On Wednesday, we got the rv all ready and started out for Page Springs. We almost had a major catastrophe as we were leaving the RV park at Salome. We stopped on out way out to see if we had any mail and for some reason I went to check on Squirt. No Squirt! Bob found him up in the corner of the park trying to get through the fence. He was sure glad to see Bob. The screen door doesn’t latch when you swing it closed so at one point it was open and we didn’t see him get out. It would have been a pain to have had to go all the way back for him. Anyway, we made it to Page Springs in one piece. The picture showed the RV park in trees and a creek, but there was nothing but desert all the way so we were getting a little miffed. All of a sudden there is this little valley where Oak Creek runs through and is very plush with all kinds of trees and bushes. There are some really nice horse ranches in the valley. The RV park is nestled in the trees next to the creek. It is a little tight getting into here and is crowded, but it is beautiful except that the Cottonwood trees are shedding their cotton everywhere. It is really weird that our side of the highway is trees and the other side is desert. Tomorrow we will start our exploring, Flagstaff, Prescott, etc. Right now Bob is getting his fishing equipment together – oh joy. I mentioned the “cotton” from the cottonwood trees – the next day the wind blew and it was like a full fledged snow storm. You couldn’t sit outside and the ground looked like it was covered in snow. It has slowed down, but we are still getting some.
Our first side trip was to Montezuma Castle. It is the ruins of a 5 story, 20 room dwelling built in a cliff recess 100 feet above the valley by the Southern Sinagua. It was really impressive and quite awe inspiring that something like that was built in the 12th century. There was another badly deteriorated structure nearby that once was a 6 story, 45 room “apartment” that was built against the base of the cliff.
Nearby is Montezuma Well that was formed by the collapse of an underground cavern and a spring fills it continuously. There are still traces of irrigation ditches and remains of other Sinagua dwellings.
Another famous ruins is Tuzigoot National Monument that crowns the summit of a ridge 120 feet above the Verde Valley. The original pueblo was 2 stories high and had 77 ground-floor rooms. The outside walls are still standing and was totally unbelievable. With fluent water, fertile land and game it is a complete mystery why the Sinagua abandoned everything in the 1400's and left little trace as to where they went. It took us 3 days to see Montezumas Castle and Well and Tuzigoot.
Another day we drove to Flagstaff and briefly drove through it. On the way back we drove through Oak Creek Canyon which was spectacular with its red coloration and awesome rock formations. The creek tumbles down 600 feet in less than a dozen miles (and so does the road). There is a warning sign at the north entrane to the canyon that forbids vehicles longer than 23 feet in length from going down the road because of the sharp switchbacks. The canyon is very beautiful and picturesque. Zane Grey even wrote a book about it.
Further down the canyon is Slide Rock State Park where visitors can “shoot the rapids” on the seat of their pants on a 30 foot natural water slide carved out of the sandstone by the creek’s passage. Their were a lot of people there doing just that. It really looked like fun but we weren’t dressed for it. The park also has many historic buildings which belonged to early homesteaders that settled in the canyon.
We had read about the view from the end of Schnebly Road so off we went. It was an unimproved road that took us an hour to go the 6 miles to the top of the mountain. It was a rough drive, but the view was well worth it. We could see for miles and miles. The scenery along the way had lots of red rock formations and deep canyons. Of course, it took us another hour to get down and we were well juggled.
Another great stop was Tlaquepaque which is a beautiful replica of a Mexican village built in Spanish Colonial style which is a work of art in itself. It is mainly galleries, shops and restaurants with many plaza with fountains and beautiful landscaping. I am not much for galleries, but they had the most beautiful sculptures and blown glass works I have ever seen. I could only drool. The only thing against Sedona is there are no lakes for water sports, plus housing is very expensive so we won’t be moving there anytime soon.
Next – Jerome.It was a thriving mining town clinging to the side of a mountain with a vista of more than 50 miles. It became a ghost town after the copper mines closed but was revitalized in the 1960's as an artists’ colony and is now a National Historic Landmark. Most of the buildings are in use as shops, restaurants, etc. so there wasn’t much of a “ghost town” feel to it. We had lunch in what used to be a hospital and is now a hotel and restaurant. The road through Jerome is very steep and a lot of switchbacks. That was about the most interesting part of it to me other than a young Pancho Villa once delivered water there and it is named after a cousin of Winston Churchill’s mother. From there we went on to Prescott, but just drove through it. Nothing really spectacular. We had to come back through Jerome and since the highway went though the mountains it was very curvy with a lot of switchbacks so it took us most of the day.
One of Bob’s highlights was a 40 mile round trip on the Verde Canyon Railroad through, of course, Verde Canyon. It followed the Verde River which usually has a lot of wildlife around, but we only got to see an antelope and some wild pigs. The big draw was the eagles and the resident pair has a pair of babies. There was a lot of scenery and some more cliff dwellings, but I was getting tired towards the 4th hour. There were about 8 passenger cars of us and before we left they had a mariachi band and a Mexican buffet and margaritas (the best part for me).
Our next stop was with the Escapees RV club at the Railside RV Ranch in Williams, AZ, which is a historic town on old Route 66. It is the main rail depot for the train ride to the Grand Canyon. The outing included the train ride, a bus tour to Sedona (which we didn’t take) and catered dinner meals which were great. They really did a good job and we plan on doing some of their other trips in the future. Of course our luck with immediate neighbors runs true to form. We always get parked next to someone with a loud diesel truck and this one (he wasn’t part of our group) started his truck at 5:30am. It was parked right outside our bedroom window so besides the noise the diesel fumes came through our windows so we got early wake-up calls.
The day after we arrived we all got on the Grand Canyon Railway for a 2 hour train trip to the canyon. We only had 3 hours so we just walked around part of the rim and in and out of the souvenir shops. All we usually buy are souvenir books. The canyon is awesome in its magnitude, but all the canyons we have been through in AZ with their magnificent colors are better. On the 2 hour trip back there was a train robbery. They rode up with their horses, boarded the train and went through the cars demanding money. It was pretty cool. Of course, when the Marshall came through he got booed because he didn’t catch them. It was a 2 hour ride back so altogether it was a long day.
The next day we went back up to the canyon to the I-Max Theater for the Grand Canyon movie. That was awesome. Then we backtracked and went to the Grand Canyon Caverns in Peach Springs, AZ. We went on the hour tour. The caverns were huge and the government used them as a bomb shelter for storage of emergency supplies during the Cuban missile crisis, which were still there. We stopped at the Bedrock Café for lunch, which was really theme oriented. They had a Flintstone village, but it was $5.00 a person so we just stuck to lunch. Their gift shop was really neat though.
Saturday was the bus tour to Sedona, but we had just been there so we didn’t go. Instead we went to the Deer Farm Petting Zoo. The main attraction was the deer (60-80 different species of them). We got a cup full of food and they surrounded you until they got it. There were a lot of other animals there, some of them very unusual that I had never seen before. It was really a lot of fun.
We left Williams on Sunday for Hurricane, UT which is near St. George On the way we stopped at Sunset Crater that erupted around 800 yrs. Ago. There were the usual lava flows and rocks, but what was unusual to me was that Sunset is a cinder cone and there is hardened cinder for miles. It was very unusual.
From there we went on to the Wupatki ruins. Originally there were 2,000 structures, but only a few are left. These have been restored along with an open-air amphitheater and masonry ball court. The ruins here at Wupatki are some of the most impressive that we have seen yet. The people that built them were excellent builders with a lot of skill at fitting the stones together. It was pretty neat. Can you tell that we like to tour ruins?
We arrived at the St. George RV Resort in Hurricane, UT. The weather here is extremely hot (around 100), but the park has a lot of shade although the RV’s are parked very close together. The park is pretty full right now. They have a nice pool and hot tub and a beautiful clubhouse with a large book exchange library. We’ll renew our reading supply here. We only stay a week here and then have to move to Leeds RV Park, in Leeds, UT, just 3 miles away. We will stay there a week also. By that time we’ll be ready to cool off somewhere else.
The day after we got here we ran up to Kolob Canyon in the Northern part of Zion National Park. The canyon was only 11 miles long round trip, but well worth it. The sheer, narrow canyon and forested plateaus with orange-red cliffs were totally awesome. We also ran into St. George, which has become a very large city. There was a lot of road construction so was really a mess. Of course being that this is Utah we had to go the state liquor store to get wine, which is more expensive than Rite Aid. The gas here is only $2.98 so that is a plus.
We took a day and went to the main part of Zion Park which took us all day. You can only drive as far as the visitor’s center then have to take the shuttles within the part itself. We got off at several of the stops and even took some of the hikes. The hike I liked the best was Weeping Rock. It was a large outcropping of rock and water was dripping from it. After the hike in 90 degree weather everyone just stood under the water and cooled off. I survived (just barely),but they were well worth it. There are no words to explain the beauty of the different colorations (mostly red) and formations of the rocks. Unbelievable. It was 108 degrees by the time we got back to the car.
We made a side trip on our way back to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. And it is exactly how it is named, a wide sweeping expanse of coral pink sand dunes. Totally awesome. The sand is very fine and hard to walk in, plus really stained our socks. We continued down the highway and all of a sudden we ran out of pavement and the road was that fine coral sand. It was well graded, but it started to rain which really made it slippery. Finally after 6 miles we got back onto pavement.
Our main trip this stay was to Bryce Canyon, which was an all day trip. We had to go over a pass that was over 9,000 feet so got into snow country. A couple of hours before we were in 100 degree weather and then went to 60 degree weather. It was hard coming back to the 100 degrees. Anyway – The shuttles weren’t running yet, but all the major viewpoints were accessible from the road through the park – 13 in all. Where Zion was coloration and rock formations, Bryce was the red-orange spire like formations called hoodoos. It is like looking down on thousands of needle points. Totally awesome. What is incredible to me is that one minute you are driving in regular hilly country and the next you are in a different world. Going to Bryce we went through some beautiful green valleys and then POW the canyon comes into view.
Just before you get into the park there is historic Ruby’s Inn. He is the first one to popularize Bryce and set up the first board and room type accommodations. Now it is the largest gift shop I have ever been in. If they don’t have it you don’t need it. They also have a high end inn so we had lunch there. Wine was $5.00 a glass so stuck to ice tea. In Utah you can’t just go in to have a drink. You also have to have food with it, so can get rather expensive. My wine supply is getting low so can’t wait until we get to Ely, NV in a couple of days.
On May 21 we moved from St. George RV Park to Cottam Leeds RV Park which was just about 2.5 miles up the road. We couldn't stay more than a week at St. George RV as they were booked solid. So we moved. Leeds RV Park is a nice little park, so we were happy. Still had a lot of exploring to do in this area.
We also went to Parowan Gap where there are quite a few Indian petroglyphs some of which have been interpreted, but many they are still researching. The gap itself is just a short passage between two hills on which the petroglyphs were drawn on the boulders on the hillsides. There is one that researchers interpreted to be a map (space) and calendar (time). Anyway, they were really fascinating.
Other than that we have made several trips to St. George doing errands. St. George is a pretty town – in fact, this whole valley is very pretty, but just too hot to live here. I do have to say they have the worst Wal-Mart we have ever been to. It is kind of trashy and the employees aren’t very friendly and helpful. The one in Cedar City wasn’t much better. Also, both Denny’s that we have stopped at in Utah were dirty and the food wasn’t very good. The people here don’t really care about customers. St. George also has a Dinosaur Discovery Site that was the first discovery of impressions of the heel, pelvis, tail and shuffling feet that was imbedded in sandstone bedrock. They have a building built over the entire discovery site and are still excavating huge blocks of stone. What they have already done is very impressive and interesting.
Our next stop was Ely, Nevada. We only spent 2 nights and 1 day in Ely so had to make the most of it and spent the whole day in the Great Basin National Park. Of course, this area is just a small portion of the Great Basin (200,000 square miles), but still impressive. The drive up to Wheeler Peak (13,063 ft.) was great and there was still a lot of snow. In fact, they had just opened up the upper road. We checked out a campground at the top that would have been great if we had a smaller rig. Trees, stream, snow, etc. It had just opened and there wasn’t anyone there yet.
At the entrance of the park is Lehman Cave, which is a smaller version of Carlsbad Caverns. It is actually only one cave, but with many caverns that is well decorated with stalagmites, stalactites, helictites, flowstone draperies and shields. We took a 1 ½ hr. tour and just loved it. Unfortunately, while Bob was processing the photos, the computer ate them. Bob was upset. He is not happy with Microsoft Windows. If he is able to finally retrieve them, they’ll get in the next letter. On the way back we stopped at the Baker Archeological Site which was an excavated site of an Indian village; however, they have backfilled it in to preserve it so all you can see is the outlines of some of the buildings. It was a little disappointing.
Just before we left to move on to Wells, NV Bob tweaked his back so I got to learn first hand how to unhook everything and then to hook it all back up when we got there. Let me tell you about Wells – it is just a sad run down town with a few casinos and bars, one grocery store and little else. The old main street is interesting, but most of it is boarded up. It has a post office, but it took us forever to find it. Our RV park is nothing more than a small pie shaped weedy gravel lot. It does have electricity and sewer hookups, but nothing else. Not even a picnic table.At least it is only costing us $1.00 a night. Of course, there isn’t any medical facilities here so we had to go to Elko (50 miles) to find a chiropractor, but he really was a good one. Bob’s back is out for a while and he had to do some exercises on one of those big exercise balls. I also learned that I have a moderate case of “frozen shoulders”, which is going to have to be looked at by an orthopedist when we get to Wisconsin. In the meantime, I am supposed to limit the usage of my arms and Bob is supposed to rest his back and not drive long distances so it is a good thing we are going to be here a couple of weeks even though we are in a weed patch. It is a 6 hour drive to our next stop (Garden City) so we will be sharing the driving. There isn’t much to see around here, but there are a couple of lakes we are going to take a look at and take a short drive through the Ruby Mountains. They still have a lot of snow on them so are beautiful, especially when it is hot down here in the valley. We've only got 3 more days left before we leave this beautiful spot, but it really hasn't been all that bad even though, besides the beautiful weed filled parking lot, the railroad tracks are right across the street and there is nonstop freight cars coming and going and, of course, they have to toot their whistles. There is no night life here at all. There is 2 small casinos that have restaurants, but they close fairly early. We have gone out to dinner a couple of t imes and did some slots, but other than that we stay put and watch reruns. They do have a an active police force here – 5 patrol cars) and they patrol regularly. They do have a couple of good places to visit though so on with our travel adventures. There is a push to restore old town Wells which would be a benefit to the town. Wells has a pretty colorful past – lots of famous outlaws, including Sundance Kid and Jack Dempsey was a bouncer for one of the saloons.
Our next foray was out to the ghost town of Metropolis. This town was the site a railroad spur to support the surrounding farms and ranches and at one time had a population of 7,500 people . In 1911a company had a grand idea of building a town and selling ranch land around it. Great idea, but the water rights fell through so after 15 years it started to decline. It was very well planned, but all that is left is the ruins of the hotel, which was huge, and the school. One of the owners took all the bricks from his building and used them to build a hotel in Wells. It was built in 1912 and had cement sidewalks, fire hydrants, and sported a 3 story hotel named the Metropolis Hotel. Many of the sidewalks and some building ruins can still be seen. The most prominent ruin being the hotel and the Lincoln School. It was really interesting history.
Our next venture was to >Angel Lake which is about 13 miles from Wells straight up a mountain. It was fairly windy and narrow road that had no guard rails. I did not look down until when we were next to the mountain. It climbed up to about 8378 feet in altitude. Wells is at 5658 so it was quite a climb. The view across the valley from the top was really awesome. The lake wasn't very big, but pretty and was still partly covered in ice. There is very good fishing. The lake itself is nestled in a small valley on the side Grays Peak. It's a man made lake a is really pretty. There were several people up there either fishing or getting ready to snowshoe up a trail to the mountain top.
Today we decided to drive up to Lamoille Canyon. It's about fifty miles southwest of Wells. We stopped in the town of Lamoille. It is a very old town nestled in the foothills of the Ruby Mountains just at the mouth of Lamoille Canyon itself. Lamoille is a beautiful place, very lush and green with two streams going through it. All that is there is a bar and grill and a hotel with restaurant. We did stop and have lunch at the bar and it was really good.The canyon is a beautiful drive with massive rock formations and cliffs with the river running down the middle. Our longest excursion was to the Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway which is south of Elko. The drive through the canyon w as beautiful. It is a natural wetlands and there were water everywhere, plus the mountains still had a lot of snow so there were a lot of waterfalls. It was a welcome change from the red rock canyons to one that is full of trees and greenery. Just before the trail head, where the road ends, there were several small avalanches and two of them we only had a one lane rut and the trail head itself was impassable, but there was a small turn-around area before that. It was a cool trip.
We left Wells and headed North toward Garden City, UT and Blue Lake. On the way we passed Rick Springs which is not really a spring at all. It is actually the Logan River which a part of it goes underground some miles upstream and re-emerges at the Rick Springs site. The water just comes gushing out of a big cave alongside the road. It is really impressive.
After Logan Springs, we continued on to Blue Water Resort, Garden City, UT. We pulled off at a rest stop to change drivers and when I pulled out there was road construction and pylons for several miles, which made the road narrow, so my maiden voyage was very nerve racking plus it was very windy, but I stayed on the road and didn’t knock over any pylons. I was very aware of towing the car, but I finally got the hang of it didn’t hit anything. The RV park is really pretty and right on Bear Lake, which is a very popular boating area. We are parked on a large grassy area with lots of trees. We have been too busy to make use of the lake, plus there were a lot of kids here this weekend. There is no phone service here so Bob has finally given in and ordered a satellite phone. I really don’t like being without phone service and the park doesn’t even have a pay phone. Our friends Lee and Shirley came up from Salt Lake City for a couple of days and we spent one day just yapping. This is a big lake (48 miles of shore line) and is a very pretty shade of blue. Half of it is in Utah and the other half in Idaho. When we go to lunch we go to Idaho so we can have a glass of wine with our meal. For being a resort town there is nothing here – 2 cafes, several drive-ins and lots of tabernacles. We have to go to Montpelier, ID (50 miles) to get groceries, etc. We went to dinner our first night and, as usual in Utah, the service was bad and our waitress was dressed in ripped, unkept jeans and t shirt. The meal wasn’t bad, but we went back one more time and the power went out. We did get our meal, but it wasn’t all that warm. A couple of days ago we drove around the lake, which was a fairly pretty drive. It does have some nice beach areas, but a lot of it is marshy. I don’t think I’d like to live here even though I want to live on a lake.
Next day we went to the Minnetonka Caves, St. Charles, ID. A.ll we knew was that there were large caverns with lots of formations. Luckily we were the only ones on our tour because there were 888 stairs coming and going during the 90 minutes. None of us are in that kind of shape and we were really dragging ourselves up and down those stairs. We finally made it out and our guide was very proud of us and so were we when we were able to get our breath back. That said, the caves were very intereting with lots of stalagtites and stalagmite and other types of rock formations. Lots of color. After leaving the cave we went into St. Charles for lunch and then home to the rig.