Desert Canyons and National Parks Trip

Sept 8th

We started the national parks trip with breakfast from Safeway and a quick packing check. All were ready on time and we hit the road. The first rest break was in Susanville, CA for a quick lunch, then we headed into the old west of NV. I mean old west due to the remains of old mining towns along a lonely highway.  After 13hrs of driving we arrived at the Pahrangah wildlife refuge with enough light to set up camp, make our dinner and and go to bed. The road trip was an adventure with a mixed CD containing two of each persons favorite songs for us to guess at who they belonged too.

Sept 9th

With a quick breakfast of yogurt, granola and fresh fruit we were off to Zion National Park. The drive was much shorter and we appreciated the journey through Nevada, Arizona and Utah to get to Zion. As we approached the park the clouds of thunderstorms started forming above. What a dynamic entrance into Zion. Two to three thousand foot vertical sandstone walls, staring at us with colors of white, red, orange and yellow. The amazement and wonder was expressed throughout the van as we drove through a giant tunnel that was created in the late 1800’s without electricity by blasting through the sandstone walls to get to the other side. We toured Zion and headed to the Zion Ponderosa Lodge and campground. We quickly set up camp amid rain showers and lightning storms then tried to enjoy the hot tub. The storms were consistent and the camp was soon muddy and slippery. There is nothing like afternoon desert thunderstorms and spirits were great.

Sept 10th

Rain again, with reports that the desert had not seen this much rain for over 100 years? We packed up the car and headed back to Zion. We stopped at the summit and hiked to a canyon view! The canyon view hike was along a narrow slot canyon until you come upon the summit view of all of Zion. It was awe inspiring and breathe taking!!! On our way back through the tunnel we went down to the base of Zion and took the shuttle in to Emerald Pools and the Narrows.

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We were all surprised to see the Narrows open due to all the rain as the park does a great job monitoring for flash floods. All the hikes in the canyon were full of color and wildlife. Rock squirrels and deer bounced around with the Virgin River gushing through all the sandstone. You can see how this terrain has been formed over the last million years! After a full day of exploring we went out for pizza to celebrate Ean’s Birthday!! It was even better because we got to celebrate indoors as the thunderstorms rolled in for another soaking.

Sept 11th

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The rain was really coming down as we packed up and hopped in the van for the trip to Bryce Canyon and Escalante National Monument. Pouring was the perfect word for the rain that was falling and it did not stop for 4 hours. We were pretty much rained out of Bryce Canyon with short glimpses of the colored hoodoo formations that make it famous.  We did however enjoy a quick rain free lunch in the parking lot with our new rain proof canopy and table. We are prepared for the rain now! We left Bryce quickly and headed for Escalante National Monument where the rain was no lighter. Escalante is amazingly beautiful and we had several views as the rain storms came and went.

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We arrived at our campsite to find it had a flash flood through it and was closed. We pushed through to Boulder Ut, powered up with some lattes and drove through to Capital Reef National Park. As soon as we left Boulder the rain clouds lifted and the rainbows began. It was a sunny ride from then on out with remains of flash floods and sand everywhere.  The night ended with a beautiful star filled sky and a star lesson by Kyle.

Sept. 12th

Today we started the day by picking apples from the orchard and viewing pictographs and petroglyphs in Capitol Reef National Park! The sun shined and the desert started drying out as we headed to Blanding  to explore some Anasazi ruins that are hundreds of years old.

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The first stop was Mule Canyon ruins and lunch. The ruins were stone foundations with six rooms and tunnels connecting the houses with a tower. In the middle was a large kiva structure without the roof. During this visit we had the privilege of seeing a coopers hawk land close and watch us! After this ruin we headed to the Butler Wash Ruin site. The Butler wash ruin is in an alcove below what is like a giant petrified sand dune. We were able to hike over a natural arch carved out by spring water and explore the extensive landscape and natural springs to cool off in. After a long day of exploring we headed to our bunkhouse for the night. What a treat it was to have beds and laundry while we prepared for the next few days of adventures.

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Sept 13th

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We started the day by meeting are guide from 4corners adventures. Dillon is leading us to Monarch cave ruin and then we will do some canyoneering in twin rocks slot canyon. Monarch cave ruins were different because we had the opportunity to go right into the ruins and explore. Our team found pottery shards, adobe roofs that still had willow in it from over 800 years ago, a full decorative arrow head and some small bone beads! We could feel the energy there from past inhabitants and enjoyed the chance to learn and experience a part of the Anasazi story. After this exploration we headed to the slot canyons next two the Twin Navajos. The Twin Navajos are two very large sandstone hoodoos’ that exit to the 50 foot slot canyon we travelled through. The slot canyon was a great beginner slot canyon with an introduction rappel of 40 ft down. This first rappel was very intimidating for the beginners but once it was conquered all were excited and ready for the next part of wading and stemming through the lower canyon.  Amazingly beautiful and challenging enough to give us all a solid rush and appreciation for slot canyons.

Sept 14th

We finished our time in Blanding by heading to the edge of the Cedars National Museum where we explored a very complete collection of Anasazi ruins and artifacts. We found out the complete history and where the artifacts and ruins we found and explored came from.

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From there we headed to Arches National Park to explore the famous red rock arches. Arches National Park is full of natural arches that were formed millions of years ago and could take days to explore! We chose to hike to Devils Garden, one of the major points of interest in the park. That hike had six different arches to see and a bunch of rock fins and hoodoos to explore. Finally we were tired and hungry from a great day of exploration and headed to the next campsite along the Colorado River.  The campsite we had previously booked had a wash across the entrance that is usually dry but we found it flowing with water with more rain on the horizon! We choose to leave and not take the risk of flash floods that could trap us at our site! We scrambled and found another campground a few miles away and made camp for the night!

Sept 15th

Today we rafted the Colorado River through the Fischer towers section! It was a highlight of the day! We met our guide from Adrift Adventures in Moab, Ut. first thing in the morning and loaded up for our rafting trip.

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The red rocks and layers of sandstone along the River were colorful and extreme with a chocolate milky river running through the middle. It was a relaxing trip through the middle of red rock country. We had a few swimmers who enjoyed the cold water for a short time but most of us stayed in the boat and enjoyed the view. The rest of the day was spent in Moab where we went shopping at a second hand store and explored the town.  In Moab we met with an alternative building professional who taught us about ecologically friendly housing options. We went to a site where they were building a hay bale house and we learned about the process of building these homes and how it positively affects the environment and the people.  It was really cool to see such a great program. The name of the company is Community Rebuilds in Moab and it helps individuals in the community rebuild old mobile homes into eco friendly housing.

Sept 16th

Today we headed for home.  We had a quick stop in Salt Lake City for a minor van repair and an awesome lunch at the Sugar House BBQ. Next we were on our way to South Fork State Recreation Area outside of Elko NV.  8 hours later we were camped, well feed and off to bed, ready for our journey home the next day.

Sept 17th

It was a 7 hour drive to Klamath Falls through snow and ice storms today. Who would have thought in September there would be ice and snow? It was a fitting end to a wonderful week. Through all the bad weather the moods stayed happy and engaged! An amazing trip and an amazing group!

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