Parowan Gap Petroglyphs and Red Canyon, Utah 2016, part 5

Parowan Gap Petroglyphs and Red Canyon, Utah 2016

Today we are going to seek out the Parowan Gap Petroglyphs. This is another site that Joy researched and found on the web prior to the reunion and suggested we take one day of our trip to see the petroglyphs. We all agreed that it would be a nice change of pace so to speak!

Highway 14 over Cedar Mountain is the shortest route to our destination and this is the road Paul and Joy took to pick up Doris and Lois. The highway climbs to over 10,000 feet and there is still deep snow for several miles at the top of the mountain.  There is also black volcanic rock piled up in places, from some long dead volcano, which makes for an interesting contrast with the crusty snow.

Snowy photo taken from the car

Snowy photo taken from the car

We stop at the tourist information center in the small town of Parowan, which the woman is kind enough to open a bit early, when she notices some of our party peering in the window. The woman is very friendly, chatty and helpful as she directs us to the Parowan Gap Petroglyphs. The dark-haired women also tells us that we should  stop at the small park where dinosaur tracks can be seen in rocks just a few miles before we reach Parowan Gap.

We are driving through farm country on our way to the petroglyphs. It appears that the biggest crop around here is alfalfa. The irrigated hay crop looks quite good and in my opinion appears to be ready for harvest. We also see grazing cattle along with some farmers out preparing their fields for planting.

The Millers looking high and low for ancient dinosaur tracks

The Millers looking high and low for ancient dinosaur tracks

I found this mounded blooming cactus unusual and pretty

I found this mounded blooming cactus unusual and pretty

After ten miles over paved and gravel roads we stop at a very unassuming area with a sign proclaiming that we have arrived at the Parowan Gap Dinosaur Track Park which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are various paths that wind around and through various sized boulders that appear to have tumbled down from the rocky escarpment that towers above us. Some of the dinosaur tracks need the use of a good imagination to see them, others have a toe broken off, but there is one dinosaur print that is quite distinct. I don’t know the particulars of how the tracks were preserved after thousands of years but it is pretty cool.

The clearest track in the park with the metal track showing you what to look for in the rock

This was the clearest dinosaur track in the park with the metal look-alike print showing you what to look for in the rock

A raven has been hoarsely croaking the whole time we have been here. Scoping out the cliff face we find the unhappy bird standing on the ledge of crevice near what appears to be a nest made of sticks which explains why the glossy bird is scolding us. We also see an unconcerned jack rabbit that is kind enough to hold still so I can take a photo of this long-eared bunny.

The cooperating Jack rabbit

The cooperating Jack rabbit

We drive on down the road to the Parowan Gap Petroglyphs and Paul pulls the car into the parking lot where one other car is sitting. It appears we will not be fighting any crowds here. The first petroglyphs are just a few yards from the car.  There are placards, one quoting Native Americans and another quoting a scientist, theorizing about what all the chipped out figures stand for but another sign admits that the true meaning of this rock art likely will never be known. The density and variety of the petroglyphs on the rock faces we encounter first is almost dizzying. Despite the mystery of the meaning of the petroglyphs, the amount of time the artists must have spent pecking their art into the rocks is mind-boggling.

Rocks filled with petroglyphs

Rocks filled with petroglyphs

One of the signs with the Native American theory of the meaning of the petroglyphs

One of the signs with the Paiutes theory of the meaning of the petroglyphs

There are more petroglyphs at the other end of the gap; there really is a gap here in what is known as the Red Hills. We walk down to have a look at what are more simple works which include a deer, mountain sheep and birds. We then cross the highway and climb up to where more petroglyphs have been etched to get a close up look at the rock art since no barriers hold us back at this site.

Petroglyphs of a deer, sheep and ???

Petroglyphs of a deer, sheep and ???

A close-up look. Some moron has added their initials unfortunately

A close-up look of the petroglyphs. Some moron has added their initials unfortunately

More interesting drawings

More interesting drawings

Once we have soaked up all we can of the petroglyphs we are ready to drive to Cedar City for lunch. We make a quick stop at a Dollar Store so Doris can buy duct tape because the sole on one of her hiking boots has come loose. Paul wraps the black tape around the toe of the boot and it is good as new:).

Hurray for duct tape although none of us had ever seen this tape in black before.

Hurrah for duct tape although none of us had ever seen this tape in black before. Joy’s photo, Doris’ feet:)

After lunch we drive to Kolab Canyon which is on the north side of Zion National Park. We stop at the visitor center of course to inquire about hiking trails and show the senior pass which allows us access to the park. There is a five-mile scenic drive through the canyon and the road certainly deserves the scenic designation. We are again surrounded by rugged mountains and canyons that leave me gaping at the beauty of the landscape. At the end of the scenic road Paul pulls into the parking lot where there is a trail that we have decided to hike. The view from this overlook is fantastic and after some hesitation I decide not to go on the trek. The main reason I decide to stay behind is that it is really hot and at least from here it appears that the trail has no shade at all. Although the view when you reach the end of the mile long trail is supposed to be wonderful, I decide the beauty I can see from here is enough for me. So the four Millers leave to traverse the trail and I find a rock that is situated under the sparse shade of a pine tree to sit on while I await their return.

The Miller sibs reading an information sign on our scenic drive in Kolab Canyon

The Miller sibs reading an information sign on our scenic drive in Kolab Canyon

Information sign in the parking lot where the hiking trail began in Kolab Canyon

Information sign in the parking lot where the hiking trail began in Kolab Canyon

This view was good enough for me

This view was good enough for me

While the four are gone I basically stare at the mountains across the way and find all kinds of figures and faces in the stone. The most compelling imaginary face I see is a man with his hand covering his mouth while his index finger points toward an opening in the mountain. Hmm, I can’t help but use my binoculars to see if there is anything in that small cave the man is pointing at:). Well, I can’t see anything so I guess the stone faced man’s secret is safe.

Photo taken while sitting under the pine tree trying to stay cool.

Photo taken while sitting under the pine tree trying to stay cool.

Can you see a mans face and his pointing finger? Hint his thumb is covering his nose, there is a distinct eye and his ear is above the small opening to the cave. Good luck

Can you see a mans face and his pointing finger? Hint his thumb is covering his nose, there is a distinct eye and his ear is above the small opening to the cave. Good luck

The foursome return from there hike and Joy tells me that they have seen a Mountain Lion. Yea right, like any self-respecting cat would be out in this heat and where there are lots of people walking. There is a woman sitting on a boulder next to me, scrolling through the photos on her camera, who looks up and asks me if they really saw a cougar. I laugh and say no, they were just teasing me. This is how rumors get started!

We arrive home to stew that is devoid of liquid due to an ill-fitting lid on the crock pot. Oh well, I just dump in a couple of cups of water and the stew is still pretty good and only a little burnt on the outer edge.  Lois takes us on a delightful trip via a slide show to Cambodia and Myanmar tonight (I think). What beautiful and interesting countries. Or perhaps we visited Italy this evening where Lois did some major trekking in that lovely place. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing Lois’ photographs of the trips she took since we all met in England.

We are up in good time again as we want to get to Red Canyon to beat the crowds and hike while it is cool. To my delight there are several elk grazing in the field across the highway. I slip out onto the balcony to snap a photo. The flighty elk soon drift into the cover of the trees that edge the meadow.

Elk that were out early this morning

Elk that were out early this morning

We arrive at the visitor center well before it is open but this is not a problem. There is a trail that begins from the parking lot and the five of us set off to see what The Pink Ledges trail has to offer. The early morning light is gorgeous as it makes the interesting formations of Red Canyon literally glow. In fact the light is so brilliant that many of my photos are blown out unfortunately.DSCF4740DSCF4735

There is plenty of admiration from the five of us both verbally and through the liberal use of our cameras along the trail. We find some scrubby dead trees that humans have decorated by placing red stones in the forks of their branches. It is amazing how many rocks have been loaded in these trees. I don’t get it but have to admit I laugh at the ridiculous sight of these stone adorned trees.

One of the stone adorned trees

One of the stone adorned trees

Look at that sandstone glow in the early morning light

Look at that sandstone glow in the early morning light

Beauty around every corner

Beauty around every corner

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Pink Ledges Trail is not a lengthy trek but it certainly is a beautiful one, where new wonders are presented around ever bend in the gravely path. There is one place that is so picturesque that after I take a photo of the siblings, I agree to a photo of just Paul and me. Those of you who know me well know I try to stay behind a camera and avoid being in front of one if at all possible! I think Joy, Lois, and Doris all had a single photo taken with their own cameras too. As we near the bottom of the trail, Joy asks us to sniff a certain tree and see what odor comes to mind. Definitely vanilla in my opinion! Lois takes the assignment very seriously and I’m sure if a stranger happened upon us at that time their eyebrows might have raised a notch or two. It was funnier than heck and I have the photo to prove it :).

Paul and Doris looking at the trail map

Paul and Doris looking at the trail map

Group photo time

Group photo time

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Lois I had to include this photo. It is so funny

Lois I had to include this photo. It is so funny

When we have finished this wonderful hike we walk back to the visitor center which is now open. The human traffic has also intensified and I am so glad we were on the trail early as lots of folks are beginning to walk it now. Paul and Joy inquire about more trails, and the man they are dealing with is quite a card. After much banter between the three they finally get down to figuring out another trail for us to hike. I wander around the gift portion of the center and find a nifty jigsaw puzzle featuring rock formations from the various Utah national parks. My mom is a jigsaw puzzle junkie, so I decide to buy it for her, (she let me know recently that she finished putting it together already).

We all congregate back at the car, where I throw my purchase in the back, then we agree to trek Birdseye trail which also starts from the parking lot. We actually walk back where we finished our morning hike but veer off in the other direction to begin walking the Birdseye Trail. Along with the rise of temperature there is a definite rise in highway traffic which runs along the edge of Red Canyon. This is the one negative I have against Red Canyon, you can see and hear the constant line of cars that are traveling to Bryce Canyon.

Hiking Birdseye Trail

Hiking Birdseye Trail. Love that gnarly tree

Paul checking out the scenery

Paul checking out the scenery

Another twisted tree along the trail

Another twisted tree along the trail

This is another winning hike which we have mostly to ourselves. Hoodoos, sunlit red cliffs and gnarly trees are sights that greet us as we mosey along the trail. We soon become spread out along the pathway and I take a fork in the trail that leads me straight up a smooth surfaced mountain side. When I am nearly to the top of the mountain the path becomes barely visible plus the rock is quite slick. Obviously this trail was made by hikers getting off the beaten path. When I turn around to go back down the slippery slope I wonder what the heck I was thinking. I turn my feet slightly sideways and take short shuffling steps while using my walking sticks to help keep my balance as I make my way back down to the real trail.

Taking a short break

Taking a short break

Birdseye Trail ends at the highway’s shoulder and we cross the road and follow the biking path back to the visitor center. It is only mid-morning so Paul suggests that we try to find another hiking trail the staff member highly recommended. The road to the trail is in the direction of home anyway so the rest of us agree that we might as well go for it. We turn on the gravel road and trundle down the bumpy road for several miles. We drive past a lot where a few cars are parked but we don’t see a sign for the trail. Paul drives on and around the bend are more stunning red sandstone formations ahead of us. Somehow it is determined that we must go back to the first place we passed for The Arches trail head but that extra drive was well worth it due to the pretty landscape we saw.DSCF4845

Again there are very few people here and most have already finished the hike. We must cross a dry river bed to get to the actual trail so I keep my eyes on the ground in case there might be an Indian artifact that washed up in the river bed. No luck in finding any arrowheads unfortunately. The Arches trail is a bit challenging in places with narrow walkways or small loose gravel that can cause you to slip on descents but we all manage to stay upright. The trail has its own charm with a small arch here and there and plenty of hoodoos to look at. There are more twisted dead trees to try to incorporate into photos, mostly with no decent outcome for me though.

No signs explaining this rock structure

No signs explaining this rock structure

An arch partly obscured by tree limbs

An arch partly obscured by tree limbs

Interesting formations

Interesting formations

Rock window

Rock window

I would assume this rock will eventually be separated into hoodoos

I would assume this rock will eventually be separated into hoodoos

Paul and Joy enjoying Arches trail

Paul and Joy enjoying Arches trail

When we have completed the hike we return to the house. Paul grills hamburgers for lunch and then it is time to begin readying things for our departure tomorrow. We want to leave as early as possible in the morning as we are taking Doris and Lois to Cedar City before we begin the long drive back to Joy’s mountain home. Doris and Lois will take a shuttle to St. George where they will pick up a rental car and continue their tour of the Southwest. The two will travel to the Grand Canyon and then to Sedona and Phoenix. Paul and I of course will have another long drive to Kansas after spending the night with Joy.  It has been another fun Miller reunion and we are all looking forward to the next one. Nancy

A beautiful sunrise on our last morning in Utah

A beautiful sunrise on our last morning in Utah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A break from hiking on Day 3 and Escalante National Monument on Day 4, Utah 2016

A break from hiking on Day 3 and Escalante National Monument on Day 4, Utah 2016

Beautiful sunrise seen from the balcony

Beautiful sunrise seen from the balcony

After two days of physically pushing ourselves, we decide that today we will just kick back and relax. I am still up early enough to see a very lovely sunrise and enjoy the mule deer that come to graze across the highway or in the lush pasture by the house. Oddly enough I hardly have any photos of the deer; I guess I was more interested in the elk that came every evening.

Mule deer in the pasture next to the house

Mule deer in the pasture next to the house

Joy has convinced us that we should go play miniature golf, a tradition of the Miller sibling reunion if we can find a miniature golf course where we are vacationing. The miniature golf course Joy found online is at a resort not far from the east side of Zion National Park.

We manage to find the turn off of Highway 9 that leads to the Zion Ponderosa Resort and find ourselves climbing up into the mountains on a winding road. It is a gorgeous drive so that is a plus to our foray to play putt putt golf. When we arrive at the resort we go inside the reception area to pay the fee for using the course. Colorful balls are chosen, green for me, and golf clubs handed out.

The Zion Ponderosa Resort miniature golf course

The Zion Ponderosa Resort miniature golf course

We walk back to the tastefully designed golf course that is fashioned after the landscape around us. There are no plastic crocs whose jaws open and close, instead the course has native boulders scattered on the fairways for obstacles along with some water hazards here and there. When the game is finally concluded, Paul and Joy must have a play off since they end up tied for first. Brother and sister choose to play on the fairway where most of us put our balls into the water hazard. Joy goes first and her shot carries the ball safely past the water hole. Paul ends up hitting his ball in the drink so Joy ends up with the five dollar pot. Paul evidently is worn out from the stress of the golf game so I drive back to the ranch house.

Group shot after the golf game was over

Group shot after the golf game was over

This evening if I remember correctly, Joy’s slide shows are transferred to a flash drive and we go down memory lane to last year’s reunion in England. After having fun reliving our time touring the area around Oxford, Joy then takes us on a colorful trip to Cuba via excellent photos accompanied by lively music. Perhaps this is the night that Paul and I lose more money to his sisters when we play two rounds of “Left, right, center”, a dice game that is pure luck. Lady luck shines down on Lois and Doris I believe and they win the five dollar pots.

Beautiful light on Red Canyon rock formations.

Beautiful light on Red Canyon rock formations.

This morning we are up early as we are traveling to Escalante which is the longest distance we will drive on our Utah outings. Escalante is northeast of Bryce so we get to enjoy the fanciful formations of Red Canyon once again. We reach the Escalante visitor center after two hours on the road and enjoying looking at all the educational displays plus there is a mosaic of stunning photographs on the wall. Not far from the visitor center there is a pullout with a breath-taking view of the plateau we are traveling through. We also stop in at another visitor center; it’s very small and located in a” bump in the road” town, but I’m not sure what the name of the center was. There are displays of Native American items and Mormon settler items to peruse. The women rangers manning the desk suggest we hike Lower Calf Creek Falls trail and give us a map with directions to the trail. We also meet a French couple here who are traveling in the states in a small pickup with a camper in the bed. The reason we meet them is that there is a cat lying on the pickup dash and Joy and I are pulled as if by a magnet to go over and admire the feline. It turns out that the cat is blind and not particularly inclined to being petted by strangers. I can’t imagine traveling with a cat, let alone a blind one!

Desert landscape on drive to Escalante

Desert landscape on drive to Escalante

Scenic overview after we left the visitor center

Scenic overview after we left the visitor center

By the time we reach our destination it is late morning and the day is heating up. We are a bit confused on where the trailhead is but figure out we must walk down the paved road a ways to get to the trailhead. Paul and I don’t take a brochure which proves to be a mistake because soon our group of five is spread out along the sandy trail.

Joy reading the Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail sign.

Joy reading the Lower Calf Creek Falls Trailhead sign.

A portion of the trail

A portion of the trail

The trail is near or follows alongside a small river bed which is full of trees and greenery, literally an oasis in the desert. Birds are singing throughout the verdant valley and there is one song that is predominant throughout the hike.  I finally see one of the birds singing near the trail and figure out that the feathered troubadour is a Spotted Towhee. I have seen this bird before but I am still delighted when I not only hear but actually see several of the uniquely marked birds by the time our hike is over. There are small, drab-colored lizards that scurry over the rocks near the well maintained trail. There are numbered posts along the track marking points of interest, and if Paul and I had taken a brochure, we would know what the heck we should be looking at! Paul and I do recall that there is a petroglyph at number 9(?) and with the use of our binoculars we find the three shamans painted on a smooth mountain face across the valley. It isn’t until I see my photo on the computer that I notice a fourth figure to the right and slightly below the group of three figures.

We saw lots of these lizards on the hike

We saw lots of these lizards on the hike

Paul looking for the famous petroglyph

Paul looking for the famous petroglyph

I had to use my cameras full zoom but still got a decent photo of the petroglyph. Notice the fainter figure to the lower right.

I had to use my cameras full zoom but still got a decent photo of the petroglyph. Notice the fainter figure to the lower right.

Although a lot of this trail is fairly level there are places where there are some steep climbs or descents over rocky terrain and I am happy to have my hiking poles. We enjoy a variety of flowers in various colors that are growing along the trail, down in the valley and on rocky precipices above us. In places, Mother Nature’s arrangement of flowers, grasses, and shrubs couldn’t  look more planned than if a gardener had placed them in such a pleasing design. The mountains that edge the valley give us a wide diversity of terrain to contemplate as we hike, including thin swirly layers of sandstone, holes etched in rocks in the oddest places plus horizontal and vertical striped cliff faces.

I loved this arrangement by Mother Nature

I loved this arrangement by Mother Nature

This cactus bloom is nearly translucent in the harsh sunlight

This cactus bloom is nearly translucent in the harsh sunlight

I think this is Indian paintbrush

I think this is Indian paintbrush

I love this striped mountain face.

I love this striped mountain face.

Paul and I continue plodding along but I am getting in that childish phase of asking “are we there yet”? The falls are 2.5 miles from the trail head but it seems like we have been walking forever. I begin asking people we meet that are on the return hike how close we are to the end of the trail. The first people I question are young, fit, hikers who tell us we have about twenty minutes to our destination. Once they move on I tell Paul that means at least forty minutes for us. We move on down the trail and the next youngsters we meet and question about the distance to the falls tell us we still have a bit of a walk but soon the trail will drop down next to the small river and it is much cooler there. I must look as hot as I feel! Sure enough we do descend into shade and boy does that feel wonderful. We meet a middle age couple and kiddingly ask if there really is a waterfall on this trail. The couple laughs and agrees that the hike took much longer than they had anticipated too but that it was well worth the effort. They suggest that we take our shoes off when we get there and put our feet in the water to cool off. Gee, we really must look overheated.

Lois, Joy and Doris

Lois, Joy and Doris

A nice view

A nice view

Paul with a gorgeous layout in front of him

Paul with a gorgeous layout in front of him

We continue hiking in the wooded area with the soothing sound of  gurgling water as background music. The one downside to this part of the walk is that there are webworms hanging from the trees, many of the greenish worms dangling over the trail. Not that they bite or anything but occasionally my face connects with one of the squishy feeling buggers which is a bit gross.

There it is! We see the grand finale of this hiking trail seen through the hazy screen of greenery! We still are an eighth of a mile away probably but at least we know there really is a waterfall at the end of the trail!

Our first glimpse of the falls

Our first glimpse of the falls

Getting closer

Getting closer

Once we arrive at the bottom of the falls, Paul and I find a rock to perch on like the dozen other people who are sitting around enjoying watching the water cascading down the slick rock. I had fully intended on soaking my feet in the cool water but there are no rocks next to the pool plus it appears to be muddy next to the water’s edge. A young man and woman decide to take a swim in the inviting pool but they don’t stay in the water long, it appears that the water is very cold! The change in air temperature here is wonderful, and Paul and I are soon cooled off.

It was hard to take a good photo with half of the falls in shade and half in light

It was hard to take a good photo with half of the falls in shade and half in light

Doris, Lois, and Joy arrive a bit later and take a rocky seat. Everyone eats a snack as it is well past lunch time and our picnic lunch is over two miles away sitting in the car. Joy decides to start back after just a few minutes rest and Paul and I join her. Lois and Doris say they will catch up with us as they want to enjoy the waterfall and rest a bit longer.

Lois and Doris join the rock sitting tourists admiring the falls

Lois and Doris join other rock sitting tourists admiring the falls

The three of us encounter a middle-aged couple down the trail who assume we are birders since we are all wearing binoculars. The two ask if we saw the American Coots and their chicks that were swimming around in the stream near the beaver dams. We admit we didn’t see the birds but assure them we will certainly look for them when we reach that point. Paul and I are following another hiker, (Joy has left us in the dust), that is stopped by a couple still walking towards the falls. When they ask the person how much farther to the falls, Paul and I burst out laughing. Once the hiker tells them that they still have some distance to cover before they reach the falls, Paul and I apologize to the couple who had cast a puzzled glance our way when we were laughing. We explain to them that we too had asked several hikers the exact same question as they had, thus our laughter. We encourage them to continue as the falls as it is well worth the long walk. We visit with them a bit and they remark on the beauty of the valley, adding that a lot of the people they have seen hiking the trail don’t seem to take time to look at their surroundings. The two ask if we saw the Shaman pictographs and we reply that indeed we saw the impressive art work. The man then asks if we saw the old granary the Native Americans built in the crevice of the mountain. We admit we didn’t see that because we don’t have a pamphlet that would have told us where this ancient structure was situated. The friendly couple then gives us the number of the post which marks the granary site after which they describe where to look for the granary on the mountain face. We thank them for the information and vow to find the old structure when we reach that marker.

Another portion of the trail with the striped cliff

Another portion of the trail with the striped cliff

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Our group is beginning to draw near each other and we end up together where the granary is supposed to be. After following the couple’s very good description on where to look for the stone granary we soon find the structure which is in amazing shape. Paul notices a pile of similar rocks strewn around the crevice floor and we assume that another granary stood there in the past. We all ask the question, “how in the world did the natives carry their grain down to this sheltered granary tucked away on the mountainside”? Did they lower the grain and themselves over the edge of the mountain, or maybe they had steps carved down to that ledge. Whatever the answer it took a heck of a lot of work to build the granary and to get the crops to the structure for storing. Wow.

Lois, Paul, Doris and Joy taking a well deserved rest on the way back to the car.

Lois, Paul, Doris and Joy taking a well deserved rest on the way back to the car.

Soon we arrive at the beaver ponds and we begin to search for the Coots and their brood. As if on cue an adult coot emerges from a weedy area in the stream into more open water with two chicks following in the adults wake. The chicks are absolutely a hoot as they have dark bodies with fuzzy yellow down sticking out along their neck and wings. The most comical feature is a bright red/orange beak and what appears to be a pinkish bald spot on top of their heads. Why?? Most of the time bird and animal coloration makes perfect sense but sometimes, as in this case, I can find no practical reason for such brightness in the wild. The color of the chicks seem to be screaming, here I am, come and eat me! There are several more of the brightly clad chicks that don’t seem too concerned in staying with a parent. Paul also finds a pair of ducks with ducklings in the vicinity.

American Coot and two of the chicks

American Coot and two of the chicks

Enlarged photo of the coot chicks. Isn't their coloring wild!

Enlarged photo of the coot chicks. Isn’t their coloring wild!

The end of the trail is in sight and with my stomach telling me that I have had very little to eat since this morning, I find my second wind and step up my pace anxious to get back to the car and lunch. Again there are handy picnic tables near the car and my turkey sandwich sure tastes good! There are several striking White-crowned sparrows foraging around the picnic tables where we are eating to provide some entertainment too.

Our hike took nearly five hours round trip, granted that included a lot of stops for photos, an occasional stop to take a breather, and of course time to enjoy the beautiful falls. However our day is not over as there is a scenic drive depicted on the map to the town of Boulder which isn’t far from where we are. The Anasazi State Park and museum is located in this small town and this was recommended as an interesting place to visit.

After our very late lunch we situate ourselves in the car and proceed to drive the scenic road to Boulder. We are able to look down on parts of the trail we just walked as we drive the steadily climbing highway. Soon we discover why this highway is designated as scenic because along either side of the road there is suddenly nothing more than sky. We are driving what is known as the Hogback section of highway 12 and it is terrifying. I am not generally bothered by heights but it feels like the car is making its way over a tight rope plus there is next to no shoulder. Paul who does not like heights is staring at the road, (thank God), though he finds enough humor in the situation to make a quip about hoping he can find his manhood again when this drive is over. You don’t want the actual quote:). I make the mistake of commenting that if there was any crumbling under the road bed a car would have nowhere to go but down into the abyss. That observation did not go over well. We pass a turnoff called Hells backbone and I can’t imagine what that road must be like, and none of us want to find out. O.k. I did scan the vacuous space on both sides of the car on occasion and looking down on mountains was quite spectacular but it is nothing I want to experience again any time soon. Oh wait, we have to come back this way!  I couldn’t even unclench my hands to take any photos!

We finally get through that stretch of road from hell, (can you imagine having to build the darn thing?) and continue on to Boulder. We find the museum but once inside decide we really don’t want to pay the entrance fee, plus the Indian village outside of the museum is just a replica, not the actual excavation of the village they are working on. Truthfully between our long trek and that scary Hogback ridge road, I think our energy is depleted. We pile back into the suv and guess who gets to drive back over the strand of spider web highway in the sky? That would be me, as Paul says he could do it but would prefer to hand the reins over to someone else.

When we reach the Hogback section of the highway, I crowd the middle of the narrow road and never take my eyes off the pavement. There is very little traffic, (gee I wonder why:)), and surprisingly it doesn’t bother me all that much once I set my mind to driving this crazy road.  Paul says that for once he is more comfortable not driving and he is even able to look out over the open space at the scenery far below us.

The sun is riding low in the sky when we reach the rental house and after such a long day what is left of the evening is pretty low-keyed. As usual I am off to bed before the rest of the group but I don’t think they lingered too long after I hit the sack.

I might add that overall, I think this was my favorite hike of the trip. It is hard to compare them really as all were so different but Lower Calf Creek Trail had so much variety to offer. The pictograph, ancient granary, bird life, reptiles, fantastic mountains, lush trees and bushes, and of course the picture postcard waterfall!

Butterfly on the trail

Butterfly on the trail

 

 

 

 

Zion National Park part 3 May 2016

Zion National Park, Utah 2016 part 3

We get an early start this morning and are ready to depart for Zion by 6:30. We agreed yesterday that because of the hardship of settling in the backseat that whoever was riding shotgun has to open and close the gate at the end of the driveway. That chore is well worth the tradeoff of not sitting in the back. Since we hiked in Bryce yesterday and saw the main part of the park, instead of returning to Bryce today the four Millers decided to travel to Zion.

We are going to the southern part of Zion which is the most visited area of the park.  The siblings have researched trails either on-line or from trail maps and guide books and have decided to hike the Canyon Overlook Trail first which is actually just outside of the park entrance. The landscape becomes quite dramatic as we near the park and the mountain faces are etched with grooved lines forming imperfect squares from top to bottom. Someone reads from a pamphlet or book that this area is known as the Checkerboard Mesa. The name is quite fitting really.

I took this photo from the car but you can still see why the area is known as the Checkerboard Mesa

I took this photo from the car but you can still see why the area is known as the Checkerboard Mesa

If I recall correctly we stop at the entrance gate to show the senior pass which covers the 30 dollar fee per vehicle for the park even though we really aren’t entering Zion yet. We ask the woman staffing this booth where the trailhead for the Canyon Overlook trail is situated and she gives us directions. The park employee urges us to look for parking along the road before we reach the first tunnel because once we drive into the tunnel we will have missed the trailhead. I spot a parking place along the highway not long after we have left the toll booth and suggest we park here.  Since there is no sign indicating the trail I am overruled and we drive on. We haven’t gone far when we see the tunnel the ranger told us about a few hundred yards away.  I’m doing the “I told you we should have parked back there” spiel when someone spies the trailhead sign not far from the tunnel entrance. The small parking area near the start of the trail is full but there is a wide area just past the inadequate lot adjacent to the road. Paul pulls the car into it saying he doesn’t see why we can’t park here. Another car promptly parks in front of us so it appears that they think parking is allowed here too.

We gather our walking sticks, backpacks with water (Paul carries water for both of us), cameras, etc. and we are off “like a herd of turtles” as Joy so often describes our departures!  The trail is a steady climb up at first but it levels out on parts of the path so we are often walking along the edge of a steep drop off. The trail has some very narrow places, only wide enough for one hiker and you automatically lean in towards the mountainside since it is a long way to the bottom of the canyon. We all raise our eyebrows a bit as we step aside to let a young couple by us whose young boy (4 maybe) is trotting down the trail on his own. Yikes. Doris comments that when she researched this trail that it was designated as a family friendly trail. Maybe but I would have had a firm hold on that kid!

Doris and Lois navigating up the Canyon Overlook trail

Doris and Lois navigating up the Canyon Overlook trail

One of the many beautiful vistas along the trail

One of the many beautiful vistas along the trail

There is a nice wide ledge maybe halfway up the trail and the Millers decide they want a group photo here. I am instructed by Joy on how to take a photo with her iPad and the foursome arranges themselves for the picture. I keep a straight face and tell them to take a step backwards which they do. Giggling a bit I ask them to move back another step but immediately say I’m just kidding! Don’t worry; they had plenty of room on the ledge even if they would have unquestionably followed my instructions.

Joy, Paul, Doris, and Lois on the Canyon Overlook Trail

Joy, Paul, Doris, and Lois on the Canyon Overlook Trail. Take a step back:)

We enjoy a variety of flowers blooming along the way including cactus, plus we have been scanning the mountain tops and sides for mountain sheep as they have been seen by hikers on this trail the last few days. Unfortunately, we never see any of the sure-footed critters.

Flowers along the trail

Flowers along the trail

A cactus in full bloom

A cactus in full bloom

When we reach the end of the trail we are rewarded with a stunning view. The various mountains have fitting names such as Beehives, East and West Temple and the Streaked Wall. We don’t have to share the flat rock area with too many people, maybe eight or ten, and there is plenty of room so we can spread out and not bother one another.

The white rounded tops are the Beehives, to the left is one of the temples and to the right is Streaked Wall

The white rounded tops are the Beehives, to the left is one of the temples and to the right is Streaked Wall

Paul with Joy scoping out the mountains for mountain sheep.

Paul with Joy scoping out the mountains for mountain sheep.

Paul and Lois. Joy's photo

Paul and Lois. Joy’s photo

Once we have rested a bit and enjoyed the majestic mountains that surround us we start back down the trail. There is a group of people in front of us and one of the young women is identifying trees and flowers for the other members of the group. The woman, perhaps she is a guide or has family visiting, comments that by the looks of the crowd on the trail this morning, this afternoon the traffic on the trails will be a parade. Well that isn’t encouraging. I have been hearing a distinctive bird song all along the trail and since this woman seems quite knowledgeable about the area I ask if she can identify the bird singing the haunting song. She tells me that she isn’t a birder but a member in the group is and he confirms what I suspected, that the cascading song is coming from the throat of the small Canyon Wren.

I liked this dead gnarled tree we passed on the trail

I liked this dead gnarled tree we passed on the trail

These flowers were near where we parked the car.

These flowers were near where we parked the car.

Yea, the car is still where we left it and we are ready to travel on to Zion. To get there we must drive through two tunnels that are carved through the mountains. One of them is not very long but the other tunnel seems to go on forever. Headlights are required but there are “windows” carved through the rock every so often which allows one to catch a quick glimpse of spectacular views. I did look up info on this tunnel which is called Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel and it is a bit over a mile long. This incredible engineering project was completed in 1930! I believe it took just over three years to carve the tunnel through the mountains. Unbelievable.DSCF4469

We arrive at the visitor’s center and after finally finding a parking space we eat the picnic lunch we brought at a convenient picnic table not far from the car. After lunch we look through the visitor’s center though there isn’t a lot to see. We decide to hike the Emerald Pool trail which is not too long or strenuous and by the photos and description looks quite lovely.

We catch the shuttle and disembark at the trailhead. There is a huge hotel here and the grounds look like a large city park. The lawn has at least one giant cottonwood tree that is dropping fluffy white seeds, making it appear as if it is snowing. We walk across the bridge that spans a muddy river and begin the trek to the lower Emerald pool. The paved trail is full of people walking in both directions. I try to walk on the dirt edges along the pavement whenever I can because I don’t do well walking on this hard surface and as trodden down as the dirt is it is obvious I’m not the only hiker that chose to do this.

Muddy river as we begin our hike to Emerald Pool

Muddy river as we begin our hike to Emerald Pool

Somewhere along the Emerald Pool trail

Somewhere along the Emerald Pool trail

Zion is much warmer than Bryce so when we reach the first pool the spray from the small waterfalls cascading off the cliff overhang you must walk under feels pretty darn good. The moisture does make the pavement slick so you have to watch your footing. The Emerald Pool itself isn’t all that impressive but Doris spots a Black Phoebe in the tall grass at the pools edge and we watch the beautiful flycatcher as it hawks for insects.

The lower Emerald Pool

The lower Emerald Pool

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The five of us decide to continue up the trail to the middle pool and so we take our place in the “parade” that is going on to the next level. At least the pavement has ended and we are truly hiking. Unfortunately, there are so many people on the trail that we are bumper to bumper so to speak. About as many people are descending as there are climbing and the trail isn’t wide enough for two-way traffic so there is a lot of stepping off the trail and letting people get by.

When we reach the middle pool I have to chuckle a bit as it is barely a pool, plus there are so many people milling around you must dodge around them to have a look at things. There is a nice view of the craggy mountains here so that makes the walk worthwhile. We hold a powwow and all of us agree that we have no desire to hike to the upper pool. There are just too many people around to really enjoy this hike.

The infamous Middle Pool

The infamous Middle Pool

This was worth the crowded hike.

This was worth the crowded hike.

Once we have made it back down the crowded trail, Lois and I find ourselves walking together. We are nearing the bridge when a girl approaches us licking a large ice cream cone. We both agree that ice cream would be a great ending to this warm hike and vow to indulge in the sweet treat. Once Paul, Joy and Doris catch up we sell them on the idea of ice cream, well it doesn’t take much of a sales pitch. The restaurant is a busy place but soon we are enjoying a variety of ice cream treats or slushies.

We catch the park shuttle which takes us back to the visitor center and Joy brings up the idea of going to a brew pub she found on-line while researching Zion. Hmm, ice cream chased by beer. We see a brew pub shortly after exiting the parking lot but it doesn’t match the address Joy has. Soon we reach the outskirts of town but we have no luck finding the pub. Paul turns the Hyundai around and we decide to check out an area we passed on the edge of town where a large hotel sits along with a few other buildings. Sure enough the hotel matches up with the address of the brew pub. Joy volunteers to go inside and see if the pub is situated inside the hotel. When Joy returns she announces that the pub we have been searching for is the one we passed on the other end of town. Joy justifies the address she used however, telling us that they brew the beer for the pub in the basement of the hotel. None of us are buying that story and we accuse her of trying to save face for the wild goose chase we have been on. Joy sticks with her story and tells us that we can check out her story when we get to the pub.

Enjoying the brew pub beer. Taken with Joys Ipad or was it her camera?

Enjoying the brew pub beer. Taken with Joys Ipad or was it her camera?

We find the pub which was only a few minutes’ drive after we left the visitor center parking lot. Since they can’t sell drinks in Utah without it being accompanied by food, we order a couple of appetizers along with the beer. Well, I just drink water because my stomach doesn’t like brew pub beer unfortunately and this pub doesn’t sell bottled beer. When the busboy is at our table Paul asks him if we can tour the brewery. The kid replies that the beer is not brewed here. Oh no!  When Paul asks where the beer is brewed he stammers a bit and admits he doesn’t know, adding that he has only worked here a couple of days. When our waitress comes to our table we ask her where the beer is brewed and she affirms that it is brewed at the hotel. Joy is sitting back with a rather smug smile on her face and we all must apologize for questioning her story. Well it still is weird to brew off site.

We polish off the appetizers, the beer drinkers finish their beers and we prepare to return to the ranch house. Doris and Lois have beat the rest of us outside and when we join them in the pub parking lot the two show us a sign that says Zion National Park, with the shuttle and visitor center listed underneath. Holy Cow! We all get a huge laugh out of the fact that we spent a good half hour driving around looking for the pub when it turned out to be within walking distance from where our car was parked. It makes me laugh just writing about it!

Path leading to the visitor center

Path leading to the visitor center

I pointed my camera to the right and took the photo of the Brew Pub

I pointed my camera to the right and took the photo of the Brew Pub

A photo with Zion Park sign and Brew Pub. Hilarious

A photo with people walking from Zion visitor center to the Brew Pub. Hilarious

As we drive out of Zion I am staring out the window, occasionally snapping a photo. Suddenly I see mountain sheep (also called big horn sheep), lying on a flat-topped rock, two of them have pretty impressive horns. By the time I can alert the others we have driven out of sight of the sheep. Lois then spots a mountain sheep grazing on the side of the mountain and sees it far enough ahead that we all get a look at the sheep. I take a photo but all I end up with is four legs and the rear view mirror! I see one more sheep standing on another flat-topped mesa. Hurray, I had given up on seeing the mountain sheep of Zion!

Photo taken from the car on our drive out of Zion

Photo taken from the car on our drive out of Zion

 

 

 

 

 

Bryce Canyon, Miller sibling reunion May 2016

View from behind our rental house

View from behind our rental house

Exploring Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah 2016 part 2

The Miller clan is up early anxious to begin our Utah adventure at Bryce Canyon. After I went to bed the foursome made plans to drive to Bryce where we would peruse the visitor center for information about the park and hiking trails. If the weather is cooperating we will walk along the amphitheaters rim and enjoy the over view of the Canyon. Since today’s weather forecast is predicting chilly, cloudy weather and possible  rain to be unsettled and tomorrow’s weather report calls for a warmer, sunny day the siblings decided that it made sense to return to Bryce tomorrow to hike. Once we have scoped Bryce out we will have a late lunch featuring Rock Hill grilled steaks.

After breakfast we load up in our Hyundai where the three of us in the backseat find out due to space constrictions that we must take turns and help one another in order to get our seatbelts fastened. O.k. it is a bit cozy back here but we won’t be driving any excessive distances and we will manage. In fact Bryce is only an hour’s drive from our rental house. Paul asks if everyone is ready and getting a unanimous “yes” the Miller clan is off.

After thirty minutes we suddenly drive into some incredible rock formations right next to the highway and Paul pulls the car into the turnout so we can gaze at the vibrant red cliffs. We cross the road to read the informative sign and discover that this area is called Red Canyon which is very aptly named I must say. Piling back into the car we continue a little ways down the road where a building, that is obviously a visitor’s center, sits on the other side of the highway. Surely this can’t be the Bryce Canyon visitor center this far from the park but Paul turns the car into the parking lot just in case. Nope, it is the Red Canyon visitor’s center and we briefly contemplate going inside but decide to wait and check the center out tomorrow.

Paul and Lois reading the information sign in front of incredible rock formations at Red Canyon

Paul and Lois reading the information sign in front of rock formations at Red Canyon

Another part of Red Canyon

Another part of Red Canyon

Half an hour later we arrive at the Bryce Canyon visitor center and step out into the crisp air. We discover that a film on Bryce is shown on the hour and the half hour so we decide to look at the exhibits in the center for fifteen minutes while waiting for the next showing. We wander through the exhibit looking at the multitude of info from explaining the rock layers in Bryce, the various types of  wildlife that are present in the canyon, the Native American presence and how the Canyon got its name.

When it is time for the film to begin we all find seats and prepare for more information to be crammed into our brains. Oops, the film is running but there is no sound. This silent film continues for a few minutes and we all assume someone will fix things. When it is apparent that the staff must be unaware of the glitch, some people go to find help, (I think Joy was one of them). Eventually, the problem is fixed and we get to watch most of the film although they have to cut off the ending so they can stay on schedule. Oh well, I am ready to see the Canyon for real anyway!

When we walk outside again I am very happy that I have my fleece and jacket on as it is just cold out here. Paul chauffer’s us down the highway to the parking lot of what is known as the Bryce amphitheater and we make our way to the rim of the Canyon.

The first photo I took when we walked to the rim of Bryce Canyon

The first photo I took when we walked to the rim of Bryce Canyon

Just wow!

Just wow!

Oh My Gosh! Sure I have seen photos of the Canyon that is so famous for its hoodoos but the photos are nothing compared to seeing this fantastic place in person. I can’t describe this special place in words, although thinking you have landed on another planet might give one an idea of how alien the Canyon landscape appears. Perhaps a fairytale land is an apt description due to how the colors of the rocks are constantly changing as the sun peeks in and out of the clouds. The shutters on our cameras are clicking furiously but even as I shoot photo after photo I know in my heart the pictures won’t convey the beauty and the incredulous feeling I have as I stand awestruck by the beauty and uniqueness of Bryce Canyon.

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A tree growing in a precarious place

A tree struggling to survive

The five of us stroll towards Sunrise point but soon our group is spread out as some of us seem to be stopping every few feet to take photos from the different vantage points along the way :). Doris and I straggle up to the viewing tower last and enjoy the bird’s eye view of the limestone hoodoos.

Enjoying the scenery

Enjoying the scenery

Once the group reunites a decision is made to hike a trail in Bryce today after all. The weather is chilly but no rain is falling so we decide to hike the relatively short (1.3 miles) Navajo Loop Trail. We return to the car to retrieve our walking sticks and to eat a snack before we venture out on the trail. As we are gathering our sticks and standing around eating our power bars a group of four people come to a halt next to us. One of the men in the group calls out Kansas in a very foreign accent and somebody figures out that they want a photo of our license plate. We move to the side of the car so the man can add Kansas to his photo license tag collection. Paul then beckons for the Frenchman to follow him to the front of our car. The man dutifully does so and seems delighted to see the “Eat Beef” vanity plate that we have on display there. The group waves their thanks to us and we watch as they move on down the line of parked vehicles in search of plates they haven’t photographed yet. Lois exclaims that she has noticed people taking photos behind the parked cars and wondered what they were doing so this encounter with the license plate photographers solved the mystery for her. Very observant Lois!

Doris and Joy on the Navajo Loop trail

Doris and Joy on the Navajo Loop trail

Now that we have gathered all of our necessities, the Miller quintet walks to Sunset Point where the Navajo loop trail begins. There are quite a few hikers on the trail but it isn’t inundated with humans. As we move down the trail, being next to and looking up at the colorful hoodoos, gives one a whole different perspective of this fascinating landscape. The Miller siblings line up for a photo with what is known as “Thors’ hammer” in the background. I apologize to a fit young woman who is hiking back up the trail for blocking her way as I prepare to take the photo. The cute woman leans against the cliff face, and gasps, “take all the time you want, I need to rest.” I laugh thinking she is just kidding me, and then take the photo of the Miller sibs and we continue on our hike.

Paul, Lois, Doris and Joy. Rock formation known as Thors' hammer in the background

Paul, Lois, Doris and Joy. Rock formation known as Thors’ hammer in the background

I have a feeling that thin spire will not last much longer

I have a feeling that thin spire will not last much longer

When we walk around a curve we begin to meet many hikers pulling for breath as they climb towards Sunset Point. Maybe that youngster wasn’t kidding about her need to take a break. We can see the bottom of the canyon from here and the trail appears to be a myriad of switchbacks plus it looks really deep and steep. As we continue our trek to the bottom we stop to enjoy “gargoyles”, what appears to be a Victorian couple gazing into each other’s eyes, among other imagined figures. We also see dead trees whose trunks look like twisted pieces of licorice. We see these interesting tree trunks throughout our hikes in Utah and I never get tired of looking at the fascinating coiled trunks. What made the trees like that and why??  I also watch incredulously as a young woman intently texts on her phone as she walks the switchbacks. First of all why is she even hiking if she is just going to stare at her phone? Secondly, she comes within a couple of inches of the edge of the trail several times and even though the fall down to the next switch back wouldn’t be more than a few feet it is still dangerous. Good grief!

I took this photo mainly to show the twists in the trunk of the dead tree.

I took this photo mainly to show the twists in the trunk of the dead tree.

These rock protrusions look like gargoyles

These rock protrusions look like gargoyles

Looking down at the trail

Looking down on the trail

When we reach the bottom of the canyon and prepare to continue up the loop trail we find a barrier across the path. For some reason this part of the trail is closed and we have to climb out of Bryce Canyon the same way we came down. No wonder we were meeting so many hikers coming towards us. We just assumed that these hikers had gone counter-clockwise on the loop trail instead of clockwise like we did. Well pooh, now we won’t be able to see the landscape of the rest of the trail. It would have been nice if there had been a notice posted at the start of the trailhead telling tourists that the loop was closed.

Joy and Paul

Joy and Paul

Paul and Lois on a switchback above me

Paul and Lois on a switchback above me

We rest briefly before starting back up the trail. The sun has come out and before long we are all shedding our warm clothing. It doesn’t take long before I am one of those hikers gasping for breath as I struggle back up the switchbacks. Soon I set a goal of walking the length of one switchback then briefly resting before continuing on to the next one. Oddly enough about three-quarters of the way up, I seem to catch a second wind and when we reach Sunset Point I’m rather surprised that I feel pretty good! Everyone makes it back to the top in good shape, not bad for a group in their 60’s and 70’s. Of course, Doris, Lois, and Joy are avid hikers so no surprise there.

We decide to continue to the end of the road and take a look at the view at Rainbow Point (I think). The clear sunny sky turns cloudy the farther in altitude we climb and we even drive through some snow flurries. When we step out of the car at the dead-end road there is a cold wind blowing and all of us have to pull our coats back on. We make our way to the viewing area and look out on the cloud covered vista.  We don’t stay long, it is cold and truthfully a bit gloomy up here, plus we are getting hungry. That late lunch we had anticipated is going to turn into an early dinner.

The end of the road in Bryce Canyon. I think this is Rainbow point.

The end of the road in Bryce Canyon. I think this is Rainbow point.

Upon return to the ranch, we indulge in cocktails along with some snacks and just relax for a bit. We all pitch in to put dinner on the table, but the most important part is grilling the steaks which is Paul’s duty. Everyone but me likes their steaks rare so they are really pleased with the results. I have to zap my steak in the microwave for a bit but it still is very tasty.

After dinner Joy intends to show us a slide show of the last Miller reunion in England and her travels in Cuba. Paul, Joy and Lois work hard trying to figure out how to get Joy’s slide show to transmit from the computer to the TV but they finally give up. Doris has her travels on a flash drive so they plug the drive into the back of the TV.  After a lot of trial and error the four siblings manage to figure out how to make Doris’ slide show play on the large screen TV. We enjoy seeing the terrific photos and hearing stories about Doris’ time in Spain, Israel/Jordan and Costa Rica. Have I ever mentioned that I married into a family of avid travelers :)? Once Doris’ interesting show is over I am ready to hit the sack. I leave the four Millers to plan tomorrow’s adventure.

The living room where we enjoyed traveling to several countries via photos and narration.

The living room where we enjoyed traveling to several countries via photos and narration.

Blog 3 will be sent although it may be awhile as we are beginning to hay! Hurray. Nancy