Utah Vacation, June 2011

Utah Vacation, June 2011

...under construction still, with lots of pictures and commentary yet to come...

Jeanie planned a Southwest vacation that centered around the Arizona/Utah border. Jordan came along, but Claire was in Greece with a church group. We flew into Las Vegas and rented a car.

Looks like a nice sunset in the works...

...and there was!

The first night we stayed at the Cameron Trading Post outside Cameron, AZ. The trading post is about all that's there! This is a few miles north, heading up to the Grand Canyon. This is the tail end of it on the eastern end.

This is one of the first overlooks at the canyon.

Jeanie and Jordan.

I think this rock is of volcanic origin...just guessing!

We did the hike to "Ooh-Ahh" Point, which was 1.8 miles each way, if I remember correctly. That doesn't sound like much, but the return trip uphill was a bit much for a lot of people. As you can see though, it was pretty smooth walking.

Note the steep trail on the right...kind of steep!

Here's a cross-section at one of the overlook centers, showing the details of the geology. A complete step-by-step history was shown as well.

We made the rounds to almost all of the overlooks on the South Rim the first day.

Next stop was Sunset Crater, one of roughly 600 "cinder cones" in northern Arizona.

Details, details...

Volcanic debris pile at the base of a much smaller cinder cone nearby. Visitors aren't allowed to walk up the 1000' Sunset Crater cone anymore because of the damage done over the years, but as the ranger put it, "most folks get their fill of the climb at the 250' one next door".

Cottonwood plants are prevalent in the area, and you can see where the name came from.

The view from the top of the smaller cinder cone is that of several more cinder cones, including Sunset Crater cone.

Here you can see how tough it is for vegetation on the side of a cinder cone...it's taken a thousand years for these few trees to get established and grow to this height. Lack of water is another issue.

Soil nutrients were originally provided only by small amounts of organic material blowing in, and eventually the buildup allows lucky seeds to sprout.

I love the colors in this picture. Lava field in the foreground, red soil in the middle, black cindercone in the rear.

Lava rock.

Ponderosa Pine bark. I'm a sucker for bark and algae.

These tender little red flowers were one of the few (very few) plants that could live in this soil. There are plants growing in this area that don't exist anywhere else.

A few miles up the road from Sunset Crater National Monument is Wupatki National Monument. The Visitor's Center tells the story in detail, but even though this is relatively "recent" history, it's still not known exactly why the village was abandoned.

Just a few miles up the road, the terrain changes in to a different type again, a sort of prairie.

Lomaki Ruin is another example of native American habitat, but we skipped that one in favor of dinner.

The next morning we went back to the Grand Canyon to see the many overlooks that we missed the day before, since the park pass is good for a week. These are the southern rim overlooks that are farther west.

This is the best view of the Colorado river we could get from the rim. In most places you can't see it at all without a full day's hike to the bottom.

Sunset is a big deal at the canyon.

Cameron Trading Post architecture.

This is out the back window of our room.

The next day we were off to see Horseshoe Bend, a kink in the Colorado that carved away everything but an island/penninsula out in the middle.

I needed a much wider angle lense than my 24mm to get the whole scene!

If I had a wide angle lense, it would look like this...borrowed off the web.

Jordan snapped this picture of me taking a picture of another visiting couple. I did this several times a day, leaving folks with a picture of themselves together at a particular place.

Jordan looks like he's ready to jump, and this perch was every bit as precarious at it looks.

Next on the agenda was Glen Canyon Dam. Here you see the comparison with Hoover, which is only slightly taller.

This is a relief model showing the Colorado system feeding the reservoir. The Grand Canyon is further south than the bottom of this picture.

This is one of the 7 turbine wheels, which are being systematically replaced with all-stainless versions.

This is the view from the top of the dam looking down the back side. The grass is planted over the turbine house to dampen vibrations.

We were lucky enough to have the turbine closest to the observation area under renovation while we were there. This is the stator. You can see the rotor in the background two pictures above, sitting on the mezzanine.

We visited several sites in Grand Escalante, including Capitol Reef, an under appreciated park that most folks have never heard of.

This is the entrance to "Toad Stool Trail", otherwise known at the Paria River Rimrock Toadstools. It's a 500 hundred elevation hike up a creek bed to the "hoodoo" formations.

Something that sets "monuments" apart from "parks" is that monuments are generally unattended, and are left to be explored by the hiker. Maintenance and trail markings are minimal, and here none were required...just keep walking up the creek bed until you spy the first toad stool. The rest come into view as the hiker gets closer.

See the toad stool farm? I love this picture!

Getting closer...

This is what I'd envision Mars to look like.

It was interesting to note that most visitors to this place were international.

Next day it was off to Zion Canyon National Park

One of the defense mechanisms that trees have against the high winds is to spiral to increase their flexibility. This one went overboard though.

Next stop was Zion National Park.

I knew the instant I took this picture that it would be the best squirrel picture I'd ever take.

This is at Zion's Lower Emerald Pool...

...which is fed by a waterfall from the Middle Pool.

Middle Emerald Pool

This is one of my favorites of Zion. The Virgin River flows right through the middle of it, and kept crossing our path throughout or vacation.

It makes it easier that the squirrels are quite comfortable with humans around here.

This was along the drive home...completely different from the view on the other side of the road.

We stayed at Parry Lodge in Kanab, Utah for four nights, from which we explored Zion, Capital Reef, Grand Escalante Staircase Monument, Bryce Canyon, and the Toad Stool Trail. Parry Lodge was the headquarters for movie cast and crews filming many of the westerns from the 1930's through the 1960's, as well as many western oriented series such as Roy Rogers. The "Old Barn Theatre" is located in the back lot, where they show an old movie each night, complete with free admission and popcorn.

This was along the three-hour drive to Capital Reef Park. I couldn't help it...I had to stop every five minutes and take more pictures...

The green vegetation lines the "Calf Creek", which is reportedly one of the nicest hikes in Utah.

A tragic "drive-by shooting" at probably 1/60th of a second. Taking pictures while driving is a lot riskier than while flying!

This one's a favorite. You shoulda been there! We put a lot of dust on the rental Explorer on this Capital Reef drive.

No, the picture's not tilted, the plates are!

This is a huge departure from where we'd just left, but it was just up the road. At a nearby observation point looking off to the left, it's desert again.

OK, I actually stopped to take this photo...

The first stop at Bryce was...well...stunning!

This was after the first quarter mile of a long hike around the bottom of Bryce, and then back up again.

I have this bad habit of volunteering to take pictures of folks (couples, mostly, some families) who I notice are taking turns to get one of each other in front of the scenery. They always offer to take one of us, and we usually decline, but we took 'em up on this one because it was in the shade and lighting wasn't bad. Note the map in Jeanie's hand. She was the tour guide, and was excellent as usual...

These pictures made the whole trip worth it. You don't see stuff like this in Alabama! Of course, I'd like to go to Mars also...

This was one of the last photos on the hike through the bottom. Most of the rest are at various overlook points throughout the park.

This is a "panarama" image, which is actually five pictures stitched together using Photoshop. I took this picture standing out on a point where the canyon extended around us about 250 degrees. You don't get an appreciation that the view wraps around you, but it does.

The next day we were looking for something simple, mainly because Toad Stool was such a blast, yet it's practically unknown. So we drove down a series of dirt roads to get further off the beaten path. It was gorgeous. Note the fence. Word is that it takes 50 acres to support one head of cattle in these parts.

These sawed-off little flowers thrived on both sides of the road.

This guy gave us a nice show, zig-zagging back and forth across the road so we could get a good look at him. I dunno...Praire Hawk, Perigrine Falcon? I wish I'd had a longer lense and another ten seconds to make the shutter speed something more than 1/80th.

I'm guessing these fence posts are 30 years old, and they weren't planted in space! Erosion is pretty quick in this sandy soil.

I was enamored with this irrigation system, which is prevalent in the area. It's simple, efficient, cheap, and was perfect for rectangular fields. Jeanie was steering when I took this "drive-by".

This is one of many movie sets at the "Free Movie Set Museum" in Kanab, which is comprised of movie sets collected over the years of movie and series shot near this location. As you can see from the pictures above, a director working from here can find everything from lush river beds to dry desert to mountain ranges.

Last day...the drive back to Vegas to catch the plane.

We went back by Hoover Dam on the way back. This is Lake Mead side, which extends 112 miles behind the dam to the Colorado river entry.

You knew there would be an airplane picture before it was over with, right? Airbus 320 wing, if I remember correctly. I like the seats where the flaps and ailerons hang out.

Here's a larger panorama view of Bryce Canyon (slide to the right to see the full view). You've made it this far, but you'll overdose on this one, if you haven't already.

  • Capitol Reef National Park
  • Here are the flight rules for the Grand Canyon

  • Here's a link to another photographer's page, starting with Toad Stool Trail and more links from there.

  • You're also welcome to check out my seven month England visit, which turned out to be one of the highlights of my life.
  • And of course, my aerial sunset photos

    Return to Mark Langford's KR2S N56ML.