May 14: Readington, NJ to Las Vegas, NV
Our long months of hard, constant work have left us really exhausted. We skipped taking a spring break in March because of John’s time commitments, so we decided to get away now, in mid May, as soon as his Rutgers work was completed. We left New Jersey later in the day this time, taking a 5pm flight. We brought the pups with us. As we sat down on the plae, we noticed the pups, in their crates sitting in the hot sun on the tarmac by the luggage ramp!!! We were furious! Th company that handles pets, Petsafe, is supposed to keep them in an air conditioned van till loading time, after all the luggage has loaded. We asked one of the flight attendants to check into it. She promptly asked one of the pilots to go down and check to see if they were ok. We watched him down below check the pups, but he really didn’t do much and they were loaded soon thereafter with the baggage. GRRRRRR.
The flight was ok. We landed in Vegas late, 7:30pm PMT. As soon as we pulled up to the gate, a Petsafe van was immediately there for the pups. As always, it is Newark and its employees that are always the problem. We got our luggage, got on a shuttle to the rental car place, got a nice Chevy Traverse, then headed to pick up the pups in the cargo office. They were there, no worse for wear as always, and happy to see us.We did a quick food shop at the local Wally world, then headed to the Las Vegas RV Resort where the Greyhaven was stored. We started her up, got to our site, then crashed for the night.
May 15: Las Vegas, NV to Cedar City, UT
Very slow start today. The time difference and flight left us out of it. We did emails and John caught up with Rutgers work and grading. The weather in Las Vegas was warm and sunny, but very windy. We left the campground around noon, and first went to return the rental car. The layout of the airport and rental car building are really convenient, and large, especially for motorhomes. We then went to a small needlework store in the west part of the city to pick up a scroll frame for my tapestry (to keep in the RV). We then went to a Sears to get some odds and ends, and then decided to get out of Dodge.
We never really plan a trip in advance and that opens up the sense of adventure when we finally set out. John had the idea of repeating our Honeymoon in Vegas trip that we took 11 years ago. Heading east and into Utah meant heading up in altitude and up into colder temperatures. Another option was heading south into Arizona and back towards Lake Patagonia where, this time of the year, there would be great birding, and warmer temperatures. We picked east and up, and going to see the canyon National Monuments we were unable to see on our honeymoon trip like Canyonlands, Arches, Rainbow Bridge, and maybe Canyon de Chelly, plus giving us an opportunity to return to Durango, Colorado and Moab, Utah. We headed east on I15 and stopped in St. George Utah for groceries. We made it into Cedar City and the KOA around 8pm, where we crashed after a small meal and walking the pups.
May 16:Cedar City to Bryce Canyon City, Bryce Canyon, UT
I awoke to walk the pups early, around 7am, and was greeted by the cooing of an Eurasian collared dove, reminding me of happier times in Sidmouth, in the UK. It was quite chilly out, low 40s. We were not prepared with warm winter coats for this spring mountain weather, but the forecast said it would war m up in the next few days. We left Cedar City around 11 and headed east up the Cedar Canyon Scenic byway Rt. 14. I recalled how we traveled this route with John’s mother and how she sat in the back of our rented Cruise America motorhome in a proper lady’s dress and pearls and high heels. I miss her very much.
We climbed up onto the high desert mesas, passing the snow line, and driving through spectacular red rock hoodoo canyon scenery with snow. We stopped for lunch by a mountain lakeside where we birded a bit, had some caprese pasta salad, and walked the pups. I heard a hummingbird zooming through the trees! After, we descended a bit into a farming valley, then arrived at Bryce Canyon village around 4pm. We didn’t recognize the place as much of it has been developed with a new hotel, new reception general store, huge new motels, and a huge sprawling RV campground that pretty much resembled a dirt parking lot with small stumpy trees. We checked in then drove to our site. At 7777′ above sea level, we both felt blah and breathless, so we crashed and napped for a few hours. I ventured over to the Ruby Ripoffs (our happy tongue-in-cheek moniker since our first trip here!) General Store and visitors Lodge/Restaurant, while John stayed in the RV. It wasn’t too bad of a walk, and I managed to spot a Yellow Headed blackbird in the marsh along the way. We had a small meal, then spent the evening catching up on reading and email, and re-creating the Greyhaven website/blog.
We have been told RV’s over 25′ in length are no longer allowed on the single lane auto road down the canyon mesa to the viewing areas. Instead, the National Park service has established a shuttle service that stops at points along the route. When we came here 11 years ago, we were allowed to drive down the park auto route in our rental RV (a 29′ Class C) and stop wherever we wished. Now, with the many crowds that are coming to national parks, large RV coaches are probably a nuisance and block the views and the road. I can see their point, but I feel sad that we are being restricted to something we were once free to explore. The crowds are killing our natural wonders, as seen in the many coaches carrying visitors at the general store. Tomorrow, we will check out the shuttle and visitor’s center and stay another night.
May 17:Bryce Canyon, UT
The temperatures dipped down into the 30’s last night and we had to pull out our small electric heaters. I did not sleep very well so I was up around 7. After walking the pups, I settled down to start some needlework. The morning dawned with blue skies. Both of us took our leisurely time and we spent lazing about til noon, when we had a small lunch, then set out for the national park. It was a short walk through the campground to the free Bryce Canyon Shuttle, which took us directly to the visitor’s center first. I don’t remember much from our visit 11 years ago, but I did notice the crowds of people, even at this time of the year before the summer crush. We got our cancellation stamp and then waited with many folks for the next shuttle into the park.
The park service runs the 10-15 shuttle, but only goes to the mid point in the park, Bryce Point. Another separate shuttle, which runs only two times per day, goes all the way down to the southernmost point in the park drive, Yovimpa Point. In essence, the park service is limiting crowds to the top half of the park. The vistas and lookouts towards the southern end are much more stunning, and contain special hoodoo formations like Thor’s Hammer and the Natural Arch. We were able to take our motorhome down there 11 years ago, and I felt disappointed at loosing the ability to travel where we wanted.
At Bryce Point, our shuttle became snared in bus and car traffic in the tiny parking lot which accessed Bryce Point. It was clear to see that this park has suddenly skyrocketed in popularity and the facilities, as they are now, cannot handle the numerous large vehicles. We got off and enjoyed the spectacular vistas over the red rock hoodoo formations. We boarded the shuttle again and traveled north to the next viewpoint, Inspiration Point. There, we chose to walk the 0.7 mile Rim Trail (all downhill by the way :)) to Sunset Point and the Bryce Canyon Lodge. The lookouts and viewpoints off the Rim Trail were simply stunning. The national park itself sits high on the top of the mesa at 8000′ and allows for viewing of the formations below. There are many hiking and horse trails down from each viewpoint into the hoodoo formations. On our last visit, Christopher and I walked down into the red rock and had a great time exploring the nooks and crannies of the Fairyland Trail. John was not able to join us as he had to stay with Mother. At the lodge, we rested a bit, then took the shuttle back to our campground. We had dinner at Ruby’s tonight (great prime rib!) and then retired for the night doing some reading, writing and needlework.
May 18:Bryce Canyon, to Torrey, UT
I am writing this in a small comfortable campground in the heart of the Utah canyons. It is sundown and it had rained, and yes, snow/hailed, most of our trip today. We woke to an overcast and cold morning. After breaking camp, we started our trip east on the All American Scenic Byway Rt. 12 through the canyons between Bryce and Capital Reef. We had come this way with Mother and Christopher on our very first RV trip and we were hoping to see sights that we remembered. We stopped briefly in Cannonville to collect a cancellation stamp for the Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument. There were no accessible scenic routes into the monument so we continued on. Past Escalante, the roadway narrowed between red cliffs and we entered the incredible scenic Escalante Canyon. We could not stop since there weren’t many pull outs, but we managed to pause on the ‘Hogback’, a famous mile or two of highway that traverses the knife edge crest of a mesa with very steep sides falling off on both sides of the roadway. Alas, we found it was way past 1pm and we were both starving.
We stopped to eat in the tiny town of Boulder. On our Honeymoon trip, we enjoyed a lunch at a restaurant that had dozens of hummingbird feeders just outside the windows which drew in dozens and dozens of different species of hummingbirds. We tried to go to that same restaurant, but could not locate it. We turned around, parked on the side of the road and had a bite to eat at the Burr Trail Lodge Grill. John had a mexican chili dish and I had smoked trout quesidilla with pumpkin apple soup. We inquired about the restaurant with the hummingbird feeders and was told it had closed down last season. Both of us were quite disappointed.
Afterwards, we drove on and upwards, cresting Boulder Mountain mesa at 9600′ in pouring sleet and snow. We briefly stopped to feed and walk the pups, then continued down into the town of Torrey and up a few miles to the Capital Reef Visitor’s Center to get a cancellation stamp. It was already 5pm, and the park service was closed due to repaving of the parking lot. We were told a few rangers were a mile or so in the park at a historic house with info and a stamp, so we drove in, parked at a picnic area, then collected our cancellation stamp. The picnic area was along a rive and the trees and surrounding bushes were full of many, many birds. We decided to camp for the night and return tomorrow for the scenic drive along the red rock mesa and some quality birding. We returned to the town of Torrey and got a nice campsite overlooking a field of horses and cattle, and huge mesas in the distance. We walked the pups to the melodious song of a western meadowlark.
May 19:Torrey to Moab, UT
I am writing this entry in a KOA campground in Moab, Utah, a world famous destination for mountain biking, 4×4-ing, Jeep-ing, canyoneering, hiking, and oh, did I mention mountain biking? Our site overlooks the Moab valley on one side, and has towering mesa cliffs on the opposite side.
We spent the day yesterday exploring Capital Reef National Park, which we had missed while visiting with Mother. The park extends for 40 or so miles along a steep red-rock mesa. It is accessible by an narrow auto route with an unpaved dirt road continuing on into the wilds all the way down to the Burr Trail to Boulder. We arrived early hoping to do some birding at the picnic area, but were met with hoards of school kids on a field trip, with all the parking areas full of cars and buses. We had to continue up the road to the campground to park. Not a problem though as there was a large parking area. I walked back along the Fremont river trail to the historic Gifford house where there was a bake shop in the gift store, and bought some freshly made cinnamon buns and pies. Back to the motorhome for a quick breakfast. We then took a short stroll along the Fremont river trail and did some quality birding. We spotted a beautiful American Dipper in the middle of the rushing stream, bobbing up and down, and hunting insects. We saw a brilliant Indigo Bunting and a Yellow-breasted Chat.
Back at the motorhome, we drove onto the scenic roadway and traveled down the valley beneath the towering mesa cliffs. Soon, the weather began to close in and the skies began to darken. We rode down to the end of the paved bit, and had difficulty turning around as the park service was repaving the turn out. We took photos of the wildflowers and the cliffs, then headed back up the valley. We stopped for lunch by a scenic butte and rock formation, all the while listening to the patter of rain and the echo of thunder down the canyons. Once done, we decided to head on to Moab. We stopped briefly at the Petroglyphs on the side of the mesa walls for some quick photos (the wind had risen and it had become quite chilly). We spent the next few hours traveling through stunning colorful canyons, then into flat vast desert. We stopped at Green River for some groceries and called ahead to the KOA in Moab to reserve a site. I had a feeling that all areas near Moab were going to be crowded, and sure enough, when we drove down the main drag, the town and most surrounding campgrounds looked packed.
We found our KOA campground 4 miles south of the main town and got a fabulous site below the stunning red cliffs of the mesa. It was late in the day so we had dinner and relaxed. Toward nightfall, the temperatures dropped and during the night, I had to get up and put on the heat. Reading the Moab visitors guides, I found that this time of the year, April through May as well as September through October, are the high seasons especially for the outdoorsey and athlete types, because of cool temps in the 70’s during the day. What this means is that we have to plan ahead and book campgrounds as we travel, and be aware that most natural wonders will be very crowded. We booked our site for three nights, hoping to relax and take our time visiting the area sites.
May 20:Moab, UT
Very slow, lazy start today, and that, I think, was not a bad thing. I suspected that the two big national parks in the Moab area were very crowded and that the crush to get in happened in the morning. So, we decided to kick back, write our posts, relax and do laundry. After lunch, we made our way into town, which we found to be quite empty. We walked our pups and were able to bring them into a few stores like the bookstore and a pet store. All of us, pups included, had an ice cream cone (both Daisy and Shelby gulping theirs down!) We then drove north of town and into Canyonlands National Park. The park is situated on the top of a mesa and is called the Island in The Sky. After stopping at the small visitors center for our cancellation stamp, we visited the main highlights of the scenic drive. First was the Mesa Arch, which required a ‘short’ 0.7 mile hike to the rim. It was nice and cool and breezy out, and the sun was behind clouds most of the time so the hike was not too bad. The arch was a spectacular stone portal overlooking the vast and steep canyon walls hundreds of feet down to the bottom. We spotted a rare White-throated Swift and a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher on our walk. We traveled on to see the ‘Upheaval Dome’, a strange geological formation where a large salt mound is pushing itself up through what looks like the caldera of a volcano or a meteorite crater. That hike, only 0.3 miles, was a killer. Lots of steps up to the rim overlook. I encouraged John to make it up and, slowly, he did. By this time, we were pooped and the sun was starting to set. We drove down to the Grand Overlook way at the southern end of the mesa where we caught the sunset shining down into the canyons. We had our diner there with the best view on the planet! By the time we left the park, it was dark and the stars had come out. Back to our KOA campsite and to bed.
May 21: Moab, UT HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAROLINE!!!
Happy happy 48th birthday to me! And what a great day spent canyoneering in Arches National Park. The day dawned overcast, but it felt strangely humid, even in the desert. I got some supplies from the camp store and made a giant spanish omlette with bacon for lunch. We left our campground after 2pm and drove into town, stopping at a few auto parts stores because we had lost a lug nut on one of our wheel caps and it was making an annoying clunking sound. No one had the part, but John managed to get a monster wrench and tightened the two remaining nuts. The nut itself is in metric and needs to be special ordered. Well, not on this trip, unless we find a truck store that has some. We then drove into Arches National Park, stopping at the visitor’s center for our cancellation stamp. The park itself was crowded, even this late in the day. We managed to visit a few arches like Double Arch and the Windows. There were many people climbing about the arches and they were loud and noisy, which kind of spoiled the atmosphere. John managed to hike up with me to see them closer, but stayed in the RV for the rest of the visit. We then continued on to the far end of the park and the Devil’s Garden, skipping the famous Delicate Arch because ,again, of parking lot repaving. At the Devil’s Garden, I went for a short walk to photograph Pine Tree arch and Tunnel arch, which were spectacular, especially in the slanted sun of late afternoon.
We took our time exiting the park, allowing for some great photography with the light, then headed back into town for my birthday celebration. We tried a Mexican restaurant first, but the wait was 45 minutes, so decided to go to Pasta Jays. Yum!! Great pasta dish of fettuccini, tomato, artichoke hearts, and shrimp for me, chicken for John. Great garlic bread too! We headed back to our campsite where we split a fabulous lemon birthday cupcake John had bought in town. All in all, a very, very happy birthday with great food, and great scenery! It is the start of Memorial Day weekend tomorrow, and because we have been distracted by all our travels, we failed to plan ahead. Our KOA campground is completely full, as well as ALL the other campgrounds in the Moab area. Bummer. So, we are heading out and southwards, to Durango Colorado, where I managed to call ahead and get a site near town. No worries though as we will be staying for the weekend. Looking forward to seeing that nice western town again.