Friday, October 24, 2014

Capitol Reef

My first visit to Capitol Reef several years ago was a drive by.  This time I planned an overnight stop on my way to my next destination.  Let me tell you friends,  it deserves way more than a drive by or an overnight.

But first, you've  got to see the sign for 'Never Rip Overalls' on the side of the Grass Valley Mercantile. (Note the guys on the four wheeler giving me the evil eye that prevented taking the time for a more thoughtfully composed shot).

The Capitol Reef Campground is first come first serve, no reservations.  I arrived about 230 to find it close to 3/4 full all ready. Good lesson for future visits in the busy season!  After settling in for a few minutes I headed out to explore.

The entrance to the camp ground is a mile or so off the high way in a stand of cottonwood trees.

At this higher elevation all the cottonwoods were at peak colors.  A family of four or five kids adopted this old giant as their own; playing under and in it all afternoon.

The trail leaves the campground in two directions; to the left along the Fremont River.......

And to the right past the Gifford Museum and Bakery (!); early the next morning I picked up one of their signature mini (warm) Apple Pies to share at my next stop.  The museum has some nice displays to illustrate life of the early settlers.

But back to my walk.....a little friend....

Giant cottonwood.....

Late afternoon light provided gorgeous back drop for trees along the river....

All the fruit trees are descents of the originals.....

Back to camp from my walk, there was still time to explore the 10 Mile Scenic Drive.  

Well, that was true in theory, but I was way too tired to drive all the way out and turned around at the five mile mark to head back to camp (again); it's way down in the stand of cottonwood in the center of the pic.

Red rock, yellow tress, and blue sky across Highway 24 from the Visitor Center early the next morning.

One last shot in morning light before hitting the road to the most anticipated destination of the my trip.....Dead Horse Point State Park.

P.S.  Thanks to my 'anonymous' commenter for noting typo of 'capital', that is, of course, CAPITOL.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Observation Point Hike

Falling into a hole between big storms, my week at Zion was clear and warm in the afternoons; perfect for this year's big hike: Observation Point.  (The Subway is so on my list,  but I think I need to find a 'guided hike' for that one).

It's four miles and 2000 feet elevation gain up to Observation Point.  Proof:

The fork in the trail to the right goes to Hidden Canyon and to the left is the Observation Point trail.

The cottonwoods along the river had not started to turn; maples along the trail had great color all ready.

The drainage makes a sharp turn creating this cool 'natural' sidewalk.

Not much farther is Echo and other unnamed 'slot' canyons.  My gps did not like the slot canyons.
The signals bounced off the walls adding a good four miles to my hike!

It's a hard climb, but doable, and the rewards are pretty fantastic.....

Past this 'first peek", it's another 3/4 or so of a mile around the side of the mountain to Observation Point.  (That's Angel's Landing on the right side in the middle).

The following series of shots are all of the trail going back down the mountain. I have to tell you I enjoyed the trail more than the actual point.  It's surly my favorite in Zion. (But remember I haven't seen the Subway yet!).

Ending with some more pretty colors.....

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Perfect Camp at Zion

It didn't take me long to learn that the best camping spots in Zion were on the outside of the Watchman B loop and that I needed to make my reservations six months out to get one of those sites. B 27 had been on the books for many months when I finally arrived.  They are big sites to accommodate big rigs,  with my van I can jockey it around to park sideways creating a very private space with my double doors opening to the table and the view of Watchman.  It's just about perfect! I had that shot, but it's lost now so this one will have to do.....

During my visit I did one big hike, Observation Point, one long downtown walk, several shorter hikes, some Christmas shopping,  and many hours just sitting in camp soaking up the mountains. Almost every evening was a gorgeous sunset; several looked like Thomas Moran paintings.

It's pretty hard to snap a good shot of the Temple of Sinawava (at least with my cameras) at the far end of the canyon.  From down river a ways it's almost possible to get the whole thing.

But then there are the iconic Fremont Cottonwood trees framed by a background of the red cliffs to make me happy again.

Saving the Observation Pt pics for another post.

Leaving Zion is always sad; so  leave early and you will get to see the sunrise on the mountains behind the Visitors Center!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Valley of Fire Overnight

Always on the look out for routes around big cities, I thought I would drive via Henderson to skirt Las Vegas completely.  It sure didn't save any time, and it was a little spooky as I was kinda short on gas, but the views were amazing.  Not sure I would do it again though......

One day I will plan for an extended stay at Valley of Fire.  As an overnighter, though, one can always count on a spectacular sunset.   (Note to travelers:  first come first serve, and always many empty spaces in past, not this time as it was Saturday night!)

And for today's bonus.....a great horned owl landed on the rocks above my camp!  She stayed for the longest time and then swooped off in pursuit of dinner.

Friday, October 17, 2014

And I'm off.......

Up and over Tioga Pass on my way to Austin anticipating many happy adventures.  I always stop to look for Mountain Goats (sheep?); many times, but no sightings here (stay tuned for Zion!).

While the color reports had been less than encouraging, the June Lake Loop did not disappoint.  I spent a couple fun hours leap frogging with a couple other leap peepers who got as excited as I did by the gorgeous colors.

A fisher in the creek didn't seem to mind me and my partners snapping pics of him and his beautiful fishing spot!

Disappointed I can't identify these red leaves.

A swam of Monarchs added more accents of color (slightly out of focus).

This view in the campground made for a fleeting urge to spend the night.

It was really windy at both Gull and June Lakes so I beat feet south on 395 only to have a tire problem  develop in Big Pine, a tiny town, with a super Shell Station!  A fully stocked auto/tire shop with a very competent young man working that day had me back on the road in record time.  But not enough to get me to Barstow, so I stayed south of Lone Pine at the Boulder Creek RV,  great no hook up camp sites with views of Mt Whitney.