The Olympic Peninsula: Port Townsend, Sequim, and Forks, Washington

Port Townsend

It was a short, beautiful drive from Shelton to Port Townsend along the Hood Canal. Port Townsend is an historic town (population 9,113) located at the northeast tip of the Olympic Peninsula, known for its natural beauty and Victorian buildings remaining from its late 19-century heyday. Established in 1851, the founders called it the “City of Dreams” because of early speculation that the city would become the largest harbor on the west coast of the United States. That dream did not come true.  Port Townsend is surrounded by the Puget Sound and it reminded me of the small New England seaport towns in the eastern U.S.  I found myself saying, “I could live here….in the summer!”

 

 

The Port Townsend Elks Lodge is one of the few that takes reservations and I was lucky to get a reservation two days in advance.  When I arrived, the campground was fully booked.  The lodge is only three miles from the historic section of town and is very popular.

 Fort Worden Historical State Park was the first place I visited.  The park is a 434 acre multi-use park with more than two miles of saltwater shoreline and the Point Wilson lighthouse.  I returned to the park several times during my week stay.  It was peaceful, the weather was perfect and I could walk the shoreline along the Puget Sound.

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Fort Worden Beach
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Point Wilson Lighthouse

There are many things to do in Port Townsend.  The old town area has restaurants, galleries, shops and bars.  The historic Ruby Theatre shows movies and I saw Ingrid Goes West.  The story was about social media breaking bad.  It was funny, a little scary and very entertaining.  The best part was the seating configuration and the availability of great food and drinks while you watch the movie.

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Easy chairs and comfy sofas for the movie. The screen came down over the windows. Great food and drink delivered to your chair. Now that’s how to watch a movie!

I visited an Art Deco Lighting Museum located on the second floor of a lighting store.  I LOVE Art Deco anything.  Clothes, art, jewelry, furniture, ANYTHING!

 

Next, I took a cruise around the Puget Sound with the goal of seeing whales.  Orcas are very active in the Sound because there are two permanent resident pods.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see any Orcas, but we did see a couple Minke whales, elephant seals, and lots of birds.  The Puget Sound Express was a great tour for many reasons, one being they serve Blueberry Buckle hot out of the oven!  They also provide a guarantee that if you do not see Orca whales you get a free ticket for another cruise.  The four-hour cruise was $99 and was definitely worth it!  I hope to use my free ticket next summer.

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Puget Sound smooth as a duck pond!
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A little wildlife
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Beautiful day on the Sound

The area around Port Townsend is agricultural with several wineries and cideries.  I visited two cideries and was pleasantly surprised with their products.  Cider drinks have become very popular and I understand they are an alternative for those who cannot drink beer due to allergies.  Of course, I had to bring a few bottles home!

One day I took a drive to Marrowstone Island and Fort Flagler State Park.  I also checked out the Escapee Park Evergreen Coho RV Park and the small town of Chimacum.  I also tried to take a ferry to Whidbey Island, but it was completely booked as they are down to one ferry this time of year.  Next time I’m in the area I will explore more of the San Juan Islands.

After one week in Port Townsend, I drove the 40 miles to Sequim where I would explore the north part of Olympic National Park.

Sequim

It was another Elks Lodge campground for the next four days.  While based in Sequim (pronounced like squid, but with an m), I visited Dungeness Recreation Area and Spit, Neah Bay, Makah Museum and Cape Flattery, Hurricane Ridge, Crescent Lake and several waterfalls. The Olympic Peninsula is awesome and I only had a little rain while in the area.

Dungeness Recreation Area is a national wildlife refuge and one of the world’s longest natural sand spits that softens the rough waves to form a shallow bay and harbor rich with marine life. The spit is five miles long with a lighthouse at the end. The spit sticks out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  I did not take the hike to the end…10 miles is too long for me, especially on sand!  I did see the lighthouse when I took the whale-watching cruise from Port Townsend. 

The next day I drove into Olympic National Park for the first time.  Sequim and Port Angeles provide easy access to the famous Hurricane Ridge in the park. It’s 17 miles up to the 5,242 foot mountain top where you can view glacier–clad mountains that crown miles of wilderness rich with wildlife. As the name suggests, it is very windy!

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Hurricane Ridge
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The view from the top of Hurricane Ridge
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The mountains are above the clouds!
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Hurricane Ridge

 

The Olympic Peninsula has many lakes, rivers, creeks and waterfalls.  I visited Lake Crescent, a 624-foot deep glacier carved lake.  Legend has it that two well-matched dragons fought nearly to the death and whose hot tears of anguish created the hot springs.  This lends a magical touch to the Lake Crescent area.  There are many waterfalls in the area including Marymere, Madison Falls and Sol Duc Falls and Hot Springs Resort.  All lush and beautiful!

I chose a 70-degree day to venture out to the farthest Northwest point of the continental US, Cape Flattery. Access to Cape Flattery is from Neah Bay and the Makah Indian Reservation. Neah Bay is a very small town with the Makah Museum the highlight of the town.  If in the area, be sure to tour the museum and buy a pass to get onto the reservation and see Cape Flattery.  It’s a short drive from Neah Bay and a 20 minute hike to the Cape Flattery overlook.  Neah Bay is a two hour drive from Sequim, and it is definitely worth the effort to see the Cape. 

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Walking sticks provided by the Makah for use on the trail.
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The trail out to Cape Flattery
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The trail gets narrow
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The trail crosses creeks
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And then you arrive! Bits of Washington State broken off into the ocean
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That is British Columbia across the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Forks

After seeing everything I could from the north area of the park I drove southwest to Forks and stayed at the Fork Elks Lodge, but this time with a twist.  There was a resident Elk heard in the immediate area of the lodge! One morning I was awakened by an unusual sound.  I looked out the window and I was surrounded by a heard of Elk!  Of course, I had to grab my camera and head out the door to take photos.  Then I realized how large they are and how close they were to me! So I quickly snapped a few photos and ran back into the rig.  It was an awesome way to wake up!

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Parked at the Forks Elks Lodge…just the two of us!
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Elk at the Elks Lodge!
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Great view of Elk butt as they head into the forest.
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This sucker is huge!

Forks is a logging town as is the entire Peninsula.  Washington is not called the Evergreen State for nothing!  However, logging is a dying industry and many small logging towns are in a poor economic condition.  Forks was one of those towns until a series of books put Forks on the international map. If you don’t have teenagers, you may not be familiar with the Twilight books. The plot revolves around a group of young vampires living in the Olympic National Park and feeds on animals, not humans. The main female character lives in Forks.  The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer, has been a big economic boom for Forks.  I learned a lot from the visitor center.  Before the books, Forks had around 6,500 visitors a year.  After the books, 69,000 visitors a year!

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The Twilight crew and me!
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People from all over the US and the world!

While at the Lodge I met some nice people from Wrangle, Alaska.  We attended a fund raiser spaghetti dinner for Oscar, a local child with cancer.  The money was for his treatments in Seattle.  Before my new Alaska friends left they gave me a couple jars of smoked salmon they caught and canned. That was the best smoked salmon I’ve ever tasted.  It was bagels and lox for breakfast until I ran out of that yummy salmon.

There are many beaches along the coast and I visited several of them; La Push, Rialto, First Beach, and Ruby Beach.  I also had lunch at the popular Kalaloch (pronounced clay-loc) Lodge.  Such beauty along this rugged coastline!

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The beach
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Such beauty!
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Tide pool – Sea Anemone
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Tide pool-Blue Mussels

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Then it was time for the Hoh Rain Forest.  It is among the only protected temperate rain forests in the Northern Hemisphere. The rain forest receives 140 inches of annual rain, and condensed mist brings another 30 inches.  The record rainfall is 190 inches! Three loop trails from the visitor center provide a great sampling of the rain forest.  My favorite was the Hall of Mosses Trail.  Luckily, I didn’t have to visit the rain forest in the rain!  It was a beautiful, sunny day.

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Dripping with Spanish moss
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Hoh Rain Forest
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The trail through the rain forest
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All the green!
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Hoh Rain Forest

As the weather started turning for the worse, it was time for me to start heading south towards Oregon.  Honestly, I could spend the entire summer in the Puget Sound area and the Olympic Peninsula.   I loved it!

Next stop Portland area and a visit with a dear friend.

Did I say, “I love this lifestyle!” yet?  I do!

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Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia, WA

The Olympic Peninsula was my next destination.  I have friends in Seattle and Tacoma so I chose the Elks Lodge in Shelton, Washington as my home for a week.  Shelton is a small town northwest of Olympia and driving distance to Tacoma.  In addition, with an hour drive to Bremerton, I could take the ferry to Seattle.

My first outing was to Olympia, the capital of Washington. Olympia is located in the South Puget Sound area.   It was Friday and I was a little surprised the capital building area was deserted.  In hindsight, I guess I should not have been surprised.  Have you ever visited the Sacramento capital building on a Friday?  Yes…deserted too!

I arrived just in time to take the last tour of the building.  The exquisite neoclassical building opened in 1928. The marble, woodcarvings, light fixtues and old hardware are a remarkable sight.  I also learned a little about Washington State government  and how the legislators balance the needs of rural Washington (which is most of the state) and the urban areas on the west coast. The tour is definitely worth your time if you are visiting the area.

 

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Washington State Capital Building

 

I used Yelp to find a delicious Turkish restaurant and had dinner before returning to Shelton. On a trip to Turkey several years ago I was exposed to Turkish cooking and I’ve loved  it every since.  And let’s not forget the Ephes beer!

Next, I was off to visit Jay and Anne Jackson who recently moved to Tacoma.  I met them at a waterfront restaurant for dinner and then went to their house to drink some wine and catch up.  I worked with Jay at Public Sector Consultants over many years.  We laughed until I had a bellyache!  They really like living in the Puget Sound area and I can see why!  So much fun visiting with Jay and Anne.

Tacoma is home to the Museum of Glass and the Chihuly Bridge of Glass.  The museum highlights extraordinary glass art and has a large Hot Shop where you can sit and watch artists create glass objects.  Tacoma is the birthplace of Dale Chihuly, a renowned glass artist and you can learn more about Dale here. Dale’s glasswork is a step beyond.  The Bridge of Glass is a walking bridge over the freeway and has numerous pieces of glass art back lit by natural lighting.  Stunning!  Here is a few photos that of course, don’t do it justice.

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Museum of Glass Hot Shop

 

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Glass Ceiling on Bridge of Glass
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Ceiling on Bridge of Glass
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Bridge of Glass
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Bridge of Glass
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Bridge of Glass

I made the one hour drive to Bremerton to catch the ferry to Seattle to meet my friend Susan Kelly. We visited the Chihuly Garden and Glass.  Even though the garden was closed, we toured the glass exhibit and again, a spectacular place!

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Chihuly Glass Museum
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Chihuly Glass Museum
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Chihuly’s Native Rug Collection

We ate lunch at the Collections Café located at the Chihuly Garden and Glass.  The café has delicious food, but that was not the best part.  The café is decorated with Chihuly’s personal collection of everyday items.  They were everywhere!  On the walls, hanging from the ceiling, in the bathrooms, and in the center of the tables (under glass).  There are shaving brushes, ceramic dogs, bottle openers, Mexican silver ashtrays, pocketknives (our table), inkwells, alarm clocks, plastic radios, string holders, fish decoys, toy house trailers, accordions, and 1950s cameras. Talk about eye candy!  The collections brought back so many memories of childhood. 

I searched the plastic radios looking for the one I received from my Great Aunt Lill and Uncle Marv for Christmas when I was around 10 years old.  They bought one for me in beige and one for my brother in turquoise.  I would listen to that radio with CKLW tuned in, day and night.  I think that is where my obsession with music began. Here is a few photos of the collections.

 

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Plastic Radios
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Our table had pocket knives.  The colorful knife on top is mine.  
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Old Tea Pots
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Ceramic Heads for String

 

After that, we walked along the waterfront and dropped into the famous Iver’s for a few cocktails before I had to catch the ferry back to Bremerton.  It was a fantastic day with a wonderful woman!

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Giant head sculpture
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Seattle from the ferry

I fell in love with the Puget Sound area.  So much water everywhere! Many islands to explore (next time) and good friends.  If it was not for the weather, I could easily live in this area.  But, alas…too much grey and rain for this sun-loving girl.  One thing is for sure, this will not be my last visit to the area. 

 Next stop Port Townsend, Sequim and Olympic National Park.

 

Mount St Helens and Mount Rainier, WA

And then there was one…

Everyone left for home and I drove 190 miles to Randle, Washington.  Randle served as my base for exploring Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and Mt. Rainier National Park. I stayed at a small park, Shady Firs, recommended by Deb and Mick.  There was no AT&T cell signal at the park so I was forced to disconnect from my phone. Due to hurricane Irma bearing down on most of my family, this was a bad time to lose communication.  I drove 40 miles (round trip) each day to check on the weather and my family.  Everyone was fine and they didn’t even loose power.  That’s the worst thing…losing power in hot, humid Florida. Honestly, I’m beginning to wonder why anyone chooses to live in that state.

Summer is over and the campgrounds are returning to “normal”.  There are only a few campers at Shady Firs this week.  It’s quiet and I love it!  And, I was finally out of the smoke zone and the weather was good.

Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument

This year is the 35th anniversary of the establishment of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, 110,000 acres in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  The monument has become a world-renowned laboratory for the study of volcanic processes and ecosystem development following large-scale disturbance.

Mount St. Helens is most notorious for its major 1980 eruption, the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways, and 185 miles of highway were destroyed. A massive debris avalanche triggered by an earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale caused an eruption that reduced the elevation of the mountain’s summit from 9,677 feet to 8,363 feet , leaving a total of 3,900,000 cubic yards of material that was transported 17 miles south into the Columbia River by the mudflows.

For more than nine hours, a vigorous plume of ash erupted, eventually reaching 12 to 16 miles above sea level. The plume moved eastward at an average speed of 60 miles per hour with ash reaching Idaho by noon. Ashes from the eruption were found collecting on top of cars and roofs the next morning, as far as the city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. Learn more here.

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A photographer was lucky enough to not be in the path of the eruption and captured photos as it was happening. 
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The force of the eruption leveled the forest into a river of trees, still present today.

Looking up at the volcano you can see the entire top side missing.  It erupted out of the side and  top of the mountain.  Therefore, part of the forest was untouched.  The force of the eruption leveled an entire forest of trees and completely changed the configuration of Spirit Lake.  It was hard to image the force of the eruption, even with the evidence right in front of me.

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View from the top of a hike. Mount St Helen’s eruption out the top and side of the mountain
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Look closely and you will see the white dotted line where the mountain was before the eruption

I took a short hike to a small lake and photographed some of the beauty.

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Fall is beginning
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Damage from the beavers
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Don’t know what this is…it was a beautiful color
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Ditto on this

I’ve come to realize that many of the places I’m visiting are there because of earthquakes and volcanoes.  The reality is that we are living on a humungous ball of magna, ready to explode at any time!  Learning about Yellowstone and  Mount St Helens drove that point home big time!

Mount Rainier National  Park

“Of all the fire mountains which like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.”  John Muir

Mount Rainier had not been on my radar screen until Ralph mentioned it to me.  I did know it was in Washington but not exactly where.  Checking it out on the map, I found it was on my way to the Olympic Peninsula, which was my destination.  I’m really happy I visited the park.  It was spectacular!

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Awesome when you fist spot Mt. Rainier

I waited for a clear, warm day to drive the 40 miles to the park.  It turned out to be a perfect clear, 76 degree day and there were very few visitors in the park, which made  it even nicer.  I was surprised by the beauty of this park.

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The hike to the falls
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Myrtle Falls
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Reflection Lake with a reflection of Mount Rainier

At 14,410 feet, Rainer is the tallest volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range and he most glaciated peak in the continental United States.   Glaciers, massive rivers of ice up to 750 feet deep, flow down the rocky slopes. Yet, on the summit, steam escapes from deep within the mountain’s core, reminding you that it is still an active volcano.  The park is a step back in time because the roads, buildings, and other structures are nearly one hundred year old. You can hike up the mountain and actually walk on the glacier.  I was there too late in the day to take that hike.  Maybe next time…

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I’m discovering that nature is my religion.  When I see the beauty and connectedness of all things in nature I literally become overwhelmed and teary.  The more I learn, the more I realize how every thing, from the lichen to the volcano, are interdependent for survival.  Often, I cannot believe the beauty I’m seeing with my own eyes.  I try to capture it with my camera. The images never are as good as my eyes.  I stare for a while, trying to record the site in my brain.  I am overcome with gratitude; for being able to travel like I am, for those that came before me and realized they must save these unique areas of our country from the hands of greedy corporations, and for the awesome beauty that unfolds around every curve in the road.

After four days in Randle, it was time to move on to the Puget Sound to visit Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle and my friends Susan Kelly and Anne and Jay Jackson.

Glacier National Park, The Crown of the Continent

 Over the five years that I have been researching and reading RV blogs,many say that Glacier National Park is their favorite.  Thusly, I made Glacier my goal when I started on this journey.  And here I was…in Columbia Falls for two weeks, just outside the park.  I couldn’t believe it.  I made it all the way from the bottom of Arizona (Bisbee) to the top of Montana!  Even I’m impressed!  🙂

My friends, Mary Ann and Gerard, were still traveling with me. Ralph rode up on his new motorcycle, and our friends, Chris and Bill, along with their dog, Hank, joined us for the second week.  We did a little site seeing, played 31 and Mexican Train every night, and had a lot of laughs.  Chris and Bill, Ralph and I took a ride around Kootenai Lake before the smoke got so bad that we couldn’t ride.

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Ralph, me, Chris and Bill
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Hank, the prison dog, is a well-behaved Border Collie trained by prison inmates. We all loved Hank!
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The new Victory. Very comfortable!

Unbeknownst to us, August in Montana is fire month.  This year was particularly bad due to 70+ days of no rain. Fires were burning all around us.  When Mary, Gerard and I arrived, the wind was blowing the smoke away from us. We were able to explore the park for three days before the wind changed direction and filled the area with choking smoke.  I’ve never experienced this before.  By the end of the day, my chest hurt, my eyes burned and I had a sore throat.  I was disappointed that I didn’t see the park as it was in photos I’ve seen in the past.

We visited McDonald Lake, St Mary and Many Glacier.  We were up and down the Going to the Sun Road many times.  The last time was at 10 pm and I’ll tell you that was a little scary.  Ralph did a great job driving.

Glacier is a beautiful environment carved out during the last Glacier Age. The name is actually Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and represents a vision of a world in which peoples set aside their differences to work collectively in the interest of all life, for all time. Waterton is the Canadian part of the park.  The park has old-growth forests, wind-swept prairies, ancient glaciers and deep lakes. 

The Going to the Sun road is 50 miles long and bisects the park east to west. It is a spectacular road that traverses the park’s two largest lakes, hugs the cliffs below the Continental Divide and peaks at Logan Pass.

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What is left of a glacier
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Beautiful lake view
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The turquoise water indicates glacier runoff.  Gerard matches! 
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That is an islet in the middle of the lake
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One of the many falls
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All the rocks are so colorful!

The glaciers are quickly disappearing, so if you want to see them, don’t wait too long to go to the park. 

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Going, going, gone!

I was disappointed by the smoke and even though Glacier NP is beautiful, my favorite is still Yellowstone.

Another bucket list item checked off! 

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Gerard sitting an a glacier
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Here’s the same glacier, ha!

Where to from here?  Somewhere where there is clear air!

 

Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks

Our first stop on the way to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, was in Evanston, Wyoming.  Evanston is just off  Interstate 80, and was about half way to Alpine, Wyoming. Alpine would be our home for the time we explored Jackson and the Tetons.  It was a beautiful drive from Provo and we arrived early in the afternoon so we had time to check out the Evanston historic district and river walk.  We were pleasantly surprised by the great work the small town had done to preserve their old buildings and provide a recreation area (the river walk) for its citizens.

We had a conversation with a couple in their early 90s we met on the street, and learned even more about the town.  We stopped at a local brewery, the Suds Brothers and sampled their Bizzy Bee beer and the Red Monkey Butt Amber.  I love how creative the local breweries are with the beer names.  

While in Evanston, I also crowned the first Road King!  I must admit, there was alcohol involved.  Gerard was a good sport. He sort of looks like an old Italian lady, don’t you think?  🙂

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Road King Gerard Capra
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The Road Queens in a really good mood!

The next morning we were on the road to Alpine, Wyoming which is about 40 miles south of Jackson and the Grand Tetons. It was a steep climb over the mountains and it really pushed that Ford V-10 engine of mine.  We slowed to a crawl at 20 mph and I wondered if it would make it to the top.  We did. In hindsight, Reine should have driven the car instead of towing it behind the RV.  My bad; I hadn’t checked the elevation on the drive. Oh well…another lesson learned!  The route took us from Wyoming back through Utah, back into Wyoming, then into Idaho and finally back to Wyoming!  It was hysterical watching Reine try to get photos of the welcome signs as we went flying down the road.  When we saw the Welcome of Idaho sign, we both exclaimed, “Welcome to Idaho?  WTF?” I was wondering if I had taken a wrong turn somewhere. We had not.

 Alpine, Wyoming

We used Alpine as our home base for visiting the Tetons.  We stayed at Grey’s River Cove campground near the confluence of the Snake and Grey’s River.  It was a 45 minute drive to Jackson and just a bit longer to the Teton’s. Reine had to return home part way through our stay and then there were three!

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Sunset at our campground

 There is a lot to see and do in Jackson and we squeezed in as much as we could.  We visited the National Elk Refuge, created in 1912 to protect habitat and provide sanctuary for one of the largest elk herds on earth. It is home to 7,500 elk each winter.  The elk herd survives the hard winters of Jackson through a supplementary feeding program.  The elk shed their antlers and the Boy Scouts collect the antlers to sell with 75% of the proceeds returned to the refuge to help feed the elk.  The largest single herd of bison, (1000+) under federal management, also winter in the refuge.

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National Elk Refuge- No elk in the summer. This is their winter home.

 

 

The next day we went rafting on the Snake river one.  The scenery was absolutely beautiful!

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Rafting on the Snake River

Heading north from Jackson, it’s only a few miles to the Grand Tetons. We took the Jenny Lake ferry and then hiked to Inspiration Point. It was uphill for a mile and just about kicked our collective asses!  The view was worth it and the weather was the perfect.  Hiking down we broke out into song;  “The hills are alive…with the sound of music.”  It looked just like the Swiss/Italian Alps!  Such beauty!  At times, I could not believe my own eyes!

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Reine at Inspiration Point
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Hiking above Jenny Lake
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Mary and Gerard on the hike
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The Grand Tetons

 After dropping Reine at the Jackson airport, Mary and I visited the National Museum of Wildlife Art.  The museum preserves and exhibits wildlife art.  The 51,000 square foot building was inspired by the ruins of Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.  The building overlooks the National Elk Refuge and contains truly stunning art of the Jackson and Yellowstone area.  Our favorite exhibit was the photographs of endangered species by National Geographic photographer,  Joel Satore.  Joel is on a 25-year endeavor to document every captive animal species in the world using studio lighting and black and white backgrounds. Thus far, he has photographed 6,500 different species, which leaves approximately 6,000 to go.  Joel chronicles his project in his book, The Photo Ark. Here are a few of his photos.  Learn more here.

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I didn’t realize that it was only going to get more amazing in Yellowstone.

West Yellowstone, Montana

We drove through Grand Teton NP and Yellowstone NP on Hwy 191 to arrive at West Yellowstone and our base camp for visiting Yellowstone National Park.  What a beautiful drive! We camped at Yellowstone Holiday RV park on Hebgen Lake.  It was a very nice campground with views of the lake.  Unfortunately, the smoke in the air got progressively worse during our stay.  The last time I visited Yellowstone I was 19 years old and the only thing I remembered was Old Faithful.  Was I in for a surprise!   

Ever heard of Earthquake Lake?  Yeah…me either.  On the way to our campground we saw signs for Earthquake Lake on Hwy 287.  One afternoon we drove the 17 miles to the visitor center and were astounded that we had never heard of Earthquake Lake and the event from which it was formed.  The lake was created after a 7.5 earthquake struck on August 17, 1959, causing an 80-milliom ton landslide, which dammed up the Madison River. The landslide traveled down the south flank of Sheep Mountain, at 100 miles per hour and killed 28 people who were camping along the shores of Hebgen Lake and downstream along the Madison River.  The visitor center is built on the top of part of the landslide.  There are first hand accounts displayed in the visitor center. Downright chilling as we were camped on the edge of Hebgen Lake.  Learn more about this event and its aftermath here.

The rest of our time was spent exploring Yellowstone National Park.  Gerard did the research and we were able to cover three of the four sections of the park.  We missed the northeast section of the park including the Lamar Valley.  We did visit Madison Junction to Old Faithful including the Midway Geyser Basin, the Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Geyser Basic, the Canyon Area (Grand Canyon of Yellowstone), Firehole Lake Drive and Haden Valley, Fishing Bridge Lake Village on Yellowstone Lake, the West Thumb Geyser Basic and, of course, Old Faithful. 

Yellowstone NP is the most unique park I’ve visited.  Yellowstone is a giant volcano caldera with hot springs, mudpots, fumaroles (steam vents) and travertine terraces. It’s crazy to realize that we were standing 3 to 5 miles above the hot magna that is our earth and could erupt at any minute!  Yellowstone is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, which is a major area in the basic in of the Pacific Ocean where a large number of earthquakes and volcanos eruptions occur.  Learn more here.

Another lesson learned…don’t visit Yellowstone in the summer.  It was very crowded which made it difficult to relax and really soak in the natural marvels.  We tried going to the park early, late and in between.  Between the traffic accidents and the animals in the road, there were many delays.  We didn’t let this spoil our visit, but I learned my lesson.  I definitely will return to Yellowstone, probably in the spring.  Here are just a few of the photos I took at Yellowstone.

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At this point I had no idea what wonders awaited me!
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Steam spouts
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Microorganisms determine the color of the water
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White Dome
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Steam spouts everywhere!
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Bison on side of road
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Bison watching me, watching them.
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One very cold morning in order to get the proper lighting for photos: Gerard and Mary Ann Capra, Lynn Simpkin and yours truly
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Yellowstone Grand Canyon
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Grand Prismatic
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Yellowstone wonders
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A geyser, not Old Faithful

 

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Mary Ann and the Road Queen…I love traveling with friends.

 

Next stop Glacier National Park!

Richfield, Provo and Park City, Utah

 Richfield, Utah

I had a month between visitors and needed to be close the Salt Lake City airport so I picked Richfield to stay for a couple of weeks before heading up to Provo and flying back to Sacramento for 10 days.

Looking for campsites in the summer is a real pain!  I’ve read how full-time RVers hate the weekends and summer because it is difficult to find open campsites and indeed this was the case in Utah.  The only place I could find was the KOA in Richfield.  It was much more expensive, (as KOAs always are), than I usually pay, ($47/night at the weekly rate), but I didn’t have much choice.  It turned out to be a  nice campsite,  large level site, big concreate patio with log fencing, and a pool.  Richfield isn’t much of a town, but it did have a Walmart. Yes I get excited when these small towns have a Walmart!  From Richfield I was able to visit Capital Reef National Park and Fremont Indian State Park.  I also had time to check some things off my “To Do” list.  It was bloody hot; hovering near 100 the entire time, so the pool came in very handy.

I met several of the workcampers working at the campground through RVillage, a social networking site for RVers.  It was nice to have friends, however temporary, to hang out with by the pool and talk to when I felt the need for socializing.  We all saw the Richfield fireworks on July 4th.  All we have to do was take a chair and walk outside the side gate of the campground to watch the fireworks.  They were quite good for such a small town.

Capital Reef National Park is in Utah’s south-central desert. It surrounds a long wrinkle in the earth known as the Waterpocket Fold, with layers of golden sandstone, canyons and striking rock formations. Among the park’s sights are the Chimney Rock pillar, the Hickman Bridge arch, and Capitol Reef, known for its white sandstone domes. In the north are the towering monoliths of Cathedral Valley.

The Fremont Indians inhabited the area around 1,000 AD.  In the 1880’s Mormons settled the area now called Fruita.  They planted orchards that are still producing today.  I’m still eating the peach jam I bought in Fruita from the trees planted by the Mormons.  They also sell delicious pies made from the fruit of those trees.

I took the scenic drive through the Capital Gorge canyon. I used my Go-Pro wannabe, SJ4000 action cam for the first time.  I’m learning to shoot video to add to my blog.  Here’s my first try.

Capital Reef does not have the crowds that other national parks do in the summer.  It was about an hour and a half drive from Richfield through scenic mountains.  It is well worth a visit.

Fremont Indian State Park is right outside Richfield and is definitely worth a visit.  It has the archaeological remains of the Fremont culture. The site was discovered during construction of Interstate 70, and thousands of artifacts have been excavated from the ancient village and put on permanent display at the museum.  The Fremont Indians were agriculturalists who lived from about 400 to 1300 in north and central Utah and adjacent parts of Colorado, Idaho and Nevada. The Fremont are thought to have come from hunter-gatherers who previously lived in this location and were influenced by the Ancient Pueblo Peoples who introduced corn and pottery, making year-round settlements possible.

 Provo, Uath

I chose Provo because I needed to be close to an airport to fly to Sacramento for 10 days to attend Jane’s Lobster Feed and take care of a couple health appointments.  Provo is 40 miles from the Salt Lake City airport and home to Brigham Young University.  It also had an Elks Lodge where I could stay and store my RV while in Sacramento.

The Provo Elk’s Lodge is a fairly new (five years) lodge with a large parking area.  It has room for five electric/water sites and three dry camping sites.  There was only a couple RVs parked at any one time. When in Provo, I’d certainly stay there again. 

Before leaving for Sacramento, I took the short trip (8 miles) to Provo Canyon for a hike to Bridal Veil Falls and then continued to the Sundance Resort. 

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Provo Canyon Trail
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Bridal Veil Falls with some crazy people!

 

The Sundance Resort is nothing like I imagined.  It is very rustic and low key. According to Wiki, “Sundance Mountain Resort is a ski resort located 13 miles northeast of Provo, Utah. It spans over 5,000 acres on the slopes of Mount Timpanogos in Utah’s Wasatch Range. Alpine skiing began on the site in 1944. Actor Robert Redford acquired the area in 1968, and established a year-round resort which would later spawn the independent Sundance Film Festival and the non-profit Sundance Institute. Sundance is committed to the balance of art, nature and community.”  I checked into tickets for the film festival.  You need to buy your tickets the minute they are released a year in advance in order to get a ticket.  Maybe someday…  I walked around and had lunch before heading back to the RV.

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Sundance Resort Building

Sacramento, CA

The purpose of my trip to Sacramento was to attend Jane’s Bridge School fundraiser lobster feed at her home in St. Helena.  This is always a fun event and gave me a chance to see a few people I hadn’t seen in a long time.  It was also my birthday.  It was unusually hot in St Helena the day of the event and the dinner was outdoors.  We did our best to stay cool by drinking a lot of cold beer!  Everyone had a wonderful time and the food was fantastic.  After a few days at Jane’s house, I went to Sacramento and stayed with Ralph (and of course, Freddy the Freeloader).  I do miss my guys!  I went to the eye appointment, the dentist  and got my hair done.  A very productive week indeed!

Note: Click on photo to see caption.

I returned to Provo with a bookie in tow (my book club friend, Reine).  Mary Ann and Gerard Capra joined us in their RV and we all headed to the Grand Tetons.  Reine traveled with us for 10 days and then flew back to Sacramento from Jackson Hole, Wy.  Having girlfriends join me for segments of my travels has been a wonderful time for me.  It’s been great to spend extended one-on-one time with these wonderful women.  I am blessed in so many ways!

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Another road queen Tierra N’ Up The Road!

Park City, Utah

We drove up to Park City to check it out and to meet a friend, Sue Robinson.  Sue has lived in Park City for 15+ years.  Park City is known for it’s wonderful skiing in the winter and recreational activities in the summer.  It is an  upscale town with restaurants, galleries and small shops.  We met Sue for dinner and spent most of the time talking telecom and walking down memory lane.  We had a great time and all commented, “We will be back, Park City!”

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The drive to Park City
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The drive to Park City
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Once a telecom girl…always a telecom girl! Me, Sue Robinson, Mary Ann Capra, Reine Thibeault

Next stop the Tetons and Yellowstone.

 

 

 

Panguitch, Utah

“There’s nothing to prove anymore, all that’s left to do is enjoy”     

                                                                                                                  Unknown

 

I have been on the road for five months now and the time has flown by.  Most of that time  has been with family (Yuma), at an RV rally (Tucson), camping with new friends (Casa Grande), and having a few road queens (Sandy and Jane) travel with me. Up until now, I haven’t actually spent that much time by myself.  It’s been interesting being totally alone.  I find myself being lazy or maybe I’m just tired from all the activity since leaving Sacramento!  I certainly was not this active at home.  I’m trying to make the transition from a “perpetual vacation” to regular life, just in a home on wheels.  In my regular life I wasn’t going and doing all the time. When in the RV, I feel like I’m wasting time when I’m not going somewhere or doing somewhere. I’ve read that it takes six to nine months to fully adjust to this lifestyle.

During my travels I’m  getting a good dose of small town America.  As you can imagine, I’ve had some interesting conversations with people that are not my peeps.  I’ve been taking an observer position and trying to understand the Trump supporter mind set.  It’s almost exclusively men that bring it up.  My response is, “I have a personal policy of not discussing politics or religion”, yet they  still  feel it necessary to continue defending Trump.  Short of getting up to leave, I cannot get them to shut up.  (What’s new, right?) I guess I’m still a city girl and I definitely live in the right state.  There’s no doubt that I will return to California when I am finished with this adventure. I miss California very much!

Panguitch, Utah

I stayed in Panguitch for two weeks.  In 2006, Panguitch was listed as a historic district in the National Register of Historic Places. The history of Panguitch is interesting.  Panguitch is a Native America word meaning big fish.  Mormons settled the area in March, 1864.  The first winter was exceptionally cold and hard.  Crops had failed and people were hungry.  Seven men braved the elements to get flour in Parowan, another Mormon settlement about 40 miles away, over what is now Highway 20.  The snow was so deep they had to abandon their oxen and wagon.  They were able to reach Parowan by placing a quilt on the snow, walking to the end of the quilt,  placing another down, and retrieving the first.  This became known as the Panguitch Quilt Walk and is still celebrated today. 

I was able to attend the weekend celebration that included many activities, a quilt show and a dinner theatre telling the story of the quilt walk.  I was touched by the celebration of the townspeople’s ancestors.  There were descendants of the original settlers in the play.  What a wonderful tradition!

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Ralph and I stayed in Panguitch when we took the RV and motorcycle on the Grand Circle  four years ago.    I stayed at the same campground, the Hitch N Post in beautiful downtown Panguitch.  I’ve started to rate these small towns by whether there is a Walmart or not.  You know a town is really small if they do not have a Walmart.  I don’t like shopping at Walmart due to their employment policies.  However, I do understand that

in some areas Walmart is the best employer and the best shopping.  As with everything in life, it’s a tradeoff. 

I chose Panguitch because it is a good basecamp for visiting Bryce Canyon NP, Red Canyon, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Kodachrome State Park, Cedar Breaks NM and Willis Creek Canyon.   Zion NP is within driving distance too.  I have been to Zion before so I chose not to visit on this trip.

The weather has been extremely hot and summer camping season is in full swing so it’s getting harder to find campgrounds. State parks are fully booked.  I’ve read how full-timers hate summer because it is much more difficult to find last minute campsite availability.  Part of the appeal of this lifestyle is that you can navigate by serendipity.  If you have to plan and reserve campsites months in advance…well… that’s the exact opposite of serendipity!    I haven’t been able to boondock without hookups because I need to have electricity for air conditioning.  So, that means RV parks that are more expensive than national forest campgrounds and dispersed camping in the wild.

Panguitch is located near the intersection of Hwy 89 and Hwy 12.  Scenic Byway 12 is 124 miles  long and travels through some of the most diverse, remote and ruggedly beautiful landscapes in the country. It is home to two national parks, three state parks, a national recreation area, a national monument and a national forest.  I saw rolling slickrock, colorful buttes and mesas, snaking canyons and rock walls varnished with mineral stains.  I traveled the scenic byway from Panguitch to the summit at Powell Point Overlook and The Blues. 

The Blues

The Blues is a badland of gray-green shales deposited some 80 million years ago when the area was covered by an inland ocean. The Blues is one of the best and most continuous records of late Cretaceous life on the planet and has yielded an abundance of dinosaur fossils, including a dozen new species. 

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The Blues
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The Blues and the top of the Grand Staircase Escalante

My first hike was Red Canyon. I cannot seem to get enough of those red rocks! Red Canyon is made of Claron limestone on the Paunsaugunt Plateau.  It is a variety of weirdly sculpted forms described as turrets, hoodoos, pinnacles or spires.  They extend nearly four miles on top of the plateau edge.  There are great trails to hike, bike and ATV.  Here’s a few photos of Red Canyon and the Arches Trail.

This is Dixie National Forest territory and the Sevier River runs through the area. The landscape is varied and beautiful!  Of course, Bryce Canyon National Park is the crowning jewel of the Panguitch area. 

Bryce Canyon

Ralph and I visited Bryce Canyon before and I wanted to return and hike into the canyon. Bryce Canyon is not actually a canyon, but is a series of amphitheaters etched into the pink Claron limestone of the Paunsaugunt Plateau (same as the Red  Canyon). I picked the coolest day of the week, left very early and hiked to the bottom of the canyon.  I loved walking among the giant rocks, pinnacles and hoodoos and soaking in the environment.  It was approximately 3.5 miles; pretty much downhill and, of course, uphill most of the hike. It was a bit challenging, but totally worth it!

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The Amphitheatre
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Bryce Canyon
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The Trail Down
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Hoodoo that voodoo like you do?
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Red Power!
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Through the Rabbit Hole
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The Welcoming Committee
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The Dangerous Wildlife
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At the Bottom
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And Back Up We Go!
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Up, Up, Up!
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I Made It!!!

Grand Staircase – Escalante

Scenic Byway 12 boarders the top of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Grand Staircase is the flagship unit of the National Landscape Conservation System, one of our nation’s newest conservation initiatives, managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  It is 1.9 million acres set aside in 1996 to preserve the wide-open spaces and intact ecosystems. The Grand Staircase is a series of massive geological steps that descend toward the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  The five cliff formations – pink, gray, white, vermillion and chocolate- each different chapters of geologic history spanning 100 million years.  This region of silence, space and scenery defies description! I found a great blog post that explains the Grand Staircase better than I ever could.  This is one of the photos from the blog.

Grand Staircase
Grand Staircase – Photo Credit Dr. Jack Share
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My Grand Staircase Photo

Kodachrome Basin State Park

There is a Utah state park in the area too. Kodachrome Basin State Park that is definitely worth visiting. The Paul  Simon song, Kodachrome, ran through my mind a hundred times over a few days.  I could not get that song out of my head!  Yes, the park was named after the revolutionary Kodak film that was celebrated for its color accuracy. The park has a series of upright cylindrical chimneys called sandpipes.  More than 160 sandpipes ranging in height from six to 170 feet have been identified in the park.  I took the 3 mile Panorama Trail through the most spectacular scenery. On my hike I ran into a couple that I met on the trail in Bryce.  Small hiking world!  People are very friendly on the trails and I acquire a lot of good information from people I have a ten minute relationship!

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Kodachrome Basin State Park
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Matter of Perspective – That’s a tent nestled in the rocks
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A Closer Look at Kodachrome
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View From Top of Trail
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View On The Trail
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The Trail Up! Yes, that rock is in my way!
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Another View from the Top
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Doggy With Hiking Booties – What a great idea!

The couple I met in Bryce told me not to miss the Willis Creek hike. They said It was worth the long drive down a dirt road to the trailhead. It certainly was!  The creek has carved its way through the rocks, creating a slot canyon.  At certain times of the year you must wade through the creek.  This time of year the creek is barely flowing and you can use the rocks in the creek to cross from one side to the other to make your way through the slot canyon.  I love slot canyons but don’t hike them very often because access is either way off the beaten path, or a hard hike to get to them.  This one was accessible and  an awesome hike.  

Willis Creek Trail

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Sometimes Wet
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Sometimes Dry
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Always Narrow!
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Interesting What the Water Does to the Rock
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Erosion From the Water

Cedar Breaks

I took the 60 mile drive to Cedar Breaks National Monument. This great natural rock amphitheater of extraordinary forms wrapped in brilliant colors is a must see.  The Cedar Breaks amphitheater is a result of many of the same forces that created other great Southwestern landscapes, including the Grand Canyon, Zion Canyon, and the Bryce amphitheater. Cedar Breaks is like a mini Bryce Canyon.

Shaped like a huge coliseum, the amphitheater is over 2,000 feet deep and over three miles in diameter. Millions of years of deposition, uplift, and erosion carved this huge bowl in the steep west-facing side of the 10,000-foot-high Markagunt Plateau. Stone spires stand like statues in a gallery alongside columns, arches, and canyons. These intricate formations are the result of erosion by rain, ice, and wind. Saturating the rock is a color scheme as striking as any on the Colorado Plateau. Varying combinations of iron and manganese give the rock its different reds, yellows, and purples.

According to the park brochure, “Among the region’s original residents are the Southern Paiutes, who called Cedar Breaks u-map-wich, “the place where the rocks are sliding down all the time.” Later settlers named it Cedar Breaks, misidentifying the area’s juniper trees as cedars. Breaks, another word for badlands, is a geologic term describing heavily eroded, inhospitable terrain. President Franklin D. Roosevelt established Cedar Breaks National Monument in 1933, calling nationwide attention to its spectacular amphitheater.” 

The day I visited Cedar Breaks it was 58 degrees (high) with 50 mph winds and the elevation was over 10,000 ft.  I decided not to hike.  Too cold for me! 

Cedar Breaks
Cedar Breaks

Southern Utah is a unique place and if you haven’t been to this area, you should put it on your list!

My next home will be 70 miles north of Panguitch in the small town of Richfield, Utah.  I’ll stay there until July 10.  And this town is big enough to have a Home Depot and a Walmart.  Yipee!