Tag Archives: Utah

Last stop in Utah – 6/22/13 to 6/23/13

"Seven Sailors" in Valley of the Gods

“Seven Sailors” in Valley of the Gods

The drive to Bluff was short from Moab, but no less beautiful. We had more mountains to see, a little less desert, but all still very nice views. The park we stayed at in Bluff, The Cadillac Ranch, was small and perfect. A family has owned and run the park for the better part of at least 20 years; there are only about 12 sites here. The park is in the middle of the canyon that the San Juan River has carved out and is still flowing nicely though this area.
We set up the RV and it was early so we headed to the Four Corners region. Let’s just say we saw it. There is a nice little area of descriptions and the actual steel plaque in the ground at the site for a photo, but that is about it. One of those places that I can say we went to, but never need to go back. We finished the afternoon off with a short stint down at the river, and then back to the MoHo for Taco’s.

The next day we set off early to the Natural Bridges National Monument – part of the National Parks system, but not designated as a NP. We got a tip from Dee Dee (family friend) to drive a road in the area. We looked it up, and with some additional research, decided to give this a try. The first part of the journey was on the Valley of the Gods dirt road. This 17-mile trek through the Monuments area of southern Utah was spectacular! This road is surrounded by massive canyon walls, dried out washes and shrubs, a truly awesome back road. It took us about 1.5 hours to drive this portion of the road, pictures, and slow on the dirt/gravel, but just awesome. The road eventually ties back into Hwy 261, and this is called the Moki Dugway portion of the Hwy. It climbs about 1,200-1,400 feet in three miles, and gave us the view back into the valley we just drove. Again, Utah amazed us with the openness and distances we could see from here. This is one of those roads you never will forget. If you ever get in the area, make sure to take this highway but do make sure you come in from the south and go uphill, I could not fathom driving downhill on that road!

We arrived to the Bridges N.M. and checked into the visitor’s center – free maps and water – a must in these parts. We hiked down to the first of the bridges, Sipapu Bridge, the second longest natural land bridge in the world. Until you stand underneath it, it seems so simple and small from a distance. Then you realize the massiveness that remains and wonder how in the world it is still standing. We returned to the car, hiking back up the 500 feet, and decided to just take pictures of the second bridge (Kachina). The last bridge, Owachomo, we decided to hike down to and this one was much younger, and a lot more delicate. It felt that if the wind kicked up hard, this could come down at any time. I caught myself thinking many times that George Lucas must have used this place as inspiration for some of the settings and structures for the Star Wars movies. We were lucky that there were very few people here so we could enjoy the area without anyone on top of us. This has been great at the smaller parks, and I think we have enjoyed them more because of the quietness. We headed back to the MoHo for steaks and a nice bottle of JM Cellars vino and watched Episode 1 of the Star Wars series. Off to Ouray, CO next!

Owachomo Bridge, Bridges National Monument

Owachomo Bridge, Bridges National Monument

Moki Dugway - check out the switchbacks!

Moki Dugway – check out the switchbacks!

Here are more pics!

Moab, UT – Arches NP and Canyonlands NP – 6/18/13 to 6/21/13

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

We arrived to some heat, 98 degrees here, but it is a dry heat as “they” say in the desert. The drive here was another spectacular trip. Only about 180 miles, but still awesome at every turn (and I notice every turn when I am pushing 31,000 lbs. down the road, and towing another 4,500 lbs.)! As you can guess, I need a cold one or two after the drive, so we headed to the Moab Brewery. As luck would have it, it was Tuesday night and from 4-6, all chicken wings were $.25 each; can you say HEAVEN!! (Weird Utah laws, no happy hour’s for alcohol at any of the dining establishments, but “nightly specials” for food are allowed).

We stayed at the north end of town at the Moab RV Park, nice gated place that has really easy access to town, would come back for sure. Our first full day here we decided to go to Arches NP. Everyone has seen some photos of this place, and after spending the last two weeks here in Utah it seemed familiar as we entered the park. (We entered twice, I forgot to turn on the AC, so we had to go back and turn it on; that would have been a devastating return to the MoHo in this heat late in the day). We got to see some 8 or so arches on the hike we chose, and each one was amazing in its own way. They all have cool names like North and Sound window, Delicate arch, Landscape arch, Double O arch, etc. Some small, some large, all distinct, and amazing that they are still standing. We drove through the park the rest of the day, and took in some of the more easily accessible arches. Some of these things are massive! It shocks me to see these wonders of the world in person, another place the pictures just do not do the justice that the naked eye can see.

The next day was our day to cool off, a float down the historic Colorado River! We chose a ½ day trip, with lunch, transportation and equipment. The river is not running too high now, so it was more of a float like the Yakima River for those of you who know what I mean, but still a bit of rapids here and there to get you wet. They also had 2-person blowup kayaks called “duckies” that we got to use which we took advantage of. A great group of people on the trip and we would recommend Canyon Voyages Adventure Company if you are in the area. We ended the evening with a really great dinner at Pasta Jay’s, a Boulder, CO company that has a location in Moab. Great sidewalk table, and more food than anyone could eat — there are going to be some great leftovers.

The last full day we headed to Canyonlands NP. Much smaller of the parks, as there was only one “pay” station at the entrance, and it was unattended, the honor system. (We bought the yearly pass to all the National Parks for $80 back in Crater Lake, so now we are getting in for free, so to speak). This area is about 6,000-7,000 feet in elevation, so a bit cooler than Moab – by about 10 degrees. We decided to go to the end of the road and take our hike in the “Islands of the Sky” region to see this area from above. (We had met a couple of teachers from Missouri on our raft trip the day before, and they said if you have not seen the Grand Canyon, this will give you an idea of what it looks like). We did a short 1-mile hike out to the end of the bluff, and you better not be afraid of heights here, as it is a long way down to the area I would call the “subfloor.” (There is a 100-mile drive through this subfloor area, called the White Rim road that is for 4-wheel drive only, high clearance vehicles. They recommend you take two days to do the drive, and you can see much of the road from up here). From the subfloor area, the Green and Colorado rivers have carved this place up and you get the complete picture of why it is called Canyonlands NP. You can see for some 35-40 miles in almost all directions, truly awesome to be there. We finished our day with a quick stop at a local winery in Moab, Spanish Valley Vineyards and Winery – one of 11 wineries in the state. Similar hot and cold weather to our Eastern Washington, but the soil is a lot different.

Canyonlands National Park - it's a long ways down!

Canyonlands National Park – it’s a long ways down!

Next, we are on to Bluff and our last few days here in Utah. We both agree, this state needs to step up their marketing within the US of what they have; these parks are incredible. We found that most of the people we encountered in the parks were foreigners, which surprised us. We had very little knowledge of what was here, now we will never forget and tell everyone we know this is a must for the bucket list!

Pics are HERE for Arches National Park
Pics are HERE for Canyonlands National Park

Capitol Reef National Park – 6/15/13 to 6/17/13

We headed east and continued on Scenic Byway 12.  Our destination was Torrey, jumping off point for Capitol Reef NP.  We only needed to go about 100 miles, but it took us close to 3 hours.  A very windy and hilly road.  At one point we climbed to 9,400 feet and then had to come back down at 8-10% grades downhill.  Not fun in the MoHo, but Mike did great.  The views were absolutely fantastic.  There was another spot called Hogsback where we were literally driving on a ridge with steep drop-offs on either side.  Sitting up high, I could really feel it, but the vistas were amazing!

We arrived at Thousand Lakes RV Park (great location, setting and amenities!)and decided to just take it easy for the day and get the lay of the land.  Drove out to the visitor center to get our maps to plan our hikes for the next few days.  Then hit the General Store for food and stopped at a local Greenhouse.  Very cool!  We picked fresh peas, onions and cut a variety of lettuce for a mixed green salad – $5 for everything.  The gardener suggested a spicy arugula, which is native to the area to add to our salad, which he basically cut off of a volunteer plant growing in the parking lot.  Random.  But, the salad was so fresh and  delicious, it will be hard to go back to store bought, and that arugula made it!  The spice was a flavor I have never tasted.

While at the Greenhouse, a local couple suggested a hike for us for the next day – Sulphur Creek Trail.  We took them up on their suggestion!  It was a hike through a steep-walled canyon with most of it through the creek.  We put on our water shoes and it was a great hike to stay cool on a hot day.  We ended at the visitor center and hitched a ride with an older French couple back to our car at the trailhead.  When we got in their car the wife’s iPhone was playing loud music and she couldn’t figure out how to turn it off.  She handed it back to Mike and he promptly opened iTunes and hit stop.  Funny thing is the phone was in French, but it obviously worked the same as ours.  We definitely had a language barrier with them, but lots of smiles and a ‘merci beaucoup’ when they dropped us off seemed to be all we needed! Home to the MoHo to watch the final round of the US Open – watching golf is one of our indulgences.  Phil didn’t pull it out, but we were happy that Justin Rose won.

Woke up the next morning and I was definitely sluggish. The heat and all of the hiking were catching up with me I think.  But, had to kick it in for our last day here.  Drove into the park along the “Scenic Drive” to the Capitol Gorge Road for our hike.  We chose the Golden Throne Trail.  A strenuous, 4 miler, with 730 feet of elevation.  It was a good one and the views at the top stunning.  We ate our lunch then headed back down.  Explored a bit more in the park, including a stop for ice cream at the historic Gifford House, and a jar of local pickles and salsa.  Yummy!

Capitol Reef was definitely less busy than Zion or Bryce. On our first day’s hike we didn’t see anyone else and on the second day’s hike, only 2 people.  Kind of nice to be away from crowds.   Driving to and from this park and within the park has been the most scenic so far.  The area itself is just full of jaw-dropping views.  We would definitely recommend this less visited NP.  We head to Moab tomorrow, which will be our home base for the last two National Parks of Utah – Canyonlands and Arches.

Click HERE for pics of our two hikes in the park!

Zion National Park – 6/11/13

The Narrows

The Narrows

Wow! Wow! Wow! The pictures in the link below will never do this place the justice it fully deserves! I can’t say it enough — anyone that has not been here needs to make plans to come. I had read and seen lots of pictures and info about Zion, but till you see it with your own eyes, you think it is not real.

We did the Narrows hike yesterday. The publications indicate to bring some water shoes  and be ready to get wet. There was a short one-mile walk to the river, and we got there early at 10am, as the temps had been in the high 90’s. This was where the real hike began and where everyone was crossing, so we followed. Within a few hundred yards we realized this is a bit more amazing than we thought. After about an hour, Traci looks to me and says, “this is the most amazing hike I think I have ever done!” We talk to several other first timers to the canyon and they repeat the same exact phrase, unprovoked. We spent almost 6 hours in the canyon and our feet were feeling it, a couple blisters, but it did not matter, there was no way to bring us down from this amazing place.  We estimate that we hiked in about 3 miles of the full 5-mile trip only to be stopped because we would have had to swim and this wouldn’t work with all of our gear. Traci’s pedometer for the day read 23,214 steps! This was the perfect hike for a hot day though as we were in and out of the water most of the day and shaded by the canyon.

Today, we got out earlier than the day before because of the expected heat.  We were on the trail by 9:20am and hiked to the Emerald Pools, which was a much shorter one than yesterday. However this hike was more uphill and in the heat. Wow, we were already tired; our recovery from the Narrows indicates we are not in our 20’s anymore (or 30’s)! Our legs felt like bricks, heavy and slow. We trudged up to the upper pool and I was sweating like I just ran a 5K run, it was already hot and it was only 10:30am. We hiked back, took the shuttle to the car and drove into the small town of Springdale on the South end of the park (We are staying at the Zion RV and Campground just outside the East entrance – much less croweded). We enjoyed a couple very cold beers and headed back to the MoHo to relax for the rest of the day as we are heading to Bryce Canyon tomorrow.

Hike to the Emerald Pools

Hike to the Emerald Pools

p.s.  We can’t say enough about the National Park Service here. The shuttle service to the various hikes was so well organized and of course everyone was so friendly and helpful.  How could they not be when they work in paradise?!

For additional pics, click HERE.  Warning – over 100 pics, but we cut it down from over 400!  The pics are high resolution so will take some time to load.  Just click on one of them and then you can scroll through them.