Category Archives: Road Trip

Zion – Caravan’s Last Stop

From the very start of our trip with Arthur & Linda they were really looking forward to spending time at Zion National Park.  It was the place they most wanted to get to during our time together on this joint RVing excursion.  So, guess we saved the best for last.

We arrived in Hurricane, UT on Thursday, June 8th, just ahead of Arthur & Linda.  Good thing, too.  The campground we reserved here turned out to be much less than we desired.  So much so that we just could not even set up our RV there.  Siobhan took off in the Jeep and found a great spot with two available spaces just a few miles down the road at Sand Hollow State Park!  Score!!  Check this place out.

Hurricane became our base for visiting Zion since we couldn’t get reservations in or even near  the park.  Also, Zion runs a mandatory free shuttle system to reduce the traffic impact that the 2.8 million visitors each year were placing on the 6.6 mile Zion Canyon Scenic Drive through the park.  Like most things, this is both good and bad.  The good part is that there are no cars and therefore no traffic within the park.  The bad part is you get around based on the shuttle schedule, like it or not.  Oh well.

On Friday morning, we all took the Jeep to Zion together for some hiking.  We jumped on the shuttle bus at the Visitor Center to get to Zion’s Hanging Gardens at Weeping Rock.  This was a must see for Siobhan, our resident gardener!  There are ten species of plants that grow only here in these hanging gardens.  The water that makes this possible is over 1,000 years old, originally falling as rain and then slowly percolating through the porous sandstone along the walls of the canyon.  From there it was a stop at The Grotto to catch the Kayenta Trail to the Emerald Pools.  There are three levels and we hiked to each one of them.  Then back to the Zion Lodge to get the shuttle back to the visitor center and the Jeep for a quick ride to Springdale to spend a little time exploring this small village located just before the south park entrance.

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That evening we all decided to go out on the town (of Hurricane, that is) for dinner.  We found this place called the Stage Coach Grille. What a great spot, fun place, relaxed and good food too.  IMG_9245Then it happened – Arthur & Linda had informed the waitress that it was my 60th birthday – a birthday cake showed up at our table and everyone was singing happy birthday…great surprise and much appreciated too!

 

Saturday Siobhan and I went back to the park to do a hike called “The Narrows” while RT & Linder went for another epic mountain bike ride just outside the park.  We took the shuttle to the last stop at Temple of Sinawava, then the one mile paved path called the Riverside Walk to get to the kickoff point for The Narrows.  This hike is mostly in the 52-degree river and while it wasn’t more than thigh deep in most places, there is a surprisingly strong current flowing throughout the hike.  We heeded the recommendations to rent a strong walking stick and water shoes which turned out to be a good idea from our perspective.  We went upstream for miles before turning back to try to join Arthur & Linda for an afternoon river tubing adventure.  Unfortunately, we didn’t make it back in time to catch them but we did find a nice pub in Springdale to enjoy a cold one.  What an amazing day!

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Later that evening after dinner, we got together with Arthur & Linda at their RV to celebrate our adventures and wish them a safe trip back to the east coast as they were leaving the next morning.

We had such a special time with our friends (part of our “extended Sunapee family”) while they could be with us and truly appreciated them joining us.  What a unique experience that we will all be talking about for years!

ttyl,

K&S

Hoodoos

Next stop, Bryce Canyon (yeah, we know, that was wayyyy back on June 6th).

This park is at high elevation, between 8,000 and 9,000 feet above sea level.  That provides for views of up to 200 miles with the scent of pine forests filling the pristine mountain air.  Its a relatively small park at only 56 square miles (or 35,835 acres) that was established on September 15, 1928.  Bryce Canyon, while small in size, owes its National Park status to the world’s largest concentration of hoodoos found within its boundaries.  In addition, it has within its boundaries a National Historic Landmark built in 1924 known as the Bryce Canyon Lodge.  Its a phenomenal place.

After getting set up in beautiful campsites within the park at Sunset Campground (hat tip to RT & Linder for scoring two sites after we had been told by the park Ranger that the campground was full!) we all went for a bike ride on the paved paths throughout the bike-friendly park.  We rode to Sunset Point which overlooks Bryce Amphitheater (the park’s premiere attraction), past the Bryce Canyon Lodge and down to the Visitor Center to get info for a special hike for tomorrow.  When biking, you know that whatever goes down must go back up, right…so back on the bikes for the ride up (mostly) to Sunset Point where we decided to take a hike up the rim trail from Sunset Point to Inspiration Point which overlooks Bryce Amphitheater.  Just incredible!

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Bryce has a great shuttle system that we took advantage of the next morning to get from the campground to Bryce Point, the shuttle’s last stop at the end of the park road.  From there, we picked up the Under-the-Rim Trail at Rainbow Point for the long hike out through the canyons and all the way back to Bryce Point.  There we connected to the west side of the Peekaboo Loop Trail and finally joined the Queens Garden Trail which brought us right through the hoodoos of the amphitheater and up the steep climb to Sunrise Point.   From there, it was just a short walk along the rim trail back to Sunset Point and across the street to the campground. A great hike.

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RT & Linder wanted to get some additional bike riding in the next day and Siobhan and I headed to the Visitor Center/Park Store to check that out.  Each of our three nights here we enjoyed happy hours and BBQs.  An awesome park, definitely in our top ten…so far!

ttyl,

K&S

Epic Hike!

How do you define epic?

From the dictionary you will find “heroic or grand in scale or character: his epic journey around the world” or “very imposing or impressive”.

The four of us believe we must add an element of danger and/or risk of injury to the definition to make any adventure truly epic.

Capital Reef National Park, established on December 18, 1971 and encompassing 241,904 acres is another one of those parks that could be considered a “drive through” as Utah Route 24 goes from east to west and you can just simply stop at the vistas to take in the views and keep on going.  In fact, we kinda did that the first day we were there as our campground was on the west side of the park.  We stopped at a few of the vistas and even took a couple of decent hikes to Hickman Bridge and Grand Wash (a canyon) on that first day.

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Our epic hike, though, was an unmarked trail that the Ranger let us know about that we did on the second day.  It was a five-miler upstream through a river bed from just south of the Ranger Station to Panorama Point.  The river was just barely flowing at this point in the season which is what made this hike possible.  That’s not what made it epic.  And it wasn’t the distance nor the heat nor the threat of flash floods in the canyons that made it epic either.  It was finding our way up the three waterfalls along the route, especially that first one!

It was only about 10′ high and there was plenty of room to get up there.  However, we had wet boots and even barefoot didn’t work either as the rock was just to slippery.  There was a pond at the bottom and a ledge to one side.  I tried that path many times but  just couldn’t find a hand hold that made me feel confident that I’d get across that ledge without slipping, smashing my head on the ledge and landing unconscious in the pond below.  And me being the tallest of the group, well, if I couldn’t reach across it was going to be really tough for the rest of the group too.  And, we were over a mile into the canyon at this point so help was not close by if anyone got injured attempting this crossing.

Arthur found his way up the ledge of the waterfall and was convinced we could all make it up that way.  I went up second and made it.  Then it was up to RT & I to pull Linda up over the top once she found a way to get close.  Next was Siobhan, climbing up to the top and RT and I pulling her up and over the top.  Risky but exciting.  We all made it and looked forward to the next two climbs along the way.

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We came across a few other hikers further into the canyon and got some helpful tips from each of them as to how to make it past the remaining falls.  One guy even shared a path through a small tunnel into the rocks that made the last fall easier for sure.

In the morning we had locked our bikes at the parking area for Chimney Rock which was to be the end of our hiking route just across Route 24 from Panorama Point.  That left us  with a few miles to ride back to the car in our hiking gear but, thankfully, it was mostly down hill!

Back at the campground, we decided to try out our RV’s outdoor TV to watch a movie that night called “RV”!  It was funny when we watched it prior to doing any RVing, it was absolutely hilarious after having RV experience.  We were all laughing so hard it hurt!  What a great time! It was like being at our own personal drive in theater.  RT & Linder even brought popcorn.  Hopefully, we didn’t disturb our neighbors too much?

ttys,

K&S

Moab – Part 2

Canyonlands National Park was our destination on Saturday.  Being a weekend and having experienced the wait times at Arches the day before, we got an early start to get ahead of the crowds and it worked!  We arrived before the first bus load of people and the ranger suggested a specific tour route to stay ahead of the crowds.  Much appreciated.

This park was established on September 12, 1964, covers 527 square miles or 337,598 acres and consists of three sections; The Maze, The Needles and Island in the Sky.  Since you can’t get from one section of the park to another via roads within the park and it was more than 100 miles further to drive to The Needles, we chose to limit our visit to Island in the Sky, the shortest drive from our campsite.

The Island in the Sky section of the park is a broad mesa that was created by the Green and Colorado Rivers on either side and over 2,000 feet below.  We enjoyed seeing Mesa Arch, Upheaval Dome and the Green River Overlook.

We’ve found that some National Parks are “drive-thrus”.  For us, that means we drive from one end (or, in this case, section) of the park to the other to see the sites, mainly at vista points along the way.  Usually this involves a short walk or very brief hike along a paved path with placards explaining specific features dispersed along the way.  Canyonlands fit into that category of park for us.  So, without further ado, here are some of our favorite pictures from the day…

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After departing Canyonlands, we had the pleasure of checking out Dead Horse Point State Park as it was on our way back to our campground.  This place receives great reviews and its campgrounds fill up for the entire season as soon as the reservations open in the spring.  Arthur and Linda had gone here today for a mountain bike ride and recommended it highly if we had time to.  While here, we stopped to have a picnic lunch and got to meet two nice folks from our area in New Hampshire.  They were not yet retired but were on an extended vacation  and enjoyed talking with us about our common experiences.  They said they are looking forward to one day doing what we are doing now.  Made us feel grateful and lucky.  Anyway, here are our best pics…

Back at the campground, it was happy hour and dinner with Arthur & Linda where we shared stories about our day and made plans for our next destination to visit…

ttys

K&S

Moab – Part 1

Moab, the mountain bike mecca, was our next destination and first stop in Utah.  We all love this place.  The town vibe is a laid-back mountain bikers/climbers/vacationers kinda place.  Relaxed.

We arrived here on Thursday, 6/1/2017 with no reservations, planning to score a place on BLM land or at a National Forest or something.  This was not really by choice though.  Every federal, state and private campground we checked was ridiculously expensive or booked solid, some for the entire summer.  We figured we would find something, somewhere.

Well, turns out BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land is basically first come / first served.  We got there early enough in the day to stake our claim to a couple of decent campsites in Horse Thief Canyon about 35 minutes outside of town.  Its not a high-end resort or anything, its actually dry camping or boondocking (no water, no power, no sewer).  Its fun as long as its not too hot, it tends to be much less crowded which all four of us prefer and its very inexpensive.  After setting up camp, we took the ride down to Moab to enjoy the town, some snacks and a cold one.

We were in this area of Utah to visit Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.  Since RT & Linder had previously visited both parks, they opted to go mountain biking for a couple of days while Siobhan and I visited Arches National Park on Friday and Canyonlands National Park on Saturday.

Arches is not only beautiful and unique, it is also very popular with roughly 1.6 million visitor in 2016.  Based on our experience of waiting 30 minutes to gain entry into the park, I’d guess that 2017 will see even more visitors here.  All these people can’t be wrong, right?  You be the judge by checking out the pictures.  We know they don’t do justice to the reality we saw but its the best we can do to share the beauty of this place with you.  Enjoy!

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Arches National Park was established on November 12, 1971 and encompasses 76,679 acres.  There are many hiking options here but this is a park that can be enjoyed from your car if you choose.  We did some of both.  Our hikes included the Windows Trail, both Delicate Arch Viewpoint Trails and the three mile Delicate Arch Trail.  We also enjoyed the scenery at Panorama Point, Balanced Rock and the Petrified Dunes.

Well worth the visit.  Of course, the day would not be complete without a quick visit to the Moab Brewery for a great local brew called Dead Horse Amber.  We’ve added this to our list of microbrews that we would like to come across again!

More on our Moab travels soon….

ttyl,

K&S

Fruita

It wasn’t too long ago that I told you about Siobhan and I having to “stay behind” in Gallup, New Mexico while RT & Linder went ahead.  We had to wait to get our rig fixed (the frig, remember?).  Well, this time Arthur and Linda were having some issues with their rented rig so we went on ahead to secure our campsites for the night.  The automatic leveling system on their coach would not deploy.  When it’s not working, it’s risky to put out the slides on the coach, the mechanisms that extend the interior to provide more living space in the bedroom and living room.  They decided to stop at an RV mechanic’s shop so we agreed to meet at an RV park at our next destination.

So, about that next destination…I’m sure it’s hard to imagine any contention among the four of us easy-going, non-competitive types, right?  Well, as many of you know, Arthur and Linda love mountain biking.  To support my point, let me tell you that they even shipped their bikes out here to have them along for the trip. And it just so happens that one of the up and coming meccas for mountain bikers is a little town called Fruita, CO.  It’s just past Grand Junction, CO on the western side of the state right along I-70.

I had never been to either Grand Junction nor Fruita but really wanted to visit Grand Junction.  Arthur, having previously been to both places, was pushing for Fruita.  After a few rounds of discussion and lobbying, I reluctantly agreed when it came time to book a campground. After driving through Grand Junction on the way to Fruita, I’ve got to give this one to RT (wasn’t the first nor the last time that happened, either!) as Fruita was definitely the better call, by far.  It’s a great little town with a definite mountain bike mecca vibe.

And the campground we found named “the Fruita Section of the James M. Robb Colorado River State Park” was one of the prettiest parks we have stayed in yet.  Just check out the views.

The first afternoon, we road our bikes into town on the paved bike paths to explore the downtown area and scope out places for dinner.  We stopped into a bike shop called “Over the Edge” where Linder got her bike adjusted before we began our ride back home.  Good thing, too, since that ride turned into a twenty mile trek toward Grand Junction and back.  Wonderful ride along the Colorado River.

The next day, RT & Linder went for a serious mountain bike ride on the outstanding trail system in the area while Siobhan and I went to explore Grand Junction in the Jeep.  On our way there we drove through the Colorado National Monument to check it out since it was not far from our campground.  This place was not no our destination list, yet, it was a great find.  Spectacular views.  Check it out…

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We all went out for dinner that evening to share our stories from the day.  We even walked from the campground to Kamma Brewery so nobody had to be concerned about designated driver duties.  Another wonderful evening with friends.

We all have our final chores to deal with…

…then, no rest for the weary, it was on to the next destination in the morning…

Ttyl,

K&S

Black Canyon

The ride from Mesa Verde to our next stop, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, brought us through the mountains and right past Telluride Resort.  Now, those are some serious mountains!  We gave the RVs quite a workout getting up and down those mountain passes.  In addition to wonderful winter skiing, we’ve heard there is a great music festival held here in the fall.  We can see why, its a spectacular place.

We chose Centennial RV Park in Montrose, CO as our next stop to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park which is located nearby.  After three nights camping “off-grid” (no electric, water, sewer hook-ups) we needed a place with full hook-ups and this place offered all that.  Not a bad spot with a great view.

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This park was established on October 21, 1999 and covers 30,750 acres in western Colorado.  It protects 14 miles of a 53-mile-long gorge.  Black Canyon earned its name because it is so deep (2,772 feet at Warner Point), sheer and narrow that very little sunlight penetrates to the Gunnison River 2,000 feet below.  The river’s head waters, high in the Rocky Mountains, slammed through this canyon at 12,000 cubic feet per second with 2.75-million-horsepower force prior to the dams being constructed.  And, in just 48 miles, this river losses more elevation than the entire 1,500 mile Mississippi River does while flowing from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.  On average, “the Gunny” as it is called locally, drops 96’ per mile and in one two-mile stretch it drops 480 feet.  That elevation loss contributes to the speed and force this river brings into the canyon.  In fact, you can hear the river’s roaring white water from the rim 2,000’ above!

These steep canyon walls make great nesting spots for the resident birds such as Golden and Bald Eagles, Raptors, Great Horned Owls, Stellar’s Jay and American Dippers and the migratory birds such as Prairie and Peregrine falcons, Mountain bluebirds, White-throated swifts and Canyon wrens.

We were treated to many of these species while driving the seven-mile South Rim Drive and stopping at many of the vistas along the way such as Tomichi Point (more on this spot later) Pulpit Rock, the Narrows (where the river drops 480’ in elevation in 2 miles), Cross Fissures, Rock Point, Devil’s Lookout, the Chasm where you are only 330 yards away from the North Rim (but there is no bridge to get there) and finally Painted Wall where Colorado’s tallest cliff of 2,250’ is visible.

We also took some short hikes on the many trails available like Rim Rock Trail and Cedar Point Trail.  These are basic, relatively easy hikes.  Of course, we wanted something a bit more intense for the next day so we checked in at the Ranger Station to get some ideas.  We thought seeing the river from the canyon floor would be cool so we asked for a challenging hike to get us there.  The Tomichi Route was recommended so we added it to our list of things to do the next day.

First thing in the morning we took the East Portal Road winding down switchback after switchback descending 16% grades down to the Gunnison River and the Curecanti National Recreation Area.  Vehicles over 22’ long are prohibited here as are trailers so it was fortunate that we had the Jeep.  After the record snowfall this past winter, the river was running at record levels as well.  It was so powerfully rushing through that canyon, you could feel it and hear it!

Here we also came across the 5.8 mile long Gunnison Tunnel, a water diversion tunnel built during a four year project and dedicated by President Taft in 1909, that provides irrigation for the nearby Uncompahgre Valley.  At the end of East Portal Road we could see the Crystal Dam, although, we could no longer hike right to it.  Since 9-11-2001 its been fenced off to protect it from any terrorist-inspired activities.

Next on the days agenda was the challenging hike we mentioned which started at Tomichi Point (remember I said I’d tell you more about this later…).  Well, all four of us are in pretty good shape and we’ve all done a fair amount of hiking.  We thought we could handle this 5 – 6 hour hike without too much trouble the ranger said it would be 1.5 hours down and 4.5 hours back up) and were excited about reaching the canyon floor to get a new perspective on this place.  Well, our view of challenging is not quite the same as that of the ranger we spoke with.  The beginning of the descent was so steep we were actually climbing down the loose-scrabble rock on all fours.  Not a good sign.  I’m not sure we even got a quarter-mile into this thing before Arthur and I were loosing site of our wives who were further up the slope.  Arthur and I began to question if this was “safe for the ladies”.  Of course, no problem for us, we had this no problem.  But, it might be a bit much for our wives, right.  We hollered up to them to see how they were feeling about the trail choice we’d made.  Still ok, lets continue.  Just a bit further down, things seemed to be getting even more difficult and its still the beginning.  Checked in with the ladies again to learn that maybe this was too much for them (not, of course, for us).  Being the gentlemen that we are, Arthur and I reluctantly acquiesced.  We knew we could have done it but it would just not be right for us to go on without our wives (right?).  So, without another instants thought, we agreed to cancel this hike and began our scramble back to the rim.  Better safe than sorry!

We selected a new (much less dangerous) hike and headed out to do that.  Had fun, saw great views of the canyon and the river and still made it back to the campsites for happy hour.  Another successful visit.

ttys,

K&S