Our bike route into Shafer Canyon
One logistical problem was quickly solved. We were camped 30 miles from the park (all up hill) and if we biked to the Shafer Road (30 miles) then down and thru the canyon (20 Miles) and back to the motor home (20 miles) we would be dead. OK so some of you younguns could do it but you must remember this is all high altitude too.
Where there is a will, there is a way and the way was a TAXI service for mountain bikes and the Shafer trail was on their list. Every morning at 10am a taxi delivers anyone and their bikes to the starting point and will even spot a vehicle at the end. We opted for both. After all we were a little out of shape.
Ron (that tiny fleck) on the way down
Excitement was high Monday morning as we started out. Lunch was packed, we had extra water bottles and comfortable clothes for the predicted 850 dry desert day. It was close to noon by the time we were delivered to the start of the trail. The taxi left and it was just Ron and I miles from nowhere. We were all alone with 20 miles of desert canyon to cross. The first mile or so was easy. Oh, the road was rutted and all but we went slow. From the starting point, we could clearly see the road going steeply down and down (that is where the above picture was taken). This was the area we had attempted in the Toyota several days before. The trail (little more than one car width wide high up above the canyon floor) started around the rim and was fairly level. On the left, it was a sheer drop down and on the right a sheer wall up. Just past the area where we had stopped with the Toyota the trail suddenly went down. We were very happy that we hadn't ventured further with the truck and wondered what we were doing on bikes. Steep, rocky, rutted, switchbacks took us down. There was no pedaling just braking. Knuckles were white from both fright and might. If we went fast and hit a rock or a rut, it would have been curtains for sure. I didn't feel like flying so I clenched the brakes with all my strength. It was difficult to even take a rest break. It is easier to start on an uphill than on such a rocky downhill. Always the feeling of going over the handlebars was with us. Good thing Mark had advised lowering our seats to lower the center of gravity. After five miles we finally entered the canyon floor and thought the going would be easy. It was hot, dusty and now we either had a tough uphill grade or another downhill one. There was no escaping the sun or the rocks. We just kept on. Oh sure, the views were magnificent but after a while, I'd have given anything for a nice asphalt road, even one going up hill. All day long only five cars passed us - excuse me I mean trucks. They were only going five miles an hour and all stopped to talk a moment. Four out of the five were going up the switchbacks (not down) and I imagined that if I was driving a four wheel drive vehicle, it would be more fun to go up rather than ride down on brakes. On a bike though it was a different story.
We ate our lunch beside the road. As soon as we took our sandwiches out of the Tupperware, the bread dried out. It was like eating toasted sandwiches. Ron's banana was black from the bouncing it received. Imagine what we were like. We moved slowly onward, crossing rutted and steep washes and maneuvering was difficult. I wondered how any vehicle could get through and imagined the torrent of water that would rush through after a rain.
We came upon the grand Colorado River but it looked very tame. I wondered where it got its strength to carve such a canyon but then remembered that it was fall, a very dry time of the year, especially in the desert. We Learned later that the Colorado hooks up with the Green River just a few miles after this canyon. That makes the Colorado a much swifter river as it enters the Grand Canyon south of Moab.
Five hours and tons of dust later, we finally exited the canyon. I am glad we did it but I am cured of ever wanting to ride a bike on any trail again. I much prefer the smoothness of pavement.Even though we have mountain bikes, I'll leave the trail riding to the younger set.
What is it about Barbara and back roads? She denies that it goes back to her dating years. I'm thinking now that those 4-wheel drive/high clearance roads hastened the death of the Horizon.
If we keep going down 4-wheel drive canyon roads on bicycles, it will probably hasten my death. Just kidding. The experience was like being in the Army. I enjoyed it, but wouldn’t want to do it again.
While at Capitol Reef national Park deer hunting season was on. On a drive, one day, we drove past many hunting camps. One such camp was deserted because the occupants were up in the hills hunting. It was deserted, that is, except for three large deer walking around the campsite. I wonder how often that happens.
Utah being a Mormon state has many large families. This is evident in the supermarkets where everything is large economy size -- but reasonable.
In Utah cities, almost every street has a number instead of a name and is designated directionally in relation to where the Mormon Temple is. I can get confused enough in a strange city without this kind of help.
Surprisingly, there are some Lutheran churches in Utah. We are fortunate to be in St. George for two weeks where we can attend Trinity Lutheran. Their dynamic young minister certainly livens up the Bible class. Like some others we have met, he also attended Concordia, Ann Arbor. Small world.
Ron at Arches National Park
very first hike we took was a "moderately strenuous" ranger led hike into
a labyrinth of sandstone fins (narrow walls) called the FIERY FURNACE.
It was a three hour walk/talk over, under and around two miles of "slickrock"
so called because of ever present lose sand on top. Several passages were
so narrow that we had to climb up the sides of the walls a little like
spiders (one foot on each side) to get to a wider area. Oh it was great
fun and we wouldn't have been able to do it without the ranger as there
are no trails in the furnace. We did think the hike should have been labeled
We hiked just about every day hike in the park (11 total miles) and each one took us to new heights and sights. The arches in this park are plentiful and big. One feels so tiny in the presence of them. The other rock formations were also spectacular but too difficult to explain. It was fun to give the shapes our own names. It was reminiscent of naming clouds.
We didn't know that Moab is the mountain bike capitol of the world until we got there. We wondered why every car and truck was carrying mountain bikes. Near the national park is a national forest site with a slickrock trail just for bikes (and many trials for four wheel drive vehicles). We decided not to try it since we had all we could do to walk on the rocks and we had already biked into the canyon.
We drove into Canyonlands and stopped at all the scenic turnouts. This particular park is very difficult to see with out getting out of the car. The paved roads are few and short but the sight of the canyon from the different vantage points was special.
Nearby are the La Sal Mountains and a scenic loop road. That drive took us up out of the desert and into the tall pine area. It was a lovely drive with the Aspens in bright yellow dressing.
This area is really prepared for adventure seekers. Rafting companies, Jeep and bike rentals are abundant. Bochures on hiking or biking trails, drives, restaurants and so on are available at the Chamber of Commerce office.
We tried out three Moab restaurants and thoroughly enjoyed the experiences.
Dos amigos Mexican Cantina served wonder-fully spicy, Mexican food. Eddie
McStiff's Brew Pub & Restaurant was a very relaxing place with a great
Chicago style pizza. Everything else that we saw being delivered looked
great too. The Grand Old Ranch House on the National Register of Historic
Places was supurb. The meal we had there will be remembered for a long
time. They boast serving authentic German dishes, prime rib, seafood, steaks,
desserts and we opted for the German Sauerbraten. Dinner included homemade
soup (delicious) and salad which was out of this world because of
the home made dressings. Ever hear of champagne walnut or orange marmalade
dressing? We had the first and highly recommend it. Fresh warm bread
was served with the salad and dinner included red cabbage and potatoes.
It was the best we have ever had. Our complete dinner which included a
We had a wonderful time in Moab and really enjoyed both parks there.
Capitol Reef National Park is southwest of Moab and near the village of Torrey, Utah. Its main attraction is petrified sand dunes and the giant sinuous wrinkle in the Earth's crust that stretches for 100 miles across south central Utah. This wrinkle which is called the Waterpocket Fold can be seen from a distance, but as in most parks, the best way to see it is up close. There is one road which runs along the Fold but after just a few miles we gave up on it. It was of the washboard variety suitable for jeeps or other such vehicles. We did some hiking in the park and drove the "scenic drive" which was a passable dirt road. At the end of that drive, we hiked into the Grand Wash to see the waterpockets and the names of the early Mormon pioneers who first entered the area. They are etched in the walls of the Wash.
A very interesting area of the park is Fruita. In the middle of this red sandstone dessert is a lush valley - the remnants of the Mormon frontier community settled in the 1880's. Fruit trees are abundant and well cared for by the park service. At harvest time, anyone can "pick your own." Red Delicious apples were there for the picking when we visited and we climbed the ladders provided to pick plenty. A scale and envelopes are provided. It's on the honor system.
Bryce Canyon National Park is southwest of Capitol Reef and much higher in elevation. It is not really a canyon like one carved by water but it has the appearance of one. Carved by wind and rain, the phantom-like rock spires jut out of the earth creating a maze like never seen before. Entering the park reminded me of the Grand Canyon in that it is heavily forested, unlike the red rock desert we had spent several weeks in. We could have been driving into Yosemite, that is until you walk over to the overlooks and look down.
We really wanted to get down into this canyon but opted to try horseback over hiking. The four hour ride guaranteed the most spectacular views but we weren't sure the weatherman would cooperate. It was raining when we arrived. We figured we would wake up in the morning and see what the weather was like. When we awoke there was one inch on snow on the ground and much more on the trees. Snow on the red rocks promised to be a pretty sight. We headed for the barn and in no time we were off. As we descended into the canyon, the views were indeed breathtaking. Names like Thor's Hammer, Silent City, Queen's Garden and Fairyland Point are just a few which aptly describe the sandstone sculptures. They were all the more fairy like with the fresh white snow (the first of the season).
Sadly though, our visit was cut one day short when both our heater and furnace decided to quit working. We got through the night and asked for our money back from the campground. We headed for Zion which is at a lower elevation and in the part of the state that is called "Dixie."
Zion National Park is the western most of the parks in Utah. From Bryce we drove scenic route 89 to 9 knowing that it would take us through Zion for a quick peek on our way to our coast to coast campground. As we turned on route 9, we saw large warning signs. "Tunnel in park -clearance 11' 4"" We were OK with four inches to spare so we continued on. But when we stopped at the entrance station, we were informed that we were too wide to travel through the tunnel safely. For a ten dollar fee, they would stop traffic so we could travel through the center of the 1.1 mile tunnel. We had no choice but to go on. To reach our destination any other way would mean over 100 additional miles.
The drive through the park was just as spectacular as Yosemite Valley except instead of granite, the vividly colored cliffs towering above us were Navajo sandstone. Set aside in 1919, Zion is one of the early national parks. The scale is immense -- sheer cliffs dropping 3,000 feet, massive buttresses, and deep alcoves. Again, I felt very small.
It was Friday when we drove through the park and we had planned to drive from our CC campground on Saturday so we could spend the day driving and hiking. The weather did not cooperate though and as of this writing, we have still not had the opportunity to really visit Zion.
We have another week in the area yet so weather permitting, we will get back. We won't do the most popular hike though. The Narrows is a 16 mile strenuous trip requiring at least one full day. Much of the trip involves wading through the Virgin River. In some stretches barely 18 inches separate canyon sides that loom 2,000 feet high.
Each of these parks were beautiful. Even though each had the same basic
characteristic (the red sandstone), they were all different. It is not
fair to judge which is best but we really had the most fun at Arches, and
Moab. But then we enjoyed Capitol Reef and John and Vally's campground.
Oh but the horseback ride into Bryce was very special. Zion's beauty was
awesome and I cried for the magnificence of it all. Oh I can't decide which
was best. You'll have to come and see for yourself.
We keep forgetting
The goodies are the hardest to resist. I never ate pies when we lived in Lansing. But on vacation I like pies, ice cream and good food especially the local specialties. In Louisiana it was "poor boy" sandwiches, red beans and rice, bread pudding, shrimp, crawfish and so on. You get the idea.
It is so difficult to be good. We walk briskly two miles a day but that just takes care of half of the stuff we eat. I think that we should close our eyes and ignore the food but it is always there. Great neon signs flashing off and on enticing us.
I think that in a previous life I must have starved or perhaps since I was born during the depression and was hungry as a child. How many of you remember Scarlett O Hara in gone with the wind? Just after she returned to Tara and found there was no food. She said "As God is my witness,....I will never go hungry again". And when Rhett took her out to eat many years later, she stuffed herself. Is this me?
Anyway, we have to remember that we aren't on vacation. This is just everyday life for us and when hankerin' to eat out, we must find the nearest Shoney's and indulge in the salad bar. Their desserts are easy to ignore because they are not new.
Just today, we drove into a new Coast to Coast campground and were greeted with a big sign: "Be sure to taste our delicious fresh fruit shakes" so we did. Boysenberry was the fruit of the day and delicious. There's a soda fountain here and they advertise banana splits, sodas and other sinful things. And next week we are going to Vegas for a few days. Do any of you know how good and inexpensive the food in Vegas is? It is actually cheaper to eat out than to cook at home, except for the calories.
If any of you have a set of blinders, please send them and any suggestions
you have as soon as possible.
Utah has some other strange liquor laws. The only beer or wine that can be sold outside of the state run liquor store is 3.2%. Some public restaurants do have a liquor license (new this year) but it is very expensive, hard to get and they limit your drinks. Before the new law, customers were able to brown bag their booze then order set-ups at dinner.
We spent several hours in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. If you are into genealogy and have the time and good eyesight this is the place to go. We just didn't spend enough time to accomplish much. I found the Weld Family well documented in several books. It was strange to see my dad, and aunts and uncles names listed there.
Did you know that the Word Perfect Corporation (they make the soft ware program I use for the newsletter) is in Orem Utah which is just 45 miles south of Salt Lake City? We camped nearby just so I could get a tour of the operation. I was awe struck by the dimension of their business. Twelve buildings including a complete gym/spa for the employees and a "hold jockey" to man the many calls that come in. Honest! He is like a disk jockey and plays music and monitors who is on hold for who and how long they have been waiting. Some companies have canned music. Word Perfect has a real live person.
On our way south from Salt Lake City, we stopped at Bridal Veil Falls and took the tram ride to the top. This is the steepest passenger tram in the world and so help me it went nearly straight up. The vertical rise is 1,228 feet and the average angle is over 450. It was a scary ride. I just don't know why I do these things but the view from the top was spectacular.
Did you know that Robert Redford has a place near Salt Lake City? And what would you say if we told you that he invited us to his place? Well he did. By the way of advertisements and such. His ski resort is open all year for dinners and such and we didn't even go. Wouldn't it have been wonderful if we had seen him?
Utah is proud of their ski resorts. The slogan on their license plate is "The greatest snow on earth". Right now Salt Lake City is covered with the soft white powder and the ski resorts are open. So what are we doing here? We're south in what they refer to as "Dixie" and the temperatures are moderate now. It was cold and windy a day or two ago though.
When we checked into Thousand Lakes RV park in Torrey and inquired about places to eat, our hostess Vally suggested one place then added that for the "best pies around...." Gosh my ears perk up at the mention of pies and we went. The Sun Glow restaurant in Bicknell, Utah is kind of a mom and pop place. It is about the size of a Denny's. Just inside the door was a newspaper article about the owner and her famous pies. Did you ever hear of a pinto bean, pickle, or oatmeal pie? Would you believe that we tried the pinto bean and oatmeal pie (we each had half)? Both were delicious. We just had to come back another day to try a different kind. I tried buttermilk and Ron had chocolate which he said was out of this world. It had nuts and coconut in it and was a mile high. Those were so good that we even went back a third time, I am ashamed to say.
Post Script 1999
1. A "reef" is commonly defined as a ridge of rock, sand, or coral just beneath the surface of a sea or ocean. But a "reef" can also be a land formation. There are two such "reefs" in the southwest. One is a national park in southern Utah and it gets its name from one of its highest formations. Name this park.
2. The great Colorado River runs through or along the boundary of three national parks. One is the Grand Canyon, name the other two.
3. Paiute Indians called one of Utah's famed sights "Red rocks standing like men in a bowl-shaped canyon." Other than changing the color to pink, the description is still valid. Name this beautiful national park.
4. Bryce Canyon National Park is full of "Hoodoos." What are they?
5. Names with religious connotations dot the landscape of an important
western national park. Names such as "Alter of Sacrifice" and "Angles Landing",
belong to what park , the name of which translates to "city of the heavenly
1. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. The other reef is Guadalupe Mountains
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