Thursday, September 10, 2009

On Our Way Home

Wow, we have covered much terrain since I last posted.

We did go cliff jumping in Lake Powell. The kids had great fun, but it was really a one-day affair. We really wished we could get on a boat, but it would have cost as much as our plane tickets in to Denver!

After we left Lake Powell, we traveled on to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The North Rim is very different than the South Rim with Alpine Forest along its perimeter. The Kaibab Forest was just beautiful. We watched the sunset over the Canyon (and took pics, of course) and then hustled back to our campsite in the dark through twisty hairpin roads.

After only one night at the North Rim, we went onward to Zion National Park. Interestingly, we met our friends, the Lees, from Beverly, MA! It wasn't a complete coincidence, but we had independently planned our vacations and they happened to overlap at Zion for two days. Our campsites just happened to be across from each other!

A total God thing that happened, when we arrived at the North Rim we discovered that we had double-booked Zion for the same night and neglected to book a campsite at Zion for Monday! We were really panicking about where we would be spending Monday night.....Labor Day. As of Saturday, with a call from the North Rim to Zion, they had nothing available. On the way to Zion, we prayed in the car that we would be able to get a site in the same campground we were staying in. When we arrived at the check-in, we asked if they had space available on Monday and they said, "yes, we do." We asked if it was possible to get the same site we had reserved and they said, "no, but we can give you D30" - right across from the site we were in and right next to our friends! We were praising God all day. Whew!

Zion was just gorgeous. We took the shuttle through the park when we arrived that afternoon. All of the cliffs are named after Biblical stories/people - well, almost all of them. There is an etching on one cliff face that looks like Darth Vader. The park was named Zion by a Mormon and most of the cliffs were named by a Methodist Minister and a guide that made a game out of naming them. Much more creative than I would be. "Angels Landing", "The Three Patriarchs - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob", "The Great White Throne", and "Altar of Sacrifice" (a white sandstone with red streaked down it.)

We hiked down the river walk (The river was called the Virgin River.) This was a mile hike through vast canyons with hanging plants that get water from the water dripping through the sandstone and hitting shale. It was like a tropical garden amidst huge desert cliffs. The canyon was hot in the day, but cooler as you get deeper in along the river. It is very windy at night. I am not sure the technical reason, but I believe the hot air of the canyon rises at night and the cool air rushes in creating incredibly windy nights.

The second day at Zion, Steve took the 3 older kids into the Narrows. The Narrows is beyond the River Walk. You get into the river and hike the canyon. Hikers follow the river up through narrow openings in the canyon. They hiked in until the water was over their heads and then turned back. I guess it was pretty awesome! Our 7 year old and I took the shuttle again and I just kept a slow pace with her. We stopped at the museum and watched the movie and then we hiked the Emerald Pools, the lower and middle pools. It was still a pretty long hike for a 7 year old, but she did well. I stopped at the middle pool and did a sketch there. I will blog again once I get my sketches scanned in and narrate through them.

We then went to Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce was different yet again. The rock formations there are called "hoodoos". We hiked a few loops through the hoodoos and of course, took a million pictures and I drew sketches. No one has downloaded their photos yet, so I will add them in later.... then you can get the idea of what a hoodoo is.

We decided that our "reviews" of the National Park campground facilities we have been in on this trip are:

Mesa Verde rates the best for facilities. Nice sites, convenient bathrooms, and FREE hot showers. Each shower had their own little room with plenty of space to change. The water tasted terrible though and was a little away from the sites.

Zion had the worst facilities. It was probably my favorite place in our entire trip, but the facilities were non-existent. There were no showers there which really made you kind of feel yucky after a few days, especially after some of the strenuous hikes and the hot weather. Water was a short walk from the sites and there was not a convenient way to even wash dishes. They wanted you to carry the water back to your site, wash there and then dump the water back where you got it. Other places had a campsink.

North Rim had showers and laundry, reasonably priced, but their check out was 10AM (as opposed to everyone else's 11AM checkout). We had no time to partake of their facilities because we had to hustle to pack up camping gear for six people before 10AM. Water was conveniently located to the sites. They had a really nice Campstore there.

Bryce had decent facilities. At the Campstore they had showers and laundry. The maintenance of the showers was wanting though.... they could have been cleaner and better maintained. Water and a campsink was conveniently located to most of the campsites. Of course, we deliberately chose a site close to it.

This morning we packed up at Bryce and drove all day. What an incredible drive! I thought that the drive out through the Rockies was incredible, this was just like nothing I had ever seen before. Even after seeing Bryce, which was bizarre. The terrain changed around every bend. Changes in color and texture. Sand and rock and mountain. Level upon level. It was just amazing. We took the scenic highway 12 through Capitol Reef and the scenes continued to change long after we left that park.

We are now staying in a hotel. A nice break from camping, but it has its own difficulties. It's hard to cook a meal. We ate out, again. I am happy to be in nice bed and to not have to undo my "house" in the morning!

We are in the home stretch now! It will be good to be back home, but I am not looking forward to the rude awakening of life waiting for me there!

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