Thursday, May 29, 2008

New State

Lucky Lake Rooster Tail

Snake River Canyon
Columbia River Sunset
Wine, Wine, Wine
More Wine Please

After spending a quiet Memorial Day weekend at the Garrity RV Park in Nampa, Idaho we are now in Boardman, Oregon at the Boardman Marina and RV Park on the banks of the Columbia River. We have been driving a lot more lately then we like because we want to spend some time with Nanc's brother and family in Lacey, Washington before heading east to the Escapees rally in Gillette, Wyoming. We had planned on a more leisurely pace by coming this way after Gillette but with higher fuel prices we will save a couple thousand miles by coming here first. We will be returning to Wash, PA in the fall so I can get my drivers license. From Nampa we visited the Lucky Lake Dam where they were releasing large amounts of water because of the big snow melt happening this spring. The release was creating a huge rooster tail about 150 feet into the air. It was quite an event with lots of people going to watch. We also went to the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area where there is the largest concentration of raptors in the US. While we only saw a couple raptors the area was beautiful with the river flowing through the canyon. On Tuesday we moved to Oregon the first state that neither Nanc or I have ever been to previously. Part of the trip was along the Oregon Trail and a portion of the route followed by Lewis and Clark. Today we went to the Columbia Crest Winery in Paterson, Washington for an afternoon of touring and tasting. It just happens to be one of Nanc's favorite wine makers and was located just across the river from where we were staying.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Golden Spike

Mountain Snow
Golden Spike
Tools for building rail bed
Rail bed cut and fill
No. 119
ATK Rocket Garden

We are in Brigham City, Utah staying at the Golden Spike RV Park. The drive here over the mountains was one of the worst we have had with the temperature, which had been 95 the day before, dropping to 35 with near whiteout snow. It was a good thing there was very little traffic and the road was not icy. That night nearby Snowbird Ski Resort got 17" of new snow. While in Brigham City we visited the Golden Spike National Historical Site. This site is where the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific met at Promontory Summit to complete the transcontinental railroad. Golden spikes were used for the ceremony marking this accomplishment. You can see some of the original rail bed, cuts and fills used by both railroads. The rails were moved in the early 1900's so the only things left are the park service buildings and a short section of rails. As a result, the land around the area has not been developed and it looks the same as it did in 1869. They have two fully functioning replicas of the locomotives used for the May 10, 1869 meeting. The UP's 119 and the CP's Jupiter are fired up and moved to the site each day in the summer. Unfortunately, they did not bring them out of the engine house the day we were there because a water main break made the fire suppression system inoperable. We did get to see the locomotives and talk with the engineer who maintains and gets to drive them. The completion of the railroad was a major event of the 1800's and it is amazing to think it was built entirely by men and animals without large machines. The book, Nothing Like it in the World by Stephen Ambrose, documents the building of the railroad. The 2008 Utah state quarter depicts the spike and locomotives. About five miles from the Golden Spike we found a rocket garden at ATK, the company that builds the solid rocket boosters for the space shuttle. What a contrast to see these two areas so close together.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Canyonlands National Park

Green River Canyon
Colorado River Canyon
Shafer Trail Road
4x4 Road in the Canyon

Yesterday we drove to Canyonlands National Park whose geology was created by the Green and Colorado Rivers which have their confluence in the park. This area was explored by John Wesley Powell who started his trip through the canyons on the Green River in Wyoming. The rivers divide the park into three separate areas The Needles, The Maze and Island in the Sky, the only part we visited. In this section you drive across the Colorado Plateau and look down into canyons ranging from 1000 to 2000 feet deep. There are many miles of hiking trails and 100's of miles of dirt roads that are old uranium mining roads that are open to 4x4s. One of the dirt roads leads to Thelma and Louise Point where the final scene of the movie was shot. In The Maze section there are no paved roads. This is the fifth national park we have toured in Utah. Each one has a very distinct geology and they are all beautiful. We both agree "Utah Rocks" are wonderful and if you ever get a chance, it is a great place to visit.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Arches National Park

Delicate Arch is on the Utah license plate.
Double Arch
Atop a Rock Fin
Landscape Arch is the largest in the park at 306'. A 180 ton section fell from it in 1991.
Balance Rock
Leaping Toad
Squirrel drinking at a pothole.
Blooming Desert

We spent a couple days hiking in Arches National Park where there are over 2000 arches within the park from a minimum of three feet to over 300 feet. This concentration of arches is the result of the different geology of the area which once had huge salt deposits that dissolved causing the land above to collapse creating rock fins. The make up of the stone in the fins causes the lower layers to erode before the upper layers which creates an arch. In Geological time they do not last very long, only a few thousand years and new arches continue to form today even as old ones collapse. We have also seen many more flowers and animals than we thought we would in this dry hot climate.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Irrigated Fields and Badlands
View out the front window
You may have seen this in the movies.
The Muddy Colorado
In the high country

We are now in Moab, Utah at the Moab Rim Campark and we have moved quickly from Spring to Summer with temperatures in the high 90's even as we look at snow capped mountains. The drive here took us through another different looking landscape with dry badlands and green irrigated fields. On the drive we also had our first $500+ fillup with fuel costing $4.50 a gallon, $.50 more than we paid three weeks ago. I hope this "appeases" the Middle East oil producers. Moab is a big outdoorsy town with a lot of tourist activities and many businesses to serve them, including the first real grocery store we have seen in Utah. There are trips on the Colorado River, more jeeps than we have ever seen in one place for 4x4ing and it is a great bicycling area. There are also two national parks, a state park and more of that big wide open Western scenery. We took a 30 mile bike ride along the banks of the Colorado which was very muddy, not clear like it was below the Glen Canyon Dam. We drove into the mountains to enjoy the scenery and escape the heat with temperatures being 20 degrees cooler in the high country. When eating out one night we ran into Utah's unusual liquor laws. While waiting for a table at the Moab Brewery I had a beer but Nanc could not drink a glass of wine at the bar. She had to wait until we were seated in the dining room less than five feet away. There really aren't any bars in Utah, you must be eating to have a drink. Though there is some humor about booze in Utah, a local brewery makes Polygamy Porter and the label reads "Why just have one" and "Bring some home for the wives."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More Awesome Views

Snow Covered Mountains
Capitol Dome
Nanc standing on Cassidy Arch
The Castle
Capitol Gorge Waterpocket Fold
Orchards in Fruita along the Fremont River.
Gifford Farmhouse in Fruita

We are now at the Thousand Trails RV Park in Torrey, Utah near Capitol Reef National Park. This campground offers a couple of unique services with a nightly dinner in the pavilion and the sale of homemade bread baked by a local man in an outdoor brick oven. We took advantage of both. After we set a personal record of not dining out for eleven days in a row we found a great restaurant in tiny Torrey, Cafe Diablo, where we had a wonderful gourmet meal. On the drive here we crossed a pass at nearly 8400 feet and drove through some snow. During the first day we watched it snow in the high mountains overlooking the valley. While it did not snow in the campground it was ten degrees cooler there then it was in Capitol Reef which is at 5400 feet in elevation. I said earlier that we have been following Spring weather and it really shows here with the trees in the park having all their leaves while in Torrey the leaves on many trees are not yet out. The name Capitol Reef comes from the reef like Waterpocket Fold, a 100 mile wrinkle in the Earth's crust, that runs through the park and the large domes that reminded early settlers of the US Capitol Building. The erosion of the fold has created spectacular colorful cliffs and rock formations which can be seen on a ten mile drive or by the many hiking trails. Also preserved in the park is the Mormon settlement of Fruita where they planted orchards along the Fremont River. The orchards are still maintained by the park service and when the fruit ripens anyone is allowed to pick it. This park, while one of the least visited, offers a great variety of things to see and do.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Bryce Amphitheater
Rock Window
Climbing out of the canyon
Stellar Jay
Beggin Raven
After a Winter of not seeing any snow for the first time in our lives we had to walk through it on the Bristlecone Trail.
Effects of Erosion

We are now in the North Campground at Bryce Canyon National Park. The four days here will be the longest we have camped without hook ups. We are being very conservative with water and electricity and run the generator each day to charge the batteries. Bryce is different from Zion in that the road is along the plateau rim and you are looking down into the canyon. In the meadows and forests along the rim we saw many different animals. We drove and biked along the 18 mile road which has a number of scenic stops. We also hiked down into the canyon which is the best way to see the eroded formations. Bryce is also much higher in elevation with some snow still on the ground and low temps in the 30's. Bryce has one of the most unique landscapes we have ever seen with the erosion of the rocks forming hoodoos rather than one large canyon. The climate of Bryce has a huge impact on the formation of hoodoos with over 200 days each year of below freezing temperatures. If you want to see Bryce you need to do it soon because at the present rate of erosion it will be gone in 3 million years. If one picture is worth a thousand words we have about a million words in our camera. Starting with this entry we are going to try and have links to the sites we visit and write about. If you click on the underlined word(s) it will give you more info.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

More Zion

This is the road we cycled up to the tunnel. There are six switchbacks ending at the canyon wall at the left.
The Virgin River coming out of The Narrows.
Rock climber at 1200 feet above the canyon floor. It had taken him five days to get to this point. You can see his bag on the ledge where he slept on a 6 x 6 platform he hung from the wall.
Movie set used for Gunsmoke and other Westerns. The gallows is on the right and the saloon is the last building in the row.

On our last couple of days in the Zion area we did more hiking, biking and took a long drive in the wilderness. Our bike ride included a 3.5 mile uphill ride to the tunnel. Going uphill in the West really is easier than in Western PA because they have switchbacks to reduce the grade. Going down as usual was much more fun. One hike was along the Virgin River to The Narrows where it flows into Zion Canyon. When the water is lower (and warmer) you can hike in the river through The Narrows. We also saw some rock climbers on the shear cliffs of the canyon. Zion is second only to Yosemite for climbing. On our drive we came across the old set used in many movies as well as the TV show Gunsmoke. Many Westerns where filmed near the town of Kanab, UT also know as Little Hollywood. They have many plaques throughout the town with pictures of the stars, including John Wayne, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, who made movies here.