Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Wild West

Since leaving the prairie of Oklahoma, we've spent eight days exploring the peaks and canyons of Colorado and Utah. The natural beauty of the West was our main motivation for the road trip, and it hasn't disappointed so far. The variety in landscapes has been striking. With a half a day of driving we went from snow-covered peaks to the Navajo desert filled with red mesas.

Another theme has been consistently great campsites. We spent much of the first leg of our journey staying with family and friends, which was great, but we're now in full out camping mode. We've had six camping nights already. A few of the sights had incredible views and peaceful solitude. And we've had lots of time to read at campsites.

Daisy made it to the rockies! Our first range was the Sangre de Cristo mountains, which are a perfect line of snow-capped peaks. We tried to take her up a Jeep trail in an effort to make it to the high alpine, but she didn't make it. 
Above 10,000 feet the snow was deep, but we were prepared! Nellie was sorry that she ever laughed at me for bringing the snowshoes.
After leaving the Sangre de Cristos we camped above Monarch Pass on the continental divide. We were totally alone with the incredible views .
The snowshoes were critical again. I climbed the peak in the background just after sunrise.
Post-faceplant on snowshoes. I tried to slide down like skiing, but tripped.  A heavy backpack makes for a hard faceplant
After three days/two nights in the mountains of Colorado, we set off for the red deserts of Utah. The transition was fast. All of a sudden it was eighty degrees!

Four corners was closed! Blast!
After several hours of driving through northern Arizona we snaked up into Utah to Zion National Park. Apparently May is already high season for the park (there were so many old people!), and several of the campsites were full. But we managed to grab a campsite along the river just outside the park.

The park has impressively tall canyons, but the real attraction is the Virgin River, which is a cold creek that supports a lush green valley. It is really soothing to see water in the desert.

Nellie wading in the narrows of the river. It was a great way to hike in the heat.
On our second day in the park we hiked away from the crowds to a smaller creek in the far corner of the park. We camped right next to the babbling brook, and spent most of the afternoon reading with our feet cooling in the water.

The creek, babbling and beautiful. It is a spring-fed river, and the water was cool but not cold.
Nell making lunch.
There is a famous arch on the side of the valley. It is big (the second-largest in the world) but kind of hard to get a good view of.
Nellie surveying the landscape.
After Zion we made our way toward Bryce Canyon National Park. We'll cover the park itself in the next post, but we rented mountain bikes on the way in and rode a fifteen mile loop in a place called Red Canyon. It was awesome! We had never mountain biked before, and were definitely in a little over our heads, but I can't imagine a prettier place to bike.

Zoom in to see Nellie on the ridge.
On top of a Hoodoo!

1 comment:

  1. Hoodoo! to yoo too! Keep on travelin' ,guys -- we're all having a great vicarious tour , waiting for our blogs to continue! Definitely not an edge for one writer over the other -- you are both great!

    And funny . . .