6/30 - An Awesome Hike!

Today we decided to do what I thought would be a more challenging hike. We hiked to the end of the Riverwalk Hike, where the Hike through the Narrows began, and set off. 

The Narrows isn't an actual trail, it's the riverbed. So to hike it, we waded through the river. Occasionally there was a bit of rocky land on one side or another, but mostly it was through the water. 

The river bed took us between towering cliffs of unbelievable beauty. 

I don't know how to describe this, other than to say I had as much fun on this hike as I have every had. 

And then, because that wasn't enough for one day, we drove to the Moqui Cave, just outside of Kanab. It used to be owned by Garth Chamberlain, and is now run by his grandchildren. Garth had an interesting life. According to the young lady running the shop, Garth's father had six wives when he moved to Utah. As the territory became a state, Thomas faced the choice of leaving or facing the law. He decided to stay and paid $100 and one year in jail for each wife (him, not the wife), then settled down with a huge family - something like 20 sons and 20 daughters. Garth was one of the younger ones.  He graduated from Brigham Young University and played for the Pittsburg Steelers in in 1942, and he liked to travel. He traveled during a time when, if you found something cool, you just took it, without worrying about it's historic value or country of origin. So he had a lot of very old Mayan artifacts. 
Eventually he bought the cave, used it as a tavern for awhile, and now it holds his many collections. What interested me, though, was his collection of dinosaur tracks. Very cool!
One more stop before going home - to the grocery store for some sunburn gel, and more factor 50 sunscreen.

6/29 - A Long Hard Hike

Today we took on another, harder hike called the Watchtower Hike. It's called a "moderate" hike, and it's up a good bit up the mountain side. We started on the trail that runs beside the road. There are a lot of little critters here, mostly lizards. This toothy little gopher kept popping in and out of his hole to see if we were still there. 
Right where the rougher trail starts, we found a rattlesnake. I didn't get a good picture of the snake because Randy insisted I not get too close. If he hadn't been there, I probably would have knelt down a foot from it, gotten a great picture, and died.
But I lived (for now), so on to the hike! I'd say about 70% of the hike was switchbacks, because the grade was so steep that there was no other way to go up it. Randy, with his hiking experience and general fitness, did way better than me.
I would use any excuse to stop for a moment and catch my breath. Fortunately, there was always a ready-made excuse - stopping to take in the beautiful view, which got better and better as we climbed.
But we just kept climbing. Randy stopped at a tiny stream, really just a trickle of water over the rocks, to wet our neckcloths. He offered to pour some of that cool water over my head and I gratefully said yes. This tiny bit of water made a huge difference!
The switchbacks kept getting shorter and shorter. Eventually (finally!) we reached the top. And I would never hesitate to say the view was worth every step!
Then, of course, we had to hike back down! Downhill hiking is harder on the legs but much easier on the lungs. I didn't stop as many times, although I did refresh at the little stream again.

When we got back at ground level, we went to the banks of the Virgin river. Randy took a quick dip and I just rested and breathed. Here was where we ate our PB&J sandwiches today. We take these every day that we hike, and they work out just fine - they don't spoil and they provide a lot of energy.
Personally, I was whipped, but it was a perfectly wonderful hike and worth every bit of effort! We headed back to the RV to relax for the night, but a big storm blew in. Where we are parked, the wind whips through pretty hard. I worried a bit about our awnings, then fell asleep.

6/28 - North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Today we drove almost 100 miles to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. A long drive, rising up to greater than 8,400 feet, but through some nice scenery. 
We passed through one section, a few miles long, of burnt forest. There were signs all along the way telling us not to report smoke, which we thought was strange. Later we learned that controlled fires were being started to support the natural process of the land. Years of fighting all fires left things out of kilter, so now rangers are working to correct that. In this area the ground was green again, so it couldn't have burned too recently.
And then we made it to the Canyon.  Everyone agrees - you can take all the pictures you want, but you will never capture the feeling of standing on the edge, looking across at all that space.
I still love the scruffy, hardy trees that grow around here. They have to work so hard at living, and they still manage grow in such imaginative ways!
The huge crevice reaching across the canyon floor is called Bright Angel Fault. In 2012 Randy and Aaron hiked down the Bright Angle Trail to the canyon floor, and back up again. Amazing!
We hiked a ways along the rim. I took too many pictures, of course, trying to capture the feeling of the place. And failed, of course. But at least I have memories. There is nothing else like this in the world, and I am so grateful for the National Park Service for protecting it.
I kept getting dizzy every time I got near the edge. Didn't matter if there was a rail there or not - instant vertigo. And I have a terrible, terrible sunburn all around my neck from my day at Zion, so now I am protecting it with a scarf. I look like I'm afraid I'll catch cold in this summer heat. Such a tourist! 
We also walked a short way down the Kaibab Trail. It's full length is 13.7 miles down to the canyon floor, where it meets the Bright Angel Trail. 

On the drive back to our RV park we passed a small herd of buffalo, grazing in a wide swath of grasslands that reach back to the forest edge. There are no fences around, so these are probably wild.

We stopped in Kanab for a late lunch at Neidra's Too. Right after we put our order in, an entire motorcycle gang pulled in for lunch. Good thing we got there first, because they swamped the little kitchen! They serve pretty good Mexican food here; it takes a little while to get it delivered, but as the menu says, that's because everything is made to order.

The end of a lovely day; tomorrow we will revisit Zion.

6/27 - Day 1 in Zion National Park

This morning Randy put a rack of ribs in the slow cooker, and we drove into Zion. We parked at the Museum and got on the shuttle bus to go to the stop for the Lower Emerald Pool. 

I find the elevation to be tough - I quickly get short of breath every time I do anything outside. And it is 112 degrees, which doesn't help. The drought has significantly decreased the water in the Emerald Pools, but it's still a pretty hike. The water that creates the pool falls down over the cliff in a small waterfall, which is  currently down to a heavy sprinkle.
And the hiking path goes behind the falls.
There are signs everywhere telling people not to feed the wildlife. But the squirrels are so used to being fed that they come up to the trail, sit on a rock, and kind of flirt with the hikers. 

After that we hiked up to the Upper Emerald Pool. It was harder, but the views were even better. This land is so beautiful.

And the sheer cliff walls take my breath away. This one is so big thats it has large trees growing in the cracks. 
There are no falls at the upper pool, but there was a little more water in the pool. It was a great place to rest, snack, and catch my breath after the hike. For lunch we had the PB&J sandwiches we had packed earlier, and all along the way we made sure we were drinking lots of water. It was so hot that no matter how much water I drank, I never sweat. The National parks now have taps at several stations to fill water bottles, in an effort to decrease waste. It's a great benefit but I didn't care much for the taste; I prefer our own.

Next we hiked around the side of a mountain and down to the Grotto. The Virgin River flows through the canyon. Amazing!
It's not so much a grotto as a nice spot on the Virgin river with wide banks. It was lovely though, and Randy went in to cool off. Sometimes the landscape here just begs to be photographed.
And again - amazing cliff walls! 
We also did the Riverwalk hike. Water here often seeps through the rocks into the river, but where it cannot seep, it drips out, and where there is water, things will grow. They call these Hanging Gardens.
At the end of this trail, the Virgin river pools a bit, so Randy enjoyed another cool dip.
And that was enough hiking for one day! On the drive back, going out of the Park, I was amazed at the great rock cliffs. The rocks here show an incredible mix of striations, in all directions. 
And one, called Checkerboard Mesa, has big vertical cracks, which divides the rock face into squares and rectangles.
At home we had ribs for dinner and just relaxed for the night. I had made sure I put sunscreen on everywhere (factor 100), but somehow I got a terrible sunburn on my neck. Not just the back of my neck - all around. I think the cooling cloth and camera strap I used must have rubbed off the sunscreen, and somehow, in spite of the cooling cloth and thick camera strap, every inch all around my neck burned scarlet. Ah, well, a small price to pay!

6/26 - On to Zion!

It is so hot! Last night we brought in the front slide, to help the air conditioner cool the place down. 

This morning we hooked up the car and discovered a small radiator leak. That's a little scary - we just had the radiator problem fixed! Randy tightened a connection and it seemed to stop.

So we drove on, stopping at the Utah Visitor Center. We were there before it opened, so we went next door to have breakfast at Cracker Barrel. Then back to the Center to get some maps.

Utah seems to be a lot greener than Nevada. We decided we did not want to drive the RV through Zion National Park - there are a lot of switch-backs and a couple of tunnels that require stopping traffic in order to get an RV through - so we took a southern route that dipped south into Arizona and came back into Utah through Kanab. Kanab is surrounded by pretty red mountains, and they lay claim to being the site of several films. 

Our RV park was just east of Zion National Park. When we tried to hook-up, we discovered our plug wouldn't work. This has happened once before when we visited Kill Devil Hill. As then, Randy was able to fix the plug. What couldn't be fixed was the fact that our RV was badly out of level - the front was way lower than the back. When we put the jacks down enough to correct the situation, the front step was way too high. Me and the dogs were likely to break a leg getting out! I built up a little step of rocks and asked the folks in the office if we could get a real step. The manager promised to have one delivered to us, but it never happened, so we just used the rock steps, very carefully.

This RV park has no wifi and no phone service, so we were out of touch for awhile. But what it does have is Zion National Park, just a couple of miles down the road! We drove the jeep through the park - it was simply amazing. Mountain goats were grazing near the road, and they are so used to people that the traffic didn't bother them at all. 
And the park was so beautiful - can't wait till tomorrow when we can explore!
There was one short tunnel, followed by another one that was a mile long. Very dark! A few windows were cut into the rock wall occasionally to let in a little light. This is the tunnel that RVs have to drive through in the middle of the road, to be sure they can clear the ceiling. So every time an RV approached the tunnel, from either side, traffic going the other direction had to be stopped. 
There are buses that run through the park - that may be useful to get around.

On the other side of the park is a little town with a small grocery store - that may come in handy in the future. But for now we headed back to the RV to rest up for tomorrows hike!

6/25 - Valley of Fire - in more ways than one

Hot in Vegas! It has been over 100 degrees every day, and there is no relief in sight!
We drove 77 miles from Las Vegas to Overton, Utah, using our new GPS. The old GPS had a setting for Bus but our new one has a setting for RV, so we expect more from the new one. And boy, did we get more. The new GPS (which we call Sam, because the voice choice for US English is Samantha) took us on a zig-zag around the town. I assumed it was because the downtown roads would not accommodate a large RV. We finally arrived at our RV park and learned we could have driven straight through. Oh well. 

It was so hot. We turned the air on for the dogs, settled the RV, and got in the Jeep to head to the Valley of Fire. It's just about 10 miles away. There is a $10 entrance fee, which seemed reasonable. It was around 112 degrees outside so we decided it was way too hot to hike the trails. So Randy drove us around, and wherever something caught our eye, we got out and explored. And a lot of it caught our eye. 

Some of the land is flat but all around are big, beautiful rock formations. Mounds, cliffs, caves - all made from that gorgeous red sandstone.
Near the entrance is a structure known as The Elephant. Yeah, I can see it.
One of the paths led to three cabins, constructed of local stone. Very cool! These were build by the Civilian Conservation Corps and they aren't used anymore, but they are still really interesting.
The markings on some of cliffs look like hieroglyphics in an unknown or lost language
But in another area, on a structure called Atlas, there are real petroglyphs. There are stairs to climb up near the top to view petroglyphs, but the rocks themselves are really remarkable.
There are petroglyphs all over this formation. The meaning of some of them are known, but others are still a mystery.
Randy walked around the back of the formation and found a ton more petroglyphs. The ones on the dark rocks show up clearer. Because this is in the back of the identified attraction, it doesn't get much attention - everyone else around us didn't see it. 
In another section there is a small arch, high up on a cliff. This is the only true arch in the park.

At the other end of the park, the colors grew more varied.
There is a strange mix of colors in these rocks, shifting from red to gray to yellow, and sometimes all in the same rock.
There are all sorts of interesting natural sculptures, and some look like something familiar.
These are called Bee Hives. 

One is full of holes, some big enough to crawl into.
 As for me, I love it all!