Thursday, June 21, 2018

Repositioning: Utah to Idaho

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Having given up on a longer stay in Bryce National Park due to weather, we decided to start heading north and put some miles behind us.

As you know, we stay at quite a few Elks Lodges as we travel. We're big fans because often we are able to stay in a safe, secure and inexpensive place in areas that might otherwise bust the budget. Lodges near water or with extraordinary views, in and near larger cities seem to be doing well but, in a state like Utah with a sparse population, many struggle to stay open and some of them don't succeed. I just read today that the lodge in Moab closed.

We travel with a very outdated set of Lodge books, from 2009. The trouble with that is when we are on the move to reposition and plan a series of one night stops, sometimes we find that the lodge no longer exists. This is what happened when we left Page and arrived in Richfield, south of Provo. We tried calling but there was no answer.

Then we drove past the weed-infested building with a barely hanging on sign flapping in the wind and a faded For Sale sign. So off we went for an overnight at the local Walmart Supercenter instead.

The next day, we stayed at yet another Walmart near Ogden, UT, this time so that we could meet in person a long-time Facebook friend. Joann and her husband Mel were fulltimers for many years before Mel's illness forced them off the road. They were part of a big gang of folks that headed to Alaska in 2008 and we followed a couple of blogs of folks they met up with. I think that's how we became friends on Facebook. Sadly, Mel passed away last year. Joann is just now looking at future travels for herself, although not in an RV. It was so nice to finally meet her in person, and thanks again for the hats, Joann!

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Not too shabby of a view at the Walmart in Ogden.         Joann poses for the obligatory Chouter's selfie.

At our next repositioning stop we planned to stay put for three days. There is only so many one-nighters we can do before we start to get cranky. Our travel day was partly spent on a lonely Idaho road. It was a grey, miserable day, making us feel like we were alone in the world. Then it started to snow.

The last time I drove through this area was in 1981. My BFF Cindy and I were moving from Alaska to Texas and we decided to make our way down south in Cindy's un-air conditioned car, Hazel. I think it was a Pontiac Astre. She was a rough ride and drove like a tank but after more than 6,000 miles, she got us to our destination safe and sound! I'll give Hazel that much. :)

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Hazel, the Incredible.  On the back window we had written Texas or Bust! (Thanks for the photo, Cindy!)

We visited a ton of places along the way, but as we made our way to Yellowstone, we passed through this desolate area of Idaho where the earth looked as though it had all been tilled, but in a massive way. We could not figure out what kind of earth-mover had churned up all this land, and for what purpose? We didn't know it at the time, but we were looking out at Craters of the Moon National Monument.

It was fun to be coming back, although the usually black lava fields and cinder cones were now covered in a beautiful layer of white snow. It was amazing! The snow only lasted a day but we toured around and saw the area, basically white one day and black the next. Very unique!

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Early on our first morning at Craters of the Moon

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At the exact same place a few hours later and all the snow was gone!

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Craters of the Moon National Monument feels like being on a different planet (except for this cute deer).

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The vivid colors we saw on a day trip to nearby Sun Valley stood in stark contrast to our campsite.

Quick story, then I'll wrap this up. Are you familiar with the whole Painted Rock phenomenon that is happening across the country? People paint rocks and then place them out in public places in hopes that they will be found and reported on the group’s Facebook page. Each participating town has their own separate page. Well a few weeks back, while we were in Temecula, I found one. It was a grey rock with a pair of boy's underwear painted on it, in bright red. On the back of the rock was a message to report the finding, then I could keep it, or re-hide it. I immediately became attached to the rock and really didn't want to re-hide it. But when we got to Craters of the Moon, the red paint really popped next to the black cinder. So, after a couple of days of indecisiveness, I let go of my rock and hid it in the campground. To this day, no one has reported finding it, which makes me really regret leaving it behind. I miss my undies rock! :)

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Our underwear-wearing rock up for adoption once more.

Next up: Hello Oregon!

Friday, June 1, 2018

Lone Rock Campground, Slot Canyons & More

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Utah And Arizona are states you could travel around for years and still not see all they have to offer. When Linda and I originally talked about going to visit Page to see the slot canyons, I had no idea just how epic it would be. Our destination for the area was Lone Rock Campground with gorgeous views of Lake Powell.

The Lake is actually a reservoir on the Colorado River perched on the border of Utah and Arizona. It's the second largest man-made reservoir in the United States behind Lake Mead. The terrain is desert-like with massive rock structures in abundance. The lake itself almost seems unexpected, at odds with its otherwise arid environment. Nonetheless, to me it was fertile ground to capture some photographs.

Lone Rock, a gigantic mass, looms up from the water and changes its form depending on the angle of the sun. Being there felt as remote as some of the far reaches of our Alaskan adventure. I can't really explain it in words but the whole experience took my breath away and I was completely hooked.

I'm not the only one spellbound by the Lake Powell area. Just ask Hollywood. The surrounding landscape is reminiscent of some imagined barren planet at the edge of the universe and continues to attract movie makers far and wide. Many films you may know have been shot here, including; The Greatest Story Ever Told, Planet of the Apes, Gravity and, most recently, one of my favorite TV shows, Westworld.

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Stills from the original Planet of the Apes movie and Lone Rock in the TV show Westworld.

So, with all of that in mind, we arrived at Lone Rock Campground, right on the banks of Lake Powell. All sites are boondocking only and it's also first come first serve. There is a dump station with potable water near the entrance which we availed of twice while there. We decided to put our jacks down at the top of the hill overlooking the lake and beach instead of driving down to the water's edge. After a pretty nasty windstorm moved in a few days later engulfing the beach with airborne sand, we were even happier with our choice.

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Looking down on the beach from our cozy perch, the wind violently whips up sand. You can barely see the RVs.

The campsite is only a short distance from Page in Arizona. And let me tell you, there is an hour difference between our campground and Page and, unless you actually know about the time zone, it's easy to get royally confused by all the flip flopping.

We fell victim to this fissure in time when we went to visit one of the biggest attractions in the area:  Upper Antelope Canyon. We had booked a tour in advance and were instructed to arrive absurdly early. Being the conscientious people we are, we arrived on time at what felt like the crack of dawn. There was no one around and we thought to ourselves, cool, we have the whole tour to ourselves. That was before we realized we had arrived an hour early because of the time zone difference. So, in effect, we were there two hours before the tour started. Brilliant!

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Empty benches mocked us as we arrived two hours early for the canyon tour.

When we finally got going, however, it was well worth the wait. Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon and hugely popular for photographers and sightseers. There is an upper and a lower canyon. The most popular is the Upper Canyon so that's the one we decided to visit.

Your experience can vary greatly depending on what time of the day you go, the weather, how many tourists are there and the personality of your guide. While our guide was nothing to write home about, we did manage to see some beautiful sights in the canyon. Despite the crowds (and there were a lot of people), keeping our cameras facing upwards allowed us to capture some nice shots. We appreciated the fact that our guide directed us to the best spots and was willing to take the photos if we liked.

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Our mode of transport. It was a bumpy, dusty ride to the slot canyon.

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There is always a constant flow of people going through the canyon.

I wasn't too concerned about the crowds because I had also booked a tour to the same canyon specifically for photographers and that afforded me much better access to the famed light shafts. I wrote a separate blog post about my experience on my photography site about that tour here.

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Steven was able to get much better images with a tripod during the photographer’s tour.

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You have to be quick on your feet during the photographer’s tour. You got about one minute for each shot.

We ended up staying at Lone Rock Campground for a total of 9 days. That was longer than we had planned but extreme winds and cold had dictated that we change our plans for our upcoming stay at Bryce Canyon National Park. Our original plan was to camp at Red Canyon Campground which is just a few miles from the park but, alas, that was not meant to be. At the same time, we weren’t really complaining because even hanging out in Scoopy staring out the window, the views were just breathtaking.

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The many moods of Lake Powell and Lone Rock.

We decided to drive to Bryce for the day while still at Lone Rock. Let's call it a reconnaissance. When we have the opportunity to visit an upcoming destination in advance, we generally take it. When we stopped at the visitor center, we were told that Red Canyon Campground was still closed for the season. Great! Not what we were expecting and we didn’t have a Plan B. The ranger pointed us to a couple of areas where we could boondock. We found a suitable place that was a favorite of horse owners. We were all set to go until, as I said,  the weather changed the plan. Oh well, at least we got to see Bryce Canyon albeit briefly but I guess we'll come back another time.

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Along the road leading up to Bryce Canyon National Park.

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It snowed briefly while we were there. The wind was biting but we managed to get a few photos!

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Beautiful light moves across Bryce Canyon.

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Hey, let’s get a selfie while we’re here.

During our stay at Lone Rock we managed to visit a few other places around the area including Horseshoe Bend (another place stricken from my bucket list) Glen Canyon Dam, Lees Ferry, Cave Dwellers and Vermillion Cliffs. We also caught up with our friends Lee and Tracy who opted to camp down by the beach. They were braver than us! Anyway, it was nice to exchange travel stories with them for Happy Hour.

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Horseshoe Bend did not disappoint. You have to crawl on your belly to the edge of a cliff for this view.

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Navajo Bridge, near Lees Ferry.

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By the Colorado River that flows through the nearby Grand Canyon.

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Linda holds up a toadstool rock singlehandedly.

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Toadie poses for her Instagram feed.

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Glen Canyon Dam.

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Steven snaps photos of the dam from the visitors center.

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Lake Powell and the distant Navajo Power Plant in Page, Arizona.

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Happy hour with Lee and Tracy.

There's just so much to do and see in this area, it's hard to cover it all in one visit. Lake Powell ranks in my top 5 favorite places and we'll definitely return the first chance we get.