Day 1, Sunday 24th August: Caught an early Southwest flight into Vegas, rented a small SUV, (a Kia Sportage) from Alamo, picked up a cooler and some supplies, visited a couple of Las Vegas libraries (of course) ... and headed for Springdale, Utah. First 2 nights booked at the really nice, tranquil,|
picturesque Canyon Ranch Motel. It's about 170 miles start to finish, and we get there in plenty of time to run into the park for some great sunset photos. Chicken fried steak dinner at Wildcat Willys ends the first of several perfect days!
Day 2, Monday 25th August: Up before the crack of dawn and we drove all the way through Zion, from the west entrance to the east and then back again, stopping to do the Canyon Overlook Trail, (2 miles RT - spectacular!), and again to get some shots of a herd of big horn sheep crossing the road and bouncing around on the rocks!
At least I got shots ... Deb somehow forgot to bring the memory card for her camera! So once we realized that, a quick run back to the room to get it and then back into Zion catching the bus ride to Riverwalk (1 mile RT) to the Narrows, and visiting all the parts we missed last year.
It's a zero mile day. Except for the numerous miles Deb made me walk! I know you probably think I'm kidding but she conned me into taking an "easy 3/4 mile walk to the Lower Emerald Pool" which somehow turned into a 3 mile mountain climbing expedition! All that walking and climbing gave me quite an appetite, so it's off to Switchback Jack's Sports Bar for a big old bacon cheddar burger and fries, and a couple of delicious Kings Peak Porters.
Day 3, Tuesday 26th August: Check out and head up 15 for daybreak at Zion's Kolob Canyon. Ok, it was still dark when we arrived, but when daybreak came it was really cool! After that, continue north to Cedar City, and after visiting the libraries, hang a right to Cedar Breaks, a brief stop at Panguitch Lake, a little longer stop at Red Canyon,
to take a look at Butch Cassidy Wash and then on to Tropic and the very over-priced Bryce Country Cabins for the next 2 nights. Seriously, I know I'm paying more for the location, and the all wood rustic cabins are kinda cute, but no pool, no hot tub, no services at all - I expect a little more for $100+ a night. It's approximately 150 miles from start to finish.
Day 4, Wednesday 27th August: Bryce Canyon and a walk through the Queens Garden trail. According to local legend this is a moderate and fairly short loop, (1.5 miles RT). When you get to the bottom, you find out they lied, it's a dead end, and you have to take another trail, the Navajo Loop, (another 1.5 miles), which then leads you to a choice of 2, one being 1.6 miles (2 Bridges),
and the other being 1.7 (Wall Street), both of which are UPHILL ALL THE WAY in order to get back out!
A short ride back out to Tropic, dinner at Ruby's once again (the finest all you can eat buffet on the planet!), and back into Bryce for sunset. Almost a zero mile day.
The links - These websites were very helpful in planning the trip.
Day 5, Thursday 28th August: Originally planned to be the busiest day of the vacation, I had hoped to include the Paria 'ghost town/western movie set' and the Wave. We started out by visiting Kodacrome Park, with one very easy hike to Shakespeare's Arch and then a bigger (2 miles maybe ... I'm detecting a disturbing trend here, the signs say .8 miles ... when you get to that point you find you have to take another trail to get back! It's all a diabolical plot to kill me!), hike and climb through the Angel's Palace Trail, after which we hit the Cottonwood Canyon Road with a quick stop to see Grosvenor Arch.|
Upon reaching Route 89 I decided to hang a left instead of a right, and we drove down to dip our toes in Lake Powell.
After playing in the sand and the really warm water for a while we headed back toward Kanab, figuring on a short stop at the Paria town, and the Toadstools on the way. Well, the toadstools turned out to be a 2 mile hike in zero shade, very hot desert conditions just to look at a rock formation in the shape of a toadstool, (we didn't go in, we read the sign), and the Paria movie set apparently got burned down by some vandals a couple of years ago, and has never been rebuilt! I had booked a room at the historic Parry Lodge in Kanab. (Nice place, all the old western movie stars used to stay there back in the 30's, I bet they didn't eat there though ... crappy food), so we ended up hitting the pool and hot tub, and spending the evening comparing travel notes with a couple of guys who were traveling a very similar route to ours. Approximately a 120 mile day.
About the Wave - I discovered during my online trip planning, that it's a no-go! Apparently it's a full days hike, and because they restrict the number of people who can get there on any given day, you have to apply for a permit 4 months in advance!! Oh well ... I would have had a hard time hiking for 5 or more hours in the desert in August anyway!
Day 6, Friday 29th August: Shoot down to the Toroweap Overlook to see the Grand Canyon from a different perspective. Stay at the Ambassador Inn in St. George, before heading back to Vegas. Today we'll drive about 200 miles.
Ok, that was an understatement! First, you don't shoot down to Toroweap - it's 61 miles of twisting, uphill and downhill, single lane dirt, gravel and rock road .... and at the end of it the wildest, most incredible views of the canyon and the Colorado River! There was literally no one else there but us, checking the visitor log there were only 4 people there yesterday, (yup ... the whole day!). It's sad in a way that the road there will probably put off most visitors, but in another way it's a good thing - it would be a totally different, (and much less satisfying), experience if it were paved road and anyone could do it, not to mention it would be far more damaging to the environment.
After spending a few hours poking around Toroweap, daring ourselves to approach the edge for some dramatic photos, and watching a family of California Condors (WOW - incredible birds!), lazily riding the updrafts, we decided to hit the trail again back toward St. George for the night, not really expecting anything else from the day. Shortly after passing the ranger station we came to a fork in the road. The left turn, leading to Mt. Trumbull also appeared to be the best way to get to St. George so that's the way we went ... very fortuitous as it turned out, since this was yet another exciting and scenery packed drive, with lots more of the same twisting, uphill and downhill, single lane dirt, gravel and rock road that we had driven on the way in, and a couple of nail-biting switchbacks thrown in for good measure! I should also mention we passed a couple of motorcycles heading the opposite way while we were coming back out from Toroweap. Hope you made it ok guys .... that's a hell of a road to take a bike on!
Arriving too early to settle in for the day, we decided to take a ride around St. George and do some exploring. Naturally we found the library, and then I happened to see a sign for Snow Canyon. Having absolutely no idea what it was I followed the signs and tried to ignore the Garmin which was sending us down dead end roads again! What I found at the end of the road was yet another small hidden gem among all the hidden gems that Utah possesses. Snow Canyon is a rockhounds dream ... a virtual candy store of different types and ages of rock!
Day 7, Saturday 30th August: Unfortunately I still haven't found anyone willing to pay me to be on vacation, so we have to hoof it back to Vegas and our flight home. 130 miles.
This is definitely way too little time for what I want to see, and I doubt I'm going to get another trip here for a while ..... I really seriously have to think about relocating! I NEED my Jeep and my bike down here!
Second opinions - Other people's stories and photos.
I will however give it up for Kia - the Sportage we rented got us everywhere we wanted to go in spite of the gravel, dirt, hills and rocks I drove across, and got us good gas mileage too.