Bryce Canyon National Park

Wednesday I spent most of the day at Bryce.  I tried to get here on two different days last year while in the area, but was distracted by two other area attractions – Cedar Breaks National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (you may search the blog on the Home page to see some photos from those magnificent places).

Wednesday was an amazing day in many respects.  I am in a beautiful place and love what I’m doing.  The weather was fantastic.  While there were clouds that came and went (which can actually help create some good photo opportunities) it never rained where I was and the temperatures were in the upper 60’s and low 70’s with some occasional wind.  I got to talk to some fellow travelers and hear some of their experiences as well.  The Park was not crowded and there were many times I could just put the cameras away and enjoy where I was and what I was seeing.

All these photos were taken in a 20 minute period when I arrived at the first overlook.  These are of the main “amphitheater,” which is the largest cluster of formations.  And as you can see, in some spots they are really packed in!  Can you imagine 200 years ago people riding horses through the area and upon reaching the crest of a hill seeing this laid out before them?  They must have thought they had been transported to another planet!

This was the first glimpse I got.  While it isn’t a very good picture, I wanted to remember it.

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As you’ll see, it gets much better:

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I will post more pictures tomorrow, including closeups with the digital camera.  It will take me awhile to review all 491 pictures I took on Wednesday.

Red Canyon

As I was driving from Cedar City east towards Bryce Canyon I passed through an area called Red Canyon.  There are formations which start right down next the road and then work their way up the hillside as you drive further east.  Here are a few photos I took with my smartphone camera.

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This also gave me the opportunity to try out my new Nikon digital camera.  Here are some closeups using the built-in zoom lens on it.

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Southwest Utah – Various

I am staying in Cedar City, Utah for a few nights and Wednesday I drove over to Bryce Canyon National Park, which is about an hour and a half away.  As the crow flies it isn’t that far, but there are no direct roads – and I’m not a crow.  More about that later! Fortunately all the roads that go that way are designated scenic routes so they made for an enjoyable trip.  I spent some time in this area last year and had already driven these routes but it was nice to do it again.

In the little town of Hatch I was amused to see these two characters hawking the virtues of a small coffee shop (which surprisingly wasn’t open at 930 in the morning, although it was at 530 in the afternoon on my way home).

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Sadly, the carhop had lost part of her right arm and it was wrapped in an ace bandage.  Someone evidently took her hand and the tray she had probably been holding…

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I also passed Navajo Lake, and I noticed a fun fact on the sign at the overlook saying that one of the longest lava tubes in the United States starts at a nearby campground, runs under Highway 14 (the road I was traveling on) and past the little town of Duck Creek, and they are still trying to find out how much longer it is.  Further down the road I did see several lava fields on both sides of the road.  I found this particularly interesting, given the recent events in Hawaii.

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When I got to Bryce I parked in a Shuttle Bus lot outside the entrance (parking lots at the most popular overlooks are small and fill up quickly).  I rode one of the free shuttles into the Park and got off at the first stop – the Visitor Center.  I had been this far last year, but for various reasons only had time to get a map and leave.  Outside the Visitor Center are two of the largest moveable solar panels I have ever seen.

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You can’t tell from the photos, but these are huge.  I asked inside if they had any information about them and they did not.  I looked it up online and found that they are 70 feet wide (about the length of an average 18-wheeler) and 53 feet high.  They move to follow the sun during the day.  Here is how they were positioned before I left the Park to go back to my car (from  a slightly different vantage point but still looking basically the same direction).

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The majority of the Shuttle Buses only run to the most popular overlooks, close to the Park entrance.  After I had spent time at all those stops I went back to get my car and drove through the Park to the overlook which was furthest away, then worked my way back towards the entrance, stopping at all the overlooks I hadn’t been to yet.  Despite the fact that is now past Memorial Day, the Park wasn’t very crowded and it was a very pleasant day.  At one of the stops there was a raven sitting on a fence post, patiently waiting for food.

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The photo creates an optical illusion.  The man in the photo is standing on the other side of the next fence post, further away from me.  The raven was big, but he wasn’t THAT big!  As I learned at the Grand Canyon last year, ravens are a member of the crow family but are about half-again as big as a normal crow.  This raven was very used to people and happily posed for selfies and other group photos.  He is probably on blogs and Facebook pages all over the world.

Canyonlands National Park

This is surprise destination number 3.  Canyonlands is one of the five National Parks in Utah I intended to visit when I was out here last year, but I dropped it from my list when I was told that it required quite a bit of hiking to see the most popular places in it.  Well, my Airbnb hostess told me about one great attraction which is easy to get to so I decided to come check it out.  Canyonslands is not far from Arches National Park, near Moab Utah.

This series of photos shows the approach as I walked to Mesa Arch, only a short distance from the roadway.

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And here are two pictures looking at the Arch from off to the side.

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Mesa Arch faces east and is an extremely popular spot for people to come take pictures of the sun rise in the morning.  To see some spectacular photos, Google “Mesa Arch sunrise” or go to the National Park Service website for Canyonlands to look at those photos, plus pictures of other spots in the Park I can’t get to because I don’t hike.

I only came in the north entrance to Canyonslands and did stop at some other overlooks and took other photos which I will post tomorrow.  There are two other entrances to the Park but to get to them you must go back out to the main road and drive further south, which takes a considerable amount of time.  I will have to come back to Canyonlands, either later this year before going home or on some future trip.

 

Dead Horse Point

This is surprise destination number 2.  My Airbnb hostess in Grand Junction told me about this place, and the story behind it.  It is located near Moab, Utah – about a two hour drive from Grand Junction.

While the pictures are beautiful this is where very sad events allegedly took place.

Dead Horse Point is an elevated spike of land which protrudes 2,000 feet above the Colorado River.  The photo below, taken several miles away, shows the Point in the distance at the extreme left of the photo (look for the dark colored 90-degree angle where it drops off).

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Legend has it that in the late 1800’s cowboys would chase wild mustangs out through a narrow neck, not much wider than the current paved road, to a pasture and would fence them in.  The horses were then left there – why I don’t know.  In time, the horses became thirsty and, seeing the river below, would try to get to it and plummeted to their deaths.

Put that story aside and enjoy the rest of this post!  The views from 2,000 feet up really are spectacular.

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The photos below were taken on different days, but include the final two pictures taken with my Canon digital camera and its built-in zoom lens.

This is looking down at the river on Tuesday morning (when it was sunny).

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A little below the center of the picture you can see a road in the brown dirt.  I took a picture from the same vantage point on Monday (when it was overcast) and then, to show just how big the elevation change is, used the digital camera to zoom in and show a Jeep which was driving on that road.

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Then the camera went kaput.

 

Goblin Valley State Park

This is surprise destination number 1.  Monday I drove over to GVSP, which is located about 45 miles southwest of Green River, Utah – about a 3 1/2 hour drive from where I was staying in Grand Junction, CO.

Since I’ve kept y’all in suspense I will cut right to the chase and show you the most-photographed formation in the Park.  This is called “Three Sisters”.  It reminds me of chess pieces.

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“Goblins”, or hoodoos as they are sometimes called, are formations which consist of a spire or other base which has a rock, or hardened sandstone orb, sitting on top of it.  I posted pictures of a similar place last year when I was staying in Kanab, UT.

The formation above was sitting a short ways off the road soon after I entered the Park.  Once I got to the main parking area, this is what I was looking at.  This is a three-picture panorama, looking down left to right, from the elevated parking area:

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While there are other formations out and about, this main area is three square miles of various goblins.  People are free to walk amongst them, although climbing on them is not allowed and there are serious (felony) penalties for toppling them.  If you look closely at some of the distance shots you’ll see people in many of them which will help give you an idea of how big this place is.

Here is a small sampling of what I saw (and by the way, I arrived at the Park at 930am local time and my Fitbit informed me I had my 10,000 steps for the day in by noon!).

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I will post many more pictures in the coming days but wanted to at least let the cat out of the bag as far as where I had snuck off to.

Here is how I found out about the Park.  When I was at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado I saw a book in a gift shop with this on the cover:

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(Photo and book credit: Gary Ladd)

Inside the front cover the only reference to the photo was “Thin ribs of resistant sandstone protrude from the midsection of a wind-blasted goblin”.  The book features scenic attractions in Colorado but the notation didn’t indicate WHERE in Colorado the photo was taken.  So I Googled “goblin formations” to try and find out where it is.  Well, I never found out any more about that particular formation but I did discover other photos while ultimately led me to find out about Goblin Valley State Park.  I didn’t see anything quite that elaborate here, but some of the formations I did see were still very interesting.

The reason there are so many formations in this concentrated area is that in the Jurassic Period (140-170 million years ago) there was a lake here and as the water evaporated the sand, silt and clay, along with wind and water erosion, caused these goblins to form.

Here is a small goblin which was sitting all by itself near the access road to the Park.

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Recliner Potato

Although Sunday was a beautiful day, and I didn’t drive all the way out to Colorado to watch TV, it was also a race car fan’s dream of having three marquee races from three premier venues on the same day, with all three enjoying perfect weather.  So I stayed in all day (well, I did put three miles on the car to go out and get a pizza) and watched the Formula 1 Grand Prix from Monaco in the morning (congratulations to Australian Daniel Ricciardo on his victory), the Indy 500 mid-day (congrats to Will Power on finally winning “the big one”), and of course NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600, their longest race, in the evening (and kudos to Kyle Busch for his dominating victory).  Busch now has the distinction of being the only driver to have won a points-paying race at every Cup Series track he has competed on.

This was where I spent the day – in the comfort of my Airbnb (sorry for the poor quality pictures – it was 642 AM and there wasn’t much light coming in the windows yet.)  My suite of rooms was in the basement of a home in Grand Junction, CO.  I stayed with the same people last year and of the 130+ Airbnb’s I have stayed in over 4 years, this is my favorite.  It’s like being in a Marriott… comfy furniture, king size bed, big screen TV with cable channels and I could even do laundry (so you see, I did do something productive!).

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