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.

Arizona, Home Away From Home, Utah

A Closer Look at Monument Valley

Although it was overcast and a bit dreary we headed to the Navajo Nation … to make the 17 mile loop drive through Monument Valley. I was a bit worried about the drive as I had heard that the roads were quite rough. We had the Jeep and its four wheel drive if necessary but … As it turned out the drive was OK. There were spots that were a bit rough but going slow was the answer. Speed limit signs of 15 MPH were posted but we never got over 9 MPH and most of the time we went only 3 or 4! Of course we stopped often as well so it took us nearly three hours to complete the drive. It was windy and dusty and although the thermometer stated that the temp was in the 40’s with the wind it felt much colder.

The Mittens
Our first magnificent view was of the mittens, the West Mitten Butte and the East Mitten Butte. My camera could not capture the beauty and my words can’t describe it. There they were in all of their splendor reigning over the vast valley like kings. What a sight to behold. As they protruded into the cloudy sky the enormity was almost overwhelming.

Next we saw the Elephant Butte and it is just as you would imagine, a gigantic elephant facing the west of the desert. And then onto the Three Sisters, a Catholic nun facing her two pupils. Again the sheer beauty in the red rocks and the enormity were nearly overwhelming. As we stood there gazing at them the sun rays broke through the clouds and it was mesmerizing to watch the constant changes in the colors moment by moment.

Our next stop was John Ford’s Point but since several tour buses had stopped ahead of us we decided to forego that and see it on our return. We continued on the road that had become more difficult to navigate and reached the Hub. The Hub symbolizes a hub of a wagon wheel and the Navajos see it as a fire place in the center of a gigantic Hogan. It was spectacular to say the least but when we got the binoculars out we saw it much clearer and there beside it were two Hogans!

The center of the park is the Rain God Mesa where Navajo medicine men pray and give thanks to the Rain God who stored water for the people. We tried to take pictures but due to its enormous size and being so close to it we were unable to.

The road continued to deteriorate but we soldiered on next seeing the Totem Pole in the distance. It is a spire monument, an example of what erosion does to a butte. We know that erosion from a mesa causes a butte, erosion from a butte causes a spire but what happens to the spire? Do they disintegrate and fall to the ground? Were the many rocks we see lying around once spires?

Continuing along the rocky, sometimes graveled road we reached Artist’s Point, described as a place where artists can create landscapes and bring them to life on canvas. Wow, is that true. What a panoramic view!

A brief stop at the North Window and a look at the Thumb, a free standing butte apart from Camel Butte. It is described as looking like a cowboy boot but quite frankly I thought it looked like a gigantic thumb!

One Last Picture
On our way out we stopped again at John Ford’s Point where we got out and took a couple of pictures on the windy cold point. One more stop for some last pictures and we were on our way out of the magnificent Monument Valley.

Although we had packed a lunch we decided on our way out to visit Keyanta, Arizona, 22 miles away for lunch at the Amigo’s, an authentic Mexican restaurant which had been recommended. When you pull into a parking lot and can hardly find a space to park you know the food is good especially when the locals are eating there. We had to wait a few minutes for a table as the small restaurant was completely full. I got a Green Chili Hamburger (the chili’s lived up to their name – it was hot) and Jerry got an Navajo burger on fry bread. It was enormous! I noticed that an order of fry bread was only $2.95 as opposed to the $5 we paid last night but we were too full to get any.

We returned to the campground where we had a quiet afternoon and a chance to rest up from 19 days of traveling and touring. On to Page tomorrow for more exciting adventures!

Arizona, Home Away From Home, Utah

Oops! Was That a Rock?

What an auspicious ending to our Moab visit. Last night as Jerry was listening to the NC State Wake. Forest basketball game with only 2 minutes left in a close game he suddenly exclaimed “Where is that water coming from?” Wow, there was a lot of water on the floor by the kitchen sink. He began to pull out things under the sink while I was trying with little success to mop up the prevailing water. He finally discovered that there was a loose fitting on the water line and the pipe was leaking not only when the water was turned on but also from the pressure buildup in the line. Praise God that I have a fixit husband who not only recognized the problem but resolved it as well. Unfortunately he didn’t get to hear the great win by State.

Since we only had about 150 miles to go this morning to Monument Valley we didn’t rush but then… I was driving the car to the back of the RV for hookup and rather than go to the end of the park I decided to cut through one of empty sites. What a colossal wrong move. When I suddenly realized that I had driven over a BIG rock I put the car in reverse and made another colossal mistake. The car was stuck on the electric panel post at the site. Jerry didn’t even need to yell stop because I was stuck! He came over and Mr. Fixit again saved the day but it wasn’t easy. With several tools he finally got the door off of the panel and we were able to ease the car forward until we were unstuck. He tried to put the door by on but it was bent beyond repair so he stopped by the office to tell them what had happen offering to pay for repairs. The manager said it was no problem as he had several extra doors and to not worry and have a good day. Despite his good words I was still feeling nauseous due to my mistake.

The check list then saved the rest of the morning. We have a checklist that we go through every time we move the coach and thank goodness for that. As I was going through I mentioned putting the shower head on the floor of the shower. Nope, Jerry had forgotten to do that so I ran to the back and put it down. It could fall off while traveling either damaging the shower head or possibly hitting the glass door. As I continued through the list I said “jacks up” and both of us looked at each other in amazement. We had not brought the jacks up. Gee, that would be a newbie mistake but our checklist saved us yet again.

We finally pulled out a bit after 10:00 and began the trip to Monument Valley. We often gas up before we stop for the night but since gas stations that we could access were not plentiful on our way to Moab we didn’t stop for gas. Now we had a quarter of a tank and were wondering where to get gas. I checked and our usual stops – Flying J, Love’s and Pilot – were not even close but there was a ConocoPhillips in Monticello about 40 miles away. The question was could we get in it. Although the gas was pricey it was easily accessible and easy out both we know from the experience in Ganado very important to consider.

Riding along the terrain really began to change and the temperature was rising as well, all to the way to the 40’s. We were definitely climbing mountains though with sometimes an 8% grade but our gas RV made it with no problem. Sure, we weren’t the fastest thing on the road but we made it. As we neared Monument Valley I saw that Open Range signs don’t just mean cattle as we saw several burros on the side of the road just looking at the cars passing by.

We got to the campground around 1:20. When I went in to check in the attendant told me to go on into the campground and select a site and then let her know. We chose site 21 for no particular reason other than it is pretty close to a Wi-Fi antenna. We shouldn’t have any problem though because there are only two other coaches here.

After lunch we decided to ride around and get the lay of the land. They are calling for rain tomorrow so we wanted to know exactly what to do and when so as to miss running around in the showers. We stopped at Goulding’s Gift Shop for a few minutes. They had some lovely things, pretty sandstone slabs and beautiful pottery. We continued on to the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park where we paid our $20 entrance fee good for four days.

Can’t do a selfie and get the beautiful background
We stopped at the Visitor’s Center and wandered through the museum. That was so fascinating. One story that I found quite fascinating was about the Matriarch of Monument Valley, Susie Yazzie who passed away in 2013 at the approximate age of 93. She had lived a traditional Navajo life for nearly 100 years raising sheep, carding wool and weaving rugs all without benefit of of electricity or running water. Her mother died when Susie was very young and her father left in despair so Susie was left to raise her seven brothers and sisters. Her life took a turn when she married and her husband could work off of the reservation and bring home wagons, mattresses and other luxuries. The tourist business brought celebrity to Susie as she was in movies directed by John Ford. When she and her husband had trouble cashing their paycheck they had to go to Los Angeles which she referred to as the hot country. While there she got her Anglo name tattooed on her arm perhaps so she would know how to sign her name. As she didn’t understand English she was unable to understand the contracts presented to her so when a photographer got her to sign away the rights to pictures of her picture appeared on bags of Frito-Lays Sante Fe Ranch Chips!

As the grandmother of seven I also found it interesting that the grandmother or “Shima Sani” is the most important person in every family on the Navajo Nation. From caring for grandchildren of working parents to teaching Navajo traditions she is the one who holds the family together, the one who is the decision maker in every family.

Our first look!
We wondered around the museum some more and then walked outside to take some pictures of the beautiful view. Next we headed upstairs to the gift shop which was full of anything you might want, from t-shirts to elaborate pottery and jewelry. Jerry went in the restaurant and found that they served authentic Navajo food so we decided to go back later for dinner to sample the cuisine.

After a stop at another Visitor’s Center we returned to the campground to wait for that delicious dinner that was coming up.

And wow, what a dinner. We returned to the Navajo Nation Visitor’s Center and found it quite busy but then they probably had a captive audience as we saw only one other place to eat in the vicinity. Actually though the food was delicious. We first placed an order for fry bread. Little did we know that it would probably have been better as a dessert after dinner rather than an appetizer but it was delicious. It was served with honey (which makes everything better) and powdered sugar. Yummy! We decided to order the Navajo Sampler and were told that it was enough for two and indeed it was. It included Green Chile Stew (my favorite), Mutton Stew (Jerry liked it), Red Chili Posole with Pork and a small Navajo Taco and guess what – it came with fry bread. Jerry said it was all good but the fry bread was the best!

Back to the coach and hopefully a good night’s sleep as we’ve got a full day tomorrow.