Thursday, October 31, 2013

Balmorhea Sunset

Balmorhea was my second to last night on the road, and always one of my very favorite stops.   




Monday, October 28, 2013

Albuquerque Botanic Gardens

Those pretty snow flakes in the forecast for Santa Fe found me stopping for an overnight in Albuquerque before heading farther south;  and leaving plenty of time for a morning visit to the Botanic Gardens.  They are in downtown Albuquerque on Old Route 66 along the Rio Grande River.  It was crispy, with blue bird sky and lots of sunshine.

The Aquarium,  a restaurant,  snack bar, gift shop and the Botanic Gardens open off a central courtyard.


A friendly docent greeted me at the entry to the Botanic Garden.


While a dragon guarded the Children's Fantasy Garden.


Workers were setting up displays for Christmas light,  that's why there is a wooden palm tree near the tent covered stage.


Several pair of wood ducks live in the pond.


It was definitely fall in the gardens.


It was such a beautiful day, I didn't go into the Conservatory.


My favorite part,  the Japanese Garden.


A path circles around a central pond offering photo op after photo op.  :)


The garden was clearly planned to incorporate the native Cottonwood trees.


Including the dead wood!


Stepping stones cross the many water features that flow into the pond.


I can't imagine how I could miss a spider this big, but an employee had to point it out.  


More stepping stones.


Curvy bench creates an inviting spot to relax.


And a last peak at the waterfall......


If you ever get a chance to visit this garden,  do it!  I only skimmed the surface; and did I mention there is a walking trail along the Rio Grande River?!?






Saturday, October 26, 2013

Spider Rock, Finally!

Knowing I will arrive at Canyon de Chelly soon is the one thing that makes leaving Zion a little easier.  After a stop over in Page to do laundry and hit the grocery, late afternoon sun greeted when I arrived.  Even on week-end, the campground is empty this late in the season.


(looking west)


(looking east)

The ravens own the canyons of the south west.   



The White House trail is only one open to the public (others require Indian guides).  I got out early, 8:30 or so, and met only a Native family hiking down.  It was one of those mornings so perfect I didn't even take my camera out of my pack;  just soaked in the canyon.  Hating to break the spell, I didn't walk down the river to the White House Ruins.  (Paid my dues to the vendors last visit).  I reluctantly turned around at the bridge and headed back up the  trail.  It wasn't long before voices of hikers starting down began to echo off the canyon walls.

From previous visits I knew it was necessary to visit the Spider Rock overlook in early afternoon to see it before the sun casts a shadow on its base.  Maybe it's because I'm usually there late in October, but the shadow always is way ahead of when I think it will happen.   Finally, success on my second try!










Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Emerald Pools (Zion)

This is my fourth (?) visit to Zion,  but the first time I've hiked up the Emerald Pools trail.  It's a nice walk along the opposite side of the river and then climbs up the canyon for a mile and a half or so.


More Big Tooth Maples!


The Lower Pool sits at the base of a waterfall from the Middle Pool.


Just past the lower pool the trail splits; stay to the right to the Grotto or go left up some steep steps to the middle pool.  


This series of pools is very popular; it's good to keep a sense of humor.


Big Tooth Maples continue to steal the show.


The upper pool sits at the bottom of a very high cliff;  it's kind of a bowl and not the kind of thing my camera can capture!  This is a long shot to the top where the tree is evidently growing along the stream that feeds the pools.


Back down the trail to the Grotto, I'm sorry to say I offended a family visiting from Europe.  No need to go into my whole side of the story, but I bet they have been telling about the mean old woman they met on the trail in Zion!


One last look up the canyon,  wishing I had planned a couple more days.


The view from my camp was really pretty nice;  very late sunset on Watchman.



















Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Zion

A last minute (few weeks) reservation got me a middle section site in Watchman Campground without much privacy (lesson learned!). Next time I have my eye on the perfect campsite with great views of the Watchman and plenty of privacy to sit around camp and enjoy it!

The first evening I hopped on the Shutter for a ride up to the upper end of the canyon to do the River Walk.  It's a lovely walk, especially late in the afternoon.


A big rain and flood of the canyon happened a few weeks before my visit;  the river was still much higher than I have ever seen it flowing.  Water was seeping all along the cliffs.


The Fremont Cottonwoods were just beginning to turn;  the stars of the canyon this trip were the Big Tooth Maples.  



A few clouds and the sun low in the sky helped me get this shot of the split rock at the Temple of Shinawava.


Back to camp for an amazing sunset.


One morning I walked the Pa'rus trail along the Virgin River.


Yet another moon set!


Just about every city, state, and federal park in the country has these bridges.   I've been wondering who created this design that seems to 'fit' so perfectly where ever it might be installed; the engineer must be very, very proud of his/her legacy. 


Continental Bridge Company of Alexandria, Minnesota manufactures these bridges; they are installed by local contractors.  Funny that the description of uses online mentioned golf courses, highway over passes, and many more applications,  but not parks!  Anyway, while the company was purchased by Contech Construction in 2001. they got to keep their name.  That's good because each bridge has a little name plate that says 'Continental Bridge'.

The Pa'eus trail is two miles from the Visitor's Center up to the entrance to Zion Canyon.  It's pretty busy later in the day, not so much early in the morning.  

(By the way, the South Campground is walk in (no hook ups)  and had plenty of sites available.).     




Monday, October 21, 2013

Snow Canyon State Park UT

My one night stay at Snow Canyon was a happy result of the Feds shutting down the National Parks.  Next trip through Utah I will plan to spend more time there.  The RV section of the campground is pretty tight, but several of the dry camp sites are nice and secluded.

Travel pal, J, who lives in St. George, came by for a late afternoon visit.  It was great to finally meet in person; we have been 'online' friends for several years.  

There are many, many miles of trail.  I decided on the Three Pools hike to get acquainted with the park. (Also because the trail head is just across the road from camp!).  


The first half of the hike is through the red rocks with great views of several other types, including lots of lava.


The trail description had warned about sand on the trail;  it really wasn't bad until the trail became a sandy wash!


So, I heard the horses coming at a fast trot, and got ready to snap a pic.  Shocked, I almost missed it when I saw a rider with a toddler balanced on the front of her saddle!


Along the edges of the wash, where the sand is undisturbed,  I practiced my tracking skills.  Many insects, birds, and small animals.  It would be fun to spend some time off trail collecting tracks.


The first two pools would be VERY small under the best conditions, late in the fall they were about non-existent.
A tiny seep of water dripped into what was left of the third pool.




  (black arrow points to the pool)

A few hardy flowers were blooming.




I couldn't resist a hike called 'Three Pools', and I'm glad I did it, but probably won't again.  Way too much deep sand!

Back at camp it only took a few minutes to button up my van and get on the road to Zion.  I was looking forward to seeing more gorgeous Fremont Cottonwoods.