Deserts and Canyons and Arches…Oh My!

Deserts and Canyons and Arches…Oh My!

America The Beautiful….The appropriately named National Park pass we purchased for $80 which has paid for itself 3 times over already.  We love the National Parks and experiencing as many as we can on this journey is a goal we are trying diligently and joyously to fulfill.  The campgrounds, the visitor centers, the rangers, the educational programs, the wildlife and the hiking trails all contribute to  the overall beauty which  in turn feeds the soul with such profound feelings and emotions, sometimes difficult to put into words….but here goes.

Grand Canyon….POWERFUL

This boundless view is capable of literally taking your breath away. Whether you’re a first time visitor or a return visitor (of 20 years, as are Bri and I), it takes more than a few moments to process its greatness. From the colorful layers of the earth, to the deep chiseled rock carved by The Colorado River, you literally feel as if you’re staring into a painting.Grand Canyon

We stayed 4 nights in the park campground at south rim.  And, although it is considered the “touristy” region, our experience was what we made it…spectacular .  We hiked several trails to various look out points, sometimes alongside mules and sometimes alongside unprepared tourists. This was the first time any of us did what we referred to as a” backwards hike” where the ascent was on the return route.  It was a slight challenge at first, but we were well equipped with the necessary supplies, mainly enough water, to prove the trek gratifying.  I’m not so sure the woman caked with face makeup, wearing flip-flops, one hand clutched to her Gucci bag, the other to a frappacino, felt the same way.  We also biked around a portion of the rim, attended a ranger led talk on The California Condor (a rare bird with a 9 1/2 foot wing span-which, unfortunately we did not see),  witnessed a small, intimate wedding, admired a very peaceful sunset and  had a beautiful elk visit our campsite for coffee one morning.

Grand CanyonColorado RiverG.C. sunset

Bryce Canyon……MAGICAL

Truly a fantastical backdrop of unique rock formations  everywhere you look.  Called “hoodoos”, these structures were formed by thousands of years of water and ice erosion. Boasting vibrant colors of red, orange and white, I initially had to remove my sunglasses to see if my eyes were deceiving me!Bryce

We stayed 2 nights in the park, again “backwards hiking” and walking the rim to the popular vistas. The names of some of the formations are quite fitting. “Fairyland”, “The Queens Garden”  and “Thor’s Hammer” were some of our favorites. After the first day, both River and Mercy, with a tinge of guilt in their voices, confessed to liking this canyon a little bit more than The Grand. We were also fortunate enough to have to stop for a herd of pronghorn, which aren’t often seen in the park.



Comprised of some of the tallest sandstone cliffs in the world and receiving its lifeblood from the ever flowing Virgin River, the scenery here is striking.Zion

We entered the park on the east side, coming through the 1.1 mile sandstone carved Mount Carmel Tunnel. In hindsight, we should have come in on the west side as some problems did arise. Our trailer just fit the size restrictions and we had to obtain a tunnel permit ($15, which our pass did not cover), and as with all oversize rigs, we had to wait for rangers to stop traffic and let us through. Despite losing our trailer tire rim and hubcap somewhere in the tunnel, we were still able to enjoy the stunning views exiting the tunnel and descending down the long, steep and winding mountain.  Until……..roughly 2/3 of the way down, the trailer brake controller started flashing these bright red letters….OL OL OL.  Then, that smell of burning rubber and Bri realizing that our braking powers had all but fled. Luckily, there was a pullout and after parking it  for a while to let the brakes cool (and to recover from a near heart attack) we realized we had enough power in the truck brakes to crawl the rest of the way down and into the campground.  Upon leaving the park, our brakes started working again. But, after inspection, we did require a new $800 brake job.

We stayed here 4 or 5 nights as the inherent change of landscape and the presence of flowing water refreshed us physically and mentally after having spent weeks in  hot, dry, and dusty deserts. The desert in Zion is different as it harbors more than one environment and the ability to witness the  diversity in one place was a respite.  The fact that many of the trails had water of some form or another (Emerald pools, weeping rock , and of course the river) made for five happy campers. (Daisy also got some swim time in). Witnessing the sun cast it’s effervescent glow upon the majestic cliffs in the late afternoon was something to look forward to each day we were there.

Zion tunnelVirgin RiverZion


Sculptured rock scenery consisting of towering spires, pinnacles, balanced rock, windows, natural bridges, and of course, arches, makes for some gorgeous photographic opportunities.  Although you can see a lot of the park by car, the foot trails and short hikes give you  more of a sense of the size, scale and density of the rocks.Delicate Arch

We stayed 5 nights just outside the park at a great campground in Moab along The Colorado. We did most of the park in just one day, hiking out to Delicate Arch, which is THE famous arch, the one seen on the State of Utah’s license plate.  A relatively easy but hot hike in which the payoff of seeing the enormity of  it in addition to having our photo taken underneath it was gratifying. I’m not so sure  it was like that for the young 20 something year old couple hiking out there with nothing but 2 bottles of Mountain Dew. I seriously thought we were going to have to forfeit all of our water when I saw the girl could only go approximately 8-10 steps before having to stop , sit down and catch her breath.  She claimed she was getting over a sickness.  Bri and Riv explained to her boyfriend that they should be carrying water and not a dehydrating, caffeinated, sugary drinks. I believe they made it back okay.  

Landscape Arch was our next hike.  After watching the park video, we learned that a portion of the arch broke off in 1992, witnessed and caught on film by some hikers. Today, you can see the pieces that broke off and as you look up.  It’s hard to fathom that the thinnest part of the arch is only 6 feet thick. Who knows how long it will be before the entire arch crumbles. I’m just glad it didn’t happen in our presence. Knowing me, I would’ve stayed to catch it on film and sold it to National Geographic or The Discovery Channel…..for the soul reason of prolonging our trip.   Mercy received her first Junior Ranger badge here and now she is hooked on the program.

ArchesLandsccape ArchArches

We have left the desert and are currently in Colorado. I do believe that the kids have a renewed sense of adventure after seeing such lush, green landscape in this state.  Or, it may have something to do with the fact that school is out and summer has been bringing more families to the campgrounds, which in itself is…..DELIGHTFUL!

Final Thoughts On The Ranch: A Comedic Interlude 1

Final Thoughts On The Ranch: A Comedic Interlude 1

 So, you know those pop-up shade houses with the canvas tops that attach to the white metal frame of the structure with Velcro? What are they called? Easy Ups? Well we’ve had one of those for years. It has always been more handy when being used as a tent canopy than a shade house. In fact on more than one occasion it has spared us some serious tent flooding on various camping trips over the years. For that very reason it has always been dear to me and I have taken it on every outdoor, camping-like excursion (including this one) for as long as we have had it.
    Well, being out in the southern Arizona desert for a month, I decided to break it out and let it do the job it was born to do. With the lack of trees and shady places to sit in, I set it up apart from the RV to serve as a little sitting/relaxation area, away from our general living space so to speak. I put a little camp table we had acquired out there and even thought about running some power to it so as to have some music or whatever else may require electricity, to help enjoy an afternoon in the desert shade.
    Although Tan had warned me that these strong desert winds might do a number on my little oasis, I staked down the legs and felt fairly confident that the Easy Up would weather any heavy winds. After all, the tent I had set up for Mercy was doing just fine in these conditions. Well one particular day we decided to leave the ranch and head into town for the afternoon. Again, the winds were strong but I wasn’t too concerned… until we got back! The tent of course was fine but my shady rest area was a mangled mess! The canvas top had torn in multiple places and the frame lay in a bent up heap due to the monstrous gusts of wind causing it to collapse in upon itself.
    I abandoned all thought and ran for my poor shelter like a father charging to the rescue of an injured child. I pulled the shredded fabric from the wreckage and surveyed the damage. After some careful untangling, the frame wasn’t actually in that bad a shape. It had bent at some of the joints but I was able to make some repairs using my trusty grip locks and some minor replacement parts I just so happened to have. Whew! A few days later, after plucking up the courage to assess the torn canvas, I was happy to see that the hideous, ragged rips I had envisioned turned out to be a few straight (although loooong) tears that I could probably quite easily repair using that which fixes EVERYTHING… Duck Tape! (I will mention briefly that the only worthy duct tape is DUCK brand duct tape!)
    Like a surgeon pulling back together each side of a gash left in the skin from a nasty knife fight, I carefully repaired the wounds in the skin of my desert companion. After an hour or so in the beating hot sun and after using almost 1/3 of a roll of Duck Tape, I had completed the necessary repairs. Proud of my work and glad to have healed a friend, I gently gathered up the weathered canvas and carried it over to be reunited with its equally weathered and mended frame. With care I tossed the repaired canvas top over the frame and secured all of the Velcro straps and various attachment points. After completing my task, with the sun beating down I settled into my chair in the newly created shade and comfort of my old friend. With a sigh of relief and satisfaction, I thought to myself, “Job well done, and next time the winds are strong I’ll simply remove the top and put it away until the calm returns. No worries.”
    Later that very same afternoon of what was a calm, yet very hot day, Tanya and I were standing by the front of the RV. Mercy was further away in the pen feeding the animals we had been charged with caring for here on the ranch. Suddenly one of those mini tornadoes (“dust devils” are they called?) materialized right before our eyes in front of the garage near the animal pen. We hollered to Mercy to take cover in the animal shelter as the whirling devil whipped up a swirling cloud of dust. As if that were just for show it proceeded to tear a plywood wall off of one of the other A-frame animal shelters as it headed down its path of destruction. Tanya and I ducked beside the RV as the dust forced us to cover our eyes and turn our backs to the vortex of the mini tornado. As the winds died down it suddenly dawned on me the path that bastard devil had taken. I rose and with my heart in my throat I ran (I think I even screamed!) and turned the corner of the RV to see my newly repaired shade cottage in the exact same mangled heap as before. The dust devil had vanished as if it were never there.
    The roof was now torn in about half a dozen new places (the duck tape repairs held – but what a sacrifice!) with some all of the way across the fabric. I removed the re-injured material and while cursing the heavens stuffed it into the trash can feeling like “the old man” in “A Christmas Story” disposing of his leg-lamp. I can only guess that after watching me toil in the sun, using half of my coveted duck tape, that some desert god or wind spirit decided to make me the unwitting target of its mischief, perhaps looking for a little amusement out in the desert heat.
So I ask you this; does anyone have a canvas canopy top to a pop-up shade house they don’t use anymore? In baby blue? Please?

Desperately needing an EZ top