|In June, I finished work at the
flight-line and drove north after work, heading for Zion National Park.
I stopped for a few hours in Las Vegas that evening, and then
made it as far as a hotel in Mesquite, Nevada, which is about an hour
and half from Zion. I woke up and immediately drove to the
Canyons visitor center (B), with the intention to hike to Kolob
Kolob Canyons is to the west and separated from the main
of Zion National Park. The hike out to Kolob Arch is 7 miles
one-way, and while the 14 mile round-trip hike can be done in one day,
I wanted to break it up into two days. There are a bunch of
campsites along the trail, next to La Verkin Creek. I made reservations
for one of them, and then drove north 30 minutes to Cedar City (C) to buy
some food for the overnight trip. I returned to Kolob Canyons
hiked 5.5 miles to my campsite that evening. I set up my
had dinner, and spent sunset walking along and through La Verkin Creek
in my flip-flops to cool off.
The next morning, I pulled out my day-pack from my main pack, left the campsite set up, and hiked the last 1.5 miles to Kolob Arch. I spent a couple hours exploring and taking photos from different angles, and then returned the 1.5 miles back to my campsite. After putting my tent away and eating a quick snack, I hiked 5.5 miles back to my rental car. I arrived back to my car just after noon.
I drove north to Cedar City, had lunch, and then drove up into the mountains above Cedar City to Cedar Breaks National Monument (E). Cedar Breaks is at the very top of the Grand Staircase, up at 10,000 feet. It can best be described as small version of Bryce Canyon, but it has much more vertical relief in relation to its total area.
After spending some time at several viewpoints, I headed east and down off the top of the plateau, then south to Mt Carmel Junction (F), and finally back west into the main section of Zion National Park along the Mt Carmel road. The views are always incredible in this section of the park, and I took lots of photos, before heading down into the main canyon through the tunnel.
I had dinner in
Springdale (G) right outside the park entrance, at
Pizza & Noodles, a restaurant our family found many years ago and
have always tried to visit whenever we are in Zion.
The view while
eating on the front porch of Pizza & Noodles is almost as good as the
food. I had planned to hike the
West Rim Trail from Lava Point all the way down to the Grotto the
following day, but the overnight hike to Kolob Arch had given me enough
blisters that I cancelled the West Rim hike plans. I spent the night at
a hotel in Hurricane and the next day in Las Vegas instead.
The blisters had done me in, and that was it for the Grand Staircase on this trip. I thought with a little more planning and a lot of driving, I could see much more on my next flight test to Yuma. I got my chance in February 2015, over President's Day weekend, to make a longer driving trip to a bunch of parks.
National Park (B)
- night photos in Zion Canyon
- camp in car - Friday night
- Angels Landing hike, GoPro video of climb and descent
- Mt Carmel Road
Bryce Canyon National Park (C)
- Inspiration Point
- Sunset Point for sunset (!)
- Bryce Canyon Inn - Saturday night
Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument (D - E - F)
- through Kodachrome Basin
- Grosvenor Arch (D)
- Escalante River Canyon Head Of The Rocks Overlook and drive across the canyon (E)
- across "The Hogback" into Boulder, UT
- Burr Trail Road from Boulder, UT to Long Canyon (F) to ...
Capitol Reef National Park (G - H)
- switchbacks down into Waterpocket Fold (G)
- north along Waterpocket Fold to Notom (H)
Then north and east to Hanksville, UT (I) and south to ...
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (J)
- Colorado River viewpoint high above the river across from Hite - sunset on Sunday evening
- across the Colorado River and southeast to ...
Natural Bridges National Monument (K)
- night photos of stars looking through Owachomo Bridge
- camp in campground in tent - Sunday night
- morning photos of all 3 bridges - Sipapu, Kachina, Owachomo
Then south to Moki Dugway on Utah state route 261. GoPro video of descent.
Valley Of The Gods (L)
- GoPro aerial video from my BlueWing flying wing, two flights
Goosenecks State Park (M)
- entrenched meanders of the San Juan River
To Mexican Hat, then past Monument Valley
- took the famous photo along the road entering Monument Valley driving south, continuing on to ...
Grand Canyon National Park (N - O)
- East Rim - Watchtower (N)
- Grandview Point
- West Rim - Hopi Point - sunset on Monday evening (O)
Google Maps Route
I finished work in Yuma at 3:30 PM, and headed north towards Zion. I made into Zion at around 10:30 PM, and found a note at the ranger station – all national parks were free for the long President’s Day weekend. I was prepared to buy a new national park pass, as my old one had expired, but I lucked out and visited all these national parks for free. This time of the year, the Zion Canyon shuttle is not running, so you can drive your car into the canyon. It was pitch black, but I took some night photos of stars with the canyon walls and rock formations as outlines below the stars. I still needed a place to sleep, so first I checked at the campground for room to camp, but it was full. Then I checked at the Zion Lodge, but because it was Valentine’s Day weekend, the cheapest room was $200. I heard my SUV with the air mattress calling. So I drove to an empty parking lot near the head of the canyon, re-arranged all my gear ( I had my camping equipment ) and went to sleep around midnight. I slept well, got up at 8 AM, and drove ½ mile to the Angel’s Landing trailhead. I was one of the first cars in the parking lot. I asked a few people if the trail was clear of ice, and everyone said it was in great shape. I climbed Angels Landing a few years ago, but this time I had my GoPro camera on my head to capture the whole climb and descent. I made it to the top, 1400 ft above the valley floor, pretty quickly. There were more and more people arriving and climbing, and the top was becoming full. As someone said to me, it was the perfect storm for February – the temps were in the 70’s, there was no ice at all on the trail, it was a 3-day weekend, and it was Valentine’s Day. It became packed with people, and the climb down took a while longer; the chains are one-way and you have to alternate up/down though most sections. The photos below and the GoPro video show lots of people coming up as I was descending. I made it back to the parking lot, 5 miles round trip and 1400 ft vertical one-way, in about 4.5 hours. The roads were packed also, so it seems a lot of people took advantage of the free park entry and long weekend. Cars are not allowed into the canyon from March 1 through November 1, so this was one of the last weekends before the shuttle would be running. After driving around for just a short while and taking some more photos, I headed out of the park and up through the tunnel going east on the Mt Carmel road.
I made it to Bryce Canyon about an hour before sunset, and went to Inspiration Point, and then watched sunset from Sunset Point. See what I did there? Pretty cool, huh? I spent Saturday night at a hotel in Bryce Canyon City.
On Sunday, I drove east past Kodachrome Basin to Grosvenor’s Arch, then back to the main road, stopping at Powell Point, and continuing east to Boulder, UT. After leaving the town of Escalante and passing Hole-In-The-Rock Road, the road descends and crosses the Escalante River canyon on the way to Boulder. This whole section has incredible scenery, and the northeast end of the Escalante River canyon road entering into Boulder is unique. This section of road is called "The Hogback"; the road is on the spine of the ridge with two lanes that makes a few curves at the end with no guardrails and nothing to either side of the road. Boulder is where the Burr Trail Road starts, eventually reaching Capitol Reef. That is a very cool road also, with some seriously nice views and an excellent drive through a narrow canyon called Long Canyon, before emptying out onto the plateau just to the west of Capitol Reef. The road then drops into Capitol Reef, descending a very steep set of switchbacks down to the Waterpocket Fold. I went north along the Fold, then east, heading for Hanksville, then south again to Glen Canyon. I watched sunset from a viewpoint high above the Colorado River across from Hite.
Then I drove
Bridges, and set up my tent in the dark around 7:30. After I
I drove to the third bridge in the monument, Owachomo Bridge, where I
hiked down to the bridge and spent about and hour
taking night photos of the stars through the bridge from all angles. I
neat to be sitting under the bridge in the total dark, all by myself
nothing but the bright stars above. Natural Bridges is listed
the darkest place in the continental United States, perfect for
star-gazing. The moon did not rise until well into the morning, so the
stars were very bright that evening and there was no light pollution.
I made it back to my tent, and into my
supposed -20 deg sleeping bag. It is a new bag, and I had not
temperature rating yet; I don’t think it is actually -20, as I got a
cold. The outside temp dropped into the low 20’s, so it was a
Ithen headed south to the Moki Dugway, descended those switchbacks while recording with my GoPro attached to the top of the car, and drove through Valley Of The Gods. I had never done Valley Of The Gods before – it is similar but less spectacular than Monument Valley, but it is free and the road is in much better condition. I flew one of my planes twice, getting some fantastic aerial video both times. After finishing Valley Of The Gods, I drove to Goosenecks State Park on the San Juan River for a quick visit of the entrenched meanders, then past Mexican Hat and towards Monument Valley. I had never approached Monument Valley from the north before, but I now have that famous photo looking along the road while driving south to Monument Valley.
I kept driving and had originally planned to head straight back to Yuma at this point, going through Flagstaff and Phoenix. However, I saw that I still had time to reach the Grand Canyon before sunset, so I broke off at Cameron and headed for the East Rim at Watchtower. I ended up having more time on the South Rim than I figured, so I stopped at Watchtower and Grandview Point, before finally getting to the West Rim drive at Hopi Point for sunset. I took a few night time exposures of the South Rim Village after sunset.
So now I was at the South Rim on Monday evening, and had to be back in Yuma for work on Tuesday morning. I drove and drove, and finally made it to Yuma at about 1:30 AM. I got a few hours sleep, and was at the flight-line at 6 AM. Thanks goodness I was at work – now I could rest.
May 2015 - Sedona
|I had flight test for almost three months in April, May, and June 2015, and Tami flew out to join me for two weeks in the middle of the trip. She flew into San Diego, where I met her and we spent the first weekend. She came back to Yuma with me, then we went to Phoenix and Sedona for the second weekend, before going back to Yuma again. Finally we drove to Las Vegas for the third weekend and then Tami flew home from there, while I returned to Yuma for several more weeks of work. We rented an ATV for one afternoon in Sedona, and had fun on the northwest side of town on a couple off-road tracks, before driving up and down Schnebly Hill Road. On our first trip to Sedona in 2009, we took our personal Acura MDX up Schnebly Hill Road, but would not do that now. The road seems to be a lot rougher than it used to be. The map to the right shows our route for the 4 hours we had the ATV, taken from a Google Tracks .kmz recording done on my phone. Here is a YouTube video link to the last portion of our off-roading adventure; down Schnebly Hill Road.|
We picked our hotel in Sedona partly for its close proximity to the Elote Cafe, so we could walk home after consuming lots of incredible food and margaritas. On our very first trip to Sedona, the owner and chef delivered the Elote appetizer, but that has not happened again until this trip on our second night of dining at Elote. We stayed at the Inn Above Oak Creek; the inn is right on the water at Oak Creek, just down a short distance from the traffic circle that branches off for Schnebly Hill Road. If you stay in Sedona, you can't go wrong with that place - the people who run it are friendly and it seems like home while you are there. There are only a dozen rooms; a couple of the views below are right from our balcony. We kept running into the inn keeper around town (we were not following him) and every time we happily greeted each other by first name.
August 2016 - Lots of parks (again) in southern Utah and Sedona
This trip was very similar to the February 2015 trip, but I hiked totally new paths at all locations, and visited new places that I had never been in each park.
Zion National Park, Utah -
Saturday, 20 August 2016
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah -
Saturday, 20 August 2016
Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument, Utah - Sunday, 21
Capitol Reef National
Park, Glen Canyon National Rec Area, Utah - Sunday, 21 August 2016
Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah
- Monday, 22 August 2016
Sedona, Arizona -
Monday, 22 August 2016
I headed north after work on Friday and made it to Zion National Park in the late evening. I took some night shots and camped in the park that night.
On Saturday morning, I woke up to find the moon hanging low over the canyon walls, and a mountain goat up the rocks a short distance from the road.
I hiked almost five miles (one-way) up The Narrows along the Virgin River, then turned around and hiked back out.
I then drove to Bryce Canyon National Park for sunset at Sunset Point, but there were lots of clouds so the sunset colors were not great.
I had decided to hike Peek-A-Boo slot canyon on Sunday, so I drove to Escalante and then about 26 miles down Hole In The Rock Road and camped Saturday evening at the trailhead for Dry Fork. I was all by myself in the middle of nowhere, enjoying the beautiful open skies and absolute silence. I got up on Sunday morning and hiked down to Dry Fork, through the Dry Fork slot canyon, back up along the opposite rim, and then down through Peek-A-Boo slot canyon. I should have done Spooky slot canyon while I was there, but missed that, so I will do that on my next trip.
After returning to the car, I drove 35 miles more southeast to the end of the road, all the way to Hole In The Rock. I also stopped at Dance Hall Rock. I had a high clearance 2 wheel drive SUV rental car; it was just barely up the task of making it to the end of the road and back. I headed north, back to Escalante and then through the Escalante Canyon to Boulder and finally to Torrey.
I had dinner in Torrey watching sunset across the rocks of Capitol Reef above Fruita. I then headed east and south, through Capitol Reef National Monument and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on the way to Natural Bridges National Monument, where I camped for the night. There was a thunderstorm in the distance as I reached the viewpoint high above the Colorado River across from Hite, Utah.
I got up on Monday, and drove around to the three bridges in Natural Bridges National Monument, hiking down to Owachomo Bridge.
I drove south down the Moki Dugway, first driving out to Muley Point for some incredible views of Monument Valley and the San Juan River meanders. After passing through Mexican Hat, by Monument Valley, and through Kayenta, I drove south to Sedona, where I spent a few hours. I continued south to Yuma, all the way across Arizona. I had work the next morning, so I did not stop anywhere else on the way back.