Thursday, September 5, 2019

Canyonlands and Part One of Capitol Reef - Las Vegas and Utah - May 2019

Las Vegas/Utah Trip Overview

Another early morning.  We grabbed a few quick snacks from our limited continental buffet at the Moab Valley Inn, but saved the real breakfast for McDonald's.   We don't eat anything from McDonald's except for a very rare ice cream cone.   There wasn't a Starbucks option so this would do.   At least the coffee was not from concentrate.

This morning we were leaving Moab and heading west.  Our itinerary for the day was to visit Canyonlands National Park for as long as that would take, then head to Capitol Reef National Park for a little more touring before ending up in Torrey, UT for our night of glamping.  We didn't know these parks existed until we started doing research for this trip.  Both parks had some unique aspects making the visit worth it.

Canyonlands is divided into two sections that are not connected by roads.   To see The Needles section you need to go south through Moab.   We skipped that section and went to the Island in the Sky section.  It took us under an hour to get here through some fog and light rain.

All Canyonlands National Park

Island in the Sky portion

Our budget of a 1/2 day here was perfect.   We arrived at the Visitor Center before it opened which gave us a chance to check out the Shafer Overview. People actually take their cars down there and camp.

From there we made our way to Mesa Arch.  This landmark seems to make its way into screen savers and wallpaper packs in Microsoft Windows.   Our timing was perfect for lighting on the valley in the background and to get some lens flare above the arch.  Of course this is another place where dumb people don't follow rules and climb on things they shouldn't climb on.

Our next stop was Upheaval Dome.  This wound up being our most difficult hike of the day, especially since we missed a trail marker and took some stupid way.   Luckily we had a fifteen year old boy with his mom willing to blaze the trail.    We got over the difficult section and found out from another couple we all were way off course.    We looked down into the distance at where we were supposed to be and decided the view from this point was good enough,   Upheaval is a strange formation that they can’t really explain what happened.  A meteor impact site is one version and the other has something to do with earth science.  

The show-stopper of Canyonlands was next: Grand View Point Overlook.  The views here rivaled (or surpassed) those at The Grand Canyon.  Plateaus and mesas for miles.  There was a couple mile round trip trail that offered some spectacular photo opps.

Time to go.  We were able to see most of the sites in this section in about 5 hours.  In between Canyonlands and Capitol Reef on Rt. 24 was.... nothing.  Actually there were a few state parks and the small town of Hanskville with its strange gas station built into the rocks.  There was some striking formations along the way.

It was raining by the time we reached Capitol Reef.  While we stopped to look at the park map we got a dinner tip from another park guest.  More on that later.  At least the rain had stopped and we had some sunlight for our first viewing area of the petroglyphs.  

A lot of the focus of Capitol Reef was on the early settlers.  Some historic buildings and orchards help to demonstrate how horrible life was back in the olden days.  We skipped most of this stuff in favor of Goosenecks Overlook and Panorama Point.  Halfway into our hike the lightning started.   Time to go....

Not too far from the west park entrance was the town of Torrey.  Our hotel was on the outskirts:  The Capital Reef Resort.   We were expecting this to be the highlight of our lodging experience because we were glamping in a conestoga wagon!

We found a picture on a travel website of a wagon hotel about a year before the trip and were happy to find we had a chance to stay in one.   The resort also had a regular hotel, cabins, and tee-pees.    Our wagon was nice and included a king bed, a heater, and 4 bunk beds - perfect for a family or a bro trip....  Each wagon had a private hotel style bathroom in a nearby building.   

After dropping off our stuff we headed to town for a drink (the resort didn't have a bar).   We found one place attached to a hotel with a bar, but to have a drink we needed to order food (stupid Utah).   We picked at some nachos while enjoying local beers.  On the way back we stopped for dinner at the restaurant the other travelers suggested we go to: La Cueva.  It's a Mexican restaurant attached to a gas station/C-store.  No beer listed on the menu, but the manager was happy to come over and give us a rundown (he is not originally from UT and hated the laws as much as we did).   The food was decent, definitely authentic.  

Back at the hotel we sat in the Adirondack chairs by the fire.   The fire was just not for atmosphere - it was freaking cold.  Usually the tee-pees and wagons aren't open during these temps.   Great.   The heater in the wagon could not keep up.  Great.

A couple ladies joined us by the fire - they just met on a group bicycle trip through the parks and acted like BFFs.  Later a family with two teen daughters arrived.  The parents joined us while the girls stayed in the wagon.  Unfortunately for us we only brought one bottle of wine (purchased in Vegas) and there was no bar at the hotel.   We went back to the wagon, plugged in the electric blanket, and slept with our knit caps on like wagon-folk would have.  Holly had to leave the wagon in the middle of the night for the bathroom - at least she was rewarded with a no-light pollution star-filled sky.   She told Dave about it and he wasn't having any of it.  Too cold to get out of bed and be tempted to mess around with the tripod.  We also didn't mention the man on the ATV drives by the wagons at night to turn off the fires.   Pretty darn loud....

The glamping experience would have been a blast in average weather conditions.  The cold (38 degrees when we woke up) really took the wind out of those sails.   Still a worthwhile experience and maybe we'd go back to the area and stay in the tee-pees.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Charity of the Month - September 2019

Charity of the Month is a way Team Tizzel is helping to support some very worthy organizations. As part of this program, we will dedicate a post to a charity that we will sponsor through the month by donating Holly's training run money.

Last month we posted 4 charities to make up for Dave's laziness.  JDRF - Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund and Stand Up to Cancer  received cash donations.  Dave ran a fundraiser at work for Give Kids the World  and paired it with a Facebook campaign.   He raised over $1,400.  The link to the Jost Van Dyke Methodist Church did not work so we will double-up our donation to September's charity

September's Charity

Image result for sandals foundation logo
We are not big fans of Hurricane Dorian.   We were planning to spend a long weekend in Disney World for Epcot's Food and Wine Festival and the opening of Star Wars Galaxy's Edge.   Holly perfectly planned all the dining and events for the few days.   On Friday morning we watched the news and did not think it would be a wise decision to go.  Flying to a hurricane didn't make much sense to us, especially if that meant taking resources from people that needed them.   It was a trip we were both really looking forward to.

We can't ignore the reality that many people in the Bahamas lost everything in this storm, much like our friends in the British Virgin Islands two years ago.   The Sandals Foundation is committed to ensuring resources get to the communities that need it the most.  We trust that the foundation will provide much-needed help.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Arches National Park - Part Two - Las Vegas and Utah - May 2019

Las Vegas/Utah Trip Overview

Another early morning.  Dave rope-dropped the hotel’s free breakfast and found they only served instant coffee out of a machine. Yuck!   Good news:  they had Froot Loops.

There was no line to get into the park at 6:30AM, and no admission to pay either.  We made our way passed the turn off for The Windows to see the back-half of the park, starting with Delicate Arch.   

The lot was already getting full with people making the trek up to the arch.  We decided not to do the hike for two reasons:  The guide map listed the hike as strenuous and we were not confident in our abilities yet, and we had a tour later in the day and wanted to make sure we fit everything into the day. Fortunately there was a real short hike to view the arch from a distance and as a bonus there were petroglyphs in the area.   Delicate Arch is on the Utah license plate and kinda the unofficial symbol of the state.  

More from Holly in Nature series

There were people milling around the arch.  Dave erased them for the photo.

Following the main road we made our way to the Fiery Furnace viewpoint.  The GyPSi guide told us about guided tours through the maze of rock stacks.  Sounded fun for another trip.   After that, we stopped to take a 2+ mile round trip walk to Sand Arch and Broken Arch. 

Sand Arch

Broken Arch

On the way out we saw Skyline Arch before making our way to Devil’s Garden.   This was a fun area to spend a bit of time in.   Hikers walk in through a narrow pass in two large rocks.  The path goes up and down some rolling hills with some stunning sites along the way.  Our favorite was Landscape Arch.

Skyline Arch

Landscape Arch

Tunnel Arch

Pine Tree Arch

After that tour we headed into town and checked in early for our afternoon tour with Navtec.  We trusted the person working the desk for a local’s lunch recco: Love Muffin Cafe.  The coffeehouse/sandwich shop made everything from scratch.  Holly’s turkey sandwich was real carved turkey - not cold cuts.  

A few weeks before leaving home we booked a 4x4 trek through the back portion of Arches. Navtec usually picks up guests from their hotels.  We decided to go to their office to save time.   Our driver was a little late but no big deal.  After getting in the Jeep we went to the gas station so he could fill up and then we picked up two more guests - a couple a little older than us from The O.C..   We had no idea that Arches had a very popular off-road section (in the top left section of the map on the top of the post).   We toured Marching Men, Tower Arch, and Eye of the Whale.  The guide showed us some preserved dinosaur foot prints.

Dinosaur track

One thing we learned from our guide: 401(K)s and IRAs are important.  He told us he spent his whole life in nature as a guide and generally hiking and camping.  Now in his 70’s he needed to keep working just to clear a few bucks each month.  

We ran into a few drizzles but the skies in the distance made it look worse. 

The guide must have liked us because he got us back to town much later than we were supposed to finish our tour.   After a quick cleanup we checked out Eddie McStiff’s for a beer.  There were 8-10 Utah beers on tap and, as a bonus, The Force Awakens was on TV.   Dinner tonight was at Antica Forma - a wood-fired pizza place.  We made reservations earlier in the day but decided to take a few empty bar seats.   More Utah beers on tap.  We had some great pizzas, including one with pistachios.   After dinner we went to the BBQ joint next to our hotel for a prickly pear (cactus fruit) margarita.  Our guide said they made a good one....   We’d say they made an okay one.  Here’s where Utah needs to get with the times.  Mixed drinks get a measured shot of liquor and that’s it.  When pouring into everywhere-else sized glasses you get a bad mix/liquor ratio and everything ends up tart and sweet.  Stick with beer.

That put a wrap on our visit to Arches and Moab.   The next morning we would be on our way to Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and our glamping experience.