Thursday, November 5, 2009
Capital Reef is suppose to be the least visited of the Utah National Parks but we found crowds there, just as we have at every other national park we visited this summer. The Visitor’s center was so crowded you could hardly move so we headed out just as another tour bus pulled up. The Reef was created by what’s called a Waterpocket Fold, which caused a 100-mile large rock upheaval many moons ago. Like most of Southern Utah it has lots of cool rock formations, but it also has the Fremont River that allowed both Indians and early Mormons to settle and farm in the area. We picked apples in one of the half dozen or more orchards in the park. We found great homemade salsa and jam at the Fremont store and enjoyed lunch along the Fremont River under the cover of huge shade trees. We found cool rock formations, canyons and petroglyphs in the park and probably could/ should have spent a couple more days in there. We were however, speed touring, something I don’t recommend but something our schedule necessitated.
Near Capital Reef is the town of Torrey, where we found an amazing restaurant called Café Diablo. It has been voted a ‘Best of the Torrey’ restaurant and indeed it is fabulous. The town itself is about 2 blocks long and doesn’t even have a real grocery store. Café Diablo is certainly a stand out here but it would be a stand out in any western megacity as well. It was the most creative presentation and best food that I have tasted in a very long time. We ate there both nights we were in the area.
From Capital Reef and Torrey we set out for Bryce National Park via Scenic Byway 12. As you leave Torrey you start to climb into mountains before descending back down to rocks and canyons of the Escalante National Monument. We hit the mountains when the aspen were at peak and it was certainly a very scenic drive.
Bryce was nice and was the least crowded of all three parks. We shopped at Ruby’s since it was the largest store of any kind we had seen for a few days.
We saw the amphitheater from several viewpoints but didn’t get to do any of the hikes down among the pinnacles. We did walk a little in Red Canyon State Park, which I like just as much as Bryce.
Zion was the most crowded of the three parks. The huge rocks mountains are quite nice but difficult to see when you can’t find a parking spot. The shuttles do help if you can find a parking spot by a shuttle spot. Part of the park can only be seen by shuttle. My sister and I did the Riverside hike. The hanging gardens there were very nice but the trail was crowded. We had read that the Emerald Pools were a ‘must see’ in the park so we headed there next. We were very disappointed with the pools. Someone said that they are best in the spring and we were there in September, maybe that was the problem or maybe it was our expectations. I was expecting emerald pools like in Yellowstone and my sister expected pools like in Hawaii. We made our own fun on the hike but definitely wouldn’t recommend what we called ‘the puddles’ to anyone. Next time I visit Zion I will try and go in the spring and try some of the longer hikes. I really want to do the Angel’s Landing hike one of these days, but that will have to wait. Our time in the Utah was up! Vegas awaited..
Monday, October 26, 2009
Having done this hike before, making sure I had enough water was a priority. My first trek to the arch had been at high noon on a warm August day with an 8 ounce bottle of water. I was ten years younger and still thought I might have to be medevacted off the trail. I learned a valuable lesson about respecting the desert heat that day. So this time, I armed myself with two big bottles of water in my waist pack. My sister chose to take a small bottle despite my urgings for her to take more. Whatever … we are going at sunset and not high noon.
When we got to the trailhead, it was so packed that we could not park, so mom took over the driving duties as we sat in traffic and Wen and I headed up the trail. We thought this beautiful midweek September evening would be a great time for a hike. Apparently everyone in a 100 mile radius did too! Some of the tour buses had gotten an earlier start and were on their way down the trail as we were going up. There were people of all creed, color and age coming down the trail. Some older folks even had canes. I wanted to take a picture of them to show my mom who had played the ‘age and sore hip’ card to get out of the trek, but I resisted. My main goal was to get up to the arch before sunset and before the tour bus group that had just started to unload at the trailhead. I view hiking as a solitary or small group activity. Not something you do with 40 plus people!
The first part of this hike is pretty easy. It winds and rolls a little but there is no real elevation gain. The middle part of the hike proves a little more difficult as you hit a slick rock slab that seems to go straight up. This isn’t just a small rock slab .. it goes on and on and on. Once we hit the slab, we had a good vantage point of the trail below. As we sucked some wind and checked out the view, I could see the mass of touries coming! No time to suck wind, we had to keep moving. Our conversation waned as the elevation grew. Once you make it up the slab it levels out but you continue over sand and slick rock with cairns as the trail marker. Once you wind along a narrow ledge you are getting close. Finally, we come to sort of a narrow plateau and a crowd. Beyond the crowd sits the arch in all its glory.
It is kind of a freak of nature. A huge free standing arch out there all by its lonesome. It is on the far side of what looks like a rock bowl. On the south side of the arch it is just drop off. The La Mountains are visible beyond the arch. The crowd hangs on the northside of the rock bowl waiting for a clear picture of the arch. People take turns going to the middle of the arch & having their picture taken. Cheers go up when you hear, yet another water bottle that wasn’t held onto well enough, bounce its way to the abyss of the rock bowl. Wen’s water, that she so carefully saved, met this fate. Luckily I still had some to share. My camera was saved from the abyss by an attentive fellow hiker. We took pictures, sat and admired the arch and people watched until it was close to sunset. It seemed there were people from every corner of the earth up there just gazing at this arch in the middle of the Utah desert. I heard more languages being spoken than I could identify. People were smiling, friendly, patient and helpful to each other despite being different. It was pleasant to people watch here.
Not wanting to traverse the trail in complete darkness with 100 other people we headed back down the trail before the actual sunset. Going down was much easier on the lungs but harder on the knees. We made it down as the sun slipped below the rocks in the west. It was a nice evening.
As we get in the car, I am thinking about what a wonderful thing it is that so many different kinds of people can come together and appreciate the beauty of nature. My sister meanwhile, is telling our mother that I made her ‘flipping climb Rock Everest’ and that park service would have all the money it needed if it just built a gondola for people to pay to ride to see the arch instead having to hike it.
I guess we all look at the world a little differently!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
At Arches we enjoyed the Balanced Rock, the Window arches and the Delicate Arch hike. We visited both parks on week days when there were no special events going on in town, yet we found crowds and tour buses throughout both parks. The parking areas were often full and several times we had to circle to find a parking spot .
With two huge national parks, Dead Horse Point State park, the La Sal mountains, the Colorado river, Slick rock and a few blocks of shops, three days is just not enough time to see it all. I have probably spent a couple of months of time in Moab and haven’t come close to seeing it all. Which is why I keep going back. I love the huge rocks and the incredible maze of canyons created by the Green & Colorado rivers. The vastness of the canyons and rocks always makes me feel very small. I love the reds in the rocks that change with the angle of the sun, the arches and other formations that you just don’t see everywhere. When you get tired of seeing red the La Sal Mountain Loop road makes for a nice day trip. It offers your typical green mountain environment but also great views of the high desert surrounding them. The Colorado river brings the desert to life and adds to the recreational opportunities in the area.
I would say, ‘Moab has something for every one and is someplace everyone should experience’, but apparently the words already out!
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
The San Juan Mountains are a part of the Rocky Mountains in SW Colorado. I am hanging in the area around Silverton, Ouray & Telluride. This is a beautiful part of the country. Beautiful enough that even as a full-time Rver, I take note of the properties for sale in the region every time I come here. I do try to come here often. This is one of few places that I could settle and be content .. as long as I had a jeep. This is jeeping country. There are 100's of miles of jeeping roads in the San Juans that offer breathtaking views of flowers, waterfalls and peaks as for as the eye can see. Of course, hiking is big as well and probably a quicker route to the top sometimes than negotiating some of the roads.
Silverton is an old mining town with a lots of tales to tell of boom & bust and all that goes with its mining past. The Durango-Silverton rail passengers descend upon the town everyday close to noon to shop the stores, explore the mining history and have some lunch. It's always a good idea to hit your lunch spot in Silverton (and they do have a variety of choices) before the train arrives. Many of the jeep roads start outside of Silverton. The ghost town of Animas Forks can be reached by passenger car from town but you wouldn't want to go much further or on many of the travels leading off this 10 -12 mile jot back into the mountains without a 4wd high clearance vehicle. The 4wd Alpine Scenic Loop road that goes over Engineer pass and Cinnamon pass is probably the most popular.
Telluride is much more your upscale little mountain town. It boosts a ski resort, great outdoor music festivals and is surrounded by million dollar homes. I was able to lend a hand doing dry wall in home in the area that was going for $11 million a few years back. In town you find an eclectic mix of folks .. from old hippy's, to millionaires to joe blow tourist .. they get the gamut. There is hiking and jeeping in this area as well. The notorious expert only Black Bear Road 4wd winds it way down the mountain face of the box canyon at the south end of town. Imogene 4wd road takes you through some very scenic country between Telluride and Ouray. The ski resort Gondola also runs during the summer months, taking you to the top of Mt. Sophia which offers great views of the town below.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Monday, May 11, 2009
I half expected a guy with an eye patch and a wooden leg. I fully expected a big guy that, as they say, ‘swore like a sailor’. I did not expect the soft spoken, gentle spirited, intelligent and driven man that I met. He and his 1st mate, Lt. Terry Brown, were quite patient with me and my barrage of inquires about boats, movies and all things piraty.. Sinbad and Terry were kind enough to allow me to come out and see their boat and his moviemaking base the next day. In addition to boatbuilding, participating in historical reenactments and delighting tourist, Sinbad has written a book called the Sword of Tortuga. He is currently making a movie based on this book. So far it is an independent film that he is producing. He is driven to bring this project to the big screen and I certainly believe that he will.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Captain Sinbad and Lt. Brown. The pirate ship was a little cozier and had a bit more movement to it than this land lover could handle but I would have dinner with these Pirates in any port.
Sinbad says “You aren’t a real pirate unless you have the Pirate ship”. He’s got the ship, the girl, the clothes, the parrot, the sword and quite an interesting story. For more information on Sinbad or the Sword of Tortuga check out his site here.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
With dog in tow and in the rain, I saw what I could of the historic area. All the bushes, trees and flowers in bloom really added to the charm of the area. The secret gardens and large sitting porches finally made me feel like I was really in the south. A new England feel with palm trees and southern charm. It may top New Orleans for my favorite southern city. I really would like to go back, not as a traveler but to write or work for a few months so I can really soak up this town. I think I could handle sitting out on one of those porches one spring writing and people watching.
I did get to the Swamp gardens at Magnolia Plantation and would have liked to explore more of the gardens in the area. I did meet a retired dock builder named Gary at the local Waffle House. He confirmed I had not had the only negative experience with staff at Oak Plantation, gave me some scoop on what to see when I returned and where to go up the coast. When I go back I want to go hang on a dock built by Gary!. ☺
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The historical area where the Rockefeller, Morgan and Vanderbilt’s all built homes is a fabulous place for a stroll. Now the homes are either shops or hotels. There are nice wide bike paths that can get you almost anyplace on the island. A pedalers dream. Dog & I opted for strolls instead to do some birding and watch the fabulous sunsets.
We stayed at Blythe Island Regional Park and at Jekyll Island Campground. Blythe Island was very nice. Decent sized lots, lots of trails, little lakes and friendly staff, all about 10 miles from Jekyll. Jekyll Island Campground was not my favorite. It has lots of trees, tighter spots, lots of sap, utilities questionably placed and very young staff. What it lacks in the way it is set-up it does make up in location, especially if you want to bike the island. I would stay at both campgrounds again.
St. Simons Island is Jekyll’s big populated brother to the north. It has a lighthouse, with a touristy area, and lots of crowded beaches. The city of Brunswick has a nice downtown area but it was quite empty when I was there. In fact the whole town seemed empty. I had me wondering if a bomb had exploded or the rapture occurred it was so empty. I actually think all the Brunswick folks were at the beaches in St. Simon that day.
I found Jekyll Island a great place to relax and enjoy the beauty.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I was on this journey through Nebraska because my friend and I had planned a 3 weeks trip to travel through the the Northwest. I was in Colorado. She was in California. The plan was for me to go get her, then we would head north and work our way back to Denver. This was pre RV days. Our plan was to tent with a motel thrown in here and there. I found out a few weeks before I was scheduled to leave that she couldn't make it and was terribly bummed out that we had to cancel the trip. After all who in their right mind would take a trip by their self .. on purpose? I had always vacationed with family or friends, after all that's what you are suppose to do right??
That was not necessary. After a couple of tossing and turning nights staying awake, I was so tired that I slept fine and an axe murder did not get me. I went to Sturgis, discovered Banff, Vancouver Island, the Oregon Coast and much in between. I meet other people traveling alone from all over the world. I shared a table on separate occasions with a gal from Britain and a Canadian Mountie from Ontario just so we could get in a restaurant quicker. I meet people in campgrounds, on tours and in restaurant lines. I was not at all lonely. Being by myself actually gave me more opportunity to meet people. It was a fabulous trip. What I didn't know was that this trip would lay the groundwork for me being able to travel as I do now. It was only a three week trip but the experience broadened my horizons immensely. It helped me think about travel differently and ultimately played a part in me being able to take the plunge into the RV lifestyle. Funny how life has a way of preparing us for life..
Friday, April 10, 2009
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Thursday, April 2, 2009
The city of New Orleans, particularly the French Quarter is something everyone should experience at least once. Stroll the flowered balcony lined streets. Enjoy the live music from the clubs or the street corners. Have a beignet at Cafe du Monde, try a muffuletta, etouffee and don't miss the double chocolate bread pudding at the Red Fish Grill on Bourbon Street. Cruise St. Charles avenue, tour the many famous cemeteries, ride the street car down Canal street, there is plenty to see and do in the city.
What many people don't realize that there is plenty to see outside of the city as well. Opportunities to fish abound in the local lakes, rivers and bayou's that are pretty much everywhere. We had a deluge of rain that flooded the campground ... water birds were fishing outside my door, I am guessing I could have too! West of the Mississippi, where Bayou Segnette is located, you can find several swamp tours and fish markets. I enjoyed looking around at the Westwego Fish market but couldn't bring myself to buy critters with there heads still on or in the case of the crawfish and crabs, critters that were still alive. I pulled in today to let a vender know that one of his crabs had escaped and was headed for traffic! I am not sure if boiling is any better than being squished, but I thought it was the right thing to do at the time. The near by, Perrino's, had a interesting fish market where you could get fresh fried shrimp and homemade bread pudding.
Jean Lafitte Preserve I found fascinating. I loved all the sights and sounds of the swamp. Birds, Gators, snakes, frogs, and dragon flies among the moss draped trees. Eerily cool. There are opportunities to kayak or canoe the preserve as well.
There is much more here that I would like to see and do but I have reached this parks limit so I must move on. After experiencing this park, with its nice sized sites, wifi, free laundry, abundance of water birds, mulberries and proximity to all the the places I like to go for a reasonable price .. it would be hard to stay anyplace else. I am already looking forward to my next visit.
What's that Mr. Ranger? You aren't suppose to pick the berries? Oh those berry stains on my fingers are from cleaning them off my shoe. What, I have some on my mouth? Ur.. um.. Yeah I think it spurted when I stepped on it .. Yeah that's it... that's more story and I am sticking to it.