Saturday, October 31, 2015

October 2015 Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion trip with Mike Burkley and Bill Moore


Every year, a few of us who went to high school together, 40 years ago, get together to take a trip. We've spent a week at Big Sur California, then Point Reyes and Mendocino California, and this year, a week in Utah and Arizona at a few National Parks. Jerry Grinstead, Mike Burkley, Bill Moore, and KR Grace have traveled the past two years. This year, KR could not make it and he was missed. The dates of this year's trip was October 17 through October 24.

I left Sacramento on Friday October 16 planning to be in Las Vegas to pick up Bill Moore at McCarran International Airport on Saturday Morning. I wanted to leave the day before, enjoy the drive down highway 395, and camp at Grandview Campground in the Inyo National Forest.

Mono Lake, off Highway 395 in California, October 16, 2015
The clouds, sunshine, rain and rainbows were awesome.

Anywhere I pointed my camera was beautiful. Highway 395 in California.
Grandview Campground is known for its dark sky and exceptional stargazing. I was not disappointed. I arrived at about 6:00 PM and decided I would have some tea and soup for dinner. I did not pitch a tent since it was getting dark already. By the time I finished my tea and soup, it was almost too dark to see. By 7:15 the Milky Way was prominent overhead. I sat at the picnic table in the dark. I considered making a fire, but decided, the stars were better off without a fire. I crawled into the back of my Rav4 and read awhile, before sleeping. No tent, since I would try to leave about 6:00 AM to make it to Las Vegas by 10:00 AM.


The next morning, I would have made it to Las Vegas by 10:00 AM if it hadn't been for those dang clouds! I had to stop 3 or 4 times and get out to take pictures.
Highway 168 over to 95 after leaving Grandview Gampground. Looking down on the clouds in the valley.

After picking up Bill at the airport, we had several hours to kill before we needed to be at Mike Burkley's house in Kayenta Utah. We had to be there by 6:00 PM, since THE Ohio State University Buckeyes were playing Penn State. We all being from Columbus Ohio, it would be unforgivable to miss watching the game, even if it was going to be an almost certain win.

Bill and I decided to detour off the main highway (15) and visit Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. It was our first look at the red rocks, cliffs and mountains we would get to see in Mike's back yard and at Bryce Canyon and Zion Nat'l Park.

That's Honey Bee formation on the left above, and me below the Arch at Valley of Fire.

We walked around the area, visited the petroglyphs and went to the visitor center before we left for Mike's. I think the petroglyphs look like a blackboard they forgot to erase. 
These petroglyphs are high on a canyon wall with a ladder and platform to climb to see them. 
Here's a link to more of my photos from Valley of Fire State Park, including a few more of the clouds at sunrise when I left Grandview campground that morning.

Bill and I got to Mike's about 5:00 PM in time to catch the Buckeyes game. Yes, they beat Penn State 38 to 10 and claimed #1 in the Nation for another week.


We spent this day in and around Kayenta and Ivins Utah. We tried a hike in Snow Canyon before the rain chased us back to our car. The rain and sun came and went all day.
Is it going to clear up? Or, is it going to dump on us? October in Southern Utah.
Mike lives in a beautiful part of the country. From his back patio, and out his family room window, you can see the Red Mountains, occasionally with a waterfall or two after some nice rains. In the photos I've linked here, you can see one of the small waterfalls that appeared after today's rains.

In the afternoon, we braved the fickle weather and walked to Coyote Gulch Art Village for some refreshments. We visited with some artists Mike knows in the Purple Sage Studios. I enjoyed talking with Linda about her technique and artistry. At Xetava Gardens Cafe I had a wonderfuJamocha Frappe. It was like a ground coffee bean and chocolate milkshake with homemade whipped cream on top. Mmmmm...

We walked back to Mike's to get ready for our trip, have dinner and visit some more. We turned in early so we could get an early start to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in the morning.

10/19/2015 and 10/20/2015 (North Rim of the Grand Canyon)

We left early enough in the morning from Mike's house so that we could experience some of the places along the way. One of the more interesting side trips was through the town of Hildale Utah where on September 14th of this year, a flash flood washed away a van and an SUV carrying 16 women and children. Only 3 were rescued. Hildale and neighboring Colorado City are home to many members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints which practices polygamy still today. It is an interesting town to drive through with large homes having boarded-up windows and large walls around the properties. There was almost nobody or cars on the street at mid-day. We drove down a long main street and turned right to drive right through the dip in the road where the flash flood occurred. What was most strange is that the road at that point was covered in orange mud with water flowing over to the other side. We considered turning around, but decided we could make it through.

On our way into the Grand Canyon, we saw the devastation of past wildfires along both sides of the road. This went on for many miles and we stopped in several places along the way.
The trees have not come back from the wildfire that swept through several years ago.
The devastation can be seen in both directions along the way into the North Rim.
As you can see from the photos above, rain, thunder and lightning were one of our main concerns, since we would be camping and sleeping in tents. I think the skies looked like this the whole time we were camping at the North Rim.

We set up camp and used Mike's Tarp as a makeshift lean-to over our chairs and the firepit. We stayed dry. But, we were concerned how our tents would hold up that night because, while sitting under the tarp that first night, we saw bolts of lightning and hail, along with heavy rain, broken up by periods of dry. We needn't have worried. That first night was the heaviest rain and the most thunder and lightning I have experienced in my single-person tent. I stayed completely dry. Once I realized I would not get wet, I just enjoyed the show and sounds. My tent is an REI Passage 1 which I am sure glad I have. I'll camp in any weather with it now.

Mike's tent is on the left, a Big Agnes single person, I recall.
My tent is on the right, an REI Passage 1.
As I have done the past two years, I lent my REI Passage 2 tent to Bill Moore to use. It is a bit larger than my Passage 1 with openings on two sides, but it is much more comfortable for one person, even though it is technically a two-person tent. Again, this tent kept everything dry inside. We were very pleased with how both REI tents performed in the heavy rain, and later wind.
My REI Passage 2 tent used by Bill Moore.
We were able to put our chairs under Mike's tarp that we rigged with our parachute cord.
That's Bill relaxing in the chair and Mike standing.
The reason we came to the North rim was to see the Grand Canyon, of course. We often were looking down on the clouds in the canyons and had skies of blue, black billowing clouds, lightning in the distance, all at the same time. It was an awesome site. Almost too much to take in at one time.

The vastness of the Grand Canyon is hard to capture in a photo, as you know if you've ever visited.

Blue skies in the distance, dark clouds overhead and white clouds floating below us.

There's very little you can say when you look into the Grand Canyon. Mike Burkley and Bill Moore on the edge.
We stayed two nights at the North rim where we enjoyed campfires and smoky clothes. Very interesting are the conversations you have around a campfire. Wondering which of our other friends from high school might also enjoy this experience with us one day.

Mike Burkley and Bill Moore stay warm around one of our nightly campfires.
More photos of our two days at the Grand Canyon show you the vastness of it all. I don't know when I'll be back to the Grand Canyon, but I'll never forget it.

10/21/2015 and 10/22/2015 (Bryce Canyon, Utah)

We left the North Rim Grand Canyon after packing up our stuff and after eating breakfast. We headed out on Hwy 89. It was a pretty and, somewhat uneventful, drive toward Bryce Canyon ... until the rain and sun mixed to create a rainbow. We were forced (by our sheer lack of will to drive under it) to stop at a viewpoint along the highway when the rainbow became a complete rainbow. Mike and I posted our pictures of it on our facebook home pages in a competition to see who could get the most likes and comments. I won't say who won the competition...

Mike got one pot of gold, and Bill got the other. 
We arrived at Bryce Canyon to a mixture of sunshine, clouds, blue skies, and threatening rain. No problem - been there, done that. We set up our tents and the tarp once again, this time over the picnic table for shelter while we ate. It's a good thing we got there early in the afternoon since for the rest of the day and into the night, people were driving through the campground, looking for open campsites, of which there were none. And this was mid-week in October with rain threatening. Very nice to see people interested in getting out to their National Parks in such numbers.

We walked up to the canyon rim and decided to go to Sunrise Point. The views of Bryce Canyon from the rim and the point were beautiful. It's hard to describe, but we took enough pictures to give sense of what we saw.
The clouds and rain in the distance added, once again to the spectacular views.
At Sunrise Point, we overlooked the breadth of the canyon. Sunshine would streak through the clouds and illuminate the crevices and spires in different directions. There is a trail that starts at Sunrise Point and goes down into the canyon, coming out on the rim again at Sunset Point. We decided that before we left, we would take that hike. What the heck? Maybe now was as good a time as any!

Here at Sunrise Point, we watched people start down into the canyon. So we decided to join them.

Jerry made it to the bottom, now I just had to climb out. And Bill found the perfect spot for a photo!

Those last switchbacks out of the canyon just about got me. Almost straight up, it seemed.

The view from Sunset Point on the rim was a treat after our hike.
We saw a young couple with at least one toddler and a baby on dad's back starting down into the canyon at about 5:00 PM as we were heading back to camp. We hoped they had water and maybe a bottle for the baby. And it was only about 1.5 hours from getting too dark to be down there. Hope they made it through, or back, OK.

We walked back along the rim to our campsite and decided it was time for dinner before it got too dark. A very nice day so far. We had left the Grand Canyon this morning, saw a full rainbow on the way here, and hiked down and out of Bryce Canyon between Sunrise Point and Sunset Point.

The tarp over our table and my Coleman stove made it feel like we were in a fine-dining establishment! Chez Jerry
You'll notice the exquisite cuisine. My bagel ready for the smothering of creamed corn, which is sauteing in the can there. Mike's Chili and corn chips were warmed to the pique of perfection on his personal stove. And Bill's stew simmering on the middle burner would take the longest to cook. But Mike and I were awestruck by his patience and knowledge of what would meld well together in that pot. A little ramen noodles here, some of Jerry's raw carrots there, maybe an apple cut up in to the pot, a pinch of this and a poke of that. I'm sure the other campers were envious of us this night!

Tonight would be the night that our tents would get their wind test. My Rav4 was parked just a little ways away, in case I got blown away, and had to scurry for shelter.
I didn't have to worry about the wind. It was blowing like crazy all night. But, my tent let me just enjoy the wild ride!
 Around the campfire that night, we discussed our plans for the next day. It was decided we would drive to Calf Creek and hike to the falls. 

The trail winds through this canyon, along Calf Creek, ending at Calf Creek Falls
We looked, but could not see any of the petroglyphs that we expected to find along the way. Maybe next time.

We thought the petroglyphs were visible on these walls. Next time, I'll look closer and find them, I promise!

Calf Creek tumbles down the canyon from it's start far above Calf Creek falls.

I didn't know what to expect when we got to the falls. Would it be just a trickle of water? Or nothing at all? Coming from drought-stricken California, I'm not used to seeing flowing water, just there for the taking. There were other hikers enjoying the falls and shade. Some even thought they might walk through the water to shower under the falls. But it was a bit too cold for that. Wading would have to do, as long as the feet could stand it.

Mike Burkley, Bill Moore, and Jerry Grinstead at Calf Creek Falls near Bryce Canyon
We walked back out the way we came, in no hurry, looking for just the right spot to sit awhile before heading back to camp. There were nice places to sit along the trail, a little ways away from the creek.

Mike found a comfy rock with decent views to contemplate our adventure.
Bill spotted just the right place along the creek where we could put our feet in the water and look for trout, which we had seen in several places on our hike in. Clear, cold water is all the trout and we could ask for.

Bill Moore and Mike Burkley relax at Calf Creek.
The rest of our walk out was uneventful, other than the occasionally spectacular beauty of it all. We decided to drive up above Calf Creek Canyon to look down on where we had been.

Calf Creek Falls is just up one of those side canyons below us, to the right.

I tried to catch a glimpse of the falls back in the canyon, but to no avail from above.
After dinner, on this our second night at Bryce Canyon, we walked up the hill to take some more photos, before we built our fire.

Sun setting over Bryce Canyon

Sun setting over Bryce Canyon
Below are a couple of fun, experimental shots, using the panorama setting on my iPhone.

Bill hurried, and got in two locations for this panorama. Bryce Canyon in the background. 
Mike was like the Flash, getting in 3 different locations in this shot. Along the Bryce Canyon rim trail
The next morning, we made a point of getting up well before sunrise so that we could watch the sunrise over Bryce Canyon. We all three made it for the spectacular sunrise, even though we thought Bill might not. (Nature called, as it were, about 15 minutes before sunrise.)

Wake Up! Bryce Canyon.

Sunrise on Bill Moore at Bryce Canyon

Here are some more photos from our first day at Bryce Canyon

And here are some more photos from our second day at Bryce Canyon 

10/23/2015 (Zion National Park and back to Mike's)

After that sunrise at Bryce Canyon, we packed it all up and decided to go through Zion National Park, which is right on the way back to Kayenta and only an hour or so from MIke's house. We discussed what to do, since we might only have the afternoon to spend at the park. Mike knew of a little traveled hike right off of Highway 9 after entering the east entrance to the park. It is called Many Pools. And there are many pools of water collected in deep bathtub-like pools in the wash. We were lucky to see water in many pools we passed.

Looking back at one of the many pools after climbing the slick rock up Many Pools hike.
There's very little shade as you climb up toward the Molar. But, in October, the temperature was perfect, probably in the 70's, so a long-sleeve shirt and hat protected me comfortably from the sun. Our boots seemed to work well on the rocky climb. Boots or shoes with sticky rubber soles would be ideal for climbing here.

Bill took it slow and steady up Many Pools with me, as Mike patiently waited for us along the way.
Mike said something very interesting as we began our hike. He said the Bighorn Sheep lived and liked to climb in this area. I and Bill thought it would be very cool if we could see some wildlife along the way. About a half hour into our hike, we saw a harem of female and juvenile Bighorn Sheep come down the steep slick rock to where we had just been hiking. They stopped at some brush and trees and proceeded to eat lunch.

A flock of Bighorn Sheep joined us on our Many Pools hike.
Mike and Bill found a nice cool spot in the shade of some trees, as did I, and I proceeded to take way too many pictures of the sheep. They were not bothered by us in the least, it seemed. But that was likely due to the 3 or 4 rams above us, keeping an eye on us, knowing full-well we were no match for their agility on their home turf.

Bill Moore and Mike Burkley with the Bighorn Sheep in the background on our Many Pools hike.

We scrambled up for a little while, up toward the Molar. The Molar is a large rock outcropping that stands out between the canyon walls, and looks like a giant tooth... hence, "the Molar."  Having the wherewithal to continue a bit further, we found a small side canyon that we wondered if we could follow. It turned out to be just a bit too muddy, so we decided to head back down the way we came up.
Note: I like to use "hence" and "wherewithal" every now and then... just to bug people. Whence and whilst, whatnot and trousers are fun, too.

That's the Molar in the center, where we decided to turn back.

Beautiful weather, good friends, Bighorn Sheep in their native habitat, and virtual solitude in Zion National Park. What more could one ask for? After getting back to our car, we decided to eat a late lunch/early dinner in Springdale, just outside the south entrance to Zion at the Zion Canyon Brew Pub. I had a vegetarian roast beet reuben sandwich and fries, Bill had the Buffalo meat loaf, and Mike had a hamburger. Of course, we had a couple of beers brewed on the premises. By law, they can only serve 3.2 beer on draft. I remember 3.2% alcohol beer from my high school days, at least I've heard that's what some juvenile delinquents, 18 to 21 years old, had to drink back then. (We preferred Schoenling Little Kings Cream Ale!) ... Anyway, I digress...

We drove the hour or so to Mike's house and decided to wait until the next morning to unload our tents and tarps and dry them out in the sun. It had been just a short trip through Zion that just makes me want to go back for more!

Here is a link to some photos of our hike in Many Pools (and way too many of the Bighorn Sheep)

10/24/2015 (Our last day in Kayenta Utah and Anasazi Petroglyphs)

We woke up to a beautiful sunny day in Kayenta Utah. The first thing we did was open up our tents and tarps and dry them outside. Our goals for the last day together was to visit the petroglyphs, literally just down the road, go to Xetava Gardens Cafe for just one more Jamocha Frappe, or perhaps a 3-2 beer, and finish the day off with the Buckeyes rolling over Rutgers. 
The Anasazi petroglyphs were a short drive and short hike to see some ancient history.
We tried to decipher this. Maybe a menu? Bingo card?
We walked all over the rock outcroppings finding more and more etchings in the rocks around each corner.
Fun to be a part of thousands of years of history
We hope these will be here for another 1000 years
A Bighorn sheep? Or perhaps an extinct animal?
I was in awe of where Mike lives. The mountains and canyons behind his house and how close he is  to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park. It's no wonder there are so many retirees in the St. George area.
At Mike's house that afternoon, here was the view we had from Mike's  family room.
View from Mike's family room. Awesome!
To put that in perspective, here is a photo I took from the petroglyphs looking toward Kayenta and Mike's neighborhood at the foot of the mountains.

View of Kayenta Utah from the Petroglyphs
Bill and I would leave early the next morning to drop him off at the airport in Las Vegas, and for me to continue on home to Sacramento. But, today, after the petroglyphs, we did walk to the café, explore a cactus garden and visit the Desert Rose Labrynth in Coyote Gulch on the walk to the café. And the frappe was again, delicious.
The best way for 3 friends from Columbus Ohio to end their week together was yet to come. Eating pizza and watching Ohio State beat Rutgers 49 - 7 on Saturday night.
Here's a link to the rest of the Kayenta photos, including more petroglyphs and the cactus garden.