Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Visit to the National Parks with Erika and Gabi

June 4, 2012

We began our road trip to the national parks with Erika and Gabi on June 4. We took a similar trip last year with our Dutch friends, Maarten and Maria. This time we did it a little differently by making Death Valley's  Stovepipe Wells, our first stop instead of our last. While in Death Valley, we toured Bad Waters and the Artist’s Drive, with a brief stop at Painter’s Palette. Amazing colors of chocolate browns, strawberry, mint green and various other colors mixed throughout. It looked like a tasty dessert.

Bad Waters and salt crystals

Painter's Palette - this photo doesn't do it justice

Next we headed for Zion in Utah, arriving in Springdale in the afternoon. We checked into the Best Western that’s located towards the western side of town with a dramatic view of some of the craggy peaks surrounding Springdale, Utah.

Taking the park's tram to Temple of Siwawa while studying the maps.
The next day we took the shuttle into the park’s reddish canyon taking it all the way up to the Temple of Siwawa. It’s a nice, easy walk next to a river, with lots of interesting rock formations to see along the way. The path ends after about a mile after which one can forge the river towards the Narrows, a slot that’s another mile or so up the canyon. We stopped there as most people do and returned along the same path.

Along the trail

After hiking the Temple of Siwawa trail, we took the park shuttle to the Grotto stop. We hiked along a trail to the Emerald Pools, which lie at the base of the falls. Nice hike with great views of the valley, rock formations and the river below. From there we headed on to the Zion Lodge where a fresh and cool beer awaited us.
The hike from the Grotto to the lodge

Underneath the Emerald Pools

The next day we took a day trip to Bryce Canyon. Where as Zion, one is in the canyon looking upwards to the majestic rock formations, Bryce is more or less the reverse - the drive is along the top of the ridges, with views looking downward. Quite spectacular.

Natural Bridge in Zion

We took the same approach to Bryce as we did with Zion and drove to the far end of the rim drive, and then re-traced our steps, stopping numerous times to absorb the breath-taking views of the pinnacle-like formations known as hooddoos and the valleys below.

View from the rim walk

We took an easy hike along one of the rim trails from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point, that offered spectacular views. The last place we stopped was outside the park at a spot called Fairyland Point. It is interesting because here the hooddoos are very near. We took the opportunity for a short hike into the canyon along a narrow ridge. Marvelous views.

Along the Fairyland Point trail
A view of the Fairyland Point trail

Looking for slots, we found this rather wide one.

Early the next day we checked out of the lodge and headed to Kanab, We used Kanab as a base to see the Grand Canyon. We stayed at a superb bed and breakfast called the Purple Sage in the heart of Kanab. Kathy and Tory run the immaculate B&B. Our hosts were extremely welcoming and offered us the best rooms in the house. 

We break for coffee!
Coral Pink Sand Dunes
The Purple Sage B&B
Erika as she thinks...."Where do I start?"

After checking in, we still had time for a short drive to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, just a few miles out of town. These dunes consist of extra fine grain sand and indeed look pink.It would have been fun to hike through the dunes but it was fairly hot in the sun.

View of the Grand Canyon from trail near the lodge

In the morning, after having a huge breakfast consisting of yogurt, a mammoth platter of fruit, an omelet, toast, orange juice and coffee, we drove to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We toured most of the scenic points available in the North Rim, starting from the lodge overlook and then onward to Cape Royal, Angel‘s Window and Point Imperial. Our personal favorite is the Angel’s Window. It’s dramatic, an easy walk and has great views of the Colorado River. By late afternoon we were saturated and satiated of dramatic views of the canyon and headed back to our B&B in Kanab.

View from near the lodge

View of Angel's Window

On the way back home, I had the misfortune of encountering a sheriff’s squad car, while I was driving through an area that I thought was a 55 mph area. It was a 35mph area. He gave me a slight reprieve by writing me up for only doing 5 miles over the speed limit. Perhaps it was my UC Davis Water Ski team t-shirt that did it. He told me afterwards, that he used to water ski a lot.
In the evening, a glass of wine on the porch.

In the morning Kathy offered us breakfast on the patio. I talked to Tory about what else he does to keep busy. He told me that he was a scout for private hunters of which some pay upwards of $265,000 for a annual hunting permit!!! 

Dream Catcher breakfast area

Backyard art

After breakfast, totally satiated, it was an easy drive to Lake Powell, where we had reservations at the Dream Catcher B&B. We arrived at 1pm - too early for normal check-in. But Eric and Jared were most accommodating. They showed us our rooms, helped us with our luggage and even packed us an ice chest full of premium beers to take with us on our boat excursion we had planned to take on Lake Powell.

On the cruise excursion on Lake Powell.

Getting more narrow at every bend.

View of Lake Powell

The Glen Canyon Dam

Bridge over the Colorado River.

Horseshoe Bend in Page, AZ

Horseshoe Bend

It was just a few miles down the road from the B&B to the Lake Powell National Park and the marina docks from where the boat trips leave. We purchased the longer of the two boat trips - a 2 ½ hour tour extravaganza, taking us along narrow inlets, around an island and to the Lake Powell Dam. It was an interesting trip, but we all concluded that the one hour trip would have sufficed.

Before heading back to the inn, we opted for a Mexican dinner and to sightsee the horseshoe-shaped river bend on the Colorado River. The walk to the bend was through loose, sandy terrain with a bit of a grade to it. The round trip distance was about 1.5 miles. With a strong wind, it was not a comfortable walk. But the dramatic sight of the river bend far below us made the arduous trip worth it. 

We got back to the inn late in the evening. Eric and Jared offered us wine and spirits and asked when we wanted breakfast in the morning. I like these B&B’s! With a glass of wine in hand, we walked over to the Jacuzzi that was situated on top of the garage. The stars were numerous.

Dream Catcher B&B living room

I got up early the next morning and found the coffee ready, hot and strong. The breakfast table had been set up to eat on the patio. After all of our gang was up and ready, we had an outstanding breakfast, while we watched Eric feed the large (and chunky) lizards that came around to feast on breakfast scraps. The occasional rabbit would bounce along the back yard too, foraging for its breakfast in the desert landscape of their backyard.

Life imitating art? 

A fabulous breakfast
One of the fat lizards waiting for a handout.

After breakfast we thanked our fabulous hosts and began our drive to Las Vegas. With a brief stop at the Starbucks in St. George, it wasn’t long before we were checking in at the Hotel Paris. Our rooms overlooked the Belagio fountains. 

Gabi diligently working on her tan.

Too many desserts - what a quandary to be in.

 Dinner at Restaurant Mon Ami Gabi

Delicious trout





We mostly used Las Vegas as an R&R stop. We ate well, gambled little and spent the mornings relaxing at the pool. Las Vegas wouldn’t survive on our kind of tourist. One of the evenings, we had the obligatory buffet dinner at the Mirage hotel. On our second evening we had a memorable dinner at Restaurant Bon Ami Gabi, right at our hotel. After two days, we made the long trek home, arriving in Shell Beach about seven hours later. Home sweet home.

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