Friday, November 28, 2008

Enchanted Rock

During the rv gtg I went hiking at Enchanted Rock with a couple of the rv gals. It's been on my list for several years, and a couple hours out of Austin, so the trip out there makes for a long day, but it was so worth it.

This is another one of those great Texas State Parks, many trails and even a campground. We did the hike to the summit since it was our first visit. On the other side of the rock it's more cliff like and that's where the mountain climbers go.

It's a geologist's dream with many different types of rock formations in the basic pink granite.

These slabs were like pieces of a zig saw puzzle.

On top of the rock there are indentations that become pools after a rain. Sort of like the pools on top of Table Mountain. Unfortunately it would be too slippery up there to visit after a rain.

Besides the pools, there are desert gardens. These are totally fascinating!

Mother nature is the ultimate landscape designer.

And least we forget the lichen, here is a brilliant lime green.

Maybe next week I will plan another trip to Enchanted Rock to hike one of the lower trails......

Final notes from road trip.......

I decided to stick with the back roads from Zion to Gallup, not realized the beautiful country I would discover driving along the Vermillian Cliffs. This is the Navajo Bridge. The left one is the highway and the right is a walking bridge.

California condors have been released in the Marble Canyon below the bridge. I didn't get to see one, maybe next time....

On into Texas again on very back roads, I headed south to Fort Sumner and the Billy the Kid museum. It was truly one of the most amazing western museums I have ever seen. Room after room after room of neatly displayed (and labeled!) artifacts. Including everything related to Billy the Kid, his gang and even Pat Garret.

But these were two of the most interesting pieces to me, a "gambler's table" that converted into a chair when not in use.....

.......and a machine that manufactures brooms!

Happy trials.....

Now and Then

Last year Pai was not quite a year old when we visited Sweet Berry Farm. She could stand with a little help from a pumpkin, but was not walking.

This year, the pumpkins were just another chance for her to practice her mountain climbing skills! There were many pumpkins that required new locations, Pai was happy to help out....

But she wasn't so sure about feeding the goats.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Narrows

The Virgin River flows through The Narrows at the upper end of Zion Canyon. The river is the trail. The whole region is 10 miles or better, but the section most often hiked by casual visitors is 2 1/2 miles to "Wall Street". Conditions must be just right for a fun and safe hike up The Narrows. There can be NO chance of rain in the upper reaches as that will cause a flash flood. It can't be too cold because even at mild air temperatures the water is in the 50 -55* range. And finally, the flow must be, in my opinion, less than 30-35 cfs. Any higher and the rapids would get really challenging to cross.

This is the view up river from the trail head at the end of the River Walk Trail and the beginning of The Narrows hike. Many people stop here and marvel at the crazy people heading on up the canyon. It's even more fun on return when they treat us returning hikers like great explorers!

All along the River Walk and on up the canyon are hanging gardens like these. Many maiden hair ferns. They are watered by moisture leaching through the sandstone cliffs.

For a good portion of the hike the sun only shines at the top of the canyon. In the winter it must be like Early Intake with only a few minutes of sun all day long.

The canyon walls are not straight up and down. More often than not they are undercut by the river. It's a bit disconcerting to walk under these huge walls of rock.

The riffles were the hardest part of the hike. I became very fond of my hiking stick!

The river is not a straight shot, it winds around like a snake. Often there were big piles of rocks and gravel on the quiet side where the river had left them at higher flows.

This is one, if not the, very narrowest sections of the canyon.

Still life in nature.

It didn't take long to learn that even if the water was deeper, walking on the sand bars was the best route.

The walls of the Canyon are not smooth. There are many "bowls" like those in Cherry Canyon except that these are in the walls instead of on the floor of the canyon.

We hiked about a half mile every thirty minutes. That brought us to the beginning of Wall Street in time for lunch. A nice woman from Florida took our picture. I returned the favor and then did a couple more when her husband caught up. (Note the walking sticks! I wasn't kidding!)

This is on the only major tributary, "Orderville Canyon". On our day trip to Bryce we passed through a little town also called Orderville.

P continued up the canyon after lunch for another half mile or so. I took advantage of the quiet afternoon to work my way slowly back down canyon soaking in the beauty of the Park.

The light and shadows change continually throughout the day. By 3 pm, it was getting dusky in the narrower sections. The shadows on the rocks were the end of excellent hike.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


We had intended to spend two days in Zion and two days in Bryce, but changed the plan because it was beautiful and the weather was so perfect at Zion that we decided to do a day trip only to Bryce, saving our last day for "The Narrows" hike at Zion.

At the entrance station to Bryce the ranger told us another group from Sonora had been through a few minutes before. Turns out P actually knew them! It's a small world.

Anyway, it was really cold when we arrived, low 30s and the wind was blowing! I dug out a scarf I planned to give to a homeless person and bundled up.

A hiker from Denmark took our picture. I was very grateful to the Dutch that day as the Dutch government had bailed out my retirement fund investment company that morning.

The Bryce Canyon is completely different from Zion. Here the road and main trails are around the rim of the canyon while at Zion they are on the Canyon floor.

So we decided the cold would not stop us and took off on the Rim Trail. That ribbon of sand through the trees is the Paria River.

Some of the upper rocks are white at both Zion and Bryce, this is because the rain over millions of years is leaching out the minerals that make the rocks red.

The Peak-a-Boo loop trail is a five mile loop that is at the top of my list for next year. We walked down just a few hundred yards to experience the Canyon. All the folks coming up were very so excited, even after hiking almost straight up for two miles. I walked with one couple from Kansas, they were headed home the next day, but not until they did the 8 mile Fairyland Loop!

This feature is called "Natural Bridge".

Our final stop for the day was appropriately at Sunset Point. Also for a half dozen tour buses full of European visitors. The view out over the Canyon is so overwhelming I didn't even notice all those people milling around.

Back to Zion to prepare for the "Narrows"!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Zion National Park

We arrived at Springdale, Utah, just outside of Zion a few minutes before sunset. Just time to get checked in to our rooms. The Canyon Ranch Motel is a collection of cabin like buildings with each consisting of 2-4 units. There is a common green in the center and several porch swings around the grounds. They were perfect for watching the sunset on the mountains.

Now I know how people feel when they visit Yosemite for the first time. You have to see these places to really appreciate them. Pictures just can't communicate the glory of the experience. And the weather was perfect, not too many people, the leaves just beginning to change.

The shuttle bus systems run from early morning until late at night. One circuit is for Springdale and the other for inside the Park. They are so well managed to be almost invisible. You catch the bus at one of the many stops in town, get off at the pedestrian bridge into the Park and then jump on the Park bus. They run every 8-10 minutes, there is never long to wait, and stop at each point of interest or trail head in the Park.

So the first morning I decided to ride the shuttle to the far end of the canyon to get an overview and then work my way back. Hiking and exploring at each stop. The Virgin River runs through the Park. Much of it is accessible by trails that follow along it's banks.

A few trees were turning bright red.

At the end of the main part of the Canyon is the Temple of Sinwava. This is just a fraction of the circular shape of the head walls. It's very beautiful. Beyond this area is the beginning of The Narrows. (By the way, the place names are a interesting combination of Mormon biblical references and original Indian names).

Cottonwood trees were beginning to change. A hiker told me that the last week of October and first week of November are usually peak times for color.

The calm water above the riffles is caused by a diversion dam. Another example of the town and the Park working together. Domestic water is supplied by these diversion dams on the Virgin River INSIDE the Park.

More pretty trees and red rocks.

There are many very, very old and gnarled cottonwood trees.

I spent the whole first day doing short hikes on the Canyon Floor. It's a great Park for kids. Many fun and easy places to explore. And many more longer day hikes from almost every Shuttle stop. At the top of my list for next visit is to Hidden Canyon. And every night was another perfect sunset.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Translation....Texas Get-Together! I've been in Kerrville for a few days at a gtg with a group of people I met on the rvwomen's forum. We had fun exploring the local area. But for now back to my Utah road trip story....

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Bristle Cone Pines

Mid-afternoon on Sunday we turned East at Big Pine to visit the Bristle Cone Pines. These are the oldest living things on earth, one tree on the 4 mile loop is estimated at over 4,000 years. We did the short loop and saw trees only 2000 or so years old. ; )

Most are like these with a dead portion and a living portion. In some of the pictures you will see the white dolomite in the soil. There is speculation that this contributes to the long life and also the concrete like nature of the dead wood.

Look carefully in the lower right corner of the pic for Priscilla, Baily, Emma, and Nina...

The trail crew had a creative way of protecting switchbacks. There were maybe three of these rock piles on a short section of the trail. I wonder how many are still in place at the end of winter.

An old giant guards the trail at dusk.