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Trip Report Trip report - 5 national parks and Las Vegas in 10 days

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(Apologies for posting this 2x, i decided to give it it's own post. )

Here's my trip report, Part I.


After a night of little sleep, and a 7AM, 5 hour flight, landed in Vegas in the morning, got our rental car and headed straight for the Grand Canyon South Rim, a 5 hour drive. I was hoping to make it there on time to see the sunset.

Stopped off at Quiznos near the airport and got our first taste of how nice the people out west are. The guy making the sandwich asked if we wanted fixings on the sandwich even though it was supposed to be plain. When he saw we were going to share, he cut the sandwich and put it on two plates. I had to mention this because this never happens at home.

On the way to the GC we made the requisite stop at the Hoover Dam. Remembering how I had bashed my car on one of the ill placed columns in the parking lot, last time I was there; I carefully navigated my car into a parking space. It was a beautiful day and we took some pics of the dam and the beautiful arching bridge, which I didn’t realize at the time, is new. Not wanting to spend to much time, for fear of missing the GC sunset I didn’t let my wife wait on a slow moving line for water. This turned out to be a mistake.

Continuing our drive, on into the desert, my wife was getting thirsty and insisted I stop for water. Seeing a big sign at a gas station ‘LAST STOP’ I stopped and went in. I asked how much was a 20 oz bottle of water. Clerk answered $4. I asked how much was a small bag of chips. Clerk answered $4. . I asked her how come it was so expensive and she said there’s nothing for miles around. Not wanting to face my thirsty wife empty handed, I reluctantly shelled out $8 for a small water and bag of chips.

At this time the weather was starting to look bad. The eastern sky over the mountains was stormy and there was lightning ahead. A little scary but I decided to keep on driving.

Driving not even a mile past the ‘LAST STOP’ I saw a café on the right. I pulled off to get some coffee. Surprisingly the coffee was only .85 cents. There was a bunch of strange but friendly characters in there that made me feel that I had stepped into the past. I started telling one guy how I had just got ripped off for a $4 bottle of water. The waitress overheard me and told me they had water for $1.50. I looked in the cooler and it was the exact same bottle that I just paid $4 for. Yikes.

Continuing on, it stopped raining. I saw the aftermath of 2 accidents on the way, a biker that had fallen over in the rain; there was an ambulance on the scene. And a little later, a car that had gone off the road and overturned; the police were on the scene. However, tempted by the straight and fairly empty roads, I found myself speeding along as fast as 95 mph at times.

We finally made it to Tusayan around 5pm, I enquired and found out that I could buy an annual park pass at the Grand Canyon Movie Theater in Tusayan. I wanted one of those since we would be hitting 5 national parks. As it turned out I didn’t save much money though, since the pass was $80 and the total I would have had to pay at the gates would have been $85. (GC $25, Bryce $25, Capitol Reef $0 cause the scenic road was closed, Arches $10, Zion $25.)

After getting the pass I drove straight to the nearest lookout. It was funny, pulling into the parking lot and being directionally challenged, I had to ask someone to point me to the GC. I was expecting him to say it’s that big hole in the ground over that way. But he was typically nice and showed me the way as his wife explained about the shuttles. When we finally got to the overlook, it was my wife’s first time and it was great to see her excitement. She got so excited as we approached the rim she broke into a run. The view was of course awesome, however because of the overcast sky we didn’t really get to experience the sunset shining on the canyon. Great nonetheless and worth the grueling drive.

I drove back to Tusayan to get some gas (another mistake, paid 3.60 a gallon, when I had seen gas for 2.60 as we were passing Williams.) Also bought a gallon of water so I wouldn’t have to keep buying small bottles. Then we drove to the hotel. The Yavapai Lodge. The room at the lodge was very nice. The bed was quite comfortable. I went back to the lodge cafeteria to take out some food, chicken pot pie which was very good for cafeteria food.

Next morning we woke up early to see the sunrise at the canyon. There were already a lot of people out there before us with the same idea. The sunrise was very nice and we got some good pics. We also got daring and took some pics out on a ledge. We spent the rest of the day going to various spots around the rim. My wife wanted to walk down into the canyon, but I told her I wasn’t in shape for that.

We had lunch at the El Tovar restaurant. I have to say that was one of the most elegant meals with very formal service by the waiters. Even though I’m just an ordinary guy, it felt good to be treated like I was some rich person. I had blackened tuna and my wife had fettuccini with spinach and shrimps. She had wine and I had a bottomless glass of soda. We also had one of the fantastic selections of desert. The price of the meal was very reasonable and I walked away very happy. We spent some time relaxing in the lodge looking at the huge animal heads on the wall.

We went back outside and sat on the bentwood rockers a while, enjoying the beautiful weather. We went to the shuttle bus to go to see more view points. As we were waiting on line an enormous elk came strolling by and I took some videos of it.

While waiting we got into a conversation with some nice folks from Michigan who told us they tried to take the shuttle to the end the prior day and a storm suddenly rolled in so they didn’t get to the last stop. They told us they drove across the country all the way from Michigan. When we got off the shuttle and said good bye to these folks I joked that they were seeing the USA in their Chevrolet. They laughed and told me they in fact were driving a Chevrolet.

When we got off the shuttle and looked around a little.. a storm started to roll in. Shuttle service was cancelled and we had to go back to the starting point. I thought about the folks from Michigan and how again they wouldn’t get to the last stop on the shuttle.

We got back to the El Tovar where our car was parked. I remembered what Utah Tea had said about how I should drive to Page before dark , to enjoy the scenery , so that’s what I did.

I’m glad I listened to her, the scenery was great. We stopped at the devils watchtower and climbed to the top for some nice pics. When we left the tower it started to rain again. We ran to the car so as not to get the camera wet. Driving on rte 89 we had the experience I posted earlier, seeing a complete rainbow arching over cliffs glowing in the light of the setting sun. As I said it was such a joyful feeling that I started running and whooping out loud as I ran back into the desert to get a better picture. My wife started whooping along with me and we were jumping and high fiving.

When we got to Page, we drove to our hotel. Luckily I brought along my Garmin and so it was easy to find. It was on the street of little hotels. The Red Rock Inn, it was very cheap but since we were only going to sleep there and move on, it was more then sufficient. My wife was a little reluctant to go in, but when we went in , it was more then good enough. I would recommend it for anyone who wants a cheap accommodation in Page. The bed was actually quite comfortable and they had a refrigerator and microwave. I heated up the leftovers from our El Tovar lunch and we had that for dinner, along with some beer I purchased at a Maverick gas station.

We woke up early the next day to get to our next destination. In fact , though it’s not something I like to do while on vacation, we had to wake up early nearly every day to complete our aggressive itinerary.

Just before I left home I read that the Rainbow Room at the Waheap(sp) Hotel was a nice place for breakfast. After a stop off at the Glen Canyon dam, we headed there. It was indeed a good place to have breakfast with a nice view overlooking Lake Powell. We were having beautiful weather. We chose to eat from the menu and ordered French toast and eggs with bacon and potatoes, with a side of fruit. This was a good idea as we got a fresher breakfast then eating off the buffet for about $10 less in total. Again the service was very good and we enjoyed the meal.

When we left the dining room we looked around the hotel. In the souvenir shop they had some interesting Native American rattles and Kachina dolls. I couldn’t help but play the rattle to the tune of an Indian (hope that doesn’t offend anyone) dance music to the scowls of my wife. We went around to the back of the hotel to admire the lake some more and dream about how some day I’d like to rent a houseboat and spend a week on the lake. Someone pointed out a road runner bird so I made some lame jokes about the Acme Anvil company. But it was cool to see the bird, it ran away to fast to take any pics however..Beep Beep.

To be continued..

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    Part II

    While looking out at Lake Powell, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. Looking off into the distance however, we could see that there was stormy weather ahead for us. Sure enough as we started driving to Bryce we encountered rain along the way.

    When I first planned my trip to the Southwest, I was hoping to have the beautiful sunny clear crisp weather I had on past trips, now I was just hoping that the rain system that was hanging over the whole southwest would move out sooner then forecasted. I was beginning to worry about the trip being ruined.

    My first destination on the way to Bryce was Pink Coral Sand Dunes State Park. The turnoff to the park was after Kanab. The road was deserted and the drive went on for a while before I saw any signs. This made me a little nervous that I might be going the wrong way and would have to back track. However after a while I began to see some signs. I was also happy to see a sign that showed another turnoff that would put me back further up 89 when I was ready to continue to Bryce.

    We finally got to the State Park and the rain let up briefly. We drove to a viewing/picnic area to see the dunes. This viewing area was set up with a boardwalk to a platform with bleachers. I felt like I was going to watch a sporting event. Come to think of it maybe they have dune buggy racing out on the dunes.

    When we got out of the car and started to walk on the boardwalk, there was only one other family there having a picnic, and it wasn’t raining, yet. After we got about 50 yards up the boardwalk it started to drizzle so we scampered back to the car to get our umbrellas. It was good we brought umbrellas with us on the trip, as that would be our most valuable piece of gear over the next couple of days.

    We then went back to the platform with the bleachers and took pics of the dunes. One good thing about rainy overcast weather is that things take on an interesting color. We got some nice pics, of the pink dunes, although we are holding umbrellas in all of them.

    When we walked back to the car we passed another family who had just arrived, coming up the boardwalk in the rain without umbrellas or rain gear, looking kind of miserable. As I passed the father, I jokingly asked him if he wanted to buy my umbrella. He gave a forced chuckle. I’m so mean.

    We got back in the car to continue on to Bryce. On the way out of the park, we passed a tagged cow grazing on the side of the road in front of some nice yellow flowers. (I’m not sure what those flowers are, but they are in a lot of my pics, all over Utah.) We pulled up next to him and opened the window to take pictures of him. He just stood there, cocked his head to the side and stared dumbly at us as if to say.. You must be some dumb city folk watching a cow in the rain. I started to wonder what would happen if he suddenly decided to lean his body weight into the car, and decided I’d best leave.

    It rained most of the way while driving to Bryce. As I got to Bryce I stopped off at a gas station; I didn’t really need gas, but I sure needed to stretch after all that driving. When I went into the store the attendant was seemingly scolding a couple of Europeans dressed in full motorcycle overalls because they didn’t quite understand her requests for a pump number. It was a good thing that I could speak good English (of course, like most Americans that's about all I speak) to communicate with the surely attendant and not have to deal with her attitude (OK not everyone out there is nice.) I also noted to myself how the Southwest gets a huge amount of European tourists. For much of the trip, maybe because it’s off-season, I’d say that more then 75% of the tourists that I saw are from Europe or Asia. They really love our beautiful country.

    When we finally got to the entrance road to Bryce, near Ruby’s, we began to see some hoodoo like rocks and the beautiful rock arch entrance way. Like magic the rain stopped and the sun began to shine. Just in time for us to get some nice pics of the arch. Thank you Mother Nature.

    As we pulled into the Bryce parking lot around 4 in the afternoon, I was seeing all these muddy people cleaning off to get back in their cars. Apparently these poor folks had spent their day hiking around Bryce in the rain and mud. Luckily, for us however the rain had subsided for a few hours, giving us some time to see the amphitheater. We hiked around between Sunset and Sunrise point. My wife who had never been here, got a real kick out of hiking with the hoodoos. It was all I could do to keep up with her, she was climbing around and on the rocks and we got some nice pics. It’s a good thing we got these few hours to have a good look at the Bryce amphitheater and the glorious views, because just as we were leaving near sunset the rain started up again.

    We went to our hotel the Bryce Canyon Inn. I didn’t know what to expect, but when I got there I found out that the hotel is actually rows of cabins. Entering the cabin I saw that it was very nice. The cabins seem to have been recently renovated and were beautiful inside. The whole interior was paneled with a light colored wood and the cabin had high ceilings. Everything else about the room was like a nice hotel room, nice size, comfortable beds and pillows, microwave, refrigerator. I guess the price was a little high compared to other hotels I stayed in on this trip (except for LV) but compared to other places near Bryce, I think the price was good. Like every other hotel I stayed in Utah, they offered a continental breakfast. For dinner I got takeout pizza from the pizza place next door. The pizza place, which is owned by the hotel, was separated from the hotel by the town post office, so the hotel and pizza place actually wrap around the post office and it’s parking lot.

    While walking over to the pizza place I passed one of the hotel rooms and there were a large crowd of young adults crowding around, inside and outside the room and they were kind of blocking the path. When I walked that way, my city instincts told me to be on guard for some rude behavior. I was happy and surprised when I passed, however, and one young guy gave me a big apology for blocking my way. When I passed that way again, I determined that they might be a Mormon youth group gathering, which is why they were so respectful.

    At the pizza place you could choose one of the topping combinations on the menu or pick your own. So I picked the toppings that make up a Hawaiian Pizza , pineapple, ham and mushrooms. While waiting for the pizza I walked over to Clarks market to get some beer as the pizza place didn’t sell any. All this walking around, by the way, was in the rain with my trusty umbrella. My wife and I feasted on the pizza and beer in our room and still being on EST time physically went to sleep early. (Unfortunately, not being a good sleeper, especially on the road, I didn’t actually fall asleep till much later and woke up very early. As a matter of fact for most of the trip I was getting by on about 2-4 hours of sleep per night. )

    The next morning since I was up early, I went out to the continental breakfast as soon as they opened the doors. I had my fill and wanted to bring my wife some breakfast in the room. Since I was carrying an umbrella and had only one hand free, I asked the clerk (manager, owner), if he had some paper trays. I guess they don’t, because they don’t want people taking food for later. Jokingly, I think, he handed me a large plastic bread pallet and said I could use that. I briefly considered taking him up on that, but then thought better of it and just used my hands (and my pocket for an apple). Luckily it stopped raining briefly so I could use both hands.

    Honestly, though, I spent a lot less on food for the trip, than I thought I would, thanks to all the continental breakfasts, and the large dinner portions, from the restaurants, which gave me leftovers for a second meal. I make it a policy to not stuff myself on the large portions figuring I will enjoy it more the next day when I’m hungry again.

    Before setting out on our second day in Bryce we stopped at off at Clarks to buy some snacks. It was interesting seeing the local farmers gathered around the coffee pot discussing things. I wanted to make a joke asking if they were the good ole boys, but I didn't think they would get it and decided to keep my mouth shut.

    The second day at Bryce was a complete washout. It rained most of the day and when it wasn’t raining there was a thick fog. We still drove to the end of the road (Rainbow Point?) and made our way back stopping at many of the view points hoping to see something. Unfortunately, other then at the natural bridge viewpoint where we could see the bridge, we saw nothing but fog. At each viewpoint we walked hopefully, out of the car with our umbrellas and looked only at fog. The only thing to do was try to take some artistic pictures of a nearby rock poking through some fog, or pictures of a bush dripping water. I told my wife: when life gives you fog, make fog pictures.

    Finally giving up on seeing any hoodoos or long views, and thankful that we did get a few good hours of Bryce the afternoon before, we decided to go spend some time at the Bryce Lodge.

    In the lodge I saw the cowboys, who lead the trail rides, standing around in their western gear, boots with spurs, cowboy hats and raincoats. I love looking at those guys as they look so authentic. I took some video of them, and asked one to pose with my wife and got a nice pic. I actually had promised my wife, who had never been on a horse, that I would take her riding in Bryce, but with the rain and all, that was out of the question.

    I stood next to the fireplace to dry off, and then we sat down in some rockers and enjoyed the cozy comfort of the lodge, not a bad place to be. We later went into the Bryce Lodge dining room for lunch. After getting scolded by one of the waitresses for walking through their area near the kitchen door (hey, I’m taking a shortcut to my table), we sat down for a lunch of Bison Burger for my wife and Salad with Southwestern chicken for me. As usual my wife and I shared everything for the taste experience. The service, and food, though OK, was no match for what we had at El Tovar, but we enjoyed it and it was reasonably priced. We spent some more time relaxing in the lodge then we drove back to our comfortable cabin, for an early evening, where we heated up yesterday’s leftover pizza and with the leftover beer that was our dinner.

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    Governator,
    I'm enjoying the report! I think you must have arrived right after I was in Bryce. I had the last few nice, warm days and one afternoon of thunderstorms. Really was nice. Then, we had a week straight of heavy rain.

    Do continue

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    Dayle,

    You must have been there the week before me.

    Our trip was from Oct 2 - Oct 12. We had good weather Saturday and Sunday for the Grand Canyon. We got a lot of rain on Monday and Tuesday, when we were at Bryce and more rain Wednesday while we were at Escalante and Capitol Reef.

    The forecast was rain until Thursday so I was glad when it finally ended Wednesday afternoon.

    Thanks for the encouragement. I'm enjoying writing and I'm glad you like it.

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    Yes, that's exactly right. We have been having warmer than usual temps this early fall, but mostly very dry weather. Southern UT got hit with that one week of monsoon moisture up from the Gulf, again unusual for October.

    I felt bad for all the visitors who were there and counting on the gorgeous blue skies of Utah contrasting with the red rock. BUT, the stormy condition can make unique and every more beautiful photo ops - rainbows and more.

    Like you said - just bring the umbrellas!

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    I really feel bad when that happens. I usually try to plan for the longest days and the dryest (or driest) weather. But life gets in the way.

    I was in SW Utah for 3 days with my daughter Sept 11-13 (plus a travel day on each end) and had sunny beautiful weather.

    Please do continue as I picture each place you write about (for the ones I've been to0.

    Thanks.

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    To those who are commenting, thank you.


    Part III

    I forgot to mention, that on the way back from Bryce to our hotel in Tropic, driving in pouring rain, we passed the trail-head to Mossy Cave. Putting my quest for discovery ahead of good sense, I pulled off and told my wife I was going to do the 1-mile hike to the cave, with an umbrella. She declined to come along and I told her I would be back in 30 minutes. Holding an umbrella over my head in one hand and my video camera in the other, off I went walking in the slippery red mud following the trail beside a rushing stream. It was quite pretty in the rain, seeing the cliffs on one side topped by hoodoos, the rushing red stream and the bridges over the stream that I had to cross to follow the trail.

    Bridges and streams always make nice still pictures and videos. I spent more time then I should have, juggling my video camera, still camera and umbrella, struggling to get some nice pictures in the waning light of day. Back at the car, my wife told me later, she was getting nervous waiting for me, and she said when she saw one other person emerge from the trail that she jotted down his license plate just in case he was some sort of trail murderer. After waiting some more she started to beep the horn, but I didn’t hear it.

    Meanwhile I continued on the trail hoping for some sort of payoff at the end. I came to a fork where one way led to a waterfalls and the other way led to the cave. I went to the falls and got my small reward and took some pictures. There was a sign there that told about how the early pioneers had dug the stream with primitive tools to provide irrigation. I went back to the fork and started to walk uphill to the cave, but the trail became slippery, narrow and overgrown, so I decided that I had seen enough. At this point for some reason I started thinking about how I was all alone at dusk, on a mountain trail and the thought of mountain lions came into my head. I began to get nervous and hustled myself quickly back to the car. I breathed a sigh of relief, and my wife was happy to see me when I got back.

    Part IV

    The next morning, still at Bryce Canyon Inn in Tropic, Utah, with the sky still very overcast, I awoke early as usual, for the opening of the breakfast in the office. I spoke to the clerk and told him I was on my way to Capitol Reef. He pointed to some sunlight breaking through the clouds in the distance over some mountains and told me I was headed that way. Great, I thought, maybe the weather would change when I got there.

    When I was first planning the trip, I was really looking forward to showing my wife the scenic drive through Escalante and the Dixie National Forest on the way to Capitol Reef. When I had driven through Escalante in the past, on the advice of one of the Bryce Lodge cowboys, I was amazed at the incredible expanse of barren rock which I can best describe as like being on the moon. I’ve told numerous people about it, but it has to be seen to be believed. I was also looking forward to the part of the drive after that which would take us through beautiful forests of yellow aspen trees.

    So hoping to beat any heavy fog, which I experienced the day before at Bryce, which would render the sights unviewable, perish the thought, I pushed my wife for an early start. I also wanted to get going early, as it would be our only day to see Capitol Reef, as well.

    Despite all the rain of the past couple of days, we’d actually been pretty lucky. We had nice weather at the Grand Canyon, we had seen the sunset glowing off the cliffs on the way to Page, the sun broke through and shined off the arched entranceway to Bryce, and the rain had stopped long enough for us to see Bryce Canyon on the first afternoon we arrived there. Likewise when we got to the scenic part of Escalante, what I call the moonscape, though it was raining, there was little fog and we got a good look at it. I was amazed yet again.

    Continuing on, we thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful forests of yellow aspens. What I had forgotten is that the drive takes us through some very high elevations over 9000 feet. When I got home I read about how this is the Aquarius plateau, an uplift on the Colorado Plateau and the highest timbered plateau in North America.

    Being at such high elevation, the rain turned to snow, and I decided I’d better drive slow or risk being a vacationer casualty. Although I did miss out on seeing the views of Capitol Reef in the distance, the drive through the mountain forest was itself quite stunning.

    Coming down off the mountain we came to the intersection of 24 and had arrived at Capitol Reef. The sunlight I saw earlier with the clerk at Bryce Canyon Inn was nowhere to be seen. We would be seeing Capitol Reef in the rain.

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    LittleDickensD,

    If you'll keep reading, I'll keep writing. LOL.

    Part V.

    Though it was raining fairly steady, there was a filtered light coming through the clouds that made the monumental, magnificent Capitol Reef rock formations, a beautiful sight to see. My wife was getting interested in the shapes of the formations. She made me laugh, when she remarked, about a giant gray layer sticking out of a red cliff, that “someone had left her toes”. When I looked, it really did look like some giant gray toes sticking out of the rocks. Here was a castle; there was a dress and so on.

    We were getting used to the routine. Drive to a nice spot, take the camera and the umbrellas and get some pictures. As we drove along, through the park, I realized that the good thing, being there in the rain, there were numerous waterfalls, coming down from the cliffs, which I don’t think are ordinarily there.

    There were waterfalls everywhere. On one side of the road was a dark red waterfall, pouring down, into a raging, red river. On the other side of the road was a towering clear waterfall; Angel Falls in Utah.

    We were unable to drive the scenic road past the visitor center, due to flood damage. However, we did see the 1000-year-old petroglyphs of the Fremont Indians. Whenever I see those strange drawings, I wonder if the ancient peoples had alien visitors.

    We also went to Gifford’s Farmhouse to buy some of that famous apple pie, which we were to enjoy later, and the next day. Outside the farmhouse were a couple of horses in a corral, standing in the rain, next to an old barn. I got their attention, as I approached, and took some nice video.

    Being as we couldn’t take any hikes and there wasn’t much left to do, we went into the visitor center. We watched the movie, studied the sedimentary rock diagrams, and then bought a souvenir magnet, which looked like one of the petroglyphs. I asked the ranger some geology questions and she came out from behind the information desk to give my wife and I, a 20-minute lesson about the water pocket fold. I found out that the fold is a monocline and that water pocket fold is not a general geologic term, but rather the name of that specific fold.

    Running out of things to do in the visitor center, we decided to venture back out into the rain. Stepping outside, I was nearly bowled over by what I saw. The rain had stopped. The sky had cleared. The sun was shining. Hallelujah!! We asked someone to take our picture. He set aside his professional looking camera, took our picture and told us “enjoy, it’s an amazing place”.

    It was still fairly early; we had to go see everything all over again, now in the sun. We were pretty exhausted already, having gotten up early and getting in out of the car all day. Pulling up to a rock formation, I lazily started taking pictures from the car. My wife laughed that “now it’s sunny, and we’re not getting out of the car.”

    Now was the time to take a hike. We went to the Hickman Bridge trail. I had to prod my wife, a little, to hike; she was thinking the trail would be muddy. Once we got going, however, she was glad I pushed her. The trail was a little steep at the beginning but fairly easy and it yielded some very nice hiking; Views from a broad plain, at the foot of the cliffs, at the top of the trail, then a walk along a lovely stream, then on to Hickman Bridge. Along the way, we saw some of the water pockets, which give the fold its name. I was thinking the Hickman Bridge was going to be a man-made bridge but was pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually a huge natural rock arch. With no one around, so happy that the day had turned out so beautifully, we started yodeling to get the echo effect.

    When we returned to the trail-head, it was turning to dusk. Satisfied with the great day we had had, we started for our hotel and dinner. The hotel we used was the Hidden Falls/Howard Johnson motel. When I asked the manager for a room with a view, he joked that there was a nice view in every direction. I laughed, knowing that he was right. Aware that it was a view of the Capitol Reef Park, that I was after, he checked, and found that such a room was available, and gave it to us. The hotel is very well maintained and we had a nice comfortable room with a view. What more could I ask for.

    I looked in my travel guide and read about the Torrey Café and Inn restaurant. From the book, I saw that they were famous for their 10 vegetable salad. Being in the mood for some veggies we decided to go there. I ordered a mushroom lasagna that came in a crock dish, covered with melted cheese, and it was absolutely delicious. My wife decided to try the steak, which came with a 10 vegetable salad appetizer and a baked potato. The appetizer salad was very big and satisfying and we were able to share it. The steak, however, was kind of dry and chewy. I would recommend to anyone going there, stick to the vegetarian options. We saved half of the steak, some of the potato, and a portion of the mushroom lasagna for leftovers, to eat the next day.

    We went back to hotel to rest up for the next day. Another early start was needed, we had a 5 drive to Arches National Park, ahead of us.

    We were having a great time, and it was getting better, and.. we had good weather to look forward to, for the rest of the trip.

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    governator,

    I am really, really enjoying your trip! I'm sorry you had a bit too much rain, but as you discovered, Utah reveals a differnt type of beauty with every small weather change!

    Yes, heavy rain on the slickrock = instant waterfalls. You should see Zion and Lake Powell with the waterfalls. Amazing.

    I'm so glad you decided to do the Hickman Bridge hike. Short and quite easy with a very nice mixture of scenery and a great reward at the end!
    Do continue!

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    Dayle,

    I think by now I have an audience of one, LOL. I appreciate your following this. You must be from Utah. What an incredibly beautiful state. What part are you from? The owner of the Red Rock in Page is named Dayle, also.

    --Governator

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    Part VI

    (Correction: Capitol Reef to Arches is a 3-hour drive)

    Though the drive to Arches was actually to be only 3 hours, we still needed an early start in order to have enough time for Arches this day. The day after we would be driving to Zion.

    All the motels in Utah seem to have the same complimentary breakfast. An assortment of cereals, muffins, fruit snack cups, hard-boiled eggs and a self-service waffle machine. After pouring too much mix, and having it overflow, the first time I used it, I finally mastered it and had a waffle most days in Utah. I’m tempted to go out and buy one for home.

    Southern Utah is one giant piece of eye candy. From the time we first entered Utah near Lake Powell, the interesting scenery is pretty much non-stop all the way until we got to Rte 15 to return to Las Vegas 6 days later. This part of the trip from Capitol Reef was very scenic, as well.

    Leaving Capitol Reef we drove between giant cliffs and then came to a stretch of road where there were, what looked like, mountains of gray volcanic ash. Although I already use the term moon-like earlier to describe the Escalante terrain, this was even more moon-like. In fact there’s a small restaurant there called Luna Mesa.

    We stopped at an intersection in the road that was very picturesque. There was a stop sign, broad expanses of sage covered desert in all directions and a gray mountain in the distance. The early morning mist over the mountain made it look like a smoking volcano. The sky was a beautiful blue with a few puffy clouds.

    Before taking pictures, we took out our leftovers from the previous night, and had a snack of cold steak, baked potato and mushroom lasagna. Today, even the steak tasted good.

    Continuing on, enjoying the scenery all the way, we made it to Moab. Now that it was getting hot, my wife wanted to change into shorts, so we checked into our hotel before heading to Arches. It was a modest hotel, for a fair price. The Inca Inn, on the busy road that passes through Moab. The beds were comfortable and I was satisfied. We were only going to sleep there, but I saw they did have a small outdoor pool.

    After checking in we headed for Arches. At first when I drove into the parking lot for the visitor center, I couldn't see the road leading into the park and I had to ask a bus driver to point it out to me. After scolding me for being in the bus lane, he showed me the road, which was right there. I told you I was directionally challenged.

    We made our way into arches and proceeded to see ‘Park Ave’, giant slabs of rock in pre-arch stage, ‘Balanced Rock’, a tower of rock topped by a boulder of rock, and ‘The Three Gossips’, towers of rock resembling three giant people. We drove to the 'Devils Garden' trail, at the end of the road and walked the 1 mile to ‘Landscape Arch’, the longest arch in Arches. We drove back and stopped to see ‘Skyline Arch’ a beautiful slanted arch. We went to see ‘Delicate Arch’, the famous symbol of Utah, we saw it from a distance. I got a good shot of it with the zoom of my video camera. My still shots are tiny, but we did what a lot of people must do and took pictures of it between the thumb and forefinger of a hand.

    In the last few hours of the day, we went to the windows section, of Arches. I was glad I had saved these for last as they were among the most beautiful arches and we got to enjoy them in the late afternoon light, a beautiful sight, as I had remembered them from the last time, I was here. They are enormous semi-circular arches, which allow views of the sky to shine through. With the orange glow of the sun and the blue sky with puffy clouds visible through them, they are a striking sight. When someone is standing in the arch, they are dwarfed by the giant size of the arch and it makes an interesting picture. We climbed all around the arches, and even laid down on the rocks for a while. Gives you that 'It's good to be alive' feeling.

    When we left Arches we went to eat at Moab Brewery, I ordered a salad with Southwest chicken, my wife ordered the mixed sausages plate. Mine was OK, nothing special, hers was very tasty. We shared, as usual and saved leftovers, to enjoy the next day.

    Due the large crowd, we wound up eating in the tavern portion of the restaurant, which turned out to be a good thing, because on the day we were there, pints of beer were half price in the tavern area,only. My wife and had 2 pints each, of a variety of their local brewed beers, and they were pretty good.

    After dinner we went into town. I didn’t particularly care for the way the town is laid out, stores on both sides of a major roadway. My vision of Moab was something a little quainter. My wife looked in a few of the stores, as she wanted to get some new shorts, but she had no luck finding anything.

    When we got back to the hotel, still being a little tipsy from the beers, I panicked when I couldn’t find my reading glasses. I got back in the car and drove back to the shops we had stopped in, but no one had my glasses. Thinking I had lost them for good, I drove back to the hotel. When I parked, I reached down on the side of my seat, and guess what, there they were. We watched some TV and retired for the night.

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    Governator,

    How interesting that the owner of the Red Rock in Page is named Dayle. A woman too? There aren't many of us! I might have to visit just to meet her.

    I'm originally from southern CA, but my parents and ancestors all from Utah so I claim both places. I live in Park City, so in the spring and fall (like most who live in Utah and CO)I go south. In the summer I enjoy my beautiful mountains or head north.

    I'm thinking you are alread planning another trip to Utah!

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    Dayle,

    The Red Rock owner is a man. LOL. You're lucky to live in Utah. You're right I can't wait to go back. Though my wife has a thing about not repeating trips.

    Meyer,
    As you'll see I actually got in another morning in Arches before leaving.

    Peterboy,

    Thanks for reading my report. I'm glad you like it.

  • Report Abuse

    Part VII.

    The next morning waking up at the Inca Inn in Moab, I was glad I was an early riser. After having breakfast, it occurred to me that I had several hours till check out. I decided I would drive back into Arches to experience the morning light there.

    I gave my wife the option of sleeping or coming along with me. How could she resist, more time in Arches. By the time we got there it was about 8:30 AM. We drove in about as far as the ‘3 Gossips’. Everything was beautiful in the golden glow of the morning light. I put my video camera up on the dashboard of my car, as I drove, to give the viewer the wonderful experience of driving through Arches.

    After we left Arches, we checked out of the hotel and started off to Zion. The drive was to take around 5 hours. It was very scenic all along route 70 until we got to route 15. We passed the San Rafael swell and stopped off at a couple of viewing points. At one of the viewpoints there were a pair of 70ish couples having a wine and cheese party in front of their RV. They seemed very happy and playful. I asked the old gent to take our picture. He was kind of dancing around and joking after he took the picture. He asked me how the picture came out and I told him he’s a regular Ansel Adams.

    While still on 70 I decided to pull off an exit to get some gas. Not seeing any gas stations, I drove on a road parallel to 70 and wound up stopping in Richfield, Utah. When we saw there was a Walmart, we decided to stop off and see if my wife could get the shorts she was still looking for. She bought a couple of pairs for about $3 each. I also bought some fruits to take along. It was interesting to see that they charged individually for each piece of fruit rather then by the pound.

    My wife and I wanted to find a spot in Richfield to eat our leftovers from the night before. Unable to find a park, we drove around a bit, but everywhere seemed to be out in the bright sun. I went to a street behind the Main Street and parked under a willow tree in front of somebody’s house. I was hoping no one was home, so they wouldn’t wonder who the strangers eating in front of their house were. We ate our leftovers, sausages and burrito (my wife reminded me that I had a Burrito not a salad) from the Moab Brewery.

    We continued on our way to Zion. Being that my reservation for the next 2 nights was in Hurricane, I was thinking that I would go see the Kolob Canyons section of Zion this afternoon. I decided, however, since we were making good time to continue on to the main section of Zion.

    When we got to Springdale, my wife realized what I had done. Seeing how nice Springdale looked, she got annoyed that I had made our reservations in Hurricane.
    I did that, originally, thinking that I would a) save some money and that b) Hurricane was well located for when we depart to Las Vegas. Also, when I made the reservation I thought that I would go see Kolob Canyons the first night. Oh well, it was too late. I rationalized that we could stay late in Springdale and just go back to Hurricane to sleep.

    When we were approaching the Zion gate around 4pm, there were signs that the parking lots were full and that we would have to park in Springdale. I told my wife that I would go to the lot at the Imax, but she told me to try to drive into the park. When I got to the gate the ranger told me that there was lot’s of parking in the park and to ignore what the sign said.

    When I drove in, the thing I wanted to see most and that I remember the best, was the drive up to the tunnel and on to checkerboard mesa. This is what impressed me the most on my previous visits. The ranger at the gate told me I would have to park in the parking lot to take the shuttle on the scenic drive. I don’t think they had these shuttles last time I was there. Thinking that scenic drive meant the drive up to the tunnel and on to checkerboard mesa, I parked my car and got on board a shuttle. It was only then that I realized that their scenic drive was not my scenic drive.

    I decided to stay on the shuttle till the end to see where it went. However I was anxious for it to finish up so that I could run back to my car and go drive to the part that I really wanted to see, which is what we did. When we got in the car and started the switchback drive up the canyon to the tunnel, my wife and I were pretty nervous. There was apparently some roadwork going on. The roads were not paved and the stones separating the road from the edge of the drop off into the canyon were not there. We really couldn’t enjoy the drive as I had remembered it. When we emerged from the tunnel the sun had already set, and though it was still light out, the views of the checkerboard mesa really weren’t that great. Not wanting to drive back down the switchback road, with no barrier, in the dark, I just drove a little bit and then turned around to go back through the tunnel.

    We drove back to Springdale and went to the Pizza and Noodle Company restaurant. It was nice sitting outside on the porch where we ate a pizza and a fettuccine with shrimp dish. I don’t remember much what it tasted like but my wife tells me it was good. We were both still feeling a little unhappy that I had not gotten a hotel in Springdale. The Fodorite, who had advised me about that, when I was first planning the trip, was right.

    After finishing up, we packed up the leftovers and headed for our hotel in Hurricane. I used my Garmin, and I was a little surprised to see just how far it really was. Not only was it all the way in Hurricane, but on the other side of Hurricane. Oh well.

    When we finally got there, the hotel was the Comfort Inn. As a consolation the hotel actually looked pretty nice. To drown my disappointment though I drove back to the Maverick to buy a big 40 oz bottle of beer.

    The next morning, I woke up very early; I think I was out in the lobby around 5 am waiting for the breakfast to open. I watched on TV how the miners in Chile would be rescued in a couple of days, much sooner then originally expected. Another guy sitting in the lobby struck up a conversation with me and told me how he was from Utah, and how some miners and their rescuers were killed a few years back somewhere in Utah.

    I had my breakfast, trying to be discrete; I repeatedly went back to the buffet and had just about one of everything, including my favorite self-service waffles. I brought some food back to the room for my wife and she got up early so we could get going to Zion. Before going to Zion, I called up the trail rides desk and made a reservation for a trail ride. My wife would have her trail ride after all. Her first ever.

    The day in Zion was very nice. We had great weather. We took the shuttle to the last stop and hiked the trail into the canyon, up to the point where you need to enter the water to go further. My wife wanted to continue on into the water, but I reminded her that we were not prepared to do that walk, no spare shoes, no walking stick. She stared longingly into the canyon. I was content with the walk we had taken and just took some pictures.

    We went back to the Zion Lodge and I went in to the café to get a chicken salad sandwich and some french fries to eat at the outdoor seating area. At first it was hard to find a table but we did get one. The sandwich was on grain bread and was big enough to share. The weather was gorgeous and I was enjoying life.

    When we finished eating we went into the Lodge itself and sat around for a while on the couch, where I fell asleep and took a nap for a while. We then went back outside and took a hike up to the Emerald Pool. I was intending to go to the lower one but I didn’t really look at the signs and I think we went to the middle one. The views from up on the trail were very nice and I took a lot of pictures. We timed it so that we would get down on time for the trail ride.

    Sizing us up as a couple of city folks, they put us on a couple of mules. Looking back now at the pictures, I think mine was pretty old. Me, being a shade under the 220 pound limit, I think my mule was straining a little as he was grunting a lot. Anyway the ride was very leisurely and I was able to take a lot of pictures of my wife’s back as she experienced her first ride. She got to use the clothes that she had bought especially for the trip, a nice Guess brand vest that she had gotten from Macy’s before we left. She was very happy. The Hurricane fiasco was long forgotten.

    When we finished the mule ride, we got back on the shuttle and went to the bridge near where the split off to the tunnel road is. I had seen a lot of people there the day before taking pictures so I thought it would be a good spot. I sidled up next to a guy with an expensive Miyama (sp) camera. I asked him how he was able to get pictures when much of the valley was in shadow. He told me I needed a special filter. For the trip, I had bought the new Olympus Epl1 camera, which is a micro four-thirds camera; it has a small body because it has no mirror inside. However, it has the same sensor as a dslr and it has interchangeable lenses, although I only had the kit lens. I did not however, think to buy a filter for the trip. So I would have to settle for taking pictures of the sunny section of the view.

    After spending some time at the bridge, we decided to head back to the parking lot at the visitor center. Not anxious to leave Zion before dark we decided to hike back. The walk was a nice one on a trail through some meadows. We passed the campgrounds on the way, and we were interested in that since we had started doing some camping, ourselves, last year in our own state. The Garden State, NJ. Don’t laugh; there are actually some nice campgrounds there.

    We got back to our car and drove to Springdale for dinner at Oscars. I had read some good reviews about it and I was looking forward to treating my wife to a nice dinner.
    When we got there, there was a square dirt parking lot across the street, surrounded on three sides by a fence, about 100 feet wide. Cars were parked head in along both sides of the lot, there were no cars parked along the back fence. There were no spots left along the sides, so I parked along the back fence in the center, thinking there was ample room for the cars on the side to pull back and steer around me.

    We went to the crowded restaurant, and after about a 30-minute wait, we sat down. We were on vacation so I decided to splurge and order a full rack of ribs and a salad with 2 skewers of barbequed shrimp. My wife ordered a glass of wine. The food arrived and it looked delicious. No sooner had I started to eat my food, when in came a woman who announced, ‘does anyone own a Chevy Impala with Nevada plates’? Thinking she was going to tell me that I had to move my car, I said it was mine. Then she said ‘your car has been hit’ by another car. Oh, just lovely, so much for my enjoyable dinner.

    When I went outside, I saw that it was pitch black in the parking lot. A woman with some of her friends, who had just come from the restaurant, and probably enjoyed a couple of drinks, was waiting. My rental car had a rather large dent, on the bumper. Although it was only a bumper the way the car was designed, the bumper looks more like it’s part of the quarter panel and it looked like the damage could be upwards of $1000. She had written down her insurance information on a post it note, but being from New Jersey, I told myself I had better make sure I had all the info. Not being able to see in the dark, and feeling a little flustered, I wasn’t sure what to do. Then I thought since it was a rental car I had better play it safe and call the police to get a report. So I did.

    I felt bad for making the woman stay there while we waited for the police, but I didn’t want to ruin my vacation by getting stuck for the repair on some technicality or forgotten piece of information. The woman was actually very nice about it and apologetic, although I guess I probably shouldn’t have parked where I did. When the cop showed up, I think he assessed the situation and realized the woman was a local and I was an out of towner.
    He said he wasn’t going to take a report because he didn’t think the damage was over $1500. I asked him to take the report anyway, because I wanted to make sure I had all the information, and without a flashlight I couldn’t see well enough to write. I may have spoke when he asked the woman a question, but he turned very nasty to me and told me to wait on the side. I felt he was treating me like some sort of troublemaker and he was trying to show that he was in control of the situation by acting a little threatening towards me. Knowing how the behavior of cops in general can be a little unpredictable, I decided to just stop talking and not take any chances with this guy. Anyway, I got all the information, although when I looked later no one had even written down the driver’s license number or plate number of the vehicle. I had noted the plate number in my head and wrote it down later.

    My wife and I went back to the restaurant and our food was still sitting on the table. I asked the waiter to have it reheated. Not having much of an appetite now, we ate a little more and packed up the rest as leftovers. I still had the pizza leftovers from the night before sitting in the refrigerator back at the hotel. I was accumulating a nice little leftover buffet. We drove the long drive back to Hurricane and called it a night.

    Part VIII.

    The next morning I had my last waffle at the breakfast. I shared a table with an older couple. Turns out they were from Colorado and were in Hurricane for the senior Olympics. They proudly told me how the man had won a gold medal for shooting the night before.

    Having had a fantastic trip through the national parks we were excited to go to Las Vegas. I decided to use my Garmin but when I got on the main street that runs through Hurricane, my Garmin told me to stay on that street for 132 miles. Thinking I would be driving on a street with traffic lights for 132 miles I thought something was wrong. I stopped at a gas station to ask about that and the clerk explained to me that the main street actually dead-ends and feeds into route 15. The Maverick gas stations that I had been stopping in on the way had a sale of something like 5 candy bars for $2. I decided to avail myself of that and bought 5 chocolaty candy bars. The weather outside was pretty hot for an October day. When I took the candy to the counter, I joked to the clerk that they would all probably melt before I ate them. He told me ‘don’t put them on the dashboard’. We were on our way to Las Vegas.

    You’re all probably getting tired of this long report and frankly I’m getting a little tired of it myself so I’ll wrap things up. LOL.

    I made good time to Vegas and we arrived around noon. We stayed at the 5* Palazzo hotel for 2 nights, got a good rate on Priceline. We felt a little funny carrying a box of leftover pizza and ribs with us, but I wasn’t going to let that go to waste. We had a huge suite with a nice picture window overlooking the airport and the mountains. The hotel had a beautiful pool, actually 5 pools, and being a hot day on our arrival, that’s where we spent the rest of the afternoon.

    In the evening we got dressed up and went to eat at Onda Italian restaurant at the Mirage hotel. My wife had fettuccine and I had eggplant parmigiana and it was good though no better then what I can get for ½ the price here in NJ. But the atmosphere was nice and the service was very good, so we enjoyed it. We watched the volcano outside the hotel, then we then went to see the Beatles Love show which was awesome, it did get a little boring in a few parts, but overall I loved it.

    I kept the rental car while in Vegas so we drove everywhere we went. Having hot weather that turned out to be a good thing. We were really enjoying the luxury of our room and didn’t start out too early in the morning. We went over to Circus Circus to get some reduced price tickets for a show that night. We wound up getting another Cirque show, Mystere. I had told my wife we would go for a buffet at the Paris hotel, but it was getting late so we decided to go to the buffet at Circus Circus. My wife is 5 feet tall and weighs 105 lbs, so I knew she wouldn’t be getting her money’s worth at the buffet like some people do. But I wanted her to have the complete Vegas experience, which meant doing a buffet.

    After the buffet we went back to our hotel. I don’t gamble much; in fact I only wagered and lost $1 on a penny slot machine. However, I like the NY Jets and they’ve been playing pretty well, so I decided to go to the sports book and bet on my team. I wanted to bet $100, but they only took cash so I only bet the $50 I had in my wallet.

    We spent a little time in our room then we drove to see Caesars Palace and NY NY hotel.
    While in Caesars we sat in a lounge for a while then we walked around the hotel and my wife bought a glass of Pina Colada that was about 2 feet long.

    At NY NY we enjoyed looking at the fake NY streets, even though we live only about 10 minutes from the real New York City. We went up to the bridge that crosses over to MGM and took a few nice pictures of the strip, and we walked around a little inside MGM. We went back to our hotel to get ready, and then we walked over to Treasure Island for the Mystere show. Before the show started I was able to watch some of the Jets game and just before we went into the show the Jets were winning by 3 points, but needing them to win by 6, I figured I would lose my bet.

    We went to see the show, which was again great. I had built up very high expectations however, for Cirque and it wasn’t quite as good as I expected. Though they are great acrobats, they are no better then what I had seen years ago at Ringling Bros Circus. I guess the costumes are nicer and there’s a story, even though I couldn’t really follow it.

    After the show we went to the Kahuna bar and watched the bartenders do their tricks. I found out the Jets had gotten an interception in the last few minutes and so I had won my bet a good thing to end the trip with. I would have to mail in my ticket however as the sports book was closed and we had to leave in the morning before they re-opened. That reminds me I have to call them and see if what the delay is, I still haven’t received my payoff. LOL.

    The next morning we returned the car; I had already reported the accident the night it happened, so they wrote some big numbers with crayon, on the window of the car and didn’t delay me at all. Then we went to the airport and flew home.

    The End.

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    Have just read the whole of your report in one go, Governator. Thank you! We two old Aussies have already done, and will be doing much of the same trip again next year, so it's been great. I feel I've already shared some of your reactions to the wonderful scenery with the same enthusiasm.

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    emalloy,

    Yes the other persons insurance is taking care of it. When people ask me, I tell them the trip was a capital 'A' for Amazing!

    Carrabella,

    That's a long way to come from, but well worth it. If you haven't done it, be sure to drive Rte 12 from Bryce through Escalante to Capitol Reef. I only found out about it when someone told me on my first trip out there. It's one of the most scenic drives in America, and Capitol Reef is awesome.

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    Hey Governator,

    I TOLD to you stay in Springdale......just teasing you. But, yes, Springdale is much nicer than Hurricane.

    The Senior Olympics in St. George are every Oct and a really BIG DEAL. Thousands of people participate.

    So glad you had a good trip. I hope you are seriously planning another one soon.

  • Report Abuse

    Yes, next time I'll spring, Dayle, for the extra money and stay in Springdale. LOL. It's worth it.

    It may not be in my immediate plans, but I'm sure I'll be back to Utah and the SW, some day. It's too great to stay away from for long.

    Thanks.

  • Report Abuse

    Dayle,
    That's a good one. You're right, Utah is Addictive!

    LittleDickensD,
    Thanks for reading, have a great trip.

    travlsolo2,
    Thanks for the nice comment. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  • Report Abuse

    Governator,

    I just came across your trip report and I am planning a very similar trip for this coming May. I am particularly drawn to your writing because I too am from Jersey (although a Giants fan, sorry for your loss!). Our current plan is this:

    Fly into Phoenix
    Drive to Grand Canyon, spend then night, explore in the morning
    Drive to Page, spend the night, explore in the morning
    Drive to Bryce, spend the night, explore in the morning
    Drive to Zion, spend the night, explore in the morning
    Drive to Las Vegas, spend 2 nights

    Do you think this is too rushed, based on your experiences? Originally we were going to do Grand Canyon in the morning, Page in the afternoon, and drive to Bryce after dark, but after people's advice, I think we have decided to slow down the pace. Any advice you have is helpful.

    Thanks!
    Alyssa

  • Report Abuse

    Let me add my hello's. Enjoyed the reading.
    Like you Alyssa we're planning a trip in the Spring. Decided to trim it down to just 2 parks and try to spend 2 days in each
    If anyone wants to chime in; Trip- Vegas-G.C.-Zion.
    Is there any reason to drive Vegas to Zion vs. Vegas to G.C. first? I've read that Zion in April may have high water limiting hikes.

  • Report Abuse

    AMT6 and chs29445 probably a good idea to start a new thread. but my quick reply is chs, look at www.weather.com and click on the ten day forecast and see if it makes a difference weather wise as to which way to do the loop. ATM, 2 nights in Vegas is overkill, spend your time in the other areas.

    Have a great trip

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