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Trip Report Trip report: GC, Zion, Bryce, & points between; Sept '09

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Flew into Vegas GRR to LAS on Allegiant on 9/11. Landed 11:30 PDT, 1:30 AM our time. Grabbed shuttle to motel, then to sleep. Up the next morning to get the rental car. Express checkin is the way to go!!!!!! Many befuddled and jealous faces as we skipped a loooooooooong line.
Drove immediately to Hoover Dam, out of the car into 103º heat. Blech!!! Toured the dam, twas about as expected. It seemed smaller than I thought it would be. (no jokes, please) Back in the car, drove thru the desert toward our overnight stop in Williams, AZ prior to heading north next day. Got there about 6, had a nice dinner at the Red Raven Restaurant, a real find in an otherwise gritty Route 66 town.
Next morning drove to Grand Canyon, checked into our lodge (Thunderbird). Nice room. I wouldn't have paid more for a rimside view room; you're at GC to get out and see the thing, so just do it.
My DW had knee replacement surgery last Sept., and this excursion was a good test of it. We went on several hikes around the rim and to the various outlooks, and went down the one in front of the lodge about 500 feet just to say we did. No problems.
The second night there we came down the stairs from our room, about 8 PM (pitch black), rounded a corner, and saw a bull elk grazing in the grass about 15 feet away. Got some nice photos. You don't realize how big they are until you see the eyes in their head looking down at the lamppost.
I was impressed with the geology of the canyon, and thought geology must be somewhat like accounting: boring to many, interesting to those who major in it, and difficult to communicate what's interesting to those who it otherwise bores, since one has to grasp some basics in order to understand the intricacies.
On our way out, after two days, we stopped at some of the eastern outlooks, each enjoyable in its own way. We soon left the land of vegation, and re-entered the desert world on the way to our next stay, Page, AZ.
Enroute the land is drab, lifeless, boring, inhospitable. Like a 200 mile square gravel pit. Yet occasionally, there'd be a trailer with someone living all alone. Home sweet home.
At Page, we just stayed one night. We booked a tour of the Antelope slot canyon. Interesting geology. To their credit, the Navaho nation has not commercialized their land with lots of billboards extolling the merits of the tours their people give on their land. We didn't tour Glen Canyon Dam, would've been just another dam tour. Ate at a very unexceptional restaurant. Was there a good one?
Next morning off to Zion Lodge for a night. Enjoyed the stay, did several hikes, and finished with a hike to the Lower Emerald Pool, then having accomplished that, decided to go further to the Middle one. Then, having done that, we continued up to the Upper Emerald Pool. We were exhaused by the time we finished, knee operations and 7 decades having taken their toll. In my earlier years, I would have enjoyed the Angel's Landing hike, but those days are past. (the recovery time is too great). Got some nice photos of the local wildlife (deer, turkey) on the front lawn. Friends who toured the week before had Bighorn Sheep cross the road in front of them.
Next day on to Bryce Lodge for a night. Got there late because we had cancelled our Kanab reservation due to road construction (they were using cars to mat down the gravel instead of steamrollers, resulting in a 45 minute delay) so we had to make a new one at Mt. Carmel Junction for the post-Bryce night. Bryce was enjoyable....I first saw it from 30,000 feet heading to California 30 years ago. Since then it's been a goal. Now achieved. We walked down the Navaho Loop, up the Queens Garden trails. Enjoyed the sunset from Bryce Point, then to sleep. Next morning we did the entire 30 mile drive, amidst very lite traffic. Then onward.
Slept that night at the Best Western Thunderbird Inn at Mt. Carmel Junction. Wonderful bed and pillows. Best of the trip. Wish we could have said the same for the food, which was a little overpriced for a basically utilitarian meal.
Next day, we headed back to Vegas for our final night. Enroute, we went to Snow Canyon State Park, which had a short hike into a small slot canyon, and a couple other hikes (Hidden Pinyon?). Out in that desert, not a sound was heard, not an insect, not even the wind. Nothing. Didn't even compare to "Quiet" in the city.
Then, we drove south to Valley of Fire State Park. More interesting geology. A nice, 25 mile drive. From there back to Vegas, through another miles-square "gravel pit". I really don't grasp why Nevadans are against the Yucca Mountain atomic waste disposal site. That area gives "wasteland" a bad name.
Stayed that night in Las Vegas, ate across from the hotel, went to sleep, never gambled a quarter. Off the next morning on Allegiant back home. Wonderful trip.
Subsequently, my wife and I got what's politely called "stomach flu" so violently that a week later, our ribs still hurt. And we didn't even drink the water.

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