Dinosaur National Monument

Jensen, UT – July, 2017 We got an early start to get down off our mountain near Flaming Gorge. It was only 70 some miles to our next campsite but it was 4000 feet down. There were about 10 miles of 5-8% downgrade and switchbacks. Jim had not enjoyed the drive up and was not looking forward to the drive down so he wanted to get it over with, hopefully while traffic was light.

One of the dangers of traveling at this time of day though is that wildlife is very active. In that area there were tons of cattle grazing alongside the roadway. Jim is pretty cautious, going below the speed limit and scanning the sides of the road for movement.

That is the only reason he managed to avoid hitting the deer that sprang in front of us. Thankfully we were on a long straight stretch and he saw her on the side of the road some distance away and started braking. Neither of us was sure we weren’t going to clip her though.

We were holding our breath when the tiny foal we hadn’t even seen made the rather late decision to follow her. Jim was already trying to come to a stop so there was nothing more that he could do. We didn’t think it possible that the babe would make it and weren’t sure it had until it emerged unscathed within inches of our bumper. Whew!

After four days on a mountaintop, coming down to 5500 foot elevation felt like descending into hell. The highs were only in the mid-90’s with little humidity so it couldn’t have been that bad. We were just spoiled to cooler temps and it took some getting used to.

We arrived at Outlaw RV in Jensen before 10am. We had a full hookup site for $36 per night but there was no shade so our AC was going to be working double time the next couple days. Once we got set up our next order of business was getting some groceries. There were no stores in Jensen so we drove 8 miles to Vernal.

Vernal is a very nice town. We had stayed there one night at the Fossil Valley RV Park ($39 full hookups) on our way to Flaming Gorge. A lot of people stay in Vernal when they visit Dinosaur National Monument.

The town is very dinosaur themed.

It is also picturesque. Main Street is decorated with more flowers than I have ever seen in one town. There are hundreds of arrangements like this one lining the street.

We happened through Vernal the first time on a Utah state holiday, Pioneer Day. We were treated to an awesome parade.

Apparently it is otherwise known as bring your tractor to town day. Now here is something I’ve never seen before.

After stocking up in Vernal we returned home for lunch and later made the short drive to check out the visitor center at Dinosaur National Monument. We picked up some information, saw all the displays, watched their movie, and were back home in about an hour. It was really crowded mid-afternoon and did I mention it was hellishly HOT.

We returned the next morning just after the park opened at 8 am. For the first hour or so you are allowed to drive directly to Quarry Exhibit Hall. After that you are required to take the shuttle bus from the visitor center.

It is a very short drive and we were the first visitors in the building. In fact, we did not have to share this incredible place with more than a half dozen people the entire hour we spent there.

The hall was built over the original dig site and now protects the remaining bones. There are thousands of real, really old bones sticking out of the earth. There’s even some you can touch.

There are some great interactive displays telling you about the original owners of these bones you see in front of you, what type of dinosaurs they belong to, and where the bone fits into their skeleton. I’m sure later in the day it would have been impossible to get your hand on these displays. We were able to play with them for as long as we wanted.

There is also plenty of information about the people who discovered this site, the process of excavating it, and where the bones dug from here ended up. It was all very interesting and I’m so grateful we had an unhurried and uncrowded opportunity to explore all this place had to offer.

After thoroughly exploring the hall we left to explore the remainder of the park available from this location. The mountains here often look otherworldly, like a dinosaur peeking out from behind them would not seem out of place.

There is a river through the park, the Green River, which flows here after leaving Flaming Gorge.

We drove to the end of Cub Creek Road to an old homestead. Jossie Morris lived here, mostly by herself, for over 40 years. She used two nearby canyons to coral her livestock. We enjoyed a hike into Box Canyon.

The colors of the rocks were unbelievable.

The final thing we were interested in here were the ancient petroglyphs. We made a few stops along the road on the way back. Sometimes the petroglyphs were a few steps from the road and sometimes we hiked up the hill to see them.

Some were obvious but others were easy to miss. There were hundreds of them, apparently etched into the rock by the Fremont people around 1000 years ago.

We left by noon before it got too warm. We really felt like we had seen all we had come to see. We had been willing to stay another day to explore more but it just wasn’t necessary. We were satisfied with our brief visit.

Dinosaur National Monument is actually millions of acres and is accessible via several roads hours apart. It would take a week and a lot of miles to really cover this park. But we were primarily interested in the dinosaurs and the petroglyphs and they are both found in this little corner of it so that is why we concentrated our visit on this part of the park near Jensen.

We LOVED our 3 week stay in Utah and definitely plan to return again and again. It offers so many varied environments. But we were ready to move on to Colorado.

Flaming Gorge

July, 2017 Manila, UT We made our way northeast to a little town on the Wyoming state line to visit Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. Manila was a quiet town, especially midweek. We stayed at the KOA ($43 per night, full hookups) as it was the only option I could find with electricity.

Flaming Gorge was aptly named for these beautiful red cliffs.

When it was named there was no lake but the Green River flowed at the base of the cliffs. When the river was damned up in the 1960’s, the resulting reservoir was named for the gorge it filled up.

The lake is very remote with few accesses so we decided to splurge on a boat rental so we could get a better look at it. Like much of this part of Utah, the views in each direction are vastly different.

You are just as likely to see imposing brown mountains.

Or you might see green hills.

But the red hills steal the show, especially when the sun lights them up.

We enjoyed our morning of boating very much even though it was cloudy most of the time and even rained for a while. We thought the rates at Lucerne Marina just outside of Manila were quite reasonable. We rented a 24 foot pontoon for 5 hours for only $165 plus the cost of gas which was less than $20.

We took a scenic drive another day along a road called the Sheep Creek Geological Loop. It was very aptly named. We spotted some bighorn sheep.

The road followed a creek for much of the way and we were surprised by this beautiful spring and its resulting waterfall. It’s called Big Spring.

The rock formations were the highlight; big, beautiful mountains of rock in every direction.

Near the end of the loop was a spur road that led to a fire tower. I had read that it was closed to tours but I was still hoping we could climb the stairs. We were headed down that spur road and about to turn onto the fire tower road when we saw a big black spot in the road ahead.

We figured it was a cow as we’d seen lots of black cows roaming freely during our backcountry drives. But we decided to proceed past our turn anyway and check it out. As we got nearer we saw our “cow” lift up its head and we both clearly saw a HUGE moose rack!

We were beyond excited and drove slowly forward hoping he wouldn’t disappear before we could get close enough for a picture. Alas, it was not to be. By the time we got to the spot, he had moved into the woods.

We spotted his massive shadow moving through the timber and then nothing. We drove slowly up the road a ways and then back but didn’t see him again. We were still elated to have had the encounter.

We proceeded to the lovely Ute Fire Lookout Tower. It had a small sign across the stairs that said closed. But it was easy to slip under and I decided if they really wanted to keep me from climbing it they would have tried harder.

The views were great.

Two of my favorite things are moose and fire towers, so to say that was a good day would be an understatement.

While we were on the mountain we checked out a few possible boondocking sites. The KOA was booked for the weekend and we weren’t ready to leave the area so early Friday morning we moved about 15 miles south and 1,200 feet higher in elevation. The site was just off Highway 44 on Forest Road 508.

We then enjoyed three more days of exploring on the mountain. We visited the Flaming Gorge Dam and took the free dam tour.

Jim fished in mountain lakes while I walked and photographed.

Here’s his first lake trout. As usual I was walking when he caught it so he got a quick shot with his phone before releasing it. The fish’s coloring is so striking, I asked Jim if he had enhanced the photo. He said that no, in fact he couldn’t even see the screen when he snapped it because it was so sunny out and he just hoped the fish was in the viewfinder. So here it is unbelievably unenhanced.

I made a new buddy, the Yellow Bellied Marmot.

He’s shy but he warms up to you.

We didn’t have cell service at our new campsite or on much of the mountain. We discovered that Dowd Mountain overlook had the best views and closest signal.

We went for a drive early one morning hoping to see more wildlife. We mostly saw more cows and more mule deer until we spotted these 3 guys in a field. They were crazy big and prehistoric looking.

I couldn’t imagine what they were. We finally got a chance to look them up in a book and our best guess is they are sandhill cranes. If anyone has a better answer I’d love to hear it.

Jim fished the Green River a few miles below the dam one morning. I wanted to walk up the river trail but I only got a half mile before the head high weeds were too thick to proceed. I turned back and just before I got to the trailhead I was stopped by this blocking my path.

He was the same kind of snake we saw in Kanab. We did not suspect it was poisonous but we still had not positively identified it either. He did not want to budge off the warm path and back into the chilly weeds. But I finally kicked a little gravel his way and he slithered off.

When we got off the mountain and had cell service again, we finally did look the snake up on the internet. We believe it is a gopher snake. I read on two seemingly reliable websites that there are only 6 poisonous snakes in Utah, 5 rattlers and a sidewinder. I know he wasn’t any of those.

I walked back to where Jim was fishing (OK I might have ran a little ways) and sat with him for a while. He’d gotten a few nibbles but his one solid bite of the morning had gotten off. This guy had dove into the river nearby him and was now perched high in a tree on the other side.

Apparently the bird wasn’t having any luck fishing either so Jim didn’t feel so bad. I got my telephoto lens out and got some good shots of him. We though he was some kind of kite but later realized it was an osprey.

Isn’t it amazing that I can be a football field away from a beautiful predator like this and with a few snaps and the aid of technology we can look him right in the eye and possibly catch a glimpse of his soul?

Our time on the mountain was just about perfect; great weather, campfires, lots of wildlife, and fresh air. We were sorry to leave but we’d already pushed back our next reservation once. So we somewhat reluctantly left our idyllic location.

Chillin’ at Altitude

Duchesne County, UT – July, 2017 Choosing a destination, or even a direction, can be difficult when you have too many options. We hadn’t made any solid plans for the month of July past visiting the North Rim and Bryce Canyon. We finally made up our mind where to go and we headed north.

We first stopped in Richfield, Utah along I-70 because we needed a few things. We stayed at the only campground in town, a KOA, for which we paid almost $50 per night. Other than plenty of retail options there was nothing special about the town of Richfield. It was a flat space between barren hills.

After getting the things we needed we were anxious to move on. We had plenty of time so there was no reason to make any long or multiday drives. Even though our next destination was only 150 miles away I found a campground halfway there and booked it for 2 nights.

Huntington State Park was a man-made oasis in the desert. It was surrounded by fields that, when irrigated, appeared to produce crops to feed livestock. Further away were some brown mountains. The lake appeared clean and the locals certainly enjoyed its waters.

We had a site that backed up to the lake, sorta. The water level was way down so the shore was some distance away. It was a nice site though with a good view and reasonably priced at $25 for water and electric.

My favorite thing about this park was the 3 mile walking path all the way around it. It was relatively cool if you hit the trail early enough in the morning. The only downside was that sometimes you would get a whiff of a truly awful smell. Jim said it was the fertilizer they were spraying on their fields. It was good motivation to pick up the pace through those sections. Other than that it made for a very pleasant walk each morning with bees buzzing, bunnies hopping across the path, and fish jumping in the lake.

We weren’t at all sorry to leave as we were really excited to get to our next stop. Avintaquin Campground in the Ashley National Forrest is at 9,000 foot elevation which sounded like heaven. So even though there was limited information available about it, we took a chance and booked 3 nights. At $5 per night it would help offset some of our more costly campsites as well. It had absolutely no services; no electricity, no dump, no water.

We obviously expected a climb to get there and had no concerns about our 1 ton truck being able to handle the roads. We got stuck behind a semi with tandem trailers that was crawling up the mountain between 8 and 12 miles per hour for the entire four mile section of 8% grade. We then pulled onto the road to the campground which the few reviews we found said was a good road and discovered it was the real challenge. It had somehow escaped me that it was a whole mile of gravel to the camp.

It was barely more than a one lane road with hardly any place to pull off if you were unfortunate enough to meet someone. We also still had several hundred feet to climb and most of that took place on one short hill. It was the only hill Jim has ever seriously worried about this truck pulling the camper up. He had to switch to low 4 wheel-drive, all the time praying no one topped the hill in front of him.

We made it though and gratefully pulled into the campground and found a place to pull over. Jim let the truck cool down, and did a little chilling himself. And I walked the loop our site was located on and made sure it was safe to drive.

I wasn’t crazy about how tight the loop road was but I was confident we could make it. Thankfully our site, #5, was at an angle that would make backing in pretty easy. It also turned out to be the levelest of the ones in that loop. Here we are all snug in our site.

I don’t think Jim will agree to come back again but our 3 day stay has been wonderful. There is one site not too far behind us but thankfully noone has used it during our stay. There is a barbed wire fence about 40 feet from our front door and I will admit the neighbors on that side do sometimes look at us a little weird.

Storm clouds formed each afternoon. Twice they circled all around and we only got a sprinkle. But one afternoon the thunder was calamitous and the clouds were pretty ominous looking.

It rained for a good while and we even got some pea sized hail. In general the weather was awesome though, with highs in the mid 70’s and lows around 50.

The same road we drove to the campground on continues past the camp for 13 miles. It is called Reservation Ridge Road and it is a scenic backway. There are plenty of boondocking sites along the way. If we did return here we would likely choose one of them rather than stay in the campground.

We decided to follow this road on a Friday morning and see what there was to see. There were lots of views of the surrounding mountains but most of those views were only visible through a stand of pines. Rarely did we get an unobstructed view like this one of a valley and mountains to the north.

We finally found an overlook to the South. The spot of blue smack dab in the middle is a little mountain lake.

Since the road was curvy and just one lane we were grateful we didn’t meet another vehicle. We did have to put up with some local traffic. Like this guy who wasn’t taking any bull. He refused to move for a minute but finally yielded the right of way.

The entire trip was between 9,000 foot elevation and just under 10,000. I loved the wildflowers in every color.

The only part of the trip I didn’t enjoy was at the very end of the road where it made a long decent while clinging to the side of a very tall hill. The scenic backway then ended abruptly in the middle of nowhere. We planned to take a different forest road back to a highway and return by way of the blacktop.

We turned down that road and were confronted with barely a tunnel through the trees and a mud pit the length of a football field. Nope, it was back the way we’d come. I didn’t mind at all except for having to climb up the side of that hill. Here was my view straight down the hill from the passenger seat.

I know it doesn’t look that bad but as we climbed higher those aspens got farther and farther away. We had an uneventful trip back and enjoyed seeing the views in reverse. We saw pheasants on the way in and again on the way back. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pheasant in the wild before.

I had hoped we’d see an elk or, better yet, a bear, both of which are supposed to be common in the area. We probably saw a thousand chipmunks. They were constantly zipping across the road in front of us.

The next day we drove down from the mountain to the town of Price. We got a few groceries, filled the truck’s tank, and picked up lunch. We then chose a spot on the map we thought would be good for a picnic.

We drove 3 miles of road that wasn’t much better than the scenic backway from the day before except it was paved and they had widened the road on the corners so that it was almost 2 lanes. That was good because there were alot of corners. It was just one switchback after another.

At the end was a parking lot with a few picnic tables overlooking Price Canyon. We had the place to ourselves and thoroughly enjoyed our lunch with a view.

On Sunday morning we reluctantly came down off our cool mountain and faced the heat of summer again.

Bryce Canyon

Bryce, Utah – July, 2017 I was beyond excited to finally see Bryce Canyon. When we came this way in early May of 2015 it was still too cold to visit. This national park sits at close to 8000 foot elevation.

The weather forecasts at that time of year were not at all appealing. We weren’t interested in freezing our butts off! Now that we were planning a visit in July, that elevation was very welcome.

We could not get a reservation inside the national park so we chose a private campground about 20 miles from the park’s entrance. Red Canyon RV Park was a good jumping off point. Our full hookup pull thru was around $40 per night.

We arrived and got set up before lunch as is our M.O. After a quick bite we were ready to get a look around and do some hiking. We didn’t want to drive to the national park that afternoon.

We were in luck. We only had to head east a few miles to reach the Dixie National Forest and the scenery changed dramatically. We were soon engulfed in vivid red cliffs.

We stopped at the National Forest visitor center and picked up a hiking guide. Several hikes left from their parking lot so off we went. There were many intersecting trails so we weren’t sure what trail we were on all the time. Around every corner was a new view.

We were having so much fun we had wandered a few miles before we hardly realized it. We found these cool caves toward the end of the hike. We were too pooped to try to get up to them by that time although we really wanted to explore them.

Thankfully we only had to find a path down to the road and there was a bike path on the other side that easily got us back to our truck. Here is a view from across the road of the area we climbed around.

The next morning we jumped up bright and early and headed to Bryce Canyon. We drove to the visitor center, checked it out, and got a map. Then we waited out front for their shuttle.

Bryce has a shuttle that continuously makes the rounds of all the popular spots in the northern portion of the park. We love being able to hop on and off a shuttle at will. And it makes it so easy to hike between stops and not have to hoof it back the way you came.

The shuttle is optional in this park. You can drive everywhere if you want. But we usually choose a shuttle when available. Why hassle with traffic and parking when someone else is willing to do that for you?

This morning our plan was to ride to the end of the shuttle line, Bryce Point, and then hike the Rim Trail back to Inspiration Point. From there we could choose to hike further along the rim or ride a bus to each of the next viewing points. Here is our first good view of the canyon from Bryce Point.

And further along the trail, a look back at Bryce Point from the other side of the canyon.

In no time we put a couple miles behind us and reached Inspiration Point.

We then chose to ride the shuttle to the other easily accessible viewpoints.

The next day we took a guided tour of the southern two thirds of the park which is not serviced by the shuttle. The park service offers free tours each morning and afternoon. We reserved a spot on the 9:30 am tour. The bus can pick you up from any of several points in the park; the campground, the visitor center, the lodge. We chose to board at the bus terminal.

For this tour you stay with the same bus, driver, and group of passengers for its entire length. The tour is about 3 hours. You are driven to the southernmost viewpoint in the park, Yovimpa Point. Then the tour stops at each of the viewpoints along the way back.

I didn’t think the views were as spectacular as the ones in the northern part of the park. But they are still pretty awesome.

My favorite stop of the tour was Natural Bridge.

The tour was fun and better than driving the whole route ourselves. Our driver had lived in the area for something like 30 years and had worked for the park for more than 10. He was extremely knowledgeable and entertaining.

The next day we headed to Utah’s Kodachrome State Park which is about 20 miles southeast of Bryce.

We hiked the Grand Parade Trail before 9 am. This trail included a couple of box canyons which were fun to explore. It was challenging to photograph them at that time of day. But it made for a comfortable hike.

We then got back on Scenic Byway 12 and continued east through the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. It was an incredible drive with plenty of oohing and aahing, and head turning (on my part, Jim had to keep his eyes on the road). There were unfortunately hardly any places to stop and take it in. One of the only scenic pullouts afforded you this incredible view.

The pink cliff at the top is called Powell Point and the area below it is dubbed the badlands. According to the placard this was the “last uncharted territory in the continental US”. By 1879 Powell’s men had filled in the blanks.

We continued on to the town of Escalante and visited the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center there. We wanted to take a back way home and they gave us a Forest Service map and assured us that our truck could easily manage the route. Turns out almost any vehicle could drive the well maintained but gravel FH 17. It took us up and over a mountain for some spectacular views. Do you see the rain coming down on the left side of this picture?

We then headed down the other side of said mountain to the ghost town of Widtsoe. There are only a couple old buildings standing and there are some newer residences in the area.

The way the light played inside the building was really cool.

We then visited their old cemetery which was pretty interesting.

By then that storm was catching up to us so we headed the truck toward home.

Our last morning we again hiked in the national forest. Arches trail was only 2 miles from our campground.

Depending on whose description of the trail you were reading, there were one to two dozen arches that could be seen from the trail. This is probably because unless you inspected them closely it was not always clear what was a true arch.

It was also not entirely clear where the trail was much of the time. Nevertheless, it was fun trying to spot as many as you could while scrambling up and down the hill and around the various hoodoos and formations. And it was an enjoyable hike that was easy to complete before we got on the road to our next destination.

Cuteness Overload

July, 2017 – Kanab, UT While researching RV sites in the southwest corner of Utah I came across a very unique place that I just had to visit. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is a no kill rescue facility. It turned out they only had two RV sites and both were booked weeks in advance but my interest was piqued and I was determined to spend some time at this special place.

Best Friends started this sanctuary in 1984 on more than 3,000 acres outside Kanab where they have created a home for over 1,600 animals. They shelter not just dogs and cats but horses, pigs, goats, birds, bunnies, and more. Their primary goal is to find forever homes for as many animals as possible.

Their ultimate goal is to make the USA a no-kill nation by 2025. That seems a bit unrealistic until you consider that our tour guide claimed that when Best Friends was first organized there were almost 20 million animals being euthanized in shelters each year. He said that number has been reduced tenfold to less than 2 million per year currently.

Their website is sorta vague and suggests you can stop by any day between 8 and 5 for a tour of their facility. I stopped at their visitor center in Kanab for info where I was informed it is best to schedule tours in advance. I was able to schedule a general tour of the facility for the next morning.

We arrived at their lovely welcome center on Monday morning. The tour was scheduled for 8:30.

At about that time we were ushered into a room and shown a 20 minute film. We then boarded an almost new van with our tour guide and about 10 other guests. We were driven all over the grounds explaining what almost every building was for. I did expect to get to interact with more animals but this general tour only had two stops.

The first was at Dog Town. The facility houses several hundred dogs and they are spread out over the grounds. There are buildings just for puppies, others just for old dogs, and facilities to meet the needs of every dog in between.

We stopped at a small hexagon shaped building that may have sheltered 20 dogs. The dogs each had indoor and outdoor space available to them.

We were ushered inside where the dogs were being provided positive reinforcement to not bark. The quiet dogs were given treats and we were instructed to ignore any dogs that were barking. Considering there were a dozen strangers in their midst I thought they were all very well behaved.

We were then taken outside where we got to interact with one dog. This fellow was a cutie and really enjoyed the undivided attention of all the guests.

You have to volunteer to be allowed to walk a dog but almost anyone can volunteer for as little as 3 hours, even children as young as 10. Since it was early and not extremely hot, there were many volunteers walking dogs in the area.

This facility does not just house dogs. They train them and treat any medical conditions they have and do their best to make them adoptable. It was inspiring.

We loaded back into the van and headed for cat world. They were almost at capacity with over 600 cats.

We passed a building devoted to cats with AIDS (FIV) and another for those with feline leukemia. I was not even aware of these conditions in cats. Apparently neither condition makes a cat unadoptable and neither are transmittable to any other animal or person except felines. They just have to be in a home where they are the only cat or with other cats with the same condition.

We finally stopped at a building called The Colonel’s Barracks. It was named for a cat that was court ordered to live out its life at the refuge because of a bad habit of killing chickens.

The cats could freely walk between an indoor room and an outdoor area of roughly the same size. There were lots of structures for them to climb and plenty of places to take a nap.

It’s hard to say how many cats were there because they were moving in and out of each area and curled up in nooks and crannies sleeping. Jim thought there were less than 10 cats in the area we visited while I thought there were more than 20. I guess we were too busy playing with them to count.

We were allowed to interact with the cats for quite a while until the guide apologized for having to drag us away.

They have focused tours of certain areas like Horse Haven, Pig Paradise, and the Parrot Garden. You need to schedule these separately and they do not take place every day of the week.

If you want to stay at the sanctuary they have cabins for rent in addition to the two RV sites. Be sure and schedule them well in advance. I believe the RV sites are full hookups and $50 per night. We drove by them on our way out.

Like much of the sanctuary you will have a stunning view from your site.

Another awesome option is their sleepover program. You can borrow a pet for a day or two and take them to your rental cabin, home, RV, or one of the many hotels in the area that participate in the program.

The sanctuary is located in Angel Canyon just a few miles outside the town of Kanab. The main road through it is a public road that anyone can drive on. The views throughout the drive are magnificent.

There is a mile and a half hike from the road to a hidden lake, apparently a pond in a cave. We meant to go back and do the hike and take more pictures but just ran out of time. Even if you don’t take any tours I’m sure the folks at the welcome center would be happy to tell you how to find the trailhead and point out other places you can visit on your own while in the canyon, like the pet cemetery.

They have a couple of very reasonably priced dining options if you happen to be there at lunchtime, one of which comes with an outstanding view of the canyon. If I had it to do over again, I would schedule a specialty tour and the general tour on the same day and enjoy lunch on the grounds in between.

If you are ever in the Kanab area I highly recommend a visit, or several, to this exceptional place. You can’t beat the outstanding scenery, friendly people, and cuddly creatures.

Kanab

Kanab, UT – July, 2017 We headed next to Kanab, Utah, just over the Arizona border. It was meant to be a stop on the way to the next place we wanted to be. But we ended up enjoying the layover very much.

We had driven straight through Kanab without stopping our first year out. We were on our way from visiting Zion to seeing Lake Powell. I recently read a post by one of my favorite bloggers, Ingrid at Live Laugh RV, about tent camping in a state park near Kanab called Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. I thought “we were right there, how’d we miss that?”

So bright and early our first morning in the area we drove over to check it out. The park seems specifically designed to appeal to those with ATV’s (all terrain vehicles) or as they are often referred to in these parts OHV’s (off highway vehicles). The campground loop was pretty tight and I wouldn’t want to try to get my 5th wheel through it.

The sand really was a very nice shade of coral.

blog121b n park

We were most intrigued with trying to guess which animals the many footprints in the sand belonged to.

There was basically just the one viewing platform in the park. From there you could hike off across the sand if you wanted. We didn’t relish starting our day with sand in our shoes so we passed and left the park.

The views from the road just outside the park’s gates were so enticing that we stopped at the first pullout. From there you had no option but to climb a pink mountain if you wanted a better look. We decided to go for it and shake out our shoes later.

When we tackled the mountain we found that the sand had a wonderful powdered sugar quality to it. It was amazingly soft and for some reason not prone to getting in your shoes. You didn’t sink into it as much as expected and it didn’t fly around as much as normal sand.

At the second pullout after we left the park was a very large parking area. It appeared boondocking (free camping, dispersed camping, etc.) was allowed. It was too hot to consider this option in July but if we returned during the spring or fall we would absolutely consider camping there and exploring the fluffy, pink mounds some more.

You could easily stop at either of these pullouts to explore the sands and avoid the $8 per day state park fee. But we don’t begrudge the state a reasonable fee for protecting such an awesome area. We enjoyed meeting the work camper that collected that fee and talked to her about her and her husband’s life as hosts and full-time RVers.

Since arriving in Kanab, we had seen several of the same type of snake dead on the road. While in the state park we finally saw one alive, thankfully from the safety of our truck. He was crossing a parking lot.

He was quite lively so we didn’t really get close enough to tell if he was poisonous. We didn’t think he was. Even so it reminded us to stay on trails where we could see that there was a clear path in front of us.

Kanab was a very nice town with an outstanding visitor center, two small but excellent grocery stores, and a pleasant vibe. We inquired about hiking trails and were directed to a hike around the hill that dominated the skyline to the east of the town. The hill proudly displayed the town’s initial K on it. We stayed on the path but this entire family chose to scramble up the hill and onto said K.

The hill provided welcome shade at the beginning and the end of the hike.

And the path afforded excellent views of the town and the surrounding red cliffs.

Highway 89 through Kanab was the main thoroughfare we drove each day while exploring the area. It is a scenic highway and the views all along it are incredible. There is no reason to explore beyond the highway when it affords you views like these.

And this cool pond we passed every day. Apparently there used to be a campground here but it was bankrupt by a snail. According to our RoadsideAmerica app there was an endangered snail in this pond and the powers that be gave them so much trouble they had to shut the campground down.

I kept seeing the same striking blue bird in the area but never could catch a pic of it. I finally saw one that stayed still long enough for a photo op.

Jim was taken by this beautiful bloom. It had such detail for a small flower. It wasn’t much bigger than an inch in size.

I chose a campground 10 miles north of Kanab as the attractions in the area I was interested in were all just north of the town. The campground was called East Zion Riverside RV Park but it was part of the Thunderbird Lodge in Mt. Carmel. The rates were reasonable at $40 for full hookups but the perks were priceless.

They had a nice pool and a hot tub that were available 24 hours a day. We only made it to the pool one afternoon. But we were in the hot tub by 7 every morning of our stay and had it all to ourselves while the rest of the guests slept.

There is one day of our stay in Kanab that deserves it’s very own blog. I’ll get that post up within a few days!

North Rim of the Grand Canyon Part 2

North Rim, Arizona – July, 2017 Once we set our sights on returning to the North Rim this year, I started looking at camping options. They were basically booked through the end of the summer but I checked back every now and then to see if there were any cancellations and I finally saw a spot available for two days right after the July 4th holiday. It wasn’t in the national park campground but in the national forest campground just a few miles outside the park’s gate. We would have preferred a longer stay but I continued to check back and never saw another option.

We made good time getting across the country so when we got to our destination a whole day early we decided to boondock our first night. We had thoroughly researched the area through freecampsites.net, the Days End directory available from Escapees, and on Google maps. We had a couple promising locations scouted out.

Our first choice was my favorite because there was a large pullout at the intersection of the gravel road, Forest Road 257, and Highway 89A. We pulled over and walked what turned out to be two roads leading into the woods. There were plenty of options and we chose a lovely site that was far enough from the highway to significantly reduce road noise.

We never saw another camper and the only traffic on the road was a few forest service trucks going by. It was a little hot until the sun went down without electricity, and therefore AC, but we persevered. The only other downside to this campsite was the flies were occasionally thick.

We were eager to explore the area and see how it compared to the way we remembered it. We set off for the Jacob Lake Inn where we spent that fateful night during our first visit over 20 years ago. It was pretty much how we remembered it except the phone booth is now a closet.

We didn’t really plan to visit the rim that afternoon but we were so excited to finally see it that we made the 45 mile drive anyway. The parking areas were almost full in the early afternoon so we parked some distance from the rim. The lodge sure looked different than I remember, mostly it seemed bigger. But a sign out front confirmed the lodge hadn’t been significantly modified since the 1930’s. The only other difference was that we both clearly remember a large parking lot right next to the lodge and there are rental cabins built there now.

We hurried through the lodge and finally got our first look at the Grand Canyon from the North Rim.

We then walked down to the viewpoint below it for a good view of the canyon and an even better view of the lodge.

We followed the path under the lodge to more views. I was surprised to see an abundance of lizards. The winters must get awfully long for these cold blooded fellows.

It was HOT and very crowded so we happily called it a day and headed home to enjoy our private camp site.

The next morning we went for a hike in the national forest while we waited for it to be late enough to move to our reserved campsite. After the heat of the last week’s travels, the cool morning at 7900 feet elevation was welcome. The air smelled strongly of the fresh scent of pine and we had the trail to ourselves.

About a mile from the highway we saw a flock of turkey and a herd of deer grazing in the same area. We also saw several Kaibab Squirrel, a very unusual squirrel that only resides on this plateau. It is black with a white tail and fast. I never could catch one in my camera’s sight so I finally swiped a pic from the internet.

After lunch we moved to the Demotte campground which had no hookups and cost $20 per night. The weather was a little more pleasant over the next two days. It still got a bit warm in the afternoons but cooled down by dinnertime instead of by bedtime as it had our first night in the area.

We jumped up the next morning and made the 18 mile drive to the rim before 8 am. We wanted to explore it while it was still cool and before the crowds arrived. It was around 50 degrees when we left camp so I brought a couple layers. But as the sun rose higher it warmed up fast. I chose to start the hike with a light jacket and I shed that pretty quickly.

We headed out to the main lookout near the lodge, Bright Angel Point. It’s a quarter mile hike with some ups and downs but the view is fabulous. As we’d hoped there was only a trickle of people coming and going at that hour.

We then hiked the rim trail. The 2 mile hike was mostly through the woods and the shade was already a welcome relief at 9 in the morning. There was one good viewpoint along the trail that included a bench under the trees.

We hadn’t had a cell signal since entering the park the day before so when our phones started pinging in our pockets we pulled them out and checked all our media outlets, posted a photo or two, and made sure nobody was missing us. Throughout our visit we only got the occasional cell signal on the edge of the canyon. We often found people hanging out at a beautiful viewpoint and talking on the phone. They were usually talking to the office, poor suckers.

After our hike we headed home for lunch. Our plan was to take a scenic drive to another part of the park during the heat of the day. When the time came to leave I wasn’t sure I was up for a two hour adventure but I knew it was quite possible we’d never come back this way so I sucked it up and we hit the road.

It was a 23 mile drive to the end of the scenic Cape Royal Road. It was a curvy, narrow road and the speed limit was 30 but curve after curve often necessitated going much slower. There was only light traffic on the road and it was mostly a joy to drive.

We skipped several pulloffs and drove straight to the end of the road. I was primarily interested in seeing something called Angel’s Window. The trail from the parking lot to the viewpoints was less than a mile round trip. There were plenty of people around but it was nowhere near as congested as it was near the lodge in the afternoon.

The views were amazing!

Angel’s Window is in the middle of that bluff. You can see the Colorado River through it if you zoom in.

Further along the path were more stunning views. Of Vishnu Temple…

… and my favorite, Wotan’s Throne.

The views from Cape Royal were way more expansive than at the lodge which was basically the same view from several different vantage points. It was so worth the drive and I’m very glad we didn’t miss it. We thoroughly enjoyed our return to the North Rim and are glad we finally got to actually see it.