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Trip Report I didn't know it rained so much in the desert!

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Hi Everyone

I have enjoyed lurking here and reading all of the wonderful trip reports for a long time. Now that I have finally gotten to do a little traveling I am going to (hopefully) help others by writing my own about eloping to Vegas with a SW honeymoon.

My (now) husband B and I are both 29 and live in New York. We always knew that we would elope as a wedding did not appeal to either of us. What better excuse to travel! The hardest part was deciding where to go. There are so many places on our list.

We finally decided to go the traditional route and head for Vegas. While we were out there it only made sense to visit some of the beautiful National Parks that are also on our list. We scraped together every last drop of our vacation time and bought tickets in and out of Vegas for a 10 day trip about a month before we left.

With some help from the Fodorites (thanks) we settled on the following itinerary:

Day 1: Fly to Vegas and get hitched
Day 2: Drive to hoover dam and Grand Canyon
Day 3: Drive to Arches NP with a stop at Monument Valley
Day 4: Arches NP/Canyonlands NP/maybe dead horse state park
Day 5: Morning at Arches and drive to Goblin Valley State park in time for the sunset
Day 6: Bryce Canyon NP
Day 7: Zion NP
Day 8: Zion in the morning and head back to Vegas
Day 9: Vegas
Day 10: Vegas and fly home on the red eye

We booked a rental car with Alamo and The Signature at MGM Grand for our 3 nights in Vegas. We like to camp and planned to camp at all of the parks. I thought we would just get a campsite when we got to each place but was advised (thanks again!) that the sites in the parks would fill up quickly so decided to book as much as possible.

I used recreation.gov (no reservation fee) to book sites at Mather Campground (grand canyon) and Watchman campground (Zion). Arches and Bryce campgrounds were already full. Since we would be at Arches for 2 nights and would probably arrive late, we decided to book outside of the park. We booked at Riverside Oasis which turned out to be a great decision. I used reserve america ($8 reservation fee) to book the night at Goblin Valley. We left the night at Bryce up to chance since it wasn't very far from Goblin Valley and we would probably arrive early. This turned out to be another great decision but not in the way we anticipated.

I ordered a streetwise map for LV and an atlas/gazeteer for Utah and Arizona. Since we were flying, we could not take much. We managed to get our tent back in its sack for the first time since we bought it and smooshed our sleeping bag sacks as small as they would go. This, a flashlight, hiking boots and a hatchet went in 1 checked duffel bag. It was below the size and weight requirements, but not by much.

We also looked up a few restaurants and the info on getting married in LV and we were ready to go.

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    We just got back on Sunday. One of the park rangers at Bryce told us that they got more rain per day for the 2 days we were there than they usually do for the entire month of October!

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    DAY 1: MAYBE WE SHOULD HAVE TAKEN AN ARK TO VEGAS.

    We were up at 3:30 am for our 7 am flight. This made our kitten very happy since that is the time she always wants us to get up and play with her. Poor unsuspecting baby!

    The monsoon like rain predicted for this morning had not arrived and everything was dry except for a few sprinkles when we arrived at the airport at 6 am. We lined up at the Continental counter and when it was our turn, the continental lady yelled at us because she did not have tags for our luggage. She sent us, rather rudely, to the kiosk off to the side. Apparently, you HAVE to go to the kiosk to check in even if you have already printed your boarding passes like was had. A sign, a more obvious set up, or a more friendly clerk would have all made this a more pleasant experience.

    Our plane boarded right on time. We were cleared for take off. We were taxi-ing. We were stopped. Argh! so close! Our layover was at Newark where it was raining so much that no planes were allowed to land. That mean that planes headed there were not allowed to take off. The pilot told us it would be a 25 minute delay. This was not good since our layover was only 45 minutes! After 25 minutes I must have been having deja vu because the pilot came back on and repeated himself. Another 25 minutes! We would definitely miss out connection.

    Since there was nothing else I could do, I decided to have a snack. At least they kept the seat belt sign off while we were waiting so everyone could use the bathroom.

    When we got to Newark we had indeed missed our flight :-(
    Continental had already rebooked us on another flight and had the boarding passes waiting for us when we got off the plane. At first I was impressed with their efficiency. Then I looked at the boarding pass. 3 pm. It was only 9 am (we missed our flight by 15 minutes!) and they wanted us to sit at this airport for 6 hours while 2 other flights to Vegas left without us?? I.DON'T.THINK.SO. We went straight to the customer service desk since we had 6 whole hours and nothing to do but complain. The agent there cheerfully put us on standby for the 11am flight.

    As we waited for the 11 o'clock flight, they started asking for people to give up their seats as the flight was overbooked. They needed at least 7 or 8 volunteers and would give a $300 voucher. At least 15 people volunteered to give up their seat but continental took only 8. We were 5th and 6th for standby. we did not stand a chance. The customer service guy who put us on standby must have known this. He just wanted us to go away fast.

    The plane took off without us. We stood around the gate agents with the other standbys. I smelled a mutiny brewing. one of them told us to just go to the gate for the 12 pm flight and the standby list would be rolled over. Many of the standbys left. Luckily for me, B is more persistent than that! He politely asked another agent to confirm us on the 12 pm flight. And she did! and she put us in an EXIT ROW!! The trip was back on track.

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    DAY 1 CONTINUED: FEELING LIKE A ROCKSTAR AT THE CLARK COUNTY MARRIAGE LICENSE OFFICE

    We arrived in LV and proceeded to baggage claim skeptical as to whether our bags would be there. B braved the crowd, ready to grab our bags if they came out. I stood by as the crowd thinned. Our bags still did not appear. I started looking around for the continental office. I spied it and started making my way over there when I beheld a beautiful sight! There, locked to a wire in front of their door so nobody could steal it, was our luggage! I called to B who thought I was crazy but came anyway. When he saw what I was jumping up and down about he looked very relieved. Our camping stuff was in one of the bags and our fancy marryin' duds were in the other.

    When the lady locked inside the office had pretended she couldn't see us for long enough (probably 4 minutes- she wasn't doing a thing) she came out and asked what we wanted. "Those bags are ours" we replied. she wanted to see our claim tags. Never ever has anyone asked to see those tags. I almost threw them out. Soon we had our bags and were on our way to the rental car facility on the shuttle.

    We picked up our small SUV at the Alamo counter where we were charged $363. We declined to add a 2nd driver when he told us it was $10/day since B usually does all the driving anyway. I had thought the quote online was around $450 but had not brought my paper and attributed the difference to the lack of 2nd driver. The girl who led us from the counter to the cars was very friendly and asked about our flight. We told her about the rain delay and missing our connection. She replied "well you can count on it never to rain here!" Cue the foreshadowing music.

    As we were driving out the checkout employee offered us the opportunity to buy gas from them ahead of time so we did not have to drop it off full. In my experience (limited) they are trying to gouge you and sell it to you for like $5/gallon. The price she offered was $2.65- cheaper than the gas station. We took it.

    We cruised up the strip to the marriage license office. There were about 20 couples in line. Since we had pre-registered online we were allowed in the express lane which was empty. We walked right up to the window and gave our confirmation # (you MUST have this # or they will throw you into the heap of non rock star folk). We confirmed our info, paid our $60, got our "Keepsake certificate", our pink paper to mail for the real marriage license in 15 days, and a white paper to give to the person doing the marrying. We were out of there and there were still about 20 couples in the regular line.

    Outside, we discussed our plan. Originally, we were going to check into our hotel, shower, get all dolled up and then go to the office of marriage for our ceremony. This was all supposed to happen around noon LV time and it was now 5. The Signature is at the South end of the strip and the office of marriage closes at 8 and is 2 blocks from the license office. We decided to be spontaneous and just go get married in shorts and tshirts.

    Turns out, you need an appointment to get married at the office of marriage. Oops! That was not on their website. Luckily the security guard was very nice and called on his cell phone to make us an appointment. Finally a little luck- their next appointment was at 5:15! We asked the 5:00 people to be our witness and they were happy to do it. It cost $50 (exact change only. another thing not on their website!). I thought it would be a quick "do you want to get married" and a rubber stamp kind of thing, but they made it very nice. they have a little room with benches and a little arch with (fake) vines and flowers on it. The vows were real vows not just quick and dirty get it over with vows. Our witnesses offered to take pictures for us. They were so great. Unfortunately there was nobody waiting for the 5:30 slot so we did not get to return the favor.

    Off to the Signature where the lady at the desk offered us an upgrade from the jr. suite to a one bedroom suite for $59. We declined and she proceeded to check us in. When she saw our keepsake certificate (i was holding it so it wouldn't get wrinkled and had to set it down to fish out my AAA card) she upgraded us to a penthouse floor. It was still a jr suite but with a much better view. We later read in the magazine in the room (written by the hotel industry of course) that we should have tipped her $20-$50 for upgrading us. Is that right? If we wanted to spend $50 we would have just upgraded ourselves by paying for the one bedroom suite.

    The room was very nice and it was #711 which is the date we got engaged. More good luck.

    We dropped our things in our room and put some things in the safe just because we have never stayed in a room with a safe before. Yes, we are hicks! Then we were off to our fancy wedding dinner. I asked about places to eat on here and got a lot of very good responses. B had his own ideas for a romantic wedding dinner: In n' Out Burger! I like burgers and B was very enthusiastic about his idea which was contagious. We were both psyched to eat at In n' out burger for 2 weeks before our trip.

    We walked to the In n' Out burger near the UNLV campus. It was about 2 miles dead east of our hotel. It felt good to stretch my legs but wow was I hungry. It was 8 pm LV time (11 pm stomach time) by the time we got our food. double hamburger with onions and pickles and no sauce with fries and a vanilla shake for me. double bacon cheeseburger with everything and fries and strawberry milkshake for B. It cost $13 and was excellent.

    We walked back to the strip a different way and wandered into the MGM. I wanted to see the lions but their bedtime is 7 o'clock. We played some slots and then walked through the tunnel to the Signature. We managed to stay awake until almost midnight LV time which is 4 hours later than the last time we flew west.

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    DAY 2: YOU CAN COUNT ON IT NEVER TO RAIN HERE

    I woke up at 5 am and couldn't get back to sleep. Damn jet lag! I snuck out to the balcony (B was still snoring) and scoped out the strip. The sun was just coming up and everything was very quiet and empty compared to the night before.

    We checked out of the hotel by 9. To my surprise it was now cloudy and raining!

    The valet was very fast to bring our rental car and soon we were on our way to the superwalmart on East Tropicana. By the time we found everything on our list (and then some!) it had stopped raining so we had a turkey sandwich breakfast/lunch on our tailgate. Tropicana E runs right into I-515 which is the road to the Hoover dam. We weren't driving long when the rain started back up. We saw some big horn sheep eating lunch along the road right before the dam. It was not a safe place to stop but B slowed down enough for me to get a couple of decent pictures. We had a nice but damp stop at HD where we walked around gawking and taking pictures like everyone else. We didn't want to take the time for a tour since we didn't want to miss the sunset at the grand canyon.

    It was a long afternoon of driving. As we drove through Tusayan the restaurant choices looked pretty grim. We decided on another tailgate picnic and headed into the park. We bought the $80 year long pass. It was only drizzling when we got to the rim but still very overcast. I thought the GC was cool but very underwhelming. B agreed. We walked along the rim trail for a mile or so taking pictures and the sun did peek out a little. It was too late to get any good light on the canyon.

    We finally found our way to the campground after getting lost a little. The road we turned onto was not on our map. They are doing a lot of work on the park and must have just built it. Our site was roomy but the only flat spot was so rocky that when i knelt to put our sleeping bags in the tent I cut my knee! I couldn't sleep there. I convinced B that we should move the tent to a softer spot. He was concerned that if it started raining again our tent would get flooded so we cleared out the back of the SUV (crammed everything in the front seats) so we could sleep there in case of an emergency tent bail out.

    We lucked out and it did not rain in the night. The "softer" spot was still very hard just not as rocky. Maybe I am getting to old for tenting? As the clouds cleared out overnight it got VERY cold. I was warm enough when I went to sleep but was not bundled up for the cold. We were awakened in the night by some beautiful (and frighteningly close) wolf (or coyote) singing. The one that was really close to us was singing to one much further away. Maybe they had a date. After that I was scared to leave the tent for warmer clothes, sure that they would make it a dinner date if they got a whiff of me.

    DAY 3: I KNEW ARCHES WOULD BE MY FAVORITE

    So it was a very cold and very hard lumpy night at the grand canyon. We got up at 5 and packed all of our things and headed for the lodges where we parked and jumped on the shuttle bus. We thought that we would get some quick pics and be on our way but today was a sunny day and the canyon really is more impressive in the light. We ended up getting off the shuttle and walking between stops for an hour or so. It started getting hot so we jumped back on the shuttle and rode to the hermit's rest at the end of the line. We got off in search of water.(Stupidly, we didn't bring any because we didn't plan on hiking.)The fountain there only dribbled out water. you would have had to tongue kiss the thing to get a drink. Yuck! The vending machine had no water in it.

    There was a little shop there that sold sandwiches and water but when I poked my head in the open door the lady inside hollered "we're not open. we have 15 more minutes" and slammed the door in my face. I had to jump back so it would not hit me. I was stunned. It's not like I wanted her to fire up the grill. Maybe I was looking for directions or help. Luckily she was 1 of only 2 crabby park employees we met on our whole trip. The rest were so overly cheerful/helpful that they more than made up for the 2.

    So we settled for a Nestea out of the vending machine and jumped back on the next bus for the return trip.

    We swung by the general store on our way out of the park. I was surprised by how big it was. It was as big as any normal grocery store with a huge gift shop attached. I guess you need a lot of supplies for all of the people that visit GC. I noticed that they sold long underwear and foam sleeping pads there. I can see why they would have demand for those items.

    Another tailgate picnic and we were on our way. We exited the park at the East entrance. IMO, some of the nicest views were along the road to the east entrance.

    Another long afternoon of driving. We planned to stop at Monument valley for a quick look but we left GC late and driving was taking longer than I thought it would. We made due with the view from the main road (which was pretty spectacular) and kept going.

    When we got to Moab we stopped at an auto parts store to see if they had a cigarette lighter/110V converter for our cell phone charger. We forgot the car charger and were almost out of juice. We bought a universal car charger at walmart but it didn't work. The man inside did not have one but directed us to radio shack down the street.

    It was getting late so we headed right into arches. The scenery was very beautiful. I told B that I was pretty sure arches would be my favorite and after seeing only about 2 miles of it, I was right. He thought it would be his favorite too. It quickly got dark and before long we headed out of the park to our campground. The Desert Oasis Campground turned out to be a great choice.

    The good: It is only 2 miles from the park entrance so convenient for the park or for heading into Moab to eat. They have real grass for you to sleep on as well as showers and laundry. I forgot to ask for the AAA discount but the girl who checked us in reminded me.

    The bad: All of the tent sites are very out in the open. There are no trees or bushes for privacy. Luckily we were at the end of a row and nobody was at the site on our other side. It is hard to grow grass in the desert so they have a lot of rules to keep it nice. You have to move your tent every 2 nights (we only stayed 2 nights so did not apply to us). No pets in the tent sites. you have to move the picnic table out of the driveway when you get there and back to the driveway when you go so it doesn't kill the grass.

    We set up our tent and headed back to Moab to the Moab Brewery for dinner. The place was packed. They told us a 25 minute wait but it was more like 45. I ordered the meatloaf special (meatloaf stuffed with ricotta, mushrooms, spinich and sundried tomatoes) with garlic roasted red potatoes and oatmeal stout gravy. The meat loaf was good. Very moist. Only found one mushroom slice and no tomatoes though. I got the gravy on the side since I don't like gravy but wanted to try it. It was the only gravy I have come close to liking. The potatoes were very disappointing. They were not roasted. They were boiled. barf. If the menu said boiled red potatoes with some garlic thrown on top I would have gone for the baked potato. It came with a salad (very good. homemade chili lime vinagrette) and some nasty mixed veggies that came straight out of the microwave.

    B was very happy with his fiery furnace hot wings and bacon cheddar burger with fries. I tried all of his food and it was very good. He liked my meatloaf but agreed that the potatoes sucked.

    We each got a beer in their collectible pint glasses. $5 and you keep the glass. It would have been a great deal if the beer was any good, but $5 for a glass isn't too bad. I think they were $4 without beer in the giftshop. I got oatmeal stout which I normally love. Theirs was so bad I didn't bother drinking it. Warm too. B's Pilsner was better but nothing to brag about. At least he drank it.

    The check with tip was almost $60. If I went again I would stick to a burger and skip the beer. Maybe try one of their homemade root beer floats.

    Back to the campground for a quick shower and then to bed.

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    DAY 4: WHY AM I HIKING HERE? B IS TOO YOUNG TO BE A WIDOWER.

    Another sunny day. I could get used to this! We slept in without an alarm today since I was getting a cold after my shivering night at the GC. I felt much better and we were in the park ready to hike by 10.

    We stopped at the visitor center on the way in to sign up for the fiery furnace tour (they closed at 6:30 the night before, 7 minutes before we got there). The next available tour was not until the afternoon on Tuesday (this was Sunday morning). We planned to leave Monday after lunch. B was disappointed. I told him we could stay another night and blow off our reservation at Goblin Valley but he was excited for that too so we stuck to our plan. We will just have to come back another time and do the fiery furnace!

    The park has a very nice hiking guide that they give you when you enter. It outlines all of the hikes, distances, difficulty, ledge-iness, etc. B wanted to see the delicate arch so that is where we went first. The guide says it is a "strenuous" hike. Three miles round trip, mostly uphill. 2-3 hours. Take plenty of water.

    I do not think this hike should be in the strenuous category. There was some huffing and puffing (me) but it is over pretty fast. It is probably .5 mile flattish, .5 mile steep rock and then it flattens out again for the last .5 mile. It took us almost 2 hours but half of that time was spent sitting at the top waiting for people to move away from the arch for pictures. It took us about 40 minutes up and 20 back.

    The view is great and well worth the effort. There is a little bit of ledge at the end of the trail but I am scared of heights (well, really scared of falling from somewhere high) and it didn't bother me as long as I could stay on the "inside". The path is 3-4 feet wide at its narrowest and one side is a huge rock wall so you can't fall off that side.

    You can walk right up and touch the arch but I was too chicken for that. The "path" from the viewing area to the arch is very steeply slanted towards a very deep hole.

    On the way back down my hiking boots started to chafe my feet. I bandaged them up with mole skin and band-aids back at the car.

    We had a quick tailgate lunch and then it was time for the Devil's Garden trail, another from the Strenuous category. 7.2 mile loop. 3-5 hours. It did mentions some ledges and steep drop offs, but so did delicate arch and that wasn't so bad. The trail turned out to be 10x more scary and butt kicking that delicate arch. This is why I think delicate arch should be downgraded to medium or devil's garden should be upgraded to "extra strenuous". We did not take it seriously after having such an easy time at delicate arch.

    B was an eagle scout so we are always prepared when we hike. We had a 2L water backpack, 2 .5 liter bottles of water, 1 L of gatorade, granola bars, first aid kit, fire starting materials, compass and probably a bunch of other stuff that he has snuck in there. I am very lucky to have such a sensible hiking partner :-)

    We didn't walk long and I had to stop and fix my foot bandages. It was a hot day and I was sweating so much that they were falling off! I stuck more band-aids on to hold them in place. The first aid kit is already coming in handy.

    The trail to the first 3 arches is sandy and easy. I saw a lot of people headed out this way in flip flops with no water in hand. I hope they did not try to go further than the first 3 arches. That would have been dangerous.

    When we started I was not sure if I would be able to do the whole trail. I reserved the right to make us turn back if I got scared. Somewhere after the 3 easy arches, the trail began to climb. We had to scramble up a narrow (less than 3 feet, maybe 2 and curved down in both directions) rock bridge. I had to use both hands to climb this. They were shaking when I put them down. I was really scared. I did it anyway. I looked back and realized that I would HAVE to do the whole loop. There was no way I could go down that thing. I wouldn't be able to hang on. AHHH!

    I gave myself a pep talk. I can do this! I wanted to see all of the arches and I hate spoiling things for B by wussing out.

    Right before the double O arch there is another very high ledge with drop offs in both directions. this ledge is 8+ feet wide so I was not worried about falling off. I still didn't like being up there and told B I would meet him where it turned back to non-death-defying trail. He had stopped to take pictures.

    At double O arch I didn't feel very good. A little dizzy and very hot and tired. I think I was dehydrated. I had been drinking the whole time but it was at least 90 out and I was sweating it all right back out. We took a good rest in the shade. I forced down 2 granola bars even though I wasn't hungry. Washed them down with lots of gatorade. I felt much better.

    B wanted to go on dark angel spur but I was not feeling up to it even after my rest. Also, the second part of the loop was longer than the first. It was almost 1 pm when we started and I knew it would be getting dark by 6. I wanted to finish this thing well before dark. So we skipped the dark angel.

    The primitive part of the loop was not so bad. Much less ledge-y than the trail to double O. Then we came to a switch back with a teeny tiny slanted ledge. B went first and reached a hand back to help me. I could not get enough of a grip with my feet to reach out to him. I was sure I would fall. It was at least 20 feet down and I might live but it wouldn't be pretty.

    I kept trying different foot orientations and none of them felt very secure. B wanted me to point my toes at the wall and keep my weight towards the wall. Easy for a triangle shaped man to say! Hard for a pear shaped woman to do! I have big feet and by pointing them at the wall I was putting my butt (center of gravity) at least 10 inches from the wall.

    I was hot, tired and scared. My nerves had had enough for the day. I am embarrassed to say, I started to whine that I couldn't do it. Just then, I was grabbed from behind by the waist and elbow (good thing I don't startle easily). A wonderful, knight in shining armor type man had stumbled upon my pitiful self and was helping me across (maybe it was because I was blocking the path and he didn't have all day?). With him holding me from behind I was brave enough to reach out to B. With both of them helping me I made it across. I thanked him about 50 times. He said no problem and went back to help his lady across.

    We kept going and I thought that surely we must be done with the hard stuff. I think I kept jinxing it. It wasn't long before we stumbled upon quite a crowd in the middle of the path staring at a giant puddle/mini lake between two very steep and tall rocks off to the side of the path. Now I suppose it was a pretty puddle and I like water in my photos as much as anyone, but did this really warrant such a crowd of admirers?? And then I realized. That puddle is not off to the side of the trail. That puddle is the trail. With all the rain, this low spot of the trail had flooded.

    One brave soul (guinea pig. it actually reminded me of when the penguins push each other to see if anything eats the first one in) had inched out on the tiniest scrap of ledge around the edge of the puddle. He made it about halfway and ran out of ledge and slid down into the puddle. Soaked his boots and pants halfway to his knees. At least he made it past the deepest part.

    I knew we had at least a mile to go and my feet already hurt from my boots chafing. Even through the bandages. The thought of walking the last mile in SOAKED shoes with sand flipping up into them to grate my skin like 60 grit was not good. No wonder they call this trail devil's garden. jeesh!

    The puddle was far too big to jump across. I was thinking of throwing my socks and boots across and trying the ledge barefoot so that even if I fell in I would have dry shoes. I might also have cut feet though.

    Then my genius husband (knew I married well!) takes a few steps back and finds a place on the giant rock to the left of the puddle that is not quite as steep and starts climbing up it. I holler up at him to ask if there is a way down and (music to my ears) he says yes! I hurry up after him. It was very steep and not easy to climb but I found a couple of good toe holds and made it. Much better than wet feet.

    Once we got down on the other side of the puddle, everyone started following us. Up and over. We noticed that one girl seemed to limp a little. B surmised that she had twisted her ankle and said that he really should add an ace bandage to his pack.

    Home stretch. We keep going and come upon 2 girls (younger than us, but grownups, not kids) who we have seen several times on the trail. One of them is crouching in the shade of a little bush and does not look well. B asks them if they have water. The upright one says "a little". We drank most of our gatorade but still have water in our backpack and haven't touched the 2 .5L bottles we brought. We give them one of the bottles and go on our way.

    About 15 minutes later we turned around and could see them coming along the trail. whew! We saw them again at the trail head and the sick one looked much better. She said she had been very dizzy. The water helped a lot. They told us that they had done delicate arch in the morning and that it was easy for them so they did not think devil's garden would be hard either. We told them the same thing had happened to us. We agreed that the two hikes should not be in the same category on the guide.

    ***Just a reminder to everyone to carry a lot of water on this hike. You need more than you think.

    Surprisingly, it was only 4:30 when we got back to the car. The hike took less than 4 hours. I thought it was about 6! haha. Even though it was early, we were whooped and agreed there would be no more hiking that day. We went back to the campground for some much needed showers. Relaxed, did a load of laundry and called our families to share the big news.

    For supper we were off to Milt's stop and eat. Our favorite restaurant of the trip. Hiking 10 miles will help anything taste good but this really is a great place. Most of the tables were outside. It was getting cloudy and windy and we hoped the weather would hold out until we were done eating (it did).

    I got a grilled chicken salad and french fries and milk. Before you think I was being virtuous by ordering a chicken salad, let me explain the milt's chicken salad. It is a beautiful mixed greens salad with lots of different veggies. A nice juicy sliced grilled chicken breast is placed on top. On top of that a TON of thick, crispy bacon and shredded cheddar cheeses is piled. mmmmmmmmmm. B even hearted it and he is not a big salad person.

    B got a chili burger and fries and root beer. The burger was HUGE. Each half of the bun had a burger on it and then both were covered in chili and shredded cheese with a sprinkle of diced onion. I tried his burger and it was awesome. The chili was homemade. He told me to eat as much as I wanted because he wouldn't be able to finish such a monster. I was so torn, I wanted to eat more bites of his burger but then I wouldn't have room to finish my salad! I managed to finish my salad AND have more burger bites, but the ice cream we had discussed earlier was no longer possible. We were both stuffed! B managed to finish that monster after all. Hiking makes you hungry.

    We agreed that the food here was MUCH better than the Moab brewery the night before and what a deal: $23.

    Back to the campground where we went straight to sleep. It was probably not even 9 pm. It poured in the night. B sat up to make sure nothing was leaking, but our little tent kept us nice and dry.

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    DAY 5: IS THAT A MONSTER BREATHING??

    After surviving Devil's garden I was looking forward to some hikes from the easy (a.k.a. FLAT) category today. We were up early. When B left the tent he was surprised to see it had rained in the night. I asked him if he remembered getting up and checking for leaks. Nope! B is a champion sleeper and can have conversations in his sleep that he doesn't remember the next day. I guess he can add tent inspection to his list of hidden sleep talents.

    Today we needed some coffee. We went into Moab in search of some. I had spotted a couple of places that proclaimed to roast their own coffee and wanted to try one of them out. They were both closed. It was only 6 am, which is early, but don't most people want their coffee first thing in the morning? We thought we were going to have to settle for yucky gas station coffee or passable mcdonald's coffee when B remembered the Moab diner.

    The Moab diner turned out to be a great choice. It was full of locals. The waitresses seemed to know most of the customers. 2 coffees, 2 oatmeals with brown sugar and raisins and milk, $8. Everything was very good. On our way back to the campsite the coffee roasters still showed no signs of opening (it was nearly 7).

    The day was cloudy and it sprinkled off and on while we hiked. We did not let it stop us since it was actually a welcome change after yesterday's blazing sun.

    We started with the North and South window loop (easy and sandy, not too long) and then did the double arch (very short). After that we scoped out the delicate arch from its upper and lower viewpoints. We could see all of the people gathered around it (where we had been yesterday) like ants.

    We stopped at the Fiery Furnace to get a couple of pictures and re-lament the fact that we had missed signing up for the tour. If we had gotten on the tour we would have missed out on something else though. There is never enough time for everything!

    Next it was up to the campground to do the broken arch and sand dune arch loop. On the way there was a sign for tapestry arch detour. It wasn't on my map but we decided to go check it out. It was one of the neatest arches we saw!!

    I think by now it was around 2 in the afternoon. Later than we had planned on finishing. We wanted to eat a good lunch before heading to Goblin Valley because it was in the middle of nowhere and we would have tailgate supper. I wished that we could go to Milt's again but our google info said that they were closed Mondays. B had noticed the night before that their sign said "open daily" and nothing about being closed Mondays. We decided to swing by and see if it was our lucky day.

    It was!! Milt's was open! The same guy was at the window. I think he recognized us. Especially when I ordered the same thing (no fries this time though. I needed some ice cream!). B ordered an A-1 Jalepeno burger and fries. He had a hard time choosing which he liked better, that or the chili burger from the night before. He said both were great. I tried the A-1 burger and it was very good but I don't think I like A-1 enough to slather it all over my hamburger. $20 and another delicious meal and we were on our way.

    We stopped at the grocery store on our way out to pick up a few things. Water and gatorade and sandwich meat. While we were waiting at the deli, B decided we needed a wedding cake :-) Even their smallest cake was huge for 2 people but luckily they sold slices. We got a vanilla bean and a chocolate turtle. mmmmmm.

    Next it was time for ice cream! I think the place we stopped was called the creamery or something like that (in the mcstiff plaza) and they make their own ice cream. We each got a double 4 oz (they have 3 oz and 4 oz sizes) scoop in a dish. Me: vanilla and pistachio. B: Jack daniel's chocolate chip and coffee espresso chip.

    The guy at the register charged us $6. I was surprised because I expected this to be a tourist trap rip off type place (I hadn't seen any prices). B asked "are you sure?? that's 2 double 4 oz" The guy rang it up again, yup, $6. B asked again. Register man got annoyed, yes, $6. After we sat down, I saw the sign above the register. Those ice creams should have cost $9.50. That is the rip off I was expecting! We decided that since B had tried to correct the guy (he saw the sign before we paid) and since the guy was not as nice as he could have been when B tried to correct him, that $6 was all they would get from us.

    The ice cream was good but nothing special. If I had paid $9.50 I would have been disappointed. For $6 It was good enough.

    Finally we were on our way to Goblin Valley. Later than expected. And it took us longer to get there than I thought it would. Are you sensing a pattern here? It poured all the way there (about a 2 hour drive).

    We got to Goblin Valley around 6. Plenty of time to set up the tent and go scope out the goblins. The rain had let up and there was a little bit of sunset visible through the clouds. The goblins are extremely cool! You can wander through them and touch them. We were very glad we made this stop.

    It was dark when we finished with the goblins. Back to the campsite for some chatting and turkey avocado provolone sandwiches. We were both too full for our wedding cake. B was happy about that because how could he take pictures in the pitch dark anyway?

    When I booked this campsite, the website did not say anything about having showers or not having showers. Turns out they do have them. They do not have benches in them but they do have lots of hooks. We put our clothes in grocery bags and hung them on the hooks.

    We were curled up in the tent sleeping by 10. Around 12 I woke up. It was pouring and very WINDY. The tent was keeping us dry but was having a hard time staying upright. Eventually, the stakes all blew out and the tent kept falling in on us and then rebounding. B had to go out in the rain at 1 am to restake the tent. I had to stay in the tent so it did not blow away while he was staking it. The wind was that bad.

    B pounded the stakes out of sight and we hunkered down and hoped for the best. I did not sleep much for the rest of then night. I tried, but I kept hearing this noise. It was a scary noise and I was wracking my brain trying to think what kind of animal might make this noise, or, more accurately, what kind of animal was about to tear through our tent and devour us. No animal makes that noise. It could only be a monster. Just outside the tent by my left ear.

    I am serious scaredy cat sissy about most things. I tried to be brave and ignore it. Nope. No sleep for me. In the morning B told me he had heard the noise and been thinking the same thing. He is NOT a scaredy cat sissy. We tried to think of an explanation. The wind blowing over something? Can't think of a thing that would make a noise like breath when the wind blew over it. Maybe it was the goblins coming to get us. What other reason could there be to name them that??

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    Ramona,

    This is definitely one of the most entertaining Utah trip reports we've had in a while! Thanks for sharing!

    I visit Moab every year, and I agree with you that the Devil's Garden hike is harder than Delicate Arch, but at least there is a little more shade along the way.

    Yes - take 3 times the water you THINK you will need. You will drink it all! Plus, important to have broken in hiking boots, moleskin, gatoraide, food......

    And yes, again, I'm sure you were right. The knight in shining armor who boosted you, "didn't have all day!" :-)

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    Hi Everyone

    Thanks for reading! I am having fun writing the report, but every time somebody comments it makes it even more fun.

    That does make sense that Goblin Valley would have a lot of wind to make the Goblins.

    I just wanted to add a couple of notes:

    B said I was too harsh saying the Moab Brewery beer was bad. He said it was fine. He was not wowed by it but would order it again. You will have to judge for yourself!

    Before we left Moab we checked voice mail messages since cell phone service had been sparse between towns. There was a message for me from the Las Vegas Marriage office. I am very type A so I immediately jump to the worst possible conclusion: somebody screwed up and B and I did not really get married!

    So I called them and they had only good news. The marriage licensed had been filed sooner than expected and if I wanted to order my copy now I could do so over the phone. I thought why not and went ahead and did it.

    When I got off the phone B asked how much it cost? $69. "That is a scam" he informed me. What!?! How did he know? Well he actually read the pink paper we received at the license office, the one you send it to get your license. The price for certified copy of ML is $30. Clark County DOES NOT SOLICIT for you to buy copies.

    Crap.

    I called back and the same guy answered. I told him that I had just looked at my pink paper and it said $30 why was he charging $69. I asked if he worked for Clark County (he had somehow made me think he did in the first phone call but I don't remember exactly what he said). The extra cost is for expedited receipt of ML. I told him I did not need it expedited and please cancel my order. He was happy to do so. Whew. That was easy.

    Anyway, even though that is an embarrassing story, I just wanted to warn anyone who might elope in the future about this scam. It is not really a scam, they are a real company who will get you a real copy of your marriage license but they charge you $39 to do what you could do for $0.44 by mailing in your own pink paper.

    They specifically ask for the woman. They must have better luck getting us to fall for it. So far, no ML has arrived and no charges on the credit card. When we got home there were at least 5 letters from similar companies wanting us to order our ML through them. All you need is the pink paper! Don't be gullible like RamonaRamona!

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    DAY 6: AND I THOUGHT THE MONSTER WAS SCARY...

    The next morning the rain had cleared out and it was partly sunny but still cold. The wind was still blowing. We packed up our soaked tent and put it in a trashbag so we wouldn't get red mud on everything in the car.

    We headed back to the big parking area for some morning pictures of the Goblins and then hiked one of the trails. I forget the name of the trail and don't have my map at the moment, but the trailhead is a little parking area aross the road from where you would turn to go to the visitor center and leave the park.

    It was a 3 mile trail (round trip). Fairly flat but sandy. There were not many markers but it was obvious where the trail was. We saw a wild horse! He was all black and far away but B zoomed in the camera and got some decent pictures. The end of the trail was down at the end of the Goblin Valley. We could see the big parking area in the distance.

    It was a nice walk and I enjoyed the scenery. It was cold though! That wind! I (stupidly) wore shorts thinking I would warm up once we started walking. I was pretty cold by the time I got back to the car. It took about 2 hours with all of our gawking and picture taking. We stopped and checked out the visitor center on our way out.

    By 10 am we were on our way to Bryce. It started raining again almost as soon as we left GV. We drove through the Dixie National Forest in the rain and Fog. I could tell we were driving up most of the time. We saw a lot of cows and yellow leaves. It was weird to be in a forest after so much desert landscape.

    Around lunch time (still raining)we saw a big billboard for a convenience store with sandwiches and coffee and bathrooms. I forget the name, but I think it was the only one around with food. All we had seen for miles and miles before the billboard was cows, so we stopped and got some sandwiches and coffee and hot chocolate and used their DISGUSTING (and freezing) bathrooms.

    As if the trauma of using the bathroom wasn't enough, I got back to the car and unwrapped my sandwich only to find an unholy amount of mayo on it. Argh. I HATE mayo. And it was everywhere. There was no ditching one side of the bread and eating the rest, it was on both breads and in between the lettuce and touching the meat and the cheese. I thought places stopped wrecking sandwiches for you and put the little packets out so you can wreck your own if you must. I should have paid more attention.

    I hate mayo enough that I would rather go hungry than eat it so that is just what I did. Hot chocolate was good though.

    Very soon after we left this place I was glad for my empty stomach. The road got very cliff-y and twisty. Sometimes with drop offs on both sides and very few guard rails (all this in the pouring rain!). Thank goodness B was driving and I could close my eyes! My stomach was tied up in knots and if I had eaten I might have barfed. B asked what was wrong and I had to try twice before words would come out. My voice sounded all hoarse. This surprised even me.

    If you are afraid of heights I would recommend trying to fall asleep in the Dixie forest and sleep through this part of the trip. That way you will be oblivious to how close you came to plummeting off a cliff!

    We made it to Capitol Reef in one piece and made several picture stops. We did not venture into the park because it was still raining so we didn't want to hike(we got some lovely red mud waterfall pics) and because the drive from GV was taking so long due to the rain and twisting roads (on my map it was 3 inches from A to B which = 108 miles, we drove for like 2 hours and then saw a sign that said bryce canyon 112 miles).

    We continued on to Bryce where we had no camping reservation. Thank goodness! It was pouring and freezing and after the previous night in the Goblin Valley wind storm/ monster fest, I was in no mood to be in a tent tonight. I lobbied for a cheap hotel room. B put up no resistance. I had written down that Pine valley motel and restaurant was a good place to eat so we thought we would try to get a room there.

    When we finally found the office (it is poorly marked, I had to ask in the restaurant for directions) they wanted $100 for the night (with AAA card). It looked pretty shabby so we passed. We have no problem with dumpy, we just want it to be CHEAP! I think they were banking on a lot of campers getting hotel rooms due to the weather, but maybe that is their everyday price.

    We drove back towards the park since we had seen a couple other places on the way to the Pine place. We pulled into Foster's family motel. It looked no less shabby than the first place, but the sign said rooms $59. Much better. We went inside and were told that the price was $65 but if we paid cash it was $50.

    I asked to see the room and the lady handed me the key and we went to scope things out. The room was small with 2 (queen??) beds that barely fit, a little table and 2 chairs in the corner and a pretty nice bathroom with a newly retiled shower and floor. Everything but the tile was straight out of 1950, but it looked clean so we took it. We paid cash.

    When we got back to the room with our things we noticed that the toilet was running. Why couldn't we notice that before?! Oh well, we ended up turning the water to the toilet off between flushes and all was well.

    After securing our cheap motel room we got bundled up (always bring warm clothes, even to the desert) and headed into the park. It was still raining and foggy but we drove to all of the overlooks anyway. We couldn't see anything, the fog was too thick. Not one hoodoo. It was raining to hard to try to hike. I was really regretting not packing my umbrella and rain coat. I was trying to pack light and there was no way I could have known it would rain this much.

    We stopped at the visitor center on the way out of the park. It was here that the Ranger told us they had as much rain in each of the past 2 days as they usually get for the whole month of October. Lucky us!

    We headed back to the Pine Valley Restaurant to eat since it was the only place B had found good recommendations for before we left. We wished we had eaten at Foster's (our cheap motel). I don't know who is recommending this place!

    B got a hot roast beef sandwich. The meat was good but they were skimpy on the mashed potatoes. A cardinal sin in B's eyes! It was served on lots of white bread with a salad- iceberg, a couple cukes and a couple tomatoes. He said their homemade blue cheese was bad. He is not a fussy eater.

    The sign out front bragged about their homemade soup. I was so excited to order some hot soup and warm up. I asked the waitress what kind of soups they had today. She said "split pea and ham". I was waiting for her to list the other kinds, but that was it. Who brags about homemade soup and makes only one [DISGUSTING] kind? oh well. I settled for the grilled chicken salad.

    It looked just like B's salad. Iceberg. tomato. cuke. They had added lots of cauliflower and sliced american cheese. The chicken part was very good but small. This salad and a lot of other items on their menu reminded me of things a 4th grader would eat with no parental supervision. American cheese was the only choice for their grilled cheese sandwich. Kraft mac and cheese was on the menu. Everything had gravy on it. I know I am a fussy eater. This place was not for me. B wondered if they had trouble getting supplies delivered being up on the mountain. Maybe that would explain it.

    Today was a disappointing food day :-( I hate those. Luckily, back at our cheap motel was our wedding cake!! We had turned up the thermostat before we left and it was blissfully warm in the room. B set up his tripod and we took some dorky pictures of us feeding it to each other. Both kinds were very good but the vanilla bean was the winner since it was not so sicky sweet. B agreed.

    After a hot(ish) shower we looked forward to lounging in the bed (no rocks in the hip!)and watching NCIS. B peeled back the bed and remarked that they must have trouble getting bleach delivered out here too. A big yellow stain yuck! It was near the bottom of the bed, possibly a mistake or possibly them hoping we wouldn't pull the covers back that far...

    Thankfully, the other bed passed muster and we snuggled in. A little channel flipping and we found NCIS, almost over! It was 10 til 8:00. All of their shows are on central time, it had started at 7. We found some scrubs reruns instead.

    It rained HARD in the night with lots of thunder and lightning. The thunder literally shook the building we were in. I woke up long enough to confirm that this was the best $50 I ever spent and fell right back asleep.

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    This is a great read - even for someone who can't stand camping. You have a gift for interesting narrative.

    Don't sweat not tipping the hotel clerk in Vegas - that upgrade was a "wedding gift" and required no tip. Had you solicited an upgrade, or been offered one for no apparent reason, then a tip would have been warranted.

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    DAY 7: WILL THIS RAIN EVER STOP??

    This morning we were determined to see something, anything, in Bryce (besides fog). We bundled up, packed our things into the car and ventured into the park one more time.

    It was still sprinkling but not as foggy so we could finally see some hoodoos! I thought we should try to do the rim walk between sunset and sunrise point. Mostly because it was short (1 mile)in case we had to make a run for the car in a downpour.

    We started down the trail. The rain had almost stopped. We hadn't gone far when we got the the trail head for the Queen's Garden trail down into the canyon. The allure of the hoodoos was too much to resist so down we went. It had all but stopped raining now.

    We walked down for a good 20+ minutes. B got a couple of nice pictures (our only pictures of Bryce except for the one of us standing by the entrance sign in coats and hats and boots).

    Ut oh, a sprinkle. Should we turn around? yes! This turned out to be a smart move. Within minutes it was POURING! We ran for it. Unfortunately, since we had ventured down into the canyon, we now had to run UP. whew, what a workout! The air was cold and burned my lungs.

    Back at the car with the heater blasting to dry out our soaked jeans, we decided to call Bryce a wash and head for Zion where we hoped for better weather. On the way out we stopped for coffee at the Sinclair(gas)station and noticed the temperature on their clock: 38 F. It was almost 10 am by now. We are lucky it didn't snow in the night.

    When we entered Zion we asked the Ranger what the weather for the rest of the day was. "Rain." she practically snarled. Whoa! Maybe she was tired of being asked that by every person who came in this morning, but it is part of her job to answer all of the silly questions us tourists come up with. We were hoping for a little more info- wind? lightning? torrential rain or just this light stuff that's happening now?- since we had a reservation to camp.

    Before coming, I had looked up pictures of every place we would visit except for Zion. Not on purpose, that is just how it worked out. So I had no idea what to expect as we approached. The road into the park (I think it was route 9..) wound its way through lots of red cliffs. The views were terrific even in the rain. The tunnel was amazing! I thought it would never end. We stopped at one of the "windows" in the tunnel to take a picture. You are not supposed to, but there were no headlights behind us and the view was too good to resist.

    Zion does not have the "neat" factor of the arches or the hoodoos, but I think it is the most beautiful of all the parks we visited on this trip.

    We made our way to the visitor center which was packed with people asking about the weather. All of the rangers there were extra cheerful (as were those at Bryce) while people inundated them with weather questions.

    We decided to take our chances camping since the rain seemed to be letting up and we really needed to dry out our tent. If it kept raining well, the tent couldn't get any WETTER. We hadn't wanted to risk making a huge mess at our cheap motel and there was no way we were laying that baby out at the Signature.

    We checked into the campground (Watchman) where the sign said full although it clearly was not. A lot of people must have reserved and chickened out due to the rain. Wusses.

    B wanted to wait to set up the tent in case it poured while we were gone. If we had to switch to plan B (cheap motel) he didn't want to have to pack up the soaked tent in the rain. Smart man.

    The campground is very close to the visitor center where you board the shuttle to ride up the canyon, so we walked over. No cars are allowed on this road so you have to ride the shuttles which come often (every 5 minutes or so and all of the stops have covered waiting areas).

    Luckily, I had scoped out my map at the campsite because I left it in the car. oops. I remembered that the lower emerald pool was on the list of easy (aka RamonaRamona will not plummet to her death in this wet and slippery weather) trails so that is where we headed. B wanted to do all of the pools. There are 3. I told him I would try but if it got treacherous I was turning back. I used up all of my courage at the Devil's Garden.

    We walked a short distance until the trail forked. The sign said all 3 pools in both directions so we went left. We hiked up and up. There was a drop off to our right, but I was able to stay far enough away from it. I assumed we would come to the lower pool first and if this was what they called "easy, flat and wheelchair accessible", they are nuts. Before long we came to the first pool. Oops, it was the middle pool, not the lower one. I guess B was going to eke out at least 2/3 pools from me.

    I thought the middle pool was kind of a let down. Some water flowing down a cliff, over a flat rock and then off the other cliff. It's been raining for 2 days, of course there is water pouring off the cliff. We took the requisite dorky pictures- we were wearing our sun hats as rain hats- and continued on.

    Since climbing to the middle pool wasn't scary at all and the weather seemed to be holding, I decided to give the upper one a try. It wasn't bad either and much cooler than the middle pool. A very high (but small) waterfall cascading off a cliff into the emerald pool with a splash. The whole area was in a little nook in the rock full of sand and trees.

    It started to sprinkle a bit up here. Of course, once we reach the farthest away part of the hike! Luckily, the sprinkles stopped quickly and we stayed dry. The sun even came out a little. B wished we had set up the tent after all. This was good tent drying weather.

    Back down we went until we finally reached the lower pool. It had a much bigger waterfall falling into a much bigger pool. You had to walk behind the waterfall on the trail and it was MUDDY. They have chains along the trail so you won't slip. After the lower pool, the trail was paved. This is the part that the map was referring to as handicap accessible.

    Back on the bus and back to the campground. I was starving! We didn't really eat lunch, just grabbed a handful of trail mix before we left the campground. I didn't think we would be lucky enough to hike that much with the rain and my chicken-ness. Should have packed a snack.

    We set up our tent as fast as we could and headed for Oscar's in Springdale. B found Oscar's on google maps. It had great reviews and bragged about their big ass burgers. "If you leave hungry, don't blame Oscar" is their motto. I was surprised when we got there to find that Oscar's is a mexican restaurant that also serves burgers. B hearts mexican food so now he was even more excited to eat at Oscar's.

    We started with the homemade guacamole which was good. It came with salsa which also looked homemade. Both were spicy. I didn't eat much (B gladly performed clean up duty) because I wanted to save room for my big ass mushroom burger and sweet potato fries. The mushroom burger was served with mushrooms, onions, garlic, lettuce, tomato, mustard and mayo. I, of course, got no mayo.

    The waiter did not write our order down. I hate that. When he brought our food, it appeared he had made a mistake or misheard me. He must have thought I ordered the mustard burger with extra mustard and mustard filling. Holy crap the thing was covered in mustard. At least there was no mayo!

    The first couple bites tasted like nothing but (Gulden's) mustard. Ick. The fries were good, but not enough for a meal as hungry as I was. It was time for burger surgery.

    I scraped the mustard off both buns, losing all of my lettuce in the process (the lettuce was so coated I wondered if they had made a lettuce/mustard slaw to put on the burger). A small sacrifice. Next I scraped the mustard off the bottom of the burger and off the top of the mushrooms. Thank goodness they were glued to the cheese. If I lost the mushrooms (my favorite) what would be the point? I reconstructed the surviving burger pieces and tried again. Yum! I could still taste mustard but could also taste all these strange new flavors- beef! cheese! bread! Much better. I would eat there again but would just say no to mustard.

    B got a pork burrito and was in heaven. It was huge and had tons of sour cream on top. The tortilla was very chewy and probably homemade. It came with some o so tasty black beans and rice.

    Somehow we managed to finish our big ass meals. I think the check (they say ticket in Utah) was around $50. I thought it was a little pricey for a burger and a burrito and guac. We drank water.

    We waddled out to the car where our thoughts promptly turned to ice cream. I forget the name of the place we went but it was attached to a souvenier/gift shop and on the same side of the road as Oscar's, back towards the park.

    The ice cream was homemade and so was the softserve. I will devour any ice cream but softserve is my one true love (don't tell B ;-) ). Medium twist for me and a scoop of huckleberry and a scoop of cookies and cream for B. My ice cream was normal size, but B's was HUGE. At least a pint of ice cream. Maybe more. I had to help the poor boy finish. $5.

    Back at the campground our tent was drying nicely. We played cards until it got dark and then snuggled up in the tent. I bet we were ZZZZZZ by 9.

    Note: there are no showers at either Zion campground. I read about RV parks in Springdale with pay showers available to all. We didn't spot the RV park when we were out and about. It had been cold enough that we weren't that sweaty so it wasn't a top priority like it would have been at Arches.

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    Oops! I forgot about another hike we did at Zion before the Emerald Pools. More of a walk actually, the (appropriately named) Riverside Walk from the Temple of Sinewava. This was a nice stroll along the Virgin River past the end of the line for the shuttles. The river was gushing with all the rain but it was still hard to imagine that such a dinky river could create this whole canyon.

    There are signs everywhere about squirrels biting people because they are fed and not afraid, but we still saw lots of people feeding the squirrels and taking pictures of them begging. I thought it was creepy to see squirrels acting like dogs. B and I had a bet going about how long before we saw somebody get bit. We both lost. Darn!

    And a correction to an earlier post: The certified marriage license from Clark County is only $15, not $30. $30 was the price for the certified abstract (whatever that is?) AND certified license.

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    DAY 8: IT MUST BE MY LUCKY DAY

    It must have been our lucky night- not a drop of rain, no thunder, no lightning, no gale force winds. Our tent was reasonably dry by morning. We packed up our things and parked at the visitor center so we wouldn't have to worry about getting back to the campground by checkout time (I think it was 11).

    We walked up the Parus trail which starts at the visitor center. It is an easy and scenic 1.5 mile trail up the canyon.

    At the top of the trail we hopped on the shuttle and rode to the grotto where we walked the grotto trail. It is only 0.5 miles long and not super interesting. B was excited to see some turkey tracks. Too bad for B, no hunting in the national parks.

    The grotto is where the angel's landing trail starts. B was bummed that the rain had made such a challenging hike too slippery and dangerous. All I can say is thank goodness for the rain! There is no way I was doing another death defying hike.

    Back on the shuttle for a few more scenic stops.

    We got off the shuttle at the top of the Parus trail and walked back down the way we had come. We stopped at the Museum on the way back. It did have some interesting exhibits/artifacts, but as a dorky engineer, I was hoping for a little more (detailed) info on how they built the long tunnel. All they said was it had been blasted out with dynamite. duh.

    We walked back to the car and were soon on our way back to Vegas. We had timed our departure for an oh so important lunch stop: Chuck a rama!

    We used to live in Idaho and Chuck a rama had been our favorite restaurant. There are none on the East coast and we miss them terribly. B had the foresight to see if we would be passing by any on this trip. There is one just off of I-15. St George Utah here we come!

    It really was our lucky day because we were passing by the Chuck a rama on Thursday. Taco day. Our favorite. We took a picture of ourselves in the parking lot with the sign in the background. A lady on her way out clearly thought we were nuts. She might have been right ;-)

    Inside, this C-A-R was even better than our Idaho one. I base this on the fact that they had tastier looking desserts and TWO softserve machines. I say tastier looking because, sadly, in my old age, I did not have room to try them. 5 years ago I would have done a number on that dessert table, but now I had to settle for some soft serve and be done. sigh.

    Back in the car my post C-A-R taco coma put me right to sleep and soon we were back in Vegas. We were staying at the Signature again. We were in the 1st tower this time (had been in 2nd tower previously). We were told at our last visit to ask for the highest available floor since the clerk was unable to assign us a room for our second visit until we actually checked in.

    The highest available room was on the 22nd floor. B was hoping for penthouse again but I just wanted to get in and shower. Up in our room, we poked around like always. Something seemed wrong. What is that on the counter? Soap. Out of the box. Looks brand new. Odd. And a key card? B commented that there was no iron. Half used shampoo in the shower. oh no. I ran to the bed and threw back the covers. Hairs on the sheets AHHHHH. This room was not cleaned for us.

    On the phone, the front desk said we would have to move to a room on the 17th floor or she could send housekeeping back up. I was really looking forward to that shower (2 days of hiking and no campground shower had caught up with me) so I asked for us to be moved. Poor B and his view.

    While we waited for the bellboy to bring us our new key, I worked myself up into quite a mood. I know mistakes happen but why should we have to move down for their mistake. They should have moved us up, even if they had to upgrade us.

    The bellboy came and was very nice. My temper ebbed. The room had been marked as a stayover on housekeeping's list but was really a checkout.

    We had made sure to have enough dollar bills to tip the valet and the first bellboy but did not anticipate a 2nd bellboy trip. We had only $1 (and some $20s, but no way was I forking those over) which I felt cheap giving him since he had been so great.

    This room was not as nice as our penthouse room the week before. The linens were not as nice. It looked just a little more worn. I am not sure if that had to do with the floor number or the tower number. At this point I did not really care. It was clean and that was enough.

    We headed out onto the strip where it was sunny (finally!) but not too hot. We wandered up to the venetian where B mentioned that he would like to see blue man group. In we went to see if tickets were still available. It was around 5:30 and they did have tickets for the 7 pm show that night. Not only that, they had some of the cheap ($75 each with all the taxes and such) seats left!

    We took the seats in the front row by the right wall. The seating chart said obstructed view but when we asked the ticket seller he said we would be able to see everything but some of the band which is not part of the show. sold.

    We wandered around the venetian since we had an hour to kill before the doors opened. I was starting to get hungry so I was looking for a snack. All we saw were sit down restaurants. We consulted a map and found our way to a convenince store type place. All of their sandwiches had mayo oozing out of them. barf.

    I settled for a banana. At the checkout I saw water behind the counter and realized how thirsty I was so I got one. Without seeing the price. He rang me up- $4.86. what! The banana was $1 how much did that water cost. A quick peek at the receipt- $3.50 plus tax. holy crap! I would not be forgetting to bring a water bottle with me again.

    We got back to the theater where they were just about to open the doors. I had seen BMG before on a class trip so I knew what to expect. B did not. I told him before it started that there's no story, they just do a bunch of weird stuff. But it's cool. He liked it. He seemed a little confused after but smiling. Weird, but cool.

    Note: Our seats were great. I could actually see the band most of the time. I think our seats were as good as those in the poncho zone and we didn't have to worry about being bombarded with jello.

    After the show we went to planet hollywood where we bought tickets for Wayne Brady the next night. Then we wandered our way back to the MGM where we played a few dollars in slots and then back through the tunnel to the Signature.

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    DAY 9: IMPROVISING

    We didn't have anything planned for today until Wayne Brady at 8 pm. B wanted pictures of us at the Las Vegas sign so we decided to try to find that first. I was pretty sure it was at the South end of the strip even though we hadn't noticed it on our way from the airport. We walked so far I thought I must have remembered incorrectly, but finally, we could see the crowd in the distance.

    There were 2 people there who had LV visitor's bureau (or something like that) shirts and they were taking everyone's picture. I am not sure if they actually work for LV or if they are hoping for tips. It did not occur to us to tip them until after we left. We didn't see anyone else tip them while we were there.

    We wanted to eat at the Burger Bar at Mandalay bay so we decided to go in and scoope things out on our way back from the sign. We finally found it after much wandering. It is in the tunnel between M bay and Luxor. The menu looked good so we decided to return later.

    Next we decided to go to Freemont street. After a week with lots of hiking our feet were tired so we gave the deuce a try. I saw the sign at the stop said to buy tickets before boarding so we did but it looked like you could buy them (at least for a single ride) on the bus. We bought the 24 hour pass for $7 figuring if we rode it 3 times we would save money. ($3 per 1 time ride).

    The deuce was very slow. It stops at almost every hotel along the strip. By the time we realized that we should have transferred to the gold (express) line, we only had a few stops left and decided to just stay put.

    We were sitting on the top level (B's request) and it was nice to relax and people watch out the window.

    The deuce stops at the pawn shop that is on the tv show. A lot of people got off here. I did not realize it is such a destination! It also stops a couple of blocks from the marriage license office. 2 couples got off and the driver announced that they should go 2 blocks to the left and good luck!

    It took over an hour to get to Freemont street. I needed food. Now. We looked at our options, the best of which was an Irish Pub. We sat on the porch and ate some very tasty sandwiches. Grilled chicken pesto with parmesan crust bread for me. Reuben for B and a basket of fries. Everything was excellent. I thought about getting a beer but in this heat it didn't really appeal. We each drank 2 huge glasses of ice water. I think it was aroudn $30 with tax and tip.

    Now that I was no longer starving (i.e. no longer crabby as heck) it was time to find the old fashioned slots where the coins actually come out when you win. We found them but didn't win enough to make more than 1 or 2 coins come out. No huge bucket of nickels for us :-(

    I tried my hand at black jack. I had to wait quite awhile for a seat at the $2 table. I accidentally sat at a $10 table at first. The sign out front said $2 black jack so I thought they were all $2 black jack. They were not. There was only one $2 table. So pay attention to those little signs by the dealer.

    The dealer at the $2 table was great. She was genuinely disappointed when she won. One time I told her to hit me and she said "really" with a raised eyebrow. I stayed instead and ended up winning. Apparently, even if you have a low hand like a 12 or 13, you should stay when the dealer has a low card showing because they have to hit until 17 and are more likely to go over with a low card showng.

    At one point I was up by $8 and then the dealers switched. The next lady was mean. She took a perverse delight in scooping up everyone's money (it's not like she gets to keep it, that I could see being happy about). Soon I was down by $10 and decided I had enough. I got to play for over an hour for $10 so I consider it cheap entertainment.

    One thing I thought was neat was the dealer actually shouts "changing 100" when somebody gets $100 in chips. Just like in the movies. Does anyone know why they do that?? Not being a gambler, I was surprised at the number of people who changed $100 during the hour I sat at the table. At least 5. Maybe 6. That is out of 10 or less people who passed through the table.

    I offered B my seat when I got up but he was not interested so we cashed the little money I had left and kept wandering. Eventually we were ready to head back to the strip. B wanted to walk. I thought sure why not.

    I will tell you why not. It is frickin' HOT. After a mile or so I was hot and thirsty. And then, a beautiful green and orange apparition appeared. Seven. Eleven.

    My "do you want to go in there and see if they have those slurpee things?" was met with unfettered enthusiasm by B. Slurpee procurement complete, I asked to use the bathroom. The bathroom was in the back room behind a locked door. I was given a key attached to a ridiculously large piece of broom handle. Noboby is stealing that baby.

    My red slurpee was great. B's blue razz was contaminated with coconut. Still good but not as good and not blue razzy. Apparently, Slurpees are carbonated. I did not know that until my tongue started tingling. Immediate slurpee devotees, we began to lament the fact that there are none near where we live.

    We kept walking and slurping. We got the biggest size and I could not finish mine. We stopped and watched someone jump off the stratosphere. Why anyone would pay (I assume) large amounts of money to do this I will never understand. I almost lost my slurpee just watching.

    We popped in and out of hotels that interested us just to look around. We watched the fountains at the Bellagio about 47 times. It was really more like 2 but we had already watched them the day before. B found them fascinating.

    We made it to planet hollywood (Wayne Brady) around 7. We bought a $5 bottle of water and found a couch near the chi theater to relax on. When the doors opened (7:30) we got in line. We were informed that no glass would be allowed in. They had plastic cups for you to transfer your beverages to. Also, you had to show them that you had removed the batteries from you camera as you went in. This will make sure no pictures are taken since it is a long and complicated process to put them back in.

    The previous 2 things were annoying but the third announcement pissed me off. Bags will be searched. You're kidding right? nope. They should tell you this stuff when you buy the tickets. I would have taken my bag back to my hotel and left it there. I do not like people rummaging through my things.

    The announcement people left after letting nobody in the theater. Some people came around with paper and pencils and asked that everyone make up a name of a song. We waited until about 8:30 and then they let us in without searching my bag. They did make us pour our water from the plastic bottle into one of their cups. That was an expensive bottle and I intended to refill it. Bastards.

    Wayne Brady was great! I had never watched his improv show but liked him on Don't forget the lyrics. He did a lot of skits and there was only one (backwards/forwards) that I thought was dumb. The rest were hilarious! He ended the show with a medly of songs chosen from those submitted when we were in line. Funions give me wind (as Creed). These boobies are real (as Tina Turner). No more nudie cards (as Prince). His lyrics were funny and his impressions were spot on. There were several others but I don't remember them all.

    We had planned to get dinner at Burger Bar after the show but after those giant slurpees neither of us was very hungry. We decided to go the next day for lunch. We wandered our way back to the Signature, stopping in a few more casinos to check them out on the way. B popped into another 7-11 for another slurpee. Maybe it is a good thing we don't have them near our house ;-) He got rootbeer. The best flavor of the 3 we tried by far. Not so sicky sweet as the others.

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    DAY 10: THE HONEYMOON'S OVER

    We checked out of the hotel around 9, leaving our things with the bellman. We had done everything on our Vegas list (which wasn't very long) so we thought we would just wander and see what there was to see.

    We went to the zoo at the mirage ($15/person) and saw some dolphins and lions and tigers and a cheetah. There were 2 baby white tiger cubs and they were cute wrestling with each other. The big cats were pretty but mostly just snoozed in the shade, just like any cat.

    We wandered our way down to the burger bar, popping into any place that interested us. When we got to the burger bar around 1 pm there was a 25 minute wait. We got there just in time, soon the hostess was telling people 45 minutes.

    The menu is in sections. First, you pick your patty. Then the bun. Next any toppings or sauces. Finally, the fries/rings. I liked that everything is so customizable, but by having everything listed seperately, the price can add up FAST.

    I got a normal beef hamburger with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles and onion rings. B go some spicy burger (one of the chef's creations, instead of picking from all the lists) with skinny fries. Everything was very good but very greasy. We drank iced tea which was homemade and good.

    We were too full for milkshakes, but even if I was hungry I doubt I would have ordered one. They were $7-$10 each. Our check was almost $50 with tax and tip. With milkshakes it would have been $70-$75. That is (to me) way too much money for burgers, fries and milkshakes even if they are very good.

    We waddled out of the burger bar and wandered through the luxor and excaliber. We made our way out onto the strip where B declared it break time. His feet were killing him. I was happy for the opportunity to rest as my lunch was not agreeing with me (too greasy). We sat on a retaining wall in the shade of one of the skywalk escalators and people watched.

    Eventually we got up and commenced wandering again. I said it was too bad we were checked out of our hotel because this would be a good time to lounge by the pool. B said we should have lounged yesterday and done the vegas sign and freemont street today. Hindsight.

    We wandered around killing time and eventually ended up back at the mirage. Right by the entrance to the zoo there is a place called Blizz. We both knew in our hearts when we saw it earlier that morning that we would end up back there.

    It is a frozen yogurt buffet. First you get your yogurt. There are at least 10 flavors. Standard ones plus things like cheesecake, pistachio, dulce de leche, red velvet. Then there are toppings, candies, sauces, fruits. It is $0.55/ ounce so we tried to take it easy loading up our dishes. The place is designed (of course) so that you will make giant concoctions. The bowls come in 2 sizes: huge and huger. The yogurt comes out FAST. Be prepared. There are so many choices for toppings it is hard to choose just a few.

    We ended up spending $15 on our monstrosities. Yes, we ate almost 2 pounds of sundaes. Worth every calorie. They must use full fat yogurt because it tasted like ice cream. So good. I was actually glad it was expensive or I might have gone back for seconds ;-)

    A couple more hours of wandering in and out of casinos. I think we went in almost all of them. They are neat but we were casinoed out. We wished we had spent an extra day at arches (we didn't even make it to canyonlands or dead horse state park) and one less day in vegas. We are not vegas people and agreed that we were glad to have been here but wouldn't come back except as a jumping off point for our real destination.

    We were back at the signature by 8. There was a mix up at the bell desk (it was crowded). They watched us sit there for 15+ minutes because they thought we were waiting for a taxi instead of the valet. No harm done, we had plenty of time. B got the idea to stop at the vegas sign again for some night pictures so we did. It was much more crowded this time and the pictures didn't come out so great because it is dark and the sign is so bright. The camera had a hard time focusing.

    It was easy to get back to the rental car facility. Even without my map we would have made it. There are a lot of street signs. If I had it to do over again I would have dropped the car off on Thursday when we got back to vegas and saved some money. B wanted to keep it the whole time just in case, but we really didn't need it.

    The alamo guy told us we were all set and there was no paperwork. We walked a few steps away and he hollered "don't you want your receipt?" Isn't that paperwork? jeesh!

    The receipt showed a cost of $440. That is more in the range of what I though the price would be (when we picked up the car, the guy quoted us $363). We had been charged for an extra day since we dropped it off after noon (that was our plan all along and what we had booked for) plus around $40 in taxes.

    It was a quick ride to the airport on the shuttle. The driver was a comedian, telling jokes all the way. It got him a lot of tips when he dropped us off. Smart man.

    We were at our gate just after 9. Our flight was at 11. I decided to go out into the airport foraging for food. Most places were closed at this hour. (yes, I was hungry again even though I ate that giant ice cream. We walked a lot!). I got a big bottle of water at the hudson news but none of their snacks appealed although a huge bag of cheezits did try to convince me to buy it.

    I walked around and my choices were: starbucks sandwiches or california pizza kitchen. Since the sandwiches might contain the dreaded mayo, I decided to try CPK. I like their frozen pizzas from the grocery store. I ordered the loaded to go. I think it was $14. As I waited, I watched waiters deliver food to the tables. Oh cute, I didn't see mini pizzas on the menu. Then my order came out. I didn't see mini pizzas on the menu because all of the pizzas are that size. 6 or 7" max. ok. We are not starving, so it should be enough.

    I go back to B who is sitting in his socks relieved to be out of his shoes. We bust open the pizza and, sadly, though it is half as big and twice as expensive, our CPK pizza is not as good as their grocery store ones. Notice that I do not say it is not as good as their frozen ones. That is because I am sure this too is a frozen pizza, just not as high quality as the ones in the grocery store. Totally lame. I would not eat there again.

    On our flight there is a family with a 2 year old and a crying baby. The parents seem to think it is a good idea to encourage the 2 year old to yell and let the baby cry it out. awesome. Thank goodness I packed earplugs. We put them in and sleep all the way to Chicago where I see on the monitor at our gate that it is currently 35 degrees in Albany. Maybe we should go back to vegas!

    The rest of our trip was uneventful. We arrived on time and so did our luggage. Our kitten was very happy to see us even though she was spoiled by her babysitter while we were gone.

    If anyone has any questions I am happy to answer. I will try to get some pictures up since they were requested.

    Thanks everyone for reading this and for all the nice comments. You are very generous with your compliments. If I knew how to make a blushing face I would.

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    Wow quite the report!!!

    Albany??? Well, welcome home!

    We live in Scotia.

    It sounds like a great honeymoon...you even camped out!

    Now that you're "over" Vegas, you can spend ALL of your
    next trip exploring the canyon country. Besides being
    sensory overload Vegas is a shock after the remote regions
    of Utah...and SO expensive too.

    Thanks for the report...great fun to read.

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    Yes, more time around Moab and less in Vegas.

    Now you know.

    What a great trip. Next time the weather will be better.

    I was in Escalante, Bryce & Zion with my daughter in mid-Sept for 3 days and we had great weather.

    And now your photos.

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    Great Report! I love the National Parks; Zion has always been my favorite. Zion is so beautiful with the red cliffs and the emerald green Virgin river.

    I remember one hike (can't recall the name) with lots of switchbacks and narrow cliff walks, sometimes chain links to help you and sometimes not. Often just enough room for two feet. The trails were scary, especially when they were sandy and slippery. There were moments when I thought I'd never get back to the trail head. However, it was absolutely beautiful and we have some wonderful pictures somewhere!

    Congrats on your marriage. Wishing you many happy years together.

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    RamonaRamona,
    Congratulations to you both! What a great trip report. Very entertaining. Thanks for taking the time - it was so enjoyable. I'm surprised that it rained so much. All of our trips there have been in early to mid Sept, and we've had to adjust our itinerary several times because of rain. But not everyday washout-type rain! I hope that you'll both go again so you can fly into LV and head straight for Zion to start your trip. We, too, fly out of Albany and always use Southwest Air since they fly nonstop to and from Vegas. Then we don't have to worry about losing our luggage or layovers.
    Looking forward to some pictures. Thanks again and congrats!

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