Monthly Archives: November 2014
Kanab, Utah: “Little Hollywood” and Kodachrome State Park
Day 11, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
33-Day Western National Park Caravan RV Tour
En route to tonight’s campground near Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, we passed through the little town of Kanab, Utah, population about 4,000. These small western towns are larger from a commercial standpoint than their small population shows because they serve a large rural area of farmers and ranchers.
One of 67 spires in Kodachrome State Park near Bryce Canyon, in southwestern Utah.
Locals refer to Kanab as “Little Hollywood” due to its history as a filming location for mostly western movies and television series including The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, Daniel Boone, The Outlaw Josey Wales and Planet of the Apes. It is centrally located and gets ample highway traffic from those visiting Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and Bryce and other area attractions. We were impressed with the cleanliness and prosperous appearance of Kanab and promised to return here someday. The road leading from Kanab to Bryce Canyon is most canyon country but wide enough for pasture and farming operations. The bright green fields were being cut for hay and some crops were being harvested. We stopped at a German bakery at Orderville, 20 miles north of Kanab, and stocked up on fattening sweets and took National Scenic Highway 12 to Bryce Canyon.
A combination of storm clouds and sunshine casts an impressive view on the mountains in Kodachrome State Park.
After settling into the campground just outside Bryce Canyon National Park, we joined our Canadian friends Don and Sue for a short drive to Kodachrome Canyon State Park. Named after the popular color film, Kodachrome has 67 monolithic stone spires, called sedimentary pipe, within the state park. The color and beauty found here prompted a National Geographic Society expedition to name the area after the color film in 1948. NEXT: Bryce offers a view different from Zion or Grand Canyon
Walking the trails at the Grand Canyon North Rim
One of many reasons why the scenery brings five million visitors annually to Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.
DAY 9: North Rim Grand Canyon, Jacobs Lake, AZ.
33 day Western National Parks RV Caravan
Today’s drive from Page, AZ., to Jacob Lake, AZ is only 104 miles, but the two-lane road is somewhat challenging, particularly for the big rigs among the RV Caravan group. A few miles on the road we crossed into Utah and faced a two mile stretch of highway that was a 6% downhill grade. Traveling downhill in these rigs is almost as difficult as the long uphill grinds. It requires downshifting to slow the coaches rather than depending on the brakes. Most of the big rigs have six forward gears which gives drivers several downshifting options.
At mile 24 was a 4-7% uphill that lasted several miles, followed almost immediately by another 6% eight mile incline. The scenery on top of the mountain, however, was impressive, reminding us of the Colorado Rockies.
A park visitor climbs out on a ledge and takes a selfie video of the Grand Canyon over her shoulder.
Sixty-five miles into the trip, we crossed back into Arizona and watched the diesel engine’s temperature gauge closely as we proceeded up a 6% mountain that lasted for eight miles. Diesel engines tend to heat up a bit on long, steady inclines.
Our campground for next two nights will be at Jacob’s Lake, which is 41 miles from the Grand Canyon North Rim. The elevation here is almost 8,000 feet, bringing more cool nights around a campfire.
The drive to the North Rim the following morning in a drizzling rain was highlighted by a herd of buffalo in a pasture alongside the highway. We visited the old Grand Canyon lodge and hiked on several trails, albeit under rain jackets. The canyon, which is heavily visited but lacks the tourists attracted to the south rim Grand Canyon, was mostly covered with mist and visibility was poor although early afternoon the sky cleared and the huge canyon at Bright Angel Point was visible for miles. Cape Royal and Imperial Point views were spectacular. Cape Royal, in particular, had two vistas with almost 360 degree views at the end of a paved narrow walkway with some protective fencing in dangerously steep areas. I kept my eyes focused on the path to avoid looking over the edge, which went straight down for hundreds of feet, until reaching the end. The trail ended at a scenic overlook that was vintage Grand Canyon–spectacular.
Although the distance across the canyon is only about 10 miles wide, the distance by auto is 215 miles. With binoculars we could see the south rim lodge across the canyon.
Our Caravan Tour ends there in 22 days.
NEXT: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.
Navajo Antelope Slot Canyon is dusty, scenic wonder
Standing on the floor of Antelope Slot Canyon and looking up through the top.
DAY 8: Antelope Slot Canyon Tour, Navajo Nation
33-Day Western National Parks RV Caravan Tour
Death Valley, Rainbow Bridge, Zion and Glen Canyon’s Lake Powell, were very impressive places to visit, but just a week into this caravan tour, the visit into the Navajo Nation to see Antelope Slot Canyon, was an unexpected scenic wonder.
Getting there, however, was a little frightening.
Prior to boarding open air pickup trucks of Chief Tsosie’s Tour, we gathered in downtown Page, AZ., under the canopy of a converted gas station and watched a couple Navajo tribal members in full native costumes entertain the crowd with a couple native dances.
The narrow passage way through Antelope Slot Canyon was claustrophobic for some tourists. The path was less than three feet wide in some areas.
Our tour guide suggested purchasing bandannas in the nearby tour store because the dirt road leading to the Canyon was dry and dusty. That was an understatement.
For the five mile or so trip out of town to Antelope Slot Canyon, we loaded into the rear of a half dozen blue pickup trucks and sat on metal benches and remarked that riding in the rear of an open bed pickup was illegal back home.
The truck driver, who was also our canyon guide, never slowed from paved to pot-hole dirt roads where we all hurriedly struggled to tie on the bandannas, hold onto our hats and avoid falling overboard all at the same time. It was a jarring, dusty ride and somewhat scary.
Antelope Slot Canyon was created by water running through the rocks that eroded the soft sandstone and over time, created a twisting, turning canyon open at the top through narrow slits that allow beams of sunlight to light the canyon floor. It is open on both ends and the tour consists of walking through the canyon and back for a quarter mile each way.
We entered the canyon through a narrow passage off the dirt parking lot. There was ample sunlight filtering through the top of the canyon but the curvy canyon walls displaced the light, emphasizing the different shapes of the stone wall. Some areas of the walking path were only about three feet wide and claustrophobic.
The depth of the canyon varies and is partially determined by recent rains. A quarter inch the previous day washed 14 feet of sand onto the canyon floor. The tour guide said another rain would probably remove the sand or possibly add more.
Flooding through the canyon is common.
Bandannas proved effective against the dusty dirt roads leading to the canyon.
Visitors to Antelope Slot Canyon are ferried in the back of open air pickup trucks. Some of the route was on dusty dirt roads.
Antelope Slot Canyon opened for tours as a Navajo Tribal Park in 1997. It was quite a visual experience.
NEXT; North Rim Grand Canyon, Jacob’s Lake, AZ
Jumping out of airplanes and looking over the dam wall
Looking over the edge 700 feet down to the bottom of the Glen Canyon Dam.
DAY 8: Page, AZ., Glen Canyon Dam Tour
33-Day Western National Park RV Caravan Tour
I have trouble with heights. To say my wife Martha has trouble with heights is a big understatement. She has serious issues with heights.
The bridge across the Columbia River below the Glen Canyon Dam.
Sometimes I regret the things I have missed this far in life because of the phobia. I once turned down an invitation to dinner at the top of the World Trade Center in New York City. Now the towers are gone. I’ll bet today I could do it. We’ll never know.
Among the RVers on this 33-day RV caravan trip is a woman in her eighties who zip- lined across a 1,000 foot deep gorge (or some obscene height) in South America. She also parachuted out of a perfectly good airplane, also when she was in her eighties. How can sane people muster this kind of courage?
Today we’re taking a tour of the Glen Canyon Dam. We will stand at the top and look over the edge into the Glen Canyon Gorge and the Columbia River below. At least some will. This was the highest dam in the country when it was built. It is 700 feet high. Standing at the top is the plan. Not sure about looking over the side.
Tour guide shows one of the huge turbines on display that was once installed in the dam power plant to generate electricity.
An enclosed overlook at the Glen Canyon Dam Visitors Center.
The electrical generating plant.
Visitors at the dam are taken down a long corridor deep inside the facility when touring the power plant section.
I once heard a mountain climber say don’t worry about anything beyond a three foot radius of where you are standing. Block everything else out of your mind because everything outside that three foot radius is beyond your control. It doesn’t work for me.
There will be other gut-wrenching high altitude opportunities on this trip, mainly places like the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon. And, of course, there’s the Grand Canyon Skyway, the glass horseshoe “bridge” that allows the brave to walk on a glass, see-through floor over the South Rim Canyon. Just get a grip and gut it, says my insides.
Determined but apprehensive, the following day our dam tour guide (no pun intended) gave us a brief orientation then led us down elevators that opened onto the top of the dam into bright sunlight. I lagged behind briefly, mustered all the courage I had and walked over to the edge and looked out in the distance. For some reason, I looked down—all 700 feet down, backed up and looked down again. Martha took her time and small steps and eventually made it to the edge and also looked down. Our knees shook, our stomachs did that funny-feeling thing, but we did it.
NEXT: Antelope Slot Canyon Tour
Lake Powell’s Rainbow Bridge is sacred ground for Native Americans
Visitors take a 2.5 mile round trip walk to reach the Rainbow Bridge.
Rainbow Bridge is one of the world’s largest known natural arch bridges. It is part of the Glen Canyon Recreation Area near Page, AZ.
DAY 7, Page, AZ, Lake Powell
Leaving behind the gun toting friendly folks of Virgin, Utah, and the wonders of Zion National Park, we headed south and east into Arizona (another time change) on several long winding uphill grades that tested the mettle of the Monaco Green Knight then drove through the Kaibab Indian Reservation.
After 143 miles on the road we arrived at Lake Powell Resort and Marina, a very large RV campground on a hill overlooking the crystal clear blue waters of Lake Powell and near Page, AZ. The scenery from the top of the hill takes in the marina and the huge Glen Canyon Dam, second in size only to Hoover Dam. It was an impressive sight of brilliant blue skies and miles of shoreline and hundreds of houseboats.
The drive to Page was mostly on a high plateau with more trees and grass but the temperatures were still hot and winds were blowing hard. It is customarily hot, dry and windy here, with temperatures that have reached 109 degrees. Fortunately, it was in the mid to upper 90’s during our three day visit but nights are cool and often require a jacket.
Lake Powell was formed by damming the Colorado River and the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam in the early 1960’s on land originally owned by the Navajo Nation. There was nothing here except desert. The nearest paved road was 30 miles away. Housing was built nearby for workers and the town of Page was born. Today there are about 8,000 people living in Page. Early the following day members of the caravan tour group boarded a large, two decker boat and toured Lake Powell for seven hours with a stop at Rainbow Bridge. Martha remarked in her journal that the water of Lake Powell was “clear and blue as the sky.”
Unusually large rock formations add to the scenery on Lake Powell.
Rainbow Bridge is a national monument operated by the National Park Service. It is one of the world’s largest known natural bridges. It is considered sacred ground by the neighboring American Indian tribes. Rainbow Bridge spans 275 feet across a creek in an almost perfect arch. To reach the arch we left the boat and walked two miles round trip on a trail around a creek.
Author Zane Gray visited this area frequently and included the bridge in several of his western novels. And, more than 20 movies and several television series have been filmed in this area including both Planet of the Ape movies, Broken Arrow, Maverick, Superman III, and the Outlaw Josie Wales.
NEXT: Glen Canyon Dam Tour
Well-armed Virgin, Utah mandates gun ownership
DAY 4, Virgin, Utah
With the wildly popular Zion National Park only a few miles from downtown Virgin, Utah, one would think the town’s legacy would reside within the park.
Not entirely so. Virgin made national and some international news when it passed a municipal law in 2000 requiring every homeowner to keep and maintain a firearm. Everyone except the mentally ill, convicted felons, conscientious objectors and people who don’t have the money to afford to own a gun. It gained more notoriety when the town’s law was highlighted in Michael Moore’s 2002 film “Bowling for Columbine.”
Requiring residents to own a gun might have been an overkill since it was estimated that 95 percent already owned a gun. Plus, like most small unincorporated communities, ordinances are not enforced and more voluntary for homeowners.
The remoteness and almost wilderness landscape here offers excellent small and big game hunting which partially explains the firearm ownership. This part of the country has many serious second amendment rights supporters, some who never hunted game but own firearms because it is their right.
Virgin is one of a handful of towns across the country that have passed or are considering passage of laws requiring gun ownership.
It was a flat 100 to 105 degrees on the drive from Pahrump, NV., across the northwest corner of Arizona and into Virgin, Utah. Engine air-conditioners could not come close to cooling the big open areas of the RV but the onboard diesel generator provided 50 amps of electricity and plenty of power to feed one of the roof air-conditioning units. Despite the heat, we were very comfortable.
Since we had been driving northeast all day, we lost an hour because of the time change after entering Utah.
We cooked chicken on the grill and dined outdoors with our Canadian friends Don and Sue.
Temps dropped into the upper 50’s at night giving us another opportunity to sleep with the windows open under one of Martha’s homemade quilts.
Since everyone in town sported at least one weapon, there was no worry of boogers invading the campground.
Zion welcomes the early morning sun
The Virgin River flows through Zion National Park.
Mormon farmers who settled here in the mid 1800’s called it Zion after a place of peace or the promised land mentioned in the Bible.
Today, Zion, like most of the nation’s national parks, is so popular it is almost being overrun by tourists from throughout the world. Back in the 1990’s the National Park Service banned private automobiles from the park and started a natural gas shuttle bus fleet to ferry visitors. This cut down the vehicle traffic and pollution, however, the visitors are still coming by the thousands to see the many wonders of The Promised Land.
That’s why on the first day at Zion, I grabbed my camera bag and left the campground before daylight and entered the still closed park to join a handful of other amateur photographers and take pictures of the massive rock mountain behind the old Visitors Center building which now houses the Zion Human History Museum. This location is one of the first in Zion National Park to greet the rising sun. Plus, the day’s onslaught of tourist is still more than an hour away.
I shot a few sunrise photos and returned to the campground and later we drove to the Visitors Center and boarded one of the shuttle buses and started our tour of the park.
Martha in her journal wrote “We started at the back of the park at Temple of Sinawava which consists of a two mile round trip trail into the canyon. Words can’t describe the mountains: shear, red like clay and jagged, so much scenery it’s hard to take it all in. Every turn is a different and magnificent view.”
We walked to the end of the trail to the gateway of an area known as the Narrows. Here the trail goes into the river where the water is shallow and leads to one of the most popular visitor spots in the Canyon known as the Narrows. The river water is waist deep in some areas and the canyon floor narrows to about 20 feet wide. Hiking is only permitted into the Narrows during low water levels which are subject to quickly rising water during heavy rainstorms. The trip offers a great scenic experience for those physically able to walk the rock strewn river to reach the Narrows.
The remainder of Zion Canyon is about 1,000 feet wide and surrounded by a vertical wall of mountains nearly 3,000 feet high in some places. Outside the canyon and along the rim, the landscape is mostly desert while the canyon floor is heavily forested and green with shade and cool breezes on most of the trails. Zion offers a huge variety of nature for its visitors, one of the reasons it is so popular.
NEXT: Exploring Lake Powell, Glen Canyon Dam and Antelope Slot Canyon
Early morning scene at Zion.
Utah’s Virgin River Gorge tests RV driving skills
The Valley of Fire derives its name from red sandstone formations, formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs, 150 million years ago.
Entering the Virgin River Gorge on Interstate 15 in northwestern Arizona. With the monstrous heat of Death Valley in the rear view mirror, the western national park tour caravan of 23 RV’s left Pahrump, NV., and skirted the Las Vegas skyline en route to tiny Virgin, Utah, population 600 and Zion National Park. Zion is the second stop on the tour. North of Las Vegas, we drove the southern perimeter of Nellis Air Force Base, home of the ultra secret and legendary Area 51 and recalled long ago conversations about aliens supposedly secreted here. The 255-mile trip to Zion would have been uneventful without the Virgin River Gorge section of Interstate 15 as it leaves Nevada and skirts the northwestern corner of Arizona leading into Utah near St. George. The morning drive started fine with a brief stop at picturesque Valley of Fire State Park near Moapa, Nevada, but then went uphill, fast. For flatland travelers from Florida, this was a white knuckle, puckering drive on I-15 through towering mountains of rock that closely hug the busy interstate highway, challenging the few mountain skills picked up on this trip . Heavy crosswinds tend to create more apprehension.
The Hughes’s 2006 Monaco Knight a.t Valley of Fire State Park near Moapa, NV
The area aptly known as “The Narrows” cuts through limestone cliffs reaching 500 feet high and seems really tight and scary when hemmed-in by tractor trailer trucks pushing, if not exceeding, the legal speed limits. They are building up a head of steam for the next big incline. Maybe it seemed they were speeding because we were barely reaching 50 miles-per- hour and reluctant to join the big rig race through the gorge. One skill acquired early in our RVing adventure was drive like the fictional Barney Fife; stay in the right lane and stay out of trouble. Lane shifting was out of the question here. Successfully navigating The Gorge as it is called locally, was a tuneup for more uphill driving to come in the next three weeks as the tour visits national Parks in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona on a 33-day whirlwind trip.