky with blues, yellow, golds, pinks, grays, lavenders, oranges and teals – what a splendid example of God painting the sky. Since it was so cold we didn’t linger long but since Jerry didn’t have his good camera we knew we’d be back tomorrow.

When we were in Maine years ago I took a picture of Jerry peeking out from behind a tree. It was a great picture and for some reason we started getting “tree pictures” everywhere we went. Today we were able to get two, one of each of us!

Arizona, California, Home Away From Home

Lake Havasu City and London Bridge

View of London Bridge from London Bridge Park

Today was a different day for us. Instead of getting up and hitting the trail we were heading to Lake Havasu City and the London Bridge. Before we left though we ended up outside the coach visiting with our neighbors, Roger and Norma, a lovely couple from California. We talked about the possibility of us going on to Williams and the Grand Canyon tomorrow and they suggested Trailer Village RV right outside of the park. I later called and made reservations for tomorrow night.

The drive to Lake Havasu City is about an hour long through part of the Mojave Desert. Entering into the city one can immediately tell it is a busy city catering to the snowbirds and there were a lot of them there. We saw a gazillion motor homes and there was no shortage of RV parks. Jerry was quite impressed when he saw a Lowe’s, a Home Depot, an Ace Hardware and a Walmart saying he could possibly live there!

The tale of the London Bridge of course began in London where after many years the bridge was deteriorating. It was narrow and decrepit, it blocked river traffic and it also began to sink. By 1924, the east side of the bridge was three to four inches lower than the west side so in 1967 the Common Council of the City of London placed the bridge on the auction block and began to look for potential buyers. The winning bid of $2,460,000 went to Lake Havasu City founder, Robert McCullough who was also the inventor of the McCullough Chain Saw. The bridge was dismantled, block by block and numbered so that it could be reassembled just as the original. The blocks were then shipped to the Panama Canal, then to California and then trucked to Long Beach and then Arizona where it was reassembled. The total cost of the bridge was $5.1 million and it took 3 years to reassemble it.

Of course our first stop was the Visitor’s Center. We entered through the gate, a part of Witley Court in in Worcester, England. Although Witley Court was remodeled as an Italianate palace for the Earl of Dudley in the 19th century. Following a fire in 1937 it changed hands several times and eventually everything of value was sold. Robert McCulloch bought one of the gates and had it shipped to Havasu City.

Sitting at the Fountain
After entering the gate we immediately saw a lovely fountain. It was built in 1999 with stones from Mexico and the lions on the edges from a landscape company in Las Vegas. Although beautiful the fountain has nothing to do with the London Bridge but it surely is pretty and sets the scene.

After getting some advice from the Visitor’s Center we wandered around the courtyard. We could walk to the waterside and actually walk under the first arch of the bridge.

After wandering around for a bit we got in the car and rode to the beginning of the bike trail. We sat in the car, had our picnic lunch and then started our ride. Rather than go immediately to the bike path we rode over to London Bridge Park. What a lovely place. We rode the bikes as far as we could and then continued on to the bike path which was 3 ½ miles long. It was a good ride, good exercise and a great place to safely ride the bikes. We figured up that we rode a total of about 6 miles!

After the bike ride we retraced our bike ride and stopped to look at a couple of the 26 lighthouse replicas along the way. There are two from North Carolina, Cape Hatteras and Currituck Beach but we didn’t get to see either of them.

Next we headed back to the Visitor’s Center. Of course I bought a magnet and then we wandered around the area some more looking at the various shops. Naturally we ended up at the ice cream shop and then enjoyed the cool shade of the bridge while we ate the delicious ice cream. There is a statue of Robert McCullough but it is at the top of the bridge and at the top of A LOT of stairs so we elected just to see it from below.

A stop at Walmart and then we were headed back to Needles, California. As we entered California we had to stop at an inspection center. We were asked where we came from and Jerry told him North Carolina and then I explained that we were staying in Needles and had been to Lake Havasu City for the day. He asked if we had any plants and sent us on our way. I finally got my Welcome to California picture. Once we got back to the campground we immediately hooked the car up so we’ll be ready in the morning. We stayed outside and chatted with Roger and Norma for a while and then had a wonderful dinner of barbecue chicken, the best meal we’ve had since we’ve been on the road (or at least it was to me)!

Lake Havasu
Arizona, Home Away From Home

Wild Burros in Oatman

What a fun way to start a day. Campground checkout was 11:00 and there were still a few things we wanted to see so we were up and out before 8:00 this morning (I know – a record for us.). Last night we had discussed what we wanted to do and although there was one trail left that we had not hiked we elected instead to go on the scenic road where we could climb over those beautiful rocks we had seen yesterday for an hour.

The Atlatl
Our first stop was Atlatl Rock. We climbed up the metal staircase to the top and were surprised to see a wall of petroglyphs. At the top of the etchings was a petroglyph of a primitive weapon, an Atlatl, a short spear that attached by a notch to a throwing stick and was the precursor to the bow and arrow. Sadly among the petroglyphs were some names carved in the rock. For the life of me I cannot understand the mindset that would damage such antiquity.

Our next stop was the Arch Rock, a simple arch at the top of the rock. After a couple of pictures we headed on to our destination, the beautiful accessible rocks. We had such fun climbing up and down, over and under the beautiful red rock, no trails to follow, just wandering around in and out of the nooks and cranies. I saw a fairly large area of matted grass indicating that it was a bedding area for probably the big horn sheep. One other person briefly tried the rocks while we were there and asked some questions about the park. As we had been there two days we did have some recommendations. As he left he said he had just seen some big horn sheep but alas, we never saw them.

Back to the coach, showers, dressed, slides in, jacks up and we were leaving the campground at 9.59. We stopped at some level ground and hitched the car and were leaving Valley of Fire State Park by 10:06. Sometimes it works! A brief stop at the local gas station for gas and we were on our way to Needles, California our 26h state.

Driving through Las Vegas (I-15 is only a block away from the strip) was nerve racking. Again, Jerry did a tremendous job while I looked down. I can drive our coach and do occasionally but if I had to drive through a city we’d be in real trouble!

Check in at Needles KOA was quick and easy. After a quick lunch we were on our way to Oatman, Arizona, an iconic stop on Route 66. As we entered the small town we were immediately stopped by several burros. Yes, wild burros wander the street and seem to be pretty prolific. They freely roam the town streets and can be hand-fed hay cubes otherwise known as “burro chow,” readily available in practically every store in town. We were told not to feed the babies as they are still nursing – you can tell them apart because they have a white dot on their foreheads. Though normally gentle, the burros are in fact wild and signs posted throughout Oatman advise visitors to exercise caution. We were told that they were friendly but would grab food out of your hand. We stopped and got some ice cream but made sure we ate it all before we went outside. The burros are descended from pack animals turned loose by early prospectors, and are protected by the U.S. Department of the Interior. No one seemed to know how many there were.

The other amazing site was the combination ice cream shop, bar and restaurant, the Oatman Hotel (and Dollar Bill Bar), which was built back in 1902 just before the final major gold rush. The two-story hotel is one of America’s most famous historic landmarks. A modest structure, built of adobe, it gained fame when the world’s most famous movie star at the time chose it as his honeymoon destination. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were the Hollywood golden couple and after a wedding in Kingman, AZ Gable and Lombard checked into the Oatman Hotel. Gable was a big fan of poker, and it’s said he loved the town and became friends with the miners. Today you can visit the “Gable/Lombard Honeymoon Suite” although it was closed when we were there. The walls of the bar and restaurant are covered in one dollar bills. They were everywhere and we were told there was probably about $140,000 on the walls and doors. Jerry got out a dollar bill, signed it and stapled it to the door. The waitress said there was one $50 bill and two $100 bills but they were hidden under other bills. Apparently the custom started when miners would come in for a drink after getting paid. They would present a dollar and then charge on that dollar for the nickel drinks. Both Jerry and I asked about insurance on the building because if there was a fire it would be a colossal loss.

A Little Close!
As we were driving away the donkeys kept coming up to us even sticking their heads in the car. Yikes! It was a little daunting but I just laughed out loud and kept on laughing. There were fewer in town when we left and we were told that they returned to the mountains to bed down for the night. It was amazing – I think I walked around with my mouth agape the entire time I was there.

We headed out to Walmart for some much needed grocery shopping and then to the campground where we watched the State of the Union address and I worked on bringing the blog up to date.

Home Away From Home, Nevada

More Valley of the Fire!

Since we had plans to go into North Las Vegas for lunch with Jerry’s former employee we decided to get out early and do a little hiking. Our goal was the Fire Wave Trail however on the way up the White Dome Road we missed it and also on the way down. We stopped at the Rainbow Vista trail but were not sure how long it was nor did we know if we had enough time to complete it so we decided to skip it for today and just went by the Visitor’s Center. Neither of us had any clothes for a 70 degree day but Jerry was lucky enough to find a short sleeve t-shirt. Of course, I got a magnet!

We rode around the park first stopping at the petrified logs. Had we not gone to the Petrified Forest earlier in the trip it might have been interesting but as it was I was glad it wasn’t their claim to fame. There was a short loop trail and on that trail were four difference wired fences with a log inside. The fences were only four feet long so you can imagine the size of the four logs.

Next we rode the loop by the campground going by the Atlatl Rock and on into the canyon. While we saw some amazing scenery we didn’t stop for anything as we were sort of in a time crunch. We did see some rocks that we would like to have climbed but had no time.

Back to the coach, showers and a change of clothes and off to Vegas we went. We’ve been to Vegas twice before and each time I said that was the last time and here we were going yet again to visit a special friend. Kelly was one of Jerry’s teachers when he was a principal but had moved away some years ago. She was an excellent teacher and Jerry always held her in a special place in his heart so getting to visit her was a treat. She had prepared a delicious lunch for us, taco soup and taco salad. The lunch and the reminiscing were such fun plus we got to meet and visit with her precious son, Eli. Husband Dan was at work.

As soon as we got back to the campground we changed into our hiking clothes trying desperately to get in one more hike before leaving. We decided on the Fire Wave which was near the end of the White Dome Road. As we rode along I suddenly yelled “Stop” and nearly gave Jerry a heart attack but he did stop. I had seen some people who had pulled off of the road and were taking pictures so I looked to see what they were seeing and lo and behold, finally, I saw a big horned sheep. In fact there were about 10 of them, a couple of them babies. We got out and took some pictures being careful not to get too close to them.

The Start of our Hike
The End of the Trail, Time to Start Back
We headed on to the Fire Wave Trail. The park closes at 5:00 so we knew we didn’t have a lot of time but we started out anyway. Oh my goodness, what an array of colors, 50 shades of ochre and we could climb all over them. The path was fairly well marked, sandy and rocky but easily navigable. We walked until we realized that the sun had set and we needed to turn around if we were to get back to the car before dark. We cut it close as it was not dark but close to it when we got back to the parking lot. When we walked up we saw a guy at the other lone car and he asked if we had seen anyone else on the trail. Actually we had seen a couple of people about ¼ mile in front of us when we turned around. We could tell he was worried although he said several times that he wasn’t. One of the guys on the trail was ex-military and had a full backpack with him but the other guy was according to him “a city guy” with little sense of direction. Although he said we could go on we stayed with him until his friends arrived safely.

Back to the coach for dinner. We have reservations tomorrow at a KOA in Needles, California but will only have 30 amp. I surely do hope it’s not hot because we will only be able to run one air condition. The main reason for going to a full service campground is to wash over a week’s worth of laundry. Hope it all works on 30 amp!

Indescribable Beauty

Home Away From Home, Nevada

Valley of Fire State Park

We got a later start than usual simply because they were RV things to be taken care of. Unhooking and pulling out took only minutes but then we had to stop at the entrance to empty the black and gray tanks and fill up the fresh water tank. In 27 degree weather poor Jerry had to stand out there and do those chores and then hook up the car. His hands were freezing! In the meantime I ran up to the Visitor’s Center yet again and bought another long sleeve T-shirt just like the one I bought yesterday. It is absolutely the softest shirt I have ever had and despite the gray color I wanted two, one to sleep in and one to wear. The sales lady said she had one and they were so cool, not exactly what I was looking for right then but I knew it would be nice later in the day because today’s destination was supposed to be much warmer.

I was a little sad at leaving Zion as it is definitely one of the prettiest, most refreshing, most serene place we’ve been. As Jerry said when you’re driving the scenic drive every time you turn a curve (and there were a lot of those) it’s a different stunning sight too beautiful to describe with my limited vocabulary. I would have loved to do a couple of more hikes, River Walk and Angel’s Landing but our time there was up.

As we left Utah, breezed through Arizona and ventured into Nevada the terrain and topography changed so. We had mountains covered in green with occasional cacti standing sentinel. With three conflicting GPS’s we continued on our way. For some reason the Garmin had us going an extra 100 miles so we chose to go with the Clarion and Mapquest and we arrived all in one piece.

Valley of Fire SP campground is a small park on a first come, first serve basis so after riding around the park and not finding optimum level spaces we finally decided on one. After spending nearly an hour getting level and setting everything up Jerry was getting things out for lunch and then…. There were two chairs in the picnic area but nothing to denote that the space was occupied. Just as we were sitting down to lunch a Class B pulled in and said they had already paid for the site and they had left their chairs to indicate it. Oh well, Plan B. Jerry got out and begin to scout out for another site. He found one and it was the dickens to level. When we finally got it leveled and the power and water hooked up I suggested he go and pay for the site immediately before someone else claimed it! He was gone for quite a while and I couldn’t figure out where he was as I thought he had just gone up to the camp host. No, he had to go to the Visitor’s Center which was not nearby.

When he finally returned we ate a quick lunch and then returned to the Visitor’s Center for some information and possibly a short sleeved t-shirt for him. It was much warmer here than in Springdale. No such luck on the T’s but we did get some information on hikes.

We rode all the way down the White Dome Road marveling at the differing colors in the rocks but not stopping at all knowing we’d do that on the return trip. We ended at the White Domes Hike, a 1.25 mile hike that should have taken about 45 minutes. Of course when we hike it always takes longer because we stop often to take pictures. The beginning of the trail is deep sand and then some rocky paths but the trail was well marked. We climbed boulders, sat in alcoves etched by the wind and then went through a narrow slot canyon. It was curvy so I kind of peeked around each corner to make sure that there was nothing ahead that I might not want to run into. The domes are spectacular, sandstone formations with brilliant contrasting colors, pinks, oranges, whites, sienna, purple, just so many vivid colors. Again, it was indescribably beautiful and a wonderful state park. It certainly was busy today but then it was a lovely day with plenty of sunshine but not too hot, just perfect for hiking. We learned later that the summer temperature ranged from 100 to 120 degrees. Now I know why people are flocking to the park in January.

After we hiked the White Domes we decided we had just enough time to hike to Mouse’s Tank, a ¾ mile, round trip trail. Mouse’s Tank was named for an outlaw who used the area as a hideout in the 1890’s. It is a natural basin in the rock where water collects after rainfalls, sometimes remaining for months. We hiked all the way to the end where indeed the water was still standing. It looked like a strange place to hide as there was only one way in and one way out. If they discovered him then he’d be captured for sure. Along the trail there were numerous examples of petroglyphs close enough in some instances to nearly touch them. There was a bulletin at the trailhead explaining the possible meaning of the different petroglyphs and it was interesting to try to figure them out. I especially enjoyed seeing the petroglyphs as the ones we had seen earlier in the trip were so far away that it was difficult for me to distinguish them. Poor distance vision is the pits!

After the hikes we came on back to the coach and got out one of the casseroles I had prepared at home before the trip. Believe it or not I found some pears in the pantry so we were able to have a pear salad along with the casserole.

Today was a good day and tomorrow promises to be busy as well. After a morning hike we are going to North Las Vegas to visit with a former employee of Jerry’s.

Home Away From Home, Utah

Our Last Day at Zion

We packed in a full day today beginning with a visit to the Visitor’s Center to get some additional instructions about Kolob Canyon (and some information on a nearby grocery store). That done we headed out for our hour ride. The view had not gotten old and we thoroughly enjoyed being surrounded by such majestic beauty.

We chose to go to Bryce Canyon yesterday partly because we thought we’d be able to get some groceries. Little did we know that there was no close grocery stores and we would have been better off to go to Kolob Canyon as there was a grocery store in La Verkin which was on the way to Kolob. We rode all the way up to Kolob again admiring the diverse views and colors plus we saw some ostrich along the way. When we got to the Interstate Jerry pointed to the speed limit sign – 80 mph. Wow, that’s pretty fast.

We noted the grocery store on the way and knew we’d be returning soon. There was a Visitor’s Center at Kolob Canyons and the ranger quickly told us about the three trails, one 15 miles long, one 5 miles long and one 1 mile long. Which one do you think we chose?

At the end of the five mile in and out red road (yes, the road was red) we stopped at an overlook where there was a view of Kolob Canyons above the finger canyons. We could see Horse Ranch Mountain with an elevation of 8726, Paria Point with an elevation of 7817, Beatty Point with an elevation of 7520, Nagunet Mesa with an elevation of 7785 and Timber Top Mountain with an elevation of 8055 and right beside that was a butte. It was a clear sunny day so all canyons were easily distinguishable.

At the other side of the overlook was the trailhead for Timber Creek Overlook Trail, a trail that passes through a high plateau habitat with animals (yeah, we didn’t see any) and diverse plants. What we did see was a lot of either ice or mud, squishy mud so it was a bit hazardous. At the top we were rewarded with another view of the canyons plus a view of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It really was pretty and worth the moderate rated hike.

On the way down we stopped at a picnic area and had our picnic lunch. It was a balmy 41 degrees so we could eat outside although with the breeze it was a little cool. We didn’t linger.

We returned to La Verkin to the grocery store and were only able to get about half of what we needed so we located a Walmart 7 miles away in Hurricane and headed there. Our ride back to Zion was just as beautiful and then we hit Springdale where there was still road construction and traffic congestion. One way in and the same way out leads to slow moving.

We took the groceries to the coach and then returned for our last visit to the Visitor’s Center. We were shopping for the four older grands and found some cute jackets for them. Surely do hope they fit.

Court of Patriarchs
We then started our final ride on the scenic drive to take all the pictures Jerry wanted to take. We stopped several times and he got some stunning shots. One of the places we stopped was at the Court of Patriarchs. Since it was only a 50 yard hike I suggested that we take it. Oh, did I mention that it was all uphill but it was on pavement and was not muddy. The three towering figures facing us were named for the towering figures of the Old Testament: Abraham Peak, Isaac Peak and Jacob Peak and were named by a Methodist minister in 1916. Wow, what a view.

Our next stop was the Weeping Rock Trailhead, a short ½ mile round trip where we could see hanging gardens and natural springs. It too was all uphill on pavement and it was steep. In fact, we thought the trail was closed due to ice but there were a good number of people there so we soldiered on. It was beautiful and the view was astounding. The sun was just before setting and was peeking between two peaks. I tried to get a picture of Jerry with the sunlight in the background but the photo appeared foggy, don’t know why. He tried to get one of me in the same way and his too was foggy.

We meandered on down to the Sinawava Formation. Here the canyon narrows abruptly. The beginning hike is the River Walk which we really wanted to do but ran out of time. That trail leads on to the Narrows which we knew was out of our league.

Getting those last pictures
As we snapped pictures I suddenly realized that Jerry was taking pictures of a doe and a baby. The deer are very prolific here although they don’t look very healthy. They are pretty used to people so have no fear which makes them more aggressive and dangerous to people.

We returned to the coach very tired but very thankful to have visited Zion. Jerry and I often talk about places we would like to return to and some time ago decided that because there is so much to see in our beautiful country there is nowhere we’d like to return. Well, that has changed because both of us would love to return to Zion. Although we’ve spent 2 ½ days here I feel that we have barely scratched the surface. It is so clean, so fresh, so refreshing, just a grand place to be. Now, in the summer when the crowds are here maybe we’d feel differently but Zion in January will be hard to beat.

Home Away From Home

Bryce Canyon

Wow, what a day. We woke up not sure where we were going so we went to the Visitor’s Center for guidance. We had decided to either go to Konob Canyon in Zion or Bryce Canyon State Park. Konob was an hour away and Bryce was two hours. We looked at the weather and decided what the heck, we’d go to Bryce today and Konob tomorrow.

We left the campground about 9:30 and it took us over two hours to get to Bryce. The road out of Zion is constant switchbacks and many were icy so even slower than normal driving was in store for us. When we reached the tunnel we had to stop as there was a truck pulling an airstream in front of us. I would imagine they had to determine if it could fit through the tunnel. They proceeded with no problem and Jerry actually said he thought our coach could go through although he wouldn’t want to be driving on those switchbacks. No way!

The drive to Bryce was nice, the scenery was nice but it reaffirmed my decision to stay at Zion. As we were arriving we went through Dixie National Park and Red Canyon. Oh my, what beauty. Unfortunately the Visitor’s Center was closed for the winter. Otherwise I know we would have stopped and checked that out. We went through two tunnels that looked almost like arches but surely there were bolstered up somehow.

When we arrived in the town where Bryce was located nearly every business we saw had the name “Ruby” attached to it. They do have a monopoly it would seem. We continued on to the Visitor’s Center at Bryce where we looked around the gift shop and then got some recommendations from the park ranger. As we were exiting the building Jerry asked about lunch so we decided to ride back to the little town and get something to eat. We ended up eating at – well, guess where? Ruby’s. I had the soup and salad and Jerry had a burger and soup. It was underwhelming but we didn’t have many choices of where to eat.

Who is that masked man?
After lunch we rode back into Bryce and parked at Sunrise Point. We were bundled up like Eskimo’s and I felt like the Pillsbury Dough Boy – and looked it! When we entered the trailhead we had the choice to go either left or right. We went left but think we should have gone right. Oh well, we just walked along enjoying the hoodoos in the distance. The trail was snowy and icy so we stopped and put on the spikes we had bought at Arches. They worked well as long as we were in ice but the intermittent snow and then red dirt (mud) clogged them up. We stopped a couple of times to clear them out and then just decided the heck with it and took them off. They had really made walking difficult and the entire time we were walking it was uphill. How can that be?

Finally Jerry mentioned that we had been on the trail an hour and a half and we needed to turn around and head for the car. I was sorry that we didn’t see any specific point but agreed that it was time to turn around. In addition Jerry’s feet were wet and cold. I had worn my hiking boots but he had worn tennis shoes and walking in the snow had gotten his feet pretty wet.

We saw some awesome views of hoodoos and were actually pretty close to them. The panoramic view was beautiful and so diverse. To the left one could see the snow covered mountains. To the right were the snow covered trees and then right in the middle were the huge hoodoos.

Our walk back went much quicker most of it being downhill and I surely was glad to see my little red Jeep. As soon as we could get in the car we started on the 17 mile scenic drive. Instead of stopping at each site we rode onto the end first. The elevation at Rainbow Point is 9115. For a couple of flatlanders from 43 feet above sea level 9115 is mighty high. Interestingly enough although most of our hike was at 8000 we didn’t have any problems. Perhaps we are getting used to the higher altitude.

We stopped at Natural Bridge view point which is at an elevation of 8627. It really is misnamed as it is technically an arch rather than a bridge but boy, it is stunning. We stopped at a couple of other viewpoints also but it was getting so very cold and the wind was blowing as well. I have no idea what the real feel was but according to our car the outside temperature was 22 degrees!

By the time we finished the loop road the Visitor’s Center was closed so we stopped at – yep, at Ruby’s where we bought the usual magnet and got a snack to carry us home.

The drive home was simply put beautiful as we got to watch God’s stunning creation. As Jerry drove along the lonely highway I watched the sky with its pinks, mauves, sienna, grays and blues against a landscape dotted with snow and evergreens. As darkness descended the muted colors faded into shades of blue and darker grays. What a display of God’s handiwork.

I was a bit anxious about running into icy conditions again but apparently all of the ice and snow in Zion melted today. Navigating the switchbacks in the dark was a bit scary but as usual Jerry did a tremendous job and got us back to the campground safely.