Monthly Archives: April 2016

Panic to Perfection at the Grand Canyon

After completing our tour of the Mighty Five–the five national parks in Utah, it was time to move on and what better icing on the cake than a visit to Grand Canyon National Park? The North Rim was just 98 miles away, close enough not to be missed. Grand Canyon Village on the south rim, on the other hand, was 253 miles away. We decided against that option as we’ve been to the south rim several times in the past. We’d never been to the North Rim, however, so that became our next destination.

As I’ve mentioned before, finding lodging was sometimes a challenge and cell phone coverage was an even bigger challenge. When I finally got a signal, I called the Grand Canyon Lodge and just missed securing the last cabin inside the park by minutes. Kaibab Lodge, the closest accommodations outside the park, was fully booked as well. My next option was Jacob Lake, 45 miles north of the North Rim Visitor Center. On our way to the North Rim, we stopped at the Jacob Lake Inn and found they had only a couple of rooms still available. Since the place looked a little rustic to me, not in a charming way but more tired and worn, I asked to see a room. They refused to let me see one because they were still cleaning and it was before check-in time. So I asked if I booked the room and it wasn’t suitable whether they’d refund my money and they said no. All my suspicions were aroused but they had us over a barrel. There was literally nothing else for another 40 miles. We hoped for the best, booked the room sight unseen, and drove on to the North Rim.

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Check out the flip flops which are part of this story

We went directly to the visitor’s center.

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Jim, Grand Canyon NP

With breathtaking views, the visitor center is a comfortable place to enjoy the moment and relax awhile, both inside and out.

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Inside the North Rim Visitor Center

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North Rim Visitor Center patio with a view

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View from the North Rim Visitor Center

 

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Taking in the view from the North Rim Visitor Center

The trail to Bright Angel Point was only 1/2 mile round-trip so we thought we’d take a quick look. Jim asked if I wanted to go back to the car to put on my hiking boots but I didn’t want to waste the time so off I went in my flip flops. Big mistake! 

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Trail to Bright Angel Point

I saw our destination in the distance and captured it on the photo below. I cropped it so that you can see it better below that.

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Looking to Bright Angel point from the trail–see the people on top?

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Close-up of Bright Angel Point

The trail was wide and paved at first. The views were a little hazy but impressively magnificent.

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Jim in the shadows on the trail to Bright Angel Point

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Bright Angel Point Trail

As the trail narrowed, the drop-offs seemed to get closer and I felt very unsteady walking in my flip flops. Finally, I had a full-blown panic attack and was unable to take any more photos. I kept inching along the trail and Jim tried to talk me through it. When we reached drop offs on both sides of the trail with no railings, I thought I wouldn’t be able to continue but somehow I did. When we got to the final outcropping in the photo above, I stayed back by the tree. Of course, now I regret it and I especially regret  my lack of photos from Bright Angel Point. The lesson is: Wear your hiking boots!

After our hike to Bright Angel Point, safely back in the car (where I donned my hikers), we drove to Point Imperial, the highest elevation in the park at 8803 feet. Along the road, yellow aspens whispered and shimmered in the sunlight, displaying autumn splendor at its finest.

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Drive to Point Imperial

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Point Imperial

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View from Point Imperial

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Definitely a ‘thumbs up” view at Point Imperial

We returned to the visitor center in time to enjoy a romantic dinner outside on the patio while we watched the sunset. The food served on the patio is the same as the food in the restaurant but glass is not allowed outside so it’s packaged in styrofoam, not the best presentation but tasty nonetheless. Jim ordered the venison meatloaf which was delicious and I stuck with my usual salad.

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Ordering dinner

 

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Jim’s generous portion venison meatloaf and my salad.

 

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North Rim Visitor Center looking toward sunset

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Sunset over the Grand Canyon

 

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Grand Canyon sunset

Sunset did not end our experience at the North Rim. September 27, 2015, happened to be the night of a rare occurrence of a total lunar eclipse of a super full moon, and a blood moon at that.

My camera is really not suitable for photographing events like this but I did the best I could. We thought at first the clouds would prevent our sighting of the event but they passed.

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Clouds obscuring the moon

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Lunar eclipse of super blood moon

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Lunar eclipse of super blood moon

It was a perfect ending to an extraordinary day. But wait, we still had to drive 45 miles back to Jacob Lake and check into our hotel room. After braking six times for numerous deer bounding onto the roadway, our nerves were frayed by the time we arrived. We were grateful not to have to drive any farther and my hotel room standards were lowered by each deer sighting. Happily, our room was fine and I can recommend a stay if you can’t get lodging in the park.

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Jacob Lake Inn

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Jacob Lake Inn

 

Based on events from September 2015.

Categories: Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

More Mukuntuweap (Zion)

Because a rock slide blocked the east entrance, we entered Zion National Park (Mukuntuweap) from the south entrance adjacent to the town of Springdale, population 548. Parking, as I told you in my last post, is a huge issue. We first arrived in the afternoon and all lots inside the park were full and closed. We searched Springdale for street parking to no avail. We finally found a lot off the beaten path requiring a bit of a hike to even reach the shuttle into the park. That accomplished, we boarded the shuttle and rode the short distance to the park.

Once inside the park, the only way to see the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is on the free park shuttle. This service, initiated in 2000, reduces the traffic, parking issues, and pollution, and provides a measure of protection to the park.  We decided to ride to the last of the 8 stops, the Temple of Sinawava, so that we would see the entire scenic route from the bus before we got off at each stop on our way back to explore further.

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Jim riding the Zion Canyon Shuttle

The Riverside Walk, an easy 2.2 mile, partially paved trail, begins near the Temple of Sinawava bus stop. We enthusiastically joined the throng.

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View of the Virgin River from the Riverside Walk

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Respite along the Riverside Walk

The hanging gardens along Riverside Walk in the picture above and the video below are fed by trickling waterfalls. Watch the upper right corner of the brief video to see the trickling water.

At the end of the Riverside Walk, hardier hikers continued on to the Narrows, a strenuous trail over 9 miles long that is only accessible if the water is not too high. Signs everywhere in this park warn visitors to be aware of conditions, take care, and bring water.

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Swimming in the Virgin River at the end of Riverside Walk

 

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View of the Virgin River from the trail

 

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Jim at the beginning of the Narrows

On the return trip, I had an experience that is worth sharing. There are squirrels everywhere and they appear to be tame…probably from too many tourists feeding them. I had just seen a photo of a hand with a squirrel bite in the Zion National Park Map and Guide with the caption, “The squirrel bit me in less than a second” along with the  admonishment, “Wild animals can hurt you. Do not feed them.” Then I saw a child around middle school age trying to pet a seemingly tame squirrel while her mother watched! I couldn’t contain myself. I said, “Please don’t try to pet a wild animal that will probably bite you! Read the park guide and see what damage they can do.” They both just gave me that “mind your own business” look. I moved on, not wanting to see what happened next.  Please help keep wildlife wild.

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One of the many “tame” squirrels that frequent the area

The next stop was at Big Bend where I took this shot of the Organ and the Great White Throne.

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The Organ and the Great White Throne

Weeping Rock boasted more hanging gardens fed by trickling spring water.

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Weeping Rock

Friends who have met the challenge strongly recommended we hike to Angel’s Landing but as a recovering acrophobe, I thought that was pushing it. This 5.4-mile hike is billed by the national park as strenuous with “long drop offs. Not for young children or anyone fearful of heights. Last section is a route along a steep, narrow ridge to the summit” (Zion National Park Map and Guide). I have no regrets about our decision.

Here are more spectacular views along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

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View along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive

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Another view of the Great White Throne

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As we rode the shuttle bus back to the visitor center, the driver told us that the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway was cleared of the rock slide and reopened that day at 5 pm. (This road is normally open to vehicular traffic unlike the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.) We decided to get our car and drive this road through the long tunnel. That morning we had driven from the east entrance to the tunnel where the road was closed which I covered in my last post.

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Views along Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway

 

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Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway

 

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Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway

 

We readily identified the location of the rock slide by the debris remaining in the area and the orange cones still on the road.

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Where the rock slide was located on Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway

We drove through the 1.1-mile tunnel and then turned around and drove back. I especially wanted to see the gallery windows. I’ve been through many tunnels but I’ve never seen a window in one. Unfortunately, I was unable to get any photos out the windows because you can’t stop or slow down in the tunnel.

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Entrance to the 1.1-mile tunnel on Zion-Mt.Carmel Highway

 

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Light shining in through one of the gallery windows

When we decided against the hike to Angel’s Landing, we determined instead to hike the  Emerald Pools Trails early the following morning. The Lower and Upper Emerald Pools Trails combine an easy and a moderate trail totalling a little over 2 miles. We climbed  enough to the Upper Emerald Pools that I felt like I had hiked further than just 2 miles, however.

We arrived before the crowds and had no trouble finding a parking place. Zion is a very different place without the crowds. If you’re a morning person, as I am, get there early to experience the peaceful nature of Zion without the crush of people.

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Early morning at Zion NP

We saw few people along the trail as we started out.

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Trail to Emerald Pools along the Virgin River in the early morning

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Enjoying having the trail to the Emerald Pools to ourselves

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Jim on the trail

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Check out the cacti

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Beautiful trail view

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The climb gets steeper

When we arrived, I realized why they are named Emerald Pools. The reflection in the pools of the greenery surrounding them is indeed emerald.

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Emerald Pool

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Emerald Pool

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Emerald Pool

The waterfalls along the trail were especially impressive. I took several videos to better showcase them.

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The end of the trail crossing the Virgin River

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Back to the parking lot that was now full with cars circling like vultures waiting for our spot

After our hike to the Emerald Pools, we were ready to have a picnic lunch then hit the road for our next adventure even though there are lots more things to see and do in Zion National Park. We barely scratched the surface but we believe we got a pretty good overview and enjoyed a memorable experience.

 

Based on events from September 2015.

 

Categories: Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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