Transit to Salt Lake City and Fun Stuff©

Hiya folks…long time no type. Gunther here again…I managed to escape from the O2 Rehabilitation Facility and we’re back down at a low enough altitude where I think I’ll survive…so I’ve retaken the reins of the blog from Kara.

Thursday we were up early for our 300 mile transit up to Salt Lake City…about 20 miles back down UT state highways to I-15 then straight up the freeway. We arrived at our destination about 1530 and settled in quickly to site B34 at the Pony Express RV Park just north of downtown. We had a date with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir who have a public rehearsal at 1930 on Thursdays…they’re rehearsing for their Pioneer Days concerts this week so it promised to be worth listening to.

We set off and found a surface parking lot in downtown and trekked the 1/3 of a mile or so over to the Beerhive Pub for brews and dinner. Neil had Desert Edge Brewery Latter Day Stout and Connie had Two Row Brewing Inevitable Amber Ale…both were pretty outstanding. They had this neat refrigerated portion of the bar top…a metal trough with cooling coils in it to keep your brew cold. That’s it just below Neil’s pint below.

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Connie had a bruschetta to go along with hers and Neil had the best chicken strips we’ve ever tasted. Rather than the processed and frozen crap you usually get…this was a whole chicken breast smashed thin, breaded, and deep fried sort of like a schnitzel. It was then topped with Parmesan and run under the salamander to melt and was served with honey-mustard sauce.

Once that was done we walked back over to the Mormon Convention Center where the rehearsal…and the later concert…will be and listened to the rehearsal. Men to the right, women to the left and the altos…Connie’s peeps…are towards the center.

The rehearsed with their headliner for the Pioneer concerts…his name is Allen something…he’s a “famous recording artist and youtube sensation” according to the emcee…we never heard of him but he was pretty good and obviously having a great time. Not too much religious music on the program as it’s the Pioneer Day celebration…but he showed a pretty good range of styles. Rehearsal kept getting stopped and started…just like in Connie’s old days in choir and the New Dominion Chorale.

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Afterwards was home and bed…we were tuckered out.

Friday we wanted to head down to Temple Square and see what there was to see…and catch the 1200 Organ Recital in the Tabernacle.

Temple Square is a 35 acre complex where they run the Mormon Church (more formally known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or sometimes LDS)…similar in purpose to the Vatican in Rome.

Here’s the Temple…we couldn’t go inside because it’s members only…ya gotta have the decoder ring and know the secret handshake to get in I guess.

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Neil took a second shot of the temple reflected in the fountain…had to piece it together as a pano as he left the really wide lens in the car…but he would have had to piece it together anyway he says.

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And here’s the Assembly Hall…it’s just another church on the complex…I’m not sure whether they deliberately set out to build more than one or whether it was more a case of outgrowing the original…we counted a total of 3 (at least) and the original Tabernacle was on the site of the Assembly Hall but was razed for it.

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And here’s the Tabernacle.

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From reviewing wikipedia…there was the original Tabernacle which was members only…then the current Tabernacle was built…then the original Tabernacle was torn down and the Assembly Building constructed. Later the Temple was constructed at which point the Tabernacle became open to non Mormons.

Finally…two houses that Brigham Young lived in. The first is Beehive House…named after the beehive cupola on the roof. He lived there when he was territorial governor and the head of the church. Second is Lion House…named after the lion over the porch where he lived after retiring.

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From there we headed off to the Tabernacle for the 1200 Organ Recital…on the 11,700+ pipe organ in the 2300 or so seat auditorium/church. Quite nice…and it really sounded good as well. Afterwards we headed home for lunch and rest.

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Saturday we had 2 goals…first was to go out and see the Great Salt Lake…but we found that the water is really far down, in fact at the marina we were going to go visit to see it all of the sailboats had been pulled out of the water as it’s too shallow for them…so we just opted to stop by the viewpoint…if you can call it that…off of I-80.

Suffice it to say that the Great Salt Lake is pretty much a bust. There’s a thick haze layer over it that clears up once you get a little east. If you’re at the viewpoint the water is probably a mile away and you’re looking over dried salty muck…think Death Valley type desert if you’ve been there and you’ll be pretty close…it was awful looking and hot as heck in addition so we didn’t stay long. What a dreary place.

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You can actually see that there’s water in this one…although Neil had to crank the Dehaze filter in Lightroom up to about +35 to see it.

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Once we were done with that we headed east about 30 miles from the lake viewpoint to Park City for lunch. Park City is on the east side of the Wasatch Mountains and is littered with ski lifts on the peaks to the west of downtown. Think of it as the Pigeon Forge of UT and again you’ll be pretty close. It’s about 2,600 feet higher than Salt Lake City is and about 20 degrees cooler. The reason we chose it for lunch was a place named Freshie’s…they are owned by a couple of 30something refugees from Maine and specialize in Lobstah Rolls as the downeasters would call them…in early July Freshie’s captured the crown of “World’s Best Lobster Roll” at the Down East Lobster Festival in Portland ME. Since they were the winners…and not from Maine but Utah of all places…and since we were here…we figured it was worth the drive.

It was only Neil’s second Lobstah Roll evah…again as the downeasters would say…and it was a huge improvement over the standard one you get at most places back there. Usually it’s the top split hotdog bun with cold mayo-based lobster salad in it…like tuna salad except lobster. Freshie’s spreads lobster mayo on the outside of the bun and then toasts it on a griddle…the oil in the mayo makes it golden brown and delicious as Alton Brown would say…then the inside gets a little more lobster mayo on the bottom, stuffed with lobster meat, and topped with a tablespoon or two of melted butter, lemon peel, and chives. The girl making them said that she had added it up and although it seemed decadent it was actually only about 380 calories. We got two of them with chips and a drink for about $33…it was pretty good but probably overpriced for what you get…but then since Park City is really just Pigeon Forge West they charge Disneyland prices.

I guess if you have to put a lobstah on a sandwich it’s probably the best way to do so…but Neil says he would much rather the crustacean give it’s life for lobster ravioli or lobster and linguini and it was wasted on a sandwich.

Monday we set off for a trip to the UT state capitol building…we tend to always go there and take the tour when we pass through any state capital. This was a bit strange as it’s the first state capitol building we’ve been in that didn’t have much security…there was a single guard who was randomly at the desk but no metal detectors or anything else was to be seen. That’s the way it used to always be back before 9/11 happened. It turned out that the tour guide volunteer was sick so a lady from the visitor center took us on the tour.

We learned that the population of Utan is about 65% LDS overall and ranges from just a hair over 50% in Salt Lake County to over 80% in 3 of the most rural counties…we knew that LDS was the predominant religion here but thought it was something less than 65%…our tour guide told us that just as there were cafeteria Catholics there were lots of cafeteria and non-practicing LDS members. The capitol build was built between 1912-1916 and underwent a major renovation in 2004-2008 which included the addition of earthquake protection measures. Essentially the building is supported by 250 or so concrete columns holding up it’s 170,000,000 pounds or 85,000 tons. Since the building is situated…as is the rest of Salt Lake City…on the Wasatch Fault and susceptible to earthquake…the renovation included the addition of a base isolation system to allow the building to move relative to the ground and thus better survive an earthquake up to magnitude 7.3. Basically each of the columns was cut and had an isolation system inserted into it…each system is about 3 feet in diameter and 18 inches or so tall. Each isolation system has a central vertical core of lead about 8 inches in diameter surrounded by horizontal layers of steel and rubber. During an earthquake the lead deforms (it wasn’t clear whether it melted or just elastically deformed) and the combination of the lead and the steel and rubber plates basically serves as a shock mounting for the weight on the column. The overall effect is to mechanically isolate the building from the base rock it sits on and thus if/when the earthquake happens the ground can shake underneath the building and the building won’t move. They don’t make the building earthquake proof but earthquake resistant.

The acoustics up on the second floor…which is actually the main floor that’s one to the rotunda…were pretty spectacular. The lady in the photo below is going to sing the National Anthem on Pioneer Day on July 24…Pioneer Day is the celebration of Brigham Young founding Salt Lake City and is actually a bigger holiday here than July 4th is. She was practicing and sounded really great…even without a microphone she was clearly audible and she was at least 50 yards away in the photo. Very little echo or reverb in the rotunda area which was surprising considering it’s almost all marble.

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Painting in the legislative lobby on the 4th floor.

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Statue in the rotunda area.

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The Gold Room next to the Governor’s office…used for bill signings, meeting important people and the like.

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Painting just below the rotunda…like many state capitols there are are statues and paintings symbolizing the values of the state in the corners that hold up the rotunda.

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Light sconce.

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Ceiling decoration…they’re fascinated with children here in Utah.

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Window in the Governor’s office.

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The Governor’s office…all of the furniture is constructed out of wood from trees that were felled during the 1999 tornado. 

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Brigham Young…founder of the LDS, inventor of Utah, and first territorial governor of Utah. Our guide in the background…don’t know why she wore those sky heels to walk around on marble floors doing a tour.

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House chamber.

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Painting on the far wall of the House chamber…all the paintings in here are of people signifying that the House is the chamber of the people. This is actually Brigham Young’s grandniece…she was the first woman to vote in Utah and that was 50 years before universal suffrage was granted by Congress. Women lost the right to vote due to polygamy being practiced in Utah when it became a state and then regained it when the rest of the country did.

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Senate chamber…votes here are still by roll call vice the electronic voting used in the House.

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Bison sculpture in the legislative lobby area…our tour guide again on the right.

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Supreme Court chamber…they actually have another building elsewhere where they transact most of their business but by law they’re required to meet at least annually in the capitol building…so they do that in April each year here.

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One of the base isolation systems in the basement…the next photo shows the interior and how they’re constructed…again, lead core and steel and rubber plates. Basically it’s the equivalent of a giant Slinky toy.

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North entrance of the building looking over the reflecting fountain.

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Interesting stuff found on the net this week.

Found this on a photo forum Neil frequents named Ugly Hedgehog…thought it epitomizes the complete idiocy of all sides involved with our elected officials in DC.

Once in a while we just have to stand back in awe of government.
The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
is proud to be distributing the greatest amount of free Meals and Food Stamps ever –
46 million people now receive Food Stamps.
Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior,
asks us “Please Do Not Feed the Animals.”
Their stated reason for the policy is because “The animals will grow dependent on
handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves.”
Besides that…it’s a $100 fine if you do.
Thus ends today’s lesson in irony.

That’s how it works I guess.


Guess it’s not so secret any more.


Rainbow at Yosemite Falls.


I guess this sign means No Fishing…or maybe No Running with Fish…or something.


Things I have learned from the movies.


Prehistoric Googling.


And finally…a tip for cooking your kale.


Tomorrow we’re off on a 2 day transit…overnight in Elko NV then arrival in Reno NV Wednesday afternoon.


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The Narrows and Kolob Canyon

Tuesday we were up early…0500…for our 0630 planned departure from the rig. With a 30 minute drive to the Zion Visitor Center and a 40 minute ride on the shuttle up to the Temple of Sinawava where our planned hike started. Our plan was to do the 2 mile round trip on the Riverside Trail and then wade into The Narrows a bit and get some cool photographs.

The Narrows is the second signature hike at Zion…and consists of several options. The gorge itself ranges from 30-100 feet wide and 500-1,300 feet deep from the rim to the river depending on location within the gorge. The complete hike is 16 miles and you’re hiking in the river for most of the time…there are numerous sections that are chest deep and several that require swimming. For us…that goes beyond Fun Stuff© into stupidity so we decided to pass on it. What most people do is hike the Riverside Trail and then go into the first section of The Narrows and wade upstream until they get tired of it and turn around…that gives you a bit of the flavor of them and allows getting photographs without risking life and limb. This is a dangerous hike…not because of the wading or rocks although they’re not trivial…but because of the possibility of a flash flood. Like other slot canyons in the west…you can be hiking in knee deep water one minute and within 30 seconds you’ve been inundated with a 12 foot wall of water filled with debris. Rain anywhere upstream can quickly raise the water levels while it remains clear and brilliant blue skies where you’re wading. Given that…and our non-interest in a 9 mile hike in the river bed which would take many hours…we just did the amuse bouche version of the hike (for those of you who may not be familiar with the French term or who don’t eat at high enough class restaurants…an amuse bouche is a single bite appetizer usually served in fancier eateries just after you sit down…it’s whatever the chef felt like making today, isn’t on the menu, and is included in the price of your meal…but it’s just a tasty bite or two at the most. Actually…we don’t eat at high enough class restaurants to get one regularly either.) National Geographic rates this is the 5th best adventure in the US…there are actually 12 campsites located in the canyon built by the park service…they’ve been constructed in areas above the water so you will survive a potential flash flood while you’re asleep…although it’s only 16 miles it’s really a 2 day hike due to the wading in the water, swimming, and slow going generally.

We arrived at the parking lot at the Temple of Sinawava just before 0800 and it was still cool…70s max…and shaded within the Gorge. The Temple of Sinawava where the road ends is a half mile or so wide spot in the canyon with walls about 3,000 feet wide. However, once you start up the trail alongside the Virgin River (actually the North Fork of the Virgin River to be precise…according to Wikipedia only the East Fork and North Fork exist…looking at the watershed map it empties into Lake Powell south of Zion and after passing through Zion over to Mount Carmel it splits into the North Fork and East Fork).

Before I really get into that…I need to respond to reader Ron (actually Neil’s older brother) who had a question about the grade on Walter’s Wiggles. They rise about 500 feet over about 400 feet horizontally…so it would be a 50 degree or so slope except for the switchbacks. Here’s a couple of shots so you can see what I mean. As you can see…they’re pretty steep and from the second photo you can see that each switchback is 50 feet or so long so it’s probably only 20 or 25 degrees actual grade. There’s another section of switchbacks further back on the trail up…they get you part way up the canyon wall and then the Wiggles get you to the West Rim trail…you continue out that a bit until you get to Scout’s Landing where you can either get some photos and head back down or you can head out the spine of the fin to Angel’s Landing with the 1,000 foot drop-offs on each side of the narrow trail that I showed the pictures of the other day.



Heading upstream we took 30 or 40 minutes to get to the end of Riverside Walk. Connie took a look at the river and quickly decided she wasn’t wading upstream. The water was ankle to mid-thigh deep on Neil and flowing pretty quickly at 6 or 8 miles an hour. There are bowling ball sized cobblestones forming the river bottom and the flow of water over them combined with her lack of depth perception quickly convinced her she would end up falling in so she stayed at the end of the Riverside Trail and Neil hiked/waded 500 or 600 yards upstream after donning his water shoes so he would have dry hiking boots and socks on the way back. Many nice photos were taken and after 40 minutes or so he was back at where Connie was waiting. After a quick snack and changing into dry boots we headed back to the parking lot and boarded the bus. We stopped by Zion Lodge and had a burger for lunch…we were going to eat in the dining room but it wasn’t open yet and we were too hungry to wait 20 more minutes for them to open. After lunch we headed home to rest for the hot part of the day. We definitely noticed that between the end of the Riverside Walk trail and the campground in Virgin that there was a 10-15 degree temperature difference.

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An Usie at the Hanging Gardens. Hanging gardens are formed where there’s a seep…a seep happens when water filters down through the porous limestone and then runs into a non porous layer of rock where it turns sideways and seems out the side of the canyon wall…it forms a wet spot and plant life takes advantage of that…I know there’s a joke somewhere in that wet spot line and that wise ass bear woulda not only found it but put it in here…but I’m trying to rise above low brow humor and maintain decorum here yaknow.

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Two different treatments of the same series of shots…I can’ decide which one I like best…let me know which one you like better

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And he’s off…into the river.

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Connie got some shots while he was gone.

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Some of these have people in them…some don’t. The reasons vary…sometimes I left the people in for scale, sometimes Neil carefully waited until there we no people in his shot, sometimes I carefully cropped them out, and sometimes I used the Magic People Remover© software to just get rid of ‘em.

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One of my favorite shots of the day.

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He was begging for food…we didn’t give him any…after all it’s a $100 fine if you do.

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If he had gone just a little farther up the canyon…he would have gotten to what’s called the Wall Street section…but unfortunately his feet were starting to hurt from the rocks…so he’s glad he headed back. Here’s a couple of shots I cribbed from the internet so you can see what this section would have looked like.


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On the way back we ran into a couple small waterfalls…so Neil broke out the tripod and got some shots.

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Wednesday we just had a quick driving tour…25 miles or so up I-15 to the Kolob Canyon portion of Zion…stopped by the visitor center and got the stamp in our National Park Passport as they have a different one than the main visitor center does…and then took the 5 mile mostly straight up scenic drive up to Kolob Canyon Viewpoint. Got some photos and headed home for all the pre-travel day stuff in the afternoon as we’re traveling to Salt Lake City tomorrow. The views at Kolob are more of looking at a bunch of what are called finger canyons opening out to a plain.

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An Usie at the overlook.

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Connie took this one and Neil HDRed it…I think it’s the best shot of the day. Both of the following are of Timber Top Mountain on the left and the little point sticking up at the right end is the 6,995 foot Shuntavi Butte…although to us it looks like it’s still part of Timber Top…but what do we know.

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Neil’s version of the shot above…he was using his really wide angle zoom and left the closeup to Connie…both are good but we all like hers better this time.

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A pano of the steep switchbacks on the way back down…you can just see the road on the right side as it curves to the right then back to the left just below…then back to the right again and then sharply back to the left and down just in front of the far rock wall.

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Interesting things found on the net this week.

Never do a photoshoot in a brown dress.


I’m thinking that Grandma wasn’t real popular with her family.


The Boeing Triple 7 has a crucial design flaw.


Seems like a legit Spanish translation to me.



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Day Trip to Kolob Canyon Region of Zion National Park

We had an easier day planned for today…after breakfast we headed off for a driving trip up to the Kolob Reservoir which takes you through the southern portion of the Kolob Canyon area of Zion National Park…Kolob is up in the northwest corner of the overall park. We knew we would not actually see Kolob Canyon today…that’s scheduled for Wednesday and requires a drive back up I-15 20 miles or so before entering the far northwest corner of Zion

Connie declared today to be the adventure portion of the tour…we define the adventure portion as either you don’t have complete and precise directions of where you’re going or you don’t know what you will see when you get there. Today’s trip fit both of those requirements.

According to Google maps and Apple maps…there was a road all the way up to UT-14 that we were on last week on our trip out to Cedar Breaks National Monument…but it (a) turned out to be a dirt road for an unknown number of miles and (b) we weren’t real sure that the road we thought we should turn on was actually what we thought it was and not a road into private property…there were some No Trespassing signs nearby where we almost turned off of the road around Kolob Reservoir and it wasn’t really clear what was marked. So we passed on it and turned around to head home rather than take the uncertain route out to the freeway and thence back through Cedar City to Virgin.

It turned out to be a really good trip…lots more wonderful scenery albeit a little different than the main Zion Canyon part of the park…more wooded for one and we actually saw some wildlife.

On our arrival at Kolob Reservoir we parked for awhile and had a banana for lunch before heading home.

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Nice house we saw along the way…probably $500K out here or would be $4M back in VA where we used to live.

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Turned around after taking the house photo and this is their view.

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Doe mule deer.

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Swanson’s Hawk we’re pretty sure.

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Mr. Ed…he was just standing there looking over the fence.

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Kolob Reservoir.

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Canada geese.

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They’re serious about their sharp curve speed recommendations here…this was going into a 180 switchback…if you were on a bike riding up the hill and took the inside apex of the corner it was probably 22-23% grade.

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Immature California Condor…very much like a Turkey Vulture except almost twice the size. The captive breeding program that brought this bird back from the verge of extinction released some in AZ and they migrated up here to the Zion area.

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Virgin River looking up and then downstream behind Zion River Resort where we’re parked just out of the frame and over the berm to the left. It’s really not a very big river to have carved the Zion Canyon you saw in yesterday’s post…maybe 25 yards wide and at most 18 inches deep.

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A really strange tow vehicle 2 sites down from us…Ford F650…but it appears that it was modified by adding a new frame underneath the original one or maybe they just put an F650 body on top of a custom frame.

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Interesting Stuff found on the net.

Meanwhile…only in Florida.


Breaking News.


Google Survey.



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Transit to Virgin UT and Day Trip to Mukuntuweap

Saturday we got up early and by 0830 or so we were on the road for our 130 mile transit from Bryce Canyon City UT to Virgin UT…we headed back west on UT-12 through Red Canyon to US-89 then north to UT-20 where we turned west again. UT-20 was 23 miles or so of twisty, curvy road with a long uphill and then another long downhill as we got across the mountains to I-15. From there we turned south and after 25 miles or so we got off the freeway and filled up with DEF/topped off with 10 gallons or so of diesel…prices in Virgin are pretty high…then we went another couple of exits south and stopped by Walmart for some groceries. We specifically picked this Walmart since we had the house in tow and it had a big parking lot.

Loaded up with the groceries we needed, got turned around in the parking lot so we could get out…we had parked out of the way but a bunch of other RVs filled in around us…and another 50 miles south on I-15 before getting off on UT highways to Virgin UT.

We arrived around 2PM and got checked in to site 54 in Zion River Campground right on the Virgin River about 15 miles from the entrance to Zion National Park. We’ve got a 5 night stay and it was too hot to put out the flag…it’s over 100 degrees again like it was in Page…and after a quick shower headed off to St. George UT for Mass on Saturday evening. After Mass we stopped by our chosen destination for dinner…Stagecoach Grill…but it was closed for a private party. We sort of wondered why they would close on Saturday evening (gotta be the busiest day for a restaurant) for a party…but had to regroup and go to plan B. That was the Bit and Spur Saloon in Springdale UT right outside of the park. We had a really great dinner…Connie had fresh guacamole and chips and said it was really good. Neil had a Pork Carnitas  Burrito which came with some really great mole sauce…flavored with chili peppers, chocolate and coffee…and stuffed with black beans and rice in addition to the pork carnitas. It was huge…easily larger in diameter than a fully stuffed hotdog bun and about 8 inches long. He thought he would only eat a little but ended up eating about 3/4 of it and we’ll make an omelet out of the rest tomorrow for breakfast. Really, really good…hot but not too spicy and full of flavor. We had a couple of Wasatch Brewery Evolution Amber Ales to go along with dinner and then headed home.

Sunday we had an all day trip out to Mukuntuweap…which is a Southern Paiute word that means Straight Up Land…you probably know it more correctly as Zion National Park…but again although the Paiute word is much more apropos…it wouldn’t fit on the t-shirt. It’s a much better term for this park than Zion though…perfectly descriptive as Indian words are wont to be.

So…Zion National Park comprises about 147,000 acres in southwest UT…and again it’s part of the much larger Colorado Plateau. The good news is that it’s actually a canyon as it was carved by the Virgin River.

Car traffic is extremely limited in the park…since there is basically no parking. You park at the visitor center and take the free park shuttle to get to a total of 9 stops through the canyon…there are two other areas away from the main Zion Canyon…both are basically in the Kolob Canyon area in the northwest portion of the park but you have to drive in 2 different ways…we have those drives scheduled for Monday and Wednesday sandwiched around a hike along the Virgin River and a section of Zion Canyon named The Narrows on Tuesday. We got to the visitor center around 0830 and parked then stopped at the Human History Museum at stop 2 for the park movie (really great and better than most national park movies)…then stopped at all the stops except #5 on the way north. We got off the shuttle, wandered around and took pictures and then got back on for the next stop. Stop 5 we skipped until the way back as we were going to hike to the Lower Emerald Pool which has a waterfall.

Virgin UT where we are parked sits about about 3,800 feet and the elevation in the park ranges from 3,600 to 8,700 feet…so again it was gonna be an oxygen test, particularly combined with the heat which was 100+ even in the park by about 1100.

Zion was established as a National Monument by President Taft in 1909 and upgraded to National Park status in 1919. In 1927-1930 the Zion Mount Carmel Highway was constructed to provide road access to the eastern portion of the park…this included blasting a mile long tunnel which was the longest tunnel in the United States when it was completed. The road up to the northern of the canyon at the Temple of Sinawava was built between 1896 and 1906 and the trail up to Angel’s Landing was built in 1926.

In both Neil and Connie’s opinion…Zion Canyon has both Bryce, the Grand Canyon, and even Cedar Breaks beat…not because it’s the deepest, longest or widest canyon but more because of it’s relatively compact size. Most of the canyon is about 1,500-1,800 feet from rim to floor and at it’s widest point at the southern end it’s probably 2 miles side. As you proceed north/upstream into the canyon it continually narrows until it’s about 600 or 800 yards wide at the north end of the road and narrows even more than that as you walk northwards on the Riverside Walk and into The Narrows…more on those in a bit. I wouldn’t call it a hidden gem as everybody knows it exists…but it’s really, really impressive scenery.

Zion…as with a lot of the places in UT…was named by Mormon settlers and the biblical reference was because they thought it was close to God. The original settlers said the the grandeur of the canyon made it a natural cathedral which rivaled anything built by the hands of man.

Ok, enough blathering already…let’s get on to photos of our day.

Shots here taken from the Human History Museum at the second shuttle stop.

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This arch (left center) is across the road from the museum…it’s about 200 feet long and 20 feet thick…doesn’t look it in the photo but it’s about 1.5 miles away…this is zoomed in as far as the lens would go. Connie saw it better later in the day when the sun was high enough to illuminate it…we’ll try to get a better picture later on.

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The Three Patriarchs…Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob peaks…again named by the Mormon settlers.

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Ok, the next section has photos of Angel’s Landing so I guess I better ‘splain that a bit.

Zion has two signature hikes…the trek up to Angel’s Landing and The Narrows…we’ll cover the latter later in the week since we didn’t go there today. Angel’s Landing is a rock on the west side of Zion Canyon that’s about 1,500 feet high. It was named Angel’s Landing by…again…the Mormons who thought it was so high that only an angel could get up to it. Looking at the photo below of the 3D casting in the visitor center you can see Zion Canyon going from SW to NE (North is at the top). Look on the east side of the canyon about half way up the photo and there’s a brown side canyon going east…ignore that canyon except for it’s the signpost. Look at about 10 o’clock from the west end of the side canyon and you’ll see a thin fin sticking out into the main canyon from the west rim…it goes up then there’s a smaller rock just to the east of the end of the fin.

The fin is Angel’s Landing and as you’ll see in a bit it’s really narrow.

Neil really, really wanted to do this hike…but it’s about 5 miles round trip, has a 1,500 foot elevation gain and loss (most of it in Walter’s Wiggles as discussed below) and starts at about 4,200 feet. Connie said…no way, I can’t do it. Neil thought he might be able to get up there…but it would be an all day hike with uncertain success given the altitude and his current state of hiking fitness…so we passed on it and just took photos from the bottom.

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Even though we didn’t do the hike up to Angel’s Landing…I wanted to show you what we (and you) missed so Neil scrounged the next few images from the internet…credit for them goes to either Photos by Tanya or Joe Braun Photography.

You start at the parking lot just to the west (left) of the side canyon you ignored in the above 3D model explanation and then proceed westward along the bottom of the fin that contains Angel’s Landing. That becomes an area known as Refrigerator Canyon as it’s cooler and after a mile or so from the parking lot you get to the back end of the canyon. From there you proceed up Walter’s Wiggles…named after the first park superintendent Walter Ruesch who had the trail constructed in 1926. Walter’s Wiggles are a series of 21 switchbacks that get you up to the canyon rim and have about 800-900 of the total elevation gain. Here’s a shot of what they look like…you’re looking directly NE up the canyon rim direction and as you can see they just climb relentlessly up the sheer cliff of the canyon wall. You can’t see the fin of Angel’s Landing in this shot…it’s just out of sight to the right but you can see Scout’s Landing which is the last hurdle before the fin. 

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From Scout’s Landing you then turn east and proceed out onto the fin and eventually after another 300 feet or so of elevation and 1/2 mile you get to the eastern most point on Angel’s Landing…it’s pretty narrow with 1,000+ foot drop-offs on both sides…definitely not for the faint of heart. Connie said she wouldn’t go out there even if there was a road to the top of Walter’s Wiggles.

Scout’s Landing

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Heading out the fin.

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And at the end of the fin at Angel’s Landing…this shot is looking north up the canyon.

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And looking south…this is probably the single most famous view at Zion.

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Three more shots from the Landing…looking south, east towards the parking lot at Big Bend shuttle stop, and then north.

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That’s all the photos we borrowed fro the net…again credit for them goes to Tanya (sorry, no last name on the page Neil found them on) and Joe Braun. Now back to our photos.

Looking south down the canyon from Big Bend…the Landing is off to the right.

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Looking west from Big Bend…The White Throne on the left, the Organ in center and the tip of Angel’s Landing behind the Organ…although it’s hard to really tell which is which in this view.

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The view from another mile or two north and a bit further west in the canyon…looking south here at the Organ and farther to the right the White Throne. You can just see the base of the end of the Angel’s Landing fin on the far right.

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Looking slightly to the right of the above shot…here’s the end of the Angel’s Landing fin. From here it doesn’t really look as narrow and dangerous as you can see it is from the borrowed images above. 

Neil was bummed that he didn’t have time to try this hike…he’s not sure he would have made it anyway but it would have been nice to try. Given our limited time here in Zion, the state of his hiking fitness, and the altitude and heat discretion was the better part of the decision here. 

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This is at the far north end of the road…right where The Narrows starts that we’ll discuss in the next couple of posts. The canyon basically ceases to exist north of this point except for the river at the bottom of a very narrow gorge. You can see both the east and west rims of the canyon in this shot…which was taken looking up at about a 45 degree angle with the widest angle lens Neil had in the bag. Simply a breathtaking view.

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On the way back south to the visitor center to pick up Big Red and head home…we stopped by the Zion Lodge shuttle stop for a hike to the Lower Emerald Pool…which promised us a nice waterfall and a deep emerald colored pool at the base. Connie got tuckered out in the heat and stopped about 3/4 of the way out to the pool (it was a 1.2 mile round trip but it was hot and uphill) and waited on Neil…she got the great shot below after she caught her breath…looking basically straight northeast up the canyon axis in this view.

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I gotta tell ya…we wuz robbed…this is the promised waterfall just a bit to right of center. It must have had a whole 2 gallons a minute flowing over it…what a bust it turned out to be.

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Likewise…Emerald Pool was a bust as well…nothing emerald like at all about this thing. There was something dead down in the rubble somewhere…it really smelled bad. Neil felt completely robbed by this one…all pain and no gain at all.

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With that our day trip to Mukuntuweap…after the above shots Neil rejoined Connie and we really struggled with the heat getting back down to the Zion Lodge shuttle stop. After a quick Coca Cola sitting in the shade outside the lodge we got back on the shuttle…they’re not air conditioned but do have open windows on the top…but it was packed to standing room only and we steamed as we made the 30 minute trip back to the visitor center. Hopping into Big Red we fired up the A/C and headed home.

Dinner was some ham and fresh corn on the cob we got yesterday at Walmart after a shower and a rest period.


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Bryce Canyon South and Cedar Breaks National Monument

Sorry for the photo intensive post…but it covers several days (3 I think) of pretty active Fun Stuff©. It’s Thursday evening now and we’ll be doing chores tomorrow and moving Saturday so my next post will probably Sunday or Monday from Virgin UT outside of Zion National Park.

Sunday after Mass…we drove over to Sunset Point to watch the sunset over the canyon…and for the life of me I can’t figure out why they call it Sunset Point. The sunset is perpendicular to the canyon walls so the Amphitheater gets gradually covered in shadow and there are enough trees up on the west rim of the Amphitheater that there isn’t any of that cool orangey glow one would expect to see. We also drove by Sunrise Point afterwards and the rising sun (which actually comes up at northeast at this time of year here) is across the ridges away fro the canyon and the rising sun light is mostly parallel to the canyon so hopefully the pictures there will be better. We were originally going to go there the morning of the 4th of July…but decided to put it off to Wednesday hoping that some of the crowds would be leaving to go home and hence there will be fewer people in the park.

Monday we set off for the rest of the drive down the road to Rainbow Point at the southern end of Bryce Canyon National Park…after we had given up before reaching it last Friday. Our original plan was to attend the ranger led geology talk down at Rainbow Point…but two things came up. First up was the ranger at the visitor center who said if we had heard Larry the staff geologist’s presentation we had heard the best and the remaining ones weren’t worth it. Second was the lack of any kind of schedule so we didn’t know when it would happen. Since that was the case…we just did the drive.

OK, on to the pictures.

These are all HDR version of multiple tripod mounted exposures…it’s still not the orangey thing Neil was hoping for but it is what it is.

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Here’s an single exposure of the one above…as you can see the sunlit areas are overexposed and the shadows underexposed…luckily HDR to the rescue gave us some shots worth posting…and hopefully sunrise will be better. 

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We spotted a doe mule deer on the way home…it was almost dark so this is the best shot Neil could get…sorry about the soft focus but it was high ISO and long shutter speed which results in less than tack sharp images.

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Shots from our drive on Monday morning down to Rainbow Point.

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Out at Rainbow Point, elevation 9,200…we took our only hike of the day…we would not have hiked at the elevation except it’s the only easily reachable place in the park where you can see Bristlecone Pine trees.

These trees only grow in a narrow range of altitudes (mostly high) in a specific kind of soil called dolomitic soil…that’s a fancy term for soil made up of calcium magnesium carbonate which is what the rock at Bryce is. They’re gnarly looking trees and frequently look dead even though they’re very much alive…and live a very long time with measured individuals ranging from 4,800 to 9.000 years old. They’re called Bristlecone because the cones female trees produce have prickles on them…here’s a shot Neil cribbed from wikicommons as he didn’t see any cones.

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These are all Great Basin Bristlecone Pines…the longest lived of the 3 species and the only one found in UT…this species is what most people think of when they use the term Bristlecone Pine. The other two…the Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine and the Foxtail Pine are both cultivated commercially whereas the Great Basin does poorly when cultivated…Rocky Mountain is the most populous of the three species and the Foxtail grows only in small areas in the Klamath and southern Sierra Nevada Mountains.

None of these are dead…they just look that way. 

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When they have needles…they’re in clumps of 3 (or maybe 5, I can’t remember what Larry told us) and at the ends of the branches…the branches look like bottle brushes. Most of the time they don’t have any needles though.

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Chipmunk we spotted while hiking Bristlecone Pine Loop Trail.

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View from Rainbow point.

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Non-breeding male Goldfinch.

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This looks suspiciously like a dead or extinct volcano cinder cone…but we don’t think it is as Larry didn’t mention any volcanic activity in the park…this shot is looking eastward from Rainbow Point where the canyon starts to expand out into plateau…it’s about 6 or 8 miles away.

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For the holiday…we were smarter than your average bear (and golden retriever) and just stayed home…Neil made pan grilled duck breast and pumpkin polenta with pecan maple sauce…and we drank a bottle of Merlot…it was all mighty good. Other than that…we just stayed away from the crowds.

Wednesday after the holiday we headed off to catch the sunrise at Sunrise Point overlooking the Bryce Amphitheater…and I gotta tell ya it was a lot better than the shots available at Sunset point sunset. Sunrise was due for 0613 so we got up at 0400 and set out at 0515 with arrival about 0530…and there were already probably a hundred of our closest friends there.

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Nonetheless…we found a good spot…just to the right of that guy in the blue shirt…couldn’t actually see the sunrise very well (at least not without people in the photo) but that wasn’t gonna be a very good photo anyway…but we were setup perfectly to see the light entering the canyon. I gotta tell you though…the asshole snowflake northeasterner was back…pushed right in front of Neil after Connie went back to Big Red and physically moved his tripod because it was blocking his access to the railing. Never mind that he got there 30 minutes later than we did and showed up just at sunrise…Neil and he had some words and he stomped off mad because Neil wouldn’t get out of his way. Some people.

Connie stayed around a few minutes until the sun came over the mountains in the distance in the shot above…the canyon is to the right…but she had a headache and despite taking drugs when we first got up still felt bad. She did get a nice doe mule deer shot on the way back down though…pretty good for an iPhone shot 10 minutes after sunrise.

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Here’s the rest of the photos Neil took…most of them are HDR processed so that the image has the same glow and feel that we saw in person…as Gunther has indicated before a single frame doesn’t have as much exposure recording capability as your eye does so by taking shots at the correct exposure as well as over and underexposed the software can extract the dynamics of the light and give you something pretty close to what your eye saw. Some people dismiss HDR and other exposure blending methods as a trick…but it’s not really…just a matter of using multiple shots at lower dynamic range to approximate better an eyeball to brain image.

These first couple it was still before dawn…well actually the sun was over the far away horizon but hadn’t gotten high enough to get over the mountains across the canyon. 

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This is an iPhone photo taken just about the same time as the shot above.

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And a Nikon photo taken a minute or so later

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The clouds on the left side just above the plateau appear to be raining…but it’s evaporating before it gets to the ground…we saw a whole bunch of this today.

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After the sun peeked over the mountains it really lit up the rusty orange rock on the canyon walls and hoodoos.

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By 0640 or so…the show was pretty much over so Neil headed back for Big Red to see how Connie was doing. He grabbed this one on the way back down from the viewpoint to the parking lot.

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We got back home about 0700…and immediately took a nap until about 1000. Neil got up and changed out our water filters…the sediment one was gray instead of white so it was time to be changed. By the time he was done Connie was up and we lazed about the rest of the day…we have evening plans to go to the Rodeo.

Connie wasn’t feeling well so we rescheduled the Rodeo for later and instead spent some time planning our visit to Zion National Park starting Saturday when we leave Bryce. We’ll go back to US-89 then north around the Brian Head fire zone to I-15 and then south to Hurricane UT before heading into Virgin UT to our park about 8-10 miles from the entrance.

Thursday we went to Cedar Breaks National Monument about 30 miles to our west-southwest. We took the slightly more miles but certainly faster route in UT-14 rather than UT-143 which has some utility and tree removal issues causing delays. It’s about 25 miles to the southwest as the crow files from Bryce and about 50 miles to drive there.

Cedar Breaks is another one of those places that is mostly misnamed. The Paiutes called it u-map-wich for “the place where the rocks are sliding all the time”. Later on…more of those Mormon settlers arrived and described the steep, heavily eroded terrain as breaks…and in addition they misidentified the juniper trees here as cedar trees…and they called it Cedar Breaks. Naturally…the paleface description won out…probably because…again…the Paiute name was too long to fit on the t-shirt. The monument is about 5 miles east/west and 6 north/south and is located right in the middle of the Dixie National Forest…which is still not in Dixie…and was established in 1933. The striking feature is a 3 mile wide amphitheater very similar to what is located at Bryce Canyon…but instead of having steep canyon-like walls on both sides the wall is only on the eastern side. Looking west the amphitheater leads out to valleys and plains. We actually thought the views are better than those in Bryce Canyon and hereby declare Cedar Breaks as a hidden gem in southwest UT. Geologically…Cedar Breaks is very similar to Bryce…it’s on the western edge of the Markagunt Plateau that contains Bryce and is part of the greater Colorado Plateau geologic feature. Gradually raised over the millennia and eroded by the same freeze/thaw process that formed Bryce for the most part. The only drawback is the altitude…it’s even worse than Bryce which tops out at 9,700 feet or so where Cedar Breaks is up to 10,750.

We happened to visit during their annual wildflower and art festival…all around the park the flowers are in bloom and there are a dozen+ artists around the park painting art which will be displayed starting Saturday in Cedar City to the west on I-15 and probably sold as well. We’re going through Cedar City on the way to Zion NP Saturday and will see if we can stop by and maybe pick up some original art for the rig.

We drove the length of the park road and visited all 3 overlooks plus the visitor center/overlook. We passed on any hikes due to the 10,000+ altitude. After the drive we headed home with a stop in Duck Creek Village at Martin’s Deli and Restaurant before continuing home. We filled Big Red up with diesel since we happened to pass the cheapest place in SW UT…3.69 a gallon vs 3.75 over on I-15 and 3.99 in Bryce Canyon City.

Ok, on to the pictures.

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Connie took all the flower photos.

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This is a 270 degree iPhone pano from the viewpoint behind the visitor center. Left side is south and it sweeps through north to East on the right side.

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This is a Scarlet Paintbrush…it’s the only flower of these that I can identify…and I can only do that because the Park Service Brochure told me what it is.

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An Usie…looking westward from one of the viewpoints.

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Another pano from Chessman Ridge Overlook looking west…Bristlecone Canyon is in the center.

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Ponderosa pine cones.

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Brian Head Mountain…the fire we’ve been seeing the smoke from the past 10 days is just north and east of the mountain. It’s pretty much contained everywhere but on the northern edge…and presents no problem to either Bryce or our planned route out of here on Saturday…but we’ll verify with the fire status page just before we leave anyway.

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One of the huge meadows up on the east side of the breaks…we passed a bunch of these all in the 20-50 acre size range.

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This is just the leftovers from our lunch at Martin’s in Duck Creek Village…quite good and we have enough for lunch on Saturday.

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This made Neil bring it home for breakfast tomorrow.

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Neil just took this to show you the pole. That’s a snowplow “find the edge of the road” pole just in front of the white SUV…must be 10 feet off the ground…tells me that they get some serious amounts of that white stuff here.

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This is part of the Brian Head Fire firebreak just south of UT-14. We had never seen one so he had Connie take a shot out the window to show you. They use huge bulldozers that strip the flammable stuff down to the rock and push it aside. The rocky area used to look just like the wooded area in the background.

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Gunther is still on O2 in the ICU…but he did ask me to post a couple of interesting things he found on the net this week.

Since it’s Fourth of July week…this seems appropriate.


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And finally…meanwhile in Ireland.



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Bryce unCanyon Driving Tour and Day Trip to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Hi, Kara again still filling in for Gunther. One of our readers thought I was a kitty…clearly they didn’t pay enough attention to the header picture at the top of the blog site…as you can see…I’m clearly and most definitely not a cat. Today’s post covers our short drive yesterday to get the lay of the land down in the park and our driving tour today to the northeast 60% or so of the park. Unfortunately the adults ran out of steam before they ran out of viewpoints…but they’re scheduled for a Ranger talk Monday afternoon down at Rainbow Point and they’ll catch the last few viewpoints and such then.

I’ll get to that unCanyon thing I talked about in the post title in a bit.

Yesterday we headed into the park for what was advertised as a 1 mile rim walk with one of the rangers…but what we actually ended up with was Larry the official park geologist…and his talk was certainly a lot more interesting. 

First up…I gotta serious problem with this sign. Its not the focus, that’s due to moving truck.

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Bryce Canyon is surrounded by the Dixie National Forest…and I can darn sure tell ya that this place ain’t anywhere near Dixie. Neil grew up in AL, the Heart of Dixie…after all…and this ain’t it. No BBQ, no southern accents, nobody saying things like “Ya’ll ain’t from ‘round here, are you?” We asked the ranger at the fee booth why it was named the Dixie National Forest…he agreed with us that the name was just wrong. Heck…I’m guessing whoever named it doesn’t even know the difference between a hissy fit and a conniption fit.

Anyways I digress…back to Larry the Geologist…he gave us a great talk on the geology of how the park was formed…and also some insights into the wildlife we might see. One thing he did caution us on was that we should not believe “the book”…because according to “the book” the Rocky Mountain Rattlesnake (or the prairie, western, or Great Plains rattler depending on which name you like…it’s actually closely related to the Western Diamondback)…anyways according to “the book” they are not found at altitudes of 8,000 feet or more. He wanted to assure us that “the book” was wrong since we were at about 8,300 feet and he had seen 3 of them in the past 3 weeks up at the rim walk at Sunset Point where he was giving the talk.

Here’s a shot of Larry doing his talk…he lives in the park full time, has a Ph.D. in geology and was pretty knowledgable about both the geology of the park (who would have thunk it) as well as the wildlife.


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In addition to geology…Larry asked us why we should not feed the wildlife…he was aiming this question at the members of the audience who were working on their Junior Ranger workbook and obviously the answer he was looking for was that feeding the wildlife would get them dependent on humans for food and they wouldn’t survive the winter. Neil thought his answer of “because it’s a $100 fine for feeding the wildlife” was a much better answer…but that’s just him.

Ok, on to that unCanyon thing I talked about it before…

A Canyon…I even looked it up on wikipedia and the googles to make sure Larry wasn’t lying to us…is “a deep cleft between escarpments or cliffs resulting from weathering and the erosive activity of a river over geologic timescales”. Note the key ingredient in that definition is the erosive activity of a river…hence places like the Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon, Marble Canyon and even the upper and lower Antelope Canyons (albeit they were carved by flash flooding and not a continuously running river) that we’ve visited in the past few weeks are perfect examples. Bryce Canyon…on the other hand…doesn’t have any water in the bottom of it…and never has…it was formed by other processes which I’ll talk about in a bit but most definitely not due to erosion due to flowing water…hence it’s not a canyon at all. He said that in actuality Bryce is an “eroding, retreating, plateau margin”…but then he said that it’s not actually named that for two reasons…first is that Bryce Eroding Retreating Plateau Margin isn’t nearly as catchy a name as Bryce Canyon is…and second (and most importantly) is that Bryce Eroding Retreating Plateau Margin wouldn’t fit on the t-shirt…so they named it Bryce Canyon instead. 

Where does the Bryce part come from? It’s named for Ebeneezer Bryce who was a Mormon settler who settled in the Paria area just east of the canyon in the 1870s and subsequently moved to the edge of the canyon itself. He and his wife Mary lived on the edge of the canyon until 1880 and it became known as Bryce Canyon since they were the only folks living there. It was designated as Bryce Canyon National Monument in 1923 and upgraded to National Park status in 1928.

So…if it wasn’t formed by flowing water erosion and should more correctly be known as Bryce Eroding Retreating Plateau Margin…how did the canyon form?

About 65 million years ago according to Larry…this entire area of UT and AZ was much lower in elevation and was underneath a shallow but very large freshwater lake…with the water in the lake being very alkaline despite being fresh…with great amounts of calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate dissolved in the water. Over the millennia the minerals precipitated out of the water and formed layers of what would become sandstone on the bottom. The lake dried up and reappeared numerous times…and at each dry spell the surface of the stone was eroded into soil before being submerged again…so it ended up with layers of sandstone separated by softer layers of soil compacted into stone. Once the layers were built up…and about 50 million years ago the entire region started to rise…not by plate collision action but by other processes so that (mostly) the land lifted vertically and steadily to it’s current height. Naturally some of this uplifting was differential and as a result there were two series of parallel cracks…one running NE to SW and another running NW to SE. If you had looked from overhead you would see a checkerboard pattern on the surface of what is now known as the Colorado Plateau which runs from western Colorado through southern UT and on down into northern AZ all the way past where the Grand Canyon is now located. 

OK…so there’s this upraised plateau with an elevation of 8,000 to 9,000 feet with this checkerboard pattern of vertical cracks in it…and in this area Bryce Canyon has over 200 days a year when the temperature goes from below freezing to above freezing. Water from rain flowed into these vertical cracks and repeatedly froze and thawed…since water expands when it freezes this action gradually increased the size and depth of the cracks…with the stone cracking off and falling down. After many millions of years…what you end up with is a canyon like area of land that is gradually eroding due to freeze/thaw action at the edges…and what you get is a series of geological formations…first you get a fin when a crack that is parallel to the edge keeps expanding. Once the fin is separated from the rim of the canyon…the fin starts eroding via the same processes…and what forms next is a hole (or holes) in the fin…these are called windows instead of arches or natural bridges as in other canyons due to the different formation processes. The window expands until the top collapses and then when you have just the pillars on the side they are known as hoodoos. The top rock of the hoodoo is harder and gradually the lower portions of the pillar get thinner and thinner until they have a cap…I’ll show you a shot of Thor’s Hammer in a bit that shows this cap. Eventually the thin portion of the pillar gets so thin the entire thing collapses…so fins/windows/hoodoos have a definite life cycle although it’s on a geologic scale rather than a human scale…it’s not millions of years like it took to form the entire canyon but more on the 50,000 to 100,000 year time frame. I’ll have some photos to help explain this a bit later.

Following Larry’s talk…we went to dinner at the Bryce Canyon Pines restaurant…and wished we had stayed home and cooked…not very good at all and they were charging Disneyland prices.

Friday we set off for a driving tour of the northern portions of the park…the entire road is about 18 miles long from the park entrance down to Rainbow Point…but with the thin air and the multiple stops we made for viewpoints and overlooks…most of which required a short hike to see…we ran out of steam before we ran out of road. No matter though…since we already had a second day planned.

Ok, enough of that blathering…let’s get on to the photos which is what ya’ll really came for.

Probably the most famous feature here is the hoodoos…and although they’re everywhere they’re really concentrated at the north end of the park in what is known as Bryce Amphitheater…which has several overlooks on it…the most famous of these are Sunrise Point and Sunset Point…obviously named for the great views at that time of day. We’ll be getting photos from those view points at the optimum viewing time later on next week.

Bryce Amphitheater…the single most famous view in the park. All of the hoodoos you can seen parallel rows were separated first into fins along one axis of the checkerboard vertical cracks then the fins gradually eroded into windows and then hoodoos. The wavy sides of the hoodoos represent the various layers of sandstone laid down by the shallow lake that repeatedly dried up and returned, the darker area that are skinnier are the layers of soil deposited during the dry periods and then later compacted into stone.

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Thor’s Hammer hoodoo…the most famous hood in the park.  The skinny part just below the cap rock…which is a harder stone than the shaft…is about 3 feet thick. In wintertime when the Amphitheater is snow covered the snow mound around Thor’s Hammer is orange from the ongoing flaking off of the rock…it will eventually fall…maybe thousands of years on a human scale but relatively quickly on a geologic scale.  

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Sinking Ship Rock in the foreground about 2 miles distant and the Aquarius Plateau in the background about 17 miles distant…Aquarius will become important later on in the blog.

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Chipmunk…this was actually the one that precipitated Larry the Geologist’s question about why don’t you feed the wildlife. They…and the ravens and Stellar Jays…are notorious beggars for food from visitors.

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Heart shaped window…this one is about 10 feet high and across.

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More windows.

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Utah Prairie Dog…the smallest of the 5 species of this rodent found in North America.

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Better shot of Sinking Ship Rock and Aquarius when it was a bit less smoky from the Brian Head fire about 20 miles to the west of the park.

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More windows…the ones on the left are into the face of the plateau while the one on the right is on a fin that separated from the plateau. As you can see the window on the right one is bigger and the arched rock at the top thinner indicating it formed earlier and will shortly become two hoodoos.

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Natural Bridge…about 40 feet wide and 60 feet tall…but again it’s not really a natural bridge since it wasn’t formed by a meander and eroded by flowing water. It’s actually just a fin that didn’t fully separate…it’s still connected to the plateau on the left end…with a big window in it.

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Doe Pronghorn…she was about 10 feet from the road when we saw her. Contrary to popular belief…Pronghorns are not antelopes even though they are referred to as such since they look like antelope and because it fits a similar ecological niche to the antelope found in Africa. It’s actually the sole surviving member of the family Antilocapridae and it’s closest living relatives are giraffe and okapi that live in Africa. It’s what is known as an artiodactyl mammal which means it’s an even toed ungulate. Pronghorn are the second fastest mammal in the world at 60 miles an hour only outpaced by the cheetah which runs about 65. It can sprint longer than a cheetah can so in the ecological past when it was running away from the now extinct North American version of the cheetah it could stay away long enough for the cheetah to get tired.

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I stuck this one in because you can see the evolution and lifestyle of a fin as it becomes windowed, then hoodoos, then collapses. This was originally a long fin and then developed 3 windows in it. The one on the left is the youngest and it’s top has collapsed but not completely yet leaving two hoodoos. The two former windows on the right separated by a now collapsed hoodoo are older. 

There’s a very similar sort of formation up in Arches National Park in the Fiery Furnace area where there were two sets of parallel cracks at an angle to each other…except that the rock up there is granite or some other harder stone and they tend to not erode away…but rather once the crack opens from the freeze/thaw cycles it makes a more straight sided pillar rather than the irregularity that a hoodoo has.

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A few shots of a Stellar Jay…the largest Jay out in these parts. Too bad Neil couldn’t get him flying…it’s actually much more colorful than a Blue Jay is but when it’s perched the really blue feathers are folded away.

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Another pair of female Pronghorns we spotted just before we exited the park for the day…they ran across the road in front of us so Neil stopped and grabbed the bird lens from the back seat. All of these were taken out of the window to prevent them from startling and running away.

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Saturday was devoted to a morning drive over to Red Canyon about 10 miles east of Bryce and then to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument which starts just east of Bryce and covering almost 2 million acres from Bryce just about over to the Colorado border and from just north of Page AZ almost up to Canyonlands and Capital Reef National Parks in northern UT.

We got a few nice photos of Red Canyon…extra credit if you can figure out why it’s called Red Canyon. Again though…it’s not an actual canyon as it was formed by the same freeze/thaw erosion methodology of Bryce and not by flowing water.

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This is what an altitude bear looks like…as opposed to a sea level bear like Gunther…his photo is at the top of the blog.

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One of the two tunnels in Red Canyon you have to pass through to head east from US-89 towards Bryce Canyon. Coming from the other wide it’s marked as 13’6” clearance which is exactly as high as our rig is. Turns out the limited clearance is only on the far right side of the east bound lane (or the left side of the tunnel as it is in the photo)…the main portion of both this one and the other one which is about 200 yards from it is 15’ something. Neil just dumped the air out of the rear suspension on Big Red to give us another 4 inches and then waited until he could see a clearing in the traffic and just straddled the centerline through the tunnel…then aired up the suspension again.

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This is the smoke plume from the northwest corner (closest to Bryce) of the Brian Head fire to our west. Neil took this just as we turned around at the western end of Red canyon and headed back east…the fire is about 10 miles away from this point and Bryce is another 10 miles to the east. 

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With Red Canyon done…we headed towards our second destination of the day…Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Here’s a shot of the relief model of northern AZ and southern UT Neil took in the Bryce visitor center…it’s a crappy shot but serves to help illustrate why it’s named Grand Staircase.

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Ok, to orient you you’re looking north and the Grand Canyon is at the bottom. The narrow canyon going east and then north from the east end of the Grand Canyon is the Colorado River  and Marble Canyon. Page AZ, Glen Canyon, and Lake Powell are just below the top edge of the green  and Bryce Canyon is at the northeast corner of this model.

When you look from high overhead…like in space high…there are a series of cliffs that gradually get higher as you go northwards from the Grand Canyon…Vermillion Cliffs near Marble Canyon is the first one and there are several others as you go north named Pink Cliffs and White Cliffs…then there’s the Aquarius Plateau just north and east of Bryce. Aquarius…at 11,000+ feet tall…is the highest plateau in North America. As you look at the succession of cliffs from south to the north it’s like a giant set of steps on a staircase…hence the name. Don’t know where the Escalante part of the name came fro other than Escalante UT is the town about in the center of the monument.

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This is the same end of Aquarius Plateau that was visible behind Sinking Ship Rock in the earlier photo…that one was taken looking northeast and the plateau stretched to the left from the point. This one is taken from the other side looking southwest so the plateau continues off to the right.

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There were some Puebloan people living in this area as well as over in Mesa Verde…although they didn’t live in cliff dwellings they did build some granaries up underneath ledges on the plateau. Two shots…second one is zoomed in…you can see the granary as the darker section at the bottom of the second photo.

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The side of Aquarius…the only good shot we got today of the whole side of the plateau.

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Looking to the southeast towards what is known as the Hole in the Wall. Interesting story about this…after the Mormons had settled in Salt Lake City…they sent some settlers towards the Southeast corner of UT to establish another town. Since this area hadn’t been surveyed yet…interesting side note that Mr. Powell of Lake Powell fame on his second expedition to map this area surveyed and mapped the last remaining portion of the continental US…so this really is the behind end of nowhere…anyway, since it hadn’t been surveyed the settlers eventually came to the Colorado River about 20 miles north of where the Glen Canyon Dam now sits. The only problem was that it was 1,800 feet down to the river. Undeterred by this…they found a small crack in the wall and proceeded to dynamite out a road down to the river…the slope of this road varied from 25% to 45% going down…for those not familiar with grades the maximum grade on the freeway headed up to Eisenhower Pass over the Rockies west of Denver is only about 7% and you very rarely see a grade on a road that’s more than about 10% or maybe 11%…so 25 is steep and 45 even more so. Despite the grade…the settlers successfully got 83 out to 83 wagons down to the bottom and across the river. Don’t know how they got back up the other side as it’s a canyon wall over there as well…and I don’t know how they got the wagons down without losing control…lots of men pulling ropes I guess as wagons don’t have much in the way of brakes.

We were originally going to go up from Page to see the Hole in the Wall…but it was over a 100 mile trip each way on 4WD required roads although we were told that we didn’t need a high clearance vehicle. However, it was over 100F that day and cell signals were low in Page so we didn’t want to be 80 miles from nowhere, stuck in sand, no cell signal, and over 100F. It would have truly been an all day trip. The road we would have been on…Hole in the Wall Road…actually dead ends into UT-12 just east of where we took this shot. 

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Take a look at these next two shots…and let me know if you can figger out what’s wrong with them.

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The first is obviously the name of the river and the second was taken about 10 feet past the first looking down at the river bed. Notice the distinct lack of water, or even mud or even damp ground? Apparently this river only has water in it…when it rains. Now I don’t know much about naming conventions here in the west…but in the east we would call that a storm drainage ditch and not a river…because by definition a river…has water in it.

A couple of hoodoos right at the east entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park just east of where we are staying in Bryce Canyon City. Just east of this point there is a town down in the bottom of the canyon; it’s named Tropic because it was so much hotter than up on the rim. Again…I don’t claim to know much about western naming conventions…but we done been in the tropics and usually there are things like palm trees, girls in bikinis, cocktails with those little umbrellas in them and the like. Nuttin’ like that hereabouts.

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Another chipmunk…cute li’l buggers…ain’t they? Completely fearless…he (or she…I can’t tell) just sat there looking at us.

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With that our day was done so we headed home.

Sorry…no interesting stuff this time…there’s already like a bazillion photos to upload.


Posted in RV, Travel | 7 Comments

Upper Antelope Canyon and Transit to Bryce Canyon City UT

Hi Kara here…I’ve had to take over the blog from Gunther temporarily as he’s currently in the ICU. I dunno what happened…but the last intelligible words he said were “That woman did it to me again…dragging my skinny sea level bear ass up to those ridiculous altitudes temporarily was bad enough…but now she’s done gone and parked the rig at almost 7,700 feet. After that he either fell into a coma or hibernation…I can’t figger out which…so I’ve had to temporarily take over the blog and try to upgrade the overall quality of the blog. He is a 12 year old (maturity level anyways) after all…with a resolution to never grow up…so I’ll try to keep the bodily fluid humor to a minimum until he’s recovered enough to resume his normal duties.

Monday morning we got up early for our scheduled tours of Upper Antelope Canyon…that’ the more famous one with the sunbeams in it…it’s also a lot easier hike as it’s only 250 or so yards long and flat with a walk in/walk out layout. Neil was scheduled for the 1100 photo tour which has the best sunbeams and Connie for the 1300 regular tour which is half as long. The advantage of the photo tour is that since you paid a lot more for it…you get to barge through the hordes…Upper is a lot more crowded than Lower…you get the best photo positions where you can setup your tripod…and the guides stop the hordes for you so that your pictures don’t have the hordes in them and it looks like you’re alone in the canyon. You’re not because the folks in the photo tour group are shoulder to shoulder and the hordes are either held behind you or around the bend for 2 minutes while you get your shots.

We arrived and met the photo tour guide George…he’s normally a probation officer in Page but sidelines as a photo tour only guide for Chief Tsosie’s Antelope Slot Canyon Tour company…most of the other companies and even Chief Tsosie’s company with the exception of George just use regular tour guides for the photo tours. George is an avid photographer himself and as such makes sure you get the best shots available even though it means going back and forth through the canyon as the sunbeams don’t arrive in order and some of them only last 8-10 minutes with only 2-3 at the optimum angle.

Turned out that there was one unclaimed space on the 1100 regular tour…which Connie took so as to minimize the time either of them had to wait on each other. The other advantage of the photo tour is that you get to ride in an air conditioned Suburban instead of the open back safari truck the hordes have to go on.

You get to the upper canyon by proceeding to the lower canyon area then heading off on what Arizona calls an unimproved road but what anybody else would call a mad dash through the sand dunes between the rock walls. Four wheel drive low was engaged and we plowed through soft sand out 5 miles to the upper canyon. Connie said later that there were 4 trucks in her regular tour group each with a driver/tour guide. They followed each other but offset to opposite sides of the sand track to keep out of the dust trails being raised by the truck in front of them. Think racing through the Sahara Desert and you’ll get the picture.

Ok, on to the photos.

These two are the most famous shot taken in the canyon…again, everybody that comes here gets these. This is about 50 feet into the canyon looking back towards the entrance and the canyon is about 15 feet wide and 70-80 feet tall at this point. These are a mix of photos taken by both of them.

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Connie took this one looking out from the right side of the safari truck as they bounced through the sand.

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These next two are the same shot…first one is the best single frame Neil took and the second is an HDR version…which is much closer to what it actually looks like inside the canyon. Photos don’t do it justice though…it’s simply spectacular inside and the Fun/Effort ratio is way, way up there. The sunbeams range from about 3 feet in diameter down to about 8-10 inches…the size depends on the shape and size of the hole they’re coming through at the top of the canyon. The sunbeams are generally only visible in the summer months and the location, angle, duration, and quality depends on the month, time of day, and clarity of the sunlight. The sunbeams are much less visible until the guides toss sand into them…they actually don’t throw it into the beams directly but bounce it off the walls…the heavier sand and gravel falls quickly to the ground and the lighter dust swirls around and 5-15 seconds later drifts into the beams to highlight them. You can see in some of the shots where the dust is in the beams as opposed to the less bright portions of the beam that don’t have any dust.

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Sandfalls…very similar to waterfalls except they’re sand. Again, the guides toss shovels of sand up onto the rock and 5-10 seconds later the sandfall starts and runs for 10 seconds or so until it’s time to toss some more sand up. Neil’s tripod broke a leg early in the tour so he was reduced to using it as a 2 legged bipod and had to run the ISO up a bit higher to allow shorter shutter speeds so that they wouldn’t be blurry. A lot of the sunbeam and sandfall shots were still at 1/2 to 3/4 of a second in length anyway…good thing he was using his widest angle zoom at it’s widest setting for most of these.

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This is the narrowest and longest beam they saw.

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A shot of Michelle who was in Neil’s photo tour…I put this in because (a) she is cute and (b) I wanted at least one with a person in it for scale. This was taken right near the entrance…it’s an out and back hike through the canyon…shortly before we exited and headed back.

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At the conclusion of the tour we piled back in our air conditioned Suburban…George was right in that we would appreciate the A/C much more on the way back…and made the bouncy jouncy trek back to the center of town. Neil got a text from Connie…she had found a nail place across the street and was there getting her nails done…once that was done they headed home for a late lunch.

Tuesday was devoted to errands and getting ready to leave Page. We did manage to stop by the Glen Canyon Dam Visitor Center and Lake Powell overlooks for some information and photos.

Glen Canyon Dam is one of the two major dams on the Colorado River in the AZ/UT area…it’s more famous cousin Hoover Dam forms Lake Mead. Hoover is 16 feet taller and thicker at the base but about 300 feet shorter across the span…Hoover is a gravity arch dam and Glen Canyon is an arch dam…whatever that means. Glen Canyon actually has more concrete in it…4.4 million cubic yards instead of 3.3 in Hoover and while Hoover has a higher design capacity at full pool…29 million acre feet vs 27 million for Glen Canyon…Glen Canyon actually has more water in it most of the time and is within about 80 feet or so of full pool. Neil tried to talk her into taking the dam tour but she said “big fat no on that one.”

The dam looking from the bridge just downstream.

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And the remains of Glen Canyon downstream.

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One of the electrical turbines impellers the dam uses to generate electricity.

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And the bridge over the canyon just downstream of the dam.

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From the dam visitor center we stopped by and got a few shots of Lake Powell and Wahweap Bay which is in the former Wahweap Canyon which is a side canyon off of Glen Canyon.

This is the main Colorado River course looking upstream towards the rest of Lake Powell. The dam is just out of sight to the right.

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Looking slightly to the left of the shot above…this is Wahweap Bay. That’s Wahweap marina you can see…the campground is just to the left of the marina buildings.

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Wednesday morning was travel day…we had about 150 miles to go to get to Bryce Canyon City just outside Bryce Canyon National Park. On arrival we quickly checked in at Ruby’s Campground and Inn…which essentially takes up about 80% of what is named Bryce Canyon City…think South of the Border over on I-75 but less tacky and touristy and you’ll have it about right. We are scheduled for 10 days here…not because we need that many days for the park but to get us past the 4th of July weekend. Originally we were supposed to move sites halfway through stay but Judy at the office was able to juggle some other reservations around and get us into site 232 for our entire stay.

In the late afternoon after planning our 10 days here we drove over to the park for the obligatory park entrance sign photo, to watch the movie and check out the visitor center, and get the lay of the land parking wise for our further forays into the park.

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In the evening the smoke from the fire pick up in our area…here are some shots taken from our site right about sunset. The sites here are in the open and are gravel with full hookups…each one has a nice grass sitting area and they’re quite wide and you have decent separation from your neighbors.

Looking east (away from the fire direction) at our setup.

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West toward sunset and the smoke from the fire.

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And south towards the park…as you can see most of the smoke today is passing north of the park and it’s predicted to remain so for the next several days. Thursday morning as I write this it’s pretty smoke free…there’s a little high haze from it but no real smoky smell and little impact on visibility. The rest of Thursday’s agenda is to get some tickets for a cowboy dinner show and a rodeo that we want to go see and hopefully pick up Neil’s new tripod assuming UPS successfully delivers it from Amazon today.

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