Zion National Park

Day 13 of our fall tour, October 6, 2017, time to pack up, hook up, and move on down the road. Around lunchtime, we pulled into Hi-Road Campground, formerly Zion RV Campground, in Mt. Carmel, Utah, for a three-night stay. Trees dressed in yellow, gold, and orange, signaled fall’s arrival on the east side of Zion National Park, Utah’s First National Park.

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View of Canyon from Campsite

Although Zion’s visitors’ center was only twenty miles from our site, it took at least an hour to make it to the canyon bottom by way of a twisty-turny road with slow speed limits, hairpin curves, and a delay to enter one of the tunnels.

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Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway

The scenery along the way was the silver lining, however, consisting of sandstone slickrock, Checkerboard Mesa, and cliffs that towered 2,000 feet from the valley floor.

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Sandstone Slick Rock
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Checkerboard Mesa
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Red Cliffs of Zion

We stopped in at the visitors’ center, picked up pamphlets and information, and then drove out of the west entrance and into the town of Springdale, which looked nothing like we remembered from twenty years ago when we last visited.Construction of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and one-mile tunnel, which took two years and ten months to complete, was dedicated and opened on July 3, 1930. The highway was the last link in the Grand Circle Tour of Zion, Bryce, and Grand Canyon National Parks.

The construction crew blasted gallery windows into the cliff face above Pine Creek Canyon to gain access to the interior of the mountain so the crew could carve out space to create the tunnel. The windows were also used to remove the rock debris and supplied ventilation and lighting. In 1937, the entire tunnel was lined with concrete.

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One of the Tunnel Gallery Windows

One-way traffic control is required for large vehicles traveling through the tunnel. The park charges $15.00 for a permit in addition to the park entrance fee for vehicles 7 feet 10 inches in width and/or 11 feet 4 inches in height, or larger.

We remembered driving our truck to all the sights along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive in the 1990s. Now a shuttle is the only way to get around unless you’re staying at Zion Lodge. During peak hours the shuttles fill up with standing room only, so it is wise to arrive at the visitors’ center before 9:00 am, even in the offseason. There is also parking in Springdale, but when we drove through, everything looked pretty parked up.

The next day, we rode the shuttle to Zion Lodge in search of a cup of coffee only to find a long line. “How about the dining room?” We arrived about a half hour before the buffet ended and noted only a few people seated at tables. “This shouldn’t take too long.” We decided to go ahead and order breakfast with our coffee since we planned on taking a hike. We waited for our food as we sipped our steaming cups of coffee. Then we waited, and waited, and waited some more. Oh well, we had a nice view of a park-like grassy area with large trees. When our eggs benedict arrived my eggs were overcooked and Jon’s were undercooked. The long wait and the mix of cook on our eggs must have been a sign that the concessionaire reduced the employee headcount after the peak season.

With our bellies full, we walked across the road to the trailheads for the Lower and Upper Emerald Pools. Most of the trails were easy going except for the large boulders we had to navigate and the slippery rocks near the Upper Pools.

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Bridge Over River
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Towering Cliffs
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Hanging Garden
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Falls at Hanging Garden
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Trail Narrowed in Spots
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Lower Pools
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Upper Pools
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Typical View from Lower and Upper Pools

We connected with the Kayenta Trail, which took us along the river toward the Grotto where picnic tables huddled under large trees and restrooms were a welcome sight.

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Kayenta Trail Along Virgin River
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Virgin River

Then we continued on to the lodge where we picked up the shuttle for the ride to the Zion Human History Museum. We sat on the back patio eating our lunch of tuna sandwiches and apples and enjoyed the views while we waited to listen to the geological ranger talk.

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View from Museum Patio
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View from Museum Patio
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View from Museum Patio
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More Views

Zion is part of the Colorado Plateau and the second step of the Grand Staircase with geological layers at the top of Zion consisting of the layers we saw at the bottom of Bryce: Carmel Formation, Navajo Sandstone, Kayenta Formation, and Kaibab Formations. It was interesting to learn that rain flows through the porous Navajo sandstone until it reaches the Kaibab Formation of limestone and siltstone, which is not porous and blocks the water so that it seeps through the sides of the cliffs. This sounded similar to how water seeps through the basalt in Idaho to find its way to the Snake River.

On Sunday, we woke up early again and rode the shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava to take the Riverside Walk. It didn’t look anything like what I remembered from when we were there before. Perhaps this was because of flash floods that had occurred during that time.

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Trail to Temple of Sinawava

Ferns and other plant life clung to the red cliffs and trees grew near the river. We watched people prepare for the walk across the icy water. Some of them wore rented water tennis shoes and long pants that swished with each step. Other people only wore shorts, t-shirts, and normal walking shoes. I remembered years ago when we crossed the river in water socks on a sunny day with our children in tow. Bundled up in jackets, Jon and I weren’t about to venture into the rush of water this time.

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The Makings of a Future Arch
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Ferns Cling to Rock Cliffs
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The Crossing

Our next stop was Weeping Rock. This was a short steep hike with lots of trees, shrubs, ferns and a few remaining wildflowers. Water oozed from the overhang and gently dripped like rain on us.

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Along Weeping Rock Trail
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Late Blooming Wildflower
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View from Weeping Rock
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Plants Cling to Sandstone Cliff

These climbers came into view while we waited for the shuttle at Weeping Rock.

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Climbers on the Rock Cliffs

We thought we had been transported to Disneyland when we returned to the visitors’ center. Crammed under a shade structure, the line for the shuttle snaked back and forth through ropes and continued around the buildings toward the parking lot.

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Wait. What. Is this Disneyland?
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Coming and Going

We were glad we were on our way out of the park rather than arriving.

If we make it back to Zion, we will plan ahead and find a spot for our trailer on the west side of the park to avoid driving the hour on the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway each day. The prospect of catching the shuttle in Springdale would also be a benefit.

The next day we headed south with no reservations, taking our chances that somewhere an RV site with our name on it would appear. Stay tuned to see where we hung our hats.

Discover Dinosaur Tracks and Parowan Gap Petroglyphs

The promise of dinosaur tracks, petroglyphs, lower elevation and, best of all, warmer weather within an hour from Panguitch was a welcome surprise after the freezing temperatures of Cedar Breaks.

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Dinosaur Tracks

We headed east from Interstate 15 on Gap Road through ranches and farms, and then passed Little Salt Lake until we came to Highway 130 where we turned right. A few miles later, the road veered left toward the Red Hills and we came to a parking lot with interpretive panels and interesting rock formations. Metal markers like the one in the photo below marked the spots where the footprints could be found.

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Hadrosaurs, or duck-billed dinosaurs, left the tracks some 65 to 75 million years ago when they stepped in mud. Pebbles and sand filled the footprints left by the dinos and later turned into rock. Erosion over millions of years revealed the tracks for us to see today.

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Dinosaur Print
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Dinosaur Print

This area is strewn with a number of different types of rocks such as river rock, volcanic ash, and large boulders, which looked like someone had rolled a bunch of smaller rocks and cement together like a giant snowball.

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A River Ran Through Here
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Wind Swept Boulder
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Archway
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Bear Boulder
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Rock Encrusted Snowball Boulder
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Nooks and Crannies
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Robot Dinosaur?

Parowan Gap offers climbers up to 26 different climbing routes to follow. Looking around at all the fallen rock, I sure wouldn’t want to hang from a rope and trust that the cliff would not give way. But rock climbing is something I’ve never done, so who am I to say what’s safe or not?

Parowan Gap Petroglyphs

Continuing on Highway 130 a short distance we found a nicer parking area with pavement, shade structures, picnic tables, and pit toilets. The cliffs at Parowan Gap display a great number of petroglyphs that tell stories of the early people who inhabited or traveled through the area. If we only had a translator app on our phones to decipher the figures.

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Parowan Gap Petroglyphs

Included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, it is a wonder that the figures created a thousand years ago or more have survived destruction by people of more recent generations. I could have stood for hours gazing up at the etchings on the cliff walls trying to decipher their meaning.

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Parowan Gap Petroglyphs

Did the Fremont and Southern Paiute cultures leave them as works of art, religious significance, or tales of bravery and danger?

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Parowan Gap Petroglyphs

Some people may even suggest the figures depict alien beings that visited earth before modern times.

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Parowan Gap Petroglyphs

Do they represent family history, hunting and gathering trips, sources of water, travel routes?

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Parowan Gap Petroglyphs and Newer Initials

People in the 1800s and 1900s also recorded their passage through the gap. I wonder who H.S.H. or Hyatt and Leo Rosko were, where they came from, and where they were going in 1882 and 1947. Did  D. C. fancy himself a pirate or maybe the design refers to an early motorcycle gang?

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H.S.H 1882 and D. C. 1938, or is it 1939?
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Leo Rosko Markings

Red Canyon Visitor Center USDA Forest Service

Our last day in the area was a short jaunt to the red cliffs and hoodoos at the Red Canyon Visitor Center off Highway 12, the route to Bryce Canyon National Park.

 

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Red Canyon Visitor Center

 

With picnic tables, plenty of parking, and several miles of hikes, the visitor center was a great place to spend an afternoon getting up close and personal with the hoodoos and totems as well as the Ponderosa, bristlecone, and limber pines.

 

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Cabin Once Used by Rangers

 

We managed to get a good work out in and gaze out at some awesome views by connecting the Pink Ledges (an interpretive trail), Hoodoo, and Birdseye trails with a portion of the 8.6-mile non-motorized Red Canyon Bicycle path, which parallels Route 12 through the canyon.

 

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Grab a Pamphlet at the Visitor’s Center
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Do You See a Ninja Turtle?
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Fairy Castles
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Totem Hoodoos
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Butterfly on Mitten Thumb or Heart?

 

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Biscuit with a Bumper Boat on Top?

At about our halfway mark, we took advantage of a bench to take in the spectacular views of the valley below.

 

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Red Canyon Hike Resting Bench
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View from Resting Bench
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View of Red Cliffs and Pine Trees
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How’d that Camel Get Down There?
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Highway 12 and Bike Path Through Red Canyon

 

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Hoodoos Reaching for the Sky

Just as the traffic below had receded into white noise, this drone succeeded in drowning out the chattering birds, scurrying squirrels, and windblown leaves and pine needles. It flew around for about ten minutes and left, a little too long for my comfort level. Too bad the pilot could not have taken the time to enjoy the wonders of Red Canyon in person. To experience a place in person is so much better than watching it fly by on an LCD screen.

 

 

 

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Annoying Drone

The Red Canyon hills were just as magnificent from across the road as they were when we walked along the trail.

 

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Red Canyon Hills

 

Although we could have stayed for another week, our time in Bryce Canyon and Panguitch had come to a close and Zion or bust became our mantra on October 6, 2017. Stay tuned for more adventure.

Safe Travels

 

 

 

Panguitch, Utah, and Cedar Breaks National Monument

We enjoyed a short thirty-minute drive to our new base camp at Hitch-N-Post in Panguitch, Utah, on October 2, 2017.

Panguitch, Utah

Panguitch is a western town settled by Mormons in the 1860s and 1870s where several historic buildings line the main street. Unfortunately, many of the shops had already closed for the season when we visited. Too bad, I really wanted to go into the fabric store.

 

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Hitch-N-Post Campground

 

Panguitch holds annual events that include the Quilt Walk Festival and Panguitch Valley Balloon Rally, which are both held in June. What’s a Quilt Walk? The festival commemorates the action of seven men who saved the first settlement from starvation. The story details the new settlers challenge during their first winter when snow blocked supply routes, crops froze, and the people grew hungry. Seven men volunteered to journey over the mountain to secure flour. They used quilts to cover the surface of deep snow since wagons could not navigate the trail. By placing the quilts on the snow they could safely walk across. When they reached the end of one quilt they placed another one down before retrieving the first. Something to think about if I’m ever stuck in the snow somewhere.

 

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Farm Nestled at the Foot of Red Rock Cliffs South of Town

 

Panguitch served as a good home base for visiting Panguitch Lake, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Red Canyon State Park,  and the Parowan Gap Rock Art and Dinosaur Tracks.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

We started our day with a hearty breakfast of plate-sized buttermilk pancakes so fluffy they measured almost a half inch thick. The Hitch-N-Post owner had raved about the wonderful buttermilk pancakes served at Kenny Rays. The two pancakes I ordered was way too much to eat. Had I known, I would have only ordered one.

The drive to Cedar Breaks National Monument took us to Panguitch Lake where we stopped for a little leaf peeping.

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Panguitch Lake Known for Great Trout Fishing
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Resort at Panguitch Lake
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Golden Aspen Among the Pines

With all that sunshine, why did my face feel like it was on fire? It must have been the icy wind at 10,000 feet. It was a good thing we put our heavy coats in the truck when we left in the morning, but goosebumps still peppered my legs. They warmed up some when I stood next to the huge fireplace blazing away in the visitor center, at least for the few minutes we were indoors.

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Yikes! That Wind is Cold.

The geological story of Cedar Breaks is similar to Bryce. Cedar Breaks sits between the Colorado Plateau and the Basin and Range province of western Utah. Earthquakes along the Hurricane Fault lowered the west side where Cedar City is located at 5,800 feet and raised Cedar Breaks on the east side to an elevation of 10,350. The amphitheater spans three miles and is 2,000 feet deep.

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Cedar Breaks Amphitheater and Valley Below

Freeze-thaw action sculpts the formations by splitting and breaking away the rock.

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Closer View of the Amphitheater

Then erosion from wind, snowmelt, and rain (mixed with a bit of acid) work their magic on the rock to continue shaping it into the magnificent creations we see today.

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Can’t Get Enough of the Red Rock Fins

Knowing these forces that began millions of years ago are still at work make me realize that what I see today may look a little different in one, five, or ten years from now.

Navajo Lake, Lava Flows, and Brian Head

Along the drive we ran across Navajo Lake. The lake, formed by a prehistoric lava flow dam, offers camping, fishing, boating, and swimming. I thought it interesting that water travels from the bottom of the lake through a network of lava tubes until the water reappears as creeks and streams. This is very similar to the relationship of Craters of the Moon and the Snake River in Idaho.

 

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Navajo Lake

Aspen groves populate around the lava fields east of Cedar Breaks.

 

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Aspen Among Lava Rock Field

I don’t think I had ever come across black aspen leaves before. It’s not like the leaves are spotted by a fungus, it looks like the whole leaf has turned black. Is this a natural occurrence or is this a severe infestation of the tree?

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Black Aspen Leaves

 

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View of the Plateaus

We also took a drive up to Brian Head. On the other side of the mountain are several ski resorts, a sign that this is a winter playground as well as a place to visit during the rest of the year. I hope they receive plenty of snow this coming winter.

 

 

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Brian Head

Looking up at Brian Head, I was reminded that I always wanted to try cross-country skiing. I’m just not sure about the cold weather or how I might handle such a physically demanding sport at an elevation of 9,800 feet.

Join us next week when we take a hike through Red Canyon State Park and gaze at the Parowan Gap Rock Art and Dinosaur Tracks.

 

Safe Travels

 

 

 

 

 

Kodachrome Basin State Park

Kodachrome Basin State Park

We noticed Kodachrome Basin State Park on our area map and decided to drive out to take a look. After visiting Bryce, it was difficult to imagine anything as spectacular. Boy, were we wrong. Just driving along the road was evidence enough that we were entering a special place.

 

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Kodachrome Basin State Park

 

Kodachrome became a state park in 1963. At an elevation of 5,800 feet, it is an easier place to visit for people who cannot tolerate the higher altitudes of Bryce Canyon.

The layered sandstone hills and sedimentary pipes that range from six to 170 feet in height reveal the geological formations that began 180 million years ago.

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The Carmel Formation, noted by the white striations in the red colored cliffs at lower levels, forms the base. The red sandstone, along with gypsum, shale, quartz, and clay, makes up the Entrada Formation. The white to tan portions of the cliffs are from the Henrieville Sandstone deposited toward the end of the Jurassic Period.

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The Dakota and Tropic Shale Formations top the previous layers. A sea that covered much of the interior of North America deposited this layer 95 million years ago. Geologists haven’t quite yet agreed on how the spires were formed, but there are three theories that attempt to explain their creation. You can be read about them here on Wikipedia if your interest is piqued.

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Another Sandstone Hill

Since then, wind, rain, and earthquakes have left their marks on the cliffs and monolith shapes we see today.

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Indigenous Woman Wrapped in a Shawl
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The Priest

There are several trails in the park ranging from easy to strenuous. We only had time for the 0.5-mile nature trail, which included informational panels on the plants, animals, and geology. This trail is also ADA accessible.

 

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Red Sandstone and Snag
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View from Kodachrome Basin State Park

 

The state park would be a good place to spend a few nights so we could explore more. I have a feeling, though, that reservations are difficult to obtain.

A few miles from the park’s entrance, we came across an alternative to the Kodachrome campgrounds.

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Bryce Luxury Camping Near Kodachrome Basin State Park

How about a luxury tent complete with chairs, table, barbecue, and fire pit? Select a site with neighbors close by.

 

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Luxury Tent Camping

 

Or opt for one with a bit more privacy.

 

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Great Views from Luxury Campsite

 

Cannonville, Utah

On our way back to the trailer, we stopped off at the visitor center in Cannonville, Utah. Although they were not open, we wandered around outside where they have interpretive panels and displays.

 

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Cannonville, Utah,  Visitor Center Farming Display

 

 

 

This fence looked rickety to me, but apparently, a ripgut (interlocking) fence is said to be one the strongest for corraling livestock without the use of nails or baling wire.

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Ripgut Fence

A Little More of Bryce Canyon

 

Before we left Bryce, we attended a ranger talk at Rainbow Point. We drove into the park early to grab a parking spot before the lot filled. Thank goodness it was warmer than the first day we came out on our tour. The ranger talked about the geology and taught us how to distinguish among the white fir, bristlecone, limber, and ponderosa pine trees. I’m afraid I’ve forgotten this skill already.

 

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Snags are Left to Provide Shelter for Insects, Rodents, and Birds

 

He encouraged us to take a whiff of the cinnamon-colored bark of the mature ponderosa trees. They smelled like vanilla.

 

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Bark of a Ponderosa

 

This little squirrel was so busy munching on the pine cone that she, or he, ignored the group of people listening to the ranger impart tidbits about the green leaf manzanita.

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We stopped at a couple more overlooks on our way out of the park. This amphitheater reminded us of terracotta warriors.

 

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Terracotta Warriors

 

 

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Temple Cliff

 

After six nights at Ruby’s Inn and Campground, it was time to move on. But not too far away.  There was plenty more to see in the area.

Safe Travels