Another foray into the park was on our agenda for today. We got up fairly late, took showers, fed ourselves and drank much fortified coffee prior to hearing a little thunder in the distance. Soon the thunder was not in the distance anymore and we were treated to some impressive but frightful cracks and rips accompanied by big widely-spaced raindrops. That was our clue to get into our beloved Charlotte and head for the park.
We took the gravel road from Kaibab Camper Village to AZ-67 where we turned south into Grand Canyon some 40 miles away. On the way to the park, we passed first through rain and then through something like sleet or snow while getting occasional glimpses of lightning followed shortly by some terrific thunder. As we got closer to the canyon rim, the skies cleared with puffy clouds that looked like they were raining elsewhere.
Yesterday, we went to both the Lodge area overlooks and up a long side road to Cape Royal. We decided this morning that the side road we traveled yesterday offered the views of the canyon we liked best so today we skipped the touristy, more crowded Lodge part. We took the turnoff to what the park maps call Fuller Canyon. The road is quite narrow, particularly for a gigantic F-250 pickup, and there are very sharp curves, some with suggested speed limits of 10 mph. It is not a road for timid drivers afraid to keep their car on their side of the yellow lines despite being confronted with a deadly drop about 4 feet away on the other side. The round trip to see all the viewpoints here is about 35 miles and speed limits are necessarily low so allow at least 3 hours. We even encountered some rental RV drivers unfamiliar with operation of wide vehicles that cheerfully placed two feet of their vehicle in the oncoming lanes as we approached and passed with the right side tires grooming the ditch. There is little wiggle room here.
In spite of the challenging road, along the way the viewpoints into the canyon offer unforgettable vistas. We pulled into paved areas or parking spots at Point Imperial, Vista Encantada, Roosevelt Point, Walhalla Overlook on the way to the end of the road. There, we took a stroll to an enormous arch thingie called Angels Window and a bit further to Cape Royal. Viewing opportunities at Cape Royal are abundant with perspectives of many different canyon aspects. The emerald-colored Colorado River and some rapids can be seen 7 miles laterally and one mile below the viewpoint. We had great views across vast sections of northern Arizona. What a spot.
We headed back home about 6:00 PM after getting some fantastic photo ops and had not been on AZ-67 northbound within the park for 10 minutes when we encountered some gesticulating Rangers and boxy vehicles with many flashing and gaily colored lights alongside the road. It seems one of those drivers incapable of keeping his eyes on the road while texting or talking or thinking had driven his formerly shiny Toyota off the side of the road, across the ditch, into some mostly dirt terrain before coming to rest on some national park logs. The driver looked sheepish as we passed. He appeared to be getting his personal stuff out of the car because it looked like the car would not be going anywhere except onto the back of a tow truck.
A few miles later, we encountered the Grand Canyon bison herd and they were out in numbers, some effectively blocking the road. They are wonderful, shaggy monsters and it is fortunate they are typically docile because if they weren’t, we would be SOL. The adults are car-sized and the calves are cute little rambunctious Bolsheviks. We also spotted not less than 150 plainly visible mule deer on our way north on AZ-67. This place is great in May; we saw abundant wildlife, fantastic canyon views, scenic forest vistas on roads bordered with many types of flowers. I’ll put this place on my repeat list, if I can find it.
We took a few pictures along the way today and you can see them if you click here
We got on the ‘net by using our phone and found that the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge serves buffet breakfast so I foolishly insisted that we get up, drink our fortified coffee and drive into the Lodge for breakfast which they quit serving at 10:00 AM. We departed our RV park by about 8:25 headed for the Lodge. It is about 40 miles to the park boundary and the speed limits are not high on AZ-67 but we got to the Lodge by about 9:30. I parked while Peg got us a table.
We had a great seating location overlooking this granddaddy of national parks. However, despite the absolutely terrific views, the food was not anything to write home about. I would describe it as nominal. Service was great. After dining, we headed outside to get in some strolling along the rim of the Grand Canyon. The views are truly magnificent but the rim is up over 8000′ elevation so fast walking is almost terminal for old, fat, out-of-shape retirees gasping and wheezing along the edge of this extraordinary demonstration of geology and erosion.
We crept along the canyon rim a while, snapping pictures, looking for places to sit until my heartbeat got below about 200 and jealously guarding the shady spots we found on the rim trails. Peggy is not real skookum on abrupt edges, particularly mile-high ones, so she steered clear of the more ugly passages out to some viewpoints. From the north rim, you can see many geologic layers extending down a mile to rocks near the Colorado River that are over a billion years old. The colors of the layers are fantastic here. Also visible is the south rim about 10 or 15 miles distant and 1500’ lower than the north rim. Beyond the south rim the flat terrain of northern Arizona extends to the horizon.
We finally left the Lodge area and headed for one of the only other north rim roads which goes down about 20 miles from AZ-67 to a promontory called Cape Royal and a wonderful viewpoint called Point Imperial, where there are great vistas with stunning views of the east end of the canyon. It was here that the food I insisted on eating this morning started to have a peculiar effect on my digestive system so we headed back down the extremely narrow road to AZ-67. On the way, we spotted some of either the biggest coyotes we have ever seen or funny wolves, condors, bluebirds, deer and, surprisingly, a big herd of bison. We also encountered a myriad of apparently suicidal drivers coming at us on the very narrow road who had decided that driving on our side of the double yellow line was okay on tight inside corners. I would happily blow my horn at them and watch their faces as they shit themselves while trying to get their vehicles back into their own lane without careening over the edge of the extremely narrow road into nothingness for several thousand feet.
I was fortunate to make it back to our RV at about 4:00 PM since I got to see the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 from Charlotte Motor Speedway which we saw during last year’s trip up the east coast. Truex won.
We took some pix and you can see them by clicking here
We awoke this morning and noted that the Druids or Jawas with brown robes had multiplied overnight. I couldn’t see into their brown floppy hoods but I thought they might be Orientals or aliens. Now there were dozens of the height-challenged little runts milling about so, fearing they might misappropriate my computer or truck and sell them to Like Skywalker’s uncle, we left on schedule driving east on UT-9 until we got to US-89 at Long Valley Junction, UT. We turned south on 89 until we got to Kanab where UT-89A splits from US-89 headed for Fredonia, into Arizona and on to Jacob Lake, AZ. Jacob Lake is about 40 miles north of the Grand Canyon’s north rim, about the closest place to park an RV outside the park and is also not really a lake but instead a puny pond with a fence around it. It is about 75 feet from shoreline to shoreline and possibly as deep as 60 inches at the center. Perhaps a better name for this little municipality would be Jacob Wetspot.
It was only about a 65 mile drive here from the Zion area in Utah. The road climbs rather steadily, from about 4500′ to over 8000′. We quickly arrived at Kaibab Camper Village which has a very small laundry, no pool or wi-fi, full hookups and no discounts. It is situated in a very pretty grove of Ponderosa pines and the spaces are not enormous but certainly adequate. It is about 40 miles from our camping spot to the entrance station of the north rim of the Grand Canyon.
We begged off from any additional driving today, instead choosing to loaf around, reduce our wine and whiskey stores and take naps. It was terrific. We will take a spin down to the north rim tomorrow.
Today was our last day near Zion this year and we took it pretty easy. We drove into the east entrance, down the first five miles and passed through the mile long tunnel that ends at the top of a series of switchbacks overlooking some of the really tasty parts of this treasure. We crept along, talking pictures, until we turned around at the Zion Canyon turnoff and retraced our drive back to our campground.
We were very lucky in that the weather gave us a terrific show by contributing a thunderstorm as we took today’s drive. The rock formations exhibit spectacular colors when wet and lots of the flat rock surfaces get really shiny. It is startling how big a change a little precipitation induces.
From our turnaround point, we were able to see the three or four holes that have been drilled into the sides of the iconic tunnel that is a terrific engineering feat although it is also a terrifying inky black narrow passage through solid rock. When big RVs approach the tunnel, the NPS attendant at the tunnel stops the vehicle, collects $15 and then shuts off oncoming traffic at the far end of the tunnel so the enormous RV can pass through without using only his or her lane. It seems to work very well which is fortunate because a head-on collision in the tunnel with traffic going both ways would be disastrous. Truly, a live grenade in a crowded bunker.
When we got back to our RV park today, many Druids or Jawas had moved into a nearby primitive tent space. They were all wearing floppy brown robes but I did not get a close look at any of them to see if they had little circular LEDs for eyes. They were all very short. I did not see any droids that they may have kidnapped. They spoke a funny language.
We took some pictures on our last run through the park and you can see them if you click here
Today we figured we would follow a strategy that would involve missing the big Zion crowds and, surprisingly, it worked. We started out the day by driving in the east side of the park on UT-9, continued through the park until exiting the west boundary and continued westbound. We passed through Springdale which is almost at the park’s western boundary. We also went through some other towns with strange names like Virgin (where it appeared there were none), another named something like La Merkin or La Jerkin where we turned on a little road taking us to I-15. On the way to the interstate, we passed through a place called Toquerville but it can’t be named after an activity because this is Utah. We have seen few tokers here.
We got on I-15 north for about a 20 mile drive through thunderstorms and then got off the freeway at exit 40 which leads to Kolob Canyon, a part of Zion NP where there are almost no visitors. Our Federal Access Pass which we bought last year in the Black Hills of South Dakota got us around the $30 entry fee and we headed up the road into this stunning part of Zion NP. The road through Kolob Canyon takes motorists on a spectacular drive through a canyon where the road climbs to over 6000′ elevation but is still a long way from the top of the terrain. The bottom of the canyon is hundreds and then about a thousand feet below you and the surrounding mountains extend many thousands of feet above you. There are emerald green sections of vegetation perched on any soil to be found and the flowers were both vibrantly colored and abundant. The surrounding rock formations are truly majestic and awe-inspiring. It is just gorgeous here. This place is an absolutely beautiful and little-known treasure. It is worth the short side trip from the interstate and the $30.
After about 90 minutes here, we jumped back on I-15 toward the main park entrance through Toquerville, La Merkin, No Virgins and back in the west side of the park on UT-9. It was by now 5:00 PM and the bulk of the visitors had left the park, leaving the facility visitor center and, more importantly, the park trolleys empty. We jumped onto an almost empty trolley at the visitor center and took the magnificent ride into the main valley floor. Private vehicles are banned from the valley floor since a narrow road, thousands of visitors in cars and scant parking or pullouts do not mix. The shuttle ride takes visitors on an awe-inspiring ride through nine stops up to the Temple of Sinawava. Many park features were named in the past and the names do not seem very appropriate for today. There are no places with names like the Temple of the Landless Squatters, Valley of the Land-grabbing Weasels, Synagogue of the Shiksas or Meadow of the Filthy Campers because there is no camping on the valley floor. There is a lodge here where the very rich can rent a condo and walk to the park’s abundant and beautiful features but ordinary mortals are right out.
Peggy and I got off the shuttle a few times to gaze at the fantastic scenery. Since a shuttle comes by every 8 or 10 minutes, visiting the main valley floor by shuttle is easy and practical. It is also free, once you are inside the park. Breathtaking vistas are on all sides of you. This place is very beautiful and truly amazing. I give it ten of ten stars or things or thumbs up. The only part I could possibly complain about is there are not enough places to stop the vehicle and get out for a look-see due to the configuration of the park and it’s roads. There is little the NPS could have done better here. This place is stunning.
We took some photos during today’s excursion which you can see if you click here
We packed up our stuff and reluctantly left the Bryce Canyon area headed for an RV park near Zion National Park. The drive was short; maybe 65 miles in all. West on UT-12 for a few miles before turning south on US-89 until we got to Mount Carmel Junction where we turned west on UT-9 toward Zion NP. In Mount Carmel Junction, our Garmin gave us some bad information (probably since I entered the data about where we wanted to go) and indicated that a big dirt vacant lot on the south side of UT-9 was our destination. Even dullards like us realized something was fishy so we pulled to the side of the road and called the office at Hi Road RV park and found we were only 12 miles from the place we were spending the next few days.
UT-9 climbs from about 3000′ elevation at Mount Carmel Junction to around 4500′ elevation where we found our destination. It also looked like a big dirt vacant lot but it did have power, water and sewer hookups so we knew we had finished the day’s drive. Hi Road RV Park is located right next to UT-9 and traffic noise can be heard during the daylight hours, particularly the racket from uncorked Harleys. At night it is very quiet probably due to a complete restriction on truck traffic through Zion National Park, the boundary of which is about a mile west. Hi Road does not have wi-fi except at the Trading Post across the street. There is no paving within the facility so I imagine it is quite dusty during the summer and muddy the rest of the time. It also has no pool and one restroom facility. There is little shade. There is also no other place to stay in the vicinity.
However, just a mile down the road is the entrance to Zion and the scenery around the park is stunning. We had a short drive today to get here so we arrived at our camping destination very early in the day and had plenty of time to fool around. After doing a minimal setup with our fifth wheel trailer, we hopped back into Charlotte for a spin into the park.
Entering the park from the east treats visitors to a spectacular drive along about 5 miles of road with towering rock mountains exhibiting fantastic colors on both sides of the road. Then there is a mile-long tunnel that exits into the main valley and it is magnificent. A series of beautiful switchbacks lowers you into the valley floor where you will be surrounded by very steep walls that extend thousands of feet above the floor. It is gorgeous. It is also quite crowded and the main road through the valley floor is only accessible by free park shuttle.
We continued on UT-9 until we exited the west side of the park and continued until we got to Kolob Terrace Road which goes north through BLM land and then re-enters the park far north of what you can see from UT-9. We started out at about 3500′ elevation but the road climbs through the BLM land running northeast, passes through Zion for a ways and then exits the northeast corner of the park, terminating at Kolob Reservoir. The road is a bit narrow and very twisty but the views along the way are stunning.
After many stops for viewing and pictures, we descended back to the main road and drove back through the valley floor, the switchbacks and the tunnel to our RV park. This place has probably some of the most majestic and extraordinary scenery of pure nature that we have visited to date. The vistas here are mind-boggling.
We took some pictures up at Kolob Reservoir area and in Zion Canyon which you can see if you click here
We loafed a bit, made some reservations for our future destinations and generally fooled around before hopping into Charlotte for a spin up to Red Canyon State Park about 5 miles east of our RV park. We had a brochure describing all the trails within the park and, stupidly, I selected a trail called Arches Trail that was allegedly only 3/4 mile long with a vertical component of 185′. The first 100 yards were great but soon the trail surface turned to loose, thin broken rock over colorful but treacherously sloped bedrock. Between the uphill and downhill torture sections, the path runs along the top edges of bluffs and it is narrow which just delighted my spouse, a women known for her aversion to abrupt edges at the tops of bluffs.
Now I don’t get around like I used to but this place was pretty humbling when it came to the more vertically challenging sections. Uphill climbs crossed over large stepped sections of boulders that kept my progress at a minimum. Downhill sections were a guaranteed slip and fall unless moseying along at geezer speed. I can do geezer. The result is that you must either concentrate your vision at the path or admire the gorgeous scenery in this place while falling down on the jagged rocks. My age and girth and lousy conditioning may have played a role in my almost immeasureable progress.
The scenery is wonderful here, even if you do admire it while looking up from the ground. There are many nifty hoodoos and an abundance of arches or holes in the formations. The rock formations exhibit a truly amazing array of colors. We did not spot much wildlife; only a few lizards.
After struggling through the entire loop, we finally arrived back at the truck for a much-needed gasping session before departing to another trailhead for something called the “Hoodoo Trail” which departs and returns to the park visitor center. This trail was right up my alley; short with very little vertical rise and actually provided with stable walking surfaces. It is a great walk for the elderly, uncoordinated or disabled so it turned out to be right up my alley.
Red Canyon is beautiful, even from the parking lot at the visitor center. I suggest close scrutiny of the trail guide brochure should you be uncoordinated, lazy, clumsy or out of shape because even the short hikes gave me a run for my money.
Without falling down along the trail, we got some pictures that can be seen if you click here
We headed into Bryce Canyon National Park again today in the hope of missing out on some of the weekend crowds. There did not seem to be much of a difference between last Saturday and today; the park was still packed. Bryce Point, one of the premier viewpoints where the NPS has decided to close the parking lot for construction, can only be accessed by the park shuttle which does not run the whole length of the facility. If you want to see the whole park, you must both drive and ride the shuttle. Near the park entrance, where you board the shuttle, parking is at a premium and not always available.
We drove all the way to the far end of the park near Rainbow Point so Peggy could take me on a high-altitude death march to a place called Yovimpa Point. The view was pretty spectacular and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon can be seen as a silhouette on the horizon. I think the North Rim is about 100 miles south as the crow flies. The trip up and back to Yovimpa Point is actually quite short but I was gasping for air in the 9100′ elevation. It could also be because I am old, fat and out of shape.
After the death march, we started back through the park stopping at selected viewpoints to peer into the canyon’s kaleidoscope of fantastic colors and assortment of marvelous shapes. We also spotted some wildlife; birds, chipmunks and a few pronghorn. As we approached the fee station at the park entrance, parking at popular viewpoints was not possible due to the crowds and the construction at Bryce Point.
We stopped by the Bryce visitor center and picked up some postcards we like that are only sold in the parks. We bring the postcards back to the trailer and decorate our very ugly OEM window valences with the painted-looking cards. After we see about 15 more parks, we will have to put the cards up elsewhere because we will be out of valence room.
We were both tired after our excursion through this magnificent place so we exited the park, took a 20 mile drive on a back road and then headed back to the Barbarian Invader.
We got a few pictures along the way which you can see by clicking here
Today we intended to visit another southern Utah national monument called Cedar Breaks but were foiled, mostly. We left our campsite at Red Canyon and drove west on UT-12 until we got to US-89 where we turned north to Panguitch. When I was seven years old (in the Pleistocene Era), our family car’s fuel pump committed suicide in Panguitch and was repaired there. It looks about the same now. In Panguitch we turned on UT-143 and started the long climb to Cedar Breaks. Once we got up over 10,000′ elevation, we finally came to the intersection of UT-143 and UT-148 where we wanted to turn on 148 through the park. UT-148 was closed with a very sturdy NPS gate blocking our way onto the road through the park. You can see a bit of Cedar Breaks from the 143/148 intersection but that was about it. Apparently, they only open the park when no sane people want to be in southern Utah or from around June 1 to sometime in the fall. I am not too sure when it is really open because there are no signs to let anybody know. I suppose we could have called the government to see if the park was open but we have never had to call any parks before to find out if they were really operating a park whose sole purpose was to let people see ’em.
From the summit, we continued north on UT-143 (like we had a choice) down through the Brian Head ski resort which I am sure looks very pretty in the snow but is uglier than Bella Abzug in summer. The section of road from Brian Head down to Parowan in the high desert below is a twisting, steep drive down through some gorgeous terrain with great rock formations, rushing creeks near the road and lumpy pavement. At Parowan, we turned south on I-15 for about 15 miles into Cedar City. We bought a shitload of groceries there because there will be few places to do so in our next few weeks of travel.
From downtown Cedar City, we turned onto UT-14 by the south side of closed Cedar Breaks NM. There are a few glimpses of the park’s amazing terrain but few places to pull out for a better look. At the east end of the road, we drove into Long Valley Junction where we turned north on US-89 again for the trip back towards Red Canyon. Although we did not have the opportunity to get into Cedar Breaks, the loop drive we made so far today was terrific.
Once back at the Barbarian invader, we unloaded groceries but realized we still had plenty of daylight left so we went back into Red Canyon to visit the park visitor center. We picked up a few postcards that I tried to pay for but the lady working the desk went through numerous and identical descriptions of the hiking opportunities to many folks with heavy accents before finally taking my $4.81 for the cards about 15 minutes after I got in the short line.
We continued east on UT-12 and drove into a section of Bryce outside the part of the park where ordinary mortals are required to pay for access. The road leads to a place called Fantasyland Point and it is just beautiful. We arrived at our favorite picture-taking time in this state which seems to be late afternoon. The colors seem to emanate from the rocks in the PM.
We finally curtailed our explorations for the day and headed for the Invader. When we got home, Reggie and Pancho, some San Diego cronies of ours, were at our trailer and had stopped in for a visit. We caught up on old San Diego news, were informed about some nice side road drives locally and generally hobnobbed for a bit before they made their way back home to the hideous (but probably comfortable) condos up in Brian Head.
We shot a few pix during today’s lengthy excursion and they can be seen by clicking here
Today was our first day to explore around this area and so we started by driving up through Red Canyon 15 miles or so to Bryce Canyon National Park. It is a terrific drive through Red Canyon; lots of hoodoos which is the name they give to big vertical sandstone formations which sort of look like giant decorated columns or statues.
We turned into Bryce and drove up to the fee booth for the park, showed our federal access card in lieu of paying $30 and were told by the Ranger at the gate that the features of the park close to the booth were packed with visitors and driving all the way down to the end the park road to Rainbow Point would be a good idea if we wanted to miss the big crowds. She was right.
Eighteen miles in we came to the parking lot for Rainbow Point and got out to peer over the edge of the canyon. It is truly a spectacular wonderland of hoodoo shapes which resemble castles, statues, chess pieces, robots and almost any other fanciful shape you can imagine. The vistas from this 9100′ elevation viewpoint are truly magnificent. During the Reagan administration, the Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, removed the protected designation adjacent lands enjoyed and was just about ready to commence strip mining in the valleys below Bryce when reason won out and Watt lost his job. While we were here, we spotted some Western Tanagers which look to be about 10 times the size of the tiny Tanagers I have seen in the hummingbird house at the San Diego Zoo.
As we drove back towards the fee station, we pulled out at numerous little paved sections adjacent to the road where we could see new perspectives of this amazing park. The crowds started to increase at each pullout and many languages were heard. I think about half the visitors were from abroad and they all seemed quite adept at blocking all the views with their bodies while taking selfies with their phones. The backgrounds in these pictures were probably very nice but the subject matter in the foreground was funny-looking.
After a few more pullouts where English was not heard, we elected to bail from Bryce and return Monday when maybe some of the tourists and locals will be gone. We exited the park and turned back east into the Grand Staircase/Escalante for a bit until pulling out at Kodachrome Basin State Park.
Kodachrome Basin is a gorgeous area with more spectacular geology and many big, free-standing columns of rock that seem distinctly phallic in shape. Heterosexual women would probably love this place. I am a heterosexual male and I thought it was pretty spiffy myself. We were within the park late in the afternoon and that seems to be a terrific time to watch the amazing effects light and shadow have on the rock formations. The place is gorgeous.
We took a few pix during today’s travels and you can see them if you click here