Monday, March 31, 2014

When it rains (snows?), it pours!

Steve flew back to Nellis AFB on Friday evening, and we left Las Vegas on Saturday morning, March 29th, and drove 450 miles northeast to Salt Lake City.  What a long drive!

The next day, Sunday, we were all so tired that we slept until nearly 10:00 in the morning!  We had planned to get up and tour the Temple Square in Salt Lake City, but it was cold and rainy (plus we slept late) so we decided not to.

In the afternoon, the rain turned to snow!  And what a snow it was!  It was a warm snow, so it clumped together into great big flakes.  The kids were delighted.  Me?  Not so much.  I had to drive Steve back to the airport in that snow, and it was quite difficult!

As luck would have it, about two hours after taking Steve to the airport, I discovered a leak in a hose in our underbelly.  It was cold, it was snowing, it was dark, and I got water sprayed in my face.  At this point, I started to question why in the world we were doing this trip in the first place.  Life wasn't being kind to me.

After trying to do a patch job and realizing that it wasn't going to work, I placed two buckets underneath us to catch the water during the night, went to bed, and hoped for the best.

The next morning, Monday, I found a local camper repair shop and bought a replacement hose.  And yes, I fixed that leaky hose all by myself! Sometimes I amaze myself!

So the snow melted away, the sun came out, and our camper didn't leak anymore. Life was good again.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Zion

Continuing with our mini-trip from Las Vegas, we woke up in the hotel in Cedar City and wished to get an early start to see Zion National Park. Rain was forecasted for later that afternoon (and snow that evening!), so we needed to get up and at 'em!

We drove the hour southwest to Zion National Park and arrived around 10:00 in the morning.  As with at Bryce Canyon, this place was brimming with spring break sightseers!  The park ranger in the visitor center warned us to get the hiking done early due to the crowd and the pending rain, so we hustled to the end of the park road and worked our way backwards to the front of the park.  Even so, the place was quite busy.  It is difficult to sense the serenity of nature when surrounded by people, noise, and confusion, but we tried to make the best of it.

Zion is a gorgeous place.  It is like a desert version of Yosemite National Park, if you can imagine such a thing.  The Ancestral Puebloans, subsequent Southern Paiutes, and the much later Mormon settlers all lived in a gem of place!  The Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park (and many other protected areas) were all formed from the same Colorado Plateau which covers the entire "four corners" area of the country.  When the Colorado Plateau rose out of the ancient seabed in which it sat, all of these amazing geologic formations came into being.



We first went to see the so-called "Temple of Sinawava" and stroll along the Riverside Walk.  While enjoying the scenery of the towering cliffs above us and the babbling brook at our feet, we noticed rock climbers in the middle of the cliff face above us.  How frightening!  I will never understand the desire to hang precariously on the side of a cliff!





















Our next stop was to see the "Weeping Rock".  This is an outcropping of rock that is covered with cool green moss and dripping water.  We could stand right underneath the shelter of the cliff and watch the water dripping in front of us as if we were veiled from the world.  So serene!













Our last hike was to see the Emerald Pools.  This was a longer hike (about 1.2 miles round trip), but at the end of the hike we were enchanted by the pools of green and the dripping rocks around us.  As with the Weeping Rock, we were protected by the outcropping of rock.  We sat for a little while and rested while enjoying the cliffs above us, the emerald pool below us, and the waterfalls around us.  We were enchanted!











By this time we were quite hungry!  We picnicked in the car again (it was starting to get quite breezy outside), then drove to the Zion Human History Museum within the park.  On the way, we passed the impressive "Court of the Patriarchs" which is a trio of tall mountains with steep cliff sides - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. At the Human History Museum we learned of the importance of the early Mormon settlers in the area, as well as the Native Americans before them.

At the exact moment that we shut the car door to leave the park, the rain started coming down.  That was the clear signal that it was time to leave.  We drove back through the remaining area of the park, back toward the interstate highway, then all the way back to Las Vegas where our camper stood waiting for us.

Although we had a lovely "vacation", it was also nice to get back "home".  Home Sweet Camper.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bryce Canyon

After spending a few days in the camper cramming in some schoolwork, we did something exciting.  We packed up overnight bags and took a mini-trip to a couple of the national parks nearby.

On Tuesday, March 25th, we woke up at dawn and piled into the car with our Pop-tarts and juice boxes to make the four-hour drive into southwestern Utah to see Bryce Canyon.  We arrived just before lunchtime.  (At least, we THINK it was lunchtime.  We've been back and forth over the time zone so many times that we're losing track of the actual hour!)

Our trip to Bryce Canyon was interesting.  We drove as far as we could on the interstate highway, then took a turn-off that made us wander through Dixie National Forest.  Our elevation climbed to over 9000 feet, and we got to experience winter!  Snow covered the ground around us in that high of elevation.  I really wanted to drive through another national park there called Cedar Breaks, but the roads were completely closed due to the winter conditions.  Cedar Breaks National Park is at an elevation of over 10,000 feet and has a sub-alpine climate, but apparently March isn't the best time to go there!

We wound our way back down the slopes of the Dixie National Forest before driving along the plateau which led us to Bryce Canyon.

We started off at the visitor center, which was much busier than I expected it to be.  Considering that it was a Tuesday in late March, I assumed we would pretty much have the place to ourselves.  Little did we realize that it is "spring break" around this part of the country, and many of those spring breakers went to Bryce Canyon!

We spent a lot of time at the visitor center.  Besides completing the junior ranger badge requirements right then and there, we also saw the park orientation movie, explored the museum, and ate our picnic lunches in the van.

After the visitor center, we drove to some of the scenic overlooks.  First we encountered Sunrise Point which gave us the first glimpse of the canyon.  It's not as big and expansive as the Grand Canyon, but it is very interesting to see.  Bryce Canyon is a prism of color and full of "hoodoos" - pillars of rock left by erosion, usually in fantastic shapes.  It actually isn't a true canyon since it wasn't formed by a river, but the results of the erosion make it seem as such.

After Sunrise Point, we drove a little further to Sunset Point for more viewing pleasure.  From this viewpoint we could see the famed "Thor's Hammer" which is a hoodoo shaped like the mythical hammer of the Norse god Thor.  Following Sunrise and Sunset Points, we drove to the last two stops: Inspiration Point and Bryce Point.  Each of these overlooks offered us unique vantages of the many varied hoodoos and their hues of colors.

By this time it was nearing dinnertime, so we said goodbye to Bryce Canyon and drove back through the Dixie National Forest to the interstate town of Cedar City where we found two hotel rooms for the night and went to dinner at Dairy Queen.  It was so strange to sleep away from the camper!  It was a vacation from our extended vacation!

The next morning we continued on our trip and went to Zion National Park.