PrologueI had always wanted to go to the desert southwest. Craig had the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon with our close friend Kevin and Kevin's sister Kerry in 1996. He really enjoyed it, and was eager to take me. We decided upon a road trip: we would fly to Las Vegas, and take a rental car to visit national parks and monuments in two additional states. We would drive to Utah, where we would visit Zion National Park, Bryce National Park, Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park. Then we would drive to Arizona to see many national monuments and a visit to the North and South Rims of the Grand Canyon. We'd drive back to Vegas and then fly home.
We invited Craig's brother Steve to join us for the Grand Canyon portion of the trip. He had always wanted to see the canyon, but was unable to get away for longer than a long weekend because his kids were still young.
9/25/99 - Arrival at ZionU.S. Shuttle picked us up at 5:45 a.m. and drove us to Logan Airport for our 7:45 flight to Las Vegas via Denver. The Las Vegas airport was like nothing we had ever seen, full of slot machines, CD stores, and neon signs.
We picked up our rental car (a red Blazer) in the sweltering 102 degree heat at about 1:00 p.m., and drove down the strip heading for the highway northeast.
We then continued on to Zion National Park (where it was in the 80's), listening to Tom Waits tapes the entire way. The mountains in the northeast corner of Nevada as we crossed into Arizona briefly and then Utah were really gorgeous and many times we found ourselves wanting to just get out and look but we had many miles to go and wanted to get settled in to our first home.
We checked in to the Cliffrose Lodge at about 4:00 p.m., where we had a nice room with a small patio with a lovely garden in the back with mountains towering overhead and a stream with walking trail as well. The motel was right outside the gates of the park.
Then we went to buy supplies at an old-fashioned market. Once we got everything stashed back in the room we drove into the national park and watched the rock formations glow as the shadows grew. It was a shame we couldn't see more of the park that first day but we were really hungry and needed some non-plane food.
On a whim, we tried to eat at the "reservations only" Zion Lodge, a classic log cabin type place with a beautiful view of the surrounding cliffs and mountains. We lucked out, and were seated immediately right along the outside windows. We had an excellent quesadilla as an appetizer. Craig had a peppered steak with gravy and red potatoes, and I had a veggie lasagna. The lasagna defeated me; for once I didn't even have room for dessert.
We bought souvenirs and went back to the hotel room at 8:30. Early to bed...hiking tomorrow!
9/26/99 - Angel's Landing and Emerald PoolsWe woke up at 6:00 a.m., got dressed, and headed into the park. As we got into the car we saw a deer eating from the flowerboxes at the hotel office. The sun was not yet up, and on the drive, we saw a buck on the side of the road.
We began the hike to Angel's Landing at 7:00 a.m.. The Angel's Landing trail is a difficult 5 mile round trip hike with an elevation increase of about 1500 feet. At that time of the morning the weather was cool, and there weren't too many other hikers around. It was a great hike. As the sun rose, it started to get much warmer and the mountaintops were starting to get a beautiful glow. A lot of the trail was cut out of the cliffs themselves. At one point we came across the 21 man-made switchbacks named Walter's Wiggles. It was pretty cool to see such an engineering accomplishment in such an unsuspecting place.
Very soon afterwards we reached the plateau offering incredible views of Zion from above. This is where the final 1/2 mile hike along a rock knife-edge that requires the use of chains and the steep slickrock made me have second thoughts, as I thought I would have trouble getting back down. Craig escorted me back down to a safe lookout and decided to go on by himself. He made it to the top despite the narrow uneven footing and the 1500 foot drop. At one point he considered turning around, but he joined a convoy of French tourists, and that motivated him to keep going.
I had the company of others who would not venture any further, but Craig had all of the reading material and food in his backpack, so it seemed like a long time before he made it back down to my vantage point. At the end of the knife-edge hike Craig sat on top of a rock "table" along with about a dozen others that made the final stage of the hike. The view there was spectacular and he really wished I was there with him but he probably was glad I didn't continue on due to the danger of the trail itself. Sitting on that plateau he ate a bunch of our trail mix while trying to keep the chipmunks from eating my portion.
We hiked back down together, and reached the bottom by 11:30.
We got lunch from the burger joint across the street (burgers, fries, and chicken fingers) and ate them in the hotel room.
We then went back to the park and hiked the Emerald Pools trail. The upper pool was very serene until a family with four kids arrived.
After that we went to the Bit and Spur for Mexican food. We had Cuervo Gold margaritas and calamari to start. Craig got a burrito and I got a deep dish enchilada. For dessert I had a heavenly brownie with creme broulee.
After dinner we went to the Zion Cinemax Theater to see Zion Canyon: Treasure of the Gods IMAX movie. It had great footage, but the message was a bit hokey and too politically correct. There were some small shops there, and we did a bit of gift shopping before the movie began.
9/27/99 - Bryce CanyonWe got up at 7:30 a.m. and ate a breakfast of powdered donuts in the room. We then drove to Bryce, stopping for groceries along the way in Mt. Carmel Junction, which "ain't nothing but a wide spot in the road" to quote Tom Waits. However, they had signs advertising "expresso" [sic]. Tom Waits is right, espresso is everywhere these days!
When we arrived at Bryce (around noon), we went straight to the national park and hiked the Navajo Loop and Queen's Garden trails. It took about 2 hours. We got some great up-close views of the hoodoos. The high temp was only in the 60's, so it was quite a change from Zion. It was nice and sunny, though. After the hike, we sat overlooking the amphitheater for a while.
We then checked in to Ruby's Inn. What a place! It had a restaurant, general store, art gallery, liquor store, Fotomat, and campground. Our room was gorgeous. It had a king-sized bed, a recliner, a sleep sofa, and a jacuzzi!
We ate lunch on premises at around 3 pm. We had the Cowboy Buffet. For $8.50/person, the following was included: beverages (Craig got beer and I got an Italian vanilla soda) and all we could eat of sweet and sour pork, meatloaf, brisket, chicken pot pie, soup bar, salad bar, mashed potatoes, rice, ice cream, pastries, etc. Wow...it was delicious!
We went back to the park to Inspiration Point (we felt like we were Joanie and Chachi or something) to look at hoodoos in the waning sun. It was windy and 53 degrees. Brrrr! We went back to Ruby's Inn and did some shopping and the spent an hour in the jacuzzi.
9/28/99 - Fairyland LoopWe woke up at 6:00 a.m. It was a cold 27 degrees. We set out at Sunrise Point at 7:00 on the Fairyland Loop Trail. We were the only people around, and we were able to watch sunrise through the hoodoos. It was gorgeous and very serene.
After three hours of very solitary hiking, we finally met other people. It was 5.7 miles to Fairyland Point, then another 2.7 miles along the rim trail back to the car. The last part was the toughest. We felt like we should have been done, and we had envisioned the rim trail to be pretty flat, just a walk back to the car. We were wrong. It was 2.7 miles of up and down and up and down. We were relieved and sore when we arrived at the parking lot.
Once back at the car, we drove to the visitor's center to buy gifts and look at the exhibits. Then it was back to Ruby's Inn for a dip in their pool and hot tub. We had to make another trip to the Cowboy Buffet. Yum! Then we did some more gift shopping at Ruby's Inn, and then more swimming and hot tubbing. Then we went back to the room for TV and jacuzzi.
9/29/99 - Moab and Arches National ParkWe got up at 6:00 a.m. and drove to Moab. We went through some very small towns to get there. It was 19 degrees when we left Bryce. One part of the road was gravel, and there were cows standing in the middle of it. Irrigation from machines was freezing on the grass and fences. It was beautiful! We ate breakfast at Burger King (last services for 110 miles!)
We arrived at Moab at 11:30 and went to Arches National Park. We did some small "hikes" to Double Arch, Landscape Arch, and the Windows, whih were all very close to the road and full of people.
Then we did a real hike to Delicate Arch. It was hot and sunny. We were very exposed to the sun on the hike, which included a long stretch of slickrock. Delicate Arch was very peaceful and other-worldly. There was a bowl-shaped canyon in the slickrock next to it. You had to skirt around the edges of the bowl to get to the arch. We stayed there for quite a while before hiking back down.
We ate dinner at the Moab Brewery. We shared a quesadilla. Craig had a cajun chicken sandwich, and I got a Jack Daniels burger. Craig got to keep his beer glass. We learned a bit about Utah liquor laws from the waitress: Craig couldn't order another beer until the waitress removed the glass from his current beer. Also, you can only order hard liquor in the restaurant portion, as opposed to the bar (which seemed counter-intuitive to me). I had rocky road pie for dessert.
We did some gift shopping in Moab (lots of galleries and interesting shops) and then went back to the hotel, the Best Western Greenwell Inn.
9/30/99 - Canyonlands National ParkWe woke up at 6:30 a.m. We ate breakfast at McDonald's and then drove to the Island in the Sky portion of Canyonlands National Park. We did a short hike up Whale Rock and sat at the top for a while. There was noone else around. We then hiked to Mesa Arch, which was on a half mile loop trail.
Then went off-roading down Shafer Trail Road. We veered off onto the White Rim Road in order to seeMusselman Arch, and stepped out onto it for a photo op. It was wide enough to feel safe, but it was very high up!
On our continuing journey down Potash Road, we passed the "salt plant" and uranium pools, and our conspiracy theories were running amok. We ten drove back to Moab.
We got some groceries and then went to Canyonlands by Night. They feed you a barbecue dinner (beef, pork, chicken, salad, potatoes, corn, and biscuits) and then take you on a boat on the Colorado. There is a truck which drove parallel to the river, and the guys in the truck shone a spotlight onto the rock formations while we were told thehistory of Canyonlands. It was a lot of fun, and the stars were gorgeous!
10/1/99 - White Water Rafting on the ColoradoWe got up at 6:15 a.m., and headed over to Canyon Voyages for our white water trip. It began with a long bus ride, during which we saw a golden eagle. We put in near Cisco, which has a population of 6. The town literally consists of shacks, except for the old vehicles in the "trespassers will be shot" guy's yard. There is no potable water there.
Dave was our guide for the Westwater Canyon trip. Small world...he's originally from North Reading! He was very entertaining, playing the harmonica, quoting poetry, and telling un-PC jokes. As I had never white-watered before, we opted for a row trip, during which Dave rowed with oars, and we and another couple held on. SOme of the rafts on our trip were paddle rafts, in which all of the passengers paddles.
We stopped for a picnic lunch on a beach before the rapids. It was sunny and warm, but the water was chilly. It wasn't so cold that we needed to wear wet suits, though. Craig wore shorts and a T-shirt. I wore polypropelene long underwear bottoms under my shorts. The rapids were Class III and IV. Craig lost his hat in Surprise Rapids, but miraculously caught it again. I found Skull Rapids to be very scary!
On the bus ride back to Moab, we saw a FedEx truck stopping in Cisco. We joked that the next time we drive by, the FedEx truck will be among the vehicles in that guy's yard.
Back in Moab, we showered at the hotel and then we ate another dinner at the Moab Brewery. We had a chicken quesadilla, a chicken burrito, and rocky road pie. We ran into some mountain bikers whom we had seen at Ruby's Inn at Bryce. They had ridden their bikes all the way to Moab! We then did some grocery shopping and returned to the hotel.
Cliffrose Lodge and Gardens, Zion
Hiking to Angel's Landing
Hiking to Angel's Landing
Sunrise through the hoodoos on the Fairyland Loop
Delicate Arch, Arches National Park
Standing on Musselman Arch, Canyonlands National Park
Our rafting guide Dave is from North Reading, MA
Whitewater rafting the Colorado River at Westwater Canyon