Friday, October 20, 2017

Zion - Wow, That's A Lot of People!

October 10-13, 2017
Kanab, Utah

The Kanab stop was always in the plan, so we can go see Gaelyn and her canyon at North Rim. And we still want to see Zion.

That means a lot of driving - but it's Southern Utah/Northern Arizona so it's not like we won't have plenty to enjoy along the way.

Tuesday morning we return north on Hwy 89 to the little town of Springdale. Both lanes at the entrance to Zion National Park have a short line, doesn't seem too crowded. Yet.

I've read that the only way to access much of the park is by shuttle which leaves from the Visitors' Center on the west side of the park. We're thinking we will likely forego the big bus if we can see some of the park along the 13 mile scenic drive between entrances. Tessa does well on buses, but if they're packed it can be challenging. We'll keep our options open.

Just around the first corner the eye-popping begins. Giant cliffs surround us on all sides. Unlike Bryce's bird's eye views, we're now tiny ants below the spectacle. 

Like the towering monuments of the Park Avenue formation at Arches, I love the "huge-ness" of this place!


More forest here than the other parks.

Cross-bedding of ancient sand dunes and vertical cracking from expansion during extreme winters give the mesa its name.
The first tunnel is more like a car-port compared to the main tunnel up ahead.

We begin to find the crowds at the ten minute wait to pass through the long, long, long (1.1 mile), very dark, with a turn in the middle, Mt Carmel Tunnel. $15 fee for vehicles over 11.4" - the tunnel is 13.1" in the middle.

The eighty-year-old tunnel passes through that giant sandstone wall with the dark varnish. There is no lighting inside. I'm glad I didn't know how long it was when I entered from the other side (sorry if I've ruined it for you).




It's difficult to capture the grandeur of the place. Trust me - it's grand! It is also packed with people. Like us. Wanting to see the grandness.

We "attempt" stopping at the Visitors' Center where the huge (the largest we've seen at any park) parking lot is 120% full. People are parked in red zones, over curbs, it's nuts. The line for the shuttle looks a mile long. As we bail out of the park, more buses and cars are entering, the three lanes are full. I'm sure the buses are helping to reduce the impact of so many cars and feet, but with hordes of people, and such a long wait, we're fine with opting out this time.

St George is a good size town where we can get a prescription refill and pick up some groceries, so we continue another 30 miles. After errands and a late lunch, we complete the loop with an 80 mile return drive to Kanab.

The return trip drops us into Northern Arizona for several miles. I love the wide open spaces.
Wednesday we take a break from driving and give the house a long-overdue deep cleaning. There are horrible stickers at this park, so every time Tessa goes outside we're pulling dozens from her feet and coat. It's hard to tell where the bushes are mixed in with other weeds so one time I pull over 40!! 

Gaelyn is doing a Geology talk at 3:00 on Thursday that we don't want to miss, then we'll drive around a bit, and return to have a bite with her at the little deli.

It's 79 miles on small roads so I don't know why I wait until almost 1:30! And we have to make a stop at Jacob Lake for cookies!! We don't remember the time change until after we see Gaelyn hasn't started her talk yet, when we arrive "late". 

While we must pick up chocolate chip for Gaelyn (and a couple for Bill), I try the lemon zucchini, which are wish-I'd-bought-a-dozen delicious. 
It is a pretty and very remote area in the Kaibab National Forest. There is nothing beyond Jacob Lake except the park's northern edge. North Rim sits on a large peninsula, and there is only one way in, and one way out. It is 11 miles from the entrance kiosk to the park complex. Kanab is the closest town. Still, even in October, the parking lot is full (the small Visitor's Center, larger gift shop, and historic lodge share). We grab the last spot and end up hanging out at the lodge rather than risk not having a place to park when we come back. 

I stop at the VC to find out where the geology talk is being held (at this point I still think we're late), and while I'm waiting for a couple ahead of me, I hear the ranger say "She's doing the geology talk", and then the couple saying "We brought her cookies." I laugh out loud and say "I brought her cookies too!" The rangers point out that they also eat Jacob Lake cookies :-))

The lodge veranda is the place to be for the best views, and of course this is where I find Gaelyn setting up for her presentation (and I finally figure out the time thing). It's great to see her again after almost a year since our first meeting in Q last winter!

Now it would be a funny coincidence if other people brought her cookies on the same day - but it's a bizarre small world when those people are friends (from PA) of our pals John and Pam!! Bernie and Ann Marie are a lovely couple who are not fulltimers, but are here for a two week vacation. Seriously, what are the chances..... And, no of course I didn't get a photo :-((

Not surprising, Gaelyn's geology presentation is informative and engaging. She clearly enjoys sharing the "story book" of the Grand Canyon. We sit along the edge to catch the canyon view and listen to the story unwind. It's amazing to think of how relatively short a period of time it took to erode all the layers it took significantly longer to build up. When you go, be sure to catch her talk - you'll learn good stuff!

The late sun is brutal, but the scenery is spectacular.

Colors swirl around the many walls.

Gaelyn doing her ranger-thing. She rocks it.

All ages are engaged in the story.
Large windows and comfy seating focus on the big show.

Complete with huge fireplace and over stuffed leather sofas, the lounge accommodates views in all weather.

Although high up in the soaring ceiling, these vintage wrought iron lamps add a pop of rustic color.

When I was ten years old I fell in love with Brighty of the Grand Canyon - the book, the movie - and here he is!!

A full-size Kachina (katsintithu) keeps watch from the fireplace. 

At the end of her shift, Gaelyn joins us at the deli where we get caught up on each other's plans for the winter. Hopefully our paths will cross again soon!

Our drive back is in the dark so we take our time, keeping eyes out for deer and other wildlife. 

Friday the 13th and we're on the road to Page, Arizona. We return to the Page-Lake Powell RV Park. We were here 18 months ago when we turned around and returned to New Mexico to take care of Bill's mom, postponing our Utah travels. It's wonderful that we've now completed our first visit to that beautiful state (with one more stop in Monument Valley ahead of us). 

I like this park with lovely red slickrock views, on the edge of town, close to everything, and still quiet. Gravel interior roads and sites, small trees, and no bright lights at night. The park WiFi works well as do the FHUs with 50 amps.

This is one of my favorite areas, and while we're here we find even more to love.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Two National Parks - One Big, One Small

October 6-9, 2017
Panguitch, Utah

Friday morning we drive 25 miles under sunny skies to Bryce Canyon National Park. We pass by Ruby's RV Park, which I'm surprised to see is part of a whole tourist complex. It's where "everyone" stays because it's the closest to the park, but our little spot in town works too.

Like a colorful entryway in a magical castle, Red Canyon on Highway 12 welcomes us with a hint of the beauty to come. So red!! 


The side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau.

The shallow valley is within the Dixie National Forest.

One of two tunnels that mimic natural arches. Constructed by J. W. Humphry over 90 years ago, $2.5M was allocated last year for repairs and restoration.
The Bryce Canyon Visitors' Center is smaller inside than its exterior advertises - it's also very full from the buses in the parking lot. But the theater is the largest we've seen and looks like they're screening the latest blockbuster. We squeeze into the back row and watch the second half first. We move up a bit when the first half starts again (definitely the best part to see), then take our leave. You can also see it from beginning to end :-)

Heading out on the 18 mile park road it looks like we have arrived at a time for decent sun-to-red-rock. Since the big show is all on the south side of the road, we drive to the west end first, with a detour to the points on their own side road just past the lodge, and make the stops on the way back.

Like every other place we've seen in Utah (and much of the country), Bryce is not only stunning but completely unique in its geological beauty.  More like a "cave without a ceiling" than a canyon - the area is carved from streams and rivers eroding from the top rather than one large river carving its way through the middle. Here, the fins we find so fascinating in other areas have eroded into Hoodoos, the signature formations of Bryce.


Long distance views from Bryce Point

Paria View has some of the most beautiful variety of formations.

Incredible color with a side of natural bridge.

Fascinating to see the hard caps of well-cemented limestone and basalt.
Rainbow Point at 9100 feet literally takes my breath away. 

Amazing to look over areas we've recently visited. Just to the right of frame the tips of the La Sal Mountains over Moab peek through.
In addition to the parking lots for "major" viewpoints, there are several pull-outs with fewer people and views just as beautiful. We stop at each one, some to take a few quick pics, others to spend more time appreciating the unique formations.




My totem the Raven hopped up on the fence post I was using to steady my camera. I would have liked to spend more time with him, but crumbs on the ground were more interesting (for him, not me).

Show off.

A rare coffee-colored layer.

Natural Bridge is actually a natural arch formed by headward erosion.

Some look like paint "chips" with varied shades of the same color.


The Amphitheater from Sunset Point

On the way out we stop at Fairyland Canyon. It is before the fee kiosk, giving people an opportunity to see some of the beauty without the $30 fee. Our stops in Utah more than paid for our annual pass.

Castle turrets.
We've never heard of Cedar Breaks National Monument, but it was established in 1933 to protect the 3-mile wide natural amphitheater and surrounding area. Saturday is another pretty day so we head out to see it.

We pass through a lot of meadows and open range, with coloring Aspens and a large recent burn area.


Leaving town we're told where we aren't, before the sign for where we are :-)))




Apparently it isn't the "big deal" of other parks in Utah, and when we stop at the Visitors' Center to get the map we find out we've already driven through it! There are only small signs for the four viewpoints, and on the way back we know where to look.


Sunset Overlook 

Small hoodoos line up in the petrified sand dunes.

Chessman Ridge

Muted fall color on the distant mountain top.
Deep red competes with neon yellow at North View Overlook.
At over 10,000 feet I'm really feeling the altitude so our visit is a short one. On the way back we take our time and make several stops in the lower elevation.


Ghost Aspens at Hancock Peak.
With no leaves to rustle or drop in the breeze, the burned forest is completely silent. It's strange that the pines are black while most of the aspens are still white.

I love the shock of blue from this tiny creek meandering through the golden grass.

Back under 8,000 feet the Aspens are keeping their clothes on.

Panguitch, Utah, our home town for a few days.
Even when our teams don't win we enjoy our Sundays watching football. The Steelers really stink this week :-(

Our plan was to move to Hurricane to visit high school friends in St George, and visit Zion National Park. First we learn our friends are out of town this week, and then can't find a vacancy in any park in the area. Guess we'll continue on to Kanab - which turns out to be a much shorter drive! 

My phone call keeps getting dropped, but soon I get a text from Crazy Horse Campark telling me they have a spot and to just come on in - sweet! 

Monday morning we're treated to another pretty drive, this time through the bottom corner of the Dixie National Forest. The little town of Kanab tucks against red cliffs.

We get set up although we are unable to get level in our dirt site. FHUs with 30 amp, decent WiFi, and our satellite connects. Several permanent residents in poorly maintained units, and dried weeds between sites give the park a sad look. 

How the park looks won't matter much to us as we have a couple days of long drives planned while we're here.