A Great Day On The Road

Interstate 80 West

The Pony Express RV Resort in Salt Lake City is beautiful but we have to leave as we are already one day behind schedule. Port Orford, Oregon is waiting for us.

But before we take off I need to show you some of the niceties here.

Each site has a paved pad, a grassy area, picnic table, and a flowering pear tree.

There are several fenced in dog areas, soccer nets, a giant chess game, and access to an over 50 mile running/walking/biking path.

This RV Park is appropriately named a Resort. Most of the RVs here are new and in impeccable condition. Our 2015 Forest River Georgetown Motorhome almost pales in comparison, especially with our shorn off awning.

Today is just a straight shot west on Interstate 80 from Salt Lake City to Winnemucca, Nevada.

We cross the southern tip of the Great Salt Lake and notice this magnificent building.

A quick search on Google identifies this edifice as Saltair, aka The SaltAir, Saltair Resort, and Saltair Pavillion.

According to en.m.wikipedia.org, the building is a resort located on the southern shore of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, about 15 miles from Salt Lake City.

In 1893 the Mormon Church and the Salt Lake-Los Angeles Railway jointly owned and built the first Saltair. The resort was a family place providing a safe and wholesome atmosphere supervised by Church leaders. Saltair was a popular and appropriate spot to take a date in those days.  A young Mormon couple could conveniently take a train from Salt Lake City and spend the evening dancing, chaperoned by trusted members of the community.

Besides a dating and dancing venue, Saltair was one of the first amusement parks, the western counterpart to Coney Island in New York.

In 1906 the Mormon Church sold the resort. Then a fire destroyed the pavilion in 1925. Prominent Mormon investors built a new resort but the advent of motion pictures and radio and the interruption of the Great Depression competed with Saltair’s popularity. It’s huge new dance floor, however, recreated the resort into a dance palace featuring the likes of Glenn Miller and other traveling bands.

More fires, receding lake waters, the Second World War, and other entertainment options closer to home forced the resort to close in 1958. Arson destroyed the second Saltair pavilion in 1970 but in 1981 a third Saltair was constructed a mile west of the original. But once again the resort could not compete with other larger venues more conveniently located, until several music industry investors purchased the building in 2005 to hold music concerts of popular acts and it has now evolved into the Great Saltair.

The Great Salt Lake…

The Morton Salt Refinery… I wasn’t quick enough to get a good shot of the iconic logo so I circled it in the picture below.


More salt piles…

The Great Salt Lake Desert…

All along the drive you can see where people have stopped to spell messages in the sand with rocks and beer bottles.

Then this sculpture pops up.

I later find out this concrete “trunk” supporting 6 spheres coated with natural rock and minerals native to Utah is called Metaphor: The Tree of Utah. It was created in the 1980s by Karl Momen, a Swedish artist, who while traveling across the salt flats had a vision of a tree. In 1986 he donated the sculpture to the state of Utah and returned to Sweden. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

So, there you go. Who would have thunk it?

The Nevada border… Out of a desolate landscape casinos emerge and then disappear again.

Continuing west on Interstate 80…

At the end of the day we pull into the Winnemucca RV Park.

Tomorrow we depart Interstate 80, head north on I-95, and then continue west on Highway 140.

Should We Go or Should We Stay?

April 12th

The weather forecast does not look good. A snow storm, Xanto, is making its way across the high plains bringing blizzards, cold temperatures, and high winds with it. If we travel today we will be heading right into its path.

Jeff calls ahead to the place in Salt Lake City where we plan to spend the night. The blizzard is hitting there right now. And the winds in Rawlins are already shaking the parked RV.

We decide to stay put for one more day and hunker down for a cold night.

Meanwhile Jeff waits in between wind gusts to climb onto the roof of the RV and cut off the raveled awning over the slide-out. While up there he discovers a broken bracket. We don’t plan on replacing the awning any time soon.

April 13th

We wake up to a dusting of snow covering the ground and vehicles. The water in the hose is frozen and the water pump is not working properly. Outside the temperature is only in the mid 20s. It is Friday the 13th, after all.

But we need to continue west on Interstate 80 to Salt Lake City.

Five minutes after joining the traffic on the interstate the clouds explode.

But less than 10 minutes later the weather has tamed back down again.

So for the next few hours we take it slow and steady, one mile at a time, rolling on the highway toward the border of Utah.

But as we approach the state line…

…The weather can’t make up its mind what it wants to do.

This is what greets us in Salt Lake City:

Then we arrive at our destination…

And all is beautiful again.

Leaving Zion

Denver, Colorado Bound


We break up our trip east into 3 days of travel on I-70.

First stop… Salina, Utah where we spend the night at Butch Cassidy Campground. A short day…

March 22nd

The landscape of Utah never fails to impress me. The tall rock structure below reminds me of a rook piece in a chess game or a giant you know what…

We enter Colorado and spend the night in Grand Junction.

We’ve stayed here once before at Junction West RV Park.

March 23rd

What a day of extreme weather! It’s our last stretch into Denver where we will park the RV at “Campbell Campground”, otherwise known as Patty and Mike’s driveway.

The day starts out with cloudy gray skies.

The further east we travel, the clouds spill raindrops.

Approaching Vail we ascend into the clouds.

It takes us over an hour to get through Vail as we get sprinkled with snow.

And an accident delay…

And a chain requirement for all commercial vehicles…

And finally the weather clears up…

And an hour later in Lawson the sky turns bright blue…

Fifty miles later we travel through the outskirts of Denver and arrive in Jernigan Land!

Zion National Park Part 5

A Day of Hiking

Tomorrow we leave for Denver, Colorado. So… today we choose our last adventures wisely.

First up… a trail overlooking the Zion Canyon at its approach from the east entrance.

We head by car to drive east on Route 9. As we near the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, I make sure to get a good shot of the window excavation blasted through the rock. Look closely in the picture below and you will see it too. Later, at the canyon overlook, you will see it again.

As we exit the tunnel, there’s a parking area to the right for the trailhead. Luckily we find a space to park the car.

Canyon overlook trail

This short but scenic trail is one of the few “official” trails in the Upper East Canyon. Park sources recommend this hike for first-time visitors to Zion. It ends at an overlook with a great view of the Main Canyon.

The slickrock slabs of this high desert trail provide just enough of an adventure… not too strenuous but with enough places for a dangerous fall.

The mile hike out and back begins just east of the famous tunnel.

The trailhead is across the street from the parking area and the slickrock stairway leads us up immediately.

We ascend less dramatically now, but the views are nothing less than dramatic.

We arrive at the top!

There’s the road below switchbacking into the Main Canyon.

A plaque identifies some prominent rock formations.

We climb on the slickrock.

Here’s the view of the tunnel window I promised you.

It’s beautiful here!

I take a picture of hikers coming and going before we head back.

Below, we step over tree trunks that once stood proudly before the erosive forces of wind and rain left them twisted and beaten down.

As we return through the tunnel and head back to the Main Canyon, Jeff and I play “I Spy” to see who can locate where we just were. We drive slowly and pull over. Both of us agree the circle marks the spot.

And finally, as we head down from the tunnel one last time, I capture the big white rock that looks so out of place on the hillside below. Each time we have driven by we commented on its precarious position. Will it still be there the next time we pass through?

We return to the RV, park the car, feed the dogs, and walk the half mile to the NP pedestrian entrance and Visitor Center where we board the shuttle.

We exit at Stop 7, Weeping Rock, where we plan to hike to Hidden Canyon.

On the way to the Hidden Canyon Trail we take a short side trip to Weeping Rock.

Weeping rock trail

This half-mile round trip trail is the shortest in the park. But don’t be fooled. It is moderately steep and the broken pavement and slippery moss on the rocks make it unsuitable for strollers and wheelchairs.

The trail culminates with steps leading into a carved out alcove where water seeps down from above.

A plaque explains the geology of Weeping Rock: Mud deposited in lowland streams millions of years ago was covered with wind-blown sand. Centuries of pressure squeezed the mud into thin shale layers and the sand into thick sandstone layers. Rain and snow falling on the plateau above soaks into the sandstone. When it reaches the shale it moves sideways to emerge from the cliff face as a spring.

Hidden canyon trAil

We return to the Weeping Rock Trailhead and start hiking up the trail to Observation Point, a strenuous 8 mile round trip hike.

Instead of continuing left at the fork, we head to the right for a 3 mile round trip hike ascending the east side of the main canyon.

With an elevation gain of over 1,000 feet, this trail is quite strenuous as it crosses a few ravines and leads hikers through several deep drop-offs.

Series of chains help us navigate through these exposed sections.

Hidden Canyon is beautiful, narrow, deep, and tucked above the main canyon below. The trail ends at the mouth of the hidden canyon but more adventurous hikers can scramble rocks and continue to explore further up the canyon.

Jeff and I opt out of continuing further. This is actually our 3rd trail of the day. We still have to descend another 1.5 miles and walk back to the RV.

And I have just conquered another hike not recommended for those of us afraid of heights!

Zion National Park Part 4

A Day Off and a Gem of a Trail…

Sunday, March 18th, is cold and rainy in Zion.

So, we relax and do laundry and hunker down.

Rise and shine to a new day…

We walk to the Visitor Center and catch the shuttle to Zion Lodge where we catch the trail to Lower Emerald Pools.

This trail system leads to 3 sets of pools up and down the canyon. Rare in a desert environment, perennial seeps and springs continually recharge the pools. The green algae micro-habitat gives the waters an emerald hue. (plaque at trailhead)

Lower Pool…

Heading to Upper Pool…

Upper Pool…

The upper pool sits directly under a 300 foot cliff face. (plaque at trailhead)

Heading back via the Kayenta Trail to the Grotto Shuttle Stop…

This trail is narrow and steep with numerous rolling hills and unprotected drop-offs. (plaque at trailhead)

At the Grotto Stop we walk back to Zion Lodge on the Grotto Trail along the Zion Canyon Road. We thought there was a trail from here to a grotto, but we were wrong. The Grotto Trail just connects the Zion Lodge Shuttle Stop to the Grotto Shuttle Stop.  …wish we had walked along the Virgin River instead… Oh well…

Before we board the shuttle back to the Visitor Center, I take this pic of the canyon overlooking Zion Lodge:

Bryce Canyon

Today is a good day for a road trip after yesterday’s strenuous hike to Angels Landing. So we drive 80 miles to Bryce Canyon.

Our original plans were to leave Zion tomorrow, Sunday, and spend 3 nights in Bryce. After checking the weather, however, we opt for 3 more nights at Zion.

It’s a scenic but overcast drive as we head north on US Route 89.

We turn east on Utah State Route 12  and pass through Dixie National Forest. The sun pops out now and then and I get some pretty previews of the red sandstone and hoodoo formations yet to come.

This is how I am imagining Bryce Canyon will be…

Utah State Route 63 heads south and takes us into the National Park.

Actually, 63 dead ends into the Park and is the main road through the Park.

As we drive to the Park’s entrance, we notice that most of the restaurants, attractions, and souvenir stores leading to Bryce Canyon are not yet open. It’s still snowy and cold at this higher elevation, validating our decision to stay longer at Zion NP.

Since the shuttle is not running yet, we drive to Rainbow Point and make our way back through each stop along the way.


The drive through Bryce Canyon is not what I expected, coming from Zion NP.

The Park traverses the rim of the canyon instead of cutting through it. To partake the marvelous views you need to view Bryce from the edge or hike through it.

So as we drive the 18 miles to the end of Route 63, relax while I give you a brief history of Bryce Canyon’s geological wonders.

First of all, Bryce Canyon is not really a canyon but a horseshoe-shaped bowl formed by several creeks and streams that rapidly began carving down into the rock layers of the Colorado Plateau. The beginnings of these streams moved slowly, further and further back, like fingers into the edge of the plateau, creating the scalloped amphitheater in which the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon can be seen eroding from the rim. (nps.gov)

Hoodoos begin as a fin-like column capped with limestone. Freeze/thaw cycles and acid rain erode a window in the fin. Eventually the limestone cap can no longer  support itself and the window caves in creating a cairn-like formation. (nps.gov)


Here are my pics from Bryce Canyon…

Rainbow point… elevation 9115 feet

And here is a most unique hoodoo…

Black birch canyon… Elevation 8750 feet

Ponderosa Point… Elevation 8904 Feet

Agua canyon… Elevation 8800 feet

Natural bridge… elevation 8627 feet

Fairview point… elevation 8819 feet

Swamp canyon… elevation 7998 feet

Bryce point… elevation 8296 feet

Inspiration point… elevation 8100 feet

Sunset point… elevation 8100 feet

As we drive back to Zion, the weather threatens snow and the temperatures drop.

But Watchman Mountain stands tall and offers protection and comfort as we exit Zion NP and cozy-up in our RV.

Zion National Park Part 3

We did it!

We wake up to snow on the mountains surrounding our campground.

But the sun is shining and we are psyched to tackle an iconic 5.4 mile adventure hike.

The Angels Landing Hike is rated Double S for Strenuous and Scary. The description from the Zion National Park Information Sheet reads:

”Long drop-offs. Not for young children or anyone fearful of heights.” (LIKE ME!) “Last section is a route along a steep narrow ridge to the summit.”

What is not mentioned is just how narrow some steep sections are! But I decide to give it a try. Jeff reminds me we can always turn back.

Angels landing

The shuttle lets us off at The Grotto Stop where we cross the street and take the bridge across the Virgin River. We look up at our destination… yes, that’s it… the top of the rock formation below.

It’s 11:47. Ahead of us is the challenge of a strenuous climb of some 1500 feet that will require us to hang on to chains as we scale a knife-edge ridgeline with steep drop offs on either side.

We wind our way up to the mouth of Refrigerator Canyon.

From here we loop up and through the canyon walls into a series of 21 switchbacks known as “Walter’s Wiggles.”

No pain, no gain… I keep focusing on the spectacular views.

Meanwhile the road and river grow smaller below.

The ascent through the switchbacks leads to Scouts Lookout and the intersection of the West Rim backcountry trail and Angels Landing.

Scouts Lookout is a great place to take a port-a-potty and snack break, shed the backpack and extra gear, and catch the first glimpse of the last half mile and first set of chains to the summit. Here’s where many hikers give up their plans to continue to the Landing. Some freak out while others decide it’s not worth it to fight the crowds going up and down.

The squirrels certainly enjoy the crowds, however. They scurry out whenever they hear the crackle of plastic unwrapping.

I won’t lie, I am a bit intimidated by what lies ahead of me. But, I’ve made it this far and am committed to the last scary and strenuous stretch. Actually it doesn’t look so bad from here, just crowded. Of course I can’t see the summit.

We have to wait before going up as a long line of hikers descends the slickrock ridge. Then our turn comes. I fall in with a group and take it step by step. There’s no time to look over the edge. You have to just concentrate, hang on, and not slip and fall.

Somehow Jeff and I get separated. When I find a space to stand off to the side I wait for him. But he’s having second thoughts and considers going back. I, on the other hand, cannot give up yet. I am determined to haul ass, conquer my fears, and make it to the top. Selfishly, I leave him behind and get adopted by a group of co-eds from BYU. I hang with them… get it?… hang… chains… groan. Unfortunately Jeff has my iPhone in his pocket but I can’t worry about that now. No one is taking pictures anyway.

A second set of chain railings ends and we traverse a narrow 2-3 foot wide passage with steep drop offs on either side. Did I mention that there is nothing to hold onto? I feel like I am  walking in midair. I just stay in the moment and carefully place one foot in front of the other and concentrate on my hiking shoes.

We maneuver around a huge rock and the area widens out like a side saddle. Looking straight ahead I catch sight of the summit. OMGeez Louise… it’s straight up!

I look behind me and I see Jeff making his way up. I knew he wouldn’t back out! As he hands me my phone to get a picture, he explains how the crowd of hikers was offsetting to him. (It’s a one lane highway up here with no room for passing. So traffic is frequently stopped leaving you to find a precarious but secure spot to place your hands and feet while waiting your turn to go. After centering himself, Jeff was ready to complete the hike.)

I take a picture of the final climb to Angels Landing. There’s a steady flow of people going up and down. (I circled some hikers on the ridge in the picture below to give a better perspective.)

The picture above is deceiving because after walking around the evergreen in the foreground you have to make your way down a bit before scaling the last section of chains.

I take a breather and hand my phone back to Jeff for safe keeping. My peeps are ready to go and I leave Jeff behind once more. (If I think and wait too long, I will get scared. So I don’t think and just keep going.) What you can’t see in the picture above is how close the guy in the red shirt is to the edge.

At this point of the climb everyone on the ridge becomes friends and conversations blend. We coach and encourage each other. We find out where people are from. We work out a traffic system. We look out for each other as we hang on for dear life.

Finally, we reach the top! And just as I’m wishing I could take a picture to capture this moment, I hear Jeff’s voice. He’s made it too and I get to take a picture after all.

I decide to walk out a little further and as I hand my phone back to Jeff he quickly snaps a picture of me… King of the Mountain… Look, Ma, no hands!

My young friends from BYU line up for a picture.

I take a few more pics before descending.

These are pictures of Zion Canyon looking over the Big Bend area toward the Temple of Sinawava:

This next picture is a view from the other side of Angels Landing looking out  toward the south.

Down we go. I am so looking forward to being back at Scouts Lookout standing in one piece on terra firma.

Once again we encounter long waits as we let ascending hikers pass. Amazingly a few hikers ignore the queues and chains and stride up and down with poles making their own paths over the slickrock.

When our group arrives back at Scouts Lookout, we are strangers no more and we cheer our collective accomplishment. My college friends have officially adopted me as Grammy L and invite me to visit them on campus.

Jeff and I pause for the iconic OSU OHIO picture even though none of us went to The Ohio State. We all went to colleges in Ohio though.

We find our backpack and a rock to relax upon as we hydrate and eat trail mix and an orange.

I talk to 2 young women waiting for their boyfriends to return from Angels Landing. After watching YouTube videos they decided to opt out of the last half mile climb. I’m glad I didn’t know too much before hand. I plan on viewing some later, though.

As we travel back down the remaining 2 miles to the Grotto Shuttle Stop, I take one last picture of the Wiggles. At least this time it’s all downhill.

Exhausted, but exhilarated we arrive back at the trailhead around 4:15 and take the shuttle to the Visitor Center. But wait, we have another half mile walk to the RV. Tomorrow our muscle groups will be talking back to us. But, WE DID IT!!!