By jim dickens, the desiccated one
Vacationing with good friends is definitely top 5 and maybe even #1. I think part of my post work purpose is to make sure we as friends stay connected and find joy together. It feels like it has positive knock on effects that ripple through out our networks as well. Going to the Utah desert canyons with Lori and another couple was definitely one of those trips.
The other couple, Ron and Cris, are a marvelous combination. Ron is a man of routines who is thoughtful and well planned. Cris is spontaneous and free wheeling. Both are positive, tolerant, fit, outdoorsy and love to travel among other positive things. So it was a no brainer to invite them to travel with us.
The most exciting thing seen in Iowa and the ominous Fort Cody
We resolved to see the canyons of Utah at the beginning of August with a rendezvous at the Zion Canyon Lodge at 3 pm on the 8th. Lori and I drove the Honda Ridgeline out across the great plains leaving on the 6th. Cris and Ron who drive out to Denver once in a while advised us to stay in the Nebraska oasis of Ft. Cody. We stayed right next to the so called magical Fort and it just didn’t feel right. In fact, it seemed that evil was emanating from there and the Fort was a trap. We got up and on the road before it opened and something horrible happened. We drove to Richland, Utah passing through the rockies and some very picturesque rock formations near Green River. We saw a forrest fire that a week later shut down I70 near Grand Junction Colorado. Covid had yet to reach rural Utah and we were viewed strangely for insisting to eating outside and to wearing a mask in stores.
Better than expected! Initial hiking in Zion
Lori and I arrived at Zion a bit early. I have to admit the canyon was grander and more beautiful than I remembered from my childhood. Pictures don’t capture it but they are pretty cool. Ron and Cris were delayed so we hiked a couple of trails and got supplies. After driving for 2 1/2 days straight it was good to stretch our legs. We all sat under the cottonwoods in the Zion Valley had a couple of ice cold beers and admired the canyon walls at sunset while the Ridgeline outdoor truck bed sound system kept it lively. A great way to kick off.
Lori, Cris and I took an early morning hike to the Court of the Kings while Ron went through his morning routine. With a quick turn around we then hiked up the Angel’s Landing trail. The chains were closed covid so we did not do the thrilling last 1/2 mile climb to the landing. Every couple of years some one falls to their death on this part of the trail. As someone who has bungee jumped, sky dived and paraglided, it was strange that I was relieved that we would not make the climb. In fact, trepidation crept in every time I got within 6 feet of a cliff edge. It must be an effect of aging although Cris, Ron and Lori did not share my cowardice. We finished the day off with Mexican in town and drinks at sunset on the lodge lawn.
In addition to the canyon being grander than I remembered, I was also impressed with the wild life we saw. In addition to what is pictured below we saw turkey and many raptors including a California Condor! Young hiking children are good for finding snakes due to their low eye level. We had deer graze on the lodge lawn within 15 feet as we held still. We went to Bryce Canyon and saw much less wild life.
We convoyed to Bryce and barely didn’t get lost. Much of the route was without cell coverage making communication and navigating a little more “old school”. Bryce was the favorite canyon of my youth. I was prepared for that to change to Zion based on travel books and the previous two days. However the vibrant red to yellow colors of the gardens of eerily shaped sandstone spires in a backdrop of dark green trees and a corn blue sky keep it my #1.
At Bryce, Ron and I hit upon a great formula. We chatted up a ranger at the visitor center asking for a sampler of the park. We told him our preference and capability of hiking/driving and the ranger gave us recommendations. Ron with his superior planning skills got to the right parking lot, on the right shuttles so we could see and hike through the best of Bryce. We did some pretty good vertical and about 8 miles of hiking. It was a great day. We convoyed on to Moab for some “glamping”.
It was a long drive but mostly through stunning wilderness on deserted roads so very cool. We arrived after 9 pm to stay in tents. As we pulled in a very large snake crossed in our headlights. And, as we checked in, coyotes group howled. We had splurged for the star gazer tents with a panel in the roof over our beds to see the stars which are very clear in the desert 10 miles outside Moab. At three in the morning I awoke to animal noises and when I opened my eyes a desert mouse was staring at me down through the stargazing panel. That kept me awake for a little longer. At Ron and Cris’s tent, a crashing noise in the tent had Ron springing to action and beating the crap out of his backpack. He was convinced invading critters were after his backpack for the snacks. It turned out a gust swayed the tent wall and knocked over a metal stand.
We used the ranger sampler method and had fantastic hikes and views in Arches and Canyonlands national parks. And the last night of clamping we had a camp fire, adirondack chairs, cold drinks and live music under the Perseid meteor shower. Ron claimed it was one of his favorite evenings of all time. Being so positive he is prone to hyperbole. The star gazer tents were awesome that night.
The next day we parted ways in Western Colorado as Ron and Cris headed to Teluride and we headed for a flight out of Montrose. The Ridgeline was left in airport parking lot poised for its next adventure, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison