June 27 – July 17, 2019
We were restricted to THREE weeks with our granddaughter, Chloe, this year due to her schedule back in Maryland. Our original plan was to visit Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and possibly Glacier. That all went by the wayside when she learned that we had volunteered at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah a few months back. We sent her pictures from the sanctuary and suddenly, our plans changed. She wanted to go to BEST FRIENDS!!!! (That blog post is next).
We did manage to sneak in a few National Park visits and Junior Ranger badges before, after, and even between our volunteer shifts with the animals. John and I have blogged about all these parks before so we’ll put links in here to our past posts and maybe throw in a few updates from this time around. Here’s our whirlwind three weeks:
Salt Lake City KOA – This is a good campground with shady sites, a nice pool and hot tub, a reading/game room, and very helpful staff. Their doggie area was right in front of our rig and even had a dog washing station. The campground is a few blocks from the Mormon Temple and near the airport. It is on the transit line which made getting around simple. We enjoyed our little two night stay and would stay there again if we are in the area. Chloe loved getting off the plane, taking transit right to the campground then hitting the pool. No fuss, no muss, straight to vacation mode!
We did a quick two night stop at Ruby’s Inn & Campground just outside of Bryce Canyon National Park. We were checking Ruby’s out for a possible travel club reunion location and we wanted Chloe to see Bryce. We managed to hike enough for her to earn the “I Hiked the Hoodoos” award. When we hiked it a few years back, we received a nice hat pin. Chloe was eager to earn her own pin and more than a little disappointed to get a sticker instead. I realize the pins cost a good bit but I would have happily paid for the pin. The park could give the sticker and a certificate that allows you to buy the pin from the gift shop. That little bump didn’t spoil the adventure though. Chloe enjoyed the park, the hikes, and the beautiful rock formations. (blog posts for our previous visit start here: Bryce Canyon National Park )
Caption: Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park
Zion National Park was a day trip in the middle of our volunteer weeks. The visitor center is about an hour from Kanab. We jumped onto a Ranger led shuttle tour and caught some cool info about the canyon and the rock formations there. John and Chloe then hiked into the Narrows. (blog posts for our previous visit start here: Zion National Park )
The Narrows Trail had only been open for a few days as the spring melt was up this year and the water was too high for safe hiking. There was a steady line of people hiking into and out of that canyon. It took a bit of doing but John finally turned them around. Chloe wanted to keep going. She said she will be hiking the entire route allowed on a day trip when she comes back with Daddy (heads up Daddy – you are on the hook for some hefty river hiking). Blog posts for our previous visit start here
Grand Staircase Escalante was a no-brainer. It pretty much surrounds Angel Canyon and Kanab and there is a visitor center right in Kanab. Chloe did their version of the Junior Ranger badge while we checked out their visitor center. They have good displays on the Puebloans in the area and the archaeology they are doing in the park. They also have an entire wall dedicated to the rock layers that make up the Grand Staircase. To truly SEE those layers in all their glory, you have to drive to the Le Fevre overlook where the layers step up away from you in the distance. We made that stop on the way to Grand Canyon’s North Rim.
Grand Canyon’s North Rim was another day away from Best Friends. It took us over an hour and a half to get to the visitor center. Lots of campgrounds and hotels tell you they are a half hour from this park or an hour from that one. They aren’t lying – they are truly that distance…from the park boundary. It takes a long time to drive to the far side of the park where the visitor center is (and in this case, the actual canyon.) We were able to get a nice breakfast at the lodge, hike to Bright Angel Point, take part in a Ranger program on geology, check out a mule train and hike just a little bit of Bright Angel Trail (too hot for extended hiking).
Pipe Spring National Monument – Chloe enjoyed the tour of the fort and the museum but the biggest highlight for her was the two longhorns. She thought they were the coolest things around. She talked John into “adopting” a longhorn at the gift shop which netted her a super soft plush longhorn that she named Larry. She wore Larry on top of her head for the rest of the day. We don’t ask about these things. She and Larry both looked very happy with the arrangement.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area – With our volunteer stint at Best Friends over, we rolled out of Kanab extra early to reach the Glen Canyon Dam Visitor Center as soon as it opened… but we forgot the time zone change going from Utah into Arizona so we were an hour early. No problem, we enjoyed checking out the views and managed to get on the first tour of the day down into the dam. We toured the dam and the visitor center, checked out the views again, then hit the road and headed east. The water level in Lake Powell is REALLY low but it is up FIFTY FEET from when we saw it a few months back, before the spring snow melt came down and helped recharge the lake.
Mesa Verde National Park – We knew we would have a few days before we had to get Chloe back on a plane in Salt Lake City. We gave her three choices: Dinosaur National Monument and Flaming Gorge; Flagstaff, Arizona with Wupatki, Sunset Crater, Walnut Canyon and Meteor Crater; or Mesa Verde. Chloe had done a research project on the Pueblo Indians so she narrowed it down quickly to Flagstaff or Mesa Verde with the final winner being Mesa Verde. We stayed in the Morfield campground with no hookups and it was not nearly as sweltering as we expected. Once the sun dipped behind the mountains around us, the temperature dropped nicely. It was pretty hot up on the mesas though. We managed to book tours for all three of the big cliff dwellings: Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House. We also checked out the Badger House Community on the Wetherill Plateau and John hiked down to Step House while Chloe and I hid under the shade shelter and drank cold beverages that we bought at the tiny shop located there (see separate post on Wetherill Plateau which was closed when we visited last time).
The Great Salt Lake – Our final night before putting Chloe back on a plane was at The Great Salt Lake Marina campsite. It is right on the lake. They have five little RV sites that the website will tell you are full hookup BUT your confirmation will tell you there will be no sewer hookups between July of 2018 and July of 2024… hmmm. Seems they could correct the website. It wasn’t a biggie for us as they had a dump station and we really just wanted electricity so we could beat back the heat with our AC. We only had a few waking hours to explore but managed to check out their little visitor center and wade into the Great Salt Lake to try to catch brine shrimp. The water is… interesting. You can see layers shifting around your legs. It is very viscous. You also see all kinds of swimming and wriggling things. These are Sea Monkeys (actually they are brine shrimp which are a multi-million dollar business). The brine shrimp cysts (eggs) are sold in little kits as Sea Monkeys as well as being a major fish food sold both in the US and exported. You can scoop the little critters out with your hands but the big business people do it using floating booms to skim the surface of the water when the shrimp eggs rise to the surface en mass. They dry them, pack them and ship them. When the eggs sense the conditions are right for survival, they hatch. We had NO desire to totally immerse ourselves in the lake as others were doing. Apparently it’s extremely difficult to sink but fear of drowning isn’t what kept us from taking the plunge. The area smells a bit swampy from all the decaying biomass and the water leaves your body feeling slimy then crusty. Wading was enough for us. The marina has convenient beach showers to de-scum before getting back into your RV or vehicle. This is a hot spot. We saw numerous tour buses come through so people could look out on and wade into The Great Salt Lake.