Arches National Park – Redux (part 2 of 2)

I posted some photos from Arches back in 2017 but it was a beautiful morning when I stopped there this year so here are some more.

This next photo is the main reason I went back to Arches this year. Delicate Arch. I got closer to it than I did back in 2017 but I still need to do the long walk up to the other side.

And this next photo includes Utah’s version of “Balanced Rock”. It is the one on the right and is bigger than it looks. From this angle it is off in the distance.

Crowds? What crowds??

This was 4th of July weekend and from my base in Grand Junction I was planning to visit both Arches National Park, which I have been to at least twice, and parts of nearby Canyonlands National Park which I had not seen previously.

I was a little apprehensive about going to such a popular Park (Arches) on a holiday weekend and my fears were compounded when I saw a story on CNN Friday which said it was so crowded that Park rangers were literally turning people away, asking them to come back in 3 to 5 hours! For that reason I got an early start and arrived at the Park entrance at 830am – with only 8 vehicles ahead of me in line.

My main goal for this visit was to get closer to Delicate Arch than I had in my previous visits (when I had only taken photos from a distant parking lot). Well, there were quite a few people there when I actually got inside the Park but it is a big place and they were pretty much spread out. I was stunned, however, when I was ready to leave the Park at 11 am and there were NO cars in the parking lot for the first, and generally very popular, overlook visitors get to as they arrive. I will post my photos from this trip shortly but this is a shot of my car in that parking lot at 11AM on Saturday, July 3rd!!

This lot had been at least half full when I arrived and I was amazed there was no one there as I was leaving. I think one reason was the CNN report the previous day which may have scared lots of people away. Another possible reason was that it was already quite warm by 11am and the temperature would reach 106 by mid-afternoon. Welcome to southern Utah in July!

Grand Junction CO to Moab UT

Saturday I got an early start as I had a busy day planned. My first stop was Arches National Park to try and wrap up a loose end from a previous visit. There are two ways to get there from Grand Junction – either the interstate west to Highway 191 which is fast but requires that you overshoot the Park and backtrack (and is a rather boring drive) OR take the interstate west to Highway 128 and take it to Moab. It is slower but is more direct and MUCH more scenic.

I have posted photos from this road before but I believe they were taken late in the day, after I had been to Arches. These were taken early in the morning and as you will see, it was a gorgeous, clear day and it got me off to a great start.

Colorado National Monument (part 1 of 2)

Friday morning I went to have my wheel alignment checked and get a part I needed from the Nissan dealer in town. After that I decided to revisit Colorado National Monument which is just outside of Grand Junction, Colorado. I had been here a few years ago but that was a last minute decision and I made a quick drive through before heading out of town to my next destination. It also let me utilize my new-found “panorama” skills on a few of the photos. It was going to be a nice day (only in the 80’s after a run of 100+ degree days) and I had the rest of the day since I was staying in town.

The Monument consists of a 23-mile drive around the top of a curved canyon (well, half a canyon – it is open on the other side). This lets the viewer look down into a variety of different sets of rock formations. I started my drive mid-day so it was ideal having the sun almost directly above me. The road along the top of the Monument curves along the southwest corner, facing the interstate highway to the northeast.

Vernal, Utah

After driving past Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area on Thursday I continued south towards my ultimate destination of Grand Junction, Colorado. The morning was progressing very nicely until I hit a deer as I was driving southeast towards the Colorado state line. I was on a 2-lane highway and I saw a young deer charging the road from my left. The highway was slightly elevated so there was nowhere to pull off to avoid a collision. The deer saw my car and started to change direction but it was too late and I ran over it’s legs. I saw a truck in the other lane swerve to avoid the carcass and I continued driving. There was an area to pull off the road a short distance ahead and I stopped there to assess the damage. It appeared to be light and I decided to go back to the town of Vernal, which I had passed through earlier, to make sure the car ran normally rather than continuing on over 100 miles through a rather sparsely populated area where cell phone service might not be too good if there were problems.

Vernal ended up being a very colorful town, thanks to local businesses planting an abundance of pretty flowers, and that helped brighten my mood.

The other thing I should mention about Vernal is that there is a very apparent dinosaur theme in the town:

This is due to the fact that Vernal is located just west of Dinosaur National Monument, which straddles the Utah/Colorado border. It is also part of the “Dinosaur Diamond”, a large area with lots of history and artifacts as they pertain to dinosaurs.

The town of Vernal had several murals and many large dinosaur replicas, mainly serving as gimmicky motel signage. I’ll skip the signs but include some of the replicas which I found outside one of the museums in town:

After I had a chance to calm down a bit from my ordeal, and was confident that the car was at least okay to get me as far as Grand Junction, where I would be for 5 nights and there would be more options for any repairs which might be needed, I got back on the road and continued southward.

By the way, by the time I had turned around after hitting the deer and after assessing the damage to return to Vernal, only about 10 minutes, the deer carcass was gone, although there was a red pickup truck sitting by the road which I’m pretty sure I had seen turn around in the same parking area I had parked in. This was a few days before the 4th of July weekend and I suspect the owner of the pickup treated his buddies to a venison cookout.

The rest of the drive was uneventful, but much less colorful than Vernal had been. I soon returned to the browns and grays which are seen quite a few places in Utah.

But when I reached Colorado things got a little greener, especially as I crossed through Douglas Pass, up at about 8,300 feet elevation. This was the view near the top looking back the way I had just come:

And this was the view looking forward, just a short time later when I reached the peak:

I arrived in Grand Junction without any more difficulties and had the alignment of the car’s wheels checked the next morning (they were right on spec). I also went to the Nissan dealer to get a part to help keep the bodywork behind the left front tire intact (it was loose but not in danger of coming off).

I would be in Grand Junction for 5 nights over the July 4th weekend and would be revisiting some places I had been to before as well as seeing one new venue.

Flaming Gorge NRA Redux

Thursday I traveled from Evanston, WY down to Grand Junction, CO. To accomplish that the scenic roads I chose took me through a small section of Utah. This included approaching the southern edge of Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area by way of a different route than the one we took when we came down from Lander back in June. Here were a few of the things I saw along the way which I wouldn’t have seen, or didn’t stop to take pictures of, on my earlier visit.

My final day in Idaho

After spending the night in Twin Falls I headed west to the little town of Buhl to see Idaho’s version of “Balanced Rock”. It isn’t very far from Twin Falls but despite my early start it seemed to take forever to get there as my GPS unit sent me on a wild goose chase. I finally made it and was surprised to find myself descending into a 300-foot rocky cavity in the earth’s surface after having driven through many miles of beautiful, flat farmland.

At the lowest point of Balanced Rock Road a small road led off to Balanced Rock Park (lower portion of the photo above). That road led a short ways down to the Salmon Falls River, where there was a small campground and a nice grassy area with picnic tables. A nice, quiet oasis once you got there. I should also mention that the area around Twin Falls is known for their sweet corn and for having lots of salmon farms.

Looking the other direction from the main road was not quite so inviting:


But the river and the campground weren’t the reason I came here. I wanted to see Idaho’s version of Balanced Rock. Kind of like Bridal Veil Falls, there are several places featuring “balanced rocks” scattered throughout the United States, notably at Arches National Park in Utah and at Garden of the Gods in Colorado.

I drove back up the main road to the west and there it was, just off the road to my right – looking like a large question mark:

Having accomplished my first task of the day I headed back towards Interstate 84. While my GPS struggled with getting me to Balanced Rock (in it’s defense – there was no specific address to use getting here, just the town name) she did a much more efficient job of getting me out to the highway.

After I had visited Boise briefly a few years ago I scolded myself for not having visited the Idaho Potato Museum while I was there. Well, as it turns out the Idaho Potato Museum isn’t even in Boise, it is in Blackfoot, 250 miles to the east, so that was my next stop.

While I was waiting in the gift shop to pay to get in to the museum itself, located in an old railroad depot in town, I decided this was all rather hokey and just a big tourist trap and ended up leaving without even going in. I still had quite a bit of driving ahead of me and headed south.

I ended up taking several scenic roads in the extreme southeast part of the state, going through towns like Soda Springs and Montpelier, and around Bear Lake. I did stop briefly in Montpelier to take a photo of a bench in town which I thought was rather clever:

The Bears is the name of the town’s football team (given their proximity to Bear Lake). I also learned that Montpelier was the site of one of Butch Cassidy’s bank robberies.

I drove further south and left Idaho to spend the night in Evanston, Wyoming – in the extreme southwest corner of that state. I was born in Evanston, Illinois and when I saw there was an Evanston in Wyoming I couldn’t pass up the chance to stay there.

Twin Falls, Idaho

Tuesday I left White Bird and headed south towards Boise. I opted to take Highway 95 all the way down to Interstate 84 to avoid the construction zone near McCall, and to see some new terrain. I had thought about stopping at the large Birds of Prey sanctuary in Boise but it was approaching 100 degrees when I got to the highway exit (and had been 100 degrees or more both days I was in White Bird). My Airbnb host in White Bird was familiar with the sanctuary but told me it is a large, outdoor facility and there was no guarantee that I’d even see any unusual birds so I decided to pass. If I had known I’d see some California Condors later in the trip, and learn about their connection to the sanctuary, I might have reconsidered. As it is, I will have to make it a point to go there the next time I am in the northwest.

As I arrived in Twin Falls I first had to cross the Perrine Bridge. There was a place to park and take photos on the north side of the river, both looking west (right) and, by walking under the highway, to the east. I’ll skip the westward-looking photo for the moment as I would soon learn that the view looking west was much better from the Visitor Center on the other side of the river. This is a panoramic photo taken as I walked under the highway to get to the east side of the bridge.

And this is the view looking east.

The river you are looking at is my old friend the Snake River and in this photo it is flowing towards you. A little further east of here is the ramp on which daredevil Evel Knievel attempted (but failed) to jump the river back in 1974 on his steam-rocket-propelled motorcycle. The earthen ramp is still there but visitors are discouraged from visiting it as the Twin Falls Police Department uses it as the back of their practice shooting range!

I crossed the bridge (in my car) and stopped in the Visitor Center. That vantage point provides a much better view of the river looking west:

If you look very closely you will see some golf course fairways in the distance, to either side of the river. There are two golf courses down there, one public and one private. Here is a panoramic photo of the river from the Visitor Center, including the bridge.

And here is a photo of the bridge itself.

The Perrine Bridge is the only bridge in the US people may “base jump” off of by parachute without needing a permit. I didn’t see anyone doing that while I was there but there were photos in the Visitor Center and I’m sure you can find some online.

Of course the main reason visitors come to Twin Falls is to see the waterfalls. There are many in the area (30 I believe I read somewhere) but the most popular by far are the Shoshone Falls, east of town.

There are some smaller falls to the right, though you have to look very closely at the still photo below to see them. They are easy to spot when the water is flowing, obviously.

The water flow wasn’t nearly as dramatic as it is in the spring after the snowmelt from the mountains further north in Hell’s Canyon. That plus the fact that the water flow is controlled by a dam up-river and the water level overall is unusually low this year.

Finally, this is the view from high up in the parking lot, looking at the observation platform with the west-bound river in the distance: