Southwest Winter Wander

Old Jan 22nd, 2023, 01:11 PM
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Southwest Winter Wander

Because we’d had such a good time on our two previous January trips to Utah in 2020 and 2022, we decided to go for #3 in 2023.

2020

Into the Great Wide Open: Winter Edition

2022

Got rocks? A winter visit to Utah’s Orogenous Zones

Jan 9 -

It was 36 degrees when we left our home in the Colorado hills around 8:30 am. We followed Highway 24 west, the view of the Collegiate Peaks fabulously clear as we crossed Wilkerson Pass, the temperature dropping to 24 degrees as we passed through South Park and approached Hartsel.

The roads were dry, the skies blue, there was very little snow. We joined 285 S/24W and eventually snow covered Mt Harvard and Mt Princeton came into view; what a gorgeous day. We continued on 285, making a pit stop at the Poncha Springs visitor’s center, which is closed every time we’re in the area, today no exception.

We eventually joined 50 and drove over Monarch Pass (11,312 feet). As expected, there was a lot of snow up here, but none on the road, which is how I like it.

As we came off the pass we watched the temp drop from 15 to 2 as we drove between Sargents and Gunnison, where we stopped for quick lunch.

Afterwards we continued on 50 and were soon skirting the heart-breaking near empty Blue Mesa Reservoir, which now looks like a meadow in some spots.

The sunshine was gone, the skies now gloomy.

We continued on 50 to Montrose and then on to Grand Junction; our first stop an old favorite, Enstrom’s, where we tucked into massive cups of ice cream.

Then we checked into our favorite accommodation in the area - Hotel Maverick on the campus of Colorado Mesa University. Soon we were enjoying happy hour in their house restaurant/bar – Devil’s Kitchen.

Dinner that evening was at an Indian restaurant downtown – Guru’s – where we dined on paneer masala and chicken curry.

Then it was back to the hotel for a soak in their massive outdoor hot tub, which we had entirely to ourselves.

Jan 10 -

After fueling up at our favorite Grand Junction breakfast joint (Pufferbelly’s) we left town via I-70 west, under high clouds and a temperature of 37 F.

We eventually turned off towards Hanksville, our destination Goblin Valley State Park ($20). It was now 51 F, but weirdly cold, thanks to the wind. Here we walked the Curtis Bench Trail, had a rather windy picnic lunch, and free hiked in the Valley of the Goblins, several inter-connecting valleys filled with thousands of hoodoos (goblins). We could have spent all day there, but a storm was moving in.


Goblin Valley State Park

Goblin Valley State Park

Three Sisters, Goblin Valley State Park

Goblin Valley State Park

Goblin Valley State Park

All told we spent about 2.5 hours in the park and we were glad we’d incorporated it into our travel day rather than base in Hanksville as we’d originally considered. There were very few people and the roads in the area were practically deserted.

We then drove on to Capitol Reef National Park, picked up a map in the visitor’s center, and then checked into the deserted Red Sands Hotel. With a population of 242, and January being the lowest of the low season, we knew from experience that we’d be self-catering our meals here. It was either Subway…or well, Subway.

After our makeshift hotel room dinner, we soaked in the hot tub, but not for long - Utah tends to over-chlorinate and it’s hell on bathing suits.

Capitol Reef was just as we left it last January…the wind was blowing a gale outside our hotel window…and snow was on the way.

To be continued...


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Old Jan 22nd, 2023, 01:18 PM
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On board for what looks to be a cold and windy ride. You guys are tough to do this in January! Great photos.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2023, 01:20 PM
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Jan 11 -

Last night's howling wind brought in some ice and snow, but it didn't slow us down much. We logged just under eight miles today on various trails in Capitol Reef - I love this park, especially in January when it's pretty much deserted. We didn't see a single person on any of the trails we walked today. Booyah!


Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef

To be continued...

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Old Jan 22nd, 2023, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Nelson
On board for what looks to be a cold and windy ride. You guys are tough to do this in January! Great photos.
Not as tough as we thought...
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Old Jan 22nd, 2023, 01:37 PM
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Jan 12 –

We left Capitol Reef and drove to Boulder, UT detouring to Burr Trail Road to explore beautiful Glen Canyon. We then continued on via the roller coaster of UT 12 which took us through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and on to Bryce Canyon City.


Driving from Capitol Reef to Boulder

Burr Trail Road

Burr Trail Road

Burr Trail Road

Burr Trail Road

Burr Trail Road

Burr Trail Road

Burr Trail Road

Burr Trail Road

Burr Trail Road

UT 12

UT 12

After checking into our hotel (Best Western Grand) we drove into Bryce Canyon National Park just to check things out...only two miles of the 18 mile road are currently open due to a boatload of snow. We visited at the same time last year - to the day - and the entire road was open...evidently last year was an anomaly. Bryce Canyon isn't our main focus this trip anyway, just a bonus, but the park sure is pretty covered in snow.


Our hotel

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

To be continued...
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Old Jan 22nd, 2023, 01:48 PM
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Jan 13 -

It was eight degrees when we left Bryce Canyon City and drove the 21 miles to Kodachrome Basin State Park to check out the hiking trails this morning ($10).

Kodachrome isn't very big...we hiked the 3.5 mile Grand Parade Trail which led us back to two box canyons, and then tried to hike the Panorama Trail, but the frozen ground had begun to soften and it was a gumbo mud bath, so we bailed.


Kodachrome State Park

Kodachrome State Park

Kodachrome State Park

Kodachrome State Park

Kodachrome State Park

Kodachrome State Park

We returned to Bryce Canyon and tried to walk the closed snow-covered road to Paria Point, but the snow was too soft and too deep and we kept breaking through - it was very much a snowshoeing trail today, not a winter hiking trail. So, we settled for hiking a bit of the Peek-a-boo Trail and a groomed trail in the Gateway trail system adjacent to the national park, managing to log another three miles before calling it a day.


Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

To be continued...
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Old Jan 22nd, 2023, 02:00 PM
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Jan 14 -

It was 16 degrees when we drove the 20 minutes to Red Canyon this morning, hoping to try out a few of the many hikes I'd ear-marked. Best laid plans...despite checking online minutes before we drove out there, the Visitor's Center was closed for the season! Say what? That's not what their website said.

Normally that wouldn't be an issue, but the snow was several feet deep and not a single trail could be accessed without a 4x4 adventure...evidently Red Canyon isn't winter visitor friendly.


Near Red Canyon

So, we returned to Bryce and gave Peek-a-boo Trail another go, and trudged along a bit of the Rim Trail. The snow is deep and soft and breaking trail is too exhausting to contemplate, so we called it good. The clouds moved in this afternoon and three more inches of the white stuff are expected tonight.


Peek-a-boo Trail

Views from Peek-a-boo Trail

Peek-a-boo Trail

Peek-a-boo Trail

Peek-a-boo Trail

Views from Peek-a-boo Trail

Views from Peek-a-boo Trail

Views from Peek-a-boo Trail

Looks like we're in for a noisy night in the hotel...there are hardly any guests, but the hotel has decided to clump all of us in the same corner, so we've got loud TV's on either side and heavy-footed people above.

To be continued...
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Old Jan 22nd, 2023, 02:21 PM
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Jan 15 -

We woke to several inches of fresh snow this morning with more on the way. Utah has received double the amount of snowfall they usually do in a year, and it's much needed.

We left Bryce around 10 am, planning to let the snowplows work their magic before we hit the road. It was sunny when we left, but by the time we joined 89 south, the tides had turned and we were soon driving through a blizzard, all the snowplows going in the opposite direction. A couple of cars had gone off the road and visibility was poor. We immediately bailed on our plan to drive to Kanab via Zion National Park.


89 south - Snowmaggedon

But then, suddenly, the snow turned to rain, and the road became clear, so we changed our minds again and headed to Zion.


We saw turkeys, bison and even a couple of big horn sheep, but those Zion views were a bit harder to come by, although the waterfalls were abundant.


Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

After lunch in Hurricane, we continued our drive, leaving Utah at Colorado City, entering Arizona, leaving Arizona and then entering Utah again. Once in Kanab, we checked into our home for the next three nights, Comfort Suites. Fingers crossed for better weather tomorrow.

To be continued...


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Old Jan 22nd, 2023, 06:40 PM
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I am traveling vicariously with you. So glad you braved the weather so I can come along. It pays to be flexible at this time of year.

Thanks for reporting.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2023, 02:04 AM
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I was scrolling around looking for snow photos and…bingo! 🤣

Not planning any trips that way, but fascinated by the landscape. Nice shots.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2023, 05:55 AM
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Adelaidean -

Just last night while sitting in the hot tub in Bluff, we were told by a rugged up employee that it never snows here. Well, this morning we woke to a fresh layer of snow. Hmmmmm. It seems to be following us around.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2023, 07:02 AM
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Jan 16 -

We woke to a Kanab snow storm – thick wet, fluffy snow that was still falling. Definitely not hiking weather. So, we curled up with a couple of good books instead. When we went out looking for lunch hours later, the roads were covered in several inches of wet slushy snow. That evening, it began to rain on top of the snow. We’re used this type of weather in Colorado – in the spring – but it felt odd in January.

Utah was feeling the affects of the powerful winter storm that was battering California. The local news advised us that this was just the beginning. We had 10 days remaining, and we began to wonder if we should cut our losses and head home early instead.


Yowsa

To be continued...
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Old Jan 23rd, 2023, 12:31 PM
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Jan 17-

After yesterday's complete and utter shite weather, this girl was ecstatic to see even a sliver of sunshine. A stop at the incredibly helpful Visitor's Center revealed that all the nearby hiking trails were muddy and several vehicles had gotten stuck on Kanab’s many dirt roads, so on to Plan B. We needed to stick to the pavement or risk being swallowed up by the mud.

So, we did what we could; we took the Johnson Canyon driving tour, visited the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary to play with a few cats and watch the guinea pigs (I’d have enjoyed a tour here, but we’d been told they weren’t operating due to the mud – their hikes were also inaccessible for the same reason), drove out to Coral Pink Sand Dunes (invisible due to snow), walked the 3.2 mile path around Jackson Flat Reservoir and had lunch at a Cuban restaurant, where the food tasted suspiciously Mexican.

Not how we'd envisioned our stay in Kanab, but we all know that Mother Nature is the boss.


Johnson Canyon

Johnson Canyon

Johnson Canyon

Johnson Canyon

Johnson Canyon

Jackson Flat Reservoir

Jackson Flat Reservoir

Jackson Flat Reservoir

To be continued…
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Old Jan 23rd, 2023, 12:59 PM
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Jan 18 -

Today we drove from Kanab, UT to Page, AZ...not via US 89, which would have taken us about 1:15, but via the much prettier and meandering 89A, which took close to five hours with stops.

We gained 2,000 feet of elevation within 25 minutes of leaving Kanab, and were soon driving through the Kaibab National Forest and a boatload of snow. Our route took us past Jacob Lake Inn, the gateway to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (closed seven months of the year).


Kaibab National Forest

Kaibab National Forest

Kaibab National Forest

Jacob Lake Inn

Jacob Lake Inn

Jacob Lake Inn

We took a detour to Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, but didn't make it very far due to the drifting snow on the access road.


Vermillion Cliffs National Monument access road

Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

We visited Cliff Dwellers and Navajo Bridge, and then made the detour to Lee's Ferry, the only place within Glen Canyon where visitors can drive to the Colorado River.


Cliff Dwellers

Navajo Bridge

Views from the Navajo Bridge

Lee's Ferry

Lee's Ferry

We ended the day at Horseshoe Bend ($10) where we walked about a mile to one of the most photographed areas of the Colorado River, which I found near impossible to photograph.


Horseshoe Bend (promotional photo)

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend

It was a day of beautiful varied scenery and sunshine; I was glad we hadn’t given up on the trip.

To be continued...
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Old Jan 23rd, 2023, 01:49 PM
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Jan 19 -

Today we visited the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River, the second highest concrete-arch dam in the United States. The water in Lake Powell is currently 176 feet below normal and looking at it depressed the hell out of me, which is how I feel every time we drive around Blue Mesa Reservoir near Gunnison, CO. The lack of water is downright scary.


Glen Canyon Dam as seen from Visitor's Center

Glen Canyon Bridge as seen from Visitor's Center

We explored the Glen Canyon National Recreation area and Wahweap Bay, then took 89 N towards Kanab to explore Lone Rock (we didn’t realize at the time that the rock is normally submerged in water – not a drop of water today).


Wahweap Bay

Wahweap Bay

Wahweap Bay

https://www.azcentral.com/picture-ga...ls/6690221001/

We then sought out the walk to The Toadstools - which, had it not been 31 F and the ground frozen, would have been a muddy nightmare.



The Toadstools

The Toadstools

The Toadstools

The Toadstools

The Toadstools

We tried to get to Paria Townsite, a ghost town said to be surrounded by colorful rocks and multi-layered cliffs, but the road was mess, so we took a pass.

We turned around, located and walked the trail to Hanging Garden and then returned to Page. We left AZ, entered UT, left UT and then re-entered AZ.





Hanging Garden

The Chains, near Hanging Garden

Page

We found Page to be an unattractive mish-mash of a town, probably because it was established as a housing camp for workers building the Glen Canyon Dam in 1957. It's now a jumble of boat shops, boat storage areas, fast food chains and one hotel after another all lined up in a row.

And weirdly, most of Page's churches are lined up right next to one another on the same road. Bill called it "the church souks", which anyone who has lived in the Middle East will understand.

But, we did find some very good Mexican food at El Tapatio, where we had linner (late lunch/early dinner) three times. We’re not into big plates of Mexican food with piles of rice and bean fillers, but their limited selection of a' la carte items was perfect.

To be continued...

Last edited by Melnq8; Jan 23rd, 2023 at 01:51 PM.
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Old Jan 24th, 2023, 04:02 PM
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Jan 20 -

I’d read that Page, AZ gets about two inches of snow a year, yet we got three inches of the white stuff overnight. Despite the weather, we managed to hike five miles (in and back) of the 10 mile Rim Trail that circles the city from above. I didn't expect much, but was pleasantly surprised - we walked in the direction of Tower Butte and were treated to some lovely views over Lake Powell.

I'd have liked to walk the whole thing, but it became a slippery mud bath as the ground softened, and yet another storm was brewing. The snow seems to be following us around.


Page

Page

Views from the Rim Trail

Rim Trail

Views from the Rim Trail

To be continued…
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Old Jan 24th, 2023, 04:51 PM
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Jan 21 -

It was 32 degrees and sunny when we left Page, via 89 S and 98. Antelope Canyon is the big draw in this area, and we saw a few large groups of tourists gathering to take the guided tour as we drove by.

We detoured to another section of Glen Canyon Recreation area and the Antelope Point Marina, and then joined 160 East.

We saw a sign for Navajo National Monument, so detoured some nine miles to the entrance via a snowy unplowed road. Entry is free and the monument has a nice visitor’s center and handful of trails, but due to the huge amount of snow only one was open – the Sandal Trail - so we put on our traction devices and made the trek down to the Cliff Dwellings overlook. The monument was a nice surprise on an otherwise relatively desolate drive.



Navajo National Monument

Navajo National Monument

Navajo National Monument

Navajo National Monument

Navajo National Monument

Back on the highway we were soon driving through an area of gorgeous rock formations near Tsegi, then the landscape went flat and red, and the road became very rough. Eventually we turned onto 191 North and were soon back in Utah.




Some five hours after leaving Page, AZ, we were pulling into Bluff, Utah, population 246.

To be continued...


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Old Jan 25th, 2023, 04:00 AM
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Still along for the ride, thanks
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Old Jan 25th, 2023, 04:24 AM
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Absolutely amazing and wonderful. Thank you!!
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Old Jan 25th, 2023, 06:29 AM
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Really fabulous photos, thanks for sharing! I love the picture frame.

Hope you don't mind a brief aside. My I was 12 my dad took my brother and I on a big road trip through the parks of the American West. This trip is probably the main reason I live in the West now. Our route took us past Glen Canyon dam under construction. It was an amazing sight. I remember looking down and seeing these big buckets pouring concrete into the damn. Then I saw people and realized these buckets were as big as a house.

One of my dad's photos.


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