Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Bryce Canyon - Las Vegas and Utah - May 2019

Las Vegas/Utah Trip Overview

After a good lunch and long drive through the Grand Staircase-Escalante we finally made it to Bryce Canyon.   Accommodations in the area leave a lot to be desired.   The park's lodge was booked so we ended up staying in Bryce City at one of two Best Westerns.   We chose to stay at the "historic" Ruby's Inn Best Western.  Ruby was some guy who moved to the area like a 100 years ago and bought up all the land so nothing good could be built near the park entrance.   There are 3 hotels, all owned by some Ruby heir, all with an Economy rating on the STR scale.  The room at the Inn was well-worn, but we chose this location over the others because it was the flagship property.   There's a store, restaurant, laundry mat, and quick serve restaurant.  Across the street is a country music dinner theater, and some nights a small rodeo (canceled due to unexpected cold weather).   We checked in to our large, but well worn hotel room, and got out after checking the beer selections in the store for later (no bar here).

After the obligatory sign photo we took a ten+ mile ride up to Rainbow Point.   There were a few short trails up here (Bristlecone being one of them) that mostly went through pine forests and took us around a rim for incredible views.   While here we saw some dumb girl sitting at the edge of some crumbly looking ledge posing for Instagram pictures.  Hopefully she and her friend made it out ok.    

Bryce was so different from the areas we left a few hours ago.   Lots of pine trees, snow on the ground in a few spots, and gorgeous views into the valley below.   Now add into that the hoodoos - stone formations eroded over time - and you have something very unique.

After a short hike we backtracked stopping at each pullout along the way.   They were all on the right side so it makes sense to go up first without stopping, then hit them on the way back.















Take your photo with three of these signs and you get a sticker from the visitor center.













This crow was walking on the rail letting folks get too close to it.





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We headed back to Bryce City trying to figure out how to spend the night.  We decided to skip the country music dinner show at Ebenezer’s and the rodeo was cancelled.   There were no bars to hang out in at any of the hotels.  We didn’t want a sit down dinner and unfortunately ended up splitting a gas station pizza from the quick serve in our room watching tv.  Definitely a lodging low point.  On the plus side there were some good local beers to choose from in the general store.

***
Up early the next morning, per theme of this trip.  A breakfast buffet was included with our stay so we headed down to eat with approximately 800 people.   This is the only place to eat in the area so all the buses stop here.   As busy as it was they ran things pretty efficiently.  

Today we were venturing down into the canyon on the Queen's trail.   There were alot of short cutbacks that made for a nice downhill trip, but of course we had to come back up the same way.   This trail was worth it to get eye-level with the hoodoos we've been looking down on for the last day.  The weather was finally getting pleasant - we weren't freezing anymore.  The lighting cooperated for photos.    We could not take the Navajo Trail back since it was closed due to a rockslide.   After coming back up the trail we found a convenience store near the park lodge to grab a beer at a picnic table.
















Our next trek was along the Rim Trail, which is an extension of some of the area we visited the night before.   In many places you had no choice but to be close to the edge.   Holly wasn't enjoying this much but she took it in-stride and actually stopped for a photo.








Our final bit of sightseeing was at the north end of the park which was inaccessible from inside the park.   A short drive on 12 brought us to the Mossy Cave Trail.  Here you can take a short hike and climb up some stairs to see an area that’s carved out of the rocks by water and covered with moss.   It’s not a cave as much as it is a sheltered area.   There’s also a river trail to walk around complete with waterfall and a few interesting rock formations.   









On the way back we found a bar.   At the corner of 63 and 12 is the Bryce Canyon Resort with the Cowboy Ranch House restaurant.  We found a pleasant enough bar with 12 taps (most local) and a few signature cocktails.  We stuck around long enough to watch some tourists come-and-go and left before the dinner crowd arrived.   We dined at our hotel’s main restaurant, which was a mistake.   Thankfully the next day we’d be off for Zion and staying in a real town.  

Monday, September 16, 2019

Capitol Reef Part Two and Grand Staircase-Escalante - Las Vegas and Utah - May 2019

Las Vegas/Utah Trip Overview
Bryce Canyon



Glamping would have been more fun if the temperatures were higher than 38 degrees when waking up.  We experienced this kind of camping in Africa, but we expected it to be cold during that trip - not cold in late May in southern Utah.  The bathroom facilities worked well with a nice hotel hot shower.   We had a quick granola/protein bar breakfast in the car as we made the short drive back to Capitol Reef National Park.   Our main activity for the morning was to hike to Hickman Bridge  - a 2 mile round trip.   Again, here we are in the middle of nowhere at 7am walking around a bunch of rocks.  This was not our typical vacation.

The trail had a few patches of sketchy rock but overall it was pretty smooth sailing with light slopes and well defined trails.   We had great views of the Capitol Dome and other great scenery along the way.   It's hard to believe this area was all underwater at one point, but the coral-like rocks help to reinforce that fact.








Yucca 





We are not sure why the bridge was named for Hickman.   It was pretty nice though and nice to finally be at a cool formation without people getting in the way for the photos.   Downside - dreary morning with no sun.
















When we finished our hike we stopped at the old timey general store for coffee and some old fashion honey candy that Holly loved.  As we mentioned in the last post a lot of this park was focused on the early settlers and how they lived so a few buildings on site were setup to function as part of a village.   We followed the road south a few miles for the scenic drive and to see the canyon original settlers brought their wagons through to get to the site.  We could have taken our car through the canyon pass but decided there were too many wet spots to bother.







Our next portion of the morning would be spent driving scenic Byway 12 towards Bryce Canyon through the Grand Staircase-Escalante.   Before researching this trip we had never heard of this site, Canyonlands, or Capitol Reef.   These are incredible locations worthy of Grand Canyon/Monument Valley levels of notoriety.   Route 12 was a windy road that took us up to almost 10,000 ft of elevation and views of snow capped forests.  Thirty minutes later we'd be looking at dusty desert scenes stretching for miles.   The road could have used a few more guard rails.   












By the time we reached civilization (the town of Escalante) we were starving. Car snacks weren’t cutting it and Dave developed a new Pavlovian behavior we called “baby bird”.  Whenever Holly grabbed for a snack his palm went up immediately for a handout.   


We picked the Circle D Eatery because it was the last restaurant on the main drag.  Lucky for us it was awesome with Utah beers and delicious burgers.  This was pure gourmet compared to the food served up in Bryce City, our next destination.