I got up at 3am hoping to get to the canyon edge and take some star pictures before the sun came up. Unfortunately it was already too light by the time I got there. I’ve never been to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon before this and I didn’t know what to expect. It turns out there’s a very nice lodge there that would have been fun to stay at. After arriving I immediately hiked out to the end of Bright Angel Point, which extends quite a ways into the canyon. I was the first one there and it was still pretty dark. I spent the next hour or two fiddling with my camera and taking various shots. None are really great, but a few turned out alright. That didn’t take away from the scenery though. It was breathtaking. I like the North Rim. I’d definitely go back.
Knowing that I need to be at my dad’s house this weekend, the Grand Canyon is a long ways away. I decided it was time to head for home. I made it as far as Winnemucca, listening to Seneca while driving though some very wide open country. I stayed at Candlewood Suites in Winnemucca. Reasonable rates and very nice rooms. I wish the rooms that I stay in for business travel were this nice.
Pics of the day…
Well, I made it to Monument Valley. It didn’t do it for me. Some places are a little too commercial. I keep wanting to check to see if I still have my wallet. It also attracts an interesting group of people. There’s a road to the valley floor from the the visitor’s center. I drove down it a little ways. It makes the road to the bottom of Canyonlands seem like a freeway. There was a guy from Tennessee working his way down it in a Camaro. Slowly, very slowly. Of course those of use with more appropriate vehicles either had to wait or try to find a way around him. I don’t think I would have made the same decision.
I made it almost all the way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The campground was full, but an inn near the entrance had a room. Ok. Another shower. Works for me. Nice people, nice place, nice meal.
Here are the pics of the day.
I discovered that there are two entrances to Canyonlands National Park. One south of Moab (Needles) and the other north (Island in the Sky). Island in the Sky is the closest to Moab so I went there. My plan was to do a bit more sightseeing then find a hotel with a shower and good Internet. It ended up being a long and adventurous drive.
I began with all the usual stops. The scenery is amazing as you might guess. I still haven’t figured out how to capture the immensity in a photograph. It’s just huge and nearly as interesting outside the park to the north as in the park to the south.
The morning was spent at all the usual stops and taking pictures of many of the views that everyone else has taken pictures of. Fun and spectacular. In the afternoon, I decided to travel off the beaten path. If you have a 4WD vehicle there’s a road you can follow that takes you all the way down to the Colorado River. It begins with a stretch of road that’s glued a couple of thousand feet up a cliff face and goes on from there. While I’m not in the habit of driving off the road even on flat ground this makes you very sensitive to where your wheels are. The drive was very fun and my Xterra did an awesome job.
Here are the pics.
It started out as a miserably rainy morning. I went out for breakfast where I spoke with a very nice couple from Dallas at the counter with me, she’s originally from Delhi, he’s from Bangalore. They are vacationing in Moab and had driven there from Denver the day before. We had been talking about traveling a bit when she mentioned that her boss had recommended Fisher Towers. It was only about 40 minutes away and seemed as good as any other destination on a rainy morning. So I went there first thing. I got some nice pictures of the cloud shrouded buttes and mesas in the area then took the La Sal mountain loop. Most of it was in fog, but the portions I did see were very alpine and very nice.
I spent the afternoon going through the portion of Arches that I hadn’t seen the day before. The crowds weren’t quite as bad and the arches were pretty cool. On the way back I took a detour on a 4WD road that headed north out of the park. Brutal drive! I’ve never been on a more washboardy road.
Here are the pics.
I usually use Google maps to give me a route to my next destination, even if I don’t make it there. Google maps has an “avoid highways” option that usually works pretty well. Today it worked a bit too well. I asked for the route from Grand Junction to Moab avoiding highways. The road started out as a reasonable two lane state highway then progressively got worse. After crossing the Utah state line it turned into a combination of gravel and pavement. Eventually I was instructed to take a slight right which put me on a dirt road paralleling some railroad tracks. When I got to the two foot deep washout in the middle of the road I decided that maybe I was avoiding highways a little too much and asked for another route. The alternate route was pretty much freeway but at least I got there.
I spent the afternoon in the areas of Arches National Park closest to the entrance. This included Park Avenue, Windows, and Delicate Arch. It’s pretty crowded here. I tended to avoid the hikes that everyone else was taking. I’ll need to come back here sometime before Memorial Day weekend next time.
Here are the pictures of the day.
The intent today, of course, was to finally make it to Moab and, of course, I haven’t made it there yet. I started the day by driving to Josie’s cabin at the end of the road that my campground is located on. There are petroglyphs along the way; a lot of them as it turns out. Josie was a homesteader who settled deep in what is now Dinosaur National Monument. She built a cabin and took care of the place from the age of 40 until she died at the age of 94. It’s a very peaceful and tranquil place and very rustic.
From there my intent was to drive to Moab. I got as far as Dinosaur (a town, actually a developed intersection) where I met Cool Judy at a the Conoco station. Cool Judy is interesting to talk to and she had a lot to say. She lived all over western Oregon before moving to Colorado. Her boys are working in the oil fields now. She said that I couldn’t leave the area without visiting Echo Park. It would only take an hour or so. Up to that point in time I had never ignored Cool Judy’s advice, so what the heck. Her time estimate with a bit off, quite a bit in fact, but it was AMAZING! The canyon goes down and down and down. Every time you turn a corner it’s a different incredible view. Thank you Cool Judy.
Here are the pics from the day.
Today was dinosaur day. I had planned to stop by the visitor center only briefly, but it was so interesting I ended up camping nearby. The geology is incredible. What an amazing variety of formations all mashed together. It was also beautiful. This is a terrific time to visit. The trees are that early spring bright green and it’s warm enough to be comfortable into the evening, but not hot.
I took a lot of pictures. This is just a small sample to give you an idea of the area.
Today I drove from Idaho Falls to Rock Springs, Wyoming. I took a detour along the way to eat lunch in Jackson. I’ve never been there before. It’s definitely a place for tourists. I swung north a little to get some pictures of the Tetons, but didn’t go any further. I’ll save that for another time. The trip across Wyoming is nothing but enormous wide open spaces. Rock Springs is pretty isolated. AT&T doesn’t seem to cover this town. Certainly no 4G.
Here are a few pics from today. Mostly scenery.
On Tuesday I drove from Boise to Idaho Falls. I drove east on I-84 then turned onto U.S. 20 at Mountain Home. Two lanes from there to Idaho Falls. BTW, speed limits in Idaho are 75 on the freeway and 65 on other open roads. Quite civilized given the large wide open spaces.
I ate lunch at Soldier Creek Brewing Company in Fairfield, Idaho. There is not much in this part of the world, but the people were friendly and the food was good.
As I drove along the weather got pretty grim and rained on and off. My goal for the day was Craters of the Moon National Monument. Craters of the Moon is the youngest volcanic region in the U.S and has some pretty interesting sights. Most of the pictures below are from there. At around 6pm it was getting very dark due to the weather so I decided to call it a day and head for Idaho Falls.
In Idaho Falls I did a survey of the hotels. Many were full, most were more than I wanted to pay for. I ended up at Le Ritz and got their spring special of $75/night. That’s pretty hard to beat. It’s quite nice. I recommend it. I ate dinner at Jaker’s just up the road. Friendly waitress. Good steakhouse food. I ordered the short ribs, way too much. I couldn’t get through half of it.
Here are today’s pics…