Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bryce National Park

Bryce National Park blew us away. It is the most beautiful place I have seen. I don't know how to describe how spectacular it is, so I'll just give you some photos.

Sunrise at Bryce Point

This one was named for a famous statue of Queen Victoria.

This was the highest elevation we have been to on our trip, and we could really feel it hiking.

We got to see bristlecone pine trees at the highest point in the park. One this big could easily be over 1000 years old.

Insect damage in a dead tree trunk.

Back Again

By now, some of you probably thought we had fallen into a canyon and disappeared. No, we're still out here having a great time. But lately, we have rarely had electricity, let alone internet access. I hope to be adding more photos soon, but to catch you up since I last posted, we have been to Navajo National Monument (beautiful, quiet, and peaceful), Monument Valley (gorgeous, but very busy), and Mesa Verde National Park (Very interesting ruins from a huge population with highly developed weaving, pottery, building, and agriculture. Near Mesa Verde we stayed at an amusing campground attached to an Indian casino. They give campers coupons for free casino play. We had to have a worker show us how the video games worked, but then we won back most of our camping fee.

After Mesa Verde, we went to the southern part of Canyonlands National Park, called the Needles, where we did some fantastic hikes through spectacular scenery. Our last one was our most ambitious so far: 6 miles with 1750 feet of elevation change, a walk through a narrow crevice, and some scrambling over rocks so steep we needed both hands as well as feet.

Today we are taking a day off in Moab, UT for shopping, cooking, cleanup, battery charging, making 2 loaves of bread etc. Tomorrow we are off the northern section of Canyonlands, called Island in the Sky for a couple of nights, then Dead Horse Point State Park (where the last scene of Thelma and Louise was filmed), and then Arches National Park before circling back to Moab for another "chore day".

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon defies description or photography, at least by me. It is just too big and too magnificent. Of course, that didn't stop me from taking lots of photos, but none of these do it justice.

It is also a mob scene of industrial tourism. Everywhere accessible by car or shuttle bus was packed, crazy busy. Walk just a few hundred yards and things are much quieter. Walk half a mile and you might have the canyon all to yourself. We took several nice hikes: one a few miles along the rim, one a short way down inside on a rough, unmaintained trail, and a longer one down in on the South Kaibab trail, which is well maintained, very heavily traveled, and very steep! We hiked that one about 1 1/2 miles in (3 mi. roundtrip), in the course of which we went down and then came back up about 1000 feet.

We were there for most of five days, and I didn't discover until the last day that I had my camera set wrong, so all were coming out with completely wrong color. I've got to use these two though, (tried to fix them in photoshop), because the very first evening in the campground we saw ELK!!! Two of them came browsing through, ignoring all the busyness and people around. They are big.

Here are a few more I had to correct the colors on:

Crowds at the viewpoint by the visitor center.

On the South Kaibab trail, hikers have to yield to mule trains.

Sunset Crater

Just north of Flagstaff we visited Sunset Crater National Monument. It is a volcano that erupted just 1000 years ago. The lava is still so fresh and needle sharp that it looks like it should still be hot! We walked several short hikes through the formations. The camera didn't want to register all this black, but picture all the rocks as black, black, black.

It's called Sunset Crater because the lava at the top oxidized to red. It's subtle in this photo, but in some lights it really glows at the top.

Sunset Crater is the most recent of a series of volcanoes north and east of Flagstaff. They are called the San Francisco Peaks, and include the highest point in Arizona. We were seeing them in the distance yesterday from NM, and saw the other side in the distance from the Grand Canyon.

San Francisco Peaks

Monday, April 13, 2015

Catching Up

Just a quick note to let you all know we're still out here having a great time. No photos with this post - I've got lots to come, but they're all in the laptop, and we don't have electricity for a few more days. You've probably gathered these updates are all a little out of date - we are so busy I can't post every day. Coming up soon, you'll get photos of Sunset Crater National Monument and the Grand Canyon - both fantastic. Right now we are in Bryce Canyon National Monument, which is outrageously, almost otherworldly beautiful. We are only a couple of weeks into this trip and I'm already running out of superlatives to describe all these gorgeous places. Even the drives from one place to another are wonderful - the desert scenery changes all the time, and is always inspiring. We drove up the Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument to get here - look that up!

We've also been seeing wildlife. Usually I don't have time to get a photo before it's gone (with one exception I'll post soon). In Texas I heard wild turkeys gobbling at dawn, then that same evening saw a road runner in New Mexico - I was surprised how much it looked like the cartoon. We have heard canyon wrens, a beautiful song, and seen a white-tailed ground squirrel and quite a few other unidentified chipmonk/ground squirrels. Yesterday we saw about half a dozen mule deer early in the morning, and then a small group of pronghorn antelope later. The ravens are entertaining (and well fed, they tend to hang around picnic areas), and we have seen some swallows swooping around the cliffs.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Route 66, Continued

We kept following the path of old Route 66 across New Mexico and lots of Arizona, until we turned north at Williams to go to the Grand Canyon. There isn't much left of the original roadway, but there are still some old businesses, signs, and tourist traps left. Here are a few, in no particular order:

Outside Gallup, NM

We stayed here one night, at the "Root 66" RV park just outside Petrified Forest

Lots of places sell petrified wood gathered from outside the park. There's so much of it - it goes on for miles.

Holbrook, AZ


This is in Petrified Forest. The original Rt. 66 ran along the line of telephone poles, and drew lots of tourists, spurring creation of the national park.

Not Route 66, but a great old truck!

We ran parallel to the BNSF railway (formerly Burlington, Northern & Santa Fe) for hundreds of miles. They ran trains constantly, all day. They were very colorful against the desert scenery.