Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Road To Vegas

100_9147We left Mt Carmel Junction on Thursday.  We stopped for a little service on the motor home ten miles down the road.  We didn’t know how long the service work would take so we planned not to get to Las Vegas the same day.  The service work was done very quickly.  They immediately worked on us and we were back on the road in less than an hour. 

We certainly didn’t want to take the road through Zion Canyon with its tunnels and cliff-side switchback highway.  We talked to a local couple about a route south of Zion 100_9136through northern Arizona then back into southern Utah.  They told us the route would be fine and then proceeded to tell us we would be traveling through a very infamous place – Colorado City, Arizona which is the home of the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) which was headed by Warren Jeffs until he was sent to prison for child sexual assault and rape as an accomplice for arranging marriages between girls and older men. The local couple also told us to observe that many of the houses in Colorado City are not completely finished as a way of avoiding them going on to the property tax rolls.  We saw many houses without siding as we passed through the area

100_9151-001But as we don’t seem to sleep well the night before traveling we still chose to stop and make it a two day trip to Vegas.  And of course we needed to see some more rocks.  We camped in the Virgin River Canyon.  It is a very scenic stretch of highway in the very far northwestern corner of Arizona as you travel from Utah into Nevada.  The 100_9186campground didn’t have any hookups so it was only $8 a night, except that Gary’s senior parks card got us a half off discount.  We hiked a ridge above the Virgin River that offered great views of the canyon.  Later, we had my third-ever wienie roast – I am making up for all the time I lost until Gary first introduced me to the wienie roast last year.


The next morning fully rested we enjoyed the journey on down through the canyon, across the Nevada State Line and finally our first glimpse of the skyline of Las Vegas.



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

With all of these eroding sandstone cliffs and formations, the particles can’t all go down the streams and rivers, although about every stream or river we have seen is muddy with all the silt in the water.  Some of the particles fly through the air and sooner or later they get trapped along some wall of sandstone and voila – sand dunes.  In this case the color is coral pink.  Our camera couldn’t seem to do justice to the color, but trust us, that is not just brown sand.


100_5861We now have seen the white sands of White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.




100_6133And the brown sand dunes of the Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado.




100_9034So it was a clear shot when we saw there is a Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park here in southern Utah that we would have to take them in.  There is only a small area of the dunes that seems to be protected in the State Park.  The rest is apparently on private lands and there were a lot of four wheelers of various kinds plying these dunes.  In fact, everywhere we have gone in southern Utah, there are four wheelers at every stop out enjoying these rugged lands.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

HooDoo You Think You Are

100_8838We twice have visited the land of hoodoos, otherwise known as Bryce Canyon National Park.  So, how does nature create formations as amazing as these?  You start with an ancient sea bed that filled with many layers of sediment (think sand).  The sediment became so thick and heavy that it compressed the bottom layers into rock, not hard rock like granite, but soft rock as in sandstone.  Then through massive earthquakes what was a sea bed was thrust upward about 10,000 feet.  We still can’t imagine the forces the the quakes that went with them that would have thrust an earth plate up that far.  And then the erupted plateau of sandstone eroded through wind, water, freezing and thawing and created these sandstone hoodoos.  Kind of mind boggling isn’t it?


Not only did we drive along the the top of the plateau and look down upon the hoodoos, we also hiked down into the main formation of them, looking back up.  Even though we only hiked down a few hundred feet, it was a tough hike back up in the thin air of 8,000 feet plus.


100_9062It is known as Bryce Canyon as a Mormon settler by the last name of Bryce homesteaded in the area and cut timber from the amphitheaters off the plateau.  It became known as Bryce’s Canyon and the name stuck when it became a national park in 1928.  It has to be an amazing area to homestead what with the hoodoos and distant vistas such as this one.

We also biked in an area leading into Bryce knows as Red Canyon.  The road there follows along a large wash and they have had to carve “arches” into some of the rocks for road passage.  And there are some incredibly red rocks in Red Canyon.


One formation we looked forward to seeing was one we had seen when we were last here six years ago – Poodle Rock.  If you use your imagination, can you see the shape of a Poodle dog?  The photo on the left is from six years ago, and on the right from our current visit.  We felt erosion hadn’t been kind to the Poodle.


If you would like to see more of our pictures from Bryce Canyon, click on the following link.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Special Zion Adventure

100_8942When we visited Zion NP six years ago, there was something that we said if we ever got back here again we would do.  No, it was not to hike the slot canyon of The Narrows as our full time friends Sue and Paul did.  But it was an adventure we enjoyed just the same.  As we noted in our last blog about Zion, you can only travel Zion Canyon by shuttle bus.  However those shuttle buses have bike racks on the front of them and you can ride, or mainly coast back down the canyon road.

It was a beautiful day, deep blue sky without a cloud.  It was a wonderful ride down through the canyon with amazing vistas of the rugged canyon walls.



If you would like to see more of our pictures of Zion NP, click on the following link:

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Another Speed Trap

100_8997Back at the end of February, Gary was caught in a speed trap in the Rio Grande Valley.  But he did take the online driving safety class and at least avoided the points.  On our first trip south from Mt Carmel Junction right there it was – a Sherriff car parked along the side of the road.  Fortunately, we had just pulled out of the campground and weren’t yet up to speed when we approached the apparent speed trap.  Whew.

100_8996When we came back later from the other direction, there was the Sherriff car in the very same spot.  The next time we went that way, there was the same Sherriff vehicle in the very same spot again.  At this point, we had to take a little closer look – very attractive, in a plastic sort of way. 

And that vehicle and the “Deputy” still haven’t moved in two weeks.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Grand Canyon NP–North Rim

100_8903The weather forecast finally said it would be sunny with no chance of rain so we decided it would be a good day for a fairly long day trip to the the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  It was about 100 miles from our campground to the Park.  So, we roll into the Park and what happens?  Yep, the clouds and rains roll in.  Fortunately it was light and intermittent rain, but enough already.

100_8910The Grand Canyon has a much different look than Canyonlands NP.  Canyonlands was cut by two rivers which meet up in the Park.  They cut a very wide swath of the sandstones.  The Grand Canyon is narrower and deeper.  The topography makes Grand Canyon somewhat less accessible.  You go to the lookouts and you look down and across.  Unless you are prepared to to hike to the depths of the canyon – and we weren’t, you just look and contemplate at each of the vantage points.  One of the major roads of the north rim was closed for construction and we didn’t get to the views off that road.

The lodge at the north rim has beautiful views out of its back windows and off its decks.  We caught this picture near there.  NO, that isn’t me.  There is no way I would be sitting out there on that rock.


100_8905We also saw a couple coyotes hunting out in a meadow a couple hundred yards back off the road.

So you are probably thinking what with the rain and the road closures we can’t wait to get to the south rim of the Grand Canyon and experience its views.  Well, we have had some second thoughts about that.  Although we could readily see the south rim only about 10 miles across from the north rim, it is a 250 mile trip by road to get there.  And as we are heading toward Las Vegas it would be over 500 miles extra to our travels.  As surprising as it might seem for us, we are actually becoming somewhat tired of looking at rock.  That is basically what we have been doing since we arose from our winter hibernation back in March.  The rocks have been beautiful but it is now time for a bit of the bright lights of the city.  We will stay on here at Mt Carmel Junction for another week and catch up on some of the exploring we missed because of the rains and play a little golf as well.  But by the end of next week it will be Vegas.

If you would like to see our pictures form the Grand Canyon, click on the following link:

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Cedar Breaks National Monument

100_8808We were not sure when we arrived in the area if we would visit this Park.  Even with all the rain, we had to get out and try to see some things.  We were needing to visit a Walmart so we decided to wrap those two things together.  If we got rained out at the Park, at least we could get groceries and other provisions.


Sure enough, it started to rain shortly after we arrived in the Park.  Fortunately, it remained a light rain and we were able to stop at least at all the lookouts.  At this relatively small Park, you are up high on a mesa looking down at the sandstone erosion along the edge of the mesa.  We were able between the light rains to capture some of the great color of this Park.


100_8807Outside the Park we happened upon a sheep rancher and his working dog rounding up a herd of sheep.  Heading down from the Park to Cedar City for the Walmart was a bit scary.  We were caught at 10,000 feet of elevation in a dense rain cloud making it very difficult to see until we moved down the mountain enough to get underneath the cloud.


If you would like to see our pictures from Cedar Breaks, click on the following link:

Rain, Rain, Go Away

100_8823Come again another day -- after we have left southern Utah.  This area receives maybe 15 inches of rain a year.  It is a near desert here.  So why has it rained every day since we have been here?  Do they have to get the entire annual rainfall in the nine days we have been in Mount Carmel?  Those same tropical flows that have dumped all that rain on Colorado have also spread it across the Southwest.  We think this is most concentrated set of days of rain that we have had in the last two years.  It is backlogging our exploring of the area.  Nearby Zion has had more drenching than where we are camped.  We watched a cell phone video of a group of young guys who were caught back in a slot canyon when the skies opened up.  They were lucky to get out.  A mudslide closed the eastern road of the Park for a day until they could get it dug out.  Fortunately, it had been nothing like Colorado.  At an Escapees co-op campground in New Mexico the residents had to be helicoptered out to safety and are holed up in a shelter. If we are going to see this area we are just going to have to get out there and dodge these showers.  Who would have thunk it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Man And His Dog

While we were in Zion NP, we stopped at a picnic area to share the subway sandwich which we had purchased at the gas station back at the highway junction where our campground is.  While eating, a man on his motorcycle pulled off the main road onto the picnic area road.  I told Gary, “that man has a dog on his motorcycle”, but before he could turn around and look, the dog could no longer be seen as they pass down the road.  As we were headed to the car after lunch, the same motorcycle was headed back in our direction.  The driver saw that I was aiming my camera so he pulled right over to us so that we could get another shot.  I love the goggles!


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Zion National Park

100_8679We are finally at  a western national park that I have visited before.  A very few years ago, for one of my milestones birthdays, we went to Las Vegas.  While there, we did this monster road trip where we rented a car early in the morning, drove to St George, Utah, and from there visited both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, and drove back to Las Vegas arriving very late at night the same day.  Unfortunately, one of the things I remember was that we were running out of gas on the way back and there were no services at the exits in Nevada northeast of Vegas.  And when we finally did see a sign for fuel it wound up being several miles off the highway.  We had to be on fumes by the time we finally fueled.

I have always been obsessive about not running out of fuel and our Las Vegas road trip only made that worse.  At half a tank, Gary is saying, “I know, I know”.  In the motor home, I can’t see the fuel gauge from the passenger seat, so he is always being asked about the fuel level.  This trip to Zion, there won’t be any risk that we will run out of fuel.  So, with plenty of fuel we headed into Zion.


100_8781-002As you enter Zion from the east, you are up on a plateau where, of course, there are lots of spectacular rock formations as shown above.  To get to one of the main features of the Park, Zion Canyon, you have to switchback your way down off the mesa along a road that snakes down one wall of the canyon.  Some of the terrain going down the canyon was so sheer that it wasn’t possible to carve a road into the side of the mountain.  So they built a tunnel.  This isn’t a tunnel that that goes through the center of a mountain.  It is cut just inside the sheer cliff and follows it for a mile.  If you clicked on the tunnel picture you would see that the center height is 13’ 1” and at the outer part of the curved ceiling it is 11’ 4”.  Most busses and a lot of motor homes are between 12’ and 13’ high.  They have made the tunnel an alternating one way road so that tall vehicles can hopefully navigate right down the dead center of the tunnel and avoid scraping either side of their roofs.  The tunnel is vented out through its side wall inside that sheer cliff which creates dramatic views out as you pass them.  Shown below is a shot we got out from inside the tunnel and also a view back toward the sheer cliff that shows one of those vent holes in the rock.  Can you imagine the work it took to blast and chisel this mile-long tunnel through the edge of this solid rock?  At least they are sandstone cliffs.


100_8778When you work your way down the canyon wall to the bottom of the canyon, you get this spectacular view looking back up Zion Canyon.  There is just one road running up and back through the Canyon.  They used to allow cars to drive up and back, but the traffic jams became so horrid that they eventually had to bar private vehicle traffic.  You park at the Visitors’ Center and take a propane-powered shuttle bus up and back the canyon.  We’ll post our pictures from the canyon in a future blog post.

Monday, September 9, 2013

On To Mt Carmel Junction

We continue with our tour to places that you have never heard of. This stop is our location from which to explore a few places you have heard of – Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP, and the north rim of Grand Canyon NP (and a few other lesser known ones as well).  There really isn’t a town of Mt Carmel Junction it is just an area south of another unincorporated area, Mt Carmel.  We are literally at the junction of Highway 89 and Highway 9.  The latter goes west into Zion NP.  There isn’t a whole lot here – a couple motels, a couple gas stations and our campground.

2013-09-06_17-42-24_930Our small 12-site campground is owned and operated by the Best Western East Zion Thunderbird Lodge.  We found this place through our favorite campground locating tool –  So what amenities did we get here?  We got a 50 amp full-hookup site.  The park said most of their sites were 30 amp but when we got here they had a 50 amp available and we grabbed it – at no additional cost.  The reviews said the small park could be quite dusty but it seems to us they must have recently laid down a nice layer of rocks and it is not dirty nor dusty at all.  The reviews also said we would not be able to get a satellite signal because of the line of trees behind us, but Gary tweaked us forward in our spot and you can see it the picture the dish is up and it is pulling in signal just fine.


2013-09-06_17-41-16_19And being owned by the Best Western we are allowed to use their swimming pool and hot tub, at no extra charge.  And the Lodge also has a nine-hole executive-length golf course and for who knows exactly why, campground guests who stay for a week for more are allowed to play without paying greens fees, just a small cart fee. 

2013-09-06_16-26-46_695And there is a restaurant at the Lodge that advertises its HO-MADE Pies.  .

We had been reading that we would pay more for campgrounds this year as we would be in highly traveled, major attraction areas.  On the whole, we have done pretty well in trying to hold down campground costs.  We have had many a night in the low $20s, but then did have to bite the bullet in Jackson.Wyoming and pay $60 a night.  So how did we do here in Mt Carmel, an area of national parks, staying at a Best Western Lodge, with full 50 amp hookups, pool and hot tub, golf course with no greens fees.  How does $16 a night sound.