Archive for the ‘National Parks 2006’ Category

Day 16 (The last day)

Friday, May 19th, 2006

Well today is the last day of our vacation. We got up and packed for the last time. We checked out of the hotel. The cool thing is we check out on the TV, then a receipt is faxed to the room. Very cool.

After we packed the car we headed our to find a place for breakfast. We drove down to the MGM hotel. The breakfast was a sunday brunch style, so a bit on the pricey side. The food was pretty good, but we have been eating so much that we were full in no time.

After breakfast we stopped to fill up the tank. It is nice to have a vehicle that can drive from san diego to vegas on one fill up. We bid a fond fairwell to Our National Parks tour and headed back home.

Day 15 (Viva Las Vegas)

Saturday, May 13th, 2006

We spent the day today in vegas. The first thing was to hit the hobby store. I wanted to see if they had anything that was on my want list. I found two train cars I have been missing. The store is St. Auburn Station.

On the way back, we stopped at the factory outlet stores. Angie and I both picked up new shoes to replaced our worn out ones. With our new shoes, we headed to lunch. We went to the buffet at the Hilton.

After lunch we stopped at the fashion show mall to check out the two for one tickets. We didn’t find anything we wanted to see tonight. So we went back to the hotel and dropped off our loot. We went outside and over to the Mirage. We saw a sign for Jay Leno for that evening. So we went searching for the ticket office. They still had tickets for that evenings show, so we bought two of them.

The show was at 10:30 so we had about 4 hours to kill. We went in search of a place we could have a drink. You would not think it would be difficult to find a place that we could get a drink in Vegas! It took us over an hour to find a lounge/bar that we could get a drink. We tried three different hotels who were either all too busy or didn’t have any room.

At one point we sat down in a lounge, they brought us peanuts and olives but after 20 minutes never came to take our drink order, so we left. We finally found a bar that was pretty empty and had drinks. After drinks we went back to the Mirage to have dinner. The wait at the Brazilian BBQ place was too long, so we ate at the buffet.

After dinner, we wandered around the hotel, we only had about a half hour to wait, so we sat around in the lobby waiting. Once the wait was over we took our seats.

The show was really good. The opening act was a doo-wap band that was pretty funny. They performed for about 45 minutes. After that Jay Leno came on stage for about 90 minutes. We both really enjoyed the show. He performs about once a year and all the proceeds go to charity. It was really good we could see the show.

After the show we walked back to the hotel and hit the sack.

Day 14 (We wore out our shoes!)

Friday, May 12th, 2006

Up this morning to pack. We had to adjust our luggage so we only had to take the one suitcase into our next destination. Since we only had one more hotel after tonight. We looked for a place to eat for breakfast and found a nice little breakfast place down the street on the way to the park. We both had french toast.


We drove to the visitor center and hopped on the bus. We took the bus to the end of the line and decided to take the river walk.

riverwalk sign

This was a very nice easy walk of about 2 miles round trip. The road is paved and can accommodate wheel chairs. The path follows the river to the end and where the narrows start. Along the way we ran into our token ground rodent.


Once we got to the end of the river walk, the road ended. The river was still too high and swift to walk down into the narrows.

river level

We hiked our way back to the bus stop, and took the bus back to the Zion lodge stop. From this stop we decided to take the emerald pools loop. This is a trail the follows the canyon walls. There are two levels of the trail.

emerald pools sign

We decided to take the upper trail. This is a little bit longer and is cut higher in the mountain as a ledge. We hiked the trail to the pools, then continued around to the grotto bus stop. This was about a two mile trail.

At the half way point is the middle pool. We decided to rest a bit and enjoy the shade.

angie sitting at pool

As we kept walking we could see the other side of the ravine where we walked. Can you make out the trail just above the ledge?

trail ledge

We reached the grotto bus stop and waited for our ride back to the lodge. We would have walked the extra 1/2 a mile, but wanted to get back in time for lunch. it was 2pm and they stopped serving lunch at 2:30pm.

We got back to the lodge about five after two and had to climb steps to lunch. Those were the hardest steps to climb 😉 We got a table and ordered our food. As you can see Angie was happy to finally be sitting down.


After lunch we did our shopping. I got a shirt and we found a penny machine. Angie wanted to get some ice cream. We sat outside the lodge in their rocking chairs and finished up the ice cream. We then headed back to the bus and took it back to the museum stop.

At this stop we watched the video of the history of Zion. Sine most of the parks we visited were all on the colorado plateau, the story was pretty much the same. Although each presentation has a slightly different story and you pick up a few new things.

After the video we boarded the bus back to the visitor center. We did one last pass through the souvenir shop and used the facilities before we got back in the car.

Back on the road, we headed down to Las Vegas. On the road we saw two notable sites. The first was a uhaul trailer that had flipped and was on fire, blocking the entire freeway. Fortunately nobody was hurt, and we could get off the freeway and back on to bypass the accident.

The other was a few semi-trailers I had never seen before. They had three trailers. I have never seen three being towed by a semi before. All of them were owned by Fed-Ex. I will have to ask my friend that works there how common those are.

We arrived in Vegas and checked into our hotel. We decided to stay at The Venetian hotel. The room was very nice. All of the rooms at the hotel are suites. We unpacked and got settled. Our shoes were a mess. Angie’s soles were completely shot and mine were worn down and covered in red dust from the rock in Utah. It’s time for new ones.

After a quick shower to get the dirt and grime off, we went down for dinner. We ate at their restaurant that was a lot like the cheesecake factory. I think it was run/owned by the same company. The food was good, but the service sucked. It took forever to get our drinks/appetizers/food/dessert. It was a good thing we were not in a hurry.

After dinner we headed back to the room for a good nights sleep.

Day 13 (My god….it’s full of hoodoo’s)

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

Got up and packed, then drove across the street for breakfast. We stopped at the visitor center and picked up our stamp and brochures. The best way to see bryce from the car is to drive all the way to the end of the road and work our way back. Almost all of the viewpoints are on the right as you drive back.

When we reached the end of the road we took a walk on the bristlecone loop. this was a short walk that winded its way through Douglas Fir and White pine trees. It was quite pleasant and there were very few people on the trail so we had a nice private walk.

view from trail

After the walk we started back up the road. We stopped at each location and walked up the paths to the scenic overlooks. One of the overlooks had a rock formation that is supposed to look like a poodle. Can you make it out?


Hey Raga! Your going to love this park! Lots and lots to take pictures of.

At one of the stops, there was a raven that just didn’t seem to care that anyone was around. It would not move if you got close, so I snapped a picture.


And again, what trip is complete without our friendly squirrel?

ground friend

The most interesting place was sunset point, we could watch the hikers and horse riders work their way down to the canyon bottom. Some day I will come back and try that out. Can you make out the horse train in the distance?

horse train

The visitor center has a model of the entire colorado plateau. We could see all of the canyons we visited and their relationship to each other. While in the visitor center, I overheard someone talking about the river trip they planned to take. It would start at lake powell and finish near the end of the colorado river. The trip was about 183 miles. That is something that I had wanted to do since the first time I went to the grand canyon. I will need to add that to my list of things to do. If anyone wants to do it with me, let me know 😉 It is a three day or longer journey.

This park was nothing like I imagined. I pictured Utah as pretty much desert with sagebrush wildlife, like what I grew up in. This park was nothing like it. We were at an altitude of 9100+ feet. The entire park is covered with White and Douglas Fir trees, as well as Ponderosa Pines. This reminds me of northern nevada. But then you reach the edge of the range and you are presented with some amazing views.

Nothing man made can equal what 200 million years plus of nature has done to the entire colorado plateau. If you had to choose only one of the places to come to in Utah, I would strongly suggest you come to Bryce Canyon.

After our long day in Bryce canyon, we drove to
Zion National Park. This drive was pretty much boring until we arrive into the park. The park had an incredible 1 mile long tunnel through the mountain. I think this is the longest tunnel I have driven through.

tunnel openinginside tunnel

We headed down the hill. We stopped at the visitor center to get our stamp and park map. We obtained the bus schedule. To tour the canyon, you have to use the public transportation. It ran pretty much all the time and stopped at every area.

After the visitor center, we went into town. The hotel we wanted to stay at didn’t have any rooms, so we picked our second choice. This was the famous Bumbleberry Inn. The room was pretty reasonably priced. We unpacked and went to dinner. We had to try the pie at the famous Bumbleberry diner.

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel.

Day 12 (It’s cold in those canyons)

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006


We got up and had a hot breakfast. This hotel didn’t have free continental food, so we ate at their restaurant. We headed back to Capitol Reef National Park.

We stopped at the visitor center, got our passport stamp and purchased an audio tour CD. We listened to it while we drove. This was a good cd, and I recommend getting it if you come here. We reached the first stopping point at the Grand Wash Trail and walked for about 1.5 hours.

We were supposed to come across some narrows, but after about an hour of walking, we gave up and turned around. The canyon was spectacular and it was amazing to see how 15 million years of water erosion has created this canyon.

Here are a few of the photos

canyon 1

angie in canyon

After walking the canyon, we continued the driving tour. We came across an area called the goosenecks

gooseneckgoosenecks sign

goosenecks view

We learned all about the small town that was created. There was a single family home that was home to a family of twelve. They all did not sleep in the house though. Some slept on ledges in the cliff while other slept in the the wagon. Now, why he didn’t just build onto the house I don’t know.

After Capitol Reef National Park, we drove to Bryce Canyon National Park.

bryce sign

We arrived at Bryce Ruby’s Inn, the first place that was booked 🙁 Fortunately, they had rooms across the street. We checked in and went to forage for dinner. We ate at the Ruby Inn restaurant. We had their buffet.

After dinner we drove into the park. It was only about a mile from the hotel. We just missed the visitor center by 20 minutes. We grabbed a park map and drove to one of the scenic overlooks. This was inspiration point. The view was INCREDIBLE. The sun was just about to set and the colors of the hoodoos were amazing.

Bryce 3
Bryce 2
Bryce 1

The sun went down, so we drove back to our hotel. On the way back we saw another group of mule deer. They were grazing on the side of the road.

Mule deer

Once we got back to the hotel, we planned our day for tomorrow and went to bed.