Monday, March 7, 2016

Day 13:  Jerome, ID to Bend, OR. (423 miles)

We got up around 7:00 and went to breakfast.  They had made-to-order omelets and eggs.  The crowd was quite different from the families and tourists we encountered in Utah.  This crowd seemed to be mainly truckers.  The weather was cloudy -- the honeymoon is over -- back to the rain.

Actually it didn't rain until just outside Bend.  We went through Boise which seemed like a piece of cake after Salt Lake City.  Then got off the Interstate at Ontario to take highway 20 back to Bend.

We went back through the Painted Hills.Teresa had gotten used to the 80mph speed in Utah and Idaho, so it seemed like we were going slow through the countryside.

We passed through Burns again.  I noticed a sign for the Paiute Indian Reservation.  Teresa told me that the Malher National Wildlife Refuge had been created from Paiute land originally.  She said that when one of the out-of-state demonstrators was speaking and demanding that the government give back their land, one of the towns folk said, "shouldn't they give it back to the Paiute Tribe?"  The demonstrator had no answer for that.  

We continued on highway 20 passing through Stinking Water Pass soon followed by Drinking Water Pass.  There must be a story there.

We arrived in Bend around 1:30.  It was a great trip.

Day 12: Red Cliffs Lodge to Jerome, Idaho. (521 miles)

There was a beautiful sunrise against the red cliffs and the river.  The moon was still out and shown brightly although not full now.  A beautiful setting.  We got up before 8am, took a short walk and had breakfast in the lodge over looking the river,. Then we packed up for a long travel day.

Teresa had researched tanking what looked like a shortcut to Salt Lake City (highway 6 which makes a diagonal track to Salt Lake through the barren lava hills that make up dinosaur country then through the mountains just east of the city).  She found that this stretch of highway used to be one of the most dangerous highways in the US.  That is, until they made recent improvements including adding some passing lanes and counterintuitively INCREASING the speed limit.  In addition to this information we found that in this case the Interstate "is the most scenic route."  So we hopped back onto Interstate 70 and off we went.

And it was scenic.  We followed the road as the twisted rock rose from about 4000 ft. to 7000 ft. This area is referred to as the "San Rafael Reef" and continues for about 70 miles north to south which created quite a barrier for passage through for settlers.  Even today, there are few roads that traverse the reef.  Once we were at 7000+ feet the "mountains" were called "knobs."  We passed through the San Rafael Valley and stopped at the Salt Wash viewpoint again. Then the knobs turned into mountains and the red rocks turned into a landscape resembling that of Zion again.  

We got off the Interstate at Salina and headed north on highway 28 to Nephi. We passed through farm country and small towns as we took this shortcut to I-15 north.  Back on the Interstate, the traffic and lanes increased as we got closer to Salt Lake City.  When we encountered the HOV lane and numerous trucks we knew we were in for a long big city drive.  We stayed straight in the middle lane mostly (as the road increased to 5-6 lanes).  Teresa was a trooper.  It took several hours but we finally left the traffic and trucks behind and crossed into Idaho at 2:32pm.

This is a desolate stretch of highway with no services to speak of until you get to Burley.  The Idaho clouds were spectacular.  We saw many formations.  The sky was like an art canvas.

We finally stopped just north of Twin Falls in Jerome.  Actually the motel was across the street from the Walmart we stopped at before (the one with no photo equipment.)  The room was down the hall from the pool, but seemed to be humid and warm.  We were suspicious when we saw the previous guests had set the air conditioner at 65.  We had to open the window several times and I didn't need an extra blanket here.

We should arrive in Bend early tomorrow afternoon.  The last leg.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

 Day 11: Arches NP and petroglyphs to Red Cliffs Lodge.

We got up early and packed up and headed for Arches hoping to beat the crowds.  It's Sunday with unseasonably warm weather so we expect the park to be crowded.  There are a lot of families with kids eating breakfast at the hotel.

We got to the park and the unmanned toll booth says the park was open.  We headed to the Wolf Ranch parking lot which is the trailhead for the Delicate Arch Trail, a three mile round trip trail to the iconic arch.  It starts out at Wolf Ranch which is a one room dwelling that the original settlers used, very rustic.  Behind the ranch were some very good petroglyphs etched into a rock face.

The trail started out well defined, but when it got onto the rock face (slick rock) we were to follow the rock cairns.  We found those markers were few and far between so we tried to follow the footprints when we found them and other hikers -- not too many.  It was quite a climb up the rock (although no comparison to the Angels Landing hike) and we took a few wrong turns, but finally ended up on a rocky overlook across from the arch.

There were already three guys there. They were very good natured (Australian?) and gave us their spot as they continued on the path up the rock face to the arch.  I told them to wave (which they did) when they got there because we were going to stay right here.  The light was right to view the arch from here and we were tired.  You had to go around a rock ledge to get to the arch and it would be backlit.  We saved that hike for another day.  

We got lost coming back down, but found some hikers coming up and got back on the trail.  Then as we got to the top of the first climb, we passed a park ranger going up the trail and putting up rock cairns.  Made the trip much easier to follow the new cairns from there.

We got back to the car and drove to the end of the road and took the hike to landscape arch stopping at pine arch and tunnel arch on the way back.  The park was getting quite crowded by then.

Then we drove to the Windows section of the park and parked at the trailhead to Double Arch.  We climbed around and took pictures then hiked back to to other windows section.

This section had a great view of new arched forming.  We stopped by Balanced Rock an the Visitor Center and left the park around 2pm.

We took the Potash highway (279) along the Colorado River to the west in search of more petroglyphs and dinosaur footprints.  We didn't find the dinosaur footprints, but did manage to finally spot the petroglyphs along the cliff face along the highway.

In the process we passed a number of rock climbers with their ropes climbing the cliffs.  It was a beautiful day with the colorful hills reflected in the Colorado River on one side and shear cliffs on the other.

We had been told that the Red Cliffs Lodge would not be serving dinner tonight so we went into town for gas and a Subway sandwich to take up the river for dinner.  Strangely enough Teresa gave the kid at the cash register a 20 dollar bill and he gave her a roll of quarters ($10) as change then just disappeared before she could object or offer to pay by card.  Seeing this, I used my card with the girl that had stepped up to the cash register.

We stopped at the rock shop before heading up the river to the lodge.  They had lots of dinosaur bones, but none as nice as I remembered and the polished ones were from Mexico.  No joy.

We headed up the river to the lodge (milepost 14).  It was a little farther up the river than I remembered, but beautiful country with bike trails and parks and places to launch water craft.  The lodge was in a beautiful setting with horses grazing in the field.  It is right on the river with red cliffs close by.  The winery was closed (opens in two days, but I can't get Teresa to stay that long.) But the restaurant was OPEN so we saved our subway sandwiches and made a reservation.  

There were very few guests, we had a whole section nearly to ourselves.  Rooms were great.  I highly recommend this place.  Very nice and peaceful setting. Not sure how peaceful it is in high season (we did find a BUS parking area...  We walked along the river then visited the gift shop where they were selling wine (no tasting).  I bought some wine and Teresa asked if they would like $10 in quarters.  We were all happy.  Dinner was great.

We will be homeward bound tomorrow.  This was a great end point for a great trip.

Day 10 - Dead Horse State Park and Island in the Sky.

Note:  We traveled 460 miles yesterday from Zion to Moab.

We had breakfast at the hotel (Comfort Suites) and headed back north to the cutoff (highway 313) to Canyonlands National Park. The road climbed through very picturesque red hills to a plateau even with the top of the hills.  We took the left fork to Dead Horse State Park.

We arrived just before 9am and paid our $10 fee at the Visitor Center.  The ranger told us the best view was at the point a mile and half down the road, so we headed out there and parked.  The view of the canyon carved out by the Colorado river was spectacular.  The colors were great and the river made many twists and turns in front of us (goosenecks).

Dead Horse State Park has an interesting history.  The natural features were such that early folks used the area as a natural coral for horses.  There is a very narrow "neck" along the rim of the canyon that widens out into a wider area that is surrounded by shear cliffs (and island).  If you run the horses onto the island and block off the neck, they are effectively caged.  At one point the horses were corralled and the people never came back to open the fence.... A sad state of affairs that gave rise to the name of the State Park.

There is a rim trail that we hiked starting to the right along the canyon with some spectacular views.  We passed the "neck" where we saw a twisted branch fence on the side of the road that may have been part of the fence used to keep in the horses.  The neck was the width of the road with about a half width on each side.  We had to walk next to the road to get through here (on both sides).

We continues several miles along a slick rock trail looking for rock cairns (I call them rock pagodas) that are used to mark the trail (since you are on stone and the trail is often not obvious).

We strayed from the path several times but always eventually found a marker.  We took several half mile side trails to view points along the canyon.  We could see Canyonlands Park across the canyon.

Finally we arrived at the Visitor Center again for a break.  Then we took the shorter trail along the east rim out to the point again.

We could see the neck and island aspect of the point easier from this side.

There was also a very blue pool of water which we discovered was a desalination facility used to get the salt out of the land here.  Evidently they put die into the water which makes it more scenic.  This area is called the mini Grand Canyon.  The cliffs are only half the height of the Grand Canyon but the scenery is similar.  I even saw some similar looking rock formations.  This is a very beautiful park.

We made it back to the point and our car and drove to the Visitor Center for a break, then headed back to 313 and on to Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky.  This park also has a neck and an island surrounded by cliffs, but no horse history that I know of.

The gate was closed with a sign to go on through and the Visitors Center was closed, but we stopped there at a picnic area and had some lunch out of our traveling food bag.

Then we drove out to the Grand View area (about 12 miles). This area is on the island and looks down at the canyon carved by the Colorado river and the Needles area of the park.  We took the trail (2 miles round trip) to the view point where you can see the Colorado and Green river meet up.  Then walking along the rim of the Green River canyon.

When we got back to the car we drove down the Green River side to a view point and then north to Upheaval Dome, a strange feature that is perhaps a meteor crater.

We climbed up the trail to the viewpoint.  This is Saturday and the weather is great so we encountered quite a group of people at the viewpoint.

On our way out of the park, we stopped at the trail to Mesa Arch.  We followed the loop slick rock trail and were reward with a great view of the arch and preview of the arches we will see in Arches National Park tomorrow.  The inside of the arch provided a nice view of the canyon and the La Salle Mountains in the background.

We stopped again at the visitor center for a break and a last view of the canyon made more colorful by dusk.  We stopped at a La Salle Mountain viewpoint on our way back down 313 as it wound bad down to Moab.

A full and exhausting day with lots of hiking and sites.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Day 9 - Zion to Moab (switchbacks to goosenecks)

Last night we decided on a Polygamy Porter and salmon cakes instead of the pp margarita.  I woke up at 3:30 so went out to take pictures of the moon.  It was really beautiful with the full moon glowing on the mountain peaks, and very peaceful. Hope one of the pictures comes out.

We had breakfast and packed up.  Headed out at 9:05.  We passed through Springdale.  (Note:  when we were there the other day, the clerk told me that a water main had broken the day after we got to Zion.  It flooded the town and no one had water.  Lucky we didn't leave the park that day.)

The views are spectacular as you take the road to the freeway.  Back on the highway we passed the snow-dusted hills and took I-70 east just north of Beaver.  We started worrying about gas since we knew a 100-mile no-man's-land was coming up.  We went through a pass at about 7,000 feet then through exits with "no
services" before we finally came to Eisinore with a lone gas station.  We filled up -- gas for the car; Dr. Pepper for us. 

We came to Salina which had a few more services and then passed the sign announcing that it was 105 miles to the next services.  The snow-dusting became heavier as we climbed to about 8,000 feet.  At Salina the map designated the highway as "scenic."  That can be a good or bad thing.  Actually, the road was pretty good.  The only snow along the side of the road was in the shady spots and the temperature was around 55.  There were a number of scenic overlooks.  We stopped at the Salt Wash Overlook with a fantastic view of the canyon lands.

Near the end of no-man's-land (Green River) we descended about 2,000 feet (from 6k to 4k) to the river valley.  The white snow beside the road was replaced by white salt patches.  We got off the freeway at Cresent Junction and took highway 191 south to Moab.

We checked in to our hotel on the north side of town and then took a walk through town. They had several very nice Indian Craft stores. We stopped for a gelato and found a all-purpose grocery to get another SD card for my camera.

After a brief stopover at the hotel, we walked about a block to a Mexican restaurant.  Margarita and good food.  We walked back to the hotel to plan our day tomorrow.   

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Day 8 - last day at Zion

We decided to take it easy today so after breakfast we walked along the Sand Beach Trail and turned off at the Court of the Patriarchs exit.  We walked up to the view point and took some pictures then followed an unnamed trail along the beach back to the Lodge.

We had lunch at the lodge then continued on the beach trail towards the Grotto (the trail we have taken twice before).  It is a nice trail with great views of the canyon with the Virgin River in the foreground.

We got some shots of the Angels Landing trail and folks zig zagging up the cliff.
After a rest and some packing we plan to head out to the Canyon Junction where we saw several photographers waiting for sunset yesterday. We will head up the Pa'rus Trail and be back for sunset.

We noticed prickly pear margaritas on the menu, so plan to celebrate our last night in Zion with one of those and a light dinner.  

Off to Moab tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Day 7 - Zion National Park

 After another robust breakfast at the lodge cafe, we started off at 9:15.  We took the Grotto Trail and then connected with the Angels Landing trail.  It was a strenuous climb with many switchbacks.  We knew about Walter's Wiggles, and thought we were there two times before.  LOTS more switchbacks.  

The first set takes you up the side of the mountain facing the Grotto then you go through a slot canyon (your footsteps echo) to the other side and go up another set of switchbacks.

Finally you reach the bottom of the wiggles.  Actually after the previous climb, the wiggles are not that bad.  There are 21 of them but they are short.

After the wiggles you find yourself on a plateau of sorts with a view down to big bend.  A short path leads to the next section which is like rock climbing with chains to hold on to.  I decided -- no way.  Teresa had me take care of  her stuff and she started out.  She made it up the first chain.  There was a gap to the next chain.  Teresa wisely decided to abort.  

We sat sown and enjoyed a protein bar and watched folks going up and down the rock face.  Several we talked to turned around as well before the top which was a half mile "trail."  We noticed that all that made it to the top were young.  And even they said it was "scary."  Teresa overheard one comment that it would be a great place to commit suicide.

There was an "emergency only" out house which I decided was for senior citizens like me.  We decided to continue on the West Rim trail for a while and found a nice rock plateau that had great views of the River Trail and Big Bend.

We decided to name it the Senior Angels Landing.  It was a great spot and great lookout.  We went back down the trail and walked along the River to get back to the lodge.  We got there about 2:30 and took a break.

We got in the car and went to Visitor's Center.  Took the Pa'rus Trail to the end at the bridge ;where highway 9 takes a turn to the east.  Took some side trips to the river for some photo opportunities.  We got back about 6pm to Visitor's Center for a great sunset view of Watchman.

Back at the lodge we found that the housekeeper had evidently noticed our wine bottles and left us 4 wine glasses topped with the cardboard circles used on regular glasses. 

I think we will sleep well tonight.  Last day at Zion tomorrow.