Up to the Tetons

Day 35: Monday, June 3, 2013
Start: Richfield, UT
End: Jackson, WY
Miles Driven Today: 418
Total Miles: 5,410

Today was a mega travel day. We decided to drive straight through to Jackson, Wyoming so we could spend a full day exploring the Tetons. We originally were going to stop at the Utah/Wyoming border, but I’m glad that we motored through and reached Jackson. The dogs were rarin’ to go!

Let's go!

Packing up the car. Juliet says, “Let’s GO!”

Once again, the scenery was incredible. We have found the Utah landscape absolutely breathtaking, ever-changing and a dream to drive.

Route 89 in Utah

Route 89 in Utah

Blue skies, open road, lovely drive

Blue skies, open road, lovely drive

Breathtaking Utah scenery

Breathtaking Utah scenery

Our journey to Jackson took about 10 hours total, including a few stops. We mainly took backroads, but there was a stretch of I-80 that couldn’t be avoided. Our route took us through Utah, into Wyoming, BACK into Utah, back to Wyoming, a quick flirt into Idaho and then solidly in Wyoming for the rest of the journey. Whew!

Wyoming! Yeeeehawwww!

Wyoming! Yeeeehawwww!

Winding road

Our route took us from Utah to Wyoming, back to Utah, back to Wyoming, Idaho then Wyoming

Wyoming was a mixture of large ranches and pastures surrounded by hills and mountains. The “Home on the Range” song kept playing in my head. And yes, we did see some antelope grazing amongst the cows!

Many ranches, cattle, sheep, goats and a couple of alpacas

Many ranches, cattle, sheep, goats and a couple of alpacas

Today’s travels skirted and went through a host of National Forests. In Utah, we started around the Manti-La Sal National Forest and then drove on the edge of the Uinta National Forest. In Wyoming, we went through the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests. As we approached Jackson, the road followed, crossed and played around the Snake River.

Bridger-Teton National Forest

We went through Bridger-Teton and Targhee National Forests today

Beautiful Bridger National Forest

Beautiful Bridger National Forest

We went through many small towns. Most had populations around 100. Afton, Wyoming was the largest town (aside from Jackson) that we saw along the way. It was a quaint little town with a really awesome sign!

Afton Wyoming

Afton, Wyoming

We really enjoyed the drive, but it was a long day. We were happy to reach our destination in Jackson–the Cowboy Village Resort. Cowboy Village is made up of individual cabins. Each cabin is complete with a kitchenette and sofa. We opted for a one-bedroom suite. The accommodations are really comfy but have the rustic feel of a cabin. But hey, if all cabins had Wifi, a kitchen, nice carpeting, granite countertops…I’d be going ‘rustic’ every day!

More of today's open road

More of today’s open road

Cowboy Village Resort

Cowboy Village Resort

Once again, the girls did great on the long ride. We did stop for dinner in Alpine, Wyoming and fed the girls before we fed ourselves! They are definitely getting more chummy. It’s great to see.

Closer every day

Closer every day

Tomorrow, we explore Grand Teton National Park. I can’t wait!

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Park-o-Rama

Day 34: Sunday, June 2, 2013
Start: Bryce Canyon City, UT
End: Richfield, UT
Miles Driven Today: 215
Total Miles: 4,992

Today was a scenic motor day. We decided to take the longer loop on Route 12 and Route 24 through Escalante and made some detours as well. It was another day of unbelievable views and quiet roads. Just our speed!

Wel left Bryce and were immediately blown away by a change in landscape. We entered the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument area (quite a large area) and were hit by a lovely open road and the beginning of our driving adventure.

Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument

Entry to the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument

We saw a sign for Kodachrome State Park, and we had to go. Who wouldn’t go to a park named Kodachrome? Right after the turn-off for the park, we saw a visitor’s center for Escalante. We stopped, chatted with the Ranger about both Escalante and Kodachrome, and motored on.

While Escalante was mainly made of a buff-colored stone, Kodachrome returned us to the iron-rich soil that we saw in Zion and Bryce. Deep terra cotta stonescapes surrounded us in this dramatic park. It was more a camping and hiking park, so our visit was short. But even on the main roads, we could see the bright beauty of this area…the reason for the park’s name. I would imagine that the landscape’s imagery changes dramatically throughout the day…it would be great to see.

Kodachrome State Park

Kodachrome State Park

Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument

Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument

Incredible vista in Escalante National Monument

Incredible vista in Escalante National Monument (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Escalante Vista

Escalante Vista

Route 12 wound in and out of Escalante, skirting into and out of the Dixie National Forest. It was a stark contrast of deep, lush greens and stark desert landscapes. We loved it. The changes in altitude and temperature were equally dramatic. At one point, we were at 9,800 feet; the temperature in Richfield was almost 30 degrees more than at the summit in Dixie National Forest.

Aspens in Dixie National Forest

Aspens in Dixie National Forest

We loved this route. Desert, deep red canyons, lush groves of Aspen, rich floral meadows, wide grazing land…it was all on our route.

The road less travelled

The road less travelled (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

At the intersection of Route 12 and Route 24 in Torrey, we took yet another detour to Capitol Reef National Park just a few miles East of the intersection. Once again, we were thrown into a canyon with thick walls of iron-rich red cliffs and dramatic stone formations. We went a few miles in to the visitor’s center and then took a bit of the scenic drive. However, we wanted to reach our destination at a reasonable hour, so we left and motored back West. Given what we saw on the way TO the park…we saw much of the majesty of this area.

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

Open road to Capitol Reef

Open road to Capitol Reef

We reached Richfield and our modest overnight accommodations and are now safely and comfortably settled for the night. Tomorrow, we’re driving all the way to Jackson, Wyoming. We’ll stay a couple of nights there so we can spend a full day exploring the Tetons. We then will go up to Yellowstone!

For you Jasmine and Juliet fans, the girls are doing GREAT. One of the things I’ve been noticing is the interaction between Jasmine and Juliet. Jasmine is starting to cuddle more with Juliet. In the car, on the bed, and in the crate, these two are together 24 x 7…it was bound to happen. Juliet’s assertiveness is also changing the alpha dynamics. I’m not sure which dog is alpha (they tend to go back and forth). I do know that at the end of this, the dogs will be a little better bonded. Buddies? Maybe not today, but I’m hopeful.

Pals

Pals?

Bryce Canyon Beauty

Day 33: Saturday, June 1, 2013
Visited: Bryce Canyon National Park

This is our third National Park in a week. We are in awe of all this country has to offer, all the wild and beautiful places that still exist and are being preserved for generations to come.

Today’s visit to Bryce Canyon was as good as could be. We got up early and took the first shuttle into the park. It was quiet and almost empty. The morning was bright and cool. Perfect.

The first shuttle stop was at Bryce Canyon. The bus let us off, and within a few steps, we had reached this magnificent vista. According to the park info, Bryce Canyon is not technically a canyon since it was not carved by running water; instead, the canyon was made by rainwater eroding the stone and, over time, making this unique landscape. I do have to say that I took about a hundred photos today. You can thank me for only publishing a few of them… 😉

Tom and Mahgrit at Bryce Point

Tom and Mahgrit at Bryce Point

Magnificent Vista at Bryce Canyon

Magnificent Vista at Bryce Canyon

Unusual Bryce Canyon strata called Hoodoos

Unusual Bryce Canyon strata called Hoodoos (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

We took the bus to each of the stops and checked out the different canyons and views. I especially liked Inspiration Point.

Hoodoos everywhere at Inspiration Point

Hoodoos everywhere at Inspiration Point

This Hoodoo reminded us of an alien. Could it have been an alien race that carved these canyons? Nah…

Hoodoo or Alien?

Hoodoo or Alien?

We walked along the canyon rim trail from one of the points, Sunset Point, to the next vista, Sunrise point. In between, we visited the lodge. It had great, rustic cabins that were just steps away from the canyon rim. I’d love to stay at one of these someday! The lodge house itself was the original lodge put up by a family that now seems to have the monopoly on lodging and restaurants at Bryce Canyon City.

Bryce Canyon Lodge

Bryce Canyon Lodge

After touring the park through the shuttle system, we went back to the hotel and picked up the car (and the pups). We drove out to Rainbow Point, the furthest driving point in the park, and had a picnic lunch. We then stopped at all the vistas on the way back to the hotel. This part of the park is not served by the shuttle system. However, the shuttle gave us a great overview of the park and allowed us to determine how busy the park was (not) and if we’d have issues driving to different points. We spent the rest of the time exploring on our own. What was surprising was the contrast between the vast forests and the dramatic canyons. Both the Grand Canyon and Zion were less densely rich in forest, while Bryce was a mix of the two. Hence today’s open road.

Today's open road to Rainbow Point

Today’s open road to Rainbow Point

There were more great strata at the different vista points, including this great Natural Bridge.

Natural Bridge - Bryce Canyon

Natural Bridge – Bryce Canyon

We saw a lot of ground squirrels and birds in the park, but our most dramatic encounter with nature was the Pronghorn Antelope that were grazing by the side of the road. We stopped and I got out of the car to take this picture. It didn’t phase the antelope one bit.

Pronghorn Antelope on the roadside

Pronghorn Antelope on the roadside

I do have to say that three National Parks in a week is a lot. By the end of the day’s sightseeing, I was getting a bit jaded. “Oh yeah, another breathtakingly beautiful vista. Click.”

Oh the places you will go...

Oh the places you will go… (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

After a hard day of sight-seeing, we had some down time. I did a little artwork, while Tom and Jasmine surfed Facebook and then took a well-deserved nap.

Tom and Jasmine check out Facebook

Tom and Jasmine check out Facebook

All that sight-seeing makes everyone sleepy

All that sight-seeing makes everyone sleepy

Tomorrow, we start heading North towards Yellowstone. However, we are going to take the scenic route. At this point, is there any other route but scenic?

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!!!

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…

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!