Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park was our destination on September 24, 2017. The California hills along Interstate 5 south of Tracy sported their summer golden highlights. Bands of scorched earth, patches in places and acres in others, signaled that the California fire season had arrived. We made an overnight stop in Barstow at Shady Lane RV Camp. Its location away from the freeway was a better pick than the KOA at Calico Ghost Town where we had previously stayed.

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We selected Ruby’s Inn RV Park & Campground as our home for six nights. Ruby’s accommodates all types of travelers whether they need a motel experience, full hookups for an RV, a cabin, tipi, or tent site. The restaurant serves up delicious western grub and the store contains food items, camping equipment, clothing, and gifts. The convenient shuttle stops for the national park, one near the motel and the other near the RV park, were a bonus.

Our first venture into the park was on the Rainbow Point Shuttle Tour, included with admission to the park by reservation. Our driver, Jay Evans, regaled us with the history and geology of the park, information about the flora and fauna, stories about the people, and a few jokes during the 3.5-hour tour. The tour allowed us to acclimate to the change in elevation from sea level to 8,000 feet and to figure out the areas of the park we wanted to explore in more depth. What we didn’t acclimate to was the cold wind that cut through our thin pant legs. Why did I not pack my long johns?

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Our Tour Group Overlooking One of the Fourteen Amphitheaters of Hoodoos
Bryce Canyon became a national park in 1928 and is named after Ebenezer Bryce who was a Mormon pioneer. The canyon is best known for its long and narrow 56 square miles which contain unique geological formations of hoodoos, fins, windows, arches, domes, and pinnacles.

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View From Rainbow Point
While on the tour, Jay pointed out the names of some of the hoodoos we looked down on from the rim of the cliffs.

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The Hunter is Known for His Ear Muffs

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The Rabbit Or Bart Simpson?

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Natural Bridge

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Olympic Flame

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Kneeling Monk
Layers of silt, sand, and lime in beds that run up to 2,000 feet thick provided the base of sedimentary rock for Bryce Canyon. Erosion from wind, rain, and the freeze-thaw action, which causes fracturing, created the formations and continue their impact on the landscape. In addition, plant roots, and burrowing animals loosen the rocks and accelerate the erosion.

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Fairyland Overlook Fin Hoodoos
We topped off our day at Ebenezer’s Barn & Grill for some old fashioned western fun, music, and cowboy chow. Members of the Bar G Wranglers, the evening’s entertainment, greeted the guests, escorted them to their seats, and made sure the diners followed the proper route through the chow line. Surprisingly, the food was delicious, the music great, and we enjoyed meeting the other couples at our table.

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Ebenezer’s Barn & Grill

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Jay Evans: Best Shuttle Bus Driver and Fastest Strumming Guitar Player
One day, we rode the shuttle to Sunset Point where we hiked the Navaho Loop Trail, connected with Queen’s Garden and came up out of the canyon at Sunrise Point.

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View from Sunset Point

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Navaho Trail Slot Canyon

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Looking Up at the Hoodoos

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Squirrel? Prairie Dog?

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Sorry Squirrel. No Feeding the Animals.

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Queen Victoria Standing on the Back of a Camel

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The Fortress

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Olympic Flame

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Queen’s Garden Trail

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Sunrise Point Queen’s Garden Trail

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Shipwreck Rock
 

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People on the Trail Below are Barely Visible

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Photographers Abound on the Trail

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The Sentinels
Not interested in a long steep hike? Take the Mossy Cave trail from Highway 12. The short walk follows the Tropic Ditch to a mossy cave and a waterfall. In 1890 and 1892, Mormon farmers, using picks and shovels, dug the ditch to bring water to the settlements around Tropic, Utah. Except for 2002 during the drought, the ditch has continued to carry irrigation water to the towns of Tropic and Cannonville.

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Mossy Cave

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Tropic Ditch Waterfall

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Tropic Ditch

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Hoodoos and Windows Along Mossy Cave Trail
Words and photos are not sufficient to portray the feelings that well up while walking among the hoodoos and gazing across the vistas. Bryce Canyon is a place to slow down, feel the sun on your back, breath in the fresh pine scent, hear the wind rustle through the pine needles and aspen leaves, and watch squirrels and lizards scurry around and raptors fly overhead. Oh, and don’t forget to look for queens, hunters, rabbits, Chinese terracotta soldiers, Scotty dogs, and whatever else you can make of the gazillion formations.

Safe Travels

Salt Lake City – Part II

Antelope Island State Park

Antelope Island, the largest of ten islands within the Great Salt Lake, was next on our list of places to visit while in Salt Lake City (SLC). A sign at the entrance gate announcing no refunds due to biting gnats almost caused us to make a U-turn and find something else to occupy our time. When the lady at the entrance booth assured us the rain had chased the gnats away, we drove on to the visitor center where another lady gave us a quick history and a few ideas of what to see.

This elk statue greeted us at the visitor center. I wish he had been real. The Davis County Causeway is to the left of the statue. It is the only road on and off the island.

 

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Antelope Greeter at Visitor Center

 

Our first stop was the Fielding Garr Ranch House where we spent an hour or so walking around the ranch buildings and grounds where historic farming equipment was stored.

 

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Fielding Garr Ranch House

 

The house served as the home of not only Fielding Garr, but later the managers that operated the ranch. The house is the oldest Anglo-built house in Utah still on its original foundation. Fielding Garr was the first permanent residence on the island in 1848.

Historic farm equipment was arranged around the barnyard with signs that told what they were and how they were used.

 

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Farm Equipment at Fielding Garr Ranch

 

Inside the barn, is a place where the ranchers sheared sheep. The stalls ran from the rear of the barn to the front. I’m not an expert at shearing sheep, but it looked like they were herded down the back side of the row, entered a shearing stall where their wool was removed, then exited the other end of the station. It must have been sweaty dirty work for the men who stood in the stalls shearing sheep after sheep for hours at a time.

Various tools and gear were arranged in the barn as if ready for use.

The ranch property presented views of the Wasatch Mountains across Buffalo Bay.

 

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Wasatch Mountains and Salt Lake City Across Buffalo Bay

 

We arrived on the island too late in the day to see all the wildlife that call the island home. A few bison congregated below the road near the marina as we approached the visitor center, but there was nowhere to pull off and snap a photo. The island supports a herd of 550-700, selling off the excess each year.  Other wildlife in the ecosystem includes pronghorn antelope, mule deer, bighorn sheep as well as coyotes, badgers, bobcats, owls, hawks, and falcons.  I did manage to capture a squadron of pelicans flying in formation.

 

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Pelicans in Flight

 

We checked out the campgrounds for future reference. All campgrounds are barren and primitive with no water or electricity and vault toilets. Bridger Bay Campground was the nicest with shade pavilions, picnic tables, concrete pads, and drive through loops.  Trees had been planted near some of the sites, but they weren’t big enough to provide any relief from the scorching sun. The water looked crystal clear and as blue as the sky toward the west.

 

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Salt Lake, Bridger  Bay Campground.

 

The lady at the visitor center recommended hiking up Buffalo Ridge because of its beautiful view. We started out with no problem but as we ventured higher up the hill, we had to swat a few gnats away. They weren’t too bad so we continued. Then the gnats increased with each inch in elevation until we flapped our arms and brushed our heads to keep the gnats off. When a family coming down the trail told us the gnats were even worse at the top, we turned around. No view is worth bites by gnats who laugh at any amount of DEET a person might douse on themselves. I still managed to capture a few views from higher elevations out of reach of the gnats.

 

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View of Lake Looking Southeast
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View of Park Road and Towns Across Buffalo Bay

 

Park City

It was wonderful weather on our final day in SLC for a trip to Park City. No gnats, no wind, and no rain, only sunshine with high temps reaching 70 in Park City and 80 in SLC. The beautiful drive through green mountains populated with pines was reminiscent of many other mountain resorts we have visited. Although Park City seemed a bit more city-like than other resort communities with their newly paved streets, gutters, and restored historic buildings. This is probably due to Park City hosting the Sundance Film Festival each year and the Winter Olympics in 2002. Our favorite part of any town is always the main street and Park City doesn’t disappoint with its restored historic buildings.

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Park City, Utah Street View

We passed one historic building undergoing significant foundation work. Other buildings were new construction in a modern style that looked like stacked rectangular boxes.

 

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Historic Park City Business Buildings

 

 

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Historic Park City Residences

 

 

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Modern Looking Building

 

The silver mining town flourished from the 1860s until 1950 when it became a virtual ghost town. In an effort to save their town, the remaining miners developed a ski resort, which opened in 1963. A population of 8,000 supports the nearly 4 million tourists that visit each year. Main Street is home to 64 Victorian buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

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Egyptian Theater Originally Built in 1926

 

We stepped into Shirt Off My Back to purchase T-shirts. Southwest Indian Traders had a large selection of magnets and ornaments with Park City engraved on them. And Sock City sold colorful and funny socks for humans of any age. A dish of gelato inside La Niche Gourmet and Gifts was a cool treat after walking the streets.

We must have arrived before the crowds because, by the time our feet grew tired, we had to side step visitors walking toward us or dodge dogs tugging leashes attached to their owners. We took a break at Bridges where they served up a tasty pork sandwich and salad. I must have been hungry because I ate the whole thing even though there was too much bread, wilted lettuce, and tomatoes with a few spots of skin that had taken on the look of crepe paper.

Revived from our lunch we joined the crowds and made our way back to the truck. I thought the green balls hanging outside on one building were interesting. Then I saw another business with red balls, and another with orange balls. Do the balls have a connection? Just decoration? Some significance? Does anyone know?

A little park next to the public restrooms is dedicated to the mining industry that built the town. A plaque placed by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 2000 tells the story of the Elmco Rocker Shovel Loader, Model 12B patented on October 25, 1938. It was the “first successful device to replace human labor in removing the rubble resulting from blasting in underground hard-rock mines.”

 

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Elmco Rocker Shovel Loader

 

Every new technology has the potential to displace workers. I wonder how many humans lost their jobs when the loader arrived at the mine.

Returning to our RV site, we found ourselves surrounded by new neighbors, again. Each morning there was a mass exodus of motorhomes, travel trailers, and fifth wheels leaving the RV park, and each evening the spots filled up again. We occasionally stay only one night in a spot, too, even though we prefer longer stays. After four nights in Salt Lake City, it was time to make progress toward the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Next stop? Rawlins and Douglas, Wyoming.

Safe Travels

Salt Lake City, Utah – Part I

We left Elko on Sunday, June 11 for Salt Lake City, Utah and drove through territory we had never traveled before. The terrain did not change much from Elko with snow capped mountains, green hills, valleys rich with sagebrush and green grass, and full rivers flowing occasionally alongside the freeway. Up and down the mountain passes we went with much the same scenery until we crested the mountain outside of Wendover, Utah.

Bonneville Salt Flats

Our jaws dropped when the Bonneville Salt Flats spread out before us as far as we could see. I really got a feel for the size of Bonneville Lake before it broke through causing a mother of all floods that created the Snake River on its path toward the Pacific Ocean. What a geological wonder.

We stopped at the Salt Flats Rest Area where a raised platform allowed visitors to take in the expanse of the salt flats.

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Salt Flats Rest Area

The salt was glaring white as snow and bare of any plants or trees. Here is the view from the platform looking west.

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View Looking Toward the West

As I walked up the steps to the overlook four or five teenagers discussed what they should graffiti on the roof support walls. A modern day ‘register rock’ or wall where travelers document their presence. 

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Graffiti on Platform Support

A few people ventured out onto the salt flats. A woman stood at the foot wash rinsing her feet.

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Couple Walking out to Salt Flats
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View North

We continued on to Pony Express RV Resort where we had reservations for four nights. I had overlooked this park when researching available locations until my first pick claimed they were booked solid. Pony Express turned out to be the perfect place for us, except for the constant wind blowing, and the freeway noise.

Utah Capitol Building

Windy, cold, and rainy weather greeted us on Monday. Undeterred, we headed downtown with the intent to hang out at the planetarium until the rain subsided. We arrived too early, so we drove up the hill to the Utah State Capitol Building and wandered around gawking at all the marble columns, walls, and intricate details.

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Utah State Capitol Building
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Use of Marble Inside the Capitol Building is Extensive
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Looking from Supreme Court toward House of Representatives

In the Hall of Governors, portraits of the governors are displayed and statues of historical Utahans are given prominent floor space on the fourth-floor gallery, and murals depicting Utah life and industry are abundant. 

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Philo T. Farnsworth “Father of Television”
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I was Impressed with the Eyes on Unca Sam, a Ute Indian, Hunter, and Fur Trader.

Symbolism seemed to be everywhere, from the beehive, which is the state’s emblem and represents industry and unity, to laurel wreaths which represent victory, vitality, and success. We forgot all about the planetarium.

Then there were the creatures standing guard high up in the four corners of the fourth-floor gallery. A lion with wings? Does anyone know what they symbolize? Perhaps protection?

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I Wonder about the Symbolism in this Creature.

The chandelier hanging in the rotunda was especially impressive.

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Rotunda Chandelier

In the Governor’s office used for public activities, sits a desk that was built with wood recovered from one of the trees felled during a tornado.

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Governor’s Office. Notice the Tornado Desk.

The magnificent building seemed overkill for a legislature that is in session for only 45 days out of the year. However, besides the governor, lieutenant governor, senate, house, and the state supreme court, the building also houses the highway patrol and the state treasurer’s office. So it seems they make good use of the property. And who can fault the state for wanting to showcase the many riches the state has to offer? 

Mormon Temple and Square

A trip to Salt Lake City would not be complete without a visit to the Mormon Temple Square.

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Mormon Temple

We joined a tour where two ‘sisters’ volleyed their presentation, which consisted of a bit of history, the faith’s origin story, and detail of the temple’s building, and a bit of proselytizing thrown in. They also cleared up a few rumors about some of the Mormon practices, such as baptizing dead people. They don’t, people who have died can be baptized through a proxy. In other words, a family member is baptized in the name of the deceased. The sisters did not push or insist that their religion was the only religion, but encouraged those of us on the tour to ask questions, research, and take one of the free Book of Mormons for more information. The best part of the tour was the organ, which contains 11,623 pipes. The organ pipes and Tabernacle Choir tiers dwarfed the person who played the organ.

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Tabernacle Choir Organ

One of the most interesting bits of history that I never thought of was how many of the Mormons traveled across the country to Utah with only a hand cart to haul their belongings. I thought the emigrants in covered wagons were hearty folk. I can’t imagine the hardships endured by the people who pulled handcarts.IMG_2266

We may have never made it to the planetarium, but we enjoyed seeing the capitol building and taking the tour of the Mormon Temple Square. Next week’s post will include Antelope Island and Park City, Utah.

Until then, safe travels.

 

The Trail Home

We plotted a route home and left the Grand Tetons on August 12, stopping for lunch at the Heart & Soul Bakery in Pinedale WY. Pinedale is a place I’d like to spend some time in the future. They offer an abundance of recreational activities in the winter and summer months, from swooshing down hills on skis and riding snowmobiles to hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and hunting. You can even hop on the free wagon shuttle to get around town.

The Rock Springs/Green River KOA in Rock Springs WY,  just north of Flaming Gorge National Recreational Area provided a nice spot for the night. After setting up camp and eating dinner, we took Highway 530 on the west side of the gorge to an overlook and then a marina. In the distance, beyond sagebrush-covered hills, stood tops of buttes banded with red, orange, yellow, and white. A few miles later, a small herd of pronghorn antelope was feeding a few yards off the road.

The Flaming Gorge Reservoir area is a great place if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle and/or a boat. Having neither we couldn’t get close enough to see the canyon walls and the water below. The next morning we packed up and took the east road, Highway 191, crossed over the reservoir bridge and made our way to Dinosaur National Monument.

We arrived early enough to snag a spot along the river in the Green River Campground and take the tram up to the dinosaur bones and see other sights in the area.

When I read they displayed dinosaur bones, I imagined boredom setting in while we wandered around a building housing glass-covered tables filled with bones. Instead, the two-story building protects a preserved dig site from weather and erosion. The bones are still encased in the sandstone mountain.

 

Next, we took the driving tour around the park. First stop, Swelter Shelter where a short walk later we viewed petroglyphs. I can see why some people would believe in ETs after seeing the carved designs in the sandstone. The images do look otherworldly.

Hills across from Split Mountain Campground show how the earth has lifted revealing the different layers of sediment.

Erosion from wind and rain on the sandstone created Turtle Rock and Elephant Toes Butte. The tour pamphlet did not mention the three mounds in front of Turtle Rock, so I named them The Three Crabs.

Our final stop on the tour was the Josie Morris Cabin. Josie arrived in the area in 1914 and built several cabins on her homestead. The cabin shown in the pictures was built in 1935. She tried married life five times but eventually chose to live alone and work her land by raising and butchering cattle, pigs, chickens, and geese. Until her death in 1965, she lived without electricity and burned wood for heat inside her cabin. The box canyon in the photos is where she corralled her livestock. I admire Josie for her bravery and toughness to eke out a living on her own terms in such a hostile environment.

The next morning we took US Route 40 out of Vernal UT, the gateway to Dinosaur National Monument. In Vernal, they decorate their streets by lining them with baskets and planters brimming with purple and white petunias. The petunias distract from the billboards and signs advertising the businesses.

We then turned southwest on US Route 91, west on US Route 6 and south on Interstate 15 to the Big Mountain Campground just a few miles east of Nephi and south of Provo. This campground was my favorite of all the places we stayed. The huge trees provided shade, and the green grass and sprinklers cooled the air. They rent cabins and offer tent spots in addition to the full hookup sites for RVs. It looked like a perfect place for a writing retreat, family reunion, or just a respite from traveling. I would have liked to stay there more than one night, but we had to get back on the road.

US Route 6 took us through Utah and Nevada, connecting with US Route 395 in California after an overnight stay in Tonopah NV. Jon and I did a double take when we saw a Tesla charging station in the middle of this old mining town. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stop to get a picture.

We decided to stay a few days in June Lake, one of our old stomping grounds from when we took our kids on vacation. Jon finally got an opportunity to wet a line after renting a boat at Gull Lake Marina. Although both of our mouths watered for fresh trout, Jon wasn’t able to catch our dinner. We opted for dinner out that night at the Sierra Inn Restaurant.

On August 19, we pulled up in front of our house with visions of a luxuriously long hot shower and a good night’s sleep in our king size bed.

In case you are interested, here are the stats from our Yellowstone Summer 2016 trip:

  • Nights – 44
  • Total miles driven – 4,780
  • Miles pulling fifth wheel – 2,525
  • Diesel Fuel – 379 gallons
  • RV Parks/Campgrounds – 12
  • States – 6
  • National Parks – 3
  • National Monuments – 2
  • National Forests – 8
  • National Historic Trails – 3