On Wednesday we visited Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park. Still recovering from our half marathon worth of hiking at Arches the prior day, we needed a day of touring that did not require much movement. Both Canyonlands and Dead Horse can be viewed primarily from the scenic roads through the parks. Perfect. Dead Horse Point provides perhaps the best view of Canyonlands from outside the park. The odd name comes from a legend tied to the area’s unique geography and history. The point is a small area of land 2,000 feet above the Colorado River with steep cliffs on three sides. It is connected to the mesa by a narrow “neck” about 30 yards across. According to legend the point was once used as a natural corral for wild horses. Cowboys would round-up the horses on the mesa, herd them past the narrow neck to the point and then fence them in by placing large branches and brush across the neck. The legend is that the Cowboys took the horses they wanted, and then for some unknown reason left the rest corralled on the waterless point, where they all died of thirst. Tragic story and an odd name for the State Park. Regardless, the views from the point of the canyons below were spectacular.
On we drove to Canyonlands. This National Park is huge. It is divided into 3 main areas: The Needles, The Maze, and Island in the Sky. We toured Island in the Sky which is a large mesa wedged in-between the raging Colorado and Green rivers. The mesa ends at their confluence. The drive took us to many incredible look-outs on both sides of the mesa. We even took a couple hikes (couldn’t resist) to see a feature called Upheaval Dome, considered to be the oddest geologic feature in this part of the park, and Mesa Arch. The hike to Upheaval Dome turned out to be a bit nerve-racking, but being such fearless hikers……….here are some pictures:
Thursday was a much needed day inside. Robin spent the entire day working. I actually helped her (as much as I could) and got the laundry done. We did walk into downtown Moab for a pizza and salad lunch.
Left Moab early Friday morning, next stop Capitol Reef National Park. The “reef” is actually what is called a Waterpocket Fold, a 75 million year old warp in the earth’s crust running the entire length of the park. The park’s features include canyons, monoliths, buttes, and domes. Once again it’s a sight more beautiful and amazing than our pictures provide. The best part was taking the “old home” off the paved roads and venturing through the canyons.
Once out of the Park, we drove Hwy 12, one of the most scenic highways in America, to Panguitch, Utah. The road twists and turns through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Dixie National Forest, including one section of the road where cliffs drop steeply into narrow canyons on both sides of the highway. Pretty thrilling.
After picking up a few groceries in town, we arrived at our “ranch” accommodations at Cottonwood Meadows Lodge in Panguitch. We had made reservations to stay in the “log cabin” but their wi-fi was not working so we were lucky enough to move into the “farmhouse”. The ranch includes 4 rustic looking cabins with modern conveniences on 50 acres of meadows and waterways, including your typical farm animals and their pet dog Jessie. We had a great time hanging with Jessie and feeding carrots to their horses. The Farmhouse was built in 1903, but was recently completely restored.
While in Panguitch we visited Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce Canyon is actually not a canyon but a collection of giant amphitheaters. The distinctive feature of Bryce is its geological structures called hoodoos. Hoodoos are the result of thousands of years of continuous erosion. The hoodoos are spectacular to look at with their red, orange, and white colors. We drove the park’s 18 mile scenic drive, stopping at all 14 viewpoints, but our favorite was hiking the Queen’s Garden & Navajo Loop Trails. Again, our pictures do not properly show the elevation changes and beauty of this park. Definitely one of our favorite hikes this year.
Sunday, after a fun breakfast at the Galaxy Diner (owners are big KC Chiefs fans. Of course Bob was wearing his Raiders sweatshirt and had to suffer endless good-natured ribbing) we were off again, this time to Zion National Park.
Knowing that Zion is one of the more popular parks, we both admitted to each other that we couldn’t imagine that Zion could be more beautiful than the parks we had already seen. Entering the park we hiked the Canyon Overlook Trail which gave us beautiful scenic views of the canyon. We still weren’t sold on the popularity of this park. To reduce traffic and conserve fuel, the main road in Zion is only open to park shuttle buses, except in the winter. We were lucky enough to find a parking space at the shuttle parking lot (turns out we had arrived during Utah’s Fall Break for all levels of school, including college.) Bob and I sat in awe as the shuttle bus took us through Zion canyon. We had visited 14 National Parks in the past 8 months, but as we drove along the canyon floor it quickly became apparent why Zion was a favorite. The shear steep red cliffs cut through the narrow canyon by the Virgin River, are simply unparalleled in their beauty. We had just enough time to hike the Riverside Walk and Emerald Pools trails. It was a good thing we only had time for two hikes as we both had very sore necks from constantly looking up at the spectacular red cliffs.
Last year, as we were preparing for this trip, our kids gave us a book entitled Your Guide to the National Parks. We have used this book continuously throughout our trip. On the cover of the book is a picture of a person hiking in a river through a narrow dark canyon. Turns out this is a picture of the “Narrows” a very popular hike in Zion National Park. When I initially read about the Narrows hike… “9.4 miles, strenuous, you will get wet”, I was dead set against it. Then we checked into our wonderful accommodations, The Red Rock Inn, in Springdale, Utah (just outside the entrance to Zion) and our friendly innkeeper Karen told us to reconsider hiking the Narrows. Turns out you don’t need to hike 9.4 miles, you can hike as little or as much as you want, AND we could rent all the equipment we needed for hiking in a river right down the street. So, on second thought, “when in Rome…”
Robin insists I write about our hike through the Narrows. Perhaps because she didn’t sleep much the night before………..
We woke Monday morning to a wonderful breakfast delivered to our doorstep in a basket (this B&B does not have a dining room). Anticipating the day, we hurried through breakfast, got dressed, and then……….Robin opened up the computer and started working. Humm…OK, no hurry….better we let the cool mountain air warm up before hiking in a river through a narrow dark canyon. Sometimes it’s best just to let the day play out. Once ready (and it was now warm outside) we went to Zion Adventure Company and rented neoprene socks, canyoneer shoes, dry pants, dry bag, and walking sticks. Once we provided emergency contacts, we picked up a couple of sandwiches and headed to the park. The Narrows is at the very tip of the canyon, where the canyon walls are….well…narrow. So we caught the shuttle, took it to the end of the line, hiked up the Riverside Walk (again) and entered the Virgin River.
The next 5 hours were definitely the best hours of our National Parks tour. Once we became accustomed to walking in 1 to 3 feet of water over stones and boulders, and fighting against the swift current of the river (don’t know how those little salmon do it!), we had the time of our lives. The river winds through a very steep narrow canyon, in many places only 20 to 30 feet across. The views are non-stop and the most unusual we have ever experienced. It took us about 3 hours to walk up-stream, mostly because we had to constantly pack and unpack the camera from the dry bag….plus you just have to constantly stop and look around. All the senses were treated on this hike (even the sandwiches were especially tasty). I hope we get to do it again some day. Oh…only one fall all day…guess who?
Once back in our room, we took really long, really hot showers, and then treated ourselves to a nice dinner at the Bit and Spur. Neither of us had any trouble sleeping last night! After another great room service breakfast basket, we began our long 3 day drive to Portland.
Tuesday we stopped for lunch at Cluff’s Carhop Cafe for burgers on our way to Layton, UT where we had the Old Home’s tires rotated and balanced. Then she was treated to a much needed bath!
Arrived in Ontario, Oregon this evening. Ontario is just over the Idaho border, about 60 miles from Boise. Driving through Boise we had to find the Boise State football stadium to view the famous blue field.
Tomorrow we arrive in Portland where we are very excited to visit our friends Mike and Ellen France. Followers may remember we had dinner with daughters Jamie and Lisa while we were in DC.