Archive for March, 2009

Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

We had a good time in Vegas with Diarmuid, cruising the the strip (urban hiking) and taking in the sights.  After wandering around for a good part of the day we found a very fun Irish Pub with a live band to keep us away from the tables for a while. 

After dropping Diarmuid off at the airport, we headed back to Zion on Saturday with plans to get packed up and reorganized for the next leg of our journey.  On Sunday we tried,  again in vain, to do a day trip to Bryce… The weather just wouldn’t cooperate.  No worries, we’ll just hit it later in April as we swing back west.  We really want to see the Hoodoos.

As it was cold everywhere in Utah, including the southern areas we were hoping to visit this week, we changed our plans in hopes that moving southeast would bring warmer weather. We backtracked into Arizona once again and spent a day exploring the Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert. 

We started our day in the park with a visit to the Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark.  It’s  located in the northern section of the park and once served as a respite for travelers along historic Route 66.  Not only was the building very intersting, we thought it was a great way to show the beauty of the surrounding Painted Desert.

We wouldn’t recommend a whole vacation around this park, but the geology and history, paired with the colorful and numerous specimens of petrified wood, were well worth a day’s investment.  We managed to do all of the trails (only 6.5 miles) in one day with some energy left over. 

Still looking for the warmth… Not sure where we are headed next…

 

Zion National Park, Utah

Friday, March 27th, 2009
Campsite at Zion National Park

Campsite at Zion National Park

We arrived at Zion National Park on Sunday. We were looking forward to the new scenery and also wanted to get set up for our first visitor.  We got the last campsite in Watchman campground inside the park, and were pleased with the view. 

Chris prepares to take a shot on the way up to Angel's landing

Chris prepares to take a shot on the way up to Angel's landing

On Monday we decided to take a hike (now there’s a surprise).  Angels Landing is one of the most popular hikes in the park, which surprised us.  It was 2.5 miles up with plenty of switchbacks.  The view from the lookout however was outstanding. 

On the way up to Angel's Landing, notice the trail over Chris' shoulder

On the way up to Angel's Landing, notice the trail over Chris' shoulder

The last half mile is pretty intense and traverses a thin rocky ridge with chains to help with balance, as you can see in the picture.

Finally made the Landing

Finally made the Landing

We enjoyed the challenge and the reward at the top.

Kim takes a break in a cave on the way down from Angel's Landing

Kim takes a break in a cave on the way down from Angel's Landing

The trail meandered through some very interesting rock formations.  Kim found a cool cave to take a break in as we made our way back down. 

Upper Emarald Pool in Zion Valley

Upper Emarald Pool in Zion Valley

On Tuesday afternoon, our friend Diarmuid (pronounced Deer – med) flew in for a visit.  We spent the day preparing his 5 star accomodations and gathering firewood.  We also managed a quick mountainbike ride before he showed up. On Wednesday we set out to cover as much of the park as possibe, as Diarmuid only had a few days.  We hiked the Lower, Middle, and Upper Emerald Pools, The Riverside Walk by the Temple of Sinawava, the Canyon Overlook, and a short silly hike by the campground.  We had about 6 miles on the day.

Diarmuid looks for new mountains to conquer

Diarmuid looks for new mountains to conquer

Our goal was to spend the second day at Bryce Canyon National Park.  The best laid plans of mice and men… As we made our way there, the weather deteriorated significantly. 50’s gave way to 20’s and blue skies to snow, bummer.  We made a game time decision to go back to Zion and found another really cool hike.

The end of Hidden Canyon. Yes, that is snow.

The end of Hidden Canyon. Yes, that is snow.

Hidden Canyon offered strenuous switchbacks that led to some great narrow cliffs (again with chains), and finally into a narrow canyon.  We had a blast scrambling up rocks to make our way through the canyon.  All good things must come to an end and finally we got to a point in the canyon that turned us back.

A view of Wildcat Canyon from Kolob Terrace

A view of Wildcat Canyon from Kolob Terrace

We ended the day with a drive on the Kolob Terrace Road that led to another section of the park.  The views were well worth the drive.

Diarmuid will be leaving early on Saturday so a trip to Vegas is in order.  We wouldn’t want him to miss his plane.

Lees Ferry and Glen Canyon Recreation Area

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

We left Sedona on Thursday and headed for the Glen Canyon Recreation Area, just northeast of the Grand Canyon.  We stayed in the southern section at an area called Lees Ferry.  This historic site is where the first ferries crossed the Colorado river.  Because of Glen Canyon to the North and the Grand Canyon to the South it was the only place to cross the Colorado river for hundreds of miles.  The campground, perched on a hill in a small (compared to Glenn and Grand) canyon, overlooked the Colorado River.  The view was a far cry from the parking lots we have been camping  in lately.  It was also quite enjoyable listening to the “riffles” below (a riffle is not quite a rapid).  In the few days we have been here we took a couple short hikes to check out the historic sites, paddled our kayaks upstream on the Colorado and floated down, and visited Page where the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell are. We will have the chance to check out other highlights of the Glen Canyon area as we move on to Utah.

More of Sedona

Saturday, March 14th, 2009
Cathedral Rock, we have to climb all the way up there???

Cathedral Rock, we have to climb all the way up there???

We decided to come back to Sedona for a few days to enjoy the warm weather, beautiful scenery, hiking/rock climbing, and mountain biking opportunities.  The first day we headed out to hike up and around Cathedral Rock.  Our goal was to stretch our legs after the Grand Canyon, our calves were still screaming.

Spires at Cathedral Rock

Spires at Cathedral Rock

The summit offers spectacular views.  The Sedona area is known for having a spiritual force in certain areas.  The top of Cathedral Rock is one of the “vortex” locations.

Kim gets in touch with her spiritual side

Kim gets in touch with her spiritual side

When we approached the “Cathedral” we happened upon several people meditating.  It was such a site that Kim had to get into the action. We had a good hike and decided to end our day sampling the local brews and wines.  On our way back to camp we stopped at the Oak Creek Brewery in Sedona and a few wineries. The tastings were crazy expensive, as were the wines.  We only purchased one bottle (all we could afford). It was actually a really good Port that we both really liked.

The next day we headed out on the motorcycles for the first time in a while.  It has been pretty cold.  The riding wasn’t all that great but we managed to find some nice roads through the Prescott National Forest just outside of Prescott AZ.  Unfortunately, we forgot the camera…

Mountain biking Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte

Mountain biking Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte

Today was our last day in Sedona. There are numerous trails that allow mountain biking and we were up for the challenge. We hadn’t been on our bikes in about 3 months so we picked an “easy” trail (yeah right). We did pretty well but definitely found some new and unused (abused) muscles.

View from the top of Bell Rock

View from the top of Bell Rock

As if the 7.5 miles of “easy” trail wasn’t enough punishment, we decided to hike up to the top of Bell Rock.  We had a ball scaling the slick rock to get up to the top. While there we of course had to capture the moment with a timer shot.  Another good day…  Looking forward to the next adventure.

Grand Canyon, The Canyon Floor

Saturday, March 14th, 2009
Lookin' fresh, ready for the big hike

Lookin' fresh, ready for the big hike

The plan came together quite quickly… Kim had always wanted to ride the mules down to the canyon floor, Chris however was over the weight limit.  He suggested we hike it.  At first Kim thought he was smokin’ crack but then decided we could do it.  We’ve been hiking a lot and are in pretty good shape.  Kim set out to put the plan in motion… Although people make reservations 13 months ahead for the Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon, she called to try and get a room for tomorrow.  As luck would have it, they had one spot in their dorm for women and we were the first on the waiting list for a bed in the men’s dorm. We had to show up at the Bright Angel Lodge on the South Rim by 7 AM. We decided to take the chance, bought a backpack and got minimal supplies together to make the journey (We did this while it was snowing mind you). The next morning we got up at 5 AM for the hour drive to the canyon in hopes of getting a bed that night for Chris. As we wiped the sleepies from our eyes and waited for the ice to defrost from the truck windshield we contemplated how crazy we were.

The easy way out of the Canyon

The easy way out of the Canyon

We arrived at the Lodge at 7:01 and Kim watched as the lady at the registration desk gave a cabin away to the two gentlemen who got their first. Since it was Friday the 13th we weren’t worried and low and behold we got the last cabin from a cancellation.  We were psyched to get private accomodations, as we were a little aprehensive about the dorms. We needed to stay at the ranch if we were going to do this since we do not have any backpacking camping gear. We were on the “hikers” shuttle to the South Kaibab Trail at 8 Am and starting the descent by about 8:45.

We are going all the way down there?????

We are going all the way down there?????

The trail down was crazy steep.  It is a 5,000 foot elevation change from the rim to the Colorado River in the trail’s 7.5 miles.  We took the recommended South Kaibob trail down, which was a little shorter but steeper than the Bright Angel Trail, which we were going to take out.  We were surprised at the number of people doing the same thing.  We were pretty nervous about attempting this for a variety of reasons, so seeing so many people of varying physical fitness and age was comforting.

Past halfway and we still can't see the Colorado River

Past halfway and we still can't see the Colorado River

Halfway down and still smiling.  Actually, you couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces all day.  There were incredible views the whole way and of course we were going down.  Which, by the way, proves it’s own physical challenges as you use many muscles that are not usually in service.  You also become well aquainted with them later. 

Panorama from halfway down

Panorama from halfway down

We took lots of pictures on the way down. Every turn illicited another “holy cow” or “wow” or “can’t believe we are here” or, use your imagination…

Cool digs!

Cool digs!

We arrived at Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the canyon, by about 12:45 PM.  We made it down  in about 3 hours and 45 minutes with many stops for pictures and snacks. We were checked into our cabin by 1:00 and having PBandJ on our picnic table.  We brought lots of stuff for snacks and lunch but were able to purchase dinner and breakfast at the ranch. Our cabin was one of the original ones built in 1922.  It had 2 bunk beds, a sink, toilet, desk, night table and lamp.  Although it was rustic it was awesome. After settling in we walked back down to the river to relax and caught some rafters taking off on the next leg of their journey.  Dinner (a bit expensive) was served family style in the lodge.  We had a great steak with all the fixin’s and enjoyed talking with the family we sat with.  Everyone was very friendly. After dinner we took a walk up the canyon from the lodge (yes, we walked another 2 miles) which meandered along Bright Angel Creek.  It was a beautiful after dinner constitutional to stretch our tired muscles.

Bridge in, Bridge out

Bridge in, Bridge out

We woke up at 6:15, grabbed a cup of coffee and wandered around the ranch.  It was a beautiful morning, watching the light come over the canyon walls.  We were scheduled for the 7AM breakfast so, while finishing our coffee, we also packed up our stuff.  Breakfast was (again expensive) yummy and plentiful.  We were both excited and nervous about the almost 10 mile trek back out of the canyon.  We were on the trail by 7:45 AM with full bellies. This is a view of the two bridges into Phantom ranch.   We came in on the black bridge in the distance and left on the silver bridge, which led to the Bright Angel Trail.

2 miles to go, almost out

2 miles to go, almost out

Wow! The hike out is definately a mental and physical challenge.  The first half isn’t that bad but after we passed Indian Garden (rest and campground at the halfway point) it started to really get steep.  The last few miles are switchbacks up the canyon to the Bright Angel Lodge with the same “horrible” view. We took turns getting tired and taking rests but WE MADE IT!  We hit the rim by 1:45, 6 hours from when we left.  Not bad as it is 1 vertical mile straight up (10 mile trail).  This was one of the best experiences in our life.  We can’t explain the sense of accomplishment when you hit the top.  We ended our day at the Grand Canyon Brewery enjoying a cold one (or two) and some chicken wings to celebrate.

Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

 

Sedona Red Rocks

Sedona Red Rocks

Today we decided to check out some other hot spots not far from Williams.  We started our day heading to Jerome, an old mining ghost town, now a popular eclectic shopping and tourist town.  The ride there was quite interesting as we took the twisting, winding dirt route through the mountains.  Kim was quite white knuckeled for most of the ride.  The town was interesting to drive through, as the buildings were old and artsy.  Not our cup of tea for a stop however. From there we stopped at Montezuma’s Castle, a well preserved cliff dwelling and a national monument.  We were not overly impressed as we couldn’t even get close.  Our next stop was Sedona.  As we made our way north on 89-A we were met with some of the most outstanding views of the trip yet.  The red rock formations around Sedona were amazing.  We stopped to take a few pictures and hope to come back in a few days to do some hiking at Red Rocks and in the Oak Rock Canyon.  We didn’t have time today as we needed to buy a backpack and get home to prepare for our big descent into the canyon.  We are planning to hike down and spend the night at the Phantom Lodge but are on a waiting list.  Stay tuned… and wish us old farts luck, it’s about 20 miles round trip.

 

Grand Canyon, South Rim

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

We arrived in Williams Arizona, the “gateway to the Grand Canyon”, on Tuesday night (about an hour from the Canyon). We were psyched to head to the Canyon the next day, as Chris had never been there and Kim hadn’t seen it since she was 7. We had a blast walking around the rim. Ok, not the whole rim… It is 213 miles long. We managed to cover about 8 miles and relished in the assistance of the great shuttle system back to our car.

 

It was a challenge to capture the magnitude of what we were seeing.  We both tried our hand at getting “the shot”.  Kim even risked life and limb when she went out on a point that was literally hanging over the edge (no nets).  We met several nice people along the way and shared travel stories. Tomorrow, we plan on checking out Sedona and the Oak Rock Canyon.

Chillin’ in Pahrump, Nevada

Monday, March 9th, 2009

We left Death Valley on Friday and started heading east.  Time to start working our way toward the Grand Canyon and the many parks of interest in Utah.  Our digs in Pahrump are a far cry from the dusty, gravel parking lot we stayed in while at Death Valley.  For only a few dollars more we are staying at an “RV Resort”.  This place has everything… A full gym, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi, 3 tiered pool with waterfalls, a bowling alley, restaurant, laundry facilities, and  sites with full hookups.  Some sites even have built in grills and gazebos.  We enjoyed the facilities for a few days while doing some errands, taking care of some vehicle maintenance, and visiting a few local spots (like Vegas).  We had a good time, but are looking forward to moving on to the next more rugged adventure. Tomorrow we head out for northern Arizona. We plan on hitting Sedona, Grand Canyon, and the Petrified Forest over the next few days.

One of the things we did with the downtime is put our trip into Google Maps. Below is an interactive map of what we have done and what/when we plan to do.

View Larger Map

An eclectic last day in Death Valley

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Our last day in Death Valley was dedicated to seeing all the remaining sights.  Due to the size of the park it takes a bit of driving to see it all.  We started our day at the Ubehebe Crater, which was created 300 years ago as a result of a violent release of pressure from the earth’s surface.  We got a kick out of the sign.

Our second stop was Scotty’s Castle, a homage to “Death Valley Scotty” from a wealthy friend who built it as a vacation home.  It was a very odd oasis in such a barren wilderness.

From there we headed to the town of Beatty (just outside the park) for diesel and lunch.  We found a quaint little Mexican restaurant in this one horse town, not fancy but very good. 

We wanted to take the Titus Canyon road back into the valley.  Chris had done this on his motorcycle and wanted Kim to see it. He also thought it would be a fun challenge with the truck instead of the motorcycle.  On the way we passed an old mining ghost town called Rhyolite.  Much to our surprise it was the home to the Goldwell Open Air Museum and featured several large interesting pieces of artwork.  The fact that they were in the middle of nowhere added to their charm.  The artist that started this was Albert Szukalski with his “ghostly” shrouded figures also found throughout Antwerp, Belgium.

The final stop on our journey was the Tawny Sand Dunes.  These dunes were not far from where we were staying and we were glad to finally hit them when there was some interesting light.  It was a full day.  Tomorrow we head east, to where, we don’t quite know yet.

Biking and Hiking in Death Valley

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009
Kim polishes the marble in Mosaic Canyon

Kim polishes the marble in Mosaic Canyon

The past few days in Death Valley were quite enjoyable.  Our colds got better and we had fun hiking and biking. 

A view entering Titus Canyon

A view entering Titus Canyon

Chris was excited to explore the park on his motorcycle, as there were riders everywhere talking about the trails.  The riding was much more suited to Chris’s skill level (too much sand for Kim), hence we spent some time apart.

Aguereberry Point

Aguereberry Point

Chris had fun playing on the many dirt roads and taking awesome landscape pictures.  This is a shot from Aguereberry Point on the opposite side of the canyon from Dante’s View.

Charcoal Kilns

Charcoal Kilns

Chris was able to get to some “cool” sights (literally, the temperature on some of the mountains was 50 degree’s cooler than the valley). This is a picture of charcoal kilns built in 1876 to provide fuel to process silver/lead ore. Notice the snow in the foreground.

Kim goes it alone

Kim goes it alone

Kim actually took her first solo hike, and Golden Canyon was the perfect way too start.  Of course, she met a friend to hike with and they chatted the whole way.  He was kind enough to help capture the moment.

Timer shot in Mosaic Canyon

Timer shot in Mosaic Canyon

We actually did spend some time together. The Mosaic Canyon trail was a great canyon hike with polished marble rock faces, some rock climbs, and of course scenic views.