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!

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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!

On the Road to Flagstaff

Day 28: Monday, May 27, 2013
Start: Albuquerque, NM
End: Flagstaff, AZ
Miles Driven Today: 333
Total Miles: 4,131

Today we motored from Albuquerque to Flagstaff in preparation for our visit to the Grand Canyon tomorrow. We looked into staying at one of the lodges at the Canyon, but they aren’t dog-friendly; that would mean having to kennel the dogs during our visit. Not acceptable! The Grand Canyon does allow pets on the trails above the rim, so we won’t have issues with bringing them with us. So Flagstaff won the hospitality battle.

The drive from Albuquerque to Flagstaff was a straight shot on I-40. Not much to see for long distances, but we did still enjoy the ride.

Overpass in Albuquerque

Overpass in Albuquerque

Tom loves this town

Tom loves this town…or, at least, the name. How do you pronounce this?

Fort Courage of F-Troop Fame

Fort Courage of F-Troop Fame

We crossed the Continental Divide while still in New Mexico and then decided to stop at the ‘historic’ Richardson’s Trading Post in Gallup. This ‘historic’ post turned out to be closed, but even if it hadn’t been, we wouldn’t have stopped. It was a large pawn shop with heavy grates across the windows. Thanks, but no thanks.

We did, however, stop at the historic El Rancho hotel on Route 66. This hotel has seen a host of stars over the years, and their upper lobby has signed photos from most of those who have stayed at this legendary lodge. We stopped in to check it out. It was pretty cool!

El Rancho Gallup Lobby

El Rancho Gallup Lobby

It was also cool to be back on Route 66. In New Mexico and Arizona, a lot of Historic Route 66 is now I-40…not too quaint. At 75 mph, the landscape just whips by…I miss our meandering.

Welcome to Arizona

Welcome to Arizona

As we were driving along, I saw that Winslow, Arizona was on our way. I couldn’t remember why the town was familiar. I Googled it, and nothing came up. But as we were driving along, we saw billboards advertising the Meteor Crater. Tom mentioned that the crater was in a movie…Starman! And then it hit me. I knew Winslow because that’s where Jeff Bridges was trying to reach in the movie! Of course, we had to visit the crater.

The Meteor Crater now has a visitor center, walking paths and lookouts on the rim, and guided tours. Of course, all this comes with a cost–$15 per person. Eeek. But we went anyway. The dogs stayed in the car (it was a cool day today) as we visited the crater. It was ENORMOUS. The visitor center, especially the ‘movie’…AKA an informercial for B612, an organization striving to protect humanity through a meteor early detection and defense system, was cheesy, but the crater…spectacular. You can see my panoramic photo, below. It was well worth the stop. We thought about stopping at Bearizona, a drive-through animal park, but the bad reviews made us motor on by.

Incredible, Enormous Meteor Crater near Winslow, AZ

Incredible, Enormous Meteor Crater near Winslow, AZ (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Great sign near the Meteor Crater

Great sign near the Meteor Crater

As we approached Flagstaff, we decided to get off the increasingly busy highway and to (once again) drive Historic Route 66. It was the right choice. Empty roadway, a spectacular open road, and passing a vintage Howard Johnson’s Inn and Restaurant along the way…special! We reached our hotel after passing a bit of the downtown area and are now comfortably settled for the evening.

Today's Open Road - Route 66 outside of Flagstaff

Today’s Open Road – Route 66 outside of Flagstaff

Back on Route 66

Back on Route 66

Tomorrow, we get up early (Tom says, “Um, HOW early??”) and go to the South Rim of Grand Canyon. But for tonight, we’re relaxing after a long and happy driving day.