Zion to Bryce: Glorious Detour

Day 32: Friday, May 31, 2013
Start: Springdale, UT
End: Bryce Canyon City, UT
Miles Driven Today: 187
Total Miles: 4,737

Today was a driving day, moving from Zion to Bryce Canyon. Leaving Zion and going to Bryce was as breathtaking as the trip in. Given that we drove in around 4pm and left around 11am…the landscape was vastly different. The light made the area look so very different; or perhaps we were less in shock as we drove through the incredible vistas. I do think I took more pictures of Zion today than I did yesterday!

Highway 9 Out of Zion

Highway 9 Out of Zion

Majestic views on Highway 9 in Zion

Majestic views on Highway 9 in Zion

Checkerboard Mesa - Zion

Checkerboard Mesa – Zion

Striations on the sandstone in Zion

Striations on the sandstone in Zion

The trip was only about 2 hours long primarily up Highway 89. We needed a few groceries and personal items, so we decided to drive down 89 to Kanab (the largest town around) and pick up the needed items. While it was about a 35-mile detour, we were in no hurry today and the drive was beautiful.

After we left Kanab, we motored up Highway 89. We passed a few small towns that consisted of trading posts and rock shops or a few small houses and businesses. Many of the road-side businesses were shut down…a sign that ‘recovery’ is relative.

Highway 89 skirts the Dixie National Forest, and since we couldn’t check in to our next hotel until late, we decided to detour through the Forest. We took Highway 14 to 148 and then through 143, making a loop through both the Dixie National Forest and the Cedar Breaks National Monument. It was a great detour. We climbed to over 9,000 feet and saw the temperature drop from about 70 degrees to the low 50’s. At the peak, we encountered some serious remaining snow banks! What? We passed Navajo Lake and Panguitch Lake, saw an Elk ranch (with a paddock of Elk).

Cedar Breaks Vista

Cedar Breaks Vista

View from Cedar Breaks Scenic Byway

View from Cedar Breaks Scenic Byway

Panoramic view from Cedar Breaks

Panoramic view from Cedar Breaks

Snow

Snow on the Cedar Breaks Scenic Byway (approx 9000 feet, 52 degrees F)

Today's open road

Today’s open road – Route 48 to Panguitch

As we were on the way down the mountain, we saw what we thought was Bryce; it was, in fact, Red Canyon. We later drove through Red Canyon on our way to Bryce.

Red Canyon

Red Canyon

Red Canyon, Utah Arch

New meaning of drive-through at Red Canyon

Today’s drive was beautiful, memorable and vastly diverse. We went from high desert to dense forest and back to sandstone and rock. It was a great discovery drive and a beautiful day.

Of course, the dogs thought that the best part was attacking Tom after we got to the hotel.

When Dachshunds attack

When Dachshunds attack

Tomorrow, we’ll explore Bryce Canyon. We’re thrilled to see yet another natural wonder. Grand Canyon, Zion and now Bryce. What a trip!!!

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Touring Zion National Park

Day 31: Thursday, May 30, 2013
Visited: Zion National Park

We spent the day exploring Zion National Park.

Unfortunately, the park doesn’t allow pets on its shuttle system and only one of the trails is pet-friendly. So, we decided to board the girls at Doggy Dude Ranch just a few miles out of town. We’re glad we did. The three-page questionnaire and the detailed questions the owner at the Ranch asked us spoke volumes. Had our two girls been more socialized, they would have had a grand time chasing other small dogs around the outdoor play area, complete with doggy pool. However, we explained the issues with Jasmine and Juliet (especially the sensitive tummies), and they were more than happy to keep the dogs in the house. This is not your ordinary boarding kennel.

With the dogs safely and (somewhat) happily housed at the Ranch, we parked back at our hotel and hopped on to the Zion shuttle. The shuttle system for the park is fabulous. One shuttle goes back and forth through the town of Springdale, enabling park visitors to leave their cars at their hotels or in open parking lots outside the park. The park itself has very little available parking, so this makes great sense. Inside the park, the most picturesque road in the park is ONLY accessible by park shuttle during the busy summer season. Given the lack of parking and the impact of cars, this makes great sense. So, we got to the park and then hopped on the park’s scenic shuttle. All of this is provided at no cost (aside from park admission).

Yesterday’s views were just a precursor to the natural beauty we saw today. From the Virgin River to the Court of the Patriarchs, from Weeping Rock to the Temple of Sinawava…we drank in the beauty of this geological wonder. Here are just a fraction of the photos we took.

Tom and Mahgrit - Court of the Patriarchs

Tom and Mahgrit – Court of the Patriarchs

Zion National Park

Zion National Park – It’s all sandstone

Majestic canyon at Zion

Majestic canyon at Zion

Zion National Park - Carved by water and wind

Carved by water and wind

Virgin River - Zion National Park

Virgin River – Zion National Park

This canyon was carved by Virgin River

This canyon was carved by Virgin River and continues to evolve over time

Love the colors, unusual formations

Love the colors, unusual formations

Mahgrit at Zion National Park

Mahgrit at Zion National Park

Butterfly at the Virgin River

Butterfly at the Virgin River

Mahgrit tires of the paparazzi

Mahgrit tires of the paparazzi

Zion Panorama

Zion Panorama (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

We left the park around 1:30 or 2:00 and headed for lunch. We tried MeMe”s Cafe…recommended by the Doggy Dude Ranch people. This little cafe is known for their crepes. We tried the triple berry crepe with vanilla yogurt and Nutella. WHOOP! Tom had never tried Nutella before. What kind of deprived life has this man led? We also had steamed rice, veggie and chicken teriyaki bowls; we balanced healthy with…um…well, everything was yummy!

Triple berry and Nutella Crepe at Meme's

Triple berry and Nutella Crepe at MeMe’s Cafe

After lunch, we picked up the dogs. They were happy to see us, but it was clear that they weren’t negatively impacted by the Dude Ranch. Everyone was happy, including the persistent Jasmine (pet me…Pet Me…aren’t you going to PET ME?).

Many moods of Jasmine

The many moods of Jasmine. Okay, the ONE mood. PET ME!

It was a fabulous day, and we are kind of sorry that we didn’t book more time here. But we’re off to Bryce Canyon tomorrow…perhaps we’ll be equally enthralled with Bryce as we have been with the Grand Canyon and Zion. After Bryce, we believe we are going to go through the forests and green spaces of Utah, up into Wyoming to the Tetons and Yellowstone. After that, we’re contemplating going back down through Colorado and sprinting across the plains to Tennessee. We have up to three weeks more to meander across the country. We’re really not sure how we’re going to spend the time. But we do know that whatever we decide to do…it’s going to be yet another great adventure…

What a day

We left Flagstaff this morning and headed towards Zion. We hit some traffic getting out of town but after 20 or 30 miles we settled into our usual road less traveled and motored along. The scenery was fantastic. As we rolled along it kept changing. It can’t get any better than this; or can it?

We entered the Painted Desert. Holy cow! The colors are sensational. Each strata of rock in the mesas had a different hue. Mahgrit took tons of pictures and they are great but, this is something you have to see for yourself. Pictures can’t do it justice. We took a detour towards Tuba City because one of our books said this section was the best the desert had to offer. The book didn’t lie. It only got better and better. We saw a hand painted sign saying “dinosaur footprints” , well what the heck, we took the left turn. Guess what? There were real dinosaur footprints embedded in the rock, including the footprint of a small TRex. See Mahgrit’s pictures they are really good. We continued on to Tuba City. Ok little town with a cool trading post. Really nice stuff, not junk.

Left Tuba City and continued on toward Zion. We still had a long way to go. We left the Painted Desert area heading north. It can’t get any better than this. But wait, it does. The landscape continued to change. We went fro 6,000 feet to 8,000 feet to 7,000 etc. we changed altitudes so often that the popping in my ears was so frequent I thought that there was static on the IPad ;-).

We were down in a valley at 4,000 feet running parallel to a huge Mesa for 26 miles. The road made a hairpin turn and we were crossing the Colorado River over a huge gorge. Then we did dozens of switchbacks driving up and out of the valley up to 8,000 feet. Every time we thought the view couldn’t get any better …. It did!

We went from Arizona into Utah. Again there was a subtle change in the landscape every turn more beautiful than the one before. The last part of our journey took us into Zion National Park. Once again the senior park pass got us in for $0.00. How can you beat that. Well once in Zion things took a turn for the unbelievable. It is the most beautiful place I have ever been. We were driving down the road and Mahgrit starts to yell, ” I don’t know where to point the camera” . It was a true conundrum. Where was the best shot? We were surrounded by beauty.

Ok, we got to our hotel, got settled in, fed the girls, and went out to eat. See Mahgrit’s pictures of what we saw as we walked and from the small deck off of our room.

Tomorrow we are going to take a tour so we can both see the sights.

P.S. Did you notice I avoided the word AWESOME. 😉 but, it was.

Zion National Park: A ‘HOLY COW’ Moment

Day 30: Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Start: Flagstaff, AZ
End: Springdale, UT
Miles Driven: 263
Total Miles: 4,550

Today was an absolutely incredible day. We have seen so many amazing sights thus far, but today’s roads and vistas just blew us away.

There are so many beautiful places in this country, and I really consider Tom and I lucky to be able to see so many of these gems in this trip. We’re now a month into the journey, and we are neither tired of being on the road nor particularly in a hurry to return home. Yes, packing and unpacking is a pain. But the daily discovery of the wonders in our country…this is the trip we always dreamed of.

Anyway…on with today.

We started out going up Route 89 from Flagstaff. As we motored along, we started to see some incredible vistas. Little did we know that these views were just the beginning of a spectacular day.

Route 89

Route 89 – One of today’s open roads

A little while in to the trip, we saw a sign for Tuba City. We decided to make an impromptu stop there, and we were glad we did. While the vistas from Route 89 were great, Route 160 to Tuba City went through the heart of the Painted Desert. Rich red mesas and rock formations surrounded us. And a few miles down 160, we saw a sign for Dinosaur Tracks. Again, we decided to make a detour. And once again, we weren’t sorry.

We pulled up to some impromptu roadside stands and parked. We were immediately greeted by a young man, Dale, who began talking about the area and the incredible fossils there. We saw our first fossilized footprints in a matter of moments. Dale told us about the history of the area, showed us different areas of interest and different fossils and wowed us with the sights. The ‘guides’ work only for tips, so we gave him some cash and thanked him for his great tour. It turns out that this area could be one of the largest dinosaur track sites in the country. Judging by the hand-painted sign and the humble stands, it’s a pretty well-kept secret. Again, the road less travelled…

First dinosaur tracks

A few feet away from the parking area, you see your first tracks

Tom compares prints

Tom compares prints

Fossilized partial dinosaur skeleton Dinosaur Tracks

Fossilized partial dinosaur skeleton

Tom vs T-Rex

Tom vs baby T-Rex. T-Rex would squish Tom in one step!

Our guide Dale

Our guide Dale

Back on the road, we wound through some incredible country. High mesas, red canyons, massive rock formations, open prairie…we saw it all. Then, we reached the Glen Canyon area and the bridge over the Colorado River. Again, another unplanned stop…and another spectacular view.

Colorado River - Glen Canyon

View from the bridge across the Colorado River in the Glen Canyon area (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Back on the road, more wonderful views…more jaw-dropping moments like this:

Scenic View

Scenic View (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

We then made it to Utah! Of course, the first town across the border was Kanab. And as you may know, one of my favorite animal sanctuaries is in Kanab. Thus, our next unplanned stop occurred at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Utah State Border

Utah State Border

If you’ve ever watched the National Geographic Channel’s show “Dogtown,” then you’ve seen Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. They rescue, rehabilitate and adopt out animals from cats and dogs to horses, pigs, goats, rabbits and birds that may have been otherwise euthanized. Aside from their notoriety from the TV show, Best Friends is also known as the rescue organization that took in the Michael Vick pit bulls. Unfortunately, we were too late for a tour. But we did get to see the incredible canyon that is home for these animals and we got to chat with the people working at the sanctuary. And of course, Jasmine and Juliet were MORE than welcome in the visitor’s center and gift shop!

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

We soon said goodbye to Route 89 and hello to Route 9 to Zion.

Welcome to Zion National Park

Welcome to Zion National Park

Getting to our hotel in Springdale meant driving through Zion National Park. And all I could say when I saw the landscape was WOW!

WOW!

WOW!

HOLY COW!

HOLY COW!

And of course, as we were driving with our jaws on our laps, we were brought back down to earth by a local resident. He made us chuckle as he stopped traffic so he could go eat the flowers on the OTHER side of the road.

Munch Munch

Mmmm…those flowers look goooood!

We used Tom’s National Park Senior Pass again (FREE ENTRY FOR LIFE!) and reached our hotel. It’s by far the nicest La Quinta I’ve seen. And what a spectacular view from our balcony:

View from our balcony

View from our balcony

We walked to dinner–we’re close to everything. Tom had to try the Polygamy Porter (Why Have Just One?).

Polygamy Porter

Polygamy Porter – Why have just one?

It has been a long day of driving and “Holy Cow” moments. Tomorrow is promising to be even more inspirational! Of course, all this activity has just exhausted the girls. Juliet is particularly tired due to her digging through the doggie bag in the back seat and ALMOST breaking into the kibble bag. This little girl is going to be trouble…

ZZZZ

ZZZZ–All tuckered out from being bad!

Can you see yon canyon or what a gorgeous gorge

Sorry, I lost my head. I just didn’t want to say awesome again.

Mahgrit’s post once again says it all. The pictures she posted are only some that we took. We met some nice people which is not surprising but, what is surprising is we met some people from Burlington Vermont.

The Grand Canyon is one of the places I have always wanted to see. It did not disappoint. It is soooo huge. Pictures do not/cannot do it justice. Everyone needs to put this on their bucket list.

The girls are really doing well. They seem to like the stroller and are having less and less problems with all of the people who want to pet them. Today we took them out for awhile because the trail we were on was very quiet. They walked along side each other for a long way. However, on the ride back to the hotel they both were comatose.

So, who’da thunk that we would be eating Hawaiian plate lunches in Flagstaff? It wasn’t as good as we have had in Mauai but the last time I had Loco Moco was about 5 years ago.

The weather has been working with us all the way. We were told that it would be really hot at the canyon but, it was very cool. This enhanced the experience. Also, since we hunkered down for the Memorial Day Weekend we missed the huge crowds that were there over the weekend.

Tomorrow we begin our turn north to Zion and Brice canyons.

When you come visit be sure to ask to see the thousands (really) of pictures we have taken of this trip. We currently have over 1600. 😉

Very Grand Canyon

Day 29: Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Visited: Grand Canyon, Flagstaff
Miles Driven Today: 156
Total Miles: 4,287

We had a magnificent visit to the Grand Canyon today.

The plan was to get up early and get to the Canyon before the massive hordes of humanity. It worked out well! We were on the road before 8 am, and we reached the South Rim about 9:30. We found the parking lot at the Visitor’s Center about half full…not bad!

The Grand Canyon is one of the dog-friendly national parks. Dogs are allowed on all the trails above the rim. So, Jasmine and Juliet were our companions today. We used the doggie stroller and took them with us to the Canyon rim…and there we saw so much natural beauty that it was hard to fathom.

We visited the lookouts near the Visitor’s Center (crowded), and then started walking the trail above the Center. The crowd thinned out considerably, and we had a lovely, somewhat solitary stroll along the Canyon rim. We chatted with a few people (once again, we were asked about the doggie stroller…I should sell these!), but mainly, we just enjoyed the mild weather and beautiful vistas.

Spectacular Grand Canyon

Spectacular Grand Canyon – Click to Enlarge

Beautiful Grand Canyon Vistas

Beautiful Grand Canyon Vistas

Family picture on the South Rim

Family picture on the South Rim

Juliet enjoying the view from the stroller

Juliet enjoying the view from the stroller (just seconds before she jumped out!)

Grand Canyon, A beautiful day

A beautiful day at the Grand Canyon

Tom enjoying the view

Tom enjoying the view

After a few hours, we decided to get something for lunch. We made our way out of the park and down to the nearest town. We sat outside and ate our sandwiches in the bright, warm sun. It really was a perfect day! We also stopped at a fun Trading Post at the intersection of Hwy 180 and Hwy 64. They had some really cool stuff!

White-tailed deer

We spotted some white-tailed deer on the way out of the park

Double Eagle Trading Post

Double Eagle Trading Post

We had taken the scenic byway (Hwy 180) to the Canyon and went the same way back. It was a lovely drive…very few cars and lots of scenery. The open road pics are particularly inspiring today.

Today's Open Road

Today’s open road.

Today's open road

Today’s open road – what a fabulous view from that ranch house!

When we got back to Flagstaff, we walked around downtown. The shops mainly cater to the younger crowd at Northern Arizona U (right next door to our hotel). We scoped out restaurants and decided on something unexpected–Hawaiian plate lunches at Aloha Hawaiian BBQ! Yay!

Dinner? Without me?

Dinner? Without me?

Chicken Katsu, BBQ Chicken, Spam Musubi at Aloha Hawaiian BBQ

Chicken Katsu, BBQ Chicken, Spam Musubi at Aloha Hawaiian BBQ

Loco Moco at Aloha Hawaiian BBQ

Loco Moco at Aloha Hawaiian BBQ (Rice topped with a hamburger patty, gravy, two fried eggs and some macaroni salad)

Tomorrow, we’ll be driving for around 5 hours to reach our next destination–Zion National Park. We may stop in Kanab at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary if time permits. Dogtown has been one of my favorite rescue organizations for a very long time. I’m not sure if our pups will like Dogtown…but it will be interesting to see how they react!

Today, we crossed off yet another items on the ‘bucket list.’ And it was well worth the trip!