Thursday, October 19, 2017

Hanging Out in Virgin


DSC08689                                                               Virgin River near La Verkin, UT


We all wanted to hike on Saturday morning but away from the Zion crowds, so we decided on the Hurricane Rim trail in nearby Hurricane.  As we were getting ready to leave the wind picked up dramatically, along with blowing dust, which made it feel pretty cold.  Laurelee was driving and we all decided hiking up on a ridge was not a good place to be, but she remembered a trail along the Virgin River where she and Libby had walked once before. It turned out to be a good choice as we were fairly protected.

Laurelee, Jim and Chris on the Confluence Trail, which starts at Confluence Park in La Verkin.

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Since Jim doesn’t swim there was no danger in him actually swinging off into the river.

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We discovered this rusty old car that must have crashed down from the rim.

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The trail runs along the river for two miles with nice scenery, then climbs up out of the canyon to the road right near River Rock Roasting Co, a popular coffee shop.

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We thought about stopping for a cup, but the line was long and Jim and Chris had decided to go see the new Bladerunner movie that afternoon (Jim’s birthday present) so we turned around.

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It was a pleasant hike even if we did eat a little blowing sand on the way back. There are other trails branching off that we would have done if not for the weather and time constraints.

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By the way, Jim and Chris both thought Bladerunner 2049 was an excellent movie.

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On Sunday we thought we would try the Hurricane Rim trail again, this time joined by Andre and Rose, who pulled in on Saturday afternoon just after we got back from our hike. Jim bailed on this one since we left too early.

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The trail climbs quickly to Panorama Point. From left, Andre, Rose, Laurelee and Libby, and Chris.

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Good views of Hurricane.

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Looking down into the Virgin River Canyon we could see the Hurricane Canal below, a hand excavated irrigation canal completed in 1907 to divert water from the river.

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Chris, Laurelee, Libby and I turned around here after three miles, while Andre and Rose continued on another mile up the rim until they had a view of our campsites.

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We only saw a couple of hikers and bikers along the way, a good choice for a Sunday morning. Libby was ready for a nap on the way home.

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That afternoon Jim and Chris took a look at the Lazy Daze to figure out what parts they might need to try and repair our vacuum leak. Chris had the same problem with air coming out the defrost and did a cheap fix, so he thought he could repair ours in the same way. It is nearly impossible to access the tubing or canister to determine if there is a hole in the line or the check valve has failed, and from what we read it’s about a $1,000 repair at a Ford dealer since they have to remove the A/C for access. Jim had already ordered and picked up the main part for the repair, a vacuum canister, but they needed new tubing and some other connectors to bypass the old one. On Monday they went to the auto parts store to get what was needed and spent a couple hours working on it. Jim turned on the engine and revved it some and the air was still blowing out the vents, but until we drive off to dump in a few days we won’t know for sure if the fix actually worked. Stay tuned.

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That evening we had a little happy hour gathering for Jim’s birthday.

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Tuesday was errand day for everyone. We had mail to pick up at the post office and UPS store, needed a new bathroom door latch at an RV place in St. George (which of course they didn’t have),  visited the state liquor store, worked out at the Washington Community Center, and picked up some things at Walmart. At the RV dealer we spent some time looking at Glacier Peak 5th wheels. We really liked one of the floor plans and it sure would be nice having a larger and more comfortable living space, but it’s hard to wrap our heads around also having to buy a big truck to tow it with, and having to drive it as our primary means of transportation. It’s still fun to look.

Everyone was ready for a hike on Wednesday and Andre had suggested a new-to-us trail up off Kolob Terrace Road, the Wildcat Canyon trail in Zion National Park. Jim decided to stay home and babysit Libby since dogs aren’t allowed on the Zion trails. We took two cars so we could make it a one-way 5 mile hike, with another couple mile detour to Northgate Peaks.

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It was a cloudy day and surprisingly warm at 7,500’. Most of the leaves were already off the trees at this elevation.

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After dropping down into the canyon and crossing a dry creek, we climbed up the ridge on the other side. It was a dreary day for photos.

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Looking down into Wildcat Canyon.

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Hazy views into Zion.

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Our mile long detour to Northgate Peaks was the most scenic part of the hike.

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We found a good rock outcropping with a view for lunch. Chris, Laurelee, Andre and Rose.

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Coming back we took another short detour for some photo ops.

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It was a pleasant hike of eight miles with only 500’ of climbing involved. Probably one of the easier hikes in Zion. Of course had we not left a car at the start it would have meant hiking back all that way, and I doubt any of us were up for that.

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Jim had a good day taking Libby for walks on the BLM roads around our site, and letting her hang out with him in our Lazy Daze. She’s a sweet dog.

Looking forward to more hikes and company during our second week here. As many times as we’ve been here we have yet to grow tired of this beautiful area.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Few Days in Zion


IMG_1911                                           Bridge over the Virgin River along the Pa’Rus trail

Without advance planning it has become almost impossible to get a campsite in Zion National Park, but I spent over a week checking the reservation site multiple times a day and finally found a cancellation for three nights. Although not very level, it turned out to be a great site with a view and an electric hookup in the RV friendly A loop.

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The price has gone up to $30/night since we last stayed here in 2010, but with the senior pass we thought $15 was a bargain for the convenience of being right in the park, since we didn’t have to use the car at all during our stay. It’s probably the nicest national park campground we’ve stayed in.

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After we arrived on Tuesday we went for a walk on the Pa’Rus trail with a detour to the Human History Museum to check out the “Artists and National Parks” exhibit. There were some nice paintings but we like our friend Bobbie’s work better.

Some scenes from the trail, one of the most scenic easy walks in the park.

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That evening we just walked across the bridge to Springdale and had dinner at Zion Brewery. Our quinoa burger was good and the beer was okay, but the service left a bit to be desired. We were sad to see that the Zion Theater next door to the brewery is now closed and will be reopened as a hotel and conference center next summer. We enjoyed seeing a few movies there on the giant IMAX screen on past visits.

On Wednesday we planned to hop the shuttle and take a hike on one of the trails in the canyon, but Jim had some issues trying to order his medication so we got off to a very late start. It was after 11 when we walked over and found a Disneyesque line. What you can’t see in this photo is that behind the vegetation on the right are probably a hundred more people waiting to board.

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After watching one bus being boarded and the line barely moving, we changed plans and decided to hike the Watchman trail, just across the road. We had only done this hike once, the first time we visited Zion, and didn’t remember much about it. It was not crowded and the scenery is pretty spectacular, so it was a good choice. It’s about a mile and a half to the overlook and uphill most of the way.

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Looking down on the trail.

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After the hike we saw that there was nobody waiting for the shuttle so we hopped on for a ride up to the lodge, where a soft serve swirl cone was waiting for us. Unfortunately there were more people waiting to come back so the buses were standing room only. After being bounced around standing on the bus we decided to get off at Canyon Junction and walk back down the Pa’Rus trail for two miles. We’re always surprised at how few people are ever on this trail.

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Knowing our time was short here, I was in the mood for a bike ride up the canyon after we got back. Early evening is the perfect time for a light show on the peaks, and with the shuttles running there is almost no other traffic so you feel like you have the road to yourself.

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Jim had some computer stuff he wanted to do, so he suggested that I take the shuttle up canyon early Thursday morning to avoid the crowds and do a hike. He must have read my mind, because I had already been thinking of that. I was out the door at 8, filled my water bladder at the visitor center and was on the shuttle by 8:10. Having previously hiked all of the trails in the canyon, I was trying to decide where I wanted to go, and remembered that we had only hiked the East Rim trail to Observation Point from the top down, accessing it from the easier East Mesa Trail, so it would be new doing it from the bottom up. I was the only one left on the bus after the others got off at Angels Landing trailhead, so when I arrived at Weeping Rock there were only a couple of other people there at the restroom.

Nice way to be greeted at the trailhead.

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Although quite cold because the sun hadn’t reach the canyon yet, the constant uphill from the start warmed me up pretty fast.

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The first mile and a half or so is steep switchbacks of broken pavement.

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This is looking down on the trail where it intersects the one to Hidden Canyon, another great ZIon hike.

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In about a mile and a half the trail goes through Echo Canyon, with its colorful swirls of rock.

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There was a couple in front of me and I kept one of them in this photo for perspective. Zion makes one feel very small.

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Finally after a couple miles of darkness there was light. On this section I hiked over a mile without seeing another person, so it is possible to get some solitude even in an extremely popular national park.

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This trail has such diverse scenery which helps distract from the 2,200’ of climbing

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It was a hazy view from Observation Point. There were only around 10 people at the top and dozens of little ground squirrels that were so bold as to climb up our boots and legs. It was hard to eat a snack and I didn’t dare sit down since I wasn’t crazy about them crawling all over me.

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Looking down on Angels Landing and the Virgin River. It’s much more impressive in person.

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On the four mile downhill trek back the sun had finally reached the canyon. I passed quite a few people making their way up, but not as many as I expected. It was a lovely morning in one of my favorite places.

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And I even found some fall colors along the way.

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That afternoon we took a walk into Springdale and browsed in some of the outdoor gear shops. I’ve been searching for a new backpack for awhile now as mine is falling apart but just can’t find one that feels as comfortable.

Our time in Zion was up yesterday so we moved down the road to a boondock site near Virgin. Our Lazy Daze friend Chris had arrived the day before, and Laurelee and her dog Libby showed up about an hour after we did. Our favorite spot was taken but we all managed to find fairly level sites across the road, where we plan to hang out for awhile.

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We spotted this tiny home on our walk last night.

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Today is Laurelee’s birthday and she wants to go for a hike, so we’re heading out soon.  Jim’s birthday is Monday and I have a feeling a hike will not be on his wish list for his special day Smile