Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hike in the Hoodoos – Bryce Canyon National Park


On Thursday, April 23, we decided to hike the hoodoos. At each park we visit, we like to do something that most tourists do not do because of limited time, vehicle ability or physical ability. Bryce Canyon NP is a smaller park, so a hike was in order to go look at the rock formations up close and personal. Many people hike these trail each day, but you have to be in pretty good hiking shape because of the elevation changes and the steepness of the trails. We were hoping our physical condition was sufficient to not need a ride out in a helicopter.

We are still debating who decided which trails we would do. We ended up choosing a loop of a little over 8 miles. We started right in our campsite and walked to the the rim and down to Sunset point on the rim trail. Then down the Navajo trail to the intersection of the Peek a Boo loop. That loop is about 3 miles and is very strenuous. We then returned to the rim on the Queens Garden trail to Sunrise point and then back to camp on the Rim trail.

It was a beautiful day with temps in the 50’s and 60’s and mostly blue skies. We walked the 2 miles to Sunset point and were eager to start down into the canyon. The first part is the steepest.


Check out these switchbacks:


Then this:


The views from down in the canyon were amazing:




We exchanged picture taking with a guy and he got this shot of us:














Here is a shot looking back up the last big set of switchbacks. The entire hike in the canyon was big ups and downs, but the biggest was the trip from the rim to the main intersection. In the picture above Kim looks taller than me. This would be considered a flat part of the trail.

At the intersection is a small natural bridge. Of course we had to go see that.


This was not the end of the trail, but at least it was the end of the brutal downhill, but the worst was yet to come.


We had now walked 2.6 miles and it was on to the Peek a Boo loop. It started with an uphill that was a killer.



Kim stopped and talked to some other hikers to get the scoop on the trail. We had frequent conversations with other hikers as we all struggled through this trail. Around every corner was a view better than the one before. It was just amazing. I must have said “WOW” 10,000 times that day.



There are signs along the route that have an embossed seal on them. You can do a rubbing or take a picture of them and then go to the visitor center and get a “I Hiked the Hoodoos” pin. We got them.


We hiked on for a mile and a half and came to the Bryce Point trail. That is one of the steepest in the park. That is the halfway mark of the Peek a Boo loop. We were getting tired, but the views just kept coming. There were a few spots where they cut a hole in the rock to let the trail through.




We came to a feature called the wall of windows. It think that was my favorite formation. I got many shots from many different angles. By this point in the day it was turning cloudy and cooler.




Kim had heard there was a restroom on the trail. She was happy to see it. It was just after that point we found a quiet place and had lunch. I was happy to lose the weight out of my pack.


Here is a pano shot I took of the wall of windows:


Here is one of the many switchback climbs:


We got some energy back after lunch and hiked on and on and on. Our legs were shot at this point, but I knew in the back of my mind we still had the climb out of the canyon to go.




Here is evidence that we really did this. At this point we were just hoping to survive.







Oh no, not another set of switchbacks!


Every time I wondered if this was worth it, I just looked up and another “WOW” moment.



Another Pano, be sure to click on these and zoom in and scan them left to right.




We finally made it to the end of the Peek A Boo Loop. That was the toughest 3 miles I have ever walked, but it was the most beautiful also. We sat down on a log and stopped for a long break. We needed to get inspired for the final push to the top. We entered Queens Garden and met a couple about our same age. They had just hiked down from the rim and looked fresh. They were very interested in our Full time RV adventure. They were really amazed that we could be happy living in a trailer. By the end of the conversation, they were asking about how to learn more. Happens all the time.

I did not take many pictures of the final ascent. We both just put our heads down and slowly plodded along. There were a few false tops and it was tough to tell Kim this was not the top. When I finally reached the top, I did my best Rocky impression raising my arms in celebration and relief. Kim was not quite as exuberant. I knew she was really worn out and her feet were hurting. She did awesome and the pictures and memories we have of this day were worth the pain and suffering.

We then walked the mile that was mostly down hill back to camp. We took off our boots and did not move much for a day and a half. It turned cold and we had some low temps around 25. Friday it only made it to 40.

People ask us which park is our favorite. We don’t pick favorites. Each park is unique. We look for what is special about each one. Bryce Canyon is special for the intricacy of the formations. It is just breathtaking. It feels like you are in an amazing temple. We feel that God did some of his best work in this canyon. This hike was really an inspirational experience. This post is dedicated to my mother in law Phyllis.

Well, what is next? On Saturday, we decided to take a drive. It all started out innocently enough, but it didn’t end up that way. More crazy adventure.

If you can, go take a hike today and enjoy all of the gifts we have. It is just awesome!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Bryce Canyon National Park


We arrived at Bryce Canyon NP on Tuesday, April 21. We had a few choices for places to stay, but we really wanted to stay in the NP at the North campground. They don’t take reservations this early in the season, so we knew we needed to get there by around noon. We got going early for us and got on the road. We could have taken Hwy 12, but that went to almost 10,000 feet (see previous post), so we took another route. Route 24 to 62 to 22. It was an interesting drive down a sparsely populated valley. You can really see the influence of early Mormon settlers in this part of Utah. The drive up 22 took us through a canyon that was really impressive.

We arrived at the park and found that they had vacancies in the campground. The sites are not very level and kind of a trick to get a big rig into, but we managed. We can take a short walk (about 50 Yards) from our site to the rim of the canyon. We have no electricity and no water at our site.


We have gone almost all of April with no electricity. The good news is that we have been managing with no real issues except my batteries do not have enough capacity for my needs (all night CPAP). I have decided to order an external battery pack for the CPAP to isolate that need. It is expensive at $279, but that should give me additional options for exploring in the future. Sorry for that tangent, but that information may be helpful for some of my readers.

The views are certainly spectacular from the rim, but we wanted to take a hike down into the canyon. I have been reading about other bloggers that have visited Bryce and I have been weighing our options. We decided to give one of the ultimate hikes a try on Thursday.

On Wednesday we took a short drive and went to the Visitor Center and watched the movie. It was quite interesting. Then we took a short drive to the famous Bryce Canyon Lodge.


We then went to Sunrise Point and Sunset Point. Both of these are a mile walk from our campsite.


These formations are called Hoodoos and are the signature formation in the park. Some are very large, but what makes them unique is their intricacy. They each look like an individual sculpture. There are millions of them in the canyon.

The canyon is also beautiful with pine trees and distant vistas of red and white colored rocks. You can even see a bit of snow left at this 7800 foot elevation.



The rock formations are the star of the show, they are really cool to see up close.




We were both excited to walk down in the canyon. The weather looked good for Thursday, but was turning much colder after that. Thursday it was. That walk turned into something I will never forget. Come back for an entry to tell that story. Who knew that is a Hoodoo?

Last Entry from Capitol Reef National Park


I am sure that you are getting tired of hearing about Capitol Reef NP. Please bear with me for one last entry from this awesome place. I want to fully document our experience for ourselves in our later life.

On Monday, April 20, we decided to take a hike to Hickman Bridge. Yeah, I was kind of surprised that Kim wanted to go also, but you know how she is with bridges and arches. The hike was very steep, but only about 1.5 miles to the bridge. This was in fact a bridge, not an arch because it was caused by flowing water. The views of the main gorge were once again  beautiful.


We both thought that this solid wall had a relief of a mountain. It was really cool.



There were several people walking along with us at different times. We had some time to get to know each other as we stopped to rest. It was difficult to talk between the huffs and puffs. We finally made it to the bridge:


I hiked around while Kim rested. It was a beautiful setting.



We walked downhill back to the parking area. The downhill part has been bothering my knee, but it is certainly worth a little pain.

We then headed over to an area with petroglyphs. They are very interesting to think about all of the people that had been to this area over the ages.


The last stop was at the old one room school house. The park service had done a nice job restoring it. They have done a great job at this park being friendly and helpful without being overbearing. I think it helps that this park is the forgotten park of the big 5.


With this tour, we had the feeling that we had seen Capitol Reef NP. We were ready to move on. We like to spend a week at most parks to feel good about the visit. A week here was just about right.

Next stop is the much anticipated Bryce Canyon National Park. We were very excited to see one of the most photographed parks in the country.


Come back and I will show you many aspects of Bryce. We went for a little stroll through the Hoodoos. It was memorable, maybe even EPIC.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Cathedral Valley Drive–Capitol Reef National Park


On Sunday, April 19, we decided to take the drive we have been hearing about since we got here. The drive goes out of the campground about 10 miles on pavement to the East. Then you have to cross the river. And I don’t mean across a bridge. We were told to enter the water and drive downstream hugging the right bank and then when you get across from the road cross the rest of the river. Put in 4X4 if you got it. 

The crossing was really no big deal, but the anticipation made it kind of fun.


We then had about 58 miles of a combination of everything from steep narrow switchbacks to open washboarded gravel roads. We headed up through some open pasture land that is currently leased for cattle ranching. The scenery was already getting out attention.


As we drove along, I saw an old truck on the side of the road. I had to stop and check it out.


It was an old drilling rig. Most of the drilling derrick was made of wood including a large flywheel. The front end was cool:




We then came to and area they call the Bentonite hills. It looked like piles of ash. At this point we were averaging about 10 MPH.


We had been told that this area is not passable if it is wet.

We came to a side road that took us to jailhouse rock. The view was cool and we met a couple from Houston that were the only people we saw for most of the day.


We drove through valleys and up and over mesas. The road was rough at times, but we kept seeing cool rock formations or cliff walls.





This is our first view of Cathedral Valley. It just took your breath away. Look at that road down there, we would soon be on that road.


This was a very cool overlook. We decided to stop and have lunch with this view.


Here is an up close of the Cathedral Rocks.


This was just the beginning of these kind of views for many miles. It is just about the most awesome thing I have ever seen. The size is just amazing.


I tried to put something in the shot to show the size. The lighting is bad in these shots, but the size is shown.














There were some interesting volcanic formations called dikes.


We then came to the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon and Glass Mountain. This is the Temple of the Sun, with the Temple of the moon behind it:


Glass mountain was an interesting feature. It is a mound of selenite crystals.I have never seen anything like it.



This shot is with the Temple of the Moon in front. It appears larger, but the sun is much larger.


We were driving along and I caught this lizard out of the corner of my eye.


These candy striped hills were much prettier in person than this picture shows:


The drive took us 8 hours to complete. It will be remembered as one of my favorite days of the trip. The scenery was amazing and the drive and solitude made it really special. I will say it again, I love Capitol Reef!