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.

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Home Away From Home, Utah

Biking and Hiking Zion

As we sat at the table this morning discussing which hikes to take I was googling the various suggestions. As soon as I said something about a bike trail Jerry said whoa – that was exactly what we were going to do first. We have carried our bikes 3000 miles and have yet to ride them plus we had sort of fallen off of the band wagon at home so I was a bit anxious about a 3 ½ mile ride but first there was work to be done. The bikes had to be readjusted and the chains sprayed. Remember we had bought a cover for them but it only lasted 92 miles so they have been without cover and exposed to the elements the rest of the time.

The trailhead for Pa’rus Trail was at the Visitor’s Center so we drove the car down there and unloaded the bikes. Wow, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed bike riding. The weather was perfect, not to hot nor too cold and whenever we got a little warm it seemed a nice breeze floated across us. The trail is an in and out and lots of curves and bridges. We of course stopped along the way and snapped pictures, lots of pictures and continued to the end where we quickly turned around and headed back. We stopped at Diversion Dam and walked down to the river and just sat and enjoyed the scenery. The little waterfall over the dam was so pretty and refreshing.

Back at the coach we had lunch and then Jerry figured out how we could combine three hikes into one which resulted in about 4 miles. We parked the car at Zion Lodge where the trailhead for Lower Emerald Pool Trail was located and began the trek up. It really was not a difficult hike but a bit disappointing at the dry pool. By this time the wind had picked up and the overhead waterfall was blowing water pretty heavily so we scurried through as quickly as we could heading on to Upper Emerald Pool Trail. This was a sandy and rocky trail that climbed to the Upper Emerald Pool and though described as moderate it was actually pretty strenuous at times. The closer we got to the Emerald Pool the rockier it got until we were actually climbing over and around big rocks. The end result was the frozen waterfall at Emerald Pool. We chatted with a family from northern Utah who were there with their four children. One was three and I honestly don’t know how he was able to do the trail. Thank goodness we had our walking sticks because it would have been even more difficult without them.

As we left there and began the climb, yes it was a climb, we diverted and continued onto the Kayenta Trail which led to the Grotto. It was nearly all downhill so was fairly easy although sandy. At one point the ledge got a little narrow but there were chains to hold on to.

At the bottom we continued along the trail from the Grotto to Zion Lodge where our car was parked. I thoroughly enjoyed the hike although I wouldn’t do it again as the end result was not as promising as we’d hoped. In fact, one person we met said “It’s worth it – I guess”.

As we were driving back to the campground Jerry decided to ride into Springdale to get some Tylenol. I don’t think there is a grocery store in Springdale and we couldn’t even find a convenient store. There are lots of B&B’s, hotels and restaurants but that’s about it. In addition the extensive road construction is continuing and driving there is slow.

We came back to the coach, grilled steak and along with a frozen baked potato we had picked up in Louisiana and a salad had a nice dinner.

We had planned to go to Bryce Canyon National Park tomorrow and then spend Saturday back at Zion but when I looked at the weather for Bryce we changed our plans. Tomorrow the high temperature is supposed to be 28 with a wind chill of -5. Think we’ll postpone our trip a day as the weather for Zion is going to be pretty much the same as today assuming the light snow predicted doesn’t turn into a heavier snow.

Home Away From Home, Utah

Glen Canyon Dam and Oh My – Zion National Park

Since the government shutdown had closed the national parks Sunday and Monday we had been unable to visit Glen Canyon Recreation Area Visitor’s Center and Glen Canyon Dam. We had to be checked out of the campground by 11:00 so we got up early (it was difficult – my bed was warm and cozy and I could have stayed there another hour at least) and were at the Visitor’s Center for the dam by 8:00 for the tour.

Glen Canyon Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam on the Colorado River in north Arizona. It provides water to five states plus Mexico. Although the dam provides the water it is the responsibility of the recipients to get the water, e.g. lay the pipe, etc. The location for the dam was determined by choosing the narrowest place in the canyon with walls that were strong enough to support the weight of the water. Interestingly only 3% of water comes from rain, the rest from snow melt.

The bridge towering over the dam actually was built in Los Angles, assembled, measured to make sure it would fit, taken apart, delivered and then reassembled – the left side was sent to one side of the canyon, the right to the other. What an amazing engineering feat that they correctly met in the middle

The elevator for the lower part was inoperable so we were only able to go onto the dam but it was fascinating. Paul, our guide, was a retired policeman who volunteered as a guide. Besides the information he shared about the dam he also gave us some interesting information about Page.

Page was only incorporated in 1957. Prior to the dam the area was just open land, one of the reasons that location was chosen for the dam. No one was displaced in the building of the dam. The workers came but only stayed long enough to work the dam and then moved on to other projects. Apparently the biggest business in Page is tourism which used to be heavy only in the summer months, June, July and August but recently the winter has been drawing tourists as well.

The school system draws students from as far as 75 miles away from the Navajo Reservation. When we remarked about how far the students had to travel he said one got used to traveling if they lived in that area. When we were returning from Flagstaff yesterday we were behind a bus that was going pretty fast. Knowing the school buses in North Carolina can only travel 45 miles per hour we were amazed at the speed of that bus. We asked the guide about it and he said the speed limit for school buses was the same as for cars. I guess when you have to travel 75 miles one way to go to school going 45 would make an already long day even longer. Still it would seem that the students spend a great deal of time going to and from school. Then there are the after school activities that cause an even later departure.

Before we left Jerry tightened up the 300 amp fuse plus we had the propane tank filled so we left a bit later than anticipated. We took the longer way to Springdale going through Kanab and then on 389 rather than 89 to avoid going through the tunnel. Perhaps we would fit but we didn’t want to take the chance.

The day was sunny and a good day for traveling a wavy two lane road. We only had two stops for road construction and one 8% climb so not too bad. When we got to Hurricane I called the Watchman Campground in Springdale to see if they still had available sites. It’s a first come, first serve basis so before we drove all the way to Springdale I wanted to be fairly sure that they had a space. They told me that there was only one 50 amp and someone was in it but they were leaving that day so to come on so on we went and then we got to Springdale.

The ranger had told me that there was some road construction in Springdale, what an understatement. There indeed was road construction all the way through the small town so it delayed our arrival quite a bit. They appeared to be repaving the highway so we had to carefully travel the narrow lanes.

Upon our arrival at the entrance to Zion we were asked where we would be going when we left. When we told her she said that was good as we would not fit in the tunnel. Good to know I was right. The height restriction is 11’4” and we are definitely taller than that plus I hear that it is dark as night with the only light coming from the headlights and occasional air vent cracks in the rocks. Not somewhere I want to be!

The ranger was not around when we arrived at Watchman campground so we had to decide where to park. It is a small campground so after we circled it (and put a long scratch on the coach from an over-hanging branch) Jerry just stopped and we got out to walk around and see if we could find a 50 amp. We quickly recognized the pull through with 50 amp that was occupied but were hoping there was another one. Yea! Jerry found the only other one, A1 so we began the maneuver to get the coach in. Between the rocks, the signs and the drain it was not easy. Jerry finally got out and I backed in perfectly with no problem but I had superb directions from Jerry on the ground. When I back up like that I never look where I am going as I keep my eyes on Jerry and listen attentively to his instructions. We’re a pretty good team!

As soon as we got set up which was quick since we only had to hook up the power, put the jacks down and the slides out we had a quick lunch (at 3:00), made a couple of phone calls and then took off for the Visitor’s Center. We wandered around the gift store for a few minutes, got some park information and then decided to take the scenic drive since it was so late.

Oh my! Again, another indescribable view. Such majestic mountains and I finally had a good use for out sunroof. We opened it and could not only look left and right but also up! The views were amazing but we only had our iPhones so we will be making another trip later to capture some of the beauty. As we rode along we saw quite a few mule deer who obviously were not afraid of cars. They barely looked at us as we passed.

We returned to the coach intending to watch the sunset over the campground but got busy doing things and totally missed it. Oh well, we’ll be here for a few more nights. I have read that the sunrises and sunsets are phenomenal and as I know we will not be watching a sunrise I hope we can see some sunsets.

Home Away From Home, Utah

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands, very different from Arches but just as beautiful with its canyons, mesas, buttes, fins arches and spires. As with Arches, nature has sculptured those beauties with water and gravity.

Grand View Point
We started our day with the Grand View Point hike. It was a stunning in and out trail with panoramic views going for miles and miles. The hike was only two miles, some up and some down. At the end of the trail we chatted with two ladies from Utah and were lucky enough to get a picture of the two of us. As I’ve said earlier we are complete failures when it comes to using a selfie stick! The trails at Arches were marked with large rocks but on this trail the markers where cairns or small rock piles. We could easily find the correct way to go. The view at the top was wonderful and well worth the walk.

We stopped at the Buck Canyon Overlook but instead of using the picnic area we chose to have our lunch in the warmth of the car. I think Gertrude and Heathcliff followed us as they were right there as we ate. We also glimpsed a blue bird. Animal views at this point are two herds of deer, three or four deer in a cove, a roadrunner and a bunny outside our coach yesterday and today – not really impressive.

Our next stop was the Upheaval Dome first overlook. This was a short but steep and rocky trail not clearly marked that led to a fairly clear view into Upheaval Dome. There was a further trail that led to a second overlook but we decided that we’d be seeing the same thing albeit it a different view so we clambered back down over the rocks and returned to the car.

Our last trail was the Mesa Arch. It was another short trail, only a half mile round trip but wow! As we were walking along suddenly Jerry said there it is and oh my – a glorious arch in the gorgeous sun. What a view.

Enough hiking today although shorter – we didn’t quite make it to four miles. A quick stop at City Market to pick up a few groceries and then on to the coach making preparations to leave for Monument Valley tomorrow.

Home Away From Home, Utah

Two Great Hikes – Landscape Arch and Delicate Arch

Another glorious day at Arches National Park. We had studied our map of the arches but wanted to verify our plans with the ranger so we stopped by the Visitor’s Center again. Since some of the trails were either closed or icy we wanted to make sure we were making safe choices. The two trails we were interested in hiking were Landscape Arch and Delicate Arch. The ranger told us that the Landscape trail was pretty icy and suggested we buy the $12 cleats in the bookstore. There were only two pair left so we bought them with the promise that we could return them if we didn’t use them.

We watched the video again just to get more familiar with the beautiful arches silhouetted against the horizon everywhere we looked. Arches National Park has the greatest concentration of natural arches on the earth. An interesting contrast mentioned in the video was that arches built by man are the purposeful product of construction while in nature the arches are the product of destruction. The very processes that create the arches also destroy them. The landscape is ever changing and we know that the arches we see today may well be gone in a few years as they tumble to the earth and more are formed.

Jerry putting on his cleats
After the Visitor’s Center we headed all the way to the top to Devil’s Garden where the Landscape Arch was located. It is marked as an easy trail 1.6 miles round trip with a relatively flat, hard-packed trail. It would have been an easy hike were it not for the ice and there was definitely ice. We didn’t put the cleats on our shoes initially but after I slipped twice I found a rock to sit on and Jerry help me put them on. They just fit around the shoes and are fairly easy to put on. Once we realized that we could keep them more secure if we tied our shoelaces through them we had no problem. It was just a few minutes later when Jerry decided it would be wise to put his on. What a difference they made. We easily walked through the ice with no slipping and sliding and no fear of falling. It was a pretty cold hike as the wind was blowing a bit. I ended up putting my earmuffs on and then my scarf over my head. BUT – it was worth it. When we saw the Landscape Arch we were absolutely amazed. As with all of the arches that we have seen it defies description but it was stunning.

Landscape Arch
After the hike we sat in the car and had our picnic lunch and then headed for the 3 mile round trip hike to Delicate Arch. The hike description says “some exposure to heights”. Well yeah! The entire trip is uphill and it is described as difficult. It wasn’t really hard but it was arduous and exhausting. Just before we reached the top we ran into a lot of icy path and it was treacherous to say the least. Jerry said he was proud of me because of my fear of heights but I never noticed the height as I kept my eyes on where I was walking. Some folks from Taiwan were walking nearby and they were very helpful as we all walked the treacherous path plus they took some pictures for us. And then…we rounded the corner and there in all of its splendor was the Delicate Arch. Oh my, what a spectacular sight to behold. We very careful traversed the area and made it down to the arch itself where we had our picture taken. You can hardly see us though because the arch is so large. It was a difficult hike but so worth every minute of it. The return trip was much easier as it was all downhill although steep. It took us about an hour to go down and the parking lot was a welcomed sight.

After the hikes we went to City Market Pharmacy to pick up a prescription for Jerry and then to the Grill for a very mediocre dinner. We were back at the coach by 6:30 exhausted but exhilarated and ready for Canyonlands tomorrow!

Can you see us?