Zion National Park

Thursday August 31st 2017

The day started cloudy with a promise of sun to come. I got underway for Zion National Park a little after 9AM. Thirty minutes later, as I was in line at the toll booth, the sun was starting to assert its presence.

I have been to Zion National Park before on day trips out of Las Vegas. These visits were in November and December when the park shuttle system wasn’t running and ground conditions didn’t allow hiking away from the park roads. Today the shuttles were the only way to tour the park and I had the opportunity to take five short hikes.

I found one of the last few parking places in the visitor center parking area. Once that is full you have to park in the town of Springdale and take the free shuttle into the park. Some of the parking in Springdale is free and some of it is in paid lots. Signs on the way into the area warn that parking in the park between 10AM and 3PM is usually not an option. In addition, there is a warning about the upcoming holiday weekend being a major visitor overload situation. The Zion National Park officials are very concerned with managing the high number of visitors to the park each year. They currently have a proposal out for public comment that would require people to make reservations to visit the park. It would have to be a lot worse than today for me to be in favor of requiring a reservation to visit the park.

I went a little overboard with picture taking this trip. I took around 450 pictures. As always I’ll be uploading the pictures to a Google Photos album when I get a good internet connection. The pictures I’m including in this blog entry are a few of the better ones.

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Views from the Court of the Patriarchs

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At the end of the Canyon road the River Walk trail follows the Virgin River into a narrow canyon.

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Virgin River

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A little water fall on the Virgin River

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At the end of the defined trail you can continue on in the water of the Virgin River. I didn’t.

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View from the area of the Zion Lodge

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Under the water fall at the Lower Emerald Pool

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At a wetter time of year this would be even more impressive.

I got to see a few animals (other than people) today. The ground is covered with squirrels that aren’t in the least bit afraid of people. A deer was content to feed ten feet from the trail while people took pictures and walked by. She was still there when I came back by forty five minutes later. The turkeys I saw were a little more cautious. The were further from the trail and more alert.

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These ground squirrels were everywhere.

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This deer was busy eating.

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One of a group of six turkeys.

Here are some pictures of the interesting plants I saw today.

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A reminder that this area is a desert.

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There are many of these Desert Morning Glory bushes.

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Closeup of a Dessert Morning Glory.

End of Zion National Park blog post.

Winter Planning Issues

Wednesday August 30th 2017

It made it up to 101 degrees before a storm front passed through the area. Around 5:30 this afternoon the wind blew hard and clouds moved across the sky. It didn’t rain and I didn’t hear thunder or see lightning. Checking the weather radar on my phone showed a storm a little distance to the west. By 7PM the sun was back.

Tomorrow is forecast to be the coolest day of the week. I plan to take advantage of the few degrees and visit Zion National Park. Today became an odds and ends day. I did a few chores around the RV and completed a couple of tasks.

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Canyon wall to the west of the campground. Who says you need to go to National Parks to see interesting cliffs. In a few hundred years this “hole” may be an arch.

One task that I haven’t completed is reservations for the winter months. I’m reconsidering my intent to spend November through mid February in Texas. Some of the areas heavily impacted by Harvey contain things that I want to see. Clearly I have to adjust my travel to allow the hardest hit areas time to recover. San Antonio is still a safe place to visit, but the areas south and east of there are suspect. I’m not sure there’s enough in San Antonio, north and west to support more than a month or so stop.

The simplest solution is to continue as planned to San Antonio, but spend less time there. From San Antonio, I’d need to head straight east through East Texas and Louisiana. I don’t really know what’s in southern Mississippi and Alabama. The other consideration in this scenario is either fully embracing or avoiding Mardi Gras in the middle of February.

A more drastic option is to stay in Arizona through the end of the year or mid January. I’d then need to come back across Texas and Louisiana without a lot of stops. This is basically a reverse of my trip west last winter. If I stayed in Arizona, I’d probably look into Quartzite or Yuma for a longer stay. I’ve been moving every week or two since the beginning of April. A month or two in one location will allow me to catch up on a few things.

The third option is to really start looking out of the box for a travel plan. Should I go west to Southern California? What’s in New Mexico and West Texas? Should I go to the Rio Grande valley in extreme South Texas? About the only option I haven’t put on the table is heading east to Florida this fall. There is so much other country to see in the winter. Florida is a quasi home, but I’d rather keep it as an every other year winter stop.

What all of this comes down to is I have more research to do. Writing this blog entry has helped clarify some of the thoughts and dilemmas I’ve been dealing with while watching the Weather Channel coverage of the flooding. Now I just have to commit to a plan.

Pipe Spring National Monument

Tuesday August 29th 2017

It was another hot day. The temperature topped out around 104 degrees about 5:30 this afternoon. Even with both AC units running full time, the side of the RV toward the sun was uncomfortably hot. The overnight low is forecast to be 75 degrees so one of the AC units will need to be on all night. I much prefer having the windows open.

This morning I went out on my usual first day in a new location exploration drive. It turned into a fifty mile trip into Arizona to visit the Pipe Spring National Monument. It is located in an area known as the Arizona Strip. This section of Arizona north of the Grand Canyon is a section of high desert that is suitable for cattle ranching. The water source at the Pipe Spring was significant to the Native Americans, the Spanish as a stop on the Spanish trail from Santa Fe to California and the Mormon settlers.

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One of the springs that drew people to the area.

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The fort dubbed Winsor castle by explorer John Wesley Powell for the Mormon leader responsible for its construction.

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View of the Inside of the wall in the previous picture.

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Opposite side of the fort.

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The fort is filled with period furniture. I don’t think the two mouse traps on the far left of the picture are period.

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Two chairs with an unusual canned seat.

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A ranch wagon.

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Two Longhorn cattle that live on site to set the historic mood.

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A example of a covered wagon used by travelers that often stopped at the ranch.

The part of the site’s history that is celebrated by the National Monument is the Mormon settlers period. The fort building on the site was ordered built by Brigham Young to protect the church’s cattle ranch at the site from displaced native Americans and to protect Mormon families from the authorities attempting to end polygamy.

The fort is really a ranch house turned inside out. The solid stone walls have gun ports but there is no history that they were actually used. The ranch provided the Mormon community in St. George with butter cheese and cattle until over grazing and drought reduced the viability of the area. It continued to serve as a refuge for plural wives in Mormon families. The fact that Pipe Spring was in Arizona Territory and not Utah Territory or later the state of Utah complicated proving polygamy.

The guided tour of the fort and the ranch conducted by a National Park Service ranger was very informative. The literature and signs alone don’t provide the depth of understanding that the ranger provided about the history. There is also a museum describing the life of the history and life of the Kaibab Indians. The Pipe Spring National Monument is in the middle of the Kaibab Indian Reservation.

I completed my area familiarization drive with a stop at Walmart back in Hurricane UT. Overall I traveled 100 miles and toured a National Monument all to get a few groceries at a Walmart five miles from my campsite.

Travel Day to Hurricane Utah

Monday August 28th 2017

What a difference fifty miles and 2000 feet lower in elevation makes. I moved south on Interstate 15 to the town of Hurricane Utah. This town is northeast of St. George and a good jumping off place for visiting Zion National Park. It is also a lot hotter than Cedar City. It was 106 this afternoon and my campsite doesn’t have any real shade. The campground is located on the gravel hillside leading up to a narrow canyon wall. I’ve had both AC units cranking since I got here.

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The campground was kind of empty when I arrived at 2PM. It filled up some in the evening, but there were plenty of empty sites. This gravel area is on a gently terraced hill side. Leveling was a bit of a challenge.

This area seems to be having a late summer heat wave. The last couple of weeks were normal to a little below normal for high temperatures. This week, with the exception of maybe one day, is going to be above normal in the temperature department. I’m here until the middle of next week. With the heat, it’s not going to be the best place, but this is a holiday weekend. The selection of available sites in this area for Labor Day weekend was not very plentiful.

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Site 60 at the St. George/Hurricane KOA.

The narrow canyon the campground shares with interstate 15 also does a number on radio signals. I couldn’t get any over the air TV channels and cell phone service is poor. Surprisingly, the 4G cellular data service seems to be OK for internet. The campground also has WiFi, but I’m not sure how good it is. For the first time in a couple of weeks I have satellite TV. That’s one redeeming value for the lack of shade. I can now get caught up on the HBO Game of Thrones episodes I missed. The campground has cable TV for access to the local channels.

Sunday at Home

Sunday August 27th 2017

Today was another hot one. It got up to high 90s in the late afternoon. Like a car in the sun, a motorhome heats up quickly when the sun hits it. I am currently parked under trees that shade the rig for the first half of the day, but by mid afternoon the sun is coming straight at the font windshield. Even with the front blinds down and the windows open it will get very hot quickly. I need to close the windows and turn the air conditioners on. Luckily it gets down to around 60 overnight, so I can shut the AC off and open the windows back up.

I stayed at home today. There are still a few things in the area that I want to see, but I’ll be back in this area in two or three years. All of the national parks are a draw to the area and Interstate 15 is a main north south route. That’s one of the nice things about this life style. You don’t have to see everything in a hurry, you know you can always come back. Now that I know the terrain a little better and as I gain more experience with the RV in the mountains, I will be able to book campsites nearer some of the national parks. I’ve been very conservative, even skittish in where I’ve driven the motorhome so far.

Tomorrow I’m moving on. It will be a very short repositioning trip of about fifty miles to the St. George Utah area. From there I can explore Zion National Park and other areas of Southwestern Utah, Northwestern Arizona and Eastern Nevada. The short hop is do to the holiday weekend. I reserved the St. George Utah stop before I selected this location in Cedar City for my visit to Bryce Canyon.

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Boneless Pork Chops on the grill.

My big accomplishment for the day was dinner. I grilled a couple of boneless pork chops. One was for dinner today and the other will be cut up with some fried rice for a meal during the week. Other than that I took a short walk around the campground and started preparation for traveling tomorrow.

More Bryce Canyon National Park Pictures

Saturday August 26th 2017

After over a week of normal to below normal temperatures the weather reverted to hot and dry. It was in the low 90s today. I spent the day at home recovering from yesterdays hike in Bryce Canyon National Park. Other than sleeping late, I didn’t have much to recover. My calf muscels ached a little, but not enough to really be uncomfortable. Considering the climbing I did yesterday, I’m not complaining.

I’m including more pictures from Bryce Canyon in this blog post. Yesterday’s pictures were all taken with my cell phone. Today’s pictures came from my Canon PowerShot ELPH 360HS point and shot camera. The advantage of the Canon pictures is the camera zoom. Some of these pictures really bring the hoodoos and other features into close up view.

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The cracks in this formation don’t look like they will survive another winter.

End of Bryce Canyon Blog Post

Bryce Canyon National Park

Friday August 25th 2017

Today I drove about 80 miles to visit Bryce Canyon National Park. It is very picturesque drive over the mountains on to the high plateau that Bryce Canyon sites in. I got there shortly before 11am to find that today was a Fee Free Day at the National Parks in celebration of the National Park Service Birthday. Since I bought a year long pass earlier this year this didn’t impact me financially, but it raised some concern about volume of visitors in the park. I don’t think that fear was realized, as I had no problem with parking or crowds.

I took around 400 pictures. Some of the better pictures are included in this blog post. All of them will be uploaded to a Google Photos Album once I get good internet connectivity.

My touring plan for the day was to walk sections of the Rim Trail around the amphitheater. I visited the park once before on an overnight trip from Las Vegas. That trip was in November and snow covered most of the Rim Trail so I was restricted to the observation areas near the parking lots. I started my exploration near the North Campground and walked along the canyon rim to Sunrise Point. That’s where my touring plan went bust. Instead of continuing along the rim to Sunset Point, the sirens song of the Queens Garden down in the canyon called.

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First view of Bryce Canyon from the Rim Trail near the North Campground

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View of the Queens Garden from the Rim at Sunrise Point

The trail down to the Queens Garden was advertised as eight tens of a mile long and 320 feet of elevation change. For some reason I didn’t thing that sounded too bad. Never mind that 320 feet is a thirty story building. Two hours later I was back at the rim after visiting Queen Victoria on top of a hoodoo near the bottom of the canyon. The walk through the rock formations and hoodoos was magnificent. I didn’t continue my hike along the rim trail. I went back to the car for a late lunch and decided to call it a day.

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It doesn’t sound that difficult. Three hundred and twenty feet of elevation is significant.

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The trail is wide with lots of switchbacks most of the way.

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Soon the fins and hoodoos are above your view instead of below it.

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The trail goes through several rock fins.

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Queen Victoria on the hoodoo on the right.

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Zoomed in view of Queen Victoria.

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Back near the top of the trail and the rim.

I don’t think I’ll return to Bryce Canyon National Park on this visit to Utah, but I’ll be back to see more of park. Hopefully, next time I’ll be able to find a campground closer to the park.