May 26- Bryce Canyon’s Mossy Cave and Waterfall, on to Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Kodachrome Basin State Park

We got an early start on the 26th to catch the Hoodoos–the sandstone spires that look like the dripped sandcastles at he beach–in soft morning light.  This area is just outside Tropic, Utah, another early Mormon settlement.  We came for the pictures but learned a bit of history, too….




The arches were a surprise find–just another treasure of the Bryce Canyon area.


The waterfall is part of a two-year effort to hand-dig the 10 mile East Fork Canal, or the Tropic Ditch, in 1890.  This brought water from the Sevier River to tbe Paria River, making Bryce Valley a stable place for crops, cattle, and family life.    


Later that afternoon, we headed into the mountains toward Escalante…X marks the spot!  The contrails criss-cross all over the clear blue skies in this area, making some great designs…. 


We all know to keep an eye out for deer, elk, etc. on the roads.  BUT, we’ve found another interesting road hazard we weren’t expecting–cattle.  Signs for open range are very common, and Bossy and her buddies roam freely with no fences.  We’ve encountered cattle right beside the road, and sometimes, right smack in the middle.  Didn’t get any pictures of our near-misses, but this shows how close these massive beasts can come to playing bumper-cars…


Looking for slot canyons along the way to Escalante, we came across the Slot Canyon Inn, a B+B far outside Escalante, with loooong horns in the pasture–mom’s organic beef supply.  



We just had to stop–and we found a gem.  They exist with word-of-mouth and some internet advertising; we’d come back here! The place was decorated beautifully, and had an outside kitchen and dining room nestled into the rocks.  They told us about a slot canyon and showed us a pueblo grainery carved into the sandstone–just like Mesa Verde– behind the house.  This site was recently identified by researchers at BYU as the oldest inhabited area in the southwest.  

We didn’t have time for the hike to this slot canyon, or the four the Escalante Visitor’s Center told us about in Dry Fork Coyote Gulch.  I’m disappointed but I’m going to keep the directions and add this to my Bucket List–and hope we come back….

We left Escalante to go to the vast open landscape of the Grand Staircase.  We stopped at Head of the Rocks.


From here you can see from the Aquarius Plateau (Bolder Mountain) on the left, moving right to the Escalante River Corridor, the wild Henry Mountains in the distance followed by the Navajo Mountain on the right.  The road is called the “Million Dollar Road” because of the extensive costs building this across the hostile land.  If you look very closely, you can see a tiny car at the neck of the closest turn–just to give the picture a little perspective.



As we headed back to Cannonville, we decided to stop “quickly” at Kodachrome Basin State Park…we were told this was very small but well worth the time.  Bet you know what’s coming…the place was small, but just gorgeous.  A Nat Geo expedition named this park in the 40’s because its many colors reminded them of the popular color film.  


We hiked to Shakespeare’s Arch and then took pictures around the park until 8 PM (and we wonder why we’re barely able to keep our eyes open at night…)  


There are 67 monolithic stone spires, called pipes, in the park.  You can see, by comparing to me, how big these giants really are!


One of the unique features in the park is the red sandstone formations sometimes are wrapped around the stronger white Navajo sandstone pipes, creating rocks that seem sculpted.  


Here are two of my other favorite formations…


Kodachrome is Number One!


Because it is a basin, the park is ringed by multi-hued layered formations that display 180 million years of the earth’s geology.  


Kodachrome even has a full-service RV park.  We almost added a day to our trip so we could stay here!  But we didn’t…our last day was a trip to Bryce–the land of the pink sandcastle hoodoos.  We had been there before on our previous bike trip so we thought this would be anti-climatic.  Wrong again!  (At least I’m consistent.)

Join me tomorrow and I’ll add shots of Bryce we found since our first visit in 2003!

So what’s your favorite park or picture so far/  Seriously, I’d like to know!













May 25th- Biking up Red Canyon

This was a very special day–not only is Red Canyon beautiful, it also brought back some great memories.  This was the starting point of our first vacation with our good friends who have become our companions, traveling all over the world  on exciting adventures.  We originally biked from Bryce to the North Rim to Zion. John and Susan, you were in our thoughts all day!


Today’s ride was rather tame–just up to the arches….


More of the beautiful formations…



Tomorrow we plan an early visit to Mossy Cave, a part of Bryce, to catch the HooDoos in soft light.

May 24th- to Cannonville, Utah

We left for our next stop, Cannonville, under heavy clouds and more cold showers. 


We took a break in a quiet spot called Rocky Ford.


There, we saw a bit of the impact all the rain has had on the area—this little stream was thundering through.  You could feel the power of Mother Nature in your core…and she seemed to be sending a message…


The storm clouds followed us off and on most of the day…this curtain came down outside Panguitch.


When the sun finally broke out, we were just entering the Bryce Canyon area.  Red Rock Canyon gave us delightful sample of our next few days.  We’ll be back!


We made it to our RV camp right at the base of more sandstone mountains—these have a horizontal candy cane stripe running through the middle. 


We hit the hills immediately.  The dogs loved checking out the prairie dog burrows.  No worry…our pups were no match.  Those little guys scampered all around the edges of the rocks and I don ‘t think the dogs even caught a glimpse of them.


The rain brought blossoms everywhere in the desert.  We never did get the name of this plant that dotted the hillsides behind our camp–the flowers looked like tiny orchids. The leaves and seed pods look like Blue Bonnets.  Anyone know what they are?


May 23- Fruita, Utah

Monday we visited the Fremont River Valley and the remains of the small Mormon settlement of Fruita (fruit-ah) in Capitol Reef Park.  


The Fremont River is the life’s blood of this arid area and we found fabulous petroglyphs left by the indigenous people over a thousand years ago. 


The Friuta orchards and a few log cabins are all that remain of the early pioneers.  We walked through hundreds of Kelly-green cottonwoods with new leaves that sparkled in the sunlight.  The air was filled with  the cotton “snow” of their seeding—pretty dramatic lesson in how cottonwood trees (aka poplars) get their name!  


Tracing the river into the canyon, we came across a great wild flower display, with shots of brilliant orange Indian Paintbrush.


I’d love to know the story behind the old abandoned farm equipment we found,


Then further into the valley we were able to get a close look at the Navajo Dome.  I noticed this huge sandstone “dollup” the first day we entered Capitol Reef.  It’s also known as Capitol Dome because it’s so distinctive. 


From a distance it immediately made me think of a giant Hershey Kiss.


I’ve always loved rocks, and I’ve fallen in love with this place and all its colors.  With a dark sky our last day, I took one final shot of the red chiseled Wingate sandstone beside the gray-green and rose Chinle Formation next to the white Navajo sandstone.  Nature is amazing.


Tomorrow, we pull up stakes and head to Cannonville, on the other side of Bolder Mountain.  We’ll travel back toward Escalante, get a closer look at the impact of the Waterpocket Fold on this area.  Then we’ll hit the jewel, Bryce Canyon and her sister wonders, Red Rock Canyon, the Grand Staircase, and Kodachrome State Park.  Check back—the sights should be terrific!



May 21—We chilled, May 22- Back to Capitol Reef and the Grand Wash

Saturday, May 21st we did chores and just rested.  We’ve been running at a good clip and a total down day felt great.  No blogs, no photos or sight seeing, just relaxing and a bit of RV clean up and trip planning.  We have changed our itinerary, yet again.  Kind of fun being this “footloose and fancy free.”    What has really amazed us is how comfortable we are with just the basics.  Basic clothes, basic necessities, just very easy.  Cooking is simple as well…good old comfort food.  And it’s interesting what you find in the markets–Low fat/ no fat foods are rare, few berries.  And Popeye wouldn’t be a happy camper–there’s no fresh spinach.  I looked in to horseback riding again but the weather had been tough—very chilly, rainy, and passing thunder storms.  I decided to pass—again.  One day….

The one major issue we have had been connectivity–phone and data coverage is spotty.  My cell phone roams fairly well, Jim has been without service through most of Utah.  The RV parks offer internet, but it’s often limited, slow, or intermittent.  That makes our back-up MajicJack VOI phone problematic as well.  Even our Verizon hotspot has problems.  We’re trying to do some work as we travel…a bit of a challenge.  

Sunday, May 22nd, and we’ve been on the road for 21 days!  

 We headed back to the Capitol Reef National Park.  The main road took us past more breath-taking formations.  I took some shots of the huge volcanic boulders scattered over the ground–where did they come from?  You could spend years here, trying to learn the secrets of this place.


We drove by over 300 feet of Chimney Rock.


Next we passed the great expanse of The Fluted Wall—you can see in the picture how it got its name.  The deep red sandstone is carved into the graceful pleats by wind, water and ice fractures.  I love the contrast of the soft gray-green and rose chinle sandstone layer above the furrows.  The chiseled formation at the very top is called The Castle.


We took the Scenic Trail (OK guys, please tell me which one of these roads isn’t scenic!) then veered off the main path on a road into the Great Wash.  This is an area etched by water run off—signs say to check weather conditions before venturing in.  We passed one rock that struck me as a sculpture of a group of Ancients stopping for prayer.


At the back of the canyon, we found sheer pink walls, heavily stained with desert varnish, shadowing twisted sandstone spectacularly carved by the force of flash floods.


As beautiful as this area is, plant life gives a glimpse of harsh reality.  We are visiting in almost perfect conditions.  The winters chill to the bone with brutal freezing winds; the summers are scorching.  I noticed a few beautiful, dainty little plants with purple blossoms on the hillside.  On closer inspection, this was actually a tangle of thorns, with a few green leaves and bright flowers.  Well-adapted for pollination, there was no way a shrub-munching critter was going to attack this pin cushion. 


 In contrast, the ubiquitous Indian Paintbrush seemed totally defenseless.


A few final shots on the way home.  The Egyptian Temple, the colors of Capitol Reef, and fins in the soft evening light.


We’re off to Fruita tomorrow–with traces of inhabitants from 1500 years ago!

See you then



Day 19–off to Torrey, Utah, Day 20–Bolder Mountain and the Grand Staircase

Thursday, the 19th, we left Monument Valley Heading for Torrey, Utah, with more wind and gray skies. We loved the giant red rocks but what a harsh place.  I think we have red dust in everything!  We got some great shots in the early morning light.


 We left before eight because we expected an interesting trip through some rough terrain-the fun had just begun!  The hills were actually mountains with 6-8-10 degree grades—up and down.  Not easy driving the big rig on skinny two-lane roads.  We had light snow flurries then, at the summit of 7900, the rain turned to ice on the windshield.  None of this was a major problem, except to say we are nearing the end of May and spring has yet to settle into the southwest. 

We crossed the Colorado River, passed Lake Powell and into more rain.



The terrain was still beautiful, just clouds all around us.  We did see Jacob’s Chair Butte, near White Canyon.  Named for a cowboy who lost his life in a flash flood, the sandstone shape was veiled in cloud cover.  We were impressed by the massive Factory Butte in the badlands area, the house in front is a tiny dot.



Our eyes popped when we hit Capitol Reef National Park, between Hanksville and Torrey.  Butch Cassidy and his gang hid out in the remote canyons here.  The area has a unique geologic history—a 90 mile long water pocket fold, a buckling of rock in the earth’s crust 65 million years ago, is the biggest in North America.  It has created a fantastic display of the colored striations in the sandstone cliffs, along with domes, spires, fins, arches and of course the hoodoos, the monoliths topping many mounts.



We got to Torrey with tiny hail falling as we set up camp—better than rain!  The RV park has fantastic fluted red rock mountains at its back and Bolder Mountain in front.  What a spot!

The next day we headed up Bolder in our car, toward Escalante, into the Ponderosa pines.  We moved our next stop from Escalante because of information from RV neighbors. They were so right- the mountain grades are loooong and steep.  The RV would really struggle. It’s perfect for our little car, so we’ll make day trips into the area.  We went up to 8600 on a chilly day, to find more beautiful views and a light snow patches left from the previous day’s weather.


The pups had a great time “hunting.”  We’re pretty sure we saw bear and badger tracks in the mud and Jim surprised a small herd of mule deer.  Great scents in the air all over as we moved over the mountain, through groves of aspen, waiting to leaf out.



We ended up in the Grand Staircase area, known for dinosaur fossils.  We came upon giant white mounts covered with cross-hatched patterns.  I thought they may have been petrified dinosaur scat—the Sugarloaf formations are actually Navajo sandstone mounds created from ancient sand dunes about 65 million years ago.


On the way home we found a fantastic restaurant, Hells Backbone Grill, nestled in with spa-like cabins.  The restaurant is owned by two women who left corporate America.  How do people find their way… to move their lives to the middle of way-beyond-rural?  Dinner was outstanding, by the way!


Great cloud colors from the sunset on the way home.  Oh, added treat…at 50 mph we came across a deer standing in the middle of the road.  Luckily it was pretty visible, even at dusk, and it moved off quickly, in the right direction.


More from the Torrey area tomorrow.


Day 16-18 in Monument Valley

Monday we left Moab for Monument Valley.  What incredible vistas—H’mmm.  Think I’ve said that before.  On the way in, we went through Mexican Hat…


And.. what looked like sand painting in the jars I’ve bought at fairs—except it’s miles and miles of natural cliffs painted with subtle hues that are spectacular…think ten times more impressive in person!


Finally, Monument Valley appeared like ghostly specters in the distance.  We found out what caused that erie veil the next day!


When we hit the Valley—son of a gun!  Just like the pictures! Amazing doesn’t do it justice.  Plus, our RV park is nestled 20 feet from the red rocks with a view of the big formations below. 


Tuesday we toured the valley—we saw why there was a haze on the horizon coming in—WIND AND DUST.  Red rocks and lots and lots of red dust.  The gusts have been extreme blasts.  And cold!.  We went onto the Navajo reservation for some close up views—and stopped at some Native American jewelry stands on the side of the road.  Oh yea!

The Mittens–look closely and you’ll see how they got their name.


Merrick Butte


A Navajo dog visited at Sentinel Mesa


Elephant Butte


We also got a look at a navajo Hogan–it’s amazing how similar the design is to the Mongolian Gers we visited outside Ulaan Baatar, while we rode horses and tented our way through the northwest corner of the country.  While we watched the local Mongolians put up a Ger in 2 hours, the Navajo homes were permanent structures made of cedar logs and foot-think adobe walls to give protection from temperatures that can range from 5-105 degree extremes on the open plain.  (What the Mongols would have given to have a ready supply of wood like that!)  The Hogan has a two-foot hole in the roof over the stove.  I asked about closing it for rain and snow.  Our guide grew up in a hogan and said it wasn’t a problem.  The rain and snow always comes sideways–again the constant winds– so just a little would fall in the house.


I also spent some time touring the local museum of the Gouldings, who originally founded a trading post here in the early 1900’s.  They were the ones who first introduced Hollywood to the fabulous natural backdrops in the area after the Depression.  Their main lodge sits beside the little cabin John Wayne called home over extended periods here.  Their living conditions are harsh now–I can’t even imagine what their lives were like back then.  This is a tough land—even the pervasive tumble weed is nasty, with thorns that make waking off any main trail a real challenge.


Tuesday night we took a dusk tour into the park to watch the full moon rise over the Totem Pole monument—made famous in the movie Eiger Sanction.  On the way we stopped at several famous monuments, including John Ford’s Point, the site of many of his movie locations.  


The first of the Three Sisters does resemble a nun…


  The cold wind persisted and clouds blotted out our “moonrise” shots at the Totem Pole and Spearhead Mesa.  We froze on the way back!



Today is our last day.  We bagged an early horseback ride among the monuments.  Too bad….Probably not smart to schedule a dawn get-up after the late cold night tour we finished just a few hours before.  We had NO interest in heading out into the cold winds with morning gray skies.

It rained and blew off-and–on the rest of the day.  I did visit a local market and was privileged to meet Nelson Lewis, an award-winning second-generation Navajo sandpainter.  We kept looking for a rainbow after all the rain…no luck.  But did find a hidden arch in the rocks behind the RV camp!


Tomorrow we’re off to Torrey, UT.

More to come!