Monday, July 6, 2015

Day 4 Richfield, UT

We had an unexpected stop in Richfield, UT today. We are about 3/4 of the way to Zion National park. I ran over something on I-70 and it blew out the left rear tire.  We will be getting it fixed in the morning. Meanwhile I am doing laundry and blogging while Tracy is with the kids downstairs as they get a chance to swim in the hotel pool.

We woke up in Moab, ate another crazy breakfast at the hotel and then headed for Canyonlands National Park. 

Utah is one of the most amazing states I have ever visited. The landscape changes constantly with every turn of the road. The terrain, colors, sky, weather change constantly and vary greatly.

A photo of the "Monitor" and the "Merrimack" my Civil War tie for the trip.

We hiked a one mile rim hike at Grand View Point. It was a nice morning hike which ended with us all having a snack at the end of the rim overlooking a panoramic canyon viewpoint from 8000 feet above. One heck of a family picnic.

We stayed on the Island in the Sky portion of the park which with a few side trips in the car is about 40 miles of driving. We hiked 6.25 miles today, with some uphill and semi challenging terrain to navigate. 

Oh the views! From the hiking trails to the pull off areas the views were spectacular. It was almost surreal being so high up and looking so far into the canyons below.

All in all between Arches and Canyonlands we have hiked about 18 miles. Total car miles from Illinois is sitting at around 1,700. As mentioned above Utah is an amazing state and the drive from Canyonlands to Richfield has been everything from mountains to valleys, forests to dry desert and every hue and color imaginable in the rocky landscape. I can't wait to see Zion tomorrow!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Day 3 Arches National Park

We woke a little after 7 am, dressed, had some hotel breakfast (which was absolutely nutty with all the July 4thers eating before heading out of Moab) and headed for Arches National Park. While hunting for a radio station I found the Morman Tabernacle Choir, a fantastic accompaniment to the scenery around us.

We visited The Badlands last year and had a taste of what a park like Arches would be like. It is, however, simply breathtaking. The scenery is so bold and colorful with mountains, rock formations and the clouds overhead all competing for your attention.

The morning was surprisingly cool with thunderstorms the night before bringing a cool front to the region. It was highs in the low 70's as we started hiking in Park Avenue Viewpoint and Trail. 

Temperatures didn't stay cool - they were nice and toasty in the 90's by the early afternoon. We took advantage of cool spots under juniper trees and in canyons where the rocks are cool and comforting. After six hours of hiking and driving we took refuge from the heat and headed out of the park.

We did a little sight seeing and a little shopping in downtown Moab. We stopped for gelato at a local coffee shop and sat a spell under the veranda outside. I had coconut chocolate chip which was simply fantastic!

After our break we returned to Arches to see the park at sunset. It was overcast with storms coming in over the mountains but we decided to go anyway.

We drove to the Delicate Arch trailhead. It is the arch used on the Utah license plates and on their welcome signs at the state borders. We heard it was beautiful at sunset so that was our destination. 

The trail was 1.5 miles straight up 480 feet of elevation over some very tricky rock face areas. Nothing unnavacble but some rocks to stretch to get footing and a sheer drop ledge to walk up at the end of the climb.

With the sky still overcast I was anticipating a pretty dull greeting at the top of the climb. Just as I rounded the corner of the last leg of the climb I was greeted by yellow streaks of sunlight breaking from underneath the clouds! Quickly I and about 80 people of all different nationalities picked up their phones, cameras and started taking pictures for the few moments the sun lit the arch. It was fantastic!

We climbed down the 1.5 miles as the sun set behind the mountains and dusk set in. It was almost completely dark by the time we reached the parking lot. A fantastic way to end a fantastic day.

All in all my fancy phone recorded 27,528 steps with 65 floors climbed and a total of 11.47 miles. A great day at Arches.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

.Day 2 Moab, UT

Today was the second day of our adventure. We left Salina, KS after a hearty red, white and blue pancake breakfast at IHOP. We drove westward on I-70 through the central and western part of the state. The landscape changes dramatically. Greenery gives way to arid soil with short grasses and sparse shrubbery.

At the 31 mile mark before the Colorado border Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way" came on the radio.  Western Kansas gave way to eastern Colorado and the landscape remained mostly the same. The only telling feature were the  large white clouds building on the horizon signalling mountains are soon to come.

About 60 miles outside of Denver I started getting the worst altitude headache. The rest stop where we ate lunch said we were at over 5000 feet in elevation. No wonder - this flat lander isn't used to it. Luckily it was short lived and went away shortly after it came.

We drove through Chicago like traffic and construction as we navigated through Denver. Once past the city we started the slow climb through the mountains. My little four cylinder car struggled mightily with a full car load, the air on and the thermometer showing 100 degrees. We made it though, twisting and turning through the mountians. It was quite the workout!

I have never been on the western side of the Rockies and they are quite different than the eastern side. The rock formations, vegetation and landscape all point to the arid desert we were about to encounter on the western side of Colorado.

This is a stop we made at the visitor center in Georgetown, CO about 40 minutes from Vail.

After a few gas stops and a few stretches of the legs we entered Utah. Wow! This is an amazing looking landscape. We hit a few thunderstorms as night fell making the last few miles "interesting" to drive in. Mostly due to the roads easily filling with standing water, sheets of rain, rainbows, wind, and beautiful horizon lit mountian formations.

Just after crossing the Utah border.

We are resting in Moab after a 786 mile journey today. Glad to get a shower and soon some sleep. We need to prepare for some hiking on Sunday in the National Parks! 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Day 1 Salina, Kansas.

We started our summer vacation journey on July 3rd, leaving home and traveling 580 miles for our first overnight in Salina, Kansas. After about 12 hours total time on the road (with gas and food stops) we are calling it quits on our journey west.

We stopped for a bit in Hannibal. Missouri to see a few of the Mark Twain sights. Unfortunately the town was packed for an annual festival weekend. We walked around town and vowed to return on a weekend this fall when it isn't so busy and crowded.

We walked to the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse. It is 54 feet tall, 200 feet above the Mississipi River and 244 steps to visit. There are names carved and written on the side of the light house.

Downtown Hannibal is quaint mixed with tourist stores and shops. When it isn't wall to wall people it will be a fun place to explore.

Missouri is lush and hilly with corn and bean fields mixed with livestock and fence rows. Kansas starts out the same but transforms into vast rolling hills of grass and sparse trees. Heards of cattle look like dots on the hillside as they freely roam the hills and valleys. The sun was setting and the shadows excentuated the shapes and lush green colors of the horizon filled landscape.

We are roughly 6 hours or so from Denver. I look forward to rolling hills of grass giving way to the Rockies! We will be traveling through Colorado tomorrow. Wondering what our 4th of July adventure will be like this year? We shall see tomorrow.