Friday, November 06, 2009

Bryce and Zion National Parks

We were initially headed for Cedar City, and on to Vegas tomorrow, but decided to go to Vegas today.  We traveled by way of Bryce and Zion National Parks.  What a drive!  Highway 12 is something to write home about all by itself!  The trip over Boulder Mountain was breathtaking.  The ride between Boulder and Escalante is amazing and even a little scary when the highway is perched on a hogback and the shoulder drops away into deep canyons on both sides.  Miles and miles of sandstone in every direction, with so many folds and seams; a person could get lost out here.

Friends of ours left Vernal and moved home to Boulder.  We could see why.  So quiet.  So pastoral.  So peaceful.  So home.

We stopped in Torrey and did a little shopping.  Sweetie found a Mary Englebreit puzzle I liked.

We had been to Bryce Canyon before, but I had never hiked down among the hoodoos.  We had time today.  Booklogged sat in a comfortable chair overlooking that most enchanted of places and chatted with passers by, drinking in the beauty and reading a page or two from her current book.  I hiked the Navajo Loop.  It was a thrilling time to dive into the Canyon and weave through the towering structures of orange limestone.  I felt like a vanilla icecream molecule wandering around inside a Creamsicle.  Edward Abbey types resent the trails and development in the parks, but I think the mix of human architecture and nature are wonderful.  The switchback trail into the canyon, has done no harm, looks beautiful and allows access to hundreds who wouldn't brave the interior any other way.  I'm glad they did it!

On the journey we were thankful for the few dull spots in the landscape.  Chances to cleanse our palates, so to speak, for the next vista of grandeur.

We arrived in Zion in the evening.  The fall leaves were perfect.  The lower elevation of Utah's Dixie affords autumn leaves much later than up in the north.  What a gorgeous time to visit the park!  For the umpteenth time on this trip, Sweetie pronounced this the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen!  Superlatives are abundant in Southern Utah!  We love it!

Enjoy the slide show!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Capitol Reef National Park and the Burr Trail - Lonelier Roads

We spent the day driving from Torrey to Boulder, onto the Burr Trail down to Bull Frog then back along the Water Pocket Fold to Highway 24 and back to Torrey past the Capitol Reef National Park Visitor's Center.

We saw so much and enjoyed such beauty we decided to create a slide show for this day.  Unimaginable variety of color, form and texture!  What a glorious day.  Enjoy!

One of a the highlights was the switch back dugway that gets you over the fold on the Burr Trail. The photos don't do it justice. We went over it on the way to Bull Frog and when we came back past it we drove to the top, had a nice picinic and drove back down again. Too much fun for two and old duffer and a book worm, but we'll take it!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Lonely Roads

Our day began with a nice breakfast at Denny's.  A couple of local farmers were seated across from us.  They had a good time teasing the waitress.  At some point she announced she didn't drink alcohol, so they asked if she had any vices.  "I swear too much."  she confessed.  One of the farmers, understood.  "My cussing problem began with heavy machinery.  I swear I have never walked beneath a combine harvester without bumping my blankety blank head!"  Grandpa used to say the first swear word was invented while milking a cow.

I wanted to ask the locals what they thought of what's happened to Moab.  In my observation Arches and even Canyonlands didn't change Moab like the mountain bike did.

We stopped a second in a great little book store called Back of Beyond Books where Sweetie bought me a signed copy of Robert Fulghum's new novel Third Wish.  I'm looking forward to reading it.  It's a double volume chunkster though, so don't expect a review any time soon.

We headed south from Moab through such breathtaking country.  We drove past Hole In The Rock, thankful we'd already stopped there before.  We drove past Wilson Arch, happy to see it but not enough to stop for another set of photos.  We passed the Monticello Temple, wishing we could stop long enough to go inside.  The last time we drove through this country it was raining.  We were bound for Texas by way of Four Corners.  I'd forgotten about Monticello's vistas!

It's like being perched on the shoulder of a friendly giant.  You still have the notion of how puny you are because his head, Abajo Mountain looms above, almost within arms reach, yet, on a clear day like this you feel like you can see the whole world from your lofty perch.  I'd like to measure the distances in that panorama.  From the San Juan mountains in the East to Monument Valley in the South, from the La Sal Mountains to the North to Shiprock, way down across the Four Corners, you can see it all!  It's as though you can see forever in a glance.

We fueled up in Blanding and headed West toward Hall's Crossing.  On the way we made a wonderful stop at Natural Bridges National Monument.  Quiet and out of the way, what a special place this is.  After a quick stop at the Visitor's Center we drove the loop to see the three fantastic stone bridges that span a little creek running through White Canyon.  Two of them, Sipapu and Kachina are the second and third larges in the world.  Owachomo, which is smaller, is only nine feet thick.  We loved the road that makes the loop on which the three bridges can be viewed.  It is a one lane, one way route, that was so fun to drive and much less intrusive than a large one might have been.  Easy look outs afforded great views of each bridge.

Not long after departing Natural Bridges we encountered an intersection with arrows pointing each way to Hanksville.  One way leads to Hall's Crossing where a ferry takes you to Bull Frog on the opposite side of Lake Powell, the other leads to Hite and  bridges across the Colorado and Dirty Devil rivers.  The ferry schedule was posted and sounded most interesting so we headed for Hall's Crossing.  It was a beautiful drive with spectacular views of Monument Valley to the South and wonderful red rock mesas to the North.  The Ferry was closed for the season.  A bit of a disappointment, but the scenery was worth it.  How hard would it be though, to post a closed sign on the Ferry Schedule back at the intersection that might have spared us 100 needless miles.  For us it was no big deal, for someone else disaster.

The other route to Hite passes down Fry Canyon and some of the most breathtaking scenery in all of Southern Utah.  We were so glad the closed Ferry forced us to go this way!  Deep maroon rock formations above and white sandstone in the inner slot canyon with majestic Island In the Sky looming across between the rivers.  Sweetie and I both thought we'd never seen any place to beautiful!


The views of Lake Powell and back at Fry Canyon from across the river were wonderful too.  From there we headed up a wonderful canyon and, out on top, great views of the Henry Mountains as we drove to Hanksville.

We arrived in Hanksville at dusk and decided to push on to Torrey for better accomodations and an earlier start on the Burr Trail tomorrow.  The Red Cliffs Restaurant in Torrey has the best Pork Loin Masala imaginable!  The accomodations at the Best Western were inexpensive and very nice.

What a gorgeous, companionable day we enjoyed.  Plus we settled in time to watch the last hour of The Biggest Loser and Tracy got canned!  It doesn't get any better than this!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

November Get Away!

Call us crazy!  We think the kids thought we were - are.  We'd had a lazy morning and decided to have lunch at our favorite Chinese Buffet.  Getting in the car was our first mistake.  We love that car.  We love being together in that car.  You'll see why if you scroll down on this blog.  We've spent hours and hours together in that car and enjoyed (nearly) every minute of it.  If you scroll way way down you'll see our ll,080 mile trip to Newfoundland, for example.  Lots of hours together in the car on that one.

Any way, as I was saying, we got in the car and some kind of spell overcame us and before we'd driven the few blocks to the restaurant it was decided.  It was just too good a day to be sitting at home.

While at lunch, we bumped into our old friends Walt and Val and I guess they sensed the excitement, so we told them and they too, looked at us like we were crazy.  If you know Walt and Val then you'll know how very qualified they are to make such a judgment.  I couldn't help noticing that Val, Walt and I have similar profiles these days.  Maybe all three of us should quit visiting all-you-can-eat restaurants for a while.  Maybe when Sweetie and I get back.  I'll take it under advisement.

With clothes to pack, prescriptions to fill, books to mail and other loose ends to tie up, we didn't get out of town until two-thirty.  Then I made a quick stop in Jensen to get a notebook.  My Cocklebur Canister Cache has been neglected lately and was in sore need of a new log book.  I knew I wouldn't be any closer than I was today for a while so I stopped by and took care of my most popular Cache.

I love the desert this time of year.  The grass in the flats has gone blond and adds a bright, mellow aspect to the rocks and brush and sky.  Too late for the maroons of the Russian Thistle and the sea foam of the Desert Buckwheat, the scenery was still breath taking.  Cliff Ridge escorted us into Colorado and as always, displayed her majestic cliffs and crannies for many a pleasant mile.  I love the way the shadows play upon her weathered face in the autumn light.  I should have taken a picture.  I have hundreds of them, none the same.  But we were too excited to be together, on the road again, to be thinking of much else.

Sweetie hooked up her iPod and we enjoyed a Louise Penny story of Inspector Gamache solving yet another murder, actually two, in the little town of Three Pines south of Montreal.  We imagined Three Pines to be as picturesque and charming as Knowlton, a favorite from our trip through southern Quebec.  Fatal Grace is set in Mid-Winter and that has somehow made me glad we're heading south instead of north!  Quebec is so wonderful in the summer, I'm not so sure how we'd feel about her winters.

And so with glad hearts, a wonderful mystery and pavement rolling beneath us we journeyed to Moab, Utah.  We like to leave I-70 at Cisco and drive down the Colorado River canyon.  It probably takes a little longer, but the scenery is so wonderful.  From the photos of the moon you can see that most of our canyon time was spent in the dark.  Too bad we weren't equipped to take photos of that, because with the full moon and sharp clear horizons, it was one of our most memorable drives through the gorge.

I think this was the first time in my life that I had a balanced horrizon and could see the full sun and full moon, both perched on the horizon line at the same time.  It would be fun to have had a mirror so I could have taken a photo of them facing one another across the deserts of eastern Utah.

We checked into our motel and headed for Main Street to find something to eat.  Eatery after eatery had empty parking lots.  Then we passed the Moab Brewery.  The parking lot was crammed with cars.  That was a pretty good indicator that we'd found the right place to eat.  The food and atmosphere was fun.  All about adventure, with rafts hanging from the ceiling and mountain bikes on the wall, the place draws a crowd that looks to be pretending to be Edward Abbey and would utterly disgust him. Today's Moab would surely have him turning in his grave. If we could find his grave and connect a turbine to his feet we could provide electricity for half the continent by showing him videos of Jeepers and bikers and climbers and rafters tromping the daylights out of his beloved desert.

Back at our room, we poured over the map and pretty much decided on the Burr Trail for tomorrow.  We'll head that way, unless we don't.