Utah Rocks! Part Two

11/6/15  It was a cold morning at Goblin Valley State Park as we had coffee and packed up to leave.  Fortunately, the bathrooms are heated and hot water was available.  We much prefer the facilities at state parks to the ones in the federal parks.  The trade-off is the costs at the state parks are more expensive.

We said farewell to Miles and Aaron and wished them well on their adventures.  We backtracked through Hanksville and headed west to Capitol Reef, a scenic 37-mile drive.  It’s difficult to find a road in southern Utah that isn’t scenic!

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Arriving in Capitol Reef National Park, we were treated to more “oohs” and “ahhs”.

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After settling in at the campground, we went off to do several short  hikes to the Petroglyphs, Sunset Point, and the Gooseneck Overlook.

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After the hikes, we returned to the campground and prepared Spicy Thai chicken wraps for dinner and turned on the Propex – still cold.  After drifting off to sleep under the down, we were awakened around 11:30 p.m. by the sound of yelling, doors slamming, and raucous laughter.  Three cars pulled into the spot across from us and 8 or 9 people got out and commenced to party–until 1:00 a.m.

11/7 Up at 0600 for coffee and packing up – 39 degrees inside the bus this morning. Noted the partiers from the night before were either asleep on the ground, in various small tents, or hanging out the back of a pickup camper.  CU sticker indicated college students – just a “wild” guess.

We drove west into Torrey for gas and food and then took Scenic Highway 12 south on the way to Bryce Canyon.  What a gorgeous drive – there was snow in the higher elevations.  We stopped in Boulder to visit Anasazi State Park, ruins and museum.

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It is impossible to capture the scale and beauty of the drive on Highway 12.  At times you find the road crosses a narrow neck of land between two canyons.   We stopped in Escalante and had a great burger lunch at the Circle D restaurant.

Checking the weather, we discovered that Bryce Canyon National Park was expecting 16 degree temps, so we opted to spend the night 2000 ft. lower at Kodachrome Basin State Park, which is beautiful in its own right – and has hot showers to boot.

We picked a camp site and then went off to hike to Shakespeare’s Arch. “Blow, blow, thou winter wind! Thou art not so unkind as man’s ingratitude.”  Yes, it was 4 layers cold.  

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Back in camp, a planning meeting ensued.  We were growing weary of the cold and decided to spend the next day at Bryce and then camp at Zion which is at lower elevation and is warmer – then head south!  The three-week delay in starting the trip has resulted in much colder temperatures than anticipated.

11/8 Left Kodachrome and drove the short uphill distance to Bryce.  It was 21 degrees and windy as we hiked the rim trails.  The cold and the number of European tourists coming behind us in buses kept us moving at a fast pace.  We apologize for posting so many pictures.  It’s just insanely picturesque.

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Hmm, how did that bus picture get in there?  Never miss an opportunity to post a bus pic.  This one was in the Sunset View parking lot.

After a few hours at Bryce, we headed for warmer temps and lower elevation – with a quick stop when Larry saw the sign that said “Soup and Pie” at Bryce Canyon Pines just west of the park.  A quick lunch complete with coconut cream pie, and we were on our way.

Another scenic drive on the way to Zion National Park.  How come Utah gets all the gorgeous scenery and parks?  We need to petition Oklahoma for one of our own.

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Arriving in Zion on Highway 9, we entered the 1.1 mile-long Zion tunnel.  If you are claustrophobic, you might wish to find an alternate route into the park.  There is no “light at the end of the tunnel” until you are nearly at the end as there are several turns inside.  Oversized vehicles require stopping traffic from one direction so that the larger vehicle can travel down the middle of the curved-ceiling tunnel.  Exiting the tunnel, the road switchbacks steeply down to the canyon floor below.  Just another scenic wonder.

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April through October are said to be pretty crazy here and camp sites require reservations, but this was November and we were fortunate to get one of only a few available sites.  After popping the top, we walked across the bridge to a brew pub for dinner and watched the Broncos lose to the Colts.

Back to the bus and we noticed a young couple camped in the site next to us.  They had no previous camping experience at all and didn’t know how to set up their tent.  They borrowed a hammer from us and with the help of the camp host and Lar, they managed to get set up.  Ah, youth.  They’ll figure it out.

Breakfast the next morning – fresh coffee and cinnamon rolls right out of the camp oven.  Life is good.

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The temps were somewhat warmer but still required layers for hiking.

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We drove up-canyon planning to do more hikes but all the trailhead parking lots were full – in November.  The shuttle buses had quit running the day we came in, so we settled for hikes from camp.  Although spending less time in southern Utah than we had planned, we truly enjoyed all it had to show us.  Now on to warmer climes.

Utah Rocks! Part One.

10/29/15 Leaving Colorado, we entered Utah through Monticello and drove the beautiful route north to Moab through canyon country, our favorite part of the U. S. of A

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Arriving in Moab, we stopped at the Visitor’s Center and picked up some local maps, then went straight to Milt’s, at the suggestion of friends Bob Stevens and Richard & Susie Jones.  Burgers and shakes, yum!

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We then drove around eleven miles west of town on Kane Creek Road where Maggie had camped before, but things have changed in twenty years. Camping is now only allowed in campgrounds.  We camped in the last BLM site just before the Chicken Corners junction.

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The amenities were adequate if not somewhat primitive.  Bring your own umbrella and dry toilet paper.

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We were alone in the area except for tent campers about 1/4 mile away.  It was a good night for campfire and then reading in the bus.  The next morning we drove back into Moab, stopping to look at petroglyphs along the way.

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After restocking in Moab, we drove several miles up Sand Flats Road to Juniper Campground.  Snow on the LaSals!  We opted not to go any higher.

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A cool night called for a campfire followed by a tortellini dinner and reading in the bus.

10/31 Happy Halloween!  36 degrees on a beautiful sunny morning, but Skitter didn’t seem bothered by the cold.

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We hiked around the area and spent a quiet evening reading and journaling.  Meanwhile, back home, great-granddaughter Melody was dressed for the occasion.  Sweet as punkin pie:

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11/1  Drove into town to Moab Coffee Roasters, then headed out to Dead Horse Point.  Found a nice campsite and then drove out to the point for a picnic lunch and a hike on the rim trail.

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The loss of daylight saving time made for a short day, but we managed a campfire before the cold drove us inside.  Great bathrooms at Dead Horse Point, by the way.  Individual rooms are heated and have hot running water.

11/2 We planned to camp on Willow Springs Road (the back road into Arches) where it enters the park, but some recently placed signs said “no camping”, so we opted to go on into Arches the back way.  4WD is helpful in this situation.  High clearance is a must.

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There were dinosaurs in them there hills. Though long gone, they left some tracks.  Lar had difficulty trying to match their stride.

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Unable to camp where we planned, we drove on into Arches, stopping at balanced rock to make lunch, and on to the campground where we were fortunate enough to get a campsite.

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There were some interesting campers nearby, but they weren’t very talkative.

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With perfect weather, temps in the 60s, we hiked a bit from the campground, enjoying the drop-dead scenery everywhere we looked.

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11/3  The winds came up after dark and battered the bus most of the night.  We got up at 0400, had leisurely coffee, and watched the sun come up.

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Then we battened down the hatches and took a nice drive through Arches.  We stopped at the Delicate Arch viewpoint and climbed the steep trail up to the high viewpoint.  Mag had hiked to the Arch with family and friends many times in the past.

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We took our time traversing the park road to the Visitor’s Center.  The senior parks pass is the greatest thing.  We’ve had ours for a few years now and what a bargain.  $10 gets you into all National Parks and National Monuments free and camping is half-price.

We drove into Moab and filled all the tanks:  water, gas, and propane.  Then checked into a hotel for much-needed showers and laundry. Had dinner at the Moab Brewery and then came back and soaked in the hot tub before the rain and winds hit.

11/4 Left the hotel, stopped at Moab Coffee Roasters, and took off for Bluff.  The weather was great until we got closer to Monticello and snow.  Drove on to Blanding where it was sleeting.

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It was raining when we got into Bluff and we stopped for Navajo Tacos at Twin Rocks.  We had planned to stop for the night at Sand Island and proceed to Muley Point the next day, but we opted to just push on despite the weather.  The weather, however, continued to deteriorate as we approached Cedar Mesa and the Moki Dugway.

For the uninitiated, the Moki Dugway is a steep, graveled switchback road with a 10% grade that climbs up the face of Cedar Mesa for 1200 heart-stopping feet (Mag’s description).  It is narrow in some spots as well.  We have been up and down it many times but today was different.  With Mag driving, we started up in rain which changed to sleet and then snow as we gained elevation.  We have a 10-minute video of this fun trip.  It was snowing hard at the top.

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We turned onto the 5-mile road to Muley Point.  It is normally passable dirt, but now was 4″ deep mud – slick clay.  Mag had been stuck on Cedar Mesa in a similar situation in the past and we didn’t want a repeat.  So we backed out and drove on up to Natural Bridges.

It was cold and breezy but not yet snowing at Natural Bridges although there were signs of more inclement weather to come.  We followed the scenic drive and did some short hikes.

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We got back to the campground just as it began to sleet and snow.  Popped the top and turned on some heat.  We went to bed early after a nice pasta dinner, thankful for down comforters and the Propex heater.

11/5 We awakened to a layer of snow on the bus and surrounding landscape.  Although the temp in the bus was 41 degrees, we turned on the heat and soon brought it up into the 60s.  Hot coffee made the world right again.

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Our plans to enjoy the dark skies of Muley Point and Natural Bridges were thwarted, but the landscape was lovely as we drove north toward Hanksville.

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We soon dropped down in elevation and lost the snow, but the views kept on coming.  We took dozens of photos as the landscape continued to inspire us.  There were miles and miles of deep sandstone canyons and towering mesas.  Here are but a few:

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When we stopped by Hite, we were surprised to find the boat ramps high and dry and Lake Powell just barely visible to the south. We drove on over the Colorado River and up towards Hanksville.

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After gassing up at Hanksville, we went north to Goblin Valley State Park, a wonderland of hoodoos of all sizes and shapes, including Mr. Potato Head.

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Taking a cue from our brother-in-law Stan, Larry appears to try and tip over a hoodoo.  He may have been trying to apply for a position as a Utah Boy Scout leader.  Mag was able to prevent mayhem and we drove on to the campground to find a site.

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As we drove into the campground, we spotted a white Syncro Adventurewagon parked in a site and two guys came out to the road to greet us.  Introductions were made and they recognized the Roadhaus from our website and we recognized them from a Kickstarter project that had been posted on the Facebook Vanagon Owners page.  Miles and Aaron and their dog Nietzsche are in the early stages of a major adventure, taking the van to multiple countries while filming along the way.  You can follow their adventures at http://www.headfirstdiaries.com

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We enjoyed visiting with the guys and we all contributed to dinner and a roaring campfire.  The guys are headed to Arizona after this to install a Zetec in the bus before heading south – really, really south.

Colorado, Rocky Mountain High

10/23/15 Enjoyed a three-day visit with friends Paula and Marvin while we adjusted somewhat to the change in altitude. Enjoyed some tasty meals, good conversation and walks. Eating out with these two is always an adventure. There’s a history here but we’ll leave it at that. 

   
 As everyone knows, Colorado has legalized marijuana and we got a bit of an education during the visit. M and P showed us how to trim the plants after drying, saving the buds. 

   
 
There are many ways that marijuana is processed and used here – from smoking to baked goods, oils, and even candy and sodas, which seems a bit dangerous if there are kiddos around. 

  
The THC in marijuana isn’t activated until it is heated, so ingesting the raw buds wouldn’t get you much more than a tummy ache.  There are two kinds of stores here – medical and recreational. The medical requires getting a medical card. The medical marijuana does not contain THC and therefore does not produce a “high”. 

After a pleasant few days catching up with M and P, being treated to some good food, and enjoying some of Marvin’s poetry, we loaded up the bus and said our goodbyes.   

 
10/25 We drove on west, noting the snow on the Sangre de Cristos. We were alerted by friends that Wolf Creek Pass got 20+ inches of snow so we opted to take a more southern route. 

  
We stopped in Salida for coffee at Brown Dog Coffee Co. and a walk around the downtown.   

 

Headed south through the San Luis Valley to Alamosa where we had lunch and a short walk, then on to Chama. The yellow Aspens had grown impatient and departed, but for a few who stayed to greet us.  

 
We camped in Pagosa Springs at a motel campground with hot springs and took an evening soak in the mineral waters.  The next morning, our first-date anniversary, we walked across the street to the main hot springs spa overlooking the San Juan River. 

   
 After a soak and a late breakfast at Rose’s on Main Street, we headed out for Mesa Verde, stopping in Durango for coffee and a walk around town. 

We arrived at Mesa Verde just before closing and drove up to the campground. The store, gas station, and other services were already closed for winter and only one loop was open for camping. 

10/27/15 awakened to 29 degree temps and a white frost coating on the camp chairs. We were nice and toasty in the bus for coffee and pancakes.  

 
We had been warned that Cliff Palace was closed for restoration work and now learned that there had been a rockfall at Spruce Tree House, closing it to visitors as well, although both can be viewed from above. This left Balcony House as the only tour available. Larry took the tour and Maggie stayed up top in the bus after heeding the warnings about lung or heart problems or fear of heights. 

  
After the tour, we drove over to Spruce Tree House and toured the museum. Enjoyed a Navajo Taco and viewed Spruce Tree from above. 

  
We drove on to Cliff Palace, noting the huge burn areas from the fires of 2003 and 2004. Cliff Palace is stunning and never ceases to amaze. 

  
There is no cell service or wifi in the campground, giving us respite from our technology. The only sounds in the night were the haunting yips and howls of coyotes. 

10/28/15 We left Mesa Verde and opted to motel it in Cortez, giving us an opportunity to get haircuts, showers, and do laundry before having a nice dinner at Nero’s Italian Restaurant. 

Maggie lobbied for taking a drive to Ute Mountain Casino after dinner and Lar went along. Lucky jackpot of $3,000 + was the happy result. 

10/29/15 After a nice breakfast with Maggie’s friend Penny, a hospice nurse she had worked with in Cortez in the 90s, we drove up to Dolores to the Anasazi Heritage Center for a visit, then drove out to Sand Canyon Pueblo for a hike among the ruins. This village, in the mid 1200s, had 420 rooms and 100 kivas, with 14 towers. 

    

We said goodbye to Colorado and drove west toward Utah.