Friday, October 28, 2016

Death Valley National Park

Our next move was to an RV park in Bullhead City, AZ. This stop allowed us to rest and clean after a busy five weeks in Utah. We also took a few days to drive to Las Vegas to visit family and then go on over to Death Valley National Park

This national park is very large and has extreme differences in geologic features and ecosystems. It contains mountains with peaks as high as 11,000 feet and it has the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level. Our spontaneous visit happened to fall on a very windy day making some places intolerable to spend much time. There were also some closed roads keeping us from seeing some park sites such as Scotty's Castle. We entered the park at the far south end near Shoshone and drove all the way up the valley. It is definitely a drive like no other. 
Driving on Badwater Road. The day
started out overcast so it kept the
temperature down.

View along Badwater Road

View along Badwater Road

Badwater Basin - lowest point in
North America

Crusted salt at Badwater Basin

Devil's Golf Course - salty, rough ground
View along road near Furnace Creek

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Zion National Park

View from Angels Landing
Our next move was to Zion National Park to complete the Utah "Big Five" National Parks. This is a popular National Park even in the middle of October. We didn't have any problem with parking and beating the crowd by getting to the visitor center between 8 and 8:30 am.
View along Riverwalk to The Narrows
As with other parks, Zion is very pretty and has unique characteristics. In this case, these are very high, sheer cliffs of various colors. The main part of the park is Zion Canyon. You have to take a shuttle into the canyon but it is very efficient and there are a lot of stops where you can get off and on to enjoy the views. There are a number of hikes with varying difficulties to suit anyone. The iconic hikes are Angels Landing and The Narrows. Both of these are very busy so get going early. Read the conditions and difficulties of these hikes before attempting them.

Court of Patriarchs
There is a west part of the park called Kolob Canyons which we did not get to on this trip and there is an east side that we also didn't get to because we didn't want to deal with special tunnel permits for our dually truck. These areas have their own special features so keep them in mind if you make the trip and want to avoid the big crowds.

We thoroughly enjoyed our week here, punctuated by a number of good hikes.

View on trail to Observation Point

View from Observation Point

View behind History Museum

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Bryce Canyon National Park

Queens Garden Trail
We've been full-timing in an RV for over six years. People often ask what our favorite place is that we've visited. It has gotten to a point where we've seen so many great places that it was impossible to pick one. Driving the Going-to-the-sun-road in Glacier National Park has held a steady place in the top three, if not the number one position. After spending two entire summers based near Yellowstone NP we have a huge appreciation for it so it is in the top three. I think that after spending the last few days hiking and driving in Bryce Canyon National Park, it has definitely captured a spot in the top three as well. I really want to emphasize hiking. This adds a dimension, a depth of appreciation, that cannot be experienced any other way.

Navajo Trail
Bryce Canyon National Park is great to view from the rim but to experience it from the trails is sensational. Now, I must say, we had clear skies and cool temperatures so we had perfect conditions. We hiked the Queens Garden/Navajo Loop trails one day and I hiked the Fairyland Loop Trail another day. The latter is 8 miles with a lot of uphill making it a tough hike but the beauty amazing.

Some hints: go in to the park early because it will fill up. Plus, that works out great for hiking while it is cool (it was 22 degrees Fahrenheit one morning for us). Have a plan - spend multiple days and have targeted things to see/do each day (I recommend this no matter where you go) so you can nab your parking spot and have fun.
View at Farview Point

Navajo Trail

Fairyland Canyon at Fairyland Point
On Fairyland Loop Trail

On Fairyland Loop Trail

View from Rim Trail, part of
Fairyland Loop Trail about 1.5
miles from Fairyland Point

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Cedar Breaks National Monument

View along Hwy 12 in Grand
Staircase-Escalante Natl Monument
Our next destination to spend some time was Bryce Canyon City, UT. It was an amazing drive from Torrey, UT (Capitol Reef NP) down UT-12 to Bryce Canyon City. This is one (of many) Scenic Byways in Utah. It goes over a high pass and across Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. There is a lot of up and down, tight curves and amazing scenery along this narrow road. It requires a lot of fuel and a lot of nerve with a big RV.

View along Hwy 12 in Grand 
Staircase-Escalante Natl Monument
We were in need of an oil change so we used our first day based in this location to drive to Cedar City. That worked out well because we could also go to a real grocery store and go to Cedar Breaks National Monument on the way back. This monument is another NPS location on the Colorado Plateau that shows the colorful cross-sections of the earth rock layers. The monument elevation is over 10,000 feet so it was quite cold on an October day.

Here are a few pictures from Cedar Breaks National Monument.

View near Visitor Center

View on trail to Spectra Point

View on trail to Spectra Point

View from Sunset View Overlook

View from Chessman Ridge Overlook

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Capitol Reef National Park

From Moab we moved to Torrey, UT so that we could visit Capitol Reef National Park. This is another beautiful park on the Colorado Plateau. The name comes from a combination of a large white
Capitol Dome

Hickman Bridge
dome shaped like the nation's "capitol" and the "reef" of rocky cliffs that are a barrier to travel, like an ocean reef. The stunning colors of the rock cliffs, the arches and natural bridges, and the many domes throughout the park make driving and hiking in the park a pure delight. There are few roads in this park but there are great hikes to enjoy the splendor. If you are going to do just one hike, do the Hickman Bridge Trail.

In addition to the geologic history (read about it by following the link above), there is also human history in the park. There are
Who else thinks there may have been
aliens visit earth as documented in
petroglyphs dating back a thousand years and more recently, in the
1880s, Mormon settlers established a community along the Fremont River called Fruita. Fruit trees still grow in the area today.

View on Hickman Bridge Trail

View on Hickman Bridge Trail

View along Scenic Drive

View along Scenic Drive
View from Chimney Rock Trail