Friday, June 23, 2017

2017 Southwest CHRPA Trek - Homeward Bound!

NOTE: This post for the end of our Spring 2017 SW trip is very late due to poor internet while enroute and then a hectic and emotional May-June!  (I was waiting to add the photographs!)

Click HERE to see all the Trip Home Photos OR HERE for the WHOLE trip!

Friday, 3.24.17
Tucson to Page, AZ
401 miles

          What a beautiful day of driving!!!  Might even make me think Arizona isn’t so ordinary a state after all! 
          We pulled out of Camp Shalom at 7:20am, prepared for a little Tucson morning traffic, but amazingly by 7:50 we were north of town and heading for Phoenix!  Smooth sailing!  Again, the interstate between Arizona’s two largest cities is ablaze in yellow – golden wildflowers line the road for miles.  Quick stop at the rest area south of Phoenix and then on through town. 
Yellow-orange patches dot the

Traffic wasn’t too bad, but then again, I wasn’t driving!!  Followed the signs to I-17 and just kept cruising.  By 10:15 we were stopping in the tiny town of Anthem – a beautiful setting of green hillsides dotted with saguaros and patches of yellow.  Gas, coffee, and then I take the wheel for the stretch north toward Flagstaff. 
          We climb out of the Phoenix basin steadily toward Flagstaff, more gorgeous hillsides of yellow, orange desert mallow, and saguaros.  At the top of a long pull, we crest to a broad mesa of brown grasslands and far reaching vistas!  Occasionally we catch of glimpse of Mt. Humphries’ 12,000’  in the far distance near Flagstaff.   Long drop into Camp Verde where we stayed several years ago for a quick explore of Sedona.  We still plan to return to hike more of the Sedona area, but not this trip!  At the top of the hill above Sedona, we pull over for a rest stop and a second chance for me to make contact with the Panguitch CG we hope to stay at in Utah.  At that point, Rick takes the wheel again.  Good move on my part!  We instantly pass a sign saying ‘Entering Winter Driving Conditions’!!  And we did find snow between Sedona and Flagstaff – a steady 5-6” along the roadside.  But the highway was totally clear!  It was beautiful with the pine trees, elevation 6,000 feet for much of the way. 
Just north of Flagstaff
          Last part of drive into Flagstaff just gorgeous with Mt. Humphries dominating the horizon. We get onto Hwy 89 north, stop for gas, and then a LONG stop at a Subway for lunch.  Long because two huge groups of families on vacation were ahead of us.  But we waited patiently!  Ate standing in the sunshine by the truck. 
          Then on to Page, 125 miles to the north!  First part of road is rimmed by mountains with snowy tops, pines, and Joshua trees.  Past Waputki Ruins NM and we enter a broad grassland plateau with the Painted Desert in the distance to the NE.  From Cameron and the junction to Grand Canyon South Rim, the road is bordered by towering red cliffs to the east.  We are on Navajo Nation lands at this point.  We traveled this road several years ago in leaving the South Rim bound for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (Hwy 89A).  This time we plan to stay on Hwy 89 toward Page and circle the north side of the Vermillion Cliffs NM. 
          What a surprise we found at the junction between the two!  89A turns west and follows at river level below the cliffs.  The main hwy 89 veers sharply UP and OVER those red cliffs we have been following and thru a narrow gap cut in the rock.  Amazing views to the west, but not in a position to get good pictures there.  (No room in the one scenic pulloff for a truck and trailer!)  Once through the ‘slot’ we stayed on a high plateau and a gentle downhill run all the way to Page! 
          Page is NOT the flat desert area we both envisioned next to the dam.  Sandstone cliffs, hills, and the convoluted fjords and bays at the end of Lake Powel define the area.  We find our campground, get settled, and then at 4:30pm take off to explore a few scenic vistas (and walk around a little).  We view the dam from the west at one point, then drive along the south shore to a point above the lake, then over the dam bridge to the views from the visitor center on the north side.  VC was closed, so we will check it out tomorrow.  We have to check out of the campground by 11, so our plan is to take a few short hikes in the morning, check out, grab a brunch at Denneys, hit the VC, and then head north toward Panguitch, about 140 miles north of here. 
          Quick restocking run to the Walmart and then back to the trailer by 6:15p to relax!!  Rick is tired, as he did MOST of the driving today (I only logged about 85 miles L)

First two days route
Saturday, 3.25.17
Page, AZ to Panguitch, UT
144 miles

          Well, we definitely left the warm nights of Tucson!!  Had to get the heavy sleeping bag back out last night, and will definitely need everything we’ve got when we get to Panguitch tonight!  A little disturbing sleep last night as we were close to the tent area and a group was out talking until after midnight.  I can’t fault them, but a little quieter laughter would have been nice! 
Ging at Horseshoe Bend
    We headed out around 8:30 to explore a couple of trails.  The first was Horseshoe Bend, a famous curve of the Colorado located just downriver from Glen Canyon.  The parking lot for this ¾ mile trail was packed yesterday when we drove past, and it is surprisingly full this early in the morning on a Saturday!  Several tour buses went through while we were there, filled with Asian tourists!  It is somewhat surprising in an area where the Navajo have capitalized on the tourism business, this trail is still FREE!  It was absolutely beautiful, in spite of the overcast skies.  In some ways the lack of sunshine might have reduced
harsh shadows and lent for better pictures.  The canyon walls drop a thousand feet down to the river level.  We watched a feet boats motor around the bend, and could see the campsites and rafts parked along the beaches. 
    From Horseshoe Bend we drove north on 89 to a side road leading up to the Lakeview homes on Ridge Road.  We had seen a trail marked on the little map the campground gave us and hoped it would lead out on the mesa to some views north to more of Lake Powell.  We got on the wrong trail at first, but then cut cross country over the plateau, seeing a variety of flowers among all the mormon tea, ironwood, and ???  We got to a point where we could see more, but with the water level in the reservoir so low, it was tough to get ‘classic’ views. 
          Back to the truck to find the young couple we encountered when we parked STILL trying to get into their vehicle.  They had locked the keys inside, along with purse and phone.  Very friendly and personable Native American young adults, the gal was pregnant and sitting on top of the truck trying to work a wire inside to push on the unlock button.  NOT a simple task.  He asked if we had anything else that might help and Rick looked all through our truck to no avail.  I asked if her phone was inside as well.  Affirmative.  Do you want to borrow mine to make a call?  After struggling a bit more, she accepted the offer.  It was her father’s car and she knew he was going to be furious, so reluctant to call!  In the end, we were only able to make suggestions and offer little real help.  L 
Springtime tree at Visitor Center
          A gas stop where Rick helped a lady use the pump (must be our helping morning) and then we had to get back to the campground to check out!  Fortunately we had left the trailer pretty well ready to hitch up and roll.  Pulled out 9 minutes ahead of time! 
          Down to Denneys for brunch.  I was hungry!  We ordered by had to patiently wait nearly 40 minutes for our meal to arrive.  Not the fastest Denneys!!  But the food tasted good!!  Then to the Visitor Center to learn more about the dam (it was closed by the time we arrived yesterday).  A well situated center set on the cliff between the bridge and the dam – wonderful views down to the river and to the face of the dam.  Answered many of our questions! 
          Finally, at 1:30pm we are ready to head north to Panguitch!!  The drive is beautiful through red rocks, white rocks, juniper forests, and grassy plateaus.  Rick didn’t appreciate the strong west headwind we had for much of the way, but we lost a lot of traffic after the dam.  A stop in Kanab (Abra-Kanabra!) for gas and drinks, and then north past the roads to Zion and Cedar Breaks, past the little campground we stayed at 4 years ago in
Between Glendale and Panguitch

Glendale, and up to Panguitch.  Arrived around 5:10 (having switched our clocks to Mountain Time when we passed the Utah border).  A warm welcome from the host and we got into our site.  Hitching Post was one of only a few choices – most everything else is still closed. 
          It will be in the mid twenties tonight!  We chose to leave the front up and not hook up the water.  The restrooms are conveniently close!!  Relaxing evening.  Tomorrow is the better of the next two days weather wise – we are Bryce National Park bound! 

Sunday, 3.26.17
Kodachrome Basin State Park

          Brrr!  It is 26 outside when I arise!  We don’t get a fast start today….it is cold and we need a little time to just relax!!  But by 10a we are ready to hit the road.  The skies are crystal clear and the sun is shining.  A BEAUTIFUL day for exploring! 
          I think this area of Utah is at the crossroads of all the major airplane routes.  All morning long the only ‘clouds’ I see in the sky are the contrails of crisscrossing planes, diffused in the upper level winds.  You can’t look up at any time without seeing at least one or two planes.  Later in the day it overcasts with ‘real’ clouds! 
          I mentioned to Rick that Kodachrome Basin looked pretty neat and was something NEW!  So we drive past the entrance to Bryce and another 13 miles to Cannonville, and then 10 miles down a PAVED side road (a rarity in this part of Utah once you get off the major highway) to the state park.  Named for the wild variety of colors and the newly invented Kodak color film in the 1950’s, it is a well maintained and marked state park.  A nominal $8 fee per car to enter.  I knew of one 3 mi trail, but we found several others that we ended up taking first (a good choice to make, as they were more spectacular than the one in the brochure!).  We drove out to Shakespeare Arch, hiking only the mile RT to the arch.  A small feature nestled at the top of a rock wall, but pretty.  Then back to the main part of the park and the 1.5 mi loop (my pedometer says a little further!) on the Angel’s Palace trail.  This took us up a broad slot to the top of a layer of rock and a convoluting pattern of figure 8’s out to the end of fins (on the top of them!), around what Rick described as piles of solid dinaosaur poop (dark chocolate colored rock!), spires, and such.  Always the solid sheer face of the white gypsum layer beyond with its pinnacles and red stripes. 
          Kodachrome Basin is known for its 60 plus spires of debatable origin.  Many are of a different layer of rock than the surrounding features; eg. A gray pillar set in the midst of redrock.  Geologists are still working that one out. 
          A bite of lunch and then the Panorama trail – at least the 3 mile loop of this potentially 6 mile trail!  A variety of spires – one looked like a volcanic plug the sides were so smooth (Ballerina Spire) and another nearby looked like a gnome.  We passed the Hat Shop, but some of the hats had fallen off their pillars.  Secret Pass was a short side loop well worth the mini slot canyon and the beehive shaped pillars.  I logged 15,000 plus steps today so we hiked a few miles!! 
          Quick stop at Visitor Center for water and a look at the gift shop (I picked up a post card with a cute Kodachrome Film ‘joke’ on it. 
          Westward again toward a quick stop at the Bryce Visitor Center to pick up trail information for tomorrow.  By the time we waited in the line to enter the park, we watched the flag lowered (it was 4:30pm) and just as we got to the booth, the man shut the window and pulled the blinds.  We drove on through, but found the VC had also closed, so….not brochures!  A wasted side trip! 
          Back to the trailer in Panguitch for a restful evening.  Rick hooked up the water earlier before we left so we could take a hot shower in the trailer.  (The park has probably the weakest water pressure we’ve found anywhere around for showers!)  A call to Liz and Mom, and photo work (I only took 175 today!) and bedtime!! 

Monday, 3.27.17
Bryce Canyon National Park
Navajo-Peek-a-Boo Loop Trails 4.9 miles
Mossy Cave – Tropic Canal Waterfall .8 mile

          We awaken this morning and find pellet snow falling to the ground!  Not hail, not flakes, but little tiny balls of snow that ‘clink’ when they hit the top of the trailer!  Forecasts are hard to read as most of them say rainy later in the day, but the clouds are upon us now! 
          But we decide to head into Bryce and do what we can do!  We rather hoped the weather would keep the crowds away, but it IS spring break and people are out in droves!!  Bundled up, but here!
          A quick stop at the VC to check on trails, and we decide to take the Navajo-PeekaBoo Loop, a moderately strenuous (I didn’t quite catch that part at the time!) 5 mile journey.  I thought we had done this trail before, but I sure didn’t remember most of it if we have!  (Fact check.  Just reviewed old blogpost from 2012.  We did NOT do the Peekaboo Trail that day, but the Queen’s Garden-Navajo Loop.  New trail!)

          The Peekaboo portion of the trail is a constant delight of ever changing vistas, little passes.  You are changing elevation all the time – up and through a notch or tunnel, then down again into another mini amphitheater.  The skies were overcast, then big patches of blue with billowy white clouds.  It was like the sun was playing PeekaBoo as well!!  I once again took way too many pictures!!  We were forever amazed by the changing colors of the strata.  The top layer with its big cave-like pock marks.  Then the dark red layer of hoodoos.  Then a white layer, then pink.  I took one picture (but I think I deleted it) of yellow surfur and purple rhiolite colors on the path – Baker Bulldog colors!!
          The amphitheater is filled with pockets of snow, especially on the north slopes.  Makes for amazing pictures and color contrasts.  Also makes for a wet and muddy and icy trail in places.  Glad we took our hiking poles with us today!   
          The Wall Street portion of the Navajo Loop is closed during the winter (just too steep, narrow, and hard to keep clear from the snow), so we retrace our steps back up the multiple switchbacks 700’ to the rim.  I put myself in creeper gear (once again!) and made it the whole .6 mile without stopping.  Was dead at the top!! 
          Quick lunch from the tailgate of the truck and then down 3 miles east to the Mossy Cave/Waterfall Trail.  A short one, but a lack of water in the Tropic Canal means the waterfall was pretty anemic, and the cave had lost all of its ice except for one ice pinnacle deep on a shady corner. 
          Back to the trailer to cuddle up and get warm and watch the storms descend.  We actually had a few drops of rain at the Mossy Cave Trail, but mostly wind the rest of the evening.  A cold bitter wind.  Will probably fight it all the way across Utah tomorrow!

Route home! 
Tuesday, 3.28.17
Panguitch, UT to Wells, NV
357 miles

          Once again, there is a dusting of snow pellets on the ground.  Rick had shut all water down last night so all we had to do this morning was close up the bed and unplug!  Not a fast start, but we are on our way by 8am.  Check with a trucker at the coffee stop leaving town to find that Bear Valley (Route 20) across to I-15 is passable, although some snow on the road and slick in places.  ‘Just take it slow’ he says! 
          The snow, however, makes the journey beautiful!  (Of course, I wasn’t driving!)  What started as a slightly scratchy throat last Friday has evolved into a good case of congestion by this morning.  Enough so, that I actually take some Daytime cold medicine in Beaver. 
          Our drive through the barren reaches of Southeast Utah on Hwy 21 is gorgeous – the wind not quite as bad as we feared, although still a definite factor! (We gassed up a lot to make sure we could get across the big stretch!)  Up and down, over and through snowy mountain passes (not on the road, however…) It has been 15 years since we traveled this route and we had forgotten how lonely and beautiful it is.  Traffic was nonexistent other than an occasional truck.  Remote ranches, wild horses, and sheepherder’s wagons…
          Past Great Basin National Park and Mt. Wheeler’s 13,000’ summit, over Conner Pass at 7700’ (the highest on our return trip), and into Ely, NV by 12:30.  A stop at the Subway for lunch and gas, and then I drive for about 90 miles toward Wells.  I pulled over 40 miles out of town to let Rick take back over.  I was struggling abit. 
          We both decided we were tired, so found Crossroads RV Park in Wells and stopped!  We’ll have 370 miles to go tomorrow, but will also gain an hour! 
          Read a little on the bed with the afternoon sun hitting the tent, then showers (the best I have had since Randy’s!!), and a quiet evening. 

Wednesday, 3.29.17
Wells, NV to Baker City
369 miles

          Home!  No pretty snowy mountains welcoming us today, however, as the valley is socked in with clouds and rain! Bummer!
          A little delayed getting out of Wells as we had trouble draining the sewer system – the hookup didn’t drain.  But we figured it out!  Rick drove up to Buhl, gassed up, and I bought some cold medicine!  Really stuffed up.  After hitting the freeway, I drove for about 70 miles, giving Rick a break, - until the rest area just east of Boise.  Rick took us the rest of the way in.  We are both tired. 
          Didn’t hit the expected high winds (thank you, God!) and no rain really until we got into Oregon!  Better than expected. 
          Pulled into the driveway to find Patty walking down street bearing a package with dinner for us and goodies for Mom!  She is amazing….and Wally is in the Boise hospital dying! 

TRIP TOTALS: Facts ‘n’ Figures
Miles Total:3995      Trailer Only Miles:3107
Nights Slept in Trailer: 32
Volunteer Days: 11
Total Expenses:$2105
Housing:$294                    Gas: $676

Food: $751              Misc:  $384

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