Nashville Music and Fun

“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life” – Michael Palin

Did you ever think about taking a trip to Nashville?

Did you ever wonder if it would be worth your time?

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s worth the drive, or the airplane ride, or the bus ride, or the horseback ride, or whatever your mode of transportation happens to be.

The Most Amazing Hotel in Nashville

Last month my husband and I took our second trip to Nashville and stayed at an Airbnb, celebrating our anniversary a little early.  But our first trip was a few years ago for our 25th and that time we stayed at the same hotel that we visited on our wedding night – the Opryland Hotel.  It’s been called the Gaylord Opryland Resort for quite a few years now.  But the grandeur from many years ago is even greater these days.  Many of the hotel rooms have balconies overlooking one of several vast atriums containing tropical vegetation, waterfalls, lazy rivers, restaurants, and more.

Tropical vegitation, Christmas lights from balcony
Lovely views from our private balcony

Since it was our anniversary, we opted for one of the balcony rooms and loved keeping the door open.  It was soothing to hear the sound of the waterfalls in the atrium and we enjoyed gazing out over the cheery Christmas decorations and lights.

 

The location was also very convenient – right behind the hotel is the Grand Ole Opry House, and behind that is the Opry Mills Mall.  I spent a little too much money in the mall.  On myself.  But that’s another story.

Nashville – the Country Music Capital

We all know that Nashville is the county music capital of the world, right?  There are a lot of great music options all around, in the city and in the countryside.  A few places you can check out while you are in the area include:

The Bluebird Cafe – This is an unlikely little place in the middle of a shopping center that you would never notice when driving down the street.  You would just pass right on by.  But if you are in the know, you will look for it.  You will make reservations ahead of time, or stand outside in a line, hoping for an empty seat to become available.  This place is famous.  It’s been featured on the show, Nashville, quite a bit.  It showcases song writers “in the round,” and up-and-coming artists that are hoping for their big break.  Sometimes music celebrities pop in for a surprise treat.  We visited there on our first trip to Nashville and it was a fun and unique experience.  You can tell from the picture below that we didn’t have the best seat – we were looking at the backs of their heads – but you sit where they put you and since we only had a party of two, that’s where we ended up.  Despite our seats, we had an enjoyable night.

Side or back view of multiple people in chairs on a stage
Our seats were behind the stage of the Bluebird Cafe

The Grand Ole Opry – Nashville is pretty much synonymous with this place.  The Grand Ole Opry has been going strong in one form or another since 1925.  There are two locations you can visit – the older one, now known as the Ryman, or Opry at the Ryman, and the newer bigger stage, known as the Grand Ole Opry House.  I have had the opportunity to visit both locations.

During the Christmas season, all Opry shows are held at the Ryman, due to other shows being held at the Grand Ole Opry House.  The first time we visited Nashville, the Rockettes were performing their Christmas show on the big stage, thus our visit to the smaller one.  There is something special about that older, smaller stage.  When you visit, you can feel the nostalgia and sense of history there.

People sitting in long pews and a view of a stage and the balcony above
We enjoyed the vibe of the older Opry at the Ryman

There are several acts that perform through the course of the night and the headliner the night we visited was Rascal Flatts.  They put on an outstanding show.  We just loved it!  All the other acts were great, too.  I think one group was called Striking Matches, if I remember correctly and I am really surprised they haven’t hit the big time yet!

View over heads of a stage and people performing with GrandOleOpry in the background
Rascal Flatts put on a great show!

The bigger stage of the Grand Ole Opry is located behind the Gaylord Opryland Resort and the seating is set up the same as the original location.  The smaller location has long benches, and so does the larger venue, only they are more plush.  The drawback to this type of seating in both locations is the closeness you have with your neighbors.  There are no boundaries between individual seats, so if you end up next to a large person or someone who likes to spread out you may have personal space issues!

Our most recent trip to Nashville included a visit to the Grand Ole Opry House, the bigger location, and made for a nice evening out.  There were several entertaining acts during the evening, Lonestar being one of the better known.

View of a stage with people playing stringed instruments
We enjoyed the show at the Grand Ole Opry House

Wildhorse Saloon – We visited this joint the last time we were in town.  It had been on my list on our first Nashville trip, but the night we had free was the night they were closed that week.  I was disappointed!  I don’t really know how to line dance but I was looking forward to learning some steps.  So this time around, we made sure to make it a priority.

Wildhorse Saloon is located in the downtown area of Nashville, so parking can be challenging.  Of course, we look hard for free parking, so that makes it a little more challenging.  There are free spots on the street and there are paid parking garages, the latter being a little easier to find but a little harder on the wallet.  It’s easier if you are going with a friend, because one of you can hop out and grab a table and the other one find a spot.  And that’s what we did.

When you visit, you need to decide if you are going to eat a meal here or not.  There’s so much great food in Nashville, we decided to reward our palate elsewhere and just come here to dance and observe dancing.  If you eat here, you get a better table.  But there are some available next to the bar and some upstairs where no food is required.  We did order some soft drinks and appetizers to make the waitress happy and tipped her well for taking up her space.

large room with people at tables and a stage in background
Views from our seats at Wildhorse Saloon

Different local (I’m assuming local) groups perform on different nights and the night we were there we heard a band called Cumberland Gap.  They provided nice entertainment, but what I was here for was the line dancing.  I convinced my hubby to join me out on the floor. We were both wearing new boots we had just purchased at a discount a few doors down and were looking forward to trying them out.  Well, after around 100 ladies and one other man joined in my husband decided it wasn’t for him and left me there.  Alone.  From that time on he just watched me from upstairs.  Oh well.  I had fun.  It actually was a blast.  Even though I messed up quite a bit, there were others messing up too, and no one was really watching me except my man.

There are quite a few other venues for catching some great country music in and around the Nashville area.  One musical venue that was on my list, but that we didn’t make it to, is Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant in the tiny hamlet of Leiper’s Fork.  We did get to visit Leiper’s Fork a time or two during our stay, but not during times that music is featured at Puckett’s Grocery.  Leiper’s Fork is a quaint and charming little place with a couple of restaurants and very interesting little shops that are fun to browse.  Since our Airbnb was only a couple miles from the town, we had an easy time stopping by on our way to other places.

A Lovely Little Airbnb

Fish pond surrounded by stone and two seats with house in background
We loved our Airbnb!

In the past, I haven’t really shared information on the individual, non-hotel places we have stayed since there is only one room available per night.  But I had quite a few friends who wanted the info on the Airbnb that we enjoyed in Leiper’s Fork, so I decided to go ahead and tell about it here.

I highly recommended this location.  It is a studio space over the garage of a private home and is in such a lovely setting.  If you are wanting to be in the heart of the action of Nashville, this place is not for you.  However, if you are looking for a peaceful, out-of-the-way place, this is a contender!  It is located a couple miles from the sweet little town of Leiper’s Fork, it is about 20 minutes from the Loveless Cafe, and farther than that from downtown Nashville.  We really enjoyed driving through the countryside and past many horse farms on our way to our Nashville and other destinations.  It is beautiful country!

If you are interested in booking some time there, it is listed on Airbnb as The Loft at Quest Ridge, located in Franklin, Tennessee.  Just click on the link in the last sentence and it should take you to the listing.  I don’t make any money from the link, just wanted to make it easy for you!  The host, Robert, is listed as a “Superhost” and the place rents for around $125 a night.  We had plenty of privacy and our host even left a pan of homemade cinnamon rolls for us on our arrival!  Yum!

Last Words

Nashville has so much to offer!  The downtown area has many restaurants and music venues (mostly inside bars) to visit.  There are also a lot of country music related museums downtown and even one outside of Nashville to see.  There are a bunch of places to buy boots!  And restaurants – oh my goodness!  So many mouth-watering restaurants.  You could visit Nashville just to try the restaurants.

I’ll be writing one or two more posts about Nashville – one covering amazing food – mostly comfort food, and maybe one more that discusses unique things to do in the area.  I hope you’ll join me on the journey!

Until next time – happy traveling!

 

 

National Forest Fun

“To travel is to live” – Hans Christian Andersen

There is so much lovely terrain right in our backyard, in the state of Virginia.  So my better half and I decided not to waste our beautiful Saturday on boring things like house work or yard work or household projects, and instead ventured out to enjoy the beginnings of the autumn colors in our region.  If you are ever visiting southwest Virginia, this day trip is a wonderful way to spend a day.

First I am going to tell you how to get there.  And make sure you eat before you go, because it is a bit of a drive.  On a previous trip to the area, I was starving, and the drive over two mountains made me a little car sick, so this time I made sure we ate breakfast right before leaving.  But I digress.  If you are in the Roanoke, Virginia area, leave Interstate 81 by Exit 141 and go west until you reach a traffic signal.  Turn right at the light onto 311.  This will take you over the first mountain pretty quickly.  After the first mountain, you will pass the Homeplace Restaurant on the left.  Sidebar – if you’ve never visited the Homeplace, you are missing out on a fantastic family-style meal.  Do yourself a favor and try it out!

Back to the directions – after passing the Homeplace, you will drive for 12 or 13 miles and then drive through the small town of New Castle, Virginia.  Keep on driving.  After an additional 16 miles of curvy roads while crossing over another mountain, you will reach the little crossroad known as Paint Bank.  Currently Paint Bank offers up a general store/restaurant combination, a lodge, and a gas pump.  There’s not much to see right at the crossroad, but what is there is very quaint.

Two story red brick building with two story porches on front and waving American flag with hanging flower baskets
Paint Bank General Store and Swinging Bridge Restaurant

The Paint Bank General Store, pictured above, also hosts the Swinging Bridge Restaurant in the rear of the building.  But we will come back to that later.

old train depo turned into a lodge that is two story grey building with metal roof and bikes in front
Paint Bank Depot Lodge

I’ve never stayed at the Depot Lodge, but this building is not the only accommodation available in the area.  In addition to the lodge, there is an amazing caboose, two “glamping” tents, two cabins, an airstream trailer, a house, a cottage, and “coming soon” the Lemon Hotel.  You can check out all of the lodging available at The Depot Lodge.  Seems like it would be a great place to host an extended family get-together.

Country road street corner with Waiteville Rd street sign, State Road 600 street sign, trees in background and metal guard rail

The picture above is what you will see immediately after the General Store.  Make a left here onto 600, or Waiteville Road. As you drive along, you will probably see buffalo grazing in one of several pastures along the left hand side of the road.

Green grass, buffalo in the distance against backdrop of autumn trees and mountains behind

Drive about 10 – 11 miles, and you will see a small sign on the left that says Hanging Rock.

Rural road green grass and autumn leaves in background with sign pointing the way to Hanging Rock

Turn right here onto Limestone Hill Road.  It is a lovely drive up this winding, curvy road.  We saw some beautiful leaves along the way.

rural road surrounded by trees with autumn leaves

Stay on this very narrow, paved road for almost 4 miles and you will come to the parking area on the left.  You’ve arrived!

One of the great things about this trail is that the small parking area is never crowded, at least not when we have been here.  We had passed by the trail heads of several other well-known hikes in southwest Virginia and they were packed out, but not here.  And it was a beautiful October day.

Okay, so now that we are here, it’s time to secure our valuables in the trunk, grab the backpack with water bottles and light snacks, and hit the trail!  The trail is probably rated as moderate, at least that’s what I think.  It is short and has some steeper areas, but also some flat places.

Smiling man in blue shirt standing at beginning of trail to Hanging Rock Observatory with tree with yellow painted square

Follow the yellow marks on the trees!  One of the steepest parts of the trail is right at the beginning, but it’s not bad.

Wooden sign for Allegheny Trail marking distances to Hanging Rock Lookout, Appalachian Trail, and Sugar Camp Farm

We’re headed for the hanging rock lookout.  I think the sign says it is .6 miles.  So, 1.2 miles round-trip.  Not very long!

Man in blue shirt walking ahead in rocky area in the woods on a trail

There are some rocky stretches along the trail, and in a couple of areas we will need to do some scrambling over rocks.  We keep walking until we get to this sign:

Wooden sign in the woods pointing the way to Allegheny trail and the fire tower and raptor tower

If we stay to the right we will join the Allegheny Trail, and if we go left, we will reach the fire tower.  Just a little farther and we will be there!

Wooden sign with blue backpack hanging on it in the woods and a trail leading upwards

When we reach the top, there’s a fire tower to the right and the hanging rock to the left.  In the past, we’ve only been up in the tower, so I wanted to try to take a selfie from the rock.  It would have been so nice to have a selfie stick in this situation!  None of our selfie pictures worked out.  Oh well!  But I did get a couple of shots from the rock, including this one:

Blue sky with puffy white clouds, wooden building with windows, and angled rock slabs with autumn trees
The Hanging Rock and the Fire Tower Observatory

Next, it’s on to the fire tower.  The views are amazing from up here.  You can see mountain ridges for miles and miles.

Deck railing with sign that says EL 3812 with mountains in the distance and blue skies with white clouds

Man in blue shirt standing in shadow at deck railing looking over colorful trees and mountains in the distance with blue skies and white clouds
Looking Over Miles of Mountains

Woman in blue leaning against deck railing with mountains in the background, autumn leaves, and blue skies and white cloudsMountains in the distance, blue skies, lots of white clouds and tops of trees in the foreground

Here’s a panoramic:

Panoramic picture overlooking tops of mountains and autumn trees, blue skies and white clouds

If you are a bird-watcher, this is the place to be.  The tower is right along the flight path of predatory birds.  Unfortunately, we forgot our binoculars this time but we’ve seen several bald eagles in the past without binoculars.  Red-tailed hawks and other large birds are known to pass by.  The tower is at an elevation of 3812 feet.

I failed to mention earlier, that not long after leaving Paint Bank, we crossed into West Virginia.  Most of the area we are looking over is West Virginia.  It sure is scenic!

Squinting man and woman in blue facing camera on deck of fire tower with tops of mountains, trees, and blue sky with white clouds in background

By this time, despite the little snack we brought with us, I was getting really hungry!  After filling our eyes with wonder, it was time to think about filling our bellies with delicious food!  So we grabbed our pack and headed back down the trail.  The return trip was a lot easier, with the exception of a little bit of knee strain.  We passed some young families with several young children who were heading up.  This trail can be trekked by just about anybody, as long as they have no mobility issues.

We got in our car and drove back to Paint Bank, arriving at around 3 p.m.  We were relieved to be able to walk right in to the Swinging Bridge restaurant and get a table.  The last time we had visited, there was a two hour wait!  Wow!  The restaurant does not take reservations unless your party has 8 or more people, and I think that sometimes large tour buses come with huge groups, but that’s not what we encountered this day.

In the picture below you can see the bridge crossing over the dining room:

Inside of open two story building with bridge across the middle of room, a christmas tree, taxidermy animals, old Texaco signs, people sitting at tables, log walls
Inside the Swinging Bridge Restaurant

The restaurant had a steady flow of customers but it wasn’t crowded.  The Swinging Bridge offers a varied menu, with buffalo options.  We decided on the ribs.  We saw them cooking outside on the smoker earlier and they smelled so good!  We also had baked potatoes and side salads and they brought a basket of rolls and cheesy cornbread to the table.  Every time I have eaten here the food has been very good.  We split the apple crumb pie with a generous scoop of ice cream for dessert.  We both had drinks (non-alcoholic) and our tab came to around $42 (we had plenty of left-overs to take home).

After our late lunch, we explored around the gift shop upstairs, the general store, and outside for a bit.

Then it was time for the long-ish drive home.  It was a fun and scenic adventure and we were glad that we put off the things we needed to do at home to enjoy a warm October day in the mountains.  It was time well spent.

Until next time, happy traveling!

 

 

Our Dam Trip (Hoover Dam)

“There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it” – Charles Dudley Warner

When my husband and I visited Las Vegas for a few days in May, we just had to make a trip to that most famous dam.  We had heard about it all of our lives, read about it, had seen it in movies, and had seen it in documentaries and on news stories.  Since we were so close and had a fun convertible to use, we couldn’t not visit the Hoover Dam.

We got up early that morning, which was easy to do since we were still pretty much on east coast time, looked up our driving directions on Google maps, and headed out to a hearty breakfast to start our day.  As usual, I did my research for restaurants on TripAdvisor, and we settled on an eatery named Mr. Mama’s.  When we arrived, we were seated and then greeted by Mr. Mama himself.  He was very friendly and eager to share favorites from the menu and some history of the restaurant.

Soon our food had arrived and we were not disappointed!  I now wish that I had taken pictures of our food and the restaurant so that I could show you here, but at the time I didn’t know I would be writing a blog about it.  Anyway, we ordered a Cali omelet and a pancake and shared them both and left very satisfied.  The food was delicious!  My husband wanted to come back for breakfast the next day, but our plans didn’t allow it.  Next time, Mr. Mama!

After leaving the restaurant, we headed out to the dam, which was about a 45 minute drive.  We were aiming to get there at 9 a.m., when the dam ticket line opened, so we could get into the first Dam Tour of the day at 9:30 a.m.  Let me pause here a minute to give you some info:  There are two different tours offered – the Dam Tour and the Powerplant Tour.  The Powerplant Tour is less expensive (currently $15 for adults) and just about anybody can participate – no age restrictions or physical ability restrictions.  It lasts about 30 minutes.  The Dam Tour is currently $30 and includes everything in the Powerplant Tour plus passageways down in the dam itself, but is not available to kids under 8 years old or people in wheelchairs or on crutches.  Both include admission to the visitor center.  The Powerplant Tour tickets can be purchased ahead of time but the Dam Tour has to be purchased in person since it is sometimes unavailable.

So back to the story.  We ended up getting to the dam around 9 and parking and walking a little ways to the ticket counter.  When we got to the counter, there were only a few people in line ahead of us, so I thought we would get the 9:30 Dam Tour for sure.  Well, I was wrong!  The first three or four Dam Tours had already filled up and we got into one starting at 10:30.  I was really surprised, but the dam employee told us that there is always a long line of people waiting for the doors to open at 9 a.m.  Those dam tourists!  Geez!  All kidding aside, waiting until 10:30 worked just fine for us because we could walk around the visitor center and see the exhibits and walk outside and look around and take pictures, etc.  Warning – if you wait until after lunch to get your tickets for the Dam Tour, they could be sold out and you may end up not getting in!  You could still likely get a Powerplant Tour, but if your heart is set on the Dam Tour, go early!

We took some pictures outside while we waited:

Concrete walls of Hoover Dam with hills behind
A Close View of the Hoover Dam

It was a beautiful morning and the weather was nice with clear blue skies.

Arch bridge spanning the Colorado River
The Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge next to Hoover Dam

I thought it was crazy how the transmission towers were hanging at such an angle!

After wandering around (or maybe before? it’s been 3 months) and before our Dam Tour began, we gathered with a bunch of other dam visitors in a theater room and watched an informational video about the Hoover Dam.  It was very interesting to hear about how the dam came about and how it was built and how many people died during its construction during the Great Depression.  It was built during a terrible time in our country and men came from all over the USA just to get a paying job, dangerous as it was.  We really don’t realize how easy we have it these days.

So, after the movie, our tour group lined up and got into (packed like sardines into, I should say) a big elevator and rode down to the power plant area.  During this part of the tour, we were mixed with people from the pp tour.

Big room with seven generators and American flag
Power Plant in Hoover Dam

They told us that the Hoover Dam was all about the water.  Several states were arguing over who could use the water from the Colorado River, and they came to an agreement that included the HD.  But a side benefit of the dam is that it supplies electricity to a huge amount of people.  The picture above shows several large generators that capture energy from the flowing water and send electricity out through the transmission lines.

After we left this generator room, our group continued on for the rest of our tour, and the Powerplant Tour people headed out.  There were a few sneaky ones who tried to merge in with our group, but our tour guides would have none of it!  They were constantly counting us as we switched around and knew just how many should be with us.  The offending suspects were quickly ousted and sent on their way!

The rest of the Dam Tour included an elevator ride in a smaller elevator that took us waaaay down into the dam.  As we walked around, our guide entertained us with some humorous and some fascinating stories about the building process.  We also walked down a low and narrow tube to one of the vents in the wall of the dam.  I’ve included some pictures below.

A couple more from inside the dam:

Our guide also told us that if the elevator broke down, he would just wait for it to get fixed, because he wouldn’t be climbing all those dam stairs to get out!  He obviously had no issues with claustrophobia.

After our tour, we visited the road that goes over the top of the Hoover Dam.  Remember that movie called Fools Rush In starring Matthew Perry and Salma Hayek?  If I remember right she was caught in an ambulance on top of the dam and had to deliver her baby there.  For some reason, that scene always comes to mind when I think about this road!  Anyway, traffic is now diverted to a new, really high bridge due to congestion, etc., and I don’t think this road gets much traffic any more.

 

Road and people walking
Hoover Dam Road

Also, below are pictures of the reservoir.  Looks like the water is pretty low these days!

Water and hills and blue sky
Water level line in reservoir at Hoover Dam
Water, concrete wall, blue sky, and road with people and a truck
A view of the Hoover Dam Road & Reservoir

After we were done touring the dam, we headed up the Lake Mead road to Valley of Fire State Park, which I wrote about in a previous post, A Gem in Nevada.  But first, we decided to stop in Boulder City for a quick and inexpensive bite to eat.  After reading the reviews, we chose to visit The Chicken Shack.  Once again, TripAdvisor didn’t steer us wrong!  We both went with the meal with three chicken fingers, fries, and a drink for $6.99 and neither of us could finish it all.  I was happy to see they served shoestring fries, and the chicken and dipping sauces were delicious.  But don’t expect to visit here and have an elegant dining experience!  True to the name, the building is like a shack, and we were able to snag one of the few inside tables on this hot day.  But I would definitely recommend it if you like good food at a very reasonable price.  Below is a picture of the shack:

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I hope you have enjoyed our dam journey!  We really enjoyed learning about and experiencing the Hoover Dam.  If you are ever in the area, go and see it for yourself, you will be glad you did.

Until next time, happy traveling!

A Page from Arizona

“Take only memories, leave only footprints” – Chief Seattle

Arizona – a state of diversity

When I say that Arizona is a state of diversity, I’m not talking about skin color or cultural diversity, but geographical diversity.  On our family’s first trip to Arizona, I was amazed by the variety of topography to be found in the Grand Canyon state.  For example, in the Tucson area, you are likely to see cacti, front yards filled with rocks, rolling hills, heat, and desert terrain.  When you drive into the high elevation of the Flagstaff area, you are greeted with Ponderosa Pine, mountainous terrain, and much cooler temperatures.  Sedona, on the other hand, will greet you with towering red rock structures that jut out of the mostly flat landscape.  It is a wonder to behold.

That brings us to the Grand Canyon.  You can’t really think about Arizona without the Grand Canyon coming to mind.  It is a one-of-a-kind experience to gaze upon the vast and many-hued geologic wonder.  But, the Grand Canyon is not the only canyon in Arizona.  The state is also home to quite a few slot canyons.  While the majestic Grand Canyon is massive, experiencing it is a big endeavor.  If you want to explore down into the belly of the canyon, you either undertake a huge hike (much easier on the way down, a killer on the way up), or you can pay a lot to ride a mule in and out, or take an expensive helicopter ride.  In contrast, Arizona’s slot canyons are quite a bit easier to access.

When planning our family trip to Utah, my daughter-in-law mentioned wanting to visit one of those Arizona slot canyons – Antelope Canyon, and said that it was just over the border from Utah.  So we added Page, Arizona to our vacation agenda.  During the course of our planning, we also realized that Horseshoe Bend was located a mere few miles away.  So there you go – two fantastic destinations in one place – making the 2+ hour trek from our vacation rental very worth the drive.

In the past, I had seen some amazing slot canyon photos, although at the time I didn’t realize exactly what they were or where they were taken.  I really didn’t understand exactly what we were planning to see.  But as I did some investigating, I realized that this was going to be one of the highlights of our trip.

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So, with plans made and adventure on our minds, we set out from Utah and road-tripped it to Page.  Here I must note that Lower Antelope Canyon and Upper Antelope Canyon are both located on the Navajo tribal grounds and all tours are run by Navajo.  We visited the Lower instead of the Upper due to the lesser amount of visitors and the lower cost.  If we get the chance to return to the area, I would love to visit Upper Antelope Canyon.  But, back to the Lower – there are two different tour groups that you can use – Ken’s Tours, which is the original, and Dixie Ellis’ Lower Antelope Canyon Tours, which I think is run by Ken’s sister.  We took the Dixie Ellis tour, but I really don’t see how one can be much different from the other.

When we reached the Lower Antelope Canyon tour area, the two different tour companies were side by side.  Upon entering the parking lot of the tour company, there was a little building with a walk-up window and a long line of people waiting to check in.  I thought that by buying our tickets in advance, we would have an easy time at check-in, but it was pretty busy.  Upon arrival, each person in our group had to sign on a list of names as a release.  There were many other people doing the same thing and the tour company was not organized in their little office.  This is the part of the experience that I did not like at all!  Additionally, in the parking area there were two different very long rows of stinky port-a-pottys.  If you decide to visit, you may want to hit a restroom before you get there.  When buying our tickets online ahead of time, it seemed that there was a limit to the amount of people touring in each time slot.  This was not the case.  When our time group was called, we were surprised to see a bus group of about 50 tourists from Asia who were given priority over the rest of our time group.  And the last disappointing thing was that once our group was called, we walked down to the entrance of the canyon, surprised to find a huge line of people waiting ahead of us.  So despite buying a ticket for a specific time, we waited for about an hour in this last line until we entered the canyon.  I am relating all of this to you so when and if you go, you will be informed ahead of time, and not be too frustrated with the situation.

Now let’s talk about the good stuff.  As we waited in line to get into Lower Antelope Canyon, most of our wait was under a recently constructed shelter.  It was a big help to have that shade, otherwise we would have waited for an hour in the desert sun.  And our guide was great!

When it was our time to enter the canyon, we descended down some metal stairs where no pictures were allowed.  I guess cameras have been dropped on tourist’s heads in the past!  Yikes!  Then we entered the first big room of the canyon, and our guide was able to move us around the huge bus group of 50 tourists, which was awesome.  That gave us the liberty to explore some of the areas without dealing with a big crowd, and that made the whole experience much more pleasant.

I have to say, once we entered the cool of the canyon and began to explore and take in the beauty around us, the long lines and heat from the wait just evaporated.  It really was worth the hassle to be able to experience Lower Antelope Canyon.  And pictures!  I took more pictures in that canyon than I did in any other place we visited that week.  Around every corner we experienced something new that begged for a picture.  I am including a few below, a mere fraction of the total on my camera!  And our guide helped us so much by suggesting things to shoot, pointing out famous rock formations, and telling us how we could set our iPhones or Androids to capture the best colors of the canyon.

My daughter-in-law captured some great images with her new camera.

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When you see all the variations of light and hues of color it almost doesn’t seem real.  I enjoyed snapping some pictures along the way.

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Our guide was so helpful!

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He knew the best places to take some great pictures!  Of course, I think that just about anywhere in the canyon would look great in a picture.

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Then, he turned my camera side-ways and took an up-and-down panoramic.  I didn’t even realize you could do that!  I’ve taken all my panos from side to side.  Actually, now that I think about it, my DIL took a picture like that earlier in the week.  And it’s a great effect!

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And, the next picture I would like to share is my favorite.  The rock formation is called “Lady in the Wind.”  Can you see her?

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When we reached the end, we climbed out of the canyon on a series of small metal ladders.

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When we climbed out and walked a few feet away, I turned around and could hardly tell where we came out of the earth.  The canyon was almost hidden from the surface.

Next up was lunch and then on to Horseshoe Bend!

When we drove up to the Horseshoe Bend parking area, it didn’t look like it was going to be that exciting.  And from the reviews I read ahead of time, I was thinking that it was a really short walk from the parking lot, but I obviously had the wrong idea.  The walk was about 3/4 mile one-way and hot!  A sign at the beginning of the trail notified hikers to carry water.

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Thankfully there was some cloud cover, which helped a bit with the heat.  As we approached Horseshoe Bend, we could see people standing near the edge of a rock.

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What we didn’t realize is that at that edge was a HUGE drop-off down to the river below. This picture doesn’t really do justice to how scary it was!  My husband wouldn’t watch when I got close enough to get this selfie.

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Unfortunately, anyone who wants to get a really good shot of Horseshoe Bend has to get right up next to the edge.  Phew!  It was scary!  I would have felt much better if i had a rope tied around my waist, just in case.  Also, it helps to have a wide lens on your iPhone, because it’s hard to get the whole thing in one picture without it.  I think this one was without the wide lens:

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And this one definitely had a wide lens:

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After a long day of breathtaking scenery and lots of photos, we headed back to our rental house in Utah.  We had enjoyed two of the diverse attractions of Arizona and the experiences of the day were definitely worth the lengthy drive.  Thankfully, we had a crock pot full of soup waiting for us at the house, so after dragging our weary bodies in the door, we ate dinner and relaxed until we hit the sack.  It had been a full and rewarding day.

I hope you have enjoyed a Page from Arizona.  Until next time – happy traveling!

 

Colorful Valley of Fire at sunset

A Gem in Nevada

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories” – Ray Bradbury

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary a gem is defined as:  a jewel, (or) a precious or sometimes semiprecious stone cut and polished for ornament, (or) something prized especially for great beauty or perfection.  Any of those definitions can be applied to the subject of today’s discussion – Valley of Fire State Park.

Where, you may ask, is this gem, this jewel, this stone cut and polished for ornament?  And, what is this place, prized especially for great beauty or perfection?  The Valley of Fire, aptly named, is located in Nevada and is an easy hour’s drive from “the strip” in Las Vegas.  It is a true gem, its brilliant colors rising in sharp contrast to the usual drab landscape of this slice of Nevada.

The picture below is the typical view out of the window of your car as you drive away from Las Vegas:

Bleak Nevada desert

As you can see, it is pretty much tan with a little bit of green thrown in.

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Pretty drab, right?  But as you drive up to the Valley of Fire, beauty begins to unfold before your eyes. Out of the dull and uninteresting, rock formations of reds and pinks and whites arise:

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Red rock formations in Valley of Fire

You’ve reached the Valley of Fire!

As I was researching and planning our family trip to Utah this year, I also needed to decide how my husband and I could best spend our extra few days ahead of the official group vacation.  We were spending three nights in Vegas, and since we’re not big gamblers, we were looking for other things to do.  My search of the internet, and the forums on TripAdvisor.com, led me to this little gem in the desert.  And I am so glad!

I had planned on us leaving mid-afternoon from Vegas with a picnic supper and spending a few hours at VoF, enjoying the evening and the twilight hours, away from the worst heat of the day.  However, we got a little carried away walking the strip, ogling the fancy hotels and indulging in a huge lunch buffet at the Bellagio.  By the time we got back to our room we were wiped out and had to recuperate for a while, pushing back our leaving for the Valley of Fire.  By the time we got there, we didn’t have time to do everything I wished, including driving around the park, sightseeing, and taking the two trails I hoped to hike.  But, I must say, the hour or two before sunset are a great time to visit VoF.  The setting sun cast beautiful hues of pinks over the red and white rocks, and the skies were a bewitching cascade of color.  The pictures just don’t capture the splendor that the eye sees.  Here are a few of the evening pictures:

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By the way, I rented that convertible as a surprise for my husband, because he loves convertibles and we can’t afford to buy one at this stage of life.  I was so excited and kept it a secret until we picked it up.  We got an incredible price on it from the car rental company named Sixt.  It’s a European company that’s new to the states and they offer prices on luxury/specialty cars that compare to standard cars from some of the other companies.  Check them out when you want to rent a special car!

So, back to Valley of Fire . . . here’s another evening picture – it’s kind of dark, but the sky is so pretty:

Sunset and red rock at Valley of Fire

Well, as I mentioned before, we got to the park a little too late to see everything that I had planned, and the park closes at sunset, so we had to leave.  But, thankfully, my husband was a good sport and he agreed to come back the next day after we visited the Hoover Dam.  When we drove away from VoF that first evening, it was a chilly 57 degrees!  Surprising for the last half of May in Nevada, at least for me.  But despite the chill, we rode back with the top down on our rental convertible (with the heat on), and enjoyed every daggone minute!  And the roads from the VoF back to Las Vegas were pretty empty, which made it even better!  It’s no fun to ride in a convertible when you’re surrounded by semi-trucks.  Ha!

The following day we came back in the afternoon, after visiting the Hoover Dam and taking Lakeshore Road (which comes with a big price tag – $20 – the entrance fee for the Lake Mead National Recreation Area) back to the Valley of Fire State Park.  It’s a prettier drive than the other alternative, although it doesn’t compare at all to the VoF itself.

Couple at Valley of Fire State Park sign

When we reached the park this time, it was not 57 degrees!  It was hot!  Whatever cold front that had been visiting the day before was long gone.  And although the park was still beautiful, the colors were not quite the same with the sun blaring down on our heads and the sweat dripping off of everywhere.  But, like I said, still beautiful.  But I am partial to visiting a little later in the day, when the colors are highlighted by the setting sun.

The main reason we came back the second day was so that we could hike to see Fire Wave, a visually stunning rock formation with flowing lines of red and white.  We hiked out and back, a round trip of about 1.5 miles.  And we felt every step in the heat!  Here are some pictures from the hike:

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See what I mean?  Still beautiful, with contrasting colors of blue sky and red rock, but not quite as lovely as the night before.  And hot.  As we hiked closer to Fire Wave, we began to see the variegated red and white rock:

Red and white rock striations

And, finally, we reached our destination, Fire Wave

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You can see for yourself that Fire Wave is an unusual and magnificent rock formation.  And despite the walk through the sand and the heat, it was worth the trek and the sweat to be able to see it ourselves and take a few photographs.  My only regret is that we didn’t get to see and photograph it in the evening hours.  But who knows, maybe this particular spot is prettier in the daytime?

So, after our second visit to Valley of Fire, with our camera full of pictures and our hearts full of memories, we were ready to get back in the convertible, put the top down, and head back to Vegas.

I hope you have enjoyed our jaunt through the desert to the little gem in Nevada and that you will get the chance to visit Valley of Fire yourself someday.  Until next time, happy traveling!

 

Bryce is Nice!

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” – Anonymous

In a previous post, Beautiful Utah, I mentioned different places in southern Utah that my family and I visited in May of 2017.  Part of our epic journey included a day trip from our rental house near Alton, Utah to Bryce Canyon National Park.

But first, after a much needed morning of rest and relaxation, we stopped for lunch along the way to Bryce at a restaurant called Bryce Canyon Pines.  We, of course, picked this restaurant after reading all the restaurant reviews on TripAdvisor.  There are slim pickin’s around Bryce, and we wanted to pause for a somewhat quick and basic meal that wouldn’t break the bank.  I had also read that Bryce Canyon Pines was supposed to have really good soup and pies!  The food was much as we expected – pretty basic but good, not too expensive, and we split meals so we could all eat pie!  The chocolate pie was my favorite, by the way.

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When we got to the gate of Bryce Canyon National Park, we stopped to pay the entrance fee of $30 for our vehicle.  The entrance fee here is the same as it was for Zion National Park, even though Zion was much bigger and had so much more to see and so many more trails.  Another note on the differences – Zion’s bathrooms were kept up very nicely and there were quite a few of them.  I noticed that the bathrooms in Bryce were not in very good shape.  There were overflowing trash cans and there was toilet paper all over the floor.  I was surprised.

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So back to the trip.  I had seen pictures of the park and its hoodoos, and I had done some research about what trails were best for a relatively short and pleasant hike.  My daughter-in-law also had Bryce Canyon high on her list and we pretty much had the same ideas for which paths to tackle.

There are several hikes to choose from in the park, but since we didn’t want to hike for the entire day and wanted to see as much of the hoodoos and beautiful scenery as possible, we settled on the Navajo Loop/Queen’s Garden combo.  The two trails together are just short of 3 miles and are supposed to take around 2 to 3 hours, depending on how many times you stop to enjoy the view, take pictures, or just stop to catch your breath!

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When we got to the viewing area over the main “canyon” we suddenly didn’t know which way to go.  We had two choices – we could go to the left, to Sunrise Point and head down the Queen’s Garden trail and come up the Wall Street side of the Navajo Loop, or we could do it in reverse and start at Sunset Point to our right.  I remembered that I had previously read that one way was supposed to be a better option, but could not, for the life of me, remember what to do!

As we were pondering and looking at a map, a fellow traveler told us that Wall Street was closed, and it was much prettier to the left, so we should enjoy the view going down.  She said that when they were walking up, all they could think about was catching their breath and they didn’t enjoy looking around as much.  So we took their advice and set off.

And she was right!  The view as we walked down the Queen’s Garden trail was magnificent.  Absolutely stunning.  What strange figures these hoodoos were – unlike anything I had ever seen.  And so many of them!  And so many variations!

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While we are on the subject of hoodoos – let’s talk a little bit about them.  Where does the name hoodoo come from?  Well, I remember from our trip that someone said the word is similar to a Native American word that evolved into hoodoo.  But, going back and searching the internet isn’t turning up that same answer, so . . . . I’m not sure but I’ll stick with my vague memory here.

How are hoodoos formed?  This I remember for sure – they are formed from the freeze/thaw cycle.  Snow melts and gets into the cracks, then the water freezes again which causes it to expand and cracks get bigger and bits of rock fall away.  Eventually bigger parts of the rocks topple over.  In fact, this very thing had happened at Bryce before we got there, and unfortunately was the reason that Wall Street was closed.  Sad face.

So let’s get back to the trail.  As we were descending the Queen’s Garden trail, we were merrily hiking and looking around at the beauty and stopping to take lots of pictures along the way.  The people hiking up, on the other hand, were stopping to catch their breath.  And then they would look at us like, “Yeah, you just wait!”  They looked harried and red-of-face, with their tousled hair and lack of oxygen.  But we were determined.  We will not be dissuaded, we thought, as we marched down, our ankles creaking along the way.

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Speaking of lack of oxygen – at this altitude you must not push yourself too hard or you can get altitude sickness.  Thankfully, we had been experiencing the higher altitude for a few days before tackling Bryce, so none of us got sick.  But we could definitely feel the reduced oxygen as we eventually hiked back up.

When we reached the lower part of the trail, the topography began to change a bit – we started to see some trees along with the hoodoos.

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After a little while hiking through the bottom of the trail, it began to gradually slope upwards.  Then we came to a crossroads.  If we went one way, it led to Wall Street, part of Navajo Loop that would eventually be blocked.  If we went to the right, we would follow the other part of Navajo Loop back up to the same end point.  Since we didn’t want to tack on a dead end meander, we went to the right.

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As we began our steep ascent, I came to understand the harried looks of the hikers we had come across earlier.  Now we were those people.  We were the ones that had to stop and catch our breath (especially me).  This part of the trail consisted of multiple steep switchbacks and an elevation gain of 580 feet.  When I look at the number 580, it doesn’t seem that bad.  But when I experienced 580, it was bad.  Now, I am not the most fit person in the world.  I am probably a pretty average 48 year old, needing to lose some weight, but I walk for exercise regularly.  But not 580 feet upwards in an hour or less, or in a day even.  Phew!

Every few minutes, I had to stop to catch my breath and give my pounding heart a chance to slow down.  Our kids had gone way ahead of us, so it was just us “old fogies” dragging up the trail.  But eventually we made it.

I will say that despite the challenge of the upward part of the trail, it was an experience that was definitely worth the effort.  The sights that are seen in Bryce National Park are unlike anything else that can be viewed anywhere else in the world.  The hoodoos are fascinating and pictures are not the same as the experience.

If you’ve never considered putting Bryce Canyon on your vacation, reconsider!  It’s a sight to see!

Until next time – happy traveling!

 

 

 

4-Wheelin’ in Utah

“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind” – Seneca

When you travel with a lot of guys, you try to plan things that will make guys happy.  I have three sons and no daughters, so shopping or spa days have not been part of our family vacation experience.  And as our kids were growing up, our budget was somewhat slim, so each trip usually came with one “big event” that went along with our free adventures such as swimming in the ocean or hiking.  For example, when we went to Arizona one year, I planned a Pink Jeep tour.  The time we went to Cancun (we had free airfare and free hotel), our big-budget item was swimming with dolphins.

Now that our kids are grown and they are helping to pay for all the fun, we can plan more non-free experiences.  So, this year, when we were in Utah, we decided to do a couple of guided activities.  First, we went canyoneering, which I detailed in my previous post – A Catch in my Throat.  Our other big adventure was 4-wheeling.  This particular activity was of genuine interest to my youngest son, and probably my oldest as well.

Months before our trip, I had done some research through TripAdvisor, and found that  Mild to Wild Rhino Tours had high ratings in the Things to Do category.  So, after reading through several reviews, I decided (with consensus from my family) to book a tour.  Buddy, the owner, recommended we take a morning tour because it would be cooler and more pleasant.

I’d like to mention that a few years ago when our family went on the Pink Jeep tour in Sedona, I was the only family member that couldn’t go, thanks to a nasty bug I had picked up the day before.  So, for this year’s vacation I was bound and determined that I was going to have some fun along with everyone else.  I might have been a little crazy with the hand washing for several weeks leading up to our adventure.  And it worked.  Yay for soap and hand sanitizer!

Back to my story – We had gotten an email with instructions on how to find the office.  But I was surprised to find it in a construction zone and even more surprised that it seemed to be a one man show!  But Buddy, the owner and also our guide for the day, was very friendly and easy to talk to.  He took our money and then gave us bandanas and sunglasses to use and keep.  And we were very thankful for them!  It was undoubtedly a dusty experience.

When we left the office, we followed Buddy in our vehicle to another location near Gooseberry Mesa and the five of us loaded up into two ATVs while Buddy drove his own.  He guided us up a messed-up, washed-out road until we reached a parking area with bathrooms and a sign letting us know we had reached the mesa.

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The ATVs we had seemed to be pretty new and were fun to drive.

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We had some beautiful scenery all around us!

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There had actually been some rain, so the dust wasn’t horrible in most places, but the scarves and sunglasses that Buddy gave us really helped.

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Buddy was a very knowledgeable guide and took us to scenic locations and pointed out all of the land forms and landmarks in the distance.  He also pointed out plants and gave a history of what native Americans had used some of them for in the past.  He told us that the cactus flower called prickly pear developed into a fruit that is used to flavor some locally-made ice cream.  I really wanted to try that but didn’t find it before we left.

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We loved all of the picture opportunities we had!  The sky seemed to go on forever up here!

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Buddy took us over some rocky terrain that made me very nervous!  I felt like we could tip over at any minute!  But after we survived the first one, I relaxed and even enjoyed the ride.  It was a hoot!

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All in all, it was a great day!  The guys got to have their adrenaline rush and everyone had a wonderful time.  Another family memory in the books!

After our tour, Buddy told us we should check out Grafton ghost town, an old Mormon settlement, and told us exactly how to get there.  So we took his advice and headed over.  It was an interesting place to visit, but there wasn’t very much there.  And it was hot! Whew!  May 22nd in the afternoon.  I can’t imagine what July would feel like!  We read the signs, took a few pictures and we went on our way.

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So, if you’re ever visiting this part of Utah, I would definitely recommend Mild to Wild Rhino Tours.  It was entertaining and let us see a part of the countryside we probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise.  4-Wheelin’ is fun!

Until next time – happy traveling!

 

 

A Catch in my Throat

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us” – Anonymous

Have you ever done something that scared you half to death?  Or really scared you in the moments right before you took the plunge?  Made you nauseated?  Break out in a sweat? Made you tremble?  That is how I was feeling right before I connected the rope to my harness and walked out over the edge.  The walk, or creep, in my case, was the hardest part about it.

As I sat in at an uncomfortable angle with my feet keeping my posterior in place, I watched and took pictures (very carefully, I might add) as, first, my daughter-in-law very courageously volunteered to go.  Then my son, her husband.  Then my younger son.  Next, my husband said it was my turn.  My turn.  What?!

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The beautiful view while waiting for our first rappel

Our very knowledgeable, positive, and experienced guide, Graham, from Zion Rock & Mountain Guides, and his assistant Ethan had hiked us up a steep path, through a slot canyon, and to our present location.  First Graham explained how this rappelling experience would work, how we had two ropes holding us up, one that we would control with our own hands to let ourselves down (also held, just in case, by Ethan), and one, a safety rope, that he would be holding.  What could possibly go wrong?  Well, what if my feet slip?  The rope may be holding me up, but if my feet slip, I could dangle upside down, maybe?  Or hit my head?  Or smash my face into the rock?

 

So, as I waited, I kept giving myself a pep talk.  “You can do this.  Be courageous.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  When my turn came, I carefully inched closer to the edge, strapped on the rope, and slowly, very slowly and shakily let myself down.  And I didn’t look down!  Only up – that was a big help!  Our first rappel of the day was the shortest one, the baby one, the one that gets your feet wet.  As I dropped further and further toward the ground beneath me, I felt better and better.  Wow!  It really isn’t that bad!  I can do this!  I am doing this!  Finally I touched down.  We had been given instructions to say, “On the ground!” when we made it down and then, “Off rope!” when the rope was released from our harness.  What a feeling of accomplishment!  I was ready for our next rappel!

 

I will say that the younger generation seemed a little more excited and less nervous than I did.  They all did a great job!  Our guide, Graham, had us laughing all day with his expressions, such as:  schwing! and schweet! and super safe!  He also called us party people, told us, “you’re groovy,” and our favorite, “whatever’s clever, man.”  He reminded me of the sea turtle from “Finding Nemo.”  He was a really good guide and always put a positive spin on every situation.  Our dirty hands and scrapes were called badges of honor.

After the first rappel of our half-day canyoneering adventure, we were ready for a second, higher one.  But the second time, I wasn’t scared at all.  After conquering the initial fear, and understanding how it all worked, all of a sudden it was no big deal!  I knew the rope would hold me, I knew I could handle it, I understood the mechanics, so the next ones were exciting.

 

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When all of our rappels were done, and we had done some scrambling over and under rocks through the slot canyon and headed back to the van, it was nice to look around, enjoy the beauty around us, and bask in the feeling of accomplishment.

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Facing and overcoming my fear was a liberating feeling!  I’m so glad that I didn’t let fear keep me from experiencing something challenging and exciting that I have always wanted to try.  And I am so happy that I was able to do it with my family.  What a day!

Until next time, happy traveling!

Riverside Walk at Zion National Park

“Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions” — Peter Hoeg

Hey again!  Let’s talk about an absolutely easy and delightful hike in Zion – the Riverside Walk.  When we visited Zion, we, of course, didn’t get to explore every hike in the park.  There is a very strenuous, thrilling and nausea-inducing (if you are afraid of heights) hike with magnificent views that we intentionally skipped, known as Angel’s Landing.

Another one, known as the Narrows, which is about 8 miles round-trip through the Virgin River, is supposed to be stunning, although somewhat challenging.  We couldn’t do that one because the river was running too high and the park service had it closed.  However, we were able to do the Riverside Walk, which is the very beginning of the Narrows hike.

The trail begins at the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop, is 2 miles round-trip, and takes about 1.5 hours, give or take.  The trail is a very easy walk and is paved and wide, so just about anybody, including those in wheelchairs, can enjoy it.  It’s so pleasant because it is alongside the Virgin River, and shady, so it’s a rather cool, refreshing walk.

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Along the way, you can enjoy hanging gardens, a peaceful river, and some of God’s creatures.

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While you are walking along the river, there’s such a feeling of peace and tranquility.  I wish I could bottle that up, along with the sounds of the river, and the feel of the small breeze from the running water.  So delightful.

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I’ve had to break out the thesaurus to figure out a bunch of different ways to say the word beautiful.  Because I want to keep saying beautiful.  Because it is so beautiful.

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It has been fun re-living my hike from a couple weeks ago with you!  I hope I’ve been able to share how alluring, appealing, charming, dazzling, gorgeous, grand, marvelous, and superb this experience can be, and that you get a chance to see it for yourself.

Until next time – happy traveling!

Zealous for Zion

“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before” – Anonymous

Hey y’all! Can you tell that I had to break out the dictionary for that title? I needed something that started with Z that would adequately convey my emotion for Zion National Park. Oh, there are plenty of adjectives to describe the appeal of that bewitching, resplendent locale, but how many start with Z?

Anyhow, on our recent jaunt to southern Utah, Zion National Park was at the top of my list. As I mentioned in a previous post, even though I didn’t really know exactly what to expect, I knew by reputation that it is supposed to be beautiful. As I prepared for our trip, I started searching Google images for some ideas of what we would be seeing and I was amazed. I called my husband over to the computer while he was watching a basketball game or something, and I was actually able to grab his attention away from the tube while we oohed and ahhed at all of the lovely pictures.

But, let me tell you, pictures never do a place as majestic as Zion any justice. And, even though I just said that, I am compelled to share pictures with you. Below are a few pictures from the Canyon Overlook Trail.

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By the way, there are hanging gardens in quite a few places in the park. They are formed when water drips down through the rock and creates a wet environment for plants to grow.  You can see some of that in the picture above, left.

My favorite views in Zion National Park were seen as we departed the long tunnel and entered the canyon in the eastern part of the park. The cliffs were massive and soared above our heads in beautiful hues of red and cream with the contrasting green of the vegetation.

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I found it interesting that the views east of the long tunnel were somewhat different from the main canyon.

And, part of those views were big horn sheep!  We were all so excited to see them, although they only showed themselves to us once.  Tip – look around the east side of the long tunnel close to dusk.

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And while I will be sharing more pictures of individual hikes inside Zion in future posts, the last thing I would like to highlight today is the amazing petroglyphs that we found inside Zion National Park. It’s actually really amazing that we found these ancient creations at all. There’s no sign on the road letting you know that they exist (that I could see, anyway), and no parking area for them. The tour guide from Mild to Wild Rhino Tours is the one who told us about them and how to see them. Even with his directions, we were pretty unsure as we picked our way through a wash and under a road.

Seeing the petroglyphs was one of the items on my own personal “bucket list” for our vacation, and even though we were at the end of a long day that had been full of activity, and even though it was starting to get a little dark, my family humored me and went along for the journey. I am so thankful!

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While I am talking about Zion, I would like to point out that May is a fabulous month to visit the park. Unless, that is, you want to hike the Narrows. Usually, during the month of May, the Virgin River runs too high due to snow melt, and the park closes the Narrows hike. But the temperatures are really nice for hiking most of the month – not too cold, not too hot, and you don’t have to worry much about flash flooding in the slot canyons because it is not the rainy season. Of course, you always have to watch the weather, because with mother nature, anything can happen, but the odds are in your favor in May. We were there May 20th – 27th and had absolutely gorgeous weather, although it was getting pretty warm at the end of our trip. Also, the kids aren’t out of school yet, so it’s less crowded than the summer months. If you can get there in May, it’s a great time to go!

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So, if Zion National Park isn’t on your list, then get your pencil out right now and write it down! Make plans to visit. You won’t regret it!

Until next time – happy traveling!