Joni's Journal


Observations and

musings from the

keyboard of Joni

Farmington, NM to Las Vegas, NV

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DATE:


April 19-20

LOCATION:


Farmington, New Mexico

My Observations:


Saturday, April 19

Fred did a great job packing the car with all our stuff including Darla and her suitcase and travel golf bag. We got her to the airport on time. We will miss you Darla. It has been a lot of laughs this week.

We are driving along through New Mexico and at this point everything looks flat until we turn off a dirt road to see the Angel Peak BLM (Bureau of Land Management). After bumping along on a dirt lane through what appeared to be organic test farms, we came to an overlook. It looked like the Badlands with a drop of over 2,000 feet in places with canyons, rock formations and a view for miles. It was a feast for the eyes and soul especially since there was no one else around. All was quiet. What a pleasant surprise. The dirt road continued for four miles with lookouts, picnic areas, and camping, all with this incredible view. The solitude and vastness of the area inspired me to practice some yoga.

We saw the Aztec Pueblo on the map and since it was only a slight detour from our destination we drove there. Entering the town was a sign – "Welcome to Aztec, 6,743 friendly people and 6 old soreheads". Someone has a sense of humor.

This area was falsely named as early settlers mistakenly thought the Aztec people of Mexico were the ones to build these pueblos. The sight became a National Monument in 1913. Earl H. Morris is credited with doing most of the archeological work here. It was fascinating to tour the pueblos and see the kivas including a rebuilt kiva which gave us an idea of how it looked long ago. Amazing to think of the people who lived here and their way of life.

Our hotel in Farmington is the worst one so far. This Best Western booked on Priceline is not the pitts but it is far from perfect. My impression started off at check in with unfriendly staff. The rooms were noisy-we could hear the guy next door hacking up something which was totally disgusting. Then we were told that at the price we booked breakfast was not included for us. To top it off it is close to Earth Day and the old toilets in the bathroom used a ton of water when flushed.

Played 9 holes at Pinion Hills – walked in 30 to 40 mph winds. Rough especially walking uphill on 9. We played this course in 1999 and had it elevated in our minds as the perfect golf course. There has been a lot of development since that time which has changed the feel of the course. It is still pretty but is not isolated anymore. Plus the fees have gone up. Back in 1999 when we played it we only paid $12 for 18 holes. Today we paid $22 for 9 holes and that was the resident’s price.

We planned to eat at Three Rivers Brewery because not only do they have good beers but last time we were here Three Rivers Brewery had just opened the year before and we spent an hour talking to one of the partners about his business and expansion plans for the future. When we walked in we were not sure we were in the right place. Let’s just say that the people in the Three Rivers Pool Hall including the bartender were "salt of the earth" and their vocabulary contained many four letter words. Then we found out we were in the pool hall and the restaurant was down the street. As we walked down the street to the restaurant we saw that Three Rivers owned the two buildings in between the Pool Hall and the restaurant and had applied for permits to expand the restaurant. Dinner at Three Rivers Brewery Restaurant was good and so were the micro brews.

It’s funny because the last time we were in Farmington in 1999 we had such a good time at Three Rivers Brewery and loved the golf course (and the price $300/year to join) that we actually thought about moving to Farmington for awhile and getting jobs at either Three Rivers Brewery or the golf course. I think we have changed our minds on that one.


Sunday, April 20

After pigging on the brunch at the hotel, we went to the RiverWalk. Someone in this town had some forsight and developed a RiverWalk along the Animas River. Brick paved walkways, hard packed dirt, a war memorial park, and a nature trail all along the river.

Played our 18 at Pinion Hills. See the pars page for more on our impressions. Skins Fred 7 Joni 11.

It was late when we finished golf. We were going to eat in the bar at the hotel but after walking into the smoke filled bar and seeing the crowd, we got our snack bag out of the car and went to our room. Supper was Doritos and granola bars. Sometimes I do miss the conveniences of home.


DATE:


April 21-22

LOCATION:


Durango, Colorado

My Observations:


Monday, April 21

After breakfast at the pancake house, I went on the Riverwalk while Fred finished up some stuff on the computer. We met at the War Memorial Park which had plaques from every war starting with the Revolutionary War listing key dates in the war, # of soldiers deployed, # of casualties and # of POW/MIA’s. It was a fascinating history lesson. Fred and I walked together on more of the Riverwalk to the Nature Center. The Nature Center was closed but we did see two deer in the woods. We crossed over the river and were walking on hard dirt paths through the woods. The Riverwalk was created when at least three different families donated land for the walk and parks starting in 1986. One family donated 27 acres and two others donated 7 each. The town enacted a small tax to pay for the improvements. This is an amazing gem in this blue collar town. It would be great to have something like this in Lancaster along the Conestoga River.

It was a short drive from Farmington to Durango. Hasta la Vista New Mexico and welcome to Colorado and boom, the Rockies are right in your face. The landscape seemed to change instantly from brown scrub to green pastures.

I have always wanted to visit Durango and on any of our other trips it just never fit in. It is a great town. The hotel that Fred booked, The Strater, has been here since 1887 and is located in the center of town. Our room furnished with walnut antiques has old fashioned red flocked wallpaper and thick red velvet drapes. It is lovely. This hotel is a gem.

We drove 35 miles to Mesa Verde Park. As we were driving along we saw a large mesa and thought we can’t possibly be going there but indeed we were. After entering the park, we climbed higher and higher, round and round for 15 miles until we reached the Far View Visitors Center. There we got tickets for a ranger guided tour to the Pueblos. The Pueblos are amazing.-cement and adobe brick structures built into a cliff. We accessed the dwellings be going down the side of the cliff (man made steps by the NPS) to get an up close and personal look. These pueblos were about 75% original. The ranger told us that when the native tribes come to visit the cliff dwellings they can see their ancestors peering out through the doorways high up in the dwellings. I could feel the sacredness of this place.

Driving back out through the park, we stopped at the Spruce House, another set of cliff dwellings. These were 90% original and staffed by a ranger. We were able to climb down into a kiva through a ladder on the roof just like the Pueblo people would have done. The Indians believe that we are in the 4th world and the previous 3 were all in the ground.

Back in Durango, we had dinner at the Carver Brewing Company where we got a sampler and tried nine different brews. Our server tried to find the Rockies/Phils game but no luck. When we got back to the room, we did find it and flipped between that and The Cobert Report. Phils win.

Today the front page story in the USA today was written by the USA today reporter from Lancaster covering the election. PA is a hot bed of political activity these days.


Tuesday, April 22

Breakfast at the Strater Hotel was a pleasant surprise. It was advertised as continental but included eggs, French toast, and a full assortment of pastries and cereals.

We rode the railroad today. Durango started as a railroad town when the Denver & Rio Grande Railway arrived in the early 1800’s building tracks from Durango to Silverton. The historic railroad has been in continuous for 126 years. As we were waiting at the station to board in the morning, I panicked because I saw everyone arriving with their lunches. I was worried that there would be no food on board the 5 hour ride. I tried to get Fred to go to subway quick but he thought we did not have time, especially since we didn't know where Subway was.

The train ride is what most tourists do when they come to Durango but we didn’t care that is was considered a tourist trap. It was awesome. After the conductor collected our tickets we were allowed to move around the train. We went back into the open air car where we had great views. The first 5 miles were through town and along Rt 550 but when the tracks crossed over the highway, we started to climb and the scenery just kept getting better and better. The train followed the swift flowing Animas River and the scenery ranged from open fields, to pine trees, sheer rock cliffs, gorgeous houses, waterfalls, and deep ravines. We saw some kayakers in the river. Personally I thought they were nuts because the river was moving fast.

Our destination was Cascades where we got off the train and had lunch that we got from the concession car. There was food on the train but it was not good. I sure did wish I had that subway sub as we sat by the river eating our microwaved burrito with 50 grams of carbs. The beauty of the environment made up for the bad food. Fred and I walked down along the river and sat on a rock by ourselves.

The ride back was just as pretty as the ride up. Back in Durango we tried to find a patio to have a happy hour drink but to no avail.

The hotel had a brie cheese appetizer that I had been craving since I saw it on the menu the night before. They were advertising 1/2 price appetizers at happy hour so we went into The Office bar (one of the 3 different establishments at the hotel) and got a window seat. The chef was busy with a private party so no food until 7:00 so no brie for me. But they did offer free strawberries, cheese, grapes, and crackers which we took advantage of while we played a game of checkers. Our game turned into quite a competition and lasted over two hours. Thats a lot of cheese!

As we left the bar we ran into a couple who asked us if we were from PA. They saw my PSU hat through the window while we were playing checkers. Bill and Mary Ellen were from Stroudsbourg and had two sons that had gone to Penn State. One of their sons was living in Colorado Springs and worked for the USOC as an Olympic trainer. We talked for awhile with them and then went to have dinner at Francisco’s where they had just eaten. $1.75 Mexican beers and good food. Can’t beat it. The Phils/Rockies were on TV. Phils win!


DATE:


April 23-24

LOCATION:


Moab, Utah

My Observations:


Wednesday, April 23

After breakfast we drove to take some pictures of the train we had ridden yesterday. We drove to the first crossroads, parked the car and waited. It was not long before the train came chugging down the tracks. Then we hopped in the car and drove to the next crossroads. Fred videoed while I waved. We saw Bill and Mary Ellen. Bill waved his PSU hat out of the window. I had advised them to take their own lunch along so I hope they did.

Today was almost too beautiful to describe. Fred observed that Utah must be one of the most diverse and beautiful states in the country. Utah has 5 national parks and countless National Monuments. We drove from Durango to Monticello and saw a snow covered peak. It was Abajo Peak at 11,260 feet. We stopped at the Monticello visitor’s center, the friendliest visitor’s center we have ever been in. Dave was so helpful giving us maps, advice, free water, and snack bags.

Monticello’s claim to fame is a horse face on the mountain that Dave pointed out to us. It occurs naturally due to the weather conditions, tree growth, and where the sun shines.

The first stop on the map was Newspaper Rock. A quick hike to a large rock containing petroglyphs had us amazed. These pictures drawn by the Indians of long ago contained horses, a hunter going after an elk, something that looked like a flying squirrel, feet, and animals all preserved for many years. What were the people trying to say who drew these pictures?

Our drive to the national park of Canyonlands turned out to be amazing. The scenery was stunning. We felt like we didn’t need to go to the park; we were so impressed with the beauty of the area on the road into the park. Towering red rock with vertical lines cut into the spires looked as if they were painted with black varnish making them look like Egyptian gods guarding the land. This is the area where City Slicker II was filmed according to Dave at the Monticello Visitors Center. The road wound round and round until we reached the entrance to Canyonlands. This is the Needle section of the park and is not heavily visited. In chatting with the ranger he told us that the land we had just driven through was a 5,000 acre ranched owned by a women. She loves the land and view so much that she finds it hard to stay away. He said she had recently gone to India for a friend’s wedding and was going to stay for a month but after one week was homesick. I can understand how the beauty of this stunning area could work its way into your soul.

After stopping at the Visitor’s Center in the park, we drove to the farthest point of the park and had lunch. We were on a large slab of rock sitting only 5 feet from a 500 foot vertical drop off into the canyons. I swore I saw two Indians on the other side of the canyon – at least in my imagination thanks to the rock and bushes. It was extremely windy so we had to be very careful not to let any paper blow away from us. I would have been devastated if we had littered in the canyon. It was lunch with an amazing view.

After lunch we took a hike (Slick Rock?). Following cairns, we walked two miles to several view points. I was thrilled to see some wild flowers. The pretty Red Indian Paintbrush stood out against the tans and browns that dominated the dessert landscape.

Signs warned hikers not to go off the path. Crytobiotics form a crust on the soil which protects the plants and microorganisms in the hot summer. One big fat foot and the protection is wiped out. "Don’t Bust the Crust". We could see areas where the crust was forming.

We drove back through the park stopping at several look outs and doing some other short hikes. One was to Pothole Point. Wind, sand, and erosion have created potholes in the Cedar Mesa Sandstone. These potholes supply water to birds and insects and even during the dry season provide life to insects and their eggs which can lie dormant until the next rain. That is unless someone steps in the pothole destroying life. So once again, people need to be mindful of where they put their big fat human feet.

On the way to Moab, we stopped at Wilson’s Arch which was discovered by Joe Wilson (any relation Barry?) . A natural stunning arch located beside the road, it was a short but steep hike to the base. This arch is a great example of the hidden treasures that no one knows about until you happen to drive past it.

Our hotel in Moab, The Apache, is on the National Historic Register. John Wayne slept there and our guess is the rooms are the same as what he saw. Actually the furniture is rustic(old) but the rooms are clean. We walked into town to get dinner at Eddie McStiff’s where we sat on the patio.


Thursday, April 24

After breakfast at the Pancake Haus, we headed into the north part of Canyonlands park, called Island in the Sky. The ranches here have signs warning of open range cattle. It did not take long for us to see what that meant. Cattle with little babies started crossing the road behind us. I made Fred turn around so I could take a picture. I have the ooh and aah factor for any kind of baby animal. Better yet was the cowboy on his horse herding the cattle across the road who smiled at me. Hey what can I say – I am a tourist and it was a good picture of the west.

Canyonlands is one of the least developed National Parks. There is only one road in this section of the park. It forms a Y out from the visitor’s center. Canyonlands is looking for a volunteer ranger for 2-3 months. They provide housing. Anyone?

We drove out the right side of the Y seeing at first mostly pasture land. This area is aptly named Island in the Sky because it is on a plateau. From one of the viewpoints looking down, we can see the level we were on yesterday which is 1,000 feet below where we are now and then another 1,000 feet below that are the Green River and Colorado River.

Altitudes - Island in the Sky Mesa is at 6,000 feet, White Rim Mesa 5,000 (southern part of the park), Colorado River 4,000 feet.

One of the natural sights is Upheaval Dome. It doesn’t look like a dome it looks like a crater. But one of the theories of how it was formed is that saltwater seepage underneath pushed it up and then it collapsed. I like the other theory that a meteorite crashing into earth formed it. It really should be called a crater. It was a hike uphill to view the Upheaval and when we got to the top to look down at it, the wind was blowing 30-40 mph. We did not linger for long.

We took the other fork out to the end where there was a great view south to the canyons of the south part of the park and beyond. We took the 2 mile rim trail for more views. Around 2 we went back to Moab to relax. We wanted to go to Arches closer to evening so the lighting would be good for pictures.

At Arches National Park we went to Delicate Arch first as that is the premier arch. Then we hiked to the Two Windows. We had done this same hike when we were here in 1999 but it was worth repeating. In 99 the temperature was close to 100 degrees, today with wind chill my guess is 35 degrees. As we were hiking back down we came around the one side of the rocks and the wind gusted and almost blew Fred into the rock. Don't fall Fred or I will never find my way home.

We were willing to brave the cold wind to hike to the double arches but as we started out on the trail the wind was blowing so hard that dust particles blew into both of our eyes so we abandoned that idea. Too bad because we were the only ones in this section of the park. I especially like hikes when no one else is around.

Fred had me get out of the car and walk down the road so he could video. I turned around to walk backwards and wave and almost lost my balance. That’s what I get for trying to show off.

We got a good laugh later when we watched the video. Stopped to take a picture of the walking elephants and from this view we could see them clearly. Another photo we had to take was of Dildation Nation (Fred’s name-he is into rhyming today) or as they call it The Garden of Eden-you can draw your own conclusion.

Driving thru arches late in the day, the sun position enhances the rocks with shadows and brings out the varied colors; shades of green, red, blue, orange, and brown were all represented. Absolutely stunning.

Moab is the hub of outdoor activity. Every other car has a bicycle or two on top. There are a lot of young outdoor types hanging around. Hey Dude.

We had dinner at the Moab Brewery where we got the sampler and tried all their varieties of micro brews. I talked with the guy sitting next to me who was from Colorado. He works for a private agency that does background checks for people applying for goverment jobs at prisons. He has heard some amazing stories (lies) and ends up rejecting more people than are hired. He was on vacation for a week camping out of his car. Nice guy.


DATE:


April 25

LOCATION:


Mexican Hat, Utah

My Observations:


Friday, April 25

As we were leaving the room this morning, Fred just happened to look in the dresser drawer and discovered his socks, underwear, shorts, and his Phillies shirt. He certainly would have missed that stuff if he had left it behind.

We had to backtrack from Moab, UT to get to Mexican Hat, UT so we decided to drive the Canyonlands drive that we had done two days ago. The scenery is so gorgeous there, we wanted to experience it again.

There was a pull-off with 15 cars so thinking it must be one heck of a hike, we stopped. Backpackers we thought, but it turned out to be rock climbers – at least 4 different groups trying to scale the Red Rocks. We stood and watched for awhile fascinated at how they could scale what appeared to be sheer rock walls.

One of our stops today is Natural Bridges National Monument.

Natural Bridges – became 1st National Monument in 1908 by Teddy Roosevelt. Formed in sandstone and most are found in the west. Fred, my own personal ranger, said that Bridges are eroded by water and Arches are eroded by wind.

From the real ranger we learned the difference between a National Park and National Monument. A National Park must be designated by Congress, a National Monument can be designated by the President so designating a Monument is a quicker way to save land that may be in jeopardy. Franklin Roosevelt designated 21 National Monuments and guess which president designated 22? Most of the recent ones are managed by the BLM. Most people think that Monuments are smaller than Parks but that is not true.

We hiked to Sipapu one of the largest natural bridges in the world – 220 ft high, span of 268 feet. Sipapu is a hopi word meaning "the place of emergence," an entryway by which the Hopi believe their ancestors came into this world. Our walk to the bottom was an elevation drop of 500 ft and included two sets of stairs, switchbacks and 3 ladders that were attached into the cliffs. When we reached the bottom, we were in small forest. We hung around for awhile walking to the other side of the natural bridge where huge stones had fallen forming an entryway. I wonder how long ago they fell? The climb back up was not as hard as we thought it would be, maybe because we stopped half way up to snack on a granola bar and rest on a large rock overlooking the bridge.

The other two bridges are Owachomo (hopi Indian word for rock mound) and Kachina.

For days it seems like we have been driving through mile after mile of undeveloped land and designated National Parks and National Monuments. I was curious and looked up the population of Utah. It is 2.2 million. A majority of that population must live in Salt Lake City because there sure is a lot of undeveloped land in this state.

Turned off to drive to Muley Point which we had never heard of but read about in our Most Scenic Drives book. As soon as we turned off onto the dirt road, there was a huge brown cow standing in our path. She took one slow glance at us and continued her saunter across the road. As we bumped along on the narrow dirt road, we had no idea how far it was to the point and we were tempted to turn around. Several times we said, let's just go over this next hill. It is good we preservered because the view was one of the most stunning we have ever seen and we have seen a lot. We were standing at least 2,000 feet up and could see the whole way across to Monument Valley. Our book described Muley Point as a "famously vertical landscape with 6 directions, north, south, east, west, up and down. Undeniably one of the most arresting panaromas in the southwest," The book has not always been accurate in its glowing descriptions but that sums up Muley Point. What a wonderful place this would be to camp and spend the night. On the way back out a truck passed us moving rather swiftly and there goes our nice clean car. Oh well, it was clean for about 8 hours and the view was worth it.

We are on a plateau. There is warning of a section of the road called Moki Dugway. It is a stretch of unpaved, twisting curving road with sharp S turns, no guardrails and dizzying over the edge drop offs. It drops 1,000 feet with switchback after switchback lasting for 3 miles. The views were gorgeous but the driver (me) could not look and the passenger would not look. It was a little freaky.

We were about 5 miles from our destination for the evening when we came upon more spectacular scenery. The sun was beginning to set and it was at the perfect angle to turn the rocks into an artist canvas. Alternating layers of stone were tinted reddish/pink and grey with a perfect zig zag pattern that looked like a painter’s creation. Once again, stunning. Mother Nature can't be matched.

Our bed for the evening is at Mexican Hat Lodge. When Fred booked this hotel in Mexican Hat, Arizona he had read that the town had 50 people in it and was home to the Swingin Steak Saloon. We were curious.

Upon checking in we learned that most of the residents were from two families and there were only actually 32 residents We also found out that Muley Point, where we had just come from, has been the scene of numerous Thelma and Louise reenactments, the last being just a year ago. Wow what a way to go.

We asked how long the Swingin Steak was open and serving food and the hotel owner's daughter said, "Until Uncle Jim gets too drunk to cook". Of course we had to check out the Swingin Steak as it was the place to hang out on Friday and Saturday nights in Mexican Hat. What a surprise - everyone seemed to know each other – as they should since most of them were related. The Cowboy cook was drinking Miller Light and grilling steaks over a wood fire on a grate suspended from two chains that he kept swinging over the fire. Ashes were flying off the fire onto tables but that just enhanced the feeling of being at a cowboy cookout. We noticed that many different people went to the beer cooler to help themselves.

The Swinging Steak had a limited menu – the big steak, the small steak, or a hamburger. No choice of sides-just salad, baked beans, and Texas toast. No wine, only wine coolers. And of course, beer. We both chose the small steak which wa still huge. We hung around at the bar for awhile and talked to Hayley, the granddaughter of the owner of the hotel we were staying in. Her mother owned the hotel down the street. Hayley was in her late 20’s and had lived in the big city of Farmington, NM but moved back to Mexican Hat when her son was born. Hayley told us that some of the people in the Swinging Steak were balloonists who come to Mexican Hat every year to launch their balloons and that there would be a bunch of them launching tomorrow morning.


DATE:


April 26th - 27th

LOCATION:


Page, Arizona

My Observations:


Saturday, April 26

Drove out into the Valley of the Gods to see the balloonists. At 8:00 it was still hazy and as we drove out the dirt road we could see six hot air balloons in various states of preparedness for flight. After bumping along for 4 miles we turned around and five of the balloons had taken to the sky. What a beautiful sight as the sun was starting to burn off the haze – it appeared that God was waking up his valley as the sun hit the rock formations.

Since food is the focus of my life, I could not live in Mexican Hat. There was no place to get breakfast. We packed the car, grabbed a granola bar for breakfast, and started off to our next destination of the day. Approaching Monument Valley, we could see rock formations jutting into the sky. Monument Valley is not a national park. It is owned by the Navajos. It was $5.00 per person to get in which is no big deal but the visitor’s center was closed. To tour Monument Valley it is a 17 mile unpaved road. You can go on their tour (for another fee) but we didn’t want to spend the time to do that nor did we want to subject our car to another unpaved bumpy road so we left. We figured we saw the monuments driving in and outas well as the ones in the Valley of the Gods.

The next town we came to was Kayenta which was still part of the Navajo Nation. We had an early lunch at the Pizza Place and hit the road again.

Approaching Page, we saw a power plant in operation with three smokestacks spewing smoke straight up into the sky. As we got closer, we saw it was a coal plant named Navajo Generating Station. This was still on Navajo land and huge electrical poles with lines were taking power away to somewhere. We later found out that back in the 70’s as a way to entice industry to Silician Valley, California was supplying cheap power. They needed more power but the pollution rate was so high that no more power plants were allowed to be built. So they went outside the state and here is where they built a power plant. Over 1,000 tons of coal per day are burned. Nice touch California polluting the air next to a National Recreation Area. All the electricity from this plant goes to Los Angeles.

Entering Page we had trouble finding the Visitor Information Center due to a lack of clear signage but after some frustration, did find it. We booked a boat cruise for Lake Powell the next day at 9am. Our hotel is a beautiful adobe building located just across the bridge from the dam and just down the hill from a golf course.

Page is built on a hill and the views are gorgeous. The Glen Canyon Dam, exposed canyon walls, and sparkling Lake Powell could be seen from everywhere. The Glen Canyon Recreational Area is right next door to Page.

There was a pedestrian walkway across from our hotel which led to a Canyon Rim Trail that we saw on the local map. The beginning was all uphill but when we got up to the top the trail leveled out. There were two kids on bikes riding down the trail and the one kid trying to show off for his buddy completely wiped out. "Ass over tincup" as my Dad would have said. Fortunately he was not hurt because he landed in the sand and they both started laughing. Most of the soil here is red sandy dirt.

When we got to the top of the canyon, we started to jog on the trail. I told Fred to go ahead and I ran at my own slow pace. The trail wound around the canyon and it was cool to see Fred out on the trail in front of me as I came around each curve. It looked like he was running on the edge. I wish I would have had the camera. (We went back with a camera later.)The trouble with running is that you had to watch your step and could not look at the view. I stopped every so often so I could look around at the breathtaking view (no I was not stopping to catch my breath). Fred stopped up ahead of me and came back saying that around the next curve the trail narrowed and was getting a little close to the edge. We were 500 feet above Lake Powell and could see one of the side canyons. The sun was casting perfect shadows on the rock walls. I wished I had the camera and some water would have been nice.

We continued walking the trail and it was scary at times-narrow and close to a sheer drop over the edge. By now we had been out on the trail for 50 minutes, had no water, and were not sure how long it was to get back. On the map it had looked like it simply circled around the hill but every corner we went around, we just saw more trail. It would have been a good idea to bring the map or at least to ask someone how far the Page Canyon trail actually was. It also would have been helpful if there were some trail markers. Just as we were thinking about forging our own path, we came to a marker and thanks to Fred’s great directional skills we were able to cut across down the hill through a construction sight and get to our hotel. So what we thought was going to be a 30 minute walk/jog turned into almost two hours. Enough work-out for the day.

My suggestion for dinner was the Rainbow Room located on Lakeshore Drive which advertised floor to ceiling windows with a view of the Lake. Since it was going on 7:00 and according to the map Lakeshore Drive was just across the dam (that’s dam as in Glen Canyon Dam not damn as in swearing) bridge from our hotel, we decided that rather than call for a reservation we would just drive over to see if we could get dinner. When we did finally find it (we are certainly having our trouble with signs in this area) we discovered that they were booked until 8:30. OK. Only an hour to wait. "No," said the hostess, "It is 6:30 now. We are on Arizona time honey." We discovered that Arizona has their own time-they do not do daylight saving time. Our watch was still on Utah time. Good thing we found out now because we would have been an hour late for our boat ride in the morning.

We had a drink at the bar where we enjoyed the view of Lake Powell and then went into Page and had dinner at The Dam Bar. We also played trivia using Nit Lns as our name. After we won the 2nd game a guy came up to us and said, "All of us were wondering who you were. We all play here regularly and whenever someone new comes in and wins we like to know who they are. And, what are the night lines" We explained that we were from PA and we were the Nittany Lions. We played one more game and with only 2 questions left, had dropped to 2nd place. We moved back into 1st with 1,000 points on where Babe Ruth’s museum is located. Score!


Sunday, April 27

We had breakfast at the Rainbow Room with an awesome view of the lake and a large buffet. As we were leaving, Fred heard an English guy remark, "No wonder Americans are so fat, look at all that food." He is correct.

Since we have been in the southwest and the National Parks area, we have seen many French, Germans, English, Australian, Italian, Japanese, and Israeli people. And why not, their dollar buys them more here in the US and this is a beautiful area.

We were one of the first in line for the Navajo Tapestry boat tour so we got a seat on the upper deck. The boat tour was not full until 10 minutes before departure when an entire busload of Japanese tourists boarded. Only people with seats were allowed on the upper deck so we were glad we had gotten there early. However, 12 of the Japanese tourists crowded up into the back of the upper deck. They were so excited at the sight of the canyons and kept going to the front of the boat to pose and take turns taking pictures of each other. There was this one lady in a big green hat that had her picture taken 15 times. Each time she would strike the same pose.

The Navajo Tapestry tour was tremendous. We started in the Wahweap Canyon area then boated into Navajo Canyon. It was narrow which gave us an up close and personal look at the rocks. Iron makes the rocks in the canyon turn the various shades of red, light pink, and brown. The Navajo tapestry are the rocks that have been streaked with manganese. They are sacred to Navajo people.

Captain Theresa did a great job of narrating during the tour. She told us the white rock below the red rock is the level that the lake has been in the past. At times it was 50-70 feet higher than the water level right now. Hard to believe the lake was ever that high.

As we motored past the docks containing house boats, Captain Theresa pointed out the most expensive houseboat in the area. Big Dog cost $3.3 million and was quite a show piece. She also told us that the people that own the house boats are only allowed to be on the water for 30 days a year. That is a National Park rule so that no one person has too large of an impact on these our public lands. Many of the house boats are owner-time shared and each owner can be on the water for 30 days. Fred liked the houseboat named Sotally Tober.

If you want to rent a 65’ house boat it you and 20 of your closest friends can put out $14,000 for the week. Or, you can get a much smaller one for $4,000 and only take 6 of your closest friends. (ask Jamie how to rank friends) We went 10 miles on our trip and there is over 190 more miles to explore.

We played golf in the afternoon at the course by our hotel. Oh my gosh. The front nine had some nice views but the back nine was higher up and we could not get over the awe inspiring views. On holes 11 to14 we could see the dam and the canyons. It was early evening so the sun made everything look majestic. Hole 14 was a drop hole – 165 yards down to the green 100 feet below. Wow is all I can say. We both broke 90 on the course and that is quite an accomplishment because it was positional golf and sometimes we were not sure where to hit. The holes were well laid out with interesting hazards.

After golf we were lucky to find the clubhouse still open so we each had a beer on the deck. We talked with the manager and he told us that the course is owned by the city. Last spring they got hit by a fungus that wiped out all the fairways and greens. He was proud of the fact that they had them all back. I asked him if we moved to Page, would he give us a job at the golf course. He said, you bet. We have trouble finding help here. I think Page may be my new "in my dreams" place to move. Wonderful scenery for hiking an awesome golf course to work at, and a dam bar to hang out at. What more can one ask for?


DATE:


April 28th - 29th

LOCATION:


Bryce Canyon, Utah

My Observations:



Monday, April 28th

Before leaving we wanted to get some pictures of our canyon rim hike from yesterday. While we were at the drive through window of McDonald’s ordering breakfast, I looked in through the restaurant and glimpsed a gorgeous view out the other side. This must be the most scenic McDonald’s ever. We hiked out to the top of a rock and enjoyed a Lake Powell canyon view while we ate our breakfast. The view made it the best McGriddle I have ever had.

We crossed the bridge over the dam one last time. There was controversy with environmental groups when the dam was constructed and there still is over how the water levels should be controlled. The bridge we drove across is an engineering marvel. Before the bridge was completed in 1964, it was a 192 mile drive to get across the river. The bridge was constructed in California with half being shipped to each side. Then like a giant erector set it was rebuilt and only 1/4" off when both sides met in the middle.This area of the country is amazing, beautiful, stunning – I run out of adjectives.

The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument had mostly white rocks with two horizontal stripes of red going through them about 40 apart.

We stopped at a historic marker denoting Periah. Settlers here were forced to vacate due to Indian Raids long ago. Many movies were filmed here and we could see why. The hills and mountains surrounding the valley were a perfect place for Indians to hide. Fred said it reminded him of what Indian country looks like in the old westerns. There was a movie set that locals built many years ago but recently vandals destroyed it. I just can’t understand what possesses people to be so destructive.

We had lunch at Kanab at Grandma Tina’s because they had wireless and Fred had forgotten to upload the latest files to the web site. The food was expensive and only average tasting. A scary thing happened. When Fred tried to get on our website, a horrible message came up saying that our site had been hacked. There were some not so nice words there. I called Jackie and asked her to check if she had the same message and she did not so we hope everything is ok. We are not sure when we will be able to get on the internet again.

We started to drive into Zion but changed our mind when we realized how far it was to the Visitors Center. Zion was more majestic than I remembered it. We are going to head to Bryce and hit Zion in a few days on the way to Las Vegas.

Our cabin at Bryce- #507- rocks; it is just a short walk to the rim. We took a walk on the rim and Bryce is just as beautiful as I remembered it. The hoodoos appear magical especially when the sun casts shadows over them.

We went to the Lodge to eat and they were having some issues. We had a reservation for 8:45 and did not get seated until 9:20. That would have been ok if there was a bar to hang out at but there was not nor was there any other options for dinner in the park. Fred’s Bristlecone Chicken was good but my pork dish was terrible. I nicely told the waitress that I was disappointed in my meal and she took it off the bill. We were surprised at that.

While we were waiting for our meal, we noticed some celebrities in the dining room - Draco Malfoy and a buddy were at one table at the far end. At another table sat Charlie Manson with a nun.

We have had our share of elevation changes over the past week. At Page we were at 4800 feet and here in Bryce we are at 8,000 feet.

After dinner, arm in arm we walked out to the rim in the dark. It was hard to see the path but we wanted to take a look at the stars. I don’t think I have ever seen so many stars. Without any light pollution we could see cluster upon cluster of stars. It was dazzling. We did not venture too close to the edge because without a moon it was extremely hard to see and one step too close and one of us could have tumbled.


Tuesday April 29

Today was a perfect day in my world. Buffet Breakfast at the Lodge-6 mile hike into the hoodoos-wine and cheese on the rim looking out over the hoodoos-ranger talk in the evening at the lodge.

We started off with a buffet breakfast at the lodge and once again were shown that as Americans we eat too much. A German lady and her two children were seated next to us and she ordered the fruit plate for all three of them while we took trip after trip to the buffet. We did eat fruit also along with eggs, French toast, bacon, and oatmeal.

We packed for the hike (plenty of food and water) and were on the trail by noon to begin the exciting of adventure of a hike 1,000 feet down into the hoodoos. We took the Navajo loop trail down into the hoodoos and then caught the Peek-a-Boo Loop Trail which is 3 miles of up and down, up and down, around and around. There were wonderful formations and views around every corner. Many times we were huffing and puffing and had to stop to catch our breath but it was worth every heart pounding ragged breath. Being down among the red rocks was quite an experience.

I committed the cardinal hiking sin but I didn’t mean to. There was a sign to restrooms off the trail but they were locked. I spotted a path that I thought would be a short cut to take me further up the path from where Fred was waiting so I took it. Well when I got back to the trail there was no way down. I tried to get down and fell through a tree root and into the snow which served me right. From now on I stay on designated paths only. I did pick up some trash while we were hiking to help my guilt over following what was not a designated path.

We had a light lunch on the Queen’s Garden Loop. The trip back up was the hard part but not as bad as I would have imagined. Last time we were here we hiked the Navajo to Queen’s Garden Loop which is about 3 miles. This hike was close to 6 miles. We decided that at least every decade we will come back to Bryce and hike more than we did the decade before. Next time will be in our 60’s so we better stay in shape.

The Indians thought the Coyote turned all the bad people into rocks and that is how Bryce Canyon was formed. We saw many formations in the hoodoos– a Madonna, cowboy hat, princess, castles in the sky. In the early evening the hoodoos just seem to glow.

We took our bottle of wine and some snacks up to a bench on the rim and sat looking out over the remarkable rock formations. What a wonderful way to rejuvenate the inner spirit.

A ranger was giving a talk on geology in the Lodge and we decided to go but sit in the back in case it was boring. Well, Ranger Randy did a great job. He started off by admitting that most people thought geology was boring. He had a PowerPoint slide show and used interesting analogies to explain sedimentation and geological occurrences. Bryce is the newest park in geological terms and the highest of all the parks in the Grand Staircase. Zion is next in age and height. The bottom rocks of Bryce are the top layers of Zion. He kept the audience laughing and at the end he had a slide show of pictures of National Parks set to We Will We Will Rock You by Queen.

We tried to get to bed early because we had big plans to get up for sunrise.



DATE:


April 30th - May 1st

LOCATION:


Las Vegas, Nevada

My Observations:



Wednesday, April 30-Bryce Canyon to Zion to Las Vegas

We did make it up early and were bundled up and on the rim by 6:15. It was cold but refreshing. The sun was behind a cloud but as it broke through and gave us light the rock formations took on a diverse assortment of colors., One set of three spires looked almost transparent.

I can’t begin to describe how beautiful it was. We wanted to get an early start and we were sure we would since we had gotten up at 6. However, after we had breakfast (yes at the buffet again) we went one last time to look at the rim and then decided to go to Inspiration Point. Inspiration Point is about a ˝ mile hike straight up but from that vantage point the view is magnificent. The hoodoos were laid out before us over 1,000 feet down. Fred pointed out to me some of the places we had hiked the day before. It was hard to leave Bryce Canyon. I will be back.

Zion is an hour and a half drive from Bryce. Zion is a park that is in your face as soon as you drive into it full of twisting turning roads with canyon walls soaring into the sky. The rock formations seem to be very different and as we learned from the ranger yesterday, these grayish rock formations are the same as the top level of Bryce. The tunnel in Zion is memorable. Over one mile long it is cut through a gigantic rock formation and every so often there is a window cut into the rock so we could get a quick preview glimpse of what was awaiting beyond.

Zion has shuttle service only on Canyon Road which is a good idea. Over 2.6 million people visit Zion every year (vs 1.5 million that visit Bryce-why would you skip Bryce?). We parked at the Visitors Center and rode the shuttle to the furtherest point. Even though you lose your independence without a car, it is a small price to pay to keep all those cars off the road here. The bus drivers are full of information and our driver on the way back out was hilarious. Zion has a 4,000’vertical cliff-one of the highest sandstone cliffs in the world plus three eco zones and over 800 native plants.

There were many hikes we wanted to explore but due to time constraints had to limit ourselves. The Riverside Walk was a 2 miles flat walk along the Virgin River. It is hard to believe that this crazy river was responsible for all this splendor cutting through the rock to form this canyon. We are finally starting to see some green trees and signs of spring. The weeping garden wall was starting to show blooming wildflowers.

In some of the areas of Zion, many of the rock formations consist of huge chunky rocks that look like a mad giant tossed them about. In other places a huge vertical cliffs rise straight up into the sky.

Xanterra, the company that runs the services in this park and Bryce is environmentally minded. The Zion Visitor’s Center uses the sun and a trombe wall for heating and the wind for cooling. Xanterra has installed fluorescent light bulbs in all fixtures in the lodge and other buildings, uses biodegradable cleaning products, 2 system flush toilets (#1 and #2 corresponding to you know what), biodiesel vehicles, recycling containers, and many other environmentally friendly processes. Other hotels could and should adopt some of the same practices.

On the way out of Zion we stopped in the town of Springdale. If you cannot get a room in the lodge in the park, this would be an excellent place to stay. It has a small town feel but with plenty of hotels to choose from. I would love to do a family vacation here and at Bryce. Hey, maybe someone from here would like to a home exchange. If not, Zion Canyon Lodge and Spa has a beautiful lobby and also little cabins out back. Could be the best of both worlds and it is only a short drive into the park.

The Zion Brewery was to be our stop for lunch but we could not find it. We settled for Jacks, a sports bar, where we split a meatball sandwich and had a Zion Brewery beer. We found out that the Zion Brewery is located in the basement of a building up the street but is not open to the public.

It took 2 hours from here to get to Vegas and that was not enough time to switch from National Park loving nature mode to Sin City mode of fast walking, talking, and gambling. You could see the skyline from miles away luring you in to take your money. Zion was in your face with nature, Vegas is in your face with noise and skyscrapers.

It took us several hours and 99 cent margarita’s to lose that edgy irritable feeling of dealing with so many people. We did manage to adjust and finding $1 Michelob and $1 Michelob Lights helped. We did our brand of gambling which is putting $5.00 in a video poker machine at Casino Royale. The rule was if we doubled our money, we cashed out. If we lost more than half, then it was the other person’s turn to try. On our first machine, Fred doubled our money, so we walked.

We grabbed a pizza and took it to our room.


Thursday, May 1st

We got up in the morning determined to adjust and have a good time today. We set out to find breakfast and ended up at Treasure Island paying $12.00 for an omelet. It was good but where are the meal bargains?

Planning to bet later on the Phillies and Sixers games, we went to the Sports Book at Treasure Island to ask some questions on how it worked. The kind lady at the Sports Book was not busy so she explained the over, under on runs, etc. It took me awhile to get it but I did finally understand. Guys were sitting there with newspapers spread around betting on the horses. Some of them looked like they thought they were in their own private office. I wonder how many of them actually beat the house.

As we were walking down the strip, we ran into Claudia who worked for Tahiti Village. Fred continued walking and waited down the street which was a good thing. He knew what Claudia wanted. I remembered hearing the commercials on the radio at home by Tonya Roberts promoting a 3 night, 4 day stay at Tahiti Village. Tahiti Village is selling timeshare and as I listened to Claudia (who was personable) tell me what we could get just for going to the presentation, I said I had to see if I could talk my husband into it. She said, let me talk to him. No, I said, it is better if I do. She upped the ante and ffered me another $100 in slot play in addition to the $200 she had already promised along with a $50 AMEX gift card plus two tickets to a show. I figured this was worth two hours of our time especially since it was only 11:30 and what do you do in Vegas during the day if you don’t gamble. Anyway, I talked Fred into it and off we went to get on the Tahiti Village Shuttle. Claudia walked us to the shuttle and on the way we found out the best place for a cheap breakfast. As we were walking, she told us that she was an Arab but hatened to say, "I am a Christian Arab not a Muslim Arab that gets on planes with bombs and carries guns." Her father owns several liquor stores/mini markets just like the guy on the Simpsons. She used to work there but said she cannot stand those kind of drunks, she prefers the drunks on the strip who are fun drunks. When we got to the shuttle everyone else boarding looked scared to death. We knew what we were getting into.

Elaine our rep was not a typical timeshare salesperson thank goodness but a lot of the other ones were (slick willies as Fred called them). We were sitting in the front row with about 40 other people in the room, each with their own little table and personal rep. This guy, Leon(?) who had his own boxing show was up in front talking about how wonderful Las Vegas is, how many tourists come every year, and of course how great it would be to own a piece of it. Every time he cracked a joke, all the reps would laugh, clap, and nod their heads. He would pick on various people and we all had to say where our dream vacation would be. At one point he said, I can tell by looking at some of you that you will be open to what you hear today and I can tell by looking at others (and here he looked directly at Fred who was sitting with his arms folded and had his volleyball face) that you won’t budge no matter what. Everybody laughed.

Elaine took us to one of the units and showed us around the beautiful resort which is located on 30 acres just 1 mile from the strip with free shuttle service. Elaine showed us the bar and on the way out one of the waiters came up to her and told her they had noodle soup for lunch. She said, sounds good, I will be back. Next was the money part and where we said no. She barely got through her presentation when she called her manager over. We said no to him too. He asked us why we came to the presentation. Duh – for the free gifts of course. Anyway, we figured Elaine wanted that noodle soup because we were the first group finished.

We explored some of the casinos on the strip. It is amazing the amount of money in this town. The inside of New York, New York was so big it contained entire New York neighborhoods complete with brownstones and a starry sky. The MGM grand had a large windowed area where two lions were hanging out with a trainer. One of the big cats was playing with two balls. He was adorable and I stood there for 15 minutes just watching and oohing and aahing. The Paris had a replica of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. We heard (from Claudia) that Trump was having trouble with his liquor license probably due to Steve Wynn who owns the town.

As we were walking through one of the casinos, I put down $2.00 on #10 at 10-1 on the roulette wheel. I was the only one playing. The guy spun the wheel and I watched as it kept going past the 10’s. It slowed down and went past a 10 and I swore (oops) because I thought I was done in. But the wheel clicked along and Fred said, look. Another 10 was coming up and hooray, I won $50 bucks. That made my day.

We went back to Bill’s Gamblin Hall to where we were staying to make our sports book bet. I bet $10 on the Phillies to win by 2 runs and bet the over 10-1/2 runs on the Yankees, Detroit game. Each pitcher in that game had over a 5 ERA. Fred bet on the Sixers to win over Detroit figuring they were back home and it was do or die for them.

We split a piece of pizza on the way to the Mirage where we could see all the games from comfy cushioned chairs. I lost on the Phils bet – they only won by 1 run. I won the Yankees/Detroit game and I was glad Detroit won. Fred lost as the Sixer’s totally embarrassed themselves.

At the Casino Royale we played our $300 dollars worth of free slots. What a rip-off. You can only play slots (no video poker) and you only win if you hit the jackpot. Needles to say, we did not hit the jackpot.

We played some more video poker and drank free casino drinks. We can get a lot of play out of $5. Casino Royale is our favorite casino. They have video poker and the drinks are cheap. A mixed drink is $1.50. Michelobs are $1.00. Can’t beat it.

We didn’t have time for a full meal before the show at Planet Hollywood so we split a plate of Chinese food at the food court. We had upgraded our seats for the show (these were our free timeshare show tickets which we later found out were worth about $40 each) which meant we got a drink and actually had a seat and were not general admission. I am glad we did. We were in the second row and the V-Variety show was great. The MC was a funny juggler who is going to be on The Amazing Talent Show later in the summer and urged us all to vote for him. He had everyone laughing with his delivery. He could juggle ping pong balls with his mouth. There was a Russian girl who twirled 4 hoola hoops at a time which as first was sexy and then got freaky and two Russian guys who had amazing stomach muscles and balanced on each other. Guys flying through the air, TV show guy and others made for an entertaining show.

After the show we walked through Caesers, Wynns and the Venitian. I was determined to stay up past midnight. Walking down the strip late at night, four or five guys would be lined up flicking cards they wanted you to take advertising girls for sale. It was rather disgusting and annoying after going through the 3rd or 4th gauntlet of snapping cards.

On the way back we got pizza to take to our room and even though it was not as good as last night and it was 1AM, we ate it anyway.


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