Unfortunately, shortly after making our plans, I started having pulled and torn calf muscles. After about 5 months and about 50 torn calf muscles, I finally went for physical therapy (something I've never done before). It seemed to help, for awhile. Didn't pull or tear any calf muscles for about 2 months, but then noticed some pretty severe knee pain. Went to the Dr. and was told I needed surgery to remove some torn cartilage, but by then it was too close to our trip, so surgery was scheduled for the week I got back. So, although I had a great 3 week trip!, I also suffered a lot while walking. Ken was probably happy, though, since I didn't insist on many of the hikes in the canyon. The torn calf muscles (in both legs) occurred again, as well as the knee pain, so I hobbled a lot. Really felt like an old lady!!!!
We used Southwest for our air travel. We were even able to get one STL-LAS trip free with reward miles. That turned out to be the most expensive fare, even though I kept checking all the way up until our flights. The other flights did go down a bit and I was able to re book them and have a credit for a future flight on SW. Gotta love SW and their no fee changes and no luggage fee. We did just have carry on luggage, but checked it most of the time anyway. We don't often fly into LAS, so I was quite intrigued by the views from the plane over what I assume were parts of the Grand Canyon.
Our car rental was with Budget. Got the best deal from them for a full sized car for $155 including taxes and fees, plus we're Fastbreak members, so getting our car in a busy place like LAS was a breeze. We found the shuttle to the off airport rental car complex and went straight to the garage, bypassing the Budget counter. In the garage, the Fastbreak booth had our car ready and we were on our way to Utah in a few short minutes. With Garmin plugged in, we quickly found I-15 and were heading north out of Vegas by about 4pm.
I had read that Valley of Fire was just off I-15 on our way to Utah, so we made about a 2 hour detour there. It gets its name from red sandstone formations formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs. There was a $10 fee charged upon entering, but it was well worth it. There are about 20 miles of paved roadway in the park. There are also lots of hiking paths. Since we were in a bit of a hurry, we didn't do any of the hiking, just stopped at the visitor center and at several of the trail heads to take pictures.
The main living area. Front door just past the Murphy bed on the right. The 2 bedrooms on either side at the end of the hall.
Aug. 24, 2014 -- Bryce Canyon National Park:
With the 1 hour time difference between STL and St. George, we took advantage of waking up early and decided to head to Bryce Canyon our 1st full day there. It's about 145 miles from St. George, but a lot of it was on 2 lane highways so took about 3 hours to get there. I even enjoyed the ride there. Certainly different landscape then we have back home!
Finally got to the relatively small, 56.2 square miles, Bryce Canyon National Park.
Ken had just gotten his Senior National Parks Pass (or whatever they call it now), so we didn't have to pay the $25 entrance fee. This card came in quite handy throughout our 3 week trip. Quite a deal at $10 for USA residents over 62 years old.
By now we were hungry so we drove straight to the lodge hoping to get breakfast. Unfortunately they quit serving breakfast and closed for about 1 1/2 hours at 10am. We got there right at 10. So we were directed to a cafe next to the lodge were we grabbed a snack to hold us over until lunch. A very inquisitive chipmunk even decided to try and help me with my yogurt. But I heeded all the signs saying not to feed the wildlife and wouldn't share with him.
Now it was time to walk a bit of the trails. I wasn't in the best of shape for a 3 week vacation to a lot of national parks, but I was going to see them even if I had to crawl, damn it! First up---Sunrise Point at an elevation of 8,015'.
The Lodge was built between 1924 and 1925 using local materials. It's the only remaining completely original lodge designed by Underwood for Bryce, Zion, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
After lunch, we rode the bus back to our car at Sunrise Point, then drove the route the bus took. Our first stop was at Bryce Point. The canyon's namesake, Ebenezer Bryce, settled in the valley just below the canyon in 1870. Bryce was a shipbuilder who journeyed west with Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers to assist in the construction of buildings. He only lived there 5 years during which time he constructed roads for transporting lumber and surveyed the route for a 10-mile irrigation ditch from the top of the plateau to the valley that would later lead to larger, more permanent settlements.
This condensed picture is actually about a 220 degrees view of Bryce Canyon.
Would love to have seen the view from this helicopter!
Here's the section to the left as we approached the point. The white area to the far left was full of grottos.
Our next stop was Inspiration Point.
The viewpoint at Inspiration Point consists of three levels that provide varied spectacular perspectives of the main amphitheater. We apparently only saw the perspective from this level.
Named after the Paria River watershed, this area is known for it's slot canyons. Not a good place to be during heavy rains, though.
On a clear day, you can see up to 160 miles away from here!
Aug. 25, 2014 --- Snow Canyon:
After 2 days of traveling, today we decided to stay close to "home". We also hoped to sleep in, but that still didn't happen. We also let them sign us up for the "owner's update" sales pitch for this morning. I was expecting we would go, tell them, "no" like we usually do, take our gifted award and leave. To my surprise, they convinced my husband that we should upgrade our membership. Who am I to disagree!? Just means more vacation for me! We actually left that morning telling the salesman (who was not the usual hard sales type) that we needed to talk about it and would get back to him----which we did a couple days later.
Only about 7 or 8 miles from where we were staying was Snow Canyon State Park. At about 11.5 sq. miles large, it's about a forth the size of Bryce, but seemed considerably smaller. The road through it is only about 3 miles long, but there are lots of hiking paths here, too. Again, we didn't do much hiking, but the views were outstanding. Very different from Bryce, but still amazing. Even the ride to the park through the outskirts of ST. George were interesting. I loved all the different styles of houses and landscaping.
There's a $6/car self pay day use fee. Being a state park, our National Parks pass wasn't good here.
Aug. 26, 2014 --- Zion:
Time to hit another National Park. Only about 40 miles from St. George, this seemed like a short ride. We still managed to spend most of the day exploring the 229 sq. mile park. This was another $25/car entrance fee (good for a week), but we were able to use Ken's senior pass to get in free.
Zion National Park includes mountains, canyons, buttes, mesas, monoliths, rivers, slot canyons, and natural arches and is mostly made up of Navajo Sandstone.
During the summer, they don't allow anyone to drive their own vehicles into the main areas of the park. So we parked by the visitor's center and jumped on one of their shuttles. It was a neat system. They had it in Bryce, too, but it wasn't required there.
is 6 miles long.
) are found in Zion Canyon. We only managed to do the Riverside Walk.
The canyon narrows and a foot-trail continues to the mouth of the Zion Narrows, a gorge as narrow as 20 feet wide and up to 2,000 feet tall.
We made it back into St. George near sunset and went to Brick Oven pizza for a tasty pizza and brew.
Aug. 27, 2014 --- another day around the St. George area:
This was another day with no plans---other than meeting with the salesman again today and buying more timeshare points. Then we took off to see what was near St. George.
First up was a city park. How cool would it be to have this park near home?!
From Pioneer Park, we headed to the West entrance of Snow Canyon which was only a few miles away and did a loop through the park again enjoying the billowy white clouds against the colorful hills.
I remembered someone at the resort telling us we should check out Veyo Pies. So when we saw it, we did. I had a chicken pot pie and a piece of raspberry rhubarb pie. Both were very good. Ken settled for just a sub sandwich.
Aug. 28, 2014 --- North Rim of the Grand Canyon:
We were on the cliff (pun intended) as to whether or not to go to another far away National Park, but who knows if we'll ever get the chance to again. Besides, it's considered one of the seven natural wonders of world, honored as a World Heritage Site and visited by five million or more each year. How could we not go!? It helped that we were still waking up early, too.
With directions punched into Garmin, we were on our 139 mile excursion to the main gate of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This was another 3 hour each way trip, but turned out to be well worth it!
We started to walk the trail, but it started going away from the rim.
By now we were hungry and ready to try the restaurant again. There was already a line and they were just starting to seat people.
We had the buffet lunch here, too, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was pretty similar to the one at Bryce (even having the pulled pork and sloppy joes), but they also had cookies and brownies for dessert.
We had thought we'd take the .5 mile walk on the Bright Angel Point Trail after lunch since we didn't think there was much else to do at the North Rim. Fortunately the waitress asked us if we had been to Cape Royal and seen Angel's Window. Dumbfounded we asked what those were and she told us of another road, about 4 miles from the Lodge, that had lots of viewpoints along. We had passed that road on our way to the Lodge, but we didn't know where it went. So we jumped in the car and took off to discover that area of the Walhalla Plateau. Figured we'd come back and hike the Bright Angel Trail later. Well, we found a lot to do and see on the Walhalla Plateau so we didn't make it back in time to hike the Bright Angel Point Trail. I didn't do a very good job of marking what these viewpoints were, but most of them didn't have signs. Most didn't have marked trails, either. But we had no trouble spending about 4 hours traveling this section of the Plateau. But first, we hit the gift shop and bought an expandable hiking stick. I used it like a cane and it has been very handy (even at home after surgery).
The road ended at Cape Royal. It is the southernmost viewpoint on the North Rim, and it has the widest panorama of any Grand Canyon overlook. From the parking lot, there's a nice paved walk. All along the trail are signs talking about the plants in the area. This is a Utah Juniper. Indians used to bark to make sandals and to pad cradleboards. Digging sticks and other farming tools were made from this wood, too.
another view of the Colorado River
stacked rocks for good luck.
Our last viewpoint was Point Imperial. It was a short detour off the road that took us to Royal Point.At 8,803 feet, Point Imperial is the highest of the North Rim overlooks, and the northernmost.
About 7pm we were on our way out of the park---prime time to see a bunch of deer.
Aug. 29, 2014 --- leaving St. George:
But first, a ride through town to see what we missed there. They have a really cute historic downtown area.
So back the resort we went and Coni and I enjoyed a beer while we took a dip in the 24hour pool and jacuzzi. The perfect end to a perfect (almost) vacation and perfect start to a new one!
Tomorrow----on to Oregon!!!!