Tag Archives: Countryside

Western Adventure, Day XXIII – Utah at Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Another nice day in UT. We headed southwest to Zion National Park. If it wasn’t for our wonderful navigator for the day (me), we would have been in Zion much sooner. I sent us on a scenic drive through Dixie National Park on Highway 14 to Cedar City. We spent a lot of time on the road. Oops! All was not lost though. We did get to spend a bit of time at the top of the pass on Highway 14 in the snow at Navajo Lake. At this time, UT was still at 200% on snow totals for the year. Much of the pass was entrenched in deep snow. The dogs and kids loved it.

Interestingly, on this road there were numerous lava fields with no apparent volcano. Our curiosity was solved when we saw signage explaining that at numerous locations in the Dixie there have been recent (in the last 1500 years or so) lava fields formed from lava just coming out of the ground.

In Cedar City, we found a tasty Mexican food restaurant and a health food store that carried goat cheese. Yeah! We were so close to the north entrance of Zion called Kolob Canyon, we headed there first. The entrance is also the exit… a dead end. Not many people were at the this entrance. I imagine most wouldn’t take the time to come here for only a short 15 mile drive. But the views… wow! Most of the views didn’t look real. The roadway was paved neatly in the same color as the rock. Gorgeous.

The South entrance was significantly different from the North. Where you can drive yourself in the North, at the South you have to park and take a shuttle up the canyon. The shuttle is free with your park pass. There were steep cliffs on each side of the South Entrance with the Canyon floor having enough room for a road, the river and a bit of land here and there. Conveniently the bus stops almost everywhere along the way up to the final stop of Temple of Sinawava. At the Temple, there was a nice paved 1.5 mile walk up to the Narrows, which we walked. The trail was full of wildlife.

The Narrows is probably the most famous of trails here. It is the trail that leads into the canyon on the river. Since the river was flowing about 6500 cubic feet per second, the Narrows was closed. Normally it runs under 70. According to the bus driver, he said it flows at the rate of 15 to 50 in the summer. Did you know that last December they had the worst flooding on record? The Virgin River was flowing through the valley at over 60,000 cubic feet per second. It was the first time they had to close the park for flooding.

Returning to the bus stop, after walking the trail, we discovered tons of people. We didn’t feel like waiting for the bus, so we headed down the road on foot. Oddly the canyon got foggier as we walked, and then we came upon our empty bus stopped. The shuttle driver told us a large amount of rock fell right in front of him. He said it was the first time in his twelve years to happen. The boulders were the size of three man rock and there were white marks on the ledges above marking the path the rocks took as they fell.

The driver wouldn’t let us continue on foot, nor did we want to. So we got on the bus and headed back to the truck since it was getting dark. Our last goal of the day was to drive the one mile long tunnel. We managed to get back to the trailer by 11pm. Long day.


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Western Adventure, Day XX – Arizona at Navajo Bridge and North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Newest bridge is on the right

Newest bridge is on the right

A bright, lightly winded day in AZ today. We had planned on taking a tour through the lower Antelope Canyon on the Navajo Reservation. Little did we know it would cost so darn much to enter the canyon to only have one hour to take photos and explore.

Since we didn’t have enough cash, we decided to change our plans and travel to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We never did plan on seeing the GC this trip, but Mike asked if we could find the time he would love to. So today, it is…

Our first stop on the way was the Navajo Bridge which extends over the Marble Canyon and Colorado River. There are two bridges there now. One is the original built in the 1920s and the other was just completed in the late 90s.

The old bridge is now just a foot bridge. I did make it mid span and turned back. As usual, my troublemaker, Nathan, was busy trying to freak me out.

This was a great place to stop. The gift shop was excellent: Lots of good books, art and helpful people. The architecture was beautiful. The staff recommended we stop by the Glen Canyon Park on this side of Marble Canyon.

Wow! We felt like we had stepped onto another world, like planet Mars. The terrain was nothing we have ever seen before. One rock was so huge, it remiinded us of the Jawas Transporter from Star Wars. It may be hard to tell in the photos, but some of the rocks were over 30 feet in diameter on little pedestals.

We did find access to the river. The dog got to get their feet wet only. The river was too fast for them to swim in.

Heading to GC, the most amazing thing happened to us… we found trees. Old, large pine trees… The kids and I had not realized how long it had been since we had been in the woods. Tears glistened in my eyes at the sight. As the Badlands was spiritual for Zachary, the trees were for Nathan.

The first thing Nathan did, getting out of the truck, was to lay on the ground… then he went and hugged a tree. So emotional for him. He spent a good amount of time off on his own, just enjoying the trees and such. When he was ready, he returned with a big, refreshed smile on his face. He also informed us he did not want to go back to the desert. Trees only for him.

I took over 500 photos. It was windy. It averaged 20 mph with gust over 40. So a lot of our photos have flying hair and wind filled coats. At times, we would have to stop and just hang on until the wind slowed, so we would not get blow off the the trail. Mike was a crazy guy in some of the photos… hanging off the edge and such.

We stopped at the Visitor Center for a bite to eat. Did you know there are cabins available right next to the canyon? What a vacation it would be to see the sun rise and set over the canyon right from your front porch.

We left the main visitor area and drove down a road that called us. We found a lookout that was fantastic called Point Imperial. As the sun started to set, we took off and drove to the Condor release site in the Vermillion Valley. We had hoped to catch sight of this bird with over an eight feet wind span. No such luck. But we did watch the sun set in the valley before we headed back to the trailer.

A high wind advisory for tomorrow?! Yikes! 40 to 70 mph. How much wind does it take to blow over a trailer? We discovered it would be best to stay put and hold tight for day before leaving AZ for Utah (UT).


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Western Adventure, Day XVIII – New Mexico to Arizona

This day was a grand day and full of challenges. First off, we had originally planned on flying Mike out of Memphis TN, as the kids and I continued to Mississippi to visit relatives. Since the flooding and tornados were so bad, we diverted to CO and flew him out on a new ticket from Denver to home. Unfortunately, the airline I booked the ticket with cancelled the entire ticket when Mike was a no show in Memphis. So when Mike got to the airport, he had no ticket. To top it off, he was informed he would have to use another airline to purchase a ticket. Mike was livid.

Mike found a flight out with Southwest and was blessed with a three hour earlier arrival than planned. Thank goodness for the performance chip we purchased for the truck before this trip. The savings in fuel, more than paid for this ticket. We only needed one mile per gallon better to pay for the chip and we have been averaging about three miles to the gallon better than before the chip.

The KOA in Bernalillo, just outside of Albuquerque was an outstanding RV Park. The facility was the best we had experienced since Hill City and the owner was a gem! He let us leave the trailer past check out time to go get Mike from the airport; didn’t charge us an extra cent. No other RV Park I have been to would have done that.

Picking up Mike was sweet… we all missed him so much! The kids tore out of the truck as soon as they saw him. All three jumped him in mid stride. They all beamed with excitement as their daddy hugged and kissed them. Mike had the biggest proud papa grin on his face as he got into the truck.

Back at the trailer, I shaved off Mike’s hair like Zachary’s… He was so nervous. He kept threatening Nathan, he was going to shave off his hair too. I had to laugh. Great new hairdo for Mike!

The challenge of the airport was not enough for the day. We got one more doozy. As we started to head out of town on Highway 550 east, our truck overheated and dumped all of its antifreeze. Then to be precariously parked on the side of the highway on a steep downhill slope. Yikes!

Trying to figure out what happened, Mike called the local Chevy dealer. Decision was to let her cool down, fill her up with water, go back down and retry to climb up the hill. We did discover the use of the recycle air puts too heavy a load on the truck while climbing and it was the culprit. She took an hour to cool. We made it down and back up with no problems. Heading east to AZ, we decided to continue on through some beautiful terrain.

The desert without easy access to a water land form is nice to visit, but we are pretty excited to get to Lake Powell in Glen Canyon. The weather forecast was looking good for the next few days, the low 80s. First, we are going to stop at Monument Valley to watch the sun rise. We drove through the night and made it to the valley by 1am. We parked in the visitor center parking lot and got a few hours of shut eye before we needed to be up.


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Western Adventure, Day VIII – South Dakota at Needles and Mystic

Needles

Needles

Since this was our last day in SD, we decided to go to Needles in Custer State Park and then rock hound at the location the rock shop in Keystone had suggested we go. In the morning, Mike and the kids took a small break in the morning for Zachary to play with his RC monster truck. While the two of them were doing that. Nathan and Briana found some friends… a couple of horses.

Needles is renowned for some of the best climbing in the nation. Mike told me it’s a climber’s paradise in the Black Hills. The drive up to the top was a narrow road full of skinny tunnels carved out of the granite hillsides. At the top of the Needles pass, the kids and Mike had a great time climbing around on the rocks. A local climber was quick to come over and state Briana needed to be harnessed up. He went back to his car to see if he had a harness her size. Unfortunately, he didn’t. He had planned, of course with our permission, to scale the wall, hook up and let her climb to her content. He made sure to tell me to get her geared up and climbing. He liked her enthusiasm and desire to climb.

Mike used to climb before we met. I’m not much for heights, or better yet for the idea of hitting the ground. He did find good climbers in the kids. Maybe he can gear them up and take them up to Unicorn by Mt Rainier. I will take care of the lunch and take photos. The area was spectacular with all the granite needles and spires that abounded the landscape.

My favorite part of the day was the drive back down. Wahoo! What a blast! Highly recommended. The Peter Norbeck roadway is a must drive for anyone who loves to wind up and down narrow roadways. I had so much fun. If I had known about that road earlier in the week, we would’ve drove it a few more times.

From the Peter Norbeck Road, we headed up a small road toward a town called Mystic. We were told there was a mine with huge sludge piles full of rocks to collect. Sadly, we were led astray. It was a neat area, but no rocks. About two miles up, we came to a gate. The car in front of us had gotten through. Darn! Why not us? Then Mike came up with a brilliant idea. He had recognized he gate mechanism as the same on his mom’s gate. Since we had her remote, we pressed the button and wala! the gate opened.

We thought for sure we would find the sludge piles, but no, all we found were a bunch of vacation homes and a creek. Poo! But at least we won’t wonder what we might have missed if we didn’t get through the gate. Word to the wise, make sure you reprogram your gate to a special code if you don’t want the Zimmers coming through. Ha!

We made it back to town late, but early enough to have a nice dinner at Desperados. We got to hear about a few ghost stories and a few places to visit the next time we come back. And come back to SD, we will!


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Western Adventure, Day VII – South Dakota at Wall Drug and Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Our best weather yet! After my late night at the cleaners, we got out a bit late… noon time to be exact. Mike tried to take the blame, but he’s always a sucker for turning the alarm off and rolling over when I’m not willing to get up. Since tomorrow is to bring lots of wind to the Badlands area, we decided to head out that direction today. The route took us through Rapid City. Did you know the capital of SK is as big as Kent, our home town, in population size? Mike read 57,000 on the sign coming into town.

In all the free tourist pamphlets, it reads the #1 attraction in all of SD is Wall Drug in the city of Wall. No one was thrilled with the idea of stopping at a tourist trap, but by the time we got to Wall… we couldn’t resist. Between Rapid City and Wall, there were Wall Drug advertising signs about every .5 miles. Each sign had some catchy phrase and/or goofy picture… “5 cent coffee” “Free Ice Water” “Best Western Wear” “Homemade Doughnuts”, the list goes on. The signs got us so pumped up, we were excited to stop and shop.

I have to tell you right upfront. This place was a winner! We spent a lot of time here and didn’t get through all of it. Fun place! Don’t forget to go to the cafe and have their mouth watering hot roast beef sandwich. Literally, it’s mouthwatering. (I’m watering as I write this.) Don’t share it either. One bite and you will want it all to yourself. Briana proved that when she tried to share with me. Half of the sandwich eaten and she was wanting more. Zachary piled drove his so fast, I don’t think he breathed. I blinked and it was gone. And Nathan was in heaven with the real mashed potatoes and gravy.

The street front to Wall Drug has an old west flair and the building seemed much smaller on the outside than inside. The store is two city blocks long and deep of shop, after shop, after shop. The first place we stopped was the Western Wear area. The boys started looking at boots and ended up with other goodies. As Zachary was playing with the belt, the salesguy came in and gave him a replicated old west handgun to play with… in seconds, he was sold on the leather tooled gun belt and Nathan was sold on the gun replica. Mike was doing his usual perusal of knives. What a selection they had! Then he found the knives of all knives… the darn thing was almost bigger than his arm. I love how it made him laugh so. Toward the back of the store, it opened up into an entertainment area where it added to the fun. There was so much fun stuff to do and see. We spent a total of three hours in this place. At about 5pm, we finally headed out to the Badlands.

Not realizing what we were about to see, we didn’t have enough time. The Badlands are a sight to see with your own eyes. We could have easily spent a whole day here. Zachary was especially moved by this place. As we moved from view point to another point, he would have to be pulled to the truck. He would just stand there taking in the sights. He just loved this place… it was magical.

We found a friendly bunny on a walk at sunset. The bunny came up to the kids. We do love our bunnies. Our Mr. Buttons is traveling with us. He sleeps right next to Briana in the upper bunk of the trailer. He’s doing well. I figure by the time he gets home, he will be a seasoned traveler and can handle about anything. His favorite time of the day seems to be when she brings him down and he visits with all of us in the morning hopping all over the trailer.

Hard to share what is the best part of the day was. I can tell you the sunset was a total WOW! The colors in the sky, the moon and the colors of the land were breathtaking. Briana said it was the amazing view with the unique colored rocks with cracks and oddly quick eroding soil. She thought there would be barren land, but lots of life abound the area. Mike said it was the way the sunlight changed the hue in the rocks and the sky… how it made a magnificent rainbow of colors. Zachary said it was how quiet and beautiful it was. He kept telling us he wants a cabin there so he can just sit and view it all day long. Nathan said just being able to see it was the best part. It was beautiful. He was disappointed he didn’t get to take pictures of the sun setting. If you love landscapes, this is a must see!

We finally headed back to the trailer at dark, made dinner and got to bed around midnight. Tomorrow is to be another sunny day with a heavy breeze. We’ll see. I’m convinced they predict weather worse here than at home. I never thought that would be possible, but it was.


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