Ten Days in the Southwest


Click on any picture to see it full-size.

The Squirrel Lady flew into Grand Junction on Thursday night, and on Friday morning Chris and Jo Nell left for home, and the Squirrel Lady (SL from now on) and I were going to drive home for the next 10 days through the Southwest. We had some definite plans, which we had set up by text while I was traveling earlier: we would camp for two nights at Dead Horse Point State Park near Moab, UT; then we would camp for two nights at Capitol Reef (SL wanted to see the area around Moab and I wanted to go back to Capitol Reef, which is now my second favorite place in the world, right after Death Valley). We had motel reservations in Page, AZ on the 28 and 29 and reservations to hike and kayak Lower Antelope Canyon on the 29th; and then we wanted to go to Kanab UT and put our names in for the Wave lottery. We were going to get home again on September 2, but the rest of the week depended on whether or not we won that lottery. So here is what happened to us, and if you didn't have any fun that week, it's because we were having all of it in Utah and Arizona and Nevada on the way home.

Friday, August 24

I got up at the ass-crack of dawn, as a young friend calls it, and drove Jo Nell to the tiny Grand Junction airport. When I got back, Chris and SL were up and packed. We checked Yelp and decided to go here for breakfast, and it was delicious. Except they HAD NO DRINKABLE TEA, just green tea. Sigh. I went out to Boudika and got a normal tea bag, so problem solved...but really?

SL took a picture of me and Chris outside.

This is the Amtrak station; notice how they are in a really boring modern addition to the really cool old station...which is being renovated, so hopefully it'll be useable again soon. I loved the door panels with train scenes etched into them...sorry, they're hard to see. Even early in the morning the sun was bright.

And PUFFERBELLY STATION!

Then we needed a place to go while we discussed food and groceries...we looked for coffee shops and this place popped up. My friend Kathy loves octopuses/i/ods and so I said, let's go there and I'll get her an octopus coffee mug. And it was a cool little kiosk chain, with very good caffeine...we drank our drinks and sat outside in the shade and worked out the food list.
But they didn't have any coffee mugs left. But, they said, the shop that makes them is nearby, it's down town and you can go there and get one. So we started walking...and the first thing we passed was the library! (SL is a librarian too)
Notice the metal fence that looks like bookshelves. And an elk statue out by the street!

Then we realized that the ceramics shop didn't open til 11 am, so we found a grocery store and did our shopping...then drove to the downtown area and parked. We walked a couple of blocks towards the ceramics shop, and were amazed to find that there was no trash on the streets at all. The whole place is almost pristine...we walked through an alley that didn't smell like people had relieved themselves there. There were no empty cups in the gutters. Nothing. It was amazing.

We walked across the courthouse lawn and saw several statues of kids with books and of course went closer to look...they were memorials to DEAD CHILDREN, omg. The eagle was cool, though.
Then we went to the downtown proper...and this whole alley was full of stuff about performers from Grand Junction. Of which I am not one, needless to say, but the piano was cool.
A giant ant eating a giant apple? Absolutely!
SL found three travel rocks; here are pictures of two of them in situ. They have a design painted on one side, and a web site on the other, and one is supposed to take them to interesting places and leave them there. SL took all three to travel with us, although I don't think she left any of them anywhere...they were her little friends.

Although, to be fair, she did take pictures of them in different places, to post to the 'travel rock' web site.

This was an excellent bookstore.

And then the grammar and spelling police came and arrested everyone in the restaurant...

While I was in the bookstore, SL checked out a local brewpub.

And then we were done...and off we went to Utah!

When Doug and I drove through Utah in 2014, one of the things I wanted to do was Sego Canyon; it's a road through a tiny, kind of derelict town called Thompson Springs, then up into a canyon, and there are petroglyphs, old ruins of buildings and a cemetery. But when you get on the road, there are signs saying PRIVATE PROPERTY and NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBAL LAND and asking you to pay attention to fences and not do anything bad. This freaked my husband out, and after a half mile on this road he insisted we turn back because of course it was WRONG to go on other people's land, so we left without seeing ANYTHING except an awesome lizard he pointed out to me.

I told SL this story, and here's how it went for us...

Yay, we're in Utah, which is quite beautiful.
This is what the town and road looked like. It was a gorgeous day, hot and sunny.

I had the website directions for this road and how to find stuff on it...and we still had to ask people. We went too far, turned back and then found everything.First we came to the petroglyphs...

There are three seperate sets of petroglyphs, left by three different native peoples...the first set is Ute culture Petroglyphs (1300 A.D. - 1880 A.D.)
The second section is Fremont culture Petroglyphs (600 A.D. - 1250 A.D.)
And the third and most amazing section was left by the Barrier Canyon people (6000 B.C. - 100 B.C.). These are about 15 feet off the bottom of the wash, and the panel is about ten feet high.
Here is an excellent page if you want to find out more about these petroglyphs and the people who made them: Sego Canyon Petroglyphs

And we're back on the road, looking for the cemetery and the ghost town...

We turn a corner and there's the cemetery, looking kind of sad and lonely, as old desert cemeteries often do...
Then we continued down the side road and found the old buildings and a car...
My bro says this is "a late '52 Febrola Bulge-o-lator, possibly with the crumble seats in the back." Made me laugh!

There's not enough of it in this picture to actually identify, he and Doug think it's from the early 50s but that's as close as they got.

Sego was a coal mining town for about 50 years, and at its high point about 500 people lived here...the mine had numerous problems, and the railroads converting to diesel engines in the 1950s pretty much put an end to it. We didn't go far up into the town, just the first big building.
Then we made our way out of Sego Canyon, well pleased with our afternoon there, and drove back through Thompson Springs, stopping for pictures of derelict buildings and amusing signs.
The home-made map and information kiosk on the way into town, with the history side so vandalized you can hardly read it...
SL and I both loved the derelict motel!
And we bid farewell to Thompson Springs and Sego canyon, and turn southwards toward Moab. We were on the way to Dead Horse Point State Park; I had stayed here a few years ago and except for (at that time) a LOT of mosquitoes, it was quite a nice place. I was hoping the mosquitoes would not be there this time...
The scenery along the way was stunning. The whole area around Moab is really beautiful, even the parts that the roads go through.
And here we are! We didn't have a reservation, but got a site in their brand-new campground, Wingate Campground. Here's our campsite...with the windscreen facing the wrong way for the prevailing wind at that time. Ah well.

And we have a greeter! A Blue Death-Feigning Beetle is walking around our campsite. Who's a pretty boy then?

These are Rocky Mountain Bee-Plants, and they were planted all over the campground in rows and circles. They were BEAUTIFUL, escpecially since the rest of the campground was just bare dirt. They really made it nicer.
Beavertail cactus was pretty much the only other thing growing there. One of the walkways from our part of the road to the bathrooms. I think I'm getting stuff out for dinner here. SL took a walk after dinner and found a whole section of the campground where you can rent a yurt to stay in...
The sunset and moonrise were really pretty, as was sunset behind the yurts.
Later that evening I went to the bathrooms, which were individual roooms, four or five in a block, and there was a girl outside one of them. Don't go in there, she said, there's a huge black widow spider under the sink.

And there was! this bad girl is two inches from toe to toe. Awesome!

Saturday, August 25

We got up the next morning and had breakfast, then went to see what delights the day had in store. SL wanted to do Canyonlands Island in the Sky, which was right close by (Canyonlands NP has four sections, two of which are only accessible with 4 wheel drive; this one and The Needles have actual roads.)
Island in the Sky is a huge mesa almost surrounded by the Colorado River valley. The views are amazing, as you will see... A Sagebrush Lizard on a fence post at the parking lot for Mesa Arch. Love my monochrome filter! Mostly wildfire smoke, today...
SL took these, I think the birds are chukkar. And here's some more wildlife... It was a gorgeous morning...and for about an hour we didn't see anyone else. The joy of getting out the door early!
The trail was a mile and a half loop that went to Mesa Arch and back. The arch is beautiful, and fun to climb on...not as scary as it might look, the third picture shows the top of the arch. About 3 feet wide, and easy to get on. We got there before there were a million people crawling all over it, which was nice. They started showing up just as we left...
Then we started back.

Lizard break! Eastern Fence Lizard. Notice his tail, looks like it broke off and is growing back.

The views were beautiful but there was a lot of smoke in the air, which came and went all day.

It was getting hotter and very sunny, just my kind of weather...but when we got back to the truck, look who did not want to be in the sun!
We went to the Grand View Point, which is a huge parking lot/hiking/terraced rock area with amazing views of the Colorado River and the surrounding mountain ranges...it was really beautiful. And a lizard!
Me far away on the rim. A nice ranger lady telling us about the layers of rock and how the Colorado River cut into them. This made us both laugh really hard.
Next we went to Upheaval Dome, which had one trail that went straight up and over to two viewpoints, or a loop trail that went around the craters...we did most of the 'up and over' one.
A pretty tree, and SL got a bunch of pictures of me! We stopped on the way up to talk to some nice people.
Nobody is sure what caused this two-mile-wide crater; it could have been a salt dome underground that fractured and collapsed, or a meteorite strike. But it sure is pretty!
We went past the first dome overlook on the way to the second; the trail beyond the first overlook was mostly on rock, and there were these little cairns to mark the trail. Which were very cool looking...although it meant that as we got to each one, we often had to look around for the next; not all of them were in nice neat lines like these.
And here SL and I have taken pictures of each other, with each other's camera, each going up the same hill...I have no idea how we did that...!

A bit after this, we turned back...it was hot and shadeless, and there was a part ahead that looked like it might be too steep downhill for me to come back down it.

Two interesting trees, the trail back down, a rock that looks like something got spilled on it...and we're back.
Boudika is waiting patiently for us. We pulled over into a parking space with shade and a picnic table beside it and had a lovely lunch.
Oddly enough, the scenery was just as beautiful on the way back out. And we saw this cool looking RV up ahead of us.
We stopped at The Neck on the way to the Visitors Center; this is the narrow strip of road that connects Island in the Sky, which is a huge mesa, with the 'mainland'. You can see hiking trails down below; they start from where we are parked.

And here is a relief map of Island in the Sky that we saw at the Visitor's Center when we got there.

Here is that cool RV, which was parked in the parking lot at the Visitors Center. And here is Ranger _____, BREAKING INTO MY TRUCK, because I took a few minutes to sit in the driver's seat, texting my sister, and dropped the keys in the cupholder...then got out and locked the car with the button...and...

He was very nice. And got me my keys within about 10 minutes, thank goodness. SL mocked me, and I deserved it.

She liked the white bison on the National Parks Service badge as well.

Beautiful scenery on the way back towards Moab. It was about 1:30 pm and we were discussing what to do next; I had seen the Moab Giants dinosaur place a couple of times before and said that if SL wanted to, we could do that. She was amenable, so here we go!
This is what it looks like. It was damn hot, so it was deserted at 2 pm...we pretty much had the place to ourselves til about 4. There's this big park area, there is a museum, two theaters, and a 'Dinosaur Trail'.

What we found out while we were here is that the place was funded and built by Polish scientist and busnessmen...so part of it is cheesy stuff to appeal to the kids, and part of it is interesting dinosaur stuff to appeal to anyone who is actually a dinosaur lover. The cheesy stuff was indeed cheesy, but even the 'real' stuff had an element of cheesiness about it, since they didn't English so good...

This will give you a good idea of what this place was like. The first thing we did was walk through a "5D Prehistoric Aquarium", wearing 3d glasses. This was glass panels with 3d back-projected scenes showing aquatic dinosaurs swimming as if in aquarium exhibits...not so bad, until we got to the end, where suddenly we were in a 'shark cage' and the Megalodon that we were there to see noticed us and broke the bars and cracked the glass...with the guide trying hard to be excited by it all. My camera couldn't handle the 3D, but SL's phone did. The first pic is one of the prehistoric fish, and the second one is of the Megalodon about to "break" the "glass"...cheesy fun.
Cute dino stuff and a perfect example of this place-pretty good information but not good English...
We went across the plaza, taking pictures of stuff along the way, including the amusing sign. And I'm pouting because there's a weight limit on the DINOSAUR CARTS that excludes me...doggone it! My fault for being a grownup.

So then we walked the Dinosaur Trail, about a half mile looping path out into the hinterlands around Moab Giants with dinosaur statues...

Aaand...here are the people who made the dinosaurs and probably the English too...their website sounds just like a lot of the signs here. Yes, I'm fussy...but with all the money they spent on this place, they could have hired an English major for cheap to just proofread it all. It's not that hard to get it right.
A contemporary dinosaur, I think it's a Plateau Tiger Whiptail, and Blanket Flowers (aka Gallardia).
A 'Rock Art Gallery' of copies of various petroglyphs left by humans...in a dinosaur place? One of these things is nothing like the other... This was very cool, not only because the English is ALMOST right, but also it's something I didn't know about dinosaurs...the different kinds orient their footprints differently.
The museum had some cool exhibits, and also these signs were everywhere...I'm not sure this would stop some kid from climbing on them...
There was a display about some kind of dinosaurs in this museum that said, and this is a direct quote, "Some dinosaurs didn't move around very much, especially the sedentary ones"...We also saw a short film about the rise and fall of the dinosaurs, which also had some of the grammatical errors we came to know and love, like talking about the "anthropods at the bottom of the ocean"...LOLOL
We went to Moab for dinner, and saw a place called Eddie McStiff's. Who could resist? Drinks and dinner were delicious, and so was the (shared) dessert.
The drive back to our campground was gorgeous, and a bit later we went out to Dead Horse Point to see the beautiful canyon and the sunset.

Sagebrush Lizard

Then we went back to the campground, and by golly, the sunset was just as beautiful there!
A little later that evening, SL came by and said, there's heat lightning over there...and we both went out to see. The left-hand/upper bright spot in each of these pictures is the moon, the right-hand/lower one is lightning. It was way cool.

Sunday, August 26

A beautiful sunrise and one more picture of our campsite, and we're off for Capitol Reef!
And a stop for breakfast at the excellent Tamarisk Restaurant in Green River, UT. I've been here several times and love it, their food is DELICIOUS.
Utah's state motto is, We have so much gorgeous scenery that we can waste it on ROADSIDES...!
This was a wide spot in the road, but so pretty we stopped for pictures...including one of Boudika! And the signs label various BUTTES in the distance but someone thought it would be amusing to remove the E at the end...made us laugh!

Next is Carl's Critter Garden in Hanksville...but the wonderful cat Chuck that lived there has disappeared. He was a fine cat and is greatly missed.

Climatius, an extinct prehistoric shark.

We continued on toward Capitol Reef, but stopped at this ruined building, which was very cool looking.

Factory Butte

This is the road coming into Capitol Reef. We stopped to see a cabin where one of the settlers in Fruita lived with his wife and THIRTEEN KIDS. Yes, it's as tiny as it looks...
And we are in Capitol Reef Campground! They had just this year started reserving campsites ahead of time, but luckily they kept ten aside for people who didn't know that, and we got one...the last time I stayed here, last year, it was no reservations. A robin is hopping around watching us unpack our stuff...and you can see that the sky is clouding up, looking like rain. It's still warm, just overcast.
We went to the Visitor's Center, loving the marmot sign on the way. Here is a poster showing all the layers of rock here, in the Waterpocket Fold, which is a monocline a hundred miles long.
The roads at Capitol Reef NP make a T- highway 24 is the top of the T and runs right through the park; the leg of the T is the Scenic Road, which is very scenic indeed...it goes 10 miles south and ends at Capitol Gorge, which is where we decided to go for the afternoon...both of us wanted to see the Tanks.

This is the drive down the Scenic Road to the Capitol Gorge...notice the signs about NOT parking or hiking when there's rain...and notice the road and clouds...

At the end of the road is a parking lot and a dirt road leading to the actual gorge...which, of course, you're not supposed to drive on when it's raining. Now, it wasn't ACTUALLY raining at this point, it was just overcast and threatening...but notice the flood sign that isn't quite being used here...
So we drove down this beautiful dirt road with amazing rocks all around it...it goes about three miles to the trailhead...and suddenly we're stopping because ANIMALS ANIMALS ANIMALS!
Big horn sheep! Well, medium horn sheep, the horns are not as big as they can get...but a family was there, just grazing away, so of course we stopped in the pullout that was conveniently located across from them and took pictures!
And then we were at the end of the road; there's a decent-sized parking lot there, which had been full up the last time I was here...today, we were it. There might have been one or two other cars there, but no more than that. We were going to hike Capitol Gorge to see the petroglyphs, the Pioneer Register and (the thing I had not done before) the Tanks.
The trail led down the Gorge, with various things to look at...the Tanks were about a mile down, and the Gorge continues on to the Park's eastern boundary. It's an easy hike, and very beautiful. It wasn't raining at all, and every time we turned around the clouds, sun and light were doing different stuff; some of these pictures look dark and stormy, some have blue sky...it changed constantly. And we were the only people in the canyon...we didn't see anyone else til we started back from the Tanks.

Western Clematis

Paintbrush

Paintbrush

I'm pretty sure this is Apache Plume

Desert Tobacco

We're at the petroglyphs

Pioneer Register

A beautiful thistle

Paintbrush

More Apache Plume

This is the trail to the Tanks...you can see the sign behind the bushes near the middle of the picture. The trail goes across the rocks, up the hill and over into the canyon; it's steep and not all of it is well marked, which makes it a lot of fun!
Greenstem Paperflower

Plateau Side-blotched Lizard

On the left you can see the first part of the trail, looking down on the sign from above. Interesting rocks, an intrepid hiker, and the trail ahead, marked with rock cairns.
Very cool rocks and trees, and there's that hiker again...and here are the tanks! They are huge waterpockets that fill up and have water in them even in the hot summer.

I'm standing sideways on an angled rock.

The way back. Notice the blue sky peeping through! One last view of the Tanks. And there's that hiker again...
Cool rocks, and the trail back. And...is that...SUNSHINE??? Yes, it is. It was gorgeous the rest of the day and the next day!

One more shot of the Pioneer Register, aka old graffiti...

A lizard, and the sunshine is so welcome! We got back to the parking lot, and left for our next hiking adventure.
We drove to the Grand Wash. Note the sign, they aren't kidding. I got caught in the Narrows here in a rainstorm once...but it's late enough in the day that SL and I aren't going as far as the Narrows; we just went about half a mile.
An old uranium mine...
And then we see rocks with holes in them and of course it's a photo-op!

What exactly are we supposed to do here?

And then we went back to the campground, and found deer all over the place. Dinner was good, and afterwards we went to an astronomy talk, of which I remember two things: Antares means 'not Ares', i.e. a red star that isn't Mars; and the Scorpion chases Orion around the sky, and this is why they are never seen at the same time in the night sky. What a nice evening!

Monday, August 27

Morning in the campground. The deer are back, two with big ol' racks, and they brought their friends the turkeys with them!
So yeah, that was sort of like waking up in a Disney movie...we loved it!

Then I packed my stuff to go hiking. I wanted to hike the Chimney Rock trail, down the highway to the west, and SL wanted to stay in the area and see all the pioneer stuff. I said, it's about three miles but maybe hard miles...I should be back by noon or so and we'll meet here then do something fun together. SL was down with this, so off I went!

It was a GORGEOUS morning. The road on the way to the trailhead was deserted, as was the trail. I figured out later that this is a trail to do in the late afternoon, when the sun is actually on Chimney Rock...but I had an awesome time and saw maybe four people on the whole hike.
The first part of the trail, and the sign at the fork (after you get a certain distance it's a loop, with a steep uphill to the right, or a long meandering one to the left...you know which one I picked.) After the sign, the trail was a normal trail, steep sections and some switchbacks, nothing horrible.

Looking down on the eponymous Chimeny Rock

This is what the top of the mesa looked like. The trail went across it for about half a mile. Amazing views. Of course, all the red rocks and Chimney Rock were in the shade, because I was hiking in the morning...but it was still beautiful.
The road to the Goosenecks and Sunset Point, which we'll take later in the evening. Two views of the trail down the other side of the mesa, and the valley I'll be hiking in a few minutes. Beautiful! The road to the east, back towards Fruita and our campground.
This is the valley the trail went through as it turned back towards the start...it was amazing. The lenticular clouds were great too.

Plateau Side-blotched Lizard

And I returned to Boudika, who was waiting patiently for me, as she always does. I got back to the car at 10:30 or so, and had plenty of time, so I thought, I'll go into Torrey, the closest town, and get some ice and paper towels and things, fill up the gas tank, and get back to the campground in plenty of time...
This was the scenery on the way to Torrey. But before I tell you what happened next, let's catch up with SL...she spent the morning going to all the shops, recreated and restored buildings, and everything that was within a mile's walk of the campground. Here are some of her pictures.

Notice this sign, it's important.

Bunny!

Hm...I wonder what kind of pies they were selling in the Museum shop...?
So here's what happened after my hike: I went to Torrey, and the first thing there, at the highway junction, is a gas station/convenience store/coffee shop/sandwich shop. I went in to pick up a couple of things, and realized that although my keys were in my pocket, my wallet was in my truck where I had left it while I hiked. So I opened the passenger side door, reached for the wallet with my right hand, which was holding the keys, dropped the keys on the passenger seat, picked up my wallet with my right hand, and CLOSED AND LOCKED THE DOOR OF THE TRUCK. With my keys still in plain sight on the front seat.

Many bad words were said. This was the second time in three days.

And unlike the time I did this at Capitol Reef, it took AN HOUR AND A HALF for the guy who could help me to get around to me; evidently he was busy, although the nice lady at the convenience store who let me use her phone (guess where mine was?) said no, he's just slow. Anyway. It was 1 pm by the time he showed up and got my truck open, an hour after I told SL that I'd be back. I got in my truck and drove as fast as I safely could to the campground, rehearsing apologies and groveling all the way.

And I found her...sitting calmly under a tree reading a book. AND SHE HAD GOTTEN A PEACH PIE FOR US TO SHARE.

What a good friend! And that was the BEST LUNCH EVER. And now I have keys hidden in my truck where I can get to them even if I lock my regular keys inside the cab.

And she has been VERY GOOD about not rubbing my face in my stupidity, for which I am duly grateful.

BEST. LUNCH. EVER. And I am unashamedly licking the plate my half was on. It was SOOOO DELICIOUS.

So then we started talking about the rest of the day...I had planned to do another hike, but didn't need to leave right away. Then we started talking about how good the peach pie was, and ended up going to get the other kind they had, the berry pie...and that was damn good too.

Mmmm. What a good lunch. SL had ice cream on hers.
And we talked again about the rest of the day, since we were leaving for Arizona in the morning. And I was not feeling like another hike, not after TWO HALF PIES (albeit small ones). And I had started rereading one of my favorite books the night before...and I really wanted to read some more...and then I realized that after a month on the road, I had literally had NO down time...I had been doing stuff every single day, either hiking or sightseeing or driving all day.
So I spent the afternoon on a comfy folding chair, in the shade, drinking a beer or two and reading a wonderful book. The sun was hot and lovely, there was a nice breeze and there were deer in the campsite. And you know what? That was pretty high on my list of 'favorite days on this trip'. It was lovely.
SL spent the afternoon in the shade watching the deer. This is a yellow jacket that landed on her shirt, of course we took a picture of it before it flew off!
This doe settled down in our neighbor's space under their tree...she stayed there for a long time. They kept peeking out from their RV to see if she'd gone, and finally they gave up and went out and sat in the chairs beside her. Just like a pet dog...!
Later in the day the herd came by, and both SL and I took pictures because CUTE.

And at one point I sauntered around the campsite; the hosts had hummingbird feeders, and I managed to get a good shot of the cuties pigging out on sugar water!

After dinner we went to the Goosenecks and Sunset Point to see the sun go down.

Part of the Goosenecks, which are deep tight river bends.

And then it was time to go back to our campground for our last night at Capitol Reef.

Tuesday, August 28

Today was just a travel day. We had to get to Page, AZ, which is about a five hour drive. Our plan was to go down highway 12 through Grand Staircase-Escalante, then to Kanab and down to Page. Which is what we did, and we had fun doing it!
Goodbye, Capitol Reef! See you next year!

Utah roadblock

Llamas! So cute!

The whole drive was gorgeous. Highway 12 is not only scenic, it's scenic even for UTAH, which is really saying something. There are many pullouts like this, where they have interesting signs and yet more scenery...
This was great. We're in the middle of nowhere, desperate for a bathroom, and we come across the Big Water Visitor Center. Made us laugh so hard! but they DID have bathrooms...
Just outside Page AZ we came to the Glen Canyon Dam; I remember the controversy when it was built, but it was amazing to see. We went all over the visitor's center.
The two signs on the left were outside. The dino tracks were cool, but the other is just sad. DUDES! Bottled water IS or bottles of water ARE. I cannot verb, I has the dumb, says Doug...

And a nice 'this is what's here' sign.

We checked into our motel, I did a ton of laundry, and we went looking for dinner...ended up at a pretty good Mexican place, El Tapatio, which we found out means a person from Guadalajara. Didn't know that. Yes, the drinks were good!
We stopped at this liquor store that was behind the restaurant, saying to each other, they're just going to have crap beer. They had a surprisingly good selection of microbrews! And a cool blooming cactus out front. So we were in Page, and drove down Lake Powell Blvd several times, each time going around this curve on the map, and saying each time, Wow, there are a lot of churches here...this is the Google map of it, and there are nine. As SL says, NOT a street you'd want to be driving on come Sunday morning. But the hilarious thing is, the high school in the center of the curve on the map? the team is the Sand Devils...and look at the logo! Hilarious!!!

Wednesday, August 29

When SL said that she wanted to drive home from Colorado with me, we went to dinner to discuss what that entailed. She walked into my house and said, do you know about The Wave? Hells yeah, I said, I've applied for permits for the last four years and not gotten them. I've already planned to apply for one for the dates we're driving home.

Good, she said. How about Antelope Canyon? It's on my list, I said, but I haven't done it. So let's do it!

So we looked into it. Antelope Canyon is two parts, both on Navajo land. Upper Antelope Canyon is literally a photo op where you walk into a gorgeous place, take a picture and go, and it's only really good around noon. Lower Antelope Canyon is a 3/4 mile walk down an amazing slot canyon with a bunch of other people, but at least it's a walk, not just going in and taking a picture. And in doing this research, I came across a kayak trip on Lake Powell to the upper upper/flooded part of Antelope Canyon...and SL and I love kayaks. Let's do Lower Antelope Canyon in the morning and the kayak thing in the afternoon, I said..and she agreed, and so it was done. This was why we were staying in a motel in Page for two nights, so we would be conveniently located for these two tours.

We left the motel earlier than needed because we had only vague directions for this place...turned out we went too far on Antelope Canyon Road, to the marina (where we'll be later) and had to come back. This is the tour starting place; we took the Dixie Lee tour, which had good reviews online, and were pretty happy with it and our guide, a young lady named Valencia. There was a Navajo dancer/busker doing an amazing dance with hoops beforehand to amuse the tourists, and the list of STUFF TO KNOW was pretty long...
When our group was called, we walked about half a mile across this kind of landscape...you can see the stairs in the last picture. The stairs go down into Antelope Canyon.
Lower Antelope Canyon is an amazing slot canyon that you literally wouldn't know was there unless you were being herded through it. All the pictures here are really what it looks like...I did no post-processing of my pictures, and I don't think SL did either...this was what our cameras actually saw. And I apologize ahead of time...there are far too many pictures here, but they were all too gorgeous not to keep.
The stairs down into the canyon Milling around in the entrance area SL in the entrance One last glimpse of sky
Parts of this canyon were wide areas, and others were really narrow and wierd...here's a little ladder up to a narrow slot part of the walk.
And here's the exit...the stairs out, what it looks like as you go up and out of the canyon, and the tiny crack people come out of, without and with people actually coming out of it. It's like a clown car, amazing to think that there is anything down there that people fit into...
People straggling out of the canyon. There are several people along the way selling water, and don't think it wasn't tempting...but you know what we did for lunch. Sonic! Yeah! Then we drove back by where we had been in the morning, to the marina, for kayaking. We loved these power towers, they look like cats in hats. Really.
Our kayak trip was booked through Hidden Canyon Kayak. We went to the Lake Powell Marina and met our group for the kayaking; most of us were in double kayaks, so SL and I decided that she would be in back/steering for the first half of the trip, and we'd swap for the way back. It was SO MUCH FUN!
A bunch of shots of the group, including me and the Squirrel Lady.

Our new-met Australian friend Jess is in the single canoe. She was awesome!

SL and I are in the kayak on the left.

We landed on deep sticky mud at the upper end of Antelope Canyon where it goes into Lake Powell...yes, the same canyon we had hiked in the morning. From there we hiked maybe half a mile to the real start of the canyon/photo op place, then back.

Our guide called this a 'pink anole', but I couldn't find anything that was actually called that; I think it's another Plateau Side-Blotched Lizard.

Pricklyburr

Our guides said the water in Lake Powell has been very low for years; it used to be 90 feet higher, and the kayak trip we took wouldn't have been possible, because everything we saw would have been under water. So yay global warming? hm. The first three pictures are of the invasive quagga mussels that are a huge problem in lakes all over the southwest; the fourth is of a freshwater sponge that has dried out now that it's exposed. Really beautiful!
End-of-canyon photo op! The bottom center pic is the sucking mud we beached the kayaks in, and had to walk through. The last pic is of Jess-from-Australia, our BFF of the day. She was adorable, and we hung out with her through dinner. She was on a camping tour of the US.
And then we started back, SL in the front of the kayak. We stopped here so people could swim for a while; it was suddenly overcast, but still pretty hot. And one of the things many people did was jump off this rock into the water. There goes SL!
Virile Crayfish. Isn't he MANLY? About three inches long.

And when we got back to the parking lot, this guy was there to welcome us!

We all brought our life jackets and paddles back and gathered around the truck where our awesome guides, Taylor and Anthony, talked to all of us. SL and I apologized for being so slow; we were mostly in the back of the group. No, said (guide), you were fine. If you had REALLY been slow, we wouldn't have done all the things we did; the whole group paddled fast enough that we did everything, including the swim. So that made us feel great!

And of course we had been sitting in kayaks all day, and our nether regions were soaked with water...on the way to the truck, SL said, your pants look EXACTLY like you peed them....so of course we had to take a pic as if I had...because it made me laugh.

So to see Horseshoe Bend, you park in a parking lot and hike about 3/4 mile on a very easy well-marked trail that goes up over a ridge and then down. But of course a lot of the people who come here are new to the desert, stupid or both...
Horseshoe Bend is beautiful. Here the Colorado River, with all its colorful banks, makes a 270 degree bend.
Jess and I are chillin' and watching the beautiful sunset.

This picture of the warning sign took me 10 or 15 minutes to take, because PEOPLE KEPT WALKING OUT ON THE EDGE. This is deeply ironic. The only thing that could cap it would be if one of them had fallen...but thank goodness that didn't happen.

And a couple more pictures, then it was time to go. Jess had to check into her campground, and was going to join us at the Dam Bar and Grill later on.
The sunset was beautiful as we drove back into Page, tired and happy after a long day of doing really cool stuff.
We went to the Dam Bar and Grill, and walked around looking at all the cool stuff, which included a lot of photos of the Glen Canyon Dam being built...but what i loved was all the neon!
Aaaah. A good dinner, a delicious beer, a bath and a comfortable bed.

What could be better after a day of fun in the desert?

Thursday, August 30

So here we are back to the conversation SL and I had had months before this trip, the one about The Wave. It's a GORGEOUS sandstone formation in Utah, just over the AZ border, on a dirt road that has several other cool things on it. The Wave is in North Coyote Buttes, in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, and TWENTY PEOPLE A DAY are allowed to hike to it. The names of 10 who have registered online are drawn by lottery four months ahead (and I had entered, not been picked) and the names of ten people are drawn randomly at the Kanab UT BLM station the day before each day's hike.

The pictures to the left show other people's photos of The Wave. And if one goes there without a permit both in your car in the parking area, and prominently displayed on one's backpack, one is in a WORLD of trouble; the BLM sends rangers every day to check up on people.

We got up at 5:30 am and left Page AZ at 6; it's an hour and a half drive from Page to Kanab...and crossing the state line you LOSE AN HOUR. We had to be there by 8:30 for the 9 am lottery. We showed up in plenty of time and joined a group of people milling around. At 8:40, one of the ladies behind the desk called the 40 or so of us in the lobby around the desk and went into what was obviously a daily spiel about how hard the (six mile) hike to the Wave is, how hot it gets, and how there is no trail marked, just directions and GPS points to get there and back. None of us was dismayed.
So just before 9, all of us Wave hopefuls trooped into this room. There were 81 of us in 26 hiking groups...and each group filled out a form with names, emergency contacts and all kinds of other info. Each of these forms (one per group) got a number...we were #8. And then (and I am not kidding, see the photo) they use an OLD FASHIONED BINGO CAGE to draw the numbers.

They drew a 3 person group. Then a 5 person group. Then a single...and that was 9 people. And the lady doing the drawing said, Normally we only allow 10 people to go, but in the case that there is only one space left, if we draw a group that is more than a single hiker, we'll let two people go so nobody is hiking out there alone without actually planning to. But if we draw the number of a group of more than two people, only two of you can go.

And she drew...another group. Of two, which was nice for them...but SL and I were SOL.

And we had talked about both contingincies...so we went to Plan B, no Wave.

An interesting sign about Grand Staircase-Escalante that was outside the BLM office.

And we went to downtown Kanab for coffee and food at this excellent coffee shop before going to our next thing.

SL is a friend of all animals, and had heard of this place called Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, five miles outside Kanab Utah. We had made a reservation for the 11 am tour, figuring that that would give us time to be in the 9 am Wave lottery and still get there. After our elevenses in Kanab, we drove here and took a TWO HOUR tour of the premises. They have 3700 acres, house 1600 animals at any given time- horses, dogs, cats, birds, bunnies, you name it. Many get adopted, but those who don't have a good home for life. The tour consists of a short video about the foundation, and an hour and a half tour in a minivan to many of the animal sections, and we got to walk into a communal dog and a communal cat area and meet some of them. It was a lovely place and a lovely tour, and we both really enjoyed it.
They also had a lovely cemetery for people's pets. To the right is one of the horse paddocks. It was a beautiful area!
Then we got groceries and went to Jacob Lake campground and reserved a campsite. Really we did. Really!

SL saw this marker; she was on a quest to see the elusive Kaibab Squirrel either here or at the north rim of the Grand Canyon, which is where we were headed next.

The first thing we saw almost as soon as we entered Grand Canyon National Park was...BISON. Lovely.

First we stopped at Roosevelt Point...

Cliff Rose

Cliff Rose

Then we crossed the road to take a short trail to some Anasazi ruins...
Next we went to Cape Royal and Inspiration Point. Paintbrush; the yellow flowers are Hairyleaf Goldenaster, and I'm willing to bet the white ones are asters too but they're too far gone to figure out what kind; Boudika waiting patiently for us; and Cliff Rose.
Angel's Window

Common Sagebrush Lizard

Flowers

Dragon!

Currant berries

Fernbush

Fernbush

Fernbush

Penstemon

Aster

Bird Wildlife of another sort... The view from Point Imperial, the highest elevation overlook at the Grand Canyon

Bird

We were driving out of the parking lot at Point Imperial and saw this...and said, what the hell? Does that thing have a...face? Why yes, it does. Pretty hilarious once you look closely...
Then we went to the North Rim Visitor Center. We planned to check out the Visitor Center and the Grand Canyon Lodge and we hoped to have dinner at the Lodge...unfortunately, the next dinner reservation they had was at something like 8:30 pm...and it was about 4 pm...so we put our names down, and went off to find fun, thinking we'd figure it out later. We went all around the area, hiking a short trail out to a vista overlook and around the Lodge. SL was on the lookout for Kaibab Squirrels as well...
I loved this sign. What if I just want to hang out and saunter with my hands in my pockets?

Maybe some kind of goldenrod?

SL has found a Kaibab Squirrel!

The trees here on the rim were amazing.
Phantom Ranch! SL and I rode the mules down to Phantom Ranch and back in September of 2017.
So we went back to the Lodge and checked...they still didn't have any reservations til late and we were HUNGRY. We ended up at a small cafeteria, and got some pretty darn good food...here I am with macaroni and cheese, and chili, and mango juice!
The bison herd was still there when we left, taking dust baths, with someone watching them very intently...
Yup. Seen them!

And the sunset was beautiful. Driving back to the campground at Jacob Lake, we saw a car pulled over, and stopped to help...they had hit a deer that had jumped out on the road in front of them. The deer had run off, and they literally had car parts scattered all over the road around the front of their car...I wish we had taken a picture, it was an amazing amount of damage...!

So we drove back to Jacob Lake, and got there around 9:30 or so...and there was an orange traffic cone blocking the driveway to our campsite, and a note telling us to see the camp host. It took about half an hour to track him down, a nice old guy driving a golf cart. You didn't register, he said. Yes we did, I said, we did it around 1 pm before we left for the Grand Canyon. We went to the metal box that had the registrations, and looked inside to make sure that there weren't any that got left inside. Then I asked to see the registrations for today...he had a stack of them, and sure enough, ours was in there. He was very embarrassed, but I was just relieved that we actually had registered...! We had a nice quiet night at this excellent campround.

Friday, August 31

Today we TURNED FOR HOME. I'd been on the road for five weeks, and, fun notwithstanding, was so ready to go back! We had a motel reservation in Beatty NV for Saturday night, so we had to find a place to stay tonight. I had scouted around and found that there were three campgrounds on Mount Charleston, near Las Vegas, that are actual mountains-and-trees campgrounds...so we figured we'd stay there. We had a couple of things we wanted to do on the way, and so...
Blackbirds in the morning, and our excellent (and registered!) campsite at Jacob Lake campground. SL is off taking one last look for Kaibab Squirrels, but never saw a one in the wild.
One last bit of road with beautiful red mountains along it. Chums
Leaving Arizona for Utah! SL kept talking about the highway signs. She finally showed me that in Utah, they have beehives on them because Utah is the 'Beehive State" OH THANK GOD. I think it had been two weeks since I saw a Del Taco. This was in St. George, UT. It was VERY bright and sunny out...I think people come in and bump into things and fall down because they leave their sunglasses on...

One of the two things we had talked about doing today was Valley of Fire State Park; I've been here before, and it's awesome. Really beautiful. There are a couple of great hikes...oh. The signboard in the visitor's center: Temperature: HOT! Hiking not recommended!

So we looked at everything in the Visitor's Center, both inside and out. There was an adorable antelope ground squirrel...
There was a truly magnificent prickly pear cactus out front, lovely in the sunshine...
Creosote gall Fred was the only chuckwalla we saw on this trip... Of course I'm a cactus wren! I'm not a sparrow, I'm more interesting than that. You got any food? Barrel cactus
You notice that that heat warning is a permanent sign...?

Next we went to see the petroglyphs, which are up a big staircase.

We left Valley of Fire and drove to north Las Vegas to check out what was marked on my map as Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument...
...and this is it. No kidding. Evidently it's a new-ish National Monument, and although land has been set aside, there are no trails or visitor's center or anything besides a gate and a big open area...so we laughed like idiots and turned around to drive to Mount Charleston to get a campsite for the night.
We drove up into these mountains, into the trees and ridges...we hadn't seen a gas station since we left Valley of Fire, and I was a little concerned, but figured we could get into a campsite ahead, then back to Vegas in the morning without getting too close to empty...
That damn road went winding up that mountain for 20 miles before coming to anything like a campground. This is an overlook where we stopped for a bit, then went on to find our campgrounds.
Wild horses!

And here is the last of the three campgrounds, all of which were full by the time we got there around 5 pm. The only campgrounds within a hundred miles of Vegas with trees, full up at 5 pm on Friday of Labor Day weekend. Who would have thought?

So we went out the other road that led straight north to the 95, coasting as much as we could; we weren't out of gas, but we figured it couldn't hurt. There were burros and Joshua trees on the way, and we stopped at the first gas station we saw.
On the way down the mountain, while SL drove, as soon as I had a phone and data connection I looked up the Amargosa Hotel in Death Valley Junction, and made us a reservation for the night. I had been there many times, but never stayed there, but knowing SLs fondness for old/period stuff, I figured she'd enjoy it. And they had reasonably priced rooms available!
This place was originally built as housing for mine workers, and was turned into a hotel later on. The woman who lived here and owned the hotel and attached Amargosa Opera House, Marta Becket, did a lot of painting and decoration in both, which is really cool.
Our room was cool but tiny, and neither of us took a picture. There were indeed two double beds, but only about a foot between them; SL's was right against one wall, and mine was literally against the front wall with the window, and the air conditioner...which shook the bed all night, but it was way too hot and stuffy to do without it. Sleep is overrated, I guess. Other than that we loved our room. There was a tiny odd bathroom in the room; this is the tile on the floor, which I liked...you can also see how old the tile is, it's worn and uneven. Very cool.
So it was getting on about 8 pm. We asked the lady at the desk where to go for dinner, and she recommended the Stateline Saloon, which we had passed coming into 'town'. The only other choice was the casino, and I've eaten there before...not anxious to go back...
So this is the place, a pretty typical middle-of-nowhere bar with cool wall paintings...
And BRAS hanging above the bar...! and the sign on the Women's room entrance...
So we got a table and ordered; I had been told that their burgers were good, and got that; SL ordered fries and a grilled-cheese sandwich. And of course BEER. Because BEER. (But only one because I was driving. But that was enough...) Notice the cute guy sitting at the table behind me, he is important later on...
So SL and I were talking while we waited for our food, and there was a clump of older guys at the bar...who were joined by another. He looks like The Dude from Big Lebowski, said SL, a movie buff. No, he doesn't, I said. You should go talk to him and find out where he's from! she said. So I did (La Jolla) although mostly I listened to the guy in the black shirt that said, and I am not joking, Nuke Them All. Nuf sed. And after about ten minutes of chit chat, I went back to our table to eat the dinner that had shown up...but Nuke Guy thought we were his BFFs, so we saw more of him than we otherwise would.

The other thing to know about this bar is that they had a whole room, as big as the bar itself, just for KARAOKE.

This room, aside from the karaoke machine, had three walls of whiteboard where people could just draw and write and stuff...that was pretty cool.
So there were these two young Canadians sitting behind us, turns out they were twins, a brother and sister, visiting some US National Parks. And we fell into conversation with them and moved over to their table and we were all talking. And someone mentioned the karaoke machine. And they were all, YEAH! And I said, no. Not only can I not sing much at all, but I DO NOT PERFORM. Not ever. Not nohow. You guys do it and I'll cheer. They entreated and cajoled. I held firm. Then they pointed to the karaoke room. There is NOBODY in that room, they said. Nobody. Nobody will see this. And we'll let you pick the song.

Well, how could I turn down a deal like that and break their little hearts? This is the four of us performing Bohemian Rhapsody. And it was damn fun, but I'll probably never do it again.

Saturday, September 1

Our plan today, the last day of my extended travels, was to do a lightning tour of Death Valley. I go there a couple of times a year, but SL had never been, although she wanted to see it; she is not good in heat, and here we were going there on the first day of September! I said, we can drive and look, get out and walk around a little, and the car is air conditioned. If you're done, we'll go to Beatty. And that's fine.
We got up early and had a bite to eat in the dining room of the hotel; they don't serve food there, but we had lots in the truck. They do, thank goodness, have caffeine and hot water. And cats. Nice cats. The Maine Coon's name is WILSON, and the black cat is Malcolm. Oh, and SL threw out her dead hiking boots...the second pair to die on this trip, Jo Nell's went out on her in Colorado.

We had talked Jennie, the lady at the front desk of the hotel, and she was willing to give us and a couple of other people a tour of the Opera House at 8 am.

Marta Becket came to Death Valley Junction (the town we're in) in the late 1940s, and lived there the rest of her life, putting on shows at the old Opera House and basically being an Interesting Local Character. The Opera House is beautiful inside, and we were glad to have a tour.

The hotel seen from the Opera House

Off to Death Valley for the day!

First stop: Zabriskie Point

The Death Valley Inn

Badwater is the lowest place in the continental US; you can see the sign 232 feet above my truck...
Then we went to Furnace Creek Visitor's Center and what used to be the Furnace Creek Ranch...
High: 114 degrees...and there was lots of cool stuff from Furnace Creek's past in the Visitor's Center.

They're tearing down the old Furnace Creek stuff and rebuilding it all.

Next was the Mesquite Sand Dunes, which were REALLY hot. No desert iguanas that I saw, but some nice lizard and beetle tracks in the sand, and lots of mesquite and creosote bushes with the white fuzzy seed pods on them.
Next we went to Stovepipe Wells, enjoyed the (AIR CONDITIONED) store, had lunch, and checked out the birds and such.

This used to be the pay phone...

Next was Ubehebe Crater.
Two signs from the Grapevine Ranger's Station, one for towing (for those who blow out tires on the Racetrack Road) and the other about the huge flood that took out most of the infrastructure around Scotty's Castle in 2015. Val Nolan's grave is a local landmark, although it might not actually be a grave but just a tourist thing...
Then we went to see the Keane Wonder Mine, which has only been reopened for about a year and a half...
On the way to our motel in Beatty. Dead car halfway up a hill, no idea how it got there...and of course we stopped in the ghost town of Rhyolite!

The Bottle House and grounds

One more old building from Rhyolite, and a couple of the art installations at the Goldwell Open-Air Art Museum
Then we drove over the next ridge to Beatty...and SL was thrilled to see the burros right on the main street!
We stay at the Atomic Inn in Beatty when we aren't camping in Death Valley; it's affordable, clean, comfortable, and the people who run it are super nice. And of course when we stay at the Atomic Inn, dinner is at KC's Outpost, home of the AMAZINGLY GOOD French Bread-crust pizza!
The burros were all across the street from the Atomic Inn, around KCs, when we went out to have dinner...the little one came right up to SL. And that guy is just SHOWING OFF.
Sweet faces! Yes, the Happy Burro is an actual restaurant in Beatty; I've never been there but have heard it's good. And now it's time for people and burros to say good night...

Sunday, September 2

Time to go home. We got up early so we could go to Wildrose on the way out of Death Valley.
The artwork in the motel rooms is always fun.

And we bid farewell to the Atomic Inn in the early morning light.

Desert road, going a heck of a long way with nobody on it.

And the road to the charcoal kilns, which we see here. They were designed by a Swiss engineer, built and run by Chinese laborers, and were used for three years til they denuded all the mountains nearby; then they just walked away from them. You can walk into them and around them, very cool.

The new sign at the trailhead, with the old sign behind it.

The road was way worse than it looks in this picture; they had regraded it beautifully in March, and April rains washed it out again...and here's the bit of Skidoo pipeline. Skidoo is another ghost town about twenty miles away; not much left except an AWESOME stamp mill. That's where the charcoal was going as well.
When SL and I had talked about how to get home today, and I had suggested Wildrose, I said, if you want to see wildlife, this is the place to go. And boy, was it ever! We saw a kit fox cross the road carrying its breakfast in its mouth, a roadrunner run up the hill, and a jackrabbit with his huge ears up. Plus a ton of burros. The only things we got pictures of were the burros, everything else moved too fast; but it was fun to see so many animals!
Mostly burros.

Death Valley roadblocks!

A wierd painted rock on the road to Ridgecrest. The Kern River outside Bakersfield. And WE'RE HOME! (We did stop at TWO Del Tacos on the way, a personal best!)

Addenda:

Dude is glad to see me again. Squink says, Who are you? This is my hat, after five and a half weeks on the road. Not a single winner.