Arches National Park in Utah, May 2015

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Travel Thoughts

Tuesday's weather was too erratic to go for a last hike in the nearby Red Rock State Park. It would be sunny for awhile then get totally gray and suddenly burst into hard rain. There was even some thunder and lightning!

So, Craig took care of a small but perplexing problem with our fresh water fill valve, checked the batteries, and did the pre-departure tank dump. He often does these things on the morning we leave a place. Now they are all done a day ahead.

Our next drive  is about 250 miles. We will stop in Panguitch to fill up on both diesel fuel and propane. We prefer using the propane furnace for heat rather than the electric. I do use a small Dyson heater in the front of the coach on cold days, and when it is on, the gas furnace rarely runs.  Craig prefers to have the furnace on at night because it also keeps the bays warm enough to prevent the water pump from freezing.

I almost always have mixed feelings on the day before, and on travel days. I feel excited about going to a new place, and at the same time feel a bit uneasy about what the new park I have picked out will be like. As the trip planner, I'm always a little afraid I have booked us into the "Bates Motel of RV parks". 

I can't say I'm a big worrier about the mechanical aspects of travel. I know we have a good RV that has been maintained and has good tires and brakes, but anytime we are moving I know breakdowns can happen. I am glad to say that any misgivings I have are usually forgotten as soon as we are hooked up, fueled up, and on the highway.

Once we are on the road, I enjoy watching the landscape change and taking my turn(s) as the driver. 

We never rush to get going. If we are on the road by nine or ten, that is good. I always make sandwiches before we leave, and we eat them as we roll. We don't try to go too far in one day, and like to arrive and get settled before evening. Mid-afternoon is ideal.

When we do get to the next park, I always feel a release of tension  when Craig releases the air from the bags and the Alfa lets out with a big sigh as she settles into her new space. 

I guess it's like coming home from work or school at the end of the week. Looking forward to the first day at a new campground is like looking forward to Saturday morning. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

A visit to Kodachrome Basin

We went on a nice day trip to Kodachrome Basin State Park on Saturday.  Before that we had two quiet days, resting in the Alfa and watching it rain and snow. Brrr! 

It was still a little threatening Saturday morning, but we decided to chance it. We had a bit of sporadic rain, but the day was mostly sunny.

Kodachrome Basin is about 25 mile from Bryce Canyon. The road is good and the scenery was beautiful.

I'm sure I will get to the point when I will not want to see another rock wall, but I haven't gotten there yet. Each place is so different. At Kodachrome Basin the upper part of the rim walls are colored grayish-green by the minerals mixed with the limestone. The rusty reds are caused by iron oxides.

Because the weather was threatening, we kept our walks short.

It s really hard to show how steep a trail is, but from Craig's careful stance I think you can get the sense that this was not flat ground. The path going to the right of the picture was also quite steep.

One feature of the basin was the varied large single rocks and pipes standing here and there without many other rocks around them.

This one was very odd.

As we drove past this one Craig called it a "Widow Rock". The larger rock behind this one was really quite far away. If  you look carefully you can see rain coming down in the distance. It started to rain on us shortly after we took this picture.

Kodachrome Basin State Park is a nice added day trip if you are staying in the Bryce Canyon area. There were very few people there when we were, but it may be because the weather was so "iffy".

We don't leave here until Wednesday. I can't say I recommend Panguitch, UT as a place of interest or entertainment. The weather forecast is for possible rain and moderately cold temperatures,  so we may continue to just relax and hang out at the rig until it is time to roll.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bryce Canyon: Navajo Loop Trail

[From Craig] On Wednesday May 13, Merikay and I hiked what a Ranger told us is Bryce Canyon's most popular trail. It went down and then up again, starting and ending at the Sunset view site. Merikay asked me to tell the story, which is accompanied by pretty large images. This post is not recommended for readers who are currently on low-bandwidth Internet links.

From the Sunset parking area we walked along the rim to the Sunrise site, from which we started down. Neither Merikay nor I can figure out the Sunrise and Sunset designations, never having been in the Park at either time.

There are many images on the Internet from the Sunrise site. This one is from a short way down the trail:

A few turns down the trail came a great view of an array of hoodoos (formations) that I think of as The Castle because of its apparently rectangular arrangement:

Down and down we went, each of us thinking of how we were going to have to pay for this nice downhill stretch. The next image goes Tolkien's Lord of the Rings one better: Three Towers.

A few turns more down the trail, we saw another three striking formations. From this you can see that we're starting to turn right, along the recommended "clockwise" route around the loop:

The next image has almost nothing to do with the rest of this post, but we swear it is from the hike! It reminds both Merikay and I of an abstract work by Salvador Dali, and needs only a saggy clock draped over one of the trees to complete the Surrealist motif.  :-)

As we neared the bottom of the loop, we came to an area called Queens Garden. Probably the name comes from the ring of features around the top of the tower, which resemble the top of a chess queen:

When the trail turned seriously upward with a long set of switchbacks, we both had to stop very often to catch our breath:

Our uphill climb passed a crew that was improving the trail for future visitors. Here Merikay looks forward to the rest of the climb, next to one of their powered devices:

This series of switchbacks gives climbers the impression that they will be "at the top" when they complete them. It's not true: quite a few longer switchbacks meander up the slope thereafter. They look out over some wonderful new views, like this one:

This formation is close to the trail, and looks almost edible!

Just before we reached the top was another of these amazing "from the rim" images:

The trail is about 3 miles long with about 600 feet of down and up. We finished it with enough time left in the day for a driving tour of the south end of the park. Merikay may write a future post about that... enough for now!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

"Helluva of a place to lose a cow"

The title is a quote from Ebenezer Bryce, when he was asked about the canyon behind his homestead ranch.

Monday was our first day at Bryce Canyon National park. We decided to get an overview by first stopping at the visitors center to watch the movie. Every park has one that tells it's story.

Then we took the free park shuttle bus, getting off and on at each view point.


The sights were amazing both looking out to the distant horizon, and down over the tops of the eroded rock formations.

We probably walked about two miles. I found it a bit difficult to get my breath when we were going uphill, but then reminded myself that we were over 8000 feet elevation.  We plan on doing a couple of the less challenging hikes, and I hope I can get acclimated to the altitude.

Our next post will be looking up from one of the trails down among the hoodoos (which somehow came to refer to the columns you see above).

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Hiking North Zion, Kolob Canyons - Taylor Creek Trail

First a couple of responses to comments.  You are right Doug, there is no pool at Red Canyon RV. I must have confused it with some other place I had considered. It is just a two road lot with a few cabins on the side of Utah Highway 12. But it is convenient to Bryce and a few other places we want to visit this week.

And to Judy, yes I do want to do a day trip to Kodachrome Basin this week.

The weather was fine for another hike on Sunday, and we headed over to the North part of Zion that not as many people seem to visit.

There we hiked up the middle fork of Taylor Creek to the Double Arch Alcove. I forgot my camera, so the few pictures included here were taken with Craig's phone.

In one of my books, and in the information from the park, the hike was supposed to be an easy five mile round trip. In part because we went astray at the start, our "Map My Hike" app read just shy of six.  

Easy it was not! The trail was littered with large jagged rocks that were definitely hard on my ankle. 

We crossed Taylor Creek, which was only inches deep in most places, about 120 times (60 each way).

All of the crossings were easy, but I was careful to use my poles so I didn't misstep.

Once again we were treated to impressive views of red rock canyon walls, some with water flowing on them.

When we got back to the Alfa in the late afternoon, I flopped down on the bed for a nice 40 minute rest. Craig took off my hiking boots for me because I really didn't feel like moving. I was very glad we had yummy leftover pulled pork that I had made the day before for dinner. I don't think I would have had the energy to cook a meal.

My entire being was tired. But it was a good tired. The kind you feel after doing a hard job, skiing all day, or running a race. I felt at peace with myself and with the world. That is in part why I hike. I enjoy the scenery, and know the exercise is good for me, but I really like the satisfaction I feel. I could never get this good a workout in a gym.

[From Craig] Merikay didn't like the two pictures below as well as I did.  This first one is inside the inner of the two arches at the end of the trail.  All those colors are different minerals that have seeped through the big rock above over the millenia.  I wish I had taken more chemistry and/or geology so that I could tell you which color is which compound.  If anyone reading knows, please leave a comment or send me an email at craigm014@gmail.com.

The second image shows two attractive rocks that stand together on the north side of the canyon.  I like to think of them as brothers who have watched animals and people walk past them over the years, and share a constant but low-bandwidth commentary about the travelers.

We will be hiking past a lot of rock formations in the next few months.  Where are your favorites located?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Just Livin', a week at Sand Hollow State Park, Utah

I love the sky. 

One of the things I missed in my world during the last ten years or so of our living in our home in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California, was a big sky. The way the house was situated the view of the sky was always limited by the trees.

Sunset at Sand Hollow

At Sand Hollow we had a magnificent, 360° view of the sky. 

There was open grass and scrub covered landscape between us and the distant mountains on three sides. 

And a large cinder berm that edged a reservoir on the fourth.

Most of our days here were slightly cool, and one morning we woke to the view of snow on the largest mountain.

In addition to our hikes, we have had some very pleasant, long sleepy afternoons, where we did nothing more than curl up with our books and watch the clouds come and go.

One afternoon we took a drive around the reservoir to where there are a lot of off road trails.  Craig wanted to go "Jeeping", but I wasn't enthusiastic. 

We compromised with a drive around on the hard sand beach.  
All in all it has been a very peaceful week here in Hurricane, Utah. I really do love State Parks. If the weather permits we plan on hiking in Zion again on Sunday.

We travel on Monday, and are headed to Bryce Canyon National Park. As far as I could tell, neither of the campgrounds in the park have electric or water hook ups, so I made reservations at a commercial resort called the Red Canyon RV Park in Panguitch, Utah. 

I hope the pool is nice. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Angels Landing: we're still alive!

Well, so much for sticking to the easy hikes until my ankle is completely healed! On Wednesday evening, in a fit of madness, I declared that I wanted to hike Angels Landing in Zion National Park.  It's the among most popular hikes in the National Park System, and among the least-frequently completed.  I figure with my increasing age and deterioration of my body, if I didn't hike it this time, I would probably never hike it.

With a bit of trepidation, Craig agreed and it became the planned adventure for Thursday. He then read (aloud) some of the reviews of the hike including ones that mentioned the fact that six people have fallen to their deaths from the narrow rock ledges that comprise the last 1/4 mile of the hike, 1400 feet above the canyon floor, where you have to cling onto chains that are anchored into the rock to make your way along.

By Thursday morning I was no longer quite sure I wanted to do it, but we went anyway. I too had read some things about the hike, and figured I could always turn back if things got too hard. 

When we were at Horseshoe Bend, a nice man suggested I get rubber tips for my poles because they didn't slip on rock, so on the way into Zion we stopped at not one, but three different sports equipment shops looking for tips. At the first two I also talked to the guys behind the counter about Angels Landing. They assured me that although the first two and a quarter miles were "a real Huff and Puff", if you took your time it was do-able. I was also informed that many people stopped at a place called Scouts Lookout, which is just below the chains. This info gave me enough confidence to "give it a go"!

You can see hikers in the lower left corner of this image
The first part of the trail is a very easy stroll along the edge of the river, but the goal looms high overhead. Are we really going to go to the top of that?

The Huff and Puff started gradually, with long but uphill sections of trail. But these and the much steeper switchbacks ahead were easy to walk, because they were all paved with either sidewalk-like cement or a more textured hard surface. Much easier than loose or irregular rocks and roots.

Here you can see the trail winding slowly upward. The rocks at the bottom of the picture were at the edge of a sharp dropoff, overlooking the previous switchback. 

Here's another view...

We just kept going up, resting at most switchbacks.

Going up, my ankle didn't bother me very much. Catching my breath was another matter! I sure wish I were 50 or 60 pounds lighter.

Up... up... up... beautiful views! The weather was perfect for this hike: in the low seventies with just a bit of a breeze.

Eventually we got to the part of the trail called "the Wiggles." It consists of 22 or more short but steep switchbacks. The image above shows five of them. 

Just about the time you feel they will never end, the trail spills out onto a fairly large, fairly flat sandy area called Scouts Lookout.

This is where people decide if they want to climb the last quarter-mile up the rocks on the right side of this picture.  Which leads to its informal name "Chickens' Landing".

We had our picnic lunch and I stayed there while Craig bravely went about halfway up the chains. 

He said he had to turn back when he couldn't quite see where the trail went next, and couldn't bring himself to trust the designers of the trail. I held my breath as I watched him come back down.

I did not get a picture of him because he had the camera.  This is a shot of some of the other hikers. Strange how you can never quite show how steep something is in a picture, nor the fact that this rock edge overlooks a 1400 foot drop off!

The walk down had its own difficulties. Breathing was no longer a challenge, but the downhill angle was hard on our knees and my ankle. Although the stops were not as frequent, we did stop to rest from time to time.

It was a beautiful day! We both felt good because we had done (most of) it! For me, stopping at Scouts Landing was still a victory. 

Needless to say, Friday was a rest day.