A Secret Cathedral at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

We had one last detour before our final destination of the magnificent Zion National Park.

Our goal was to pack in as many sights as we could on our ten-day trip.

We were up early for a short hike to a lookout at Lake Powell.

Glen Canyon Dam.lakepowell

Lake Powell, with hardly any water in the middle of this drought.lakepowell3 Beautiful cliffs.lakepowell1

Back on the road, we turned off the main highway and set out on a dusty, bumpy, red-dirt path barely wide enough for one vehicle — more like a wagon train trail — several miles off the main road to a trailhead that would lead to an amazing slot canyon hike.

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, at 1.7 million acres, dominates southern Utah.

It’s unique in that it is the first monument to be administered by the Bureau of Land Management, rather than the National Park Service.

The Grand Staircase is a geological formation spanning eons of time and is a territory of multicolored cliffs, plateaus, mesas, buttes, pinnacles, slot canyons, and world-class paleontological sites..

After hiking for about and hour or so, clambering up and out of narrow and shady slot canyons that seemed to go on forever, passing a random cow or two, the “cathedral” emerged in a open space bathed in sunlight.

It was really, really, really, REALLY special. Words can’t describe it and my pics don’t do justice to its beauty.vermillioncliffscathedral

I don’t know why it’s “secret” except that a couple of experienced hikers we chatted with at the trailhead shared a few of the highlights of the area and cautioned us not to be TOO specific when we talked about where we were to avoid it becoming overcrowded. vermillioncliffs vermillioncliffs1 vermillioncliffs2 Spectacular. WOW.vermillioncliffs4 This is supposed to be one of the longest slot canyon hikes in the country, if not THE longest. We hiked for about three hours in, a six-mile round trip.vermillioncliffs5 vermillioncliffs6 ME! vermillioncliffsme Vermillioncliffs10 Vermillioncliffs11 vermillioncliffs12

Next stop, ZION!

P.S. And don’t ask, there’s no way I’m telling the exact coordinates. Only tugboat man knows exactly where we were 🙂

 

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Angel’s Landing @ Zion National Park: Photos

A few of my favorite pics from our road trip last week:

Pretty pink flowers growing out of the mountain wall at Angel’s Landing

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Beautiful bright red bird!

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Looking down from the top of Angel’s Landing. Don’t climb this if you have vertigo!!

angellandingSurrounded by beauty.

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The view from the top while we ate a snack of nuts and apples.

angellanding3#ZionNationalPark #AngelsLanding #photography #travel #nature #hiking #camping #Utah

 

Wandering to Zion, Part Three

Our road trip adventure continues…only two more installments and then I’ll be back to writing sparkly + snarky commentary.
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Confession: I’m a great co-pilot traveling companion. You would LOVE to have me in the passenger seat with you, I promise.

I keep the snacks flowing, conversation is stimulating, and I even throw a few dance moves in with jazz handskitty-jazz-hands at appropriate moments. Jazz hands are the BEST.

Kitty jazz hands are even better, don’t you agree?

We compiled a bunch of music for the road; stuff we both like; Frank, Ella, Nat King Cole, stuff I like; Adele and Christina Perri, and music hub enjoys; Coldplay, U2, Nine Inch Nail, Com Truise.

The next morning we hit the road to explore the Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert. We walked pretty much throughout the whole park at every stop and trailhead. The sky wasn’t as blue as the day before so the colors weren’t as vibrant as they might have been.

Of course I compelled my tugboat man to accompany me to a gift shop for local wares, and we chose geodes, petrified wood, and a petrified sand dollar!aquageode hotpinkgeode petrifiedsanddollar petrifiedwood

It’s hard to believe this was all under the ocean a zillion years ago. Evidence of early human occupation (13,000 years ago) is readily visible with petroglyphs and potsherds.

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Our plan was to journey on the Highway 40 — old Route 66 — to Natural Bridges National Monument in southeast Utah, between Hanksville and Blanding. It’s rather remote and not close to other parks so is not so heavily visited. Unlike Arches National Park with over 2,000 classified arches, there are only three bridges here though the monument also contains Anasazi cliff dwellings, pictographs and white sandstone canyons.

But…when we got back on the road, my tugboat man noticed that one of the dashboard gauges indicated that we were losing power.

Things didn’t look good.

We were pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

Although he packed a lot of tools, the one thing we needed most, something called a volt meter, was still at Casa de Enchanted Seashells.

Lucky for us (unlucky for lots of other cars that must break down on that road) we saw a hand painted sign for Mike’s Auto Repair and took the next exit.

Mike was like a lot of people we came in contact with in Arizona — sorta friendly, sorta not — and all business. He had a volt meter, and he and hub figured that our problem was either a bad battery or a bad alternator — or both.

We gave Mike a “donation” for the use of his diagnostic tool which ensured that our tires remained unslashed, and drove forty miles back to Holbrook, where there was an O’Reilly Auto Parts Store, just like there was in Payson where we had a less urgent car repair issue.

I was nervous the whole way — being stranded didn’t sound like it was any sort of adventure that I wanted to experience.

In Holbrook, we bought a battery which hub installed in a few minutes.

Everyone at O’Reilly (and hub)  thought that would/should solve the problem…and brushed aside my BRILLIANT and soon-to-be prophetic suggestion that we also purchase an alternator “just in case”.

We’ve gone on a lot of road trips and we’ve never had any problems, and so far this was our second mechanical failure in three days. For someone who has absolutely NO idea about what makes cars tick, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to stock up on parts that MIGHT break, right?

Can you guess where this is going?

We hadn’t gone more than one mile when the battery gauge indicated a problem in the electrical system  —  again.

Obviously not the battery this time, but hub said that somehow the battery wasn’t charging.

Yup.

The alternator or the voltage regulator was probably at fault. Apparently, everything decided to fail at the same time. We immediately turned around back to O’Reilly and lucked out that they even had the right part in stock or we might still be there.

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There’s a Dollar General on pretty much every corner throughout Arizona and I picked my way between broken glass and plastic bags across a trash strewn empty lot for a little retail therapy while hub was doing his best MacGyver impression. I went up and down every aisle but came away empty-handed; nothing caught my discerning eye. Oh well. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.carholbrook

Once again we settled in for a long ride. Because we had lost most of the day, we decided to change direction, skip National Bridges National Park and forge ahead to the Vermillion Cliffs at the The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah  – wandering ever closer to Zion.

Driving down Highway 40 — Old Route 66 — we both sang along with Nat to “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” I mean, how can you NOT, right?

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Along the way, on the side of the road, were a couple of Navajo women selling jewelry. I screeched, “Pull over!!” to hub, and jumped out of the car. The tables were packed with handmade jewelry — turquoise, hematite, juniper beads, and baskets. I asked before I snapped, and got a big smile for the camera.jewelryNavajo

A pretty good haul, don’t you agree? I got a basket too, but forgot to take a pic.navajojewelryArriving in Page too late to locate a campground, we had our worst night EVER at Motel Sucks Six in Page, Utah at fake Lake Powell. Apparently, this was a busy time for Page, as all the hotels were booked. The fact that Motel Six had any room available was NOT a good sign.

My travel tip to everyone is to avoid this Motel Six if at all possible. Especially Room 239. 

You’re welcome.

Next stop: Vermillion Cliffs!

 

 

Wandering to Zion…Part Two

Wandering to Zion, Day One: Princess Rosebud and her Tugboat Man
Part One and a Half…Wandering to Zion
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We were meandering; taking our sweet time getting to our ultimate destination of Zion National Park.  Zion was so crowded that we figured it was the perfect excuse to explore lesser known parks.

That’s how we roll, me and my tugboat man. This was the most relaxed road trip we’ve embarked upon; no stress or pressure — no deadline.

Moving on, literally…we left Payson, Arizona and drove to Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. We hiked to the largest travertine bridge in the world — 183 feet high with a tunnel width of 150 feet and length of 400 feet.

There was a bit of scary, slippery rock scrambling with a moderately steep drop; not one of my favorite things to do, but the view was worth it.

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Our next stop was the nearly 700 year-old Salado cave dwellings at Tonto National Monument. To get to them, there’s a steep but paved one-mile round-trip trail that ascends 350 feet to the Lower Cave Dwelling.

Built in the early 14th century, this village was part of a vast multi-cultural network that extended from the Four Corners region to Northern Mexico. While remnants of thousands of similar villages dot the Southwest, this well-preserved building represents one of the last Salido cliff dwellings. Local springs provided water for Paleo-Indians who lived here over 10,500 years ago.

There was so much to see and be amazed by —

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t am so in LOVE with Saguaro cactus — those arms that dot the landscape all over Arizona. We don’t have that variety of cactus in SoCal. I got a package of seeds and hope they sprout.

Saguaro cactus

Along the road, whenever we saw something that looked cool, we’d stop and follow a trail or hike to a monument or a site.

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It began to get late and we couldn’t find a campground again so we stayed at a Howard Johnson in Holbrook, Arizona. There was a quaint little Italian restaurant in walking distance with great pizza and decent chianti.

I’m not overly fond of hotels — I always make hub check for bugs and bring my own sanitizer — but it’s nice to take a shower and wash off the dust at the end of a long day. I don’t care if it’s a a five-star hotel, either. Have you seen those TV shows that expose the dirt and germs? So much ick, right?

Side note: Only in California do all public restrooms provide seat protectors. There needs to be a Federal law that make seat protectors mandatory. I HATE going all old school with toilet paper lining the seat — but I NEED that barrier between me and the rest of the world

Next time, Part Three of Wandering to Zion with Princess Rosebud and her Tugboat Man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wandering to Zion, Day One: Princess Rosebud and Her Tugboat Man

Day One… Sunday, April 13

Sort of a late departure at 9:30 a.m. ‘cos we still had some packing to do and my tugboat man wanted French toast for breakfast. Since he does 100% of the driving, he deserved a bit of pampering, right?

Vehicle mileage 176,080

We stopped at Vons to get water and ice before heading East on the 78 to North 15.

There was a squeaky sound near a belt or bearing or something that was annoying hub; I wasn’t really paying attention to what he was saying — blah blah blah, and we stopped to buy a small can of WD-40 at Lowe’s in Escondido and got back on the road.

11:35 a.m. On Highway 10, OMG, just saw a solo rollover crash on the south side of the freeway; we didn’t stop because so many other good samaritans had already pulled over to render aid  — hope it won’t a driver distracted by texting.

12:30 p.m. Ate lunch at a rest stop just outside Coachella where the music festival is happening this weekend.  35-40 mph winds, crazy windy!

7:00 p.m. Because it’s Easter week and everything’s so crowded, we changed our itinerary a bit and drove all the way to Payson, Arizona where we’re spending the night at a Comfort Inn.

Tomorrow we plan to leave early to hike to 13th century Native American pueblos, and then drive to the Petrified Forest National Park  — after than, we’re on to something hub found called The Grand Staircase or “escarpments” — after that the Grand Canyon, ending up at Zion later in the week.

Or something like that.

We’re pretty flexible. If we see something interesting, we’ll stop and camp and hike even if it’s not on our official itinerary.

The scenery here in and around Payson, Arizona is amazing. It’s in the middle of Navajo country.

We drove through Maricopa County, home to the eccentric and notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio, but we didn’t see any of his pink-clad chain prisoners, I’m glad to say.

We walked over to Denny’s Restaurant for dinner. I had a veggie burger and hub had grilled salmon with wild rice and broccoli. Everything was surprisingly delicious — or maybe we were just starved.

Good night!

Click on each pic to see a larger version.

 

Wandering To Zion

FINALLY, my tugboat man recovered from his bout with the flu and we’re packed and ready to leave early Sunday morning on a road trip to Zion National Park

It’s a place we’ve always wanted to visit — hopefully we’ll get to more than one park –have you seen all the TV commercials about Utah’s Mighty Five?

Utah’s five national parks have it all. See unique soaring spires, towering pinnacles, sandstone canyons, and intricately eroded arches of sculptured stone.

I’d love to camp and hike at Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park, too, and we’ll be try to include at least a couple days at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.

We might stay at a hotel or a lodge for a night, especially since the weather calls for night temps in the 30s and the possibility of rain.

It’s been a while since we’ve gone off the grid for a while; I’m really looking forward to beautiful country and some long, rigorous hikes.

Wearing my Chanel sunglasses to pop a squat in the desert; always fashion forward no matter where I go, that’s the way I roll.

Yay for adventures!

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On The Way To Yellowstone: Princess Rosebud And Her Tugboat Man

This summer, we embarked upon an Odyssean journey to fulfill my life’s dream of seeing the wolves of Yellowstone National Park.

It was an amazing ten days of a ife-changing, life-defining adventure, made bittersweet by the current slaughter of wolves in America.

Hub was the driver; I was the navigator, photographer, and keeper of a journal chronicling the three-thousand mile round trip.

We returned home and hardly had time to unpack and reminisce about what we saw and experienced when my merchant mariner got called back to work sooner than anticipated.

Such is the life of a tugboat captain’s wife…

Photos of magnificent peaks near Zion National Park on the way through Nevada and Utah.

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Stop Wolf Hunts Now

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Ghandi

Best Things to Do on Carlsbad Lagoon

Stand-Up paddleboarding and kayaking — on a perfectly perfect Southern California day.

When my son was here over the weekend for a brief visit, we took our new inflatable Sea Eagle kayak out on the Agua Hedionda lagoon along with hubs SUP (stand-up paddleboard) for my son to play with.

Ever the professional mariner, my tugboat man likes to do what he calls a “shakedown cruise” to make sure everything’s working right and our vessel is seaworthy.

Our lagoon was packed full of kayaks, SUPs, rowboats, and dogs running around the sandy beach — a thoroughly awesome Southern California day.

We’re taking the kayak on our vacation to Zion National Park in Utah and Yellowstone.

I’ve always wanted to hear the song of the wolf, and I hope my dream comes true on this trip.

US-National-Parks-Yellowstone-Wolf-Quest-2-wolves

I’ve got a VERY nice hub who likes to make my wishes turn into reality. SORT OF. He’s taking me on this vacation to placate me so that he doesn’t feel too guilty for running off on a surf trip to Nicaragua. He won’t come out and ADMIT it, but he doesn’t exactly deny it, either. Whatev, I’ll take the kind offer to camp out under the stars and hopefully not get mauled by bears or bison.

Sea Eagle kayak

Selfie! None of my hub especially since he was behind me and really doing all the work as usual! Well, MOST of the work; I did as much as I could with my injured arm.

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SUPUh oh, Professor, watch where you’re going! Navigational hazard ahead!

Carlsbad Lagoon Jboy

Whew! He made it, we went under it, too, but no pics.

Lagoon Carlsbad 1

Just a pretty little area, full of crabs and native plants.
Right then a huge fish glided by but you can’t see it, too bad.

LagoonEven though it’s so much more built up since we moved here in 1985, Carlsbad is still an idyllic place to raise a family. There are so many healthy activities on the water. We used to always walk to the lagoon and our dogs would play while we had a picnic.

Agua Hedionda Lagoon — also known as “stinking waters” ‘cos the mud STINKS for real — is a saltwater wetland and watershed and offers year-round recreational and commercial use.  The lagoon includes mud flats, salt and freshwater marsh, and deep water and is actually comprised of three lagoons:  a 66-acre outer lagoon, a 27-acre middle lagoon and 293-acre inner lagoon. The earliest inhabitants were the native Indians who lived on the shores and upland areas.

Going to the beach year-round;  riding bikes or walking everywhere–it’s a great place to live EXCEPT for the rampant overdevelopment.