Utah- Bryce Canyon and Escalante Staircase

Hoodoos by Moonlight - Bryce Canyon

September 21, 2010

Happy first day of Autumn! Can you believe this is the beginning of our fourth week on the road? Today we hit 4,000 miles since leaving Charlotte. Our average Miles Per Gallon is 12.9 which is better than the 10 we’d estimated. This includes driving with and without the trailer. We closed up and headed out once more. The set up/take down process is getting much smoother and shorter in time required. We’re headed to Ruby’s Inn, Utah which is just outside Bryce Canyon National Park. We’re estimating a 6 hour drive. Mapquest had routed us along I 70 then down Utah 89. Our GPS wanted to send us on Utah 24 then onto Utah 12. We knew Utah 12 was a National Scenic Byway so we chose this option. The first part of the trip was through some very barren desert landscape. There aren’t very many rest areas out here. So we stopped to use the trailer facilities. The area was very sandy and isolated. We let Opal out off leash. She bounded through the sand and jumped and played as if she were in fresh snow. She had a ball.  A few hours later we pulled over for lunch. Steve set up the lawn chairs and we had a private picnic looking at a beautiful mountain range. One thing we’ve learned is not to let your gas tank get below 1/4 full. It can be a long way between gas stations out here. Once on Utah 12 the scenery improved quickly. We skirted the edge of Capitol Reef NP which we will see later. We also drove through a bit of the Grand Staircase National Monument. We’re doubling back a bit to see this too. At one point we were driving along a narrow ridge between two canyons with the most wonderful colors. Then we hit Dixie National Forest which had elevations above 9,000 feet. At several points, there were 14% downhill grades! The autumn color was just starting. In another week they should be beautiful. In the distance we could see orange and pink start creeping into the landscape. This was a coming attraction for what we’d find at Bryce. There are several designated scenic backways we’d like to do with the car. They certainly are not for when we’re towing a trailer. We also saw a Utah State park named Anazasi State Park that features Indian Cliff houses and a museum. The GPS couldn’t find the exact address for Ruby’s Inn Campground so we had to call and get directions. This is a very complete RV Park and lodge with all the amenities you could imagine. Our site was a pull through style and very level so set up went quickly. The temperature when we arrived was in the 60s. As the sun set, the temperature dropped quickly.  So we ate inside. We had dinner of spaghetti and meatballs then finished the blog entries that were just uploaded. It seems our evenings go very quickly. In one day we’ve gone from 90s and air conditioning to low 40s and needing the heat.

September 22, 2010

I spoke with my sister, Cathy, on the phone this evening, and she said she’s had just about enough of reading about our menus, where are the pictures?  So I won’t start this by telling you we were up at just about 7:00 this morning, and after we both had showered and Opal had gone for her morning constitutional, we dined on fresh fruit and orange/cranberry muffins for breakfast. Then, knowing that we’d be spending most of the day driving through the Bryce, and that Opal would be stuck in the car most of the time, we took her for another walk before leaving.  We came across a lady who was eating her breakfast (I won’t mention that she was eating scrambled eggs with kilbassi) who had a very pretty dog.  When I commented on it, she told us that she was an Australian Cattle Dog, and that she was a breeder of them for show.  She also trains dogs, and was able to give us a few helpful hints about Opal.  Then, it was off to Bryce, which is just about a mile up the road. We made our usual stop at the Visitor’s Center, and picked up a lapel pin for Dixie National Forest as well as the Bryce pin, and then started our drive.  We soon passed an old, no longer active, gas station, which made me glance at my gauge. Back to town for gas! Finally, we were back in the park and started our drive.  We missed the first turn-off, for Sunrise Point, so made the second, at, yes, you guessed it, Sunset Point.  (Pardon me while I re-fill my glass…  OK…  that’s better) There are no words to describe the view when we got out of the car and walked up to the overlook.  I’ll try, but believe me, no matter what I say, it is totally inadequate. Marvelous, Stupendous, Exquisite, Beautiful, Other-Worldly, Fairy Land… Do you get the picture?  Sorry, no pictures. We did take lots of pictures, but we haven’t downloaded them yet.  I really don’t know if we’re going to have the time to work with pictures until after we’re back home. They’re coming, believe me, but not for a while yet. Back to the point, the view was like something we’ve never experienced.  We were overlooking a canyon, but not like any canyon we’ve seen before.  As far as we could see, there were hoo-doos, which are spires that look like something out of a fairyland bakery…  colors ranging from pink to orange to white, with weird shapes. To make it even better, today (I guess the weatherman heard me complaining the other day about everything staying so boringly the same) was about 50 to 60% overcast, with the cloudy part being big puffy white (and sometimes grey or almost black) storm clouds, that were moving fast across the sky, so that the landscape was constantly changing from being in sun or in shadow, and changing colors as it did so.  I guess the weatherman would call what we had today “unsettled”, and that would be a good description… one minute it was sunny, the next it was drizzly, maybe five minutes later the sun would be shining again, and ten minutes later it was sleeting.  Sometimes we heard thunder rumbling, and once or twice I saw brilliant bolts of lightning. In short, the sky was just as dramatic as the landscape. At lunchtime, we drove to a picnic area, and the weather held out while we ate…  blue sky and sunshine.  I won’t tell you that we had smoked turkey with pepperoni and cheese sandwiches on oat-nut bread. Then it was back on the road, where we stopped at every overlook along the way, sometimes taking Opal out of the car for a bit, and sometimes not.  She didn’t really get any off-leash time today.  At one point we saw a prong-horn antelope, and hopefully we got some good pictures.  Maybe someday, even you will see them! We reached the end of the line, at Rainbow Point, around 3:00 PM, and then turned around to head back. Once back to the trailer, we dropped Opal off, then went to do a little shopping.  If you want, we’ll tell you everything we bought.  Let us know by e-mail if you need that info. We got back to the trailer, and had a chat with our new neighbors, who showed us their trailer.  Then we came in, and I read for a bit while Chari made a very good casserole of mac and cheese with chili.  (But I won’t tell you that) So far, the car and trailer have been doing quite well.  Like Chari mentioned, we’ve been averaging 12.9 mpg, which is better than I had hoped.  Towing the trailer up mountains has actually been pretty easy, except for a few cases, such as those 14% grades, when I can’t get much better than 30 mph.  I think I mentioned that I had to replace the anti-sway bar, and it is really noticeable.  I believe the problem we had when I was passing the truck a while back was because the sway bar wasn’t working.  Gas out here in Utah is a bit more expensive than it was in North Carolina.  We’re paying a bit over $3.00 (I think the last was $3.09) and that’s for 85 octane. I guess that’s about it for today.  Tomorrow we’ll head back into the park and maybe do a little hiking instead of spending most of the day along the main road. G’nite!

September 23, 2010

There are some places and some days that are so perfect that they will stay with you forever. Today was such a day at Bryce. We’d planned the entire trip around being at Bryce for the full moon. Originally, we thought we’d do the Ranger led moonlight hike. I’m still having difficulty with going uphill at this altitude and didn’t want to be the one slowing everyone down. So we decided to do a day hike on our own and try some night photos of the moon. I told Steve that trying to say which of the 5 parks in Utah is my favorite is a bit like a parent saying which child is their favorite. Each one has it’s own special qualities. But there is one that just connects with your spirit and you know that’s the one. We still have 2 more parks to see but as of now Bryce is my favorite. We had a big breakfast and took Opal across the street to an ATV road where she could run around and then left her in the trailer. Dogs are allowed at the overlooks but not on the trails. We picked a trail that would be about 3 miles and in the moderate category. The trail started from Sunrise Point from the Rim Trail down to the Queens Garden Trail and then to part of the Navajo Loop trail to Sunset Point and back to the beginning on the Rim Trail. The descent into the canyon gave you a very different view of the hoodoos and rock formations than at the overlooks. We, of course took a lot of photo breaks. We finished about 3P and treated ourselves to a Hagen Daz ice cream. More Opal exercise time and dinner. Then back to Sunset Point. At first we thought we’d blown it because the parking lot was so full. Then someone pulled out right in front of us. We loaded up with chairs, tripods and camera gear. It was already past the prime sunset point. We’d forgotten to factor in the effect of the sun going behind the mountain. We did get a few fading sunset shots. And then … the moon began to creep over the horizon. It was magical. I was clicking away and mesmerized all at the same time. we kept taking pics until it was too dark to get anything worth keeping. We hope to be able to get a few pics up with this entry. You just have to see it for yourself. (Something that made the whole thing even nicer was that right now, Jupiter is as close to the earth as it has been in several decades, and is brilliant  in the sky.  It rises just to the right and at the same time as the moon.  So not only did we have a magnificent moonrise, we also had a magnificent Jupiter rise at the same time.  We had a great time playing with our cameras, and I think we managed to get some nice pix of Bryce by moonlight.) We came back too tired to do preliminary packing and too excited from what we’d seen. The temperature was dropping so we closed the windows and turned in. Sometime about 2:30A, I woke up freezing even with all the covers pulled up. I got up and turned on the auxiliary heat only to find it blowing cold air. I nudged Steve and said “I think we’ve run out of the first tank of propane.” He got up and verified that the stove wouldn’t light. At first I didn’t want him to go outside to switch the valve as I thought it would make too much noise. Another 15 minutes of freezing and I didn’t care about noise. He managed to do it quietly and by car headlights. Ahhhhh… heat. to sleep, per chance to dream.  (Steve’s version:  At about 2:30, Chari told me we’d run out of gas.  After checking the stove, and yes, we had run out, I started to put on my robe to change the tank.  We have two 30 gallon propane tanks, so when one runs out, we always have a spare and plenty of time to replace the empty one.  The tanks are mounted on the front end of the trailer, and I also have a few other things, such as a couple of extra camp tables, a small ladder, etc. tied there which would need to be removed before I could get to the tanks.  Chari told me not to do it until morning…  I might wake the neighbors.  Besides, she said, it would be a good excuse to cuddle.  “OK” sez me, and back to bed.  Next thing I know, I have eighty pounds of Opal laying on my feet.  I can’t move.  “But she’s cold” sez Chari.  “That’s it,” sez me.  And out I went to change the tanks.  The next morning, there was a puddle of water outside that had frozen, so I guess it’s a good thing I did.  The heater keeps the trailer nice and comfortable.) Ruby’s Inn and Campground was the best place we’ve stayed so far. For non-campers, they have a large lodge with indoor pool. I’d highly recommend it if you plan a trip to Bryce.

September 24, 2010

We woke up to a toasty warm trailer. I didn’t want to get up but we were moving on today to Escalante, Utah. The usual morning routine and packing up was done by 10:30A. Steve had refilled the empty propane tank while I walked Opal. The drive to Escalante would be just under 2 hours. Our reason for going here was to see part of the Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument. This area became a national monument in 1996 under President Clinton. It covers 1.9 million acres. We’d be able to see only a small part of it this trip. The area got it’s name from the step like plateaus each one named for the predominant color of the soil and rock: Chocolate, Vermillion, White, Gray and Pink. We retraced our steps down Utah 63 and Utah 12, enjoying the scenery from a different direction. We arrived at Broken Bow RV Park in Escalante about 12:30P. We chose a site and set up. Back to “adequate” parks again. A bit tight on space and the service connection for the next site wound up under our awning. Fortunately, no one occupied that site while we were there. The laundry and showers were nice and clean though. We stopped in at the Grand Staircase Visitor Center for our lapel pin and information. The owner of the RV park had suggested we drive a road called Hole-in-the-Wall. The ranger didn’t recommend it due to a large wash out area that was now a 200 acre lake. She suggested an alternate road called the Burr Trail. It is a Utah Scenic Backway. She told us about an unmarked area that was a slot canyon named Long Canyon. This was 45 minutes north of Escalante. Then we drove 11 miles on a very curvy road along a canyon with beautiful colors and wildflowers (weeds) adding to the impact. We walked into the canyon and immediately went back to the car for our tripods. The next hour went by as we snapped away. I was trying to duplicate some of the textured sandstone pictures I’d seen in magazines. At home, the trailer, we took time to download our pics from Bryce. We looked at my photos first and began to make a list of the ones we’d like to put on the blog or possibly our 2111 calendar. Then we went to look at Steve’s photos. At first everything went well. Then all of a sudden the pics wouldn’t show up. The files were showing that nothing was in them. To say the least this was very upsetting. To think we’d made this trip and lost all of his pictures… that was terrifying. During the night, I sent up a little prayer. I felt very selfish when I thought that I was asking for something while God was working on things like a cure for cancer or world peace. I just asked that we be shown a way to retreive Steve’s work.

September 25, 2010

I woke up but was content to stay in bed a while. Steve was up and had the computer on. I asked tentatively “Any luck?” “Yes, they’re all there. I don’t understand what happened last night.” I mouthed a BIG thank you. When I’d made the reservations for the RV park, the owner had mentioned this was the weekend of the Escalante Art Festival. Escalante is a small tourist town surrounded by ranches. This probably is a big event for them. I expected a big festival. It turned out to be about half the size of Matthews Alive. We spent 2 hours there this morning and covered everything. There was one photographer there who had beautiful work. Everything was Western themed. Our favorite picture was one of wild horses running out of a cloud of dust. We bought a Christmas ornament of a full moon rising over the Grand Staircase. We thought that was appropriate. We picked up Opal and headed for a road we’d seen yesterday called Hell’s Backbone. It’s another Utah Scenic Backway. This road follows a canyon called Box Death Hollow Wilderness and then goes into the Dixie National Forest. Everywhere you look around here is colorful, majestic and just crying to have its picture taken. We climbed up to almost 9,000 feet. At the higher elevations, the aspens were turning yellow and orange. We came to an area where all the trees were at their peak. I’m not sure how many pictures we took. We’ll post a few. Then we came to a small mountain stream and tent camping area. At this time of year, the majority of the streams are dry. The road descended and crossed the canyon on a narrow bridge then rejoined Utah 12 not far from the Burr Trail. We had about an hour before we needed to head back. We went to a Utah State Park  called Anazasi State Park. It gave a nice history of the Anazasi Pueblo life, artifacts found in the area and a preserved 1960 dig of a pueblo on site. On the way home we stopped by a sandy, sliprock area to let Opal run. Steve loves this area and was already designing a home he’d like to build into the mountain. I think I’m caught up on the blog. Hopefully, we’ll get some pictures ready to post with this episode by tomorrow. Up early and on to Capital Reef National Park tomorrow.

Full Moon and Jupiter Over Bryce Canyon

Hoodoos from Queens Garden Hike Bryce Canyon

Pronghorn Antelope at BryceSlot Canyon on Burr Trail Road

Cloudy Day at Bryce Canyon


About vagabondpress

Recently retired and "hitting the road". Hobbies include travel, nature photography, kayaking, hiking, good food and good friends.
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