Friday, September 22, 2017

Back to Utah - the Southern Half, Arches, and a 610-mile Bike Ride

We left Williams, AZ and headed back into Utah.  We visited northern Utah about a month ago at Salt Lake City, then crossed into Nevada after the Bonneville Salt Flats.  Most of the beautiful scenery though is in the southern half of the state with numerous national and state parks - Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonland, Glen Canyon, Escalante/Grand Staircase, Capitol Reef, and Arches.  I guess it's certainly possible to visit all of these, but we just don't have the time on this trip.  So, we'll show you some scenery from Williams, AZ to Blanding, UT, a trip to Arches, and my 610-mile, 2-day motorcycle ride from Blanding to Panguitch which crosses Glen Canyon, Escalante, and Bryce Canyon.  

The variety of terrain still amazes us.  There is literally a new and different photo shot every mile and around every new corner and curve.  





Three stone space aliens.




Remember our first "Devils Tower" in Wyoming?  Utah has towers that are even taller in some places.  




This spot is known as "Mexican Hat."  Note also the beautiful backdrop.


And this is quite an iconic shot in "Monument Valley."  Lots of movies and shows have included this area as a symbol of the American west - Back To The Future III, National Lampoon's Vacation, How The West Was Won, and The Lone Ranger to name a few.  One of the most notable is "Forest Gump" - the location where Forest stopped running.  "I'm pretty tired, I think I'll go home now."


And you see some interesting "other" things along the way.  We have never seen a building on top of several silos before this trip.


This jeep looks to be in a slightly precarious position. Look closely on top of the rock toward the left side!  Not sure if that is a promo for "Hole In The Rock" or an adventurous driver.


And I want to point out a wonderful thing about an RV.  When you are literally in the middle of nowhere, you can pull over and enjoy the conveniences of home.  Well, if you can find a place to pull over of course.



The main focus at "Arches" is uh, the "Arches."  We checked out 4 of them.  This first one is a "double arch."


Others.





And I had one of my best motorcycle rides of the trip - 610 miles.  It is rated as the #1 ride in Utah and is 300 miles long one way.  That's about my limit for one day and calls for an overnight stop to rest.  I rode it pretty much non-stop the first time through, except for fuel and food, just to enjoy the ride.  The route started at Blanding and includes Glen Canyon, Escalante/Grand Staircase, and skirts the edge of Bryce Canyon.  My overnight was at the KOA in Panguitch.  I don't need much after a long day and when you rent one of their cabins you don't get much - a bed, folding metal chair, a light, and a space heater.   I really appreciated the space heater - it was 37 degrees that night and I had frost on my bike the next morning.  You also have to provide your own pillow, linens, and towels. No water or bathroom, but they had recently installed new and private bathrooms and showers only about 50 steps from my place. 


In 300 miles, the scenery changes a lot as we have frequently noted.  Leaving Panquitch, you cross an area called Red Canyon with a couple of arches over the roadway.  You can see the second one just down the road looking through the first one.


Then you go through Bryce Canyon City and catch a little of Bryce Canyon from the highway.


It's a little more spectacular inside the park, but I did not have time for that plus it involes a lot of hiking to see the best in Bryce. (Picture from Yahoo images)


Then you get into the hills and curves of Escalante.



You better be paying attention running the crest of the hills between 2 canyons.  The road is narrow with steep drops on both sides AND NO GUARD RAILS! 


Then you begin the descent into a huge area of "not what you expect to see in southern Utah" - green hills.  You can see them in the distance.



With a few aspens to boot, the elevation at the summit in this area is 9,600 feet.


You make the turn at halfway in the town of Torrey and immediately enter just the opposite - rock and more rock.




Glen Canyon is next with miles and miles of red rock and lots of curves, heading for the Colorado River gorge and the headwaters of Lake Powell.



Lake Powell at Hite, UT.  If you look closely, you can see the concrete Hite boat ramp a long way from the water which is really low right now.


Just upstream from the above shot is the bridge over the Colorado River.


Upstream.


Downstream.


Leaving Glen Canyon, you enter about 75 miles of beautiful ridge and plateau on one side of the road and canyon on the other.



Approaching Blanding on the east end of the ride, there is a huge pass in the hills where they cut the road through. (V on the right side of picture.)




Nice view from inside the cut.


It was a fun ride and one of the most scenic of this trip.  Still behind on the blog.  We left Durango, CO this morning and are currently in Alamosa, CO.  The Colorado weather is starting to close in on us.  25 to 30 mph winds gusting to 40, rain, snow forecast in the higher elevations we just left around Durango, and nighttime temps in the 30s, headed to the 20s.  Hope we make it out in time!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Grand Canyon and Williams, AZ on Route 66

We left Vegas for Williams, AZ, "Gateway To The Grand Canyon."  The Las Vegas area is without a doubt the hottest place we have ever been (as in temperatures).  It was 105+ most days and it never cools down much at night.  I guess all of the rock there absorbs and retains the heat so you never get a break from it.  The forecast for Williams was mid 70's during the day and 50-ish at night and we were really looking forward to cooling down some.  We were also glad to see "green" again.  We have already posted the "Welcome To Arizona" sign but I'll mention one more thing before we make our way to the Grand Canyon.  Rhonda and I took a vote and unanimously agreed that Arizona has the worst roads in the country, or at least that's the case for the ones we rode on.



Williams runs a train service to the Grand Canyon but we opted to drive ourselves.


Another tribute to Williams.


And there is plenty of Route 66 memorabilia there.  In fact, the town has retained most of its original feel.



The main memorabilia store in town is "Addicted to Route 66."





Moving on to the Grand Canyon!

Rhonda and I watched a couple of Steve Harvey game shows this afternoon and one of the opening questions was "As you look back on your life, what is THE ONE THING you can look back on and be glad you did?"  A few possibilties come to mind instantly - got married, had children, rewarding career, ..........  But this guy, without hesitation, said, "Visited the Grand Canyon."  Steve had a little fun with that and you have to wonder - was that really the highlight for this guy????

Well, it is an awesome thing to see, obviously a powerful experience, ranked as one of the Seven Wonders Of The World, but THE ONE THING???  Regardless, welcome to the southern rim of  Grand Canyon National Park.


We walked out to Mathers Point and our first view was this.  Surely this is worth more than forty years of marriage, kids, grandkids, great job, etc!!  But it is quite a sight to see.


We asked some nice folks to take a picture of us.  This is not us.


This is not us either.


This is about as close to the edge as we were willing to go - and no guardrail either.  Living on the edge again (literally this time)!


A female elk was right next to the walking trail and didn't seem to mind being photographed either.


We visited several sections of the canyon and came home with 134 pictures.  Here are a few to give you a sense of the views there.
















These next ones will focus on the Colorado River views.  Keep in mind that on some of the zoom shots you are looking 10 miles away and one mile deep in the canyon.







There's a bridge over the river for hikers and mule trains.  It's 440 feet across and 70 feet above the water.


There was some serious rain in the distance and we got a little of it ourselves.





Toward the eastern end of the canyon is the Desert View Watchtower, built in 1932 by architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter in collaboration with the Hopi artisans of the day.  You begin to see some of the Painted Desert to the east.





There were several artists throughout the park, putting the views we saw to canvas.


And there were also simple, others unusual, but all beautiful sights to see besides "just" the canyon.  A couple of butterflies hidden in the beauty of a bright yellow bush.


This lone flower out on a ledge reminded us of a cobra being charmed.


And a fitting conclusion to our tour of The Grand Canyon.  Psalm 66: 4.