Mari's Epic 2004 National Park Trip Report

Apr 5th, 2005, 03:52 AM
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Mari's Epic 2004 National Park Trip Report

OK Fodorites, since everyone is beggining to get ready for the summer road trips, I figured I should finally begin posting my trip report.

Background info: We started planning a National Park vacation in January when it became apparent that I could get a three-week vacation window at work during the summer. I know that this will seem like a mad itinerary to a lot of people but it suited our style and we had a blast. We did drive slightly over 4,000 miles in twenty day with a pre-teen in tow but it worked out great.
We are a family of three: extensively traveled, early-retired husband, 11 yr old daughter and me, 35 yr old engineer. My husband had gone several times to all the parks we visited but I had not so I did a lot of Internet research. I found a lot of tips in this site, therefore I feel obliged to write this report to give back in part what I received for free!

Friday, July 10th – We got up at 5:30 AM and our neighbor drove us to the airport. We flew American Airlines from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Denver through Chicago. The tickets had been bought months before (February) after endless web surfing that did not stop until I found them for under $900 for the three of us!!! We had a good flight, no incidents or delays and a no hassle connection. Good omen for vacation start. Arrived in Denver at 4:30 PM and picked up rental Chevy Impala at Budget, found out that husband had refused car insurance, which nagged in the back of my mind for the rest of the trip. We headed for Estes Park and arrived at the hotel around 7:00 PM. We stayed in the Twin Owls Hotel– this is not a place to recommend, the pictures in the Internet have to be at least 10 years old and the place is falling apart. But since the bathroom was clean and the beds were not too bad we stuck to plan and stayed for two nights. We were finally ready to have dinner at 8:30 PM and the places which were open were rather full so we finally settled in Bob and Tony’s Pizza. The salad bar was closed so we had to have the pizzas. They were OK but not memorable.

Saturday, July 11th - Rocky Mountain NP: In the morning we had a good breakfast at the Big Horn Restaurant in Estes Park. They prepared lunch sandwiches while we were eating. This was not cheap ($48 for breakfast and lunch) but it was good and the sandwiches were big. Then we drove to Rocky Mountain NP and inaugurated our Annual Pass Card. Five minutes later we had our first wildlife encounter! A herd of Big Horn was in one end of a meadow while a Coyote family was running around at the other end. We headed for the Trail Ridge Road and the Alpine Visitor Center. First we saw a group of seven young elk males and then a large herd of females and little ones. As we went higher and higher up the mountain above the tree line we started noticing patches of snow. This was a major event for DD, she is born and raised in the tropics and has only seen snow a few times! We got out of the car and started running up the path towards the snow…and had our first experience with physical effort at 14,000 ft. After almost passing out a few times and walking the rest of the way very, very slowly she managed to throw a few snowballs in her jeans and T-shirt.
We drove back down to the Bear Lake shuttle area and had some trouble finding a parking spot. After 10 minutes we finally found one, boarded the shuttle, got fully covered with construction dust (Tip: wait for the bus with A/C). First we walked the trail around the lake. Then we had a picnic on the Nymph Lake and started walking to the Emerald Lake.
At this point two discoveries were made that would haunt us for the rest of the trip: our daughter hates to hike!!! And two: (this was only disturbing to me since I am the one afraid of heights) our daughter loves to rock climb!!! She did not want to walk to the Emerald Pool, she whined and pouted until we reached the middle pool where the path started deteriorating, thus making it more interesting to her. By the time we reached the Emerald Pool she was happy, the path had become a climb. We watched the people jump on the glacial melt water, lose their breath, turn blue rather quickly and jump out as soon as possible. This was really a beautiful spot; worth the effort and the hike back down was very pleasant.

We returned to Estes. DD was hungry so we decided to let her eat her dinner first while we had some before dinner drinks. She wanted Mexican so we sat in the outdoor patio at Casa Grande right by the river. Her burrito was very good, the Margarita was great and their Salsa was excellent. We had dinner a little later at a Nepalese restaurant also close the river walk. It seemed to be a very new place and they did not have a liquor license yet. They offered a small buffet. The lamb curry and the green beans were real good. ($14 dollars for the two of us)

We returned to the hotel since we had to get up at 4:00 AM so that we could meet for our next day adventure in Loveland. We went to the hotel office to ask for a wakeup call and were given an alarm clock (notice that this implies that the room did not even have one).

Sunday, July 12th – The balloon: We had scheduled a sunrise balloon ride with Longmont Hot Balloon Company. We met at the appointed place at 5:00 AM, met the owner, Joe. He launched a helium-filled party balloon to see how the wind was blowing higher up and he decided to change his plan. The three of us and another couple going in the flight got in his Suburban and went to a different place were the wind was more appropriate to launch the balloon. We went to a field and started unfolding and filling the balloon. Took around an hour to get ready and finally we were in the air with a truly magnificent view of the Rocky Mountains. After an hour and a half and 10 miles of drift we landed on a field after startling a few horses and some people as we flew above their houses, clearing the roofs by about three feet. I must admit that I was a bit uneasy at this point and thinking about me and my stupid ideas…Nevertheless, this was really a nice experience, DD got a kick out of it but I think that I was the one more impressed about the flight, my husband liked it but thought it was a lot money. The balloon ride can now be crossed of the “must-do-at-least-once” experience list. The owner and his assistants took us for a little picnic and then back to the original meeting place were the cars had been left.

We were ready for the first long drive of the trip: heading towards Grand Teton. The plan was to drive to Rawlins, WY and spend the night there but we had calculated the travel time using a speed limit of 55mph and were pleasantly surprised to find mostly 75mph. By early afternoon we were by Cheyenne and we decided to keep driving and head for Lander instead of Rawlins. Arrived around 5:00 PM somewhat beat, found a room in the Best Western which looked like a 5 start hotel suite when compared to the room we had in Estes. DD wanted to dip in the pool for around an hour while I read a little. We showered and went to dinner at the Hitching Rack, recommended in the hotel when DD formally announced that she wanted steak. We had a shrimp pasta and a bottle of wine. DD had cheese filled chicken (notice she did not have steak as originally stated). The pasta was good, the wine was cheap and the chicken was especially good.
marigross is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 03:56 AM
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Monday, July 13th – Grand Teton: Arrived around 11:00 through the Moran entrance this is a truly beautiful drive. The first glimpses of the mountains are magnificent. It was too early for check-in so we stopped by the visitor center and attended a Ranger program about the park. We had a little lunch at the Chuckwagon Restaurant in Colter Bay and went driving around. WE were back at 3:00 PM and checked in and soon after went to the corrals for the Stagecoach Dinner we had scheduled. My daughter and I rode on the wagon and my husband went of the horses. Naturally, DD still denies that she had selected to go on wagon when we asked at home and wanted to go on the horse. She was not excited about the wagon until the end when she was allowed to ride shotgun on the way back. This is a nice activity and is adequate for the smaller kids. The ride itself took approximately 45 minutes through the woods until we reached a clearing with the campground and campfire. The day was still too hot to sit around. We had a Fajita dinner, which was decent, and the cowboys were teaching the kids how to crack the whips. If I was redoing the itinerary I might skip this activity since it took the entire afternoon and there were many things we could not do.
After the ride we drove to Jackson Lake Lodge in hopes of seeing moose since this is the prime spot according to the Ranger program we attended. The lodge sitting area is magnificent, with windows that encase a perfect view of the mountains. We got ourselves some drinks at the Blue Heron Bar and sat in the terrace. After half an hour and very close to dusk we saw everyone taking off towards the hill next to the lodge so we went after and were able to see a group of moose males. The knowledgeable people (not us) said this was very unusual since the males are usually not seen in groups. They were far away and it was getting dark rather fast but we still saw them rather well with the binoculars.
Sitting in the Jackson Lake Lodge terrace was one of the most beautiful moments of the trip. The sunset was absolutely magnificent. Next time I will shell out the money and try to stay in the Lodge.
We went back to the cabin and went to bed early since we had plans again for the early morning. Our daughter got a humongous kick out of staying in a real log cabin and was perfectly happy to stay in the other room. The cabin was simple but charming. The bathroom was tiny. We heard from the people at the chuckwagon dinner that a cabin could be rented to two different parties sharing a bathroom so I guess we were lucky to make a reservation for three as opposed to a couple with a kid. It was cool in the evening but we did not think to turn on the heat.
marigross is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 03:59 AM
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Tuesday, July 14th – Jackson/Grand Teton: We got up at 5:00 AM to drive to Jackson for our scenic/whitewater breakfast rafting trip. The room was cold!!! We dressed hurriedly and were out of the room and in the car with the heat on within half an hour. We saw mule deer at different areas during the drive to Jackson. We arrived at Charlie Sands around 5:45 and we went to get a coffee across the street. By 7:30 we got loaded into the buses are driven to the Snake river landing area where we got lifejackets and were loaded into the rafts. We reviewed a few rafting commands and we were off. The first part of the trip is a scenic float down river and we were able to observe a lot of birds. WE had an amazing opportunity to see an osprey attack an eagle before it went hunting so that the eagle could not steal its catch. The eagle took off and flew straight over the raft at not more than twenty feet over us. We then stopped for breakfast at the Sands campground where they had had an overnight group so the fire was still going. This was most appreciated since it was almost 8:30 AM, the sun was overcast and it was still cold!
After eating we got back in the boats and floated ten more minutes down river where we had to get off so that we could prepare for the whitewater part of the trip. We put all our stuff in the bus, dressed with the jackets and pants they provided, donned the lifejackets and set off towards the river again. The people in the rafts were rearranged to get a better paddler distribution. Thank God the sun had finally come out and it was warming up because we got soaked! There were six or seven rapids of different intensity so we got a good run.
According to my daughter this was activity was a tie for the best vacation moment winner. It was fun! Not so wild that it was scary but enough to make it exciting. Between the rapids she jumped in the river and swam with the other kids along the boat. The kids (and adults) had a blast. Very highly recommended!
We were back in the Sands parking lot by noon, changed in their restrooms and headed back to Teton. We parked in Jenny Lake, bought some sandwiches in the General Store and headed for the ferry. We walked from the ferry to the Hidden Falls and hiked back to the ferry house. The falls are beautiful and absolutely worth the walk. We saw some people from the climbing school going up the cliff face. This was more impressive to my daughter than the falls themselves. Needless to say, she did not want to hike back but she was not given a choice, again (remember the Emerald Lake at RMNP) she whined, pouted and lagged behind. By the time we made it to the ferry house (2 miles) she had been bribed with Teddy bears and brownie desserts and she was more willing to walk (this was a bad precedent).
Mid-afternoon we got back in the car and headed for Yellowstone. Had some road construction delays but not too bad. We had reservations in Canyon Lodge and had planned to drive by Fishing Bridge. We missed the turn, kept driving towards the west and did not know we were not going the right way until we had had driven past the Old Faithful overpass. At that point we had not choice but to keep driving north to Madison and then head east. We finally reached Canyon Lodge at 8:30 PM, checked in and went to the Restaurant to eat. We had Prime Rib and wine, DD had chicken wings that she gave back because they were too spicy so she went back to the salad bar. It was very dark and we had a little trouble finding the door to the cabin. The room was satisfactory for sleeping (not great but OK), the bathroom tiny.
A note on altitude and drinking, it is not the same as when you are at sea level. This was the first night I had before dinner drinks and tried to consume my allotted half of the wine bottle. By the end of the first glass from the dinner bottle I realized that I was well on my way to being blasted!! I could not have driven I had had to. At this point I thought it was due to the long day (rafting, hiking, driving, getting relatively lost and requiring more driving, etc…) but it was not. It took a few days before I could consume what I consider normal amounts of alcohol without feeling impacted by it!

marigross is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 07:32 AM
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Mari -- what was the name of the Stagecoach Dinner that you did? Was it out of Jackson or elsewhere?
laurieb_nyny is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 07:38 AM
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Very enjoyable report, mari. We'll be going to Colorado this September, so your comments about the Trail Ridge Road having snow in July is something for us to ponder.

kopp is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 07:39 AM
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The Stagecoach event was within the park. We reserved through and we paid in the Colter Bay Activity center.
marigross is offline  
Apr 6th, 2005, 03:37 AM
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Thursday, July 15th – Yellowstone: we got up at 7:00, had breakfast in the Canyon Cafeteria, put on one more jacket because we were still cold, bought a baseball cap to hide the fact that there are no blow driers in the Canyon Cabins and headed for the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. We looked around, drove to the upper and lower falls viewpoints. We then continued south towards Yellowstone Lake stopping along the way for viewpoints and little trails. We loved the Dragon Mouth Geyser. Eventually we made our way towards Old Faithful. We had a small lunch in the Snowlodge and walked towards the Old Faithful Inn. There is a difference between seeing a picture and actually being there. The lodge is amazing! A grownup dream tree house. We left rather quickly so that we could look at the eruption. It was most impressive. We started to walk to see the other geysers. The daughter was offered ice cream afterwards. This was truly a wonderful place! After we went all the way to Morning Glory we started back towards the lodge. My husband stayed to see the Rainbow Geyser eruption that was scheduled for sometime in the next two hours and we returned to the Inn. Fifteen minutes later, while we were still eating our ice cream, he showed up all excited about the water show! We had missed it by ten minutes. At this point we headed back to Canyon and when we saw a group of people by the street we jumped out of the car cameras in hand and there was a group of absolutely beautiful male elk on the meadow. Since we had been very disappointed with the wildlife viewings we decided to walk down into the meadow. After a five minute walk dodging puddles of various substances, we got reasonably close and took our pictures. We saw other animals on they way to the hotel but not nearly as nice as this group was. We headed back to the Canyon Lodge Restaurant. Had a glass of wine while we waited for our table and had a very average dinner. I had trout and DH had curried chicken, both were OK but nothing to write home about. DD had some spinach ravioli that were rather good. At this point I realized that being tired had not had that much to do with my drinking experience the night before because I was almost equally blasted after the end of the second glass of wine. Went home and slept.

Friday, July 16th – Yellowstone: This time we started with the Madison Basin and worked our way to Mammoth Springs. We had to stop several times in the morning to allow the buffalo to cross the street. DD stated in Madison that she had had enough of the sulfur smell and that all geysers looked (and smelled) alike and that she was not going to walk anymore. We found a bench by the ranger station and told her she could stay there while we walked. She missed the longer boardwalks on both Madison and Mammoth. I loved Mammoth, must have spend two rolls of film on this spot only. I think it is one of the most beautiful and different areas in Yellowstone. It is surreal to see that what looks like a winter fairytale spring is really a boiling pool surrounded by minerals. We then drove to Roosevelt were we inquired in the restaurant about the famous ribs and they told us that they would not take reservations it was only 2:00 PM so we decided to go to Tower and as far as construction would allow into the Dunraven Pass and return later. We parked by the Tower General Store and wanted to walk down to the falls but the path had been washed out and had been closed by the second overlook. This was very disappointing but it was still a very nice view. We got back in the car after some ice cream and drove to the pass. On the way we again spotted a group of people with cameras, we quickly disembarked and saw a male moose at the bottom of the creek. We walked down, got as close as 25ft and took pictures a lot of pictures. The humongous mosquitoes harassed me so I hurried back to the car. We kept driving until we hit the trail to Mt. Washburn. The view from the pass is totally unbelievable. It was getting late and the oxygen was short so we did not hike all the way to the tower. We made our way back to Roosevelt after looking again at the moose that was still in the same place. Since we had missed the wildlife throughout the park we decided to drive up to the Lamar Valley to see if we got lucky. We drove all the way to the East Entrance and back to Roosevelt but no animals except a herd of female elk were spotted.
We got to the restaurant, got our name in the list and settled in the rocking chairs with a drink to wait. The ribs were good! Again, the ribs were good. Not Xanterra’s ‘upscale-wannabe cafeteria’ fare but real good. DD ate the all of the half rack. After dinner we rolled into the car-happily stuffed. Spotted the parked cars and people, jumped out of the car and we saw a bear up in the hill. It was far away but the binoculars did the trick. After that we drove all the way back to Canyon Lodge and collapsed.
marigross is offline  
Apr 6th, 2005, 03:49 AM
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Saturday, July 17th – SLC/Provo UT: We left Yellowstone through Madison after breakfast at the Canyon General Store. The food was nicer and cheaper than the one in the Cafeteria, so I would recommend it. We drove and drove and drove…. Eventually stopped for lunch in the Tremonton UT Denny’s and kept driving to SLC. I wanted to do the Temple Square and maybe the Genealogical Archives but husband showed no enthusiasm whatsoever and wanted to know my exact plan, which I obviously did not have. This led to a quick return to the car and a few more hours of rather silent driving which took us all the way to Provo (this is one of those very few instances where sulking can be productive). We realized that we had gained a day in Moab since the original plan was to stay near or even before SLC and then a second night closer to Moab. We found a Holiday Inn checked in, settled and decided to go and find something to drink. This is where we found out about Utah alcohol laws. The only eating/drinking area in the hotel was the Ruby River Restaurant. We sat in the ‘bar’ and ordered two beers, the waitress suddenly looked confused and asked us if we had a reservation to eat. She told us that she could not serve us alcohol if we were not eating. It was only 5:00 and we were not hungry yet but wanted a beer. The waitress then said that we could order a loaf of bread for $1.50 and then she could serve us alcohol. We had our beers in the bar area tables and I was totally surprised that our daughter was allowed to sit with us when she arrived since they seem to be so strict with anything alcohol related. She had been watching TV in the room for a while and arrived in the restaurant after we had been seated (there was no TV in Canyon Lodge). There was not much to do so we stayed there until we decided it was time to eat. We usually do not like hotel restaurants but we saw a lot of local looking people arriving so we decided to eat there. Could have saved the $1.50 bread loaf! We had 14oz prime ribs which were really, really good. The baked potato was fried on the outside, good but I don’t think it adds anything to the taste except a lot of calories. The Children’s Menu had an 8oz steak. This is what DD had and she thought it was very good; she actually made a dent in it.

Sunday, July 18th – Moab, UT: We had breakfast in the hotel, got in the car and drove for quite a while through the big and scenic Utah nothing. We got to the La Quinta hotel a day before schedule but had no problem adding another night. The people at the information center were very helpful and recommended some sites to see Indian pictographs if we had time. We headed toward Canyonlands NP and stopped in the Dead Horse Point. They had a very nice display in their visitor center. We walked to the viewpoints, I was very impressed by the view of the canyons! We then drove the various viewpoints of on the NP Island in the Sky district. Parked by the upheaval dome and hiked two thirds of the way to the point. DD whined about the walking until it became a scramble/climb and then her true spidergirl nature came out and she was happy. The crater view is incredible. There was a thunderstorm across the canyon. It was impressive to see that ‘little’ cloud, all by itself sending lightning down. It gives you a certain true size perspective. When you look into the crater you can just imagine the meteor hitting and extinguishing the dinosaurs with the effect! After this DH wanted to come down the Schaefer Trail but it was getting a little late and the light was fading fast so we decided to leave it for the next day. We went back to Moab and went to La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant for dinner. The enchiladas were good and the Coronas cold so we were happy. We returned to the hotel and did some laundry in the guest area.

marigross is offline  
Apr 6th, 2005, 10:06 AM
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We're in the throes of planning our Yellowstone/Teton/SLC trip this July and I'm throughly enjoying your report! Three questions (so far...I'm sure I'll have more as your info sinks into my head):

1. What did you do on Wed.?

2. Where were these great ribs in Roosevelt? Once you put your name on the list, how long was the wait and how was the drive back to Canyon?

3. How long did the drive from Yellowstone to SLC take?

Thanks for sharing your adventures!
gtrgrl is offline  
Apr 7th, 2005, 03:42 AM
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Kopp, do not fear, the Trail Ridge Road only had small patches of snow. In the visitor center they had a pile of snow. DD was on her t-shirt and jeans and I was wearing a light sweater over my polo shirt so it really was not cold. The day was nice and bright, maybe if the sun is not shining it would be on the cool side. The tundra environment was impressive (at least to me) so do not miss it if you can go. The drive is quite easy.

gtrgrl, (1) I just noticed that I made a mistake with the days in the beggining, we really started on Sat so there is not a day missing, I just caught up with the correct day.
(2) The ribs were in Roosevelt lodge restaurant and it took about an hour to get seated. Their front porch is great so we did not mind the waiting. I knew from Fodors that the ribs were good so I was willing to wait. The road from Roosevelt to Canyon was closed last summer so we had to go back through Mammoth Springs which took slightly over an hour. If the road is open it should take around 40 min (?).

The website is really a great source of info. There are detailed maps to every park and announcements on road closings and conditions.

(3) The drive from Yellowstone to SLC took around 6 hours. I drove to give
marigross is offline  
Apr 7th, 2005, 04:20 AM
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Monday, July 19th – Moab, UT: We started out early so we could go to Arches before the heat really started. We thought there would be a visitor center to resupply with film but it was under construction and we couldn’t find any. Thus it became the least photographed of the parks we visited. We went to see the Park Avenue area. DH twisted his ankle while stepping on the sidewalk border, it got swollen and hurt for the rest of the vacation but he could still walk. We took some pictures of the balancing rock and the Garden of Eden and went to the Window Arches. We went to the North Window and DD climbed as far as she could. Then we went to the South Window where she had some troubles finding a good path so DH went up with her. I took the pictures and then they told me go the other way around to meet them because it was closer. I understood that they wanted me to go up in the arch because it was easy. I started off but soon could not find a path or see them anymore so I turned back. They had gone to meet me the other way so they wound up circling the arch again while I had to wait by the car for them.
Then we went to the double arches. This was a rather smooth climb so I went almost all the way up under the arch. It is the only place where you can really appreciate the span and thinness of the rock ledge. Truly impressive! DD was in heaven climbing all over. We went to the delicate arch viewpoint. The day was getting hotter and we were not sure about how DH’ ankle would respond so we decided to do the Delicate Arch hike in the late afternoon.
We then drove to the Devils Garden Trail Head and we went to look at Pine Arch and the other ones along. When we were by the Landscape Arch, DD was upset that she was not allowed to climb onto the arches and ‘what was the point of walking if you couldn’t climb?!?’ DH gave her the keys to the car and a bottle of water and told her to walk back and wait for us. I almost fainted but agreed to the plan since I did want to see the other arches and figured she was pretty safe anyway. She missed the next arch for about 100meters and she definitely could have climbed all over this one.
We walked up to the Navajo Arch (must have been 100ºF by now) and the Partition (?) Arch. I loved this hike! The Partition (?) Arch was my favorite of the day. We made record time getting back to the car since I was by then quite nervous about DD’s whereabouts .Needless to say, everything was fine. It was too hot to attempt another hike so we decided to go back to Canyonlands and come down the Schaefer Trail.
I had been a little uneasy about this because the Ranger had clearly stated that a four wheel, high clearance vehicle was needed for the trail (this is not the description of the Chevy Impala we were driving) and that they had had road washouts during the past week, but DH said he had done twice with sedan cars and that there was nothing to worry about. We approached the trail head and in the first five seconds I realized that we had made a mistake. There was a lot of gravel in the road and if you tried to go faster than 3 mph, the car started bouncing around in the street. This is not a comforting sensation when you are driving on the edge of a cliff.
I must say that three different parties driving jeeps that were coming up the trail hailed us down and tried to dissuade DH in several languages of driving down. I must also say that these conversations did nothing to calm my increasing sense of hysteria. I do willingly admit that the first view of the open canyon is breathtaking, and that is all I can say because it was the only good look I got based on the fact that my eyes were closed the rest of the way.
The drive along the Amalfi coast in Italy is a leisurely stroll compared with the Schaefer Trail. It is a 10 feet wide dirt road along the edge of a sheer canyon wall with a 15% grade. I am afraid of heights, I am not a confident driver, I did not enjoy what was to come. After all these years my husband should know this. After suffering in silence and darkness (eyes closed) for at least fifteen minutes (they seemed a lot longer though), I finally gave up and pleaded that we turn around, that we go back to safety since getting killed the first week of vacation was not in my plans. DH said that we were halfway down anyway so it would be just as bad going back up as continuing down and that turning around would be quite difficult. I opened my eyes, verified that this was true so I resigned myself to restrain all signs of the nervous breakdown I was experiencing. I must have been doing a good job because the only comment DD made was to remark that she could hear my breathing.
A few minutes and a couple of switchbacks later we were confronted with the washout that everyone kept warning us about. The first indication of trouble was a humming sound coming from DH. I opened my eyes and yes, there it was: the road was impassable. He parked the car, put on the brake (he does not do this regularly), got out of the car, walked towards the big black hole, came back to the car and announced; “well, we are not making it over that one”. The bottom of the canyon was clearly in sight, the road was plain to see and there it was, we had to go back up. But not only did we have to go back up but also we had to turn around!
By this point, I had a blinding headache and was feeling acutely nauseous, but then again being a reasonable woman and knowing that a fit of hysterics would not help, I kept silent. DD was completely quiet by now so my nervousness had come through anyway. He got back into the car, and drove in reverse to the last switchback where the road was a little wider. Then he drove forward and back six inches at the time, right onto the precipice until the car was finally facing the other way. I must say that his breathing was coming a little quicker and stronger than it usually does. Tears were silently threatening to drop down into my face so I kept sniffling quietly with my eyes closed. We then slowly returned to the top of the canyon, passing several cars that must be wondering to this day and forever how the hell that Chevy Impala made it up past the washouts in the Schaeffer Trail. I think that enduring labor was far more pleasant than going down that canyon road; fear is irrational!
I must say that in hindsight, almost a year later, I must admit that I was overreacting and that it was really not that bad. We really could have thrown some rocks into the hole in th rock and made it through. Again, if you have and issue with height or are not a confident driver do not attempt this.
We returned to Moab since DD wanted to shop for her National Park charm bracelet link. I was still feeling uneasy so we stopped in the Slickrock café for a drink. I was so out of sorts that I ordered a Perrier with lime to settle my stomach, which only helped a little bit when I should have really ordered a double cognac straight up and gotten over the entire Schaeffer Incident. I was emotionally and physically worn out so I gave up on the Delicate Arch hike since I was in no mood to wrestle with DD not wanting to walk or worrying about leaving her somewhere waiting for us. I still regret it, should have had the medicinal cognac!
We went shopping and got an “I Love Moab” link for her since they didn’t have Arches or Canyonland links. Then went back to the hotel. We had a snack of sushi that we bought in the City Market and laid down for a while. After a shower my murderous instincts were beginning to recede so we started to think about dinner. Tried to make reservations at different restaurants but a lot of them were closed on Tuesday. Finally we decided on the Red Cliff Winery. We drove along the river and found the place. It is a beautiful ranch with the restaurant terrace facing the river bank and the canyon wall. I would have sat on the terrace but the wind was blowing, carrying sand and it was still hot outside so we sat inside. I ordered trout, DH had some salmon and DD ordered some chicken. My trout was two times better than the one I had in Yellowstone but still I think it could have been better. Then again, this was not my best day. We had a bottle of the local Chardonnay with dinner and thought that it was a decent wine.
marigross is offline  
Apr 12th, 2005, 02:46 PM
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next d
marigross is offline  
Apr 12th, 2005, 06:32 PM
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Great trip report…keep it coming.
Thanks for the vivid Schaefer Trail description. I must admit, based on what I read about it, I was tempted. I even convinced DH to rent a SUV for the trip. I am afraid of heights, so now I know – I can’t do this. Thanks for putting everything into perspective.

We had a similar experience a couple years ago in Nova Scotia. Gravel road, 1 lane (thank god we did not meet any other car), 15% grade, no railing with high drop-off cliff on the right side (the passenger side – my side!!) getting worse and worse with every inch and so narrow, we could not turn around. One such experience is enough! And I could not say anything – I picked the road. We are laughing about the memory now, but it was not funny there.

Where next from Moab?
xyz99 is offline  
Apr 13th, 2005, 03:42 AM
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Tuesday, July 20th – Moab, UT: Started out from the hotel towards the south of Canyonlands and Newspaper Rock. On the way we stopped at Wilson Arch. Spidergirl jumped out of the car and went right up, slowly followed by her mother. This was a pretty nice climb but sandy, making the rock a little slippery. The view is beautiful from the top of the arch. I made it all the way to the top!!! Got some great pictures.
We kept driving through the desert fields and into the canyons until we reached the newspaper rock. I had seen pictures but as usual, they did not compare to experiencing the place. The wall was covered with hunters, foot and hand prints, suns, moons, elk, beavers and many other things. Every time we looked we saw some different image. Even the graffiti that defaces the Indian artwork is from late 19th century. When we went back to the car we returned to Moab and drove around the canyons looking for the other Indian art sites that were listed in the Visitor Center pamphlet. We really liked this scavenger-hunt style drive. Other cars were doing the same route and it was amusing to see which group spotted the hieroglyphics first. Amazing stuff!…and a beautiful drive along the canyon and river. We returned to Moab and stopped in JAX pizza for dinner. Good but not memorable, at least it was cheap.

Thursday, July 21th – Moab/Bryce, UT: We got up early and checked out of the hotel after having breakfast. Since we liked so much the Indian paintings the day before we decided to take the advice given by the host at the Moab visitor center and go to see the art in Spago. The guy had told us it was much better than Newspaper Rock but DH was skeptical. The drive took approximately 30 minutes but the place was amazing! We were a little lost since the signs are not very descriptive and most of the time we were not sure we were going the right way. After the first site we were lucky to see another car further along or we could have missed most of the art from other periods. DD got a kick out of this place. Very recommended.

We geared up for the looong drive from Spago to Bryce canyon. We drove through the Luna Mesa. Otherworldly, desolate, beautiful. Our route had been placed to go through Capitol Reef NP. We entered this park and I was wondering what the big thing was about. Big surprise! Suddenly there was a cabin, I wondered who would be crazy enough to build there but just around the corner was the river and then the most wonderful explosion of green grass and fruit trees-Fruita. The shock value of the contrast between the Luna Mesa and Fruita is indescribable! We stopped to look at the pictographs and then stopped in the Capitol Reef visitor center. There had been some rains and the paths were closed. This turned out to be the best from a timing perspective because we would have been too late to Bryce Canyon.

We drove around and came back to the Fruita Historic District museum. There are several fruit tree orchards but only the apricots were ripe. We stopped and picked fruit to our hearts content. Neither DD nor myself (tropical island girls) had ever seen apricots, pears or apple trees so we loved the opportunity. The apricots were still warm from the sun, running with juices and so delicious…we are appreciative and grateful of small miracles!!! We ate apricots all the way to Torey.

The drive from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon is wonderful. The trip from Torey to Tropic on Route 12 through Escalante State Park can be a destination by itself! From Capitol Reef’s desert like environment we went up and up into a forest. The lookouts on this route are worth stopping. There were deer all over. At one point we felt like we were driving on the spine of the world, a road along a ridge with slopes 100’s of feet down on both sides. This was one of my favorites scenic stretches (DH was driving, I was just looking) a close runner up to the approach to the Tetons. The rocks suddenly turned from muted browns and beiges into bright oranges and reds as we approached Bryce canyon. The first hoodoos outside the park were impressive. We checked in to Ruby’s Inn, got decent but far from impressive quarters and headed into the park just in time for sunset.

I will come out and say that from that moment on Bryce Canyon is my favorite National Park and way up there in the overall list. I never expected to be so impressed by this park so there was an element of surprise, which always makes a difference for shock value!
We approached sunset point just as the sky was turning. We parked and boarded the shuttle to Sunset Point. There are no words to describe the Hoodoos illuminated by the sun. The reds, oranges and whites against the bright blue and violets in the sky will be remembered forever. I was so impressed that I do not even have pictures of this sunset. I just stood and stared. Even DD was quiet. Bryce is the perfect size for the human scale; it is big enough to be majestic but small enough to still relate to a personal experience.

When the sun finally set and we woke up from the trance, we headed out to the lodge to see if we could get a dinner reservation. There were some tables empty but the evening was so lovely that we wanted to sit in the terrace so we made our request and went to the gift shop to wait 45-mins. This turned out to be a waste of time because when we came back two tables had been turned over in the terrace and none had been reserved for us. There are not that many dining options in the area so we agreed to sit by the windows facing the terrace. DH had a Leg of Lamb (very good), I had a seafood linguini (good) and DD had a chicken Caesar salad. A bottle of Cabernet and we were set for the evening. When we came out of the restaurant it had cooled down quite a bit so maybe sitting outside in the terrace was not the best option after all!
We headed back down to Ruby’s and crashed since we had to get up early in the morning for the mule rides. It was a very long day with lots of driving but we were sooo happy we did this through Route 12 and not on Highway 70! We would have missed a lot…
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Apr 29th, 2005, 03:48 AM
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Thursday, July 22: Next day we got up early for our half day mule ride. It was on the cool side! We drove by the
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Feb 19th, 2009, 02:18 AM
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hummm... I never got around to finishing this! I wanted to add to my new profile.
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