Feeds:
Posts
Comments

May 20- 24       Going home

Monday was takeoff day. It was going to be a marathon driving schedule for us: around 200 miles per day for 4 days. We woke up to a sky with clouds but also with lots of blue spots. Looked pretty good. The route was to catch I-70 west for a short distance and then go northwest on US-6 towards Provo and Salt Lake City.

We could see showers occurring all around us and we were making guesses as to how many miles it would take before we got rained on. We kept avoiding showers until we reached Soldier Pass. Then we got rain that turned to sleet that turned to a little bit of snow. We just kept rolling.

After Soldier Pass, the weather cleared up but a cloud that looked like a nuclear explosion was settled over Salt Lake City.

I selected an RV park in Draper, Utah. I figured Draper was 15 miles south of Salt Lake City and we would avoid heavy traffic and busy streets. Wrong! Draper was a built-up, crowded suburb of Salt Lake City. On I-15 at 2 p.m., traffic wasn’t bad in our direction but was stop-and-go heading south. The Mountain Shadows RV park was right next to I-15 and okay. It’s WiFi was inadequate, as usual.

I was trying to avoid downtown SLC. We just wanted to get to I-80 west with as little effort as possible. But we needed gas so I routed us to a Maverik station on the west end of SLC. I thought it wouldn’t be crowded. Wrong! Dave maneuvered across, around and everything but over a load of cars and another motorhome. When he finally got to some pumps, they were both out of service. Winding his way out of there was as stressful as winding his way in. We finally got gas at another station far from the highway.

We got on I-80 near the west end of the Great Salt Lake. The light on the lake was weird and wonderful but there was nowhere to pull over. The Lake looked full to me. We’ve seen it very low in past years, but not now. There were 2 lanes of I-80 going west and there was water in differing shades of green on both sides. The same was true of the 2 lanes going east. Levees had been built every so often for vehicles that had to get from eastbound to westbound lanes. It was eerie and somewhat frightening to have water on both sides and only about 3 feet below the roadbed. I’m sure it was only a foot or so deep but it was still unsettling. The wind didn’t help. Dave was driving and struggling to keep the motorhome and toad in one lane.

The flat glassiness of the water and mud and the reflections were beautiful but we couldn’t stop. After 40 miles or so, we reached a rest stop at the Bonneville Flats. We hopped out, anxious to make some wonderful images and it just didn’t work very well.

We continued on. It had been years since we were last heading west on I-80 from Utah and we couldn’t remember how many mountain passes there were. There were quite a few. We got back into some snow but the wind wasn’t too bad.

We finally reached our destination, the Iron Horse RV Park in Elko, Nevada. Elko was another surprise. It’s grown a lot and now has 3 major supermarkets. With a 20% discount for a nearby Hilton Hotel, we braved more rain and had a nice dinner there. The couple next to us started a conversation and it turned out that they were full-timers but had only been doing that for 18 months or so. They were enjoying the lifestyle quite a bit.

Wednesday was another long driving day. It was pretty boring. It never stopped sprinkling-raining for 175 miles. Because there is nothing else within 50 miles east or west, we stopped at Rye Patch State Park. It’s right next to the Rye Patch dam. I couldn’t find the last time we were here, but it was a while ago. I wasn’t expecting much at all. I was quite surprised.

There is so much water in the reservoir that the spillway was going. We camped by the river and saw a lot of wildlife in and around the water. Namely, turkeys (8), Grebes (4), Coots (2), 2 large Herons, several Terns, and lots of smaller birds flitting around. Then Dave pointed out a deer grazing in our campsite. What a plethora of fauna! (Are birds fauna?) We also got a few hours of non-rainy weather and pulled out the binoculars to watch the wildlife. What an unexpected pleasure! Camping at its best for $15.

Why did the turkey cross the road?


A Heron and a Grebe

Thursday morning, two huge birds flew in – Pelicans. The turkeys were being stalked by a photographer. It was serene and lovely. I wish we could have stayed another day.

We were back on the road by ten. It was the most boring morning of driving on the entire trip, I think. Flat light, no interesting landscape, and drizzle all day long. We stopped for lunch near Reno. We watched a truck towing a fifth wheel spin into the rest stop. The side door on the fifth wheel flew open before he was fully stopped and I waited for someone to emerge. Nobody did. The driver popped the hood of the truck and looked intently inside. He never looked around to see that the door on the fifth wheel was open. Before I could get up and go outside to tell him, he closed the hood, jumped back in the truck and took off down I-80 with the door flapping. I hope everything worked out okay for him. As Dave does, it is wise to walk around your rig every time you stop.

The surroundings got more interesting as we rose into the mountains and entered California. There was quite a bit of snow on the mountains that was nice to see at the end of May. We arrived at our usual RV park at 2 p.m. or so and began some of the cleanup.

Things get dirty after two months of use and some of them are not convenient to clean at home. I pulled out the kitchen blinds, laid them out on the picnic table and scrubbed each slat individually on both sides. The amount of grease on them is horrifying. Half the slats are all bent out of shape. I should try to replace them but I don’t think that will be easy. Anyway, we spent the remainder of the afternoon cleaning for a while, then reading or computing for a while, then cleaning for a while. Boring, but necessary.

The drive home on Friday  was only notable by the fact that there was no slowdown getting to the Bay Bridge. On Memorial Day weekend? Wow! We got home around 1:30 or 2, managed to park right in front of the house and began the unload.

Lessons learned

Be adaptable– The beginning of the trip changed everything. We couldn’t visit Daffodil Hill in the Sierra Foothills. Had we gone there, we would have headed east on I-80 and missed all the flowers in Southern California.

Many BLM campgrounds are quite nice– As the price of RV parks rises, BLM campsites are a great alternative. Additionally, as we don’t like to make advance reservations, we can’t even get into many popular campgrounds.

Spend more time at each location– As we get older, it takes too much energy to keep changing camps every two days. And many of the campgrounds we stay at are good places to hang out.

Keep finding new places to visit– The first inclination is to revisit the places we enjoyed on earlier trips. But we found some new locations that were great, such as the Neon Museum in Reno, the Mansard Trail in Kanab and the White Rim Overlook Trail on Island in the Sky.

Go early or go late– As more people visit all the locations we love, we have learned that arriving early in the morning or in late afternoon reduces the wait time and the crowds. Plus, the light is usually better in the morning or late afternoon.

Be aware of your surroundings– As photographers, we always do this visually. But a keynote we will remember about this trip was the scent of the Cliff Rose bushes that pervaded the desert landscape.

And last but not least:

Love gets better– We celebrated 30 years of marriage and 40 years of being together on this trip. I love and appreciate Dave more than ever after all this time.

Advertisements

May 18-19     Roaming around Island in the Sky

Saturday, we weren’t too ambitious. We got up early and drove into the Park, intending to hit the various viewpoints. Surprise, surprise, the weather was cloudy. Actually, it was a nice day for car photography. Drive somewhere, get out for ten to thirty minutes and get back in and turn on the heater. Coffee-check. Cookies-check. Book-check. Works for me.

One of the early stops in the park is the parking lot for Mesa Arch. This arch is famous for how it frames the landscape and the rising sun. We had done it before and I certainly was not interested in getting up before dawn so we weren’t going to do it. But there were about 40 cars packed into the parking lot and it was well past sunrise. Mesa Arch is not large and we could only laugh at how many people would get photographs with lots of other people in them.

The Green River Overlook was our first stop. The view, as always, was great. The light was not too exciting.

Princes’ Plume

Next we went to the Grand View Overlook at the end of the mesa. Meh. If the light isn’t great, there is only so much you can do with the view. It certainly doesn’t change.

So we followed a short rim trail that was new to us. We were ambling along, not terribly excited when we spotted an interesting ledge that kept getting better and better as we inched along. That gave us a half-hour’s entertainment and wore out our backs, crunching down to get in close.

Another stop was the Buck Canyon Overlook, facing east towards the La Sals.

We drove out of the park around 10:30 or so and were horrified at the backup of vehicles waiting to get in. Dave counted 67 vehicles waiting to negotiate the entrance station. Yikes. The same lesson applies – go early or late to popular parks. We hung out at camp and returned to the park around 5 p.m., hoping for good light at sunset. We got breaks in the clouds that worked like spotlights. Not too bad.

The sun was going down. We got a little variable light but clouds on the western horizon prevented the local clouds from lighting up. Dave set up with the tripod and waited patiently. I sat in the car and read my book.

We headed back to camp but then the full moon appeared and I wanted to catch it. One problem in the park is that the road is winding and narrow and there are few unofficial places you can just pull over safely. We got to the Shafer Overlook but the moon was already up higher. I pulled out my new tripod and struggled setting it up in the dark.

It was cold, windy and showery on our last full day at Island in the Sky. Dave found the 2-mile out-and-back White Rim Overlook Trail that we had never taken, so we lethargically drove up to walk it. Most of it was boring. The light was dreary.

Then we reached the endpoint. I had thought the trail basically ended at Grand View Point. It did not. It gave a different view of the tremendous White Rim and beyond. It was very windy and I was very careful photographing near the edge. The drop was 1,000 feet straight down. Bits of sunlight were illuminating the landscape here and there.

Another family showed up and it was amusing to see the mother and daughter repeatedly warn the brother and father to be careful and don’t get near the edge. But they managed to get their selfie.

We found a protected area to munch on lunch and hiked back to the car. Our hiking on this trip was done.

 

 

May 15    House of Fire

South of Monticello, on UT-95, the area is full of Anasazi ruins, petroglyphs and beautiful rocks. One of the best is the House on Fire, an Anasazi ruin built under an overhanging cliff. The trick here is that the streaks of color on the roof of the overhang can look like it’s on fire in the right light. The downside of the place is that it is only a short hike from the road and social media has popularized it immensely. So there are always people hanging around, just like us.

Like everywhere else this verdant spring, the canyon was green and full of wildflowers. So that slowed us down a little.

Snowball

Our photography book advises getting there in mid- or late morning, which we did. One problem I had was that I didn’t have a lens that could capture the entire alcove. This first one is taken with my iPhone.

There were about 7 or 8 people on the fairly steep rockface below the ruin. People were pretty good about taking turns right in front the roof so we got our turn as well.

The trick is that you don’t want direct sunlight on the ruin but you want enough sun on the rockface to bounce onto the roof of the alcove. I felt my results were okay.

A weird pano

What was interesting about photographing the alcove was that if you honed in on a certain area, it no longer looked “on fire”.

I recorded a few more flowers on the way back.

Yellow Salsify

Wallflower

I got tired on the trek back to the car but still marveled at how green everything was.

We found some cottonwoods under which we ate our lunch. After that, we were both ready to go home and hang out for the rest of the day.

May 16-17   Island in the Sky and the Neck Spring Trail

We went north on Thursday to find a BLM spot on Island in the Sky. It’s a huge mesa with a 1,000 foot elevation gain. We didn’t actually enter Canyonlands National Park at all that first day. We settled into a nice space at Horsethief, a developed BLM campground. The senior rate of $10 per day got us a picnic table and fire ring, a nearby bathroom and access to a dumpster. That would work for us for 4 days.

We got up pretty early on Friday to hike the 6.4-mile Neck Spring Trail. Like other national parks in Utah, it was a $30 entrance fee that we didn’t have to pay because of my senior pass. There wasn’t too much of a crowd at the Visitor Center and the trail starts right beyond.

It was cloudy, as usual, but not too bad. And it was cool, which is nice for a long hike. It is easier to warm up on the trail than to cool down. The Neck Spring Trail traverses three canyons and was full of greenery and wildflowers. The trail goes down about 500 feet or so and takes you into each canyon to the edge of the cliff where amphitheaters have been created by centuries of water pouring off the top. It’s always dramatic to see.

Blue Penstemon

Cliff Rose was prevalent with a rich, yet delicate scent floating on the least breeze.

Then the trail heads away from the amphitheater and you climb up and over peninsula to the next canyon. I was very surprised that we were only passed by one or two groups of hikers until the last mile or so. It wasn’t a crowded trail.

Claret Cup

Pink Sego Lily

Once again, I was captured by the rock color, grain and texture. I just love this place.

iPhone Pano

I always forget about the final half-mile of the hike. After spending a lot of time on the rocks, the trail crosses the main road to the other side. Although it reaches great views of  the Shafer Road that descends 1,000 feet to the White Rim, it seems endless. My legs were hurting and I was dragging. But it was a great hike.

Shafer Canyon, first the long view

Then you look down and see the road

Then you see the tiny vehicles so far down

We got back to camp and the sky was amazing.

 

May 11   Chesler Park Trail

Chesler Park is one of my favorite hikes ever. My guess is that we have hiked it about 12 times. It is 3 miles one-way and you go up and down through three canyons, a couple of narrows, roly-poly white-topped grabens and end up in a “park” totally surrounded by needle-shaped spires. It is wonderful.

The only issue now is can I still do it? My hip has been acting up since before the trip started. The short walks we did yesterday have left me sore and stiff. And it’s going to be a fairly warm (mid-70’s) day. One way to find out is to take an Ibuprofen and do it. We get to the Elephant Hill parking lot early and find it’s already crowded. It’s to be expected: it’s Saturday.

700Dave0885Chesler

Heading for Chesler Park

The trail goes up, over and down. We’ve been on it so many times, we look for familiar rock formations.

701Formations0872Chesler

Spring has sprung big here and we see more flowers and green shrubs than we usually do.

702Cliffrose0880Chesler

Cliffrose

704Formations0888Chesler705Cactus0894Chesler

706DaveNarrows0897Chesler

Dave in the narrows

We reach one of our favorite canyons in the hike. The light bounces around on the walls.

707Formations0901Chesler708Formations0910Chesler

As we go along, I realize my knee is now hurting more than it has before. We are too close to Chesler Park to turn back now. I figure out the best way to step up and step down rocks to not aggravate my knee. The hiking poles help a lot.

709Grabens0917Chesler710Needles0926Chesler

When we reach Chesler Park, we walk a little ways into it to experience the environment and look for a place to eat lunch. There are a number of people wandering around but the area is so large that nobody feels crowded.

712Needles0939Chesler714Needles0936Chesler

You can see so far in every direction up there.

715Needles0947Chesler

We have never camped here, but there are 3 or 4 campsites hidden near the spires. Otherwise, the restrictions of where you can walk around up here have tightened quite a bit. There are a lot of unofficial trails, but they are all blocked off by dead tree trunks; it’s clear park personnel don’t want you walking on them. So we can’t get very close to some of the formations.

Reluctantly, I slowly walk back to the exit point. I don’t know if I’ll ever make it up here again. The only roads going near here are 4-wheel drive and even they can’t come into Chesler.  The walk back is hot and sunny, but not too bad.

716Flowers0962Chesler718Pinecones0920Chesler

I am very happy to take of my boots and put on tennies when we get back to the Rav. We stop at a picnic spot to have coffee and then head back to the rig for a shower.

May 12    Slickrock Trail

My legs are much better the next day, so I have no problem when we decide to walk a little ways out on the Slickrock Loop Trail in the late afternoon. The entire trail is only 3 miles but I’m thinking we’ll only go out a half-mile or so. I put on my boots anyway because they work so well on sandstone. A car parks right behind us and a couple get out and ask us what are the best trails out here. I tell them this trail is great but it is 3 miles long. Dave recommends the Pothole Trail, it’s shorter.

We take off and quickly realize that 5 p.m. is way too early for late light. So we dawdle along, doing what we do. The Slickrock Trail has lots of potholes and many still contain water in them. Others have dried up and developed enough dirt to start some plant life.

720Potholes0966Slickrock721Pothole0975Slickrock722Pothole0971Slickrock

723PinkSegoLily0973Slickrock

Pink Mariposa Lily

725Formation0978Slickrock727Pothole0989Slickrock728Pothole0994Slickrock

It’s hot. The area of the trail with the overlooks is further along than we expected. By the time we get there, we’ve gone halfway on the trail so we figure we might as well finish the loop. We meet the couple who asked us for recommendations. They have done the loop in the opposite direction and seem unhappy that we are hiking in different directions.

729View0986Slickrock730Bushes0990Slickrock

731Plant1010Slickrock

Either Pearly Everlasting or Poison Milkweed

732Plant1008Slickrock

It gets a little cooler as we hike on but the light never does get that great. The sunset is nothing special. Oh well, it is a nice farewell hike for Needles.

733MaryDave1012Slickrock

May 13    Monticello

We’re done with Needles. We want to upload our blogs and spend a few nights at an RV park. The town of Monticello is at the foot of the Abajo (aka the Blue, aka the Bears Ears) Mountains and we are fairly close to the House on Fire hike from there. Also, their RV parks are cheaper than those in Moab. So when we get to UT-191, we turn south and drive 14 miles down to Monticello.

We stop at the RV park we stayed at before and I get talking with the man who helps out there. He tells me about the horses and the 3-legged goat belonging to the owner and I get to meet them. I feed the two horses an apple each and when I turn away, one of the horses clangs his horseshoe on the metal gate to remind me that he would like another apple.

735Horses1017Monticello736Horse1024Monticello

Janet’s Dave had mentioned that the windmills installed on the Abajo Mountain foothills ruined the view, in his opinion. There weren’t the huge installations we had seen near Palm Springs but they certainly were noticeable.

Once we settled in, I went grocery shopping and the Blue Mountain Grocery store, the only one in town, hadn’t changed a bit. That is to say it was a very small grocery store. But it gets the job done.

May 14    Abajo Mountains

We decided to drive into the Abajo Mountains. I didn’t remember the road too well, but it did end up at the road into Needles so I thought we’d see a lot of nice rock.

Before we got into the mountains we tried to get close to the windmills. The owner of the RV park we were in said he loved the windmills, since he owned some of the land on which they were installed. The weather was getting stormier.

737Windmills1034Monticello738Windmills1040Monticello739Windmills1043Monticello

We continued to drive into the Abajo’s using the Garmin. As is often the case, it was leading us onto some unreliable (primitive dirt) roads. We followed it a while and found a hillside of aspen that were just starting to leaf out, giving them a soft green furze.

740Aspens1046Abajos

We finally reached the road leading into Needles. We didn’t want to go there, so we turned around and tried a different road back into the Abajos. This one had a short turnoff to Foy Lake, where we had coffee and spent some time scaring coots and recording reflections in the water.

741LaSals1076-7FoyLake742Grasses1054FoyLake743Water1058FoyLake744Trees1063FoyLake746Grasses1068FoyLake749Trees1080FoyLake750Trees1086FoyLake

The scrub oaks at Foy Lake were a tangled mess of branches and the light was silvery on their smaller twigs.

752Trees1091FoyLake753Trees1093FoyLake

May 8   Arches National Park

Our rationale for visiting Arches National Park was to go as early as possible. It worked. We drove in and traffic was only slowed by rubber-necking at an auto accident. Right before the entrance station, a white sedan had gone off the road and down a steep embankment. Four police cars were monitoring the scene.

We got in and drove up the impressive, steep switchbacks to get up on the mesa. We decided to go straight to the Windows area because it is very popular and parking is limited. That worked also. There were quite a few cars but not all that many people climbing around on the windows. The sky was full of clouds and we hoped that a huge thunderstorm would break out, but it didn’t. The light kept changing.

625Windows0563Arches626Windows0557Arches627Windows0565Arches628Windows0592Arches629Windows0573Arches

630Windows0578-9Arches631Windows0576Arches632Windows0555-6Arches633Windows0587Arches

635CliffRose0596Arches

Cliff Rose

After exploring the main area, we took a short trail that went behind some of the formations. That was fun, with lots of wildflowers and good views of the distant mesas.

636Windows0598Arches637Windows0603Arches

639Yucca0614Arches

Yucca

640CliffMaids0616Arches

San Juan Onion

The light is harsh when the sun comes out.

641Windows0606Arches642Windows0618-19Arches

644Rhubarb0628Arches

Wild Rhubarb

645Primrose0630Arches

Primrose

646HedgehogBloom0672Arches

We got back to the car 90 minutes later. The two parking areas were full and cars were trolling for a place to park. We pulled out and went to a viewpoint to drink some coffee. Then it was down the road to the viewpoints of Cache Valley and Salt Valley. The mud hills make for multi-colored spectacles. The light was super-soft.

650SaltValley0642Arches651SaltValley0648Arches

653DelicateArch0657Arches

Delicate Arch is in the center

654SaltValley0656Arches

The light was pretty flat as we went down the hill so we continued driving to see if it would improve on the way back. It did.

655FieryFurnace0645Arches

Fiery Furnace

656CacheValley0649Arches

At one point, we trained the binoculars on Delicate Arch. We could make out 20 or 30 little specks that were people moving around the arch and huge amphitheater. It’s famous for the light on it at sunset but this was at 10:30 in the morning. The crowds here are amazing. So are the olive-colored hills in the front.

657DelicateArch0692Arches

We continued along the road, getting out at the Fiery Furnace. These formations are so twisted and confusing that rangers conduct guided tours of it. Otherwise, many people would get lost. It was windy and chilly so we didn’t stay long.

658FieryFurnace0668Arches

We finally reached the endpoint at the campground and the Devil’s Garden Trail. We had no intention of doing the hike but counted out the empty spaces in the very large parking area. There were 9 out of about 150 parking spaces. The hike would not be a solitary commune with nature. We found a pullout to eat lunch and watch the light on the valleys. The sun was dancing from one spot to another.

659CacheValley0686Arches661SaltValley0689Arches662FieryFurnace0703Arches663SaltValley0659Arches666DelicateArch0718-19Arches

May 9   Going to The Needles

It was time to move on. We wanted to spend some time in the Needles area of Canyonlands National Park. Needles is so remote that there is no town within 50 miles, there is no gas station and there is no phone service. There is only one public campground, The Outpost, where you can dump and you might be able to fill up the RV tank with water if you stay there for the night. So we prepared for lasting 4 or 5 days by running around Moab, loading water, food and gas and unloading the tanks.

We recognized with pleasure all the familiar landmarks on the way down UT-191 and UT-211. The weather was cloudy and cool with showers, but was due to heat up over the next 4 or 5 days. We found our favorite BLM dispersed campsite. There were several other campers there, but they were around the corner of a sandstone formation so we didn’t see much of them. One of their group had a tent up when we got there and we settled in fairly close to it but he had plenty of space to move it, and he did.

670Campsite0724Needles

 

We got out early the next morning and drove the 16-mile road in Needles. We got out at the Potholes and made an effort but the light was flat. It sprinkled a few times. Not ideal. But I still liked the colors in the sandstone.

Yellow Primrose


Raindrops

Sixshooter Peak

The end of the road provoked a little interest as we walked around a large formation, looking into Big Spring Canyon.

I love the way the layers of sandstone create patterns.


We got back into the Rav. I tapped on the Rav window to attract the attention of a raven. It’s response? It flew up on the rear-view mirror, about 9 inches from my face. It was a very large bird and it was eyeing me speculatively, looking for a handout. I was spooked and very glad the window was closed.

688DGRavenWindshield

We then went to the Squaw Flat Campground to climb around the rocks there. I’m always amazed that it’s so easy to scramble around on the sandstone.

689Rocks0819Needles690CheslerPark0826Needles

It was around this point I heard voices. A lone male hiker was engaging an Asian couple in conversation, asking them how they felt about President Trump’s trade war with China. I didn’t stick around to hear the answer. No politics on the trail!

691Railing0825Needles

Sometimes you need a little help getting down a steep slope.

692TreeTrail0837Needles693View0849Needles695Pocket0858Needles

A man waving a map of Canyonlands Park approached us at the Visitor Center to vent. He was angry. He drove all the way down to Needles from Moab and now finds that he cannot get to Island in the Sky from here. I think it was a case of him not getting the proper information earlier, but I can understand his angst.  Park entry is $30 if you do not qualify for a senior pass and visiting both areas of the park in one day is close to impossible. There are actually four sections of Canyonlands, each with entrances that are far apart. As far as I know, there is no other national park like this.

We returned to camp and relaxed. The light got really nice around dinner, a double-rainbow manifested and Dave went out and got some nice shots. I just sat on my butt, looking out the window a few times. At that moment, I preferred my Sudoku puzzle.

 

May 3-4     Goblin Valley

It was a short drive from Capitol Reef to Goblin Valley. Highway 24 proceeds east to Hanksville, then takes a sharp turn to north. The San Rafael Swell appears, thrusting all kinds of colorful rock into the air at a strong westward tilt.

We knew we couldn’t camp at Goblin Valley State Park – no reservations available. Once again, we were examining BLM options. We dropped the Lazy Daze and went on a campsite search. One BLM dispersed site looked like a large parking lot and already had a lot of cars and rigs parked there. Also, a lot of ATV trailers, which didn’t please us. But we didn’t see any other great choices and headed back to pick up the rig and move there. We saw a small butte with a short, fairly steep road on the way back and investigated. It had one other rig up there but looked perfect to us, quiet and remote with a good view of the Swell. That’s where we spent Friday and Saturday nights.

Both of us were in the doldrums. It seems to be a part of each trip. We reach a point where we’re kind of tired and not excited about anything. As a result, neither of us was too excited about seeing Goblins State Park. We had been there before and it’s tough to photograph. But it was nearby and the clouds were interesting so we visited.

585View0438GoblinSP

As expected for a Sunday, it was loaded with people and kids. But we ambled around, snapping away. I can always Photoshop away anything I don’t want included in the image.

586Rocks0446GoblinSP588Rocks0444GoblinSP589Rocks0454GoblinSP

Some of the formations seemed to take on the characteristics of cartoon characters.

590Rocks0459GoblinSP

591Rocks0460GoblinSP593Rocks0465GoblinSP

Some people were climbing very high into the hills.

594Rocks0480GoblinSP

595Rocks0485GoblinSP

On the way back to our Rav, I saw this.

596StarWars0498GoblinSP

May 5-7     Moab

It was another short drive to Moab. We called 5 different RV parks to find a space on a Monday. One returned the call. We managed to get into Moab Valley RV Park for one night. Price? $73. Unbelievable! As we drove down UT-191 towards Moab, the line of cars going the opposite direction was unending and slow. As we neared Moab, the line of cars in front of us was long and slow. It seemed like everybody was on the road. We later found out that was a normal exodus on Sunday afternoon. Braving a lot of traffic, we did our chores: bank, groceries, wine, soap dish, laundry, take on water and dump. It was hot and we were glad to have air conditioning.

The next morning, it was off to find a site for the next couple of days. We wanted to be on the Colorado River and there are many BLM sites there. One of the first ones we passed was Grandstaff Campground and Trailhead. Grandstaff? Didn’t that used to be Negro Bill Canyon? Apparently, Negro Bill was not acceptable. His last name was Grandstaff, so that’s what it is now. I’m not sure how to feel about that.

During the few times we had connectivity, I contacted a friend who lives in La Sal. We hadn’t seen Janet Curley for quite a few years and were anxious to catch up with her and meet her friend, David. We suggested a hike and she suggested the Dinosaur Trail, about 15 miles north of Moab. After reuniting at the Lions Park, we followed them up Mill Canyon Road. There is a short walk featuring fossilized dinosaur tracks. They are neat-looking but the way they are displayed doesn’t allow any perspective to show how large they are.

600DinoTracks0505DinosaurTrail601DinoTrack0504DinosaurTrail

603SegoLily0499DinosaurTrail

Sego Lily, Utah’s State Flower

We wanted to walk some more and Dave used the AllTrails app to find the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail in a nice valley that featured dinosaur bones in situ.

604View0511DinosaurTrail

605JanetCurleyDavid0508DinosaurTrail

Janet and Dave

The bones differed in color and shape from the surrounding rock so they were pretty easy to pick out.  This was the vertebrae of a sauropod. Parts of four v-shaped bones remain as the only evidence of a vandalized tail.

608Bones0513DinosaurTrail

This is incomplete scapula and shoulder blade and several ribs of a sauropod.

609Bones0516DinosaurTrail

We passed the exhibits and continued up the valley. I saw lots of flowers I hadn’t seen before. I think this is some type of vetch.

610Vetch0514DinosaurTrail

611HedgehogCactus0526DinosaurTrail

Hedgehog Cactus

612Rocks0523DinosaurTrail

There was water in the wash. That was nice to see but the mosquitoes quickly became unbearable. It was the first serious bug attack we had during the trip. We turned back and decided to get a late lunch at the Moab Giants, a dinosaur museum.

After a huge hamburger with fries, I stumbled over to pay the entrance fee to the Moab Giants facility. $47 for two seniors. We first went to a small theater where the 3D film started at the beginning of time and progressed to the time of the dinosaurs, in about 20 minutes. From there, we headed over to a small aquarium. Aquarium in the desert? Yes. This is a 5D prehistoric aquarium. The huge creatures that inhabited the oceans in times past are recreated digitally with a grand finale of a Megalodon encounter. It was a well-done display and fun.

After that, we walked the outdoors dinosaur trail, featuring over 100 full-size replicas of the dinosaurs and the footprints they left behind. One interesting thing I learned today is that when dinosaur footprints are found, they are assigned the name of the person who discovered them. That is because it isn’t always easy or possible to figure out to what type of dinosaur the footprints belong.

615Dinosaur0529MoabGiant

616DinosaurDave0530MoabGiant

Dave tickling a dinosaur

618Dinosaur0532MoabGiant620Dinosaur0536MoabGiant

621Dinosaur0540MoabGiant

Tyrannosaurus Rex, rampaging through the Tamarisk

622Dinosaur0547MoabGiant

Unfortunately, the wind was fierce by this time and flying grit was stinging my legs. At one point Janet’s Dave had a tumbleweed crash into him with enough force to leave a bunch of stickers attached to his jeans. We joked around and did silly things and took silly pictures.

Finally, we went into the small museum. They had many interesting exhibits and some fun ones for kids. We said goodbye to Janet and Dave and got home fairly quickly. I was totally exhausted and took a quick nap before making dinner.

April 30     To Capitol Reef National Park

Our big treat on Tuesday morning was breakfast out. Our RV park was next door to a place serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. We headed out to go 100 feet for our breakfast. Dave noticed the restaurant’s chile roaster was going. Maybe Huevos Rancheros, I thought. But no. There were workers in the restaurant and the door opened but they were closed. They clean on Tuesdays.

Disappointed, we asked where we could go for breakfast. Go to Outfitters, they said. “Oh good”, I thought. We could eat breakfast and then I could buy wine there too. Well, they were open and they did serve some things for breakfast. The menu showed breakfast burritos. “Nope”, the perky barrista said. They were out. Bacon and egg bagel? Nope. Spinach quiche? All gone. Dave and I finally snagged the last two pieces of a bacon quiche. She said on Tuesdays, they were the only game in town. She said there was another café, but they were closed for “recuperation”. (Huh?) I guess we should have arrived earlier.

It was supposed to be clear and windy on Tuesday so we thought driving over Boulder Mountain to Capitol Reef should be relatively uneventful. Knowing that the road over the mountain rises to 9,600 feet, I wore a warm turtleneck. As we retraced part of our drive from yesterday, the fluffy clouds coalesced into a fairly solid mass of gray. When we stopped to photograph the naked aspens and great views at 8,000+ feet, it was freezing outside.

535View0231BoulderMtn536Aspen0236BoulderMtn537Aspen0253BoulderMtn538View0261BoulderMtn539Aspens0265BoulderMtn

541View0274BoulderMtn

Capitol Reef in the foreground and the Henry Mountains in the background.

542Aspens0273BoulderMtn

We knew we weren’t getting into Capitol Reef’s campground. Reservations for that popular place get booked solid months ahead of time. We were going to check out a couple of BLM dispersed camping sites a few miles from the park. We ended up at Bea’s Lewis Flats, with a nice view of Boulder Mountain. It began to sprinkle lightly as we settled in. It was a good day to be inside.

After dinner, as dusk descended, we just watched clouds go by, changing shape and tone. It was wonderful.

May 1   Capitol Gorge, Capitol Reef National Park

We weren’t terribly energetic on Wednesday so we decided to drive through Capitol Reef, drive down the short Capitol Gorge road and take a walk in the Gorge. The familiar line of very high cliffs paraded down the road, but we stopped for the flowers.

545Penstemon0294CapitolReef

Penstemon

546ClaretCupCactus0296CapitolReef

Claret Cup Cactus

After turning east on the gravel road into Capitol Gorge, the walls started closing in. We had to stop and capture the rich, warm colors.

548CapitolGorgeWalls0299CapitolReef549CapitolGorgeWalls0305CapitolReef550CapitolGorgeWalls0302CapitolReef

Once we started walking further into the gorge, the Pioneer Register appeared. People had to graffiti the walls, even in the late 1800’s.

552CapitolGorgePioneerRegister0306CapitolReef

Pioneer Register

The real attraction for me was “The Tanks”, a series of catchbasins that are found after a short, steep climb above the gorge floor. There were lots of people up there, but then they wander about so it’s not all crowded in one place.

554CapitolGorgeTanks0309CapitolReef

The tanks weren’t outstanding but the surrounding area was.

555CapitolGorgeTanks0311CapitolReef

The variety of rock here is astounding.

557CapitolGorgeTanks0317CapitolReef559CapitolGorgeTanks0319CapitolReef560CapitolGorgeTanks0320CapitolReef561CapitalGorgeClaretCup0326CapitolReef

Right before the steep descent, we rediscovered a really colorful rock area.

Once back in the gorge, we retraced our steps, noting the changes in light on the walls.

May 2     The Chimney Rock Trail in Capitol Reef

The Chimney Rock Trail was a 3.5-mile loop with a 700 foot rise in elevation. It only took about 15 minutes to reach the parking area off UT-24. It was full of cars. I resigned myself to seeing and hearing a lot of hikers.

Most of the elevation gain is right at the beginning. It involves some switchbacks but they are not terribly steep. It’s just a big trudge. The first formations I saw primarily were deep red-orange with some interesting gray mud hills. Nice.

570View0374ChimneyRockCapitolReefAs we rose, we got a good view of Chimney Rock, then rose above it and it dropped out of sight.

572ChimneyRock0379ChimneyRockCapitolReef

There was an expansive view of Boulder Mountain and the Henry Mountains when we reached the top of the butte.

573View0383ChimneyRockCapitolReef

After traversing the top of the butte, we began to descend into another canyon.

574Dave0390ChimneyRockCapitolReef

575Penstemon0396ChimneyRockCapitolReef

Penstemon

Soon, some good-looking aqua/turquoise-colored mud hills appeared below the red rock.

576Rocks0399ChimneyRockCapitolReef

I tried to capture the subtle varieties of green that the hills revealed, but it’s hard to get the image to show what I remember.

577Hills0410ChimneyRockCapitolReef

578Heliotrope0412ChimneyRockCapitolReef

Heliotrope

579Hills0417ChimneyRockCapitolReef

We made another left turn into Spring Canyon and the view of the multi-colored hills was wonderful. I didn’t remember this from this hike in 2012.

580Hills0421ChimneyRockCapitolReef

It seemed a long way to the end of the loop but the canyon was quite nice. We only passed 3 hikers on the entire loop. We finally reached the end of the loop and began the descent. The afternoon light was good and a few formations stood out.

581Hills0427ChimneyRockCapitolReef582Rock0432ChimneyRockCapitolReef583Rocks0433ChimneyRockCapitolReef584Rock0437ChimneyRockCapitolReef

We drove the short way back to camp, cleaned up and went to the Diablo Café to celebrate my birthday. We shared a smoked salmon “Mingle” with arugula, cous cous, and other stuff drizzled with an avocado cream. Oh, that was wonderful! I followed that up with a huge lamb shank served with hominy. We split a lemon tart for dessert. It was all great.