July 11-13, 2018; Day 18-20
Lake Meade Recreation Area/Hoover Dam
Lodging: Boulder Beach Campground, Lake Meade
A one night stop over to catch a look at Hoover Dam. Taller and more narrow than Glen Canyon Dam, it continues to regulate the waters of the Colorado River. The campground was within view of the lake, very clean, and very HOT. One night was plenty.
The next morning we packed up and took a quick drive over Hoover Dam. Based on the crowds, we were glad to have toured Glen Canyon Dam and left Hoover Dam for all the other tourists. The new interstate bridge offers a wonderful walkway and view of the dam. You can still drive over it, but there is no through traffic anymore so lots of places to pull off and look from the lake side. The water level is still very low from the drought and you can easily see the high water mark on the canyon walls and rock formations.
We ended the day at Zion National Park, just north of Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. However, we brought the monsoonal rains with us and most of the park was either flooded or washed out by mudslides. Like the Grand Canyon, Zion has become a high-traffic tourist destination, and even with the trail closures there were people everywhere! We barely found a campsite but with all the rain and closed roads we decided to only stay one night.
Friday morning before leaving we hiked the Watchman Trail (one of a handful accessible), a 2 mile winding climb up to a cliff that gave a beautiful view of the park and mountain range. It was humid from all the rain and a bit crowded, but still enjoyable.
By the afternoon we were driving a scenic highway through Dixie National Forrest and soaking up the beautiful views of mountains, red cliffs, and real pin TREES. We reached almost 10,000 feet in elevation. It was a welcome change from the monochrome, dry desert. Rain fell off and on throughout the afternoon.
July 14-15, 2018; Day 21-22
Lodging: Red Canyon/Dixie National Forrest
Bryce Canyon offered some of the most diverse and spectacular landscapes I have ever witnessed. High red cliffs leading to softer rolling mountains leading to high steep peaks. Wind and water erosion have caused tall, narrow cliffs to form in the red sandstone. As more sand and rock is taken away, tall rock towers (called Hoodoos), arches, and thin walls (fins) form. We had hoped to hike down into the canyon, but lightening and thunderstorms kept us from leaving the overlooks.
Our intent was to attend church Sunday morning, marking the beginning of week 4 of our adventure. However, we snagged a last minute horseback trail ride down into the canyon! We had missed out on riding burrows down into the Grand Canyon, so this was a wonderful second chance. Bryce Canyon was once home and hideout to Butch Cassidy and his gang of outlaws. But today it was a quiet, captivating moment of God’s beautiful handiwork. We rode down into the canyon on horses who loved to walk on the edge! Down through the pines and across rain washes and dry beds. And then suddenly we were going back up among the fins and hoodoos, looking up at the formations instead of down from the overlooks. The pictures do not capture the experience justly. We were mesmerized, speechless, in awe. Our group was small and our guide did a nice job of talking just enough, then leaving us to soak up the view in silence. It was truly a worshipful moment.
After returning to the corral, we headed out for a quick trip to Grand Staircase/ Escalente National Monument. It was my last chance to explore red sandstone slot canyons. We skipped Antelope Canyon outside of Lake Powell knowing we could see similar formations at Zion. Zion’s Narrows was closed due to mudslides and flooding. So I was excited to find Grand Staircase had some easily accessible slot canyons near Bryce. Little did we know that Grand Staircase has only ONE paved road. Every other trail access road is dirt and requires 4 wheel drive. Half way down one of these side roads we had to turn around for fear of getting stuck. Joel was still able to stamp his National Park Passport book and it was a lovely drive nonetheless. We opted for a short hike near our campground in the Red Canyon/Dixie National Forrest and card games in the evening. A beautiful, fantastic day!