Coral Pink Sand Dunes SP, Cedar Break NP, Duck Creek,
Brian Head, Parowan & Monument Valley
Coral Pink Sand Dunes SP, Cedar Break NP, Duck Creek,
Brian Head, Parowan & Monument Valley
Utah: Coral Pink Sand Dunes SP, Cedar Break NP, Duck Creek, Brian Head, Parowan & Monument Valley.
Arizon: Page & Glenn Canyon Dam.
The 4-corners (Colorado, Utah, Arizona & New Mexico)
Saturday, June 23, 2001 Kanab RV Corral Kanab, UT 435-644-5330 elevation around 5,000'
Our day unfolded in a rather amorphous way. We wanted to get cooler, and see what we could. Whatever we ran across in the process we would make the best of it. Our first stop just happened to be on the way to getting cooler. It was the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park about 20-miles northwest of Kanab, Utah. The locals were having a blast in this park with off road motorcycles and 4-wheelers. These "orange" sand dunes are situated in a canyon with steep red cliffs and outcroppings. These sand dunes were created by three factors: 1) sand, 2) high winds and 3) a unique venturi effect created by wind being funneled through a "notch" in-between two mountains. The velocity of the wind increases through the narrow notch pulling in the sand but as the wind passes through the notch the wind decreases and deposits the sand in the open valley. The sand comes from the sandstone cliffs prevalent in this area. The color comes from iron oxide "rust" that colored the sand a rusty color. It looks a pale orange to us but we understand that in afternoon light it appears coral in color. In a specially designated area a group of "off road vehicle enthusiasts" was running up and down the dunes at high speed. Others were racing up the side of huge dunes then flying off the top. Every camper in the Park came with a full compliment of off road vehicles.
From there we headed to Cedar Breaks National Park. Yesterday we experienced temperatures up to 106-degrees. Today we were headed up in altitude to escape that. To get to Cedar Breaks we had to travel about 40-miles north on highway 89, then west on Utah 14 for about 20-miles then northwest on Utah 143 a few miles. What a scenic drive, totally awesome in every respect. Before this afternoon is over we will climb to 11,307' back down to 5,000' then retrace our tracks up to 10,400' before returning to Kanab at 5,000'. Highway 89 follows the Virgin River valley through a few small towns and field after field of irrigated hay. The fun begins when we turned west on Utah 14. Several prominent signs warn large trucks and trailers not to try it. We notice that car tags bearing Arizona, Utah, California and Nevada ignore these signs. The ride west on Utah 14 was spectacular. There was a continuous series of steep grades as we headed to 10,000'. Switchbacks were not bad but the grades were brutal. Somewhere down Utah, 14 we came upon Duck Creek Village. What a special place.
Duck Creek Village appears to be a number of businesses catering to winter sports enthusiasts and summer off road vehicles. There were a number of condo's and chalets to go along with the businesses renting snowmobiles and 4-wheel off road vehicles. All manner of people were running all over the place in the 4-wheelers. It reminded us of the wave runner rentals in Florida. The 4-wheelers were following paths built especially for them and probably the snowmobiles. Horse riding was apparent in the meadows and the creek was lined with fishermen. One 2-acre pond, excuse me "lake", must have had 15 fishermen scattered all around it. Many of the fishermen were decked out in their L.L Bean waders and knee deep in the middle stalking that elusive trout. We could only hope that the hatchery had dumped some keepers in earlier in the day. Duck Creek Village was doing a booming business. Almost everyone seemed to be involved in some kind of outdoor activity. The temperature was in the mid-60s and felt wonderful.
We ate duckburgers at the Café in Duck Creek. They were great! Experiencing the ambience of Duck Creek Village from the table on their front porch dining area with the owner's 150-pound malamute will not be quickly forgotten. The malamute was HUGE, old and extremely friendly. He would not eat french fries but would gobble down duckburger in a heartbeat. Did we mention how cool it was? Temperature was in the mid 60s. Much more enjoyable than the 106-degrees we experienced yesterday.
A few miles up the road from Duck Creek Village we started seeing evidence of a lava field. We have visited Sunset Crater back in Arizona and know what a lava field looks like. Unlike the small lava field at Sunset Crater this lava field is massive. It covers miles and miles. We later learn that the magma came from numerous cracks in the earth rather than out of the mouth of a central volcano cone. In one place we can see where the lava flow has created a dam across the entire valley. This was a gigantic magma flow that has created Navajo Lake. In addition to the lava flows and lakes alpine meadows spread on both sides of the road. Then we turn on Utah 143 to Cedar Breaks National Monument. The climb continues. More signs are posted warning trucks and trailers not to proceed. The climb to 10,400' has been reward enough, Cedar Breaks will just be icing on the cake.
Cedar Breaks is a brilliantly colored half-bowl canyon that rewarded us with another vista of rugged badlands similar to Bryce. Eroding red limestone has created an area 2,500 feet deep and three miles long in the mountain. There are four scenic overlooks situated strategically around the half-bowl rim. Snow remained in patches. Joyce threw snowballs at me as I took video of her. Did I mention that the high temperature on the rim was 68 degrees with very little humidity? We are driving around with the windows and sunroof open. Does it get any better?
Joyce and I hiked out to a spot on the rim where we could see some bristlecone pine trees. This native of the Cedar Breaks highcountry is the Methuselah of trees. One gnarled and weather-beaten bristlecone on the rim has already lived more than 1600 years. In other southwestern states 4,500 year-old specimens have been discovered. That the bristlecone lives at all is something of a miracle considering that it grows only in forsaken spots where water is scarce, soil is thin, and fierce winds blow relentlessly. Joyce liked the feel of the needles. The small cones had tiny little projections that reminded me of small fishhooks.
From Cedar Breaks we stayed on Utah 143 to Brian Head Ski and Summer Resort then on to Parowan, Utah. What a kick! Brian Head happens to be a huge rocky crag overlooking the ski resort bearing the rock's name. We saw a sign advertising a three-mile ride up the mountain to 11,307 plus feet to the Brian Head scenic overlook. We had to go for it. The road was not paved but appeared in good shape. On the way up I pulled over to the side as about 20 "range-rovers" came racing down the side in a cloud of dust. Our relatively clean Saturn was now trashed. After they passed we resumed our quest for the summit. As we approached 11,000' patches of snow were in the muddy gravel road. Joyce was squealing with every breath as we plowed through the snow and made the top. What a hoot. When I stopped at the top I saw water dripping out from under the hood. It was melting snow. The snow was so deep in the road that the front of our Saturn had acted like a snowplow and scooped up a mouth-full of snow that was now melting. From the summit we could see Arizona, 70-miles to the south and Nevada to the west. Entrepreneurs from Brian Head resort were delivering groups of bikes and riders up to the summit. There is a super down hill bike trail that they take back to the resort about 10-miles away. This is obviously a super fun thing to do. When we drove through Brian Head Resort they were renting as many 4-wheelers as bikes. The 4-wheelers were zipping everywhere on special trails. It appears that as soon as winter is over they put up the snowmobiles and get out the 4-wheelers. Like back in Duck Creek Village Brian Head Ski & Summer Resort was cashing in on the OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) craze.
In Brian Head we see signs on Utah 143 saying that the road to Parowan was 12 miles of 13% grade. We pass another sign that says "NO TRAILERS" next 12 miles! In front of us is a young woman in a pick-up truck with a 30' horse trailer and a Nevada tag. She just flew by that sign. We both wanted to watch. I could not keep up with her on the way down and I was in a Saturn. We could smell burning breaks. The grade was so brutal that even low could not hold our Saturn back without breaks. Every once in a while we would get close enough to see the girls horse trailer. Once at the bottom she pulled over and we pulled beside her to talk. Joyce wanted to meet her & so did I. There were two women in there thirties in the pick-up. They said they had never been down that road before. The trailer was empty. Both of them were ashen. We were congratulating them for making it. She kept saying that she had smoked her breaks. We agreed. We had smelled them for 11 of the 12 miles. Joyce and I chuckled as we drove off that they need some time to themselves to clean up the mess.
We did not realize exactly how lucky the girls were to make it to the bottom until a bit later. On the way back we stopped at a roadside vendor for some beef jerky. He lived in Brian Head and told us that Utah 143 from Brian Head Resort to Parowan is actually a 16% grade but that 16% is against the law so the sign says 13%. He told us that vehicles regularly run over the side. He was amazed that someone in a pickup truck with a 30' horse trailer had made it down. He told us that a cement truck got away from the driver last week. The driver jumped just before it went over the side and lived to tell the story.
We do not know what the grade is but our Saturn was in low with plenty of throttle to make it up the last two miles of that unremitting grade into Brian Head Resort. The stretch of Utah 143 between Brian Head and Parowan is by far the most awesome road we have driven.
After the ascent back into Brian Head the remainder of the return trip was uneventful.
Sunday, June 24, 2001 Kanab RV Corral Kanab, UT 435-644-5330 elevation around 5,000'
We attended church with Kanab's only Baptist congregation. There were 33 of us in attendance including 6 visitors. Instrumentation for praise time was provided by a guitar, violin and tambourine. After the praise selections, just a piano and violin were used as the music reverted to the traditional 17th century hymnal songs. The masculine hegemony, so evident in Southern Baptist Congregations, was absent in this church. Virtually everyone in the congregation greeted us and the other visitors. We were made to feel among friends. The preacher delivered a sermon from 1st&2nd Kings dealing with God's chosen people as a Nation turning from God, all the while drawing parallels to current events in the United States. He pretty well spelled out his animus toward Clinton and his administration as well as Federal Judges.
The rest of our day was spent reading, small repair jobs and laundry. This is our last day in Kanab. Tomorrow we will head southeast to Lake Powell and Paige, Arizona for a day or two.
As we leave the Kanab area we should put in a plug for the Kanab RV Corral (the RV-Park) where we have been the past week. If you are RV'ing in the area this is a perfect place to stop. The owners are from the Netherlands. They are a 40'ish couple that spotted this park about 8-years ago while on vacation. They purchased it and moved to southern Utah. What a story. They are super owners. The place is spotless. The pool is immaculate as is the laundry room and other facilities. They have a modem connection in the laundry that works first time every time. They do not allow tents and discourage permanent guests. The owners and park are truly first class.
Monday, June 25, 2001 Wahweap RV-Park outside Page, AZ. Elevation 3,900' --- On Lake Powell
We moved the motorhome about 60-miles southeast to Page, Arizona and Lake Powell. We are staying in Wahweap RV-Park. It is located inside of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area but is a concession. There is a HUGE motel and Marina complex also being operated by concession. We are from Florida and are used to seeing boats and marinas. This place has a gigantic marina. We have not seen this many boats in a single marina since Homer and Kodiak, Alaska. In Alaska the boats were commercial fishing vessels here they are houseboats and every manner of run-about possible.
After driving around the facilities we went to the Lodge to get "boarding passes" for a Sunset Dinner Cruise on Lake Powell. They advertise a "hearty Prime Rib" dinner. We only ate a taco each for lunch in anticipation of you know what. It best live up to the advertisement. J
We stopped by the Chamber of Commerce and Information Center to get information on area attractions. We schedule a half-day float trip down the Colorado River. It starts from the bottom of Glynn Canyon Dam and exits 15-miles down river at Marble Canyon and Lee's Ferry. This float down the Colorado River does not contain any rapids. It is on a craft large enough for 40-passengers. Joyce made the employees swear on three stacks of bibles that there were no rapids or white water.
The Sunset Dinner Cruise was 2&1/2 hours of superb fun. The prime rib dinner lived up to the advertisement. The sunset was in the words of our captain "the most beautiful one he has seen". We can believe it. A layer of clouds to the west were hanging over the horizon as the sun dropped. The sunset was as red as they get with just the perfect mix of lavender clouds.
Tuesday, June 26, 2001 Wahweap RV-Park outside Page, AZ. Elevation 3,900' --- On Lake Powell
We awoke to early morning showers. Originally, we were scheduled to take a raft trip down the Colorado River but decided against it because of the rain. Instead we slept late then spent several hours at the gigantic boat ramp near our RV-Park. Joyce and I have always enjoyed spending time at boat ramps watching people launch and retrieve their vessels. Arizona boat ramps are as much fun as Florida boat ramps. Action starts when a vehicle full of merry makers arrives at the ramp. One person backs the boat trailer into the water while everyone else stands in a trance. While everyone else remains in a stupor, the driver sets the parking break and gets out of the tow vehicle to unhook the boat and start the boat engine. Everyone else continues to stare into space, while holding towel and suntan lotion. The driver backs the boat off the trailer then secures it to the dock while the others adjust their sunglasses. Next the driver returns to the tow vehicle and parks it. Generally, while the driver is gone the stupor wears off and the merry makers find their way to the boat and get in about the time the driver gets back from parking the tow vehicle.
Notice that I was careful not to say anything about a MAN backing the vehicle. We witnessed several WOMEN in the role of "making it happen" while the rest of the party assumed the role of "Jell-O".
We have watched this scenario so many times in Florida that we though it was a southern thing. NOT!
After several hours of some of the best entertainment available we decided to tour Glenn Canyon Dam. Just as we entered the visitors' center at the dam it started raining cats and dogs. We thought nothing of it but the locals and park employees stopped what they were doing and went to the windows to watch. They were all amazed. It was raining so hard you could not see the other side of the canyon. It rained really hard for about 15-minutes. Before it stopped park representatives were announcing that dam tours were suspended. Those on tour were being escorted to safe places that their relatives should not worry. Out the viewing window we could see that traffic going across the bridge, adjacent to the dam, was stopped. Then someone said we should look out the front door at the parking lot. When we stepped outside the parking lot was flooded. The highway outside was not only under water the water was flowing across it like the flash floods you see on TV. The flash flood was carrying a mixture of sand, mud, rocks and debris with it. State highway department equipment was on the job almost immediately to remove the sand, mud and boulders blocking highway 89. Within 30-minutes they had one-way traffic flowing again. It was hours later before the entrance and exit to the dam and visitors center was cleared.
When it was happening we thought it was just a heavy rain. However, it was much more. Locals were telling us they had never seen it rain like that. Park Rangers told us that the dam tours would be closed for at least two days in order to clean up the mess. On the way back to the campground Park Rangers had the south road into the National Recreation Area closed because of a landslide. We were diverted to the north entrance road.
What an exciting day. We got to witness one of those rare flash flood events that only happen every few years here in northern Utah. Annual rainfall here averages 7-inches per-year. We got one of those inches in about 15-minutes.
We drove down to the Lodge to sit by the pool on the overlook and watch the sun go down. It was a pretty sunset, but not like the "postcard" sunset of last night.
Wednesday, June 27, 2001 Wahweap RV-Park outside Page, AZ. Elevation 3,900' --- On Lake Powell
Sleeping late is beginning to be a habit. We toured the John Wesley Powell Museum in beautiful downtown Page, Arizona today. It was a very nice museum with excellent dioramas, pictures, art, history of the Colorado River exploration, multitudes of pictures of the Glen Canyon Dam under construction, another series of pictures taken over the 17-years it took for the reservoir to fill to operating level, plus myriad other exhibits. You need to schedule several hours to take in this museum.
The remainder of Wednesday was spent reading and enjoying life. Tomorrow we are scheduled to take a raft trip down the Colorado River from the base of Glen Canyon Dam to Marble Canyon and Lees ferry where they will put us on a bus for our ride back to Page.
Thursday, June 28, 2001 Wahweap RV-Park outside Page, AZ. Elevation 3,900' --- On Lake Powell
We wake EARLY so we can get to our Raft trip that left at 7:00am. What a wonderful trip. The excitement begins on the bus trip that takes us to where we board the rafts. During construction of Glen Canyon Dam and generating system, a tunnel was constructed from the town of present day Page to the base of the dam. This tunnel provided access to the bottom of the canyon for construction crews. Today it provides access to the generator section of the dam. Repair parts can be transported to the generating area through this tunnel. In addition to repair parts the tunnel is used by the rafting company to transport rafters to the start of their trip down river. The two-mile tunnel trip is down an 8% grade along the face of the cliff. Every so often the tunnel builders punched a "window" from the tunnel to the face of the cliff where they would shove the debris from the tunnel out. Of course these windows also provided oxygen to the tunnel. This was an exciting one-way tunnel much like the one we experienced at Zion National Park.
As we board the rafts we can look up 700' and see the bridge crossing the Colorado River just above us. From the bridge two days ago the rafts looked so small, now we realize these big blue rafts can hold up to 40 passengers.
As we shove off on our adventure down stream we get an awesome view of Glen Canyon Dam from directly below it. The size perspective must be magnified when you view it looking up. As we pass the canyon wall each of the "windows" to the tunnel are visible along with the debris that was dumped out during construction.
A group of Page residents were taking the trip with us and provided us with some first hand information on the Colorado River before and after the Dam. They told us that the only fish in the pre-dam river were catfish and chub. Now the river holds trophy rainbow trout. The difference between pre-dam and today is multiple. First the pre-dam river water was very hot. It also carried a tremendous amount of silt. He said that pre-dam the water was 75% sediment. Now the water is crystal clear and very cold.
Early explorers described the Colorado River as being too thin to plow and too thick to drink. One Page resident told of rafting down the river as a teenager before the dam. The water was warm and muddy. Today the water is crystal clear and 46-degrees. The cold water is the result of the water being released through the generator turbines coming from several hundred feet beneath the surface of Lake Powell. Water at that depth is extremely cold. As we floated downstream we could see trout on every gravel bar. Fly fishermen lined most of the gravel bars in the upper river. The man from Page described to us how they got drinking water on their tube trips down river as a teenager. They took tin cans and filled them with river water then let them sit on the bank for an hour or so. During this time the sediment would settle to the bottom and they could drink the inch of water at the top. That was the "good old days"! He did not think that those were good days. Page residents much prefer the dam.
It is a really different view floating down the Colorado than viewing it from above. The section we were floating had narrow canyon walls. The sun only reaches the river at mid-day or when a bend in the river is at an angle to the sun that allows it to. We exited the river at Lees Ferry in Marble Canyon. From there a bus transported us back to Page. Since we disembarked on the west side of the river the bus took us back across the highway 89a bridge over the Colorado River that we crossed earlier in our motorhome. The view of the river from the bridge is truly unforgettable.
As if the raft trip was not enough we toured Glen Canyon Dam this afternoon. Unlike Hoover Dam this tour was free. It was also much better. A young Navajo college student was our guide and did an excellent job. Today only three of eight turbine generators were producing power. The water is low or they would be producing more. By agreement with downstream states and Mexico the dam has to release a certain amount of water, I suspect it must be what was flowing through those three turbines.
Friday, June 29, 2001 Goulding's RV-Park, highway 163 on the border of Arizona & Utah at Monument Valley Elevation 5,300'
We traveled 129-miles east across the Arizona Utah border to Goulding's trading post located on highway 163. We stopped here to see Monument Valley. We arrived in Goulding's around noon and it was hot. We decided to get in the indoor pool to cool off. We took the guided sunset tour through Monument Valley. The four-hour sunset tour covered some 20-miles through 4-wheel territory. The guide took us to Navajo family places where some of them still live in their traditional dwellings. These families do not have running water or electricity. They still tend flocks of sheep and goats. These are places you do not see just traveling down the road.
We got to see where the dramatic automobile commercials were filmed on top a butte, where the "Marlboro Man" advertisement was shot, where Thelma and Louise did one of their scenes, where Chevy Chase did his sand dune scene in National Lampoon's Vacation, the surreal scene in Back to the Future III, a piece of Forrest Gump, and myriad other films. Many of John Wayne's western movies were shot here.
Monument Valley is a Navajo Tribal Park located on the border of Arizona and Utah within the Navajo Reservation. The park is at about 5,500' elevation. Rainfall averages eight inches per year. The temperature today was over 100 degrees in the shade. As long as we stay in the shade the temperature is bearable.
Goulding's Trading Post (and RV-Park) had a unique relationship with the Navajo people to the benefit of both. Harry Goulding and his new wife moved to Monument valley in 1923 to live and work among the Navajo people and set up a Trading Post. They traded in items of foodstuffs, household necessities and livestock. Like many traders they acted as advisers in government affairs. In the 1930's Harry went to Hollywood to sell the idea of making his western movies in this area. The rest is history. By the way, "Stagecoach" was John Wayne's first movie filmed in Monument Valley.
If you are in the 4-corners area of our great country Goulding's Trading Post is certainly a must see. Goulding's has a Lodge, gift-shop, RV-Park, grocery store and Museum all located within a mile of Monument Valley.
Saturday, June 30, 2001 Sundance RV-Park, Downtown Cortez, Colorado, 970-565-0997 Elevation 6,200'
We spent 5 hours moving east across northern Arizona on highway 160 all in the boundary of the Navajo Nation or Reservation. Every 30-miles or so is a trading post. Along the way we saw a high school. The neon sign advertised they were the "Red Skins". My-oh-my!!!! I want to see the group that gets their panties in a wad over Native American slogans or mascots for sports teams tackle this one. That reminds me of the "T" shirt a Navajo man was wearing the other day that said, "All my heroes shoot cowboys".
We stopped at one of the trading posts. The most exciting thing I saw was in the Trading Post butcher shop. There was a sheep being cut up. Instead of being hidden in a back room the butcher block was out where we could view the operation. Instead of selling beef they were selling mutton. Outside the Trading Post was a pen with eight or ten sheep in it. We commented that one of the sheep would be on the table by tomorrow morning.
Our next stop was at "four-corners". For those of you not familiar with "four-corners" it is the only place in the country where 4-states meet (Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. This spot is located in the Navajo Nation Reservation so they collect a $2.00 per-head fee. At the site Navajo stands are selling jewelry, pottery, T-shirts and fry-bread. All there is to "THE SPOT" is a survey marker in the center of a flat cement floor with markings showing each of the four states borders. Everyone is obliged to go to the center and put each foot and hand in a different state while having their picture taken. You obviously have to get in an awkward position to do this to the delight of the crowd. Everyone is doing it and everyone is being laughed at.
We arrived in Cortez, Colorado around 2:00pm and hid from the mid-day heat. The weather report says the area is blanketed with high pressure and that record heat is forecast for the next few days.
Mike & Joyce Hendrix
Until next time remember how good life is.
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