Friday, September 26, 2014

2014 August Southern Utah vacation: Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon, Snow Canyon

For a very long time I've been wanting to go to Southern Utah and check out some of our National Parks around there.  So in the winter of 2013,  when we were talking about where to go in the summer of 2014 and I saw that an RCI exchange into the  St. George Worldmark resort was available for the last week of August, we decided to book it.  Shortly after booking it, some friends asked if we were still going to show them around Oregon in 2014.  So, our Southern Utah trip turned out to be the beginning of a fantastic 3 week long trip, with a night in Las Vegas and 2 weeks in Oregon to follow our 6 nights in Utah.  But since my blog of the National Parks is going to be so long, I'm making the Oregon vacation a separate blog here:

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!!!!

Aug.23, 2014:
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.
 View of the visitors' center from the road
Rainbow Vista trailhead
 rocks along the road
driving up towards White Domes
White Domes
heading back down from White Domes
 Seven Sisters pull out.
 Beehives pull out, although this looks like a bunny to me!
Then we headed back to I-15 and continued on towards Utah.  We arrived into Utah shortly after sunset.
We were getting a bit concerned with where Garmin was taking us once we got to St. George.  The address I had for the resort didn't come up on Garmin (I should know to check that out ahead of time by now!), so I used the street address without the W. added to it.  But after coming to a construction area and driving through it a couple miles, there popped up St. George Worldmark.  We used Wyndham points for our RCI exchange.  We're Worldmark owners, too, but prefer to use those points for Maui.  The St. George Worldmark was great!  We had a 2 bedroom unit.  Didn't need the extra bedroom, but the 2 bedroom units always have a larger living area and an extra bathroom, so we were very comfortable.
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.
From foyer looking left. (Murphy bed behind the doors on the left).
 master bedroom
our patio
 The pool by our unit.  Jacuzzi in the back, kiddie pool out of sight to my left.  I thoroughly enjoyed the pool and jacuzzi several times.
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!
haven't seen an 80mph speed limit in awhile, either!

one of the many farms along the way
Before we even got to Bryce we were given hints of what was to come.
  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'.
Close ups---

 Sunrise Point serves as the trailhead for the easy to moderate Queen's Garden Trail that descends into a section of hoodoos ruled by the Queen Victoria hoodoo. This viewpoint also represents the end point for the Navajo Loop/Queen Victoria combination, one of the most popular hikes in the Park.  The full hike is 8 miles, but there is a shortened hike descending this section of the Fairyland Loop as far as the Tower Bridge and returning back up to Sunrise point which offers a 3-mile "out and back." It's listed as moderate, but with my leg situation and having enough trouble breathing at 8,000', we elected not to hike down and back.  I understand there are slot canyons along that trail which I really wanted to see, but couldn't risk it with my bum leg.  Maybe next time!

 Perhaps this would have been a more interesting way to "hike" the canyon?!

 loved all the wildlife throughout the park, too.
At Bryce Canyon, hoodoos range in size from that of an average human to heights exceeding a 10-story building. Formed in sedimentary rock, hoodoo shapes are affected by the erosion patterns of alternating hard and softer rock layers. The name given to the rock layers that form hoodoos at Bryce Canyon is the Claron Formation. This layer has several rock types including siltstones and mudstones but is predominately limestone. Thirty to 40 million years ago this rock was "born" in an ancient lake that covered much of Western Utah. Minerals deposited within different rock types cause hoodoos to have different colors throughout their height.
  Nowhere in the world are hoodoos as abundant as in the northern section of Bryce Canyon National Park.
 White-breasted Nuthatch
 Steller's Jay--a relative of the Blue Jay.
 After our hour or so walk around the Sunrise Point area, we walked back to the parking lot and decided to take the free shuttle/tour that goes to the "high lights" of the park.  We rode it almost all the way around (having to change buses at the entrance) and then got off at the Lodge for lunch.
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.
 Passing the lobby along the way to the dining room.
 and the huge lobby fireplace

Lunch was worth the wait.  We elected to have the hot/cold buffet and weren't disappointed.  They had all sorts of salad makings, cheeses, lunch meats, breads, soups, a pasta, and sloppy joe and pulled pork on the buffet---all for about $15.  It was very good.
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!
 There is a short walk from the parking lot to Bryce Point which overlooks the huge amphitheater known as Bryce Canyon.    Bryce Canyon is not a "real" canyon. It's not carved by flowing water, but by "frost-wedging" and naturally acidic rain water.
Here's the section to the left as we approached the point.  The white area to the far left was full of grottos. 
Close up of the grottos which are the result of erosion of softer pockets of the upper White Member of the Claron Formation.  This section of limestone is purer; its lack of color is caused by the absence of mineral impurities.
 We assume the concrete looking stuff here is actually a conglomerate stone which takes longer to dissolve.
 selfie time!
 Close up of the hoodoo layers.
Another view of the grottos area.
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.
 Next on our route was Sunset Point---not too far from Sunrise Point.
 Iron oxide minerals supply the vibrant red, oranges, and yellows of the lower half of the cliffs which geologists call the Pink Member.
  Many trees along the Rim Trail between Sunset and Sunrise Points are dying because much of their root systems are completely exposed after human foot traffic has compacted and worn away the soil.

 The Navajo Loop Trail descends from Sunset Point through the slot canyon of Wall Street, where 500 to 700-year-old Douglas Firs reach upward toward the sunlight at the top of the canyon. The Navajo Loop is the most popular trail in the park, and is often combined with the Queen's Garden Trail that emerges onto the rim at Sunrise Point.
 A close up of a couple hoodoos from Sunset Point
 Another closeup from Sunset Point.
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.
 Most of the park is shaded at sunset, but this one is suppose to have hoodoos raising high enough to catch the last rays of the sun. 
Quite beautiful in full sunlight, too!
 Just some more hoodoos.

 Don't know what kind of bird this is, but he was running around the parking lot.
On a clear day, you can see up to 160 miles away from here!
It was a pretty clear day, so I assume we were seeing into Arizona---some 90 miles away.
 Natural Bridge--this viewpoint is close to a natural bridge (thus the name), the only one we saw here at Bryce.
Near the parking lot here is a "clone" of Quaking Aspens.  Aspen "clones," as the individual root systems are called, can live to be thousands of years old by reproducing from it's extensive root system.  They were going dormant throughout the park until prescribed fires were started to burn away some spruce and fir forests that shaded them out.  The fires allow the dormant aspen to quickly return.  Unlike most trees, they have a green layer under their white bark that continues to synthesize sugars during winter and provide food for deer and elk.  Plus just seeing the white bark in contrast to the colors of the rocks is pretty awesome.
Some more of the wild flowers growing all around the park.

 Even saw some of the Paintbrush variety near one parking lot.
Agua Canyon
 One of the 2 prominent hoodoos seen here.
 another view with yellow wildflowers in the foreground.
 The other prominent hoodoo here at Ague.

Ponderosa Point
Raven posing for his close up.
 Ponderosa Canyon got it's named because of the huge Ponderosa Pines on the canyon floor. Some of these trees measure more than 5 ft. in diameter and over 150' tall, but you can't tell that from this viewpoint.
another viewpoint of Ponderosa Canyon
Back on the road----
Up to the highest point---Rainbow Point.
  Here is one of the places you can get a good look at the sequence of rock layers in the Grand Staircase, which encompasses 1.9 million acres . The sections or steps in the Grand Staircase are named for the dominant color of rock.  The best view of this is from the viewpoint Yovimpa Point.  Not knowing this at the time and it already being after 6pm, I just made it to the first viewpoint.  But you can sort of see the Grand Staircase here-- the top step is known as the Pink Cliffs. Directly below that are the Grey Cliffs, then the White Cliffs. Looking down into distant canyons near the horizon are some red rock underneath the White Cliffs. This red rock makes up the Vermilion Cliffs. Hidden from view but directly under the towering Vermilion Cliffs are the comparatively diminutive Chocolate Cliffs. The tree-covered hills that meet the horizon belong to the Kaibab Plateau — the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Another  view from Rainbow Point.
 and another with the North Rim of the Grand Canyon off in the distance.
 trees along our drive back towards the entrance.
 Along the side of the road we even came upon some Pronghorns.  They were reintroduced into the area after practically being eliminated in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Looks like the remnants of one of those prescribed fires behind the Pronghorns.
They were so cute I had to include 3 pictures of them.
 Before heading out of the park, we decided to run over to Bryce Point again.  Even with the sun dipping low, it was still beautiful!
 From the walkway heading to the viewpoint.
a view of the viewpoint from the walkway.
One last view from the point.
It was after 7 by the time we left the park.  It was a full day, just wish we had been able to hike more of the trails.  But after spending about 10 hours in the park, we really wouldn't have had time to hike more and still see all that we did!

 Nearing sunset during our 3 hour ride back to St. George. 

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.
 Just to the west of St. George is the entrance we came upon. 
There's a $6/car self pay day use fee.  Being a state park, our National Parks pass wasn't good here.
A pan shortly after entering the park.
This area of Utah was covered with sand dunes up to 2,500' deep millions of years ago. 
There are plants and wildlife here that aren't found any where else in the state.  22 sensitive species protected by state laws are found within the park, including desert tortoises and gila monsters.
 The park only averages 7.6" of rain each year.
Eventually the dunes turned into sandstone.  Over time, water cut and shaped canyons in the stone.   Cinder cones also erupted in the area causing lava flows filling the canyons with basalt. 
 Eventually more canyons were carved. 
 Here's a good view of some of the petrified sand at the foot of the red rock layer.
Another wildlife sign.
 There were even a few wanna be hoodoos here.
A very colorful park with the white and orange sandstone and the black cinder cones amongst the green foliage.
There was even an interesting camp ground here.  I loved that each site had it's own covered pic nic area and a grill.  As I recall there was a water pump between sites.
 We even headed back there in the evening to see it in a different light.
 Loved the different clouds, too.
 Even saw a bridal couple getting pictures taken.

Even though it gets so little rain, there was lots of plant life throughout the park.

 We did attempt a short hike, but my knee wasn't cooperating too well.
 back to our ride for the week.
Loved seeing all the really wierd looking plants.
Ken made it farther then me.  Hopefully we'll get back there and we'll be able to do some of the hikes.
 Just past the park, we found a viewpoint overlooking St. George and Snow Canyon park.  Watched a pretty sunset from there.  This is looking towards St. George.
 From the viewpoint looking over Snow Canyon.

 After sunset we went back to our resort for some pool and jacuzzi time.

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.

 Just admiring some of the pretty flowers in the park.
  At various times warm, shallow seas, streams, ponds and lakes, vast deserts, and dry near-shore environments covered the area.  Streams in the area take rectangular paths because they follow jointing planes in the rocks
 The geology of Zion includes 9 formations from over 150 million years of mostly Mesozoic-aged sedimentation.
 The road the shuttles take into Zion Canyon is 6 miles long.
 The nine exposed geologic formations in Zion National Park are part of  the Grand Staircase--just as they were in Bryce.
 Uplift affected the entire region, known as the Colorado Plateaus, by slowly raising these formations more than 10,000 feet higher than where they were deposited.   Rivers then cut canyons into the area.
An elk grazing along the road
 The last stop before the shuttle turns around is at the Temple of Sinawava. You can see The Narrows by hiking along the paved, wheelchair accessible Riverside Walk for one mile from the Temple of Sinawava.  We decided my knee was going to do this hike.
 Seven trails with round-trip times of half an hour (Weeping Rock) to 4 hours  (Angel's Landing) are found in Zion Canyon.  We only managed to do the Riverside Walk.
Interesting bird we saw along our "hike".
 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.
 To continue up the Narrows means walking in the Virgin River.  Since we only had the shoes we were wearing, we elected to not go any farther.

 We saw many chipmunks along the trail. 
 Another view of the Virgin River from Riverside Walk.
 Some of the flora along the way.
 Getting artsie with shutter speed. :)
it really was a beautiful and easy walk.
 another interesting wild flower.
 view of the trail from one of the bends.

 Ken leaving me in his dust!
 Back to the shuttle stop at the Temple of Sinawava.  It is right about here I felt the all-too-familiar "twang" of a muscle pulling or tearing in my calf!  I had just finished physical therapy on that condition in my left leg, now with the stress of the torn cartilage in my left knee, my right calf decided to tear.  I was not a happy hiker, now having to hobble with both legs!
As shown here, it was not a good day to hike the Narrows anyway.  In fact, about a half hour after we got back here, it started pouring down rain and the news that night talked about flash flooding in Zion.  
Just another view of the many colors of the park!

 Back on the shuttle, we road straight back to the Lodge in search of food.
The lodge has a variety of accommodations and is the only place inside Zion to eat; either in the main dining room (Red Rock Grill) or at the Castel Dome Café (open seasonally). 
 We headed to the main dining room.
 they had a buffet, too, but it seemed smaller then at Bryce and we were ready to try something from the menu.  Like this panko crusted fish and chips which were very good.
 and a tasty rueben sandwich.
 At first we were sat outside on the patio, but that's when the downpour hit and everyone ran into the dining room.
 1933 brought great change to our county and Zion National Park. The Great Depression was ruling the country with a 25% unemployment rate and many people simply struggling to survive. In the midst of this national tragedy, a plan was developed by newly elected President Franklin Roosevelt to revive the people of this country and to improve our public lands. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was developed to take young, unemployed men and put them to work on public lands while providing them with skills needed to obtain future employment.  During their nine years at Zion they built and improved many of the Zion Canyon’s trails, created parking areas, fought fires, helped build campgrounds, built park buildings, and reduced flooding of the Virgin River.  Why can't our current presidents come up with such a plan???!!!!
Can't have a visit to Zion without checking out the lodge.
After lunch, we boarded the shuttle again and rode around the park one more time before heading back to our car.

The shuttles even had a map in them telling you what was at each of the stops.

 All these unlabeled photos were taken from the shuttle usually while it was moving. 


After riding the shuttle, we hopped back in our car and took the  the Zion-Mount Carmel highway.  The 28-miles (rt) road was a joint effort, between the National Park Service, the state of Utah, and the Bureau of Public Roads.

 Because of the significant planning, skills, materials, and overall design and engineering, the Zion Mt. Carmel Highway and Tunnel are listed in the National Register of Historic Places and, in May, 2012, designated as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

 All along the Zion Mt. Carmel Highway are plenty of pull offs to enjoy more beautiful views of Zion.

 We even saw some Big Horn sheep which were reintroduced in the 1990s.

Rain clouds moving in again.
 More Big Horn Sheep.

 Even a few little hoodoos.

 Despite the many challenges that the crews encountered building this highway back in the 1920's, the most significant challenge of the project was the construction of the 1.1-mile long tunnel through the heart of the sandstone cliffs to connect the new road from the east with the switchbacks to the west.
 We drove the 14 miles one way on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, then turned around and drove back through. 
After about 9 hours in Zion and a series of heavy downpours, we headed back to St. George.
Again, I would have loved to have hiked more, but we still found plenty to see by car.  I was surprised at how different Bryce and Zion are even though they are relatively close to each other.  I hope to get back that way some day and check out Arches, Cathedrals, and more parks in the area as well as explore these parks some more.
We made it back into St. George near sunset and went to Brick Oven pizza for a tasty pizza and brew.
After dinner, we tried to hit the pool and jacuzzi again, but a big thunderstorm decided to hit.  Can't really complain, though,---during our whole 3 weeks vacation, this was the only day we really had any rain and even though we had a few days of upper 90's, it wasn't bad up in the National Parks.

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?!
We did wonder around the park.  
 There were even a couple people here rock climbing and repelling.
 Finally I got to see a little slot canyon! 
 Looks like they have a little amphitheater/fire pit here, too.
 getting over  here to look down into the little slot canyon is where I felt the disappointing "twang" of another calf pull!  Having this going on since Feb. is getting really old!!!
 Another view of the amphitheater from above.
hobbling back down.
Ken turning into a hoodoo.
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. 

 Everytime we saw this black design in the cinder cone it reminded us of a dragon.
 Heading out of the West end of Snow Canyon and continuing west on highway 18.

We had no idea where we were going, but had confidence that Garmin would get us back.
 We came upon the little Town of Veyo.
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.
 A little farther west we came across Baker Dam recreation area.  Not much of a dam, but it still had a pretty little lake.

Then we continued on to historic Pine Valley which was established in 1855.  They even give tours of this church, but my calf wasn't having any steps today!
 It went up into a recreational area, too.
 more wild flowers!

 and wild life---
and some not-so-wild life with a heart tattoo!
 even a few wild turkeys
 And more cows with the oddest white ring marking around their mid sections---Oreo cows!
 and a large rodent of some sort.
Lots of farmlands out West.
And lots of tree covered mountains.
I think I could live here!
Almost back to St. George.
a monument in the middle of a round-about not too far from our resort.
Back at our resort we had a tropical cream pie waiting for us from our salesman.  It was very good!
Another wonderful day even without the National Parks.

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!
Along the 3 hour ride.
Ken's "old age pass" got us in here free, too, otherwise it would have been $25/car good for a week.
We drove straight to the Lodge.   I was surprised to see cabins there by the Lodge.   These cabins looked like they would be great to stay in, but I bet they're hard to get.
 Just past the cabins is the Lodge.  The Lodge was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987 and the original was another one designed by Underwood.  We went straight to the restaurant figuring we finally got to one at the right time to get lunch.  Wrong----we forgot about the additional time change!  We had another hour or so before they would open for lunch and they had just closing for breakfast.  Strike 3!!!
 So we wandered out to see the canyon---WOW!!!  With an average elevation of 8,000 feet, the North Rim offers views of the canyon from a higher vantage then the South Rim.
 The hour and half went by very quickly as I snapped picture after picture!
 Heading down the steps to the viewpoint above.
Looking back at the back of the Lodge.
Selfie time again--although the sun was intense.  Which was a good thing since we found out it stormed really badly there the day before.
From the view point.
 Check out all those geologic layers!
   We started to walk the trail, but it started going away from the rim.
peeking back to the canyon

 Then we were heading back towards the Lodge when we spotted this other viewpoint on the other side of the Lodge.

 View of the Lodge from there.
 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.
 I snapped a few pictures of the inside of the Lodge while we waited our turn to be seated.

The back lobby looking over the canyon.
there was a really nice patio behind the lobby, too.  You can barely see some of the chairs through the doors.
 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 colors here were even more grand then at Zion or Bryce.
 I imagine this is part of the Grand Staircase, too.

 Pink, purple, orange, gray, ...   so many colors!
And the Painted Desert somewhere in the distance.

I can't believe we almost missed this whole area!
Six thousand feet deep at its deepest point and up to 18 miles across at its widest, the canyon is immense and colorful with steep canyon walls and jutting mesas.
Exposed geologic formations chronicle three of the earth's four eras of geologic history, making the Grand Canyon one of the most studied geologic landscapes in the world.

Carved by the Colorado River over a period of six million years, it is one of the finest examples of arid-land erosion in the world, averaging 4,000 feet deep for its entire 277 miles.
 the river to the far right
The road was quite curvy.  Fortunately it wasn't very crowded.
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.
A view of Angels Window from the trail.  Hard to see here, but there is a viewpoint on top of it.
 close up through Angels Window with the Colorado River framed behind it.
 Ken charging ahead.

 heading to the viewpoint on top of Angels Window.
  Cape Royal

 Resident of the canyon
another view of the Colorado River

 stacked rocks for good luck.
Heading back to the car.

 forest fire?

The sun was casting a lot of low shadows now.  
 I understand this is where you're suppose to be able to see the Painted Desert from.
 One last look before heading out.
 About 7pm we were on our way out of the park---prime time to see a bunch of deer. 

Also witnessed a pretty nice sunset.
 Another fantastic day exploring another fantastic National Park.  Again, totally different from the last 2!  Which did I like the best?---I really can't say, but I know there's a lot more of the Grand Canyon to see!

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.

 another art piece in the middle of a round-about.
 How cool would it be to have this view in your neighborhood?
Along the outskirts of town again.
I wanted to get overview pictures of Snow Canyon by day, too, so we headed there before leaving town.
 Bye beautiful Utah!!
 And on our way back to Las Vegas.

 Heading into the Virgin River Gorge on I-15.  It was dark when we were going the other way.  Even this ride was impressive.
 I like the way they want you to "Focus on the Road", but they put these big signs up!

 Back in Vegas.
About 3 we were checking into our 2 bedroom unit at the Wyndham Grand Desert.  Our friends had already checked in about 9am, and were living it up on the Strip.  Time to check out another Wyndham.

Then we were off to find the free shuttle and meet up with our friends for dinner.  Ended up at the buffet at The Mirage.  I would have liked to have seen more of Vegas, but I wasn't in any condition to be walking much more.

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!!!!

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