Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bryce Canyon City

We escaped the heat of Virgin this morning. Just north of Hurricane we started to climb and we watched the outside temperatures fall for the duration of the trip. We scouted out the 132-mile drive earlier this week in the Jeep on a reconnaissance mission to Bryce Canyon City. We wanted to see for ourselves if it really is 20 degrees cooler than Virgin (It is!) and find ourselves a campground for the holiday weekend (We did!). The one spot along the way that gave us pause was this sign near Red Canyon. Bullwinkle stands about 13' 3", so the two tunnels on this highway made us a bit nervous.

As we approached Red Canyon, the landscape started to take on a look that was quite new to us. We are eager to see much more of this!

Now, what did that sign say, exactly? On our recon mission, we watched many motorhomes and tall tour busses pass through the two dreaded tunnels with ease. Suddenly, as we watched from Bullwinkle's Imax windshield, it looked like it might be a tight fit. But, of course, we sailed through with antennas, vent covers and satellite dome intact!

We are parked at Ruby's Inn and Campground in Bryce Canyon City. Actually, Bryce Canyon City is everything Ruby's. Besides the campground, the "town" consists of two or three motels, several souvenir shops, a restaurant and an auto/truck/RV service station. It's a very busy place, especially near a holiday. In this packed park, we have scored what has to be the very best site. The moose and squirrel are perched on a nice wide and level spot in the park's "overflow" area. There's no shade, but with daytime temperatures in the 70s, we don't mind at all. (We like this site, and this shot, so much that we're putting it in the blog header. What do you think?)

The "overflow" area is actually the Ruby's employee housing area. There's RV parking down to our right where employees with RVs park. Those without rolling homes can stay in these row houses. From Bullwinkle's Imax window, we have a stunning view of Escalante National Monument to the east.

We're parked in one of three full hookup sites on this lovely little bluff. The other two spots are empty, and are expected to remain so for the duration of our stay. It looks like this group in the horse corral to our left is the closest thing to a neighbor we'll have for awhile.

With a nice site, cool temps and a National Park to explore just down the road, we are definitely much happier campers!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


The temperatures here in Virgin are soaring over the century mark. So, we're bugging out. Tomorrow we're heading north and up in search of cooler surroundings. Before we make our early departure, we wanted to capture some bits and pieces of our stay. See Paul in the corner of that photo? He's not only shading himself from the hot Southern Utah sun. He's searching for a geocache.

Here's the little thing that was hiding in that sign. Nanos, as they are called, are not our favorite type of cache. We like to look for something bigger than a nut or a bolt. And, that itty bitty paper log is a challenge to sign!

We did quite a bit of geocaching in and around Virgin. This tile, which we found laying in the middle of nowhere off a dirt road, is actually a cache. We logged the find on the back, with the signatures of previous finders.

The cache we found in this spot was aptly named "Shoe Tree". Dozens of pairs of shoes adorn this tree along the road to Zion National Park. We had passed this spot many times without noticing the road side art. But, thanks to geocaching, we didn't miss it.

We found the shoe tree cache on the way to a picnic in the park with friends and fellow travelers Jim and Ellie and Molly and Bob. We enjoyed a tasty lunch in a beautiful setting and caught up on each other's adventures. It was great to spend time together. (Paul was so enamored with Bob's hat, that we stopped and picked one up in Springdale on the way home.)

We also enjoyed the company of Bob and Molly and friends Keith and Donna at a most memorable dinner in nearby Hurricane. The experience at Barista's was unforgettable, but we cannot recommend the place at all. Our group of six consumed over $50 worth of iced tea! Needless to say, the refills weren't free. But, the company was priceless.

The six of us did enjoy a delightful breakfast on the patio of our favorite eatery in Hurricane: Main Street Cafe. We highly recommend this lovely little place. We had so much fun at breakfast we forgot to take any pictures!

We're not ones to photograph our food, but we present this photo as evidence to our friends that we did go back to Main Street Cafe for lunch and try the burgers. They were excellent! Thanks so much to Jim and Ellie, Keith and Donna, and Bob and Molly for making time to connect with us. We wish you safe travels and look forward to seeing you down the road.

While we were in Hurricane, we also enjoyed a visit with friends Gail and Dave, whom we hadn't seen in more years than we care to count. Gail and Dave hosted a wonderful lunch at their home where we had so much fun catching up that I forgot to get a picture. We had hoped to get together again, but our early departure curtailed those plans. Thanks, Gail and Dave for your warm hospitality. We look forward to seeing you again on our next visit.

Rocky had a great time in and around Virgin. There's just so much for him to do here! We especially enjoyed our off-road adventures along Kolob Terrace Road.

The views on that outing were so spectacular. We didn't make it all the way to Kolob Reservoir, or to Kolob Canyons. But, we time!

Our park has provided a great deal of cheap entertainment over the last few weeks. The place is quite busy, and fills up every night with folks staying for a night or two or three. The parade of "newbies" was fun to watch. Our fellow RVing friends will be able to tell that this guy got himself into one really messy situation. (When you're spraying water from a distance toward your sewer connection, that's never good.)

The park has also hosted many European visitors each night. We are so happy these good travelers are enjoying our country and spending their money here. But, with one look at these recent neighbors, we do wish they'd put more clothes on. Of course, it's dreadfully hot here. So, really, who can blame them?

Despite the extreme heat, we have had an enjoyable and memorable stay here along the Virgin River. We've met wonderful people and seen some of Mother Nature's most amazing handiwork. We have lots left to do here, so we will most definitely return. We look forward to that, when it's much, much cooler.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sunrise at Zion

When you ride the shuttle up canyon in Zion National Park, a recorded voice points out various highlights and points of interest. One thing that caught our ear on a recent ride was a description of the park's museum being the perfect spot to view sunrise at Zion. With temperatures expected to top the century mark today, we decided to get up before the sun and enjoy the park in its early morning glory. We were up just a bit later than we'd planned, but we arrived at the museum just in time to see West Temple basking in the glow of the morning sun.

Yes, the best way to enjoy the sun rising in the east here is to look to the west. Here's a closer look at West Temple catching the day's first light.

Everywhere we looked, sunlight was dancing around the canyon, casting shadows and creating a marvelous glow.

We left our perch at the museum and headed toward the tunnel. From deep in the canyon, this is a view toward the east.

Just past the tunnel was a trailhead we'd be wanting to visit. The Canyon Overlook trail is a moderate one-mile hike that offered some fantastic views long before we reached the overlook.

Of course, the view at the overlook was magnificent!

What a perfect spot for a photo of Paul sporting his new hat. Doesn't he look dapper?

Here's my self-portrait at the overlook.

A friendly hiker offered to capture this shot of the two of us at the overlook. (We are at the overlook, really!) After all of this early morning activity, we were happy to head back to the moose for a lazy afternoon.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Toquerville Falls

With afternoon temperatures expected to reach into the 90s today, we decided it was the perfect day for a high-altitude off-road adventure in Southern Utah.

Our neighbors Sharon and Fred are fellow Jeep enthusiasts. When they learned about a 12-mile round-trip off-road trail nearby, they invited us to come along. Of course, we said "Yes!" We headed to the nearby town of Toquerville and found the trail head. Before we knew it we were off the road and heading uphill.

Our destination was Toquerville Falls. Looking around this Southern Utah desert, it was hard to believe we would find anything that resembled a waterfall out here. The trail was a bit rocky and washboard-like in some spots, but it wasn't too bad.

The scenery along the way was gorgeous. In the distance we could see the striking colors of the Kolob Canyons area of Zion National Park.

We climbed some 2,300 feet and were relieved to feel the temperatures cool off nicely. Finally, off in the distance, we caught our first glimpse of Toquerville Falls.

Just after we arrived at the falls, we watched a couple of four-wheelers cross LaVerkin Creek just above the falls from the trail on the other side. We were tempted, but that Jeep is a lot more gnarly than either of ours.

At the top of the falls, the water was deep and fast. And, the drop off was a steep 12-feet or so. With a deep hole or two along the surface, we affirmed our decision not to cross.

Before leaving the falls, Paul and Fred pose for a quick photo with two very dirty Jeeps. Our visit was cut short by a swarm of nasty, biting gnats. Sharon and I made a beeline for the Jeeps and the boys followed.

On the way back down the trail, we stopped to find a geocache. The gnats were awful, but Paul managed to make a quick find.

Sharon and Fred were all smiles at the end of the trail. Despite the nasty gnats, a good time was had by all. From here, our neighbors made a dash to the local car wash. Rocky, on the other hand, is still sporting a pretty solid coating of red Utah dirt.

Thanks, neighbors, for a great ride!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Zion National Park: Emerald Pools

One of things on our "to do" list is to hike some of the trails we missed on our first visit. The Middle and Upper Emerald Pools Trails are two that we were eager to visit, so we decided to knock those out today. Things are really heating up here in Zion, so we headed to the park early. Not only would beat the heat, we were guaranteed our choice of parking spots at the Visitor's Center.

At the Visitor's Center, we hopped on the park shuttle and road up canyon to the Zion Lodge stop. The beautiful lodge is nestled next to the massive canyon walls and surrounded by green. The bright orange fencing is temporary.

The Emerald Pools trailhead is just across the Virgin River from the lodge. We were disappointed to learn the Middle Pools trail was closed due to a rock slide. So, we adjusted our plans and started the hike on the familiar Lower Pools trail.

Paul stopped to tower over some wildlife for a photo.

You think this little guy has practiced this pose? He stood there patiently until Paul got this shot.

Before long we reached the Lower Emerald Pool. It was as picturesque as we remember.

The Lower Pool is fed by these waterfalls at the - take a guess - Middle Pool.

We detoured just a bit toward the closed section of the trail to snap a few shots of the Middle Pool.

We were on to a new trail (for us) and headed toward Upper Pool. We kept climbing as the canyon walls got closer (and a lot taller).

Upper Emerald Pool was, in our opinion, the least photogenic of the three. But, it was a cool, peaceful spot to enjoy a light lunch and a quick rest before heading back down the trail.

Early Summer brings wildflowers in Zion, and there were many along the trail today. (Believe it or not, this is a rare flower picture by Mary!)

We reached a fork near the end of the trail and decided to take the Kayenta Trail up canyon. We've traveled this trail before, and once again enjoyed the views from high above the Virgin River.

When we passed this way three years ago, this rock slab was covered with cairns. Today, we decided the barren slab needed a fresh crop. This was our contribution.

We just can't get enough of these magnificent views. There is something very special about Zion Canyon.

About 2.5 miles and three hours later, we were off the trail and shuttled back to the Visitors Center. Temperatures were climbing into the 90s, and the once-empty parking lots were packed. After a great morning hike to the pools, we were happy to be off our feet and back to the comfort of our rolling home.