Vacation in the Canyonlands

 

I had a wonderful vacation with my daughter in May 2014. First time since she fledged that we were able to spend a week together, enjoying each other. The pictures follow this piece. In 2008 I went to the Canyon lands with my sister Fay and her husband Phil....never got those beautiful places out of my mind. I kept telling Donna that she had to see the Grand Canyon and Zion and all the beautiful places I had so enjoyed with my sister. And wha la....she took me up on it. My Mother's Day gift was an unforgettable return to Utah and Arizona.... enjoy!

 

In September of 2008 my sister Fay, husband Phil, and myself toured the Canyon Lands on the Grand Loop. It was the most marvelous trip I have ever taken .... will always be on the top of my list.

I have wanted to go back and do it again so may times so in 2014 I talked my daughter Donna into making the loop with me.... I think she will also remember her trip and predict she will return some day.

Our 2014 trip follows

 

Vacation 2014

Vacation May 2-10, 2014: Thanks to my good friends Dan and Allana Hemenway and Jackie and Michelle Geister, I was able to get away for a week to tour the Canyon Lands of Utah and Arizona with my daughter Donna Flynn. We flew to Vegas and rented a car and headed off to Zion NP to do the Grand Circle. We toured Bryce Canyon, UT12 Scenic Byway, Capitol Reef, Arches, LaSal Loop, Monument Valley and lastly the Grand Canyon.

 

The first day we hiked in Zion Canyon along the Virgin River and finished a beautiful day at the canyon overlook...note the dropoff with no rail on the hike up... actually, when the trail was too narrow, rails or chains are added. At one point you must go around a rock face on a planked foot bridge. As with all the hikes we traveled, you must take care, the drops are steep so keep your "eye on the road" and hiking is really rewarding.

 

Next morning it was off to Bryce Canyon via UT-12, the most scenic road I have ever traveled. The two tunnels at Red Canyon above are just pretty, we found the tunnel in Zion is over one mile long and a bit spookie. We stopped to climb among the hoodoos at red canyon . We then took UT-14 and started climbing, had planned a short loop through Cedar Breaks but the road was closed due to snow, they groom UT-148 for snowmobiles and do not grade it clear until June 1st but I thought it would be open because there was no snow....not! Highway 14 to Cedar City had tons of snow and Cedar breaks area is over 10,000 feet in elevation. It was a beautiful drive through high meadows with streams filled with melting snow...well worth the detour. The picture far right is a composite photo...I was totally facinated by the beautiful flowers blooming in the most inhospitable locations on our various hikes!

 

Bryce was stunning but at 8400 feet elevation, my extra pounds made this the most difficult of hikes. This is not the main amphitheater but the far southern end of Bryce, a real climb to the ridge but much fewer people. Reminded me of the terra cotta army, like soldiers all in a row. We stopped to hike up to Mossy Cave Trail a few miles out of Bryce, one of many trails we explored. The side streams were icy cold and clear but the main creek and falls were the color of melted peach icecream only in this case it is melted hoodoos.

 

 

We continued on UT-12 through the Grand Staircase Escalante which takes you through the different levels of the Colorado plateau, from the red hoodoos of Bryce to the white petrified sand dunes. It was one awesome view after another. We crossed the Hogback (above center left) and took a break at the Kiva Koffeehouse which is built into the canyon wall and has views to die for plus great coffee. We spent the night in Boulder UT (pop 200+/-) stayed at Boulder Mountain Lodge and had the most delightful dinner at Hells Backbone Grill (not your typical grill...fabulous food). They grow their own produce and meat...no store for miles and everything is fresh and delightful. The next morning we crossed the 9400 ft pass and looked down on the Escalante Staircase from above the tree line. Mule deer were everywhere (inset). Then we were off to Capitol Reef National Park on our way to Moab.

 

Capitol Reef National Park is not much visited but that made it very nice for us as we had no crowds. We took the Scenic Drive to Capitol Gorge which is a deep slot canyon. We hiked at the end of Capitol Gorge where the road ended but deep gravel and sand made the going tough. My photo of Capitol Gorge does not do it justice because of the cloudy day and lack of contrast. I learned that the green layer in the first photo means that it formed in a fresh water lake unlike the other colors that form in sand dunes or in salt water. The geology of this area is fantastic. It is like being down in the Grand Canyon but not so immense and overwhelming. The sky was incredibly blue our first two days until we began having high winds here at Capital Reef...the skys became milky with dust and did not clear again until the cold front arrived when we did at Grand Canyon.

 

 

 

We hiked every day, put just under 40 miles on these old bones but what a way to see the canyons! The climb to Hickman's Bridge (arch) at Capitol Reef was well worth the climb. We also stopped on UT-24 to see the Fremont Indian petroglyphs. We then headed to Moab to visit Arches National Park. We took the route back through Torrey and Loa to UT-72 through the Fish Lake Natl Forest and avoided the San Rafael desert then IH-70 through the San Rafael Swell, the pretty part of IH70 show on the right above.

 

 

 

At Moab we decided to have a nice supper and watch the sunset from Sunset Grill perched high on the cliff. Next day we decided to visit Arches NP in the morning and then do the LaSal Mountain Loop in the afternoon. Left above is Partition Arch, left center is the Castle section, and then the Delicate Arch. We had lots of company on our walk in Arches as you can see. The LaSal Mountains in the background with their snow cover sure looked inviting. The picture to the right is the view of the mountains from the loop road and then just turn around and you get the view of the canyons. This is just 62 miles of the most beautiful road ....a must do if you are in Moab.

 

Below is Landscape Arch in Arches National Park...looks like it will not be with us much longer. Serveral sections of this arch have fallen in the last twenty five years.. We stayed two nights in Moab...wish it were more. Next morning we started for the Grand Canyon. The best hike (no people) was to House on Fire in Mule Canyon on UT-95(center left). It is a Fremont Indian grainery that has the most unusual natural design in the stone that resembles flames. It was warm and pleasant but as we left, the clouds began to produce verga. It was so dry that the rain could not reach the ground, the higher we went, the more it became snow, again not much making it to the ground. We then did the Moki Dugway (UT-261) which comes off the mesa and drops 1100 feet in 3 miles with no railings but such a view. I have so many beautiful photos that it is hard to find the best sampling of what we saw, a lot would be even better if the dust would settle out. Donna did all the driving which was fine with me!

 

 

Monument Valley was very pretty but obscured by blowing dust so no good photos.

A surprise treat was the sighting of a California Condor at the Grand Canyon. We talked with a Ranger in the park who was monitoring them with radio signals earlier in the day but had not located one (they now have 77 birds in the canyon area). We found this one in the evening about 20 miles away...wow! they are huge with a 9 1/2 foot wingspan and feet bigger than mine!

Grand Canyon is undescribable

 

 

Below is snow falling into the Grand Canyon but the cold front cleared out air for a day. The Canyon is so massive that you loose perspective. In the picture to the right below, you can see people on the viewpoint, the dark streak to the right of the photo is a 14 mile long canyon. Far right is Donna enjoying a glass of wine at sunset. We had to buy jackets as the predicted warm weather turned very cold and windy. We stayed two nights in Grand Canyon at Yavapai Lodge and really enjoyed the canyon from many viewpoints. Saw Elk, Mule Deer, various squirrels and lots of birds the most exciting of which was the condor. I was up at daylight as per usual but daylight was 4:23am and it was DAYLIGHT not dawn.

 

 

We completed our loop at Las Vegas, stayed at the Paris Hotel and spent the evening enjoying the fountains at Bellagio Hotel across the strip. I think we watched them five times before we desided to call it an evening. Given my choice, would have enjoyed an evening back watching the Virgin River in Zion.

The Paris Hotel is lovely and the Mon Ami Gabi Resturant was very good but our room left a lot to be desired.

Las Vegas is not my kind of town....to much humanity!

We were both ready to sleep in our own beds....the shelties were happy to be home also.

 

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