Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bryce Canyon

What can I say about Bryce Canyon? It is a place that looks like it belongs on another planet! Bryce is different than Zion in that you are on the top of the canyon looking down. You take your vehicle and drive to the different points of interest.

We started with Bryce Point. It was a photographic experience! Every way we looked, there was a new photo to take. Bryce Point is 8300 feet in elevation and the vistas are spectacular. Some of the rock formations are called Hoodoos. The Indians thought these rock formations were created from the spirits of their ancestors. They were mystical!

Bryce Canyon got its name from Ebenezer Bryce, a emissary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The area became Bryce Canyon National Park in 1928.

Inspiration Point was the next stop on our tour. We walked a short ways
because I was not happy with the narrow path along the top of the canyon with no guard rails! We did get some fantastic shots of the rock formations here.

After we ate lunch in the car, Peg walked up to a high look-out near Inspiration Point. I finished eating (and resting) and started up after her. She was coming back and I met her about half way. A picture of Hoodoos to the left! The trail was quite steep and it has a few areas of muddy, melting snow. Remember, we are at 8000' above sea level so walking uphill can get mighty tough!

On our way out of Inspiration Point, we saw a few deer feeding on the side of the road. They looked like they still had their winter coats they were trying to shed. They seemed very comfortable with us taking pictures as they ate!

Sunset Point was our next drive. Here, you can actually walk into the canyon on the Navajo Loop Trail to an area called Wall Street. I started down the walkway with Peg and, since it was a path going down the side of the canyon with no guardrails, I got part way down and my affliction with heights took over. I headed back up the path and Peg continued down. The journey took Peg over 500 feet down into the canyon. So, I enjoyed Wall Street by viewing Pegs photos! It was a wild view looking up from the canyon bottom. Pretty cool!

We took the entire day to enjoy Bryce. I must say, it is our favorite place of all the National Parks we have seen so far.

On our way back, we took the east entrance to Zion Park as a "short cut". We heard about the tunnel there and the spectacular view on the drive. Spectacular was not the word I would have used as I was white knuckled with sweaty palms as I drove the switchbacks into Zion from the top of the canyon! Yikes! Don't they have a budget for guard rails? I must admit, the view was beautiful....

Dixie National Forest-Red Canyon

Today we set out for Bryce Canyon and, on our way there, we stumbled upon the Dixie National Forest and, more importantly, Red Canyon. I have never heard of it and it was really COOL! Check out some of these pictures (and the snow!). The vivid red rock was stacked in unbelievable ways and was a very unique rock formation. All this right along the road to Bryce!

We also drove through a couple of tunnels that were carved out of the
red rock. There were several pullover areas proving that more people than us were impressed with these rocks. Some of the boulders were hovering on top of each other, as if they were waiting for a good wind to send them careening down the bank to the roadway! I was so impressed, I felt the red rocks deserved their own place on our blog!!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Zion National Park

Today we left the RV park with the car and drove through Hurricane on Rt 9 to Zion National Park. At Zion, you are at the base of the formations looking up. The park has a great shuttle service which eliminates much of the traffic as well as the pollution other vehicles would create.

We decided to ride to the end of the shuttle run and work our way back. We got off at various locations throughout the park. This canyon was formed by the Virgin River as it meandered through the rock. The name Zion is a Hebrew word meaning "refuge". Our first stop was the Temple of Sinawava where we ate our packed lunch and took a few photos.

Next we wanted to explore Weeping Rock. Water from the surface travels down through the porous sandstone until it meets an impenetrable shale layer. The water then moves horizontally and drips out of the rock or "weeps". In extreme cases a little waterfall is formed. We had to walk up the narrow, paved path to an overhang where the water was leaking out of the rock. It was pretty amazing!

Next we walked to the Emerald Pools along a rock path that took us 1/2 mile from the shuttle stop. We saw some beautiful vistas along the way. There was a waterfall pouring over a rock overhang and then into one of the Emerald Pools. The water we saw was not an emerald color, but the pools get their names from the green algae the populates the water in the summer.

This is a very well thought out park and it is easy to get around with the shuttles. The spectacular red rock walls (which some brave soles were actually climbing) and the shapes and enormous rock formations made this a "must see" for us. As we were leaving the park, the clouds were casting dark, ominous shadows on the rock formations. A nice ending to our wonderful day!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

St. George Tabernacle

St. George is known to be the home of Joseph Smith, leader of the Mormons. We visited the beautiful Mormon Church in the middle of St. George. We took a tour inside their visitor center of many bronze statues depicting various bible events that a former singer, turned artist, sculpted. I could not believe the detail in these sculptures.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos of the work. It was worth seeing and the exhibit will be moving to other parts of the country in late April, so it was good timing on our part to be able to see these wonderful pieces of art.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Kolob Canyon

For our first foray into a canyon type national park was into Kolob Canyon. It was added as part of Zion National Park in 1937 and was a very short drive from St. George. We used our Annual Park Pass to get into the 5 mile long scenic drive through the park.

The red cliffs and rock structures were really striking! We drove the scenic road stopping at several of the pull-offs to take photos. At the end of the road was a parking area with hiking paths. We took the .5 mile walk to the Timber Creek Overlook. This magnificent view stretches for miles and you can actually see the plateau that is the north rim of the Grand Canyon! The sun was warm but the wind was quite cool as evidenced by the patches of snow on the red mountain peaks nearby. I figured, since we were going to do some hiking, I would outfit myself properly! I had my walking stick, binoculars, coat, and even had my ankles wrapped for the climb. Just call me Mr. Outdoorsman!

Believe it or not, just after this picture was taken my cell phone rang and it was our friends Jim and Shirley asking us what we were up to. It was kind of weird being out on a trail in this canyon and getting a telephone call. Modern technology!

At one of the pull-overs, we saw a Western Bluebird and I took a photo of it as he nicely posed at the top of a pine tree (enlarge photo to see it). We were standing at an elevation of approximately 7000 ft. Pretty wild! The red rocks jutting out from the earth coupled with the white snow and the green trees made a terrific contrast of color. Peg liked to read the information on the plaques as we sojourned along the red asphalt road through the canyon.

The views were just a prelude to what we would see as we ventured to Zion and Bryce National Parks in the coming days. We were glad we took the time to see this often overlooked place in the national park system!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Heading To Utah and the St. George RV Park

We left Pahrump, NV and drove up Rt. 15 towards Utah. I had been looking forward to seeing Utah since I had first seen photos of this state and they looked spectacular! Driving along Rt. 15 we went up onto plateaus, down into valleys and the landscape seemed to change around every curve.

We traveled through a pass near St. George that was really wild! I was a little white knuckled driving this route through the enormous rock outcroppings and the twists and turns in the road. It was more of what I expected to see in Utah.

We turned onto Rt. 9 and the sign said, "Welcome to Hurricane Valley...Gateway To The Parks"! By "parks" they are referring to Zion, Kolab and Bryce National Parks. We visited them all...more on those places later.

We finally arrived at the St. George RV Park. Our first site, site #54, was very narrow. With our slides extended, we were within 6" of touching the next RV! Talk about close neighbors! And we did meet the neighbors, Dale and Rita, who were from Oregon. We tagged along with them to dinner at the Cracker Barrel that night and enjoyed their company. They invited us to visit them at their home in Oregon when we got up that way.

We did end up moving the motorhome to site #59 a day later and it was much more level and wider so we were much happier at the park. We also drove into St. George and looked around. Many red cliffs with houses built on them. Cool to look at, but not sure if I would want to live on a rock formation! They call this area "Utah's Dixie" since it is the southern most part of the state.

Peg frequented the pool a few times. Some days
it was much too windy to try to take a swim. Since we were at St. George several days, we also met other neighbors, Jerry and Wilma, also from Oregon. We had happy hour with them and they served wine from their son-in-laws private winery. It was very good. They also gave us some information on a dentist in Algodones, Mexico and some other tips for when we return there. They spend a lot of time in Yuma, on the Mexican border.

The view from the campground was interesting with the red rocks surrounding us. Peg shot this photo of the red rocks across the highway from us in the early morning hours. The red rocks had changed color to a brilliant orange.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Trip To China Ranch...Near Tecopa, CA

Since we were staying at the KOA park one more night, we decided to venture out on another short trip to explore a place called China Ranch in California. It was near the town of Tecopa which is known for its hot springs. The town was fairly run down and we decided not to stop there this time. We traveled along some desolate roads and finally came to the canyon road China Ranch is located on. Here is a photo of the entrance down into the canyon where the spring-fed oasis is located and where date palms are grown and harvested at the ranch. We wondered if we needed a 4-wheel drive to get back up!

The brochure looked much more expansive than the place really was! There were a few interesting things to see, but the focus of the ranch (for tourists anyway) was the gift shop which had rocks, date shakes, packaged dates and nuts and "gifts". They had a courtyard, of sorts, where you can eat your shake and watch the hummingbirds flock to the feeders. They also has a shop with cactus and various plants for sale. Of course we had to have a couple of date shakes! Enlarge the photos for a better look!

We walked along the stream that fed the oasis and kept the date palms supplied with precious water. One road led us to the date palm "orchard" and I took a photo of the palm trees with the area mountains in the background. It was pretty interesting. Desert all around us except for this small valley.

On our trip back to the campground, we saw an interesting outcropping of rock along highway 178. We pulled over to check it out and take this photo along with a physical sample of the black rock. You do see a lot of wonderful rock formations in this part of the country!