Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Making tracks at Capitol Reef National park

This weekend I had a decision to make...
There was a meteor shower that I really wanted to see. So, I thought I could go to the Mojave national preserve where I knew the skies would be wide open. But, I also got off work early on Friday so that means I would have extra time to drive to one of the parks that's further away (Capitol Reef National park).
Well, I assume by the title you can tell which one I chose, and I'm glad I did. The meteor shower was a bust due to the extremely bright full moon one night and thunder storms the next night.
I arrived at the park after dark on Friday and I was able to completely set up camp by the light of the moon. (I am sure the people around me were happy that I did not have to leave my car headlights on to set up.)

Saturday morning I took the "scenic road" to the first trail I wanted to hike. In the info it said that you could see the first "Pioneer Register" where some pioneers carved their names into the rocks, and the "Tanks." I had no idea what the "tanks" were, but I was willing to find out. On this hike I walked the rocky path following the same valley that many pioneers traveled... and, apparently, many vandals. I could not tell which name on the rock was the original pioneer name because so many people had scraped their own names into the rocks. There were signs posted everywhere saying that there was a fine for writing on the rocks, but, honestly, who's going to see them out there. I really don't think the park is going to run electricity into the valley in order to post security cameras, which means, we are dependent on individuals moral fortitude to keep the area clean... ha..we're in trouble.
Once I finished the climb to the "tanks" I was a little disappointed. They were just some mildew-y puddles of water. I guess, because water is so scarce out there, the little they do have is something special enough to hike to.

 Capitol Reef park is not as beautiful as Zion and Bryce in my opinion. However, just outside the park is a National Monument called the Grand Staircase. This area was really beautiful! It is a geological masterpiece.
I took a drive on a loop that went down the east side of the park, across part of the Grand Staircase as it turned west and then back up the other side through Dixie National Forest. The first half of the ride was on a dirt road in a valley. The road, although it is maintained by the park service, was a little scary to drive on. Especially since I did not see another person on it for about 20 miles. (And when you can only go about 15 mph that's a long time.) There were parts that got a little muddy and I was getting more and more nervous the further from civilization I traveled.

But finally, after what felt like forever, I got to the switchbacks that took me out of the valley and onto the paved road once again.

There was a look out up there where you could see out across the entire Grand Staircase. That sight alone was totally worth it.

The rest of my stay at the park was pretty uneventful, but on my way back to Vegas I stopped at a place where only 11 years ago a regular guy was excavating his land for development and stumbled upon a huge collection of dinosaur tracks. Now there is a museum and small research center where the tracks are displayed.
 I have many more pics on facebook. Check them out!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks

For the past two weekends I had an amazing time exploring Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. Last weekend, I stayed in a little cabin just outside of Zion. They have a shuttle system that takes you into the park and it will take you around inside the park as well since cars are not allowed in certain areas. I love this idea because it makes for less congestion and pollution around the parks.
I went on a few hikes. Nothing too serious, but I did still manage to slip and scrape up my leg real nicely. It was so incredibly hot! I was in the park for about 5 hours and I drank one bottle of water per hour. (And I never went to the bathroom the whole time.)  Shows how much water you lose when you are out there. The dry heat is definitely different from the humid heat. I felt like my lips and my nose were going to crack right off. It rained a little on Friday, but you couldn't even tell 1 hour after the rain stopped. Everything was dry again. The rainbow picture is from the cabin where I stayed, but before the rain came, when it was still sunny I was hiking in "The Narrows". You can probably tell what this is by the name. It is a very thin part of the canyon with mountain walls on either side and the river running in between. So I got half way out there when it was nice and sunny passing warning signs for flash floods the whole time... and then I start hearing thunder. Needless to say, I hightailed it out of there. This isn't the rainy season, but you never know...

These peaks are named Abraham, Issac, Jacob (the white one peeking out), and Mount Moroni (one of the figures in the Book of Mormon).
Zion was one of the places that Brigham Young and his followers saw when they were moving west. They named all the landmarks after religious figures. I think that is pretty cool. Holly and I were discussing on our trip how, in a supposedly Christian nation, so many landmarks are named after the Devil… Devils Churn, Devils Tower, Devils pool, Hells Canyon. I have to hand it to the Brigham on this one. At least he gave credit where it’s due. One of the hikes that I hope to do someday is up to “Angels Landing.” They named it that because the first time it was seen someone said that it was so inaccessible that only an angel could get up there. Well, of course, years later someone had to take that challenge and now there is a trail going to the top. I don’t want to hike this by myself, but I can’t wait to get up there.

This weekend I actually was lucky enough to get a camping site at Zion. Every time I go to any of the parks all the campgrounds are full. When I looked for reservations a few weeks ago it was the last site left, and now I know why… the campground was beautiful! I got a site right next to the river. It was perfect. One thing I learned is that it gets really windy in the valley at night. I could barely sleep when my tent kept shaking like crazy. 
Saturday, I drove over to Bryce Canyon National Park, spent the day seeing all the sites and hiking a few trails there. The main feature of Bryce is the Hoodoos which are these weird rock formations formed by erosion patterns on different types of rocks. The whole canyon is filled with these hoodoos. When you stand on top of Inspiration Point and can see into the whole canyon it is pretty amazing!
I did a hike down into the canyon to get a closer look at the hoodoos. That was not easy… well the going back up half anyway. I thought for sure my heart was gonna beat right out of my chest, but I made it and it was totally worth it.

Thors Hammer

Going down into the Canyon. Look at those poor people coming up.

Tight squeeze...

Time to pay the piper. This is my way out.

Only half way there...

Finally. I cant breathe. :)

 Inspiration Point. Super sweet!