Photo op: Matt mugging while Mom holds Sophie.
After this picture was taken, Jimmy and I had to abruptly leave Los Angeles and return ASAP for Daphne as Jimmy's son was gravely ill in a Mobile AL hospital ICU. We hated to leave Matt and Jen (and Sophie). Jimmy's son is on life support, suffering from ARDS, but he has a 50-50 chance of surviving an all-encompassing bacterial infection.
Arrived at Matt's in Los Angeles today. Took us seven weeks exactly and we put 6,500 miles on the RV - obviously we took the long way! Here's Matt and his dog Sophie being silly (she's dressed in her Halloween piggie costume). So good to be here! Hey, Wilkinsons, where'ya going next? We're going to DISNEYLAND!
A few miles west of Las Vegas is Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area* with remarkable rock formations that just don't seem to fit in with the surrounding desert area, but there it is anyway. A 16-mile scenic drive loop gives a good overview of the area. While there are quite a few hiking trails, today we brought our bikes to ride the scenic drive. The first six miles are up. It was hot. It hurt. We stopped several times on the uphill to take in the scenery, but in reality we needed to breathe, rest, and tank up on water.
*The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Nevada is an area managed by the Bureau of Land Management as part of its National Landscape Conservation System, and protected as a National Conservation Area.
We did it! Downhill was best! The 35.1 mph downhill speed Jimmy achieved on far other side of the loop actually exceeded the posted speed limit!! I chickened out and gripped the brake when I hit 33+ mph. We'd like to return sometime, maybe do a little hiking, and see what we missed while we were on our bikes. Beautiful area.
We shifted to Zion Nat'l Park (4000') in Southwestern Utah to finish up our "tour" of national and state parks - we've hiked or biked or camped (or all of the above) quite a few this trip... and all have exceeded any expectations we may have had. We entered Zion via the east entrance, totally unprepared for the checkerboard "beehive" mountains, and then the 1.1 mile long tunnel - wow! I wish I could've stopped to photograph the beehive, but there was no place to pull over or stop. The tunnel had windows in it! FYI - we used the Zion free shuttles to ferry ourselves and our bikes back and forth.
Excellent view from our campsite, yes?
Hot hiking the Emerald Pool trails in the morning (we overheated!)
In the afternoon we put our bikes on the shuttle bus for a ride to "The Narrows," and after hiking the riverside trail, we hopped on our bikes for a cool FAST ride DOWN - a real kick. We stopped a few times - once to spy on a flock of huge wild turkeys (ten of them) and then at the lodge for a welcome coffee break.
Here's lookin' at ya, kid!
We were unprepared for Zion's oppressive heat - 93 degrees. Not only did we put away our little electric heater, we had to turn on the A/C ... talk about system shock! I'm sorry to say that we only touched the surface of this fine park, but at least we did that much. Spring or later in the autumn (but before the snow flies) would probably be best to visit and explore Zion.
Bryce Canyon is a wonder! We enjoyed hiking here (8,000'), as it was cool even though it's located on the hot, dry, dusty Colorado plateau. Our days were warm and sunny, evenings cooled off early, with lows in the high 30's. The hoodoos (Navajo sandstone) were everywhere -- 18 miles in the park from north to south! Jimmy and I hiked the rim trail and decided to immerse ourselves among them (hoy!) on the Queens Garden Trail and part of the Navajo Loop (altogether approx 6 miles), quite the trek. I guarantee you coming up the switchbacks required real effort; definitely not for anyone not used to elevation or strenuous climbs! Those hoodoos look quite different viewed from the top, as from the bottom looking up! Our camera batteries passed on early in the hike, so the last couple of pictures here are all we got!
'Tis an enchanted land of towering spires.
See the arch or bridge? Kind of an optical illusion.
Our campsite was all right, and we appreciated and used the free shuttle system. Bryce Nat'l Park is another amazing slice of Utah. So very glad we could be here!
Kodachrome Basin St Park was another "let's go look" park, and it was such a cool spot that we ended up spending the night! So cool that we probably could've spent a week investigating all its nooks and crannies. Elevation here is roughly 5800'.
67 monolithic stone spires, called sedimentary pipes, accentuate multi-hued sandstone layers that reveal 180 million years of geologic time. It was in 1948 that the color and beauty found here prompted a National Geographic Society expedition to name the area Kodachrome, after the popular color film (with consent from Kodak Film Corp). I can report that these monolithic stone spires are incredible to see in person. It really is a special place to see.
The following morning we hiked the Grand Parade Trail, a one-and-a-half mile easy loop trail that explored two box canyons. We wandered way back in one canyon and that's where we saw BIG mountain lion tracks! (no lion, tho)
I look dwarfed by the sandstone.
I AM dwarfed by sandstone!
The park entrance is nine miles off the highway and consequently not as popular with the "crowds" -- hence a quiet, perfect spot for us. We really enjoyed being here.
Look at Tergel tucked into this cozy space, with a marvelous 360 degree view!
Another fantastic Utah park!
Driving along All American Hwy SR12 through Dixie National Forest, Utah (summit 9600'), rabbitbrush and golden aspen glow in early autumn. We spied this big-eared jackrabbit sitting near its rabbit hole, and earlier in the day we saw one of its relatives eating the stalk and flower of rabbitbrush. The bloom is a vibrant yellow and there's lots of it for all the bunnies in the area!
On a hike later in the day we followed the tracks of what we believe to be a mountain lion! Didn't see the cat, but that's okay....
On Monday morning, Jimmy and I walked the petroglyph boardwalk and snapped a few photos of these amazing sights.
After the boardwalk, we next tackled the 4-mile Cohab Canyon Trail, up-up-up a switch-back trail to a hidden canyon (so quiet and serene), with side slot canyons amid massive boulders and Utah juniper and piñon pine ... and then lots more zigzag back down to our camp! This very picturesque hike took quite a bit of effort, but it was so worth it!
That's our Tergel down there (on the left)!
After lunch we wanted to see Hickman Bridge, one of Capitol Reef's highlights, so we set off on a 2-mile moderate trail which led us to the large, elegant natural bridge or arch. The trail isn't particularly long or steep, but it has lots of ups and downs. It was a spectacularly scenic trek every step of the way – check out the photos!
Each hike was a wonder in itself. I guess we must be getting used to exercising in these higher altitudes, as we were happily tuckered out by day’s end, but not "ruint" (as my sister would say).
We really enjoyed our stay in Capitol Reef. We ate our meals and enjoyed afternoon coffee at the picnic table surrounded by chirping birds and silent mule deer. While Capitol Reef hadn't even been on our agenda, we really hated to leave this remarkable place! Maybe some day we'll return. I'd like that.