We have been having so much fun, I have not been posting in the last month. We made our way through Utah, Idaho, and are now in Oregon.
There is so much to see in Utah. It is such rugged country and a beautiful all its own. If you like red rock canyons, this is definitely the place for you.
We made our way from Monument Valley to Lake Powell in Page, Arizona. It was created by the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River and straddles the Arizona and Utah borders. By comparison, Lake Lanier in Georgia covers 58 square miles, has a maximum depth of 156 feet and sits at an elevation of 1,071 feet. Lake Powell covers 254 square miles, has a maximum depth of 583 feet and sits at 3,452 feet.
Lake Powell is the second largest man-made reservoir in the US behind Lake Mead, but now actually has more water than Lake Mead because of drought and the water drawn from it for human and agricultural use.
The Glen Canyon Dam is an amazing sight to see, 710 feet tall, 300 feet thick at its base and 25 feet thick at the top. It is amazing to me that something this immense was built in the mid-1950s. An interesting fact is that the first dynamite used to build the dam was ignited by President Roosevelt via a telegraph line from the White House.
Glen Canyon Dam, Page Utah
The bridge over the canyon where the dam is located
Looking down into the water in Lake Powell at 400 feet deep
Navajo Sandstone Canyon
There are alcoves carved into the sides of the canyons
Different minerals in the rocks give them different colors
Boating through one of the 90 canyons on the lake
We took at guided boat tour into the canyons and the scenery was spectacular. When we stepped off the dock onto the boat, the tour guide told us the water below us at that point was 400 feet deep. Near the shoreline, it was crystal clear, but because of its depth, it is almost black.
Because the lake is so large, there are two and three story, multi-million dollar houseboats moored there and they are spectacular. They also have 50-foot and 80-foot single story houseboats for rent that sleep from eight to twelve people for a mere $700 to $900 a day. There is no special license required, just a credit card.
Our little tour boat only held 17 people and most of them were from other countries. The people next to us were from Belgium, Germany, and France and there were several other languages I did not recognize. Back at the campground, the campers were about the same. It was pretty easy to spot them. Just wave and say “Hello” and most of them would just smile back and wave or give a “Hello” back with a very perceptible accent. I am surprised at how many people rent RVs out here. There are lots of RV rental companies here, and it seems most of them are rented by international travelers.
One of the most striking sites here is Horseshoe Bend. It is about a half of a mile of moderately strenuous hiking from the parking lot to it, but well worth the effort. It is a 100 foot drop from it down to the canyon floor and water.
Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, AZ
Horseshoe Bend takes a bit of a hike if you want to see down into it.
Zion National Park
From Lake Powell, it was on to Hurricane, Utah and Zion National Park. The locals pronounce it, “her’ a cun” with the emphasis on the first syllable. Reminds me of “how’ stun” (Houston) county in Georgia. After being in RV parks with gravel roads and camping sites with few if any trees for the past month or so, WillowWind RV Park was a wonderful change. The roads and all the sites were paved and large mulberry trees creating a canopy over each site. We had only planned to stay there for a week, but we liked it so much, we stayed for two weeks.
One of the things I noticed while we were there is that all the houses had their air conditioning units mounted on their roofs. I wondered if it was because of high amounts of snow in the winter, perhaps to prevent theft, or maybe to keep snakes and other critters from getting in them on the ground. So, I finally asked one of the maintenance men at the campground. It is because the cottonwood trees produce so much, “snow” that it clogs them up if they are on the ground. Being up in the air allows the wind to blow all around them and keeps the cooling fins from getting clogged. I immediately understood, since we have seen, “blizzards” from the cottonwoods. It is not like a light sprinkling of “snow” but a full blown snow storm.
Zion National Park is spectacular with Zion Canyon being 15 miles wide and up to a half of a mile deep. The rock formations along the main drive through the park are overwhelming, making me feel very small and insignificant. There is very little parking inside the park, so visitors are encouraged to use the free shuttle service that operates within the park. They have two million visitors each year and there are only 375 parking spaces inside the park itself.
I am always amazed by the engineering feats accomplished in the 1920’s and 1930’s. One of the most impressive things to me at Zion has a 1.1 mile tunnel that was built through the mountain to allow for a road to be built creating a “Grand Loop” to other places that would later become national parks. To allow for ventilation, light, and spectacular views, they also built windows or galleries out from the tunnels to the side of the mountains. This also allowed them to remove the rocks they were cutting inside the tunnel itself without having to take them all the way to either end.
We have a GPS in our RV that has setting made for big rigs. There is a setting for the height, width, length and weight designed to keep us off roads that are too narrow, have low bridges, hairpin curves, and bridges with weight restrictions. The last thing I want to do is catch any of the three air conditioning units on our roof on a bridge. There are plenty of those videos on YourTube already. To that end, I set the height measurement about a foot higher that it actually is, just to be safe. That sounds like a good idea, right? Well not so much. When I set the GPS for our next destination to Bryce Canyon, it took me down a narrow two-lane county road that then emptied onto an unmaintained dirt road. We stopped at the entrance to the dirt road and decided we needed a different plan. So, we turned around, (thankfully, there was enough room), backtracked about 20 miles to the nearest town and just followed the main road to the Bryce area.
My GPS was constantly telling me to turn around because there was an overpass somewhere ahead that I could not make it under. Stress, stress, stress. I decided to take my chances, thinking there must a way into the park for large RVs. Finally, I saw my nemesis, a stoned archway over the highway. So, I moved to the center of the road, held my breath, and prayed for the best.
Drum roll. Drum roll. Drum roll.
I hope we can make it through with the air conditioners still attached.
Actually, there was a tractor trailer that went through before me, so I figured I was ok.
So, our two-hour trip turned into four and a half hours but I learned a lesson and saw places I will never see again. We stayed in the little town of Cannonville, UT where there is no cell service, AT&T or Verizon, no cable TV and no over the air TV stations. The town of Tropic is only four miles away and they have all of that. If there were trees here, we would really be “in the woods”. As it is, we are just, “in the middle of nowhere.” That’s ok, the scenery is wonderful.
It was raining on Wednesday when we went to Bryce Canyon the first time, and the first rainy day we have had in nearly two months. Because of the altitude of the park, around 8,000 feet, we were soon in the clouds, with visibility only about 100 feet. Since we know what clouds look like, we decided to head back down to the campground and try it the next day.
Thursday was a perfect day, bright sunshine, a few puffy clouds, and temperatures in the low 70s. We spent the morning in the main part of the park know at the Amphitheater and taking some short hikes, and the afternoon taking the 17-mile drive through the remainder of the park. The pictures do not begin to do this place justice. I could spend weeks here, hiking the trails and still see only a small part of the park. There are a number of backcountry camping areas, but one of them is closed at this time due to high bear activity. That is not something we see much in the east. I would love to come back here again.
Capitol Reef National Park
On Saturday, we moved down the road about 100 miles to Capitol Reef National Park. This time, I did not turn a two-hour trip into four hours. Again, the beauty was spectacular and we had a wonderful time seeing the difference of the geology of this park compared to the others. This place gave us an extra little gift the day we were leaving, May 17, it snowed. Fortunately we were on the very edge of a late season snow storm and did not really affect our travels. We were soon back to sunny skies.
Then, it was on to our last two parks of, “The Big 5”, Arches and Canyonlands. Arches is perhaps the most popular of the parks with 2 million visitors each year, obviously, Lynette and I were two of them.
Capitol Reef and it was windy
I had always wanted to see these five parks as each of them is magnificent in their own right. One could easily spend a month at each park and still not see everything they have to offer. However, I would not go from one to the next again. After a while, I found the awe and majesty became somewhat commonplace and it was harder to appreciate the uniqueness of each park. Or maybe it was just too overwhelming. I am not sure. I think it is kind of like living by the ocean or a tall mountain. The first time you see it, it is awe inspiring. After being there for a month, some of the glitter wears off. But after, a time away, most of the magic comes back.
After leaving the canyons and the aridness of desert, we made our way up to Provo, Utah and some greenery. We camped at Lakeside RV Campground and were treated to a park with lots of grass and plenty of tall shade trees. I always like to watch the local Tv stations and get a feel for the local flavor of the area we are visiting. Provo is the home of Brigham Young University with over 30,000 students, most, if not all, are Mormons. One of the more interesting TV ads was for a men’s clothing store advertising their, “Missionary Starter Set”. It consisted of a suit, two shirts, belt, socks, shoes, and two washable ties. I am thinking this is definitely for the local market only.
After a few days there and get reacclimated to things that were green, we headed up through Salt Lake City, (yes it is a huge salt lake), and on into Idaho.
It was about about a four hour drive to Eden, Idaho, just outside Twin Falls. Twin Falls is a beautiful city with about 40,000 residents and plenty to do. As you might guess, it is named for two waterfalls that are side by side near the edge of town. One a Sunday afternoon, Lynette and I went to the visitors center that is on a cliff high above the Snake River. The Perrine Bridge over the Snake is 483 feet above the water and the only bridge in the US is legal to use for BASE jumping. We were treated to numerous base jumpers who jumped from the middle of the bridge with a small parachute, and they all made it out safely.
A BASE jumper over the Snake River
A BASE jumper over the Snake River
The Snake River is an awesome sight to see, deep in steep canyon walls and winding back and forth. The river is actually over 1,000 miles long and feed into the Columbia River which empties into the Pacific Ocean.
The Snake River
The Snake River with tall waterfall in the back.
The Snake River
This area is huge in agriculture. One of the things that stuck our in my mind was the amount of irrigation. There are the irrigation systems I am used to seeing back east, with pipes above ground, moved by big wheels on the ground that rotate around a central water source. They have that here too, but much of the irrigation has underground pipes with sprinklers heads mounted in permanent positions. There is so much water out here, with fast moving rivers and streams and lots of irrigation canals. Much of the water come from the melting snowpack on the high mountains to the north. Southern Idaho is definitely farming country and the fields are huge. They remind me of the field in Kansas and Nebraska, that seem to go on forever, disappearing over the horizons. The big difference here is there are huge mountains at the horizon.
About three hours down the road, just past Boise, the state capital, was our next stop. On the trip we were treated to lots more green farmland. Boise is a large city with about 220,000 people and has anything you can image. We did not spend much time there, opting for the smaller city of Nampa, with about 81,000 people.
One of the things I have found on our travels is that cities of about 40,000 people seem to be about the ideal size town. They are big enough to have most anything you need, but without the choking congestion of big cities. They are big enough to be interesting, but small enough to be manageable.
While at the Country Corners RV Park, we met the nicest couple who also run the place. They used to live in North Pole, Alaska while he was in the Air Force but moved a bit further south for a warmer climate, even though they still get plenty of snow. He is quite the outdoorsman and was taking his 9 year old daughter bear hunting for her first time the week we were there.
From Caldwell, it was about a three hour drive over to the Crystal Crane Hot Springs RV Park in Burns, Oregon. On the way, the GPS and stereo system in the RV decided to go on the fritz. That created a bit of a problem, because the GPS unit is optimized for big rigs and avoids low bridges and narrow roads. So, we reverted to Apple Maps and made it fine.
This park was about 20 miles from the nearest town and literally, out in the middle of nowhere. Eastern Oregon is pretty desolate and reminded me a lot of the plains of Texas. There was open range and lots of scrub brush where the cows just roamed to their heart’s desire.
Next to our RV park was a huge pasture with about 50 head of cattle. Upon returning from our sightseeing tour of Burns, we discovered that one of the calves was on the outside of the fence while all the other we inside. Interestingly, they started to head to a different park of the pasture and he became frantic at not being able to go with them. When they were about fifty yards away, they all stopped until the RV Park owner and his wife rounded up the calf and headed him into an gate they had opened for him to rejoin the herd. After he was safely in, the rest of the herd then continued their movement.
When we got up this morning, the temperature was a cool 42 degrees after an overnight low in the mid-30’s. Apparently, this part of Oregon has not gotten the word that it is spring time. We got an early start for our four hour drive over to Bend, Oregon. We have heard a lot about how beautiful it is around Bend and have been especially looking forward to this part of Oregon. I tried to make reservation at an RV Park in Bend out six weeks ago, because I knew kids would be out of school and more people would be camping. However, everything was already booked up, so I booked a week at the at Crane Prairie RV Resort 38 miles outside of Bend in the Deschutes National Forest and on the Crane Prairie Reservoir.
This place is rather remote, but absolutely beautiful. After getting set up, Lynette and I drove back to the office to pick up a few supplies. As we were parking, Lynette spotted a bald eagle flying about thirty yards over our heads. She was so excited, she could not get the words out, so just pointed up. Immediately, I saw the magnificent site of it gliding above it. What a treat. We had a good laugh at her not being able to articulate what she was seeing. More to come as we are RVingTheCountry.