Once we arrived at our campground, about 10 miles outside of Zion, we were thrilled to discover that not only did we have a delightful location but we had a nice little river running behind our campsite. This was great news for Stella who immediately began running through the water like a little kid. When we drove into Zion Canyon National Park for the first time we started our visit off by taking a 20 mile drive along the Zion Mount Carmel Highway. This trip gave us our first look at Zion with some spectacular vistas and a drive through a historic one mile tunnel, cut through the solid sandstone. The next couple of days we had some wet and cloudy weather so we enjoyed walking around the town of Springdale, a quaint tourist community. There we shopped among the souvenir shops and discovered a great little candy store where they made fresh candy and where we each enjoyed some of our favorites. After a couple of days the sunshine reappeared so we returned to the park to discover some new areas. We spent an afternoon taking a nice hike along the Virgin River. It was a flat trail where we could look up into the canyons and saw many great views. After our hike we enjoyed a great lunch at a local spot named Wildcat Willies where I was able to indulge in a beer sampler platter of 4 different 5 ounce beers for only $5. I just couldn’t resist. Since we were visiting during the Memorial Day weekend, we decided to wait to return to the main part of the park until Monday afternoon when the crowds started to thin. Instead, we took a ride to a more remote area, the most northern portion of Zion, Kolob Canyon where we stopped and enjoyed many overlooks before taking a nice hike to the Kolob Canyon Viewpoint. The weather at this point had also turned very nice so we returned later in the day to take another hike along the Virgin River but this time we took Stella and of course she loved it. There’s nothing like a river and some fresh air for her to really enjoy herself. We saved the best for last by getting an early start on our final day and took the shuttle bus through the entire canyon. The shuttle buses allowed us to get on and off along the way and we were able to take several short hikes before our final much longer and difficult one. We enjoyed some magnificent views at many of the stops as well as along the bus route itself. The shorter hikes took us into some beautiful wooded areas with water streaming out of the mountains in a tropical rainforest type of environment and along a beautiful section of the Virgin River that we hadn’t seen before. Our longer hike required a lot more climbing and covered over 5 miles. This final hike took us to several pools of water, all created by dripping water from higher elevations. There was a lot more climbing across some very uneven terrain that we didn’t expect so we were definitely tired by the time we returned but as always, very happy were took the time to do it. After visiting Zion, we became even more excited about what was still in store for us in Utah and Colorado.
Once we left the wilderness, Las Vegas seemed like a foreign land. We started out with a day on the strip as we waited for our friends Caren and Mike to arrive from Florida. We decided on Caesars Palace, Treasure Island and the Venetian to spend our time at. All 3 were gorgeous hotels and so huge. It seemed like we walked for miles and we enjoyed the sights. We decided on brunch at Treasure Island to eat. It was good, but ouch. Now we knew what to expect for prices on the strip. We did a bit of gambling, but unfortunately the big jackpots eluded us. The next day we met up with Caren & Mike. We headed off for drinks and dinner at a French restaurant right there at the Paris and close to the theatre for our show later that night. The meal was definitely a bit pricey but oh so good. Next it was off to the show. We all really enjoyed the show and agreed that the choice of Jersey Boys was a great one. It told a great story and had some fantastic music. We left with a whole new appreciation for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The following day the four of us decided to cross the boulevard over to the New York New York and hit the Irish Pub for lunch. I was the driver behind this because I just had to try the highly recommended Chicken Pot Pie. It was so worth the trip. We all enjoyed our lunches and our drinks before heading back to our campsite for more cocktails. Then, to hit someplace a bit different on our final night together, we headed off to the old Vegas and enjoyed the Fremont Experience complete with all sorts of characters, lots of old style gambling casinos, cheap beer, some great live music and a fantastic light show. As we headed home for the night, we said our goodbyes to Caren and Mike, promising to meet up again sometime next year. The following morning we headed off for our 35 minute drive over to Boulder City. That visit was a lot of fun and we had a chance to relax a bit as well. We spent our first day, Claudia’s birthday, by taking a trip out on Lake Mead aboard the Desert Princess, a paddle wheeler where we enjoyed a 90 minute narrated tour of a very small portion of this huge lake but that also made its way over to the Hoover Dam for some great views. Our next day took us over to the dam for a great tour of both the dam as well as the power plant deep below. It really was a great tour except that I found out I have a mild case of claustrophobia. You really become very small in that deep, closed in environment. On our final day in Boulder City we took Stella out with us for a 4 mile hike along the Historic Railroad Trail. This trail used to run a railroad that was used to transport materials and people to and from the dam as it was being constructed. It was an excellent trail complete with old railroad tunnels cut through the mountains and we had beautiful weather to enjoy it. Next, we headed off and arrived back in the wilderness, this time in Jacob Lake, Arizona. We found out along the way that the motor home is quite capable of climbing some pretty steep inclines as we ended up at an altitude of about 5,000 feet higher than when we left. The elevation of our campground was at 7,500 feet. We were staying at the closest RV Park to the north rim of Grand Canyon but that still left us an hour’s drive to get there. We only had 2 days so we didn’t waste any time and headed out for the hour long drive to the north rim on that first day. Unfortunately it was quite overcast but the next day’s forecast didn’t promise to be any better. We made it to the visitor center and took a hike out to Bright Angel Point in order to look across to the south rim of the canyon about 8 miles away. As expected, the view wasn’t that great across the canyon due to the weather but the hike was fun. The hike was less than a mile round trip. The paths were narrow and the drops were steep and the views from the trail were outstanding. Next we headed off for a 20 mile drive up to Cape Royal and Point Imperial, two of the best viewing areas of the north rim. Just as we headed out however, we decided that the weather just wasn’t good enough and that our best bet was to go back to the campground and return the next day. That turned out to be a really good call. That drive back to the campground took us through blizzard-like conditions with snow accumulating on everything around us and didn’t stop until just before we got back to the campground. The next day turned out to be beautiful with partly sunny skies and temps near 70 degrees. We returned to the rim and enjoyed a spectacular day with great views from many vistas, including from Cape Royal and the highest viewing point on the entire north rim, Point Imperial at 8,803 feet. We couldn’t have asked for a better ending to our visit.
Once we arrived in New Mexico we were reminded of how barren and parched it can be. Poor Stella needed to do her business on sand or gravel since the presence of grass was practically nonexistent. We enjoyed a trip over to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque while we were in Rio Rancho. We learned about the history of the Pueblo Indians and followed that with a visit to the ruins of one of the pueblos at the Coronado State Monument. It was a small site and just added to the excitement that we had ahead of us over the next couple of days when we planned to head out on the Jemez Mountain Trail for more pueblos and great sights. Unfortunately, that night, one of my teeth broke. Fortunately, I was able to find a dentist that would see me the next day and they did the only thing they could do which was to extract the tooth. Because it was abscessed, they weren’t able to put in any stitches causing my activities to be restricted for a few days as it healed. This meant that we sat around doing very little for a couple of days. We decided that we’ll just have to return and visit the area another time. Our next stop took us to Holbrook, Arizona where we spent 3 nights. While there we had a great time exploring the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest National Park. We traveled over 30 miles of the park by car and hiked over 6 miles of wilderness trails that 200 million years ago were part of a forest and swamp where prehistoric creatures roamed. We were able to walk among those exact same trees, now petrified into a form of rock so hard that it takes a diamond saw to cut through one. We saw petroglyphs carved into stone over a thousand years ago by people with no written language and we saw the ruins of homes they used to live in. The area was absolutely beautiful and we had gorgeous weather to make it even better. Once we left Holbrook for our Grand Canyon visit, we made a pit stop at Meteor Crater near Winslow, Arizona along the way. This is noted as the largest and best preserved meteor crater in the country. It was quite a sight to look across this 1 mile hole in the ground and comprehend that it was created in 10 seconds. It turned out to be a great stop. After this visit, we continued along and arrived at our campground inside Grand Canyon National Park. We were a bit delayed as we got close to our site in order to let the herd of elk cross in front of us. It was quite a sight. Later, while Claudia was walking Stella, they happened upon another elk, only a few feet away who really never gave either Stella or Claudia any notice. It turned out, that wouldn’t be the last of the elk we would see. We started our visit at the south rim of the Grand Canyon with a trip to the visitor center and a nice 2 mile hike along the rim. Here, we were able to enjoy our first views of this majestic wonder. Our next day was mostly cloudy and we had some heavy rain at times so we hopped in the car and headed east to the Desert View area about 20 miles away. Along the way we stopped at many overlooks, some while the sun was out and others while it rained. Finally, on the following day the weather looked great so we headed out early for a hike along the Bright Angel Trail. We hiked over 2 miles down into the canyon and then another 2 miles back up. It was quite the workout but we both did great and the views were worth the hike. On our last day we had beautiful weather with a cloudless sky and bright sunshine. We jumped on the bus early and headed to the western side of the rim. The busses are the only way to see this part of the park and you can get off and on at various scenic spots. We stopped to enjoy at least 8 different viewing areas along the route where we spent lots of time enjoying the beautiful views and hiking along the rim. Once we made it to Hermit’s Rest, the final stop along the rim, we found a picnic table overlooking the canyon and enjoyed a picnic lunch. It was a perfect way to end our visit.
Ed and Claudia always dreamed of retiring and travelling the country in their motorhome. They retired in 2013 and this is the continuing story of their adventures on the road.